Chapter Nine: A Bridge too Far (Or how knitting can save your life.)
The next morning was hard on most of the group. For one thing, hangovers are nasty business, and for another, that storm that had started the night before was starting to flood the town! Though they stumbled down the stairs, the heroes knew what they needed to do and were already strapping on their gear, weapons, and other essentials. Parry had also started knitting frantically in a much wider stitch than she normally used.
Cin and Feiskar started to organize the people that were milling about outside the tavern (the people knew that a group of adventurers were inside and were counting on the fact that they would not run away and leave the helpless townspeople to their own devices.) Luckily for the people of the town, these were indeed true heroes (or substitute heroes, but that is just a technicality), and they would not leave a soul behind. Those without a soul, however, were an entirely different manner (sorry, no living dead).
Anyways, they found animals of one sort or another, carts, wagons, and basically anything else that would take people (including several VERY strange items like a rickshaw, a local witchs broom, and, weirdest of all, a giant flying mortar and pestle set.) Everyone who would fit was put onto or into one of these modes of transportation, but there were several small (small being a relative term. They were not actually young, just petite) children could not fit. They were placed on the mounts that Cin and his band of adventurers were using. Finally, with everyone loaded up (including said adventurers, they rode behind the children) they were off. The only bad thing was that they did not really know where they were going and had to stop and ask one of the villagers almost immediately. The response was not comforting.
To the deep gorge on the far side of town, came the reply, a nod of conviction added for good measure, There is a steep rise on the other side, and that is where we will want to be in another hour or so when the big wave comes crashing through.
Big wave? Cin looked horrified, What do you mean by big wave?
Oh, well theres always a huge wave at times like these. The villager replied with a toothy grin.
You get these kinds of floods a lot? Feiskar asked from the childs shoulder he was sitting on.
Of course, the villager replied, This is the proving village after all.
Proving Village? What is that and what does that have to do with the fact that large waves come through here on a regular basis despite the fact that this seems to be a land locked area? Cratty asked as he pulled a child that had been slipping back onto Gioran (you remember who Gioran is right? Well, just in case you dont, he is the giant pink rabbit that Parry normally rides.) Be careful of those around you, the rain is making everything slick!
The proving village is where heroes are tested after they get their weapons from the Temple of Rare Magical Objects.
The boy Cratty had just put saved piped up, Youve already passed the first part of the test by staying to help the villagers, even after you heard that there was danger coming.
Shhhh! The man who had been talking to Cin and Cratty frowned, shaking his head. They are not supposed to know that yet!
Well its too late to hide it now, Esau! And old lady behind him yelled over the rain (which, by the way was now coming down even harder) She gave him a good wack to the back of his head as both a punishment and a subtle encouragement not to stop and talk, but instead to keep moving. And besides, these ones look like the real deal, Im sure that they can pass all of the tests!
Wait a minute, just how many of these tests are there?! Cin yelled back.
Three! The crone shrieked, The second one will be in just a few minutes when we reach the gorge!
What happens when we reach the gorge? Cin hollered, almost afraid of the answer that he was going to receive.
You have to get all of us across without letting any of the villagers be injured and or killed. There is no bridge, you know, so you all will have to come up with something!
Cin tried to imagine how on earth they were going to do that and failed. Instead of trying to think some more he yelled, And what about the third test?
The crone screeched something in return, but it was lost in the roar of the rain. Cin shook his head, he had not heard a word she said.
I think she said it was a secret, Esau volunteered from where he was.
Oh, great, Cin rolled his eyes, just what they needed
Even though it was only a few minutes later when they reached the edge of what had been called a gorge, they were all drenched and bone tired. The lead transport, a rather plump purple pony, only barely stopped in time as the edge crumbled away a few feet in front of its scrabbling hooves. It was immediately evident that the villagers were delusional.
THIS ISNT A GORGE! Cin shouted over the deluge. THIS IS A FLIPPING CHASM!
The kid, Cratty was starting to wonder if he was going to have to tie it to the rabbit, replied something that sounded like a geological survey, but it was totally lost upon our group of intrepids. Well, for the most part anyways.
You mean the sides will give way if we try to do anything except build a bridge like were supposed to? Cratty yelled, trying to be heard as thunder, amazingly louder than the rain, rolled overhead.
Of course! Esau shouted back, This is the Proving Village after all.
Before Cin could moan in despair and exasperation, Parry jumped from her horse. Dont worry, Ive got it covered. She held up the rather interesting scarf shed been knitting.
Shaking his head, Cin looked at her, How can you have it covered? I mean, I know its standard heroing procedure to have to build the bridge too and everything (Ive been reading up on these sorts of things), but look at that chasm! Not eve the fastest bridge builder in the world could cover a span that big in time!
Well its a good thing that Im not a bridge builder, now isnt it? Parry retorted. Turning back to the crowd, she held her knitting needles aloft, then with a whoop planted them into the ground.
What the- Was all Cin could get out before there were several answering whoops from the crowd. Through their midsts came three old women, two mothers with babies in tow, and one man that looked like he should be more interested in boxing, or just plain out punching things for the fun of it than anything that got him within fifty feet of a pair of knitting needle.
He shrugged off the stares he was receiving with a, Me dear old mum wanted me to have a liberal education, okay? Shaking their heads, the rest of the villagers turned back to Parry to see what their challenge would be.
Knitters of the Proving Village! She called in a rather loud voice since the rain hadnt let up in the least, I have called you out because I am in sore need of your skills during this crisis. Normally I wouldnt ask this of you, but it is a task that I dont feel that even I am up to.
Cin sighed in relief. At least she wasnt going to try to knit the entire bridge all by herself. Shed have help, unlikely though it might be, he added to himself as he looked over the brawny guy again. He was so caught up in his relief that he almost missed what Parry said next.
I need you all to work together to knit shelter for everyone while I knit the bridge that we will cross.
Even the rain couldnt drown out the confusion of voices. Cin, however topped them all. WHAT?! Grabbing her shoulders, he spun Parry around to look at him. Parry, what are you doing? You can t do it all by yourself!
She grinned. Youre right, I cant. Thats why Aitys and Saeti will be helping me.
They..you..what? Cin was now totally confused.
She patted his head I a knowing sort of way. Dont worry, Ill explain it all when we have more time. Right now, though, She turned back to the villagers, Its TIME TO KNIT!
A cheer ran through the crowd before they realized exactly what it was shed said. Parry, however, didnt falter with the cheers. Instead she sat down I the mud. And as her fellow knitters started to organize themselves into a hexigonical formation, she took off her shoes. Aitys and Saeti had already appeared at her side. Tsidu had appeared out of nowhere to hold three balls of yarn. Across from her, Dirwe held another three. From her bag, she produced a bag of herbs, and just as the shelter started to take shape over her head, Parry mumbled some magic words and gave herself monkey feet.
After the villagers stood back up again, theyd managed to simultantiously fall over when they saw her new enhancements, the noted that she was giving knitting needles to her animals as well as holding a set in each hand and foot and one in her mouth.
Alright, everyone ready? She asked around the one in her mouth. Aitys and Saeti both nodded. Then here we go! And indeed they were off. Yarn flew as the three of them coordinated their efforts so that they were knitting at speeds previously unheard of. And it was a good thing too, for water was starting to stream over the side of the chasm, a sure sign of the impending tidal wave, at least according to the villagers that were yelling encouragements to the group.
Why is there only water pouring off of this side of the gorge? Cin managed to yell over the roar of the rain.
Because theres only going to be a tidal wave on this side of course, replied one of the villagers, It would be weird if there was water coming off that fast from over there.
And a tidal wave in the middle of the country isnt?! Cratty asked. I mean, look at the words: Tidal Wave. He used his hands to make the distinction. Tidal suggests that theres a tidal region, or in other words, an OCEAN somewhere near by, and we havent seen anything like that!
The villager might have snorted, but it was lost in the rain. Doesnt matter! Its a big wave! And even if it doesnt have a suitable name, its still coming, you idiotic-
Everyone stared at Aitys, realizing for the first time that her high, squeaky voice was just the right pitch to be heard over the storm.
Was her voice always that squeaky? Esau asked with some uncertainty.
Of course not, you twit! came the magically amplified voice that Cin and Parry had first heard in the Forrest of Imanut. Feiskar peaked out from under the hat of the villager he was riding with in order not to get washed away. Shes a talking rabbit, of course she has to have some sort of magic in her. She just used the same sort of spell Im using now.
Dude, the squirrel is blue! Exclaimed one of the villagers.
Dude, the squirrel can talk! Replied another villager while smacking the first on the back of the head.
Oh, be quiet! Feiskar snapped, Absin, put up your hood, I dont want to get separated.
Adon sehouwe couhgeh seprateh ifwah goinda samplays, the incomprehensible man grumbled.
Just do it!
Rye, rye, He said, picking up the squirrel and putting him inside the hood on his cloak.
Good. Now are you almost done Parry? The squirrel asked, his fur as blue as the stripes on the girls cheeks.
The girl mumbled something unintelligible from under the ever expanding shelter.
Oh, right, the knitting needle in her mouth. The squirrel waved a paw and the needle popped out of her mouth. Luckily it kept time with Saeti, otherwise there might have been a serious mishap. Now, what did you say?
I said that Id be done in just a minute, and if youd give me just a second, then, She paused, Then, Im done. Now come the hard part, getting this over there. She pointed to the other side of the gorge.
Whats so hard about that? Tsidu asked, shielding her eyes against the rain. We went across longer span during our pirate training.
They have pirate training? Cratty asked with a raised eyebrow, not quite believing that such a thing existed outside of reality television.
Sure, Dirwe replied, shrugging, You dont think they let just anyone with blue tattoos join, do you? I mean, really, not everyone is cut out for that kind of work.
They let Parry join. Cin reminded her over Parrys annoyed exclamation.
So? Dirwe shrugged again, Thats different; shes the captain, and the position of captain has a whole other set of rules that goes with it.
Um, right, Cin replied rolling his eyes, You say that you can span the gap, though?
Yeah, both me and Dirwe can do it easy. Tsidu piped up.
Alright, Ill throw the lines, Parry announced, drawing everyones attention back to herself, You will slide across one handed (you dont have to worry too much, I knitted you an extra strong line for this). In the other hand you will hold onto one side of the bridge each, so that when you get to the other side the bridge will have come across with you. Then its simply a matter of getting you back across on the hand rails that Ill send across after youre over there.
Sounds simple enough, Cin commented, I assume youre going to be using a grappling hook to find a hold over on the other side?
Parry shook her head, Of course not. Im a knitter, after all, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that my needles are strong and sharp enough to get to the other side.
Youre certain? Cin seemed skeptical.
It was Parrys turn to roll her eyes. Of course Im sure, theyre made of titanium and have a diamond tip to them, there really shouldnt be a problem.
Enough talk! Feiskar exclaimed. Throw them already, unless you think you should tell us the brand name and serial number of those needles as well.
Its alright, Ive already done my allotment of paid endorsements, Parry replied, Though that was a nice cue for one.
At that moment annoyance managed to get the better of just about everyone in the Proving Town at the same time. THROW THE DARN THING ALREADY!
Alright, alright, Parry grumbled. Drawing two rather expansive looking needles from her side pouch, she attached a line to each. Slowly at first, then faster, she swung the first over her head-
We interrupt this story to bring you this extremely important and breath taking (maybe even spell binding) emergency announcement. Do to a recent disruption in the spell system that protects our nation, we in this book are now in a state of red alert. Which is actually rather ironic seeing as it was the infa-red spell that went out of commission. Actually, thats probably why were in a red alert situation, you need to be on the lookout for anything with the color red that isnt supposed to be there. I dont know this for certain, though, because Im only an intern, and really, they dont tell us interns much of anything. I dont think that they realize how much that they dont tell us. Or maybe they do realize and they just dont care. Or perhaps they do care, and theyre laughing at us because we cant do our jobs properly because they havent told us everything we need to know to do our jobs. Its an outrage I tell you, an outrage! How can the expect us to be able to do anything when they wont tell us whats happening? Its always, you dont have enough clearance to know that, or you dont have enough experience to be able to handle this situation. Well how do they expect us to be able to gain any experience when they wont give us a chance to see said situation?! And I bet they dont know anything more about the situation than we do, in fact, Ill bet we could make better decisions than those crusty old men. I mean, at least we take a bath more than once every century or so. Have you smelled some of those guys? Let me tell you, they are RIPE. Seriously, its a wonder that they dont drop dead of their own stench. You know what we need to do? Put those guys on the borders. Theyd be secured in no time. Nobody, invader or otherwise, would want to get near us. Its better than a fence, or any magic that we currently have available. Hm, I wonder if Id get in trouble for suggesting it, though. Er, anyways, this has been an extremely, semi, maybe kind of important emergency announcement rant thingy. We will now return you to your previously scheduled story, already in progress.
The rain was still pounding outside, but that was the only sound as everyone stared intently at our intrepid group of adventurers. Slowly Cin raised his eyes to stare at the rest of the group. This was going to be difficult, he could tell. Hed done it before, but really, it didnt make any difference. It all came down to this moment, this move. Three deep breaths later, he thought that he was ready. But what if he was wrong? What if there was something else he could do? It didnt matter, there was only this; he shoved his doubts aside and asked the one question that could either make or break the entire deal. Do you have any eights?
AGH! I swear you cheat! Cratty yelled, throwing his hand down onto the table in disgust.
Cin shrugged, collecting his eights and laying out all of the cards hed been sandbagging. I told you, I dont cheat, I just count cards. Nothing wrong with that.
How can you be so smart at this, and so dumb when it comes to women? Feiskar asked, shaking his fuzzy head. Speaking of which, He added before Cin could do more than make an indignant squawk, Do you think that the girls are done yet?
Uh, no, I think they were going to wait until that intern finished ranting to do their sequence, Cratty said, You know how much Tsidu was looking forward to it.
Cin looked over his shoulder to where the girls were obviously waiting. Alright, well since the interns done, and were done with the card game-
Only because one of us cheats, Cratty muttered.
-Then I think, He continued as if he hadnt been interrupted, That we should head on over to see what the girls are up to. It only seems fair, you know?
More like its the only thing we can do seeing as the plot wont move forward until we do, Feiskar mumbled, not realizing that his voice amplification spell made it possible for everyone else to hear him as well.
Over on the other side of the shelter(which was still in the process of being knitted, by the way. The people that Parry had recruited were indeed somewhat faster than normal knitters, but unfortunately, they had neither the training, nor the raw talent of Parry herself, and therefore were at a severe disadvantage if you were to even think of comparing the work of the two different groups) Parry, Aitys and Saeti were knitting water tight rain coats for their party, just in case it happened to rain again while they were on the road. Tsidu and Dirwe appeared to be playing paper, rock, scissors over which lines they would slide on during the trip over.
Wooh! I have the right side, I have the right side! Tsidu crowed, spinning around in a circle.
Yeah, but itll be the left side when were coming back, Dirwe mumbled.
What?! What do you mean its going to be the left side? Tsidu asked, looking very confused. If I start out on the right, then Id better end up on the right, or else the ropes are going to criss-cross, and I dont think thats what Parry want.
The other pirate just shook her head, sighing. Come one, Ill explain it to you on the way down to the edge.
Should we get that close to the edge, though? Tsidu asked, frowning. It doesnt seem really stable.
The towns people said it would be alright as long as they were here. Dirwe replied, shrugging.
Alright, lets get ready then, Tsidu said, hoisting one corner of the bridge up so that she could attach it to her belt.
Hey, whered you get the belt? Dirwe asked.
Same place you got the cadavers. Tsidu replied happily.
What?! I dont have any dead bodies! (At least none that you know about) What are you talking about?
These, Tsidu replied, holding up the metal oval shed used to secure the knitted bridge to her belt.
Carabineers, Tsidu, carabineers. Dirwe shook her head, then turned so that she could attached her own end of the bridge to her posterior region.
Putting aside the jackets, Parry stood again with needle and knitted rope in hand. Using it like one would a grappling hook, she swung the needle round as fast as she could. Then, just when it looked like she would mess up and kill herself with her own needle, she launched the thing. If it had been an arrow it wouldnt have flown straighter, ending in the rock on the other side with a deadly thunk, imbedded up to the hilt in the rock. Moments later the second one was just as fast and just as accurate.
Yeehaw! Tsidu was sliding across the rain slick rope, a feat that required all of the knowledge shed gained over the years.
Thats not what a pirate should say! Dirwe yelled over to her counterpart as she slid on the other rope.
Thankfully for everyone, the two reached the other side safe and sound. As quickly as they could, Dirwe and Tsidu loosened the bridge from their belts and attached it to the end of the ropes. They jumped back just in time as the ropes for the hand rails arrived in much the same fashion that the ropes that secured the bridge had.
Watch it! Dirwe yelled.
Hurry up! Tsidu, oblivious to almost having been hit by a knitting needle, was already sprinting back across the bridge (actually it was more like bouncing. Even with the incredible job that Parry did, water does make yarn stretch a little).
Okay, everyone, line up in an orderly fashion, well be sending you across one at a- Cratty was trampled in the middle of his safety speech by the mob that was pushing and shoving its way towards the bridge.
Knock it off! Cin stood at the entrance to the bridge, his sword blocking all that sought to try to pass him. Tsidu, go help your boyfriend.
Hes not my boyfriend! The pirate yelled back as she dove into the crowd of people head first. She could have sworn that she intended to go mud sliding, but it seemed that she had somehow gained buoyancy (or lost weight), for she seemed to rise up and float on top of the mass of people. Looking around, Tsidu found herself crowd surfing. She grinned, this was going to be easy not many people knew it, but before she had become one of Bluebeards pirates, shed been a rock star (come on, who else has tattoos?). Making her way through a crowd like this was almost ideal. The only thing shed have to watch out for, she knew from unfortunate experience was not to lean too far or the slickness caused by the rain would cause her to take a nose dive. She also had a hunch that getting up now wouldnt be as easy as it had been back when she was performing.
Crowd surfing her way over to where Cratty had last been seen, she found him struggling to make his way to the surface. Every time he would get close, though, the tide of people would shift again and he would be swept back under. Tsidu didnt know how much longer he could last under there. She reached out to him, stretching as far as she could. So close and yet so far, she was about three inches short. Cursing her genetics, she tried again. Still nothing. Hed started floundering, if she didnt do something fast, he wasnt going to make it.
And then the crowd got bored from the hold up and someone near the back started the wave. Tsidu was suddenly glad of all the time shed spent out on the high seas; this had to be the roughest event of crowd surfing shed ever participated in. As she went down into the low part of the wave again (the trough for those of you who are interested in that sort of thing) she saw it. She was close enough to Cratty now! Her hand was out as fast as lightening, and she had him! She hauled his soggy form up to the surface of the crowd. Holding his head up so that he could breath, Tsidu made her way back to where Cin and the others were waiting. She jumped off, dragging the man with her.
Geeze, you idiot, you think youd know not to stand in the way of a herd of villagers by now, Tsidu said thumping Cratty on the back, trying to knock out the mud hed inhaled while being trampled.
I dont think youre one to talk, about being smart, Dirwe yelled, rolling her eyes.
Well neither can you! Tsidu screamed.
At least I didn't jump off a cliff! The other pirate cried over the pounding rain.
I didn't jump off a cliff, I fell! It was only because of the extremely high pitch that Tsidu had adopted that anyone could hear her. Sitting next to her, Cratty cringed.
Dirwe laughed, then pointed at her fellow piratess, Who in their right mind runs up to the edge, looks around, says oh look, a cliff, and then falls off of it?!
Well obviously I do! Tsidu replied, crossing her arms and pointing her nose in the air. This posture only lasted a moment as Tsidu quickly realized that this was a sure fire way for her to drown, and no matter how stupid she might seem, she did indeed have the all important self preservation instinct essential to life. As such she quickly lowered her head, all the while trying to act like there was nothing wrong at all.
Dirwe saw through her act. Rolling her eyes she replied, Right, and this disputes my point how?
Well for one thing I didn't say, oh look, a cliff! Tsidus snort of disdain was lost to the rain.
Look, as interesting as listening to this argument has been, Cin yelled, getting their attention, We need to start getting these people across to the other side.
Besides, Called Fieskar, You dont want to be talking about falling off cliffs when we are so close to one ourselves. You might give whoever or whatever is controlling this flooding ideas.
Like they didnt already have that idea, Cin mumbled. Shaking his head he turned to the people. Alright! One at a time were going to send you across.
One at a time?! Essau cried, Well never all make it, look how high the water is! Indeed, it looked like a little waterfall going over the side.
Fine! Well be sending over as many as Parry things can go across at a time.
All eyes turned to the knitter, who had finished the jackets and was now working on what looked like a second rain cover. Looking up she smiled. Well normally, she said, Id have you go across with as many as could fit on the bridge at a time. I think, however, that this time you should go across in a single file line.