“We’ve been going for an hour it seems,” Fletcher studied the position of the sun. “I’m guessing the makeshift bridge the woodcutter mentioned got washed away. We should make our own,”
“We don’t have the materials to make one. He had ropes, axes, nails, and hammers. All we have is our weapons, which won’t get through these thick trees,” I rested my palm against the rough, uneven bark of a towering cedar tree. We could cut down branches, but those wouldn’t be sturdy enough to make a bridge from.
“Well, we can’t keep wasting time aimlessly wandering down this river,” Fletcher hissed as he gestured towards the raging, wide river to our right. It was a murky blue, with various rocks pointing out of it. The current was brisk and so loud one could easily hear it several yards away. This was not a river to cross causally.
“I agree, but we need to find a swallower point than this, hopefully where the current is weaker, so we can forge across,” I placed my hands on my hips and narrowed my eyes at him. He was usually very thorough in his approach to handling situations, but I learned that when he was impatient, he turned impractical.
Releasing a drawn-out, low growl, Fletcher ran a hand through his hair and kept it on his head as he studied the water. “You’re right, we could maybe do a middle level area if we anchored your bolas to a tree and used it as a line to get across,” His eyes traveled to my bolas attached to my right hip.
It was considered a bolas, though it quite differed from their normal appearance. While most had two balls on the ends, mine had two double-curved blades. The chain also was usually less than a foot long, while mine was 15 feet long, thus making it more useful than just for combat. “We could try that too, but we’d need the river to be narrower than this point too,”
He nodded his head and we continued along for about another hour. The surrounding forest was denser here, the sun peeking through the canopy in various spots. The river was about half as wide as it was before, but the current was just as strong. No rocks poked out of it, but we had found the remains of the woodcutter’s bridge.
Originally there had been two ropes connected to two cypress trees across the river, but one of them had snapped. The remaining one looked frayed and weathered. Several of the wooden planks were missing from the bridge, yet there wasn’t a gap wide enough where you couldn’t cross. The integrity of it was questionable.
“Looks like we can still use it,” Fletcher pressed his left boot onto the nearest plank. It stayed afloat but was slightly submerged under the water.
I frowned while various birds screeched overhead. “We should keep heading downstream until we can find a calmer spot to wade through,”
“And how many more hours is that going to take? We found the bridge, it’s not gone, so we should use it,” Fletcher’s nostrils flared while he crouched down in front of the bridge in the grass.
“Fletcher it’s half gone and that rope could easily give out under our weight! The current is still too strong and we have no idea how deep it is. Also, if there are more rocks under the water like before. Can we please keep going downstream,” My voice raised with each word. Why was he acting like an irrational idiot?
“Darn it, Evelyn, we can’t afford to waste anymore time,” Fletcher spat out, glowering at me. He crawled out onto the bridge. His knees and hands sank into the water and he waited a moment to see if it would support him.
My lips pressed into a thin line as my hands balled into fists. I held in my angry remarks. He had no intentions of listening to me, so there was no point in saying anything else to him. I just needed to be ready to save him if the situation went awry.
Once, Fletcher seemed certain the bridge was stable, he continued to slowly make his way across it like it was a flat ladder. When he made it to the halfway mark of the bridge, his body dipped further into the water, the rope unraveling and straining more under the movement and weight.
Pulling off one of the ends of my bolas, I freed up the chain. Ready to throw it at him if I needed to. I gritted my teeth when the water came up over his ankles. The bridge wasn’t going to hold. And just as I expected it snapped.
The bridge sank from underneath him and plunged him into the fierce rapids.
I whirled one end of my bolas above my head, my eyes scanning the river for him, ready to cast it when I spotted him.
He bopped up a few meters down from where the bridge originally had been, grasping to a tattered board of the bridge. Debris from the bridge ramped into him, making him lose his hold and sending him downstream with them.
“Fletcher!” I chucked my bolas at him. It soared through the air and plopped into the murky waters. He snatched it before it was swept away. My body jerked forward and I fell onto my stomach into the thistly grass.
I groaned while a dull ache crept up through my stomach and hips. I hadn’t planned for the force of the river. Thankfully the chain was made of reinforced silver, otherwise, it might not have held against the constant tug of the rapids. Crawling towards the boulder in front of me, I planted my feet against it as leverage. Still laying down, I wrestled with the chain, little by little pulling it in.
Eventually, the resistance disappeared and I knew Fletcher had made it back ashore. Releasing the chain, I flipped over and sat up on my legs. My hair falling into my face as I tore off my gloves. Bright red blisters traversed across my palms. My breaths came out rapidly and strained. I understood now why the woodcutter equated the river to a wild leopard.
I flexed my fingers as I shakily rose to my feet. Pain pulsed through my hands. I staggered through my first steps until I got my bearings back. Fletcher was face down in the bristly weeds, soaked, and his back steadily rising.
Stopping once I hovered over him, I timidly reached my fingertips towards his head. “Flet-,” My voice and hand halted when my eyes landed on his neck. Peaking through his drenched, now see-through white necktie was several dark grey scales.
Puruowick’s had scales along their necks and backs. His infection was progressing. My hands clenched into fists, my nails digging into my raw flesh. I winced as the pain kept me from pounding my fists into his back. My brow creased. “When did you get that scale?” I whispered.
“About a week ago,” He muttered, slowly rising into a sitting position all while avoiding my eyes.
“So, that’s why you were in such a rush to get across the river, ha,” I let out a dry laugh, a bit of blood slipped through my shaking fingers.
“Evelyn, your bleeding,” He reached for my right hand, but I knocked it away. He frowned as he pushed his hair out of his face. His eyelids hooded his eyes as he let out a sigh. “I didn’t want to burden you with it,”
“Sharing the fact that your infection is worsening doesn’t burden me, but not telling me does. You’ve been so irritable these past few days and it’s been difficult dealing with you. I had no idea what to avoid or what to do to help because you’ve told me nothing. This relationship won’t work if you keep acting like that,” I gestured between us, as I extended and relaxed my fingers. “Heck, I feel like you’re just burdening yourself by keeping it all in,”
“I’m sorry, your right, I need to communicate better. I guess I am just so used to working through things alone. I might be in a big mercenary company, but I’ve always been alone in my pursuit of my brother because no one back at home was willing to believe me,” His hand had stopped in his hair while he stared off into the distance.
“I believe you and maybe one day after we survive this and if you want to, we can try to find him together,” I placed my left hand on top of the one on his head, giving him a gentle smile.
“Maybe we can,” He grinned at me as he returned my gaze.