Tory's Surprise (open) Sept 23, 2019 23:33:04 GMT -5
Post by Brandwyn on Sept 23, 2019 23:33:04 GMT -5
The distant grumble of the swift moving river was turning into a loud roar at the same rate that Tory’s heart was beating faster and faster with anxiety. All the old nightmares came flooding back with the sound of the rushing water.
“He did this on purpose, Chip,” Tory leaned forward and complained into her shaggy pony’s ear. Chocolate Chip flipped his ear back to listen to her. He nodded his head, as if agreeing with his mistress. “He knew there was this river here. I bet the kids are on the other side too.”
Sure enough, when she was within site of the river she could see several small shapes in bright clothing milling about on the other side of the swiftly moving water. Tory eyed the river with trepidation. She had not yet had one good encounter with a river in her entire life. How was she supposed to get nine children safely across by herself?
Tory rode up to within 20 feet of the bank, not wanting to get too close to it. The water was moving fast here and just downstream she could hear it gushing over rocks. Just how bad the rapids were, she couldn’t tell from her vantage point. She told Chip to stand and took her rope out of her pack and tied one end to his saddle horn. The other went around her waist. She tested both ends. ‘This is stupid.’ She thought as she cautiously approached the side of the river. Chip stood attentively watching her as she fed the rope out behind her.
She heard a squeal from one of the girls across the river and looked up from the ground to see them all wave excitedly. She gave a short wave back and a motion for them to wait. The ground sloped down to the river rather sharply and then dropped off straight into the water about 2 feet below as she stood on the edge, clutching the rope for dear life. But this seemed to be the best place to cross. The water here looked to be about five feet deep. Clear water flowed over a very rocky bed. It was a bit wider here between the banks, and they were not as steep as a few hundred feet upriver was. Downriver, there were rapids, and in the distance a roar of a waterfall.
The children on the other bank were a sorry looking bunch. Their clothes were little more than rags, torn and patched in several places. They were thin and looked very tired. Refugees from some village that got wiped out by brigands or the Scotti. Ringulf was trying to find the answer to that now. He had sent them here and had sent a message by carrier pigeon for Tory to come get them. She was to take them to the Baron of Marshwood. The oldest one looked to be about 11 or 12 years old, while the youngest one was probably two. He was crying and a ten-year-old girl, probably his sister, was trying to comfort him.
Tory waved again and motioned them to stay put. “I will be with you shortly, just stay right there!” she shouted, but the older girl looked confused. By the time she got back to Chip, she had decided that swimming wasn’t an option. She was too afraid of the water and the kids were sure to pick up on that. Besides it was too swift for most of them anyway.
She looked around at the trees for several minutes, thinking. “Okay, I only want to cross that river once, but at a minimum, I am going to have to do it twice. Which means I want all of them with me when I come back to this side.” She spoke to Chip as if he understood every word. “You and I could swim over, but they are not all coming back with us in one trip.” If she were to use Chip to ferry them across, she and Chip would be worn out after the second trip for sure. Then half of them would be on bank and half on the other. “That is not going to work. So how to get them all over here?” she mused, looking at the trees as if the answer were growing on one of them. “How to ferry nine kids across the river? Wait! Ferry! That’s it! I need to ferry them across!” she lightly slapped Chip on the shoulder. “And you are going to help!” Chip tossed his head back and rolled his eyes. Of course he was going to help.
She untied the rope from her waist and the saddle and then scrambled around the woods, dragging back several long logs that were in good shape. She laid them out side by side. Then she dragged back, with Chip’s help, four large logs and laid them out right next to the river bank. She dragged the smaller logs over and spaced them out on top of the four big ones and lashed them together with braided river grass. She was glad she’d brought her carpenter’s bag on this trip, for inside were some long nails and a hammer. She nailed the outer two logs to the four base logs and then made a railing and nailed it along one side of her rather crude raft. As an added safety measure, she cut out some long, fresh grape vines and wound and wove it between the logs, lashing them all together.
Next she undid the rope from her grappling hook and tied one end to an arrow and the other to her big rope. The sun was going to be setting soon. It had taken her all day to build the raft and she was tired and hungry. So were the kids across the river.
She got her bow out and knocked the tethered arrow, looking for a target on the other side. The large tree slightly upstream looked like a good candidate. With careful deliberation, she aimed and let lose her arrow.
PLOP! It landed in the river, just a few feet short of the bank. “Well that’s embarrassing.” Tory muttered as the kids all let out a groan. “I am supposed to be a ranger, or almost one anyway.” She felt self-concious as she reeled in the wayward arrow. The self-doubt that she would ever be made a full ranger gnawed at her again. She probably had been an apprentice longer than any ranger in history. Last year at the Gathering, she thought she would be tested, but the Gathering was over before she knew it, and she was still wearing a bronze oakleaf. Now, here it was a year later, and the Gathering was fast approaching, and she wasn’t even sure she was going to be attending it this year.
Tory struggled with herself for a moment and then pushed the doubts and anger aside. She looked back across the river again and that’s when she noticed a woman in courier’s clothing holding a baby with the children gathered around her. Tory waved at her as gratitude and embarrassment washed over her. At least she wouldn’t be taking the children alone, but now there was more pressure to ‘be’ a ranger.
She turned her attention to the tree she had targeted and concentrated on the shot. This time she adjusted for the drag of the rope on the arrow and let it loose.
THUD! It dug into the base of the huge maple tree with a satisfying thump. “Pull this rope across!” Tory shouted at the courier and the kids. After a short discussion on the other bank, they pulled the larger rope over with the smaller one. “Wrap it twice around that tree and tie it off!” she yelled. The two boys complied. “I hope they know how to tie a knot.” Tory muttered as she ran the rope down through two large rings she had attached to two of the corners of the raft. She tied the other end of the rope off snugly to a large elm tree on her side.
She pushed and pushed and finally got the raft over the edge of the bank and into the water. One corner rested on the bottom and the rest of the raft was actually floating. She had one more section of climbing rope and she tied that around her waist and the other end to Chip’s saddle. She lined him up on the path she wanted him to take. “not until I have the kids on board, you hear?” She said sternly to her ranger pony. Chip wickered and tossed his head. “I will whistle.” For the trip back, she planned to have Chip help pull the raft across, but for now, he was her safety line should she get separated from the raft.
She cut a long sturdy pole and placed it on the raft and then she took one of her leather belts out of her pack, slinging it over her shoulder afterwards. She gave Chip a kiss on his nose and then, with a deep breath, she faced her fear of the water once again.
The raft rocked under her feet as she slipped the belt over the rope spanning the river and pulled it tight. She wasn’t sure how well this was going to work, which is why she had cut the pole too. Normally a pull line was attached to a raft up at a man’s head level, not down at the deck level, but she really didn’t have much choice.