After the difficult task of crossing the river, again, withan injured and despondant ally, Will is reminded of one of his earliest ‘adventures’, long before he made the journey to Iderath.
As a boy (a younger one than he is now, I mean…) Will had explored the area around his village when his chores allowed the time. Not as dangerous as the beast-haunted wilderness further from civilization, he still had occasion to use his limited survival skills to preserve his own life. While gathering herbs for the village apothecary one afternoon, he was caught in a storm, the heavy rain limiting his visibilty to a scant few feet. With no desire to shelter under the trees in one place with the risk of lightning, he tried to make his way home with only the echoes of thunder and the hissing of the falling rain as company, but it sson became apparent that he had been turned around when he came to a river, swollen with the extra water and carrying uprooted trees large enough to pulverise his bones.
Will thought he recognised the river; downstream he would find an ancient stone bridge and a road home. He gathered his near-useless hood at his throat, and, supported by his staff, carefully made his way along the high bank as the angry river roared a few meters below him.
The spray and the rain combined into a heavy mist; Will had to wipe his face free of water every few pages despite his hood, and he cursed the ‘water-proof’ garment and the traveller who had sold it to him. But he soon spied the dark shadow of the bridge ahead of him, the road of hard-packed dirt leading up to it transformed by the storm into a quagmire of slippery mud, the distant end vanishing into the sleeting rain.
Happier now that he was in familier territory, Will began to cross, coming to a sudden halt as the stone-work ended in a broken fissure, revealing the slate grey river beneath his feet.
Something had struck one of the supports, maybe a tree, perhaps a boulder brought down from the mountains by the ferocity of the storm slamming into the stone, and the age-old ediface had given.
The gap was only about three yards wide, but seemed further to the young boy. But he knew that with the river swollen there would be no crossing up- or downstream for many miles, and even if one of the shallow areas was still navigable, the objects hurling down the current would kill him anyway.
An older, wiser head may have sought out somewhere safe to wait out the storm, a cave or perhaps the dwelling of one of the rangers, charcoal burners or lumbermills who inhabited, however sparsley, this stretch of forest.
But Will was not old, and he was not wise, and he was too confident in his own abilities. He discarded his staff so as not to interfere with his balance, retreated to the start of the bridge and turned to face the yawning gap, about seven yards away.
Then he began to run. His boots slapped on the wet stone, and within a few paces he reached the very edge of the stone, and threw himself forward. The river passed by underneath him, and he bent his legs as his feet caught the far stones. But the bridge shifted beneath his sudden weight, and his legs uncoiled again as he made a second jump, blocks easily three times heavier than him splashing to the water as he fell to his face on the cold stone.
He took a few moments to gather his thoughts and his strength, the odd creak of tortured stone dying to silence around him, and then rose and walked as fast as he dare to the solid ground. He realised he was tensed for another jump, but soon reached the sucking mud of the road.
The rain seemed to be getting heavier, the wind howled around him, and he could hear, deep in the trees, the crack as branches snapped from the trunks and fell to the ground. But he couldn’t suppress a smile. There were no slavers to fight, no outlaws to bring to justice, and no noble but easily impressed young women to rescue, but his heart was racing and he felt alive.
The jump, the exhiliration, he would keep in mind while he performed his chores in the Black Sow.