They reached the canyon mouth by mid afternoon. There they took a short break before plunging into the shadows under the steep sides of the ravine. The floor of the canyon sloped gently upward at first between the high walls and they had little difficulty in guiding the horse with Boric on its back. As the afternoon wore on and the light began to fade, the going got tougher as the angle of the slope of the path increased. It took all of Edward, Megor and the Prince’s mens effort and energy to keep the horse moving up the ever steeper path. Loose stone rattled away down the path from under the horses hooves. The horse scrabbled for purchase as its hooves slithered.Patiently it followed Megor’s lead.
By the time they had climbed a little way, it had become hot and humid in the canyon. Soon the men man handling the horse were streaming perspiration which made their clothes cling to their bodies. Claude, Karlan and Prince Ahkiem soon disappeared round a bend as the canyon twisted and turned leaving the others to curse the horse and continue to scrabble on their own. Tag brought up the rear, pausing often to make sure they were not followed.
It was getting really dark when Edward led the horse finally onto the flat in a little dell which would have been quite picturesque if they had not been feeling so tired. Karlan, Claude and Prince Ahkiem were sitting waiting for them by the stream which had formed a small pool among some rocks.
“ Ah, there you are,” said the Prince to his men when they arrived breathless from the climb. “ Glad you have made it. Get the fire going and find out what there is to eat.”
Megor paused in laying Boric on his blanket to glare at the Prince. When Edward and Megor had made Boric comfortable, he marched over to the Prince, his face a livid purple.
“ Get up off your big fat backside and get the fire going yourself. “ He was so angry, spit flew from his mouth. “ You are a lazy good for nothing. Just because you have a title and can put on that superior attitude, does not mean you do not have to work like the rest of us. We have spent the last few hours pulling and pushing that horse up the hill. You have been out for an afternoon stroll in comparison. Now get that fire going and the food out of our packs. You too Karlan and Claude.”
The Prince started to laugh but stopped suddenly. Edward was standing over him with his sword at the Prince’s throat his face like thunder, his voice full ofmenace. “ You heard what Megor said.”
The Prince blinked and then got meekly to his feet and collected the wood for the fire. He had difficulty getting the fire started but finally it blazed red.
They spent night in the dell with the sound of running water from the stream echoing in their ears. The Prince stayed quiet for most of the night and his men looked at Megor with a new respect.
In the morning after breakfast, they let the horse go, shouldered their packs and returned to their ascent of the canyon. The path became steeper as the morning progressed and the ground under foot more uneven with rocks breaking through the surface. Soon the Prince’s men were forced to stop and strap Boric to the stretcher the healer had insisted they brought with them. He was conscious and wanted to try to walk. Megor pushed him back onto the stretcher and told him not to be a fool. The Prince, Claude and Karlan had long since disappeared as the canyon bent this way and that. The men carrying the stretcher could no longer see very far ahead or behind. Overhead was a slim slither of sky like a blue ribbon. Tag caught them up every so often only to drop back to guard their rear without much comment.
Soon Edward had to attach a guide rope to the end of the stretcher and Megor and Edward went ahead to places where they could get a good foothold and then pull the rope hand over hand while the Prince’s men guided it from below. They were covered in sweat and dust was cake to their faces and still the path got steeper. Tag gave up all pretence of guarding their back and lent a hand in getting the stretcher up the slope. Every time the stretcher bounced over a rocky step, Boric groaned until he lapsed into unconsciousness. Stubbornly they carried on as the shadows lengthened and the daylight started to fade. Then they were at the top and came out of the canyon into the light.
They found themselves on a ledge, the sheer sides of the mountain falling away to their right as the wall of the canyon ended. To their left, the vertical side of the mountain towered over their heads until the top was lost in the clouds. The ledge ran away ahead for a hundred yards and then turned round the mountain side and disappeared. There was no sign of the others.
Wiping his forehead on a clothe, Edward panted, “ What now?”
“ It looks like we will have to follow the ledge round the mountain,” Tag replied doubtfully. “ The others must be waiting round the bend out of sight. I must go back a little way and make sure we are not followed.”
“ All right, lets get moving,” Edward said to his exhausted companions.
They picked up the stretcher and followed the cliff staying as close as they could to the rock wall. On rounding the bend, they discovered the ledge came to an end disappearing back into the rock wall. Ahead there was a low opening in the cliff face and they could hear angry voices echoing out of the opening. Megor and Edward helped the Prince’s men manoeuvre the stretcher through the opening into a large cave.
Karlan and Claude were arguing, their faces only a short distance apart. That they could not understand each other added to their anger but their gestures made it plain to Edward what they were arguing about.
The Prince’s men lay Boric down by some rocks just inside the entrance fearfully glancing at Claude and Karlan. Megor bathed Boric’s face and made him as comfortable as possible. Edward noticed that the Prince was sitting with his back to a rock watching the argument and not trying to interfere.
Leaning across Boric’s prone body, Megor said to Edward. “ They must be arguing about where we go next. I can detect a passage leading away into the mountain behind the wall by Claude. I think he intends to take us through the mountains underground. You had better act quickly or they are going to come to blows any minute now.”
Edward sighed heavily and went to join Karlan and Claude.
Stepping between them, he said in a tight voice. “ Stop this right now.”
Karlan stepped back and grabbed Edward’s arm. “ He has brought us to this dead end. It looks as though we are trapped. I hope Tag is watching our rear to head off his men who must be ready to attack us here.”
Edward shook the hand from his arm. “ Karlan, it is bad enough fighting and arguing with me but we all have to try to trust each other. Megor says there is a passage leading away under the mountains. I expect Claude is taking us through the mountains under ground.”
“ Why did he not tell me?” Karlan exploded.
“ I expect he was trying to tell you but he could not make you understand. He does not speak your language or Parison.” Turning to Claude, Edward asked in Rombuli, “ Is there a passage behind those rocks?”
Claude shook his head and then nodded. “ I have been trying to tell him that since we got here but I could not make him understand. There is a secret door in the rock wall which I can open. After we are rested, I will open the door and we will then continue.”
Edward relayed this to Karlan who then told the Prince. They all looked at Claude doubtfully but then Karlan smiled and bowed to Claude. Before having a sparse meal and a rest, they made Boric comfortable.
As the light faded completely, Claude gave them some torches he had obviously had hidden behind a rock pile. When he had one lit, he went to the wall, touched a protruding rock and silently a door appeared in the wall. It was pitch black behind the door but raising his torch, Claude led the way into the darkness. By the light of the single torch they could not see very far ahead but they were in a tunnel stretching away into the darkness.
They followed Claude through the door and when they were all inside, it closed silently behind.
Karlan jumped at he sound of the door closing but Claude said, “ All you have to do is push on the door and it will open from this side. I don’t know who built the door but I discovered it a long time ago and it has been my passage into the land beyond the mountains ever since.”
Through the dark following Claude with the torch they walked in single file. It was not long before they could feel the rock all around pressing in on them. They passed side passages every so often but could see nothing very far into the darkness. Even in the dark Claude did not hesitate but steered them through the passages. The floor was rough and they had to take care not to stumble. After a while, there was no way they could do more than estimate the passing of time, they came to a steep slope down and with difficulty they carried the stretcher down the incline. There was no way in which they could be certain how long they had been walking but after a while Edward heard what he thought was the sound of water crashing into a lake.
Megor, walking beside Edward lent over and whispered. “ There is a lake ahead of us with a waterfall at one end.”
“ Do you sense anything unfriendly?” Edward asked anxiously.
“ I can’t be sure but I have this feeling that something is following our passage. Not physically but by some sense or other. Every time we pass one of the passages leading off our path especially when the passage leads away to the left and downwards, I have this sense of something filled with tension which lessens as soon as we pass the passage by. It is as though whatever it is does not want us to stray from our path.”
“ Keep a mental watch, Megor but don’t tell the others,” Edward instructed.
They passed through a wider part of the passage such that the torch light did not illuminate the walls and they caught a glimpse of the light shining back with reflected colours. It would have been spectacular if they could have stopped and looked but Claude hurried them along. Once more they descended slightly when the passage closed in both sides again. They came out to the roar of water into a vast cavern. The light sparkled off the edges of what must have been a large body of water but their light did not shine far enough for them to see very much.
Finding a spot near a pile of rocks, Claude called a halt.
“ It is almost the middle of the night above ground,” he explained. “ I think we should call a halt here and get some rest. There will be drift wood by the edge of the lake and if we collect this we can get a fire going.”
After a brief search, they soon had enough wood for a fire and Karlan used his flints to start a blaze. The fire gave them more light and Edward discovered they were on the sandy shore of a lake which stretched away into the gloom. Megor made the now conscious Boric comfortable while Karlan and the Prince cooked a meal.
After they had eaten and were making ready to get some sleep, Edward spoke to Claude. “ How long before we get through the mountains?”
Claude smiled in the light of the fire. “ With a bit of luck we should be through by dusk tomorrow.”
“ Shouldn’t we set a watch?” Megor asked.
Claude looked at him sharply. “ Why should we keep a watch?”
Tag answered.” We always keep a watch when we are in a place we are not familiar with.”
Megor however was not going to let the idea fade. “ What about the spirits I can feel from the side passages?”
Tag tensed but Claude laughed. “ You must mean the Rigante, I suppose. In all my experience I have not met a Rigante in all the times I have travelled this passage. We know they are there but as long as we do not try to invade their territory, we will be left alone. If you think we should keep a watch, we will set a watch.”
Tag looked around into the dark. “ I hate being under ground and not being able to see. I will organise a watch.”
The night, or what Claude told them was the night, passed uneventfully. Edward’s sleep was accompanied by the roar of the falls away across the lake in the dark and he took his turn to keep watch when Megor called him. All too soon Claude was calling them all to awaken. They ate a cold breakfast, lit a torch and covered the fire.
Once more they set out following the wavering light carried by Claude. The sound of the waterfall became louder until it dominated their senses and their thoughts.
After an hours walk, Claude called a halt and raised the torch above his head. Dimly to their right they could just make out the flickering light falling on rushing water. The sound of the waterfall was so loud now, they found it difficult to hear the othr’s voices.
Claude soon turned away and led them to the foot of what appeared to be a sheer wall of rock. To the right the falls fell roaring thunderously into the lake but ahead there was an opening in the rock tall enough for a man to enter upright.
“ We go through here,” said Claude pointing to the dark shadow of the opening. “ This passageway leads upward in a sort of wandering way. Half way to the top it comes out onto a sort of balcony just above the falls. The stone floor is slippery there so take care. From the balcony, the passage again winds its way through the rock but always upward. It then comes out on a broad ledge leading away to the left. This is right above the canyon through which the river flows to the falls. I think we should light another two torches while we go up the passage. The route winds backwards and forwards and those at the back might lose sight of the torch. Megor you take one by the stretcher and you have one at the rear Tag.”
Once more they set off following Claude though this time there was more light from the extra torches. Claude was right. The passage twisted and turned through the rock until at times the torch ahead and the one behind disappeared. At those times all Edward could make out was the glow of the light on the passageway walls. The sound of their footsteps echoed along the corridor and their progress was constantly accompanied by the dull sound of the falls, heard even through the rock that enclosed them.
“ We are coming to an opening just round the next corner,” Megor observed to Edward as they took their turn in carrying the stretcher. “ It is just above the level of the river. Then the passageway turns back into the rock and keeps on climbing. I can sense that it comes out into a broad, very high cave about a hundred feet above where we are.”
When they came round the bend the passageway ended and came out onto a kind of balcony with a wall of rock about waist height running along the edge by the river. Claude had called a halt and the others were sitting in the torch light unpacking their supplies. Megor and Edward made Boric comfortable in a corner and took out their food. Curious, Edward approached the edge of the ledge and lent over the wall. The river flowed swiftly a few feet below where he stood and to his right it disappeared over the edge of the falls with a mighty roar. Normal conversation was impossible and Edward returned to his friend.
After a rest, Claude called for them to move on and they packed their bags and once more went into the passage. It seemed like they had been climbing for ever, twisting and turning until Edward had no idea what way they were facing. The Prince’s men said little but took their turn at carrying the stretcher when the time for a swap came.
Just when Edward thought they were going on for ever, Megor who was walking by his side said, “ We are almost at the top. The passageway comes out into a large cave with the canyon carrying the river running down the centre. I came sense daylight ahead so we must be coming out of the mountains.”
They rounded a bend in the passageway and the sound of rushing water, muffled by the walls before, became more distinct. Soon the floor levelled off and they came out of the tunnel into a large cavern. The path led away left hugging the wall along a ledge, the edge of which was about six feet away from where they were standing. The ground disappeared abruptly at the edge of the ledge and dimly across the cavern Edward could just make out another ledge against the opposite wall of the cavern. It was only then that Edward realised that there was a dim light seeping in from his left across the canyon.
He turned to Megor and, in the flickering light from the torch, raised his eyebrows. “ Am I seeing things or is there daylight coming from somewhere?”
Megor grinned. “ Further along this ledge, if you look closely, there is a bridge across the canyon. There are four men guarding the other side with bows. Behind them I can feel the entrance to the cavern and daylight shining on a valley. However, I would not like to cross that bridge exposed to those men.”
He turned away and knelt by the stretcher containing Boric which the Prince’s two men had placed gently on the floor. The men took deep breaths and stretched their arms above their heads. Tag came out of the tunnel with his torch and stopped by the stretcher.
“ How is he?” he asked Megor.
“ Not very well I am afraid,” Megor replied. “ He has a fever and is once more unconscious. All we can hope is that we can find help once we get out of here. By the look of the light coming through the end of the cavern that might not be too long.”
Tag looked up abruptly. “ Edward am I seeing things or is there a faint light coming from over the other side of the canyon?”
Pointing along the ledge, Edward replied, “ Megor tells me there is a bridge across the canyon round the bend and the entrance to the cavern just passed the end of the bridge. If I look hard I can vaguely make out the bridge but not the source of the soft light glow. The others must have reached the end of the bridge by now. You would have thought they had waited for us. Right, lets get going.”
The Princes men picked up the stretcher with a sigh and followed Edward and Megor along the ledge making sure that they kept well away from the edge. Tag brought up the rear. When the rounded the corner of the ledge they almost bumped into Karlan who was waiting for them to catch up
“ Ah we are all here now,” Karlan said. “ Ahead is a bridge which crosses the canyon. On the other side, or so Claude informs us, is the entrance to the cave which leads out into a valley. Near the entrance is a village where we can find shelter for the night. We will then have to go to Providence the main town of the valley in the morning to report to the leaders and the council. Claude says all our questions will then be answered. I hope that is true reflection of what he said because I got it second hand from Prince Ahkiem. The others are waiting by the bridge.”
“ Will there be healers in this village?” Megor asked.
“ I have no idea,” Karlan replied.
“ No you wouldn’t would you,” Megor answered angrily. “ You have acted like a stuck up Prince who thinks all manual labour is beneath him. While you have strolled ahead you have had no thought for your friend lying on this stretcher. If we don’t find a healer to look at him soon, he is going to die.”
“ I am sorry, Megor. I didn’t think he was that bad,” Karlan said. “ I will find out from Claude about healers in this village.”
“ What are we going to do about the soldiers on the other side?” Edward demanded. “ You won’t get far along that bridge with their bows firing at you. They do not have to be all that accurate to hit you as exposed as you will be with no cover on the bridge.”
“ What soldiers?” Karlan demanded turning to stare across the bridge.
“ See you were so intent on making sure you did not get roped in for a turn at carrying this stretcher, you forgot one of our major assets. Megor has been telling me all the way what we face and what direction we are going in,” Edward tried not to sound too smug. “ He tells me there are four men with bows and arrows the other side of the bridge waiting for the first person to step over onto the span.”
“ Why did Claude not mention the soldiers,” Karlan muttered. “ Come on. Lets join the others.”
Once more the Prince’s men picked up the stretcher and followed behind Megor. Edward and Tag brought up the rear.
When they joined Claude and the Prince, it was quite possible to see the bridge in the light which was streaming through the entrance to the cave about fifty yards from the end of the bridge.
Claude waved them to a halt and spoke in Rombuli now Edward was there. Edward translated for the others. “ Across the bridge are the guards who spend boring hours watching the bridge just in case anybody comes through the tunnels. Nobody has come in living memory but we still keep up the guard. Every young man has to take a turn. They will be really alert and a little scared now because they must have seen our torches. It would not surprise me if they haven’t sent for help. I will go first across the bridge and tell them what is happening. Once they agree to let you across, I will wave my torch. Come across in single file and please keep your hands away from your weapons.”
He looked around the group and took their nods for agreement. Megor and the Prince’s men made Boric comfortable while Edward and Tag stared out across the bridge. Karlan and the Prince sat waiting with their backs to the wall.
Edward watched the vague outline of Claude in the flickering light of the torch bob across the bridge. Two figures stepped out of the shadows, arrows notched to their bow strings, and stood waiting for Claude to join them. In the light of Claude's torch all Edward could see was vague figures. He could not make out their expressions or gauge their mood by their body language. At one point he was certain there was a lot of arm waving and he tensed when he thought they were going to detain Claude. In the end they bowed and Claude waved his torch to signal for them to come across.
This time Edward spoke first. “ Don’t argue with me but I will go first.”
Karlan growled. “ I don’t see why. I am the better fighter.”
Edward sighed. “ If they start firing arrows when we are half way across, your fighting qualities will not be much good. In order to kill somebody with that sword of yours, you have to be within an arms length. No I will go first. I have certain powers and if they start firing arrows at us, I think I can raise a shield to stop the arrows before they reach you. That way I can get you close enough to use your sword. Do you agree?”
Megor laughed. “ A rebuke for you twice in an hour, Karlan. This must be a new sensation for you.”
Karlan frowned but then smiled. “ I am sorry Edward. You lead on.”
They formed up into a line, Edward first followed by Karlan, Megor, the Prince’s men with the stretcher, the Prince and finally Tag. Edward did not rush though his whole instinct was to race across the bridge. He stared ahead ready to raise his shield but nothing happened. If we get passed the centre of the bridge all will be all right, he assured himself. Nothing happened. As far as he could see from the dim light, the two men stood beside Claude their arrows notched on the bow strings all the time. Then they were descending the second half of the bridge and still nothing happened. With a long puff letting the air out of his lungs which told Edward he had been holding his breath as he crossed the bridge, he stepped off the bridge and the waiting men lowered their bows.
A flame flared from behind a rock and another joined them with a lighted torch. The men were dressed in green woollen jackets and trousers with soft leather boots on their feet. The only colour was in their neck scarves which were brightly dyed, each of the men with a different pattern on their scarf.
Claude spoke in Rombuli and Edward translated. “ This is patrol leader Phillipe Sharpe. He has sent word to Bycavern that there are some people coming through the tunnels. He will take us out of the Entrance Cavern and onto Bycavern. I have explained who you say you are. I expect there will be some more village men ready to confront you as we approach the village. Please let me and Phillipe do the talking. I am one of the few Rombuli who knows about real fighting. If it came to a confrontation, I am afraid at what would happen to my people. Then you have Edward Eastland and his power. We could not stand against him. Please let them escort you into Bycavern and then put you up in the manor house for the night.”
Edward looked from one to the other. “ I will give you my word that there will not be any fighting.”
The Prince retorted. “ I did not understand that but I hope you did not give an assurance about not fighting on my behalf. You have no authority over me.”
Edward winced but turned to face the Prince in the flickering light of the torches. “ Prince when you agreed to join our band, you gave up your individual authority over our decisions. If you do not like it, you can go back on your own. I have given Claude and Phillipe an assurance that we will not fight. If you go against that without due cause, just remember what happened in the prison. Now are we all agreed?”
They all nodded including the Prince. “ Good. You had better lead on then Claude.”
Following Claude, they soon came to the entrance to the cavern. The bright light of the setting sun blinded them at first but they could soon see what was around them. They climbed up a narrow rock strewn gully before coming out to overlook a narrow valley between very high mountains, the tops of which were hidden from view. The track they had been following wandered down the hill and through the valley. About a mile from where they stood the valley opened out and they could see a group of houses.
In single file they walked along the track towards the village. They were getting close to the foremost houses when the track meandered through some rocks hiding what lay ahead. As they filed through the rocks, men stood up out of hiding above their heads and some others blocked the track ahead. Claude and Phillipe called a halt and went on ahead to meet these people. After a consultation, Claude waved them forward.
When they had joined Claude, Phillipe and the waiting men, Claude said to them, “ This is Dorrick, the leader of the village Council. He has agreed for you to stay in Bycavern for the night. There is no guest house but most of you can stay at the Manor House. Edward and Megor will take Boric to the house of Mordea who is the local healer. She will do what she can for him while you are here. In the morning Dorrick will arrange for you to go onto Providence, our capital. There you can get better help for Boric because it is where the healer school and hospital are. While you are there you can meet the Council and explain where you come from and where you are trying to reach. I have no doubt they will be able to advise you on the best way of accomplishing what you want.”
After Edward had translated and a brief discussion, they all agreed to go along with Dorrick. Looking from one to the other, Dorrick looked relieved when they agreed to accompany him as though aprehensive of what might happen if they refused. Hurriedly, he turned away and led them towards the village of Bycavern.
There were about fifteen houses in the village, half grouped around a central square, the others lining the various tracks passing through the village. The houses were built of wood with sharply sloping roofs and of single storey. To one side a short distance from the other house and surrounded by its own gardens, was a larger house with two storeys. The Manor House thought Edward.
Dorrick led Karlan, Prince Ahkiem and his men towards the Manor House leaving Edward and Megor under the control of one of men.
The villager grinned hugely and waved his hand towards one of the houses back away from the track they were on.
“ Mordea’s house,” he said.
Edward indicated for the man to lead the way and he and Megor picked up the stretcher. Several people were now curiously looking on and began to follow the progress of the newcomers. Children ran out onto the track and smiled at Edward and Megor. Edward smiled wearily back and said hello. The children squealed with delight at his funny accent.
As they approached the house, a woman opened the door and stood waiting for them to arrive. She was a large woman with long grey streaked black hair dressed in an ill fitting tunic. She smiled in welcome and came down the path to meet them.
“ I am Mordea, the local healer. Dorrick sent word that you were bringing an injured man to me. Bring him into the house.” she indicated the dwelling close by.
“ Thank you Mordea, “ Edward replied, bowing. “ This is Megor and I am Edward Eastland. On the stretcher is Boric Borovic who as you can see is in a bad way. We have done all we can for him and we would be grateful if you would help him if you can.”
“ A very polite young man with a funny accent, I see,” she said while she was feeling Boric’s forehead. “ He has a very bad fever. When we have him inside, I will see what i can do to help ease his suffering.”
She led the way into the house and across the living area. Two women, who Edward judged were in their late teens or early twenties, were standing shyly by a curtain which hid a bedroom. Edward and Megor put down the stretcher as gently as possible and lifted Boric laying him on the bed.
Mordea indicated for them to leave and before they had got through the door, she was cutting away the clothes from around the wound. One of the girls stayed with her, the other followed them out into the living area.
Indicating chairs by the table, she said. “ I am Diana, Mordea’s eldest daughter. I have started to prepare a meal for you as instructed. It will be ready soon. Would you like a drink?”
Edward translated for Megor though he did suspect that Megor was starting to understand a good deal of the Rombuli language. “ Thank you, Diana. This is Megor and my name is Edward Eastland.”
Diana laughed. “ You have a funny way of pronouncing our language,” she said. “ Where did you learn to speak Rombuli?”
Edward laughed in turn relaxing a little for the first time since rescuing Boric and Tag. “ I could say the same about you. I come from the other side of the mountains and Rombuli is my language.”
They both looked round when Megor said in halting Rombuli, “ I would like a drink, thank you.”
“ I will get you some beer,” Diana said turning away and going into what Edward took to be the kitchen. She returned shortly with two tankards of beer. While they drank the beer, Diana busied herself with getting their meal. Once ready, she placed a platter of bread on the table and then two steaming bowls of stew.
They had just finished eating when Mordea joined them. “ Ah, I see Diana has looked after you while I was dealing with your friend’s wound. I have to tell you that I am afraid I have done all I can for your friend. I have cleaned the wound and applied a salve to try to bring out the rot. In addition, I have given him a draft which will help him sleep. In the morning, I will have to tell Dorrick that Boric can only be moved if you carry him in a trap. Even then I will not take the blame if anything happens to him. The best thing you could all do would be to leave him here and get the healers to come here from Providence.”
“ Thank you for all you have done for him, Mordea,” Edward said his gratitude obvious from the tone of his voice. “ We have been told that we will have to take Boric with us tomorrow when we leave for Providence. I will not blame you if anything goes wrong with him. It is really our fault for dragging halfway across the earth. Can we sleep here for the night?”
“ When you are ready for bed, we will bring out two pallets and you and Megor can use those. I am sorry it is only a humble house but there are only two bedrooms. We do not have visitors often.” Mordea smiled shyly.
“ That will do nicely,” Edward thanked her.
Diane had joined them at the table after clearing away their meal things.
“ Can you tell me where you come from?” she asked looking curiously from Edward to Megor. “ I have never seen anybody from outside our land before you came. Indeed, you are the first stranger I have ever met. Most of the people who come to our village are farmers and landowners from the valley who we have met before. Once in a while we go to Providence to meet our relations but even that is infrequent since father was killed in an accident a few years ago. Even in Providence most of the people we meet we know at least by sight.”
Edward raise his eyebrows and looked at Megor. Megor shrugged back as though leaving it up to Edward to decide how much to tell.
“ As you can tell from my talk, I am like you, a Rombuli. I come from a land the other side of the mountains towards the east. There is war in the land where I come from and during a battle we got cut off from our means of getting home. Ever since the battle, we have been searching for a way passed our enemies so that we can join the defence of our land,” Edward finished.
“ You must be one of the lost Rombuli who left our people by the Lake and wandered away, never to be heard of again,” Mordea stated.
“ I suppose we are,” Edward frowned. “ In our Book, it tells of the long trek through hostile lands in search of a place of peace. It also says that some of the Rombuli remained behind by the Lake. It is a long story and I think I will leave the details for the Council when we arrive in Providence.”
Dianna was looking closely at Megor. “ He is not one of the Rombuli, Edward. Your accent is strange but it is obvious to me you speak Rombuli naturally. He has only just started to learn and it is not his natural language.”
Megor said to Edward in the Elvish tongue, “ Tell her where I am from. She will not understand anyway.”
Dianna looked from one to the other. “ What was he saying?”
“ He says to tell you where he comes from,” Edward replied. “ He is what is known as an Elf. He comes from a land of forests to the northwest of here.”
“ Is it such a vast world out there?” Dianne asked her expression wistful and her eyes vague as though trying to imagine what the outside world was like.
“ Yes it is vast but you are not alone in not seeing much of the world. Until a year ago, I had not seen much more than the land twenty miles around my home. It was only the coming of war and the need to help that sent me away from my home. Most ordinary people in the rest of the world live out their lives like you, content with their friends and neighbours. They do not travel. Indeed for most there is no real desire to travel away from their home. I was content until the war came.” Edward frowned and shook his head. “ Now I have been all over the Empire and beyond. I have met other peoples I did not know existed. It is a big surprise to discover that there are Rombuli out here beyond our land. To us you are the one’s who stayed behind to take their chance with the invaders.”
Edward went on to tell her more of his life. “ In reality I was a blacksmith before I set out on my journey. My land was controlled by a force called the Empire which clamped down on any who opposed their power. To keep things brief, I opposed the power with some power of my own and was banished to the ends of my land. Then the Empire started to collapse and I was summoned to the main town in Rombuli. They sent me out of my land to seek for help. As I said just now, Boric and I took part in a battle and got cut off from the way home. We have been trying to find another way back ever since. We met Megor in his forest land and he and his cousin agreed to come with us. On the way here Boric was injured and Claude showed us the way here.”
Megor laughed loudly. “ That is a very brief precise of what has happened to Edward leaving out many of the details.”
He then went on to talk of the Elves and their land in his halting Rombuli.
Dianna listened with wrapped attention, her eyes seeming to reflect a longing look across the mountains. She asked questions about the outside world, its people and its ways of living.
Some time later, Mordea went to check on her patient and Megor laid on his pallet and went to sleep. Still Dianna and Edward talked on into the night until Mordea with a smile suggested that they get some sleep.
After breakfast the next morning, Karlan arrived driving a horse and trap. Though Mordea protested, Edward and Megor lifted Boric into the trap.
Once she was certain that Boric was comfortable, Mordea stepped from the trap and kissed Edward and Megor on their cheeks. “ Goodbye, Edward Eastland. I hope you will be gentle with Boric on the way to Providence. Goodbye Prince Megor. It has been good for me to meet somebody who is not Rombuli. May you both travel with your Maker.”
“ Thank you Mordea for all you have done for my friend Boric. May you travel with your Maker.” Edward bowed deeply.
While Megor was saying his goodbyes, Edward turned to Dianna, kissing her on the lips. “ Goodbye Dianna. Thank you for all your help. May you travel outside the valley some day and meet all the different people we told you about last night. May you travel with your Maker.”
Dianna kissed him back. “ I wish I was coming with you. Maybe we will meet again outside the valley one day. Goodbye Edward.”
In the village square, they joined the Prince, his men and Tag mounted on horses, waiting for Claude. Shortly after Edward joined them, Claude came out of the manor house accompanied by Dorrick. Mounting, Claude led the way out of the village of Bycavern and onto a road leading north.
They travelled at a pace which allowed the trap to remain with the horses through a land of gentle slopes and green fields. Just like Rombuli, Edward thought as he drove the trap behind Tag, except for the mountains. Oh there were mountains near at hand in his homeland but here the mountains loomed ahead, behind and to each side over the land. The peaks towered above their heads and the sun rose above these because it was summer. In the winter the shadows caste by these mountains must have left parts of the valley in deep gloom all day.
As the sun reached its zenith ahead of their road, they approached a town set at the confluence of a number of roads.
“ Providence,” said Claude as he reigned in to wait for Edward and Megor with the trap to catch the others. “ I suppose you would call this the capital but compared to Ambleton, it is only a village. It has about three hundred inhabitants and eighty houses. It is the only place in the valley where there is an inn or guest house as we call it. You can stay there for the night. When you have settled in, I expect Alain our leader will want to see you.”
Claude rode forward and resumed his place at the head of the column.
Edward looked at Megor and shrugged. “ Why did he come back to tell me that? He is right beside Karlan and could have told him.”
Megor grinned. “ Though you might not like it Edward, they are all a little afraid of your power and want to keep on your friendly side.”
They followed the others into the town along a broad street lined with bungalows. The houses were built of stone with slate roofs. Curious people lined the roads obviously discussing the dress and appearance of the outsiders.
Claude stopped in front of a low building and dismounted. “ This is the guest house,” he told them before turning to speak to the waiting householders. Two brown robed figures came forward and stood by the trap.
“ We are the healers Claude asked for,” the leader said and Edward was surprised to find it was a woman. “ We have come to take your friend to the House of Healing as instructed by our leader.”
Edward climbed down from the trap and bowed to the woman. “ I am Edward Eastland and this is Prince Megor. The man on the stretcher is Boric Borovic. Look after him please.”
The woman pushed back her hood revealing a mass of blonde hair. “ I am Lisa Sharpe and this is Mary Goodland. We will get some men to carry your friend to the House of Healing. Do not worry Edward Eastland. We will do our best for your friend. The House of Healing is across the road and you can come to see how he is getting along any time you wish. There will always be somebody to greet you.”
Four men materialised at Edward’s shoulder and lifted Boric from the trap. Nodding to Edward, Lisa led the men away across the street to another low building on the other side of the ropad from the guest house. Edward stood and watched until they disappeared into the House of Healing with his friend.
“ He will be in safe hands,” Megor remarked to Edward. “ Though their minds are closed to me I could not detect any malice towards us. Indeed all I could feel was a sense of wanting to help.”
“ Thank you Megor,” Edward smiled sadly. “ I hope he will recover sufficient to travel soon. Come on lets follow the others.”
The building proved to be like an inn in Rombuli with a common room for drinking and meals at the front and bedrooms leading away towards the back. A servant led Edward through the common room and down a corridor.
Indicating a door, he said, “ This will be your room. Your bag has already been delivered. Prince Megor is next door. When you are ready your friends asked me to tell you they are meeting in the common room. If there is anything you require do not hesitate to ask.”
Thirty minutes later, Edward walked into the common room to find the others already there.
“ Ah Edward,” Karlan greeted him. “ Claude says he will be back soon to tell us what is going to happen this afternoon. There is some food and drink on the table over there.”
When Edward had a plate of food, Karlan continued. “ It looks as though we will have to wait a while before we can continue while they look after Boric. What do you think we should do?”
Edward shrugged. “ We will have to wait until Claude comes back, I suppose. I expect we will have to talk to their leader. “
Tag groaned. “ All we seem to do is wait until we can talk to those in charge.”
“ Patience Tag.” Edward said. “ You know I am as impatient as anybody to resume our journey but we have to find out how we can get through the mountains from here to Rombuli before we do anything else.”
As though on cue Claude walked through the door from the street. All eyes turned to watch as he crossed the room and drew up a chair.
“ Well?” Edward demanded shortly.
Claude smiled. “ Boric is in good hands and they are assessing what is needed to help him. They will do all they can for him. Alain Fraser is waiting to talk to somebody from your party. I think it would be better if only two of you went to see him.”
Edward translated for the others.
Tag frowned. “ Who do you suggest goes to this Fraser then?”
Claude looked from one to the other until Edward translated.
“ I think it should be Edward and Megor because they at least understand the language.” Claude waited for Edward to translate.
Tag asked Prince Ahkiem, “ Can we trust him?”.
The Prince laughed.“ Tag, we don’t have much choice.”
Karlan frowned and then grinned. “ All right Edward, tell Claude that you and Megor will go with him. Please be careful not to upset these people. We are surrounded by them and we have no idea of what power they have. Besides we need them to tell us which way we have to go to get out of here.”
Edward conveyed Karlan’s thoughts to Claude. “ We will go when you are ready.”
“ What about the rest of us?” Tag asked.
Claude shrugged when Edward translated. “ They are free to do what they like. Nobody will stop them, though they may find a lot of people want to talk with them once they have got over their fear. You are our guests not our prisoners.”
Claude got up from the table and led Edward and Megor out of the guest house. They followed him down the street and up another street leading away from the main road. At the end of this street was a house surrounded by a garden but in other ways no different from the other houses in the town.
“ This is the house of Alain Fraser,” Claude told them. “ He is expecting you.”
As they approached the house, the front door opened and a man appeared bowing in greeting. He held out his arm in a sweeping gesture as though bidding them to enter.
“ Mr. Fraser is waiting for you on his veranda at the rear of the house. Follow me.”
They entered the house and followed the man down a corridor and out of a door at the back. They came out onto a veranda over looking a garden and the mountains in the distance. Another man rose from a chair and smiled in greeting waiting for them, leaning on his stick. He was about the same height as Edward but rather stooped with age. His grey beard was trimmed neatly but his eyes were alert and smiling in welcome.
“ Come and sit down here,” He said indicating some chairs. “ I have no knowledge of how to greet you as you might be greeted in your own lands. You are the first non Rombuli guests I have ever met.”
Edward bowed slightly and Megor held up his hand in greeting. After taking a seat, Edward said. “ I am a Rombuli, Mr. Fraser. Edward Eastland is my name. This is Prince Megor of the Elves of the Forest.”
“ Call me Alain, Edward,” Alain Fraser stated. “ I am the leader of the valley Rombuli and am anxious to find out what brings you here. How can you speak our language with such an awful accent?”
Turning to the servant, Alain said. “ Bring us some drinks.”
Once they all had a drink to hand, Alain asked Claude to explain. Edward sat looking out to the mountains with only half his attention on what Claude was saying. Claude in very brief terms outlined how he had come to meet Edward and his friends. He went on to tell of their journey here and explain why he had brought these people to the valley.
When Claude had finished speaking, Alain turned to Edward. “ That is a strange story, young man. Can you tell me what it all means?”
Slowly, interrupted all the time with questions, Edward started to explain about the Rombuli, the Empire and the war. He did not notice the sun falling behind the mountains and when he had finished the servant was lighting the lamps.
Alain shook his head when Edward finished. “ That is a lot to take in in one session. Do you back up his story?”
Megor shrugged. “ I joined the party only when they left the Great Forest at the orders of my King. From what Edward has said to you, I can confirm that all of it is true. One thing I should say is that he has far more power, as you seem to call it, than even most of the loremasters of the Elves.”
Alain seemed lost in thought for a while. “ We have mentions of mighty ones with power in our histories before the break up of our nation. It has come as a surprise to me, and no doubt all the rest of the people in the valley, that the rest of the Rombuli we thought were lost for ever are alive and living the other side of the mountains. What can we do to help?”
“ We need to get through the mountains to the east as soon as possible. Can any of your people show us the way?” Edward asked bluntly.
“ That is the problem,” Alain answered. “ Ever since we came here, some of our people have been trying to find a way through the mountains to the east. I am told, never having been out of the valley, that to do that you have to go back to the waterfall cavern. From there are tunnels leading down and to the east. The problem which everybody who has come back and many have never returned, is that no matter which tunnel is taken the men always return to the same spot from which they started. It is as though there is a power down there which will not let them pass. Those that have tried and returned say that they are followed all the time. There are noises of large beasts, screams in the dark and rushing winds. We call it the Rigante but nobody has seen any creatures. Just after the bridge, where the ledge this side of the canyon ends, on the opposite side is a ragged opening in the wall but we have not been able to get to it. It is too far to jump and try as they might nobody has managed to get a rope across. It is as though every attempt is met with a power which will not let the rope become attached. Some enterprising men tried to find the way through the tunnels from the waterfall cavern to the cave by the bridge but to no avail. I am afraid there seems to be no way through the mountains to the east from here. I am sorry if that disappoints you.”
Edward sat and looked out into the gathering gloom. There must be a way, he thought.
“ What is happening tomorrow?” he asked.
“ The healers reckon that they will need to look after Boric for at least another two days before they can say whether he is fit to travel,” Alain answered. “ You will be able to relax and recover tomorrow while we decide what can be done for your friend. I would like to call a meeting of all the heads of families for the day after tomorrow so that you can tell them what you have told me today.”
“ Can we have your permission to go and look at this cave the other side of the canyon?” Edward asked politely.
Alain smiled. “ You are free to do whatever you like. You are not prisoners but our guests.”
“ Thank you,” Edward replied. “ We will go back to our friends now and see you the day after tomorrow. If you could let us know when you want us to be here, we will come.”
Taking their leave of Alain, Edward and Megor left him sitting on the veranda thinking deeply about what he had heard.
As they walked through the town back to the guest house, people stopped them to say hello and ask them about the outside world. Smiling, Edward and Megor answered as best they could but it was quite a time before they arrived back at their rooms.
Karlan jumped up when they came into the guest house asking anxiously what had happened. Megor explained to the others.
Karlan said. “ I have been to see Boric. He seems to be in very competent hands though they could not tell me how he was progressing. They have put him to sleep and are watching to see his progress. What now Edward?”
“ Megor and I agreed to give them another couple of days to get Boric on the road to recovery, “ he replied. “ Again it was agreed that Megor and I will meet the heads of the families the day after tomorrow and then we will see what we are going to do about getting through the rest of the mountains.”
Prince Ahkiem chuckled. “ Good. We have been invited to take part in a hunt tomorrow by Claude. It will be relaxing after all we have been through. He says to be ready at dawn and then we go up into the southern mountains for the day.”
“ You go with Claude, Prince,” Edward replied. “ I am going to have a look at this tunnel leading away from the canyon. Tag, I know I am always making you do things you do not want to but could you accompany me?”
Tag looked rather relieved. “ Of course Edward. When do we leave? Hunting for leisure has never been my scene. I do enough of that when there is a need for food.”
“ Megor will you come with us?” Edward asked.
Megor smiled. “ I thought you would ask me. Yes I will come with you.”
“ We will leave at dawn, then, at the same time as these lot set out on their hunting trip,” Edward stated. “ Tag, we will need some rope and torches if you could see somebody about those. Now for some food and then to bed.”
When Edward emerged from the guest house in the early light of dawn the next day, he found Megor and Tag waiting with four horses. Three were saddled for riding, the other had packs on its back. Karlan, the Prince and the Prince’s men were already mounted and they waved farewell as they followed Claude out into the road.
Tag grinned at Edward. “ Here you are late again. I have the rope, torches and some food for our day. They have sent a message to Dorrick to say we are coming. The guards by the bridge will be able to show us the way when we get there.”
It took them the best part of three hours to get to the bridge cavern. They did not call into Bycavern on the way but were not surprised to find Dorrick waiting for them at the entrance to the cavern.
“ Good morning Tag, Edward and Megor,” Dorrick greeted them, more at ease than the last time they had met. “ I will show you the way. The guards have been alerted and will not interfere.”
Dorrick led them into the cavern and told them to dismount. Leaving the horses cobbled so that they could graze but not go far, they shared out the equipment they had brought with them. Carrying this, they walked into the gloom of the cavern. As they approached the bridge, Dorrick, after waving to the guards, turned right. Lighting a torch, he led them a short distance into the gloom along a ledge at the side of the cavern. The sound of the river was loud in their ears and it echoed off the walls as the ledge became narrower. Just before the ledge came to an end as it disappeared into the tunnel wall, Dorrick called a halt.
Holding the torch high above his head and pointing across the canyon with his free hand, Dorrick said, “ If you look closely you can just make out the entrance to the tunnel over there.”
They set down the ropes and the food in a pile on the ledge and Edward and Megor gazed across the canyon. At first Edward could not see anything but the dim outline of the tunnel wall but after his eyes became accustomed to the gloom, a narrow crack in the wall could be seen. It was not wide, just enough room for two people at a pinch to get through at a time.
Megor stood gazing at the cave entrance lost in a swoon. Edward waited patiently for him to come out of his trance but used the time to look around. It was not promising. He soon came to the conclusion that there was no way he could jump across the gap between them and the cave mouth. There had to be another way, he thought. I could translocate myself across but I have no idea what is on the other side.
Megor interrupted his thoughts. “ I can feel my way beyond the cave entrance but there is something resisting my attempts. As far as I can tell the tunnel goes back into the rock down a rough path with many narrow passages until it joins a much broader road leading east. I cannot force my thought passed that point. There is something there stopping me.”
Dorrick was watching wide eyed. “ That will be the Rigante. What they are nobody knows but whenever we have attempted to get across here something always gets in the way. We tried shooting a grappling hook across but it always fails to gain a hold. There is no way you will be able to cross here.”
Edward concentrated and made a ball of light appear in his hand just as he had seen Latask do. With his mind he floated this across the canyon until it was just above the entrance to the tunnel. The light showed a ragged entrance but it did not penetrate much beyond the entrance.
“ I could not translocate myself across there in that light,” he said to Megor. “It is too dangerous.”
Walking to the edge of the canyon, Edward looked down. It was too dark to see more than a few feet below where he stood. Using his mind he made the ball of light travel down the canyon side watching intently as it progressed downward.
Below the edge, the canyon walls sloped inward and about fifty feet below where he stood, there was a ledge sticking out over the river. Bringing the light across the canyon, he found another ledge right below where he stood. It looked as though at one time there had been a rock spur going across the river which had in the past collapsed. Now the distance between the legs was only something like twenty feet. What cause him to pause was the sight of the angry churning water of the river as it forced its way downward through the narrowing gap between the canyon walls.
Turning to Megor, who was by his side watching the light as it illuminated the canyon walls, Edward said, “ How good are you at rock climbing?”
Megor groaned. “ If I am right in thinking what you are, I haven’t climbed anything like that for ages.”
Tag, silent until now, intervened. “ You don’t mean to climb down there do you?”
Edward shrugged. “ Can you think of any other way of getting to that tunnel entrance?”
“ Not at the moment but I will think of something,” Tag growled back angrily. “ I can’t let you climb down there.”
Edward laughed. “ And how are you going to stop me?”
“ You win,” Tag said. “ Tell me what you have in mind.”
“ What are you arguing about?” Dorrick asked Edward not following what they were discussing because they were talking in Parison.
Edward explained and Dorreck grimaced.
“ Is that all you are going to say?” Dorrick demanded of Tag. “ They will end up in the river and we will never see them again. I can’t let them throw their lives away like this.”
Edward translated with a grin.
“ Dorrick you have no choice,” Tag told him bluntly. “ You will have to accept that Edward has the power to stop us getting in his way if he wants to do something. I suggest we give up any idea of telling him it is madness and see how we can help.”
Once more Edward translated. Dorrick shook his head but shrugged.
“ Now we have that out of the way, this is what we will do,” Edward said bluntly to Tag. “ We will lower two ropes over the edge until they reach the ledge down there. I will take the thin line round my shoulders and you will pay that out Tag as I go down. Dorrick, if he is still willing to help, will do the same for Megor. I will also take another piece of rope to use for crossing the gap. I will go first and once I have made sure the ledge will hold our weight, Megor will follow. I may have to put out the light as I descend as the effort of keeping that alight and concentrating on climbing might be too much for me. Once on the ledge, I will try to attach a line to the other side so that I can swing across. All we have to do then is climb up the other side. When we are in the cave entrance across there, you can tie the end of the large rope to the thin line and I can haul that across the canyon. The same goes for Megor. We will then try to attach the lines so that one can be used for walking on and the other to act as a handhold at about shoulder height. We then have the means to cross the canyon. Once the ropes are in place we can think of a way of constructing a rope and wood bridge. Easy isn’t it?”
Tag shook his head. “ What do you say Megor?”
“ Just make sure Dorrick holds onto the end of that rope,” Megor growled shaking his head.
Dorrick looked from one to the other until Edward translated.
They lowered the ropes carefully down the rock side of the canyon until one end was level with the ledge. Tag made the ends of the rope fast round a rock and stood back. He attached the thin lines around Edward and Megor’s shoulders. Edward attached the rope to his waist in a hitch and lowered himself over the edge. It was harder than he imagined. As he lowered himself it was as though he was trying to pull his arm out of joint. His feet scrabbled for purchase on the rock surface and he had to put out the light to give all his attention to the climb. It was not long before he had the hang of what was needed and he sought out all the footholds he could. Slowly he descended into the gloom, Tag and Megor anxiously peering into the dark. After what seemed like hours, Tag let out a big sigh as the rope went slack and the light shone out to reveal Edward standing precariously on the ledge.
“ I am down,” his voice sounded in Megor’s mind. “ It looks as though the ledge will carry our weight. Come on down to join me.”
Megor cast one despairing glance at Tag and lowered himself over the edge. Feeling with his feet he found a foothold. In this way slowly he walked down the rock face. Once the rock gave way under his feet but the rope held and he was able to find another foothold. He was sweating and puffing by the time he joined Edward on the ledge.
Edward’s teeth shone white as he grinned in greeting.
“ What now?” Megor whispered.
Edward laughed, though whether from relief or excitement Megor could not tell. “ There is no need to whisper. Over there is a rock sticking out from the rock face. I am going to throw a loop over that and pull it tight. Once I have that attached, I will swing across to the other ledge. Then I will throw the end of the line to you and you can join me. I am afraid after that, we will have to do some real mountaineering.”
Megor raised his eyes to an imaginary heaven but did not reply.
It took Edward five throws to attach the line to the rock even using all his powers but eventually it held in place. He pulled at the end but it appeared to be solidly attached.
“ Here goes, “ he said to Megor and swung himself off the ledge.
He hit the other ledge running and could only just stop himself smashing into the rock face and bouncing back into the canyon. Panting for air, he turned and waved to Megor. His first attempt to throw the end of the line to Megor was dreadful. It missed by some distance but Edward steadied himself and his next cast landed on Megor’s arm. Megor almost fell off the ledge in trying to grasp the line but he managed to hold onto the rope.
Megor grasped the rope tightly and launched himself across the gap. He realised half way across that he was going too slowly but Edward grasped his coat and he was pulled onto the ledge.
“ So far so good,” Edward fatuously remarked. “ Are you enjoying this as much as I am?”
“ Speak for yourself,” Megor growled back. “ The sooner we are at the top and I can get back to a normal life the better. Lets get going before I lose all my courage.”
Edward waved at the anxious faces of Tag and Dorrick peering over the edge of the canyon.
Tightening the rope around his waist, he reached up for what he could see was the first handhold and started to climb. It was hard work and Edward was soon sweating profusely. Even when he breathed deeply to calm his nerves, every time his foot slipped even a little, his heart started to pound in his chest. Megor came behind, his breathing clearly audible, his face white and frightened. As they climbed upward, Edward relayed instructions to Megor about hand and foot holds. The ropes held above them by Tag and Dorrick shortened as they progressed but not enough to reassure Megor that he would not smash against the other side of the canyon if he slipped.
Half way to the top, Edward stopped for a rest conveying this to Megor. As his breathing slowed and his heart beat returned to something approaching normal, Megor was suddenly conscious of the water rushing along below his feet. It made him cling to the rock face and beg Edward to continue. Slowly they felt their way up the canyon side, shifting sideways at times to find a path but always upward. At last Edward felt the lip of the canyon edge and he was hauling himself onto level ground. Leaning back Edward helped Megor into the tunnel mouth.
They lay stretched out on the rocks for quite a while recovering their breath and letting their heart beat settle.
Once he was sure he was safe, Edward got to his feet and looked back across the canyon. Willing a light glob to appear, he let this float above the canyon and waved to a relieved Tag who was peering in the direction of the cave entrance.
“ We have made it as you see,” Edward directed his thought towards Tag. “Now attach the large rope and we will pull this across.”
Helping Megor to his feet Edward said, “ They are going to attach the large rope to our line. Once they are ready we will pull that across. Lets find somewhere to attach it.”
They searched the entrance and a little way from the edge of the canyon came across some rocks sticking up from the floor. “ This will do for one rope,” Edward said. “ We need something about shoulder height for the other rope.”
Megor soon found a place where the rock formed a natural ring and considered this would hold the other rope. They signalled Tag to start paying out the rope. Once they had hauled the rope across the canyon, they attached it to the rocks. Using Megor’s line, they pulled the second rope across and attached this. The two ropes formed a rudimentary bridge across the canyon, one rope for the feet the other as a hand hold. Tag and Dorrick pulled the ropes as tight as possible and made them fast.
Looking along the length of the bridge, Megor said, “ I suppose you want me to walk across there. It sags a bit in the centre.”
Edward looked along the ropes. “ I don’t suppose they can tighten them any more without some equipment or more time. I think we should take what is left of our courage and go across now.”
Not waiting for an answer from Megor, Edward placed his feet on the bottom rope, grasped the other rope in one hand and started to walk across. He had not gone very far when he realised how scary it was. The ropes bounced alarmingly under his feet but he could not cling tightly to the other rope or he would not progress at all. When he reached the bottom of the sag, it became worse. Not only did the ropes sway alarmingly but he found it was difficult to climb the ever steepening slope. Once more his breathing was coming in gasps but he continued to shuffle forward. He was exhausted when he finally made it to Tag on the other side and collapsed in a heap at Tag’s feet. When he sat up and the red mist had cleared, Megor was sitting by his side still breathing heavily.
“ Well done you two,” Tag said cheerfully. “ I did not think you could pull it off.”
“ You had me scared all the time you were down there but I am glad to see you back.” Dorrick clapped them both on the back, the release of tension obvious in the gesture. “ I will call a meeting of the Bycavern village people this evening and we will discuss ways of making the bridge better for you when you want to use it again.”
There was the sound of footsteps coming in their direction and a man appeared out of the glow from the cavern mouth. “ Mr. Eastland? Is he here?”
Edward got to his feet and answered. “ Yes I am here.”
“ I have message for you from Lisa Sharpe, the healer,” he said squinting into the gloom. “ Your friend Boric Borovic has taken a turn for the worse and she thinks you should come back to Providence as soon as possible.”
Tag looked at Edward. “ You go back straight away. Megor and I will stay here and see what the villagers can do about making the bridge better.”
Following the man out of the cavern and leaving Tag and Megor with Dorrick discussing the bridge, Edward captured his horse and rode off in the direction of Providence.
When he arrived at the House of Healing he was shown into a waiting room. Lisa Sharpe came to join him almost as soon as he had sat down.
She looked sad and weary.
“ I am afraid I have bad news for you,” she said bluntly her eyes moist, her expression grave. “ We could not save your friend Boric and he died this afternoon. I am very sorry.”