Because I’m bored… another small part of Romany Skies.
“Uh uh, not a chance.”
“Gotta be kidding. Let’s go around. Why can’t we go around?” Sam backed away from the crevasse, eyeing the flimsy, oh so flimsy, looking rope and plank bridge that connected this side with the other. His face got paler with every long, lazy swing the bridge took as the stiff breeze caught it side on.
Connor laughed and clapped him on the back.
“Don’t be such a pussy, old man. It’s no more than fifty yards to the other side, and…” he stood right on the brink of the precipice, toes overhanging the edge, and looked down. “Can’t be more than eight or nine hundred feet to the bottom. There’s a river down there, looks like. Easy as cake.”
“Pie,” Sam muttered. “It’s easy as pie, not cake.” His buttocks clenched and there was a dull, empty feeling in the pit of his stomach as he watched Connor step onto the planks of the bridge, jumping up and down to test their sturdiness.
“Look, Connor, mate, can’t we just go around? I mean, that bridge don’t look in too good a shape. And if it’s anything like everything else in this god forsaken place then it’s probably due to fall into that river any day now.” He heard the whine in his voice but didn’t care. He didn’t like heights, and he was afraid to go out onto the bridge. Scared shitless in fact.
“If your story is true then it’s you who’s forsaken this place, not any of the gods!” Connor snapped back. His patience was clearly wearing thin, and Sam took another step backwards as he saw the anger rising in the young man’s face. His cheeks flushed to the verbal slap.
“Look.” Connor took a deep breath and let it out slowly, regaining his composure. “We can’t go around Sam, there’s no telling how many miles long this crevasse is, it could take us days, weeks, to go around. We ain’t even got a few hours to spare, them Blackguards cant be too far behind us, and we really don’t want to be taken by them.”
The young man grinned his now familiar lopsided grin and stepped closer to Sam, putting an arm round the older man’s shoulders.
“It really is simple. All you’ve got to do is take one small step after another.” Connor was coaxing the unwilling Sam closer to the bridge with every word.
“Look straight ahead, focus on that tree on t’other side. Keep yourself moving. Oh, and don’t look down.” His voice was soothing, persuading, convincing. Sam sighed, realising it made sense to cross, that he didn’t have any choice. A small panicky voice in his head cried out against the idea, but he ignored it, steeling himself for what he would have to do.
“That’s it Sam, you’re doing great! Keep going, one step at a time, you’ll be across in no time. Half way now!” Connor’s voice, though raised, was faint in Sam’s ears as the wind whipped it away.
Half way? Was that all? It felt to Sam as though he’d walked miles across this damned bridge already. Nervous sweat soaked his shirt, sticking it to his body. More sweat ran down his face, running into his eyes, stinging, blurring the small tree he’d fixed his panicked gaze on the moment he’d stepped foot onto the warped boards. The wood of the boards was silvered with age, one or two were missing, forcing Sam to take a long stride over the yawning gaps. The rope of the bridge was dry and frayed, and it groaned and creaked as it swayed in the wind. This far out, that swaying was exaggerated wildly, the bridge bucking and lurching under his feet, reminding him of a fairground attraction he’d been fond of as a child. The Cakewalk he thought it had been called.
“This ain’t no Cakewalk, Sammy me old son, no Cakewalk at all.” He giggled nervously, forcing one hand to open, sliding it a few more inches along the rope, clamping it shut again. Repeat with the other hand. Now the feet, shuffle one forward, test the next board. It’ll hold? Good, now shuffle the other foot forward. Soon be there, soon be across. Don’t look down. Don’t. Look. Down.
As if reading his thoughts, Connor called out again. “That’s it, keep moving, don’t look down. You’ll soon be acr…. Oww! Fuck!”
Sam swung his head round to look back over his shoulder, ignoring the vertigo the sudden movement brought on. Just in time to see Connor drop to his knees, lean forward on one hand, the shaft of a black arrow protruding from the back of his left shoulder. Another black arrow suddenly appeared, quivering, it’s head buried in the wooden support post of the bridge. He focused his gaze beyond his stricken friend and saw five, maybe six black clad figures advancing slowly, two with bows, the rest with drawn swords. The red insignia emblazoned across their chests revealed their identity. Blackguards.
Shit! Now what? They’d caught up a lot quicker than he or Connor had anticipated. He tried to turn around but it was as if his body was frozen, a statue of its real self. His brain was in turmoil. What to do, what to do? Go back and help Connor, who was getting to his feet, he saw? Stay where he was? Run the rest of the way across the chasm? Jump? Too many options, all of them bad.
“Run!” Connor yelled, making the decision for him. “In the name of the gods, run Sam, run!”
Sam hesitated for a second, watched as Connor stepped onto the bridge, moving across it as fast as he could, then turned and ran himself. Part of him wondered at the sudden loss of his fear of the height and the rotten, swaying bridge. Most of him didn’t care. Just shut the fuck up and run. A sensible inner voice for a change. Sam ran, the bridge swayed, the ropes groaned, the small tree grew larger as he quickly drew nearer to it. And suddenly the wooden slats of the bridge were gone from under his feet, replaced by rock and grit and sand. Solid ground! Thank Christ, solid fucking ground!
He skidded to a halt and spun round, panting, flicking the sweat out of his eyes as he looked back the way he’d come. His face dropped in dismay. Connor was barely halfway across the bridge, moving slowly, another arrow impaled in his shoulder next to the first, yet another one buried in his right thigh. The Blackguards had halted by the bridge-head, two were lazily taking pot shots at the fleeing man with their bows, the rest were busily cutting through the old ropes of the bridge.
Connor sank slowly to his knees, his gaze locked on Sam, the fire in his eyes burning bright despite the hopelessness of the situation.
“Go!” He called.”Go Sam, get out of here, don’t give them the chance to make their way around to where you are. Run, keep running.” Another arrow materialised in his arm. Connor gazed at it absently before fixing Sam with his fierce gaze once more. “Don’t make me come over there and kick your arse again old man!”
“Please, do just that Connor mate. Please! Come on, you can make it over. Please Connor! Don’t stop, move! Move damn you!” Sam was frantic, his voice hoarse from yelling too loud. Not like this. It couldn’t end like this. It wasn’t supposed to be this way for fucks sake!
One supporting rope gave way under the onslaught of the Blackguards swords, parting with a loud twang. The bridge lurched and dropped violently to one side. Connor, who was crawling on hands and knees, went sprawling onto the boards. He wrapped a loose rope around his wrist for support and looked up at Sam once more. The eyes burned bright, the mouth grinned the lopsided grin.
“Won’t tell you again old man. Run. Get the fuck out of here!” Incredibly, he laughed, the sound sweet and clear in the breeze. “Didn’t I tell you today was going to be an interesting day?”
With an even louder twang than the first, the second rope support gave way and the bridge slowly, majestically, dropped into the crevasse, taking Connor with it.
Guess what? Yes, that shallot.