The scout returned with troubling news. The Pretender’s men had seized their intended bridge and there was no suitable ford for at least a day’s journey to the South.
“What about the bridge at Quinan?” the commander asked.
“It is still standing, but looks like it might not be for long,” the rider replied. “And, it would take some serious skill to take the wagon across when it was at its best.”
“So we can go two days out of our way and hope that the southern bridge is unoccupied, or we can brave the Quinan. I don’t think we have any choice, we will need to try Quinan,” the commander said after a pause.
He called his small command together and explained the situation, and then he went to address the prisoners.
“We are going to try to cross the river about an hour’s journey from here. It is a wooden span and it hasn’t been maintained well. Nonetheless, it is the way we are going to go. We should be able to get your wagon across it, but it will need a really steady driver to get a team across. I am not going to risk one of my troopers, so its up to you to pick your best driver.”
“I will take it across,” Omar said. “I have worked with horses my whole life.”
“Well let’s hope horses won’t be the end of that life,” the commander said, in an attempt at a friendly tone. “Let’s get moving, we need to have full light for our best chance.”
The commander sent two riders ahead to secure the Quinan Bridge, and then the entire party moved out at the pace of the wagon.
It was about two in the afternoon when they arrived at the river bend known as the Quinan. The two advance riders were tightening some ropes that they had lashed onto the bridge frame. The closest of the soldiers went to report to the officer.
“Sir, we have made it as secure as we can, though there are some missing planks in the middle. But these are randomly spaced. Aviv has walked to the far side and back, and then did it again leading his horse, but we haven’t tried to ride across.”
“Thank you, Corporal. Go get Aviv and we will get organised,” the commander said, giving a sigh.
“Okay, I want the first two of you the lead your horses across and then hitch them to the support ropes on the far side and give us some tension. Then the next two ride across and we’ll see how that goes.”
“Yes Sir,” the first four men replied in unison.
The first pair crossed easily despite having to take wide strides in a couple of places, and then tightened the ropes as they had been ordered. The next two crossed mounted and then set up a guard to watch the approach on the far side.
The officer then went to the Omar. “I am sending most of my men across. Me and two others will remain behind, then you will take the wagon across followed by the rest of your party. Then I will join you. Take your time, but don’t dally either.”
The soldiers were able to ride across in pairs, but the bridge began to moan with their passing.
“Wish me luck,” Omar said to the others and nudges the team forward. As he did so Maya mumble an incantation to sturdy the boards. As the wagon reached the section with the missing slats, there was a snap, and an additional plank plunged into the river below, jamming the rear left wheel of the wagon in the void.
Wayne, dismounted and told Gwen to lead his horse behind hers, and then leaped onto the cable that served as a rail on the left side of the expanse. He tight-roped to where the wagon was stalled, and twining his legs into the ropes pulled up on the wagon frame with all his might. It was just enough to allow Omar to get the team to pull to wagon free and to cross to the other side.
“Now, the rest of you,” the officer said with a tone that was more of an order than a suggestion.
Slowly the party made their way across to Quinan and finally the commander and his remaining riders made the precarious crossing right before an additional plank dropped into the torrent below.