December 11, 2013 in Articles
Taking a pot of applesauce, and a shaved and blunted twig to serve as a spoon, both given to little Jeremy, and me, his caretaker, by old Jeake the Arborist, I made for the town in the valley. Someone there would be able to take care of the little guy, who I admit I was growing fonder of, although my arms ached from having to carry him all the time. Walking down a curving dirt road that led from Jeakes to the Vassare Bridge, so I was told, I carried Jeremy with one arm, and then the other, swinging the appendages to try to relieve the strain. A quick check and a near topple revealed that any plans of handlessly propping little Jeremy on my shoulder were foolish nonsense, although he liked it, and the tiny drop of a few inches before I caught him got him to giggling.
Walking under the Maplewood boughs for an hour took me to a covered bridge of good solid wood in its construction, but I could see signs of decay. Stepping on to it, I saw an empty plank space, and a pair of nigh-rotted wood planks. Passing on, the wood creaked loudly under my feet. Up ahead, at the halfway point, a wooden fencing on the inside of the bridge suddenly shook and mumbling noises and then a face with a bow and arrow next to it appeared.
“Thief! Bandit! Prepare to meet your doom.” The high tenor revealed a boy, a mere stripling of perhaps thirteen. But he had cover and a bow, and I had none, nor good retreat, and a babe in arms. Plus, the white marks on the side walls sprang into understanding as target aids, which I did not like at all.
“Whoa there, boy.”
“I’m not a boy, and you’re dead.” To my astonishment an arrow launched at me, and only a quickstep to the left, that would have made my first base coach proud saved me and Jeremy from a proper skewering. I wanted to yell, and I wanted to rage, but biting my lip, I forced myself to raise a hand, and take a knee even though my teeth gritted with the desire to go pound some sense into that idiot boy child.
“I surrender.” I called. And this caused a cessation in the scrambling behind the palisade as the archer when for another arrow, and had to stop to consider things. he then went onward, but less energetic until he had another arrow held up over the edge of the fence, and aimed at me and the baby.
“Please, mercy.” I said, hating myself.
“All right, thief. Put down your loot, and put your hands together….”
I turned the baby so he was more visible to the boy behind the fence post.
“Why’d you go atheiving when…”
“Because, lad, I’m not a thief.” I spoke wryly.
“But you snuck up on me to attack me.”
“Nay, rather I walked up, plain as day, and you were asleep at your post.” I made the allegation as calmly as I could.
“I never! You take that back, or I’ll…”
“You’ll what? Kill an innocent man and a baby?” Some would, some would, but I had heard his voice, and although proud, he still had a love of justice. The next thirty seconds ticked on very slowly, and then the boy sighed.
“Fine. You can pass, but you have to buy a passage. For you and the baby, its a copper rial each.”
I searched in my pockets until I found the zinc-nickel fake copper pennies my homeworld had begun using, and took out a couple of them. In my first world, it was scattered change, here it was a bridge toll. Placing the coins in a pottery jar he held out, I waited until he lifted a crossbar he had just dropped. And with that, we had crossed Vassare Bridge, and into Vassare farmland. Here at last were workers in fields, and straight rowed plants growing to the sky in great profusion. And so we crossed that land, and another bridge with another toll, although less eventful.