I had hoped to at least get over the bridge before we ran into more trouble. There was a moment when I watched the movement in the slight mist ahead and considered turning around and going back.
Or sitting down and letting others handle the trouble. One or the other. I couldn't bring myself to care. Too many things, too much going on. I needed a break.
I watched the mist. More than one thing was out there. They looked small. I didn't assume that meant they weren't trouble. Edmond and Lord Snow had both stopped as well, so maybe pausing wasn't such a bad idea.
"They aren't attacking us yet," Edmond offered. "I think that might be a good sign, right?"
"Maybe they're setting up the trap," I replied.
"You're getting pessimistic," Edmond replied. He paused for a moment. "That's probably wise."
"I'm going to take a look," Lord Snow said. "They won't have a lot of luck throwing me off the bridge."
I had purposely not looked down since we started across the bridge, but I had been vaguely aware of a sense of distance. I stepped to the side now and looked down.
A jungle, far, far below with the hint of a river running through the bottom of the gorge. Light came from . . . Everywhere, as far as I could tell.
I expected to see dinosaurs raise their heads and a pterodactyl to sweep up towards us. The sight completely took my attention for a few heartbeats. Then I looked back to see Lord Snow moving cautiously forward, his ears back and his tail twitching.
It was not the snow leopard's place to make certain things were safe for the others. That was my job. I took three quick steps forward and stopped beside him. Edmond, still in my arms, gave a slight sigh of frustration but didn't complain.
The mist was odd. What a surprise. It moved and swirled without the least breeze, and I found myself watching a patch that appeared to form into a shape and break apart again, and then another shape --
I had to force myself to look away and back at what I thought was the real problem.
Little creatures were running back and forth on the bridge in front of us. About Edmond size, brown and red, and starting to make a lot of racket. I thought at first they were just making noise, but I quickly realized I was wrong.
"Human! Human! Human!"
"Calm down," I said. They didn't listen.
Some of the creatures were up on the uneven walls that ran along the sides of the bridge. I feared they were going to fall, though I saw they had long fingers -- and claws -- as well as tells that were longer than their bodies and obviously used as another hand to grab things.
"Be quiet!" I shouted little louder. A few of them fled in fear, but dozen or so stood their ground, and at least got quieter. "All we are doing is crossing the bridge. We won't harm you if you leave us alone."
It was more a veiled threat than I like to make, but I didn't want to stand here for too long because something worse was bound to come along. I did a quick sweep to get an idea of how many we faced -- dozens of them and more arriving. They were small, but they outnumbered us.
And they were not happy.
"Did you understand what I said?" I asked. I kept my tone quieter and, as I had hoped, they grew quieter too as they tried to listen. "We simply want to get to the other side of the bridge."
"Other side?" one asked. The two words echoed around and around. Mimics. "What is the other side?"
"The end of the bridge," I said nd waved my hand in that direction.
They looked. Looked back at me. I had the distinct impression they thought I was crazy.
"How can the bridge end? If it did, it would not be bridge!"
Huh. Okay. A different approach.
"We need to go past this part of the bridge," I offered. They must not move far from here. Cute little guys. They hadn't tried to kill me yet. I liked things that didn't, at least immediately, try to kill me.
"You go to the world of the gods?" the little guy whispered.
This was getting complicated. Neither Lord Snow nor Edmond was offering any suggestions, either.
"We go to seek our future," I offered, which was a complete and total truth.
That brought a whisper of sound rushing back and forth among the little guys. I thought it might be awe. That struck me as kind of bad.
"You seek the gods," the apparent leader said and bobbed his head three times. He stopped. He did it again.
Okay. I bobbed my head three times as well and wondered what I was agreeing to this time.
"Go in peace, brave pilgrims." The little guys moved aside so that they lined the edge of the bridge, little heads bobbing up and down. "May your sacrifice be worth the gift."
But you know, we were getting past these guys without a fight, so I could could count this as a win, right? Sure, Edmond was looking up at me with a shake of his head and Lord Snow had started mumbling things that were starting to sound like soft growl, but we were moving forward.
The mist still moved in odd ways. I could not see through it and had no idea how far we might need to go. And we might have to face gods at the end of the bridge.
Maybe I should have talked to the others first? I looked back and saw the vague line of people (human and otherwise) following me.
I had to go on and make this work.
I hoped Edmond had a few ideas.
To Be Continued. . . .