The waters were rushing just as strong the next morning. Rowan wondered if they hadn’t even swelled overnight. The stream rushed muddy brown; and in the early morning fog it looked cold and deadly.
Mortimer clapped Rowan on the shoulder.
“We’ll be on the other side in no time.”
Raina checked the bindings of the raft one more time before the men carried it to the shore. She unrolled the end of a long, balled up strand of stripped vine and knotted it around a large tree trunk. With the ball of vine in hand, she stepped on the raft.
“Brian, Edward, shall we?”
She called and two of the men, each big and burly and carrying a stake to ford the raft joined her. The rest of the men stood aside to watch. Brian and Edward pushed the raft off and Mortimer gave it another push from the shoreline.
The raft bounced on the stream and whirled around its center until Brian and Edward found purchase for their stakes. Raina stood like a rock in the center and unrolled the ball of vine she was still holding. All three of them were soaking wet when they reached the other shore. Raina jumped off as soon as the raft hit the mud and anchored the vine around another large tree trunk.
“Now they’re there and we’re here. What good will that do us?” asked a fellow named Werner. Rowan wondered how particularly bright he was, but Mortimer explained in a calm voice.
“We now have a line to hold on to. Once the raft is back, it will be a much safer and easier passage.”
“Mrow!” The cat agreed.
Brian and Edmund returned with the raft and the rest of the men loaded up and joined them. Mortimer and Hartmut manned the stakes this time around. The cat jumped on the raft as if it had gotten a written invitation and perched on Rowan’s pack. Werner held on to the line with white knuckles as soon as the raft hit open water.
“Easy he said? What a pack of lies! This is horrible!”
The raft shook and swayed and took on water whenever a side dipped down. Everyone had wet feet at least and most of them got a good soak. However, none of the men were lost, nor their gear. The cat jumped off Rowan’s pack on the shore and purred content. It was the only one who had managed to stay completely dry.
Raina greeted them with a freshly kindled fire.