“Weren’t you guys hired to protect us?” asked Raphe. “Why are you letting these guys just take us?” He looked around at the sentry and the other men in the camp. “I recognize your colors. And your tattoos.” Now that he mentioned it, Wynefrede could see a tattoo of a red fist smashing an anvil on Sewell’s bared upper arm. He also had a red patch in the shape of a fist was sewn onto the chest of his padded jacket, as did the other fighters in the camp. They looked warmer and more comfortable than Rambo and his men, who all wore metal breastplates and other, pieces of armor on their shoulders, knees and hands.
“Sorry, Sewell, I’ll shut them up.” Rambo stood up and punched Raphe in the side of the head. Raphe fell forward, towards the fire. Wynefrede grabbed him and pulled him back. His head was bleeding where Rambo’s steel gauntlet cut into the skin.
Rambo swore. “I forgot I was wearing these.” He waved one of his men over and started pulling off the gauntlets. “Bandage him up. We don’t want him to bleed out.”
A guild member directed Rambo’s men to take Raphe to one of the tents. Rambo unlocked Raphe’s chain, but held onto Wynefrede’s.
She looked up at Sewell. The sentry was looking at little discomfited. She tried to force a tear. The smoke from the fire helped and she sniffed to help the process along.
Sewell looked down on her. “Look,” he said. “There’s nothing to be done. The Armstrong Guild is the most powerful force on Krim. And on Krim, that’s what matters.”
“I watched the battle,” she said. “Your army didn’t look that big.”
“That’s because most of it is tied up in the north,” he said. “You’ve only seen a tiny fraction of who we are.”
“Once word gets out…”
“Word isn’t going to get out. Krim is a private grid. Word never gets out. What happens on Krim, stays on Krim.” Sewell shook his head. “You shouldn’t have come here. Krim isn’t a place for the innocent.”
He began to walk away.
“Wait,” she said. “At least let me look at the bridge.”
“It can’t hurt to her to check it out,” said Rambo. “She’s an engineer.”
“Well…” Sewell thought about it. “None of us have built a bridge before.”
“Come on, she might be useful,” said Rambo. “Rodge won’t mind if we stick around here for a bit. Like you said, he’s got all the power. Nobody tells him what to do. And the plan was to keep them in the castle for a while.”
“I don’t know…”
“At least send back and ask for clarification,” said Rambo. “The situation has changed. Maybe his orders have, too.”
Rambo jerked Wynefrede up by her chain.
Sewell first led them back to the river. Wynefrede picked her way gingerly to avoid stepping on pointed rocks, branches or piles of horse manure in her bare feet, but the forest path was reasonably well worn.
“You can see where the old bridge supposed used to be.” Sewell pointed at a wooden support structure but stayed behind the tree line. “They used to have cables going across to the support the bridge, but those were mostly rusted away. We’ve anchored some ropes here and dropped them down into the ravine. When we’re ready to put the new bridge up, we’ll send a man upstream.” He pointed north along the edge of the ravine. “It gets shallower up there and also is out of sight of the castle. He’ll climb down, swim back down, grab the ropes, and take them to the other side. Unless they’ve got someone standing right there on the other side, nobody will see them. And if they do post sentries there, we’ll just shoot them.”
He pointed to the matching wooden supports on the other side of the ravine. “Our guy will climb up and tie the ropes in place. We’ll use them as guidelines to anchor a support thing in the middle. It’ll be like a ladder. We’ll drop it down the side and dig it into the rocks at the bottom there and use it to prop up the bridge in the middle. Then we’ll just slide the bridge pieces out.” He pointed up at the tree he was standing behind. “We’ve already put pulleys up there. We’ll lower the bridge into place, nail it down on this side, have our guy nail it down on the other side. The we get a group behind a shield go across first, nail the central support into place as well, and then send the whole army over.”
“Sounds risky,” Wynefrede said.
“Yeah, well, if you’re scared of getting shot with a flaming arrow and falling down into a rocky gorge , then you don’t belong in the Armforge Guild. It’s the job we signed up for.”
“Do you have the measurements?” she asked. “Height and width of the ravine.” She looked up at the tree. “Height of the pulley. Weight of the men you expect to have on the bridge at any given time.”
“We do,” Sewell said, and led them back through the camp to the clearing on the other side. Wynefrede looked around at the tree trunks that had already been trimmed, and a pile of milled planks. “We’re expecting another shipment of supplies to come later today,” he said. “More planks, nails, that kind of thing.” A couple of the planks had been used as writing surfaces, with diagrams drawn in charcoal.
She peered down at them. “I would add more cross braces,” she finally said, pointing at the designs. “Here and here. And I’d put another set of pulleys in a second tree. You’re basically building a drawbridge, and that will give you more control as you lower it down.”
“That’s actually a good idea,” said Sewell. “We can do that.”
“See, I told you she could be useful,” said Rambo. “Now, instead of sending a messenger to my guys, why don’t we send a messenger to yours, instead? Ask them if Rodge wants you to keep them around to help with the bridge building, then keep them in the castle for a while. And we can relax, take a load off our feet.”
Sewell scratched his chin as he looked over the piles of construction materials.
“And you’d have an extra set of fighters around if the cult decides to attack you from this side.” Rambo banged on his breastplate. “A bunch of them died during the battle. They’ve had a chance to rest up, regroup, and are probably approaching through the woods now to take you by surprise.”
Sewell glanced up into the trees. “Fine,” he said. “Take a break, then I’ll use some of your guys as guards. With more bodies, we can have the perimeter out a little further, get more warning if anyone is approaching.”
Wynefrede sighed. “Thank you. I’ll be useful, I promise.”
She planned to be very, very useful. Useful enough for them to let their guard down. Then she’d throw herself down into the ravine. At this height, death should be instantaneous, she hoped. With some fast horses, the Royal Season should be able to get their people here before they moved Raphe too far away. And that was just the start of it. She might not know who her captors really were. But she knew the Armforge Guild. She would throw money around until she tracked them down and made them pay.
She never knew that she had this level of vindictiveness in her. It was invigorating.