They found Gabbie’s and Silverskin’s packs over four days ago. The packs had been scattered as if they were hastily thrown down. They followed the trail of broken branches, splatters of red blood, and bent grass blades up until the greenery disappeared into a ravine.
Alastair wanted to find a way down to make certain that their friends weren’t hurt or worse down below. Tipper pointed out that the bridge on the other side had obviously been cut down. Their friends had made it to the other side.
“We’ll follow the ravine up until we find another bridge. There has to be one eventually,” Tipper said.
Tipper and Ginger supported Alastair. His leg like a broken twig. He had certainly broken more than just one bone.
“We should set Alastair’s leg then,” Ginger pointed out. “We can’t be lugging him around with bones growing back the wrong way.”
“Ugh, not helping,” Alastair moaned. He had a faint green pallor.
Tipper and Ginger located sturdy branches and tore strips of fabric to use as bindings. Ginger even found a long stick that Alastair could use as a makeshift crutch.
They spent four days trekking up and up the ravine. The constant flow of water eased their nerves, but only slightly. Alastair hoped that everyone had survived. He knew for certain that Gabbie and Silverskin were alright, or at least alive. As for the rest? He felt as if scuttling bugs were zipping over his skin from the panic that hit his gut.
Alastair had failed them all once again. He didn’t deserve the silver pocket watch his father gave him what seemed like a million years ago. Now he couldn’t protect anyone with his leg broken this badly. Alastair was so consumed with self pity that he barely spoke, leaving Ginger and Tipper to their own devices for the last four days.
“I’m getting tired of this stupid river,” Ginger groaned. She pointed at the dip leading to the river below. “It makes me want to pee non stop.”
“I think we’re getting somewhere, though.” Tipper was carefully holding Alastair’s upper arm to keep him from tumbling down the dangerous pathway. “We’ve been going at this incline for a while. We’ll become level with the river at some point. When we are, we can find a better way across.”
“To bad I don’t have bridge magic. You never know how handy bridge magic would be until you need it.”
“Fire magic doesn’t help either,” Tipper sighed.
Ginger and Tipper waited for Alastair to join in like they’ve done many times before. They made some jokes or comments that they hoped the youth would perk up with. He didn’t say anything. Alastair only watched his footing align with his crutch.
“We’re way off track. If the others are at Crat, then they’re have to wait five more days for us to get there. And that’s if we manage to cross this nasty river by tonight.”
“When I get there, I’m going to find the softest bed on Soielle and sleep for ten days,” Ginger panted. They had just gone down another rocky incline. “And then, when the Queen gets us back to Earth, I’m going to eat all of the spaghetti the world has to offer.”
“Spaghetti? What in the name of the Holy Matron is spaghetti?”
“This world is a dull one if you’ve never made an equivalent,” Ginger said while shaking her head. “When we get to Crat, I’ll have to point out what it’s similar to.”
“Do not go to Crat!” Someone yelled.
“Woah!” Ginger yanked out her knives. “Whoever that is, do not test me right now. I will throw these right into your head, got it?”
“Goodness. Goodness me,” the person said. “I’m not trying to harm you. I’m trying to save you!”
“How about showing us who you are before we thank you for looking out for total strangers,” Tipper growled.
“I…oh!” One of the rocks that littered the ground up ahead melted away from its brown and black camouflage. There had been a person right in front of them and they hadn’t even noticed. “Forgive me. I didn’t want to turtle you, and I did it anyway,” the person said in a timid murmur. She was small with pointed ears and a blue sheen to her skin. Her eyes glimmered with purple hues. She looked like some sparkling dancing fairy from Earthen fairy tales.
“Hey! You’re an elf!” Ginger shouted. She covered her mouth, appalled at herself. Since when did she act like Gabbie?
“Y-Yes. I am. A River Elf, to be more exact.” The little elf curtsied in her dark homespun dress. “But that doesn’t matter right now. You need to know, please. You can’t go to Crat! You—you just can’t!”
“Now hold on here,” Tipper tutted. “What makes you think you can up and tell people you just met what we can and cannot do?”
“I-I-I!” Tears bubbled from the edges of the woman’s purple eyes. Her long, silver black hair shimmered as if each strand was reflected off of a water’s surface. Her tiny limbs trembled and she may have crumpled to her knees if she hadn’t straightened her back to keep from doing so. “They—“
Before the elf woman could finish her sentence, Alastair, who had barely registered what was happening, felt faint. The ground was churning like a cement barrel and the fresh water scent of the river became too overbearing. Tipper’s grip on his upper arm tightened, but the Kitsune couldn’t stop Alastair’s vision from becoming blotchy in bright white patches.
“You!” The elf woman gasped.
Alastair didn’t know what she wanted to say. He let those white patches claim his vision entirely, eating up his head, and making everything feel safe and warm again.
“Did he really have to faint?” Ginger asked.
Tipper picked up Alastair and tried to throw the youth gently over his shoulder.
“Miss River Elf, we may have gotten off the wrong foot, but I would like to implore your hospitality, since you seem to want us to be safe. Is there somewhere we can let Alastair rest?” Tipper asked the blue elf.