Razor Mountain is a serial novel, with new parts published every week or two. For more info, visit the Razor Mountain landing page.
The next morning, as the people ate smoked fish and young roots, Black-Eyes-Staring, one of the older children who would soon be a man, pointed across the water and shouted. The light of the rising sun illuminated the far shore and a cluster of trees on the basin slope. Prowling out to the water, they could see a group of huge striped lions. As if in response to the boy, one of them raised his head from the water and roared. It was the sound they had heard in the night.
God-Speaker saw that Far-Seeing and Finds-the-Trail did not say any more about the wonders that awaited across the water. They said nothing as they ate, eyes squinting against the sun after a tiring night watching for eyes in the darkness.
Braves-the-Storm soon set them to work with the long tree trunks. The people lined up along one of the trunks, setting one end into the divot dug the night before, and raising it up as a group, as though they were going to plant it back into the earth. As carefully as they could, they let it fall across the river, with the strongest of the men assigned to the end of the trunk that was in the trench. They held it down as well as they could, and the far end of the trunk struck the soft dirt hard enough to put a dent in the ground on that side too. They tested it, and it seemed to stay in place reasonably well.
They did the same thing with the second trunk, although this one bounced against a rock on the far side and landed well apart from the first. Several people had to carefully roll it until it lay firmly next to the other trunk, both of them wedged into the trench on the near side of the river.
Braves-the-Storm had them tie the logs together with a long strip of good leather, a precious resource. Far-Seeing, who was good at balancing along ledges and fallen logs, took another strip and walked across. He moved carefully, not quickly, and had no trouble reaching the other side.
“It’s slippery,” he said. “It’s already wet from the night dew and the spray from the river. The bark isn’t rough enough to grip well.”
He tied the second strip of leather tightly around the logs on the other side, and adjusted them as well as he could so they wouldn’t roll or move. Then the people had to cross, one by one. Some crawled, others walked. The youngest children were given to those with the best balance, and the children who could walk went hand-in-hand with another to guide them.
God-Speaker had to carry the stone god and his pack. When it was his turn, he stepped up to the bridge and considered walking, but he saw how slick it was and decided to slide across in a sitting position, balancing his heavy load with his legs dangling over the water. He could feel his heart pumping, and he scraped his thighs on the pine bark, but he made it across.
Last to come was Finds-the-Trail. He untied the precious leather strap from the logs on his side, to take with him. Then he stepped out onto the logs. He looked sure-footed and confident, but the logs were now slick with moisture. God-Speaker and Far-Seeing held down the logs on the far side as he stepped out over the fast-flowing river.
God-Speaker envied Finds-the-Trail and Far-Seeing. They were strong and agile, while God-Speaker always felt as though he were fighting against the clumsiness of his own body. God-Speaker watched Finds-the-Trail’s feet as his toes gripped the log. The muscles in his ankles and legs flexed as he walked. He wasn’t fast, but he looked confident.
God-Speaker noticed the piece of loose bark a moment before Finds-the-Trail stepped on it. It slid from the log as Finds-the-Trail put his weight on his left foot. His left leg went over the side of the log, while his right knee slammed down, throwing all his weight after his left leg, over the side of the slippery little bridge.
Finds-the-Trail managed to grab the bridge with his right hand, leaving more than half his body hanging over the edge. Even worse, the log he hung from was rolling and twisting over the top of the other log, no longer held in place by the strap. The toes of his dangling leg brushed the freezing water rushing below.
God-Speaker saw what would happen. One log would roll over the other, and Finds-the-Trail would tumble into the river. It would wash him far out into the lake. Even a short time in that cold water would sap a person’s strength. God-Speaker saw what would happen, and he imagined what it would be like to live in a tribe without Finds-the-Trail. The moment seemed stretched and thin. He heard the others suck in frightened breath, start to shout.
Next to God-Speaker, Far-Seeing was fighting to stop the logs from turning. Nobody else was close enough to do anything. God-Speaker pushed down on his own side of the bridge, pulling his legs into a crouch under him. Then he threw himself out onto the bridge. Without his weight on the end, it flipped completely. He landed hard on his chest at an angle, his legs hanging out over the opposite side from Finds-the-Trail. He clasped hands with the hunter as he slid off the log. God-Speaker felt that Finds-the-Trail’s grip was stronger than his own, but it was enough to hold him until other hands pulled them both back onto solid ground.
God-Speaker lay in the moss and soft grass, a rock pressing on his spine, breathing hard and staring up into the blinding blue of the sky. His stomach was streaked with red scrapes from the pine bark. Finds-the-Trail landed next to him, but jumped up as if he had been burned. He stood over God-Speaker, and stared down. God-Speaker saw different expressions flit across his face in the span of a moment. Then his face went blank, and he turned and walked away.
God-Speaker lay where he had landed. He heard the sounds of talking among the people, but they meant nothing to him. His mind was as empty as the cloudless sky. A bird soared in a lazy circle far overhead.