The platform rose eight feet in the air once the woodcutters had it built, and as sturdy as wood could make it. If Arring judged aright, there would be exactly enough room between the platform and the log for him to put his back into it.
While the woodcutters worked at moving the split out of the way, Arring took the time to plan his throw and allowed himself the luxury of a warm-up. That he could do it was never in doubt, but even for him it would be a difficult lift. Off in the distance, he thought he heard the bleating of goats and the whisper of pipes on the wind. Too far away to be in danger.
With a drawn-out crack the smaller log separated from its twin. The sound of it striking the ramp they’d built was like a giant’s drum, and it rumbled like thunder as it tumbled unevenly down toward the camp.
“Ready the sling!” Arring’s voice boomed nearly as loudly as the tree had. A flurry of movement off to the side revealed several of the woodcutters hauling on the end of a truly massive piece of canvas, easily enough for two sails. How they’d come by it, he could only begin to guess.
Arring turned his attention back to the platform ahead of him. Up he went, hand over hand on the ladder they’d brought up from camp, until his feet were planted firmly on the cross-tied beams.
A woodcutter’s voice echoed through the forest. “Sling secured!”
Arring rubbed his palms together and stepped up to the massive trunk, bending his knees as he pressed shoulder and palms against the rough bark of the log. He shuffled his feet a little, feeling out a place where he thought his boots unlikely to slip.
A goat bleated, far closer than Arring was comfortable with. He glanced down toward the road and the pasture wall but saw nothing from under the log.
Breath filled his lungs and he tensed his thighs, pushing. It did not want to move, but he felt the tell-tale shifting that gave away how it would.
He shifted, and with a groan the giant log began to rise off of the tree it had stuck in.
“Hey! Be careful!” The overseer’s voice rang out down below.
“I’ll just be a minute! One of the goats…” The light voice of a prepubescent boy answered.
Arring cursed. “Get the goat and get them out of here,” he grunted, hoping someone would hear.
His legs were nearly straight, shaking with the effort, but no-one had called the ‘all clear.’ He wasn’t about to set this log down again: either it would stay stuck in the fork, or it would roll down on its own, completely missing the protective sling and probably destroying the shrine. If it stayed stuck, odds were decent he wouldn’t budge it again. At least not today.
It felt like an eternity before the overseer called out again.
Thank the gods. Arring dipped his knees into a shallow squat before giving a jump, pushing out with his hands against the trunk.
A curse rang out from one of the sling-tenders before wood struck canvas. Arring’s gaze snapped in the direction of the sound: the man had the end of the rope in one hand and a foot braced against the tree it was tied to. Arring couldn’t tell what the actual issue was, but it looked like other woodcutters were already heading to assist.
The canvas tightened. A quick glance revealed six men now straining at the edge of the canvas on the end where something had gone wrong.
Down below, back towards the camp, a boy screamed.
Arring vaulted off the platform and pushed off the falling trunk towards the source of the sound. Damn idiot kid…
The thought was angry, but what clutched at his throat was fear for the boy, fear that he wouldn’t be fast enough.
There they were. Tufts of goat hair showed where the boy’s charge had taken off through the underbrush when the tree came down. The goatherd had tried to follow, but somehow his foot was stuck under a root jutting out into the path of the log.
Arring’s strength was a gift from the gods, and he tried always to use it in accordance with that knowledge. Should this boy die, some might say it was the price he paid for stupidity, or it was bad luck. Arring knew better: it would be his fault, because without him the woodcutters would have found another way. Therefore, the young goatherd was his responsibility.
He charged screaming for where the boy lay stretched on the ground. The intervening space was a green-and-brown blur.
Another heartbeat and the boy would be crushed. With the last of his reserves, Arring stepped under the log and lowered his head, raising his hands to the level of his shoulders.
The force drove him to his knees. Bark pressed against Arring’s shoulders and palms where he knelt, panting, under the massive tree.
Silver bells carried on the wind, much as the goatherd’s pipes had earlier.
The five querants for the Oracle of Attilsund stood blinking in the red light of sunset at the top of a granite cliff. Einarr still felt the urge to vomit, and as he turned his head to ensure they were all still there he noted Arring picking himself up off of Father’s shoulder. The other three all seemed to have taken this last vision more or less in stride, to judge by the calm, almost placid looks they wore.
He shrugged one shoulder, forcibly trying to redirect his mind away from the revelations of the vision. He would confront Reki about the contents of his vision later, when they returned to the ship. His purpose here would not be so easily swayed, after all.
“Is everyone all right?” Stigander spoke quietly, but the words still carried over the ever-present wind at this altitude. A series of nods made its way around the group.
“Then we’d best get on. Not much light left, and the Elder warned us against camping out here.”