Chapter 19

by Clearspring Otter

Scamper immediately, albeit recklessly, dove into the churning waters. He flew through the water as only an otter could, aided by the fast-flowing current.

Daniel and the others raced along the bank, dashing rain from their eyes in annoyance, searching the waters for any sign of the mouse or the otter. “Any sign of them?” asked Erin from across the bank, yelling to be heard.

“Not a blinkin’ thing, chap!” called Gonjur when Daniel didn’t respond. Daniel, now wiping both tears and rain from his eyes, suddenly shot out a paw.

“There!” he cried. “They’re on that rock!”

Erin and Gunthre ran back to the rope they had strung across the waters, each untying his own end. Erin wrapped the rope securely about his waist.

“Wot are y’doin, Erin?” yelled Gunthre.

“I’ve got a plan!” he yelled back. “Go back to the others!” Gunthre nodded and trotted back to his companions, the rope still attached to Erin’s waist on the opposite bank. “Everybeast grab the rope. I’m going to jump in, I want you to pull me to the middle. I’m going to grab Scamper and we can hold Alfred between us. Pull hard, friends!” With that, he jumped in.

The icy water took his breath away, even though he felt himself immediately slicing through the water at the end of the rope. As he reached the rock, he grabbed it securely. “‘ello m-m-matey,” said Scamper, teeth chattering. “C-c-come t’join Alfred an’ I f-f-for a s-swim?”

Erin gritted his teeth, his own beginning to chatter. “Hold on tight, Scamper. We have to keep Alfred between us.” The mouse and the otter wrapped their paws around each other’s shoulders in a life-suspending hug and jumped off the rock.

The water rushed into Erin’s mouth as he tried to shout at them to pull harder. He coughed and spluttered, but felt them begin to fight the current as their friends on the shore battled the raging stream. The minute he felt sand beneath his paws, he stood and sloshed up the bank, a limp Alfred in his paws.

Gonjur let out a low whistle. “I say, that’s one doodle of a lump ‘e’s got there on th’noggin’, wot?”

“We have to get him dry,” suggested Gunthre as Daniel agreed. Gonjur was staring hard into the woodlands.

“Well chaps, there’s a light over there… ”

They immediately jogged through the rain to the light. As they arrived, their eyes widened. Scattered everywhere was broken furniture, pottery, shreds of clothing and other things. A hedgehog maid, her head wrapped in a clumsy bloody bandage, stood staring blankly at a huge fire, the fire that had lead Daniel, Erin and the others to her. As the looked closer, they noticed that the flames were a funeral pyre.