On the far side of the river, Tibbals, Tandum, and Higson escaped from the Fauns by helping each other untie the ropes that held them bound. As injured Fauns climbed out of the stream, the Centaurs and the Duende rushed forward and tied them up in their own ropes. As the eagles flew away, their task complete, Carling cheered and called out to her friends. When they looked in her direction, surprise registered clearly on their faces as they realized it was Carling sitting in a tree, waving at them.
Suddenly, Carling felt a burning in her chest. Her hand flew to the breastplate and covered the green stone that was newly mounted in its place. She knew there was something she must do. But what? She looked back down at the rushing stream. The first Faun that had been felled by the eagles was still in the water, wedged between two boulders. Blood was still flowing downstream from the gash in his head. He wasn’t moving.
Carling swung down from the branch on which she was sitting and dropped to the ground. She ran to the bank of the stream and got as close as she could to the injured Faun. She pulled her quiver and bow off her shoulder and unhooked her cloak, dropping all to the ground. The silver breastplate sparkled in the sun, sending out rays of light that caught the attention of all around, most of whom had struggled back to the far shore. Everyone, including Higson, Tibbals, and Tandum, stopped what they were doing and watched.
Carling stepped into the stream. The icy cold water made her suck in her breath and pause for just a moment. She gritted her teeth and stepped forward, placing her feet carefully on the rocks. One foot at a time, she moved into the rushing water, holding her arms out in an attempt to balance herself. Her teeth started chattering and she could feel her feet and legs getting numb but she carried on, keeping her eyes on the injured Faun.
“Carling, go back,” shouted Tandum from across the stream. “Let him die.”
Carling didn’t look up. Didn’t acknowledge. She just kept stepping from one rock to the next, trying desperately to keep her balance.
The young Duende had nearly reached her target when her foot stepped onto a rock that rolled out from under her the minute she put her weight on it. Down she went into the frigid water. The water bounced over her as though she were just one more rock to overcome. She pushed herself up, choking and gasping for air. After wiping her wet hair out of her eyes, she pulled herself through the water on her hands and knees.
With tremendous effort, Carling reached the injured Faun. “I’m here to help you,” she shouted above the rushing water.
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