ZAUBER: the thread that binds us
After Paltar had tied the last ribbon on Nanna’s dress, he fell back on the hard, cold ground. For a moment, he closed his eyes and enjoyed the moment of darkness.
He could hear Nanna, but he was too exhausted to answer. He had never worked with the threads like this before. He pried his eyes open, and looked at the bridge. What if it collapsed again? It seemed stable enough, but when he raised his hand to the ceiling, he could see it tremble.
“How did you do that?” Nanna asked.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “I worked with the threads, but… I really don’t know.”
It felt natural, and yet there was something strange about it all. What else could he do with the life threads?
He glanced at Nanna, and saw all the life threads that connected her to the world. Their own thread was getting stronger, just by spending more time together. Paltar smiled. Without his ability, they wouldn’t have come this far. But still…
“Well, your thread magic worked” she muttered, “so let’s go. You can rest when we get over this.”
“Do you think it will hold?”
There was silence for a moment.
“Well, it has to, right?”
“I’ll wait on the other side, okay? We don’t have to put any more weight on it than necessary.”
“Yeah, right.” Paltar sighed.
He had fixed the bridge, but still… he didn’t trust it. He stood up, even though his stomach felt sick.
“We have no choice,” he muttered.
“Right! That’s the spirit!”
But even Nanna’s encouraging words had a hint of doubt in them.
“See you on the other side, then,” he said with a smile.
She flew up and away, and Paltar had to stop himself from reaching out for her. Suddenly he felt alone, even though he could see her on the other side of the bridge. But he missed her warmth, the pressure against his knees as they had walked through the darkness.
“No choice, then...” he whispered as he reached for the bridge.
The ropes strained and creaked, but they held. He placed his right foot on the first plank, putting a little weight on it. The plank swayed, but it held.
“I can do this,” he muttered.
He wasn’t afraid of heights, but he knew there was no safety net to catch him if he fell.
“Is it stable?” Nanna called from the other side of the abyss.
“I hope so. You’ll save me if I fall, right?”
He let out a dry laugh.
“Uh, maybe don’t fall at all...” she replied.
“I’ll do my best.”
He stepped forward. Even now, the bridge held, and Paltar took a deep breath. Maybe this wasn’t as bad as he thought.
“Okay, this seems stable,” he called.
“Great!” She sounded as relieved as he was. “Then hurry over!”
But Paltar took his time, moving one step after the other, clinging to the ropes at his sides. He could feel them under his hands. He was so close...
He stepped onto the next plank, and after a loud crack, his foot stepped into nothing.
He heard her shout his name, but he couldn’t see her as he was only focused on getting back on the bridge.
“I’m okay,” he said, “I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay...”
He let out a laugh that rang hollow across the abyss.
“Then stop saying that and get over here” Nanna shouted back.
She sounded genuinely worried, and her voice brought him back to the moment. Right. He had to focus on crossing this bridge. With a deep breath, he tested the next board before putting his foot down. He had become too careless. Even if the ropes held, it didn’t mean the old boards would. Thankfully, this one was solid, as was the one after that. Still, his nerves were on edge as he got closer and closer to Nanna. His heart was racing and he could feel the sweat on his forehead.
When this was over, he would definitely need a nap.
He was so close. Now Nanna was no longer a mere blob in the darkness. He could see her shape, and even how the ruffles of her little dress bobbed up and down as she looked at him. It was as if she wanted to say something, but held back. He smiled at her.
“Almost there,” he said.
Then he felt something change in the threads. A rip. A tear. A-
He sprinted forward and grabbed the rope for dear life. With unexpected force he fell, his own screams mixing with Nanna’s.
For a moment, he was sure he must have fallen. Then he hit the stone wall, knocking the air out of his lungs. Instinctively, he gripped the rope even tighter as he slowly slid down. With a cough he opened his eyes again. Nanna was only a blur in his vision.
Her voice was panicked. He could imagine why.
“No need to catch me, Your Highness,” he gasped.
He should save his breath. If he wanted to survive, he had to think fast. His feet caught on the wall, and little by little he climbed closer to the edge. The rope here didn’t seem as fragile as the one on the other side, but he didn’t waste any energy checking it. It was useless anyway. Instead, he climbed as best as he could. The only thing in his vision was Nanna, hunched over the edge, her wings outstretched uselessly.
“You can do this,” she said, shaking her head. “You can do this!”
Paltar smiled, and slowly, he approached the edge. Finally, he grabbed it and hoisted himself over. Then he pushed himself as far way from the abyss as he could.
“I think I deserve a little rest now,” he panted.
If Nanna could hug him, he was sure she would. Instead, she nuzzled her beak against his shoulder.
“What were you doing? I thought you were going to die!”
He patted her back.
“Don’t worry. I still have to fulfill my part of the deal.”
He looked up at the ceiling. This place was more dangerous than he had thought. At his shoulder, Nanna trembled. He didn’t know if she was crying, or if geese could cry at all, but it didn’t matter— he shared the moment with her.
After all, he was trembling as well.