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Chekov saw a break in the trees, and eventually, to go with the change in light and colour ahead, his ears began to discern the crash of rushing water. His knowledge of the local geography was quite lacking, but Chekov remembered the river. Or a river. He had no idea if there might be more than one. But he knew a river, swollen with melt from the mountains, when he heard one. His lungs hurt, and his shoulders ached, but he kept running. "There is a way across?"

Elorra nodded. "A small bridge. You will have to balance carefully so you do not drop Jennari into the river."

Chekov filed the name for future reference as he felt fingers dig into his shoulder. "I am glad you have kept your sense of humor. I have not carried her so far to throw her to the fish now."

"Good to hear." A quiet voice, near his ear and deeper than expected, but the fingers remained tight. The voice reminded him of someone he knew, but he didn't have the processing power available to connect the necessary mental dots at the moment.

They broke out of the trees and he saw the bridge ahead of them. At the same time, Chekov began to have a clear idea of how wide the river was, at least a hundred metres. The bridge, close as it might be, seemed very small, fit for a single traveller at a time. It was not much wider than his feet placed side by side. For himself, he would not be worried under normal circumstances, but carrying Jennari was different. He focused on the bridge. It's okay, Pavel. You can do this.

They slowed as they approached the foot of the bridge and Chekov was disturbed to find that when Elorra spoke, she wasn't nearly empty of breath, recovering quickly. "You go first. If need be, I will be able to help steady you."

Chekov did not remove the hand from Jennari's shoulder to grasp the rail. He felt that would make his balance only worse than it already might be. He nodded and stepped onto the bridge, his eyes roaming over it to find that it seemed to be a mass of tree roots grown and twisted together. The surface was flat and firm, though, and easy to find purchase on. Still, he was not above using his ribs to slide along the railing.

Beneath them, the water rolled by, perhaps not spring flooding, but definitely run off from somewhere, and he certainly suspected mountains, but they were far enough away in his mind that Chekov really had no idea what the geography in between might do. Still, at least one hundred metres wide and fast moving, that volume of water had to come from somewhere.

He tried to think about in a little detail, to distract his mind the fact that there was still another forty metres or more of bridge ahead of them by his reckoning. Bozhe moi, but he was going to be tired when he finally got to rest. He let the mountains go and focused solely on putting one foot in front of the other, on remaining straight and steady on the bridge. In doing, he nearly missed snatch of conversation between Elorra and Jennari.

"You know what must be done."

"I know our privacy must be protected."

"I am more concerned about our lives. I will not be their prisoner again and will throw myself into the river before that happens."

"Jennari, I have lost–"

"I have lost them too, and more besides. You must do this. You have the strength, and the authority. I do not."

"I... don't know if I can."

"You have less than half the traverse left to make that decision."

Chekov wished he had some idea what they were talking about. As it was, he didn't get enough from the conversation, but felt sure something else, something beyond his understanding, was being discussed, something more than just getting to the other side of the river. He kept his focus on the end of the bridge, the far bank got closer and closer, and he had more and more respect for whatever technology the Pentosians used to stretch living trees across such a span of rushing water with such strength to bear three full grown humanoids at any point.

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