“Are you sure this is the best place to cross?”
Hansro looked across the swollen river with a jaundiced eye. The rain lashed surface looked smooth but he knew, as did his engineers that the current was deceptively swift.
“Aye, my lord. North of us it widens to beyond two arrow widths, below us it runs this fast and wide for hundreds of leagues. Unpromising as it looks there is no better place.” One regiment of his troops had been ferried across already, leaving the bank some two miles upstream in order for their tiny boats to cross with the current. Now another boat was being slowly paid out on a long line from a point a few hundred yards to the south. There were three men in it, two of them wielding oars to keep the boat in line with the current and slowly steer it toward the middle, the third standing precariously in the centre giving orders and watching both banks intently.
“Watch this my lord, if Hansim’s plan works it will take days off the bridging work and I intend to promote him. If he fails it has cost us only a couple of hours.”
“I still think it is a hair brained scheme but let him continue.”
A few minutes later, Hansim’s men had positioned the boat exactly where he wanted it, and one of the rowers waved a red flag.
The engineering officer ordered his men into their positions and the junior office in the middle of the boat picked up his bow. The arrow he nocked was slightly modified, with a blunt practice head replacing the sharp point it normally carried, as well as a line attached to it just in front of the feathers. He fired the arrow straight at the waiting engineers on the bank. For a moment the arrow seemed to hang in the air and then began to plummet toward them.
“Heads,” the officer called out unnecessarily as everyone on the bank was watching the arrow intently, ready to dodge. It plunged into a bush about twenty feet back from the sloping bank and several pairs of hands immediately grabbed the line, making it secure. Meanwhile Hansim had turned and was already nocking another arrow and aiming toward the far bank. This one also flew true to be captured by the men waiting for it, and with both ends secured the light line now stretched right across the river.
Hansro nodded as the plan snapped into focus, already the troops on the other bank were using the light line to haul a heaver one across, to be followed by successively heavier ones until the main hawser that would support the initial bridge reached from side to side. Already the small boat had been pulled a few feet back upstream and the intrepid water borne archer was preparing to repeat the feat.
With both ropes in place the engineers quickly ran the prepared planking out across the river and soon foot traffic between the two banks enabled him to reinforce the small unit of men on the other side. Axes continued to ring through the forests on the Carthaginian side and were soon joined from the forest on the other side as trees were cut to produce the pilings which would turn the bridge into a more stable structure and allow him to bring his stores and heavier equipment across as well.
Two days later, Hansro’s punitive expedition was across the river and marching onwards, the Rhine behind them.Click here to return to book