The treeborn have begun prepping us to move from tree to tree; I am equal parts petrified and excited to give it a try. The harnesses are impressive works, a combination of rope, leather, and iron rings that seem strong enough to hold the weight of three men each. Dionus seems satisfied as well.
Each harness has three ropes attached and coiled at its sides. Two of them are used to swing, and one is used for “emergencies only.” I’m not sure if it’s comforting that they’ve accounted for emergencies or that such a rope needs to exist at all.
The hooks on the end of each rope are a minor wonder of engineering. Apparently, though they do not use these systems themselves, they were originally designed by the Yatusu. Each rope is secured to the hook at its end, but along the rope runs another series of thin wires housed in a separate, thin cord of flexible bamboo. These wires act as an activation and release system for the talons of the hooks, enabling them to fold both in and out, lock in place, and release as desired.
I don’t really think I want to entrust my life to these things.
We will begin training with them on the ground in a few days. Essentially it has been explained to me as follows:
The two primary ropes are linked to the harness under each arm, just inches below the armpit, and are secured to the wrist of the user so as to keep them readily in hand regardless of what happens in the trees. At that wrist binding is a small housing that holds three rings, each of which is assigned to a particular finger. Depending on how one pulls the rings, the three talons at the end lock in one of three positions or release.
The goal, then, is to cast the rope over a distant branch so that it loops, catches itself, and provides for a direct swing out. As we reach the apex of the following swing, our timing should be good enough to reach out for the next branch, release our hold on the first, and secure our grip on the second. All in one smooth motion. Of course, if you mess up the timing you only have a few hundred feet to fall.
I asked how they keep from losing altitude. It seems as though they would perpetually descend until there were no branches left from which to swing. All I got in response was a wink, which builds even less confidence than the tiny rings through which I’m supposed to loop my fingers.
I didn’t bother asking about the “emergency rope.” I’ll leave that unpleasantness for when they actually begin training us.
I need a drink.