The Old Goblin Bridge
"What do you mean closed?" James asked.
"I mean the opposite of open," the gatekeeper said with a shrug. "I mean it's shut, bolted, the doors are wedged tightly, there's a note on the door that says 'Gone Poachin''".
"Fishin'" James said, a reflex more than an actual comment.
"Fishin', the note says 'Gone Fishin'', not 'Gone Poachin'', James said.
"I think I know what the note says," the gatekeeper grumbled. "Who goes fishing? Except fishermen, of course."
The way he said 'fishermen' gave James cause to think that the word might have a different association in Faerie than it did in Levercastle. He shelved it as an interesting thing to talk about upon another occasion. Right now he had bigger fish to fry, if that was still something people said and it hadn't become bigger rabbits to broil.
"But, well, you don't understand," James persisted. "We have to get to the market, we have to buy supplies. We've packed up to go on a, ah, holiday."
"That's nice," the gatekeeper said. "Where are you going?"
"Well, nowhere unless we can make our way through the market," James said. "That's kind of the point."
"I told you," the gatekeeper said, instantly peevish again. "The market's closed."
"But the market's never closed," James said. "It's the Patchwork Market. It's one of the most important places in Faerie."
"Yes," the gatekeeper said, chewing the words, examining them before they were allowed out of his mouth. "And right now it's closed."
"So Kalico told you to close the market," James said.
"Master Kalico," the gatekeeper said, "did indeed. Well, in so many words."
"In so many words," James repeated.
"Yes, in so many words," the gatekeeper said, not sounding so sure of himself now.
"What were the exact words?" James asked.
"Um, something to do with 'Emergency'," the gatekeeper admitted. "And maybe 'Lockdown'."
"Okay," James said. "Now we're getting somewhere. You see, we, that is myself and my friend Eos here, we're somewhat well known as adventurers around these parts. I am a personal acquaintance of Kalico, Sir Frederick Cobb and Phoebe September. If the market is on emergency lockdown then I'm sure I can provide some assistance. I will be able to aid in the reversal of the emergency, and hence the lockdown. So if you could just see your way clear to unlocking the gate..."
"Nope," the gatekeeper said. "Can't do it. Strict orders."
"I did mention that I was an adventurer, right?" James said.
"You did," the gatekeeper confirmed.
"A well known adventurer."
"Who's a personal acquaintance of the Master of the Market," James said, somewhat more forcefully.
"Doesn't matter, couldn't unlock the gate even if I wanted to," the gatekeeper said. "It locks from inside. I'm just here to turn people away. There's absolutely no way inside until the lock down's over."
"Oh," James said, crestfallen.
"Unless..." the gatekeeper appeared to have practiced the upward inflection at the end of the sentence. The precision with which he exhaled in an air of abject resignation was obviously well-rehearsed.
"Unless..." James said. Prompting him on.
"Well, you could use the old goblin bridge," the gatekeeper said. "But you probably don't want to."
"There's another bridge, one that's open?" James said.
"Oh yes," the gatekeeper said breezily. "You can't close the old goblin bridge, it's magical."
"Well, we can use that one then," James said. "That would be fine... wait, what kind of magical? It won't make us forget who we are, or turn our noses blue, or anything, will it? My wife, in particular, does not want a blue nose."
"Oh no, nothing like that, it's just invisible," the gatekeeper said.
"Oh, that's alright," James said. "I guess we'll all just have to keep looking straight ahead to avoid vertigo."
"Well, there's a bit more to it than that," the gatekeeper admitted. "Perhaps I'd better show you."
The gatekeeper opened up a little door at the back of his booth and ushered James, his family and Eos through. Behind the little door was a spiral staircase. The gatekeeper took the lead and headed down the staircase, carrying a lantern to alleviate the shadowy gloom.
At the bottom of the stairs was a sparse rock platform. A narrow bridge spanned the divide between the edge of the platform and a small circular column topped with a smooth brass plate.
"Here we are," the gatekeeper said. "The old goblin bridge."
"I can't help but notice," said Eos who had been standing at the back allowing James to argue with the gatekeeper. "That this bridge is not invisible. Neither does it appear to lead to an entrance to the Patchwork Market."
"Oh, that's not the bridge dear," the gatekeeper replied. "That's just the bridge to get onto the bridge. The rest of it is out there."
The gatekeeper swung his lantern to send the light out into the darkened cavern. James could vaguely discern other columns in the distance, all topped with smooth brass plates.
"The goblins built this as a trade route," the gatekeeper explained. "It was a way in and out that wasn't easily followed, helped keep valuable stock out of ambushes, away from thieves and that. It's magic, like I said. If you walk its path end to end then it will allow you access to the Patchwork Market. Get the path wrong and, well, you end up on a platform with no way to get back. It's a little bit of security."
"But if it's invisible how do you know what the path is?" Eos asked.
"The goblins had their own route mapped," the gatekeeper said. "It's lost now. The alchemist who made it built in a fail safe. Every platform has a number on it, embossed in the brass. That number is how many times the path crosses the platform. A crossing is when you either step onto the platform or when you step off. You may have to visit a platform up to twice in any one direction. So the highest number possible is eight."
"This is beginning to make my head hurt," James complained.
"The path can be straight up and down, or straight across, no diagonals," the gatekeeper went on. "You have to visit every platform on the way to the exit at least once and no more than twice. The path between platforms never crosses another path unless it's at a platform. I understand that there's more than one way across. As long as you stick to the rules the bridge will work. Simple really."
"No, not really," James said.
"I think I've got it," Eos piped up. She had scribbled some notes on an envelope. "I don't suppose you have any sort of a map of the platforms do you?"
"As it happens," the gatekeeper said, "I do have this, it's left over from when it was installed. Shows all the platforms and what numbers are on them."
The gatekeeper handed Eos a folded up piece of old, yellow paper. The paper was waxy and the crease so sharp you probably could have used it to cut sandwiches.
"Don't write on it though, use it for copies," the Gatekeeper said. "Make a copy now and give it back, actually."
Eos quickly copied the platform grid from the old piece of paper to her envelope. She handed the original back to the gatekeeper.
"I'll leave you all to... find your way then," the gatekeeper said. It was clear that the sentence had originally concluded 'get hopelessly lost and starve on a platform in a cave'. James wondered where he'd learned such diplomacy.
"I'll work out the route," Eos said. "Then we can all cross."
"Sure," James said. "You go ahead and do that."
Can you help Eos work out the path across to Bridgetown? Download the attached PDF to have a go. If you want the answer download the solution PDF