Niamh shuts the door behind her. Mathew is leaning out of the window, saying goodbye. She does not want to leave.
“It will be okay,” he promises. She tries to believe him, but cannot. Somehow, she knows that this is going to go wrong.
“Goodbye,” she whispers, as she runs off into the dark of the night. She reaches the bridge quickly, slipping slightly on the wet floor. The rain penetrates her thin clothing and she shivers, chilled to the bone.
Niamh is used to seeing a guard on the bridge, but tonight he holds a loaded crossbow, and it is pointing straight at her. At her heart, vulnerable.
“Let me cross!” she calls. Her voice is weak, whipped away by the wind.
“I have orders not to let anyone cross the bridge,” the guard tells her sadly, shaking his head. “If you try, I must shoot you.” In desperation, Niamh runs blindly to the boatman, head bowed against the rain.
“You must take me across the river!” she says. “The guard will shoot me if I try to cross the bridge.” The old boatman extends a gnarled hand.
“One hundred dollars and I will take you across,” he tells her with a nasty grin.
“But I’ll die if you don’t!” she cries, aghast at his selfishness.
“One hundred dollars.”
Niamh gets to her feet, running back to Mathew’s house. She hammers on the door.
“I need a hundred dollars!” she tells him, too out of breath to explain further. But Mathew is not rich; he cannot spare the money, for it is all he has to live on for the next month or more. He does not give her any money: he cannot.