King and Emperor by Harry Harrison. Chapter 14, 15

Nothing surprising there, he thought as he walked towards it. A true ladder, with two supports and rungs between it, that is work for a carpenter, fitting rung to drilled hole. But anyone can make a pole ladder, whether in the North or the South, the mountains or the fens. Take a tree, a fir-tree for choice. Take its trunk and trim off the branches, leaving only those which grow at either side, alternately, first one for the right foot then one for the left. It takes balance to walk up it, but no skill in the making. Once upon a time all ladders must have been like that. Like the stone tools we have grown out of.

Shef walked to the foot of the ladder, began deliberately to climb it as the corpses flared and blazed behind him.

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Categories: Harrison, Harry