Covert

Ned moved with extreme caution. By his reckoning, the Malaxians were within a mile or so of his position. He crept through the pine and was thankful for the soft woodland floor covering. As he walked over a hill, Ned edged downward and came to level ground. Yellow and orange streaks of light were just penetrating the trees to his left and he could hear the waterfall. He prowled toward the water. The sunlight from behind cast flitting shadows as he moved in a hunch. He kept his eyes ahead. Moving between the trees, he stopped to listen for unusual sounds, but all he could hear was the waterfall, which was increasing in intensity.

Continue reading “Covert”

Downward

Ned checked the map, which flapped in the wind. If he walked in an Easterly direction, he would circumvent the cliff face and then navigate across the pine-covered hills further down. He needed to keep away from the water so he was not in the open. Only when he was nearing the Southern end of the lake would he move inwards and toward the waterfall. Ned set off from the summit. The rocks were loose, so he slowed on the descent. Using his hands to steady himself, he headed for a scree-slope. Stepping and sliding down, he looked at the crags looming down. And then grasses intermingled with rocks, which led to some bushes. Before long, he had lost enough height to enter the pine forest.

Continue reading “Downward”

Get Ready

Ned looked toward his direction of travel the next day. He could not see the waterfall in the darkness, but the foothills to the South-East led that direction. He peered at the forest on the South-Western shore of the lake. Fires continued to flicker in the woodland. Faint wisps of woodsmoke rose above the trees and the contrast against the night sky was just visible. It was careless. Then something else caught his eye from the North. Another fire, but this was moving. It went along the Western side of the lake toward the fires. It must be more Malaxians carrying a lit torch. Ned figured one troop must have gone for the lake to cut him off, while the other tried to follow his trail. He knew Kroll’s men were well trained trackers, so he had done well to evade them. But they were no longer clandestine. And at least Ned knew he had shaken Kroll from his tail. From now on, they were ahead so he intended to track them. Tomorrow was going to be different. Feeling sleepy, he curled up and settled down for the night.

Continue reading “Get Ready”

Summit

He took a deep breath and stood, adjusting the bow on his back. Scrambling around a tree, Ned used it as a foothold and struck upwards. His determination kicked in. Further up, the trees were sparser and intermingled with rocks, so he got more traction with handholds and footholds. And the ground was drier up there. The moon shone through to give greater visibility. Even though mountain climbing was dangerous at night, at least he could now see where to put his hands and feet. The wind rose to a howl and rain clouds swept overhead. After another hour of clambering over rocks and through trees, Ned paused to look up. The vegetation petered out and a craggy ridge dominated his eyeline. It spurred him on.

Continue reading “Summit”

Upwards

Scrambling up a bank, Ned stood and walked up an incline on the North-Easterly shore of the lake. He slipped on pine needles and had to hold onto tree trunks to pull himself up. As it got steeper, he used the base of trees as footholds. The trees grew close together, but it was dark up there. The denseness of the pines meant the moonlight was restricted. The boy was forced to rest many times. Sweat dripped down, despite the cold setting in. It was steep and treacherous, and he had to take time to place his feet on secure points. Ned skidded and stumbled upwards. But perhaps the greatest danger was the noise. He could not help it, but sometimes a branch snapped. And sound travelled further at night. If the Malaxians were out there and heard anything, Ned silently hoped they thought it was a wild animal.

Continue reading “Upwards”

Elusive

The dawn sun streaked over the treetops and Ned slowed to a walk to have food and water on the go. Feeling uneasy, his eyes darted about the trees. He did the fastener of his bag up and began to run. The boy did not care if he left a trail now as the soldiers had probably lost him. Speed was essential. He was careful to check the map at regular intervals. There was no room for mistakes as any loss of direction could be fatal. The day wore on and he walked more than he ran. As the sun dipped to his right, he traversed over a wooded ridge and saw the turquoise waters of the lake through some branches.

Continue reading “Elusive”

Upper Hand

Dusk settled in but Ned was still on the move, despite the failing light. Undaunted by his predicament, he resisted the urge to find refuge and rest up. The boy was unsure as to whether his plan had worked, but figured he needed to get past the lake before the Malaxians got there. The moon was bright, which helped him continue his journey. Over the sound of his breathing, all he could hear were snapped twigs underfoot.

Continue reading “Upper Hand”

Trap

The warriors gathered back at the big pine tree while Kroll considered his next move. One soldier noticed a bent branch behind the tree and went to investigate. Standing carefully by some pine cones, he peered in. All of a sudden, a branch whipped back and a sharpened stick stabbed through his leather-clad shoulder. The man roared in pain and stepped back to the main group. Kroll’s men formed into a defensive circle and drew swords. The injured soldier was taken inside the circle and the stick was removed from his shoulder. Blood streamed down the punctured leather of his uniform. The soldier was sewn up. It was clear they were not under attack. The boy had set a trap and it worked. Kroll punched the pine tree with a meaty fist.

Continue reading “Trap”

Gone

Post 82

Kroll took the rest of his men to continue the hunt for the boy. They tracked him North-West through the pinewoods. Their prey was moving with care, but still left an occasional footprint. It was enough to expose him to mortal danger. The soldiers carried on the same bearing for another hour until the boy changed direction. Due North. The child was becoming more unpredictable as time went on. Kroll ordered a halt. He paced about, thinking, and beckoned one his best trackers over. Continue reading

Tactics

Post 81

Kroll gave fresh orders. Eight were to head back to the lake. On its Southernly shore was a waterfall and then the river struck toward the forests bordering the village closest to the boy’s home territory. It was where he expected Ned head for. Those soldiers were ordered to speed march and set up camp close to the waterfall. The surrounding woodland hills would make good observation areas. Kroll spread a map out on the ground and pointed to rocky outcrops where they would take up elevated positions to look for the boy. He led his other six men on Ned’s trail. Continue reading