Bandits And Beasts

Ned had a small, white dog called Skar, whose coat was as soft as cotton. She liked to growl and play, but learned not to bark. It was important to know when to be quiet in the Foijen as enemies lurked in the shadows. Gangs of bandits frequenting the woodland, always looking for opportunities to attack and steal. And the wolves out there hunted in packs. Ned often heard the howling somewhere deep in the night shadows.

Ned usually left Skar behind when he ventured into the forest. He learnt how to move covertly and blend into the surroundings. He would crawl through the fern and listen to the birds. It was a remote woodland, but sometimes people travelled through. Ned learned to be careful when wildlife was disturbed, especially near a track which meandered close to the fast-flowing river. Falling rain would obscure sounds, but Ned could tell when merchants or other villagers were making their way through the forest. It was more difficult to anticipate the movements of bandits as they did not travel along well-trodden paths. But they had predictable ambush points, like near a bend in the main track or where a wooded hill rose up near rocky outcrops.

Ned moved in the shadows and watched travellers, merchants and bandits from a safe distance. They never saw him because he remained still and silent. Even if they looked at where Ned was hiding, his clothes were the colours of the forest, and he smeared mud on his face and hands to camouflage his skin. But things were going to change. Ned was about to get into a whole lot of trouble.

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