Calm Before The Storm
Boots trampled over pine needles and browned leaves. Blurs of leather ran downhill through tall pine trees. Hardened warriors carried bows, arrows, swords and daggers as they ran. Kroll was at the lead. He knew the route by heart so there was no need for a map. Eight warriors ran without talking. They had been on the move for over two weeks and were nearing their journey’s end. Light was fading, but they must reach the swamp by the next night in order to cross. They would have to march all night and the next day without a break in order to make it. To bright moonlight, Kroll ran harder when ordinarily they would have rested. Focussing his mind on the boy, Kroll pushed his men to the limit.
The next day was chilly, but bright. The farmer had business in town and told Ned to repair one of the barns. The boy hammered slats of wood to the side of the building all morning and paused for a break. Squinting in the sunlight, he knew tonight would be a full moon. He guessed there would be traffic over the swamp later and he intended to test the instrument to see where the pathway would be. He was intrigued by the natural protection the swamp afforded the Malaxian fortress. Krea had warned him not to be seen by anyone during a full moon because people had been thrown into the dungeons as suspected spies in the past. He sighed and picked up the hammer. Holding a nail in his left hand, repeated clinks echoed across the swamplands.
As dusk fell, Krea brought Ned’s meal over, as usual, but she could not stay to talk as troops were on the farm. It seemed the near side of the swamp path was on their land this time, so she hurried back to the farmhouse. Ned could hear men shouting and horses outside. He decided to venture out later in the night when the commotion died down.