Ned took the bag and slipped the map inside. Holding the instrument in one hand, he stood before Krea. The fire crackled. She meant a lot to him. He tried to speak, but no words came out. Ned moved toward her and buried his face in her hair. She wrapped her arms around him. Krea’s tear-stained cheeks glowed against the light of the fire.
“I’ll never forget you,” Ned whispered.
They hugged for a long moment. Then Ned pushed her away and Krea turned. She walked back to the farmhouse, sobbing. Clouds obscured the moon and plunged the land into darkness. She reached the door without being seen, pushed it open and ran up to her room. Gundred was busy repairing a piece of farm equipment and looked up only as the latch clunked shut. It was quiet outside and the evening was blackening.
Ned walked past the pigs and chickens for the final time. He cracked the wooden door open and peered outside. Light from the farmhouse kitchen window streamed onto a lane. All was still. He stepped into the night and, under the cover of darkness, walked toward the swamp. He saw the silhouettes of two sentries against dim light. Moving wide over to the left, he crawled past this flimsy military barrier and slipped into the reeds, keeping a firm grasp of solid ground. He was soaked to the skin. The only noise was the slosh of boggy mud which sucked at his ankles, trying to pull him into the depths. The soldiers moved inland toward the farmhouse. Ned took out the instrument and looked through the lens.