The day was not yet dawning as Ned packed his gear away and waited for the sun. When it came, he checked nothing was left behind and brushed leaves over the charred remains of his fire. With all sign of his stay disguised, he moved in an Easterly direction. The woodland was becoming less dense in this part of the forest. Old brown leaves crunched underfoot and an occasional twig snapped. Leaving some trail was the price he had to pay to move at speed. And he knew the Malaxian warriors would travel fast. So he did the same.
After running for some time, Ned took a break for food and water. Sitting down, his breathing soon returned to normal. As he ate, the boy looked at a small clearing ahead. Something lay next to a tree. He leant in, but could not quite make it out. Straining his eyes, he put the bag over a shoulder and moved forward. He stopped. It was a wolf, he was certain of it. But it was still and lay on its side. Ned edged forward, with knees bent. The wolf was motionless.
As Ned neared, he relaxed. The animal was long dead. Wildlife had already eaten the carcass. Bones were strewn around. He paused for a moment. Shaking the reminder of the bones away from the wolf’s coat, he drew a knife. Scraping it along the inside of the fur, he removed any remains. The face fur was intact, but the lower jaw fell away with the skull. It had been a big beast. Swinging it over him, the wolf’s face rested securely on his own head. Its upper teeth draped just over his eye-line. The remainder of the pelt covered his back. Ned strapped the leg fur around his arms to keep it tight.
This changed things. It would keep him warm and help with camouflage. Instead of fair skin and blond hair showing, Ned would blend in. He took some spare fur from the ground and dipped it in a puddle. He rubbed it in the mud and other remains of the wolf. Ned’s forearms and face were still showing, so he smeared mud and wolf scent over his skin to disguise his human smell and look. He was part of the forest now.