In the morning, the Malaxians packed up camp and panned out, looking for any sign of tracks. A shout from one man rang out. Footprints in soft earth heading due East. A boy’s footprints. They had picked up his trail again. Kroll pushed the soldier aside and knelt down. He looked at the soil. The imprints were fresh, well under a day old. And a snapped twig. The boy was careless. Kroll stood at the edge of the clearing and stared at the direction Ned had taken. The imposing leader’s nostrils flared. He had lost a man. His warriors gathered around.
Kroll pointed East and boomed, “Run him down!!”
Deep in the forest, Ned had risen early. He was already running. An hour before, he ate Malaxian rations and drank some water. He knew the soldiers were on his trail, but tried to stay measured. There was still distance between him and them. The boy dodged between the trees, running and walking intermittently in an Easterly direction until evening. It was time to change direction. He stopped, looked at the map and at the sunlight dipping in the West. Packing the map away, he set off toward the North-West. He wanted to appear confused and erratic. Ned headed back in the direction of Malaxia. But he was thinking clearer than ever. He intended to do three things. First, he had to get distance between him and the warriors by moving at day and night. Luckily, there were no clouds and he would be able to see enough by the current moonlight to keep going. Second, at dawn, he was going to set a false trail. The third part would be the most interesting.