Ned’s feet splashed in the shallow stream. Not wanting to move too far along, he saw a part of the forest where the floor was thick with pine needles. With eyes searching for any movement, Ned stepped on dry land and walked in a South-Westerly direction. Once out of the water, he moved like a ghost through the trees, hoping the deception would work. A few hours later, he stopped to look at the map and then up at the sun. Gauging the correct bearing, he avoided contact with any branches and only stepped on pine needles. Then he adjusted his direction Southward, each step now taking him toward the area he knew like the back of his hand. He could not afford to leave even a single footprint behind. Ned decided to go back to the lake where he had been spotted by the scout. And then keep going for home while the Malaxians wasted time trying to track him. After an hour, he ran through the trees, intent on increasing the gap between him and the soldiers.
Kroll broke camp and they followed Ned’s trail Eastward. The direction puzzled him because the King’s Empire was due South. The boy must be playing tricks. Judging by the prominent tracks and snapped branches he was leaving, Kroll guessed Ned was tired and stressed. When the footprints and flattened grass headed North-West, Kroll ordered a halt. He needed to think. As the men rested, Kroll followed the trail alone for a moment. This made no sense at all. The boy was heading toward Malaxia and certain death. Kroll trusted his instinct. Ned must be up to something.