The warriors gathered back at the big pine tree while Kroll considered his next move. One soldier noticed a bent branch behind the tree and went to investigate. Standing carefully by some pine cones, he peered in. All of a sudden, a branch whipped back and a sharpened stick stabbed through his leather-clad shoulder. The man roared in pain and stepped back to the main group. Kroll’s men formed into a defensive circle and drew swords. The injured soldier was taken inside the circle and the stick was removed from his shoulder. Blood streamed down the punctured leather of his uniform. The soldier was sewn up. It was clear they were not under attack. The boy had set a trap and it worked. Kroll punched the pine tree with a meaty fist.
Three men were ordered North to check if the boy had pushed on in that direction. An hour later, they returned with news of no trail. Kroll looked up at the pine tree. The boy was not there. The trail had gone cold, but they were careful in case any more traps had been set in the forest. Somehow, the boy had outsmarted them. Kroll studied his map and decided to take a direct path to meet up with the rest of his men. The boy cannot be heading to Malaxia, nor could he be going to NorthBurn, the darker reaches of the Northlands. Kroll deduced Ned was heading due South without leaving a trail. But they should be able to cut-off the route back to the Foijen. The men formed into a line and ran. Anything clandestine was gone now. Kroll needed to get his unit back together and head the boy off before he could get back to his own lands.