Dusk settled in but Ned was still on the move, despite the failing light. Undaunted by his predicament, he resisted the urge to find refuge and rest up. The boy was unsure as to whether his plan had worked, but figured he needed to get past the lake before the Malaxians got there. The moon was bright, which helped him continue his journey. Over the sound of his breathing, all he could hear were snapped twigs underfoot.
Everything was dark and still around midnight. Sensing something, Ned stopped with his eyes darting around, alert. He dropped down and clasped his dagger. Looking about, there was nothing obvious nearby. The still night was shattered by a startled bird as it flapped and crashed through the branches above. He leapt with shock. His nerves were frayed. Wings beat away as he shuddered in the night air. With a sharp intake of breath, he held the dagger. Remaining still, he wondering if anything else had disturbed the bird. After a long silence, Ned put the dagger away and waited a while longer.
He looked over his shoulder and listened. Nothing. He stared up at the night sky. At least it did not look like it was going to rain. A sliver of moonlight spiked through the branches above. Ned took a moment to reflect on his situation. The Malaxians might have lost his trail. And the trap had hopefully sprung. Kroll the war hero was expected to bring campaigns to a swift conclusion. If he was outwitted by only a boy, his reputation would be undermined. The fact Ned was still breathing meant Kroll would be furious. And anger clouds clear thinking. Ned could take the advantage. Nothing was impossible. He slipped into the shadows and away.