Ned moved with extreme caution. By his reckoning, the Malaxians were within a mile or so of his position. He crept through the pine and was thankful for the soft woodland floor covering. As he walked over a hill, Ned edged downward and came to level ground. Yellow and orange streaks of light were just penetrating the trees to his left and he could hear the waterfall. He prowled toward the water. The sunlight from behind cast flitting shadows as he moved in a hunch. He kept his eyes ahead. Moving between the trees, he stopped to listen for unusual sounds, but all he could hear was the waterfall, which was increasing in intensity.
Focussing between the trees, he could make out the water of the lake. It still looked dark in this light. He veered left and followed the sound of rushing water. The lake was changing. The waters flowed faster and then fell away. He moved, hidden in the trees and dropped to the ground. Using his elbows and knees to push forward, he crawled silently through the undergrowth. Making it to the edge of the trees, he had a clear view of the waterfall. But he was more interested in the bank on the other side.
He saw something move and ducked down, remaining still for a moment. All he could hear was the rushing water. Parting some bracken, he peered through. Hidden in the foliage and with wolf’s teeth draping down, he saw smoke rising through the trees on the far bank. And then activity. Soldiers packing their gear away. He saw some haul bags on their backs. Others were tending to their weapons. Swords were sheathed. They formed in single file, about to move out. A big man was in the lead and used hand signals to communicate. They all wore the elite Malaxian uniform of black leather and chainmail. Some carried circular shields and bows. All wore black helmets. They walked toward the waterfall and Ned kept still for a long moment. Eventually lowering his head, he could just see between the wolf teeth.