Ned looked at the sky until his breathing returned to normal. It was a dangerous move, but he had to do it. Now he could follow the Malaxians from a safe distance. He would be in a position to track and hide with a lot more confidence on this side of the river. Standing, his legs felt unsteady as he looked at the river and its fast current. The boy decided to go into the forest for a rest and some food. It took some time, but he felt better after the shock of the river crossing. His clothes were still damp, so he had to move to warm up. Ned stood and walked to the edge of the river. It was noisy as the waterfall hit the rocks. Ned looked at the ground and picked up the trail of the soldiers. He walked in their direction.
Ned tracked the soldiers, but did not want to get too close. He stopped every now and then to check how fresh the bootmarks were and took time to pick food along the way. He kept to what he knew when he used to forage back in the Foijen. The boy gathered blackberries, pine nuts, crab apples, rose hips, dandelion and horse parsley. There were plenty of mushrooms about, but he was not sure which ones could be eaten, so he left those alone. The wild food was a good supplement to his diet of dried biscuits and water.
During rests, Ned practiced with the bow and arrows he had taken from the soldier. He had watched the King’s archers back in the Foijen and tried to copy what they did. The boy put the archer’s wristguard onto his left wrist and held the bow with an outstretched left arm. His feet pointed sideways. Feeding an arrow in with his right hand, he pulled the bowstring back and let go. It twanged and the arrow hit the floor. After a few misfires, he altered the way he released the string and managed to hit a tree.
From now on, whenever he rested, Ned invested his time in practicing archery and improved his aim by adjusting the width of his feet, checking which fingers were on the bowstring and holding his breath when he let the arrow go. Soon enough, his accuracy improved.