Ned readied to move out. With his bag strapped tight, he put the bow and arrows onto his back. The boy walked over to the river and took a deep breath. He felt rested. Focussing his mind, he looked in a Southernly direction and pushed himself into a run. He could not afford to lose the Malaxian trail or fall too far behind.
While running, Ned searched for signs the soldiers had been there. But also he checked where the sun was in the sky and paid attention to sounds and any movement in the forest. As the sun glinted in his eyes, he noticed a collection of tracks on a grass bank. Stopping, he knelt for a closer look. The soldiers rested there. The embers of a fire had gone out. He was less than half a day behind. But something was different. Although the men had continued South, he peered into the forest and saw a snapped branch. Moving in with caution, he saw the trail of one man who went on a South-Westerly bearing. And these footprints were fresh. Only an hour or two old.
Ned followed the new tracks deep into the forest. One soldier had separated from the rest, that much was clear. And he was close. Some birds were disturbed and flew away only a short distance ahead. Ned looked to his right and walked up an incline. It was steep and cloaked with thick bushes and pine trees. He had to get on high ground to observe. He crawled through a thicket and over big rocks until the vegetation thinned out toward the top. When he could go no higher, Ned scanned around from his vantage point. Everything was still, so he lowered down and moved toward the cliff edge. Staying on his stomach, he scanned around the forest valley below. The only movement was a few birds.