Ned looked up at the hazy sun. He squinted, then his eyes flickered as he looked at his direction of travel. Southward again. Having packed his kit away and strapped the bow and arrows to his back, he stretched his legs and began to run. In between the trees and downhill at first, he felt fresh and picked up the pace. He headed back to the river and found the trail of the soldiers. He ran for longer periods between brief walking rests. The sun gleamed, but there was a chill in the air. Perfect for running. Later in the day, as the sunlight faded over a wooded hill, he kept going, gasping for breath. He came to a halt and knelt to check the soldiers’ bootprints. He was closing in. As dusk fell upon the land, he knew they would be setting up camp. Ned waited in the gathering darkness, wondering if he had the courage at this critical point. He stood and ran toward the soldiers. It was soon dark.
The night air chilled his forehead. Ned wiped his brow. The woodland was black, so he slowed to a walk beside the river. The terrain was too uneven to run and his legs were tired after being on the move all day. The moonlight shimmered against the slowed current of the water and he could just see the tracks of the soldiers. With a heightened sense of awareness, he moved on, then stopped dead. Something was nearby.