Jorrin and Ned raced away through the clearing and the boy gestured toward an incline. It was a short-cut back to the cabin. Jorrin frowned as Ned grabbed his arm and forced him to move faster. He was surprised at how strong the boy had become. They gained height over the clearing, but Jorrin limped more. He winced in pain. Jorrin stood on a branch and it snapped. Ned held a finger to his mouth and helped his father to the top of the hill.
Kroll and his men ran into the clearing and stopped as they spotted the lifeless warriors. His eyebrows raised when it was obvious two had been killed by arrows. Kneeling down, he felt footprints in the mud. One set was the swordman’s. But a second set were smaller. It was the boy. Kroll grunted. Clenching a fist, he turned to stare at the remnants of his troop. Five highly-trained men and been lost on this campaign. He looked around the hills and heard a noise from high up on a hill. His harsh voice cut through the Foijen.
“BOY!! We’re coming for you!!” He roared.
Jorrin’s eyes locked onto Ned as Kroll shouted. Ned kept his head down as he ran. Father and son moved over the terrain as fast as they could. Jorrin’s strength was flagging, although he tried not to show it. But his injury slowed them down. When they were close to the hill hiding the cabin, they moved with more stealth. Jorrin’s strength faded, while a raw energy spurred Ned on. If only they could reach the safety of the hidden clearing. They ran and limped down the sloping tree-covered hill. A soft, cold breeze swept over them and it began to rain. Ned caught his stride downhill. Time was precious, so he pushed his father on. Off one hill, they ran through a stream and reached the lower slopes of another hill. Ned looked up. It was the final ascent. On this hilltop lay the cabin. It was clear his father was in a bad way, but he suffered in silence. Ned held on and dragged his father up the slope. But a fern snapped underfoot.
Ned stopped and whispered. “They’ll follow this trail. We need to move without leaving any trace. Let’s head over there and enter the clearing from the rear.”