The merchant was dragged from the horse and soldiers tended to his injuries on the ground. His stab wounds were deep so material was ripped and wrapped around to stem the blood flow. The man was frightened and babbled out his story. The ambush; dead soldiers; mystery swordsman; and Malaxian warriors. The leader of this unit digested the information and walked away for a moment. Rubbing his mouth with one hand, his mind focussed on the lost soldiers. He had trained them. They were good men. He spotted a couple of children playing nearby and his soldiers looked at him for orders. The troop commander returned.
“You boys, come here!!” He yelled and waited as they ran toward the soldiers. “Take this man back to the village for medical care. You need to be quick… he’s lost a lot of blood.”
The boys nodded as the soldiers helped the merchant back onto the horse. The children led him toward the village. Checking front, back and to the sides, the soldiers tactically moved forward to locate the ambush site. Half were on horseback, while the rest were on foot. There was only one path heading into the forest and the blood spatters were easy to follow. But the men focussed on the rising hills either side of the track and the thickening trees. They were on high alert and well aware of nearby bandits and Malaxians. The sunlight faded and the soldiers moved into the Foijen with caution. But dusk would only exacerbate the dangers of their impromptu mission. They decided to set up camp as they could not track their enemy in the dark. They lit a fire and ate. Later, some slept while others remained on guard duty. The horses were calm all night. Little did they know but, even if they had braved the dangers of the night forest, it would have made no difference.