From a hill, the men hunkered down and observed a pathway below. All was quiet, so they moved off. Rounding a bend to the right, hills rose on both sides. The soldiers noticed three Malaxians had entered the forest to the right, but the rest stayed on the path. They remained as one force and moved along the pathway. Further up, the men came upon three dead Malaxian soldiers in a clearing. Two had been killed by arrows and the other a stab wound. It was clear from their leather uniforms the dead were from a crack troop of the Malaxian infantry, renowned for their ruthlessness. These warriors covered ground quickly and were the fiercest warriors. And three lay lifeless at their feet. The troop commander gave the faintest of nods. Skilled fighters must have been at work during this encounter.
The soldiers of the King’s army moved away without a word. They followed boot prints deeper into the Foijen, careful to watch for any sign of an ambush. The hilly terrain was hard work, but all seemed quiet. They came to the foot of a hill. Woodsmoke was in the air. The lead soldier looked up and toward the West where plumes of smoke rose from its summit. They climbed up, using swords to hack at the thick bushes higher up. Men and horses squeezed between spiky branches. Sweat dripped from the soldiers as they forced their way deeper into the thicket. When the ground levelled out, they cut a way through and a clearing opened up.
They entered in silence. A dwelling had been hidden in the depths of the Foijen. But a tranquil sight did not meet their eyes. It was the aftermath of battle. Six more dead Malaxian warriors were found. Some had been killed by arrows, others by swords. Their bodies slumped awkwardly in the clearing. No enemy alive could be seen. But they were too late. The body of a man who matched the description of the daring swordsman was found in open land near his front door. Surrounded by five of the dead Malaxians, he wore brown clothing and a hood covered his head. Here lay the body of the maverick swordsman who protected many people, but could not save himself.
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