A soldier ventured into the burned out shell of the cabin and found the charred remains of a woman and two children. It looked like they had been slaughtered inside before the building had been set alight, but it was hard to tell. The four forest dwellers were laid in a line on the grass outside. Soldiers searched the area and an eerie quiet descended. The horses could sense something. Soldiers stood still, wielding their swords at the ready. They waited.
A muffled howl came from the far end of the clearing. The leader moved toward the noise. Another howl. He walked by a massive dead Malaxian toward the thicket and stopped. Nothing. Pacing about, he could not see an obvious way through the foliage. Then some scratching came from under the earth. His eyes scanned the ground, but all he saw were leaves and clumps of moss. Another howl. The soldier used a boot to push aside the greenery to reveal a wooden trapdoor. Kneeling down, he frowned and pulled the circular iron handle. The wooden slats levered upwards to reveal a small white dog which lay beside a boy with a dirt-smeared face. Ned blinked as sunlight streamed down. The dog lay by his master’s side. The soldier leant in and was greeted with a gruff bark. Skar curled her top lip, ready to bite.
The soldier sheathed his sword. “Easy… I’m here to help.” He moved slowly in and Skar licked his hand.
He called two soldiers over and they carefully lifted the boy out of the hiding place. His breathing was shallow. The soldiers stared at him, curious as to why he had a muddy face and wore a wolf pelt. His wounds were tended and it was early evening before they were in a position to move the boy and his dead family away. Guards were posted and a makeshift encampment made. Food cooked on a campfire and they had plenty of water. The boy was now unconscious, but stable. The dog stayed by his side. An uneventful night passed and it was discovered in the morning a small detachment of Malaxians had cut a hole in the Northern edge of the thicket. Their trail was followed by half a dozen soldiers but, once out of the dense bushes, they moved at speed. With too much of a head start, there was no chance of catching them. The soldiers returned to the clearing at the top of the hill.