The four bodies were strapped to horses ready for the off. Ned was put on a makeshift stretcher and tied to a horse. His dog was lifted on and she settled down. The column snaked its way downhill through the forest. The soldiers did not lower their guard, even though it was unlikely the Malaxians were still in the vicinity. It was common knowledge the bandits had a pact with the Malaxians and the unknown swordsman made their lives difficult for a couple of years. He must have been tracked to his home and slaughtered with his family. Only one injured boy had survived the Malaxian onslaught. It was a miracle he was alive.
As Ned was carried downhill, each step hurt and his head pounded. The boy could not move and his bruises rubbed against the sticks of the stretcher. Skar whimpered and kept tight to Ned, who slipped into unconsciousness. It took almost a day to get back to the track and to the ambush site. The soldiers collected the dead soldiers and merchants, and then made camp. During the evening, wolves howled throughout the night. The wild animals usually kept away from soldiers but, this evening, they could be heard nearby. They moved around the woodland. The leader stayed close to Ned and wondered if his wolf pelt had anything to do with it. Skar howled back at the wolves. It all made the soldiers uneasy and they breathed sighs of relief when morning came.
The bodies were loaded onto horseback and Ned’s stretcher was hauled up and strapped to a large black horse. Skar was placed by his side again. On the final leg of their journey, the soldiers were on high alert. They were vulnerable with wooded hills on both sides. It was perfect territory for an ambush. Howls continued from the trees, with movement on both sides. The soldiers looked around for the enemy, but a pack of wolves remained close. The leader was confused. It was almost as if the wolves were escorting the boy to safety. At the edge of the forest, a rocky outcrop poked out of the trees to the right. A large grey wolf stood high and monitored the movement of the soldiers. As they left the forest and entered open meadows, the wolf howled and disappeared back into the Foijen.