Tracking

At first light, the soldiers broke camp and tentatively moved deeper into the forest. The leader called a halt when one of his men noticed snapped branches and Malaxian bootprints in the mud. The enemy soldiers had left the track at this point and entered the forest. From their bootprints, it was clear they had moved at speed. Digesting this information, the men continued down the track and approached the ambush site. All was quiet, except for the buzz of flies around bodies. The merchant’s men lay dead, with wares strewn about the forest. It was a botched robbery. Three of their comrades had also met their end. The bodies of the friendly were lined up at the edge of the track. Each were checked for a pulse, but all were cold. The slain bandits were dragged from the pathway and bundled into a pile.

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Mission

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.

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Away

The injured merchant clung on for dear life as blood oozed from his injuries. His shoulder had been sliced, but the stab wound to his midriff was worse. He was losing consciousness and leant forward. But at least he was heading away from the robbers. With fear in its eyes, the horse galloped along the stoney track. As the black steed thundered away, fading sunlight penetrated the wooded hill to one side. The man’s glistening blood poured down the animal. Dust kicked in the air left a clouded trail in its wake. One man was escaping from the carnage in the forest.

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