Standing almost involuntarily, unsteadily rising, Woden walked around the edge of the camp to where the slight figure stood, half hidden in the woods. The youngster’s tunic was pale white, a colour that matched the complexion of his skin. Paleness made him seem ill and frail. Never entering the clearing, Arw stood half hidden in the shadows, his features not visible under darkness’s mask.
Not caring whether the men wondered where he was going or not, Woden slowly treaded into the woods, following the newcomer as he turned and silently drifted deeper into the forest.
“Arw.” The word was quiet, almost inaudible from his lips, a sense of trepidation causing his voice to become almost silent.
Surprisingly the young man heard and turned. Still his face was not visible in the darkness.
“You have done well, Woden.”
The larger man studied the white dressed Saxon, but it was not one of curiosity more a need to understand that he could not fathom, “Who are you?”
Standing with hands by his sides, unmoving, the other ignored the question, “You will soon be the ruler of much land, the rightful ruler of Wulfden.”
Woden stood motionless but could feel the hairs on his arms and neck prickling, though not from excitement. There was an eerie sensation to Arw, neither fear nor distrust but something inexplicable that he couldn’t put his finger on.
“How do you know this?”
“Wulfden needs a leader. The Wealas raid constantly and their chief is weak and feeble. You must show strength.”
Pondering Arw’s words, Woden tossed and churned them within. What if this was all some game? What if he was being led on a wild goose chase? But the path of his destiny seemed to be leading him onwards to the village; being drawn into the battle at Burford; saving the King’s life; and being granted these men. Would this twisting route continue to draw him towards his rightful place?
“But my men...”
Arw cut him short, not even waiting for the question, “Your men will trust you once you bring them reward and inspire them with a strong arm. To the south lies a small encampment of Wealas, travelling with goods that they are trying to reach the Selurie with. Take your men and prove to them that you are a warrior.”
A glow arose in Woden, a clear understanding of what he had to do and all doubts were swept aside by the glowing light in his mind that he now focused on. Should Arw’s words be untrue then he would know the stranger was just mocking, but should this be accurate then destiny would be his. Looking up, he went to question Arw once more but the young Saxon had vanished.
“Every time.” He murmured. And it was becoming more eerie.
Stepping back towards the glow of the fire, realising he had walked some way into the woods, he headed for his men. The warriors looked up as he entered the circle, “We move tonight. Battle has come to us.”