Bowdewyn walked by Woden’s side as they made their way through the wood. The mail shirts were heavy on their shoulders but they had long since become used to the weight. All ten of them were dressed for battle, creeping amongst the trees. Armoured, shields at the ready and helmets already in place they were eager for the fight.
The leaved floor was spongy underfoot and the odd animal scurried away into the night but very little seemed to show the presence of any Wealas. As they passed amongst the pillars all that loomed out of night’s gloom were more trees.
“What are we to fight?” whispered Bowdewyn, uncertainty in his voice. Although eager for battle Woden had given no reason or plan and it made his friend cautious. Further afield, he could see the other men lacked enthusiasm too.
“Wealas.” replied Woden, “I spotted their trail.” The lie came surprisingly easy to him but the other comrade-in-arms knew him too well.
“The truth.” demanded Bowdewyn, never taking his eyes from the woods ahead, “I saw you by the fireplace and you were lost in thought.” He paused for a second, “Apart from when you went into the forest.”
Woden remained silent, scanning the undergrowth. Branches creaked in the canopies above them and he realised the wind was picking up. Maybe a storm?
“Why did you go into the woods?”
Refusing to meet his friend’s glare, Woden continued onward.
Now Bowdewyn had stopped and several others had halted their progress, looking across to see what the two leaders were discussing. Grabbing his friend’s arm and yanking him forward so that the advance was not hindered, Woden finally gave in.
“I was visited by Arw.” He did not have to see his friend’s face to sense the frustration and anger that emanating from him.
“Damn it Woden! I swear you’re obsessed!”
Woden gestured for his friend to keep his voice down, “Quiet, we do not want them to know that we are coming.”
Bowdewyn looked maddened, “And who exactly is ‘them’? Someone Arw informed you of?” His voice was rising with his fury, emphasising the name with disgust and anger. Once again the whole party had come to a stop. Grabbing his friend and pinning him up against a tree, Woden clamped a hand over the furious Saxon’s mouth.
“Yes, I was told by Arw of the riches to be had.” Growled Woden, “And if you don’t believe then march back the way you came but...” His voice faltered as he sniffed the air and his strong grip released Bowdewyn, “Do you smell that?”
The other man shook his head, “No I...” But he too stopped as the scent came to him. It was the smell of burning wood; a camp fire.
As if the confrontation between the two of them hadn’t even taken place, they both started forward again, this time all the more cautiously.