Rousing the TroopsMature

Falcon wakes up before dawn. Everyone else is still asleep, sprawled around the edges of what's left of the campfire. He sighs, moving silently through the clearing until he reaches the small rise at the end. He stands there, completely silent, watching as the sun begins to peek over the distant horizon. It is still dark, but he can feel the forest beginning to awaken. It won't be long before they have to move off, before the Blaze huntsmen start looking for them.

He turns back to the camp, checking over each of his soldiers. The two women, Catherine and Bria, sleep apart from the men, under a makeshift bower of branches and bracken. The men on the other hand sleep in the open, with only their clothing to protect them from the elements. Amid the mass of sleeping bodies is what looks like a dome, a darker patch agains the pre-dawn gloom. Falcon approaches carefully, not wanting to get too close. Eternal must have put this up, he thinks, probably thought we'd try and murder her in her sleep. He watches the dome for a few moments more before starting to nudge his soldiers awake.

"Come on," he calls around the camp, "It's time to move off. I want this place completely packed up by the time the sun rises. Come on, shift yourselves!"

Reluctantly, the soldiers start getting to their feet. Yawning and muttering about the cold, they start loading the gear onto the four sturdy packhorses at the back of the clearing, the animals themselves barely looking up from the grass they chew on as the humans bustle about them. Upon seeing that the operation is well underway, Falcon moves over to the dome again, tapping the side cautiously with his boot.

"Are you awake in there?" he calls, "It's time to go, get up!"

Muffled groans come from inside and a small slit opens in the side of the dome. Out of it emerges a small girl, her hair still touseled from sleep.  Falcon recognises her as Mary, the youngest member of his troop. She squeaks in alarm when she sees the imposing form of her leader standing over her and races off to join her foster mother by the horses. When Eternal still does not emerge, Falcon gives up and sets about dismantling his own shelter. The girl will have to shift herself, he thinks as he scuffs dirt over the ground to hide his tracks, if she doesn't want to get caught, that is.

The End

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