A few hundred metres out of the village; they left the path and took to the grasslands; not taking the route toward Ornaom Hill. Salla made it known that they would have to make a brief stop at her family’s farm so she could gather her belongings and leave a note explaining her disappearance. This displeased Nanor, but he relented.
The farmhouse soon came into view; and they moved onto the dirt trail leading into it. There was no sign of life on the farm apart from the animals moving about their respective fields; Salla’s family was still in the village. Nanor stayed outside to keep watch; and Markus accompanied Salla into the house, along with Sed. Once inside; she bustled about, quickly gathering up her things along with foodstuffs for the four of them. As she sat down to write a note to her family; Markus felt a pang of regret. He had not thought to leave behind a note. Daein would explain it to Keritha and Jonin, but his mother deserved better.
Salla had tears in her eyes as she rose to leave; but she ignored them, not wanting to appear weak. She led the way out; her bag over her shoulder; and her own bow in her hands. The quiver of arrows was strapped to her waist. Nanor met them outside the front door; a hard look on his face.
“We need to move; now! We have lost enough time already. Salla; we are going to have to take your family’s horses. I shall leave gold behind; enough for them to buy four new ones. But we need to go, now”.
Salla nodded. They made their way to the stables where they each picked out a horse. Markus chose a black stallion which had a strong build and would last well over distance; while also capable of reaching high speeds. Sed chose a similar, brown stallion; Salla took her own mare; Caerta, and Nanor took a white coated stallion.
Nanor pulled a purse from his pocket and counted out a large amount of gold. He left it on a shelf in the stables and then they rode out into the night. Salla cast one glance back at her home; then fixed her gaze ahead.
They rode in silence through the night; putting as much distance between Carromsford and themselves as possible. Nanor set a hard pace, and did not slow once. Markus wondered what their fate was now; a small bunch of four travellers on the run from an evil surely stood no chance of surviving. He shook his head and cast all doubts from his conscience; best to leave them until they made camp.
After several hours hard riding; when they had made their way deep into the trees of a forest, Nanor called them to a halt. “It’s time we made camp for the night”. They all gladly dismounted; rubbing their feet to get feeling back into them. Sed set to lighting a fire while Nanor tethered the horses to nearby trees. Markus sat beside the fire; grateful for the chance to rest. Nanor took a seat across from him; and Sed and Salla sat either side of him. The older man had a haunted look in his eyes.
“Those things back there, what were they?” Markus asked. Nanor stared at him silently for a few moments, then raised himself up and answered.
“The big one was a troll; dumb creatures but brute strength makes up for the lack of brains. The smaller beasts were what are known as Urocs; vile creatures created in shadow with the form of a man; a severely disfigured one at that, but their minds are nothing like that of men. Their sole purpose is war, destruction and the eradication of man. The black cloaked man was aFaika, a Shadowcloak. Shadowcloaks were formerly men but they have been taken and corrupted by the shadows; they are experts at battle and also have only one purpose; to serve evil and the shadow. They do not die easily; you got lucky back there Markus, but there are people who will want to know what kind of person from a small village such as Carromsford can kill a Shadowcloak”.
“But why were they in Carromsford in the first place?” Sed asked, “What drew them down on us?” Nanor delayed answering again; staring into the flames of the fire.
“I believe, that they were there, because they were looking, for me”.