Noon was fast approaching, and Jonrah and Lorda knew that it would be harder to navigate the plains that lay between themselves and the East by day.
The surviving horseman had proved worthless. Answering no questions, Lorda grew impatient and eventually embedded his sword in the tree that the prisoner had been tied to. After cutting through his neck, of course.
Suddenly wary of other Eden patrols, Jonrah had suggested they walk to the plains, which would only taken them an hour or two from their position in the forest.
Lorda, however, disagreed, arguing that the patrols would unlikely be as ignorant as the first, and they would be spotted whether on horseback or not. They may as well use the faster method, and that they did.
Both agreed that traversing the plains would be the fastest route to the East. Although the forest crept round and encircled the main Eastern city of Rensh, it grew more and more dense with every passing mile, and whilst probably being the safer route, it would take them months to travel in between the trees.
The plains, however, would take only weeks, which would hopefully be plenty of time to catch up with Gurden and Jodar.
Jodar... Was he still alive? Had he escaped the clutches of The Eden? Why did they want him? What would happen if they didn't find him in time?
Such questions of doubt filled Jonrah's mind, and he was powerless to resist them. He worried about his son, as any father would, but maybe moreso. Jonrah's son was less than a day ahead of Lorda and himself, and it was almost cruel to have his rescue this close but just out of reach. As much as he reassured himself that his son was alive and well - and hopefully putting up a fight - it just wasn't enough. He needed to know.
'If we stay close to the forest, following it round to the south,' Lorda planned, 'then we can avoid most of the major sentry posts and Eastern patrols. However, when we come to the Raggen Pass, we should use it to cross the plains and proceed without the horses, across the Iced Tooth mountain range.'
Jonrah accepted that it was probably the best route, but it was in no way the fastest. Although quicker than travelling through the forest all the way round to Rensh, it would be faster to cross the plains, ignoring the sentries and patrols, and then to navigate through the Raggen Pass - a minefield of falling boulders and jagged rocks.
However, he knew that it would be stupid to suggest such a dangerous route, simply because if successful it would cut days off their time.
Gurden would probably be doing exactly the same thing, spare going the long way round the plains. He could simply cross, fearing not the patrols and sentry towers of his own people.
It would put him only three or four days further ahead, which Jonrah had no problem with. But would he travel through the Iced Tooth range? Why not go through the Raggen Pass? The people of the East probably found a way through its natural labyrinth centuries ago. Whereas it was completely new to Westerners.
Jonrah made a snap decision. He knew it was unwise to try to navigate through the Raggen Pass, but he would not be slowed by the 'long way round' the plains.
'We will cross the plains, avoiding as many Easterners as we can. We will travel along the Iced Tooth range, then somehow find our way into Rensh.' Jonrah stated, not suggested, but stated.
'Jonrah, no, we cannot risk-'
'We cannot risk our lives, no, but we cannot risk losing my son.' Jonrah felt a tear appear in the corner of his eye. 'I know it's not your responsibility, but that's the way I will be going. You may either turn around and go home, travel the longer route in the hope of catching up with me, or you may stay with me, by my side. I do not mind which you choose.'
Jonrah knew it was a lot to ask of somebody, but he needed to find his son, no matter what the costs were.
'I choose the final option,' Lorda said with a smile on his face and a tear in his eye. 'Come hell or high water, whether I live or whether I die, I will accompany you to the ends of the earth and further, Jonrah.'
Jonrah put out his hand, and Lorda slapped his own into the outsretched arm of his friend. They hugged, and when the released one another, mounted their horses, no longer fearing what may lie ahead.