Chapter Seventeen: South to North

Only three miles into the plains, Jonrah caught sight of the first patrol.

A group of at least fifty men, wielding shields and long spears, marched from south to north, dressed in the red robes of The Eden.

Now that Jonrah knew what to look for in an enemy, he easily identified people as members, but it made him look back over the last few years, wondering how many people he'd overlooked simply because he wasn't aware of The Eden's existence.

Taking a hold of Lorda's arm, he genstured in their direction, as Lorda had only a few hours ago. The sun was starting to cast longer shadows, and this put the two men in danger, for if a patrol or a watchtower caught sight of a shadow in the empty plains, they would instantly be suspicious.

Staying low, Lorda led Jonrah to a nearby rising in the ground, which seemed to span most of the plain, running from north to south. Growing on the rising were various shrubs which Jonrah and Lorda found unfamiliar, but probably had chosen such a spot to grow to gain as much sunlight as possible, but also to avoid the inevitable floods of the winter.

Jonrah dove into a group of thorny bushes, abandoning his horse, feeling a long thorn nip against his face. His armour, however, protected the rest of his body. Burying himself further into the thorns, he managed to use his gloved hands to rip a small hole in the overgrown mass to take a look at his approaching enemy.

Lorda, after taking a hold of both his own horse and Jonrah's and leading them into a more overgrown patch that should hide them, had found himself a less painful hiding place for himself - a simple group of bushes, with somewhat sticky leaves, but nonetheless, harmless. As he jumped into the bushes, a number of leaves broke free, exposing the skeleton branches of the bush, but hiding him well nonetheless. Several of the leaves stuck themselves to his armour, and one found its way into his mouth. The taste was not pleasant, so he spat out the unfamiliar leaf and waited.

Jonrah watched as the men - who were moving much faster than he had expected - got closer and closer. The sound of their footsteps, all in unison, and the occasional clang of their shields and spears, rang in his mind, and once they were out of sight from his little hole, he used these sounds to act as a guide to whether or not it was safe to come out.

Although the sounds passed fairly quickly, Jonrah continued to wait, and although uncomfortable, he was patient.

He waited ten minutes, until he felt something grab him by the neck of his armour, pulling him out of the thorns.

He felt his skin punctured by the thorns, and as he withdrew his sword to face his attacker - no doubt one of the men had spotted them and had not moved on at all - he breathed a sigh of relief as he realised it was only Lorda.

'You are on edge, my friend,' Lorda said, smiling as he dragged Jonrah free of the thorns, then dropped him jokingly.

It took Jonrah a few seconds to get back to his feet, and when he did, he sheathed his sword. 'How long ago did they pass?'

'Several minutes ago. They past us and walked on for only one hundred metres before crossing this rising onto the other side.'

'Then we will have to be careful. No doubt they will spot us if they so much as glance over their shoulders.' Jonrah was wary of being caught now, moreso than he had been before.

'Shall we join them?' Lorda asked.

Wading through the less dense shrubbery, Jonrah in front and Lorda behind, the two hunched their backs, then got to their knees, then onto their bellies, and slowly edged closer to the summit of the small hill.

Both men took a glance over the edge, and saw what they had feared had been amplified tenfold.

In front of them - only twenty-five metres away - lay the first watchtower they had come across since their journey began. Surrounding it lay three patrols, neatly ordered, all with weapons and shields. Some on horseback.

Jonrah was able to tear his gaze away from the tower for only a few seconds before Lorda pulled him back behind the hill.

In those few seconds, Jonrah was able to make out at least ten more towers, all very close to one another - probably several hundred metres between.

There were no doubt more in the distance.

'Maybe we should have taken the long route,' Lorda said.

The End

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