The sun bore down on the now alone Jonrah as he saw the tower disappear into the distance, undistinguishable from the similar structures that littered the plains.
The forest lay stretched out before him, curling around from the South, surrounding the West, and then heading off towards the East. Jonrah intended to follow the forest, but not to enter; using it for shelter, only when completely necessary, would surely make the journey pass faster.
The Eastern Wall was now but a thin strand of thread spanning the plains, and the towers that lay in the distance no longer looked so intimidating.
Ignoring the feeling of loneliness that flooded his body, Jonrah walked, thinking of anything that would take his mind off all those he had lost.
Karlin, Jodar, and now Lorda. His wife had been the only true loss; Jonrah was convinced that he would see Lorda again, and was in no doubt that by persevering with his quest, he could rescue his son.
Karlin was no doubt watching him. Smiling, knowing that everything was going to be okay. He had not had time to mourn her properly yet, and until his son was in his arms, he would not stop moving to do so.
Thoughts of his family swirled around Jonrah’s mind, spurring him on, but he was careful not to get too distracted – now that daylight had arrived, it was very likely that there were patrols out looking for the three escapees.
Lorda and Murdul would by now have reached Litana, or at least were getting closer. Maybe they had found the horses that Lorda and himself had set free, and maybe they were making good time in their own journey.
But Jonrah could not afford to think about their safety right now. His own was far more important.
Jonrah had not walked so much since sustaining his injuries from the eagles that had attacked him and Lorda only the previous night, and although they had healed fairly well – his shoulder was not bothering him – his foot was making walking a much larger effort than it had been before.
He was only slightly limping, not even deliberately, but subconsciously as Jonrah tried to avoid the dull throb that accompanied every step. His shoes were not intended for cross-country adventures, and they were rubbing fiercely against his wound, causing discomfort that required him to take several breaks, halting and hiding in the outskirts of the forest whilst he readjusted his boots, checking the wound which had already scabbed over.
Having covered quite a large distance, Jonrah had only several moments ago continued his walk after the break the proceeded the one at which he gave up on counting. It was here than he looked toward the towers, where no doubt The Eden had received word that three prisoners had escaped and killed all residents of a tower.
Jonrah knew that they would be sending patrols to search, but he had not bothered himself with the worry of capture, for he wanted to concentrate on his journey.
However, as the dust billowed in the distance, Jonrah squinted and was able to make out a rapidly moving group of black silhouettes.
Instantly, Jonrah knew that they were a patrol, and that they were either looking for him, or that he had already been spotted. Probably the former, for he was almost invisible next to the forest.
Despite the likelihood of them turning away before they reached the forest, Jonrah backed into the trees, hiding himself several metres away from the edge, peeking round the side of a tree in order to determine when it was safe to continue his travels.
As the patrol approached closer, Jonrah spotted five, all on horseback, well armed, and wearing the armour of The Eden, one rider holding a standard with the emblem imprinted upon it.
Jonrah was sure that they would turn away, but they did not. Rapidly getting closer, Jonrah said to himself:
Now they’ll turn… Now they’ll turn… Now they’ll turn…
His thoughts were not accurate, however, and as the horses brought their riders closer, Jonrah was able to make out the faces of the three men and two women who rode them.
They knew he was here. Either that or they were damn determined to find him.