The soldier placed one foot behind, pivoted, stepped back, and glanced around.
The skirmish at Ber had been his first battle, his first taste of war, and the bitterness of it still lingered: it had been a scatter, his entire scour trampled down by Penth-ut calvary.
He had been warned before they marched into the land outlying the grand battle: "If we are routed," spat the Greatest-of-Fifty as he reined his courser that sunrise and latched on his helmet, "the folk who cheered our arrival should not be trusted. If we are given defeat, we are unguarded, an opportunity for these folk. I have seen them, armed only with reed spears, murder armored men. Your steel is precious and rare here. If we are given defeat, we have no protection, and they will take what they can."
Remembering this speech, the soldier looked upon the old man with suspicion. He narrowed his eyes.
"If you admire my helmet, come and take it, then!" he said. "I need it no longer!"
The old man licked his chapped lips and idly scratched the back of his head.
"How are you so sure of that?" he asked.