Hasan saw the situation clearly. “Many men came from the north. Just one to the south, into the woods. That was a brave man. A dangerous one. I say we follow the one. It is his trail that will lead us deeper into this mystery.”
Miklos listened to Hasan’s assessment of the trail. “You are quite correct, Prince Hasan. We must seek to question the lone traveller. We may get some confirmation of our fears from him.” he added.
“Are we not forgetting something?” What of the folk at Misha’s jetty? These thugs visited there before they came here. Have you no thought for them? The lone man might not be hastening away with news of us, he may have left the campsite directly, making the assumption that such a force would easily overcome us? We might have time at least to check Misha’s?”
“True.” cut in the mage, “But, my theory is still supported by this new trail. He may have doubled back from the ambush site ahead of us along the trampled undergrowth to hide his tracks, and his purpose. Or he may have remained here and seen the smoke from the pyre and decided that the ambush was a failure. What say the rest of you?”
“Maruc, whatever happened at Misha’s happened over a day ago. There is little we can do for them after so long. I agree with Hasan and Miklos. This lone trail, of the man arriving alone, is the trail that will likely hold the most information.” The dwarf looked over to Stephan. “It seems your horses will have to wait.”
Stephan’s eyes narrowed slightly at the dwarf’s words.
“You assume, master dwarf, that I am beholden to you. Regardless of your path, I go now to my brother’s. For me, there is no other way.
“And look. Here are the marks in this direction,” Stephan indicated with his hands. He turned to the dwarf, “It happens to be the direction I am heading. Since there is proven unrest hereabouts, I can not tarry at Misha’s to gather information. I would hasten to Pyotr’s to see that all is well. And fulfill my pledge to him.
“The light won’t last.”
With that, the fighter began the trek to Sukiskyn.
Their purposes aligned, the group of adventurers headed further into the forest, following the footsteps toward the human settlements. The path being over a day old, it grew fainter as they traveled. As the path brought them ever-closer to Stephan’s family homestead, his pace quickened.
Dusk had arrived, but the group was nearing the horse farm. A twilight hush was setting over the forest. The peaceful stillness was broken by a faint cry in the distance. The evening breeze brought a whiff of woodsmoke. Ahead, a glimpse of flames rose beyond the trees. The sounds grew louder, and the shouts of men mingled with harsh, guttural warcries and the clash of battle came from the direction of Sukiskyn.