Maruc almost walked into Hasan when he stopped and held up his hand for silence.
“What is it?” he asked. The tall elf waved him into silence. Sensing something was wrong, Maruc freed his chain flailed and eased his hand into the punch grip of his shield. He looped the shield strap over his head and motioned Miklos behind him.
Miklos darted over the Maruc. “What did he say?” he whispered urgently.
“Shh!” replied the big cleric.
“Golthar’s spies?” he insisted.
“Too soon for that I think. Now be silent,” the priest said through gritted teeth.
“Time for an ambush. Perhaps?” Miklos darted over to Ludo.
“Ludo. Golthar’s agents are on to us I think. Can you get a closer look?” he whispered.
Quickly nodding to Miklos in agreement, Ludo darted off the trail into the undergrowth. Using the pine forest and natural foliage as concealment, he backtracked, attempting to move in behind whoever was following them.
Stephan gathered what was going on and glanced about the woods. Sotto voce, “Let’s just keep moving. We know about them now and that’s better. We can watch for them to make a mistake and maybe capture our tail.”
“Let us break now,” said the elf, loudly. “Thank you for looking to take a first watch, Maruc, but we can be at peace here, so close to Sukiskyn.” The elf proceeded to sit down on the great trunk of a fallen ash, calmly extracting a ripe pear from his pocket. The elf bit into the pear, conveying the most disarming air of tranquility his companions had ever seen in him. In fact, as the elf carefully set is bow down beside him, it was clear, the elf didn’t quite mean what he said. “We can handle these watchers unseen the forest,” the elf muttered. “Not so once we reach the clearings beyond, when they have seen our direction. Let them come now, or we shall have to flush them out.” And Hasan finished his pear, all but a little juice that remained, glinting from his chin.
Feldard wasn’t good at deceptive talking, so for him, if they weren’t going to hunt their shadows down, it was best if he didn’t draw attention to himself. So without a word the dwarf moved to the base of a tree and settled his back against it, his axe at his side within easy reach. Snores issued after but 5 minutes.
Stephan shrugged. “Aye, It’s just nigh of midday. Good time for a break.”
He too settled next to a tree in a position that afforded a good view of much of the surrounding wood. He drank deeply from a flask then fished out some jerky he’d taken at the last minute from the Sukiskyn stores.
His scabbard was situated in a way that would allow him to quickly draw the blade.
Ludo was worried, where was the spy? He heard the sharp sound of a twig crack off to right about 30 feet away. Ludo paused in mid step, then gently placed his foot down and slowly crouched down. He recalled the teachings of his fathers gamekeeper, ‘no sudden movement – in a forest when hunting move slow and silently and keep down wind wherever possible’. He was using all his skills to sneak up on a foe that was in all likelihood expecting trouble and it felt like that every movement and every breath was giving his position away.
Anticipating that the spy was close, he drew his dagger from his belt and slowly moved to the right where he had heard the twig break.
Ludo had initially expected to see a lone follower, but soon heard others. From his hiding spot, he saw a group of nine men. Most were dressed in leather armor and carried short bows. They had the same half-crazed look as some of the other Iron Ring minions they had confronted. Two leaders at the rear were clad in chain mail, and carried shields and longswords. A few hundred yards back from the party, they were doing their best to stay quiet and concealed, but they had not been adept enough to avoid catching the interest of the elf, and now Ludo.