Updated: Sep 22
Chapter Two: A Mysterious Watcher
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Torrin looked down at the depression amid the ground cover near a large tree. Someone had been lying here. He knelt down and touched the ground with the palm of his hand. It was still slightly warm.
He scanned the crushed foliage and spied a small foot print, the size of a woman's. He frowned, he was pretty certain what he had seen was no woman. Further to the right directly behind the white-barked trunk was a paw print. Torrin stood and moved closer to get a better look. It was canine.
Like a small dog, or a large fox?
Torrin shook his head and stood up again, looking to where Nathell was staring out at the surrounding trees. "I don't know, brother, maybe whoever I saw had a dog with them, but...
Nathell glanced at him. "A scout?"
Torrin rested his hand on the hilt of his sword and stared back at the camp. "Yeah, but if so, why take out all the sentries and stick around until they are found dead? Why wait when the opportunity had been set up for a successful raid?" Torrin scanned the ground nearby. "I see no evidence of other people."
Nathell eyed the ground where the visitor had lain. "Maybe the point was not an attack."
"A message?" asked Torrin, looking back at his brother.
Nathell lifted an eyebrow. "Causing fear and confusion is a sound tactic."
"Yes, but to what end?"
Nathell shrugged. "Who knows, a scout getting bored perhaps, or sent to sew chaos in the enemy camp, soften us up before an attack."
Torrin folded his arms across his chest and shook his head. It was all too subtle for a Ren commander, even the one they were up against, who Torrin had to admit, was more intelligent than most.
"Alright, we should get back and tell Dakar what we found. The camp needs to be on high alert for an attack just in case."
Nathell fell in beside him as they walked back toward the camp. "You really think an attack is imminent?"
"No. If they were going to raid the camp they would have done so while we were still asleep. This is something else. I can't put my finger on it, but I don't think the sentries were killed by a Ren warrior."
Nathell snorted. "Good luck explaining that to Dakar."
Torrin ignored the comment, he was thinking hard, trying to remember the stories he'd heard as a child. "Nathell, do you remember any of the stories about Dan Tynell?"
"You mean the Tynithian lands? Well, a few I guess, but they were just fables and children's bedtime stories."
Torrin lifted an eyebrow and glanced at his brother. "What if they were not just fables?"
Nathell stopped in his tracks and Torrin halted to look back at him. His brother's blue eyes were wide and his eyebrows raised. He whistled softly and shook his head. "What are you saying, Tor? You saw a Tynithian?"
Taking a deep breath and exhaling a plume of mist into the chilly morning air, Torrin shook his head. "I don't know what I saw, but I'm damn sure it wasn't a Ren scout."
Nathell resumed walking. "Well, you should definitely not share that with old Dakar," he snickered. "The commander would likely have you beaten for making fun of him. No wait, he is not that smart. He would call you a madman and have you killed to save the cohort from bad luck."
Torrin chuckled softly. "He can try."
They reached the camp perimeter and the haphazard layout of tents and equipment. Torrin and Nathell had to step around cooking fires and clusters of picketed mounts.
The Ren were fierce warriors, and the men thought of almost nothing, save fighting and trading women. They were undisciplined and fractious, yet their uncertain way of life lead to a kind of resiliency Torrin had to grudgingly admire. They actually brought their wives and daughters along during the raiding season, a practice that Torrin found unsettling at best. The thought of having his wife and daughters subjected to the danger of a raiding season, not just from enemy clans but from within the cohort as well, made him ill. He had seen what happened to women in the extreme patriarchal society of Ren...
Grinding his teeth, he shut down the memories that rose unbidden along that line of thought. He didn't have a wife or daughters any more.
It was time to speak to Dakar.
The Ren commander was sitting in his tent wolfing down a meal his servants had prepared from the choicest morsels in the raiding hoard. Most of the wealth collected during raids was sent back to the Warlord, Rathus, in guarded wagon, but Dakar held back enough to pay the warriors and most especially, himself.
"What do you have to report?" Dakar was a burly man, grizzled and scarred from many raiding seasons. He was not a good looking man, with a smashed nose that had been set crooked and a red face crisscrossed with white scars. He glanced up from his food with irritation. "Well?"
"We came across the scout's hiding place about a hundred paces from the camp's perimeter. It looks like he lay there for a while. There was no other sign of more of the enemy as far as we could see." Torrin kept his face impassive, watching as the Ren commander laboriously worked through to the conclusions he and Nathell had made.
"Do you think they will attack?"
Torrin shook his head. "It is doubtful. If they were going to raid they would have already, but it would be prudent to set more watch, just in case."
"So what? Just trying to piss us off?"
"That would seem the only logical reason. Trying to weaken moral, perhaps." Torrin made no mention of his other suspicions.
Dakar snorted and waved a hand in dismissal. "Damn cowards! Go, take a patrol and find out if they have moved from their previous location. It is time to end this nonsense. We will attack at sunset from the west while the sun is in their eyes."
Torrin ducked out of the tent and walked to where he and Nathell had bedded down. His brother looked up from the cook fire where he was stirring some breakfast. "How did his Majesty take it?" He handed Torrin a bowl with hot cereal, a strip of jerky and dried fruit.
Taking a bite of tough meat, Torrin chewed for a moment. "He wants us to take a patrol to confirm the location of the enemy clan. He intends to attack them tonight, sun set."
"Hmmm, the old attack at sundown strategy. He is predictable at least. Alright, I'll grab Tasker and his boys, they are reliable."
"Fine," Torrin took another mouthful. "I will get the horses saddled. We will leave straight after breakfast."
Nathell stood and headed deeper into the now busy camp.
Torrin ate his breakfast quickly and began to pack up his gear. When he was done he moved to the horses, and looked over his mount. Red was a mature and proud bay war stallion. They had been through a lot together and Torrin trusted the horse to keep him safe in battle.
He rubbed the stallion down, then lifted the blankets and saddle onto the animal's broad back. Red shifted and stamped a foot, shaking his dark mane. When the saddle was cinched tight, Torrin tied his saddlebags behind.
He was halfway through saddling Nathell's mount, a solid, creamy dun named Falcon, when Nathell appeared, looking at him over the saddle. "All set. Tasker will meet us north of the camp."
"Good. Then let us go."
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Read the novel where Rowan and Torrin first meet:
Book One The Messenger from Myris Dar
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