Episode 30: A day in the life (forest journey)

The night passed without incident. Out in front rode Percy, who would dismount and scout ahead whenever he deemed it necessary. He was entirely at home in the forest; often Isabelle wouldn't even realize that he had slipped away until she spotted him re-mounting his horse. A little ways behind him was Orlaith with her bow. The men assigned to Max rode in a loose six-point protective formation surrounding Arthur and Isabelle, while Max guarded the rear. Thunder's horse, it's rider asleep, wandered from the left flank to the right and back again. How Thunder avoided falling off was anyone's guess.

The six warriors assigned to Max were oddly silent, often coordinating their actions without saying a word. Three wore the colors of various nobles, two bore the patches of the knights that were their masters, and the last simply bore the insignia of the Imperial Legions without so much as an indication of whether he was from the Imperial Army or the Guard. Max himself bore no such emblem but was impossible to mistake for anyone else in any case. He did not so much watch the rear of the squad as he did ride along secure in the knowledge that someone could catch him entirely unawares and yet not incapacitate him quickly enough to prevent him from warning the others.

When they made camp for the day, Percy and Orlaith slipped off to obtain some fresh game. They had plenty of supplies, but conservation and fresh meat never were always a good idea. Percy was the better hunter when it came to stalking prey, but Orlaith was infinitely better with a bow. Thunder woke up when the food was ready, then disappeared up a tree where he napped on a branch until his shift was to begin. Another day or two of this and they would be at the south-east corner of the forest.