“I’d say the wreck is scattered across the border, Chief.” The scout panted, his chest heaving with each breath as he waited for instructions from my brother.
“Call out the men, get the carts and horses ready. We have loot to gather!” His gut ache seemed to vanish at the prospect of so much plunder.
The scout hesitated. “And if the Duros get to the bay before us?”
Cador unsheathed his blade and swung it about his head in an expansive swipe. “Then they’d better be prepared to lose their heads. Many Duros will sit with the gods in the Summerlands this night.” That spurred the scout into action. He ran off to implement our leader’s orders. Cador surveyed his tribe; his fists resting on his hips, his chest inflated in pride. I couldn’t stop my lip from curling.
The news spread across the compound like a heath fire, setting off a chain of activity in and around the warrior’s tents and horse enclosure. Even my mother was distracted by the bustling activities, wrapping bread and cheese in wax wrap for Cador to take with him to the bay. She scurried along behind him, still fussing as though he was a small child.
It made my movements invisible. No one noticed me running back inside to grab my bow and knife. I selected a dry branch fungus from the basket next to the fire, punched a hole in its centre and slipped a hot ember inside with my blade. A few directed breaths were all it took for the mushroom to catch alight. I blew out the flame and left it to smoulder. With the fungus dangling from a loop of willow, I tucked a handful of kindling and a little bread into my bundle and ran to prepare my horse before my mother returned to stop me.
Cador’s warriors were already whooping and hollering, strapping their spears and blades to their steeds, enthused at the prospect of riding out to the wreckage. I hid behind the shrubs in the pony pen until most of them had mounted their horses and passed through the gate. Some of the older warriors were left readying the carts and wagons for the half day’s ride to the coast.
I knew my horse was swifter than most, especially since all the warriors were much heavier than me, and had the added burden of their weapons to carry. When Cador’s men had ridden out along the eastern trail, I sneaked out of the palisade gates after them.
There was another trail I could take to get to the borderlands much quicker than their route, one that was not suitable for the wagons. It was a dangerous track, filled with marshes in the lowlands and steep scree-filled inclines, but I had no other choice. I had to get to our meeting place to warn him.