Minutes later, they crouched in the undergrowth by the edge of the Vindavian camp. Ahead of them, they saw a picketed line of horses in darkness, well away from the fires of the river bank. Vindavians engaged in conversations without a readied weapon. But then, they didn’t expect an attack from the rear; much less from a small patrol.
Padaver looked among the silhouettes of the horses. Somewhere close, they would have posted a man to guard them. He resisted the urge to ask “why so few horses?” Surely these belonged to officers. Elsewhere, the cavalry would have had their mounts tethered and well guarded.
Like an egg, the outline of a Vindavian helmet shifted just above the backs of the horses. Padaver pointed, receiving a nod from Nanaleed. Nanaleed nodded to one of the other men and gave a series of field signals. The man nodded in return, then silently slipped away from the group, going to ground. The others followed his lead, pausing or moving ahead when he beckoned.
With rain falling, men largely unnoticed their approach as they slinked along the outer edges of the camp. They soon found their goal; a line of food wagons. Guards didn’t stand watch beside the vehicles, instead choosing to warm themselves by the fires. Nanaleed, took a sack from his shoulder and made his way to the nearest wagon. Padaver came too, but lay on his stomach amidst the wheels.
Moments later, Nanaleed climbed out, repeating the process for two more wagons. Footsteps, irregular, came closer. At the last moment, Padaver turned his head to see a drunken Vindavian Devra reel their way. His jaw dropped as he spotted Padaver beneath the wagon.
“Nusalleans!” he shouted. “Nus…”
His cries ended as Nanaleed sprang from the rear of the wagon, bringing his axe down.
The Vindavians by the fire turned, not locating the Nusalleans until they took flight back for the trees. One of the patrol holding the reins of the other mounts, galloped their horses towards them. He ducked under a flung javelin as shouts arose among the Vindavian camp.
“I have already put their horses to flight,” he said. “They will have to get their mounts from the other side of the camp if they wish to pursue us.”
They sprang into their saddles, and galloped through a gang of Vindavians attempting to bar their way.
“Volunteers, get on horses and get after them!” shouted an officer.
Padaver hung low in the saddle as he galloped with the others. They ate up the miles along the road, tracing the river’s edge further west. The man riding at the rear, continually turned his head to check for pursuit.
“Halt!” yelled Nanaleed.
The horses slid to a stop on the slick grass.
“Eat now from your provisions. If we are pursued, then this may be our last chance.”
All seven dug into their saddle bags, extracting dry cheese, starting to mould, or strips of dried meat. They understood the value of Nanaleed’s words. The Vandavians were better rested and fed. Far better to have something in their stomachs if they had to confront the southmen face to face.