“Riders!” the rearward man shouted.
A patrolman in the middle of extracting a shirt from his bag, dropped the garment. He offered a curse, and made to get down.
“Leave it!” bellowed Nanaleed.
Padavar forced the last the last oversized piece of cheese into his mouth. His cheeks bulged as he attempted to gnaw it down, whilst his horse jostled him into motion.
They made the first rise along the trail as dark dots moved along the thin line, far behind them. It made Padaver breathe a little easier. For now, they fled from a patrol no bigger than theirs. It could have been the vanguard for a much larger force. Only one move to make; ride hard ahead of the them, and hide if they ever turned out of their view.
For the better part of an hour, they rode. Several times they turned a bend in the river or found a grove of trees, about to hide, when the Vindavians came into sight again. The Nusallean horses proved marginally swifter, perhaps from carrying smaller men, gradually pulling ahead. They spurred their already weary horses across a clearing and waited in a densely treed area, going toward the south. Simple logic would come into play. Padaver could see that the bushland continued in a narrow half mile wide strip to the south where it broadened, covering the next rise. If they stayed put by the river, the Vindavians would employ simple logic, going south where there was more coverage.
Vindavian riders emerged from the first grove and reined to a halt in the open.
Watching from among the trees, the Nusalleans sat atop their mounts. One of the southmen dismounted, and peered low to the ground, then immediately stood, pointing in the direction of the Nusallean patrol.
“Get going,” barked Nanaleed.
The patrol turned and threaded through the trees, spurring their horses for a broad, gradually rising hill. They pushed their already weary horses hard, crowning the rise, then leaned back in the saddles as they, half slid, half, trotted down. Land became rocky, with semi emerged platforms of sandstone. On the other side of a channel, a creek wound its way down to the river. They ran over the minor trickle and crashed into the undergrowth, marking the start of another well treed area. Capillary like creeks flowed into the grove from the south, forming a marshy area hoof deep. It flowed into a fast moving creek, heading out to the river. Further west, the sand became sandstone, going on for half a league.
“We could ride in one of the creeks to the south, and go wide of the Vindavians,” offered Padaver.
“A good strategy, Pad, but we should take the other route. We can make our way down the incline out of sight, then ride along the bank. That is the last thing they will expect us to do. Keep watch as we ride,” Nanaleed ordered the rear man.
They splashed through the marsh and into the wider stream, going into the river. Their mounts sank almost belly deep in the gelid water, freezing the Nusalleans’ shins where they splashed. Breaking away from the waterway at the last moment, they slid down a clay embankment and clattered their hooves on sandstone. A layer of running water traversed its surface, which they splashed over as fast as they dared.