“Whatever are you talking about?” Anvar asked as he joined his nephew.
“See,” Bander said as he pointed at the field. “Look at all those torches. It would have been much easier to work during the day.”
Anvar was immediately alarmed and fetched Linvin. “We have a problem to our rear,” he told their leader.
Linvin briskly walked to the edge of their cover and peered out at the field to the north. Though the sky had become completely dark, hundreds of torches were moving through the rows and lighting the field. They came from the north, east and west. The torches to the sides were spread apart at equal intervals. The ones to the north, however, were moving single file down the exact route Linvin’s party had traveled.
Rander joined him. “What’s going on?” he asked. “Are they actually trying to harvest in the dark?”
Linvin rubbed the region between his eyes in frustration. “Tell me Rander, do you never tier of being wrong? That is a search party closing in on us. The group to the north is following our trail. The others are methodically eliminating the possibility that we may be hiding just out of sight in the field.”
“They are everywhere,” Rander said in a panicked voice. “We won’t outrun them on foot. We must take to horse.”
“The beasts are done in after the day’s march,” Linvin said. “Though we could ride a short distance, if we tried to escape that way, those soldiers would be close enough to hear us and see us take flight.”
“Then how should we proceed?” Anvar asked.
Linvin thought for a moment as he watched the search pattern. Then he ran to the other side of the hedgerow and took note of the road running east and west. Returning to the others, his plan was set.
“Anvar, have everyone in their saddle and ready to ride when I return.”
“Return from where?” Anvar inquired.
“Their teams will meet up in the middle of the field,” Linvin said. “I will go there to buy us time.”
“I thought you wanted to avoid a fight?” Bander asked.
“So I shall,” Linvin answered. He reached down on the ground and picked up two stones of the size used in a sling. “This is all I will need. Now wait for me. I shall not be long.” In a moment, he was gone. It was as though the night consumed him in an instant.
Linvin ducked low and ran with speed and stealth. His goal was to reach the place where the search parties would join before they arrived. He made good time and reached his goal just ahead of the torches. Then he laid down flat on the ground close to the plants and covered himself with dried leaves from the stalks. Next he had to calm his breathing. It was a tactic he’d been taught as a scout during his youth in Valia. By the time the searchers came together, Linvin was camouflaged and silent.