No birds were singing, as they had long departed to the south. The land was quiet and at peace. A highway between fields was sheathed in a thin layer of ice left as an unwelcome gift from the intemperate evening that had passed.
Such was the world Lord Mandrean observed as he emerged from his tent three-nights-travel from Marinhalk. His Imperial Guard had already begun to break camp and was tending their horses.
Commander Vipis personally delivered a hot tin of food to him and bowed after the exchange. “By the time you have finished eating, we will be ready to get underway again,” the Commander noted.
Mandrean observed his meal of sausage and cornbread with contempt. He knew there was little he could do about the fare and made do as he had since leaving his beloved palace. “Did any news come during the night?” he demanded as he sat on a portable chair and began to eat.
“No messengers arrived during the night,” answered Vipis. “With the conditions on the road it is unlikely any riders would attempt to navigate their way in the dark. It was a moonless night and visibility was nonexistent.”
“I do not care about ice on the roads, or moonless nights,” Mandrean yelled as he threw his plate. “I want news. Grithinshield has been gone for nearly a week and still there is not a single sighting of him or his rabble. If Tecious has men posted at all the crossings someone should have seen them by now. Even if the goblins on guard were killed we would have heard something.”
“We receive news throughout the day and there are simply no sightings,” Vipis confirmed. “Grithinshield is said to be a crafty general. He may have found a place in which to hold-up until the search dies down.”
Mandrean stroked his chin. “That is a possibility but I still think he is trying to escape. The longer he stays in the Empire, the greater his chances of being discovered. By now every town knows of the price on his head. He cannot hide for long without someone taking note.”
“Then what course of action does your Highness suggest?” Vipis asked stoically.
“We will continue to ride south with all haste to the Sorrowful Sea. There are many towns along the route where we can ask about sightings. If he has evaded detection then he must be riding cross-country. That will slow his progress. Sooner or later he will be found and I want to be there for the kill.”