The harsh dawn sun prodded among the coverts of fir and ceder catching the flicker of iron as the riders drove their ponies on with the flats of their blades. A ragged line staggered up the foothills, hooves beating out a muted melody to the boom-boom boom-di-boom of drums and clashing cymbals. Shouts echoed from the scouts ahead and a pillar of dust curled up between the trees for miles around as the vast column broke into a gallop.
Ahead of the riders’ charge the forest thinned to a narrow beach of underbrush against the Fulgren Sea, endless grass marked with plumes of flowers to beyond the horizon. The ponies caught the smell before the men, causing them to paw at the damp verge, tossing and snorting in fear of the foul stench creeping out of the marsh, dank and rotten. They didn’t push them as even they, soldiers and used to the smell of death, had covered their mouths with rank skins and looked to their brothers for reassurance, secretly curling their fingers around whatever pocket gods each carried. So distracted were they that it took them time to notice the man running through the unbroken grass, looking as though adrift in a hidden boat.
“If our good arrows don’t find him then the Wind Devils of the High Air will.”