Marcus tensed, watching the two horseman ride ahead. He rode atop a tall horse, narrow and sleek like its rider. Marcus glanced back over his shoulder, through the rough and rocky hills, looking for any sign of life. The hills were empty, except for the two riders he had followed for many miles. He glanced back in the direction of the rebellion. There was Keegan still, following the army, avoiding detection, and leading the small band of rugged barbarians.
Marcus was thoughtful. It had taken some getting used to, allying themselves with the tribe of wild men that had come upon them in the mountains. But when they had talked to the leader of the small crow tribe, it had become clear that these barbarians were not an enemy. Marcus sighed. The stories of imperial troops killing women and children to make the wild men fight for them brought the realization that the barbarians were not truly their enemy.
The tribe had hidden from the empire successfully, and Marcus and Keegan knew that the family would be safe with the tribe. When they announced after several months that they would travel to find Kallan and Owen once more, the chief, Cawkal, had offered to send five of his best warriors with them. The seven men had come out of the deep recesses of the mountains, and had trailed the rebellion from Ildiv on. Marcus had kept a close eye on his brothers, creeping past rebel sentries by night.
When Owen had made flight from the rebellion with the mysterious old man, they had made a sudden decision to send Marcus after them to keep a close eye on Owen. Keegan and the warriors stayed trailing the rebels and Kallan.
Marcus watched Owen ride ahead. He had grown over the past months, he thought. He was tall and sturdy from training, and seemed surer of himself than he had in the past. He still had a certain air of… Marcus wasn’t sure. Maybe self consciousness. Worry? Confusion? Marcus thought analytically through what he had seen. He frowned. He wasn’t all that good at reading his friend.
He wondered about the girl, too. Who was this Gwen that Owen would pursue here capturers with such ferocity after only knowing her for a little over a week? Marcus frowned. He wondered if Owen knew what was happening himself. He wondered what had happened to Nai over these few months. He knew she was still with the rebellion, but he knew not what relation she had to Owen now.
He shook his shaggy head, and kicked his sleek horse into a trot. He had stolen her from the head officer of the Moransford unit of the imperial army. She was a fine animal in looks and gait, and he was happy with the way she kept a steady pace behind Owen and the old man. Who was he? He had wondered ever since they left the rebellion. Where did this man come from, and why had Owen followed him so quickly? Even for his logical mind, it did not make sense. He knew a piece of the puzzle was missing.