The far-seers reported that the camp seemed calm and undisturbed, with the watch-fires high and guards standing watch beside them. It was only when the scouts returned from their sortie that it became apparent that the camp was abandoned. The Edriasi army had built up their fires and left decoys to man them, then decamped and retreated with all their essential equipment. Left behind were older tents, broken gear, and worn-out bedding or outfits draped over bundled sticks to give the appearance of a military camp.
"So," said Ravaj, as the last of the scouts finished her report and left the command tent, "either we've driven them off, or they've withdrawn for reasons of their own."
Sorcerer-commander Stefan, lean and grizzled in the scale armor that was the mark of his house, inclined his head. "The victory is yours, my lord. After the report from the scouts, our far-seers located the army. They're making a forced march to the west, likely intending to cut around the garrison at Evekhurst and return to Edrias-- or lose themselves along the border."
Ravaj shook his head slowly. "I don't trust this retreat. They showed up unexpectedly, proved considerably more formidable than we had prepared for, and now they just withdraw?"
Pallian, who was thinking about the breach in his armor and the wound in his palm, offered a solemn nod.
"I fear this is part of some deeper plan," Ravaj continued. "So we will not pursue, but we will not let them retreat, either."
Behind his visor, Pallian squeezed his eyes shut. He could feel what was coming, but if he didn't react...
"The Champion will follow them at first light. Hound them, harrow them. Drive them away from their shelter. And if you meet with that archer again..." The sorcerer-prince reached for something at his belt, pulled it loose, and extended his hand. "Bring her to me."
Pallian took the thing automatically. In his hand, it was a bundle of light silver mesh, woven of moonbeams and tears and twice as strong a steel. It was a net, light but unbreakable; he'd seen his brother use it before. Anything caught in it would be unable to move, barely able to breathe. He tucked it into a pouch on his belt.
"We will remain here. Drive them back to us, or return if you capture the archer."
Silently, Pallian nodded an acknowledgement. This was not the time to protest, explain, or even speak; he had a role to play. If the Shadow of Edrias returned to the camp and murdered his brother, it would serve Ravaj right. His brother had given him no chance to explain about the Shadow, or offer warnings or even opinions.
Without a word, he turned and left. The Champion of Teregor waited in a stone sarcophagus until he was needed; it would mend his armor and protect him while he slept. And in the morning, he would cross the valley and hunt the retreating army. And pray he didn't meet the archer again.