The ridge marking the far side of the valley was just over a mile and a
half away; she
estimated from the size of the plume of smoke that it originated from a
point several miles
beyond the ridge and thus several miles into the Fens. There could be a
substantial party of
travellers for all she knew, though it seemed unlikely in such an out of
the way spot. If it was
a single person then, to risk drawing attention to their existence in this
way, they must either
be very confident in their ability to deal with trouble or else very
naïve. If it was the result of
confidence, then it could be Frederigo escorting Andrea, but she had
thought that they would
not risk pursuing her so closely before the third night had passed. As she
watched, the smoke
thinned and then vanished. The fire had been extinguished, and whoever had
made it would
no doubt soon be on the move again.
Astra decided that she dare not take any chances. She didn't know this region well; also estimating the distance of a plume of smoke was not easy. Whilst her best guess was that whoever had lit the fire could not reach her for well over a day, she was not prepared to bet their life on it. Even the hour or two that it might take to track down the remnants of her clothes, and more importantly her sword, might be time that she could not afford. She would have to manage without.
Descending to the floor of the valley, where the better terrain meant that she could travel more quickly, she started walking towards the valley's head, which appeared to be about ten miles away. When she got there, she would have to decide whether she had come far enough to be safe or to climb into the hill country beyond.
Having eaten well last night, Astra knew that she would not need to stop for a meal – not that she now had any supplies anyway – and the valley only sloped very gently upwards. Thus she expected to reach its upper end within at most three hours. She estimated that it would be about noon by then. It was a beautiful sunny morning, and had the circumstances been different she would have enjoyed the walk. Though she could not have had much sleep last night - wolves are nocturnal creatures, after all - she did not feel at all tired.
1/21/2000 11:43:35 AM
The Never Ending Quest Home
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