Scouting was, in Melkin’s eyes, something you did to uphold the strategic plans you had in motion. The problem was that the traditional way of scouting did not seem to be working as it should. The bandits in Salisbury seemed to know exactly what was going on, when he or any of the other knights rode out and where they were heading. Now, Melkin had changed scouting strategy to see if he could manage to adapt to a more unpredictable pattern. He had tried to go out on odd times much like how the Saxons seemed to be moving, and change his mind in the last moment of where to go. Someone was feeding the bandits information of his and his friends’ movements, and he was not going to let any potential traitor tell them what he was up to.
As of such Melkin and Deian were riding north alongside the forest of gloom, keeping an eye out, and sometimes making a short entry into the forest. It was late October, and most of the leaves had fallen from the trees which made it easier to spot any movement inside the forest.
“I heard that sir Victus had been injured,” said Deian suddenly with an undertone of a question to his voice as they rode down a hill.
“He lost another body part,” answered Melkin sighing, “this time a finger on his right hand. Not too bad considering”.
The remark made Deian laugh.
“He joined the battle with prince Madoc last year then?”
“It seems like he did, and it also seems to have been quite the adventure”.
“The one-legged-knight with the nine fingers,” Deian said shaking his head slightly, but Melkin noticed the gleam in his eyes.
“The old man is getting a reputation”, Melkin continued, “and gathering wounds.”
“Maybe people will start calling him the scarred knight,” suggested his squire.
“Then we can share that title between us,” said Melkin amused. “Marwths in general seem to be hard to kill, but maybe not too hard to injure”.
Deian did not laugh at this. Maybe he remember all to well all of Melkin’s own injuries but before he could continue Deian stopped his horse and pointed. “Sir Melkin,” he said frowning. “I saw something move in there”.
Melkin gave the boy a nod and turned his horse around. Surefoot as he had named the new steed trotted over the uneven ground into the forest with ease. Melkin had never had a horse that he had felt so united with before. Having ridden the brown charger for the past couple of months Melkin himself had grown a lot more skillful rider in an exceptionally short amount of time, and he could feel the difference.
Going into the forest he did notice something moving briefly to his right and he and the horse made their way towards the movement. Melkin thought that he saw a figure leaping behind a tree but when he reached it there was no one there. Behind him he suddenly heard the other horse neigh, and as Melkin turned around he saw how Deian was thrown out of his saddle in a wide angle. The horse standing on its hind legs neighed once more and started gallop out of the forest.
“Deian,” Melkin called to the squire who had landed out of eye shot.
A pained grunt came as answer. Melkin looked around, scanning the area. Nothing. If someone had been there, they had taken the moment of chaos to escape. He rode up to Deian and dismounted. The young man had fallen badly and bled from a gash from the head.
“Don’t get up,” Melkin kneeled by his squire’s side.
“Sir, I swear I saw someone in the bushes! He scared the horse he…” Deian pointed in the direction where Melkin thought he had seen the shadow and tried to stand.
“Well, he’s gone now,” concluded Melkin and sighed. “Lie still whelp, so I can take a look at that wound.”
The cut wasn’t too deep and Melkin decided against stitching it together. From own experience he knew that Deian probably would be dizzy and nauseous for a day or two though, and that he they’d best return to Hindon.
“It’s not too bad,” he clapped his squire on the shoulder. “But I see you need more riding training still. You’re soon to become a knight and it wouldn’t do if you get yourself killed from falling of the horse in battle”.
Deian shook his head, and then winced from the pain. “No sir,” he said quite sheepishly.
Melkin couldn’t help but to smile at the boy. “I guess we’ll just have to take some extra time for it during next spring. Now get up on the horse”.
“Sir?” Deian looked at Surefoot.
“If you fall, you have to get up at once, or else you might fear riding later on. Now then, up you go”.
Melkin let Deian climb up into the saddle himself as lord Amig had done for him when he was a squire. He was just about to grab the reins and start to lead the animal out of the forest when he caught glance of something on the ground just a few meters away. Picking up the leather sachet Melkin heard the clinking noise from inside. He gave in content a brief look and then put the sachet in his belt.
Later, when the other horse had been found and Deian indeed had gotten sick, Melkin counted the silver. The sachet had contained as much as an entire pound, exactly one pound. Well, he thought as he put the money in the roman chest in the long hall, he hadn’t found any bandit, but retrieving a pound from their coffers wasn’t bad either. The question was who the money had been meant for. It was a precise amount, and Melkin dared say that no bandit would go around with that amount unless it was meant for something particular. Had the sachet even been intended for a traitor?