Chapter 5

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He kicked his horse and headed off at a canter, conserving his mount's strength for the long journey. Lassuni and the Ghost Guards were close behind as the snow started to fall in earnest. If it kept up at this rate, they'd be forced to slow to a walk, extending what should have been a two day ride into three or more. Adovana gritted her teeth as the chill started to penetrate the layers she wore. Though the sun was rising, the temperature seemed to be falling. Surely a bad omen, she thought. Out of the corner of her eye she saw one of the Ghost Guards catch up and match her pace. She looked over, ready to go for her sword. The rider pulled up closer to her while maintaining their pace and reached across to her with a white cloak, a spare he must have pulled from his saddlebag. Lassuni hesitated only a moment, then gave him a nod, grasped the cloak from him and letting go of the reins swung the cloak around herself. The rider dropped back into formation again without ever having uttered a sound. She wondered at the odd bit of kindness, but then thought perhaps they were simply trained to see to their commander's needs and comfort.

The party continued on for what Lassuni took to be close to two hours, as the snow continued to fall and the day maintained its dull gray pallor. If she hadn't already seen the dawn sky there would have been no way to tell if it was morning or evening. She looked up to see Vercingetor with his left arm raised, signaling a stop. She drew up next to him.

"Something wrong, General?" she asked.

Vercingetor seemed to be listening rather than looking. "The snow deepens, and the day is growing darker. It's far too early for the sun to set. I want to make for those caves there in that hill," he said, pointing to the mountain range on their right.

Lassuni couldn't see any caves through the falling snow, but trusted Vercingetor knew the terrain. "Yes, sir."

Glancing at her now, he noted the white cloak that enveloped her. "Well Captain, if I didn't already need you leading the troops I'd offer to have you join the Ghost Guard. The cloak looks good on you."

"Thank you, sir, but I'll take open fighting on a battlefield over stealth missions."

"You're an excellent strategist, Captain, you'd do well in the Guard. Well, no matter." He looked again to the mountains to the east. "We need to get under cover as soon as possible."

"What is it, sir? Did you see something?"

He shook his head. "Call it instinct, but I'm quite sure we're being followed."

Lassuni looked around, trying to listen through the shushing sound of the falling snow. It was then she noticed the entire Ghost Guard squad was gone. "Where'd they go? What's going on?"

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