Synne must have overslept because when she opened her eyes the light from the sun directly above her felt like it was burning through her eyes and into her skull. She groaned as she tried to protect them from the bright light.

“She’s awake,” said the voice of a woman.

Synne, though drowsy couldn’t place the voice though the accent sounded familiar. She forced her eyes open and lifted herself up to examine her surroundings. She had been lying on a rough wooden bed that was covered with blankets and skins. She pulled off the skin over her body and to her surprise found herself naked.

“My clothes! Where are they?” she demanded as she stood up and pulled the blankets around her body.

Jonas walked past and she was about to grab him when another person, a young woman approached.

“Hello Synne, my name is Bara, we met last night,” she said with a smile.

“Last night?” asked Synne with an embarrassed look.

“The fight with the Raider, you all saved me.”

Synne smiled and loosened up a little as she realised this was the woman that had been in chains.

“You escaped from the train with us, right?”

The woman nodded and then handed her a bundle of clothes.

“These are fresh, your rags are in the fire,” she said with a grin.

“Oh great, who undressed me?” she asked.

“I did,” said the woman, “but to be fair there wasn’t much of them left to take off, I think you’ll find these more to your liking,” she said and then walked away and into a room to the side.

Synne looked around, trying to get a measure of the place.

The room she had slept in was small and appeared to have been carved directly into the wall of the cliff. Inside were a small number of wooden furnishings including a small table, a few chairs and another bed though much smaller. Looking out into the brightness was the open space they had fought in last night. She looked down at the clothing that Bara had given her and laid them out on the bed. The underclothes were basic cloth and without hesitating she put them on, rather than wander about with just a blanket draped around her. The blouse was a dull beige colour that looked like it had been washed too many times with many other colours. She pulled it on to find it puffed out around her body and arms. She looked down at her arm and tried to adjust it before giving up in frustration. The trousers were less of an issue, being the kind of traditional working clothes you could find anywhere in the land. They were dark brown and had a hide feel to them. The fit was surprising good and with a leather strap she conveniently borrowed from one of the shelves, she was able to get them to stay up.

Stepping outside she noticed Jonas and the stranger sat down around a table having a detailed discussion. She walked towards them, still shielding her eyes from the light.

“Synne, you’re up, feeling a little better?” Jonas asked.

She continued forward and dropped herself down next to him. On the table were various wooden plates and items of food. Fruit and bread were the main foodstuffs though one plate had a number of slices of cold meat stacked up. She looked at the food and drink laid out but her first thoughts were of the rest of the group that tried to escape at the same time as both of them.

“What about the others?” she asked.

Jonas turned his head with a look if disappointment in his face.

“Thrax and I went down the trail a few hours ago. We found blood trails leading back to the tracks but no sign of any of them. Either they escaped and carried on into the valley or they were captured and taken to the train.”

Synne reached out for one of the pieces of meat but the hand of the stranger slipped forward and grasped her hand.

“Perhaps you might introduce yourself before you eat my lunch?” asked the man sat opposite with much sarcasm. Synne looked at the two of them before deciding to say something.

“My name is Synne, may I?” she asked.

The man nodded and Synne immediately reached in and grabbed a piece of bread and some meat. She tore at it and proceeded to eat much faster than her body could cope. After the fourth piece of meat she had stuffed in her mouth caused her to choke the stranger spoke.

“Slow down, there’s no hurry. If it’s the Raiders you’re concerned with their train left last night.

She slowed down and took some of the food out of her mouth, the realisation of how stupid she looked made her look a little sheepish.

“What about the cave?”

“We checked, it was only a hundred or so feet deep and led to a deep pool. There were signs of a struggle and a few arrows and bolts from weapons. Like the path on the mountain, they must either have been taken or found a way out. I don’t see how anybody could have made it in the pool though. The water was freezing and I couldn’t see any short routes leading out under water,” explained Jonas almost apologetically.

The stranger cleared his throat, instantly drawing both their attention.

“Now, your friend here tells me you are from Haven, is that correct?” he asked with a raised eyebrow.

Synne looked angrily at Jonas, her eyes staring accusingly.

“Hey, Synne, he saved our lives, be polite,” he said defensively.

Synne took a few more mouthfuls before putting down the food and gulping down some water.

“Yes, we’re from Haven, why, have you heard of it?”

The man was silent for a little while as he took a bite from the bread. He chewed it slowly, appearing to be in no rush to answer her questions.

“Indeed, Lord Galan and I go back a very long time.”

“You know Lord Galan?” asked Synne suspiciously.

“That is what I just said. Why? Do you not trust me?” he asked slowly.

“Well, being as the entire place was attacked by Raiders, most of my family killed or taken away, the population sent to slavers, yeah, I’m a little suspicious of strangers,” she snarled though regretted it almost immediately.

Jonas moved his hand onto the table, trying to catch their attention.

“I’m sure Synne is not talking about you personally, the last few days have been horrific,” he tried to explain.

“No doubt,” said the stranger.

They continued eating though the silence became more and more uncomfortable until Synne could take it no longer.

“Look, I’m sorry. Maybe you could tell us a little about yourself?”

“I’m Thrax,” said the man in reply.

“Yeah, I got that. Anything else?” she asked with both hands out to her side.

“You’re from Haven and haven’t heard of Thrax?”

Synne and Jonas shook their heads to confirm it.

“I shall have to speak with Galan on this,” he said with a laugh.

“That won’t be easy, my father is dead!”

“Dead you say? By the Raiders?” he asked with some degree of concern.

Synne looked away, the pain of the recent experiences with the Raiders, the attack on her home and the death and enslavement of so many starting to take its toll. Jonas, noting her change in tone moved to interject.

“We’ve been clearing the Raiders from our Northern border for the last four weeks. The Brotherhood and the League have been working on it for some time now. I don’t understand how so many Raiders could have made it past our forces and then worked their way through our lands and into the city,” explained Jonas.

Synne turned back to Thrax.

“Somebody must have betrayed us. There were scores of them inside the walls of Haven. My brother, my father, all the warriors fought but we couldn’t hold them off. I saw my father killed and my brother is either dead or a prisoner somewhere,” she said with a sigh.

“It must be the Brotherhood, only they would be so treacherous. A long time ago, I fought alongside your father against the Brotherhood. There was one nasty old bastard called Lar. I bested him in the last Contest,” he said with pride.

“Contest?” asked Synne, her interest suddenly raised.

“Yes, the Contest. You do still have them don’t you?” he asked in surprise.

“Of course, that is how the truce between the League and the Brotherhood is maintained. You fought, alongside our forces? That must have been almost twenty years ago,” she said in a tone that implied she was less than convinced.

“It was the hardest contest the League had ever faced back then. You see, the Brotherhood has always been weak and divided but they were not stupid. They could match us in numbers but the best they ever won was a stalemate. The last Contest was different though. They actually persuaded a few members of the Guild to join them. Not even their groups knew of their treachery,” he said.

Thrax stared out into valley below as he though on his old days of adventure of battle.

“I’ve never heard this before. How could the League have ever won? That would have pitted twenty against ten?” asked Jonas with great interest.

“Well, not quite, they didn’t all change sides. It was hard, let me say. Back then, I was a member of the Swordmasters Guild. We were nominally part of the League and that year we were called on to fight in the Contest. Only two of us lived from that battle. Just me, and that little weasel Gratus. I told your father back then I thought he had betrayed us, but according to Galan the weasel saved him at the last moment in the battle,” he said with a scowl.

“Gratus, he was my father’s right hand man. Why did you not trust him?”

“Instinct, my dear. I didn’t see him perform any act in the Contest that required him to cut or kill any members of the Brotherhood. I did find him with a blade near Galan but one of the Brotherhood fell on him and his blade. Galan always said I had it in for him but, there was always something in his eyes that told me otherwise. Galan and I argued for hours but in the end we went our separate ways. He was a good man, I am truly sorry to hear that he is dead,” said Thrax with an honesty that was sincere.

“Thrax, my father should have listened to you. I spotted him forcing a knife into my father’s throat during the battle at Haven. He must have been waiting for years to strike.”

“With your father dead that means the truce must be upheld with the old tradition of the Contest?” asked Thrax.

Synne stood up and walked a few feet away to look down the mountain and into the valley. She could see for miles though the open plain was flat and barren, land of no use for grazing or farming.

Jonas leaned over to Thrax, “It isn’t just Lord Galan. Master Lar of the Brotherhood is also dead.”

“Master Lar? Dead? That is a pity. So, he did well for himself. That is a great shame, I have wanted to even a score with him for the last twenty years!” he said with a hearty roar. “Still, the old git is dead so that is something!” he laughed.

“What do you know about the Raiders that use the track at the base of the mountain?” asked Jonas.

Before he could answer, Synne spoke from her place overlooking the valley.

“And why have they never stopped you doing whatever ever it is you do here?”

“Well young lady, they don’t come here for the same reason they didn’t get you last night. The path is treacherous and I always, and I mean always, hear them coming. A few years ago they sent a few small groups to speak with me.”

“What did they want?” asked Jonas.

Thrax shrugged and gave a smug grin.

“Who knows, you’ll have to find them at the bottom of the valley and ask them yourself,” he said before turning back to Synne.

“As for what I do here. I mind my own business though from time to time I teach the odd traveller the old ways of combat. Fighting with the blade, staff and bow. Not been much business in the last five years though, not since the Raiders got their train working,” he added.

Synne and Jonas were both intrigued by this part of the conversation.

“Tell us about the train?” she asked.

“The track has always been here and you would find the odd group of Raiders here and there. About five years ago though one group, I don’t know who their leader is, managed to get information on building an engine, you know, the one that you’ve seen on the track. I don’t know how they did it, the only source of information I know of is in your father’s library.”

“Yeah, I wonder who could have got that kind of information out?” said a sarcastic Jonas as he looked at Synne.

“Gratus,” muttered Synne under her breath.

“Maybe,” replied Thrax with a shrug. “Once they got the train working they started sending lots and lots of people and tools to the North. The train goes there every night and comes back in the morning, presumably to the Horizon Trading Post. I assume they’re building something up there to be moving back and for so often. One thing I do know is that they never bring people back.”

Synne sat down and drank a little more. The clothing on her had started to flap in the wind and she was evidently self-conscious of the baggy sleeves that seemed to flutter with each gust of air.

“When we were being divided up a man called Khan said we were going to be put into groups. One was to go to the mines and one to join their military, the rest who knows?  Both of the first two groups they put on that train and sent to the North. Why would they want workers and warriors in the same place?” Jonas asked.

“Yeah, a very good question. I think we should find out and fast,” said Synne.

“Hey, easy now. These Raiders in the North are not small groups of scavengers. They have access to weapons, armour and supplies. If you just wander in you’ll get caught and nobody will be able to get you out, not even me!”

Synne didn’t look impressed.

“That’s up to you. Right now, I need to know what is going on. I need information. If any of my people are there I must know,” she said with great passion.

“Then what will you do?” asked Thrax.

“I’ll think of that when I know what we’re up against.”

“For now I suggest you rest, get yourselves both fully healed and fit. I can’t stop you but I can make sure you are both prepared for the journey you want to undertake.”

Thrax stood up and moved away from the table.

“Now, what kind of combat training do you have?”

“Combat?” asked Jonas.

“Yes, if you’re planning on going anywhere near the Raiders you need to be able to handle yourself. Can you use a blade, a spear, mace or bow?”

 “Of course, my brother Ulric trains all of our forces,” replied Synne.

Thrax walked away from the two and disappeared inside one of the small rooms running along the perimeter of the open training area. Lots of noise came from his direction, as he pulled and dropped various items as he searched for whatever it was he was after. As he carried on, Synne looked about the training area and examined it in greater detail. It reminded her of the accounts she had read about in Ancient times where an open space was used for combat to the death. The floor was covered in sand and the columns that ran all around the outside were carved with figures. She approached the nearest column and was surprised to notice the detail in the stone.

“Jonas, take a look at this?”

He wandered over and the two stared in awe at the detail and the objects shown. On one section there were six machines flying through the air. Each one carried a number of men wearing unknown armour and carrying various projectile weapons, much like the powder weapon she had seen the one Raider using on the train.

“What are they?”

“I have no idea. They look a bit like the machines in the War of the Worlds book, but these are being used by men. Look down here!” she said excitedly as she moved to the next column.

This one was very different. It showed hundreds of men all standing in close formation and marching with large rectangular shields in a box formation. The group of men were marching up a steep ramp that led to some kind of fortified settlement that had much in common with many of the settlements Synne had visited, when travelling with her father. She looked carefully at the men defending the barricades. They used a mixture of spears, slings and stones.

“Okay, show me what you can do,” came the booming voice of Thrax as he returned to the training area.

Synne turned to see him holding a number of weapons under his arms. He dropped the bundle to the ground with a clatter and stood staring at them. Jonas stepped back, indicating he wasn’t particularly keen to get involved in some kind of demonstration with Thrax.

Synne looked at the weapons, most she recognised, a few she didn’t.

“I’ll take the sword,” she said as she stepped forward.

Before she could reach the weapons, Thrax lifted one and tossed the wooden sword over to her. She caught it neatly and with a gentle flourish positioned it out in front but not too far ahead. The point of the weapon aimed directly to Thrax’s head. He grabbed a similar sword and held it low and to his right side as though uninterested.

“I see you like the shorter weapons,” he said with a snarl.

Jumping forward he struck a feint to the right and then pulled his body around to his left, neatly avoiding the counter cut by Synne and brought his weapon down towards her head. Spotting the danger at the last moment, Synne did the only thing she could think of, and stepped into his attack and push her own sword high. At this range, she caught the blade just above the crossguard and twisted off to her right. As her sword started to lower under the pressure, she punched Thrax in the stomach and then tried to strike him in the face. Thrax easily grabbed her right elbow in his left hand and twisted her around, neatly depositing her on the dusty ground, unhurt, apart from her pride. As she wiped the dust off her loose clothing, the old warrior started to laugh. She lifted herself up and raised her sword, ready to attack.

“What’s so funny?” she demanded.

“I have trained with all kinds of people before but never have I seen such violence from a lady at such a short range!” he laughed.

Unsure whether to be please, or annoyed at his comments, Synne simply went on the attack. She cut fast and each time it looked like her front was exposed she brought her weapon back into position and delivered another strike. Thrax moved slowly but with perfect timing and precision. As Synne’s attacks piled in, he neatly avoided them using the minimum of effort whilst delivering the odd light cut himself.

“Your speed and timing is good but you fight with too much passion. Calm your anger, slow your breathing and look for the openings.”

Synne stepped forward and managed to clip his forearm with a light cut and then jumped back to avoid a cut to her head.

“Calm yourself, I see the openings and there is one on your head!” she shouted.

Leaping forward she cut high and hard for Thrax’s head. It looked like the perfect cut but Thrax knew a feint when he saw it. Synne had already overplayed it by telling him and the cut was too powerful drawn out to ever realistically work. He acted as though he was going to parry it and then she did the expected changed in direction. Landing short she bent down and lashed low in a horizontal cut that would have struck him in the rib. Thrax simply dropped his point and intercepted the cut before neatly twisting his wrist and striking her with the back of the sword on the forehead. She stumbled back, a light trickle of blood running down her face.

“I told you, calm yourself,” he said, though she looked less than impressed with his words of wisdom.

“I’ve seen how you move with the single blade, let’s try something with a bit more bite,” he said with relish.

Bending down he picked up a wooden spear. It was a good six feet long, so short by any standard, but perfectly suited for one on one combat. As before, he tossed the weapon over to her before picking up a weapon of his own. Though the weapons were entirely made of wood, they both had a lump of dense fabric tied into a ball on the tip.

“Now, the spear is the simplest and most effective weapon ever used by man. It can be tipped in iron, or simply cut down to a point and burnt in a fire to harden the tip. Have you used one before?”

Synne nodded and with her left foot forward, she lowered the spear to belly height and pointing towards Thrax. She held onto the spear with both hands about a foot apart.

“Good,” said Thrax as he watched her move.

They started to circle each other, Synne looking for opportunities to attack whilst Thrax studied her moment and intentions with fascination.

“Remember to move when it gives you a tactical advantage or when you are looking to create one, don’t just move for the sake of doing something. Movement creates tempo and tempo makes you practicable.”

With great speed, he stabbed forward, releasing his left hand so that just his right hand remained near the base of the spear shaft. The weapon covered a distance and would have struck Synne, if not for the fact she brought up her own spear to deflect it. No sooner had she pushed it away that Thrax pulled it back, moved his hands and then swung with the back end, neatly catching the back of her leading knee and sending her to the floor. Before she could get up, he was on her, the tip of his spear pointing directly at her heart. She shook her head, wiping the dust and sand away from her body and looked up at him.

“Okay, I get it, you’re the Master, are we done here?”

Thrax held out his hand and helped to pull her up.

“Have a wash and rest for a while. When you are ready I want to show you some of the materials I have discovered over the years, I think you will find some of them very interesting,” he said mysteriously.

All this time Jonas was standing to the side and watched intently, but also kept well out of the way.

“Come on, young man, you might not want to but you’re going to have to fight. Pick up the spear and I’ll show you some basics.”

Synne left the two of them as Jonas tried to talk his way out of getting bruised. She returned to the room she had slept in, but with her head clearer she noticed items that she would never have expected to find in a mountain hideout. On the one shelf were a number of knives. Each one was made of hard iron and steel. Some had different colour wood and metal whilst one sported several beautiful stones. She picked up the most lavish and was amazed at the lightness and quality of its construction. She placed it back on the shelf and moved further into the room. A rack on the wall was covered in all kinds of clothing, most of it combat related and a surprising number of items looked like the kind of gear worn by the Raiders. She lifted what looked like an old-fashioned corset from the wall and was taken aback by the hardness of the black leather material. It felt like it would probably protect against a sword cut, possibly even a thrust from a spear. Holding it up in front of her, she tried to imagine wearing it and then almost giggled at the sight of so many straps.

“Weird,” she muttered to herself before returning it.

Back in the arena, the sound of wooden weapons striking each other brought a smile to her face. It sounded like Jonas had failed in his attempts to avoid Thrax. She could only hope Thrax didn’t go too hard on him. He might have a reasonable amount of training, but was in a different league to an experienced warrior like Thrax.

Moving a little further on she came to the many armoured helmets and jackets that hung under sheets to protect them from the elements. Some of the jackets were simple hide affairs, whilst others were adorned with metal studs, reinforced plates of metal or strips of thick rubber. This was the kind of gear she had seen the warriors bringing back from battle with the Brotherhood or the Raiders in the last few years. Next to the clothing were weapons and they really caught her imagination. There were all kinds of gear, but the single most interesting one was a large sword. It looked massive next to her and yet something told her it was more than just an oversized piece of metal. The sword was fitted with a blunt section towards the hilt, probably designed so it could be held. It was also fitted with small hooked points sticking out about an inch from each edge of the sword. The design reminded her of one of the large two-handed swords she had been studying in the library.

“You like that one?” came the low voice of Thrax just a few feet behind her.

The sound made her jump, she hadn’t noticed that the sound of the sparring had stopped. Thrax had barely broken into a sweat whilst Jonas still out in the training area, sat on the ground from what she could see.

“Is he okay?” asked Synne.

“He’ll live.”

 Synne gave him a stern look, Thrax was surprised by her ferocity.

“Easy now, he’s just tired. He does have some skill with the sword though. I assume he trained at the same place as you?”

“Yes. Why, did you notice similarities?”

Thrax just smiled and turned back to call to Jonas.

“You okay, son, everything in one piece?”

Jonas simply lifted his hand to indicate all was well. Thrax turned back to Synne and the sword on the low table. He grasped the hilt with his right hand and lifted the weapon up and in front of him.

“This has always been my favourite. I had it and four others like it made over ten years ago by a master swordsmith in Usk City,” he said, as he held the sword close to his face.

“Where are the other four?”

“The same place as most weapons, in the ground, destroyed or lost on some battlefield. I know at least one of them remains with the Lord of the Blood Pack. They were special items, granted to only the greatest of my students.”

 Synne looked at the blade more closely. She noticed there were multiple grooves cut into the blade that helped reduce the weight and thus improved the handling of the weapon. The leather wrapped hilt had either been looked after like a child or replaced in recent years, as it was pristine. The metalwork was worn but all in good order whilst the edges of the blade had been sharpened on many occasions.

“It looks like this blade has done some work,” she said in a questioning tone.

Thrax placed the weapon back down and wiped his fingerprints from the blade with a cloth.

“In the past it has done great things, like all good weapons though it is of its time. There have been no events worthy of its name, or mine for that matter in many years,” he said whilst looking at her eyes.

“Now that you are safe, what are your plans?”

Synne looked at the weapons, saying nothing for a while before turning to him with a hard look to her face.

“I want to find my people, restore my House and finally, “she said before Thrax interrupted her.

“Yes?” he said.

“I want revenge!”

Thrax sighed, his expression showing he had seen this so many times before. He turned and walked back out of the room, only pausing as he reached the exit to turn back to her. The light was already starting to fade outside.

“Tonight you must rest, tomorrow we will talk about what you can do. Remember, only a fool seeks battle before he is ready. You must get your strength back and you must consider your options wisely,” he said and then left.

Synne stepped back and sat down on the bed as she thought about the events at Haven and the bloody battle and desperate escape she and Jonas had gone through in the last day. She looked out to the doorway and at Jonas who was still sitting on the ground.

“Not tomorrow, I leave tonight,” she muttered to herself before laying back and closing her eyes.

* * *

It had been dark for three hours and Synne was almost at the bottom of the mountain. It was almost impossible to see her due to the old Raider gear she had appropriated before leaving. She wore a loose fitting hide jacket with armour on the upper arms and shoulders. Under the jacket, was the hardened leather corset she had found so amusing earlier on. It wasn’t particularly comfortable, but it matched the rest of the Raider gear and provided surprisingly good protection to her body. Though it was mainly black, it did feature red material along the flanks that contrasted with the blackness of the leather. Down the edges were lines of metal rivets. Below this were a pair of padded trousers that led to thick, knee length reinforced leather boots. She wore nothing on her head and her dark brown hair hung down past her shoulders. On her belt, she carried one of the smaller curved swords that seemed to be so loved by the Raiders up and down the land. To a stranger she had all the characteristics of a roving Raider. As she rounded the final corner, she recognised the place as where the small number of them had tried to escape and where some had spent their last moments. It sickened her stomach that such good, ordinary people had died in such a barren, unloving place. She paused, but thoughts of her mission and the fact that the train was due to pass within the hour spurred her on. Pushing out from the rocks, she moved to the open space that led to the railway tracks running off down the valley. It was a short distance and in just five minutes she was crouched down next to the track.

“Now what do I do?”

Synne looked out into the distance and then back behind her. There was no sign of the train though at the speed it travelled it could be on her in minutes. Looking back to the base of the mountain there was nothing other than rocks and flat land.

“Hey!” came a voice from the rocks.

Synne lowered herself down so that she was no higher than the tracks and tried to keep very still.

“It’s okay, it’s me, Jonas!”

Synne sighed and lifted up to a crouch.

“What are you doing here, you fool?” she asked angrily.

“You’re one to talk! What about you?”

“I’m not leaving our people behind. We need to find out what’s going on before they are split up, killed or sold.”

“Thrax says just a few people with no real weapons can’t make any difference, he says we need to get more people and make a considered plan before we go off on some violent adventure,” said Jonas, though his tone suggested he was less than convinced.

“Yeah, well watch me.”

She ran over to a clump of rocks and lifted up the largest.

“Come and get some,” she ordered as she staggered back and dumped it on the track.

Jonas looked confused for a second before realising what she intended.

“You want to slow them down so we can get on?” he asked as he moved back to collect rocks.

“If they hit something, maybe they will slow down to check, then we can get on the train,” she said.

The two proceeded to place a large number of the larger rocks and stone along the tracks. None were too big that they might force the train off the track, but they should be enough to concern the driver and give them an opportunity to climb aboard. A noise came from the tracks.

“Can you hear that?” she whispered.

Jonas said nothing before whispering back.

“Something is making a noise through the rails,” he said in confusion,“I don’t understand, could it be the train?”

Synne listened again but the noise was still too faint. She moved back and took cover behind the nearest rocks to the track. She signalled for Jonas to join her and together they kept low in the shadows and waited.

“Assuming this is the train and somehow we get onboard, what will we do when we get to wherever it goes?”

“Well, first we need information. When we know what we are up against we can either do something ourselves or we can try and get help from our friends in the League,” she replied.

“Maybe, if we have any left.”

Synne looked at him with a confused expression. She considered what he said, she hadn’t really thought about the other members of the League. What if they were in the same kind of trouble as her family had faced, even worse, what if they had even been involved?

“Jonas, we...” she started, but was cut off by Jonas lifting his hand.

He turned and whispered quietly to her.

“I can see the train, it is here!”

* * *

Thrax walked out into the room until so recently occupied by Synne. He immediately noticed she wasn’t there and that some of the weapons and clothing were missing. He stormed back into the training area, looking for them.

“Synne!” he shouted but there was no reply, “Jonas!” he added, still nothing.

Bara appeared from one of the many small rooms running around the one wall.

“What is it?” she asked.

“They’ve gone!” he growled.

Bara ran into the other rooms as she looked for the missing two but as with Thrax she found nothing. As the two moved from place to place, a mechanical whistle blasted out through the valley.

“The train!” swore Thrax under his breath.

He stormed away into one of the rooms whilst Bara strained her eyes, trying to see what was happening. Though they had a perfect few of the valley and track from their vantage point, the train was much too far away to see in any kind of detail. A grunt came from the room and Thrax appeared, carrying a long tube with a diameter of several inches.

“What is that?” she asked.

Thrax lifted it up to his right eye and looked carefully through it.

“It’s a telescope, it magnifies what you look at so you can see further away.”

As he adjusted the focus on the apparatus, he spotted the rusting metal machine as it made its slow way  to the North along the iron tracks. A plume of smoke pumped from the top and he could see at least a dozen men stood at various points along its length. As he moved the telescope further to the right, he could see a dark line of objects across the tracks. At first, he had no idea what it was but then his imagination kicked in and he knew exactly what he had found.

“You idiots,” he muttered.

“What is it?” asked Bara.

“Our two friends are trying to slow the train so they can get on board.”

A great screech in sound echoed through the valley along with a chorus from the machine’s whistle. He watched carefully as the train slowed and halted before reaching the obstruction. Even before it stopped, a number of the men leapt off and spread out around the train, each one looking for trouble. Two of them moved to the front and cleared the debris before returning to the train. In less than a minute, the men were back on and the train started to build up speed. He scanned the entire length of the train and the trailers it pulled. A dark shape towards the rear caught his eye and as he concentrated, he could spot two figures climbing onto the tail end of one of the wagons.

“There they are,” said Thrax as he lowered the telescope.

“What are they doing?”

“Only the Gods know and even then…” he sighed.

Thrax stood still for a moment whilst starring out into the valley before turning to Bara.

“Get my sword, I am leaving in the next ten minutes!” he ordered.

Bara started to move and then turned back.

“What about me?”

Thrax considered his options for a moment. Bara was handy to have around but she wasn’t a fighter and the journey would be a difficult one. He needed her here and also needed his equipment and some of his most valuable weapons and texts taken care of.

“Listen Bara, three of my students will be here tomorrow morning. Wait here and tell them where I have gone. I want them to pack up my things and take them and you back to Haven. I will meet you there when this is all over.”

Bara tried to argue but she was cut short.

“I have to do this alone. You can help by packing everything from those two rooms ready to be taken away, the rest will have to stay here for now, I’ll come back for it when I am able,” he said whist walking towards his own room.

He removed an armoured jacket from the wall and pulled it on as Bara walked into the room carrying his sword. She walked up to him and held up the massive weapon, beckoning him to take it. Thrax reached out and held the weapon in both hands. As soon as he touched the metal, he knew he was doing the right thing and the blade just made him feel that much better.

“It is time I got away from here,” he said with a reassuring smile to Bara.

“I need a challenge,” he added as he swung the sword with three swift cuts that could have removed a person’s head with each movement.