The woman-soldier and her fellow scouts find refuge among the locals of the forest.

She ran until her breath went out and she was forced to break and catch it again. She was absolutely exhausted from the fight and running. She knew that her pursuers were catching up to her, and that she couldn’t stop for too long. When she had the energy, she continued at a slower pace. If she needed to, she could fight or find a hiding spot. She chuckled when she realized that with better boots, this would be a lot easier. Maybe those two complaining men were right. Her low-quality equipment had been a detriment in the fight. In fact, the armor probably wouldn’t do her any good, so she looked around for a place to break and remove it.

She found that she had run deeper into the forest, as the trees were thicker and less light was getting through the branches. The forest was more dark than green now, but it had become less swampy and more solid with the roots of trees and soil of quality enough to sustain them. They seemed to be getting taller, bigger, and thicker, as well. Not wasting too much time observing her surroundings, she began to loosen her armor and knelt down, pulling the armor off. She decided that the padding underneath wouldn’t restrict her movement, but took it and her shirt off to cut the wrappings that pressed down her chest, which had furthered the illusion that she was a man.

When her padding was half-on, she heard a twig snap and rushed it on and drew her sword, looking around for her stalker, pointing it where she was looking to focus. When she saw nothing, she motioned to put it pack, drew it again, then began to sheath it when a man stepped out from among the trees. The soldier readied into combat stance and turned to him, but stopped when she actually saw him. He wasn’t a soldier at all. He was a young man wearing clothes as any civilian. On his belt he carried several pouches, and he carried a staff. His face was smooth and tanned from the sun. He had a thick head of black hair that stopped just short of his sharp green eyes.

“There’s a couple of men from your unit back at my father’s house. You can get water and food there. The Varden won’t hurt you there,” the man informed her. Panting heavily, she studied him a bit closer, and saw that his clothes were oddly well-kept and clean for someone so deep in the woods, and he was too groomed to be a wild man living in the woods. Certainly, he seemed odd, but at the same time, he didn’t seem very threatening.

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