Calvin looked at the horizon. It was the same boring horizon that he had been looking at all day long. He knew that he was supposed to be looking at it, as he was one of the two scouts today. But what was the point in being given one of the few horses if you could not enjoy the ride? The only thing that had kept him from galloping of, chasing the horizon, was the very stern talking to that his father had given him earlier this morning.
-"Look around you son. You know all these people. You might not like them all, but I know you do not wish them dead. Because dead is exactly what we will all be if you fail. Today you will be one of the two scouts. We have not been using scouts before, but these are dangerous lands. You will be riding. You will do so for one purpose only. To keep this caravan from being ambushed. I told the others that you were old enough to take that kind of responsibility. I told the other fathers and mothers here that my son would not fail them. Do you hear me son? My son will not fail in his duties, not in something as important as this. Do you understand?"
-"Yeah, yeah. I hear you and I understand you. I'll ride ahead and keep my eyes open."
- "Always remember this. We are strong because we value each other and take care of each other. This is a harsh land that will not let the weak live. We must stand together to survive. That means that your pranks must stop. You will act responsibly."
-"I will make you proud of me father."
-"I already am proud of you. Focus instead on not disappointing me son."
-"As you wish."
Calvin looked to his left and saw that David, who was the second scout this day, was signalling. It was obviously because of the thicket of trees up ahead. Calvin waved back, indicating that David should go ahead and investigate. Calvin's mind started to drift away as he saw David slowly ride into the thicket. He knew that he was supposed to keep alert. But he could not help daydreaming about how it would be if there was a yell from inside, and he had to spur the horse on to ride in and save his friend from bandits lurking under the trees. It was therefore some time before Calvin realised that nothing at all had happened. David should have come out of the trees or at least have made some noise. Surely the horse at least would make a sound if something were amiss? Calvin slowly edged closer to the trees.
There was no reply, no sound at all. The small copse of trees should not be enough to hide the sound of David's horse moving around. Calvin was so very eager to ride in and look, but he knew his instructions. Instead he drew his sword and started to edge around while trying to pierce the gloom between the trees with his eyes.
He had made almost a quarter of a circle around the trees when the horse suddenly shied, which probably saved Calvin from the dart that sped past his ear. All thoughts of heroic deeds were forgotten as he frantically spurred his horse forward. He leaned forward and smelled the mane of the horse as he urged it on. He turned his head to look back but focused instead on some movement to his right.