The nobleman cleared his throat, nervously raising his voice for all to hear: “Let us continue on our illustrious journey, gentlemen! Follow me!” And with a flourish, he pointed towards the horizon, while coaxing his mount into motion.
The trip was most arduous. Jimbri led the men onward, as the hunting trail they followed grew more and more difficult to traverse. The terrain became rocky and dense with tall, seemingly ancient trees. The tree branches seemed to crowd the path on either side- in some instances overhanging the trail in a dark shroud, from above.
From the rear of the party, Luc, intently looking at the leaden sky, grunted: “Expect snow soon, yer Lordship. And expect much, by the looks of things!”
Jimbri called back from the front, while studying the faded, torn map spread across his saddle: “We will travel a bit longer, then find a place to bed down for the night, under the trees. There we will be sheltered from the snows.”
Just before night-fall, the weary men prepared prepared their camp. Jimbri had led them to a small clearing, surrounded by trees, a ways off the trail. This had met Lord Thompson’s approval. As Jimbri gathered firewood, Lord Thompson began unpacking a strange bundle of hinged sticks and heavy tarps. Pinault, done with the feeding and rubbing down of his horse, walked over to the fire, watching the nobleman with intense curiosity.
Grunting, but moving his ample girth with surprising efficiency, the “Lord of Lathbury” began to slowly assemble what turned out to be a “portable” hammock, suspended under a lean-to. Once done,
Thompson, dabbed the sweat from his brow, with his usual flourish of the wrist. Quickly turning, he walked towards the now- crackling campfire. “Now then, my libations await!”
As the snow steadily fell a hush seemed to come over the forest. All was deathly quiet. Only the fussy snap and pop of the campfire dared to break the silence. The moon and stars were hidden behind grey clouds.
As Lord Thompson lay snugly in his hammock, softly snoring, Pinault sat next to the campfire, watching the two mercenaries, Luc and Cabello, whisper to each other. Luc had disappeared earlier that evening, Cabello swearing that the man was relieving himself. Luc must have returned while Cabello was on watch. Pinault had no reason to trust either of the two men, just as they had no reason to trust him. But at least he was trying to be a penitent man. He fingered the wooden cross, which dangled around his neck.
Cabello turned, walking towards the fire. He loudly spat into the flames, causing the fire to hiss. “It is your turn to stand watch, ‘amigo’, eh? The night grows colder and since I have no ‘mujer bonita’ to keep me warm, my blanket and this will have to do!” Cabello held up a wineskin, taking a long swig. “Goodnight, and enjoy!” Tucking the skin under his arm, Cabellow walked over to the base of a tree, wrapped himself up in heavy woolen blankets and shortly began to snore.
Pinault jumped to his feet, a knife appearing in his hand, as a long, mournful howl echoed throughout the forest. Sighing, he threw a few more twigs into the fire. It would be a long night…
At the first faint light of dawn, Jimbri rose and began to tidy the camp. There was a thick blanket of heavy snow covering both the trees and the ground. Shortly, the horses were loaded and the men prepared to continue their journey. With the weather, Jimbri surmised that in another day, they should be at their destination: the lost city.