Some people say the local bandits actually started with good intentions and tried to help others survive. But, whatever the truth is, the last twenty years have only seen destruction and harm caused by bandits. Many years ago, an army from the United States had marched through and smashed any group of bandits that attempted to stand against them. Then years later library scouts searched out bandit groups that had been identified by local farmers and eliminated them. Now people very seldom saw bandits in this part of the region. But, everyone knows there are still some dangerous men in these foothills.
Eleanora thinks about what it means that this group is on the move. They must need to replenish their supplies. She has no desire to have someone experience what happened to her family. They had faced murder at the hands of bandits with no one to help them. She determines to follow this group. If she can help stop them, then she should at least try. She can't stop all five of them. She is good with the staff but five is a lot. And bandits have nothing to do with their time besides practice with their swords.
Keeping her staff in one hand, she works to bury the fire. With the fire out she smells the lingering human smells in the camp. Keeping her senses sharp, she looks around a final time and starts out again in the direction they likely are moving in.
An hour later she begins moving slower and slower. She puts her nose to the air and searches for whiffs around the path. It seems that the dirty human smell is stronger. She does not see or hear anything. The breeze is moving sluggishly from in front of her. She adjusts her clothes and grasps her staff strongly with both hands.
In a few minutes, she comes to a dense growth of large brush that surrounds the trail. Stopping and listening do not bring any human sounds to her. As she moves slowly through the filtered light on the path, it seems that everything she sees is a dangerous shadow.
Eleanora is almost through the brush when the smell of humans becomes overwhelming. She still does not hear anything as she walks slower and slower.
Just ahead she can see the brightness of a big clearing. Unfortunately, she has begun to hear something. The air is still and suspiciously quiet. As she takes a turn around a curve, she sees a man less than a meter in front of her. Making a snap decision she holds the staff by the center in one hand and starts running straight ahead.
As she accelerates past the first man, she sees more ahead of him, who are each about one-half meter apart from each other. After the beginning of the run, she is out of the brush and into a wide clearing. As she passes the second man, she is running as fast as she can move.
She sees five men as she tears past. Someone yells. She is completely focused ahead. She sees at one edge of the clearing a pile of huge rocks. That will make a stand where no one can easily get behind her. She begins to hear a steady yelling as they start off after her. She just hopes there is enough time. They take a few seconds to get over their shock and start running. She has about fifteen meters to cover. It should be enough.
As she runs, she tries to calm her thinking and breathing. She needs her strength when she fights them. Perhaps she will die as her parents died, but these bandits will know they have been in a fight.
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