One benefit to being held captive is that we don’t have to worry about keeping watch. I’ve slept more in the last few days than I’ve been able in a while. Unfortunately, Balthandar is not as at ease with our situation as Dionus and I have become. He keeps watch over me like any one of our captors might be an assassin in disguise.
It’s comforting to have such a vigilant friend to keep watch over me, but it leaves me with some anxiety. One way or another, one of us is off-base. Should I be more concerned? Perhaps one of these men will kill me, but I find that highly unlikely. Why would they? The Nantese have proven over and over again that they are hospitable to a fault. Even though they have taken us against our will, they have explained themselves and offered to help us in exchange for our compliance.
It’s not ideal, but it is far from being held hostage.
What harm will this do to Balthandar? It isn’t good for him to sacrifice sleep to keep me safe when there are no clear dangers. We may be relatively safe within this troop of Natnese warriors, but he is right that we need to remain sharp. Maybe it’s his training. Balthandar was a bodyguard for the most valued members of his royal family. Perhaps his vigil cannot end until we are safely away from the Nanten.
If that’s the case, I fear he will never find rest again.
Dionus keeps his eyes out during the day, but his awareness is far more analytical. His opinion is that these warriors around us are the closest thing to regular troops we have seen within the Nanten. I’m inclined to agree.
He pointed out that there is a strict pattern to their weaving through the trees. He would notice the patterns of a patrol. I often forget he’s an assassin at heart.
Our escort, for that is what I prefer to think of them as, sets itself on an interwoven pattern so that each member works his way to the outside of the formation as he moves through the trees, and then back again to the inside. Thus the warriors that come around the trees alongside us are different every time, but eventually cycle back. And we always see the same sets of warriors reappear together.
Their squads thus seem to expand away from us then collapse back in as we move. I suppose this is an effective way of keeping a watch on the perimeter while checking regularly to ensure that no one is lost. It displays a capacity for strategy but, more importantly, it shows discipline.
I asked Hembila about it when we made camp for the night. He says it is a standard tactic for keeping watch on the move, though he admitted it was advanced. I asked him where they learned it and he said he came up with it on his own. He got tired of losing men on the outskirts of his parties as they moved, only to discover they had wandered off or been killed hours later when they stopped to rest.
This way, he says, they know within minutes if someone is missing. He figures it has saved dozens of lives.
I find more reasons to be impressed with Hembila every day we move together. It builds my faith that he will hold to his word and let us carry on after we have met with his brother. I only hope Fodafa is as trustworthy.