‘I don’t know why we’re doing this,’ growled Latham. Ten pairs of eyes turned towards him as the ragged group of common men huddled within their cloaks in the damp chill of pre-dawn on the heath. Latham drew his own cloak as close as possible over his hulking frame, pulling the hood down over his dark, greasy hair. He peered at them from within his wrappings to be sure that he had their attention.
‘Since when do we take orders from the women anyway? It’s not like it was the first time Caleb had a fight with his missus and went off for a walk to let off steam.’
‘But he always came back before,’ said the younger man at his side. Latham had always liked Ranalf, but just now he was only irritated by the metal smith’s apprentice and his reasonable attitude. The boy didn’t even have to be here as he had no wife yet to nag him out of his warm bed. Latham only wished they would find the missing man so that he could get back to his own. But there was no more to be done now except to keep on complaining until the others gave in and they could all go home.
‘We’ve been walking over the heath half the night, we probably missed him in a patch of fog.’
‘What was that?’ The hushed voice of one of the older men had an acute sense of urgency to it. All was silent for a moment. It was Ranalf who next thought he heard a sound, almost like a voice, just on the edge of hearing. He motioned with his hand for the others to follow and crept carefully in the direction that he thought the sound had come from. He knew that sound could be deceptive in the dampness, but his intuition led him on. His trust in the odd sense that he had was quickly rewarded with another sound, like tree branches being pushed aside. The others heard it too this time and moved more quickly towards it despite the potential danger of a misstep in the dim light.