I settled into the hot spring with a sigh of relief. The fighting in the north had really takenit out of me, and my cavalry. It was fortunate that we stumbled across this hot springs onthe way. “Miss?”I pushed away damp locks of hair just enough to see Lieutenant Reid’s face peeringcuriously at me. “Yes, lieutenant?”“Th’ watch ‘as reported tha’ there’re a group of people, some on foot, some on th’ legs,so ‘e says, comin’,” Reid told me, her grey eyes bored, one hand idly resting on the saber that she kept by her side at all times. She stood with all of her weight supported on oneleg and as I watched, she shifted to her other foot and back and idly adjusted a strap.With a groan, I hauled myself out of the water. Water trickled down from my hair, downmy skin and back into the pool. Shivering in the crisp winter air, I quickly donned myclothes. Pursing my lips, I let loose a whistle that ripped throughout the campsite.Immediately, the men and women of my command poured out from where they had beenresting and stood at attention, their mounts ready beside them, reins in hand.Loping forward, I closed up the distance between me and my people, one hand busilytying my hair up to keep it out of my way. They didn’t shift an inch as I passed them. The boy on watch met me as I reached the end of the line. “Report,” I barked out.“Six horses, one wagon, three men on foot. Five women in the wagon, men on the horses – armed,” he said shortly. “Traveling towards our direction. End report.” After hefinished, he saluted me and found his place in the line. Faithfully, the boy’s stallion methim there.I thought hard about this. The road we were on was seldom used and not well known.Where we had made camp was out of sight of anyone on the road. If someone came upthis road, it could only be that they were military, like us, or – “Mount up,” I ordered. As one, my team swung into the saddle as one. “Watch, keep meinformed,” I instructed the boy and tossed him a crystal. He caught it with a salute.“Surround them, two flanks first, loose circle – leave them no room to turn or escape, butdon’t scare them off. Ride out.”The boy urged his horse into a trot, heels bouncing on the big stallion’s sides, andtogether, they disappeared silently into the thick foliage around us. Lieutenant Reid took the second group automatically and we split to different sides and thundered down theroad. The crystal in my hand grew warm and then hot and I put it to my ear.“They’re slowing down,” the boy’s voice said from the crystal.“That’s fine, keep watching. I need your eyes out there, Stevens,” I replied crisply.