The air smelled of damp soil and the fresh air only a forest after a rain can produce. Hoshi settled himself in the crook of the tree he had stayed the night in. His eyes scanned the forest floor beneath and around him, the light a warm dimness produced by the canopy. He knew the intruders were close, which is why he had stayed up in the trees that night. He could smell their fire. They seemingly were oblivious to the fact that they were being stalked.
But that didn’t surprise him too much, as he was trained to be invisible when the circumstances called for it. Still, they were careless. A wood fire was detectable for miles around. Better not to burn anything, if you could help it. But he had seen their weapons, and what they could do. They must have not thought of Hoshi or anyone like him a threat. They were cocky, and he understood why. Their thunder sticks were very powerful. But they underestimated him, and those like him, the Skyknights. That, and surprise, would be his greatest weapons in destroying this scouting force. The ship they had come from was still off the coast. There were other Skyknights keeping an eye on it. Right now, his mission was to determine their intent. He had followed them from the coastal village they had raided. He watched as they killed the fifteen to twenty residents. They left no survivors. Their tongue, too, was like nothing Hoshi had heard before, and he had been all over the empire.
It seemed they were all men, save one. She seemed to be valuable to them. Not exactly in charge, as while they seemed to take orders from her at some times, they seemed to be guarding her as well, which meant to keep her as a prisoner of sorts, if she didn’t want to be guarded. One of the men seemed to be the strategic leader.
Leera, his wyvern, wouldn’t have been very stealthy here under the forest canopy, so Hoshi had to leave her behind. He wouldn’t have her size, her intimidation factor, or her fire-breathing to back him up in this. Which to him, meant stealth. He had been watching them for days. He had learned their rhythms, their movements. They were not stupid, they were trained soldiers. That much, he could tell. But they were cocky. After the village, they did not seem to think they would encounter any threats. That made them a bit too careless.
He would spring his trap on them soon. He had been spending some of his time sharpening his blades, making arrows. He would have to be on top of his game tonight if he was going to take all of them. There were a dozen soldiers. And he could easily tell that they were all veterans. Most of his time was going to be spent being perfectly still, just watching them, trying to detect the small rhythms that would give him the openings he needed to overpower all of them.The hours passed. Hoshi kept all of the soldiers in sight. He did mentally keep track of the things they did, the things they said. He started to figure out some of the words they commonly used. As the days slipped away he followed them as they slowly made their way through the forest. Despite his intense attention to detail, to being careful, even to learning their strange language, his mind wandered. Much of what he did was mostly automatic. It was as if his body, and even parts of his mind, were independent of his intent. His real focus wandered. He started to think about how he had gotten here. How he had become a Skyknight. He was proud of his story but, at times, he hardly believed it himself..