One of the ancient rivers—merely a stream at this time of year—that ran from the mountains surrounding The Old City joined them along the way, running parallel to the road about a hundred yards to their right. They were cautious about drinking it at first, but when tentative sips offered no discomfort they accepted what they had been told. The ancient poison was gone and the water was safe.
It was four full days of well-paced travel before the horizon offered a hint of their destination. Constant thin trails of smoke ascended from still unseen sources toward the sky. Those were the signs of the forges and smithies the inhabitants of the city maintained. The twins had never seen smoke like that before. It was black and white, twisting together like twirling ribbons running into the vacant azure and spreading across the sky into a permanent swirling gray cloud cover.
The twins slowed their approach. They decided they were in no hurry to get under that gloomy blockage of the sunlight.
When they were still a day away from The Old City the road offered choices again—left, right, or straight ahead. This decision was not as easy as the first and they chose to camp there at one of the used campsites while they discussed their options.
Ever suspicious, Feldspar walked in large circles around the site, looking for signs to indicate any possible dangers.
He found more than one.
Trip wires, old and worn and severed now, had been strung around the site years or decades ago. What they had been attached to was no longer in evidence, but apparently someone had considered the effort to place them a necessity.
And there was evidence of a small battle or at least a skirmish. A piece of armor broken by a sword blow, a broken horn and a broken fang with blood on it, and, mostly buried under sand, a big jagged rock also stained with blood. These things were all around the old campsite that would naturally be used by travelers.
He insisted that they choose a campsite next to the stream to guard at least part of their perimeter.
Gypsum had his own suspicions. Examining the pieces Feldspar had found, he suggested that these remnants of violence were from at least two different times. Feldspar's further examination caused him to agree. The amount of weathering on the fang and the horn were much different. And the blood stains on the fang and the rock also showed different age.
It was clear to them both that this was an ambush site.
They prepared their camp like normal. They erected their tents, built the fire, found some luck in the stream with their fishing gear, and ate casually. They appeared not to have a care in the world.
When the darkness shrouded their movements they took their sleeping bags and silently moved nearer the stream, perhaps thirty yards away from the campsite. They were essentially invisible to anyone approaching the tents and still-glowing fire. One slept while the other kept watch. They wished to see if an attack would indeed be staged upon the campsite.
They were not disappointed.