It was cold. She had forgotten how cold it could get, this far north, in the mornings, even in late summer. Her breath formed clouds in front of her as she knelt in the damp grass, already with hints of frost down in some of the exposed places, out away from the edge of trees where she stood now. She watched the open ground spread out down the hillside in front of her for a few minutes. The road – such that it was, more of a sketch of a dirt track – was empty, bare for as far as she could see, no sign of movement at all.
Satisfied, she wrapped the travelling cloak around her. As she shivered, she decided to risk a fire, but only here amongst the trees, where – she hoped – the smoke would be contained, then diffused, by the heavy foliage above her.
She cleared the ground under a tree with the toe of her boot, gathered up some small twigs and dry leaves, feeling the stiffness of the night easing with the movement. Even so, she still shivered, her fingers feeling numb and heavy as she searched through her pack for her tinderbox.
Once the fire was going and its meagre warmth start to spread up her body from her outstretched hands, she began to think about food.
It was then she heard them, the sound of horses down on the road. She glanced up and saw that her fears had been correct after all.
They were coming for her.