Elara strode outside of the gate onto the top of the hill where the castle sat. Soldiers filed out of the forest, running three to a row. They wore black uniforms, some in armor, some without. Each carried a large backpack, a bedroll, and weapons. They moved in unison, their feet striking the ground at the same time.
She didn’t detect them in the forest, which meant they had to be far behind d’Ambray and his party.
The soldiers began to form a block, eight soldiers in a line. All of that equipment had to weigh at least twenty pounds. Probably a lot more.
“How long have they been running?” she asked and wished she hadn’t. Any show of interest was an opening, and D’Ambray would wedge his big shoulder through it and hold it open.
D’Ambray shrugged, looming next to her, a darkness shaped like a huge man. “From Aberdine.”
“Yes.” He turned to her, his dark blue eyes calm. “Would you like them to run back and here again?”
He was completely serious, she realized.
He turned to face the soldiers. They formed four separate blocks, each eight soldiers wide and ten lines deep, and froze, like dark statues against the green grass of the lawn.
“Do you want them to rest before we start?” she asked.
“Are you tired?” d’Ambray barked next to her, his voice carrying across the field. She almost jumped.
The three hundred and twenty people roared back in a single voice. “No, Preceptor.”
“They’re ready for your inspection,” Hugh said.