(Continued from Returning to the Cottage)
Hex began his return almost before Niko had finished his gesture. He repeated the random movements of his approach, as much to keep his destination secret as to make himself a more difficult target to feather. He stopped some distance from where he had left Catriona, and softly called out to her.
Then, ahead of him, he saw the two Clearwater scouts moving forward cautiously (but clumsily - a trained watcher would hear or see them some considerable distance). Something in their movements suggested they were moving in some definite direction.
Catriona's voice called to him from the direction the scouts were heading. "Hex, it's OK -- you can come closer if you wish." A trace of amusement entered her tone as she added, "Except that I'm now convinced that Aerin isn't the only member of the Clearwater camp who could benefit from my training."
The guards looked uncomfortable, but said nothing as Hex approached.
Hex closed the distance, and said. "I notified Niko of the Wilding, and he mentioned the two scouts he'd sent out after seeing your signal flash."
"Ah, that explains the two of you," Catriona replied with a glance at the two guards.
He paused for a moment and then continued. "I expect the Steward would appreciate knowing his two men aren't hung and quartered. Perhaps they can make their presence known to the cottage, and wait here to convey messages back and forth. Should we continue forward to scout for Wildings, hold, or return to the cottage?"
"I'd prefer that we scout, and Niko's men either return to the cottage or, if Steward Thorne can spare them, that they set up a relay station here as you suggest," she answered. "My concern for an imminent Wildling attack upon the cottage appears to be unfounded today, although other dangers for us still lurk in the hills."
At the surprised glance that the men exchanged, Catriona added, "Sometimes even Wildlings listen to reason." Beside her Keir released a rumbling growl, to which the hunter merely grinned.