Few secrets lingered in the mountains of the Spine, not from the eyes of the Fyiama, at least. Hardy humans with traces of Mountain-Elf blood running in their veins, they lived with their sheep and goat herds, dwelling in small huts cut from the very bones of the mountains. Many lived their entire lives without ever entering the lowlands and lands beneath them. The eagles and hawks of their eyries were their companions in the high mountain silence and they knew of every flood, every rock-slide, every quake, and every distant kinsman in need of assistance. So when a great host of Blight Orcs from Molthal wound their way through the mountains, the Fyiama knew, and they retreated to their mountain fastnesses, guarded by narrow passes and hidden canyons. Yet a few of their hardiest, fearless warriors traced the path of the host, creeping just beneath ridgelines several miles away, tracing the dusty clouds thrown up by thousands of marching boots, listening to the distant cries of mountain birds. Cuthwyrd, chieftain of the Fyiama, was one of them, and at their encampment at a mountain spring, the dozen or so rangers of the mountain lounged by the quiet water. No fires lit the shaded dell and they ate dried goat meat and bread. "It has to be Belgrath," Edelhelm said quietly, the old man sliding a whetstone across the blade of his dagger. His cloak was wrapped around him while Cuthwyrd scooped water from the stream with a water-skin. The younger chieftain only nodded, his gray eyes sharp in the gloom. "I agree," Cuthwyrd answered, finally. "Nothing else in the Spine would need a host such as this to be unleashed from the Blightlands." He stood and hefted the bow from where it leaned against the stone-face. His gaze, turning to look at the men and women gathered around him, was grim. "Belgrath may not have the strength to hold back such an assault. They will require aid." "You can't mean-" Edelhelm said, sitting upright. "You'll never reach in time." "Not just me," Cuthwyrd said, shaking his head. "I'm sending three to Bhathairk. Rally what they can of the tribes. Four of you, stay unseen, trail them. Maintain contact with the mustering. If Belgrath falls, the Fyiama may be the only ones within the Spine with any strength to stand against Molthal. If the city falls, ensure that no Blight orc ever returns to the North alive." He let the words sink into the hearts of his rangers and one by one, they nodded. "I will go to do what I can to rouse the Allirian Rangers and inform Alliria. Pray to all the gods that Belgrath can hold." "The army should reach Belgrath within two weeks," Edelhelm said grimly. "You will be hard-pressed to arrive in time." Cuthwyrd said nothing, but rose and buckled his sword to his waist, slinging the filled water-skin on his baldrick. "For the forgotten kingdom." A murmur rose from his comrades in reply, "May its memory be preserved in our blood." Cuthwyrd only nodded and broke into a jog, winding his way down the mountain by the steepest, shortest paths. Stones slid beneath his leather boots and he bounded down in great leaps, letting the loose soil and detritus carry him rather than his steps. Yet he also knew that speed would only carry him so far, he had to evade the legion's scouts. If they caught wind of him, it would be a race to the most-distant outpost of the Allirian Rangers. From there, they had other communication methods to ensure the message traveled inland. The day passed in a blur as he made his way down the rocky slopes of the Spine. While wearying to travel so rapidly down the mountains, the thickening air invigorated him, while desperation urged him on, never-stopping save to refil his waterskin. The shadows behind him grew longer. Leagues had been devoured by his long, loping strides, yet still, he could make out the cloud following the marching legion. It spread across the mountain-peaks and hung low, obscuring their visibility, and it drove him on further. Time was not their ally. Not yet.