He heard his hawk, 'Arrow', screeching on the wind, and the dozen men he had with him automatically began checks of gear and weapons. He smiled with reminiscence of the glorious sound of his bird. It brought back his predicament following the ill-fated entry of his band into the growing contention between the empire of the Raskalarn and the standing army of Nashaki the cycle before, and the bizarre turn of events he'd had to survive.
It had gone wrong, and he'd been captured; a promise of torture to spice up an untimely death. But he hadn't been caged in the prison wagon unarmed. No conventional weapon for him though. He'd been armed with a bone from a mystic site within the shimmering heat of the desert. He'd managed to egg one of guards into breaking it, and its ensuing "curse" had gone into effect, raising the dead for an hundred miles around.
Technically, they were supposed to go after the one who broke the bone. But they were also quite prepared to defend themselves against any that attacked or hindered them. Given the number who had died in the battle he'd been captured at, it stood to reason that having them rise again in the midst of that same battle zone would bring an immediate panicked response from the horrified living.
This set on end the whole notion of who exactly was the target of these undead now. But this confusion did not extend to the dozens that tracked down, cornered and crashed his prison wagon, miles away. Eddrick had not been present to see the slaughter of the guards at the hands of unforgiving cadavers that were not as fast as the living, but were devoid of the need for rest, sleep, food or water.
Eddrick had had to come up with some resourceful means of surviving in a crashed prison wagon against several dozen animated corpses, some bloody and fresh, some ghastly with rot, some nothing more than bones. He really did not care to relive that episode, but he could not deny the tearful sense of relief as he heard Arrow's cries come over the dunes, heralding his rescue by surviving member of his band.
Not only did they rescue him, but he was surprised to find himself elevated to chieftain of the outfit. Apparently, the survivors had not been terribly grateful to their original leader, Talon, for leading them into the fiasco. And even though Eddrick's strategies at the site of the battle had not been any great success either, that too had been held against Talon, as it was felt Eddrick had been thrust into a no-win position and had ultimately prevailed with his timely use of the mystic enchantment of the cursed bone.
When the dead started rising, his group, superstitious to a man, had engaged none of them, and had instead fled the battle, leaving the Imperial forces to deal with the horror. They'd been sharing jokes ever since about how Eddrick had brought the opposing forces together against a common enemy for that short while. In grim jest, some had taken to calling him 'Eddrick the Peacemaker'. The bars of the prison wagon had actually served him well as he pillaged loot, and water skins from the moving bodies that placed no priority on the items hanging from their animated dead bodies as they crawled over all sides of the wagon in vain attempts to reach him.
So, not only had he lived through the ordeal, he'd been celebrated among his men for the hundreds of nels' worth of gear he'd gathered together for his men to loot from the undead as they crushed them. He'd likewise been cheered as a man of resourceful cunning for his timing with the bone, which had saved his men from both the aggressive Imperial invaders and the lying Nashaki troops, that had not honored the amnesty they'd promised for joining the war on their side.
Once again, they'd slipped free of betrayer and invader alike, gained a boon of swag, and lived to tell. In gratitude, they'd raised the man who'd engineered this to the new position of leader. Talon still lived, but he'd been reduced to a position of 'Adviser'. It did not hurt that Eddrick had a genuinely startling tale of grim survival to boast of over bed and bonfire alike.
Now, however, the present was where his focus needed to be. There was treachery and retribution on the winds this trial, and he intended to savor them both. Arrow zigged and zagged a telling pattern across the sky as he approached their position. Eddrick knew that the caravan they awaited would know by his bird's action that their ambush was in place. The very fact that they took no new course to evade them was all the confirmation Eddrick needed. This caravan did not want to evade them. The trap he'd been warned of was in place, as were his safeguards. This was going to be fun.