As the day drew to a close, Ailukka jumped down to stretch her legs and walked for a while. Tomorrow they would reach their first stop, the small town of Galduria. She had stopped here a while some months before-in fact she had travelled the moorland trail they were traversing also, though of course in the opposite direction.
Galduria was largely a forestry related settlement, which survived by transporting raw goods and supplies across Ember Lake. Here logs and raw timber would be transported by water or cart to be processed in its several sawmills, before being sent onwards across the lake and south along the Lampblack River. Grain was also a key element in its shipments.
It also hosted an arcane college, the Twilight Academy, which allegedly rivalled the larger colleges in Varisia, the Stone of the Seers in Magnimar, and Korvosa’s Acadamae. Anyway, that was tomorrow: there still lay another days tramp though the hill country, with its persistant dangers of bugbear tribes and bandit gangs.
She shook her head- she was not terribly impressed with the Varisian race as a whole from what she had seen. The few aquantances she had struck up were largely with outlanders like herself-even Ameiko, although raised in Varisia, still clung to many of the manners and attitudes of her Tiannese family, which Ailukka found somewhat more appealing and understandable.
However, the folk of Galduria were somewhat rougher and readier than the so -called sophisticated folk of Riddleport, Magnimar and Sandpoint, and she had found them somewhat easier to deal with.
First however, there was a river to contend with. With storm cloud visible in the west it looked like there might be heavy rain overnight, and so Sandru wanted to cross before making camp, in case it proved more of a problem the next day. She could see the ford from her current vantage point, with the ruins of some old homestead on the far side-no doubt some victim of the dangers which haunted this region. Gripping her staff, she tramped down towards the ford.
Ahead of her the first wagon was almost across, with Ragnar leading the horses from the front, when a slight movement caught her eye. Almost by reflex casting a protective spell on herself she saw Ragnar look round, and then heard shouts as a line of ragged looking men charged forward towards him, while a few archers shot arrows at the lead driver, wounding him until he scambled backwards among the cargo for cover. Behind her she heard more shouts as the wagons behind her also came under attack.
Striding down to the waters edge she fired her spells off att he archers as they now poured fire into Reynald, knocking his opponet down as his inept thrusts went wide of the mark.
On the opposite side of the wagon Rasha was shooting arrows at the bandits while Ungo and Ragnar took the brunt of the melee attacks, fortunately felling several. Retreating from three or four archers shooting arrows at him Reynald jumped onto the lead wagon and rushed to gee the horses forward-unfortunately pulling rather too hard, snapping one of the reins and falling sideways off the seat and into the ice cold water.
Back on the wagons Tamiko and Shandru made short work of the half dozen or so attackers who had approached from the rear, though a thrown spear at Vankor had led to a minor accident with the rear wagon, damaging one of the wheels and axle. After a short period of frenzied activity during which half a dozen bandits were felled, the remainder beat a hasty retreat off to the north.
Although there were several wounded Ailukka saw that fortunately all of the caravan party were still on their feet. Koya moved amongst the group seeing to their various wounds, while Sandru urged the wagons onwars over the ford to make camp before the darkness descended.
The rear wagon would probably need a new axle fitting, but for now the drivers and Sandru braced the axle with wooden splints and bolts, and hastily realigned the wheel. Driving painfully slowly they managed to get it across the ford.
A hundred yards past the ford they found an area which would make a suitable campsite. As the others set up Rasha looked around and saw a worn foot- trail leading off into the forest to the northeast. Following this with Ragnar they found a deserted campsite, with the remains of a fire several hours old.
Cautiously approaching the shell of an old stone cottage they heard indications of movement within, and on entering saw a young woman, her hair in dissarray and wearing a somewhat ragged and askew dress, cowering against the far wall. Her ankles were hobbled with a woven coil of stiff rope.
Although initially afraid, upon questioning by Reynald she revealed that her name was Alice, and that she had been taken from one of the farms surrounding Galduria. There were also a number of supplies which Sandru indicated they should ferry back to the wagons, as the goods were tradable- probably stolen from other caravans.