They knew something was wrong when they saw the smoke ahead of them. Sandru halted the caravan and Rasha and Ungo scouted ahead, where they saw a burning wagon ahead and the remnants of a caravan.
A covered wagon sat almost burned to the ground, askew on the road ahead, it’s wreckage still smouldering. One of its horses lay dead in front of it, while the other appeared to be missing. The scent of smoke and burning flesh hung in the air.
Nearby a smaller supply wagon sat on its side, its horse absent as well, and a large hole crudely smashed through the floor boards. The tracks of a third wagon led off the side of the road and out of sight.
There was a conspicuous lack of bodies, except for the armored blackened corpse of a man in the burning wagon. To the northeast, about a hundred yards away sat a small copse of trees. The entire scene lay quiet except, for the crackling hiss and sputter of the fire.
As they looked around they realised that most of the caravaneers could not be accounted for. Many of the food stuffs and supplies were also missing, except for a few crates and barrels that lay broken and left behind with their contents spilled out on the ground.
The second horse hitched to the burning wagon had been cut loose, while the horse hitched to the overturned wagon was likely able to wrench itself loose and was still dragging its reins if it had not been captured already.
A few discarded blades and bows lay about the scene: it was obvious that some sort of attack had occurred.
As Rasha circled the scene he realised that a set of wagon tracks led off towards a line of low hills away from the river, including a second set of human footprints that diverted towards the copse of trees.
Forming a skirmish line they moved through the small wood, and eventually looked up: perched up in the branches was a young woman, who Ailukka and Dinald managed to coax down.
Shaken and firghtened, she explained that her name was Aeyesha Vilani, and the caravan had belonged to her parents. Earlier in the day the caravan was attacked by ‘huge monsters’ -like very ugly men but bigger, and in the ensuing chaos she had fled.
“Sound like Ogres to me” said Rasha. “I don’t rate the chances of the captives much if we delay too long”.
“Please” begged Ayesha, “It’s my Mum and Dad. You’ve got to help them”. Rasha looked at Dinald. Dinald sighed, big softie that he ultimately was. Ungo wasn’t listening and sat picking his nose.
Heading back to the main trail they soon found the wagon: the covered wagon was not damaged, but the horses were very skittish and Rasha calmed them down. It still contained supplies, bedding, and the personal possessions one might expect to find on a travelling
“The going gets a bit rougher here” said Rasha. “My guess is that they decided to leave them here for now: no doubt they’ll be back later.”
“Ve cannot afford to wait” said Kelda. "Der victims might be eaten. "
Rasha nodded and picked up the trail, the others following some distance behind. Ten minutes later they espied nestled in the side of a hill, and concealed by several clumps
of trees, a large cave. Just outside of it was a large fire. Most of the wood on the fire had burned down to a glowing bed of red-hot coals, and a corona of flames threw flickering shadows. The wood smoke failed to mask a sickly sweet smell of sweat and blood. Just inside cave is what appeared to be a section of wooden enclosure. Two brutish forms pottered around a great cooking pot: clearly they were ogres. The group crept closer.
“Now!” yelled Rasha popping up and pumping two arrows into one of the creatures, which bellowed with pain. Screaming, Kelda rushed forward and hacked at one of the brutes, slicing a deep gouge across its stomach. Ragnar and Dinald also moved forward, as the air froze between Ailukka and one of the monstrous forms, leaving a thin coat of ice across its shoulders, and an icicle dripping comically from its nose.
“B…B….B……Blimey!” it uttered, and clubbed Ragnar as he moved forward, sending him spinning into a bush. But for him it was too late- more arrows and Kelda’s frenzied blade brought blood red death.
“Faegrim!” screamed the other ogre. “Picklecheeks! They killed your dad! Come and ’elp Mummy boy!” Heavy thrashings through the woodland could be heard nearby.
Picklecheeks did arrive: but by that time Mummy too had ruthlessly slaughtered. And so was he. Ayesha ran forward into the cave.
There were three prisoners inside the cave: Ayesha’s parents were called Estella and Davrioz, and there was also Mikael, their surviving guard. Estella freely bestowed strong hugs (whether wanted or no) lifting Ungo off his feet and into her ample bosom, her fat cheeks dripping with tears of sheer relief.
The caravan were heading to Lostholme where Davrioz had a cousin, where he intended to settle down. Clearly this plan did not have the wholehearted support of Ayesha.
“I don’t want to settle down on some farm Mum!” she complained. “I undersstand you’re sick of wandering but I’m not. I don’t want to be a farmer!” Sandru coughed politely.
“Can you drive a wagon?” he asked.
“Yes” replied Ayesha. “I’m a good cook too. And I know a bit of carpentry.”
Sandru looked at her parents.
“Look. When we get to Kalsgard I’ll be building up my caravan: I will need more people who can handle wagons” he explained. “If you two and your daughter are happy with this, I can give her employment for quite some time. Several years probably.”
“Oh please Mum, Dad!” begged Ayesha. “I’m still young. You’ve travelled to lots of places but I still want to see the world. I don’t want to settle down. And if you make me- I’ll run away.”
Davrioz looked less than happy. Sandru diplomatically withdrew to let them talk about it.
Half an hour later it was settled. Ayesha would be travelling with them, and they bid her parents farewell as they set them and Mikael on their way towards their new life in Lostholme.
When they were out of sight Sandru turned to the rest of the caravan.
“Right Rasha, get tracking down those bolted horses. With a bit of work we can get this overturned wagon functional again. A nice bit of a bonus for us all round.”