Chapter 9

The sun had been up for about an hour before the caravan started down the road.  The wheels creaked with the moisture that had built up on the axels overnight.  A light fog had settled in, reducing visibility of the horizon, but not obscuring the length of the caravan.  Autumn was felt in the morning chill, and everyone knew in a day or so rain was coming.  Tsuminoe was going to push for a fast pace today, he hoped to avoid as much of a muddy go as best as possible.  Oren and Martel were riding near the front of the caravan today.  The lead guards were still visible to them. With the fog they were not travelling out of sight of the caravan today.

The morning passed without incident and the sun started to burn off the fog.  The increased light brought a certain ease of tension across the travelers. It was getting more humid as the day went on making for an uncomfortable ride.  They broke for lunch late in the day as they were hoping to ride out the fog before resting.  The haze had thinned, but still lingered in the small dips of the landscape. As the company was cleaning up, they could hear approaching hoof beats from down the road.  The whole group readied themselves as it could just as easily be friend or bandit riding toward them.

Two men rode at full speed toward the camp.  If the visibility had been better they may have been more prepared for the caravan.  As it were they seemed more concerned with what was behind them.

“Hello,” One of them shouted to the caravan, “At ease we are not seeking conflict.”

“What is your business?” Tsuminoe called out.  The guards held their ground.

“There are ogres about a half mile down the road.  Perhaps closer, they may be in pursuit.” The men slowed up as they approached the encampment.  Their face showed the fear and concern from what they had seen.

“How many?  Are they armed?”

“At least three.  They are armed with large branches or tree trunks from what we could see.  One threw a rock the size of your head at us.”  The men were talking over each other in the excitement. “The two of us thought that we could get by unnoticed and had left Avo to head north.”

“How long ago did you last see them?”

“About five minutes ago?  We did not think we were that close to Xomen’s inn. “

“You aren’t.  We have been traveling a good part of the day.” Tsuminoe was cut off as a large stone went flying over the caravan. “Everyone, on your guard.  They will be here soon.”

Word spread fast once the ogres were in sight, three approaching from down the road.  The wagons were circled forming an outer defense wall for the group. Twelve of the guards were mounted on horseback and went off the road to flank the ogres when they got closer.  Eight more of them had gotten out their bows and were taking aim for an initial volley on the approaching enemy.  The remaining four were watching for additional ogres.

The first wave of arrows downed one of the ogres.  Another one screamed in pain as it was hit. The remaining two started a charge at the caravan.  The archers prepared for another volley.

At the release of the second volley, the sound of fighting in the direction of the mounted guards could be heard. There was a mixture of screams, both human and ogre.  The traveling family huddled close together as far as they could be from both battles.  The wagon drivers scrambled to their weapons, uncertain on how many ogres there were going to be.

A second ogre was felled by the third wave of arrows.  The final one was going to be close by the time they could get another draw.  He was wounded, but enraged.  They would try to take him down fast.

Martel hopped on one of the horses, “Oren stay here.  I am going to check on the other group.” She rode out between the wagons in the direction of the other fight.  Oren did not have much choice as to what to do.

Martel rode fast to find two ogres standing against the guards.  A quick assessment told her that at least two guards were dead, but they had taken out three ogres so far. She drew her long sword and charged the back of the remaining two.  She focused on the sword while riding full speed at them.  The sword started to glow as she brought it back for a swing at the first ogre’s spine.  The odor of charred flesh could be smelled as the sword cut through the ogre’s skin.  It continued on through the bone of its spine as if it was cutting butter.  The blade cauterized the wound as the puncture was made, but the wound ruptured again with the blades withdrawal.   The second ogre wheeled around and knocked Martel from her horse.

Meanwhile back at the wagons, Oren watched as the final ogre came rushing at the defenders.  The ogre charged the wagon straight in its path and rolled it back into the circle.  The chaos gave it the moment it needed to grab at one of the guards and throw him across the open ground.  The men were quick enough to recover their senses and turn the attack back on the ogre.

Oren ran over to aid the unfortunate man who had just been bowled across the dirt. He was scratched and bruised, all over.  He was alive but his legs were unable to move without pain.  Oren helped him back further from the fray.  Oren watched as the guards finished off the last ogre, its screams of pain piercing Oren’s ears.

Martell lay there winded on the ground.  She watched as the group of guards pounced at the opening she created.  Outnumbered and alone the ogre was quickly slain.  The guards helped her back up and then moved on to tending to their comrades as best they could.  The group made slow progress back to the caravan, trying to make the injured as comfortable as possible.

Back with the caravan, the decision was made to move further down the road to put some distance between the carnage and where they would be stopping for the evening.  The two north bound travelers went on their way to spread the news that the ogres had been defeated.  Tsuminoe was all smiles, congratulating his men on a job well done, eight ogres in all and only two men dead.  That was a feat that would spawn stories back at Xomen’s inn.

That evening Oren tended to Martell’s injuries.  Luckily, aside from the bruising and abrasions, she had only sprained her ankle and her shoulder in the fall.  He had decent skill in first aid and wrapping up an ankle and making a makeshift sling were easy.  Throughout the evening, guards stopped by thanking Martell for her assistance and quick action. A couple asked about her sword, curious as to its origins.  Finally she confessed to one of the guards it was indeed enchanted on some level, though she kept vague what the enchantment actually did.  The guard took away that it was something to keep it keen at all times.  That was a somewhat common enchantment by amongst heirloom weapons.

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