For three days you lead your brave company of rangers across the lush plains of southern Sommerlund on the first stage of your urgent mission. The flat, treeless fields surround you with a seemingly endless expanse of wheat, so high that even though you are in the saddle it reaches well above your knees. Your horses seem to be swimming through a vast yellow sea of corn that is only interrupted by an occasional track, or group of isolated farmhouses.
The southerners welcome your sudden appearance, but you only make the briefest stops for food and rest, neither wishing to risk becoming a burden, nor alarm these good people with your mission.
By noon on the fourth day, you reach the Pass of Moytura. Here the plains give way to the broken foothills of the Durncrag Mountains. You soon reach a highway, the surface cracked and full of pot-holes, heading off towards the south. This is the notorious Ruanon Pike. South of the pass, the Ruanon Pike crosses a hundred miles of open territory known as ‘Raider’s Road’. Bandit tribes from the Wildlands and Giak war-bands from the mountains of the west frequently ambush those who travel along the Pike, and the regular shipment of gold and gems from the mines at Ruanon have sometimes yielded rich pickings to these merciless robbers.
‘Point and flankers,’ you shout, and immediately three groups of rangers peel away from the column and spur their horses to a gallop. You watch with pride as the expert horsemen take up their scouting positions to the front and side of the company.
It is late afternoon when a ranger scout approaches the company from the west. He points towards a craggy outcrop where a thin spiral of wood smoke betrays a hut hidden beneath the overhanging rock.
If you wish to investigate the hut, turn to 160.
If you wish to ignore the hut and continue on your ride along the Ruanon Pike, turn to 273.