The Princess had never been awake all night before. She had never slept outdoors either. As she came to the last village lit up with braziers as the only bright spot against a very flat backdrop of dark grasslands, she decided to stop at an inn.
This being her first adventure, she was bound to make mistakes. She charged the room to her father, the King. The Innkeeper laughed at her until she pulled her pendant from under her tunic, then he bowed and showed her to the most spacious suite.
The Princess didn't think about how quickly news could travel, nor that the King would know exactly where she was by morning. So she slept soundly, convinced that she was still safely on the run.
In the morning she tipped the stable boy a whole silver for his unnecessary silence, and rode off, sore muscles protesting, stubbornly continuing her journey.
She approached the swamplands from the North, unaware that the King of Dunmarr had attacked the swamp lands from the west. As she neared the edge of the grasslands where the land got marshy, she spied a cottage.
Now Princess naturally thought it was her right to ask for hospitality and her right to receive it. She approached the cottage, tired, worn, and happily unaware that its inhabitants might not be welcoming.
"Hello there!" She called out. "Is anyone home?"
A plume of orange smoke wafted out of the chimney. The door opened a crack and a voice screeched out, "Go away!"
"Excuse, me! I have traveled a long way and would like to stop here and dine!" she persisted.
"No visitors allowed!" the voice responded.
"Please? I only beg some hospitality!"
"Hospitality?!" the door opened and a stooped over, warty nosed, ratty haired, black clad witch stepped out. "You want hospitality?! Who do you think you are, a Princess?" she cackled.
"I am. I am the Princess of this Kingdom!"
The witch wrinkled her face up and hobbled out in the sun to scrutinize this strange demanding visitor. "Prove it!"
The Princess, again not thinking about the consequences of her actions, whipped out the pendant and presented it to the hag.
The witch's fingers wiggled above it, her eyes grew wide and greedy, and she licked her lips.
"Ah! Come in, Princess!"
'That's more like it!"
Inside there were two more witches. One was tall and skinny and one was burly and round. The round one was stirring a giant cauldron on the fire in the fireplace, which was now spewing purple smoke. The tall one was grabbing bottles from a high cabinet.
"Ladies! We have a guest!" cackled the third and shortest witch. "She's a Princess!"
"Does she have the amulet?" gasped the rotund one.
"Oh yes, my dears!" The witches cackled gleefully, high pitched, setting the bottles to wobbling and making the Princess cover her ears.
"Ladies! Let's not be rude! This is Griselda," the short one pointed to the rotund witch. "This is Nelda," she pointed to the tall skinny one, "and I am Velda."
"We are witches!" announced the tall one.
"Pleasure to meet you." The Princess gave the standard response and looked around the cottage. Cabinets open held vials and jars of all sizes containing objects of all colors and consistencies. Herbs were drying from the ceiling, the table was covered in empty jars and dripping spoons. The Princess was certain she didn't want to eat off of it. The chairs were mismatched, but seemed the right size for each body. The cottage was only one room, the three beds were shoved against the three walls not covered in cabinets.
Not seeing a place to sit down, she stood and smiled at them.
The human and the soldiers had reached the Ogre village by lunch time. The human was untied and told to lead the soldiers to the chief.
He took them to the house of the eldest, an Ogress named Klaff. He entered, alone, knocking loudly.
"What do you want, Ugly?" she wrinkled her nose at him.
"These soldiers, Klaff. They have a message for you."
"Let them speak to me!"
"They can't understand you, they want me to translate."
"I speak their language!" angrily she hobbled on her elderly legs to the door of her cottage. "What do you want?!" She growled at them.
"Boy! What did she say?"
"Can't you understand me, you pale worms?!" Klaff interrupted. The soldiers drew their weapons.
"Boy!" The human came out of the Ogress's house. "Yes, Sir?"
"What is she saying?"
"She asked what you want."
"Didn't you tell her?!"
"There wasn't ti..I mean...Not yet, Sir."
The human cleared his throat and growled, "They want you to surrender the swamp to the human kingdom of Dunmarr. They want you to pay the King 10 silvers, and if you don't they will enslave all the Ogres, make them work."
"Why are you growling at me!?"
"So they think I speak Ogre..." the human sheepishly replied.
"Stupid worms!" the ogress proclaimed. "We will not be ruled by stupid, ugly, worms!"
"She says she will not surrender."
"Then tell her we will conquer the swamp!"
"I can hear you, just fine, you hairless monkeys! Go ahead and try!" the Ogress ambled back inside her home and pulled the rope tied to the gong ringer mounted at the top of her home. It signalled danger to the ogres, and they came running, loping, and brandishing clubs.
"To arms!" screamed the lead soldier and the small band fought back mercilessly.
The Ogres tried clubbing them, catching one in the back and knocking him into the muck. The swords flashed, slashing at the ogre's tough skin, but really doing nothing more than enraging them. The soldiers were pushed back out of the Ogre village as they tried not to get trampled under giant feet.
The human simply sat outside the Ogress's door, unsure what to do. The soldiers had untied him and left him back in the Ogre village, back where he started. But he had tasted freedom, seen the outside world, and had no desire to stay.
So, freed as he was, he simply went home. One thing bothered him though, and that was his Ogre brother still caged in the human camp. He had to free him.
"Ugly! Where is your brother!" his worried Ogre mother frowned at him.
"He's been captured."
"And they threw you back! Ha! Even the humans think you are ugly! What are going to do to my poor baby!?"
"Probably kill him. But I have a plan to get him out."
"YOU have a plan?! That's rich! yet, you ARE the only one who knows where he is, I suppose..."
"Yes, I am."
"Fine. What's this...plan?"
The sun set as the human and the Ogress he called mother set about gathering items, ogres, and dispatching each element of the human's plan.