The farm was a wreck. The bandits had taken everything of value, burned the buildings and salted the fields. One man, Rykor, sifted through the ashes of his home, searching for anything useful. He was about five foot seven, and had a wiry frame. He dug a soot-covered knife out from where the kitchen used to be, and tested the edge. Good enough, he thought, and made his way back to the woods that bordered the farm.
“Did you find anything?” asked a voice. It was his sister, Sasha. They had grown up on this farm in the southern hills of Eastridge, and inherited it from their parents.
“Just this,” he said, showing her the knife. Now that their home was gone, they had nowhere to go, but north, toward the Eastridge Garrison. The fort had a cluster of shops and farms around it, and was right in the middle of the province, so it was as good a place to head to as any.
“Oh. Let’s get going, then.” The siblings made their way through the woods at a snail’s pace. The hills were treacherous to cross, particularly with the day’s light fading. Pine trees covered the hills around the farm, which was nestled in the centre of a long valley that was vaguely S-shaped. A village once squatted among the pines two day’s march to the northwest, but it, along with many others, had been burned by the ever-increasing number of bandits and outlaws.
The southern hills of Eastridge were known for their balmy days and frigid nights. It was for the latter the siblings were preparing for when the sound of galloping horses startled them. Rykor grabbed for the knife he found, and Sasha hefted a heavy stick in her hands. The riders that came through their camp were wearing the grey and white Southlands Army uniform.
“Hullo!” exclaimed one rider. “We have some spare horses at the back. Hop on and keep close, ther’re hills wolves about.” Hills wolves were much bigger than common wolves, and tended to have a ruddy brown fur rather than grey. They were particularly good at taking down the wild oxen that roamed the hills.
“What are you wait’n fer? Get on a horse!” Dumbfounded, Sasha and Rykor climbed onto two of the three spare horses behind the group of riders. As soon as they were up, the riders cracked their reins and galloped off to the west with the siblings in tow.