We looked around the room, surprised at our own success. Then we pushed through to the back area.
Three things immediately caught our attention. The first thing was that the room was rather small. A crude throne in the form of a massive chair. It was battered, and there were a few cushions scattered about, and light came from a couple of torches in sconces along the wall. There was a table to one side, and on it was a small pile of gold and silver and an expensive silver goblet encrusted with a few semi precious gems. But that was the second problem, there wasn't enough loot in this room to represent the vagaries of the bandits. Thoram's Dwarven armour, the stolen cattle and even the missing peasants were no where in evidence.
The last thing was the most telling, with a large map pf the area on the wall, and local villages mapped, and under each a date. Some of these villages had already been hit, as indicated by the date. Some villages were marked with dates that were yet to come. In addition, there were three marks on the map that were unidentified. We determined that one of those marks was the bandit camp where we were now.
As we gathered the coins, the party speculated at the map's meaning. I thought it fairly obvious. This was just a small part of a large operation. We decided to immediately go to the nearest unidentified point on the map. That meant north. We exited the cave to discover the bandit camp abandoned. The goblins had fled.
"What if they," I said indicating the now vacant camp,"went north?"
"They would have scattered," replied Logan.
"Yes but some of them may have headed in the direction of their nearest allies."
Garrus caught my meaning. "Who can ride and use a bow?"
"Logan, he's gonna borrow your horse. We'll ride ahead. The rest of you can catch up. We'll sweep the area in front of us, and kill any we see. It's better we go to this place unheralded."
We ran to the horses and mounted hurriedly, and rode off at a fast trot.
We caught up to a band of four a while later. Running north. I tried a couple of shots from the saddle, but this was a heavy war horse, and I wasn't used to the gait. My shots went wide. The goblins turned and ran into a small copse of woods. We charged through trees after them, but they made better time and came out the other side to climb down into a gully. Garrus took his horse down after them, I reined in. and as the goblins were climbing the far side, I took aim. Three shots, three kills. The other got out bow shot, but Garrus urged his mount up the other side and ran it down.
We headed north for while longer looking for others. We didn't find any. We holed up and waited for the rest of the party.
Where was the livestock and stolen goods? Where were the missing people?
What was really going on?
When the party caught up to us, we started north. It took most of the night and part of the next day to get there. We only stopped for a brief just before dawn. We slept quickly and were on out way well before midday.
We arrived before dark, and as we looked down it from where we hid on a hillside, we figured out a couple of answers. This looked to be a supply centre of some kind. The compound was large, but the wall surrounding it was more of a fence. Only the gate had a rampart where guards stood. There were a mix of humans and hobgoblins down there, and it appeared that they were loading mules.
A caravan was leaving, soon. We had a decision to make.