Feb. 13. WolfSinger, Tarin, and Winnowei continue their trek to Elamoore and find unexpected company on the way.
(Himar) (Sword Gone Missing) (Tarin) (Vorgulremik) (WolfSinger)
The Himar lowlands. The forests thin out over this ridge, the packed earth becoming loose and crumbly, small trees standing like twisted men amidst the underbrush and the curlique wiry plants that sprout little red flowers. The sun is low in the sky to the east, mid-morning, and casts long shadows from the occasional standing rock that dot the plains like punctuation. The mountains rise far to the north, constantly covered with mist, but for now, the sky is peerlessly blue.

Winnowei leads Tarin and WolfSinger over the ridge, toward where she promises is 'Elamoore', a great city where they will find people who will know how to take them to the City that Flies. She growls a little at Tarin lagging behind and pats her spear, then flirts at WolfSinger with a bump of her hip against his as they walk. "Maybe one night more before Elamoore. Not waste it, huh, Swishytail?"

Tarin drags his feet grumbling as he pant pant pants, his overthick coat a curse in the heat of the desert.

WolfSinger blushes at Winnowei's comment. "Stop calling me that!" he giggles.

"I see your tail swishing," Winnowei responds with a broad grin. She adjusts her spear over her shoulders, where two freshly caught and cleaned rabbits hang for a later lunch.

WolfSinger says, "Doesn't YOUR tail swish when you're happy?"

The black wolfbabe grins at WolfSinger even more widely. "I'm happy now."

WolfSinger's ears flush red as she grins at him.

Tarin pants and rumbles as he watches the two Lupines ahead of him. "Saints' Blood. There she goes again. She must be his mate." He coughs at a lungful of dust. "Curse all deserts and lands of sand. I hope we get t' where were a goin' soon."

The ground puffs up a slight bit quite a ways behind the group… A couple antennae poke and and search the air… Abruptly, they disappear back into the ground and the bump sinks.

WolfSinger glances back at Tarin, wondering what he's babbling about.

A few moments later, the bump reappears and so do the antennae. This time though, closer to the group.

WolfSinger stops suddenly and points to the bump. "What's that?

Winnowei stops and looks back, just as the bump subsides. "What's what?"

The antennae probe the air as if they found something interesting nearby… *Sloop!* they disappear back under the sand and the bump falls back down.

Tarin gives Wolfsinger a curt nod as he looks back and tries to straighten his back a little as he pants heavily. His ears perk a little and his eyes lock upon the approaching lump as he drops to his knees and points.

WolfSinger says, "Some kind of bug?"

Winnowei frowns. She surveys the ground. "I don't smell anything *untranslatable-hostile?*" she says to WolfSinger. "Come on, let's keep moving."

Off to the right, the bump appears again, getting even closer…

Whatever the bump is… it's definitely interested in this travelling crew…

Tarin's paw drops to the base of his tail where the knife he filched days ago is tied deep inside with the smelly bag Winnowei refuses to let him get rid of.

WolfSinger starts to growl, looking at the bump.

*SLOOP!* The bump is gone again.

Winnowei turns about and then laughs. "Oh… Just a burrow-bit. They're shy little creatures. No danger at all."

WolfSinger readies his spear in case a bump decides to form right next to him.

Tarin, not understanding the she-wolf edges closer to her and Wolfsinger, his panting not just for the heat now. "Fron deloor t' ka?" he says, pointing…

Winnowei laughs. "No danger at all." She gestures for Tarin to move closer, with the tip of her spear.

WolfSinger thinks about the nice big can of insecticide that sunk with the survival kit in his ship.

The bump appears about 30 feet behind Tarin with it's familiar antennae. The antennae seem to *ping* straight up into the air. Within the next few seconds, the bump begins to… slide… ? towards the group, leaving a ridge in the dirt

WolfSinger says, "If they are so shy, why does this one seem so interested in us?"

Winnowei puts a hand over WolfSinger's mouth. "Shh," she murmurs.

WolfSinger mmmmmffffss!! and shuts his muzzle.

Tarin starts to back up behind the folks with all the pointy things…

The now-moving bump is heading towards the group at high speed. It seems to be homing in on…

WolfSinger prepares to jab his spear at it.

Winnowei holds WolfSinger's hand back, wagging her tail.

Tarin crouches, knife now in paw openly as he prepares to run.

WolfSinger looks at Tarin, wondering where he got the knife from.

Winnowei raises her eyebrow as well. "Sacrifice got all dangerous now," she mutters to WolfSinger. "Has bite!"

WolfSinger says, "Where did he get the knife from?"

Winnowei shrugs.

The bump stops right in front of Tarin! It waits there, its antennae waving at him… *SLOOP!* The bump disappears…

Moments later the bump reappears right behind Tarin! The bump erupts in a spray of sand and dirt right behind him… ! A shiny wormlike creature pops out. It's probably no bigger than, oh, your average sized Jupani, perhaps a slight bit smaller… Its maw splits three ways, gaping a wide slimy grin at the fox. The next thing Tarin sees is three large, dripping with goo, tongues flying at him at high speed… *SLURPSLURPSLURLPSLOOOORPSLURPSLURLSLUUUUUUUUURP!!!!!!!* The tongues quickly retract back into its maw and it disappears back into the ground from whence it came, leaving Tarin quite… er… slimed. Ew.

Tarin backs off, frightened. He looks at the wolves and fires off a high pitched stream of words as he – Yelp? He spins, too startled to react, his panicked slash with the knife missing it mark.

Winnowei begins giggling. "That Gooshurm. Likes to *untranslatable, sounds like 'wash windows'?* burrow-bits. Foxes smell like burrow-bits."

WolfSinger chuckles a bit.

Tarin sits back panting, eyes quite bugged and hackles raised.

Winnowei jabs her spear toward Tarin. "Is only scare. No harm. Let's go!"

WolfSinger says, "Do you think we should try to get the knife away from him?"

Winnowei shrugs. "Is only little knife. We take it from him when we camp next."

WolfSinger nods.

WolfSinger motions for Tarin to come along. He chuckles, and wipes a little of the goop off of him.

A few feet away, the bump pops up again… Oh look! It brought friends this time… two of them!

Tarin growls having had enough, of the heat, the incommunication and the captivity. He takes off the stinky smelly bag and throws it as far as he can heave before rolling in the dirt to convert some of the slime to mud so he can get it of. A stream of words, probably vulgar, flies towards the wolves.

Winnowei sidesteps and grins fangily to Tarin. She jabs her spear toward the fox, then wags the tip, indicating 'Move on'.

The bumps spread out… They look like they're trying to encircle the fox…

More sharp words and a defiant glare.

"Gooshurms no good to *untranslatable-hunt-kill-eat-devour*," Winnowei confides to WolfSinger. "They – oh oh." She looks back, seeing the bumps. "Sacrifice going to get extra-blessed by Gooshurms."

Tarin looks around at the lumps and growls.

Just a few seconds left in which it might be possible to escape…

WolfSinger says, "is there any way to drive them off? "

As if synchronized, each bump grows a set of antennae…

Winnowei shrugs.

Tarin moves to avoid the lumps, wishing for his axe, his atlatyl, his cabin back in the mountains…

The lumps seem to be tracking the fox…

"They get bored after time," Winnowei says. "Sacrifice not burrow-bit, not give off good things for Gooshurms to *untranslatable-bless-consume-commit to rightful destiny*."

The antennae seem to nod at each other and they close in on the fox…

WolfSinger says, "I don't think he likes the Gooshurm's blessings."

Tarin keeps moving growling. He keeps his distances from the two wolves as he heads in the direction of the spear point, his panting returning…

The bumps are closing in… They seem intent on bestowing a nice licking to the fox…

"Unless sacrifice move faster, not have much choice," Winnowei points out reasonably.

WolfSinger runs up behind Tarin, lest he get too far ahead of them.

No matter how fast Tarin runs the bumps easily keep up… Every now and then the Gooshurms explode out of the ground wide-mawed and tongues flailing! They can't seem to get to Tarin though; he keeps avoiding them. After each failed attack, they burrow back undergound and continue the pursuit…

Tarin stops briefly and points in the direction he's heading. His ears twist from their sideways position and he barks out questioningly.

"Ack!" Winnowei picks up the pace. "The sacrifice is getting away!" She motions for WolfSinger to keep close to him.

A Gooshurm explodes out of the ground in a fury of slobber. It looks like it may get its dream, a fox slurping!

WolfSinger runs a little faster to catch up. The LAST thing he needs a Shamman mad at him for losing a sacrifice.

Tarin swipes at it with his knife, hackles raised as much as they can be as they are stuck to his back with mud

Tarin growls to himself.

The Gooshurm misses Tarin completely… But, Wolfsinger has remarkable timing; it's him that gets caught in a flurry of tongues. *SLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLOO… ?* The Gooshurm immediately stops and rears back. It's mouth contracts as if it just licked a lemon. It pthhthththththhththts and *p'touies* in every direction, trying to get rid of the taste it just discovered… Just before diving back underground, it does a triple raspberry in the direction of Wolfsinger, then *SLOOP!* it's gone.

WolfSinger acks!! "Yuck!!"

The dry pebbly earth and gravel crunches beneath Tarin's feet. The ridge plunges down into a wide valley, trees low to the ground along the path the three are following, growing to magnificent conifers near the walls. The skies are ironically clear, a perfect image of dry late-winter cool compared to the rather sodden wetness of the ground-bound wolf and fox.

WolfSinger scrapes the goop off of his fur as best he can, and flings it off his hand in disgust.

From the treeline, a pair of wary gold eyes track the three travellers…

Tarin looks at Wolfsinger and his tail twitches. Then a grin briefly crosses his face and he turns resignedly, panting heavily. "Saints, I wish I was in that oven Elayshum over this place."

Tarin sees the shade and darts for it.

Winnowei chases after WolfSinger and Tarin, loping in a steady pace that eats up the miles. "Go for the rocks!" she shouts, pointing to a large formation that dominates the bottom of the valley.

Vorgulremik scrambles up a tree as the fox heads his way.

WolfSinger growls! and runs after Tarin.

Winnowei stops and taps her feet. The Gooshurms aren't after her after all… Tarin will just get treed up against the side of the valley.

Tarin pants, resting briefly, then drops to all fours and starts to head into the valley, loosely parallel to the path from the shade of the trees.

Vorgulremik curls around the trunk midway up the tree, where the needles are still thick enough to hide him. { That's right fox, lead your hunters right to me. I hate foxes. } o . the dragon thinks bitterly.

Winnowei pads after the two at a more comfortable walk.

The bumps haven't tired yet! They are enjoying this… They speed along after the fox, every now and then popping out in a burst of earth and slobber! If they could speak, they might say, "Aww! We only want to be your friend!"

WolfSinger growls slightly, and drags Tarin off in the proper direction.

The bumps are just waiting for the fox to tire…

Vorgulremik watches the odd worm-like creatures, and decides to stay away from the desert.

Tarin reaches the bottom of the valley looking for water, but it's a dry streambed, the water far below. He pauses and slumps, growling at the large wolf and shaking free of him.

WolfSinger looks back over his shoulder for Winnowei.

Winnowei waves to WolfSinger from the direction of the rocks. "This way, Swishytail! They can't follow us up packed earth!"

Three bumps appear around Tarin…

WolfSinger motions for Tarin to head towards Winnowei, to whom he sticks his tongue out at for calling him SwishyTail again.

WolfSinger jabs his spear into the ground right in front of one of the bumps.

Winnowei waits halfway between the wolf and fox and the rocks, looking increasingly impatient.

Like a yearly visit from a great aunt, the Gooshurms burst forth from the ground and slurp him massively! *SLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLURPSLORPSLUUUUUUUUUUURP!* And, like usual, they disappear after the attack…

Vorgulremik hmms. The wolves aren't hunting the fox after all, but apparently looking after it.

Tarin straightens his back and heads back upwards, seeing the rocks.

Tarin keeps heading upwards finally reaching the rocks where he sits down.

Winnowei chuffs. "Your sacrifice has lousy sense of direction," she says to WolfSinger.

WolfSinger says to Tarin, "now, if you had gone this way in the FIRST place, you wouldn't be covered in slime!" He helps him scrape it off again.

Vorgulremik watches from his hiding spot. This is the most interesting thing that's happened since that rabbit passed out while he ate her liver.

Tarin sits panting, using a stick to remove most of the guck and then tossing it at Winnowei.

Three bumps pop up around the rocks… then three more… then three more? Nine bumps total… They circle the rocks for a couple minutes but even they realize he's not coming down. So, they disappear back into the ground… To where? Well, probably after more foxes elsewhere, who knows?

Winnowei yelps! as she doesn't manage to dodge all the gunk. "Hey! You are not supposed to share Gooshurm *untranslatable-blessing*! Just wash it off."

WolfSinger says, "How much further do we have to go?"

Tarin pants in the heat, glad to be out of the deep sand, but now on stone that cooks up with the heat of the sun to make it hotter.

Winnowei snuffs at the air. "Some people near."

Vorgulremik hopes the pine scent covers his own, this close to the wolves…

WolfSinger sniffs at the air to see if he can pick up the scent.

WolfSinger says, "Smells like someone made a camp nearby."

A dislodged pebble skips against the rocks nearby.

Winnowei perks her ears. "You have good nose, Swishytail. I smell some others, not Jupani, but hard to tell over Gooshurm *untranslatable-stink-holy-incense*."

Vorgulremik perks an ear, but the wolves' language isn't understandable to him.

WolfSinger says, "Let's keep going. I want to get out of this sun."

WolfSinger looks around to see where the pebble came from.

Tarin snuffs the air a bit, and hopes this smell means rest, shade, and water.

Winnowei nods. She looks around, and starts walking down around the low 'shelf' that circles most of the formation.

Wolfsinger catches, out of the corner of his eye, a moving shadow amongst the rock formation – someone watching, and disappearing out of sight behind that outcropping, perhaps?

WolfSinger says, "Someone's over there."

Winnowei freezes. She motions for WolfSinger. "Go around. Catch them from behind. Yell when you do, I come around this way."

WolfSinger nods, and quietly sneaks off around.

Vorgulremik freezes as the wolves begin to stalk something out of his line of sight…

As WolfSinger rounds a bend, he catches a hint of … that scent again. Then something moves out of the corner of his eye –

Tarin watches the two wolves and snuffs the air as he follows a bit behind them, He pauses when they split up and hunkers down in some scree to get out of the bright light while he awaits them to return from whatever they are doing.

WolfSinger stops, and looks.

The tip of a pole-arm points in WolfSinger's direction, borne by a serious-looking grayhound … one with many years behind him, by the look of it, and many scars as well. He glowers at WolfSinger, and quietly but firmly mutters something in a language the lupine cannot understand.

While the tongue may be unknown, the gesture with the polearm and the grayhound's expression seems to say "Get." (Or, if you prefer, in some dialects, "Git.")

WolfSinger wufs a greeting to the grayhound, trying to grin innocently.

The grayhound flinches, looking around, then makes a motion of clasping his own muzzle and making a "SHUSH" sound.

A low growl comes from behind the grayhound…

WolfSinger looks at the grayhound curiously, titling his head to the side.

As the grayhound spins to look … something or someone bumps into him. "AHHH!" "Yelp!"

Winnowei grins fangily to WolfSinger, then continues growling at the rat… She breaks off the growl to say something in that same strange language, the one that the guard used on WolfSinger.

A largish rat in baggy trousers, baggy tunic, vest and sash stumbles into the grayhound. He turns back toward the wolf, then to the grayhound, and says something else in that same tongue. Reluctantly and warily, the guard lowers his polearm.

Vorgulremik has finally squirmed around enough to see, and suppresses a growl. There's that damned rat that caused him to be stuck out in a hailstorm…

WolfSinger says, "Who are they?"

Winnowei says to WolfSinger, "He says he's *untranslatable-free-of-dirt?*"

Winnowei growls some more at the rat, gesturing when she doesn't quite know the Rephidim Common word.

Tarin Pants and rolls under the lip of a leaning boulder, brushing out the creepy crawlies before setting in the shade and sighing as he pickes the driedmud/slime from his fur.

The rat looks as if he's trying to calm down the wolf, and then nods at some of her questioning, gesticulating wildly. He then quietly says something back, glancing around.

WolfSinger says, "what is it?"

Winnowei frowns. "He says he is *untranslatable-seeker-of-holy-services?* also going to Elamoore. Very soul-invigorating. He keeps saying he did nothing *blasphemous?*"

WolfSinger asks Winnowei, "Do you think he's telling the truth?"

Winnowei says something to the rat. She gestures to the camp and the rock formation.

The rat looks as if he's trying to get the wolf to lower her voice. He frequently looks out towards the surrounding forest, and gestures "out there" a number of times. With his hands, he pantomines … something big? He emphasizes a toothy grimace as he makes this gesture.

Winnowei swishes her tail. "Gooshurms?"

Vorgulremik narrows his eyes at the rat. Squealer…

The rat shakes his head vigorously, then rattles off something in heated tones, barely able to keep his own voice anywhere near calm and quiet.

Winnowei makes scoffing noises. "Gooshurms *untranslatable*". She speaks on some more, and then gestures down to the end of the valley and on. The word 'Elamoore' occurs a few times in her speech, as does her shaking her spear.

WolfSinger says, "Even the fox wasn't that afraid of the Gooshurms."

The rat gasps at something, and seems quite aghast at something the female wolf has said.

WolfSinger asks "What is it?"

The rat clings to the rock as he speaks, sinking against it, glancing around more with unconcealed fear in his eyes.

"He's a *untranslatable-yellow-painted-down-back?*," Winnowei says to WolfSinger. "He talks about big winged *things-from-ancient-history* that attacked him, forced him to hide. No use to us. We can move on."

WolfSinger says, "Big winged things? A gryphon? A dragon? A giant flying squirrel? "

Winnowei frowns at WolfSinger's named creatures, then settles on "Lesser dragon."

WolfSinger blinkblinks. "A dragon?"

Winnowei shrugs. "Ancient history. No matter to us. We go on." She calls out to Tarin to come join them.

The rat erks, and loudly whispers several things to Winnowei through grated teeth, looking as if he's about to burst a vein.

WolfSinger says, "If they're headed to Elamoore, why don't you ask him if they would like to travel with us? There's safety in numbers."

Winnowei shrugs again to WolfSinger. "I asked."

WolfSinger says, "What did he say?"

Tarin's ears perk, then flatten, not wanting to return to the Saint-cursed heat…

"He wanted to wait for night. Said harder to spot him then," Winnowei says.

The wolf looks scornful as she says, "Know the kind. Then it be 'Wait for morning'."

WolfSinger says, "Well, explain to him that he can travel with us NOW, or we can leave him out here for the dragon to eat."

Vorgulremik watches the argument from the branches, and grins. That's it, don't let him talk you into anything, lady…

Winnowei shrugs. "He'll get the point." She shows off some of her fine claws as well, then motions back. "Get the sacrifice."

WolfSinger shrugs, and heads back to get Tarin.

WolfSinger thinks this fox MUST have a better name than 'sacrifice.'

Winnowei waves to the rat and says something in that strange language again, then begins to strike off to the end of the valley.

WolfSinger motions for Tarin to get up and get moving.

Tarin slowly crawls out from the shelter and follows the wolf after motioning for water.

Tarin grumbles as he exits the shade of the rock shelter and starts to follow Wolfsinger again.

Vorgulremik shifts around on his perch again, so he can watch the wolves and still keep an eye on the rat…

The rat quivers in his torn but still kind of expensive silks, next to the grayhound bodyguard. He casts a scared look after Winnowei, but clings to the rock as if it were a fortress to protect him.

WolfSinger heads off with Tarin towards Winnowei.

"C'mon, let's go, shake a paw, you *untranslatable, sounds like 'wearer of long pants'*" Winnowei calls.

WolfSinger looks at the rat, wondering if he's going to come or not.

The black wolfbabe trots off happily down the valley. A morning of seeing the sacrifice Gooshurm-blessed and scaring little cowardly rats has left her in a highly amused mood.

The distance increases… One hundred paces. Two hundred.

Vorgulremik hmms. The rat will wander around forever at this rate… but the wolves ARE going to the city…

WolfSinger says to Winnowei, "Guess he wants to become dragon food, eh?"

"It seems so," Winnowei says to WolfSinger. "Not too much farther. Maybe day walking. Too much for little rat though." She grins showing her large white fangs.

WolfSinger glances back at the rat to see if he's had a change of mind.

At five hundred paces, the rat breaks and starts running after Winnowei, shouting something untranslatable and waving his flapping sleeves in the wind. The old grayhound with him siiiighs.

"Well, maybe not *too* much," Winnowei acknowledges.

WolfSinger says, "now what does he want?"

Vorgulremik grumps quietly. There's no way he can take on two armed wolves.

Vorgulremik thinks, . o { Little rodent has more brains than I thought. }

Tarin looks back at the rat and blinks, rolling his eyes, "Here we go 'gin. Now wha are these crazy people up t'?"

Winnowei smirks looking back at the rat. She yells something untranslatable, then continues to lope at a fast walk with WolfSinger and Tarin.

The rat and the grayhound close the distance slowly, the rat already panting. Wolf's pace is rather more long-legged than rat's pace.

WolfSinger says, "guess he's joining us after all, hmmm?"

Vorgulremik waits until the group is well on into the valley before sliding down from his tree and following.

WolfSinger glances back at the rat and grayhound again.

Tarin grumbles and pants as he bakes in the heat, following his guides untill he reaches civilization again.

Hours pass as the five depart the valley. Winnowei shows them how to pluck broad ferns to serve as makeshift hats, and then they set off across the desert… Sunset finds them camped by a spring in the desert, surrounded by almost an acre of green plants and a few trees with scaley trunks and feathery boughs of yellow-green foliage lifted to the sky; these trees bud large spherical growths, one of which Winnowei plucks and offers to WolfSinger, then another to Tarin, and two more to the rat and his guard. Though they have tough outer skins, the inner flesh is, as Winnowei demonstrates, sweet and full of a tart liquid.

"We camp here tonight," Winnowei declares. "In morning, few hours walk, find Elamoore."

The rat shakes sand out of his worn slippers glumly, while his bodyguard stands at firm attention by the large pack that he has been shouldering. Can't be much food in there, they haven't made any effort to open it and provide for supper.

Vorgulremik spirals down to land behind a sand dune on the opposite side of the oasis…

Tarin unceremoniously flops into the spring to cool off and remove the worn slime.

WolfSinger plops himself down, and lets out a big sigh as he eats the fruit.

The Procession glows overhead, horns rising over the horizons.

Winnowei wrinkles her nose, then takes the emptied husk to the far end of the spring, where she demonstrates to WolfSinger that it's useful as a cup.

The rat gripes to Winnowei, pointing at the fox washing off Gooshurm slime. Winnowei grins back at him.

WolfSinger smiles at Winnowei, and take a drink with the makeshift cup.

Winnowei goes about filling the waterbags before the Gooshurm slime makes the spring entirely… Well, unpleasant to drink from.

Tarin climbs out and shake shake shakes.

The rat looks scornful at Tarin and mutters something low. It sounds deprecatory.

Vorgulremik spies from the dune, the scent of the water making his thirst even worse…

Tarin emerges, bows to the rat and shake shake shakes out making sure to drench him in the process.

The rat stands and then starts yelling at the fox. Sounds like a criticism of Tarin's ancestry.

WolfSinger looks over at Tarin, and shakes his head, chuckling.

Tarin grins and walks over to the other side of the fire. "Hee I almost wish I could understan' him now!'

Vorgulremik watches the shadows cast by the fire, mapping out where they are deepest.

The rat mutters something uncomplimentary, then stretches out his legs and pillows his head on a rock. His bodyguard lays the pack down and sits down as well, to catch some sleep before the morning.

Vorgulremik grins. The rock the rat is sleeping against casts a decent shadow.

Winnowei snuggles up to WolfSinger. "Last night. Maybe make good dreams, SwishyTail?" She grins toothily.

WolfSinger shakes himself out REAL good to get all the sand out of his fur, then sits down near the fire.

Vorgulremik begins to circle around the oasis, keeping beyond the range of the firelight.

Winnowei suddenly tries to pounce and pin WolfSinger!

Tarin curls up in the shelter of a rock, where its stored heat combats the chill of the desert night.

WolfSinger eeepppsss! his ears flush red.

Winnowei liks WolfSinger on the nose. "Swish your tail for me, SwishyTail?" She grins hugely, looking down at him.

Vorgulremik starts to sneak towards the camp, keeping to the shadow of the rock. Maybe the wolves will distract themselves, he hopes…

WolfSinger looks up at Winnowei. "ummm… Hello there." He wags his tail.

The rat snores. Loudly. The bodyguard shifts around a bit.

Tarin rolls over as he tries to get some sleep. His ears perk up at some noises and he sniff sniffs the air curiously.

The grayhound shifts around a bit and glares at his master. He tries to settle in for sleep…

Odd sounds echo from the other side of the campfire. It seems that Winnowei is rubbing WolfSinger's tummy and trying to find the right place to scratch to make his hindleg go thump.

Vorgulremik hunkers down behind the rock now, listening to the grayhound… and thinking.

WolfSinger giggles! "hey! that tickles!" She finds the spot, and his leg starts to go thumpers!

Wolfish giggling echoes around the oasis.

Vorgulremik grins to himself, and moves a little closer to the grayhound. He starts chanting in a low, low voice. But not so low that the cadence of the chant wouldn't be heard at a subconscious level by the sleepy bodyguard.

Tarin's eyes fly open as they radar in on some faint scrabbling noises. He sits up slowly and slips into the shadow of a stone scanning the shadows intently.

The bodyguard starts… humming? He swings his head a little, eyes closed and dreamy, humming a catchy little tune. His tail wags on the dirt, sending little bits of sand and grit flying.

Vorgulremik raises his voice almost to a whisper now, and without breaking the cadence of the chant he sings to the guard, "Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy… "

"Mairzydotes an' doseydoes, an' liddle… " The guard's crooning has little effect on the sound-asleep rat.


Vorgulremik keeps up the cantrip, and risks a quick peek over the top of the rock…

Tarin's eyes lock into a deep shadow and his paw moves to a large fist sized stone. He crouches to his feet and levers himself up before throwing the stone as hard as he can into the shadow and leaping behind his stone with a yell.

The guard awakens with a sudden yelp. "Rurh? Wurf!?"

WolfSinger looks over at Tarin and the guard, wondering what's going on.

Tarin pulls out his small knife and picks up a club of dried cactus.

The rat awakens as well, his hands instinctively going to the pack to grab onto it and make sure that it's still there. He babbles and yells something unintelligible, at least to Tarin and WolfSinger. ("Thieves! Robbers! I'm being murdered in my sleep!")

Vorgulremik hisses, losing the cantrip. He leaps onto the rock and spits a tongue of flame at the noisy fox, then loops his tail through the straps of the pack and runs off!

Winnowei looks up from where she was trying to teach WolfSinger the real meaning of 'SwishyTail' and yelps. "Dragon!"

Vorgulremik growls, "Let go, ye damned rat… "

WolfSinger acks!! and grabs his spear.

Tarin huddles behind the rock, not wishing to take Firepelt to a meaning beyond his surname.

The rat struggles with the pack, pulling it off the tail. He screams something unintelligible… But the sense is obvious: Run! Run! it's attacking us! The guard wapwapwaps Vorgulremik's scaley sides with… a sheathed sword, having neglected to pull the sword out.

WolfSinger growls! running toward the dragon.

Vorgulremik throws sand in the guard dog's face, and grabs at the pack with a claw…

The loosely tied strings that hold the pack closed slide open… Out pours an array of vaguely valuable things that used to belong to other merchants. And a long wrapped bundle. The rat yelps, then grabs up the bundle, leaving the pack to Vorgulremik and yells to his guard to follow.

Winnowei yells, "Swishytail! Run! We can't fight a dragon!"

The guard draws the sword and prepares to cover his master's retreat… As the rat bravely runs away.

Tarin Takes out his knife, balances it in his paw, and then peaks out to find his target before throwing it, hoping the small skill he had playing as a kit is still somewhere still inside him.

Vorgulremik scoops up the ruined pack and whatever baubles remain within…

The tiny knife flies toward Vorgulremik… And misses by a country mile. It disappears into the desert night.

WolfSinger throws his spear at the dragon.

The rat steps out into the darkness surrounding the oasis, then realizes he's lost in the night without a protector. He zips immediately over to Winnowei's side and starts whining at her vigorously.

Winnowei shouts, "Over here, Swishytail! Get the sacrifice!"

Vorgulremik urks as things start flying at him. He picks up a heavy, ugly stone carving that spilled from the pack and throws it at the wolf. Not built for throwing, his aim is fairly off.

WolfSinger grabs Tarin by the arm, and drags him over in Winnowei's direction.

The stone carving goes *PLOOSH* in the sandy ground near WolfSinger.

Winnowei points into the empty desert night. "Run! Elamoore! We can reach it, two hours!"

Tarin startles and nearly attacks Wolfsinger before he realizes who he is. He skitters in the cover of brush and stone over in the direction of the armed folks of the camp.

The rat nods vigorously, then gets a head start. He looks back now and then to see if his 'associates' are following.

Vorgulremik takes a quick accounting… the she-wolf and the guard dog are still armed, but seem intent on running. He presses this slight advantage by rushing the campfire and trying to smother it with sand, using his wings as shovels.

Tarin moves to Winnowei and makes a cutting motion, then puts out his paw.

WolfSinger runs, trying to keep up with everyone.

The campfire goes out with a hiss and shout of insulted embers… Darkness falls like a curtain. Winnowei barks a negative sound to Tarin, then slaps him on the back and starts running. "AROooooooo!"

Tarin growls and keeps moving, looking away from the fire to get his night vision back.

Vorgulremik immediately heads for the spring, diving under the water and taking a really good gulp while he has the chance.

For some reason, the water tastes slightly salty… Also, like fox.

Vorgulremik pokes his head up out of the water to listen for the others.


WolfSinger pantpantpants as he runs.

Vorgulremik pads back to the spilled pack, to see what's valuable, deciding to track the others after sunrise. He'll be rested, they'll be tired…

There's just the vague hanging feeling that if the long bundle was the only thing that miserly rat tried to save… It must surely be the most valuable of the lot. Eight hours to sunrise.

Tarin moves to Wolfsinger and asks the same question of the big wolf, making the cutting motion and holding out a paw as he points violently behind.

WolfSinger glances curiously at Tarin, wondering what he's trying to say. He thinks Tarin is talking about the knife.

Vorgulremik buries the few trinkets that seem worth keeping. None of them are worth carrying around in his crop though, and the pack is ruined.

Winnowei yells to WolfSinger, "Are you all right? Sacrifice not burnt up?"

WolfSinger says, "He seems to be okay. I think he's trying to tell us something about the knife he had."

"Good, burnt-up sacrifice no good at City in Middle of Nowhere," Winnowei says. "No hear dragon?"

The rat's loud panting from the back of the party gives testimony to the fact that somehow, despite carrying a heavy bundle, the merchant has managed to keep up. His bodyguard whines a little.

WolfSinger says, "I think the dragon stayed back there."

"Good thing," Winnowei mutters. "*Thought* dragons were mythical. Thought wrong."

In the dark of the night, Elamoore grows from the sands like a host of fireflies, the distant lit rooms of faraway towers and houses so far away they appear nothing more than ground-bound stars. Winnowei arooos! again, calling the others to follow her toward the lights, but her keen sense of direction is no longer needed to find the city.

WolfSinger smiles at Winnowei, and howls, too. ARRRRROOOOOOOO!!!!

An hour of forced walking and Winnowei staggers to meet the turbaned guard at the gate, another Jupani. "We *seekers after technical manuals?* have come long way. Need room. Need food. Need drink." She motions to the others to join her, the rat and his grayhound staggering up at last. Terraced lands stretch down the coast, and to WolfSinger's and Tarin's keen noses come the scent of abundant water nearby. There must be farms not far away. A river.

The rat reels. He mutters something to Winnowei, then sweeps a bow that almost has him falling over. Then, reaching into the seam of his vest, he snaps loose a large bone cone and hands it to the watchman, before stepping into the city of Elamoore.

Apparently there's a little matter of a toll…

WolfSinger glares at the rat.

The rat waves a hand cheerily at WolfSinger.

WolfSinger growls!

Winnowei scowls… Then smiles ingratiatingly to the guard, pressing up against his side and rubbing his tummy. "We're with him, let us in please?" She motions for the others to go through quickly before the guard notices.

The guard yelps. "Well… All right!" He thumpthumpthumps his hindleg.

WolfSinger tries to slip in as Winnowei has the guard's attentiom.

Tarin is already in the gate.

Winnowei liks the guard on the nose. "Good boy. Maybe see you later?" She grins and saunters over to WolfSinger and Tarin, her tail wagging a little despite her lolling tongue.

"Come. We go find good inn. Get real rest. Tomorrow… Find ship to City in Middle of Nowhere."

Tarin pants and looks around, his nose wrinkling as the breeze blows the air in from the slum outside the gate…

WolfSinger looks around at the city, tail wagging happily.


GMed by Greywolf & Lynx

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Today is 9 days before New Year's Day, Year 26 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6125)