A makeshift, and considerably less comfortable camp has been hastily constructed in some low rocks. It's nothing more than a small campfire along with a quickly constructed tent made from a salvaged sheet.
Bleak is definitely the word for it when Anisa finally makes her way to the camp Gibson's tracks lead her. Most of their team have curled up near the lean-to, trying to fight off the cold. Amusingly, they're also all more or less curled around Xander. Of course, Xander is currently drooling on top of Master Long Tooth's head, while the old Kiriga is drooping on Xander's leg. Lilac is curled near them, her legs twitching now and then from some sort dream. The only one awake appears to be Kin. She sits near the fire, her mane undone and flowing down and obscuring her face. The fire before her is dim, barely visible really, and she's heating a single cup of water on it. Now and then she pokes at the embers with a stick.
The exhausted doe pauses briefly to survey the pile of snoozing bodies in the middle of the camp, allowing herself a brief crack of a smile as she gives a heavy sigh of relief. Glancing over to Kin, the Lapi walks over to her, slinging her bow from her shoulder. "I thought I'd never find my way back, there's nothing to steer by in the Star forsaken place." Tiredly, she plops down hard by Kiriga, rubbing her large feet. "Nice for at least one person to stay awake for me. Thanks."
"I rested a bit earlier before the others fell asleep," Kin says in her typical soft tone. "I couldn't sleep long, though, I was worried. You and Long-Shadow were still missing . I was making some tea for myself but if you want it, you are welcome to it." She sets aside her stick and then carefully lifts the cup from atop the embers. She offers it to Anisa.
Anisa wilts an ear, frowning as she takes the cup with a grateful nod. "Long-Shadow hasn't shown up yet? I though Lilac said she knew where to find him." The doe cradles the mug in her lap without taking a sip, instead looking to Kin with concern.
"He took another path to hide. He is a skilled tracker and these are his lands; I am certain he is well," Kin says carefully, as if she had to choose her words one at a time. She sits under the Lapi's gaze for a short bit before adding, "But it doesn't make me any less worried about him. I suppose it must be obvious."
Anisa scoots closer to the Kiriga, giving her a sympathetic pat on the hand. "It is… but its also to be expected, so you shouldn't worry about that. And you're right, he's probably doing better than we are out here Dagh, I don't see how they do it!" Giving Kin a smile, the doe finally raises the cup to her lips and takes a sip, fur frazzling a bit as the warm drink helps fend off the night's chill. "Brr… who ever thought you could freeze in the desert?"
"There is little here to hold in the warmth of the sun; no trees and life to retain its blessing. So, it makes sense that it would grow cold at night," Kin admits after a moment of thought, "It is also causing havoc with my body; I am staying … endothermic, I believe it is called. It means I will have to eat a lot more often." That explains why when Anisa patted her hand, the reptile felt positively warm. "You also missed an argument while you were losing your pursuers. Lilac believes we should stay and fight. Somehow she believes we have the power to stop an army. I do not understand why she would think so. Xander even agreed with her. They were telling me that my fears were just side effects from the mask and that I was asking differently. But … they are wrong. I do not fear fighting a group; but even I am realistic. I cannot stop an army. I could not stand against ten by myself, no matter how good I may be as a warrior. The odds are just not survivable."
"They want to do what?" The snowy rabbit nearly chokes on her tea, looking back to Kin with nostrils flared, her face a mask of disbelief. "Were they not with us when we almost got killed a few hours ago? Did we dream that or something?" She looks back to the sleeping pile with ears swiveled out, then turns back to the Kiriga with a head shake. "Look, I love a good fight as much as the next girl, but seeing the sky go dark because of a cloud of arrows is enough to make even me need a change of pants! There's no way we can go back there now! There's too many, and now they'll really be on guard."
"That is why I told them, but it was like trying to ask a mountain to step aside. Hopeless. It seems that Lilac had some dream where a zombie came and taught her about her powers and then hinted that the storm that comes will be 'special'. As to how, nothing was given. To trust such a dream is insanity. Lilac is cursed and whatever visions that curse may offer will not necessarily be in her best interests," Kin says with a sigh and a shake of her head. "For the love of the Gods, they have mages as well as warriors. Hakuu himself uses magic; I saw it. This is not some untrained band of fools; they have planned very well. They are ready for much more than we could ever do to them alone. Their leader, Beshret, is intelligent and cunning. To fight them without an army of our own isn't heroic, it's suicidal. I believe Lilac is staying, but I am going to seek help from the Imperials. Daesha, the lieutenant we saved, should be able to vouch for us and have their commanders listen. And I was able to obtain detailed locations of where their supplies are, positions of soldiers, and so forth. With that the Imperials would have a chance."
"A dream about a zombie?" Anisa's ears flop sideways. "I had one of those once, and a goddess almost drove me nuts. You're right, it's probably best taken with a grain of parsley." The doe takes another sip of her tea, then sighs. "I don't really relish the thought of slagging our way all the way back to the Imperials, but I'm not certain we have any choice now. After what we saw today, I'm not certain we could even get any intelligence on them now." With a sigh, the doe leans back on her elbows, pushing her feet out nearer to the fire. "I would have liked to find out what they're looking for here, but I think its time we called in the cavalry."
"Hakuu is digging in something called the Temple of Being," Kin says as she looks down at her dying fire. "I have been thinking on the documents and the phrase 'State of Being', and I think I was trying to make more of it than it was. I think the State of Being is simply this land. The temple must have been its seat of power. And the Cinders must be looking for what game them their power. The Cinders are also using Beshret for protection. There is no love between Beshret and Hakuu, only tolerance."
"And apparently mutual gain," Anisa muses, wiggling her toes. "Maybe this was a First One's city at one time, or whoever it was that made all this stuff the Cinders are after." The doe pulls out her crystal pendant, and starts to fiddle idly with it. "Kind of weird to name your country 'Being' though. I wonder if there was a 'State of Doing' too." She grins at Kin, giving the lizard a small, playful nudge.
That comment gets a playful sniff from the reptile, as well as a nudge back. "The State of Doing sounds like a place Xander would want to visit," she says with a wry grin. "And truth be told, I do not wish to march across the desert again, either. But I do not see any other options that have a chance at succeeding. I also do not like knowing what, if any, role I was expected to play in the Cinder's plan … for that may have been the key on how to stop them. I have yet to learn anything that links me. Perhaps I am being too paranoid and it was true that Hakuu merely saw me as a 'good wife' prospect."
"Personally, if he did have a plan for you, I'd just as soon not know and have him stopped, instead of vice-versa." The rabbit shrugs. "And it never hurts to be a little bit paranoid now and then. Heck, we Lapi are masters at that." Stifling a yawn, she lays back fully, gazing upwards at the stars. "When do you plan on leaving?"
"Soon. I wanted to know if you were staying or going. I know Xander wants to stay, though it would not be wise of him. Master Longtooth sided with me as well," Kin answers as she looks back to the horizon. "So, I intend to leave when those who are going with me are ready. We should not linger here long; their patrols will find us eventually."
Sitting back up, Anisa glances over at the others worriedly. "Xander's staying? Dagh… " She scratches an ear in thought. "Lilac… well, Lilac can take care of herself in that canine form I'd imagine… but I'd worry about leaving Xander behind. He's got a lot of tricks up his sleeve, but… " Shoulders slumping, the Lapi leans forward. "What did Gibson say?"
"I believe Gibson would do what you wished; though my impression was he would prefer to seek help as well," Kin says. Her head rolls a bit, golden eyes falling on the sleeping fire mage. "I am of half a mind to just knock Xander out and take him with us. He may be a fool at times, but he is also my friend. I would … miss him if something were to happen to him. But I cannot protect those who do not wish to be protected."
Anisa smooths her ears back with a paw, her bottom lip currently being gnawed on by a pair of large Lapine incisors. "I don't know… I don't know if I could forgive myself if something happened to him… or to Lilac for that matter… " The doe falls silent for a bit, then shakes her head with a frown. "But it all comes down to going where we'll do the most good… and I don't think it'll be here." She looks back to Kin. "I'm going with you."
"Thank you," Kin says as she draws her legs up and curls her arms around them to steady herself. She rests her chin on her knees as she looks back to those sleeping. "Truth be told, I couldn't forgive myself either if something bad happened to them. Xander is … frustrating. He has moments of being so charming and gentle which he then ruins with an ill-placed word. Lilac … she reminds me of a child is so many ways. Trusting at times, full of wonder at times, and in some ways, very innocent. She is caught up in her own tales now; thinking of us like the stories she tells about the ragtag few who destroyed an empire. Such never happens in reality."
"Oh, it can happen," Anisa says, idly tracing lines in the sand with the tip of her bow, "but if I were a gambler, it's notsomething I'd bet my shekels on. Not this time." Laying her bow aside, the doe plucks a bit of loose fur from her ankle, and wafts it into the fire with a gentle blow. "They have to do what they think is best," she mutters as the fluff sizzles into nothingness, "and we have to do the same. Unfortunately, we're all adults here."
"And we are. And what comes of it we will know that we were true to ourselves," Kin comments. Her brow ridge furrows a bit and is followed by a sigh, "Though it doesn't make it any easier to watch people you care about do something dangerous, perhaps suicidal. Right now I wish I was like what I know most foreigners think of us; unfeeling." She glances to the Lapi, adding, "I know you have thought that of me at times."
Anisa gives Kin a look of slight amusement. "I might have thought that about you at first, but I haven't seen you that way in a long time. In my family, everyone wears their feelings on their sleeves most Lapi are that way. Meeting someone as reserved as you was a bit off-putting at first, but truth be told," she looks to the others, "sometimes I envy that ability."
"It can also make you feel lonely when around cultures such as yours," Kin points out. Her tail flicks lazily, the tuft of fur kicking up a small cloud of dust. "And hard to tell people how you feel about them. It's not that I don't want to … but I find I just stop. I hold back in spite of myself." She shrugs. "But, in truth it does help at times. I can appear confident when I am not. I can stand my ground when I am scared."
"Stoicism is a lost art the Knights Templar would probably kill to have someone like you in their ranks." Anisa gives the reptile a wink, quickly followed by a wide yawn. "Dagh, all that running wore me out."
"Why don't you get some sleep? I am certain Xander would prefer to curl up with you over Master Long Tooth," Kin says in complete deadpan. She looks back out into the bleak landscape before she says, "I will sleep in a bit I just … I want to watch for him a little bit longer. He means a lot to me, Anisa. He made me feel … loved."
Anisa smiles at Kin, gently patting her hand with a sympathetic paw. "I know he does… and you are loved quite a bit, so never worry about that." She gives the reptile's hand one small squeeze of comfort, then gets to her feet, wiping the dust off of her pants. "Make certain you get some rest tonight, I have a feeling we'll need to head out early." With that, the doe walks over to the snoring pile, looking for a spot of her own preferably a non-compromising one.
The pile looks to be a free-for-all more or less. The safest place is probably somewhere behind Xander, just in case his hands 'wander' in his sleep.
With a small sigh of resignation, Anisa lays down behind the mage, but just far enough to be out of reach. For several long minutes, she is wide awake with anxiety, staring at Xander as her mind goes over the possible fates of he and Lilac. After a few tosses and turns, she sits up, and scoots closer to the mage. Lying back down, she hugs him close like a big teddy bear, a few silent, worried tears rolling down her cheeks as she drifts off to slumber.