Somewhere in Ur
Sugar firs speckle the thick green and gray forests that sprawl down the northern slopes of the mountains that run the spine of Ur, black rock outcroppings thrusting through the trees like giant dragons buried in the earth and looking out again. A river trickles down one outcropping, becoming almost a waterfall as it skips down the rocks, then broadens and becomes a quieter stream that heads to the coast to the east. There are no trails other than those the strange creatures that dwell in Ur have made, only untamed wilderness that bristles with pricklers and thorns.
Raveekrahna has elected to fly on ahead of Wynona and Skiree, hypothetically to hunt down some game for dinner tonight, but in practice (or so Roho gathers from an overheard mutter) to get away from excessive *CUTENESS*. So the party travels through the green-gray forests, Skiree and Wynona flying point, Roho following on foot…
Wynona spins and whirls through the air, not content to simply fly "slow and easy" for Roho to keep up pace. "Wheeee!" She dive-bombs Skiree. "Look out!"
Roho keeps up a good pace for him, though just a little too slow for the bats' tastes. He tries to go faster a couple of times, but ends up tripping enough that he decides he'll just hang back at his own speed.
"Aieeee!" The little brown bat squeals in mock-fear. She quickly flaps backwards, sending a jet of wind and leaves down on roho.
Roho ducks, "Aik!" He chuckles and call up for the umpteenth time, "Skiree, would you mind not *haghk*" He spits out a leaf.
Wynona misses her 'target' by a wide shot, and zips over the trees, flapping to gain altitude again, arcing around for another "attack". "Oh no! It's the dreaded Ticklebeast! Comin' to GET YA!"
The gray-haired, white-furred bat wings by in a vain attempt at nabbing the smaller and more spritely (and arguably cuter) bat.
Skiree falls victim to a fit of giggles, which hampers her flight a bit.
Wynona sees her advantage! "Bwahahahaa!" she cackles, and dives in for the tickle, fingers wiggling menacingly!
"Yaieeeeeehehehehehehehe!" The younger bat squeals in an even more high pitched voice. (Hard to believe she could actually get much higher… but there you go.)
Wynona arcs in and slows to match Skiree's velocity. "GOTCHA!" *tickletickletickletickle*
Roho takes the opportunity to catch up to the bats, "You two having fun?"
The forest thins out, overlooking a series of plains dotted and lined with swaths of scrub and brush. Raveekrahna is visible as no more than a dot somewhere down to the left and far ahead, presumably looking for large game creature… Ahead, some large sheep-like creatures graze contentedly on the tall grass that swishes in the breeze, made less like lambs by nature of the six legs they possess and the large water-buffalo-like heads they sport; their tails are long and resemble a dragon's blunt arrowheaded tail.
Skiree laughs and wiggles in Wynona's clutches. Her wriggling sending the contents of her pockets down on Roho's head… candy, peas, bugs, and other assorted things.
Wynona disengages from her tickle-attack, long enough to call back, "Oh no! Not ONE bit!" She immediately breaks into a fit of the giggles as she sees the items raining down on the poor fennec's head.
Roho rakes his claws through his headfur, "Agh!"
The brown bat whips downwards to the ground… she must save her candy!
Roho picks a last bug out and starts marching huffily down into the plain, muttering…
"Didja see the grazers out there, 'nona?" Skiree squeaks up to the treetops as she rescues most of her candy from the forest floor. It's only got a little bit of dirt in it.
Wynona flutters down to a landing, to help Skiree try to recover her candy. (She isn't so concerned about the peas or bugs.) "Oh! I saw some strange creatures ahead… " She nods. "What are they called?"
Skiree squeaks, "Master called them Rughrats. You kin use 'em for food… and they also give milk."
Skiree pops a lemon drop into her mouth. "I like candy better tho."
Wynona nods. "But you can have too much candy, you know." She winks.
Wynona hmms. "Are they friendly? Or do they spook easily?"
A foxtaur tends to the grazing Rughrats, tawny-furred the better to blend into the yellow-green grass, wearing a shawl around her neck and carrying a shepherd's crook. She has several pouches belted around her torso, and a dagger prominent from the side, and her back is covered by what might normally be seen as a saddle blanket, decorated with patterns of colored squares. She shades her eyes with a hand as she looks up at the travellers coming down from the forest.
"They're pretty tame." Skiree squeaks. "The people that herd them are s'posedta be nice too."
As the bats and the fennec come closer, the foxtaur looks up and apparently spots the arrivals immediately, probably warned by their quiet play a moment ago. She grabs a staff resting against her side, then approaches the three.
The Rughrats continue to graze lazily, leaning down with flat teeth to crop up blades of grass, then shifting jaws side to side. One swishes a dragony tail, then suddenly flicks it to swat a fly. *splat* Maybe that's why its wool is speckled gray.
Roho gets down to the level plain and starts to scent the air. He walks over to the edge of the pasture, and holds his paw out to one of the creatures.
Wynona flaps her wings more rapidly. "Hullllllllo down there!" she cries out, cupping her hands over her mouth. She then waves vigorously with one of her hands.
Skiree wavewavewaves to the foxtaur happily!
The Rughrat nibbles on Roho's hand.
"I wonder if he'll let me pet one?" Skiree muses to herself.
Roho giggles at the nibble, "Hey, I don't have anything for you!" He pulls his paw away slowly, and calls over to the 'taur, "Hello!"
The Rughrat follows Roho, buffaloish head snuffling at the fennec.
Wynona lands, and waves cheerily to the fox'taur! "Hello, I'm Wynona Windcaller! We're on our way to Babel. Do you by any chance know how much further it is from here? By foot, that is."
Skiree pulls up a handful of grass and walks over to one of the grazers, offering her treat.
The Rughrat nibbles on the grass, then starts to lick Skiree.
The foxtaur stops a few paces from the small party and inclines her head with a friendly smile, "Lihei." she greets, then looks at Wynona, "Rikei ta Babel?"
The little brown bat squeals happily and scratches the grazer on it's nose.
Wynona sighs. "Oh well. I don't suppose /everyone/ speaks Rephidim Common. Hmm. But we ARE in Ashdod … I wonder if she speaks … " Wynona switches to Eeee. "We're going to Babel. Do you know how far that is from here, by foot?"
"I think I'll name you "Hungus"." Skiree squeaks to her newfound friend as she offers it more clumps of grass.
Hungus munches on Skiree's offered grass complacently.
Wynona tsk tsks to Skiree. "You know, this one might already HAVE a name. You might want to ask, first. Not that I've been terribly successful at that myself… "
Hungus pads after Roho and starts sniffing him.
Skiree looks at the foxtaur. ( Hmmm… he's got six legs. I wonder if he's some kinda bug? )
Roho giggles and rubs Hungus between the eyes, "Hello!" He offers a pawful of grass, "I assure you, this is much tastier than I."
Wynona hmms, and looks toward the fox'taur, trying to discern whether their presence there is being tolerated, welcomed, or is an annoyance.
The foxtaur appears less than able to comprehend Eeee. She tilts her head, furrowing her brows slightly, "Ashdod? Nehk ri Ashdod." She smiles, hoping her point comes through. Then adds, "Babel ri nous, za ilrek zwah."
Skiree scrabbles up to the foxtaur and offers him some candy. Most of the bugs she's met all like candy.
Hungus appears more interested in snuffling at Roho's pouch in which he carries medicines and herbs. *SNUFF*
Roho steers Hungus's nose away from the bag, "Hey now, that's not for you!"
Hungus makes big sad Rughrat brown eyes at Roho.
The foxtaur brightens as she's offered the piece of candy! Yet, she doesn't take it, but instead steps a little backwards, raising a hand, perhaps gesturing them to stay were they are. With her staff, she makes a circle on a bare spot on the ground, about 4 feet wide and divides it in two, so one half is facing the group, and the other is facing herself.
Wynona hmms, looking at the circular gesture.
Skiree tilts her head sideways and stares at the foxtaur with curious blue eyes.
The white bat asides, "Aren't language barriers such /fun/?" She sighs.
Wynona thinkthinkthinks. "It DOES look faintly like the rune used to represent a balance between forces of… " She chatters on about some arcane magical mumbo-jumbo.
Skiree tugtugs at Wynona's shirt. "D'ya think he's making a cantrip?"
Wynona shakes her head. "I don't think so. And I think she's a 'she', by the way."
Wynona tries repeating the same gesture, tracing a pattern in the earth with her finger, then looks up to the fox'taur to see what reaction this gets. "Okay … a circle … with a line down the middle, eh?"
Reaching down to her belt, the foxtaur opens one of her pouches and takes out a small trinket. Bending down on her front legs, she carefully places the item in the part of the circle which is facing her, then stands up again and gestures to the group, "Liek za."
Skiree sees everyone drawing in the dirt and begins to make her own dirt picture. She draws a Gooshurm with big buggy eyes and wings. Obviously she's never seen a Gooshurm before.
Wynona hmms. "Maybe she wants to make a trade?"
Wynona looks at the distracted doodling bat, and the puzzled doodling fox'taur. "My. Diplomacy is NOT my strong point. With my luck, I'll offend someone and start a war or something."
Roho moves towards the foxtaur, and places some dried herbs from his bag in the half of the circle facing the foxtaur. As he gets closer, he uses the opportunity to take a better sniff in her direction, unobtrusively.
Skiree whistles to herself as she pops the candy in her mouth absently and starts using grass and stones to decorate her Gooshurm-picture.
The foxtaur grins at Skiree's drawing and nodnods, "Shoogum!" She looks back as Roho approaches the circle. Watching with increased excitement as he places the herbs on the circle, she bends down to take a look at the herbs, after having pushed them onto the 'right' side. Apparently drawing a conclusion, she opens another pouch and examines its contents.
Wynona has a look of being totally lost on her face. She reasons that Roho must know what he's doing … so she goes to watch Skiree draw. "Ohhhh! That looks just like a … a … Oh, what do you call those again?"
"It's a gooshyloo," Skiree exclaims brightly.
Roho leans on his staff, waiting for the foxtaur's response.
A Rughrat trots closer and starts to snuff at the herbs. Its floppy ears perk up.
Wynona claps her hands together. "Of course! A gooshyloo that's it." What's a gooshyloo?
A few moments later, the foxtaur withdraws another few widgets from her pouches. A few leather strands and some beautiful colored stones, which she places next to her trinket in the circle. She looks at Roho as he seems to understand what is going on, "Kieh fe illiak?"
Skiree bounces to her feet. She looks around for something to do, then spies the Rughrat close by…
Wynona, oblivious to the shift in Skiree's attentions, scrutinizes the "gooshyloo" drawing.
Roho taps his throat and shakes his head at the foxtaur. He leans down and sniffs at the strands and the stones.
The gooshyloo is bug-eyed, has wings, and seems to be slurping some poor fox represented by just two triangles on top of a circle and with a muzzle sticking out one side haphazardly. Or that's the impression Wynona gets from the picture.
Skiree sneaks up on an unsuspecting Rughrat…
Wynona says, still looking at the picture, "Rather clever, how you 'colored' your picture by … Skiree? Where did you go off to?" She looks around.
The foxtaur seems to ponder Roho's gesture for a moment, then brightens up while nodding happily and unties a pouch from her belt and places it in her part of the circle. The wobbly motion of the pouch suggests its contents to be liquid, probably water. She looks expectantly at Roho, "Riek zi illiak rre?" she smiles.
From Wynona's point of view, it seems that a Rughrat has now become bat-eared.
The six-legged dragon-tailed buffalo-headed Rughrat lowwws and continues to crop grass off just short of the ground.
Wynona stands up. "Skiree!" She marches over toward the magically-transformed Rughrat.
Roho stands and smiles, nodding at the foxtaur. . o O ( I hope I know what I'm doing… )
Skiree yelps! from where she was sneaking up on the Rughrat, raising a faimiliar-looking pipe to her muzzle. She puts the pipe away hastily and looks innocent.
The foxtaur blinks in surprise at Wynona's shout! Grabbing her staff securely, she steps a little backwards, holding it up in a defensive pose.
Skiree says to Wynona, "I wasn't doing anything! Honest!" She puts her hands behind her back.
Wynona frowns, and adopts a less comradely and more maternal demeanor. "What was that I saw in your mouth?" she says, wagging a finger at the little bat.
Skiree sticks out her tongue. It's orangy from the candy she just munched on.
The Rughrat mooos.
Roho shifts uncomfortably, still leaning on his staff.
Wynona says, "All right, show me what's in your hand… " She puts her own hands at her waist, looking as serious and severe as she can manage.
Skiree brings her hands forward. They're empty.
The foxtaur lowers her staff, as it becomes apparent that the shout wasn't directed at her, then steps back to the circle. She looks down at it, seeming not quite satisfied with its contents. She looks up at Roho and points at the side of the circle facing the fennec, "Li kieh ilrak ze. Riek illiak?"
Wynona raises her eyebrows. "All right. Where did it go?"
"And shake out your wings," Wynona adds.
Skiree shrugs. "Where did what go?" she asks innocently, spreading her wings and waving her hands around a bit.
Roho doesn't notice the foxtaur's responses, being blind. He tries again, "We don't understand your language… "
Wynona walks up to Skiree … and leans over, peeking BEHIND the little bat.
Skiree eeps! as the taller bat moves closer, and tries to scruffle the grass to hide the fallen pipe.
"AHA!" the white bat calls out, and loses all decor as she dives for the pipe!
Skiree tries to scrabble for the pipe and get it away from Wynona. "That's miiiine!" she wails.
With a sigh, the foxtaur sits down, scritching her head as she realizes she might not make herself clear. She looks up and points towards the two bats, "Ki mina il giekh?", then looks back at Roho.
Wynona mercilessly goes for the pipe. "Oh yeah? Then why are you HIDING it?"
Roho sighs, "Wynona, can you come here? I can't see what she's doing, and I don't know her language… " He points at his eyes, and shakes his head at the foxtaur.
The white bat, however, is far too absorbed in wrestling with Skiree over a pipe.
"Because I don't want you to be mad at me!" Skiree exclaims. She tugs on the pipe, but lets go as she realizes it's too late anyway, then droops her ears and scuffs a foot.
Roho shouts, "Wynona! Skiree!"
Roho makes sure to point himself away from the foxtaur as he shouts…
Wynona takes a moment to regard the pipe, then abruptly turns toward Roho. "Wha?"
"Um, I think Roho needs your help," Skiree says, grateful for the interruption.
Roho lowers his voice, "I asked if you could help me out, Wynona… I can't see what she's doing, and I think we need to know… "
Wynona hmphs. She holds tightly onto the pipe. "I suppose we'll just have to resume this later, young lady!" With that, she puts her nose up high and marches over to Roho.
Skiree hides behind a Rughrat.
The foxtaur furrows her brows at Roho's last gesture, then stands up. She walks over to him and the bat and waves a had in front of the fennec. He seems aware of her presence, but doesn't otherwise react to the motion. She sighs and nods, recognizing a problem.
The white bat finds a place to sit down near Roho. "I don't really know anything about the customs here. I'm afraid I'm a bit out of my element."
Roho chuckles at Wynona, "I've never been here, either… I'm winging it right now."
Skiree peeks over the Rughrat. "I thought we were the ones who wing it," she says.
Wynona flips a wing. "I wing it all the time." She grins.
Wynona pouts at being beaten to the punchline.
The foxtaur turns to Wynona and tries a different strategy. She holds up both her palms before the white bat and levels them in alignment with each other. Holding the pose for a moment, she breaks it to point at her left palm with her right hand, then points to the part of the circle in which Roho placed his herbs.
Wynona is visibly confused. She finally tries to narrate the fox'taur's gestures (repeating the gestures herself, without thinking about how useless this is to Roho), punctuated with several "uhms" and "I thinks".
Skiree watches the activity. "What's going on?" she asks.
Roho thinks for a moment, then places a couple of simple beads from his pouch beside the herbs he'd placed earlier.
Wynona asides to Skiree. "That's what we're trying to figure out, I think."
The foxtaur repeats the pose, but reverses the gesture, so she points with her left hand. She then realigns her palms with one another and holds the pose. Slowly, she lowers her right palm towards the ground displaying an obvious unbalance, but doesn't get any further as Roho moves towards the circle again.
Skiree sits up on the grass-mowing Rughrat and perches her elbows on its horns and her chin on her hands.
Wynona narrates, and then says, "Uhm … Okay, so some sort of trade? Maybe she doesn't think it's a fair deal?"
Roho nods at Wynona, "I think so… but I don't have too much else to trade."
Wynona shrugs. "Well, don't look at ME! I haven't got much of ANYTHING. And what I have isn't really mine." She frowns.
Roho rasps, "Has she responded to the other stuff I put down, yet?"
Wynona shrugs. "I already told you what she was doing. I haven't seen anything new since I last spoke."
The foxtaur grins triumphantly and bounds back to her side of the circle, "Ki rriva!" She bends down to investigate the herbs and beads, apparently comparing it with those of her offers. Finally, she picks the waterpouch back up and nods to the group, "Illiak zi riek, rru Babel res tiek." She smiles and makes a sweeping gesture towards the circle.
Wynona errrs … "Well, I think you can make about as much sense out of that as I can… " Nonetheless, she describes where the fox'taur has moved to, and how she seemed interested in the herbs and beads, and picked up the waterpouch again.
"Oh! You're trading stuff," Skiree says. "How much would she want for a Rughrat, do you think?"
Roho grins at Skiree, "More than you've got, I warrant… "
Skiree looks disappointed.
Wynona says, "Well, Skiree … where would you PUT a Rughrat? And they certainly can't fly along."
The foxtaur's tailtip makes little contented swishes, left and right, as she waits for a response from the group, to her decision.
Skiree shrugs. "It would be fun! Maybe Roho could ride one."
Wynona turns to Roho. "She seems to be watching us and waiting for something. I /think/ she looks happy now. I'm not sure. Different cultures, you know. But her tail is swishing a little, if that means anything."
Roho stands and nods, tapping his half of the circle with his staff, smiling at the foxtaur.
Wynona watches the fox'taur's face for any sign of a response.
The foxtaur smiles and nods towards Roho, as he approaches the circle. "Kiveh il saik, rru ze riek Ashdod." she explains, gesturing towards her side of the circle.
Roho points towards the horizon in more or less the direction they'd originally been travelling, "Babel?"
Wynona checks the trajectory of the fox's pointing gesture and determines that he must have his bearings straight after all. She nods. "Babel?" She hasn't much idea what she's asking or why, but it just seems the thing to do.
Nodding to Roho, apparently understanding the context of his question, the foxtaur stands up and approaches the group anew, "Riek ze Babel, ri rachil. Il zwarik se nimah rruh Babel ne kerik riek." She uses her staff to make another symbol on the ground.
Wynona sighs, and looks at the new symbol.
Wynona says, "Of course, we're only encouraging her. When we act like we understand, she'll never realize that we haven't an inkling… "
Roho nods, "I'd prefer to just go the way we were going, but she might not like us trespassing like that… "
Wynona says, "Ohhhh! So, you're bargaining for permission to cross her lands?"
Skiree thinks. "What if I drew a map?" she suggests. "I think I remember what the continent looks like… "
The symbol is a square, about the same size as the circle. But square. The foxtaur makes a cross in one corner of the square, then points to the group, "Zi ria." Without waiting for response, she looks back at the drawing and makes a dot with the end of her staff, "Babel." she explains.
Roho chuckles, "I hope… "
Wynona turns to Skiree. "I get the feeling that /she/ probably doesn't know what the continent looks like … and maybe not even what a continent IS, for that matter."
Skiree looks on with curiosity. "I don't think it looked like a square, though," she observes.
Roho tilts his head, "Square?"
Wynona says, "Rest assured, the continent isn't a square, and we're not in the far corner of it. If we had to cross the whole continent … we'd be bargaining for an airship ride. I don't think Roho could walk that far."
Roho chuckles, "You're probably right on that one… at least, not until it was quite a bit too late."
The dot named 'Babel' is placed in the opposite corner of the cross. The foxtaur makes a line directly across the square, linking the two symbols together, "Nek!" she exclaims, looking at the group, then scritchscritches the line over, obscuring it.
Wynona describes what she just saw. "Uhm. Maybe she's meaning we aren't allowed to go straight across. Perhaps she's not happy about us crossing her territory after all." She looks apologetically up to the fox'taur.
Skiree watches with interest. Somehow geography is more interesting when you actually have to go somewhere, as opposed to when it's just abstract stuff.
Roho nods at Wynona, "You're probably right. Shall we continue on our way?"
Wynona adds, "Though I sincerely doubt that her territory represents the entirety of our route from here to there. Perhaps there's something more going on. Hmm."
Drawing another line, but this time bending it so it avoids the middle of the square, the foxtaur apparently recommends another route, "Riek re Bable il ri illiak." She draws a small circle in the middle, but so that is doesn't have contact with the bending line.
Wynona ponders. "Mountains? Babel IS in the mountains. Maybe she's trying to tell us we're going to run into an obstacle."
Wynona describes this to Roho, then points at the new circle that doesn't have contact with the bending line. "What is this?" She knows the words won't carry, but she's hoping her tone of voice and gesture might convey…
The foxtaur thumpthumps the end of her staff against the new circle, shaking her head, "Nek za." She looks up at the group, "Nek." she repeats, underlining her first statement.
Roho listens to Wynona's description, and nods, "I guess we should detour… "
Wynona says, "Well, I suppose we need to detour … but this is all so abstract. I suspect we will need to talk with Raveekrahna. Perhaps this will mean something to him. After all, he's supposed to know the way."
Roho re-hefts his pouch. He bows slightly to the foxtaur, "Thank you… " He smiles, trying to get the meaning across with his expression.
Wynona stands and bows and smiles, too, hoping that a bow is a universal benevolent expression and not a slight.
Skiree ut ohs, looking up at the sky. "Pruneface is coming back," she warns Wynona and Roho, meaning Raveekrahna.
Wynona looks up. "Well! That's very timely of him, for once."
Having finished her explanation, the foxtaur smiles and returns the bow slightly. She returns to the first circle and gathers the items Roho placed, then returns. Pointing in the direction of Babel, she smiles and nods, "Relih riek."
Roho tilts his head at the foxtaur, carefully gathering the remains in the circle.
Wynona idly muses, "I wonder what it'd be like if there was a culture where bowing and giving gifts and smiling were insults, and punching each other, biting, and so forth were ways to show affection?"
The foxtaur smiles and nods her head repeatedly, as Roho retrieves his new belongings.
Roho places the new things in his pouch, and smiles at the foxtaur again. "Shall we head along, Wynona? And Skiree?"
Skiree looks up at Raveekrahna, who is carrying a brace of coneys. "I don't know, isn't that the kind of culture that Pruneface comes from?" She grins impishly.
Wynona walks along, talking to no one in particular, "And I suppose we might get along just fine. I'd just never realize that they hated my guts… " She regards the pipe she still has. "Hmmm."
Skiree blinks large cute batbat eyes at Wynona.
Skiree says quickly, "IbettergotellPrunefaceweretakingadetour!" and flutterflapflaps off into the sky.
Wynona puts away the pipe. "I think I'll hold onto this until we're safely OUT of the Rughrat flock." She gives Skiree a warning look.
Skiree thppts Wynona with an orange tongue from a safe distance. :6
Wynona calls out, "I SAW that!" and takes off, into the air.
The foxtaur waves to the group, before returning to attend her herd.