May 25. Paradys is explored … and the locals don't seem friendly.
(Airship) (H'rral) (Paradys Lost) (Paradys) (Roho) (Wynona) (Zoltan)
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The Freedom's Dream
The airship is still grounded on this sky island which is almost unanimously referred to by the crew now as Paradys, even if it doesn't quite match the description. The island is covered with jungle vegetation, and would pass for somewhere in the thick of the Savan or the northern coasts of Lamu … if not for the sheer drop-off evident not all THAT far away, geographically speaking, from this huge mountain of a tower. The wall of cloud has dispersed, but the winds have not diminished, holding the airship trapped in this place and thwarting aerial exploration.

Exploration of the island has gone … slowly. Plus, there was another hazard that added some confusion … a freak storm that swept the island.

It was trouble enough to fly before. This particular storm made it pretty much impossible to go much of ANYWHERE. Only recently, it cleared up, and the crew is presently assessing the damage. Most of the crew are accounted for, but some scouts were out in the jungle when the storm hit. Now it remains to be seen whether they roughed it out and will make their way back finally.

Zoltan sits near his favorite point on the stop, the deck above the great Vartan masthead. Instead of his usual laborous polishing of it though, he merely sits and looks at it, occasionally casting a glance out over the jungle, or back behind him at the ship. He's been a great deal more quiet as of late, and even more morose.

Janus pads out onto the deck and looks around, heaving a deep sigh. For the millionth time (by some accounts, anyway) he mutters, "This isn't what I had in mind when I signed up on this scow."

Jezebel walks across the deck, bearing herself like a queen. Savanites pause in their work when she passes, and give her faint head nods. She does not approach Zoltan right now, though. She's presently out to get some fresher air, now that the storms have let up.

Captain Boghaz talks in loud whispers with a sickly-looking white bat toward the aft of the ship. She sniffles, sneezes several times, then says, "I'm certain of it. We passed into a very large Forbidden Zone. I can't cast spells to be sure, but I KNOW. I – " She then breaks into a mad sneezing fit once more.

Zoltan hugs his wings tighter to himself, as if hoping to shield off the stares of the Savanites that seem to be continually bearing down on his back.

Roho rather unexpectedly emerges from a thick stand of bushes near the airship. He's looking, for lack of a better word, wild. His normally combed fur sticks out at all angles, still a little damp from the storm. His face-fur has been smudged along the cheekbones, and his usual cloak is nowhere to be seen.

Silence. The near-constant howl of the winds that have been buffeting the ship stop. The absence of the sound leaves faintly ringing ears, and many of the Eeee hold their breath for the next few seconds.

Janus blinks and looks around.

The Vartan catches sight of the doctor and pulls himself up to his feet. He winces a bit as he stands, as he's been sitting in the same place for several hours now. "Hrr… doctor Roho?"

Roho's head lifts at the familiar voice, "Zoltan … is Boghaz anywhere around? I have important news… "

More moments pass … and then the insects, Creens, birds, and other creatures of the jungle resume their concert.

Janus looks over the railing at Roho, "You've looked better."

Roho chuckles, "Thank you … I've felt better, too."

Zoltan looks around the deck for the captain and rushes off to fetch him.

Janus nods, "I don't doubt it."

Boghaz is still at the rear part of the deck, waiting for a pause in Wynona's sneezing fits.

Janus walks over to the loading platform and hops aboard as it descends.

Zoltan squawks, "Captain! Roho is back… got something to report, he say it important."

Roho waits for the next available platform.

The loading platform touches the ground softly. Several bats squeak greetings to Roho … and then start chattering about their various ailments…

Janus reaches the bottom and chuckles, "Enough, you silly fliers. I think he's got other things on his mind."

Boghaz turns to Zoltan and sighs. It'll probably be a while before Wynona's fit subsides anyway. "Yes? Oh! The doctor? He's all right? Please! Let's get him below-decks quickly! He must be in wretched shape!"

Roho boards the platform, and closes his eyes, "I'm sorry, but I think you'll have to wait until later… " He grins at Janus, "Quite. Including my own problems, first … a healer can't do much if he's unwell, himself."

Janus nods to the bats. "Take us up, if you would?"

Zoltan gestures towards the platform. "He coming up now. Should take him to my room? Is probably more comfortable."

The platform comes up to the main deck and stops. "We're here!" the bats chirp helpfully, in case Roho can't tell on his own.

Janus hops off the platform and waits for Roho.

Roho steps out onto the deck, and heads for Boghaz, "Sir, before the storm, I had some rather enlightening experiences. Are you free now?"

Janus follows along behind Roho, nodding sagely.

"WACHOOO!" says Wynona. Boghaz grimaces, then nods to Roho. "Good to see you back, Doctor! You were greatly missed. I'll do my best to make sure you have some time to yourself to recover, though. You look … like you've been through quite a bit."

Zoltan winces at the sight of all the plants and tangles in Roho's fur.

Roho nods, "Quite a lot, actually. But I'd rather talk about this beforehand … it's very important."

Roho rasps, "If you like, we could talk in my room, while I tend to some of this… "

Zoltan goes over and snatches up a crate near some Savanites working on the ship. He pushes it behind Roho, offering him a place to sit.

Janus chuckles, "Or we can talk here.

Roho sits on the crate with a smile, "Thank you, Zoltan … okay, umm, to put it bluntly, there's other people on the island."

Janus arches his eyebrows.

Boghaz blinks. "Go on?" he says after a long pause.

Zoltan's ears perk. "You meets someone?"

"You DO mean … presently alive, yes? Not just signs of ruins or something?" Boghaz asks in order to clarify.

Roho rasps, "I was doing some explorations further afield. I found some ruins that felt like they'd once been crude buildings. Found a trap, as well, still tended and in working order. Fortunately, they hadn't replaced the logs used in it in quite some time, or I'd probably still be out there until you found me."

The Vartan's ears splay. There's traps out there then… he'll have to be more cautious with any further explorations.

Janus hmms. "That could have taken a while."

Boghaz grimaces. "Are you wounded? If you need some rest… " He looks divided. He would evidently like to hear the rest.

Roho nods, "Still alive. After the trap sprung, I caught a scent. I followed it until I could definitely hear someone, and tracked them to almost the edge of the island. From the sounds there, there are quite a few more out there … I turned back when it was clear there were a lot more of them than there were of me."

Roho rasps, "No, it's just my shoulders, I'm fine for the moment."

Janus rubs his jaw. "They aren't very hospitable, apparently."

Zoltan casts a sidelong glance at Jezebel… he knows someone who gives a nice shoulder massage.

Boghaz nods. "Is there anything we can get you? Food! Aha. Surely you could use some." He looks about, and gets the attention of a Savanite. "You! Get … sustenance. ANYTHING. Just make it fast!"

Jezebel is standing at the edge of the ship, by most appearances not paying the least bit of attention. But she just HAPPENS to be standing in a good spot to listen in on the conversation. And Zoltan has gotten to know her mannerisms quite well now – the way her tail moves a little differently when she's paying close attention, for instance.

The slave nods to Boghaz, and darts below-decks in search of food and drink.

Roho nods, "Actually … a drink would be even more welcome. This island is not the wettest I've seen. Except when it's dumping the water down on top of you. To go on … it smelled like the visitor wasn't Vartan. Maybe feline, though if it's a new race I haven't met before, it could be almost anything."

Boghaz glances in Janus' direction. His gaze wavers a little, but then he looks back to Roho. "Not Khatta or Kattha? Or even a Gigi?"

Roho shrugs, "It's hard to tell. Scents vary so much in any one race, that I can't really say for sure."

Janus doesn't bother to meet Boghaz' look.

Zoltan looks at Jezebel for a few moments, his face neutral… and a touch resigned. ( You're planning something, Third-Eye. And I hope to Dagh I find out what it is before it's too late. )

Boghaz nods, then adds, "Yes, you are quite right."

Zoltan shifts his weight a bit. "Is any chance you could show us way back there when you all better?"

Roho rasps, "Anyway … I marked my back-trail. I don't think the storm would've washed out all traces, though it'll certainly be slower than if it hadn't rained at all. If you want me to lead a party out to the area … yes, I could."

Janus nods. "I want to go."

Zoltan squawks, "I track good! With you nose and ears, and my eyes… we find trail easy."

Boghaz says, "It would seem now would be as good a time as any … No telling if that storm will be coming again soon. But I have some news for you as well. According to Wynona, we've passed into a Forbidden Zone. At some point, she believes this sky island will be coming to a stop. For how long, we don't know."

Janus wrinkles his nose.

Roho nods, thinking. "If you give me an hour or so, to get something to eat and drink, I could be ready enough to travel. The rest of the problems can wait."

Roho's left ear flags to an odd angle, "So … we're stuck?"

"The storm," Boghaz continues, with a sigh, "was part of our entering the Zone. We can expect another one on the way out." He nods and says, "Of course, Roho. And – Aha!" The Savanite returns with a tray of assorted munchies (and stale bread) and a bowl of water.

Roho seems to ignore all decorum, in tucking into the food and water.

The slave backs off a bit, counting his fingers.

Janus half-smiles.

Zoltan tries to smile warmly at the slave, "Thanks." he signs.

Janus chuckles softly. "I've been that hungry before."

Roho spends a while eating, pausing to nod his thanks to the slave. When he's done, he turns to Boghaz, "May I take a few minutes to take care of my fur, too? It's seen better days… "

Boghaz says, "Well! I suppose I shall let you be, good Doctor. And you certainly deserve what time you need for your fur. I'll see what can be done to prepare for an expedition. As much as I love this ship … I think it's about time I got away from it for a little while."

Zoltan squawks, "Coming with us, Captain?"

Janus looks at himself. "Anyone got an extra knife?

The slave bows, then backs away, still at hand in case summoned again.

Roho disappears below-decks, heading towards his room for some much-needed freshening up.

Zoltan looks at Janus. "What you need cut?"

Boghaz nods. "I don't see why not." To Janus, he says, "We can probably use some machetes."

Janus looks at Zoltan. "I like knives. Maybe I just want to balance it on my fingertip. Or maybe I'd like to be able to protect myself if we DO find someone else."

Jezebel walks up to Zoltan, then signs, "I don't trust him with a knife." She pauses, then adds, "Are you going as well?"

Zoltan looks back at Jezebel. "Would rather I stay?"

Jezebel pauses, then shakes her head. "Do as you please, Master. And I will stay or accompany you as you command." She bows her head.

Roho returns to the deck, a changed fox. While still a little worn looking, his fur is at least smoothed down and brushed. The smudges on his face have been replaced with darker soot, and he's wrapped his upper arms in cloth.

Janus looks around and sees Jezebel signing to Zoltan. "Going to brave the jungle again?"

Boghaz returns after consulting with some of his crew, those with him bringing some fairly standard equipment (rope, some rations, canvas for a shelter in case the rains return, some chipped chitin machetes).

Jezebel pulls something from the folds of her garment, and unrolls a cord. It's a little cloth pouch hanging on a cord. She puts it around Zoltan's neck.

Janus intercepts one of the people with the captain and claims one of the machetes.

Zoltan looks out at the other Savanites on the ship before looking back to Jezebel. "You can come with if you like. I not seen sign of ball anywhere." He winces a bit at the sound of Janus' voice then nods quietly. Zoltan seems awfully jumpy for some reason.

Roho rejoins the group, declining a machete from Boghaz.

Jezebel looks slightly surprised, then nods her head to Zoltan.

"Thank you." Zoltan signs to Jezebel. "Bugs been leaving me alone."

Boghaz says, "Well then. It looks like we are set." He shoulders what he can (which isn't much – Eeee are not renowned for their strength) and heads to the loading platform. "Let's keep this expedition somewhat small," he says. "If there are other persons here, we needn't approach with an army." He waves off a few bats.

Zoltan accepts a machete as well, less wear on his talons.

Jezebel doesn't take one of the machetes. But then, this is not surprising. Savanites aren't generally allowed to handle weapons.

Zoltan shoulders a much larger pack and holds out a hand to Jezebel, offering to help her onto one of the lowering platforms.

Roho's ears wilt at the packs, "Umm … you mind if I go without one?"

Jezebel takes the hand, and holds the hem of her skirts with the other hand, stepping out.

Janus hops onto the boarding platform. "Oh, I don't know. Right now I'd feel really good if we had an army.

Boghaz grins. "No trouble, good Doctor. You have carried plenty of our burdens already."

Roho smiles, "Thank you … if you don't mind, then, perhaps I'll range ahead as a scout. Since I know what to look for in the marks. But not too far ahead… "

The platform, once the expedition part is on board, lowers down to the jungle floor, and allows them to disembark. Several bats watch, keeping guard over the ship, and seeing the group off for as long as the jungle allows.

Zoltan inhales sharply and straightens himself out. He's working now, and Jezebel is watching. The less nervous he acts, the less suspicious she'll hopefully be.

The marked trail leads the group along the path he followed before.

Roho stays a little ahead of the group, though not really concentrating on concealing himself like before.

Janus stays on the edges of the group, where he can dive for cover really fast if need be.

The jungle only begrudgingly gives way to signs of ruins. Rotted timbers poke out from the vegetation … which could pass for fallen trees, except that they're clustered a bit oddly to be natural.

Zoltan tries to keep up with Roho. He watches the path for any signs of other people, and keeps his ears perked for noises.

In the middle of the path is a pile of shards of rotted-out wood, where two logs have been smashed together, end-on, and now lay on the ground. Something shiny catches the Vartan's eye – a thin strand of … zolk? … stretching across the path.

Janus looks at the logs thoughtfully.

Zoltan slows to look at one of the ruins. "You explore any of these? I wondering if they anything useful insides." He stops abruptly and examine the shiny… thing.

Roho stops well short of the trap, "I was exploring them, when I got mashed by some logs. Be careful… "

Janus advances to the site of the trap carefully and looks around.

Past the trap, there are hints through the foliage here and there of other remnants of this structure. By the size of these trees, it must have been ruined for a long time … and there must have been some sort of preservative used to treat the wood here to make it last this long, even in this state.

Zoltan nervously walks toward the strand… he's careful to not touch it.

Janus watches Zoltan. "What's that? The trigger?"

The strand lies slack across the path, glistening faintly.

Roho sniffs around the outside of the ruins for scents of the other island inhabitants.

Zoltan squawks, "Could be… could be dropped by whatever Roho saw."

Roho rasps, "The trigger for the trap was some sort of string across the ground… "

Janus looks around slowly. "That's probably the trigger then."

From behind the group, towards where they came, a loud snap of a twig is clearly heard.

Roho stops sniffing, and freezes at the snap…

Janus spins around, bringing his machete up.

Off to the right of this area, a short stone wall – collapsed in many places – can be seen, formed by rocks piled atop each other.

Despite the presence of insects and other expected jungle life, it seems almost like the air has become completely still. In the direction of the snap, it seems like there is total silence.

Zoltan slowly turns around, squinting at the direction of the noise.

Roho stalks silently off to one side.

Janus advances on the noise directly.

Quite clearly, one branch of one of the tree moves – despite the absence of wind.

Boghaz looks about, a bit out of place. He just stands his ground, looking in the direction of the sounds.

Zoltan sidesteps, watching the area where the tree branch moved as he walks closer to the stone wall.

Roho sniffs around more thoughtfully … Where's he smelled that before?

Janus turns his head to look at the branches.

Zoltan waves hastily to Jezebel, motioning for her to come join him.

Jezebel snaps out of just standing there … and dashes quickly over to Zoltan.

A figure begins to emerge from the path everyone has followed. Everyone tenses before you see its just one of the bats – one Boghaz instantly recognizes as one named Isakiel. He seems completely ignorant of everyone as he heads straight for the captain, squeaking, "Captain, oh Captain!"

Boghaz lets out a long breath, his shoulders slumping.

Zoltan whews and smiles at the Cheetah. "Close one." He signs.

Janus relaxes slightly, lowering the tip of his blade.

Roho starts breathing again.

Jezebel gives the incoming bat an annoyed look … and starts smoothing out her tail.

Janus looks around the clearing again, not quite ready to relax.

Boghaz says, "What IS it, Isakiel? If the archers were here, you'd be a pincushion by now, sneaking up on us like that! How did you walk this far without alerting us, anyway?"

Isakiel rushes toward the captain, his wings almost fluttering in excitement. "Captain," he pauses for breath. "I didn't do that. Walk this far, I mean. Or sneak up on you! No, no, well, you see Captain, I, um," Another pause. "I flew. I landed just nearby here and walked the rest of the way." He smiles excitedly at the captain.

Zoltan turns and examines the stone wall. He shakes his head for a moment as if shaking some other image from his mind.

Janus hisses softly. "Zoltan. There's something else out there."

Boghaz looks like he's about to chew out the bat, then pauses, thinking on the matter. "The winds … They're still. Of course!"

Janus lets his gaze roam aimlessly over the trees.

Isakiel looks expectant as the captain finally understands his meaning.

The Captain says, "Isakiel, take my place. I will get the crew off of their collective tail, and scouting the entirety of the island at once!"

Janus turns around and looks for Zoltan.

With that, Boghaz snaps out his wings, pauses just a bit (as if not QUITE so certain he won't get thrashed about by the wind once he clears the trees), and then breaks through. From what can be seen, he's flying without interference.

Zoltan freezes. "Be still." He whispers to Janus. "We wait and see what visitors do."

Isakiel blinks quietly, "Take your pl… " Suddenly realizing he may be questioning an order, his tone changes. "Place! Yes sir, I sure will. You can count on me. Absolutely, sir." He stiffens slightly.

Janus lets his machete fall to his side and makes a visible effort to relax. "Go on and look around. I'll keep an eye on them."

Some of the branches stir and sway, toward the edges of this area.

Zoltan looks back up at Boghaz, he inhales sharply… as if expecting the trees themselves to swallow up the captain.

Roho slowly pads over to rejoin Zoltan and Janus (and Jezebel, whom he tends to ignore). "I think … I'll stick with the main group for a bit," he whispers.

Janus's eyes widen. "Zoltan, they just flew up! I didn't see the direction, but it could have been after Boghaz

Isakiel visibly relaxes as the captain leaves, suddenly finding himself in the middle of the forest with people he barely knows.

Zoltan looks upwards. "No… they not going after captain. Is think they going towards big tower… "

Zoltan looks back at Roho. "You sure there no Vartan on this island?"

Janus says, "They looked pretty solid. They certainly weren't bats."

Roho shrugs, "Not sure at all. I didn't smell any, but that doesn't mean a thing."

Approaching the others, Isakiel tries to be helpful. "When I flew in, I didn't see anything, not a thing, other than all of you, of course." Alright. So he isn't that helpful.

Zoltan scratches his chin. "Roho… if we get you up in branches where fliers were… you think you could get better scent and find outs what thing we saw was?"

Roho nods, "Yeah … but don't expect me to be able to climb any trees."

Zoltan grins and unfolds his wings. "I get you up there easy."

Janus keeps an eye on the treeline.

Zoltan squawks, "I can carry you or you can ride on back. Whichever you more comfortable with."

Roho starts to say something, then stops. He thinks a moment, "Having you carry me would be best, I guess."

Jezebel pokes around the ruins, eyeing a few broken pieces of wood and stone, but evidently finding nothing to her liking.

Janus walks over to the stone wall and leans against it.

The stone wall, despite being collapsed in bits, doesn't betray Janus. It's a bit sturdier than it looks.

Isakiel walks by the low stone wall, picking up one of the smaller stones in his hand. "This is it? What everyone was looking for? It doesn't look that interesting, just like any other pile of rocks."

Zoltan puts a hand on Roho's shoulder to let him know he's ready, then as soon as the fennec is situated in his arms he scrawks to the rest of the group. "Is maybe should search ruins. If you find little bits of stone save them… is been collecting them." He gives his tail a swish, showing off his latest collection. Then with that he's up and off to the tree tops.

Jezebel smiles and shakes her head at Zoltan, then resumes prodding about the ruins.

Roho winces at the hand on his shoulder, then grits his teeth as he gets taken aloft. Once they're situated in the tree top, he starts sniffing around thoroughly.

Janus looks at Isakiel and shrugs. "Doesn't it, though?"

Zoltan carefully perches himself in the section of tree he saw the flier in…

Roho sniffles around more, feeling the bark for markings. He shrugs, "I'm not sure. Not Vartan, like you are. Good claws, by the marks."

Isakiel swivels one of his sensitive ears toward the Vartan, "Find stones? I don't think we'll have any problem finding stones. Big ones, little ones, all the stones you want. Although what good they are except maybe as ballast I'll never know." His wings stretch slightly.

Zoltan peers at the claw marks. He gives the branches a good inspection as well, hoping to find a clump of fur or feathers.

As the bat prods around, passing around some trees … he comes across three poles, two of them broken. The middle one has a feline skull perched on it. Two more feline skulls lie on the ground. Each has a hole punched through the crown.

Zoltan sighs, nothing. "You ready to go down now?" He scrawks to Roho, giving the horizon a good look over while he's up here.

Roho nods, "I can't find anything else… "

From here, Zoltan can see the envelope of the airship – or part of it – as well as (of course), the tower.

Zoltan looks at the tower for a good long moment before settling the fennec back into his arms.

Isakiel turns around, his wing almost knocking one of the poles over. "Oh look at this! Skulls! I wonder who they belong to. I think maybe a Khatta, probably one with really bad luck!" He glances around the poles. "Not that many stones, though."

Janus pushes himself off the wall and goes to look at what Isakiel found.

Roho braces himself for the descent, "Okay, ready… "

With a swirl of wind, Zoltan descends back down to the jungle floor. He gently sets Roho back onto his feet.

Jezebel hurries over to Zoltan, and signs, "I really do not like this place … but I have found something, Master."

Janus sees the skulls and recoils. "Gack! That's sick.

The bat curiously picks a skull up, sticking a finger through the hole at the top of the head. "This doesn't look good. I wonder if someone drove a spike through this poor unfortunate fellow's head. Maybe it happened after he died. Oh! I know. You know those guns that they have? Maybe someone *shot* this poor cat."

Zoltan's chest freezes up as he sees the skulls. He just stands there for a bit, staring at them.

Janus quickly spins on his heel and walks away from the skulls.

Jezebel looks a bit sick at the display. She tries to pull Zoltan along to a jumble of fallen stones and timbers.

Zoltan numbly follows Jezebel's lead. ( Oh Dagh… it was just a dream, it had to be just a dream. )

Roho finds a stump, and takes the opportunity to sit for a few moments.

Isakiel glances up at the others. "Its just a bunch of skulls! They can't hurt you." He looks into the eyes of one of the skulls. "I wonder what his name was. Or her name. You can't really tell, just by looking at a skull I don't think. Hey, where is everyone going?"

Jezebel points to a spot that she has only partially cleared aside. More bone. And something shiny catches the Vartan's eye.

This bone, however, is not feline. Not any more feline, that is, than Zoltan himself.

Zoltan's breathing quickens as he stoops to examine the bone. He starts to quickly clear the area of other debris.

Janus walks until he is out of sight of Isakiel and leans against a tree. "Sick. Sick. Sick."

Zoltan's excavation confirms his suspicions. He uncovers the skeletal remains of a Vartan … and by the breaks in the skull, signs of being delivered by a weapon, he must have died a violent death.

The Eeee replaces the skull on top of one of the broken poles, and steps back. "Might as put him back home. Maybe putting skulls on poles like this is their burial ritual. Oh well." He wipes his hands on his trousers, and with a flap of his wings, strolls over to see what the Vartan has found.

Janus settles his stomach and heads back toward the others. "I'm beginning to get the feeling that people aren't really welcome here.

Zoltan pulls out one of his wing feathers and sets it against the skull of the Vartan. He says something in an intelligible squawking tongue, probably his native language, and then slowly rises to his feet.

Isakiel looks down at more bones and skulls. "I wonder why these aren't on poles?"

Jezebel backs away from the skeleton, and then glares at the bat.

Janus pads up and sees the new skeletons, and swallows. "I really don't think that people are welcome here."

The cheetah goes to Zoltan and signs, "There is only death here. Must we remain? I see no trace of these persons the doctor spoke of. And if we did meet them, I get the feeling the confrontation would not be pleasant."

Zoltan goes over and tries to examine one of the skulls more closely. He looks back at Janus, then back at a skull. "Maybe… or maybe something happen. Hopefully we gets out of here before we find out what."

Janus realizes that he's hanging onto his machete with a grip so tight that his fingers are starting to hurt … but can't quite seem to relax enough to change it.

"We be back soon. Just stay with me, I not let anything happen to you." Zoltan assures the Savanite. He gives one of the skulls a closer look over, looks back at Janus, then goes back to join the group.

The slightly annoying bat glances at the rest of the expedition, and frowns slightly. "Is something wrong? I think something is, but I don't know what. I don't see anything to be worried about, really."

Roho stands at the Vartan's approach, looking a little stiff, "What'd you find?"

Zoltan goes back to the Vartan skeleton and collects the little bits of shiny stones that are located around the skeleton, pockets them, and then walks away. ( Rest with Dagh, poor soul. ) He blinks at Roho. "Is no sure… but I notice that skulls is little like Janus' head. Could be nothing."

Janus blinks.

Roho blinks, "Oh … I see."

Janus resists the urge to reach up and feel his head.

Jezebel gives Janus this long look … like she's sizing him up. For a wooden pole, maybe?

Zoltan squawks, "Skulls had big mou-… er… jawbone. Like Janus. Maybe they big relatives of you, yes?"

Janus looks around, like he's suddenly got a trapped feeling. "No. I don't see how they could be, anyway."

*bzzzzzz*

Zoltan's ears perk at the sudden noise.

Isakiel looks around, then quietly starts strolling to the wall when his ears catch a strange buzzing sound.

Roho's ears lift at the buzz…

Janus ows! and swats at his arm. "Hey!

Roho blinks at the swarming bugs, "Umm? Were these guys here a few minutes ago?"

Jezebel takes Zoltan's tail in her hands, and inspects the shinies.

Zoltan clutches the little bag around his neck.

Isakiel turns around, his ears leading him to Janus. "Look at all those bugs! All kinds and types." He takes a couple of steps back toward the rest of the group.

Janus acks and starts to swat at the bugs. "Not again!"

Jezebel has now taken a keen interest in Zoltan's wing-shoulders, giving him a light massage, ignoring Janus and his plight.

Zoltan squawks, "Hey bat! Is you had lunch yet? Look like there lots of bugs for you now."

Isakiel scratches his head as the bugs swarm around him, but not on him. "Now that's really strange. They're probably mosquitos and don't like my blood." He says, mostly to himself.

Roho holds his arms out inquisitively, "Nor mine… "

Janus swears loudly and profusely in his native tongue, spinning around in circles and swatting at anything that moves.

Jezebel coughs. Must have swallowed a bug.

Zoltan glances back nervously at Jezebel. "Odd time for massage," he signs.

The cheetah smiles innocently at the Vartan.

Janus starts to back out of the clearing, back toward the ship.

As the feline moves, that appears to be the best way to keep the bugs off – It takes them a while to catch the cat's scent and zero in on him again.

Roho pads after Janus, taking some herbs from his bag. "Stay still a moment, Janus, let me try something… "

Zoltan glances back at Jezebel, already guessing what her reaction will be now that her entertainment's spoiled.

Jezebel's look of disappointment quickly snaps into a neutral gaze at nothing in particular.

Janus stops and glares at Roho. "Please hurry."

With a quick swipe of his hand, Isakiel makes an attempt to catch a bug. He fails. Glancing over at Zoltan, "Actually a lot of these look really good. But they move so fast. You know, I've found sometimes that it's notworth catching them. You just lay a few traps, and poof! Lunch right there for you, and you don't even have to work hard. Anyway, no, I haven't had lunch, why, would you like to join me?"

Roho starts rubbing leaves over Janus, covering the major sources of scent with a mixture of mint and pine.

Roho rasps, "Janus, did you touch anything on the way out? You smell different… "

The bugs seem a little disoriented, not bearing quite so doggedly (buggedly?) on Janus now.

Zoltan looks a bit green. "I prefer to not eats anything with more than four legs."

Janus swipes his hands at the bugs again. "That helped some, Roho.

Isakiel swivels an ear, "You can pull the extra ones off, if you want to."

Roho tries to figure out what the scent is clinging to Janus…

Zoltan tries to smile, he wobbles a bit… then gets a bug up his nose. *WAAAAA-CHOO!*

Isakiel steps back from the sneezing Vartan, not to mention a high-velocity ejected bug.

Janus blinks and shakes his head to clear it, knocking a bug out of his ear. He looks into the trees, a very perturbed expression on his face that quickly becomes intent. He looks around and swallows, "Guys … we may be in trouble."

Roho stops in his tracks, "How … well, how so?"

Janus lets out a slow breath, "Because someone knows we are here."

Roho rasps, "How do you know?"

Zoltan rubs his nostrils. "More visitors… " He mutters.

The bat blinks. "Besides the bugs?" He wipes some spit off of his arms.

Roho sighs, "Oh… "

Janus looks around. "Because I could see them."

Roho looks like he'd like nothing better than a nice nap, right about now.

Zoltan brushes himself off. "Even though what we see no look very good here, I still think we be better off to no act aggressive. Is probably be best if we go back to ship though… "

Janus looks around some more. "Yeah. Probably a really good idea."

Roho's ears perk for a moment, and he frowns, slowly settling down.

In a moment of silence, the bat says excitedly, "Everyone, there really is someone or something out there, I heard it! I don't know how many or how big… Maybe it's thecaptain and the crew come to get us!"

Zoltan walks up to Roho and places a hand on his back. "Is can carry you back to ship if you too tired to walk."

Janus shakes his head. "It's not the captain.

Roho shakes his head, "I'm fine … but I heard something."

Janus looks at the bat and grabs his arm, yanking him toward the path. "Go. Whoever it is, we're outnumbered.

Zoltan squawks, "Slowly… if they fliers it no make difference how fast we go, they catch us. If we go slowly, we no look like we scared."

Isakiel is yanked, his arm feels like it's going to come out of its socket. He squeaks loudly, "Careful with my arm! Ow. Are you crazy or something? "

Zoltan leans down to Roho. "What noise sound like? Wingbeat? Voices?"

Janus gives the bat a LOOK, "YES. I'm Crazy. And if you aren't careful, I'll take it out on YOU."

Roho shakes his head, "Not sure … neither of those. Just … movement."

Isakiel looks back at Janus, speechless, at least for this particular second.

Janus hisses softly at the bat.

Jezebel clutches Zoltan's arm. Her tail has puffed out again.

Zoltan slowly starts down the path back to the airship. "Could be anything… Creen, branch." He frowns at Janus, and gives Jezebel a reassuring pat on the arm.

Just down the path, there's an obstruction which wasn't there before. It's a pole … with a bat head on top … facing the group as they make their way through the jungle.

Zoltan freezes.

Isakiel pulls his arm back, "Give me my arm back. Trust me I have more uses for it then you do! The nerve!" He twitches a little. "You're giving me your bugs!" He wipes one off with his free hand.

Janus lets go of the bat's arm, giving him another shove toward the boat. When he sees the fresh obstruction he hisses again and looks around the trees.

Isakiel takes a couple of steps and is stopped by the morbid display.

Zoltan's ears plaster themselves against his head. He gulps, and then approaches the pole.

Janus's tail twitches violently and he spins around, not wanting to look at the grisly sight.

Several bugs scatter at Zoltan's approach … only to settle in again.

Isakiel approaches the pole, and plucks the head out from the top of the pole. He examines it. "This looks familiar." He looks lost in thought for a few moments. "I know, this is Torr! No wonder he never came back!"

Jezebel looks sick … and darts over to some bushes.

Roho sniffs curiously at the head…

Zoltan steadies himself and begins to examine the ground around the pole, perhaps there's more of those claw marks.

Isakiel examines the head, but quickly decides it isn't going to give him any more clues. "Oh Torr." He sighs sadly. "Well, at least I won't have to pay him back."

Zoltan peers closer at the ground. "I no think fliers we saw did this. Roho… is scent here same as was in trees?"

Roho rasps, "Not exactly the same … smells more feline… "

Roho rasps, "It's more like the one I tracked before."

Isakiel reverently places the head back in its resting place – on top of the pole.

Janus swallows, "I'm thinking that it is a territory warning. Cross that line at your own risk."

Isakiel says, "It's asilly warning. Torr always had better ways of telling me to keep out of his hotel room when we were at port."

Zoltan squawks, "Is anyone gots a robe or something we can put head in. Is no rights to leave it here."

Jezebel staggers back, looking drained. She looks at Zoltan, and doesn't appear to be the least bit ready to volunteer anything to wrap the head up in.

The Vartan pulls a waterskin out of his pack and offers it to Jezebel to clean herself off with.

Roho rasps, "I left my cloak somewhere around here… "

Roho rasps, "We could use that, I guess."

The cheetah takes the waterskin, and pours some of the water onto a shaking hand, splashing and wiping at her face.

Isakiel looks over at Zoltan. "Its just a head, and its just Torr. There's not even a body! Besides he looks pretty comfortable up there on a pole. And I definitely don't want to be carrying around a dead head around! What makes you think he'd be better off in the ground somewhere? "

Roho wanders off for a few minutes, and returns with his cloak in hand.

Janus has little enough to wear himself, he certainly has nothing to offer as a carry sack.

Zoltan makes a point of standing himself in between Jezebel and the head. "I think that whatever these 'felines' is here… they no the friendly ones… which mean is maybe good idea if we try and locate fliers on island. Meanwhile is also good idea if we let captain know that natives no friendly… "

Janus turns to look back toward the ruins.

Nothing stirs amidst the ruins … save for the occasional Creen flitting about, the ever-present bugs, and the like.

Zoltan gently fans the Savanite with a wing.

Roho shrugs, and walks up to the head, plucking it from the pole and wrapping it in his cloak…

Jezebel makes a point of not looking in Roho's general direction.

Janus shouts something that really doesn't sound friendly.

Isakiel sighs. People can be so insistent. "Well, we can go forward or back. I don't think we have many other choices. The ruins back there look desolate… but we've been there."

A couple of birds startle from the underbrush, and flap away, crying out.

Zoltan walks up to the pole and tries to pluck it from the ground.

The bat glances curiously at Zoltan, "What, you want to bury the pole with the head too?"

Janus lets out a slow breath and turns back toward the others.

Roho rasps, "I think perhaps we should head back to the ship. We're not a very strong force here… "

"No." Zoltan responds and tries to snap the pole in two.

The pole snaps, sending splinters flying.

Zoltan drops the pieces on the ground. "That OUR message… "

Zoltan sets his jaw and begins walking back to the airship.

Janus steps over the broken pole and looks back one final time.

The pieces lie behind. The pole was fairly thick and sturdy … but it might as well have been a match stick.

Isakiel blinks lightly. "I wonder if they heard us. The snap was pretty loud. They might have heard."

Roho follows behind Zoltan … probably the safest place to be…

Janus turns his back on the ruin and heads back toward the ship, staying a few feet behind the others but not looking back.

Isakiel walks out ahead of Janus, keeping his arms away from that bully of a Jaguar. "I just hope nobody will follow us back, whoever they are."

---

GMed by Greywolf

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Today is 12 days after Harvest Tide, Year 25 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6124)