Orea

The Search for Sanja

The Dawn came, hot and dry, and with it, the knowledge that Sanja was still missing. It had been a week, and her tracks were fading. She was still far ahead, heading northwards. The news Kjaranna had brought from the Bes visit the previous night was still fresh, but the pack chose to continue the search, under Gangix and Kja’s leadership.

The day grew hotter, and brought a stirring of wind from the south-west. A glance told the Zinka what they needed to do. The dust devils were stirring from the shifting sands of Mehenna, and keen to play. Quickly coming together, they worked to build their low tent, out of woven canvas, hide, ropes and bone, and took refuge, moments before the sandstorm hit them.

As they huddled inside, they heard, faintly at first under the howl of the wind, and then quickly louder and louder, the shrieks of Stirges, horrible ugly things with long hollow beaks, as they flew overhead, searching for stranded victims to drain of their blood. With so many screaming overhead, Kjaranna suggested silence as their best defense, and this seemed to be working, until a particularly fat one accidentally bounced off the roof with a surprised squawk. What followed was a somewhat awkward battle where the pack attempted to kill the Stirges that found them, protect the tent from opening to the storm, and ward off more of the bloodsuckers by imitating their calls.

The storm lasted until the Sun was high in the sky, and so the pack were only able to continue the search in the cooling Dusk. With the tracks lost, it was only luck that led them to a stand of rocks, where they found the remains of a fire. Assuming it was Sanja’s, they decided to continue north, towards the land of the Arota.

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A Lost Child

A memory…

Wandering the western reaches of Zinka territory, gathering Jalamba cactus for its sweet flesh, spicy fruit, and spines, a young Ksushen’ka looked up towards the slowly setting Sun, and caught a glimpse of a circling sand drake, high above. Usually found in small packs, these cowardly scavengers were common sights throughout this area of standing stones and Jalamba, on the edge of Mehenna, which had been encroaching north in recent months. Ignoring the drake at first, Ksushen’ka continued to gather more spicy fruits into her woven bags, hoping to make a rich soup tonight, hot enough to make the Old Mother cry.

Hearing a high-pitched yap, she looked up sharply, to see more sand drakes in the sky, all starting to dive towards the ground. Curious, she pulled her bags closed, and trotted off towards a sandy hill, dropping to all fours when she came close to the ridge. There, in the hollow, was a small Kekuan child, dirty, thin and ragged. He was limping badly, and looking closely, she saw the Jalamba spine sticking straight through his foot. Around him, the sand drakes were beginning to circle, making hungry growling and yapping sounds, while another continued to fly above. Unhooking the gigantic sword from her back, she prepared to intervene, when a flash of sun on metal caught her eye. There, on the opposite ridge, were two armed Kekua, and as she watched, they disappeared. Ksushen’ka immediately tried to make her way towards them without being seen, but, suddenly, she heard a scream, as the last drake swooped down and knocked the child to the ground. The others closed in.

In a desperate bid to save the injured child, Ksushen’ka leaped up and charged towards them. Quick and ferocious, the sand drakes fell, one after another, and soon tried to flee. With a cry, and heavy beating of her wings, she launched up and hacked the last of them from the air. Breathing heavily, she turned to see the child, weak and pale, as the rotten saliva of the drakes began to enter his body. Cleaning the wounds as best she could, she picked him up, and began the long walk home to camp.

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