Hesari re-adjusted the large cloak and propped open the side with a shaft for air to be whisked in. He had done this at Hazel's orders and Crow seemed to accept it as well with no complaint. But the chief still hadn't remarked about the larger rat.
  The river-dog shuffled over to to Agripha and Hazel, who were conversing. He stopped a few paces short with this head turned down, respecting their conversation, but still making his presence known.

OOC- nudges RedPreist Where do you want to go with this?

Darius, are you going to jump in?

OOC- This didn't die on us, did it? I was greatly enjoying it. 😛

OOC: Do you mind if I join in? I'll be RPing with my albino crow, Ruby.

OOC: I don't mind at all.

ooc: So sorry for the delay, guys, work's been kickin' moi turds. And again, I'm totally cool with anyone who wants to jump in and play along. Hope my post doesn't suck too much, lol.

Crow listened intently as he worked; meeting travelers - LIVE travelers, at least - was an unfortunate rarity in the Territories. Non-clan vermin and clanless rogues, or "Falgir", were always fascinating for their stories and their immeasurably different lifestyles. And now, these beasts had arrived, and from the NORTH, no less, where the tribes only stopped before the sea! "I hope you won't mind a question, but who are you? Not you personally but your clan, who are these 'Juska'? I can honestly say I have never heard of them before."

As he spoke, the Seer dabbed around the wound with a sharp concoction of vinegar and myrrh to cleanse infection, and then selected a small pouch of what appeared to be soft, white ash, and he thought of a way to try and explain. " 'Juska' are warrior clans. We are…we are made up of separate skills, bestowed upon us by the Fates and the gods. Thieves, warriors, huntsbeasts, seers, and craftsbeasts, listening to and attempting to live by their demands. Today, four great Juska nations run free from this forest to the Southern Woodland**, housing countless proud clans and tribes. Right now, you are in the Pike Nation Territory."

"And WE are the Juskasen, the clan in charge of all others under the Pike banner," Griff snarled quietly, green eyes narrowed to slits in the rain. "Or least, 'til some wretched Juskamar or Juskator decide they want that title. Hope Hazel and them got word back, we'll bloody the noses of any enemy on sight, by gods."

"Such inpudence cannot be overlooked," Sandface hissed, and shook her pelt of raindrops. "Endmar's group 'specially got a lot of nerve, thinkin' they own everything!"

Crow quietly cleared his throat, and the bristling ladies fell silent immediately, embarrassed for speaking out-of-turn with their Seer, who wasn't angry in the least, but thought that a quick subject change, preferably one that did NOT induce paranoia and stress, might be in order. Carefully, he lined up his vision with the arrow-shaft's angle of entry, and continued in the same easing tone. "If all goes well, we will escort you to the Mid-Land, the area between the borders that are off-limits to clansbeasts. From there, you could navigate without trespassing easily to wherever you need to go. No reason for simple travelers to get caught-up in clan affairs. Take a breath."

Without warning, Crow took advantage of Adimaro's inattention: the Seer both seized the arrow and removed it with a precise strike to the chest, in the blink of an eye. The next moment, he cupped the curiously soft, thick, ash-like substance into his other paw and pressed it upon the open wound. "Another breath, Adimaro, keep breathing. It'll numb the pain in a few moments."

The shaman tossed the intact point and bloody shaft away. If there was a stone piece left, it would already be close to the surface, and likely drawn out when the ash-and-clay mixture solidified. Applying another pawful to the area, Crow's voice dropped to a low pitch as he began the Healing Chant.

–--

"Excuse meh, chief. What about the fat one. We don't know if he is fetchin' other follow'as. This don't feel right to meh." He paused, waiting for a response, but saw or heard none. He didn't even blink. He continued slowly, but dropping every word like berry barbs. "Why would two beasts set up camp in the woods without knowing where they was goin'? What they was doin'? Surely they knew this was clan territory. See the way that 'un blinks in the direction of his blade? I don't trust 'em."

Hazel pointedly did not answer the question until he, Hesari, Seneca, and Garreth were well out of earshot. He scanned the treeline carefully, and then, in a low voice, turned to the smaller weasel. "You're the swiftest. Take a message to the western border, and alert the Walkers that we may have hostiles playing with our boundary markers - it could be the precursor to a raid. See if they know anything about it, or have noticed anything out of the ordinary.

"And you're right, Hesari - they are not trustworthy." That fox in particular…Hazel's paw tightened on his sword hilt. He had better not betray his brother's trust. "But my Shaman is. I have problems with his decisions, too, but Crow has never steered this Clan wrong before. I'm sure he feels that the Fates have given him a good reason to allow their lives. Nonetheless - you and Garreth are the stealthiest. Go after the big rat and keep an eye on his friends." He turned to Hesari, and looked him dead in the eye. "Watch them only. Do not make your presence known. But, if they put one paw out of line - give you any reason whatsoever to suspect that they are in league with the enemy…"

And this goes for you also, fox, should I find you are a liar.

"…Offer their still-beating hearts for Hetzayna to feast upon."

**Southern Lands - after the incident many years ago with the Juskabor in "Taggerung", the Juska expanded to Southsward, but never beyond the sea.

*Hetzayna is the Sun God 🙂 I should probably write more about it in the profiles.

Adimaro listened to Crow as he explained about the Juska and some of their ways. The explanation did leave some more questions in his mind when it was done. How exactly did the "Fates and the Gods" bestow these skills on them? How did one listen to the Fates and gods? Were these Juska nations unified or separate? For that matter, were the clans of the Pike Nation unified, or was there turmoil amongst them?  And then the warriors either side of him spoke up, giving him a bit of information. Apparently the Nations themselves weren't even unified, which made the idea that the Nations could work together almost laughable. But it also put him and his in a bad spot. If what the warriors said was true, then it was entirely possible that Adimaro and his comrades were in the middle of a brewing clan war, and that did not bode well with him. He made mental note that, as soon as he was free of these Juskasen, he would lead his group as far away from here as possible.
            "If all goes well, we will escort you to the Mid-Land, the area between the borders that are off-limits to clansbeasts. From there, you could navigate without trespassing easily to wherever you need to go. No reason for simple travelers to get caught-up in clan affairs. Take a breath." Adimaro agreed completely with what Crow said, there was absolutely no reason for him to get involved in this. Wait, take a breath? The unexpected order confused Adimaro, right up until he felt a sudden jolt of pain as Crow struck his chest and yanked the arrow the arrow out of his shoulder. He gave a loud gasp of pain, the arrow coming out of his shoulder hurt almost as much, or even more, then it had going in. the fist gasp was followed by a series of several more as he attempted to catch his breath. He watched as Crow pressed the white substance to his wound, telling him to breathe, and then starting to chant in a low voice in a language Adimaro didn't understand.
              He waited about a minute, the pain slowly starting to numb and Crow still chanting softly, before he spoke. "So, why are you called crow?" he decided to ask, thinking he might as well get to know his medic a bit better.
OOC: I'll continue with David and the rest in my next post.

OOC- Lol, Hesari isn't a vermin. He is a Nomad Otter.

IC- He moved with stealth, clearing the vines or anything else ahead with his spear-shaft. They watched the dirt trail and inspected the paw prints when they were clear in the moist mud. Claw-marks and heavy imprints in the toes of the paw. That beast was running. And running with purpose. The otter adjusted the grip on his blood-hoe and lept after Gerreth into foliage and through frightened birds. Funny, there were many of them
    For a good league, they pranced on. Sweat beaded on his fur and he wiped it out of his eyes. The sting from the salt burned them for a second and he slowed down to regain his sight. Blinking helped, but he saw the problem immediately afterward.
    There was a stream. And that trail led right into it.
    Paw prints let right into the water. But not out. Apparently this rat wasn't as stupid as it looked.
    The duo paced for a few heartbeats and the otter's blood boiled. He beat the ground with his rudder, hard enough to leave an imprint. "Oi, what do we does now?"
    He turned and faced Gerreth, demeanor begging for suggestions.

OOC: So who should post next?

OOC- 🙂 You. I got it covered if no-body takes up the other vermin. You don't HAVE to know what will happen.

Several minutes after Davidson had arrived the others had packed together the camp and were plodding along behind the large rat, who was leading the way to Adimaro. David had explained in more detail what was going on, and what they were supposed to be doing. After he had answered any questions his comrades had had, he told them to get the camp together ASAP. That was at least ten minutes ago, and now they were walking along the path that David had plowed out earlier in his mad charge. The group trudged through the wet rain and mud rather sullenly, having expected to get to rest tonight instead of going out in the rain and mud. Many grumbles and curses were heard during that march, except from Coulton, who simply walked and occasionally tilted his head back to look at the sky or out to the sides.
            After another few minutes Coulton finally spoke up. "Dave." He said, walking up so he was right next to the giant rat. David turned slightly and looked down at the medic, a questioning look on his face. "Dave," the ferret continued," I think we should stop."
              "Why?"
              "Well, you left a fairly wide trail, and if these beast's you left Adimaro with really are warriors, then I don't think they'd trust you two, and would probably have followed you, which would be easy all things considered" he said in his lazy voice. This revelation caused David to stop in his tracks, which also caused Jacopo and Jaecar to stop as well.
              "Why'd we stop, dave?" Jacopo asked, his paws moving to finger his dirks.
                "Coult thinks I may have been followed" he said.
                "May have? there's no 'may' to it. You left a trail like a falling boulder" Coulton said, shuffling his footpaws in the mud of the large giant-rat sized trail they were currently standing in.
                David looked left, the way they had come, and then right, where his trail lead into a rain engorged stream (which was still small enough to walk through) and continued on several dozen yards upstream. He then turned back to the group and lowered his voice. "Alright, what do you guys think we should do?" he asked.

OOC: hey is this still going or what?

OOC- … Yeah, I was expecting a little more to work with than that...  😛 Sorry dude. I don't see my opening.

OOC: sorry, I was having a fair amount of bother making that post. I think we made need to do some planning on this one.

OOC- Oh yeah?! Well, well….

Moo.  😠

ooc: Foo? o_O

The shaman did not respond until he'd finished the chant. With a kind, and almost sad smile, he only replied, "I am the Messenger."

He sat back, and wiped his paws on a cloth. "The clay will protect the wound, and fall off when its healed. 'Til then, don't touch it. When Hazel returns, you can - " Crow flinched. "You can…"

Without warning, the small body suddenly stiffened, seized, and the eyes rolled back. With a sudden, constricted gasp for air, the Juska keeled onto his side, twitching. The air dragging through his lungs was hoarse and broken, as his limbs jerked, out of his control.

The last coherent thought he could muster before the rapid lights began to flash behind his eyes was only a humble, but annoyed, wish for better timing, next time.

--

Garreth shook his pelt of raindrops. At least they're not far. "I thought you were a river-dog, 'Sari," he reminded in amusement, sniffing the air. "Ain't this a river?" The blind weasel found the situation more than a little ironic. What wasn't funny, though, was that the rainfall was now too heavy to detect any scent trail. He would have to wholly rely on Hesari to know where they were.

With no sight, no smell, and hardly any sound over the downpour, the archer did know this: a sixth sense, perhaps, telling him that not only were their targets close, but that they themselves were not alone. Garreth trusted his gut…and as proven today, it was very rarely wrong.

Someone else was out there, watching them, watching them all. With no words to acknowledge this aloud to his partner, and probably alert the watcher that their presence was known, Garreth stayed silent, and easily drew an arrow and notched it to his bow. He hoped that Hesari would understand this reaction.

Be ready.

Hesari silently pushed the arrow tip down and turned to his companion. He mouthed the word Alive… and began skirting around a boulder. He twisted his spear shaft anxiously, pausing to listen for a moment before continuing on. He could feel the vermin right behind him follow his paw-steps.

This one is useful… He thought to himself. Most of the other Juska were blind followers, but only for those rich with authority. Otherwise, they were a bitter, spiteful clan. This one, he seemed different. The past couple days were the first time that he had really spent time around Gerreth, but the jury was in already. Gerreth… was a most impressive wilderness beast.

They perched themselves right above the stream, a small little leap into the water, but a decent hiding place... And waited.

"You left a trail like a falling boulder!"

Stupid vermin. Trying to sound discreet, but easily noisier than the forest. But there were a good half dozen or so. No way they could take them all alive... Hesari looked back towards his companion and nodded slowly.

"Oi, what do ya thinks we should do?"

The two lept down into the water and the otter bashed his spear into a very surprised rat's face. Before the creature fell back, he was already swinging the shaft towards another member of the troupe.

"Oi, what do ya thinks we should do?"

The archer had no time to respond. Garreth backed up the stream as Hesari engaged the invading fighters, but did not release the bowstring. The arrow and limbs strained against the yew rest as he held tight, slogging steadily and carefully against the swollen deluge. He could hear them now, as they broke from their stealthy cover; five…no, six or seven, ambushing now from all sides.

Flit! Flit!

The weasel's ear twitched, and he turned sideways to make himself a smaller target, tilted his head and listened to the deadly shafts zip a hairsbreadth past his face. At long last, Garreth raised his bow, in the direction of the last arrow, and released - and his aim found true between the eyes of a stoat, poised to stab Hesari from behind.

Once more, and again; he listened hard, aiming around Hesari's loudly-splashing location. He scowled as the next arrow he released at an oncoming foe flew too low, slippery from all the water - and though he missed getting hit in the face by the weasel's stone-club, the follow-up struck him hard in the ribs, bowling him over and effectively winding him.

( ooc - Posting at the request of RedPriest. Marillac to be joining as well. )

Every time she found rest, she got the urge they she needed to keep moving. She ignored that urge once before, and things ended badly. No more would she ignore her gut feelings. She was outnumbered, though the only good thing was that she knew that she was wanted alive. Sometimes, however, being wanted alive could be worse than being wanted dead. She knew as long as she lived, she would be hunted.

The female polecat was wet, cold, tired and hungry, but still she pressed on, wanting…needing to be as far away as possible. She knew he would not be stopping in the rain that plagued the lands, nor would she.

Eve did not see the boundary markers as she entered the territory, but as she got deeper in, she began to see signs of others in the hunting grounds. Prints in the mud, and mud being kicked up onto the tall grass. She weaved through the tall grass, wincing as she stepped on a broken piece of arrow that was half hidden in the mud and grass.

( ooc - hope that is good enough.  😛 )

Before any of the rest of the group could respond to Davidson?s question, the sounds of battle suddenly broke in over the pounding of the deluge. The group turned collectively in the direction of the noise, which happened to be coming in the same direction as their desired route. Davidson growled a low rumble like thunder in his chest. Coulton finally looked something other than calm, a little bit of worry entering into his face as he looked at the others responding to Davidson's thunder. They were all starting to reach for their various weapons, looks of determination, even excitement, beginning to form on their faces. Coulton quickly stepped between them and the stream, his feet squelching into the thick mud as he set them down firmly.
"Now hold on, we don't even know what is going on over there" he said, raising one paw palm outward toward them and jerking the thumb of his other paw towards the sounds, "Maybe we should wait and check out what is going on before we get involved?" The three vermin standing before him seemed determined to fight for a few seconds more, then Jacopo walked forward, shrugging his shoulders.
"Your probably right Coult" he said as he walked past the ferret. He stepped up to the tall grass and reeds that bordered the stream and cautiously peered through them. He quickly stepped away from the engorged stream once he had gotten a glance, his sharp eyes letting him pick out details fast. As he approached the others he gave a quick sketch of what he had seen. "Too much movin about for me to get a good number, but I'd say it looks like two on at least a half dozen." Jaecar looked slightly relieved, glad he hadn't barged into a lopsided fight, and Coulton nodded, feeling like he had proved his point. Dave, however, still looked ready for a fight, gripping his axe in his massive paws like he was trying to strangle the weapon. With a determined stride the giant, berserker rat walked towards the stream, the others watching him for a split second then rushing after him, Coulton mumbling something about an idiot as he slowly jogged after the others. Jaecar and Jacopo caught up to Dave and grabbed him by his massive arms before he could walk through the tall grass.
"Wo there, big guy" the Weasel cook said, "don't fight something that isn't yours to fight."
"Yeah, listen to Jay, we don't need you bargen into something and getting us all involved too," Jacopo added. Davidson looked down at the two of them, each one trying to hold onto a gargantuan arm of muscle, and then he started trudging forward, dragging the two like weights, until he was able to poke his head through the grass and see what was going on for himself. The first thing he noted was the combatants in the battle. They all appeared to be Juska, and he couldn't really tell the difference between the two groups, except that…
"I recognize one of them" Dave said, then almost immediately afterwards he shakes off his two companions with ease and rushes into the middle of the battle, his three comrades giving yells and staring helplessly as the giant rat charges into the larger of the two battling groups.

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