Empty Sands and Barren Ocean ((OPEN!))

Midday sun stared down unrelentingly on the shore, turning the sea into a liquid mirror and heating the sand. The small Otter plodded forward in the fringe of the surf, her eyes squinted against the glare and focused on a rock up ahead. It would be a good place to stop and rest. She had been going since before dawn that morning, when Derry had woken her with his weak, pitiful mewling of hunger. The otterbabe was worrying her more with each passing moment; she knew that if she could not find some suitable substitute for mother's milk he would soon starve.

The babe was quiet now, asleep in her arms as she kept doggedly on, panting thirstily and ignoring the pangs of hunger in her own stomach. The baby didn't have food, and she felt guilty eating when he couldn't.

She reached the rock an hour after midday and slid into the cool shadows that were starting to puddle at it's base again, and laid Derry in her lap gently. The flask of water she'd tucked in her herb pouch was frighteningly light, only half-full. She took a small swallow and then gently coaxed the babe to drink a little, too. Then, she held him close and settled into waiting out the heat of the afternoon. Eventually, she slipped into a dose, still holding the small child to her chest.

Ohanzee Nightshadow was on the run. Apparently the long patrol hares hadn't taken well to a pine marten sneaking around Salamandastron. He had meant no harm really, but being an assassin he didn't do much but sneak. "Those hares might be excellent trackers," Ohanzee muttered to himself, "but they can't track something that doesn't walk!" With all the agility of a squirrel he leapt from tree to tree, almost appearing to fly.

Before long Ohanzee reached the dunes of the beach were he was forced to continue on foot. Not a tree grew among the sands. "I should have lost those hares by now," he thought, "I should be safe walking." Farther down the beach he saw a tall rock, giving shade from the hot sun. As soon as Ohanzee saw the rock he had the same idea as the otter had. He made his way to the rock and was about to enter its shade when he saw that another beast had beaten him there.

Ohanzee looked at the sleeping otter which he realized was an easterner, rather like him. He could see that she and the baby were weak and underfed. The link in their heritage started up a small pang of mercy in his cold heart. He had to get them away from here or else they would die of hunger or heat. Bending over he gently shook the otter, trying to wake her. "Are you alive?" he asked, half expecting she was not.

Mei had slipped farther into sleep than she meant to, and when she was shook, she only stirred lightly, one small paw weakly trying to swat the offending stimulus away. She murmured something under breath in Easterner, and then snuggled the baby closer to her chest.

Derry, though, was starting to stir again, crying softly in hunger and rooting against Mei's chest as he squirmed weakly. It was the baby that brought Mei to groggy wakefulness.

She blinked up at Ohanzee, and then her eyes widened fearfully, her grogginess lost as her mind caught up with her eyes.  She clutched the baby close and tried to scoot backward, away from him, even though it only made the rock dig painfully into her back. The whole time, a plea in Easterner, with a few Woodland words, spilled forth from her mouth in her soft, frantic voice.

Rogg plodded steadily onward, his thick fur soaking the warmth of  the sun like a sponge absorbing spilled liquid, looking for any sign of the pine martin he was tracking.  Ohanzee Nightshadow probably had no idea who the otter was, but Rogg knew who Ohanzee was. Ever since the mercenary had heard of the bounty that had been placed on the martin's head, he had sought him relentlessly, contently pursuing him, but never actually having the opportunity to collect.

But today seemed different. The otter could almost feel that today would be the day that he would find his quarry. That morning he had awoken to a golden sunrise, always a good sign in his eyes, and had almost immediately found traces of his enemy. It was in somewhat of an odd place though; up in a tree. The only reason that the otter had spotted it was because he was gazing up into the sky, musing on the wonders of nature. Then he saw it, a single broken branch. The big otter began to laboriously climb up the tree and reaching the broken protrusion, took several hairs that somehow had been stuck when the martin had passed by.

How odd…a climbing martin...

Rogg stared at the ground for a few moments, contemplating the unusual method of travel that Ohanzee had chosen. What a skilled climber he must be...he must be able to climb as well as a squirrel...quite amazing.

The otter shook his head, wishing that he could climb half as well as the martin was able to, he would just have to trust his intuition and follow where Ohanzee might have gone.

As the trees ended, Rogg grumbled to himself as he saw the dunes stretched in front of him. He hated having to travel through sand, it was very hard for a creature as large as him, but it was for a good cause.

The otter's face lit up as he spotted the track,  he jogged forward and knelt besides the indentation, than bit his lip as he realized that it wasn't a martin track, but that of an otter.

Rogg slowly stood and sighed. Why was he always so unlucky? Just as it seemed that he might actually find his target, it turned out to be some random creature. But perhaps they had seen Ohanzee sometime during the day. No harm in looking...

So the young otter started walking again, following the footprints in the sand.

Suddenly he stopped, up ahead, huddled behind a rock was an disheveled looking otter and what seemed to be her child. Than Rogg saw the martin and smiled. Maybe luck wasn't against him after all...

Ohanzee drew back his paw as Mei swatted at it lightly. She did not seem yet fully awake. But apparently by shaking Mei, Ohanzee had woken up Derry, who in turn woke up Mei with his crying. Mei looked up at Ohanzee fearfully, pleading with him in the Eastern tongue. It had been a while since Ohazee had spoken that dialect, but luckily, he still understood it.

"It's all right," Ohanzee said in Easterner, "I don't want to hurt you. I am going to help you." He realized the closest place to find food and shelter was Salamandastron. It might take a little while to convince the hares he wasn't evil, but it was their best shot. "Follow me," Ohanzee said to Mei, "I'll get you to a place where there is food and water."

Ohanzee looked up as he heard a beast approaching on the sands. It was another otter, but he was nothing like Mei. The new otter was not an Easterner, and he was dressed like a fighter. "Who are you?" Ohanzee asked the newcomer, remembering to switch to the Western speech, "what do you want?"

Mei abruptly hushed when he started to speak Easterner. Her mouth hung open in shock, and she just stared at him. The only noise was the sound of Derry's weak crying and the sigh of the waves behind her. Tide was coming in, she noted in a small corner of her mind, slowly inching it's way up the shore towards them.

She closed her mouth and carefully eyed him. He wasn't from her part of the East, she could tell from his accent. But close possibly, she'd heard that accent before, when she was a slave. He was a vermin, that certainly didn't get past her, but on that she was torn. Yes, vermin could be terrible, awful creatures, but she had known quite a few that were more…neutral and even-keeled and less evil.  This, and the fact that he was Eastern--hearing her own language again was something that delighted her and tugged feelings of homesickness from her-- made Mei want to at least give him the benefit of the doubt.

Slowly,  Mei relaxed and stood, swaying on her feet for a moment. After she'd steadied herself, she smoothed the collar of her yukata down and held Derry protectively close. She couldn't make eye-contact with him; something that she was beaten for in her other life, and before she could speak, he'd turned his attention else where: An otter, a big, burly one, dressed for combat, striding towards them.

With a soft murmur of fright and uncertainty, she hurried to hide behind the pine marten's back, out of sight from the other otter.

Rogg eyed Ohanzee happily, anticipating what would probably happen next; a long, hard fought battle that would surely end with the martin on the ground, pleading for his life. What a fine day this was turning out to be…

His revelings were cut short when he caught sight of the creature that was hiding behind Ohanzee's back. She was a female otter, and she looked terrified.

The mercenary gulped and clenched his webbed paw tightly. Should he go on with killing his target and leave the otter to her fate? Yes, that would be the best way... Rogg started to move forward, than stopped as he looked into her eyes...he gulped again. He couldn't do it, she was probably helpless out here and would need any assistance from any creature that was willing to help her. Rogg looked at the other and raised his paw placatingly.
"I'm a friend, don't  be afraid."

Ohanzee stared hard at Rogg, ready to fight. No doubt the otter mercenary was sent by the Syreans to kill him. Ohanzee couldn't afford to fight him. He needed to get Mei to safety. Ohanzee gripped the hilt of his right paw katana, ready to draw it.

But, something seemed to soften in Rogg's eyes when he saw Mei. He seemed to realise her plight. Rogg raised his paw and said, "I'm a friend, don't  be afraid." Immediately Ohanzee let go of his hilt, not wanting to anger Rogg.

Turning to Mei, Ohanzee said in Easterner, "he says he is a friend, he won't hurt us." He wasn't sure how well Mei understood Rogg's speech, so he decided to translate it. Turning back to Rogg and switching speech yet again Ohanzee said, "this otter is weak with hunger, and so is the child. We need to take them to Salamandastron."

Mei could tell what the otter was trying to say by body language and tone, but Ohanzee was right to translate for her. Her Westerner was slowly slipping away, even after just a few days alone with no one to speak it to.  She nodded quietly, peering around the Marten's shoulder at Rogg once more, carefully avoiding eye contact.

She bowed a little, with Derry held tight. In soft, horse with disuse, Easterner, she said, "I am grateful to you, sirs, for your mercy. I do not wish to be a burden, though…"

Timidly, she glanced at Ohanzee again, adding, "If you point me the way, I'm sure I can go on my own..." Of course, this was a lie; it was obvious that she wouldn't last out the day alone.

"this otter is weak with hunger, and so is the child.

Rogg's heart felt as though it was being rent in twain. The sight of the pitiful otter pup almost made him want to cry. For all his bravado and hardness on the outside, he was actually quite a sensitive creature inside, and had always had a soft spot in his heart for children. The young otter took a few steps forward, smiling kindly.
"Alright, I'm here to help."

We need to take them to Salamandastron

Rogg suddenly stopped.
"S-Salamandastron?" He queried, "Why w-would we have to go there? I'm sure there must be some settlements around here…"

He looked around at the barren wasteland that surrounded him and the ocean beyond. Maybe they would have to go to the Mountain...

"Don't worry miss," Ohanzee said to Mei, "I have nothing better to do at the moment, and I would mind seeing the mountain myself." He started to lead the way toward Salamandastron when he heard Rogg.

"S-Salamandastron? Why w-would we have to go there? I'm sure there must be some settlements around here…"

Ohanzee turned back to the other mercenary. "Why not the mountain?" the pine marten asked, "do you have some argument with the badger lord?" The otter seemed somewhat uncomfortable with the idea. If anyone, it should have been Ohanzee that was nervous. He was after all a "vermin."

Mei watched the two of them confer, only a understanding a few words. But she could tell that the other Otter was uneasy with something, most likely the place Ohanzee was intent on taking her.  This Salamandstron. The word was faintly familiar; The Valarie's crew had spoken the word often. Derry's mother had tried to guide them towards the place when they were in the row boat. Mei wasn't helpful when it came to navigation, though, and they had gotten pushed off course. Rogg's worry made her nervous. What sort of place was it, to make someone like him so apprehensive?

She waited with a patience she didn't quite posses, leaning on the rock and shifting Derry to rest on her shoulder. He turned his face to her neck and rooted, looking for food. His little whiskers tickled, but she was to worried to take any joy from his actions. His back was so thin under her paw, wrapped in a piece of sailcloth.

Gently, she reached out and touched Ohanzee's forearm. In soft, quick Easterner, Mei asked, "<is something="" wrong?="">"

OOC: For clarification puropses, maybe speech in anything besides Woodlander (I.E. Easterner) should have the additional <> added to them.</is>

"Why not the mountain?" the pine marten asked, "do you have some argument with the badger lord?"

Rogg shuffled nervously and looked down at the sand.
"Well…not exactly...not the badger per say..."
He knew what would probably happen if he had to go back to Salamandastron...
"I kind of...well killed one of the hares last time I was there..."
The otter looked back up at Ohanzee like a naughty child being caught in the act if stealing candy.
"It wasn't my fault though! It wasn't unprovoked!"

(That's a good idea Mucha!)

After listening to Rogg's explanation of his fear Ohanzee told Mei. "<he killed="" hare,="" one="" of="" the="" beasts="" from="" montian,="">" Ohanzee said, "<he says="" it="" wasn't="" his="" fualt="" though.="">" Ohanzee understood why Rogg would have done that. The pine marten had been asked to kill beasts he really didn't hate before. And Ohanzee had to, or else he got no pay.

"Well, I guess we'll have to do something about that," Ohanzee said to Rogg, "you'll have to disguise yourself, or stay outside Salamandastron, because if I know those hares, they won't care what your reason is if you killed one of their friends."

"<let's go,="">" Ohanzee said to Mei, beckoning Rogg to follow. He started up the beach away from the water and towards the shade of the trees. If they were going to make plans, it would be better to do it out of the sun and closer to their destination. </let's></he></he>

Mei sucked in a frightened breath and held Derry closer, protecting him from the other otter. The killer. She knew that killing was nessiciary sometimes. It was the way of things. But she herself had never known someone who'd kill. Except for her master, but she had never met him herself, or even seen him up close. With one, scared glance at the otter, she hurried to catch up with Ohanzee.

She was too timid to ask why he'd let a killer to come with them, and felt she didn't know either of them well enough to ask why. She was sure that was a far too personal thing for a raggedy former slave like her to ask. Instead, as she followed along after him, she murmured, "<thank you="" sir.="" you're="" being="" very="" kind="" to="" a="" stranger="" like="" myself.="">"</thank>

"Well, I guess we'll have to do something about that," "you'll have to disguise yourself, or stay outside Salamandastron, because if I know those hares, they won't care what your reason is if you killed one of their friends."

Rogg gulped. He certainly knew how the hares would react if they saw him again. It had been awhile since the incident, but they would probably recognize the otter. Getting into the Mountain wouldn't be easy…
"Well...I'm sure there's some way I can be disguised well enough for them to not really notice who I am, I'll try to find something that will work."

Rogg could see that something about him scared the female otter, and it wasn't too hard to guess what it was. He looked at Ohanzee and spoke in a slightly irritated tone of voice.
"What did you tell her? I'm not some cold hearted killer..." Well he kind of was... maybe that wasn't really the best choice of words for self-description.

He felt bad for scaring Mei though, so he smiled reassuringly and padded over to her and asked Ohanzee to translate for him.
"I'm really not that bad, don't be scared of me, I'd never hurt anyone that didn't deserve it."

Then the martin started walking away and Rogg jogged up next to him.
"Lets just be careful okay? I don't think they'd be too happy at Salamdastron if they knew I was there, and with you, being a martin and all, they'll probably do something quite awful to us if they find out."
The young otter stopped for a moment to buckle a strap that had come undone.
"Nothing against martins of course"

"<thank you="" sir.="" you're="" being="" very="" kind="" to="" a="" stranger="" like="" myself.="">"</thank>

"<it's no="" problem,="">" Ohanzee replied, "_" He translated for Rogg into Easterner, to ease some of the fear Mei had of the other otter.

"Well, I didn't say anything really bad to her," Ohanzee told Rogg, "I just told her what you said, you killed a hare, but it wasn't your fault." He thought for a while about getting into Salamandastron. "I don't think it will be as much of a problem for me as you think," Ohanzee said, "they don't know me, I'm from very far away."_</it's>

Despite the nice way the Otter talked, and the words Ohanzee translated for him, she still held Derry tight to her and kept her gaze from meeting his as she struggled through the sands. Not so fearful now as simply wary, as any one would be of a beast that was strange and hard to understand. It was easier to trust someone that spoke the same language.

Mei nodded, and wondered if it was really that obvious that she were a slave. Perhaps it was best not to worry about it. It wasn't like she was trying to hide it, really.  "_" she trailed off there, glancing out towards the water. Someplace beyond the horizon was her home. She missed it, despite being captive there many years.

Derry snuffled and sighed, bring her back to the present. "<i'm hu="" xiaomei,="">" she murmured, just realizing that she hadn't intorduced herself yet. "<thank you="" again="" for="" helping="" to="" find="" our="" way.="">"</thank></i'm>_

The Sea Lily plowed proudly through the water on its way to Salamandastron. Denya Wildrudder stood on the very tip of the ship hold onto one of the ropes from the rigging to steady himself. He was looking toward Salamandastron. He was always awed by how big it was. Even though he had seen it many times before.

They were about a league away and he could make out the windows n the mountain. There he could see one of his friends standing on the beach waiting to welcome him.

Denya leapt ashore as the ship ran up onto the sand and the anchor dropped. There was a small welcoming comity there when he arrved.
" Hoho Arle! Your just as fat as ever!" He moved through the group of hares greetng them as he went. He was just about to go to the mountan when he saw three fgures movng hs way. He could tell two were otters and one was a marten. He started toward them. He saw one of the otters was carrying something. She looked very gaunt and unfed. She was weak and hot. He sped up and soon came within speaking range.
" Hello who are you? Do you need any help?" He could see what the female otter was carrying it was a baby otter. She stumbled in the sand, he steadied her or she would have fallen.
" Are you okay?"

"Well, I didn't say anything really bad to her,""I just told her what you said, you killed a hare, but it wasn't your fault." "I don't think it will be as much of a problem for me as you think,""they don't know me, I'm from very far away."

Rogg nodded.
"Well as long as you think everything will work out, we have nothing to worry about. Its been quite some time since I was there, so maybe that'll help. But the main thing is that we need to get her some help" He pointed at Mei "And her son as well. By the way I'm…" He thought for a moment...should he use his real name? No harm in it he supposed, Ohanzee probably didn't know who he was.

"I'm Rogg Streambattle, from Green Isle"

The otter sighed as Mei didn't seem reassured that he wasn't going to hurt her or her charge, but maybe if he helped them more, she would eventually trust him.

As they drew nearer to thew mountain, Rogg could feel himself becoming more and more apprehensive. When he realized the fact that he was actually going to Salamdastron, willingly, somewhat startled him. Before today, he never would have gone within sight of the monolith. Remembering what he had done there made it worse, he didn't like to think of what they might do to him if they caught him.

Now was probably going to be a good time for the young otter to change into something a little less obviously mercenary. As they walked, he took off the light armor that was strapped over the green shirt he was wearing, and replaced it with a dark red vest. Stowing the armor and his sword in a satchel that he then strapped across his back, though he kept his dagger tucked into the back of his belt. Turning to Ohanzee, he spoke.
"Is this a bit less  intimidating?"

Without the scared black armor, he looked like any other otter, if a little stocky...

" Hello who are you? Do you need any help?"

Rogg looked up at the otter who was approaching them. He seemed like a nice creature, so Rogg smiled and held out a webbed paw.
"Hello there matey, I'm Rogg, we're trying to get this otter to the mountain, she needs medical attention"

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