His head cants slightly to the side and he stares intently at your mouth. One of his ears twitches noticeably. A sudden mis-step momentarily breaks his concentration, but he rights himself instantly. Once you are through he stares intently at the ground ahead of him, one hand scratching under his chin, deep in thought.
Looking around, you notice that you seem to have arrived. For a village it blends surprisingly well into the landscape. Low rounded huts alternate with peaked and branching conical structures. The entire village is surrounded by a wall that appears to be grass at first, but proves to be hide stretched between poles. The hides somehow have been imprinted with a grass-like color and pattern. Both the huts, and conical structures, though differing in shape, are built from similar methods. The huts are thatched with actual grass, increasing the resemblance to the surrounding rolling hills; the conical structures have a multitude of branches with cloth tied to them fluttering in the breeze, reminiscent of the occasional copse of trees you have become accustomed to seeing.
Directly in front of you is a break in the hide wall. Stretched between the two gate-poles is a rope from which hangs a large number of skulls. They appear to be of some carnivorous animal with which you are not familiar. The skulls depend low enough that they brush the shoulders of the leading members of your group, who simply bow their heads and push through the line of skulls. Loud greetings of women and children are heard, and you swiftly see a crowd of felinoids appear from the huts and structures to greet the returning party.
Hearing the noise, Keenly-Scents snaps out of his preoccupation, and lays a guiding hand upon your arm, drawing you off to one side. He calls to the others, something about seeing the shamen first, and not making him cranky. The leader turns and acknowledges with a brief wave, before returning to the mob of little ones plucking at his arms and legs, wanting to be swung. Cries of delight from the little ones being swung, and the women folk shouting, drown out any further words.
As you approach, you feel a curious resistance building against your movements. The eye sockets of the skulls seem to bore into you, and you notice that there are lightly engraved symbols on the foreheads of the skulls. As Keenly-Scents draws you off to the side, the resistance tapers off, and as you walk along the hide wall around the village, it fades and disappears.
I follow behind Keenly-Scents, and, since he did not answer my question, ask quietly in common. Ich thich perchon your leader? Priecht? Chomeching elche? How chould I addrech him?
Keenly-Scents rouses from his trance of thought. "Hmmm? Oh. I am taking you to our Hcrrrouwgh-Chht'mmna; yes, he is similar to a priest. It is best that he see you first, especially considering what just happened when you spoke."
A small thatched hut of similar make as the rest of the village comes into view. It is built outside of the wall, and a short distance away from it. There are two free-standing poles on either side of the door. Topping each pole is a skull, each from a different animal. There are markings in the forehead area of each skull. Above the apex of the door sits a fantastical carving of a small dragon-like creature, wrapped up in its wings.
You approach the hut, and Keenly-Scents reaches out to rattle a wind-chime looking thing, but before he can touch it, a quavery voice issues from inside the hut, "Come in, come in, let's see what you brought home this time." After a moment's hesitation, Keenly-Scents brushes aside the door, a flap of skin, steps inside, and holds it open for you. The inside of the hut seems dim, and well hung with many bundles of things, mostly herbs, to judge from the smell. The sunlight filters dustily between the slats in the walls. A small firepit with three settings for people to sit on dominate the center of the hut. Some small bundles are rolled up out of the way against the walls. A few embers glow, and some kind of smoke threads it way through the fire remnants to add its own peculiar smell to the crowded rafters.
An old felinoid with patchy balding fur sits on one of the places before the firepit, poking at the embers with a twig. He gestures the two of you to sit on the remaining two places. Keenly-Scents begins to speak, but an upraised hand stops him mid-word. Bright and lively eyes study you intently. "Tell me your tale, without help from your friend."
A woman sits upon a throne. She possesses, or is possessed by, a classical beauty; one to summon ships, or topple a city. Her face is serene. She is dressed in splendid and elegant simplicity, which is unable to cloak her womanly beauty. A slight discomfort in her stance, a hint of a suggestion of a sagging in her shoulders mars her otherwise perfect presentation. <br><br>A man stands beside her, one hand familiarly upon a graceful shoulder. He is nondescript, forgettable, and bland in appearance. She reaches up and covers his hand with one of hers. They are both looking into an image showing the interior of a shaman's dwelling and the individuals within. <br><br>She speaks, a musical sound. "I do not think he is of those we seek. So promising a potential..." The man shifts slightly, a silent comment. <br><br>****<br><br>A tale is told, a night is spent. The next morning a fight seems inevitable. How will our hero Cambist overcome these seemingly overwhelming odds?!?! Alas, as the gaze of our mysterious duo turns away from the fate of Cambist, so must ours likewise turn elsewhere for the nonce.