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Page name: Hidden Dune - The Searchers [Logged in view] [RSS]
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2006-09-26 18:55:10
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The city of Ajdanen lay in ruins, burnt to the ground by a mysterious and powerful figure, now, the party finds itself without guidance or a clue of what they should do next, whatever is it that they were involved in, it has grown beyond their control. Now, two paths are displayed to them, to find Helii who left towards the north as they departed to Adjanen, two days ago, or two find their former master, Ari'ael, and hope that with the Spire King's insight, she might have some answrds for them.




Sometime later, the Roses have finally found shelter in a rocky outcropping in the middle of the desert, anywhere they look they see nothing but the ocean of sand, twisting and rippling under the scorching rays of the sun. As Sana's condition worsens, the others seem to be succumbing to the heat as well, since the relentless burn of the sun on their backs has been replaced by the stale, suffocating heat under the shade.

Time - 11:00 AM




Maura stared hopelessly out across the desert grumbling to herself "This desert stretches on forever! with our luck we're probably lost."

Ryoko snorted and nodded. She kept pressure to where she was wounded but without very good luck. "Damnit! It's not bleeding as much but still bleeding. I know how you're feeling too Sana...fur isn't fun in an on-going dry heat. Do we have a map of where we're going to even find out if maybe we drifted off course? I don't know how much longer any of us can last in this." She sighed and tried to tie the cloth tighter.

Ryoko looked around from the vantage point the rocks gave the group and her feline eyes detected some movement dar to the north. It seemed to be a town, a small, walled off mud town in the middle of the desert, she would've probably dismissed it as a mirage if not for the glints of weapons coming from the walls, probably guards on patrol.

"Over there...look!!" Ryoko squinted against the sun and looked harder. "There's a town! To the north!" Her tail swished back and forth in greatful anticipation.

Ryoko looked further into the desert and confirmed that that indeed seemed to be a town. Furthermore, it should be only about a half hour walk from where they currently were, 15 minutes on Doonerback.

"None of us are in any condition to try and reach the town though. If it's still there when the sun goes down maybe we should consider heading that way." Celena called from her resting spot under the rock.

Mela sat next to Sana tring to figure out how to help her. They had no supplies that could cool her, and her watermark obviously did not help. "Feeling better, Sana? It should be easier while we are in shade."

"Yeah... I'm ok.. thanks" replied Sana faintly, obviously caught up in the stupor caused by extreme heat.

Tyza looked to the north, trying to figure if he could make it there on a dooner quickly enough to get some help for Sana. "Does anyone think I'd be able to make it all the way over there? It shouldn't be too hard, maybe half an hour to an hour at the most."

Ryoko put a hand onto Tyza's shoulder. "Wait until dusk. Even being half an hour or hour away you're exhausted. We're running low on water and the scorching sand's heat waves aren't helping. Stay."

Tyza looked over at the rest of the party, particularly at the ailing Sana, I suppose we should. I just hope we all make it until dusk in this heat..." Wiping sweat from his brow, Tyza stared out over the sands, wondering how long they would actually be able to stay there. Deserts were notorious for becoming freezing cold at night.

In what seemed to be ages, the sun went through the sky slowly but surely, the party, suffocated by the heat, dozed off into a sort of stupor or trance. As soon as the sunbegan to hide under the hills to the east, the desert slowly cooled off, and the cold was greeted with glee by the travellers.

It is now 8:00 PM


Sana, as if she had suddenly been hit by a bucket of cold water, woke up as soon as the cloak of night fell over the group. She looked around groggily but much better now "What time is it?" she asked as she rubbed her eyes with her hands, as a schoolgirl who just grudgingly woke up.

"I'd wager a bit after 7 at least." Ryoko replied. She was sitting up against the cool hulk of rock, her eyes alert and ears perked. "I must say getting rest was much appreciated and the reprieve of night fall too. I never sleep long though it always seems." She shook her head and crawled over to Tyza, shaking him gently. "Tyza, you and I could take a Dooner to the town and get help."

Mela streched her hands and yawned trying to clear her head from the confusing almost-real dream she had. She overheared Ryoko and yawned once more. "Sana, if you want I could keep you company until they come back. That is if we are not all planning to leave for the city. Are you feeling better?" said Mela with worried voice. She was worried about her when she collapsed.

Tyza came awake with a start, having been dozing fairly lightly. His hand reached for the katana in it's sheath, but stopped as he remembered where he was. Nursing his injured sides, Tyza looked at Ryoko, a little blurry eyed, but nodded. He then rolled over and began to look around for the dooner he'd been riding on.

Ryoko gripped Tyza's wrist to help him to his feet and ushered him over to the dooner they had previously ridden. "Mela..keep Sana warm, here." She tossed one of her garbs to Mela. "I have fur enough to keep me warm for a while...I shall not need that for the moment." With a swift jump Ryoko mounted the dooner and pulled Tyza up on its back as well. "We shall hurry to return. Tyza, this time, I'm letting you drive." She grinned and wrapped a hand around his waist. "I think I've been in front enough. Let's go!"

Tyza gripped the dooner's reins, nudging Ryoko with a grin. "Hold on tight, this is going to be fun." Without another word, Tyza flicked the reins, the dooner picking up pace in the chill desert until it hit a full gallop, heading for the town.

Mela, having caught the blanket, wrapped it around Sana, whispering soothing words slowly.

Ryoko loved the feel of the chilly night breeze flow through her fur despite its temperature. "Always fun to let these things loose if you know what I mean. Man, can they run. I give it about 30-45 minutes until we reach the town. Maybe then we can gather some help and willing bodies. I don't know...what's on your mind Tyza?"

Tyza had his face leaning against the dooner's neck, a smile of satisfaction upon his face. Listening to Ryoko, he pointed out towards the desert, and their destination. His heart was beating fast, a sense of exultation accompanying this mad gallop across the sands, "I'm thinking about this! All of this, the freedom, the lack of anything or anyone to get in our way right now. This is what I've lived my life for, the moments where nothing matters except the next step you take. This is the reason I became a mercenary; living in the moment, letting the world pass me by in these seconds, where the only sensations are the heartbeat of this dooner and the sounds of the world around me." Looking back at the woman sat behind him, the smile widened, "I suppose that sounds silly to some, but there's nothing I love more than being free!"

"Not silly at all I think. I know exactly how you feel. To have the exhileration and freedom, to feel like nothing can harm you or bother your perfect rush from life...and adrenaline. I live for these same reasons. As you would guess in all senses of being obvious, being a cat I have the instincts and passion for freedom and to feel wild and free." Ryoko grinned right back and surveyed the beautiful night desert.

Feeling a bit rested Celena joined the group in the trek to the town deciding to take her dooner she mounted and followed Tyza out into the desert night.

Unaware that they were being followed, Tyza nodded to Ryoko, a small trickle of tears flowing from his eyes as the air rushed into them. The ehilaration was abating a little as the gallop became more uniform, but this eased Tyza's mind and body, the steady rhythmic pounding settling with his heartbeat, allowing his mind to wander as he let his body do the riding for him, staring out over the open sands and thinking back over what had happened since he had met Sana. In one single exchange, that girl had altered the course of his life and he would probably have never ridden a dooner through a darkened desert, much less to save someone else rather than himself.

A little while passed and it seemed that the town was growing steadily closer. "Not much longer." Ryoko purred softly. She pointed and as if on cue, a small breeze stirred the desert air more.

Only then did Ryoko realized that town was not closer, in fact it wasn't even there at all. As the night befell the desert, they had completely lost sight of the town. Perhaphs it had been a mirage after all, or maybe they had just lost sight of it amongst the darkened dunes.


"No..." Ryoko's grip tightened slightly around Tyza's waist. She tried to use her cat instinctual night vision to see if they had passed it or veered off course..."It has to be here!"

Pulling the reins up short, Tyza soothed the dooner for a few moments. It hadn't had a run like that in quite a while, and the sudden change had spooked it. Looking back at Ryoko, Tyza shrugged, "Maybe we just lost sight of it. I'd assume we were seeing things earlier, because it had to have been here in this spot, but people don't see the same mirage as each other. At least from what I'm aware." Turning away, Tyza gripped the saddle pommel of his dooner tightly, fighting the urge to get down and run aimlessly, searching for the town.

Ryoko tried to relax and sunk into the saddle. She tilted her snout high up and used (Scent). Maybe she could identify something other than sand.

Smelling the fresh night air only utterly confused Ryoko, the place smelled like human very strongly, but that could've been Tyza, there was also a smell of animals, which could very well be the dooners. However, Ryoko also caught a wisp of what seemed to be bread, though extremely weak.

Seeing th others stop Celena follows suit though at a loss as to why they've stopped since she had been daydreaming of a simple life. She turns to Tyza, "What's going on? Why have we stopped?"

Tyza watched Celena rein in and swept his hand over the scope of the desert in front of them. "Well, to be honest unless you can see a town out here in this abyss, we're either lost or the town was just a mirage." Lifting himself up in the saddle, Tyza scanned the desert once more, looking for something, anything. (Search)

Tyza looked around, but soon realized that searching the entire desert would probably take 100 times his entire lifetime.

Ryoko tried hard to focus on the specific scent of bread...all the meanwhile keeping her keen feline eyes searching the sands. "This is not getting us very far. Maybe there really was nothing but a marage."
Ryoko raised her head to the gentle wind. "I...I can smell something...bread perhaps. It's very faint but maybe there's a chance it can lead to something...anything. If nothing, my eyes can probably help in the black abyss of land to head back if indeed it was a mirage." She pat Tyza's shoulder and waved to Celena. "I refuse to give up and admit it was a mirage. Something like that anyways." (Search)

Again, a simple glance told Ryoko searching the entire desert was an impossible undertaking.

Tyza looked at the desert floor, utterly downcast, "Well, seeing as we can't search this place, maybe we should go and break the news to Sana and the others? There isn't really much point camping out here all night..."

Ryoko sighed down-heartedly and garbbed the dooner's reins, hopping back up into the saddle. "Let's go break the news. We'll devise what to do when we're back." She grinned trying to raise the downed spirits. "Heh...how 'bout I drive." She waited to see if Tyza would join her back in the saddle and shook her head. She found herself in thought, 'I could have sworn I smelled something.'

Tyza hopped up behind Ryoko in the saddle, ponting back to the rock they'd come from. "We should take another look in the morning, we might have missed it in the darkness."

She nodded and nudged the dooner in the side to get it going. Ryoko continued to look in various directions still. 'The smell...it was so real...' Her mind traveled to different places as they headed back to their camp.

When Ryoko and Tyza returned to camp Maura sat up, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. "Where have you guys been?" she demanded.

Mela said: "Yeah. I am curious, too. Speak..."

Ryoko dismounted and stood by the dooner removing a few sacks they had brought along. "There was, what we thought to be, a town or village of some sort off in the distance. We rode over there but as it got darker, we lost any sight of what we once glimpsed. I thought I might have smelled something, but it may have been our simple desire to find civilization out here. I, possibly with Tyza if he was willing, may try to go back again... or maybe we could start moving again now that we've rested up a little." She glanced back to Tyza and once again on Maura. Ryoko stretched slightly and walked over to Mela and Maura, sitting down with her legs folded, and tail curled to her body. Her fur was bristled slightly to contain more body heat, giving her a slight fluffed look.

Tyza took a quick look into his pack, rummaging through his supplies. "Well, I'm willing to go back if everyone has enough supplies to last out here an extra day. It question of food an water We can buy extra at this town or outpost, whatever it is, but we can't afford to waste our provisions looking for it." Looking around at the group, Tyza let loose an exasperated sigh, "So, depending on how long we'd be out here anyway, the question becomes: Do we have enough supplies to last us if we do want to go and look?"

"I have enough. But, if you are ok with it, I'd like to come with you. Sana, are you feeling better? If you are- maybe all of us can go? That is, it is better to fasten the pace." said Mela. She got up and stretched. She could hear her bones cracking silently. She was sitting for a long time.

Sana smiled and say up. "Yeah, I'm fine now, don't worry about me." she replied. "It was probably the sun that got me like that, I should be ok as long as I keep out of the sun."

A few seconds later, the group heard Celena's voice coming from above, she seemed to be yelling something, they managed to catch. "Guys! take cove..!" as she flew down, suddenly they noticed and enormous wall of sand heading towards them, a giant sandstorm, if they did not cover and brace themselves it would probably tear them apart, and even there if it didn't pass soon they would be covered by hundreds of pounds of sand by morning. As the sand wall clashed with the rock formation, Celena, who had not managed to land, was blown away in the middle of a suffocated scream. The others watched their friend disappear into the storm in horror as the sand reached them too. The high speed particles felt like knives in their skin and the sand got into their eyes, ears, noses and mouths, blinding them and making talking, and even breathing very hard.

Ryoko, trying to think quickly in such a pinch, hurriedly lowered her head into a garment. It offered little protection though from the already entered sand into some orrifices. She gasped for air and reached around frantically, trying to grab out to the others to bring them closer together. Her lungs and face burned while she tried to breathe. The sand felt like it was filing away at her skin through her fur.

Sana had never seen a Sandstorm before, since she had spent so many years in Skarrad, she had grown unaccostumed to the dangers of the desert. Unaware of what she had to do, she was tossed back by the sand and started to flail around while she screamed, trying to remove the sand from her body as if it was ants or something of the sort. As she struggled on the ground, breathing got more and more difficult.

"Celena no!!" Maura screamed as she instinctivly braced herself, covering her face but inside was a numbing cold and a fierce urge to find Celena but she knew that was impossible now. She couldn't help as a tear rolled down her cheek, but she quickly swiped it away as her breath came harder and harder to draw and the sand tore painfully at her skin. 

Mela, feeling the air was getting more and more filled with sand, and wind was blowing faster than normal, threw herself on the ground and she dragged her cloak over herface so the sand couldn't come into her nose, eyes and mouth. This way she could barely breathe so she hoped the storm wouldn't last for a long time,




Torren pulled his heavy, tan cloak tighter about his body as he sat hunched in the sand. The storm was building quickly and if he and his recruited searchers didn't find those they searched for soon, then they would surely be lost to the desert. 'Blasted sand storm.' he cursed to himself. Off to the side, he could vaguely see the other searchers hunched down as he was, waiting for orders. After refitting a leather mask over his face to protect from the blowing sand, Torren stood back up and pressed forward. The search seemed pointless until five shadows seemed to materialize out of the haze. They were still several hundred yards out, but at least he now knew where they were. A waving hand brought the other searchers to him as they headed off toward the party of five.

"There is a rock outcropping that way, Rumani." yelled out Mazon, a Caerhamian who had come to Hidden Dune after the war of corruption and fellow searcher. "It might just be stones we see in the midst of the storm." he continued,covering his face the as best he could while he spoke. "I propose we split up, head in different directions but not too far as to get caught by the storm, as long as we are fast we should make it and we'll have better chances of finding someone in this hell!"

"I agree. I'll head for the outcropping. No one should be on their own for long though. This storm is getting worse by the minute!" he called back to Mazon. That said, Torren leaned into the wind and charged forward, heading for the outcropping. If someone was indeed out there, it was likely that they would try to find shelter, and the outcropping was as good as any. Every step proved brutal as the wind blew ever harder, the storm determined to claim its victims. Finally, Torren made it to the cluster of rocks and peered around, his eyes straining to see anything. "Hello there! Is anyone here?"

Ryoko's ears pricked and she opened her eyes carefully. Tears dripped over her fur as the sand stung her eyes and caused them to well up. She groped around yet again for her friends and found nothing. "H-hello?!" She tried calling out to whomever the new voice belonged to and practically choked. Sand had caked some of the inside of her mouth and throat, making speech difficult and breathing complicated. Her head felt light and her chest throbbed as air circulation waned. "We're here!"

Having pulled his bandana over his mouth, with a little more air in his lungs than Ryoko Tyza drew in a deep breath, tried to ignore the particles of sand now lodged in his throat and bellowed as loud as possible, "Here! There's five people over here!" His relief was enormous, though tempered by the sight of Celena being swept away by the sandstorm. Though he hadn't known her long at all, losing a companion still hurt.


Mela heared the voices too. But when the others answered, she decided not to waste her breath. At that moment she realized that Celena was lost in the sandstorm. She thought that Celena couldn't come out of it alive. Her heart crouched and her lunges produced a rather strange rhythm of breathing. She didn't cry because she didn't want to show her feelings among others, but she was rather fond of everyone in this company. And she would feel the same if any of them finished like Celena. And, this situation as well reminded her of her own mortality. And no man likes to keep that in front of his eyes.

Maura remained silent as she drifted closer to the voices. She had to rely on her ears because she had her face covered to protect her eyes and nose from the sand.

Five of them? There were more people out in this storm than any of the Searchers had predicted. "Stay where you are! We will find you!" Torren put two fingers between his lips and whistled as loud as he could. Hopefully Mazon and the other Searchers were close enough to hear. It would take all of them to get these people out of the storm and back to the city...if they could get back at all. Visibility had become so poor that Torren found it difficult to see more than two or three feet in front of him. With practiced hands, he produced a long length of thick rope from under his cloak and tied one end around his waist. The rest he coiled around his hand and elbow, then struck out towards the center of the outcropping. "Wave your arms! Make any movement that i can see. When i get to you, take the rope and don't let go!" Carefully and slowly, Torren made his way through the sand, waiting and straining to see any movement. He let out another shrill whistle, calling and guiding the other Searchers to him. 

Sana, completely overcome by the sand had just curled up in a ball and was quietly trying to calm herself as the sand slowly covered her, preventing her breathing.

About a minute later, Mazon and one other searcher (out of a group of 4), Kasian (Lynx) and Ema(Lochorian) appeared from within the storm. "You found them?" asked Mazon almost rethorically. "Ok then, you guys hurry up cuz I won't be able to hold it for long." added the man as he rolled up his sleeves and cast a Wind Wall around the entire group, protecting them from the storm. "Let's move!"

Ryoko tried to yell and roar as best she could, frantically thrashing her arms over her head. "Here!" The ground around her body cleared from blowing sand and she could scarcely make out a figure close to her through watery eyes. She reached out towards the being and gripped her hands around cloth and fur of the figure's leg. Not knowing what else to do she held on tightly as if it were her only lifeline.

Torren felt hands on his leg and looked down with a start. At his feet, a female catfolk lay, half covered with sand and seemingly suffering from the storm. Her and the rest of her party must have been out in the desert for a long time, even before the storm. "Give me your hands." Without waiting for a response, Torren knelt and tied the opposite end around the catfolk's wrist. "Don't let go of this!" Torren looked up to see Mazon maintaing his wind wall. He was right, the spell wouldn't last long in these conditions. Quickly, Torren looked about for the rest of the party, breaking the grasp of the female on his leg and moving on to the others.

Maura's ears pricked up at Ryoko's yell and scrambled towards the direction the sound came from, breathing heavily and not exactly seeing where she was going.

Sana had fallen unconcious just a few seconds ago, the sand had not allowed her to breathe and she had been knocked out. She was now being partially and slowly covered by sand.

Tyza, unable to see at all due to the sand in his eyes, effectively blinding him, placed his hands under the bandana around the bottom of his face. Gritty sand coated his fingers, making his gorge rise, while the thump of his own heart was fast overtaking the sound of swirling sand in his ears. Trying to imitate the person trying to help them, Tyza whistled in a high-pitched tone which put his own teeth on edge, before trying to spit out sand into his bandana with what little saliva was left in his mouth.

Ryoko did as the male commanded and held the rope tightly, pulling it to her chest protectively. Her eyes were shut tight once more from the already irritation from sand. Her fur was bristled and mind spinning. "Tyza, wave your arms! Sana! Mela! Maura! Wave your arms, move! Try to move!" Ryoko choked and spat out what little saliva was in her mouth. Despite the temporary wall from the storm, her condition was none the less worsening. She could only hope that these miracles from the desert could rescue them.

Torren went from downed figure to the next, tying a length of rope around each wrist, then moving on. Minutes later, all six of them were bound together. "I've got them all! Mazon, hold the spell a moment longer while i get our bearings." Quickly, Torren shaded his eyes and looked about, trying to find the direction that they had come from. While teathering all the party members together, he had gotten turned around. By some strand of luck, he managed to recognize a tall dune that they had crossed over on their way to the outcropping. That was the way. "Everyone, stand if you can. Follow us." Torren looked about for the other searchers and cupped one hand around his mouth. "Searchers, back to the city! Hurry Now!"

Looking around to see if everyone was following, Torren notcied that one of the party members he had teathered with the rope was still down, sand covering a good porion of her body. The Dah'kin was unconscious and didn't show any signs of moving. Without hesitating, Torren went to her and scooped her up in both arms. He didn't wish to be disrespectful, but when one was trying to survive, courtesy was the last thing to care about. Quickly, he draped her over his left shoulder, then looked around again. "Can everyone else move? Who can't? Answer now!"

Maura mumbled mostly to herself that she could move but didn't bother to raise her voice, instead she concentrated on the rope that would save her.

Ryoko shouted her response of 'Yes' and warily stood up. Her skin was on fire from minutes ago and knew it would be again soon. There seemed to be a barrier protecting them from the blast that she estimated wouldn't last much longer. She felt tugging on both ends from the rope and nodded her thankfulness. There were getting out of this hell. "Let's...go!"

Mela faintly waved with her hand. She felt like she was going to collapse into the abyss. She didn't even understand everything theat was going on around her, but tried to get away from the storm. "Here!" she screamed from the last voice she could produce.

For some 15 minutes, the group walked amongst the storm, shielded by Mazon's wind wall, as the yellow magic couldn't hold the spell any longer, they soon found themselves within the safety of the invisble walls of Hidden Dune. The searchers and the party entered the guard house which was part of the wall and decided to rest there until the morning, when the newcomers would be introduced to their new, permanent home. Mazon, however, called Torren aside so the other party members couldn't hear. "What were you thinking?!" he asked in a hushed voice nodding towards the unconcious Sana, who still rested in the Tiger's arm. "Bringing a Dah'kin here! you know how Ur-Atum feels about thse damn murderers! it would've been more merciful to leave her to die in the storm!" hissed the human with a bewildered look. "I thought you of all people would have more common sense than this, or at least some loyalty to your own race to put her to death." he added.

Torren gave the other an even look, his voice low and steady. He turned his head and nodded in the direction of the invisible wall and the raging storm beyond. "Out there, in the chaos of the storm, race doesn't matter to me. I remember years ago when i was brought here. The Searchers that rescued me didn't care what i was. They simply saved my life. That's what i try to do every time i go out there." Though that was how he felt, Torren knew that what he had done was wrong. He was willing to accept whatever fate rolled over him in the wake of his actions. "I will not say that i'm sorry, Mazon. However, i will accept the consequences of my actions, no matter what they are." Torren looked at the still unconscious female in his arms and sighed. What had he done? Slowly, he brought her over to her party and set her down on the floor carefully and without a word.

"You are right, it is your responsibility..." muttered Mazon. "I myself have nothing against Dah'kin, nor do any of the searchers gathered here, as we are not Catfolk, not pureblood anyways." he said nodding towards a clearly half Lynx Searcher in the corner "But we all live under Ur-Atum's protection and hence we must live by his rules, which aren't that unfair, Dah'kin can seldom be trusted.." Mazon muttered once more. "Even the few half-dah'kin that have been allowed to live in Hidden Dune had to undergo trials and even torture to make sure they were not spies from the depth dwellers... and this girl, she looks fragile enough as it is." said the human as he headed out the guards room. "I suggest you stay here with them and make up your mind about her. The rest of us have families to return to..." said Mazon, this time out loud, so everyone in the room could hear. And with that, he left the room, followed closely by the other searchers.

Torren sighed heavily and lowered his head. Mazon had to bring that up. It was true though. Torren was one of the few who didn't have family within the city of Hidden Dune. He hadn't seen his parents since he was ten and had no idea where they were or if they were even alive. They most certainly thought he was dead. They had no reason to doubt it since he went off to war and never returned home. Heaving another sigh, Torren unstrapped his swords from his hip and set them against the wall. As he sat, he couldn't help but look at his sword. It would be so easy to kill the Dah'kin while she lay unconscious and her party members were too weak to stop him. Killing her would eliminate his toubles, and to an extent, the Dah'kin's as well. She would surely be executed just for what she was. At best she would be thrown back to the desert just to perish there. Torren stared at the sheathed blade for the longest time. Finally, he looked away, shaking his head and cupping his forhead in one hand. No, he couldn't do it. He had nothing against this Dah'kin. To kill one in battle was one thing-he had done it many times before-but to do so in cold blood was unthinkable for him. "Please, no one is allowed to leave this guard tower. If you do, i can't guarantee your survival. Please, rest." Torren didn't care if anyone heard him. He had too much to think about at the moment.

Ryoko was sitting up, her eyes closed but ears perked. She heard footsteps fade away from where they were. Where they were... There was no sand blowing against her face nor heat. She sat on what seemed to be cool cement. "Our survival?" She piped up softly with a hoarse voice. "I'm surprised... whoever you people are, came to our rescue. I was sure we would perish in that hell out there." She coughed and strenuously half opened her right eye to glance in the direction of the voice. "I think I say for all of us, Thank you."

Torren managed a small smile and nod. "You're welcome. It's what i do." His eyes lingered on the female catfolk a moment longer, then lowered again to the floor. "As i said, you will all have to stay here tonight. If you leave the tower, i can't guarantee your safety. If you require anything like food or water, then you have but to talk to me."

"I think the sand may have seeped into some of our waterskins. If that being the case, we may need water to rinse this painful grain from our eyes and such, if that were no problem, of course." Ryoko closed her eye from discomfort and slowly lay down onto her stomach, resting her head on crossed arms.

Torren Nodded and pushed himself up to his feet. He went to the far wall and picked up a large bucket. "I will go and retrieve some water for all of you. Please, heed my warning and stay here. I shall return shortly." With that, Torren went to the door and slipped out, easing it closed behind him. The well for water wasn't far off, so he would get in no trouble for leaving his charges. Quickly, he tied the bucket to the well rope and hoisted it down. When it had filled he pulled it back up and carried it back to the guard tower. As he walked, he couldn't help but wonder what his punishment would be for bringing a Dah'kin into the city would be. Only time would tell.

Maura shifted in her sleep. It was only lightly that she slept but it was a relief to get out of the sand.

Mela opened her eyes. She was half-awake and listened to Ryoko's talk with the stranger. She didn't want to interfere becouse there was the possibility that he wouldn't speak any more. Although he didn't speak much. She murmured under voice: "Damn storm!" and continued louder so Ryoko can hear her :" I can feel the sand like it is in my bones. It is wonder that we're still alive. Although, based on the conversation you had a moment ago- I wouldn't say that we're out of danger. He said to stay still, ha?" Mela rose up and took of her cloak and bag to get rid of the sand that was annoying her. In the same process, she wanted to check if all her belongings were still there, but didn't want others to think that she was paranoid. She shook her head and a smaller ammount of dust and sand fell out. Now, she was waiting for Ryoko's answer as well as tring to keep her hair down.

Ryoko turned on to her side and supported herself up onto her elbow with a quaint nod. "After all, we are guests I suppose... so if they say anything about staying put, we aren't one to argue." She looked around and eyed Tyza, Maura and Sana. Sana looked in worse for wear and Maura quite comfortable. She crawled a little bit off to sit in between Mela and Tyza and sighed. "If anything, cool stone...or...cement, is better than out there in that storm and heat." She laughed light-heartedly making the notion of her fur and then proceeded to stand and dust herself off as Mela had done.

"Yeah, you know thats right." Maura said with her eyes still closed and her bare hands taking in the coolness of the stone beneith her. It was almost heavenly compared to the hell they had just escaped from. She let out a sigh.

Ryoko ruffled her hands through her fur and removed any unecessary items or clothing, for the moment, and set them at her feet. "Well, hopefully we'll have water soon to get these irritating grains from our mouths, nose, eyes... A male catfolk offered to go retrieve some, one of our rescuers." Her tail twitched and swayed violently for a moment to flick sand off of it, just as the rest of her shook, like a dog out of water.

Tyza was sitting, his legs crossed. He was nonchalantly brushing a hand through his hair to loose any sand from his head. He gently pulled down his bandana and began taking brief inventory of his supplies. With everything accounted for, he glanced up at the rest of the party. "Is everyone all right?" The sand's effect on him had been slightly lessened due to his bandana.

Torren opened the door to the guard tower and stepped in. He was pleased to see that some more of the party members they had brought back to the city were beginning to stir. He smiled politely to the female catfolk he had first spoken with, then set the bucket of water down in the middle the floor. "This should be enough for all of you to drink and wash up a bit. There are some cups on the shelf over there." He pointed with one finger toward a single shelf sticking out of the wall at about shoulder height to his left. "If you require more, i will get more." Seating himself once more against the far wall, Torren folded his arms over his knees and considdered the lot of them. "May i ask...what are all of your names?"

In a flash Maura was up and already taking her cup from the shelf and back to the precious water. "Maura," she replied drinking her water greedily.

Laughing lightly at Maura, Ryoko went to the shelf and grabbed two cups. Scooping them full of water she presented one to Tyza. She rinsed her mouth and drank the water as quickly as she found fit. With what remained, she produced a small handkerchief from her side and soaked it in the water. She wiped it over her eyes and all over her nose, blowing. Her eyes were now open fully. Despite the redness from irritation, her eyes were still their striking green. Feeling refreshed, Ryoko walked over to the male and extended her free hand. "Ryoko."

Nodding his thanks to Ryoko, Tyza used the water to quench his thirst and wipe away excess sand from his face and neck. "I am Tyza, friend." He bowed his head to the catfolk and stood up to stretch his legs.

"Maura, Tyza..." Torren nodded to each of the other two and smiled, then took the extended hand of the female Catfolk. "...and Riyoko. It's a pleasure to meet you all." Effortlessly, he stood up, still holding Riyoko's hand in his. "My name is Torren Rumani." His smile faded a bit as he looked past Riyoko to the still unconscious Dah'kin on the floor behind them. "And...what is her name?"

Ryoko lowered her head a bit, and glanced at Sana, still out cold. Her cheeks were a little red from him holding her hand. "Sana. That's Sana. She hasn't been doing well lately. The desert wasn't kind to any of us with its blistering heat, but even with fur on myself and even Maura, Sana was effected more." 'Torren Rumani. She repeated the name a few times so as not to forget.

Torren sighed heavily and finally let go of Riyoko's hand. "The desert is kind to few. That's why the seakers were created: to save travelers like yourselves from possible death." He left out the fact that he was a seaker himself. They knew what he was. Slowly, Torren made his way over to Sana and knelt. She was indeed in bad shape. He would have called for a healer already if he didn't think it would cause an uproar in the city. "Can any of you heal her?"

Ryoko knelt at Torren's side and shook her head. "She's not injured. Right now she's just unconscious." She passed a gentle smile at Torren and went to get a cup of water and pulled out her handkerchief. "Slightly dirty, Sana.. but I'm sure you won't mind, right?" She smiled down at the Dah'kin. As was history, catfolk resented Dah'kin with a passion. Ryoko had nothing against Sana. She had spent many months in her company and from her different personality, she liked Sana. She soaked the cloth again and began wiping sand from her gently.

Torren nodded and stood up, leaving Riyoko to tending the Dah'kin. He wasn't sure why Riyoko had no resentment toward the Dah'kin. He had always thought he was unique in his neutrality towards them. Perhaps Riyoko felt the same way. Torren crossed his arms and watched with mute admiration for the female Catfolk. She had an unmistakeably strong aura around her. For that matter, so did the rest of her party members. Who were they and how had they come to be so deep in the desert? He would have to inquire later. For now, they all had to get settled and rest. Tomorrow wasn't far off.

After Maura had finished drinking her fill and getting rid of the worst of the traces of sand, she peered curiously around Ryoko. "If you need any help just ask." She was a little worried about Sana but she knew it wasn't anything too serious.

Mela stood up. She walked to the glasses and took some water. She drank it slowly so all of her body got the chance to get the impulse that the water is no longer necessary. She turned to Torren and lowered her head and offering her hand: "My name is Mela Raa. And you can count at me with all the assistance you need." She looked at Torren and continued: "If you don't mind, could you tell us what do we do from now, considering we're at your home? Any special rules?"

Torren took the offered hand and shook it firmly as he bowed his head in a silent appology. Somehow, he had missed addressing her earlier when introductions were being made. "Please, forgive me. I failed to get your name earlier and carried on as if you were not here." Torren finally released her hand and offered a small smile. "Mela. It is good to know you can be counted on. I'll remember that." Her next question caused his smile to fade from his face once more. "I am allowed to say little, that is the job of my superiors, but i will tell you what i can. This is actually not my home, but the city we're in is. We're on the outskirts in a guard tower. My home is further toward the center of the city. Anyway, there are no rules for now except to follow common sense. Tonight, you will all stay here in the tower. As i said, i cannot guarantee your safety outside these walls...at least not yet. Tomorrow, you will all begin new lives. I know that must sound odd or even uncomfortable at this point, but it must be." Torren paused and hung his head even lower. He had yet to reveal the final rule, and he always dreaded doing so. "There is one other thing...you're not allowed to leave the city....Ever. I'm sorry."

Ryoko piped up in quite the astonished voice, "We're not allowed to continue on where we were headed?!" She had done a bang up job wiping off and aiding Sana, whose head lay in Ry's lap. "We're rescued then held prisoner?" She was far too tired and worn to be in much of a good mood, despite being saved. "You rescue people just to entrap them in this city, basically." Ryoko was fuming. She nodded to Maura to support Sana's head so Ryoko could stand. "That's hardly a thing considered honorable in my eyes." Her eyes were fiery and staring straight at Torren. She stormed crossly to the farther side of the room and flopped down, her eyes closed and arms folded in utter fury. News of that sort did not sit well with her, especially under the current conditions they were all in.

Taking it all in, Tyza heaved a heavy sigh. His now empty water glass sat at his side and an arm now rested under his chin in thought. "Are we not allowed to know why we're now the new citizens? Why we're not permitted to depart from here?" His eyes weren't very upset but slight confused and interrogative.

Torren lowered his head and leaned his back against the wall, his arms at his sides. So much for good relations with the new comers. However, he hardly expected a different reation. Some that he had brought to Hidden Dune had threatened to kill him when presented with the news that they couldn't leave. Some even held vendettas. It came with the job. Riyoko and all her party members had every right to be furious with him. Torren heaved a sigh and closed his eyes. "It's...not my decision. The man who made this city, who rules here decided years ago that any who come to this city arn't permitted to leave. He protects us...and we follow orders." He knew that his words were hollow. He was just a middleman, but he would bear their hatred just like he always did. "I know it means nothing....but i'm sorry."

Maura took Ryoko's place to support Sana's head but it didn't keep her from snarling. "what do you mean we can't leave?! show this man to me and i'll..i'll.." Maura cut off fuming, her anger making her tongue dumb. She would show them all that no one could keep her anywhere she didn't want to be. Her eyes were ablaze as she glared at Torren. She found it hard to keep a hold of her temper but she knew she must.

"Yah, I knew there had to be something wrong inside all of this...I expect that your superiors will tell us the reasons why we are held prisoners. And if there is a way they could bend the rules for us.", Mela sighed slowly. She knew that she had no right to be mad at the person who saved her and she also knew that Torren had nothing to do with the decision.

Ryoko held her hands to her temples in thought. "And if we don't want to start a new life?" She questioned. Her eyes had cooled off a little, but none the less, gazed intently on Torren. "I don't mean to snap at you. I know it's not your rules, you're just doing as you're ordered. But... isn't there something else? Another option?"

Tyza was now sitting back down, surveying the room as if looking for an exit. He nodded in agreement to Ryoko's question and eyed Torren. "If there is not another option than a new life, what is it we'll do?" He added.

Torren stared ahead as if he were in deep thought. In truth he was considdering their options. Most of the people he had brought to Hidden Dune had simply accepted their fate and started new lives. Oddly enough, no one had ever asked him if there were alternate options. His eyes finally looked to Ryoko's, his expression soft but serious. "There are others in the city who wish to be free from these walls. A while back they tried to do something about it. The conflict was minor and the issue was never completely resolved. There are those that are content to stay, and others who wish to leave. However, law dictates that anyone who leaves will be executed. " Torren rubbed his hands together slightly as he considered what to say next. "I'm afraid that your only other option is death. Even if you could escape, you wouldn't make it very far without food or water. Again, i'm sorry. I wish i had a better answer for you."

"But You were outside. Othervise, you wouldn't be able to save us from the storm. And if I understood correctly, you were also brought here like we are. That means that either they like you very much or you are doing some kind of service that others can't give. Or am I mistaken?", asked Mela developing plan as she spoke. She saw two, possibly three ways to get out. First, to run through the doors (but none of them knew what to expect outside. Possibly agressive people that were going to kill them for merely coming out). Second, to pretend to accept the rules and do some kind of service, maybe learn a few new skills and run away when given chance. And third, to live in that place, and that thought was not a nice one. Something was strange in the way Torren spoke about going outside. She had a bad feeling. The only way to decide what to do was to wait a few days, to see what was outsid, to see the Elders and than redo the plans. At this moment only thing she could do was to get Torren to their side, so she smiled softly to him and asked again:"Well, If we're bound to live here until the end of times, he he, could you tell us something about people, town and customes so we can fit in?"

Ryoko glanced at Mela curiously. It seemed she had a slight change of heart. She raised an eyebrow in curiosity and exchanged her glance back upon the male catfolk. "Just how big is this city?" With slight hesitation, Ryoko stood up and walked to the other side of the room (where she previously was). She sat down, cross-legged, and folded her arms loosely over her knees.

Maura listened to the conversation going on around her, but she still didn't trust herself to speak. The more she heard the more she got angry and the more she wanted to prove to the people of the city that they could escape.

Torren considered Mela's first question. "I'm allowed outside the city because of my post. I am a Seacher and it's my duty to retrieve suffering people out of the desert and bring them to Hidden Dune. However, if travelers appear to be able to survive on their own, then we leave them. For your party though, we had to intervene." Even eyes swept over them , trying to gauge their reaction. "My superiors know that i will not try to escape. There is nothing to be gained by it. I would be dead within three days...less if i were to be caught in a sandstorm." Slowly, Torren got up and retrieved a glass for himself off the shelf and scoopede up some of the water from the still half full bucket. He took a few deep swallows of the cool liquid, then sat back down. "I cannot tell you anything about this city...at least not yet. Once things have been settled i can tell you anything and everything." 

"When are we getting these issues settled then?" Maura demanded. "The sooner the better."

Tyza leaned forwards, smiling as a thought occured to him, "And while we're on the subject of resolving issues, seeing as I'm only really any good for swinging a sword and keeping my eyes open, what would I have to do to earn your job, Torren? Looking for stranded people has a certain appeal, if their choice is death or life here." He didn't really like the way it sounded to himself, almost as if he approved of living in this city, but he thought maybe one of them would catch onto what he was getting at: Bcome a Searcher, and they would be outside the city. Be outside the city, and they could contrive a way to escape. "I understand trust is an issue, so I'd assume it's a case of earning trust..."

Maura looked away and kept her mouth shut. she didn't want to do anything that might jepordize Tyza's plan, so she busied herself with removing the last traces of sand from Sana that Ryoko might have overlooked.

"Well, for now I guess we have no choice but to wait for tomorrow, and see how things turn out." Ryoko yawned and curled up slightly, resting her head on her pack. Her fur bristled for a moment and then smoothed out, her skin had shivered temporarily to send heat to her limbs for sleep. Her tail was curled up and her eyes now closed. "We should get some rest, be prepared for whatever's to come." She purred lightly and started drifting off.

"My job?" Torren looked at Tyza, his eyes reflecting curiosity. No one had ever asked how to become a Searcher. In truth, he wasn't sure how Searchers were chosen. When he had been brought to Hidden Dune, he had been asked to take the post of Searcher becuase of his skills. He had taken the job because it was a way to make a living and he was good at it. "Truth be told, i don't know how to become a Searcher. I was chosen because i was good at it. I don't know what else to tell you..." Torren's train of thought was diverted when Ryoko spoke up. "Very well. Good night everyone." A careful hand reached to the side and grabbed his swords, draping the katana over his shoulder with hilt pointing up. It wasn't that he was paranoid, rather he was just used to sleeping with it in hand. Minutes passed and his eyes began to droop. Before long, his head hung between his knees and he was asleep.

Unsatisfied, but seeing their rescuer falling asleep Tyza decided to let the issue lie. Placing his back against the wall, hand secured on his katana and his bandana drooping over his eyes slightly. Soon, his soft snores filled the room.

Slowly Maura too began to fall asleep, letting her head fall to one side and letting the sounds of the others sleeping lull her to sleep.

"Ergh, guys, I guess you decided to do nothing until the morning comes? Well, we better try to sleep, although I think I won't be able to. G'Night." said Mela. She lied down thinking and planning the alternatives for tomorrow.



Maura
Torren Rumani
Mela RaaTyalangan
Ryoko Lunari
Tyza Kiruthianasis
San'aran Afiza
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