Drinking their fill, the slaves of Hezzrat gathered as much water as they could, about a day’s ration, and set to exploring the buildings of the oasis. The stables contained two Kank corpses and little else. In the kitchen area they found two barrels containing salted meat and a variety of pickled foods.
They set about deciding in which direction to head to Valmirren. If they followed the road, heading West into the Alluvial Wastes, they suspected their travels would be safer. They instead opted to cut through the Badlands and make a straight shot for Valmirren, hoping to cut a day’s travel off of their trek. Any hostile threats they would have to simply endure.
Some ways out they haphazardly stumbled onto a huge camp in a valley, containing a mix of Humans, Elves, Mul and a decent number of Thri-Kreen. Their presence woke a posted guard and alerted two of his comrades, all humans dressed in Mekillot armor with red Inix pauldrons on their left arms, armed with spears. The slaves and guards came to the conclusion that it would be better if they traveled wide of the valley and kept tight-lipped about what they had seen.
Cutting out Westward and eventually Southwest again they made camp for the night and could see the fires of the valley off to the Northeast. Nus found himself able to overcome his sunsickness and also completely cure Barthomar of his own. When they resumed the next day they happened upon a destroyed caravan that Ka’tho deduced had been attacked by raiders. There were drag marks leading northeast and a pooled puddle of blood that had been spilled the previous day.
Continuing on for four hours, they were stopped at the sight of a swarm of Kestrels and discovered a nearly dead man in the sand. Razin inspected the man, finding a deep puncture wound in his sternum with a slash mark cutting from there to his left side. He gradually awoke and introduced himself as Dieber, a member of the ravaged caravan that the slaves had found earlier.
He said that he had hidden under one of the wagons until the raiders had left and tried to escape in the opposite direction. Ka’tho pulled him up and, without interference, invited him to travel with the party. Dieber claimed that his caravan was heading past Valmirren, bringing supplies to Uumparon just within the Southern Wastes. The party’s new pace damaged their chances; they ran out of water that evening and suspected that they had only made half a day’s progress toward Valmirren.
When the city finally came into sight the party was enthralled to the point of being in a daze. The others watched as Nus, who was in the lead, was ambushed by a man with that same red Inix pauldron who stabbed him cleanly in the chest with an obsidian wrist-blade. Five others rose out of the sands two attack: two women with bows and three other men with a shortblade and longsword.
The slaves clumped together and were assaulted by the speed of the men and the bows of the arrows, both of whom would attack several party members at once. Ka’tho, Nus and Razin were battered horribly in the close quarters. Only through the combined efforts of Ka’tho, who drew the enemies in with his psionic abilities, and Razin, who attacked in a whirlwind of blows, did they stand a chance of surviving. Both fell at least once over the course of the battle. Nus fared little better. Mir, who had remained in the back, remained virtually unharmed as she moved without any effective resistance around the battlefield, reviving Razin when he was struck down and punishing those foolish enough to come near her.
When all was said and done six raiders had been killed, and a dozen more by Barthomar and Hurgen. The days of traveling had taken its toll on everyone. Worn out, weary and entirely drained, they stumbled the last legs of their journey. The delirium, however, worked differently on Nus. While his mind raced and roiled around a broken landscape, secrets burned themselves into his brain, secrets of the sun, of heat, and of flame itself. Salves and ointments to inure himself to fire, recipes of flaming unguents. Let no experience go to waste. This would be no different.
Razin found in the calm following each battle that unlike the arenas he was accustomed to, there were no rules out here, no rest, and the greatest enemy of all was one was the wind, sand and heat of Athas. It could not be attacked. It never stop trying to kill you, and he realized that if he became the swiftness of the wind and the brutality of the heat, his foes would fall before him. He knew also that there would be many more foes before his life was spent.
The slaves were left to ponder the significance of the raiders’ ambush and whether their arrival to Valmirren would be a welcome one.