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Rhazagur's question tore Anessa away from her inspection of the map. She'd been tracking the little groups progress as they traveled, and she was impressed with the time they were making. At the rate they were going, they'd reach the first oasis by nightfall. Plus, she was handling the desert way better than she had thought she would, and so far she'd kept her water consumption to a minimum. Her nonchalant attitude, however, faded when she saw how Rhazagur was doing. The beastman was clearly suffering in the heat, and while he was obviously powering through it, Anessa was concerned that he may not know his own limits. She pulled out a waterskin from among her packs, offering it to him, and then retrieved another, drinking it down in between sentences.

"It usually uh, takes almost a week to cross the desert," she answered Rhazagur's question, "though at our pace I think we can do it in, uh, probably in five. We're also getting close to the first oasis, and we should be able to, uh, well to stop and rest there." She fell quiet for a moment, thinking. "Honestly, we may be better off taking a short break and then, well, and then traveling through the night, and trying to find some shelter during the heat of the day."

She turned to Hikage and Jerek, ready to offer them water, if they needed any. "And how about you two. How are you, well, holding up?"

AdventureGuy likes this

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Hikage slows as she watches Anessa root through the bag, listening quietly. Hikage doesn’t feel the fatigue and suffering Rhazagur does. She desperately wants to keep trudging through the endless sand dunes and see the spires of Stormward on the horizon. All it is to her is one foot in front of the other, over and over and over.

But the human condition is fragile, and the beastman’s deep pants are evidence. Dragging the others at her pace would kill them.

Anessa’s question dissipates Hikage’s musings, and she turns to answer wholeheartedly, “Your concern is admirable and appreciated, Anessa. Rest assured that I do not need any recuperation right now.”

“Having said that however,” Hikage continued, “In hindsight, it was foolish and reckless of us to depart so quickly. Rhazagur is already falling to the heat. We must stop for now and treat his exhaustion.”

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Anessa nodded at Hikage's words. "Well there should be a place to rest not too far from her-"

The girl cut off her words as she crossed the next dune. A large stand of rugged trees and desert shrubs stood out from the sand, painting the orange desert off-color green. Anessa almost sagged with relief. They hadn't gone that far, but it wasn't all that surprising that they had found an oasis so close to the edge of the expanse. According to the map, the outer edges of the desert were dotted frequently with these lush areas. The interior, on the other hand, was the true wasteland. Most travel through the desert took the long way around, curving around the desert's outer edge.

Anessa had intended to trek straight through the wasteland, but her new companions had her thinking that perhaps it would be wiser to take the road more traveled in this instance.

The girl was turning to relay her thoughts to the group when she heard a whirring noise and noticed a flash of light out of the corner of her eye. She spun around, and was shocked to find the large beast-man gone, some strange, glowing spot in the air in his place. Even as she watched the floating disk of wrongness coalesced and collapsed in on itself, winking out of existence with a small *pop.*

Wide eyed, Anessa turned to her other two companions. Her mouth moved, but words didn't form, and she was left staring at them in askance.

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As soon as the light disk gobbled up Rhazagur, Hikage barely hesitates in rushing forward. Warrior instincts drive her through her surprise, and she draws her top blade, the katana.

But the disk blinked away as quick as it came and her blade bit nothing but air.

Hikage glances all about the lifeless dunes and distant green for any sign of it. It was nowhere to be found. Perhaps it, whatever it was, slinked off to some subterranean lair after it got its fill. Or it might still be hungry and waiting nearby in a shallow trap.

Grimacing invisibly, Hikage wipes the blade and sheathes it. When she turns she sees Anessa frozen in a shocked trance. Poor tailor, she must be unused to the snapping predator jaws of death, especially in the wild.

“It is dangerous here.” This is obvious, but Anessa must be talked back into reality, just in case she doesn’t snap back on her own with haste. “Rhazagur is gone. We have to go. Now.” Hikage says softly, but forcefully.

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