"Trust in Allah, but tie up your camel tight."-- Proverb

005, 1123.

The night, and the storm, passes and no one is eaten by the dorum, kidnapped by gypsies, or murdered by the merchants. (And there was much rejoicing.) The blankets have ice on them in the morning, or maybe it's just compressed hail. Once the weather gets clearer, Robert will check out the 'moon', to see if it's rotating or not (by observing any landmarks). There is a big cloud of smoke in the distance, back past the crash site to the west. Interesting.

Morning rituals are observed - quick washing, changing of underwear, that sort of thing. Fortunately, the women point out to Cena their folding port-a-potty, for which Cena is very grateful. Maybe she should patent this if she gets off planet; if it were made of some high tech polymer or such, it would weigh next to nothing. Ariana borrows the wash basin, and mimics what the locals are doing, and then brings Cena the basin with fresh water, getting into the 'maid' role. This bothers Robert, who thinks it's "just wrong" for Ariana to be a maid. Ghaer is being brushed by the women. He's so soft and fluffy! The rest of the boys get freshened up, too.

The little caravan gets packed up, and ready to move. Tyrel believes they will make the town sometime today, as long as they make good time. He's not averse to Hunter's group travelling with them. Hunter travels with the front of the party, keeping an eye out. There is a frequency of small hills in the fields between the road and the lake. There are several teams out plowing in the fields today. (With Hunter's machine gun?)

Several hours pass, then there's a lump in the ditch. A pink lump. It's a body. A pink body. A pink naked body. Hunter jumps down to determine if the body is dead. Nope. Live body, badly beaten. Hunter yells "Medic!!!", and Cena, who's already on the way, goes down into the ditch. The victim is a young male, late twenties, early thirties. Definitely blunt trauma - nothing that's not been caused by pressure. Concussion, unequal pupils, etc. He's checked for neck and spinal injuries, and is lifted carefully from the ditch by Hunter, Cena, and Ghaer (all of whom have medical training).

The man does become semiconscious in response to pain, moaning, but not completely responsive. Cena uses one of her small blankets, cuts a hole in it to use it as a poncho. The victim doesn't look shocky, which is good. He has visible bruises and contusions literally all over his body. Some one did a great job beating the crap out of this guy. His body temperature indicates that he probably hasn't been in the ditch all night, but being cold probably helped limit the bleeding. No signs of internal bleeding, and his lungs sound clear.

He'll probably live, even without the high tech stuff they don't have. Good thing Cena's used to dealing with medical emergencies in less than optimum circumstances. The women bring warm water with honey, so Cena can clean and dress the wounds, and he regains consciousness. He's in a lot of pain, and would probably prefer to be unconscious, but oh well. Cena asks the man annoying medical questions ("Does this hurt?"), which he answers. He does not answer Hunter's questions about who he is and what happened.

Robert takes the opportunity to find himself a stout walking stick, since the group has stopped to render aid. And it can also double as a whacking device, should the need arise. And it probably will. He goes off into the edge of the woods, but not too far, to find a fallen branch on the ground. Once a few smaller branches are broken off it will serve nicely.

Robert is heading back to the group when suddenly he's hit across the back by something that swooped down out of one of the trees, raking his back. Robert yells, and goes to the ground onto his back (ouch), brandishing his stick. The creature is coming back for a second run, and Robert gets up and goes into a batting stance. This time he can see it coming, and connects really well. If the creature had been baseball shaped, it might have been a triple, but since it's about the size and shape of a football, it just flies through the air about ten feet and falls with a thud on the ground.

Robert goes over and beats on it repeatedly. Hunter: "Don't do that! You'll rip all the meat off!" Tyrel: "We don't eat those. They're venomous." Hunter <to Robert>: "Carry on." Tyrel hacks the head off the sawbird (a beak like a razor-edged Toucan), and tosses it to the dorums. They eat it with great delight. Tyrel <to Robert>: "They may develop a fondness for you if you keep finding fresh meat for them." Oh yeah, there's something to look forward to.

Tyrel tells the group that the usual result of an injury from a sawbird is inflammation and fever, but they have a poultice they can use on Robert that should help. Hunter: "Sounds like a proteinaceous venom rather than neuro-toxin. <Cena nods> We'll need to clean the area, before you put the poultice on." Tyrel and the other locals are a bit puzzled by this concept. Hunter: "Our religion teaches us that there are small demons that live in wounds and cause them to fester and burn. These demons are driven out by holy water and soap." Hunter uses boiled water - cooled boiled water to clean the wounds, make sure there is no venom in the wounds, that sort of thing. Hunter: "What is the poultice made of?" Tyrel: "Plant material." When pressed for specifics, Tyrel gets uncomfortable. It's "woman's work". Hunter is able to get some information: the wounds are rarely fatal, just very painful. Hunter: "Probably just for the elderly and small children, right? But a strapping man, or even a pilot, will probably be fine. He's probably just trying to get out of doing any work." Cena speaks to the women, and the plant is medicinal - they even have some with them to sell. Robert is medicked, and his leather bomber jacket is carefully stitched up by one of Tyrel's daughters.

The foundling victim is able to walk too, although he is seeing more than one road. His name is Aaron, and he's very grateful they stopped for him. Hunter is concerned about Robert walking, but aside from leaving the merchant's group, that's not going to happen, so Hunter makes sure Robert drinks water constantly, to keep his kidneys flushed. Robert is searching for feathers as he travels. He appears to be in need of a souvenir or something.

Cena asks Aaron what happened to him, and he eventually tells her that it was a family dispute, and since he woke up, he assumes he was just disinherited, rather than dismembered. He figures it's time to go to the city to seek his fortune, as he apparently has no future as a farmer. He's probably right.

After many hours travel, they get to within sight of the city. It's a walled city with white buildings. There is a rider coming towards the group, looking sort of like a Bedouin prince on a fiery stallion. He's followed closely by two creatures, running after him. The animals are about two metres long, have six legs each, claws on the legs, yellow and black matted fur on the bodies, and their skulls and shoulders appear to be armored. The rider does not seem to be fleeing the creatures, so perhaps they're his. The merchant's party doesn't seem disturbed by the rider or his animals, so Hunter figures he shouldn't be concerned either. The rider appears to be very well dressed, possibly a noble. Hunter <to Cena>: "Here comes his nibs." The party gets out of the way, and the rider, and friends go past. Robert <to Tyrel>: "What were those?" Tyrel: "Those were dogs." Robert: "Dogs? Okay... <to Hunter> Those were dogs." Hunter: "Dawgs, huh?"

Without further incident, they arrive at the city, and head into the marketplace. Robert asks Tyrel if he knows of a good inn, and Tyrel will point out several honest inns near the market. Robert thanks Tyrel for his hospitality, as he knows it was a sense of duty. Hunter: "Hey Cena? You've got more specie than any one else in the party. All I've got is an ounce of gold and a $1,000 credit Dakar, neither of which sound like a good thing to pass on in the market. Since you're the noble, or whatever, I figured we could find a money changer or something. The market should be a good place to get equipment. I figure we should break up into groups of two, and spread out to listen for information." Cena: "Okay. How do we break up the group?" Hunter: "Why don't you take Ghaer, and I'll take Bob." Cena: "What about Ariana? She should go with me, since she's acting as my maid." Hunter: "Right. Oh wait, why don't you take Bob and Ariana, and I'll take Ghaer, since Bob has the puppydog eyes thing going." Ghaer wants to look at the gate, after they exchange some specie.

Hunter watches the money changers for a while, to get a feeling of what's going on, then goes up and asks about exchanging some specie. The man asks Hunter if they have done business before? Hunter: "I don't think we've had the pleasure. I have not been here before, as we have just arrived from across the sea." The money changer keeps the gold round, scratches it with a knife, then does a primitive test on the gold. He passes Hunter a bag of fifty pieces of silver to Hunter. (The exchange rate, minus his fee, of course.) Just to check, Hunter begs another gold round from Cena and exchanges it with another money changer. He got a better rate of exchange at the first table, so Hunter returns to that money changer. Hunter: "I've spoken highly of you to my patron, who wishes to exchange some currency, but discreetly. It is sometimes more prudent to not be in public when exchanging large amounts of currency. We are new to your land, but not to cities." The broker motions over a younger man to watch the booth, and shows Hunter to a little café, that is cool and dark.

Hunter fetches Cena, and they all go to the café. Robert takes another table with Ariana. A waiter offers to take their order - the beverages available are: tea, wine, water, goat's milk, sherbet. The broker is very pleased to do business with Cena, and offers her tea, which is accepted. Money changer: "Did you come to the city today? Cena: "Yes" Money changer: "Are you pilgrims?" Cena: "We are seeking a relative who came here as one." Money changer: "Ah, I hope you have a pleasant journey. There are many fine sights to see in the city, such as the mosque, library, and of course the baths." Cena: "Where would a pilgrim go here?" Money changer: "To the mosque, in the upper city. It has tall, minaret towers. Because of the upper city walls, you cannot see it from here."

The conversation continues, essentially revealing the entire city is within the ring of volcanos. It's kind of like the old traditional castle with the outer area with the markets and working class, and the inner/upper area is for the nobles. Cena exchanges three one ounce gold rounds, getting 150 silver pieces. The broker will be closing early today.

The business done with, it's time to order food and cold drinks. Hunter can even get cool beer. It tastes really good. And it's sucked up very efficiently by the parched merc. Hunter is complaining about having to lug around "ninety-eight silver pieces. What the heck am I going to do with all that weight?" Cena: "Hunter, first - quit bitching. Second, we'll be splitting up the money amongst the group." The money changer is grateful for the business, and had arranged for the meal to be on him.

After a good meal, it's time to move. Cena: "We need to get some supplies, and decide where and when we're going to meet. And it would probably be a good idea to get rooms before we purchase equipment that we'll be stuck legging around." Off into the evening, to get rooms. Robert can see the moon now, and takes notice of the prominent features. They go to the inn Tyrel recommended, and get two rooms - one for Robert and Ariana, and one for the remaining three. Proper rooms with doors and everything, and screened windows, even. Very nice. Robert: "Do they have a proper bath?" No. Out house out back, chamberpots in the rooms, and hot water can be brought to the rooms. The baths are in the upper city.

Robert gets a bucket of hot water, and gives Ariana a footrub with hot water. As they have adjoining rooms they have some privacy for foot scrubbing, etc. But it's time to get equipment, so Cena knocks on the adjoining door. Cena: "That's enough of that, you two! It's time to go shopping." Robert opens the door. Robert: "What? It's not like we were doing anything..."

Everyone gets forty silver pieces each, and Hunter keeps the fifty he got originally. He and Ghaer are going to go in search of weapons, and maybe armor of some sort. Cena, Robert, and Ariana are looking for clothing, maps, and other travelling necessities. Robert wants a spyglass, and finds one that's collapsible. They want thirty silver. Robert: "Twenty." Vendor: "Twenty-five." After this deal, Cena suggests Ariana use the "I'd really like that, but my mean husband/boyfriend/whatever won't let me pay that much" routine. Cena: "I'd rather have Hunter for this, but we'll have to make due. Robert, your job is to stand back a ways and look stern and not very pleased." Robert: "What? Oh! I get it. I can do that." Hunter would be better, but any male will do in a pinch.

Meanwhile Hunter locates the market armourer. Hunter: "I'm a man who appreciates quality, but much of the money I had is at the bottom of the ocean due to a bad crossing, but I'm more than willing to spend what little money I do have on something of reasonable quality. If I were to mention an amount, say, 30 or 40 silvers, perhaps you could give me an idea of what I could get?" Armourer: "You could get a cuirass, backplate, armguards, leg guards" Hunter: "I don't need leg guards, but... <pause> Well, my grandsire gave me this, and said that some day when I was in need this could come in handy." He takes out his Dakar, and the armourer's eyes light up. Oh yes, he recognizes it and it is used as currency on planet. If you are very rich. Hunter suggests that he needs other types of equipment also, if the armourer could persuade some of the other merchants to bring their wares to this one shop, it would expedite his spending!!!!! Armourer: " I know an excellent cobbler [probably his brother-in-law] if you have need of boots ." Hunter: "No, I have excellent boots. My land is known for the quality of their boots. [Ah, that's it - they're from the land of Danner!] Now about this armor. Could you take the shiny finish off it, perhaps dull it down or lacquer it black?" For the rich eccentric customer, they can paint it, sure.

As far as breaking the Dakar, it's back to the cafe, where their favorite money changer offers 500 silver for the $1,000 credit Dakar. They come to a bit of a problem when the money changer says that he will have to acquire additional silver pieces to actually make delivery of the money. Hunter doesn't want to haul 500 silver pieces around. No doubt. The money changer says that he can write a letter of credit for 500 silver pieces, for use in the city, and Hunter can "draw" against that letter by signing a note to a merchant, who will come to the money changer for the actual payment (for a fee, of course). The money changer hands Hunter a brush. Hunter: "No, a pen. A pen. <blank look from the man> Do you have ink?" An inkpot is pointed out. Hunter: "Do you have a feather, or a reed, or a twig?" A small, carved piece of wood is fetched, Hunter takes out a knife, and sharpens a point on the twig, and signs the paper, making an incredible mess. He rips up that paper, and has to do it again. It's a very unique signature.... kind of like one of those ink blot tests. Ghaer just stands behind Hunter and makes "head injury" gestures over Hunter.

They return to the street of dreams, and discuss Hunter's new armor. The man who runs the shop will stay open as long as he needs for this lovely customer. Hunter: "Could you recommend a swordmaker? I have a blade that needs to be sharpened." The swordmaker is just down the street. Hunter: "Can you get him to come here?" Nope, the master blacksmith doesn't make house calls. They will have to go to his shop. Hunter: "Okay. We'll need two small children, one to go to the inn to deliver a message. And probably several seamstresses. And have food delivered - I'll pay for it." Small creatures being easy to come by, this is not a problem. Hunter <to the child who will be acting as messenger>: "Take this to the off-world [whoops] woman, what? Oh, the foreign woman at the inn. Tell her I am with the craftsman, and for her to send whatever servants need equipping, um, anon." The child runs off. The message as it is delivered to Cena, is a cryptic oral message that is supposed to summon the party. Of course as it is delivered, it is pretty incomprehensible. Cena does not choose to send a rescue party for Hunter, since it doesn't seem that he's actually in trouble from what the kid says.

Hunter goes off to the swordmakers. It takes the swordmaker very little time to determine that the blade is in fact very good. 30 silvers to fit a handle, another 10 for a wooden scabbard. Hunter then needs to get some damn pants, thank you. He wants fabric trousers, preferably of browns and greens. They think he's a right nutter, but they can patch something together in a couple of days. Too long, so Hunter settles for dark colors. That they can do. And they have some dark patterned fabric that might work. Hunter settles on dark brown. He gets a great deal on brown fabric, as that's what you get when the dye job is screwed up. Hunter: "Perfect! And I'll need something to wear under the armor." The resulting cost is 175 silver pieces, including the armor (breastplate, backplate, arms). And good food is delivered.

While Hunter is doing his thing, Cena and the others are doing their own shopping. Robert keeps looking up to check on the moon. Cena tries to get him focused on what's going on in the marketplace, but he keeps protesting that he is. Cena: "You know, when the market closes, odds are, the moon will still be there. If not, it's kind of a moot point." Stuck with the noncombatants again - sheesh!

Hunter also wants a short spear, 4 to 5 feet in length, with a blade on it, the last foot with shod metal on the butt. Hunter's thinking in terms of a long bayonet, really. The wood is well seasoned, so he doesn't really need the metal reinforcing, or wrapping or anything. This wood would make great tool handles.

The others get bags of cotton duck like material, clothing, underclothing, short-sleeved tunic like things of cotton, waterskins, local equivalent of toiletries can be purchased near the baths (tomorrow). Robert practices looking mean. There's a bookseller who should have maps, so they go there. 100 silver pieces for clothing and general supplies. They're not allowed to make maps of the city, but they have maps of the outlying area. 10 silver pieces for the map. Robert: "Do you have any skycharts? I lost mine when my ship sank." Shopkeeper: "Do you sail the ocean?" Robert: "Yes. I had been making a chart of your area when the accident happened." Robert could pick up more stars than are on the chart with his spyglass away from the city. The chart costs 30 silver pieces, which Ariana helps pay for, since Robert is down to 15. Ariana: "Don't spend all my money." Robert: "Do you have any books on stellar navigation?" No. "folklore?" No. He does have some books on mathematics. Robert goes book browsing, looking for books on the star crash of yore. He finds the religious section, and browses through those, looking for the story of the star falling from the sky. No luck for now, and it's time to go to the inn. With stuff, no less.

But no Hunter, and no Ghaer at the inn. Robert: "Have you noticed that the local moon doesn't rotate? Doesn't spin? It doesn't appear to be in a geosynchronous orbit, but it's not acting moon like." Cena: "Yeah, so? I'm not sure it's a moon at all. It's reflective, and not in a moonlike fashion." Robert: "I don't think it's a natural satellite." Cena: "No, I didn't think so." Robert: "Well it's bigger than any damn Capital ship I've ever seen. And I've seen some big ones." Robert can't see the moon from his window, so he wants to go onto the roof. He considers climbing out of the window, but it's a smooth surface, so he opts for just asking the innkeeper. Guests often go up onto the roof, so it's okay. Robert and Ariana (of course) get a couple of chairs, and some wine, and go up.

First Robert takes a look for the ships, which he can't see. Then he wants to identify the stars on the chart, which is a yes and he makes that something romantic. As for the moon, the edges are kind of irregular. Could be mountain ranges, volcanoes, ice crystals, monsters, missile bays, whatever. Robert: "I want to go back to that bookstore tomorrow." Ariana: "Why? Have you been missing reading your cereal boxes in the morning?" Robert: "I'm interested in the fallen star story, and I want to check it out."

Ghaer wanders back to the inn, and tells Cena about Hunter bonding with the armorer, and it's getting really boring. Ghaer: "Can we trade partners? I'll take the kids." Cena: "I'll go along with that." She shows Ghaer the map she got at the bookstore, and his fluffy ears perk up at the word "bookstore". Cena: "It's closed." Damn. Hunter eventually staggers in with his stuff. The rest will be delivered in the morning. Hunter: "While you were getting your fancy walking around clothes, I was out getting armor, and some weapons." Cena: "And for how many party members did you get armor?" Hunter: "That's why I sent a runner." Cena: "The messages sort of got crossed." Not to worry, the armourer will be open in the morning. And since Ghaer has offered to take Robert and Ariana tomorrow, Hunter can show Cena the armourer's shop.

Night passes, morning comes. No one explodes.

006, 1123.

Supplies are discussed, which includes the lack of real medical supplies. Hunter: "We have two doses of Regen2™." Robert: "How did we get that?" Cena and Hunter in unison: "Don't ask." Ghaer just twitches.

In the bookstore, Robert and Ghaer find copies of the story of the creation of the world, which involves: "In the beginning the star fell, and life came to the planet." 10 silver pieces. According to the book, after the world was created, the star remained. In the shrine. In the mosque. Up the hill. The shrine itself is only described vaguely in the book, but it has a priestess cult that cares for it. It mentions people coming to the shrine looking for knowledge, wisdom [hey, Ghaer!], healing, power, the meaning of life - the usual thing. It goes on to more details than anyone would really want to know about the priestesses, up to what they wear for underwear. There are always 12 priestesses, and if one of them is chosen to ascend, or whatever, they pick one of the acolytes to replace her. The star is the source of water for the planet. The star hitting the planet is what gave it water.

Cena goes to Hunter's armorer, where she gets some fitted, boiled leather armor. Robert, Ghaer, and Ariana return to the inn. Ghaer checks out Robert's back, after the poultice is removed. It's healing, and itching like crazy, which is good. Ghaer replaces the dressing. Robert decides to go out and find a feather. Nothing fancy, or peacock-like. He gets a feather, and some twine, and ties it to the top of his walking stick. Uh-huh. Okaaayyy, Bob. Now that head injury thing was just a story, right?

Next: The mosque on the hill.