Part 5 : Camels R'Us
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Posted 27 October 2002 - 05:54 PM
Twilight 5: Camels R'Us
Shivon, still in a state of near slumber, lay in his bed, holding the girl he loved and reflected upon how lucky he really was. Vierna was still asleep, and Shivon well knew even an earthquake wouldn't wake her up, but that didn't really matter right now. The morningsun poured through the small window above their bed into the medium-sized room. As custom dictated, the bed stood in the middle of the room, and was surrouned by a small cubboard and barrel of water. The room was situated on the small third floor of the 'Smiling Camel'. In fact, this room was the whole third floor, but still, the view was excellent and, right now, Shivon was in a state of near bliss.
The stone walls of the room were adorned with artworks, tapestries and memorabilia from Daoud's adventuring days, like all the rooms in the 'Smiling Camel' were. The stone floor was completely covered by several carpets and rugs, one with patterns more stranger and more complex than the other.
Shivon put his head on the pillow again, about to doze off when he heard something big and heavy slowly walking up the stairs. He absentmindely noted the door being pushed open, and something entering their room, but was too drowsy to react to it. Suddenly, he felt cool air on his feet as something lifted the sheets from the footend of the bed and move to crawl upward. The surprised elf suddenly felt something huge and hairy settle between him and Vierna, making the whole bed shudder in protest. Suddenly, the huge body stretched and Shivon felt four paws press into his flesh. With a yelp, he rolled out of the bed. Fully awake now, Shivon noticed the head of Brimstone now laying on his pillow.
"He must be cold again," Shivon muttered.
Again, the huge hellhound stretched, and this time, Vierna was pushed in the bed as well. Unimaginably, she was still asleep after she landed on the floor. Noticing the cool air of the room was quite a change from the warm bed she was in a few seconds ago, she searched the floor for a blanket. After finding the tip of one of the carpets, Vierna drew into a fetal position and pulled the carpet around her.
"Vierna," Shivon whispered in his lover's ear after putting on his pants. "Vierna, wake up. You're lying naked on the floor!"
"Just a few more minutes, momma," Vierna muttered in her sleep, but did not wake.
Glancing over at Brimstone, he noticed the hellhound grabbed the blankets in his mouth and pulled it over his body before falling asleep completely.
"Time for breakfast, then," Shivon chuckled.
Mercifully, this day was nowhere near as hot as it was yesterday. After a hearty breakfast (and a tough time trying to convince Brimstone to get out of Vierna's bed) the group decided to go to one of the marketplaces immediately to gather the supplies necessary for adventure and travel to the desert. On the advice of Daoud, Vierna had decided to leave the horses in Calimport and travel by Camel instead. After some searching, the party found a series of pens just inside the citygates of Calimport. Above the small pens filled with camels, many lines with colored flags were tied to poles, and to the side was a small cubicle. A huge sign was suspended between the citywall and the cubicle and displayed in multiple colors the words : 'HONEST STAN'S USED CAMELS'.
As soon as Vierna stepped on to the lot, a thin smiling man ran out of the cubicle, wearing a flashy green plaid blazer and an oddly shaped triangular pirate hat. "Welcome, welcome, welcome!" the man said enthusiastically. "I am Stan! Honest Stan! What can I do to see you ride between two humps today!"
"Five camels, please," Gerty giggled. "Don't bother wrapping them, we'll eat them on the way home!"
"Ah, I notice I am dealing with men and women of the world here!" Stan said with flailing arms. "Come on! Let me show you a couple of our prized animals."
Vierna and her friends shared a look while they followed Stan to a small pen filled with a single camel lying on the ground.
"This beauty here belonged to Pasha Pook himself before he had to let her go because of medicl reasons. But she still flies over the sands, like the ship of the desert she is," Stan raved.
"That camel is dead," Vierna smirked.
"Oh, she's just resting!" Stan replied.
"I am a ranger," Vierna told Stan. "I think I know a dead animal when I see one."
"Like the flies weren't a dead giveaway!" Lenny said.
"Or the smell," Shivon said while holding his nose.
"What do you think she was doing?" Gerty told Stan. "Pining for the fjords?"
"Ermmm, yes," Stan muttered and led the party to the next pen, where a tall and muscular camel stood munching grass. "This little fellow was a major contender in the annual camelraces. Just imagine how you would look sitting on top of that beauty! Your neighbors will be jealous, impress your friends! He runs 200 yards in less than thirty seconds, but... will need to rest for several days afterward. It's, ummmm, due all the steroids he was given during, well, all his life..."
"Next!" Vierna called.
Stan led them to yet another pen containing a camel with only a single hump!
"Ah, here we have Diggy," Stan said. "I already have a buyer lined up for her, but I might be willing to let her go for half price, seeing she is broken."
"Diggy isn't a camel at all!" Vierna giggled. "She's a dromedary!"
"What's a dromedary?" Stan asked in utter surprise.
Again, Stan led the part to another pen. "Well, this little number was owned by a little old Sharran who only used her to travel to the bloodsacrifices during the Feast of the Night and..."
Suddenly, Glyill sped forward, pushed Stan against the wall and put the hilt of her mace against his throat. "LOOK!" Glyill snarled. "We want CAMELS! FIVE CAMELS! Your BEST camels for a GOOD price! And remember, that if our camels die only a day travel outside the city, or even if we have ANY trouble at all, I will return to your store and not only burn it down, but also make sure the cityguards will spend hours trying to puzzle together your BODYPARTS!"
"Ye...y...Y.... Y... madam," Stan trembled.
"Wow," Gerty chuckled.
"I know how to deal with people like him," the ex-assassin chuckled.
"So you were the one who bought Diggy?" Gerty asked Daoud as the party was getting ready to leave.
"Yes, memsahib," Daoud said. "This city is large, and I am not getting younger."
Meanwhile, in front of the 'Smiling Camel Inn', Vierna and her group were preparing their five camels for the long trek through the desert. The animals were loaded with all types of supplies and waterbags, and Stan had even thrown in a strong mule to help carry the remaining supplies. The mule, Carla, was not at all happy with the prospect being dragged all over the desert, since she had certainly been enjoying herself simply lying in the shade behind Stan's cubicle. Carla stared at the ground with a chagrined look on her face, certainly now, since she had all the armors strapped to her back.
Meanwhile, Vierna once again put on her white cowel to protect her face and hands like she had done before, while Daoud helped Gerty to step on her own camel.
"Do not worry, memsahib, Vierna!" Daoud said. "I will take good care of your horses."
"Okay!" Vierna shouted as everything and everyone was ready to go. "Onwards to adventure."
"Onwards, till our bones bleach in the desert sun!" Gerty added.
"Well, I don't know about your bones, but mine will stay with the original owner," Glyill smirked, while Gerty retorted by sticking out her tongue.
Brimstone ran around the camels and barked in enthusiasm, looking forward to walking and rolling into the warm desert sand.
"Rations?" Vierna asked.
"Check," Lenny replied
"Tinderbox, map, compass and lodestone?"
"You already asked."
"Just looking if you were paying attention."
"Hey, hey!" Gerty suddenly shouted. "I'm kicking and kicking here, but the camel won't go!"
"Here's the way to do it," Glyill grinned evilly, rode alongside Gerty and smacked the gnome's camel on the bottom. Immediately, the camel yelped and shot forward, heading towards the city-gates, while Gerty screamed her lungs out in terror.
"Follow that gnome!" Vierna shouted. The adventure was well underway.
After two days of travel, the party had camped at one of the few oasis in the middle of the desert. This was a particulary small one, consisting of only three palmtrees, a small pool of crystal-clear water and a small patch of grass and shrubbery. It had only taken the party a few moments to set up the tents and hide in the shade for some well deserved rest, while the animals drank from the pool.
Unlike the tents used in the northren lands, these tents were built like a cube, tall and angular, with a large flap in the front to allow for maximum coolness. Glyill and Vierna sat under the flap snacking on some jerky, while Brimstone lay just outside the flap baking in the setting sun.
"So if we keep travelling along the shoreline, we'll find the most oasis," Vierna said, for that was their travelplan. Using the map Daoud had given her, they would be able to travel from oasis to oasis, until they would arrive at a bedouine camp near the Marching Mountains.
"We are looking for the dragonscales first?" Glyill asked. "Then we need to be either quick and strong, or silent and stealthy..."
"We'll see," Vierna said, while taking a moment to scratch Brimstone behind the ears. The faithful hound stirred in his lazy state and inched a little closer to his mistress. "According to Daoud, the bedouines are supposed to know more about that brown dragon. He also told me the dwellers of the desert have a great deal of respect for those creatures."
"You must be out of your element here in this overgrown sandbox," Glyill remarked.
"Well, actually the desert is teeming with life," Vierna smiled. "You just have to look harder to find it than in a forest, but it's there. These oasis are nexi of life themselves and animals and creatures of the area all come here sooner or later. Already I have found tracks leading to the next oasis..."
"SPLASH!" Gerty yelled while she folded her arms and legs together in mid-air after jumping over the pool. Water splashed all over the ground as the gnome landed in the pool.
"Come on, Gerty!" Shivon chuckled. "Get out of there! The animals still have to drink out of that pool." In the background, an annoyed mule strolled to the edge of camp.
"He's learning," Glyill chuckled, while Vierna smiled back.
On the fifth day of travel, the high peaks of the Marching Mountains were already looming in the distance. The bedouine-camp could not be far way now.
Shivon was sitting on top of his camel, and had definately been enjoying the ride. In only the last two months travelling with Vierna he had seen more and experienced more than forty years with his mother in Suldenesselar. When he noticed Vierna, who had taken point today, had stopped her camel and was thoughtfully scanning the horizon, he decided to join her.
"Hey, Vierna," Shivon greeted cheerfully after driving his camel next to Vierna's, but Vierna did not answer.
"Something wrong?" the elf asked again.
"Very," Vierna muttered. "Not sure what yet."
"What?" Shivon said with concern. "What is it? The dragon?"
"No," Vierna suddenly stiffened. "Worse... TAKE COVER!" Vierna shouted.
Wondering what Vierna was so excited about, Shivon stared in the distance himself. "Sweet Corellion," he finally muttered as he saw a whirling column of wind approach their location with dazzling speed. The black funnel whipped sand all around itself in a roaring gust of hot air, giving it an almost demonic look of doom and destruction.
"QUICKLY!" he heard Vierna scream. "DUCK BEHIND THOSE ROCKS", she added, pointing towards an outcropping sticking out of the sand. Shivon barely made it to the rocks and to cover as the sand whipped around his face with dazzling speed. But even the cover didn't help much, and soon, Shivon's vision was obscured and breathing was becoming more and more troubled. The others weren't faring much better either by the sound of it, and the last thing he saw were the camels, still fully loaded with supplies, running off into the distance. Utter despair set in...
'This is not fair!' Shivon thought to himself. 'Only reunited for two months... And now to die in the desert...'
Feeling around, he found no one, so he could not even hold his lover in the moment of death. Eventually, Shivon fell to exhaustion and allowed the sand building up around him to consume his body.
Shivon woke with a start and jumped up... from his bed? He was in a tent? How can there be music playing in the distance? Can... Can this be Arvandor? But where are the trees?
"About time you woke up!" Lenny chuckled, and Shivon noticed he and Gerty were leaning over him.
"What?" Shivon asked meekly. "Where?"
"Bedouine-camp," Lenny said. "They found us shorty after we were buried... Or rather, they found our camels and started looking for us. You've been sleeping for two days straight, buddy."
"Save and sound," Gerty said. "And you'll be surprised when you'll see her."
Helped to his feet by Lenny, Shivon left the tent to see a rather large camp with numerous tents, dozens of camels surrounding a firepit in a very large oasis. It was night and he noticed Brimstone was calmly gnawing on a large bone near the firepit, while Carla (who was still looking very unhappy) was quietly eating some hay. He was led to a large tent in the middle of the camp, and upon entering, his mouth fell open.
Aside from all the bedouine men, women and children gathered to eat from the largest feast Shivon had ever scene, Vierna was dressed in the clothes of an exotic bellydancer, adorned with jewels of gold and diamonds. She wore a beige veil, while her hair whipped in the wind, as she had joined the other two bellydancers for the sheer fun of it. Even though only her belly was exposed, the material combined with the dark color of her skin left very little to the imagination, since the contours of her body were very much visable in the relatively baggy clothing. Shivon felt his mouth go dry, and for a moment wondered if he indeed had arrived in Arvandor after all.
Glyill had been dressed in an outfit quite the same, and it seemed she had decided to let her hair down, which she rarely did. But apparently, the wearing of the outfit was fun enough for her, and she did not participate in the dance, but rather decided to sit on the side and snack a little from the spicy meats in front of her.
"Come in, come in, honored guests!" the chief, a pleasantly smiling mountain of a man announced. "Eat, drink, be merry!"
"Well, this trip went rather well, no?" Gerty chuckled. "We even got our camels back, although we could have gotten a dozen more if we would have traded in Glyill!"
Gerty giggled and dodged a fork which Glyill threw at her, while Lenny and Shivon sat down next to the chief.
"Feast first!" the chieftan said. "Dragons later!"
"Can't argue with that," Lenny agreed.
"Huh?" Shivon muttered, but was to busy staring at his lover with open mouth.
Tipper Quickfist slurped down another Calimshite Djinn Sling while sitting in a dark corner. The 'Poison Dagger' was a rowdy, crowded place which clientele consisted solely out of bandits, brigands and other lowlives hanging around the harbour. Tipper and his Toadies felt quite at home.
Tipper absentmindedly listened to one of his toadies droning on about how he had robbed an old lady today. His eyes were on the entertainment for the night : a voluptuous bellydancer performing the dance of the seven veils for a raging crowd. 'Ah, two more veils left,' Tipper slurred in his half-drunken state of anticipation.
Suddenly, as the dancer was about to display more of her female bodyparts, a tall, cloaked and hooded figure stepped in front of him, hovering over Tipper's toady.
"Hey, buddy!" he snarled. "Stop blocking my view!"
"Tipper Quickfist?" the figure asked in a deep, gravely voice.
"Sod off!" he stressed again.
"Do you realize," the figure said without a hint of amusement, "I could kill you here without anyone noticing until they smell your rotting corpse ten days from now?"
"Are you threatening me?" he said.
"No, I was inviting you for a party," the figure told him in an utterly humourless tone. "I have a proposition for you."
"Hey, you get out of my face," he tried to say, but the figure was upon him in an instant.
"I suggest you listen me," the figure told him.
"Hey!" the toady said suddenly. "You can't do anything to us! I recognizes youse shape! You're one of thos magical thingys. One of those Simu... Sumulatrciriums... and stuff! You ain't real!"
Two gloved hands shot towards the toady's neck and with a single violent jerk, the figure shattered all the vertabae in his neck.
Tipper went for his sword after his toady lay bleeding on the floor, but the figure was upon him and hoisted the fully armored Tipper off the floor with a single hand. For the first time, Tipper caught a glimpse under the figure's hood... Immediately afterwards, a wet patch spread through his pants.
"Please don't kill me," he almost cried.
"Word on the street is you are a strong and competent warrior," the figure said. "Perhaps my informants were mistaken."
"You... you wish to hire me?" Tipper stammered. "Not suck out my soul or eat my flesh or anything..."
"That's why I am here," the figure shook his head. "And your soul wouldn't be worth a dime. As for your flesh, well... Has anybody ever told you, you smell like a dead pig in the sun? Or is everyone simply too polite to mention it."
"Ermmm, well, this Drow girl..." he stammered.
"Yes..." the figure chuckled. "I am aware of your rivalry and mutual revulsion. How would you like the chance to get even with Vierna DeVir? To really embarrass her in front of everybody?"
"Tell me more!" Tipper nodded enthusiastically.
"Later, perhaps," the figure said. "When I need you... For now... Lay low, and do not involve yourself with anyone's business," the figure said while handing Tipper a large bag filled with coins. "Oh, and incidentally," the figure added. "I would suggest you not speaking of this with anyone, not even your own followers... I know plenty of creatures that would glady feast on your flesh, no matter how bad it smells... I greet you," the figure said, while stepping over the broken body of Tipper's toady.
Tipper watched the figure go, and wondered if he had found either the golden goose or his doom. In any case, he would get even with that DeVir brat, so it didn't really matter which of the two this strange figure represented.
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