Okay. Here it is. It's kinda going slow, but the next one should pick up.
The Wolfrider slowed his wolf down and turned. “Hm?”
ShenShen didn’t answer immediately. Instead she looked back at the direction of the village. There was still time to turn back. They had not gone far enough for it to be a hazardous choice in doing so. If they decided to, they could be back in the village by daylight. Or rather, if SHE decided to. She still wasn’t sure why this stranger who had just endured crossing this desert would do so again.
Part of her wasn’t even sure why she was out here. Their parting from the village was a wash of sadness. Her sister, Leetah let her go only on the condition that she would return with Rayek once he was found, or in a year if he wasn’t. And she knew that the real reason she let her go was because a Wolfrider was going with her for protection. She didn’t know how Pike’s tribe reacted to his decision, but she admired their parting. The tribe simply wished him well and let him go. She wished she had as much confidence him, but as she didn’t know him, she wasn’t so sure.
“How will we find him?” she asked finally, “We don’t know where he’s headed.”
Pike sat thoughtfully on his mount and leaned on his weapon. “You know him best. Where would he go?”
After a moment, Shenshen wrinkled her nose. “As far away from here as he could.”
Pike smiled. “Then we head back the way we came in. The Tunnel of Golden Light.”
She stroked her mount who was getting a little restless. “But”¦” she hesiteded, “what about those”¦ Trolls?” She frowned at the thought of those horrid creatures. The Wolfriders had only been in the village a short time, but their stories of the underground people were enough to make her never want to see one in her long life.
Pike sniffed. “If Rayek finds them first, we’ll either have to rush in to save his rump, or have a lot of fun watching them roast theirs.” When she laughed, his smile reached from cheek to cheek. “See? There’s your smile. You look better that way.”
Shenshen stopped laughing, but her smile stayed. She hoped that he couldn’t see her blushing, but somehow she thought he could. Either way, he showed no indication of it. She moved her zwoot forward without a word and continued on her way with him following close behind.
* * *
Pike felt much more at ease this time around. They were prepared for the desert’s extremes and so it was not quite so harsh and taxing. Hotburr didn’t like it one bit though, he could tell. But as long as he got his share of food all he would do is grumble. He scratched behind his wolf-friend’s ear. “It’s ok this time.” He assured the canine. “We’ll find ol’ sour face and bring him back.” Hotburr just grumbled.
* * *
It took them longer than Pike had said, but in four nights they were at the sheer wall of rock that the Wolfriders had described. Her companion explained that the trip they had taken was only three because they had followed Skywise’s Lodestone and the stars. He was never really good with mapping the skies, so they had gotten a little off-track. It took them another day to find the tunnel, but when they arrived at dawn, the hole was still sealed up, though not, as Pike explained, as much as it had been, he was sure of it.
“They must be re-opening it.” He said. “Just in case they need it again. We’ll have to wait and hide until it’s open again.”
Shenshen was almost appalled. “We’re going in there?! But they’re evil! Why would you want to””“ His quizzical look stopped her mid-sentence.
“We haven’t found longface yet.” He said simply. “Until we do, or you want to turn back, we’re going to need food. Can you make the sand into food?”
“Then we need the Trolls.” Pike started examining the rocks blocking the tunnel while his companion pouted. No matter how dangerous Shenshen thought it was, he insisted that they wouldn’t work on this tunnel during the day, so they were safe. They spent some time setting up a camp a short distance away where they would not be seen by the trolls if they should come out, but close enough so that they could easily reach the shelter of the cave if needed.
“There has to be a better way of getting food than dealing with these Trolls.” She said after hours of silence. Pike, who was probably trying to sleep (She couldn’t understand how someone could sleep during the day) opened one eye, and though he didn’t smile with his mouth, it was there.
“We could always eat your zwoot.” She gasped at his statement, but was too shocked at the thought of it to reply. “Once our supplies run down, all we need him for is carrying you.” He continued, “He’ll give us enough meat to last at least an eight of days., and he won’t take up all our water.”
He must enjoy riling her up, she thought when his smile re-appeared visibly. She wouldn’t dignify his comment with an answer, she decided, huffing and turning away. But she couldn’t help herself from throwing out a good insult, “Leetah was right about you. You’re all barabarians.”
Pike just chuckled.