The Stranger

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It had been thirty suns and as many moons since the death of the Neophyte. Rra'gaash had buried him, personally, before the Nightblood Clan had trekked away from their hunting-grounds and moved towards the mountains under the threat of a Warband of Thick-Chests.

Rra'gaash laid on a rock, observing the slope toward the savannah. Hunting from the mountains had proven a hindrance, but it was what was most safe for now. The Thick-Chests were a menace and though the whistling sticks had given the Nightbloods an edge, it clearly was not enough. Rra'gaash kept his eyes open for the distinctive silhouette of the Thick-Chests on the horizon. They were not too different in shape from the Nightblood; they bore long legs, adorned with sickle-claws, and had tails, though not nearly as long as a Nightblood's. They lacked the number of feathers of the Nightblood, but they made up for it with their large, thick torsos. They also walked differently. Nightbloods leaned forward, Thick-Chests stood upright.

Rra'gaash sighed and picked at his teeth with the end of a whistling stick. He thought to himself how great they were for the hunt, but how little use they were against the bigger, more dangerous beasts in the world.

Something the Neophyte had told him, though, was interesting. Rather than whip his whistling stick with his tail-sling, the Neophyte stabbed at his attacker with the strength of his arms, spearing him. Spearing was only ever used for hunting fish or things along the ground. The Nighblood clan could never find plants large enough to make anything lengthier than a whistling stick.

Rra'gaash turned his attention to the peaks that loomed above him and losing interest, just as quickly scanned the slope again. Perhaps a stronger tree, with thicker branches, lay in the mountains. But that would be for another day.

The horizon had changed little over the past few hours, until Rra'gaash noticed a speck in the distance, approaching from the cold wind side of the savannah. He rose to his feet and wedged himself behind a large stone, hiding, watching.

The speck grew and the scent of a stranger grew with it. It was like no scent he had ever known. It was a bitter scent and though Rra'gaash couldn't quite explain why it smelled cold.

Soon enough, the figure was close enough. It was not Thick-Chest, but something else. It was just about the size of a Nightblood, but it had a shorter snout, dramatic colored feathers along its arms, and a strange crest upon its head.

What was most unusual, though, was the fact it seemed draped in woven wood slats and walked with a large spear. Much thicker than any that were in the savannah.

Rra'gaash trilled from behind the rock, an eerie gesture that echoed off the mountain. The stranger stopped in place and looked around. It could not identify Rra'gaash's position. The stranger raised their head skyward and repeated the trill as best it could.

Curious, Rra'gaash stepped out from behind the rock and loaded a whistle stick into the loop at the top of his tail. The stranger noticed and watched, but held their ground.

Rra'gaash trilled again, but with a lowered head as he approached, indicating he meant no harm. The stranger did not step back, but instead, repeated the gesture, and put his crest on display.

"Friend?" Rra'gaash asked.

The stranger said nothing and blinked.

Rra'gaash stepped forward and waved his claws in front of his own face.

"Rra'gaash"

The stranger nodded, understanding. It did the same.

"Chotoak."

"Do you understand?"

"Chot ako ah oauk."

This would take a while. Rra'gaash pointed at the spear, nodding. "Spear" he said.

Chotoak did not seem to understand.

Slowly and carefully, Rra'gaash brought the tip of his tail close enough to unsheath the whistling stick from the loop. Cotoak flinched, at first, but Rra'gaash stopped, lowered his head, and gently tossed the whistling stick onto the dusty ground between them.

"Spear."

He gestured to the whistling stick and then to Chotoak's spear.

"Spear," Rra'gaash repeated.

Chotoak nodded and held up his spear. It was dark wood and rather angular, as though it had been chipped into shape. Curious.

"'Sssspeeee-arr' delu trakani," Chotoak said.

The edges of Chotoak's mouth curled up in a smile and Rra'gaash could not help smiling as well.

Perhaps Chotoak and his people might prove to be allies, but for now, Rra'gaash would settle for one of those spears. He scooped up the discarded whistling stick and approached Chotoak, his palms open, the weapon resting gently across them.

Chotoak stepped back, wary, but when Rra'gaash made no move other than to gesture the whistling stick forward, Chotoak extended his own hand, grabbing it.

Rra'gaash turned back toward his perch on the mountain and gestured for Chotoak to follow.

He did.

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