Razorback strides into the town, making a direct line towards was passes for a livery stable on Demaria. “How many mounts do you think we might need?” he asks his companion, his eyes and ears scanning his surroundings for both likely recruiting prospects, or potential dangers.

“One fer each of us.” Whiptail says. “At least another for carryin’ provisions. If we manage to snag any more folks, one for each.”

The Cliffwalker nods, stepping into the stable. A rather uninteresting conversation takes place as the pair negotiate for the price of the bipedal reptiles that serve as mounts in this part of the desert. Meanwhile, Razorback makes sure to let the stablekeeper know that they seek individuals to help with the drive, individuals with fighting skills as well as those needed for the round-up. As they depart, Razorback turns to Whiptail, “I suppose the local tavern is the most likely place we shall find those we seek,” he says.

“Waaaaaiiiiit…” A thin voice wails loudly from just outside the border of the village. “No, not that waaaaaaaaaaay…” There’s a commotion rapidly heading down the street that has curious passersby jumping out of the way. “Stop, pleeeeeeaaaaaase…” The last word of each sentence bounces along with a breathy pleading of someone trying to shout and run at the same time. Into view first pops a panicked and bolting dribgib, squawking its displeasure, even as it runs. Chasing it several paces behind is a tired and bedraggled young Demarian female. Her pace is fading, even as she struggles to pick up the pace after the errant bird.

“Yah, I figger that’s tha best place to grab some wranglers.” Whiptail says, just as the dribgib runs into view. He doesn’t even think. Instantly his hand goes to his rope and a lasso is quickly formed, and with a quick twirl above his head, he sends it sailing towards the errant critter.

The Cliffwalker’s ears swivel towards the source of the commotion and he seems nearly ready to spring into action. As Whiptail’s lariat settles neatly around the neck of the bird, Razorback seems quite relieved that he does not need to run the creature down. “Well thrown,” he rumbles, moving instead to flank the errant avian.

The dribgib squawks as it feels the rope around its neck, skittering this way and that to test its bonds and seek some way of escaping. Wings flap out in a warning fashion as Razorback approaches but now that it has come to a halt, it seems too tired to really put up too much of a fight. This gives enough time for the chasing Demarian to finally catch up with the group, gasping loudly for air as she drops to her knees right on the street. “Thank you so much,” she says gratefully, every inch of her drooping down in her exhaustion. “I’ve been chasing him for miles.” Up close, her fur is a smoky silver grey with the first tinging black at the tips of her ears and tail, as well as the feathered fur at all four paws. She’s young but not a child.  “He escaped this morning from my father’s farm and I’ve been trying to catch him ever since.”

Whiptail hollers ‘WHOA THAR” as he keeps a firm grip on the rope to get the bird to slow down. “Think nothin’ of it ma’am.” he says. Being this close, she can see he is pretty elderly, with orange tabby fur.

Once the dribgib comes to a halt, the tall, black-furred ex-noble comes up to grab the rope near to the neck to assure the bird’s continued immobility. “That is quite the chase,” Razorback says in surprise, “Perhaps we had better find some place to restrain your errant friend here while you rest from you journey.”

“Bad Flap,” the Demarian female scolds as she pushes up  off the ground slowly, giving a little shake to try and dislodge some of the dust that clings to her fur. She comes up on the other side of the dribgib, her paw brushing gently over the bird’s neck and head to soothe away the last of the animal’s jitters. Her ears flick back and forth anxiously but she nods. “He could use some water probably.” She pauses briefly. “I think I could too, actually.”

“Well we’re jes about to hit the waterin’ hole, maybe you kin join us.” Whiptail offers.

“Of course,” Razorback says in agreement with the older Demarian, “There were a few dribgibs in a corral back at the stable,” he says gesturing that way, “I doubt the proprietor would mind keeping an eye on him for a short time.”

With a relieved sigh, she pats the bird’s neck one more time before stepping back with a nod. “I’m Fluffpaw and this is Flap,” she introduces. “We’re both grateful for all of your help.”

“Name’s Whiptail, and it ain’t no problem, ma’am.” he says, doffing his hat to Fluffpaw. “Not my first rodeo, that’s fer sure.”

“I am called Razor,” the Cliffwalker adds, dipping his head respectfully as he moves towards the stable, dribgib in tow, “And as my companion says, it is no trouble. Your father is a dribgib farmer, I take it?” He waves the stablekeeper over as the conversation progresses.

Fluffpaw’s whiskers twitch as she keeps pace with Flap, one paw kept on the dribgib’s back. “Yes, my father has a good sized farm a few miles north of here,” she explains, head bobbing up and down. “Spent my whole life tracking dribgibs for him and helping out on the farm.”

“Sounds like my kinda life.” Whiptail says.

After a brief exchange with the stablekeeper, Razorback begins leading the way towards the local tavern, leaving “Flap” in a corral with several of his own kind. “If you are familiar with the area, it may be that you can help us,” he says, “We seek several individuals for a wild bumbler drive; such that can ride hard and take care of themselves in the Sand Mother. Do you know of anyone that might be interested?”

Fluffpaw’s ears perk with curiosity, flicking back and forth rapidly. “What parts you going through?” She asks. “I’d bet no one knows this area better than my father and he’s taught me all he knows. If you needed help, I bet he’d let me go for a while.”

“Hard ta tell where when yer bumbler huntin'” Whiptail says. “We need folks, and you got experience, so we’d be happy to welcome ya aboard.”

The Cliffwalker looks back and forth between the two, concern building on his face. “I do not intend offense, Miss,” he rumbles, “I doubt not your abilities. But our road may take us under fire from those who would see us fail. You may be many things, but you do not seem a killer.”

The excitement from Whiptail’s welcome is almost immediately marred with Razorback’s concerns. Fluffpaw’s tail sways back and forth as she considers her words. “I’m not a killer,” she finally says. “But I don’t like people trying to take what isn’t theirs. We’ve had poachers and thieves trying to pick at my father’s farm for years and we’ve never let them go without a fight. I don’t murder, but I don’t get pushed over either. If that’s a problem, I don’t think I’d want to help your kind.”

“I think what my friend here is sayin’ is, there’s some folks out there who don’ wants us ta succeed. Ya see, we’re helpin’ someone who’s got a raw deal, and there might be some folks who don’ want that.” Whiptail says. “So I’d say if yer prepared to scuffle a bit if someone tries to get in our way, you shouldn’t have any problems.”

“My concern,” Razorback says, his voice quieting as they approach the tavern, “Is that there might be somewhat more than a “bit of scuffle. Lady Coldstar’s minions have no issue with killing, and to defend ourselves we may need to be prepared to do the same.”

Fluffpaw lifts her chin, whiskers twitching. “I’m fast, quiet and can hold my own,” she says determinedly. “Like I said, I don’t try and do others harm but after living out here so close to the Sand Mother for my whole life, you either do what you can to protect yourself or you end up dead. If you’ll take me, I won’t let either of you down.”

“I think that’s about all we kin ask, ma’am.” Whiptail says.

Razorback’s ears fold against his head, his muzzle creased in a frown. “I only hope it is not you who is let down,” he says, finding himself out-voted as he steps into the tavern.

“I know this area better like the grooves of my paw,” Fluffpaw says firmly, with the confidence only youth can bring. “If you’re trying to succeed anywhere around here, having me will make it a lot easier.”

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By Brody

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