The night travelled on and people dropped to sleep. The long walk of the day caught up with them. Even Coram, alert and staring into the darkness, managed to slip in and out of it.
Even as nervous as Klanu was, he proved a faithful watch - not that there was much to see.
Silence reigned, and Hashang dreamed. Blue skies glided gently above. The feel of wind blowing alongside dry dirt and the beating of the sun. A wagons wheel slowly turning, then the stench of civilisation. A man with a proposition and vast trees standing tall *Who*...
Hashangs eyes shot open in reflex. That final word felt real. Its echo ringed within the tattooed mans ears. That voice felt more like a whisper from a snake than a comment from a human. *Are you...?*
Hashang, now fully awake and convinced that the voice was not spawned of a dream, rose to a seated position and stared ahead - down the path they had yet to travel. Eyes stared back at him. Just inside the ring of light cast by the fire was an animal with light grey fur. Standing at three feet tall, the canine was poised, completely still and staring directly at Hashang. Its pose suggested it was walking across the path, and had stopped and moved its head to study the tattooed man.
The animal appeared to be a domesticated dog, rather than a wolf or coyote, and yet something appeared... wrong, about it.
Those eyes. A soulless, white stare - pupilless and colourless.
Hashang scrambled up to his feet and stumbled back a pace. The creature stared for several seconds longer, before appearing to take dis-interest and continue walking across the path to enter the foilage on the other side, disappearing.
Finally, Hashang took a glance around the camp. It appeared all were sleeping - but there: In the darkness stood Aurakh - The fact that he was the one on watch gave Hashang a general idea of the timing. But still, something appeared wrong to him. Everything was too still and quiet. Surely Aurakh would have heard his stumbling!
Hashangs gaze fell on the fire momentarily, and held that gaze for a long time. The still fire gave off a radiant glow, but that fire WAS still. Suspended in motion, the fire was soundless and not flickering. Hashang blinked in confusion, before checking each of his comrades - each were completely still. Not so much as chests moving for air.
Looking closer at his surroundings, now, Hashang saw that even the insects drawn by the fire were suspended in their places. It were as though all time had stopped - and yet, that dog had moved...
*Who are you...?* The drawn out words repeated themselves, echoing both within the mans mind, and also localised to his left. Hashang's gaze darted over to where Aurakhs form was hidden in the shadows. This time, however, he saw another form standing in front of the tracker. Standing a good foot taller than the already tall Aurakh was another shadowed figure. Lean and strangely tall for a human, it appeared this new arrival was holding both hands against the trackers still face, peering in his eyes as though attempting to read behind that vacant stare to learn everything about him. In the darkness behind the tree, no discernable features were able to be seen, but the figure moved. It lowered its hand and shifted its gaze towards Hashang. *Who are you...* A hand reached out towards the tattooed man, entering the fires light. Unimaginable pain coursed through Hashangs mind as he felt his mind and soul bieng torn asunder, obliterated from existence.
The turn of the wheel of a wagon. Crunch of dirt beneath heavy boots... "Hashang... Hashang! It is time for your watch."
Hashang awoke slowly, his face pale and sweating. His eyes fell into focus to see Aurakh shaking him gently on the shoulder. "Time for your watch, Hashang."
The man finally awoke fully and glanced fearfully towards the tree which that figure and Aurakh had been beneath. Nothing was there...