Swamped Chapter 33 Page 2

Your mask is a bit uncomfortable in this heat, but Rider warned everyone to keep fully covered to avoid catching desert fever. Although, given that his own armor’s been noticeably pierced, you have to wonder if he’s all right.

Since you don’t have any particular thoughts on Yvonne and Rider’s conversation, you turn your attention to your surroundings.

The most obvious thing in the area is, of course, the stone pillar. You’re staying in its shadow for the moment to get what relief you can from the heat. A closer glance reveals some symbols carved into its surface; they go all the way up its sides, from what you can see.

You’ve got no idea what any of it means. Someone must have made this pillar, of course, but why? If not for the symbols, you would have guessed it to be a marker for something, perhaps an oasis that dried up long ago. But that wouldn’t require such intricate writings.

You idly wonder if your father’s book might mention this pillar. You didn’t have a chance to read that much of it, after all.

Further out, you can see… well, you’re not sure what they are, exactly. They look to be some sort of plant, covered in sharp needles. They seem to be sparsely distributed across the landscape. Maybe this is what sort of tree grows in the desert, though they’re a bit short as trees go.

Luckily, when that grebling stopped by to return your mask, you got a pair of long goggles back with it, so you put them on and take a look further out. While no particular landmarks stand out, you see some unfamiliar creatures.

There’s a mammal of some kind that keeps periodically poking its head out from the sand, then going back under. Aside from that, most of what you can see are reptiles. You see a pack of a dozen or so snakes slithering around; they nearly blend in against the sand. There’s a large lizard that keeps stopping at the odd plants and sniffing them, occasionally biting into one. Then there’s something that looks entirely covered in spikes; you think it’s a lizard, but it’s hard to tell.

But as you sweep around, something stands out – a lizard that’s a shade of brown you associate more with tree trunks than with desert sands. You can barely make out its features, but its shape is readily apparent out here. It seems to be trying to climb one of the plants, without much success.

You remember something suddenly. Someone – was it Jackson? – told you about bark lizards. Is this one of them, torn from the swamp like you were?

“Hey!” someone says, startling you. It takes you a moment to recognize the voice as Corvus. “If you’ve got those fancy things, how about you use them to try and spot something helpful instead of just standing around here?”

He’s got a point, even if you’re not happy with how he worded it. Is there anything you can see?

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Could those be tracks on that dune over there? Is that a wagon of some sort?

Everything looks so wobbly and watery out there, it’s hard to be sure.

Tracks, and what seems to be some Very Large Footprints alongside