Swamped Chapter 68 Page 3

Before Barb can answer, the desert horse opens its mouth and makes a strange sound. It’s almost like a bird’s squawking, except with much more breath behind it.

“It’s prone to making noise without warning,” Barb says, with just a hint of resignation. “Not to mention that’s a real weird sound for a desert horse to make. Not that they usually sound pleasant, but tamed ones tend to stay quiet unless something’s wrong.”

“You think it’s wild?”

“I would if it weren’t for how weird that sound is.” She stares at it. “It’s more like it’s been trained to make noise if it’s lost. Where’d you get that one?”

“I think Corvus grabbed it in a fight with some raiders.” You struggle to remember. “They were called… Dunewalkers or something?”

“Dune Wanderers.” Barb seems pretty sure on the name. “We never ran into them, but some of our visitors had some stories. Almost all secondhand, mind, so I didn’t take them that seriously. So they’re real, then?”

“I guess. I didn’t exactly see them up close myself, but some of the others did.” Well – you did see some of them up close, you suppose, or at least some people who live in their village. You don’t really want to get into that matter right now, though.

“I thought it was just something parents cooked up to keep their kids from wandering too far. A lot of what I heard suggested they stayed away from the pilgrimage route.” Barb shrugs. “But I guess they trained this horse to make a distinctive sound so they can identify it in case it gets stolen.”

You feel a little bit embarrassed.

“Hopefully we’ll figure out a way to get it back to them once this whole mess is sorted out,” you say. “Thanks for taking care of the desert horses.”

“No problem. Thanks for taking an interest.”

You excuse yourself and head back out. Rider probably hasn’t left, or if he’s gone somewhere on foot for some reason, he shouldn’t be too far from camp.

So where should you go looking for him?

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Follow your nose to the mess tent.