The desert sand seeped into every seam, crack, and crevice of my too hot leather armor. The oil I used to soften the leather had nearly burnt out under the early afternoon sun. It wasn’t even the most unfortunate part of the day, yet. If my nostrils weren’t so accustomed to the scent of barely wet cowhide I probably wouldn’t have been able to smell the corpse’s lunch they were feeding on. The bird’s feast looked to be the decimated corpse of some local fauna or another. The blood and birds hid any other sign of what it could be. Honestly, it didn’t matter anyway what it was. I upended a portion of the last bit of water I got from the dead body of a waste wanderer’s pouch I killed a few hours back into Machera’s eager, open jaw.
I sent my wolf running towards the nearest Vulture, and not for the first time I wondered if anything could be done with the constant sores and missing patches of fur Machera displayed as proud as if they were his scars of war. In truth, he was a wolf sickened by the disease that overran his home forest where I found him near death. All the healers since said there was no fixing what had been done, but that by removing him from the source of the blight he would not get worse, nor was he of any risk of being contagious from the spells they weaved. He seemed not to notice the wounds, and was fiercely loyal ever since, and being the most damaging of my pets he would always have a place with me.
Machera launched at the carrion birds, and immediately the flock of five descended upon him. The Wolf deftly dodged and attacked as I pulled out my bow and began picking off each Vulture one by one. It took only a few swift shots for most of the attacking creatures, a few birds tore off of the attack on Machera and lashed out towards me. They fell dead into the hot sand before making it half the distance to me. I needed a few more talons, and clean feathers from them are the only reason I honestly bothered the now quiet flock. Machera returned, and I tossed him a piece of dried meat before I dove in to retrieve a few strong talons and cleaned off some long unbroken feathers. We moved on quickly and began making the trek towards the edge of the desert once more.
The now dead birds were feasting near the cliffside of the crater in between the large rib bones of a long-dead beast with a rib cage that scaled nearly twenty feet above me. What creatures used to roam such an inhospitable place must have been a marvel to witness. Dead now, no matter, I was only concerned with the current destination. I ran hard towards the edge of the cliffside and just stopping a the very side of rock before the unknowable distance down of a drop was before me. There was fog at the top of the tree line below us as far as I could see. Bright, huge leaves extended out of the white foggy dew below. A low throated growl interrupted my awe at the sight of the expanse, and I smiled slightly without turning to Machera.
“Now boy, you are only bite size to some of the creatures down there I’ve heard. Easy.” It was only a little jest; we would have to be careful descending into a place were massive beasts still roamed. Scanning the low hanging cloud with the occasional tree rising through I saw a path down a bit further to the south. As if in warning when I began to move a low rumble began to shake the ground beneath us which turned into the loudest roar I had ever heard. It was a full five seconds long before the bestial growl faded and I smiled as Machera howled in return.