Were he not dying, Eddrick would have taken the time to log in his journal what an odd mercy it was that the body made itself so comfortable at the end of its trials. The sand he'd been dragged through by his poko, and ultimately dumped into when the arrow shaft broke, was taking on the feel of a soft cot with sheets. The heat of the desert, which turned surprisingly cold in the past season's nights, had stabilized to a comfortable consistent warmth. And he could only guess that he'd gone blind from the smooth featureless gray that presented itself to his attempts at vision. But he had no idea where his journal even was.
Remembered accounts arose in his delirium as well, of how those who went to be tried by the twins heard the murmuring of the denizens of The Beneath from their judgement chamber. He could hear them even now. But it was strange how a word here or there was recognizable. One would assume that it would be some ethereal language of spirits and lost souls. He wondered aimlessly if that was perhaps the origin of the so-called "Ancient" language. Ahh well, what point in analysis? Soon enough, he would ask the other lost souls face-to-face.
His sigh of fatalistic content seemed to irritate the spirits though, as a sudden din of response burst upon his ears. Several voices, young, old, male, female, gentle and harsh all blended to a cacophony that made his eyes screw tight involuntarily.
"You see! I told you he was coming around!" said what could only be a young girl. Eddrick tried to blink, but his eyes seemed mired in crusted dust, and would not break free of its hold. The unmistakable bliss of a cold wet cloth wiped gently across his eyes, and another, less excitable voice bid him to take his time; that there was no hurry.
Several trials later, Eddrick sat upon the edge of the cot, reveling in his escape from the ambush that had left him tacked to the carapace of his poko, as it used all its instincts to elude a squad of horse-mounted mercenaries that seemed to have developed some sort of grudged against himself and his Rhakriis. He could only assume it was somehow related to his aggressive recent efforts to keep hired mercs from joining with the Nashaki side of the current desert war.
He'd been out patrolling and had come under ambush by a group that clearly had more experience in desert tactics than the last couple of gangs he'd sent back to Yaralon, bruised and void of valuables. He'd sent his men off on a different tack, figuring the bulk of pursuit would leave them be. He had not been wrong. Only a token number had gone after the others, mostly, he assumed, to ensure that they did not double-back for a counter ambush. In any case, the wily poko, while not a swift as a horse, could climb like the insect it was and had lost pursuit in the rocky mesas and plateaus of the southern Hotlands.
Though the carapace of the giant insects were more or less immune to the direct penetration of arrows, they did overlap, and an arrow had transfixed Eddrick's arm, and rotated enough for the barbs to be hooked in the inner edges of a pair of scales. A second arrow had pierced his side, and the combinations of heat exhaustion, blood loss, and agony from his body weight being pulled entirely by a shaft through his arm, had driven him quickly to unconsciousness. But he'd found himself now at a desert farmstead, on the edge of a rare greenbelt, far from where he ought to have ended up; as well as far from where his pursuit had likely given up looking for him and returned to their contractors to report him dead.
The arrow had apparently broken off; at least the accounts given him by his caretakers suggested as much. He could only assume he'd rolled off onto the ground, his poko had come back for him, and in the process of rooting and nosing him to get him propped back on its back it had altered its course and eluded the horses, coming southeast instead of southwest. Everything was bandaged neatly now and Eddrick was eager to be gone, though he knew he owed gratitude of some kind. His presence though, was sure to be a liability, and leaving as soon as possible was in everyone's best interest.
The woman, whose name he'd learned was Terrilee, sagged noticeably, her gaze resting upon the ground. What Eddrick took to be the lonely sadness of a grown farm woman, at the prospect of returning to the same roster of old men and thugs, after enjoying the promise of a new face, was quickly dispelled by the fatalistic shake of her head. "No one leaves here, I'm afraid."