Once inside, the shepherd ordered his dog with a word and a gesture, and the dog herded the sheep into a corner away from the brazier and lay down in front of it. Dan ran his gaze briskly over the sodden man. He was an inch or two taller than Dan was, but much heavier set than Dan's own wiry frame, which meant that none of Dan's dry clothes would fit him. Dan grabbed a spare blanket instead, and a rough sacking towel and held them out. "Here," he signed. "Get dry."
The man blinked at him in the dimness of their underground shelter, lit only by the coals of the brazier, and took them both, moving over to the corner where his dog was. Dan turned his back to give him what privacy he could, and went to check on the fire. He added more fuel, fetched extra water by the simple method of holding a bucket under the water streaming down over the cave entrance, and put some of the water on to heat. He retrieved two cups, and shredded a mint leaf into each one, while he waited for the water to boil, then poured the water into the cups for a simple mint tea.
He took his own cup over to his bed, and sat there, watching the firelit shadows dance on the dirt walls, as he drank it and listened to the little sounds of another person moving about. At last, the shepherd cleared his throat and Dan looked up.
The man was wrapped in the blanket, clothes laid out to dry, and the dog had also clearly been towelled off. He sighed, clumsy but understandable, "Thank you."
"You know Sign?" Dan replied, relief washing through and over him at the realisation that he wouldn't be stuck in here with someone he couldn't comunicate with.
The shepherd shrugged. The blanket slid a bit at the movement, and he tugged it back into place. "Little. Sign to dog when not whistle."
Dan smiled crookedly and shrugged, and pointed to the other cup of tea. Better than nothing, at least.
The man took it, and settled on the floor near the brazier, close enough to get the warmth, far enough away not to cause problems or risk singeing the blanket - or his hair. He waved at the bare little cave, and then pointed at Dan. "Yours? Home?"
Dan shook his head. He didn't think there was an easy word for what he was, or how he lived, and he didn't want to open himself up to complex explanations. He settled for, "Hunter." It was close enough, and partially true if not the whole of it. "Travel, see storm, take shelter."
The shepherd nodded and sipped his tea, then looked at it again with an expression of pleased surprise. He pointed at it and signed, "Good."
Dan grinned and went back to dealing with the rabbits. The old and skinny one was likely to be tougher meat than the younger, fatter, ones - older animals were always tougher - so he cut it apart at the joints and added it to the soup where it could cook long and slow and tenderise as it did so. He set the other rabbits, and the fish, aside to cook later. The dog followed Dan's every move with big, hopeful, eyes, although it was well trained and didn't otherwise move from the corner that the shepherd had sent it to. Dan did his best to ignore the stares, even while they made the hairs stand up and prickle on the back of his neck. The storm showed no signs of letting up that he could read, and that meant rationing out the food they had, especially with extra mouths to feed. He did add some garlic to the soup for flavour, and chopped up a wild leek for both flavour and to help to fill in the gaps in the nourishment that came from eating rabbit meat alone. The dog could eat the guts, it would probably enjoy them, and that would both get rid of the guts and feed a hungry mouth.
That done, and the pot hung up over the brazier to simmer, he had little left to do, and little light to work by. The ponies, when he checked, were dozing in their corner, falling back into Cylus habits of settling in the dimness and small space, and letting time drift past. He didn't feel up to doing the same, not with a stranger around. He took his own seat near the brazier instead, and watched the flames, and the shepherd, and the shepherd's animals, in roughly equal measure. If it didn't let up before nightfall, they would need a bed too, but he could pile up a few of the floor rugs and add the rest of the spare blankets to take care of that, and it would be easier to move around the cramped space - it would have been manageable if it was just him and the ponies, no worse than the tent, but the extra bodies definitely moved it up from compact to cramped - without too many obstacles.
He found the shepherd watching him back, and observing his ponies, and they traded wry, crooked, smiles at the similarity. At last, the shepherd pointed to himself. "Name Raven. Dog is Fern." He pointed to Dan and raised his eyebrows.
Dan nodded, fixing the names in his mind. "Name is Dandelion," he replied. "Horses Cloud and Smoke. We'll be here for a while, I think." He tipped his head towards the entrance and the howling storm.
Raven followed his gaze, grimaced, and nodded, pulling the blanket tighter around him. "Bad Storm. Long Storm."
"Signed words" Spoken words