Although exhausted by all the running away and the fear during his encounter with the rats Big Dode had enough presence of mind to go to the rat corpses and recover his bolts. He also took vindictive pleasure in skinning the rats and stowing the best bits of their carcasses in his bag. By now night was close and knowing that rats could see as well by night as by day finding shelter was his priority.
After spending an uneasy night wedged in a crevice between two curiously flat rocks, waking with a start at every sound, Big Dode set off again in pursuit. His pace was becoming slower and slower as he considered his options. His aim in following the raiders was unclear. To single-handedly attack them and liberate any prisoners? He could not help but notice the number of footprints in the trail he was following and that bore on his mind and wore down his resolution. Towards mid-day a glint of sun on metal off to one side caught his eye and provided a welcome excuse to leave off his pursuit - for just now, he told himself.
Loading his crossbow he approached the clump of rocks where the sun still occasionally flashed on something. He crept round a large boulder, and seeing nothing backed into a sort of cist of rocks, where rounded boulders supported a flat sheet of ridged stone studded with rusted metal domes. Pausing to gather his thoughts Dode heard a breath behind him - he whirled as fast as he could, to see a strange weapon levelled at him, held in a meaty fist.
Rooted to the spot with fear Dode raised his eyes from the weapon to see who held it. The weapon's current owner was a large, man-shaped creature who lay on his side, propped on the arm not holding the gun. The gun, Dode could now see, was wavering perceptibly as if even holding it out was an effort. The creature was well-built, with plenty fat and Dode steeled himself to look him square in the face. The face was decidedly pig-like with a broad flat snout, protruding tusks, and deep-set eyes which were blinking with effort. He looked more worried and stressed than dangerous and Big Dode took a brave decision. He very slowly lowered his crossbow from its half-raised position until it was pointing at the ground. Forcing his features into a smile he slowly sank to the ground until the crossbow lay flat and equally slowly stood up, showing his empty hands. Pointing to his belt where his water-bottle hung he spread his hands in a question. The creature let the pistol drop slightly until Dode's legs rather than head would be the target. Dode unlaced the bottle and took a drink. He then crouched and rolled the bottle - a yellow cylinder with a stylised smiling face marked on it - towards the creature, being careful that it did not stop too short or hit him. As the creature reached for the bottle Big Dode noticed that it had large ears which protruded comically from holes in the top of the metal helmet or skullcap it wore.
The creature very cautiously laid down the pistol and reached for the bottle. Keeping an eye on Dode, he sniffed the bottle and took a careful sip. He licked his lips and took another drink then looked questioningly at Dode. Dode assumed he was asking if he could have more; although that was the last of his water Dode thought it was worth it and made the universal tipping sign for 'drink up'. The creature drained the flask and set it down. After an awkward moment pointed to himself and said "Dode". The creature understood, and pointed to himself. He made a sound that Dode found hard to reproduce, as it had a strange nasal sound at the start that required a snout to produce properly. Dode tried "Kastrog", "Hastrog", "Hastrok"; the middle one caused the smallest frown.
Introductions made, an awkward silence descended. After a moment Dode touched his crossbow with his foot. Hastrog hovered his hand over the pistol. Dode mimed lifting the bolt from the groove and replacing it in the quiver at his hip. Hastog nodded but did not lift his hand. Very slowly Dode knelt down; reached carefully for the bolt; lifted it with his fingertips, being careful not to touch anything else; and finally slipped the bolt back into the quiver.
Leaving the crossbow lying Dode stood up and made a palms-up sign to Hastrog to stand. The pig-creature gestured with his head towards his legs, which were out of sight behind a pile of rubble. Dode took a slow step forward and peeped over the pile, while Hastrog hovered his hand over the pistol again. Dode could see Hastrog's bare legs, one pinned under a wooden beam which was seated under the rubble-pile. Keeping his hands high Dode stepped behind the pile and took hold of the free end of the beam. Crouching and heaving with all his strength he shifted the pile and pulled the beam away; Hastrog at once drew up his legs and sat, once again pointing the pistol at Dode. Dode's heart sank but he smiled reassuringly. An internal struggle of some sort seemed to be taking place within Hastrog. After a moment he lowered the gun and held out a hand to Dode.
Together the two made their way out of the pile of rocks, Dode supporting Hastrog. As Hastrog leaned heavily on the large rock at the entrance Dode went back to collect his crossbow and heard a distant sound - a scuttling clicking sound. He turned to look back towards Hastrog and took in more details of his appearance. He was taller and bulkier than Dode and in addition to the helmet Dode had noticed earlier wore a jerkin of rough cloth and a peculiar fur kilt. He was able to stand but was clearly not at his best; exhausted, with his head drooping, and with that leg injured and mottled with bruises. Dode looked about for the source of the sound. In the middle-distance Dode saw a quick movement of a black shape and pointed. Hastrog looked, jerked in alarm, and made a shooing motion. Dode made to run, but paused and looked back. He pointed to a group of low walls, the remains of a building, some distance away and shrugged a question. Hastrog nodded, raised his pistol and limped heavily away towards the ruins.