For several hours Big Dode and Hastrog rested, drinking all they could and filling both Dode's flasks. Towards evening, as they began to think of where to spend the night, Hastrog suddenly sat up and held up a finger for attention. He turned his head this way and that, his ears standing up. At length he pointed, and cupped his ear, indicating for Dode to listen carefully. Carried on the wind Dode could hear a rhythmic popping sound which after a moment resolved itself into gunfire. Hastrog got to his feet and limped in the direction of the firing, after a time stopping and looking impatiently at Dode who was very slowly stowing his equipment in his various bags.
The two climbed a rocky hill and once at the summit the gunfore sounded very close. Below they could see a building of some sort with twists of smoke rising from it, and nearby a group of dune-bugs crouching in a clump of large rocks. Between Dode and the building were several patches of spine-bush. Without hesitation Hastog set off down the hill making for the cover of the bushes and Dode hesitantly followed.
Dode and Hastrog crept through a thicket to get a good look at was happening. Dode could now see that two rat-like creatures with extremely long muskets were sniping at the dune-bugs in the rocks with the apparent intention of discouraging them from attacking. As Dode watched there was an outburst of loud chittering from the bugs and they dashed from cover towards the building. Hastrog drew out his axe and clicked some switches and levers on his gun. With a heavy heart Dode spanned and loaded his crossbow and loosened his sword in its sheath.
Quality 4+ Combat 3
Musket (=Crossbow), Humanoid, Strong Constitution
Points 38 x 2
Quality 3+ Combat 2
Quality 4+ Combat 3
Humanoid, Laser Gun, Slow
(He is usually Quality 4+ Combat 3 Points 41 Humanoid, Laser Gun)
64 points x 3
Dode was quite pleased with himself. His propensity for opportunistic backstabbing had once again been very useful and he though he had done nearly as well as Hastrog who had very skillfully knocked a leaping bug to the ground and finished it as it lay stunned. Dode and Hastrog looked at the surviving musketeer, expecting a show of gratitude, but the rat held his open hand out in an unmistakable "don't move" sign and chirped at Dode and Hastrog. The rat then went to his fallen comrade and examined them. There was a prolonged stream of relieved-sounding chirping and Dode could see the other rat moving feebly. Dode plucked up his courage and approached the two rats, holding out his water flask and showing a rather forced smile. The standing rat rounded on him, baring long teeth and screeching, but with an effort controlled himself and took the flask with a nod.
As the sun began to go down Dode and Hastrog were still standing patiently by as the fallen rat was finally able to stand with the assistance of the other. Hastrog gave what Dode thought was intended as a polite cough but sounded more like a cross between a burp and a grunt. Getting the attention of the rats Hastrog pointed to the sun, now dropping below the hills to the west, to the building, made a clasped-hands-to-head gesture for sleeping, and shrugged. Dode was again impressed by Hastrog's mime skills. The uninjured rat looked at them for a moment, then at the other rat, then looked around the area as if for somewhere else for them to stay. After another long moment the rat nodded and made a sweeping gesture towards the door.
The building was of ancient construction and had clearly been long disused, with a thick layer of sand on the floor and only a pile of backpacks and blankets, presumably belonging to the rats, inside. Once his eyes adjusted to the dark Dode saw the two rats huddled in one corner, one with his musket to hand, and Hastrog standing in another. Dode picked another corner, closer to the door than he would have liked, and took off his various bags and pouches. Hastrog again tried to communicate. This time he pointed to the other three and mimed sleep, then to himself and to his gun, now on the floor by his feet. Then he pointed to the rats, to himself, and mimed sleep, and to Dode. The uninjured rat caught the meaning and pointed to Hastog and Dode, made the sleep sign, and then to himself and patted his musket. Sentry-go for overnight having apparently been organised, Dode settled down to sleep. He slept only fitfully, waking often to find the rat either watching him or watching the other rat sleep, until Hastrog woke him for his turn. An uneventful few hours passed until he judged it was time to wake the rat for his turn. When Dode went back inside the rat was awake and watching and reluctantly got to his feet, cheeping softly to the other rat and pointedly laying a musket by its hand.