"What are you looking at?" Dhamrak asked Haliha who stood gazing at the sky above.
"That" she replied, pointing upwards. Circling the sky was a hawk.
"What, you've never seen a hawk before?" Dhamrak asked.
"No, it's not that. I think it has a message of some kind for us, but it's looking for a place to perch"
Dhamrak looked around. The pair stood in a forest clearing. The other, newer, members of their party were camped out not too far from them. The company had been trekking for six days at that point, through a thick patch of woods, occasionally stopping by any town they came across, trying to get more members for their small army. So far though, they had only succeeded in getting three more people, all of which had volunteered on their own accord.
"I see multiple places for the bird to perch. Maybe it's just looking for prey" he replied. Haliha shook her head, and stepped away from Dhamrak, lifting her arm towards the sky. The hawk began to circle lower and lower, until it perched on her arm.
"See, I was right, it was looking for a place to perch" she said.
"Are you mad woman? Do you realize how sharp those things claws are?" he replied, stunned.
"They are called talons, not claws. And yes, I am aware that they are extremely sharp, but I trust this creature. He has probably been trained not to dig his talons into a person's arm"
Dhamrak sighed and shook his head. "So does it have a message?" he finally asked.
At that point, the hawk dropped a piece of papyrus on the ground, and flew away. Haliha bent over, a picked up the piece of paper.
Dear Dhamrak and friend… it read.
I am pleased with your success so far in this perilous journey that you now undertake. You have done what I asked for, which allows me to put my full confidence in you.
However, a recent turn of events have caused a change in plans. This change in events requires that I speak with you and your companion privately. I ask that you make your way immediately towards my house.
Post Script: Yes, I know coming to my place of residence requires that you undergo a dangerous route. I strongly suggest approaching my house from the south.
"Dangerous route? What dangerous route? And who is Tatonasthalasthan?" Haliha asked after reading the paper.
"Don't know really" Dhamrak replied, making an attempt at lying, which he wasn't good at. Haliha was able to see right through him, but decided not to press him further.
"Well, anyways, I think I have heard that man's name before. Now that I think about it. It's quite long if you ask me, but I think I heard it in its short form. Tatonas, if I am correct?"
"Yeah, well that's what he told me to call him" he replied. "But wait, how would someone from far away in Theria know about Tatonas?"
"Don't know really. I think I heard my mum and my pa talking about him. Something to do with Aush apparently" she replied, shrugging. "So I guess we aught to be making our way down there, to where he lives, don't you think?"
Dhamrak sighed. As Tatonas had said in the letter, going to his house would mean under taking a dangerous route. It meant coming dangerously close to his master's residence. He had already made a big enough scene, by standing on a crate, and bringing an entire town's attention towards him. He was now positive that the slave catchers were on his trail.
"Yes. I guess that is our only option. His house shouldn't be more than a day's journey away" he replied, giving in.
"Well, what about the rest of our company? I guess we shall leave them here?" she replied. Dhamrak winced. Did he really want to leave these people here, where he couldn't watch them? What if they were approached by a slave catcher? What would stop them from giving his whereabouts to the authorities, and having him captured? He didn't want to even begin to imagine what being captured could mean.
He sighed. He had no choice. Taking them with him and Haliha would slow them down. If they could get to Tatonas' house quickly, and get out of the area as soon as possible, the chances of him getting caught by a slave catcher would be slim.
"I guess we shall. It will make our journey quicker" he replied. "We shall leave on the morrow"