The clouds overhead are dark and gloomy. Winds have picked up enough that Fani is staying close to Piyu. She’d rather not fly and that bird certainly isn’t made for walking. As hail falls Piyu knows that he must stop running and find shelter. His escape didn’t include clothing for a run through the mountains and this type of storm.
* * * * *
He took the opportunity to escapte when he earned his weekly hour with Fani. The Scoques were kinder than most other halflings, in that they allowed their goliaths to visit their companions on occasion. Most of the birds on the ranch didn’t even have their wings clipped. The treatment of bonds like Fani, the quality of life for Piyu and his friends and the lack of aggression in enforcing Azsel policies meant that most accepted their place.
Scoques Ranch became the new tribe. Most of the others considered the Scoques themselves the new tribal leadership and went about their business. It was the better of awful situations with which the border tribes along River Crinth dealt. Many were in fact settled. They were going to get sold or forcibly bred. They could choose their own family and even occasionally would be allowed to participate in local festivals celebrating the Everflow, or Harvest, or Migration.
While much of the Azsel/Crinth relationship is about a quest for power through slavery versus freedom for the Scoques family it may be something more like servitude, though none earn their freedom. It is supposedly possible. Piyu doesn’t want possible. He wants his bird on wing and his feet sitting in a cool mountain pond while the two of them fish together. Piyu wants to be free, even if that means less well off.
So Piyu left. He ordered Fani away and followed. Just walking off Scoques Ranch Piyu heads towards the hills. He does not break into a run until he crosses the fence on the ranch. Then his huge stride opens and he runs and runs and runs.
It is the worst escape plan. At this point he’s committed. He runs through the afternoon and the night not resting until the next morning. Fani brings him back some fish. The two find a crevice and nestle in for a short rest. Goliath and bird will need to get up soon and keep running.
* * * * *
Piyu heads back to the hut he’d passed a while ago. It’s the only cover he’s seen since he escaped the settled lands. He thinks he’s still far enough ahead that shelter makes more sense than pushing through this type of storm. Hail is starting to fall, even though it is the Summer. There is also a wicked green tint to the clouds back over River Crinth.
There’s just one problem. Someone is in the hut.
Correction there are two problems. A small group is climbing up the slope behind that hut. They are about a half mile away. Three small halflings and too many dogs to bother counting now.
Three problems – there are tiny sparks flashing back and forth across the river. They are red and gold. Smoke starts to billow out from a ranch near Scoques. Even smaller are the hints of blues and greens in the distance. What is this?
The storm opens in full. Hail and winds and a tornado off in the distance. It does not matter now that the tiny building is occupied. Fani needs shelter. So they open the door and stare at Master Kellamon Scoques Lady Harsop and Bastos. Piyu can’t see Latarza, but that may not matter. He’s face-to-face with someone who though friendly will be taking him back to the Ranch.
Lightning splits the tree behind him. Fani gives a soft cry. The peel of thunder shakes their souls.
“I can’t run through this.”
“Come in,” Kell says. Moving back. “You don’t have weapons?”
“No. I just wanted to get away,” Piyu, despite having a huge size advantage speaks with a hint of fear. The Scoques don’t use whips, and rarely even nets, but the natural order is that halflings are in charge, even when alone.
“I’ll start a fire.” Kellamon begins to gather some dry hay into the fire pit.
“No!” Piyu shouts quietly. The little halfling raises an eyebrow and looks back. “There’s someone else coming Master Kellamon.”
“Slavers? We wouldn’t hire slavers!”
“They almost certainly are, but I didn’t get a close look. Master Kellamon today is going to change our lives.”
“Yours will be worse for it.”
“No, this isn’t about me and trying to leave. This storm is different. It will last through the day, maybe the next.” And in front of Piyu’s hands a greenish cloud, hail and a tiny tornado appear.
Kellamon’s jaw drops. Bastos whimpers. Fani tucks her head under wing. Piyu just stares in wonderment at the model of the weather that somehow appeared in front of him. He’s never done this before today.
“Close the door.” Kellamon’s authority is slightly weakened. The door closes, untouched by goliath hands.
Piyu is startled. Maybe it was the wind, acting in concert with the words? The visual model of the storm disappears.
“Let’s settle in and hope that those slavers pass don’t notice the hut. If they do I will try to pay them off.”
It is the night when things change for Piyu, Kellamon and all of Kin.