All that glitters is not gold…
Toria found Dylan sooner than she expected, perched precariously eighty feet above the courtyard. He was sitting cross-legged on the sill of a deep, tall window that provided light for a spiral staircase.
Dylan had pale, freckled skin, a mop of red hair, and overly large ears that he might grow into. His blue-grey eyes had a sparkle of mischief. Other children looked up to the jokester while adults considered him a reckless youth. He had a strong pair of legs from constant trips up to the drum heights and often wore shorts to show them off.
Dylan had a small wood hoop with a round piece of sheep skin stretched over it, sitting on the sill in front of him. He was muttering something under his breath as he beat out a rhythm with a pair of heavy drumsticks.
He turned when he heard Toria’s footfalls and his eyes lit up when he noticed her pack.
“Gathering herbs today?” he asked curiously. “I need to stretch my legs before I get another cramp in my hand.”
Dylan gathered up his practice tools and spun around, pretending to lose his footing and laughing at Toria’s little shriek. It took Toria a moment to compose herself and tell him about her search and rescue mission.
“Alright, let’s find ourselves a dog,” Dylan said with a solemn nod, taking Toria’s task very seriously.
A paved road, wide enough for six wagons to pass each other, led away from the hold. It was built back in the day when sheep needed to be driven to shelter before a threadfall. The walking path running along the road was dotted with little amber sundrops that made the air smell sweet. Yellow and black striped pollinators buzzed between the blossoms.
It didn’t take long for Toria and Dylan to check Shaggie’s usual napping spots – the runner’s station, the weaver’s cottage, and a particularly flat and sunny rock overlooking the sheering pens. The canine was nowhere to be found.
Next came the creeks where Shaggie would chase avians half the day when he was younger. Toria was forced to put insect repellent on her arms and legs. Dylan refused the cream but came to regret the decision soon after. He tried to act nonchalant as Toria treated a handful of irritating stings. The pretty white avians were undisturbed.
“Well, it’s either the hills or the beach,” Toria said with a sigh, pausing for a moment’s rest.
“I’d rather try the beach first,” Dylan admitted, scratching a sting on his calf with the sole of his shoe.
Toria considered her options.
[Attribute check: IQ 10, rolled 9.]
“Let’s try the hills first. The beach is easier to check when the sun’s going down.”
Dylan grunted a reluctant assent. He probably wanted to look for firelizard clutches but they’d be much harder to spot in the fading light.
The hills near the hold were rocky and steep with narrows passes. It would be easy for Shaggy to get lost in them. For that matter, it wouldn’t be hard for Toria and Dylan to get turned around, but Toria was fond of the dog and determined to find him.
While Toria called out for Shaggy, Dylan climbed up on boulders for a better look around. They talked and gossiped, feeling good about their little adventure. Now and then, Toria would spot a useful herb and stop to collect it. She hoped that she remembered the proper gathering method for each one.
Suddenly, Dylan spotted something in the rocks.
“Wait are those…?”
His voice trailed off as he rushed toward a rocky outcropping. “Eggs!”
With a harsh screech, a massive female wherry leapt out of the underbrush at Dylan, snapping its jagged beak at the boy’s face. Dylan let out a startled yelp, lost his footing, and fell backwards.