Blood Ties, Chapter 16: Return of the Rhino Riders

Last time on Blood Ties, Meilin saved Conor and Abeke from a Bile-enhanced crocodile. Will they complete the fetch quest in time? Find out after the cut.

It was fully dark by the time Meilin, Abeke, and Conor finally reached the clearing. It was a different place from the one Meilin had left. Bright paper lanterns suspended from long bamboo poles lit up the area. Tents had been pitched in rings around the rhino rock, each with a rhino standing beside it, tethered to a thick iron peg hammered deep into the ground. The riders themselves were gathered around several large fires, eating, drinking, and talking.

The party arrives just in time to see Rollan, Xue, and Jodoboda drinking tea and conversing. So, yeah, I guess having Briggan and Uraza turn in the quest counted, because Rollan is obviously alive and well. Not that it matters — Jodoboda was going to give Rollan the cure anyway, because he’s nice like that.

Before settling down to a fine dinner of rat and bamboo shoot soup, Meilin apologizes to the party for ditching them. She thinks that, if she hadn’t gone solo, the party wouldn’t have been captured by the Tergesh and Rollan wouldn’t have gotten sick. Everyone else is all like, “Rollan would’ve gotten sick anyway, and besides, we would’ve noticed his symptoms if we weren’t mad at Conor for giving away a stupid MacGuffin.” And then everyone realizes that they’re a pretty decent party if they all work together.

Anyway, since the party completed the fetch quest, Jodoboda agrees to escort them to the Lake of the Elephant (AKA Dinesh’s obvious hiding spot) as soon as his riders return with Tarik and Lishay.

The next morning did not so much dawn as gradually steam into existence. The rain kept coming down, and the sun was not strong enough to break through. Everyone woke cramped, uncomfortable, and wet. The riders had kept the big fires going all night, despite the rain, but as Meilin soon discovered, there wasn’t much point trying to dry out next to them. One side would get less damp, while the other was as drenched as ever.

The next day, Tarik and Lishay return with some rhino riders just in time for breakfast. It turns out that they fought off some groups of Bile-enhanced crocodiles in the swamp.

Jodoboda can’t stand that the Conquerors are in his swamp, so he’s determined to defeat them on his own. Why? Because apparently it’s traditional for the Tergesh to fight without help from their allies. After a quick talk with Xue, though, Jodoboda decides that it’s probably a good idea to team up with the Greencloaks to fight the Conquerors.

Now that everyone’s back together, the party gathers and ventures forth … after breakfast.

——————–

Stuff I Forgot to Mention Above:
Meilin and Conor attempt to pass the credit for completing the fetch quest to other party members. Abeke’s all like “IT DOESN’T FREAKING MATTER, WE ALL COMPLETED THE STUPID QUEST TOGETHER.” I’m starting to like Abeke more because she’s so damn practical.

Hey, you know that lesson the party learns? The one where they realize that they work well when they stick together? Well, expect them to not do that throughout parts of the next few books.

No, Xue isn’t joining the party on their journey to the Lake of the Elephant. Her excuse for not tagging along: she has pots to sell.

Food Porn!
All the foodstuffs mentioned in this chapter:

  • Bamboo shoots in rat broth
  • Rice cakes mixed with mushrooms

——————–

Next time: The party gets a tutorial in solving RPG dungeon puzzles.

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