The desert. Hot, dry, wind constantly whipping sand into your face. East of the savannah, the Great Desert grows and shrinks continually over the eons. The inhabitants only number in the thousands, and few permanent settlements exist to show for it. The tribes of the wasteland have developed a nomadic lifestyle, going from oasis to oasis. Several tribes exist in the desert, but not many are known outside of their native lands; not many outsiders come to eke out a living among the dunes and the rocks, and fewer still live to tell about it. The tribe that is best known outside of the desert is the Camel Tribe, whose ascetic warriors bring order to a land inhabited by many ruthless raiders. The Camel Tribe, or any tribe for that matter, doesn't have singular control over the wastelands. But the dwarves of the Camel Tribe do keep life a little more civil for those humble tribes, or travelers, that can't repel the raiders on their own.
"Have you seen any signs of the oasis yet, Gelmorn? You're the one with the young, sharp eyes after all," teased the master.
"No, I haven't seen it yet, and you're the one with the sharpest eyes. We probably passed over where it used to be. I'm sure it's dried up, just like all of the other oases we've looked for already. At this rate, we'll have to head west for the savannahs!" exclaimed Gelmorn. Master Rurik chuckled, making Gelmorn roll his eyes.
"Relax, this region has another oasis just five miles due south. That one NEVER dries up, Gelmorn, believe me. But, we should really get back to the rest of the tribe. Come, let's find them." The master, from a sitting lotus position, stood up without using his hands. Gelmorn tried his master's graceful move, only a little slower. Both dwarves then set out at a fast jog while heading north with the sun setting to the ascetics' left.
"How far away is our tribe? We really shouldn't have come out this far, Master Rurik. We can't afford to be so lax when the oases are drying up like this. Think about the raiders!" complained Gelmorn.
"Gelmorn, why the hells should we worry so much about raiders? We can handle ourselves, and if there are too many for us, we can just run away. We can even outrun horses, for gods' sake! Well, at least I can..." Rurik threw his head back and roared with laughter.
"Hey, I can keep up with a horse! Oh sure, I haven't been training as long as you have, being that you have two centuries on me, you old coot!" Gelmorn reminded Rurik.
"Oh yeah, I am an old coot...So why are you lagging so far behind, Gelmorn?" Rurik was now howling with laughter.
"Yeah? Well.....Hey, did you hear that?" Gelmorn asked. "Sounds like a pack of hyenas...no, something else..."
A yapping sound is heard, almost like a high-pitched giggling noise, and goes on for another minute or so.
"I hear it too," agreed Rurik, "they sound too big to be hyenas, though." Rurik halted his jogging, as did Gelmorn. Rurik's right hand was stroking his white beard with his shaggy eyebrows arched. "Hmm..."
All of a sudden, three hyena-headed humanoids, each standing well over seven feet tall, kicked up sand in their feral charge towards the dwarves. Snarling and gnashing their teeth, brandishing big, two-handed axes and sporting grungy leather armor over their spotted, matted fur. The two dwarves glanced sideways towards each other, then nodded. Rurik and Gelmorn both assumed a fighting stance, Rurik positioning his left foot slightly sideways towards his opponents and his back foot at five o'clock with his hands lightly clenched. Gelmorn leaned forward slightly, with his left foot ahead a little and arms close to his body, his hands slightly open.
The first gnoll swung at Rurik with its greataxe, which Rurik sidestepped and ducked underneath to the right. While ducking, Rurik also wrapped his arms around the gnoll's waist, placed his left leg behind the bend of the gnoll's left knee, and Rurik continued the momentum he gained from dodging the axe. The gnoll went down hard, dazing it; the old dwarf wasted no time in stomping on its rib cage twice. With a sick sound like a big tree snapping, Rurik caved the gnoll's chest in, killing it.
Gelmorn took advantage of the chaos from Rurik's fighting and tumbled behind gnoll number two, who was coming straight for Rurik's back with its axe high in the air. Gelmorn, in a flash, picked the beast's right leg when it left the ground, then wrenched its leg up towards its back. The gnoll, yipping loudly from the painful position its leg was forced into, fell and got a mouthful of sand. The young blond dwarf ran up to its head and wrapped his right arm around its neck, then wrapped his left arm around his right forearm and grabbed his right shoulder. The gnoll tried standing, but fell back down when Rurik jumped on its back, then sprung off the gnoll and sailed through the air toward the third mutant hyena, leading with his left foot. The old dwarf shifted his weight down, then snapped his right foot across the gnoll's face; the gnoll dropped into the sand with its head too far to its right, not moving or drawing any more breath.
The gnoll that Gelmorn had in a chokehold, its eyes bulging, struggled to get its head out from between the young ascetic's arms. Gelmorn received a few scratches from the claws of the creature, but never let go. A minute passed, the gnoll's struggling slowed down considerably, until it didn't struggle anymore. The beast went limp in Gelmorn's arms, a sure sign of its death. The blond dwarf let go of its neck and stood up, then bowed to his master with his palms facing each other and fingers pointing up.
"Let's go find our tribe, Master. We don't know how many more gnolls there are lurking in this part of the desert."
Rurik responded, "Yeah, let's not make it too easy for these demonic hyenas, now. First, let's get back to camp, then we'll get to the oasis. I'm willing to bet that's where our new friends are waiting for us." The crazy old dwarf laughed to himself, faced north where they came from last, then started jogging, with Gelmorn following close behind.
"You're still going too fast..." Gelmorn muttered to himself.