The druid laughed aloud at the sight. The dwarf paladin astride a double-humped camel! “I am not laughing at you or your fine mount, my friend! I am amused by my constant allegiance with unusual company and companions!”
After meeting with the caravan leader, the heroes agreed that they could make much better time on their own, and would ride ahead to start following up on a lead from Bloom. Barovar sat bare-back on his large lion-like companion, Rhogar shifted into a dire bear form, and Aldeen urged his camel forward after rechecking his backpack for the third time that his companions could note.
In less than two days of travel, the heroes were in the small village of Greenleaf. They quickly were directed to a small, stone house on the edge of town when they asked about a wanderer called “Tracks”. The villagers encouraged the heroes to try Track’s strawberry jam.
A middle-aged human answered the door at the indicated residence. The half-elf took the lead, asking, “Are you the one they call Tracks?” The man bowed, stepped back and waved his hand, gesturing them to come inside. The room was lined with shelves packed with jars, crocks and tied bundles of herbs and leaves. “I am Daniel Gonder. I’m not sure if they call me that because I can track or because I make tracks as I wander the foothills gathering mushrooms, berries and fruits for my jams, and local flora for my poultices. I also have some fine tobacco blends.”
“Actually, we are on an urgent, government-sanctioned assignment,” said the half-elf, “We were told that you came upon a strange creature on your wanderings several days ago, and have actual physical proof.”
“Ah. The ratoid!” Gonder indicated some chairs for the heroes. He packed his pipe with some cherry-scented tobacco as he recounted the incident. “I was near a logging camp. There are some great mushrooms there. There was a skittering sound, and a creature emerged from a log pile. At first I thought it a large rat, but it had more fur and its snout was longer. It had six legs, and the appendages ended in something more akin to hands than feet. The eyes were solid black. The ears of the rat creature were smaller than a normal rat, and turned with greater range of motion. One of the loggers mistook my attempts to calm and speak with the creature as shock or fear. He pinned the rat creature to a log with a well-aimed arrow.”
“You kept the carcass?” asked the druid. “Aye. But I took it to a friend of mine that does some taxidermy. I thought it would be an interesting display. I can take you there if you want to see it.”