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  • He felt the warrior beside him mentally gasp as the second wagon of the caravan came into view. Inside were Falian men chained together and packed in shoulder to shoulder. Their captors were large man like creatures wearing leather helmets and breastplates. They had long horn like snouts and reminded him of rhinoceros standing on their hind legs. Their skin was thick and leathery and, if the imprints in the sand were any indication, they weighed a ton. Slow and methodical were their moves.

    “Slave traders” he heard Angel in his head as she saw through his eyes. She was back at the caves in charge of the safety of their people. All the soldiers were heavily armed and the remaining warriors were quietly ready.

    “They have your people” he thought to her from the top of the closest dune. “After you have a good count of the enemy, return home with your warriors. They will be another day coming before we have to make a decision.” she thought back to him.

    They continued to observe the caravan and it’s three wagons full of prisoners. He counted only seven of the “rhino” men and was about to give the order to fall back when he saw something whirling in the sand on the far side of the caravan. The caravan stopped and waited the arrival of the dust dervish. He felt his heart race as two wobboes slinked out and the dust settled. One of the rhino men threw pieces of meat in front of them and they tore them apart with loud growling sounds.

    He gave the order to withdraw and they slipped back down the dune and away while the beasts were still busy with their meal. Two of the most dangerous beasts he had run into on this planet, and he had fought dragons, were being kept as watchdogs by the rhino men. They found their shuttle and quickly left the area for home. It would be another day before the caravan reached the edge of the desert. But the presence of wobboes changed the situation. The saber toothed tiger sized wolves hunted instinctively in a pack and there could be no negotiation while they were involved. Either they killed them in battle or died trying.

    His warriors had been training with the soldiers on the use of the small laser pistols they carried. The warriors still preferred to use their traditional sword, but had become proficient in the use of the lasers and each wore one at the waist. But none of them had ever faced a wobboe. He was the only one who had survived an encounter with them. He didn’t want to strike fear in his warrior’s hearts, but neither did he want them to be overconfident of the outcome. He told them of the great fighting skill of these beasts and they decided that it would be best if they could draw them away from the caravan before engaging them in battle. At least then they would only have the wobboes to contend with. They had no idea how tough the rhino men would be in battle, but didn’t want to find out while fighting the wobboes.

    The caravan was headed further north than they realized and was aiming to miss the canyon country at the edge of the desert. He hated to admit it, but they had no idea what was in that direction. Further east, thanks to Torr’s flight was a great sea. But north or south were unexplored territories. They had a council meeting to decide whether to rescue the men or let the caravan pass unmolested. And as much as he would have liked to avoid a coming battle, he never could abide slave traders, no matter what planet they were on. The others felt the same and they made their plans to draw off the wobboes.

    Further along the canyon country, in the direction the caravan was headed, was a small box canyon. The smell of the fresh killed desert aepho would draw the wobboe into their trap. Six of them waited in the pre-dawn fog until he felt the hackles rise on his neck. “They’re here” he thought to his warriors. Suddenly the fog was cut by the dark shadows of the pack. More than two lashed out at his warriors who slashed back with great skill. It was over as fast as it started but they stood alert until the fog burned off. Two of his warriors had minor gashes on their sword arms that were quickly treated and bandaged. Around them as the fog cleared were seven dead wobboes.

    He contacted Angel with a new plan and they agreed it was worth a shot. “Load the Wobboes onto the shuttles top. We are going to pay a visit to the caravan. Angel will begin to open negotiations for the release of the prisoners once we reach it.” They struggled with the dead beasts which were probably even heavier in death, until they had them draped all across the shuttle.

    “When we reach the caravan three of you will remain hidden in the shuttle with your lasers at the ready while the other three will come with me to sling the dead beasts at the feet of their masters. Angel will boom into their heads with an ultimatum. Free the prisoners at once or face the same destiny as your dogs. Be ready for anything at that time. I am hoping the sight of their fierce beasts dead at their feet will scare them enough to free your people. But if they try to fight, we must win and win quickly.”

    It was mid morning when they reached the caravan. The rhino men had halted and awaited their approach. He wasn’t sure which one was the leader until he saw the medallion on his neck. They came to a halt eight feet from him and the four of them began slinging the corpse’ at him. As the pile grew, he took a step back and you could see his eyes get wide as Angel issued her command. He made the mistake of reaching for his weapon and the nearest warrior slashed her sword down and his forearm fell to the ground. He looked astonished at his missing arm as he bled out onto the sands. She pulled the medallion from his neck and handed it up for her leader.

    The other rhino men slowly plodded forward and looked at their fallen leader. He loudly thumped the medallion on his chest and pulled his own sword thinking to them “Free the prisoners or join your leader”…
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