Once again they made camp. The caravan comprised four ruumet breehr with wagons, and an escort of ten gashant riders commanded by an officer called Wiiso. All of the crash survivors accompanied the caravan, disposed among the howdahs and various wagons.
Several of the group also had their captured gashants,. including Sebastian who had christened his “Nessie”.
At night the drivers slept in the wagons near their charges, while the remainder of the group set up a circle of tents around a campfire.
It was in the very early hours of the morning that Henry’s Kenya trained senses became aware of something not quite right, and he rolled a wake. There was a strong, musky scent and a muffled tearing. Grabbing his pistol he shook Sebastian, and then there was a low growl and a faint cry close to them. In the darkness he could discern a moving bulk.
Lifting the flap red light seeped in from the fire, and illuminated a large bulk looming over the convulsing form of Mr. Smith. Warm, stickiness splashed on his cheek. Feral eyes peered straight at him.
Henry shouted and fired his LeMat point blank, and Sebastian stood up and yelled, slashing with his sabre.
As the camp slowly came awake, Henry and Sebastian fought a desperate battle around the ruined tent, which was now little more than a lean to with a roof. Mr. Robards had managed to crawl to safety, and the beast. seemingly hampered by the cramped confines had not managed to yet seriously harm either Henry or Sebastian with its lethal claws or teeth.
The creature had something of the appearance of an evil looking cross between feline and wolf, and yet was near the size of a horse. From outside the tent, bullets started to pump into the flank of the thing. Eventually, and with a terrible roar, it collapsed to the ground.
After the chaos had calmed down they examined the camp. Two guards had been silently and terribly killed: Smith had been the third victim.
“It’s a steppe tiger” said Robards shaking. “I’ve seen pictures of them, but never the real thing. Once is enough, I think. Poor Smith.”