Ku-ki’cha loped over the crest of the sand dune and paused, looking. So that is Altaruk , he thought. It had not been a particularly long or difficult journey, as his usual hunting grounds were in the Great Alluvial Wastes to the north of the town, and he knew the territory well enough to avoid being ambushed by bandits or devoured by silt runners. Still, he had not survived five years under the pitiless sun of Athas without understanding that survival was sometimes as much a matter of luck as of wisdom and experience. Once again he delved in his pack with his middle set of arms and retrieved the small bone and chitin necklace. Rikus had been unlucky, he thought, as he turned it in his claws. Rikus had come from a place like this, a slave fleeing into the desert who might have perished like so many before, had he not met Ku-ki’cha’s clutch. The big, tough mul had proved his worth as a hunter – and friend – several times over before – well, what was past was past. Ku-ki’cha refocused his purplish eyes on the settlement in the distance, and reflected that he knew little of the ways of the folk who lived in such places. Gripping his crescent-bladed gythka, he set off again, noting that there seemed to be others on the road below.