Maldore ran after the retreating figure on the overhead ledge. The Traveler shook his head at Palluck.
"Could have coaxed whoever that is with something, but now it's time to improvise! Stay here!"
The young Namican reluctantly hung back. He held his sister close as they watched the Traveler pursuing after Maldore and the other creature.
"How will they even reach it?"
Maldore ran along the base of the virtual rock wall, just barely under and behind the other figure. In the waning sunlight, twilight now on-setting, he could tell it was female, and certainly one of his kind. He called up, his paw outstretched.
"Wait! Who are you?"
Maldore suddenly heard heavy breathing beside him, turning to see that the Traveler had caught up. The latter shook his head.
"And it looks like I have to do everything..."
Dropping to all fours, he leapt to the rock face, stumbling as he ran almost sideways. Angling up, he soon overtook the female Namican, tackling her. Struggling to break free, her efforts sent them both plummeting down the short cliff before Maldore. He came to a halt.
"Traveler! You okay?"
He held a paw to his bandaged temples. "I'll live... not easily, but the fall wasn't bad compared to running like that."
The female Nica, stunned from the fall, began to stir. Maldore extended a paw, her eyes wide as she recoiled from him. He shook his head.
"It's alright. You find us to be of any danger." He sent a glance toward the glaring Traveler. "...Normally."
She slowly reached her paw into his, her breathing slowing. "What happened to them?"
Maldore cocked his head. "What do you mean? Our parents?"
She nodded quickly. "Did you see what happened?"
Maldore shook his head. "No. Did you?"
"No... I mean, I saw them all gathered, but when I woke up, they were gone. Then I saw you enter the hollow."
The Traveler dropped his paw from his temples, padding and stooping down beside her. "Woke up?" He sniffed towards her face, and then shook his head.
"You've been eating julmba berries."
Her brow furrowed. "I haven't eaten any berries in months. The last thing I ate was one of the cakes they were serving at the gathering's final meal."
Maldore narrowed his eyes. "Only adults were invited. What were you doing at the gathering?"
"I just wanted to see what they were doing. My parents didn't know I followed."
The Traveler pursed his lips. "Then the berries must have been in the cakes."
Maldore rolled his eyes. "So she ate berries. Why is that important?"
The Traveler stood. "Julmba, specifically. My understanding is that it's poisonous to most creatures, but to something like a Namican, I imagine it would put them in a mild coma."
The young female started to rise. "What are you saying?"
"I'm saying that if berries were in the one thing you ate, someone planted it there. Accidentally, well, everyone who ate it as well would have been coming to about now or in the next few days. But since they're not here, they've been moved. I don't think whoever did it was ignorant of the berry's effects."
Maldore's eyes grew wide. "They were taken? Why?"
"That's what we're here to find out. Now, lassie, what's your name? And have you worked with newborns a lot?"
The Traveler rolled his eyes. "Answer the question."
"My name is Hilyan. And some. Why?"
The Traveler nodded. "We need some way of feeding a newborn, and don't have access to her mother. If we don't take care of her soon, she could starve."
Hilyan nodded. "I'll need a mushroom base. Once I have some, it'll be an hour, but it should be a usable substitute."
The Traveler turned to Maldore. "Go with her to find what she needs. I'll go back to Palluck and make sure he and your sister are alright."
Not waiting for their acknowledgement, he turned and left. Maldore watched a moment before exchanging glances with Hilyan. She shrugged.
"Is he always like that?"
"I dunno, I just barely met him. But he is one strange creature. Come, I think that looks like a patch of mushrooms over there..."