Location: On the trail of the fire ants
Varden hustles and flaps up to Izûn-Zîn as he tracks the trail of goblins across the moor. "What's with the guy painted black?" Varden asks in Lonic, so as to keep the conversation relatively private, "I don't know who he is, or where he came from, although he is handy to have around sometimes."
Izûn-Zîn looks up from the trampled grass under his nose. "You seem to know an awful lot about someone you claim to not know anything about," Izûn replies, spotting a scuff mark in the earth a few more feet to the left, and following its direction.
Varden pauses to consider Izûn's remark. He catches up to say "Yeah, but he did help us save the kids from the goblins—and destroy the goblin encampment."
Izûn tests the softness of the soil, then raises his nose to sniff the air, turns slightly right and heads down a gentle slope, saying "I don't have a problem with that."
"I don't either," says Varden, keeping pace, "but it would be nice to know something about him."
"He slept on a roof recently." Izûn offers as though its helpful information. "Or possibly in one."
"How do you know that?" Varden asks.
"The smell of pigeon guano, thatch, and pitch." Izûn answers. "Among other - many other things."
"Well, I climbed to the roof of the church when we were helping to fix it; and then I jumped off!"
"Yes," Izûn concedes, "but you didn't wallow in the gutters."
"But we don't know any useful things," Varden complains, "like who he is, and where he came from."
"Taylar," Izûn answers lifting one figner as if counting, "some town in the south," he adds lifting an other.
Varden rolls his eyes and ruffles his wings, "not even Tam knows much about him. she calls him a puppy, but I'm pretty sure he's a gnome."
"I wouldn't know," Izûn says, sniffing along the base of the hill, then wrinkling his nose in disgust upon coming across a dirty discarded piece of cloth. "We don't have gnomes in the forest. Or puppies."
"Well," suggests Varden, "the gnome in the town, the one who hates flying things, she called him a gnome. And she ought to know."
Izûn-Zîn suddenly jogs off to the right, apparently following some track or scent.
Varden takes a running leap into the air, flaps, and follows along. "But why is he coming with us?"
"I don't know," admits Izûn-Zîn, "Tamarack seems to have taken to him. Why are you so concerned about him?"
"Because he seems so shady," Varden answers. "Literally and figuratively."
"He's a creature," Izûn-Zîn explains, "adapted to his surroundings. Like the creatures of the forest, adapted to survive in theirs. The ivy learns to climb the oak, and the frog knows how to find water. The worm; he digs in the mire."
"But what kind of conditions would turn a gnome into that?" Varden asks, brutally honestly.
Izûn-Zîn turns and replies flatly "And they call where I live 'wilderness'."