The Second Horseman: Part 1

There is no city quite like Klick’Anon. It sits in north-eastern Tunaria, where lava flows abundant, and the soot from Neriak’s volcano blots out the sun. It’s a day’s hike east of the Elven capital of Fayspires. The two cities couldn’t be more different. Fayspires is bright and beautiful with columns reaching to the gods, while Klick is dark and rustic. The city itself isn’t even above ground. One must head down the long ramp, over a broken bridge, and into the underground tunnels. The city is, well it’s just odd. And if it isn’t odd enough with its gears and robots, its citizens are beyond the pale.

Gnomes inhabit Klick and Gnomes are very strange creatures. They are short. Very short. In fact, some Halflings tower over these people. Yet their small hands and oversized heads have made the Gnome population obsessed with mechanisms to counter their short stature. All sorts of tinker toys and model pets roam the tunnels of Klick. It’s a rare occasion to cross paths with anything natural down there.

Thanks to their abundant intelligence, Gnomes have all sorts of talents. Everything from Alchemists to Warriors are born here. Yet it’s their Clerics, Magicians, and Necromancers that attract the most attention. In fact, the citizens of Klick can create a pet that’s unique only to them. The Tinker Construct is a safely guarded secret among Gnomes and no other race dares to duplicate their creation. The parts for the pet can only be found in the blacksmiths of the city. And good luck convincing any Gnome merchant to hand those over if you aren’t two and a half feet tall and wearing glasses.

I hate sleeping here. If the smell of welding metals and the constant sound of creatures being brought to life isn’t enough, the beds are tiny for even an Elf. I essentially used the mattress as my pillow while I spread out on the metal floor.

There’s never a good way to keep track of time in Klick. Even if one were to stand outside, the sun is rarely seen so night and day run together. Of course in their ever-so-ingenious ways, the Gnomes created alarm clocks. Very loud alarm clocks. And thanks to the metal interior of the city’s buildings, alarms can be heard throughout the entire city. Needless to say, it’s not a peaceful place.

I was dressed and ready, waiting outside the bank for Quinn and Trueshot. They were preparing some things they had shipped in from Teth. Captain Volgo and Captain Drailis were outside the city with the others.

Quinn’s pulled back hair was dyed black and a few stray strands dangled in front of her eyes. Her dark brown leather armor was custom-built by some of the Teth elders. She wore a forest green vestment, given to her by her mother and Druid guild master, Dawnseer Mistwielder. On her belt hung a totem, while on her back, a staff was attached with a thin leather strap. The staff was longer than she was tall. The end wishboned and in between the wishbone, a blue-green smoke clouded the tip. Her totem was three sticks that were tied together. On the end there was a green orb that was held onto the sticks by sinew from a lion. The sticks were covered by three red and white feathers that ran along the shaft of the totem.

As with most Elves, she looked frail and breakable. She stood at just four and a half feet tall and weighed next to nothing. But when she changed into her white wolf form, she somehow gained enough mass to outweigh any Barbarian. She could hold her own in a fist fight against a Captain if she needed. On the other hand, her wisp form was virtually without mass. She became a ball of energy, capable of casting without ever taking a break.

She appeared in the bank door, barely having to duck her head to get through the Gnome-built door frame. I was six feet tall and moving in and out of building in this town was a true hassle thanks to my armor and rapiers.

“Finally ready?” I asked rhetorically.

“Finally. Now if Lythen would just hurry it up,” she said. Lythen was Trueshots first name.

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” a voice cried out from inside the bank. A moment later, Trueshot was following Quinn out the door.

“Did you get everything you needed?” I asked.

Quinn nodded and Trueshot said, “Yep. Had some gloves sent over. They’re a lighter leather. Made from the hide of a tempest panther.” He held up his hand to show off the black mitts. The index and middle finger weren’t covered so that the Ranger could have better control when loading his arrows.

“Well good. The rest are waiting by the coachman.” The three of us made our way out of the Gnome city and up the ramp.

The dirt outside the city entrance was dry and cracking. There was almost no moisture in the air thanks to the nearby volcanoes and open lava pools. Captain Drailis was talking to Selwyn and Elwyn. As we approached their group, Captain Volgo shouted out to me.

“Sir Keegan, come,” he waived me over. Quinn and Trueshot joined Drailis’s groups discussion.

“How you doin’ Cap?” I asked the Barbarian, patting him on the shoulder. He was standing alone, studying some maps. “Kept the whole city up last night with your snoring!”

“Can’t help it,” he said gruffly. I have no idea how the Barbarian managed to get any sleep in the cramped quarters of Klick. Yet he did and his snores shook the city worse than the volcanoes.

“You ever been out here?” he asked, pointing to the map of Rogue Clockworks.

“Not since Captain Scilond sent me on that wild goose chase. Had to kill some sort of ooze monster, or somethin’.”

Volgo laughed and said, “Yeah, I didn’t bother with his request. Though I did go out to the compound when I was seventeen.”

“Same,” I replied.

Rogue Clockworks is east of the Klick gates. In its northern parts there is a tricky mountain range that can easily turn around an explorer if he’s not careful. Between the gates and the most northeastern tip of the area, there’s a compound full of failed Gnome robots. Everything from replicated gnomes to gigantic spiders lurk in the compound’s valley. The leader of those mechanical creatures is a gnome-robot named DriedelVI. He’s a hot head that has no fear of picking fights with anyone that crosses his line of sight. Unfortunately for him, he’s a weakling. A famous Gnome citizen by the name of Ludvick Urdogeen has an obsession with paying people to go and beat down DriedelVI. With all of this said, the compound won’t present any sort of problem to our group. It’s more or less just a landmark that most Tunarians visit in their late teens.

“Aren’t there some pirates out there too?” I asked.

“I’m not sure. Maybe one of the Elves knows?” and Volgo called over Quinn.

“Yes, there are some pirates,” she said. “They have their own hideout up there. Lots of them too. Not sure they’d be a problem though.”

They probably wouldn’t be. That, or Quinn was just putting her confidence out on display. But our group wasn’t nearly as large as it was for the First Horseman. Fewer people from Qeynos were willing to make the travel due to its distance from Klick. Also, most of the people who were ported out were much too tired for a second fight this early on. For example, Mu Nan and his student returned to their Temple just down the road from Qeynos. At the same time, some hadn’t even made it back to their hometowns. Thus we recruited a few Fayspire Elves, two Dwarves, who were husband and wife, and four Klick citizens, all Gnome Magicians. Besides that, we once again only had Qeynos, Teth, and Halas warriors. In total, our group had just twenty members.

Yet the Captains felt confident in this. We had actually spoken with the Angel of Death and he had given us a good amount of information regarding the Second Horseman. After our journey back to Castle Light Wolf, thanks to my Quicksteed name, we cut a deal with the coach drivers to transport the leaders back to Highpass Hold. From there, we traveled out the city gates and down to the Angel of Death. He had quite a crowd, but wouldn’t speak with anyone. Until Volgo approached the floating beast with the Amulet of Ice.

“Ah! I see you have slain the First Horseman,” he had said in a deep, god-like voice that gave me chills.

The two Captains, Quinn, Trueshot, and I had made our way through the crowd to speak with him. It didn’t look as if anyone around us, even standing right behind us, could hear what the Angel was saying.

“You will find the Second Horseman in the farthest corner of Tunaria. In the Rogue Clockworks region to be exact. He won’t be alone, though. Two Efreeti Lords will accompany him. Be careful when attacking those two. They’re a bit… creative? Shall we say?” The Angel let out a short chuckle to himself.

Efreeti Lords are the highest form of a magician’s fire pet. They quad-hit and cast some pretty intense fire spells. Moreover, they’re enormous.

“I take it the Second Horseman is fire based?” asked Captain Drailis.

“Indeed. You will need the Amulet of Fire from him. Once you have this, return to me and I’ll point you in the direction of the Third Horseman,” promised the Angel.

I was actually kind of surprised at how much he told us. He seemed almost eager to fight.

The plan was drawn to meet in Klick in six days. First, I headed east to Freeport and met with Banker Cordin. I left the stealth black robe from the First Horseman and a letter in a safe deposit box for Snyde. Banker Cordin is the only banker in Tunaria that still does business with Snyde. Even though the Rogue gave up burgling and thievery years ago, he’s still not trusted amongst Tunarian bankers. There was no doubt in my mind that Snyde would visit Cordin. Hopefully he would get there soon enough to receive my letter. Once in Klick, we spent a few nights organizing our troops and recruiting help.

Captain Volgo folded up the map and called the units together. He explained the day’s travel plans and we began our journey to the Rogue Clockworks region. We left through the East Gate and headed directly south. A few miles south, the mountain range opened up and allowed us to head into the valley where the DriedelVI’s compound is located. To avoid any sort of trouble, the entire group stayed together and hugged the north wall, sliding east until nothing surrounded us but harmless lava bats.

There were a few more hours of walking in the dark, dry valleys of the Rogue Clockworks region until the mountain range gave way to a northern road. The East Ocean was a stone’s throw away and we paralleled the coast all the way until a village appeared on the horizon.

There was a tall string of smoke was bending high above a small fire in the center of the village. Several huts had their own torches lighting the interiors. Pirates.

We weren’t sure what to expect. Quinn had only been to the area once but remembered it to be teeming with the swashbuckling bastards. The mountain ridge to the west blocked any sort of maneuvering around the village. To the east, was the ocean. We could all swim of course, but this far north in Tunaria, krakens and sea sirens and strangling squids would put unnecessary dents in our army’s stamina.

Volgo split the army into five groups of four members each. Every group was suited with a healer. We approached with the Captains’ groups leading the way. As we got closer, it felt eerily quiet. Only the shadows from the torch lights seemed to be alive. Trueshot could see something near the coast that looked like a heap of sand bags or even garbage bags.

A few steps later, he stopped and I looked over at him.

“Well, there are the pirates,” he said, pointing in the distance.

“Huh?” No one can see as far as an Elf Ranger and what Trueshot had seen from hundreds of feet away, I wouldn’t understand until fifty feet. Along the coast, bodies were strewn about. Some looked as if they had been chasing something while others looked to have died almost instantly. One had lost his head while another had a large wound across his stomach.

Our groups spread out in the Pirate Village. No one was spared but at the same time, nothing looked damage. It was as if someone had come in there and in the blink of an eye removed all of its inhabitants.

Captain Volgo spoke up, “According to the Angel of Death, the Second Horseman is right around here.”

“And you think he took out the Pirates?” I asked.

Volgo let out a loud laugh. “I like this one already!”

Captain Drailis was shaking his head.

“There are no burns on any of these men,” he said.

“So?” asked a gleeful Captain Volgo. Savage death of any kind excites a Barbarian.

“So, the Second Horseman is a fire caster. There would be burns on at least some of these if he was the attacker.”

“Maybe. But who—“

Volgo was interrupted by a sharp jab to the kidney that sent him howling to his knees. I hadn’t seen anyone walk up to him but standing there, smiling, was Snyde Cragsmear. His two students, Juno the Barbarian and Eterin the Elf appeared behind him. Both were cleaning their blades. Their black armor, darker than I remembered it, was reflecting the torchlight. Snyde was wearing the stealth black robe.

The Barbarian Captain was caught of guard. He drew his sword and in a quick twist attempted to jab at his attacker. Snyde took a step to his left and knocked the blade out of the strong grip of the Warrior.

“Calm yourself, man!” he said, sticking out his hand to help the Captain up. “Just playin’ games with ya.”

Volgo refused the Human Rogue’s hand and got to his feet. Snyde bent down and picked up the embarrassed Warrior’s blade.

“I s’pose you want this?” he said, handing it over. Volgo snatched it out of Snyde’s hand. Snyde then turned to me and gave a short nod. “Thank you for the robe. It’s quite a unique one for a Rogue.”

“You’re welcome,” I said. He was right. His black armor blended in perfectly with the stealth black fabric.

“What the hell have you been up to?” Volgo demanded, his arms spread apart.

Snyde went on to explain how his students and he had been ported to Kerra and made their way to Freeport, where they got my letter. They then spent two days traveling up the coast. After camping for a few days, waiting for the rest of us, they got bored and decided to pick a fight.

“And you wiped them out?” asked Drailis.

“And we wiped them out,” repeated Snyde with a smile on his face.

We spent the next hour moving the Pirate bodies into a small boat and pushing it out to sea. We then moved into their village for the night. It was incredibly quiet compared to Klick and that was exactly what I needed. The only soundtrack this area had to offer was the ocean. Tomorrow, we’d go after the Second Horseman.

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About Stonee

EQOA blogger
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