The Desert Ro does not occupy all of southeastern Tunaria. A few miles south of the Hazinak settlement, it loses its arid grip in the dingy swamplands of southern Tunaria. Jungles swarm with poisonous spiders and hostile lizardmen. Only the nasty Trolls of Grobb consider these parts homely.
Our army weaved around the pools of bubbling mud, under the great swamp trees, and into the valleys of the jungle. General Oxfist and Captain Drailis led the group while Quinn and I were bringing up the rear. A foggy haze hung in the air. It was so thick that when the two leaders got more than twenty feet from me, I lost sight of the men.
Quinn and I had been chatting, trying to catch up on each other’s life since the Second Horseman, after which the army had been given a leave of absence to go home and rest. Thus, Quinn and her mother went back to Teth where they stayed for several days. When the time came to return to Highpass, Quinn’s mother stayed in the tree-top village. As she told her daughter, she was much too old to be getting into anymore trouble.
Quinn’s mother had hung up her blades, so-to-say. In reality, she gave Quinn all her leather gear. It was a noticeable upgrade for the Druid and she was now, without a doubt, the most powerful of all Druids in Tunaria.
Her high cheek bones and mischievous smile made me wish that I, too, could hang up my blades. I suppose that wasn’t an option. Just yet, at least.
The jungle swamps stunk to high heaven. Rotting carcasses and stagnant water were amplified by the stale air that forced the stench to fester. Our group wasn’t very large but it did have some old friends making up its ranks. The Wizard, Flamefist, the Monk, Mu Nan, and the Ranger, Trueshot, were all in line following Drailis and Oxfist. Since Captain Volgo’s disappearance after the Second Horseman, the Dwarf General took over main tanking duties. Captain Drailis remained as our chief strategist. Selwyn and Elwyn, the Ranger brothers, Oxfist’s Cleric wife, and the Shaman, Beril O’Leary made up the rest of the people I was familiar with.
Our destination was a dangerous place that often confused and disoriented its visitors. On one of the hillsides in a jungle valley was an entrance to a huge, underground temple. Its many layers were made more dubious by its seemingly infinite turns. The only residents of this maze were a nasty set of creatures known as Froglocks.
Froglocks were little crossbreds of frogs and Halflings. They roamed in many parts of Tunaria but their headquarters were in the temple south of Hazinak. Froglocks are known for two specialties, fighting and raising the dead. If the First Horseman was a master of ice and the Second Horseman was a master of fire, then the Third Horseman is was said to be a master of the undead. The undead, roaming around the Desert Ro were all part of his doing.
However, it wasn’t our group that summoned the Third Horseman. And since we were not the ones to speak with the Angel of Death, we were not aware of the Horseman’s whereabouts. Thankfully some citizens of Highpass kept their eyes and ears open and were able to lend us credible information. Pwin told Drailis exactly what he had heard. Pwin had seen a group of Dark Elves passing through the Hold and through their clamoring he learned where the Third Horseman resides.
The temple’s entrance had several Froglock statues out front. Vines and moss layered the stone doorway that led to the temple’s innards. We lit a few torches and began to journey down the long, musky hallway. For the next several hours we checked each chamber and hallway, marking our tracks with lit torches. It would have been much faster to split up in a maze of tunnels like this, but Drailis knew better than to divide forces in the dark caverns of the Froglock temple.
In the final chamber, we discovered an open room. A pool of water filled the stone room and a green gooey substance lined the walls. Our army piled in. This is where we had been expecting to find the Third Horseman. Yet no one was there. In fact, throughout the entire temple, not a single Froglock could be found.
I began to search every corner of the dark chamber, looking for clues of any previous explorers. Toward the back of the room, the water got to be about a foot deep and my boots were filling with the black liquid. I stopped and looked down feeling a bit of disgust with the situation. A frown hung on my face before I took a step forward to continue searching.
As my next step came back into the water, my foot landed on something uneven. I lost my balance and tumbled backwards, landing on my back in the water. Everyone stopped and stared at me attempting to pick myself up in the dim-lit room. I was able to get back to my feet and pulled some of the algae that was clinging to my robe off of the fabric. I looked up to see Quinn smiling in amusement at my misfortune. The room was quiet.
Drailis came over and reached down into the water. He was feeling around when his arm looked to have connected with something solid. He stopped and his eyebrows went up. With a strong pull, he lifted a piece of armor out of the water. It was a dark, shiny black chainmail glove, the kind I had remembered seeing Snyde wearing when he surprised us at the Pirate Village.
I reached down around my feet and using my fingertips, scanned the bottom of the pool. After a few seconds, I bumped into another solid object. I lifted it out and it slipped from my grasp and splashed back into the murky liquid. Putting both of my hands under the water, I profiled the object, gingerly feeling around its edges. It was long and skinny and when I got to the base of the item, I realized that it was a sword. I found its handle and raised it from the water. It was a black short sword that glowed green. I had never seen anything like it before. The weight was nearly perfect.
I showed the blade to Drailis and he agreed that it was unlike any sword he had wielded. He admired the blade. However questions from our army began to fill the room, scaring off the damp silence.
Mu Nan asked, referring to the blade “Where’s that from?”
“Is that Snyde’s glove?” asked Trueshot.
Quinn came over and looked at the glove, still being held by Drailis. She offered her own input, “I don’t think its Snyde’s. It’s a bit too large for him.” She held up the glove and we could see that the hand that had been protected by the chains was indeed a large hand.
“Where are the Froglocks?” wondered Flamefist.
“Where’s the Horseman?” finally asked Beril.
Captain Drailis stuck up his hand in a plea for silence. He then shouted over the chatty army.
“Attention!” he began in a commanding roar that echoed throughout the chamber. “We know as much as you know,” he was pointing to General Oxfist and himself. “However, we need to send a group back to Highpass as soon as possible. Flamefist, I need you to take the General, Sir Keegan, and Quinn back with you. When you’re there, go as quickly as you can to the Angel of Death. Try to speak to him. If you cannot, set up camp and wait for us to come. If you see anyone try to turn in the next Amulet, do not hesitate to move in on them. I have a feeling that they’ll know whose glove this is and that might help us find your father.”
I titled my head and Drailis could read the confusion on my face. He explained further for my own well-being.
“I think this glove belongs to one of Snyde’s men,” he pointed to the glove that Quinn was now holding. He then continued, “Which may tell us where Snyde is at. Not to say Snyde is missing, but we all can agree that he had this sort of armor on when we saw him at the Pirates Village.”
I nodded. He had been wearing that dark, shiny armor at the Deathfist Citadel.
“Well if you woke up and Snyde was missing and he was with you when you last saw your father, it could be possible that Snyde and your father are together. It’s a long shot but why not?”
It truly was a long shot, but it was better than anything else we had. Flamefist moved to the corner of a room and Quinn, the General, and I huddled together. Wizards have the ability to port up to three other people to a single place in Tunaria. Highpass Hold is one their main port destinations. Standing close to the Wizard, the air around us blackened and then, before I had even taken a breath, the four of us were standing in the Banking Quarter of Highpass Hold.