A Stranger Tale of Goldrun: Part One
Authors Note: This story takes place in the town of Goldrun, the focus of the 2009 Neopian Times writers April Fools Prank (issue 385). Just can't keep a good fools down
The Halloween Bori sprinkled a few herbs into the camp fire that made it flare and change colour to an acid green that illuminated the bright face paints smeared across the creature's skull.
The Bori stood up, grasping a gnarled staff in his hands, and began to chant as he slowly danced around the fire. Around him, local Petpets stopped in their nocturnal business to watch and listen, and above them even the desert stars seemed to be waiting, as if the Bori's actions were important.
The Bori's dance ended abruptly, and he raised both his hands and his chant towards the heavens. In front of him, the fire began to burn out of control, threatening to engulf both the Bori and the small camp he had set up.
In the sky, strange lights began to streak from one horizon to the other, hues of green and blue against the dark backdrop.
With finality, the Bori finished his chant and slammed his staff down into the fire. The flames jumped outwards, engulfing the clearing as the strange Northern Lights in the sky arced down to make contact at the epicentre.
As soon as it had begun, it ended. The lights dissipated and the flames died out, returning the smouldering remains of the camp to the moonlight.
The Halloween Bori was gone. Two Neopets now stood in his place, on either side of the burnt out campfire.
One was a shadow Gelert, dressed in black clothes that matched the colour of his fur. Yet, below his black hat, a strange red fire burned in his eyes like those of the Halloween Bori's.
Across from him was a green Lutari, draped in an ancient poncho and looking like he hadn't bathed in months. From below his wide brimmed hat, he caught sight of the Gelert, and his fingers tensed by his side as they instinctively moved to something hidden within the poncho.
The Man in Black noticed the Lutari's movement, and backed away into the night.
The Lutari, meanwhile, took out the object he had been reaching for. A polished cork gun, loaded and ready. His eyes drifted from the weapon to the direction the Gelert had disappeared.
The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Stranger followed.***
Daylight in the desert.
The ashes of the campfire trickled gently through the hands of the yellow Moehog. She recognised the green tint in the fire's remains.
“He was here,” she stated ominously to the two native warriors stood behind her. “And he performed the spell.”
“Then all is lost, Princess,” one of them, a Tonu, answered. “We must inform your father at once.”
“No,” the Moehog ordered. “We don't know if the spell worked yet. There's no need to worry my father unless we have reason to.”
The other warrior, a Kougra, picked up tracks at the edge of the burnt camp, illuminated in the light of day.
“There are footprints here, Princess,” he announced. “Two sets, heading west.”
“Two sets?” the Princess questioned. “He must have help. We must find him, quickly.”
“Princess, to the west…” the Kougra repeated.
“Goldrun,” the Moehog nodded. “I know, it can't be helped. I hope for her sake that we catch up to them before the Sheriff finds them. Come, we must travel fast.”
The three natives left the still smouldering campfire, following the tracks to the west.***
Three different Neopets rode across the desert not far away, their Petpet steeds straining both under the weight of their riders and the heat of the morning sun. They were heading for the mountain range to the north of the desert, and the hideout they knew they would find there.
The cork guns around their waists and the packs bulging with Neopoints left little doubt as to their occupations. They were bandits, on the run from the law after their latest raid.
The small log cabin they were making for was hardly well hidden, but its main attraction was its relative distance from the town of Goldrun. This far out, the long arm of the law seemed quite stunted. The only real dangers came from wild animals in the mountains, the native encampment nearby, and the occasional hunter - but bandits could easily deal with those.
The trio drew near to the cabin, tethering their Petpet steeds so they wouldn't escape. With some difficulty, they began to haul their ill-gotten gains inside. They paused as soon as they opened the door. Inside, a figure was sat in a chair, legs up on the wooden table.
“Howdy,” the shadow Gelert growled.
One of the bandits, a Blumaroo, reached for his cork gun. The Gelert was faster, drawing and firing his own. The cork struck the Blumaroo squarely on the forehead, and he fell backwards, slumped against the wall.
The Gelert smiled, “That was a mistake. The way I see it, you boys only get to make two more.”
He moved his eyes, burning crimson, very deliberately to his weapon. The bandits took the hint, understanding that the Gelert still had enough shots to deal with them.
“What do you want?” a Grarrl demanded.
“I have an interesting business proposition for you boys,” the Gelert said darkly. “It would be wise for you to accept.”
“Why should we help you?” the Grarrl asked.
The Gelert answered by glancing towards his weapon, “It's your choice. But, like I said, it would be wise for you to accept.”
The Grarrl's accomplice, a Yurble, opened his mouth, “What's in it for us?”
The Gelert smiled, again gesturing to his weapon, before adding, “Ten percent.”
“That's nothing!” the Grarrl shouted.
The Gelert moved his cork gun slightly, “You don't know what it is I want you boys to steal yet. Trust me, ten percent ain't nothing.”
“What is it then?” the Yurble asked.
The Gelert set down his weapon on the table and cracked his fingers, “You boys ever hear of the National Neopian Stage?”***
The green Lutari stumbled across the desert, dehydrated, hungry, and alone. He'd lost the track of the Man in Black soon before dawn, and now he was stumbling aimlessly across the wasteland.
He paused as he noticed something on the horizon, a shimmering mass against the blue of the afternoon sky. The Lutari dismissed it as a mirage at first, but as he grew closer, the haze began to clear and structures became more solid in his vision.
It was a town.
The simple wooden buildings lined up on each side of a well-worn track that the Lutari now stumbled onto.
He could make out people as he drew closer. They were milling about between the buildings as Petpet pulled carriages rattled along the streets. It seemed like a hive of activity in the otherwise arid desert, but that wasn't what the Lutari was focused on.
People meant water.
The Lutari used the last of his energy as he began to run towards the town, madly stumbling around on the dirt track as he struggled to marshal his feet in the right direction.
He barely noticed as he passed under the large sign that read, 'Welcome to Goldrun'. Instead, he stumbled towards the nearest water trough and plunged his head straight in, getting several odd looks from the Petpets that were slowly drinking next to him.
After a few moments, the Lutari emerged from the trough with a great gasp, refreshed and alert once more.
Shakily he got to his feet and looked around. He smiled as he set his eyes on his new destination. There was a saloon just across the street, and it would provide much better tasting drinks than he would find in the street.
He pushed open the doors to the saloon slowly, finding the place busy and noisy inside. Tables for card games had been set up in the corner, but the Lutari headed for the bar and sat down.
An elderly pink Aisha behind the bar tottered over to him.
“Howdy, Stranger,” she greeted him. “Welcome to the Makepeace Saloon. What can I get you?”
The Stranger fumbled in his pockets for anything he could find, gaining a stern look from the Aisha.
The Lutari eventually located a single grubby Neopoint in a pocket beneath his poncho, which he placed on the counter.
“What can I get for this?” he asked.
The Aisha took the Neopoint, “Not a lot.”
She disappeared down to the other end of the bar for a moment before returning with an impossibly small glass containing an equally small measurement of dark liquid.
“Sarsaparilla,” the Aisha identified it as she placed it down. “What's your name?”
“My name's not important,” the Stranger replied, taking the glass. “What's yours?”
“Holly, Holly Makepeace,” she introduced herself. “This here's my place. You planning on staying here long, Mr. Man With No Name?”
The Lutari looked around, “Maybe.”
Holly's eyes drifted to the Lutari's side, where his rooting for Neopoints had revealed his cork gun. The Stranger quickly moved his poncho back over it, but Holly knew what she had seen.
“You're a gunslinger?” she asked, not bothering to wait for a reply. “If you're planning on staying here a while, you'll be needing more Neopoints. Go see the Sheriff, she can use help from people like you - and she pays well to boot.”
The Stranger nodded, adding, “What is this place? This town?”
“You didn't see on your way in?” Holly questioned. “This here's the last frontier town in Neopia. Welcome to Goldrun.”
To be continued…