Goldrun, Revisited: Part One
(Note: This story takes place in the town of Goldrun, the focus of the 2009 Neopian Times writers April Fools Prank (issue 385). Better late than never, eh?)
He was late, for a very important date.
The brown Gelert scrambled as best he could up the rocky face of the mountain. His task was made altogether more difficult by the roll of parchment he held tightly in one hand.
He’d meant to come so much sooner than this. He’d first seen the message back in Neovia a year ago, but he’d been so busy. There had been an election to get ready for... Victor just hoped that he wasn’t too late.
At last, he reached the top of the rock face and emerged onto a wide plateau that appeared to be several miles long, but only a few hundred metres wide. He adjusted his bowler hat and straightened his Neovian clothes. In the heat of the desert he was almost passing out, but he was a gentleman. He needed to dress appropriately. After all, he had to give Sheriff Ellie a good impression.
Carefully, Victor unrolled the parchment in his hand and read it again.
To whoever may find this, we need your help. Our town is suffering from a-
We are in the valley of sand near the-
-between Altador and the Lost Desert on the west side of the mountains. Come quickly. Bring-
-at high noon.
Signed, Sheriff Ellie of Goldrun
And here he was.
Behind him, the rolling sands of the Lost Desert stretched out as far as he could see. Sakhmet was a dot in the distance. The few desert nomads that Victor had encountered on his travelled had laughed at him when he mentioned going to find a town in the desert.
On the horizon in front of him, there was another dot. Altador.
In between the plateau and the walled city was a stretch of desert. Unlike the sands of Sakhmet, this place was full of cracked and dry earth. The odd cactus plant seemed to be the only thing breaking up the desolate landscape.
But wait... there was something else.
Victor shielded his eyes from the sun and stumbled closer to the edge of the plateau. There was something, but it was difficult to see in the desert haze. It looked like a collection of buildings. They were brown, as if they were made from stained wood. Was this Goldrun?
The noise drifted through the air and set Victor’s ears alight.
What was this?
He stumbled closer still to the edge of the plateau. There seemed to be a small path there, leading down towards the valley.
The noise seemed to almost be tempting Victor forwards. He scrambled down the path madly.
As he descended, the town seemed to get clearer. Yes, it was a town, over a dozen large wooden buildings. There seemed to be a dirt track running through the centre of it.
The noise seemed to be closer. Was it some kind of machine?
Victor leaned over the edge to try and get a better look.
Behind him, a green Techo jumped down from a ledge onto the path. He was dressed in striped clothes and appeared dirty. The most startling thing about the Techo however was the rusty blade he held in one hand.
“Clickerty-Clack...” the Techo sneered, jerking his head slightly as if he had a tick.
Victor wheeled around.
“Ah, hello!” he called. “Are you from Goldrun?”
“Clickerty-Clack,” the Techo replied, and began to advance.
Victor’s eyes dropped to the blade, and horror darted briefly across his face.
“Now, sir, I’m sure there’s just been a misunderstanding!” Victor protested, backing away from the Techo.
“Clickerty-Clack, Clickerty-Clack...” the Techo chanted faster as he advanced.
Victor backed away quicker, tripping and falling on his behind. The Techo continued to advance, still sneering his chant.
Then, a few paces from Victor, the Techo seemed to catch something in the sand at his feet. A net rose up out of the ground, surrounding the Techo and forcing him up in the air.
The knife clattered to the ground.
“Clickerty-Clack!” the Techo moaned as he span within the net, suspended in mid air.
A short distance down the track, Victor noticed a spotted Kau leaning against a dead tree. There was a rope wrapped around the tree, clearly the trigger for whatever trap the Techo had fallen into.
The Kau smiled briefly at Victor, and tipped her wide brimmed hat towards him.
“Howdy partner!” she called as she made her way along the track to him. She paused when she reached the Techo, “Now Jonas, you know this ain’t any way to be treating new folks.”
“Clickerty-Clack...” the Techo replied sadly.
“Yeah, you almost got away from me this time,” the Kau chuckled. “You’ll learn one day, though; no one escapes Sheriff Ellie.”
“Sheriff Ellie!?” Victor gasped, getting to his feet.
“That I surely be,” the Kau replied, tipping her hat to Victor again.
“I received this note,” Victor told her, handing over the parchment.
Ellie studied it for a few moments, before a wide grin spread across her face.
“You’re a bit late, partner,” she laughed.
Victor took back the parchment.
“You don’t need help any more?” he asked.
Ellie grabbed the rusty blade from the floor and began to cut the rope supporting the Techo.
“I wouldn’t say that,” she explained. “Goldrun’s a frontier town; we could always use another pair of hands. We just don’t need help with that particular problem anymore. Someone stole all of our Petpets, don’t ya know? We got ‘em back of course, the guy who stole ‘em’s enjoying a little time in my cells back at the Sheriff’s office. Jonas here will be joining him soon enough.”
The rope broke, and the Techo fell to the floor. The net was still tied around him, making escape impossible.
Victor seemed to deflate slightly.
“To tell the truth, I’d been hoping to be able to help out,” he said dejectedly, “The promise of adventure in a new land and all that.”
Ellie forced Jonas to his feet with one hand and patted Victor on the shoulder with the other.
“There’s still plenty of adventure to be had in Goldrun, you mark my words,” she chuckled. “How’s about I show ya around? I have to get Jonas here back to the office anyhow.”
Victor nodded early, “I would like nothing better, Sheriff.”
The Kau held up her hand, “Just Ellie, please. Come on partner, I’ve got a cart down at the end of this path.”
Ellie tightened her hold on the Techo and forced him down the path, Victor following at their wake. At the bottom, a wagon was waiting; several Nuks were tethered to the front.
Ellie made her way to the back of the wagon and pulled back the cloth, revealing a metal cage inside. She unlocked it and forced the Techo inside. Then, she climbed on the front, and patted the seat next to her. Victor joined her a moment later.
“Right then, to Goldrun,” Ellie said, pulling the reins and sparking the Nuks to life.
“What’s his story?” Victor asked, glancing back over his shoulder at the Techo.
“Him?” Ellie asked. “That’s Jonas Hemmity, otherwise known as the Clickerty Clack Killer. He’s insane, before you ask, diagnosed by Doc Brown himself.”
“What did he do?” Victor asked.
Ellie seemed to grow distant for a second, as if she was remembering something.
“I don’t like to talk about it,” she answered. “Let’s just say he earned his nickname.”
The two of them sat in silence for a few minutes.
“Well now, this is no way to reach Goldrun!” Ellie declared eventually, a jovial tone returning to her voice. “What’s ya name, stranger?”
“Victor,” the Gelert answered. “Victor Pettigrew. From Neovia.”
“Neovia!?” Ellie gasped. “Well, that’s a turn up and no mistake! We’re from Neovia originally!”
“Really?” Victor asked. “I’d never heard of Goldrun before I got this note.”
“Oh, it was a long time ago,” Ellie admitted. “A few people in the town heard rumours of gold buried in the desert, and you know what gold can do to a man’s mind. About a dozen or so settlers left the town, and founded our little community out here. Of course, the natives weren’t happy at first, but we got through to ‘em in the end.”
“Natives?” Victor asked. “You mean the desert nomads? They wouldn’t believe me when I said there was a town out here.”
“Oh not them!” Ellie laughed. She gestured to the far edge of the plateau that Victor had been standing on. Smoke was rising into the sky. “I mean those natives. They’ve been here longer than anyone knows, and don’t much care for outsiders. Big Chief Not Around is a forward thinker, though; they mostly leave us to our own devices.”
“And did they find gold?” Victor asked. “The original settlers, I mean.”
“Oh yes, by the bucket full.” Ellie nodded. “Lots of old prospectors try their luck in the streams back on the mountain range you were just on. There’s a fair few forests closer to the natives’ side of the plateau. The richest vein we’ve found is in Goldrun itself, though.”
The Sheriff pointed to a rocky outcrop at the far edge of the town.
“That’s old Pete Farley’s mine, run by his son Jason now,” she explained. “The most profitable mine Goldrun has ever seen. We supply most of Altador’s gold these days.”
Between the cacti on the dirt path ahead, the town of Goldrun was getting closer. Victor could see that people in Neovian style clothes were milling between the various buildings, while carts pulled by all manner of sturdy Petpets were rolling up and down the streets.
The Sheriff’s cart passed under the town’s sign.
“Welcome to Goldrun, Mr. Pettigrew!” Ellie proclaimed proudly.
To be continued...