Goldrun, Revisited: Part Three
Victor rose early the next morning, keen to experience more sights and sounds of Goldrun. Holly Makepeace prepared a large breakfast for him, with the explanation that when her husband had been alive, he had eaten enough for three grown Neopets in a morning.
Once he had his fill he set out to explore the rest of the town. He found clothes shops, Petpet stores, even a small bank. At one point he strayed close to the mine towards the centre of the town, but when a large explosion within caused the ground to tremble, he thought better of it and decided to head back to see Sheriff Ellie.
As he neared her office, Victor could hear an argument in full swing.
“I’ve got clients that need gold, Sheriff!” a male voice boomed. “My mine is the heart of Goldrun; you can’t keep living in the past!”
“And I’ve told ya, I won’t let ya put people’s homes in danger. I won’t let ya undermine our town; your father would never have thought of it,” Ellie’s voice replied calmly.
“Well, my father isn’t here anymore!” the other voice shouted back. “I’m in charge of the company now, and I say that the mine needs extending!”
“And I say it doesn’t,” Ellie snapped. “That’s final, Jason.”
“You’ll regret saying that one day!” the voice shouted.
The door to the office flung open, and a shadow Lupe stormed out, barely acknowledging Victor.
The Gelert closed the door after him.
“Having fun?” he asked.
Ellie was sat at her desk massaging her temples.
“That was Jason Farley,” she explained. “Remember I told ya about him yesterday? He owns the mine. He’s foolishly agreed to supply more people than he has gold for at the moment, and now he wants to extend the mine below Goldrun to meet his requirements. Every day he’s in here complaining at me, hoping I’ll give in.”
She sighed deeply, and then smiled up at Victor.
“It’s times like these make me want to do some target practice,” she said. “You fancy coming to the shooting range?”
Victor nodded excitedly.
“Ya ever used a cork gun before?” Ellie asked as they made their way to the outskirts of town.
“There’s a gypsy near Neovia; he has a shooting gallery there. I’m known to be quite the dab hand at his little game,” Victor admitted. “I’ve been wondering, though, why the corks? Surely there’re more powerful weapons that a Sheriff could use?”
“Probably,” Ellie conceded, “but like I told ya yesterday, I’m here to keep the peace. It wouldn’t be very peaceful if there were bodies lying all over the place. The cork stuns someone just enough for ya to do your job.”
The shooting range turned out to be an unused patch of dirt on the edge of the town, hidden behind a few seemingly derelict sheds. A handful of tin cans had been set up atop a wall, in the absence of any real targets.
Ellie handed him her gun.
“When you fired it yesterday, you were so quick,” Victor said.
“That’s the art of the quick draw,” Ellie explained, guiding Victor’s hand to line up the target. “You’ve got to learn how to be fast in a town like this. Now, take your time, and breathe slowly.”
Ellie removed her hand and let Victor fire by himself. The Gelert squeezed the trigger, and the cork shot out, sailing right into one of the tin cans.
Reloading the gun with another cork, Victor shot another, and another, and another.
When the final can fell from the wall, Ellie stood back, clearly impressed.
“A natural, I’d say,” she commented. “You’ve got some fine skills, Victor.”
The door to the Sheriff’s office opened slowly, and a shadow Lupe peered around the corner. When he was sure there was no one at the desk, he strode inside and closed the door firmly behind him.
“Clickerty-Clack?” the voice of the Techo in the cell said questioningly.
In the cell beside him, the mutant Mynci was snoring loudly.
“Clickerty-Clack indeed, Jonas,” the Lupe sneered.
He made his way over to the desk and searched the draws until he found what he was looking for. With a key in hand, he unlocked the Techo’s cell.
“Run free, Jonas,” the Lupe chuckled, before turning and leaving as quickly as he’d arrived.
“So there’s just you?” Victor asked as they made their way back into town. “No one else working for the Sheriff’s office?”
Ellie chuckled to herself, “I wish. Some days I’d give anything for another pair of hands around here. Goldrun may be a small town, but we’ve got our share of problems. Not as if there’s room for a second desk in the office anyhow.”
She glanced across at Victor as they walked, “And what about you, Mr. Pettigrew? What did ya do back in Neovia... and why are ya here?”
“Pardon?” Victor asked.
“No one finds their way to Goldrun unless they are looking for something or running from something,” Ellie observed. “Folks don’t come here for breaks.”
“I wouldn’t say I was running from Neovia,” Victor replied. “It’s just... not the town for me. All the zombies roaming about the place, the constant curses and threats from evil creatures... it’s all so misty and dreary. When I got your letter, I just had this vision of this amazing place, way out west. I helped out at the town hall, one of the lower level clerks... there was an election for a new mayor; that’s why I didn’t come sooner.”
“Running from your old life and looking for a new one, then?” Ellie questioned. “A bit of both. Never met a clerk that could shoot like you, though.”
“It pays to be to the point, sometimes,” Victor remarked dryly.
Beside him, Ellie stopped in her tracks. The door to the Sheriff’s office ahead of them was ajar.
She carefully made her way along the walkway, and pushed it open further before edging herself inside slowly.
“He’s gone,” she said flatly to herself.
Victor joined her a moment later. One of the two cells was open, the key still in the lock. The mutant Mynci was still snoring loudly, but the Techo was gone.
Ellie made an exasperated noise before turning and running out of the office. Victor followed as close behind as he could, but found Ellie was capable of running at surprising speed. The Kau stopped at the edge of the town, under the swinging sign that served as the gateway to Goldrun.
She bent down and touched some wagon tracks in the sand.
“He went east,” she concluded.
“Those tracks could be from anyone,” Victor told her.
“The mail wagon went out two hours ago, Flagrant Dohicky gets his deliveries on a Tuesday, and these tracks are fresh,” Ellie explained.
“Do you think he’s heading for Sakhmet?” Victor suggested.
“No, he’d never survive in the sandstorms,” Ellie answered flatly. “He’s not stupid.”
“I thought you said he was insane?” Victor asked.
“There’s a difference between insane and stupid,” Ellie replied. “I know where he’s gone.”
She pointed to the horizon in the northeast. On the far edge of the plateau was a forested area, and smoke was rising into the sky.
“To the natives,” Ellie told him. “I just hope he doesn’t venture onto Brack’s cactus farm on the way... that boy’s a little crazy when it comes to protecting his crops.”
She turned and once and began to make her way back to the town.
“The natives, then?” Victor asked, an eager smile spreading across his face. “It’ll certainly be interesting meeting a tribe of locals.”
“Ya don’t have to come along, Mr. Pettigrew,” Ellie said dismissively.
“Please, it’s Victor,” the Gelert replied. “It’s my fault he’s out there anyway. He wouldn’t have escaped if you hadn’t have taken me to the firing range.”
Ellie glanced at Victor. “Alright then.”
The sun was setting behind the mountains as they came across the stricken remains of the Techo’s cart. A wheel had fallen off, making repairs impossible.
“He’s on foot from here on out,” Ellie noted. “We’ll be able to catch up with him quicker.”
She urged the Nuks pulling their own wagon onwards, as the path ahead began to snake up into the mountains towards the plateau. They were beginning to leave the desert scenery behind, and whilst rocks still protruded from the landscape, plants and trees were appearing more frequently.
Eventually the path became too steep for the wagon, and they were forced to abandon it.
Ellie had barely gone a few paces before she knelt down again.
“Footprints,” she said over her shoulder. “Looks like he’s going up the mountain.”
“It’s a long trek to Shenkuu,” Victor observed.
“He might double back to throw us off his tail,” Ellie considered.
Ellie stood up and glanced off into the opposite direction.
“We need to make sure that if he does, there’ll be someone waiting,” she said, before setting off in a different direction.
The path Ellie was leading them down seemed to be heading into a very small valley, and in the twilight that was quickly descending Victor thought he could see firelight burning in the distance. The sound of drums began to echo across the rocks.
Eventually, Ellie stopped dead and held her hand out to signal that Victor should do the same.
“I come to speak with Desert Flower,” Ellie said clearly to the darkness.
“A dangerous man from Goldrun is on the loose. I am here to warn her,” she added when there was no response.
“No bang bang sticks,” a voice from the darkness instructed.
“We mean no harm,” she said finally, taking off her gun holsters and placing them on the floor in front of her.
Out of the darkness, several Neopets emerged as if they had simply formed themselves out of thin air. They wore Petpet skins and coloured feathers in their hair, and carried very sharp looking sticks.
“You will follow,” a gruff Tonu instructed.
The small party of natives had surrounded them on all sides, leaving little alternative. The tribesmen led Ellie and Victor down into the valley, to the waiting campfires.
To be continued...