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A Stranger Tale of Goldrun: Part Four


by herdygerdy

--------

      Ellie and Victor got the Bank Men back to Goldrun just as the sun set. They got them set up with rooms at the Makepeace Saloon before heading back to the Sheriff’s office for the night.

      Inside, they found visitors waiting. Desert Flower and her bodyguards. The natives looked as if they had been waiting a while.

      “Ellie!” Desert Flower said. “We’ve been waiting to speak with you.”

      “About a shaman, yes?” Ellie said. “Victor's already told me. But I'm afraid we’ve seen no Boris by that description. We’ll keep our eyes out, of course, but we have bigger fish to fry at the moment, Desert Flower.”

      “What’s happened?” the Moehog asked.

      “The National Neopian Stage was robbed,” Ellie said. “Bandits made off with the week's takings from the bank, and we only have the loosest idea of where they might be hiding out. Tomorrow, we’re going to get backup and head after them - we’ll keep an eye out for your shaman on the way, but this has to be our priority at the moment. I hope you understand.”

      “Of course,” Desert Flower replied. “We only came back because we were convinced he must have come into town. We found his camp and there were two sets of tracks. The first set led nowhere. The second, to Goldrun. I'm afraid that he may have already completed his spell...”

      “I'm sorry, Princess,” Victor said. “But unless we find this Man in Black, we will have the Neopia Central Bank Governors breathing down our neck - that’s more trouble than any shaman can throw at us, believe me.”

      “What did you say?” Desert Flower asked.

      “Pardon?”

      “The Man in Black, is that what you said?” Desert Flower asked.

      “Yes,” Victor replied. “He’s the bandit who robbed the Stage. Not really his name, exactly. We don't know it - he’s a Gelert that dresses all in black.”

      Desert Flower glanced at her bodyguards.

      “Red eyes?” she asked.

      Ellie had a suggest vision of the Gelert as he moved to set his dynamite on the coach.

      “Yes,” she answered. “Red, burning, almost. You know him?”

      “I think our problems may in fact be a singular problem,” Desert Flower said. “Your Man in Black may actually be our shaman.”

      “What?” Ellie said. “I thought you said he is a Bori?”

      “He is,” Desert Flower replied. “I think we’d better explain what he was trying to do - the shaman stole a very ancient spell from my father’s personal stores. A forbidden spell, due to the danger it can pose if used incorrectly. It was designed to summon spirits. The shaman sought to bind them to his will, but I fear he has summoned an incredibly powerful spirit, one which has overwhelmed him.”

      “The Man in Black?” Ellie asked. “He doesn't look much like any ghost I’ve seen.”

      “Not ghosts, spirits,” Desert Flower corrected her. “There are spirits in all things, Ellie. A spirit to govern the river, of the monutains, a spirit to hold up the sky, and a spirit that guides the sun across it. But there are also spirits for... Other things. Things that aren’t objects, really. Things like justice, peace, chaos, and the like.”

      “And the Man in Black is one of these?” Ellie asked.

      “The Man in Black is the name my people give to a very powerful spirit of dischord,” Desert Flower said. “One that weaves itself into the mind of every bandit and criminal from Sakhmet to Altador. In the ancient tales of my people, he is a Gelert. The shaman will have sought to claim his power, but will have been claimed himself instead.”

      “He’s got magical powers then?” Ellie asked.

      “Not while he’s trapped as a Neopet,” Desert Flower said. “Well, not as such. He can’t shoot fireballs, if that’s what you mean. But he will have supernatural skills.”

      “He made shots when he took the Stage,” Ellie agreed. “Shots that shouldn’t have been possible. He had two bandits helping him when he attacked the Stage. Other spirits?”

      “Two?” Desert Flower said. “That would make three in total - we only found two sets of tracks at the shaman's camp.”

      “The Lutari!” Victor gasped. “He said he woke up in the desert next to the Man in Black - he must have been the second set of footprints.”

      “A Lutari?” Desert Flower asked.

      “He wouldn't give his name, just a stranger,” Ellie said.

      Desert Flower gasped.

      “The Stranger?” she asked. “Well, that certainly explains the tracks. Has he exhibited any strange abilities?”

      “He brought in Mad Warf McCutchen soon after arriving,” Victor said. “McCutchen was shouting about how the Stranger moved like a ghost.”

      “Another spirit then?” Ellie asked.

      “Fortune smiles on us, it seems,” Desert Flower said with a nod. “The Stranger is the name we give to the spirit you should be acquainted with - that of justice. He comes and goes where the wind takes him, dispensing justice and then disappearing.”

      “A good spirit then?” Victor asked.

      “The shaman’s spell must have accidentally brought two into the flesh,” Desert Flower said. “It works to our advantage, the two of them are so opposed that they will be determined to face each other. If they are together, I can perform a spell to send them back into the ether they normally occupy. That will leave only the shaman, whom we can deal with back at the village.”

      “If they are no simple bandits then we had best not wait until morning,” Ellie said. “We should follow this Stranger north into the mountains and deal with it tonight. If the Man in Black escapes to Sakhmet, we will have no hope of tracking him further.”

***

      The Stranger made his way up the mountain path slowly, the moon illuminating his way. The walk across the desert had been long - and he'd been waylaid encountering the Grarrl and the Yurble and had to deal with them - but he'd finally made it. The tracks had led directly up the path, no attempt to hide them or double back. The Man in Black was waiting for him, he must be. He must be able to feel the connection, just like the Stranger.

      There was a cabin ahead, lights out. That must have been their hideout, where they planned the attack on the National Neopian Stage. There was a single Whinny still tied up outside - someone was still home.

      The Stranger approached slowly, drawing his cork gun as he went. He stuck close to the wall, throwing the door open, ready to strike at whoever was inside.

      No one.

      The cabin was empty. Looking around, the Stranger spotted the tracks leading into the mining passage nearby. Keeping the cork gun out, he followed the tracks.

      The passage widened out into the quarry after a little while - the scaffolding circling down to the floor of the circular hollow.

      The Stranger peered over the edge, down towards the floor. A cork sailed past his ear, hitting the rock behind him.

      “That was a warning shot,” the voice of the Man in Black sneered from below. “Shall we dance?”

      The Stranger looked across to the other side of the scaffold. Iy gradually spiralled down to the quarry floor - he’d be able to get down there by pinning himself to the wall, but the lower he went, the less room he’d have. By the bottom level, the Man in Black would have a clear shot at him no matter where he was.

      Thankfully, the Stranger wasn’t devoid of tricks himself. He used the same strange power he'd found he had when he tackled Mad Warf - melting into the breeze and reappearing on the opposite side of the quarry.

      He would only get one chance - he aimed over the ledge. The Man in Black was looking at where the Stranger had been, but he quickly noticed and turned - the Stranger took his shot.

      The cork hit the Man in Black's hand, and the Gelert fumbled the gun, dropping it. He quickly moved to recover it, but that gave the Stranger the time he needed. He was on the floor of the quarry by the time the Man in Black had his gun again, and the two now pointed their weapons at each other.

      “Well, how do we settle this now?” the Man in Black asked.

      “The old fashioned way, I think,” the Stranger answered. !Ten paces, quick draw.”

      The Man in Black nodded, and both lowered their cork guns. Standing back to back, they both began to take ten paces away from each other.

      High above, the Sheriff and the others had arrived. Victor had been left with the bound bandits they had found on the mountain trail, making sure they made it back to the Goldrun jail.

      “Good, they are together,” Desert Flower whispered. “I can perform the spell and send them both back to where they should be.”

      She began to whisper under her breath, and the wind above the quarry began to stir. Strange lights began to arc across the night sky in green and blues.

      Down below, the Stranger and the Man in Black had completed their ten paces, and turned to face each other. Their hands twitched by their holsters, each daring the other to move first, and both hardly noticing the wind now spiralling about them.

      They moved at the same time as Desert Flower completed her spell. The corks fired, but slowed as they met each other in the middle of the quarry. They began to spiral and smudge as a funnel of magic blew up with the wind, forcing them upwards into the sky. The Stranger and the Man in Black were caught in it, their forms blurring a stretching as they two were forced upwards in the funnel of green-blue magic.

      The magic spent, the funnel faded and the night was still again. The Stranger and the Man in Black were gone - in their place, a Halloween Bori was lying on the floor.

      Desert Flower’s bodyguards were on him within seconds, making sure he didn't have time to cast any more spells before they knocked him unconscious.

      “It is done?” Ellie asked.

      Desert Flower nodded.

      “We’ll take him with us, since I doubt your cells will hold him once he wakes up,” she said. “I don’t think he’ll much enjoy the welcome my father will have for him, though.”

      The bodyguards scooped the Bori up, heading back up the scaffold.

      “It’s been a pleasure as always,” Ellie said to the Princess.

      “Next time I come visit, I promise I won’t bring bad news, Ellie,” the Moehog replied, before following them up.

      Ellie stayed alone in the quarry for a little while, taking in the quietness of the place. Then she straightened herself out and made her way back up the scaffold to join up with Victor.

      There were always more bandits to catch in Goldrun.

      The End.

 
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Other Episodes


» A Stranger Tale of Goldrun: Part One
» A Stranger Tale of Goldrun: Part Two
» A Stranger Tale of Goldrun: Part Three



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