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The summer sun hung high in the air, casting blinding light and heavy heat in equal measures. Even under the shade of the slender trees that covered the worn road, the heat was inescapable. Light poured down through the wide-spread canopies of brilliant blue-green leaves, occasionally looking like stained glass to those who happened to look up. The treetops combined with a dull, flickering breeze to tease relief. The heat was oppressive.
The road was long, mostly dirt and weeds with ruts from countless wagons and buggies surrounded by a carpet of thick, green grass that looked to be yellowing somewhat in the heat. A lone figure cloaked in a long, black coat, the tails covered in the patina of a nomad wandered down the road. A wide-brimmed hat, wrapped by a leather band holding twelve canine teeth, kept the sunlight at bay. An elk-skin bag hung at his side, with several bulging waterskins tied to it.
The figure walked at a steady pace, down the center of the road, between the wagon ruts before being stopped by a disparate group of people, led by a human woman with a shaved head. Behind her trailed a pair of tan dwarves, fraternal twins, with long, red hair and beards, followed by a tall, elf man with dirty-blond hair, and a dark-skinned halfling woman with a mop of tight, black curls. Their leader scratched her fuzzy head. The whole group wore torn jeans, heavy boots, and stained work shirts. The woman wore a blue jacket as well.
“Greetings, traveler,” she said, bowing, arms spread wide. “My name is Lilanda. These are my associates, and we’d like to politely inform you that we’re robbing you. We’re generous though so we’ll let you keep your clothes and boots as long as you acquiesce quickly and quietly.” Lilanda pulled out a an old revolver and motioned with it. “Hurry now, orc, we prefer to avoid bloodshed when possible.”
The orc was an imposing figure, standing taller even than the elf. Eyes the color of charcoal looked up, staring hard into Lilanda’s gray eyes, his jaw set tight. He took a step forward. The bandit leader held up her gun, pulling the hammer back, locked in the orc’s gaze.
“I see, ya gotta do things the hard way. Fine, fine, don’t say we didn’t try,” she said, punctuating the statement with an exasperated sigh. “Dreya, Druen, convince him.”
The dwarf twins each pulled out long, thick knives that looked more like short swords. The halfling grinned, picking her nails idly with a stiletto dagger. The orc pulled his coat back as the twins moved towards him revealing a gun belt hanging not quite loosely on black-denim clad hips. The belt was plain, browned leather, only adorned with brass cartridges slotted into loops. A matching holster lay against his right hip housing a massive revolver with a grip of reddish sandalwood. The dwarves froze.
“Since you’ve been so polite, I’ll offer my own politeness in return,” the orc said. “Name’s Grimluk and if you’d like to continue having use of your limbs, I’d advise you to back off.” His hand hovered over the butt of his gun.
Dreya and Druen looked back at Lilanda, unsure of what to do. “They don’t usually fight back,” Dreya observed, her brother nodding in agreement.
“Don’t fucking stand there with your thumbs up your asses, get his shit!” she commanded.
The twins looked back at Grimluk, who shook his head. “I’m gonna gut ya and wear your tusks as trophies!” Druen shouted before he charged, thrusting his big knife at the orc’s stomach. Grimluk swatted Druen’s arm away and then kicked him in the chest so hard it threw the dwarf into his sister.
Before Lilanda had time to register what had just happened, Grimluk had drawn his gun and fired on her. Her own pistol exploded, almost ripping her trigger finger off and breaking several others. The elf and halfling took off running back into the woods.
“I’d tend to your friend here. That hand’s gonna take some time to heal,” Grimluk said to the pile of dwarves.
“Who the fuck are you?” Lilanda asked with a shudder.
“No one of consequence,” Grimluk replied with a grin, resuming his journey.
The road ended at the town of Border Rest, one of the few outpost towns to crop up on the borders of the Wastelands over the past fifty years. As Grimluk got closer, the trees and grass started to grow more sparse and patchy. The grass began to look like a ruined carpet, scratched and weathered, all but dead. The trees that remained, slender to begin with, were almost skeletal now, with few leaves and a dry bark, further baked by the harsh sun. Border Rest itself was an ugly little patch of dust and grime. Several of the buildings looked like they’d crumble in a stiff breeze and seemed to voice a near constant protest with groans and creaks.
Most of the locals were ugly too. Various traders, merchants, and vagabonds, as well as the asshole that owned the only saloon and inn, the Dancing Dwarf. An old human, notorious for serving watered down booze and food that may have been actual cooked shit. Rumors in the surrounding towns suggested that some of the merchants made deals with local bandits like the gang Grimluk had encountered. There were no shortage of travelers who had been mugged on the road only to find their belongings being sold in town. No one was ever surprised though since there were no peacekeepers in Border Rest. The only reason anyone built anything on the borderlands was for money. If you were traveling into the Wastelands, even as a well-armed trading caravan, you needed to be stocked and prepared or the Wastes would swallow you up and, occasionally, not even spit up your bones.
One of the few constants here, and anywhere else, however were the bounty boards. The few towns and settlements that survived the genesis of the Wastelands and carried on sometimes required outside help. Whether a call for a supply caravan, new laborers, or a cry for a hunter of some kind, all the border towns were connected through an arcane communication system that let anyone interested check for work or trade. Most folks called it the “magi-tell.”
Grimluk was headed for one such board. He was a demon hunter, just off a small job at a farm a few miles back and ready for new work. Evil never slept, as the humans were fond of saying.
As he came into the town, a sunburned elf with bloodshot, emerald green eyes and a crooked nose tried to sell him magical beans. They were, in fact, black beans that had long since lost any use or flavor. Grimluk passed him by without a word. The elf, who took offense to this, hurled obscenities and then the beans at him.
He made his way through a busy street full of travelers. The street dumped into a four-way intersection. To his left, stalls sat open with humans and elves hocking their wares. These stalls sat across from the general store and the blacksmith on his right. Further down sat the livery and the Dancing Dwarf.
Grimluk saw the crystal antenna for the magi-tell standing tall on a building behind the stalls, facing the other road. He started to make his way towards the building but was interrupted by a particularly loud, middle-aged human man, who was quite certain he’d found a new customer. The man’s sweaty, balding head glinted in the sun as he began his spiel.
“My friend, you look like a man in need of a good blade. Especially out here, in the Wastelands,” he said, flourishing “Wastelands.” “There are strange beasts around every corner. But have no fear, you’re in luck! My blades are absolutely guaranteed to ward off and wound any creatures of darkness that may beset you! Guaranteed, friend!”
Grimluk groaned and tried to step around him. The blade-seller persisted.
“Ah, ol’ Sal sees that worry in your eyes. You think you can’t afford such a wondrous product, my friend, but because I value the safety of all who venture these parts, I can assure you that my prices are more than reasonable.”
“Move,” Grimluk rumbled.
“Trust me, friend, you’ve never seen blades like this before,” Sal bellowed, producing a large, blue knife for him. “These knives were crafted by an elvish sorcerer to fight demons, my friend. Demons!”
Grimluk looked into the older man’s pale blue eyes and took the knife in his right hand. Sal smiled and stroked his gray beard. He reached into his coat, behind his back and unsheathed his own blade. Though similarly shaped, Grimluk’s knife was slightly bigger and appeared to be forged of several materials that shimmered in the sunlight like a dark rainbow. Near the guard, the blade was etched with a symbol that resembled a stick with five branches. Grimluk held his own knife flat out, so the blade was horizontal.
“I have a blade,” he told Sal as he brought the tip of the blue knife to lay against his own. He pushed the blue blade into his own. It resisted for a second, then the tip began to crack as the blue blade splintered, chunks of brittle metal falling to their feet.
Sal’s face was a mask of shock. “Hey, buddy! You broke it you-”
“If you’re gonna keep sellin’ these pieces of shit as demon-killers, you should probably know when you’re talking to a actual demon hunter.” The blue blade, and Sal’s face, dropped as Grimluk moved on. Behind him, he could hear people snickering at Sal.
The porch of the bounty office held a slew of people looking for work. A pair of orcs, mismatched in size and dressed garishly, chatted excitedly with each other. The smaller one made mention of treasure. A lone elf under a black hat and coat stood against the walls just outside the door. A curved sword hung at his back while a bandoleer of white oak stakes hung across his chest. Further down the boardwalk stood a motley group of an elf, a man, and a dwarf. All three looked haggard, like they’d been traveling non-stop for years at a breakneck pace. Grimluk figured they were probably caravan guards waiting for a new job.
Grimluk passed through the open door of the bounty office. Inside sat a few more people waiting for work. Off to his right was a desk where a halfling sat with a huge, black ledger. The halfling had dark skin and eyes and a head of squared, rough hair. On his nose sat a pair of spectacles. He looked bored but nonetheless very professional.
In the back of the small building was the bounty board. The thing covered the entirety of the back wall, split into four sections; Hunting, Guarding, Labor, and Other. Each section was currently empty, which explained the others waiting around. Grimluk stood silently, staring at the empty board and grunted. He would have to wait as well. He stepped back outside, safe from the beating sun under the porch, and turned to the vampire hunter.
“How long have you been waiting?” Grimluk inquired.
The elf looked up with eyes the color of autumn leaves. “Days,” he said curtly.
Grimluk nodded. He looked out at the squat little town, a sudden gust of wind blowing dirt down the street he’d come from. Might as well get a room and some food, he thought, heading for the Dancing Dwarf. The place smelled like stale beer. A tan elf sat at a piano to the left of the door, playing some sort of silly tune that several drunken patrons were singing along with from behind him. Grimluk couldn’t tell for sure but it sounded like they were singing “low-ee, low-ee.”
Grimluk walked to the bar and ordered a plate of ham, beans, and a couple of biscuits along with the house beer. It tasted just like the the room smelled. So did the food. He requested a room, pleased to find that the Dancing Dwarf had a few rooms to accommodate the orcs that passed through. After checking out his room, he decided to pass some time back downstairs playing some penny poker.
A few hours later, Grimluk had managed to come away a little bit richer. After scooping up the pile of bronze pennies and silver bilts, he made his way back over to the bounty board, hoping maybe a new job had posted while he was busy. The travelers he’d seen earlier had dispersed, the boardwalk empty now. Grimluk moved to the side as a pale-green half-orc with a long, black ponytail made his way through the doorway.
“Pardon, friend,” he said, nodding at the younger man, who returned the gesture as he headed in the direction Grimluk had come. Grimluk noticed the shield-badge marked “Captain” on the man’s black, leather vest, as well as the gun and saber that hung on each hip. Grimluk thought maybe the town was finally making an effort to bring some peacekeepers in to protect travelers.
The evening sun still shone bright enough that the halfling behind the desk hadn’t had to light any lanterns yet. Grimluk spotted the ragged piece of parchment pinned to the board, alone and yellowed under the Hunting section. He stepped forward to inspect it, moving his jaw idly, his tusks bouncing with the movement. Grimluk smiled. Luck was with him it seemed.
There, in big letters at the top, were the words “DEMON HUNTER NEEDED.” He read on.
Mining town in need of help
Bounty is 5 gluts
See Captain Trilgor at the
Dancing Dwarf, Border Rest
Grimluk nodded before returning to the Dwarf. The barman pointed him towards a table in the back, currently occupied by the half-orc and a couple of tankards of the house piss water. The poor man nearly choked on his first swallow, holding the tankard out with a look of contempt. He looked up as Grimluk approached.
“Can you believe this shit?” he asked, holding out the tankard.
Grimluk laughed. “I’ve had better backwash.” The young Captain laughed. “You Trilgor?”
“Reckon so, last I checked.”
“I understand you got a demon that needs killin’.”
“I do,” Trilgor said, taking another drink of his beer. “You a hunter?”
“A demon hunter to boot.”
Trilgor pushed a chair out with his boot. “Have a seat.”
“So let’s hear about this demon of yours,” Grimluk said as he dropped lightly into the chair.
Trilgor shook his head at the tankard. “You think if I threatened to beat the brewer with this that he’d learn how to make a decent ale?”
Grimluk grinned. “Probably not. That’d require he give a shit first. S’pose it couldn’t hurt to try though.”
Trilgor sighed and set the tankard back down before leaning forward, half-resting on the table. “Right, so, the demon. Thing’s seem pretty bad. Been about year, I think. Two hunters been through town. First one ran off screaming into the desert. Last one was murdered but no one ever figured out by who. Whole town’s edgy. Folks seein’ shit that’s not there or having nightmares. ‘Sides that second hunter, we’ve only had one other murder. Mostly, folks just get into fights sometimes but never get to killin’ each other.”
Grimluk rubbed his jaw in thought. “Anything special about the town?”
“Not that I’m aware of. Greenreach Bluffs is just a lonely little mining town. For as long as I’ve been there, it’s been a good town. After all this, and having to shut down the mine, I figured I needed come back out and find some new hunters. Maybe a whole posse, see if we can’t take care of things that way.”
“Sounds like a smart plan,” Grimluk remarked. “Though I doubt you’ll get more than me. Even if someone else showed up, they might be skittish about the previous efforts.”
“What about you, mister…?”
“Grimluk,” the hunter said, extending his hand. Trilgor pumped it once. “Can’t say I’m all that hesitant to take the job, though I should tell ya, I can’t guarantee success. If I could, there’d be a lot less demons and a lot more peace. What I can guarantee is that I’ll do my damnedest to kill this thing.”
Trilgor leaned back, crossing his arms over his chest. He measured Grimluk. “Well, Grimluk, you certainly look like a tough bastard. I guess we’ll see if that’s bluster or truth. If you’re amicable, I’d like to wait a few days before leaving, see if anymore hunters get out here.”
“Sits well with me,” Grimluk said.
Four days later, as the sun began to rise, the dregs of Border Rest went slinking back to their camps or rooms, drunk and likely relieved of all their coin. Grimluk stood on the porch of the Dancing Dwarf in the pale, rising light. The morning still warm with the heat of summer night. A little while later, Trilgor pushed through the bat-wing doors, greeting Grimluk with a yawn.
“I guess you’re ready to go, eh? We can grab our horses and head out then. I got provisions last night.”
“I don’t ride.”
“I walk. When need be, I run.”
Trilgor looked at Grimluk dumbfounded. “You’ll walk? The Wastelands? Are you daft? You sure you’re a demon hunter?”
“I trust my own feet to take me where I’m headed. Besides, this ain’t my first time out there, I’ll keep pace with your horse and I know what to expect. I’m heeled and still game to kill your demon.”
The young man rubbed the back of his neck in thought for a moment. With a sigh, he nodded. “Yeah, alright. I’ll grab my horse then and we’ll be off.”
Grimluk grunted in affirmation, following Trilgor to the livery. The stable master, a gray-haired halfling with a weasel’s face, attempted to buy Trilgor’s horse off of him. When Trilgor refused, he set to haggling over the bill. Trilgor groaned. Grimluk approached and sneered at the small man. He gulped hard and stopped haggling. Trilgor handed over a bilt and ten pennies. A young elf, probably no older than 40, brought the horse out, saddled and ready. The beast was strong and lean, covered in a fine, gray coat. Trilgor climbed into the saddle.
“She’s a fine horse,” Grimluk commented, petting her muzzle one with hand, and rubbing the groove of her chin with the other.
“Her name’s Clementine, and she seems to like you. But you don’t ride?”
Trilgor shrugged. “Let’s be off then. We have about seven leagues to travel…are you sure you can’t get a horse?”
Grimluk answered by heading off towards the edge of town and the true border to the Wastelands, which were marked by a long wooden fence, open at the road. Trilgor sighed, utterly sure the trip would not go well. He caught up to the hunter with ease and directed them into the Wastelands.
A few hours and a couple of leagues later, Trilgor shook his head in disbelief. “You weren’t kidding about keeping pace,” he said, unable to hide his surprise at Grimluk’s ability to keep up with the horse’s brisk trot.
He moved with long, quick strides with no signs of fatigue. “I been doin’ this work a while.”
The sun rose steadily into the sky. A few more hours would bring it into the noonday position. With each step, they could feel the heat rise up like a taunting spirit. Which made the occasional chill gust of wind all the more odd. Far from comforting, this chill went straight to the marrow. When the frozen wind would blow, punctuating the blistering heat with what felt like slices of ice, it kicked up dust and grit from the dead earth. The cold gusts made Trilgor feel like someone was stomping on his grave.
Clementine whinnied in protest as well, acting as if she would buck Trilgor and take off. If he couldn’t control her, Grimluk would reach over to stroke her shoulder or neck. She would snort and begin to calm.
“I don’t get it. You’re so good with her but you don’t ride,” Trilgor remarked curiously.
“She knows what’s out here. I imagine you had an easier ride in since you could run her more.”
“I reckon so. Only took a few hours.”
They continued on in silence. Off in the distance, all around them, the landscape seemed static. Rocks and dust and dead earth stretched on like a yawning, sun-soaked abyss. Their march had thus far been uneventful, merciless heat and frigid gusts aside. They both knew it wouldn’t last. Trilgor had traveled unmolested the previous day only due to his horse’s reliable speed. He knew he’d been lucky and now, they worked their way slowly towards the town, hoping that their luck would only run out marginally. A few dust-devils were preferable to something bigger.
Grimluk spoke their shared anxiety. “At the least, we’re too far south and in the middle of too much rock for the worms to bother us.”
Trilgor nodded in agreement before shooting the hunter a look of confusion. “Wait, worms?”
“Big ones,” Grimluk responded with a grin.
Trilgor looked on bemused, waiting on him to continue.
“They’d eat the horse whole, or mostly whole. They don’t seem to have any eyes so no one’s quite sure how they hunt but they can’t bust through solid rock. I killed one once. Took a stick of dynamite and a whole belt of ammo though.”
“I’ve been out here for twelve years and I never heard of those. What else is out here?”
“You sure you wanna know?” Grimluk asked sincerely.
“I-,” Trilgor caught himself. Did he want to know? He was traveling back to his home with a demon hunter, waiting for some unseen horror to make itself known. Did he really want to know about some of those horrors? “No,” he finally spat.
Grimluk nodded. “So what’s your story, eh? How’d you end up out here? Most of folks aren’t too keen on living out in the Wastelands.”
“I’m captain of the Watchmen. Keep the peace, handle anything that tries to get into the town. As for why I’m out here, well,” Trilgor went quiet for a moment, gathering his thoughts. He reached up and rubbed his jaw in thought. “My parents were soldiers together. They fell in love, had me. There were some others that didn’t much care for that. Chased us out of the southern territories. Da was human.” Trilgor sighed. “He was killed protecting us.
“We ended up joining a caravan farther south that was headed up to Greenreach. Mom said she’d heard that Wasteland towns were always lookin’ for workers. Peacekeepers or farmers, whatever was needed. Figured she could get on keepin’ watch and we could relax for a while. Since she’d been a soldier, they made her Watch captain right away. Spent a few years training anyone who wanted to volunteer. Few more years keeping things runnin’ smoothly.
“Then one evening a couple years back, a fuckin’ bloodsucker shows up. He’d enthralled a whole caravan, figured he’d drain the town since we’re so far out. Piece a shit killed her. She was tough as nails though and surprised him. He’d latched on and started draining her during a guard switch but instead of just falling away, she grabbed a hold and held on to the damn thing till we could stake it. Mayor figured I was a good replacement.”
Grimluk walked without reply for a few minutes. “Your mother sounds like she was one helluva woman.”
“She was. She use to tease dad sometimes too. Said I got her good looks but his brains.” Trilgor smiled fondly at the memory.
“Well, we are a good lookin’ people,” Grimluk replied with a laugh. “I’m surprised you ended up out here, though. There are plenty of villages in the southern territories that would’ve taken your family in. Your mother’s home village surely would have welcomed you home.”
“Da asked her about that once. She said she had…what was it…been an exception to her family’s legacy. Never would tell us what that meant, just that we couldn’t go back.”
“We should probably take lunch. Clementine could use some water and my gut’s rumblin’.”
“Water her. I’ll keep watch.” Far in the distance, Grimluk saw something huge lumber behind a copse of decaying trees.
The sun hung low in the sky, shining bright with the light of the coming dusk. Orange and red had started coloring the horizon and the dust of the day covered the travelers and the horse. After six leagues baking in the sun and the Wastelands’ shadeless miles and frozen wind, they had made it to the entrance of the valley that housed Greenreach Bluffs. The land began to slope and dip. A thousand years earlier, the valley had been a shallow lake. Now it was desert hardpan. Miles in the distance, Grimluk could just make out the cliffs that made up the border of the valley.
“How far we got?” Grimluk asked.
“Bout a league or so. Back of the valley.” Grimluk grunted.
Some distance away, as the pair continued onward, the earth and dust began to stir. It started gently, like a drunkard still too inebriated to get up from where they fell the night before. The ice-wind blew and bit Grimluk and Trilgor once more. And then it stopped. There was no fade in the gust, it merely stopped immediately.
The ground stirred more heavily. Rotting eyes began to open. Bony fingers grasped the ground as leathery hands pushed up. Arms, heads, and bodies rose slowly up out of the valley floor, another form of perverse flora. The Wastelands were teeming with death, decay, and bizarre and ghastly creatures.
Up they rose, focusing their faintly glowing eyes (or sockets in some cases) on the travelers. Low groans escaped broken, rotting jaws. Teeth clacked together as the ghouls tried to bite prey that still had distance from them. The ones already on their feet began to shamble towards their would-be meals
Grimluk growled in annoyance. “I hate ghouls. They’re so…tedious.”
“Deal with them often?” Trilgor responded, surprised and a little amused.
“More than I’d like,” Grimluk replied dryly as he pulled his revolver from its holster. “A few years ago, I had to reinforce the butt of my pistol. Almost shattered from one too many brain-bashes.”
As one of the ghouls neared, Grimluk stepped forward and brought the pistol down into its putrid head. The skull shattered like brittle glass under his swing. Brain and rancid blood spit out from the sides and back. Each one that followed the first met the same fate. Trilgor sat behind and watched, still a bit stunned at the hunter’s nonchalance. Ahead of Grimluk, more corpses shambled forward as more yet rose from the dirt and their slumber.
“This is why I hate the walking dead,” Grimluk said loudly for his companion to hear. “There’s never just a few.” He caved in the skull of another and watched as it sank down. The faint green glow in its eyes disappeared. “No, you see a few and there’s really a dozen or more.”
“I’ve never really had to deal with them. The town magician makes sure the dead stay in their graves. I guess I was riding too fast to notice these assholes.” Grimluk grunted loudly. Trilgor was unsure whether that was his reply or just the sound he’d made before bringing down another ghoul.
“Not many folks know it but ghouls are reanimated by demons,” Grimluk said, cracking a new ghoul square in the forehead.
“They like to crawl into graveyards and lonely places, find corpses that haven’t been tended to properly. You can see the results.” Grimluk swiped at another ghoul as it approached.
“So if they’re demons, why do they go down so easily when you smash their heads?”
“Ya know,” another ghoul crumpled to the ground, “I’m not entirely sure. I think it might be something to do with the brain, but I’ve never looked into it. There’s probably a wizard or another hunter out there that knows.”
“Hm, well, at least this seems to be all we have to deal with,” Trilgor remarked as he unsheathed his saber. “I’m ready to get home.” He sliced through an approaching ghoul’s skull.
The bone-chilling wind that had plagued them returned. It began to encircle them, biting sharply. An eerie, disembodied laugh echoed in the air around them. The wind left then, moving faster than it should have, taking off behind them. Grimluk turned and walked a few feet towards where they’d come from.
“Town’s at the back of the valley, right?”
“I think something heard you.”
Trilgor split the skull of the nearest ghoul before turning the horse around and joining Grimluk, who was currently pulling a black bandanna out of his coat pocket and tying it around his face. Rushing towards them, a few hundred yards away, was a wall of dust.
“If I was you, I’d get goin’,” Grimluk suggested.
“And just leave you to the storm and the ghouls?”
“I told ya, I been at this a while. Better that thing focuses on me than you. I’ll make it.”
“With all due respect, hell no.”
Grimluk sighed. “Fine. Hit the ghouls and try to stick close. When that wall hits, it’s gonna hit hard, and the things that made it like getting people lost. Seems to be the favored activity of pesky spirits that can’t do more than annoy.”
The pair returned to the task of whittling down the number of ghouls currently groaning and pawing for their flesh. Grimluk led the pair, doing his best to work quickly. Trilgor split and stabbed any skull that got within his blade’s reach. Each second they spent on the shambling corpses, the storm advanced, whipping up every ounce of dust and grit in its path.
They managed to get the ghouls’ numbers down to a dozen before the storm hit. Grimluk hadn’t been exaggerating, Trilgor reflected. If he’d been a smaller man, the storm might have toppled him right off the horse. He looked to his left, trying to keep an eye on Grimluk but within moments, the storm had brought a coarse darkness. Trilgor couldn’t even see his arms passed his elbow. The sound of the wind was a roar in the young captain’s ears.
“Go!” roared Grimluk from somewhere in the dark. “Go!”
Against his better judgment, Trilgor pushed the horse into a gallop and took off towards Greenreach Bluffs.