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The Tale of Thunder - Chapter Two (Beyond Kara-Tur - Part Three: Ruins of Calledor Nujaal)

Thunder Kayowen(Ryan Goodrich)
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The first night of riding was long. Several hours passed as they rode on their steeds in silence. Killian was afraid the horses would die or go lame after more than two or three hours of this. Nevertheless, Thunder kept a good pace until the sun began to rise in the east. It was a short while after sunrise when Thunder called them to stop.

"Take a minute to stretch," Thunder climbed off his horse.

Faelar and Ethanial followed suit. Neither of them looked tired. Thunder slowly went through the group, laying a hand on everyone's shoulder for a moment and then briefly touched the horses. When he came up to Killian, he laid a hand on his shoulder. A slight tingling filled him. When Thunder took his hand off his shoulder, all fatigue had left him.

Thunder then drew Faelar and Ethanial aside, speaking to them in hushed tones which Killian could not understand. Arden stepped up to Killian, stretching his arms at his sides.

"I've always wanted to be part of an adventure," he said. "But I never pictured it to go like this. My behind really aches."

"Adventures are not all fighting and treasures, you know," Seraphina joined the two. "You do need to travel to get to new destinations once in a while."

"Don't doubt this adventure will have fighting, little lady," Ethanial grinned as he stepped up. "It seems the nightcloaks have set their gnolls loose on us. They're most likely two or three hours behind us."

"What're we going to do?" Arden said. "We can't keep this up forever."

"That's because we aren't going to," Thunder joined the group with Faelar at his side. "Faelar says there's some abandoned ruins a little ways away from the highway road. It's about either or nine hours away from here. We'll hide out there until the gnolls pass us by."

"But my father said gnolls have a good sense of smell," Arden said. "Wouldn't they just pick up our trail and follow us into these ruins?"

"I have a few potions that will mask our scents from detection," Faelar answered. "And when we are ready to leave the road, I know a spell that will make it so we don't leave tracks for the gnolls to follow."

"We must go now," Thunder said, heading for his horse. "Every few minutes we waste, the gnolls nearly get a mile or so closer. Gnolls are almost as fast as horses when properly inspired."

Everyone climbed back onto their horses and resumed their trek towards the highway road. It was almost noon when they reached the highway. The pathway they were one joined into the main road, which was wide enough for two carts side-by-side, while the pathways they had been on, was only wide enough for one cart.

Vast grassy plains extended in all directions, rolling plains as far as the eye could see. Up to the north though, was a dim dark line in the distance, marking the forest lines to the Brynwood on the left side of the road and the Adhe Woods on the right side of the road. Farther to the sound the city Sevenecho could be seen, it's tall towers still barely visible from twenty miles off.

The sun glared down at the group on racing horses as it reached its peak point in the sky. Brynwood and the Adhe Woods were even more visible now, their vast trees spreading all the way to the Earthfast Mountains, the peaks of this great mountain range nearly extending to the sky overhead.

As they rode, Killian could see groups of strange spiny four-legged creatures in the distance on either sides of the road. They only sat there and watched Killian and the others ride by or were running elsewhere to find less-dangerous looking prey. Despite the fact they kept their distance, Killian nervously checked his saddlebags as they rode to make sure his bow was still there in case he needed to use it. Thunder, Ethanial, and Faelar paid the creatures no mind, staring straight ahead into the depths of the forests.

The forests quickly surrounded them as they rode into the afternoon. Thunder called the party to halt. Killian guessed it to be nearly mid-afternoon, but because the forest canopy overhead was fairly dense, he wasn't too sure.

Faelar lead them off to the right side of the road, before twisting in his saddle as he rummaged around in one of his saddlebags. He then pulled out four bottles filled with a curious brown liquid. He handed one to Thunder, one to Ethan, and one to Killian.

"Each of you are to drink half a bottle," Faelar said to Killian, Arden, Seraphina, and Ethanial. "Since you are not all fully grown, your scents are not as strong, so you don't need as much. Ethan's small enough he only needs half."

Thunder had already drank his potions and Ethan had taken his half of the potion, handing the rest to Arden. With the tip of his head, Faelar downed his potion. Killian took a cautious sip from his potion. It tasted like warm, salty water; like sweat. Killian felt like gagging as he drank his half of the potion, then handed the rest to Seraphina.

Faelar's eyes were closed. He sat stock-still upright in his saddle. Killian could feel a slight shimmering in the air. After a few seconds, Faelar opened his eyes before getting off his horse. Moving up to his saddlebags, he pulled out a bag of oats. Killian noticed that as he moved about feeding each horse a handful of oats, that his feet left no tracks on the dirt road.

"What was that you just did?" Killian asked.

Faelar shot him a glance before returning his attention to feeding the horses. "It was a spell. It hides the tracks we make on the ground."

"Are you a wizard?" Arden asked nervously.

"One does not need to be a wizard to know magic," Faelar said, his face still emotionless. "Strange. You did not ask Thunder when he used his magic."

"I didn't think about it then," Arden said defensively.

"What is it you're feeding the horses?" Seraphina asked. It was the first time she had spoken in a while.

"Horses dislike potions. They either hack it up or won't drink," Thunder said. "We're tried mixing a potion in a drink for them, but we figured out later on that potions don't work on horses. Faelar has developed a way to put the potion's effects into oats. The horses seem to accept the oats without much fuss. Won't go near potions though."

As soon as Faelar was done feeding the horses, Thunder spoke up again. "Here is where we leave the highways. We will be moving through the woods for a good two or three hours. When we reach the ruins, we will set camp there. String up your bows and be ready to nock an arrow or shoot a bolt. Beasts of all sorts dwell in these woods. And it would do us well to be ready for anything. Keep your eyes open and your mouths shut."

Thunder then guided his horse to the opposite side of the road to the left, and into the Brynwood. As they traveled, the forest canopy overhead grew thick, barely letting any shards of sunlight through it. The tree trunks grew decidedly larger until they were easily the width of a horse's length. It was dark, but Killian could see a good distance with his eyesight. Birds could be heard, faintly chirping from the branches overhead. The undergrowth was fairly thick at the forest floor, but not dense enough that they couldn't navigate from the horse's backs.

Faelar had his bow strung with an arrow nocked in it, looking about warily. Thunder held a jar filled with a *grease of some sort and was scooping a little bit of the jar's contents out only to rub it in his eyes. When he was done applying it to both eyes, he handed it to Ethan who did the same as he. Ethan then handed the jar to Seraphina and whispered something to her Killian could not make out. Seraphina looked into the jar hesitantly before doing as Thunder and Ethanial had done. After she blinked several times, she gave a small gasp when she looked about. Killian had no idea what the grease did.

Aside from the birds' quiet chirping, all was silent. They traveled in this silence for what Killian thought might have been well over an hour.

The silence was suddenly shattered by the sound of something moving through the underbrush. Without a sound, Thunder, Faelar, and Ethanial dismounted. They spread out so each person and their horse was well hidden behind a tree. Killian, Arden, and Seraphina hurried to do the same, although they moved less silently.

Killian peaked around the side of the tree he was behind which was a dozen or so paces away from Faelar's hiding spot. Faelar's horse was there, but Faelar was not. Movement suddenly caught Killian's eye. Thirty paces away from the tree Faelar had been hiding behind, an enormous lizard sluggishly moved into sight. It luckily did not see them and was headed across their path, moving towards their right.

From Killian's vantage point, he could make out the lizard's eyes, both glowing an eerie, pale green incandescence. It's long body was dull brown in color with a yellowish underbelly. A single row of bony spikes lined its back while large sharp teeth protruded from the lizard's lower jaw. Despite the creature's eight legs, it moved sluggishly, its long tale dragging along the ground behind it.

As soon as Killian had finished examining the creature, an arrow with coppery fletchings leapt from its right eye. As soon as that arrow appeared, a bolt with brown fletchings and another copper fletched arrow hit the lizard's throat, both less than an inch from each other. The creature let out a hoarse sound and gagged before slumping to the ground, laying there motionlessly.

Both Faelar and Ethan appeared from their hiding spots in several bushes. Killian hadn't even noticed they were there they had sat so motionlessly. The two cautiously stepped up to the dead lizard and looked about after Faelar had kicked it to make sure it was dead. The two finally lowered their weapons.

Thunder stepped out from behind the tree he was next to. Killian did the same. He slowly approached the lizard's carcass before stopping several feet away. The arrow that had stuck out of the lizard's eye had in fact gone clean through the one eye and was protruding from the other.

"Basilisk," Thunder said quietly. "One gaze from that thing's eyes and you turn to stone. Let's go. We have almost reached our destination."

Thunder mounted his horse once again, as did everyone else. They quickly left the dead basilisk and continued deeper into the forest.

Killian had lost track of time now and was not sure whether it was day or night.

He then first realized that they were almost to their destination when he spotted some square cut stones nearly hidden in the dense undergrowth. It was when the overgrowth was getting to high to navigate on their horses that Thunder called for them to dismount. For a good while they moved by foot, Thunder using his sword to hack away through the overgrowth.

It was when light shone through the holes Thunder had made that Killian knew they must have reached their destination. Stepping out of the overgrowth, Killian's heart stopped/

They stood on the side of a large valley. On the valley floor were the ruins of what might have once been a mighty city. Towers extended halfway up before ending, as if they had never been finished. Some buildings were charred black, some entirely caved in. Shrapnel and rubble of all sizes littered the streets that were devoid of all life.

"This was once a great city several centuries ago," Thunder said, staring out into the ruins. "Until the drow attacked."

"Drow?" Seraphina frowned.

"Dark elves," Faelar nearly spat. "Destroyed the entire city. Slaughtered every person in it."

"And we're going to hide there?" Arden asked, a near hysterical note in his voice.

"I am afraid so," Thunder sighed. "But we have less chance of running into drow than we do the nightcloak's gnolls."

Arden did not look convinced, but kept silent.

"Welcome to Calledor Nujaal," Faelar said. "That is elven for 'shadows of scourge'."

Killian did not have a good feeling about spending the night in the ruins of this city.

*Night Eyes: A thick grease, when applied to the naked eye, grants temporary low-light vision.


The Tale of Thunder: Chapter 2 - Beyond Kara-Tur - Part 3 Ruins of Calledor Nujaal © Thunder Kayowen(Ryan Goodrich)

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