The Hidden Fourth

Teaser

The stage is set

Your lungs burn with your heavy breath, every painful gasp brings in a flood of bitterly hot air, stinging your already parched throat. Heavy are your legs- running in the fine sand is not an easy task, even for one such as yourself.

You keep glancing behind you as you shuffle up the large sand dune. Only more sand- sand beyond sight- for as far as you can see. They don’t appear to be behind you.

Are they still upon us? Did they catch our trail? Could they have taken another path?

So many thoughts race through your pounding head as you race up the dune.

As you cross the crest of the dune, you and your companions see a small oasis some five-hundred paces away, though it’s more of a battlefield of dry shrubbery fighting for some small source of water hidden underneath the sand. Quickly, you shuffle to it and take cover in some much needed shade, the rough trunks of these callous trees serving as cover for those hot on your trail.

Once you finally catch your breath and you make a final glance from behind the group of trees. While gasping, you take a quick assessment around you. After a few turns of your head, your eyes catch a welcome sight, and your finger points the way for your companion’s eyes to follow.

Sloping every so slightly below your makeshift hideout is the largest city your eyes- or anyone else’s eyes- have ever seen. Though from this distance you can see no visible signs of life, you know that within that great walled city lies the first step in your great quest. Within those walls lie the Free City of Tyr.

You take assessment of the sky. The crimson sun still burns bright in the afternoon sky, but you know it will begin falling fast. With another nervous glance behind you, you tell your companion that you all will wait there until nightfall.

The coming hours offered no real relief. Though you sit in the shade, the winds often blow sharp sand in your face, and the shades shift as often as the dunes surrounding you.

Then, as if my magic, the vicious sun finally falls behind the sandbanks, and a sudden cold wind violates the smallest creases in your sun-baked skin. The dead-yellow landscape has now shifted to a purple hue, the bright moon changing the desert as if by a paintbrush had been swiftly stroked against the sands by the long lost gods themselves.

“Now is the time” you say to your companion. He nods solemnly, and with one fleeting look behind you, you both begin to run down the slope towards the great city before you.

The desert is quiet as death as you shuffle down the banks, until a harsh yell in a foreign tongue breaks the protective silence.

“They see us!” you yell. Your paces doubles. Triples.

As the city walls in front of you come closer and closer, so do your pursuers behind you. You need not look over your shoulder to feel the familiar presence gaining on you.

You run harder. Pushing yourself against the cold night air. An arrow whizzes over your head, so close that you felt its wind draft of it as it passed your ear.

Almost there.

The gates are but 50 paces away. You yell with what little air is in your burning lungs to open the gates, hoping there is someone there to heed your call… otherwise, all is lost.

40 paces. Another arrow flies, this one grounding itself in the sand an arms length away from you.

30 paces. You yell again. The monstrous gate mocks you, unopened, unmoving.

20 paces. You can finally hear your pursuer behind you. You can recognize those footsteps anywhere. Another *twang of the bow, and another arrow almost finds home in your body. Why is no one manning the gate!

10 paces. A final, desperate yell. With a creak, salvation. The gate opens enough for three men to walk abreast through it.

You and your companion rush through the gate, and yell at the guard to shut it. Being one who sees the danger of the desert through his post on a daily basis, he nods his huge head and complies.

The Half Giant guard, clad only in loin cloth and x-ing torso belts, uses his enormous body to will the gate shut. While shutting the gate, the desperate pursuer lets one last arrow fly. Right over the shoulder of the guard does the bolt go, but if the guard even noticed the minor inconvenience, he gave no sign.

Once your adrenaline falls and your nerves calm, you and your companion turn to the city. Though night, the city bustles like a Thri-Kreen den on mating day. The purple tint of night only adds to the grandeuir of what you see.

You waste little time soaking in the atmosphere. You have a purpose here, and standing about like a harlot brings you no closer to your ultimate goal.

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