Tornoth and his new partner, a male Orc named Bulshnak, headed towards their destination. Bulshnak had the charisma of a potato, droning on through the rulebook and zinging Tornoth for even the slightest infraction. The horseless carriage stopped at the foot of a dirt driveway leading to a small house. “Steelhorn Haven,” grumbled Tornoth.
“The correct address is…” interjected Bulshnak.
“I lived here when I was a calf, so I’ll use the name Dad gave it!” snapped Tornoth. Bulshnak scoffed at being brushed off like that as they exited the carriage and went up the driveway. They arrived at the door and rang the doorbell. “I’m surprised Dad wanted anything to do with us.”
“With you, specifically.”
“Look, I may not be the favorite of the herd, but I’m not disowned. Dad still keeps in contact with me.” The door opened to reveal Gorfanth. “…Well, well, well! Hello, Gorie!”
“What did I say about that stupid name?!” snapped Gorfanth.
“Sorry, Gorie.” Tornoth laughed. “What brings you back home?”
“Family help. There’s a wagon train that needs to get to the Welmark Well of Fire and it needs to be there by tomorrow morning.”
“What’s the train full of? Your old dollies?”
“I can’t believe I’m saying this. …Tornoth, I need to arrange a continual delivery contract with the Galdredan Reliable Road Services.” Tornoth stared…then fell to the porch floor in hysterical laughter. Bulshnak arched a hairy eyebrow as Gorfanth just gave his brother a deadpan look. Tornoth then climbed up the porch’s support and held himself to the railing as he calmed down. “…Finished?”
“Wait, you’re serious?” asked Tornoth as his amusement faded faster.
“Yes. I need a route to the Well and you guys offer the fastest routes.”
“What do you need us for? We’ve all been there once or twice.”
“You more than us! The routes Great-Grandpa took when we were younger were closed off and he’s getting on in years!”
“I thought living on a skyship meant you didn’t NEED help!”
“Living on a skyship means knowing when to ask for help and I’m asking for help now!”
“Regretfully,” fussed Bulshnak, “Regulation 7, Subsection 9, paragraph 3 clearly says that we cannot negotiate a contract at so late a time unless there was a form of assured quid pro quo.”
“What sort of quid pro quo?” asked Gorfanth, suspiciously.
“That can vary from client to client,” answered Bulshnak. “It can be an actual service now or a later favor.”
“…I’m more inclined to accept a later favor,” remarked Tornoth.
“Forget it!” snarled Gorfanth. “I’d rather owe a favor to Reb Rojam than you!”
“Then we can’t negotiate a contract at this time,” chuckled Tornoth. “Regulations are QUITE clear! Have fun finding someone else!” He and Bulshnak then departed as Gorfanth mooed angrily at their backsides before slamming the door. “I love making him mad!” Tornoth chuckled to himself.
“Regulation 4!” fussed Bulshnak. “Potential clients may NOT be an…antago…” he trailed off as he looked up in the sky.
“What’s up with you?” asked Tornoth as he followed Bulshnak’s gaze. His own eyes then grew to the size of dinner plates. Flying overhead was the white broom band!
“A…Are those…?!” stammered Bulshnak. “Th…They look like…! Galtrak, protect us! They’re real!”
“Quick! Into the house!” urged Tornoth. They pounded up the drive and back onto the porch. Tornoth retrieved the spare key from a panel inside the exterior wall, put it into the door lock, opened the door, then they dashed into the house and slammed it shut, panting in fear.
“What are you two doing in here?!” protested a voice.
“GORFANTH!” cried Tornoth as they whirled around to face his brother.
“What’s the matter with you?!” snapped Gorfanth. “You sound like you’re going through puberty!”
“Don…don’t be stupid!” stammered Tornoth as he regained his gruff voice.
“Me?! You’re the one who flew in here like he’s seen a ghost!”
“Maybe I did…”
“What? You know what, forget it. I’m in no mood for crazy explanations. That wagon train needs to leave tonight, so fine! Take it and I’ll owe you a favor!”
“Er, never mind the favor! I’d be more than happy to help my big brother! No charge whatsoever!”
“Of course! We’re family, aren’t we? We gotta help each other out!”
“Oookaay, I don’t know who you are or what you’ve done with Tornoth…but I’ll take your offer. Actually…” a wicked grin then crossed Gorfanth’s snout, “I must insist on repaying the favor.”
“I won’t tell everyone you squealed like a calf!” Tornoth’s tail flicked in irritation as he looked at Bulshnak. The Orc shrugged and he sighed in defeat.
“Fine. I’ll accept that. Where’s the wagon train?”
“Garage shed 2. It’s already opened.”
“I’ll drive the carriage up and hook it up.”
“Splendid! Pleasure doing business with you!” Tornoth snorted as he and Bulshnak left the house. Gorfanth then looked at the small altar. “Whoever’s watching the whole thing, this is probably wicked of me, but I’m gonna enjoy hanging this over his head!”
The next night followed and Endea was awake again! Her overhaul was finished, and she enjoyed a nice meal after being welcomed back. She was then taken on a rail-ride similar to the one Lardeth and his group took. Her companion was Nazay at the time and he had taken her to a 4 F’s show with the Wonderous Whites as the stars. They had recently made their ships Mechanicas and they became members of the family. After the show, Endea and Nazay returned to the open auto-coach and went back down the line…before running into a complication. “And people say I can’t navigate on the ground!” grumbled Nazay.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Endea as she brought the coach to a stop.
“Face it, Endea! We’re lost!”
“How’s that possible?!”
“Because we don’t know where we are!”
“Nazay, it’s not like we took the wrong road! We can only go where the tracks take us! Since we passed over a bridge spanning a lava river, I’d say we’re on a branch line near the Welmark Well of Fire!”
“Which we shouldn’t be! We’re supposed to be on the MAIN line!”
“Maybe there was a points failure, or maybe the Signalman made a mistake. In any event, I fail to see this as OUR problem! We’re probably about 500 Mebs from the Old Palace Theater Station. If I’m right, we stop there, then get directions back onto the main line from the Stationmaster.”
“I’m just not too keen on traveling down an unknown line in the middle of the night away from your main body! What if someone’s meant to come down this way?”
“You’re right. Maybe we should go up and check.”
“…I guess that’s the best plan we’ve got so far.” Endea then brought the auto-coach up to a cautious speed and they went down the line.
“Er, Nazay, are you familiar with the White Riders?”
“I’ve heard that legend dozens of times.”
“Then, about the sightings…”
“Honestly, I think it’s all some ridiculous hoax. Someone’s trying to stir up a panic. Maybe one of Dr. Borg’s plans.”
“Why would she want to do that?”
“To demoralize us, maybe. I don’t think we’ll see them.” Oh, if only Nazay was right! After getting directions back to the main line from the Stationmaster, they went down the line towards a loop that led to the main line. Traveling down the loop, there was a light. As they came nearer, the light could be seen as a fire…with the broom rider band hovering above them and casting something with their wands at the fire! “Okay, I take back what I said!” cried Nazay. “Sweet Olpen! What’s going on?! Why’s the ground on fire?!”
“It looks like…!” gulped Endea. “Commander, you don’t think that’s…a gateway to the Depths, do you?!”
“I’m not in a mood to find out! HIGHTAIL IT!” Endea opened the throttle and the coach roared down the track!
Unbeknownst to them, the band heard everything and saw them make a break for it. The leader shook their head. “Spotted and we made them panic,” they grumbled.
“I TOLD you guys this operation wouldn’t work!” snapped a second.
“Come on, be fair!” argued a third. “There’s plenty of broom rider traffic! This kingdom’s got the most broom riders in all the Realms!”
“None of them are an all-white band,” remarked a fourth. “We stuck out like a sore thumb just enough for people to spot us.”
“You know, if I were a superstitious person,” mumbled the last, “I’d start thinking that the White Riders were around.”
“Then we don’t have a choice,” muttered the leader. “I’m calling it.” They activated a communicator. “Your Majesty, people spotted us and ran in a panic. Operation: Warning Web is a failure. …I’m sorry, Your Majesty, but after an auto-coach fled from us, we felt like we had no choice. …Very well. We’ll be there shortly. Good night.”
“That’s it, then?” asked the fourth.
“That’s it,” confirmed the leader. “Whitefleet Platoon, return to base.” The broom riders then took off for their base of operations.