It was an otherwise normal morning for the residents of Ash Lake before a stranger in white arrived. A newcomer moving into town wasn’t out of the ordinary, but they always arrived with an escort. That morning it was only the stranger and his horse; no escort in sight. The lack of escort that piqued the town’s curiosity and concern. Ash Lake was a small settlement in the middle of a vast desert governed by a ruthless tribe of Orc-kin. The arrival of anyone or anything without their knowledge meant only one thing, trouble.
The stranger sat at the bar of the Jackal’s Retreat only having said enough words to get a glass of water from the barkeep. He kept his head down, showing no intention of drawing any more attention to himself. Although, at the rate people filed into the building after him, there wasn’t much more attention left to grab. The place was filled to capacity with townsfolk and every eye was on him.
“What brings you our way, stranger?” the barkeep asked.
The stranger had no reaction to the question tossed his way. It was as if he hadn’t heard the question at all, which might have been the case if he wasn’t surrounded by utter silence. Still, he felt no obligation to answer her. Instead, he chose only to down the rest of his drink.
“Hey, Lisa asked you a question!” yelled one of the men from the other side of the room, having found a modicum of courage.
However, his newly found virtue was all to fleeting, leaving him as soon as the stranger turned to look his way. He felt a chill sweep over him as the stranger stared straight into his eyes. After no more than a second he quickly averted his gaze and slouched down in his seat to avoid any prolonged eye contact.
“Your name’s Lisa?” the stranger asked.
“Yes, sir,” she replied.
“Nice name. Simple. Not a common thing around these parts,” said the stranger.
“I guess not,” she replied.
He leaned back on the stool to survey the walls around him until his eyes landed on a clock. The hands hadn’t moved since he entered. He let out a deep sigh as he brought his body forward to once again rest his arms on the bar.
“You got the time, Lisa?” he asked.
She quickly glanced at the clock she kept under the bar.
“Half-hour ‘til noon,” she replied.
“There should be an Evergreen patrol passing through soon, right?” he asked.
“Any minute now,” she responded. Her voice contained just a hint of concern, having just realized what she was asked.
“Thank you Lisa, you’ve been mighty helpful,” he said as he stood up. He pulled a handful of gold rods out of his coat pocket and laid them onto the bar before turning to leave.
“Th-thank you,” she said, overwhelmed by the amount of money now in her hands.
The stranger lifted a hand to signal that he heard her and walked out. He continued on towards his horse, ignoring the eyes of the residents that were now watching him from both inside the tavern and on the street. He took a moment to look down the dirt road that ran through the middle of Ash Lake before he swung himself up into the saddle. Just as he was about to spur the horse forward, he caught a glimpse of Lisa from the corner of his eye.
“Don’t cause any trouble for us, stranger,” she said.
Her voice was strong but the concern on her face betrayed her.
“Only person I’ve ever caused trouble for is myself,” the stranger replied as he kicked his horse and rode out to the edge of town.
Without the buildings of the town around him, he once again felt the warm desert air as it passed by. He sat there watching as the wind reshaped the sea of sand in front of him. After a few minutes he spotted a dust cloud quickly approaching from the north. After a minute of just watching the cloud, he spurred the horse and rode straight at it.
The dust cloud was being created by an Evergreen patrol. Four large orcs surrounding a covered wagon; all male, with skin a few shades of green darker than their uniforms. Each of them were positioned next to a different wheel of the wagon. Leading them, a female half-orc; smaller build, and lighter skin than the others, but visibly more experienced with the desert.
As the horse brought him within one-hundred yards of the patrol, the stranger pulled on the reins and stopped. When the patrol slowed to a halt in front of he hopped off the horse and began approaching on foot. Upon seeing that the patrol all readied their weapons, an assortment of axes and maces. The stranger raised both his hands in the air and continued onwards towards them, stopping at a distance of roughly twenty paces.
”You are unregistered. What is your purpose?” grunted the female half-orc.
”I’m looking for someone and I have an urgent message for your Chief,” replied the stranger.
”Evergreen soldiers are not messengers. Unregistered humans are imprisoned or put down,” she grunted.
”That is the same response I got from each of the other patrol captains I came across on my way here. I’ll have you know, that sort of repetition can drive a man to do things he never intended,” he said.
”I don’t like threats,” grunted the half-orc.
Before he could respond, she made a gesture to one of the orcs who had moved to her side during the exchange. He roared in acknowledgement and advanced towards his target. The stranger shook his head with an expression of disappointment.
A split-second later he produced a revolver from under his coat and aimed it at his new adversary. The orc was in striking range as he spoke words without sounds. As the orc readied his swing blue runes appeared on the gun and began to glow. An instant later the stranger pulled the trigger and fired a single shard of ice right between the eyes of the orc…