|Toward the west, Perilous Jack can see that a section of sky is littered with broken pieces of the Emerald Dynasty’s floating architecture.|
These ancient ruins, the remnants of the curious floating cities of the Old Ones, often contain CacheStones and hidden treasure-troves – and they often serve as lairs to Ogres, Giants, Dragons, and other treasure-hoarding creatures. Although any direction is as likely as another, Jack chooses to start walking west.
The darkness is thick and heavy by the time he arrives. Leaping atop a TowaShroom, he confronts the first sign that his decision may have been a mistake. Rearing high over his head, ragged-edged hooves clawing the air, is one of the feared Carnivorous Horses of the Plateau. The creature’s coat is mud stained and tattered, thick with scars and fresh wounds, doubtless inflicted by the hooves and fangs of its vicious herd-mates.
Even as Jack rolls aside, dodging the trampling hooves of the fanged horse, he hears the bray and clatter of hooves of many others echoing off the stones of the Old Ones’ decrepit stonework. The situation is worse than he imagined; it is not a single horse he faces but the entire herd, whipped into murderous frenzy by the unnatural darkness.
More through luck than skill, he succeeds in thrusting his blade into the vitals of the first Carnivorous Horse. Even as the horse thrashes its death-dance, he leaps to a higher vantage and surveys the extent of his predicament.
Perhaps half a dozen of the furious fanged horses are visible from where he stands, and the clatter of hooves on stone speaks of more overhead, among the FloatStone platforms. However, a greater, more terrifying sight captures his eyes – for there upon a high platform of shattered stone rears a majestic and malevolent sight – a Nightmare. The demon horse has a coat the color of blood and flames, a cruel horn projecting from its forehead, and hooves of black iron. It is wreathed in the flames of Hell itself, whose light glints from iron fangs.
The Nightmare screams into the night, and the enraged horses who follow it scream in concert. Clearly, the Nightmare is the lord of this herd, leading his brutal cousins on a blood-maddened rampage across the Plateau. Even the local Nagas, fearsome though they are, have taken to their burrows to hide from the rampaging monsters.
This fight may be beyond him . . . but there in the darkness, lying at the edge of a Naga’s burrow – is that an Emerald he spies?