Carnival of Monsters
21 Season of the Zephyr 1329 AE
Ine Duran cautions me that we need the right bait if we are to draw out the monstrous fish ruining the salmon population at Clayent Falls. We return to the Troll cave and, just as I begin filling Ine’s bucket with the grubs’ soft, glowing innards, another Troll appears and makes trouble for us. I protect Ine as best as I can while a few other experienced adventurers appear and draw it off. We quickly finish gathering the grubs’ remains and start back to the lake. The bait works, and the shimmering, sunlit waters reveal a giant Sawtooth Barracuda.
Its body is lined with sharp ridges and it dwarfs the other barracuda nearby. No wonder the salmon have become so scarce! This beast must feed on everything it can find, and the small pool beneath the falls cannot sustain its rapid growth. I put the creature out of its misery before it can starve to death, destroying the Durans’ livelihood.
Ine then tells me of more giant creatures roaming the northern woods. Perhaps these unnaturally large animals are an indication of the darker creature reported lurking to the south? Could its power to corrupt and mutate reach so far?
To prepare for the journey, I turn back to the fortified town of Claypool. There I train in the skills of rifle, sword, and shield, much to the disappointment of Sergeant Soto and Sergeant Neal. I’m afraid I’m just not one for guns, and I have my own technique for swordplay, guided by the spirit of Jalis Ironhammer.
On the way back, I catch sight of more skritt and follow them down to Ojon’s Lumbermill, where they have apparently been harassing the workers and stealing supplies. Shaley and Slim Mikhart have a plan, though: destroy the skritt’s cave! I help them out, although Shaley, being a former Seraph soldier, is perfectly capable of getting the job done.
I can’t help but wonder why a Seraph would quit now in the midst of a war when she’s needed most, to go and work as a guard for a lumber mill. Then the sad thought occurred to me — perhaps she didn’t quit. She still carries her shield and insists on performing her duties to protect the local citizens in a way that suggests her dismissal will not be the end of her career as a warrior.
With the larger menace of the skritt behind me, I venture deeper into the lumberyard where Valerius Woodlin tells me that a giant Wasp Queen is causing more trouble. My best shot of capturing her on film is as she approaches out of the woods.
Her evasive aerial attacks make it difficult to photograph her, let alone fight her. I’m beginning to regret not taking up firearms. Other warriors join the fight and the gigantic insect finally goes down.
Valerius is also kind enough to inform me of another giant beast, a boar, which happens to be the latest quarry of the local hunting lodge run by Lodgemaster Carthage. Just as I arrive, I see the massive beast charging straight at Carthage!
A young woman, who must be the master hunter Emi, primes her bow and manages to land a shot on the boar, which now turns its attention to her. Other hunters join in, and the boar becomes pinned against a tree, unable to fight off the attacks.
It dies quickly, and Emi leaps forward to claim its head for the lodge and Lord Caudecus Beetlestone, who owns this land. I sneak away and pillage a few of the enraged boars close by — for a tribute to Lord Beetlestone, of course.
Beetletun is just over the ridge and is surrounded by its superb water works and farmsteads. The shire’s well kept appearance hides deeper troubles for the area.
Many of the children are listless and bored, unwilling to help in even the most simple tasks. I am sure they are responsible for the rough graffiti found throughout the town, which seems to resemble the centaurs.
I have never met Minister Caudecus whose manor dominates the little town, but he seems to be wealthy enough to throw a lot of his money around.
Payment for guards, ransom for kidnapped farmers, the mansion’s upkeep…all of these can’t be cheap, and there must be less expensive ways to entertain the public than a carnival held in perpetuity. While I am here, I decide to take up Carnie Jeb on his strongman challenge.
Curious as to how the other side of Beetletun lives, I leave the city and seek out the small farms littering the valley. To my shock and horror, I see flames roaring through the night sky around one of the tall field sprinklers. Armored centaurs run amok through the wheat and loose cows, while the children cheer from a local hillock. Do they realize the danger they are in? I and a few others chase off the brutes, but we have failed to protect the farmers who have been kidnapped.
Our small group pursues the hoofed warriors, but we are distracted by plight of the local vintner whose crops are being trampled. We aid in her plight, but it turns out she’s only interested in distilling a revenge on Lord Caudecus for pulling back his troops.
How can such pettiness exist when there is much more to be concerned about? Who knows what could be happening to these poor farmers in the clutches of the centaurs?
We press on to Tunwatch Redoubt which has been under repeated attacks from the centaurs. After getting lost for a bit, I stumble upon Orlaf Escarpments and a Tamini camp. I make a quick retreat and finally reach Hidden Cliff Camp to rescue the farmers.
With the farmers safe, I press on to the southern Tamini Foothills, where I witness an entire troop of centaurs gathered around a clearing.
I spot a form on the ground and carefully pick my way over to see that it is a scout. While healing her, one of the dangerous forest spiders appears and attacks. With my companion healed, we destroy the thing and the scout, Delilah, tells me about the ettin camp close by. It appears that the ettins are at war with each other, and one faction happens to be on the side of the humans.
On my way to the ettins, I catch another glimpse of the clearing guarded by the Tamini. There are far too many powerful fighters here for me to take on alone, so I turn back.
In my caution not to alert the sentries, I stumble into one of the arachnids. I fight it off, but I’m wounded. I can feel the poison seeping through my blood, making my limbs numb and heavy. My chest becomes tight and my breathing labored.
I stumble through the brush, only to find that I’ve gone the wrong way. I’ve gone right up to the Tamini sentry line! I’m instantly spotted and the centaurs give pursuit. Hurling myself through the undergrowth, I stagger in the opposite direction with the crashing, thunderous cries of the Tamini close behind.