Campaign Logs

The Sunset Vale Saga

By Brian Flood

Chapter 29 - Mayhem in the Market

Asbravn, The Sunset Vale

Mid-Afternoon, 30th Day of Eleint; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)

{In the Marketplace}


Moments after Dolak gives his advice, a man bursts from the ramshackle door of the Goldencoin House.  He appears quite harried and the robes he wears are streaked in grime and other foul substances.  He closes the door behind him and jams a dagger into the space between the portal and the doorframe.  Turning around, he immediately spots the small group gathered in front of the building.


“Run for your lives!” he screams.  “It ate my --- ”


Whatever the man was about to say is abruptly interrupted as the door, the doorframe, and a great deal of the front of the building erupts into the street.  The frenzied man is flung high into the air, along with debris from the building.  He lands a short distance away and lays unmoving upon the ground.


Bursting through the front face of the building comes a huge, exotic beast.  It stands equal to a man in height and is twice or more that distance in length.  Four short, thick legs propel a massive, grayish-brown body.  Equally impressive to the beast’s size are its two wicked-looking horns, set in line along its long pointed snout.  Another loud, honking cry emanates from its mouth, and its wide, black eyes seem to roll in their sockets, glaring at those in front of it as it charges straight forward without stopping.


“What in Umberlee’s bosom is THAT?!” screams Kryian.


Darius pauses briefly, as if sniffing in the wind, then shouts to his comrades quickly, “It is natural, do not attack it!”


The druid growls something to Soft Fang.  Then, he waves his hands and starts moving toward the southern road, trying to attract the beast’s attention.

Seemingly unaffected, the beast continues straight ahead.

 Soft-Fang gives a startled bark that is cut short as he tries to fling himself from the beast’s path.  Unfortunately, the wolf is not fast enough and a heart-wrenching yelp of pain erupts from Darius’ companion’s throat as one of the beast’s massive front legs catches the wolf under a broad, hoof-like foot.  The wolf rolls to the side, propelled by the beast’s force, and then writhes on the ground, whimpering.


“Oliphant!” Dolak cries, aiming a blow from his warhammer at the beast as it charges past him.  Unfortunately, the blow glances off the beast’s tough hide without any noticeable effect.


“Kruk!” curses the dwarf.


“I’ll get it!” Kryian cries as he twirls his lasso and throws as the beast charges past him.  The loop settles over the head of the creature, but only catches on its horn. 


“Got  i--” the mariner begins, but his joy is quickly cut short as the slipknot on the noose tightens around the horn and the rope snaps taut.   The mariner is jerked off his feet by the momentum of the beast and he is then dragged behind the creature in a cloud of dust and dirt.


A blink of an eye later, the beast smashes into the damaged wagon with a thunderous crash.  The shattered vehicle is flung violently to one side as it pivots from the beast’s impact.  The fresh vegetables that were once stacked neatly in the back of the wagon are flung into the air as the vehicle overturns.  The produce rains down across the southern part of the market like some sort of bizarre missile barrage.  Johann cries out in dismay as he watches an entire season’s harvest splatter upon the flagstone surface of the market. 


The creature’s momentum takes it into a nearby tent, which promptly collapses on top of the beast, and evokes another honking cry from the exotic brute.  Its forward motion stops as it struggles to free itself from the canvas tarp.  Kryian, still laying prone and grasping the rope, gives a relieved cry as his torturous journey across the market’s surface comes to a brief halt. 


The appearance of the creature, and the subsequent damage caused by its rampage, has not gone unnoticed in the marketplace.  Beginning with the merchants in the nearest stalls, cries of fear and surprise erupt and quickly inundate the throngs of sellers and customers that crowd the busy square.  Within seconds, the gathered mass of humanity begins to panic.  Men cry out in defiance and rush to protect their wives; mothers shriek in horror and make to grab their children.  The chaotic masses then begin to stampede, pushing and shoving, toward the nearest exits from the marketplace – the north and west roads leading into the town square.


* * * * *


{At Rolling Wheel Wagons}


“Sort of, friend,” Alani replies to the wheelwright.  “Scouting is more my speciality.  If you actually actively seek adventurers for their stories, YOU must have some wonderful stories that perhaps you could share over a tankard....or two,” she says with a smile.


“Indeed!” exclaims the wagonwright with a smile.  “Aye, I’ve a story or two.  After this job is done, I might just take you up on that offer!”  A brief exclamation of delight from the crowd outside seems to punctuate his declaration. 


The wheelwright hefts his gear up with a grunt.  “Well,” he says, “where did you say this wagon was?”


“This way,” says the halfling as he grabs a sizeable chunk of the wheelwright’s selected tools.  “Even on my little legs we’ll be there in a flash.”


“Thanks for the help, little warrior!” the wheelwright exclaims.  “I guess I’ll be buy -- ”

The wheelwright’s speech is cut short as another exclamation rises from the crowd gathered in the market.  This time, the crowd’s exclamation is lined with the distinct sounds of the frightened screams of women and children.   In a tumult of commotion, the leisurely crowds that populate the market square seem to become a frightened mob. 


“This way Alani!” the halfling says, turning toward the screams while placing the tools carefully on the ground.  “Those are the screams of children.  Stay here and watch your tools wheelwright.”  Cyzicus moves toward the screams, ensuring that his weapons are loose in their scabbards.


Alani pauses briefly to unsheathe her bow from its case.  Nocking an arrow, she runs swiftly in the direction of the disturbance.

The wheelwright, apparently heeding Cyzicus’ advice, drops his gear and runs back into the shop.  His shouts to his coworkers are lost in the noise from the market.


Emerging from the wagonwright’s shop into the square, the pair of adventurers is greeted by a chaotic scene.  The merchants, shoppers, and entertainers that were once engaged in peaceful interaction are now pushing and shoving as they make their way toward the northern and western exits from the market.  Mothers scream in terror as the search for their children in the stampeding throng.  The object of their terror seems to be in the southern portion of the market, but the mass of panicked humanity – and the intervening merchant stalls and tents – blocks any clear view of that area.


* * * * *


{At The Tankard and Sheaf}


Slyvia clutches her flagon of Berduskan Dark.  She grimaces slightly at the taste but tries to put up a brave front.  “Tastes nice,” she says, smiling at Lucas.  “Well, I am not really a practical joker, but I can help you.”

Kjira drums her fingers idly against the wooden tabletop as she waits for the drinks to arrive.  From the looks of the crowded and bustling tavern, she is afraid that might take a while.

“So what exactly did you have in mind?” she says to her fellow mage when he mentions the party’s dwarven companion.  “It had better be pretty hilarious if we're going to risk the ire of Dolak.”


“While we’re in here,” she continues, “we might want to talk to some of the other travelers…see how road conditions are past here, if anyone has come from that way.”

Kjira turns to Lucas and yells louder over the din of the room.

“I said, what exactly did you have in mind?  It’d better be pretty hilarious if we’re gonna risk the ire of Dolak!”


Lucas nods to Kjira's suggestion of talking to the other travelers then smiles as he continues with his ploy.   “Oh, it will be worth the risk of ire from our friendly Chak, Dolak.  Watch this...” as the red robed mage takes another sip of his fine Berdusk Dark.  Lucas stands and places his forest cloak over his chair and straightens his robes before stepping up on top of his chair. 

Glancing around at the crowded tavern the mage clears his throat and makes a gesture with his hand in several directions.   He winks at Kjira before starting off with, “Greetings my fellow Lords, ladies and honored guests and regulars of this fine establishment!  It is my pleasure to announce the arrival of the mighty smith Dolak into this fine community.  He travels to share his magnificent wares and skills with all the realms!”


“Unfortunately,” the mage continues, “he won’t be here long but he has asked me to announce his arrival to do the services of all in need of his fine skills.  No task too small or hard for the fabulous Dolak!  This superbly skilled dwarf is renown for his legendary smithing abilities.  Look for the stoutly built dwarf with a warhammer at his belt, traveling with his trusty mule Bill and his cart.”


Lucas makes a motion towards the bar.  “A round for everyone of this fine establishment’s brew in honor of Dolak the Magnificent!” 


With that said, the mage tosses a small pouch to the bartender who catches it in midair with a gracious smile on her face.  Lucas chuckles and takes his seat again.


* * * * *


{In the Marketplace}


Caught in the tattered remains of the merchant’s tent, the beast violently heaves to and fro, attempting to fight its way clear.  It spins about in place, bucks, and viciously shakes itself under the tarp. 


Seeing an opportunity, Kryian leaps up and runs to the front of the creature.  With a snap of his wrist, he frees his lasso from the beast’s horn.  Then, he widens the noose and prepares to attempt another snare. 


Darius rushes to Soft Fang side and immediately mutters a prayer to Silvanus as he places his hands on his wounded companion’s hips.  The wolf’s whimpers cease somewhat as the healing grace takes effect, but the druid can still see obvious damage to the animal’s hindquarters.


Glancing about quickly, Dolak spies a pair of sputtering torches lying near the center of the market square – apparently dropped by the fleeing entertainers.  The dwarf’s begins to sprint across the open market, headed toward the burning brands.


Suddenly, with another trumpeting cry, the beast frees itself from its confinement.  Seeing Kryian so near, it changes direction and charges slightly southwest.  The mariner hurls his lasso once again and this time manages to slip the noose over the beast’s head before snapping it tight.


Kryian heaves on the rope, attempting to slow the creature.  Once again, the beast is too strong him and the mariner is pulled off his feet as the creature plows into yet another nearby stall.


Back near the shattered wagon, Darius picks up Soft Fang and cradles the wolf in his arms.  The druid begins a staggering, agonizingly slow run away from the wagon and toward the shop marked Samborl’s Sundries.


In the center of the square, Dolak scoops up a torch in each hand and begins to make his way south toward the creature.  The dwarven warrior moves quickly but cautiously, fearing any more impulsive actions on the part of the rampaging behemoth.


Adhering to Dolak’s fears, the beast makes another impulsive change in direction.  Dragging the remains of merchant stalls behind it, it charges northwest.  Almost immediately, it smashes into yet another stall, accompanied by the sounds of cracking wood and tearing canvas.


Kyrian cries out in pain as he is dragged prone through the shattered remains of the second ruined stall.  With a tremendous effort, the mariner retains his hold on the rope, refusing to surrender in tenuous hold on the berserk beast.


Dolak sees the creature’s change in direction and adjusts his course.  He moves to end of the merchant stall nearest the beast’s head.  The dwarf holds the twin torches and waits for the creature to show its head.


Meanwhile, Darius finishes his exhausting trip.  The druid carefully sets his wolf companion near the front doorstep of Samborl’s Sundries.  He pauses with his hands on his knees, attempting to control his ragged breathing.


Suddenly, the sounds of a heavy thunderstorm issue from inside the ruined remains of the Goldcoin House.  An abrupt deluge of water rushes from the front door of the building. 


In the puddle left by the water is an incandescent blob.  The amorphous mass slowly writhes toward the prone form of the man who earlier exited the building.


Johann screams in terror at this new monster.  Abandoning any thought of saving his damaged harvest, he turns and runs south from the market, following the road.


The fleeing farmer nearly topples the two armed and armored Red Cloaks that arrive at the southern entrance to the market.  The guardsmen stop and stare in horror at the sight that greets them in the chaotic marketplace.


Nearly simultaneously, Alani and Cyzicus emerge at a run from the merchant stalls that line the northern edge of the marketplace.  Alani clutches her short bow in one hand and Cy wields his twin short swords in either hand.  The two adventurers skid to a stop as they assess the situation that greets their eyes.


* * * * *


{At Rolling Wheel Wagons}



“Follow me!” shouts Alani as she sprints toward the nearest cluster of merchant stalls.


Cyzicus follows the elven scout’s advice and follows her as she weaves her way through the stalls that line the northern portion of the marketplace.  As he runs along, he draws his two short swords and keeps alert for danger.


After several seconds of bobbing and weaving, the two adventurers manage to break free of the merchant stalls and into the open area.  The crowds have cleared out of the marketplace and allowing a clear view of the ongoing events in the area.  Alani and Cy skid to a stop as they take in the bizarre sight before them.


The front door – and much of the front wall – of the Goldcoin House has been shattered, apparently from within.  Near the ruined frontage of the building lies an unmoving human form.  A slimy, slithering blob is making its way toward the prone individual.


The damaged wagon now lies on its side.  Its smashed frame indicates a tremendous force has collided with it at some point.  The freshly harvested produce that formerly filled the wagon now lies smashed and ruined around the shattered wagon frame.  Johann, the wagon’s owner, is nowhere in sight.


Two Red Cloaks, wearing their now-familiar uniform, stand at the southern road into the marketplace.  They have apparently just arrived and are also surveying the damage.


The merchant stalls that formerly lined the southern portion of the market now lie in ruins.  Their frames are collapsed, and their goods are scattered throughout that side of the market. 


The apparent source of the destruction is a huge beast that is currently attempting to free itself from the tattered remains of a merchant stall.  It stands equal to a man in height and is twice or more that distance in length.  Four short, thick legs propel a massive, grayish-brown body.  Equally impressive to the beast’s size are its two wicked-looking horns, set in line along its long pointed snout.  Another loud, honking cry emanates from its mouth as it struggles to free itself.


Kryian lies prone in the dirt behind the beast, holding on to the ends of a rope.  The rope appears to be looped over the beast’s head.  Dolak stands near the beast’s head, waving two torches in his hands. 


Darius is just barely visible at the eastern end of the marketplace.  He has his hands on his knees and is apparently trying to regain his strength after some sort of exertion.  On the ground behind him lies Soft Fang, the druid’s companion wolf.  The party’s remaining members are nowhere to be seen.  



* * * * *


{In the Tankard and Sheaf}


A hush comes over the crowd in the wake of Lucas’ speech as the customers ponder the meaning of this new information.  However, any response to Lucas’ announcement is cut short as a small group of frightened citizens bursts through the front door of the tavern.  His eyes wide in fear, one of them gasps for breath and screams, “Monster!  There’s a monster in the market!”


Immediately, the relaxed tavern dissolves into a frantic environ.  Customers and servers alike push and shove against those around them as they try to make for the nearest exits.  The previous idle chatter is replaced by shouts of frustration and cries of terror that threaten to deafen the tavern’s patrons. 


“This is not what I had planned!” Lucas yells.  He begins to quickly gather his belongings and then refastens his cloak about his neck.


Kjira grabs her staff from its resting place behind here.  “Come on guys, let’s take a look!” she shouts over the din and roar of the panicked patrons.


Slyvia wordlessly grabs her longbow and follows the other two mages.


The three adventurers plunge into the mass of frightened humanity that fills the tavern.  They push against the flow of the crowd as they attempt to make their way to the front entrance.  Progress is slow and painful as the terrified citizens, merchants, and customers scramble about aimlessly. 


* * * * *


{In the Marketplace}


Alani snarls quickly to Cy, “Do you have any flasks of oil, or better still Greek Fire?  If you do lob it at that,” she nods in the direction of the monstrosity still struggling with the wreck of the stall.  “Dolak can supply the fire.  I’m going to try and get it away from Kryian so that Darius can attend to him.”


Cy leaves Alani’s side and begins to move across the marketplace toward the four-legged creature, his hands still gripping two short swords.  As he moves, his head swivels from side to side searching out any other unwelcome threats.


From across the marketplace, Darius takes a step to the side to clear his field of sight to the creature.  Then, he begins the motions of a spellcasting.  Finishing his incantation, the druid gestures toward the beast with a final, single word. 


The beast ceases its struggles for the moment.  Its head swivels from side to side as if looking for something.  Then, it emits another loud, honking cry.


Dolak moves to the northeast side of the creature, still near its head.  He waves his torches in the beast’s face, apparently attempting to force it backward toward the southwest.  For some reason, the creature seems to ignore the dwarf’s gesticulations.


Kryian struggles to his feet, still holding the rope that is lassoed around the beast’s head.  “Help me get this land devil down!” he screams to Dolak as he puts his weight against the rope.


At the southern entrance to the market, the two Red Cloaks react to the sights before them.  The soldier closest to the blob-like creature moves toward it, wielding a spear in his hand. 


The other Red Cloak begins to make his way toward the struggle with the large beast.  His way is slowed as he weaves his way past the shattered wagon and collapsed merchant stalls in his way.


Accompanied by a bizarre noise, a black beam suddenly emanates from the blob-like creature.  The beam streaks a few paces northeast and strikes the northwest corner of the Goldcoin House.  No further visible effect is noticeable.


The 6-foot wide blob-like creature continues to undulate across the ground toward the prone man nearby.  Then, in the blink of an eye, it rises up off the ground and launches itself forward, completely enveloping the unfortunate victim.


With a defiant cry, the nearest Red Cloak reaches the creature and stabs at it in full stride.  The soldier’s spear pierces the amorphous shape and is then hastily withdrawn by the soldier as the Red Cloak prepares to strike again, if necessary.


“Dolak!” Alani screams from her position, “Fire the stall and GET OUT OF THE WAY!”  As she speaks, she nocks an arrow to her bowstring and prepares to fire. 


Dolak hears Alani, and stares at the beast for a moment.  Rationalizing that someone has done something to check the mad beast’s charge, Dolak turns to where he remembers the blob.  Seeing the blob where the man used to be, he yells, “Alani, get the blob!  Kryian has control of the Oliphant.”


“Like hell I do!” shouts the mariner in disagreement as he struggles to tame the beast using only his lasso.


Hearing Dolak’s request, and seeing Cyzicus in the way of her aim at the beast, Alani spins and takes aim at the blob.  She releases her readied arrow and quickly strings a second one, preparing to fire a second time.


Alani’s first missile streaks across the deserted market and strikes the blob, which has remained stationary while undulating over the prone body that lies under it.  The arrow leaves a jagged scar across the surface of the thing before it flies into the front face of the Goldcoin House and shatters. 


Seeing the blob struck by Alani’s arrow, the Red Cloak engaged with the blob stabs again with his spear.  And again, the soldier’s spear plunges into the amorphous creature, leaving a hole that oozes a slimy fluid.


Nearby the battle with the blob, Darius begins to run across the market.  As the moves toward the four-legged threat, the druid begins uttering the wolfish growls and yips that he uses to speak with Soft Fang. 


Dolak also begins a dash across the marketplace, still grasping a burning torch in each hand.  The dwarf, however, heads away from the beast and toward the blob.  The druid and the dwarf cross paths near the first stall that the beast rampaged and both continue wordlessly on their way. 


The Red Cloak nearest the panicked beast reaches Kryian’s side and quickly takes a grip on the rope.  The two men begin a tug-of-war with the beast, attempting to bring it under control.


Cyzicus crouches as he runs under the rope.  The halfling skids to a halt near the beast’s rear flank, his short swords in his hands.


The beast, meanwhile, continues to frantically move its head from side to side.  It acts as though it his looking for something.  After a few such gestures, it violently shakes its head as if to free itself from some invisible restraint.


Alani takes aim with a second arrow and releases it.  Like the first missile, this one strikes a glancing blow to the blob before continuing on to break up against the stone front of the Goldcoin House.


Dolak continues to run across the marketplace, his short legs pumping madly.  Darius, on the other hand, reaches the head of the horned beast and skids to a stop, his spear clutched in his hand. 


Across the market, the blob heaves toward its Red Cloak assailant.  The man screams in agony as the thing wraps itself around his legs. 


Meanwhile, Kryian and his Red Cloak assistant heave on the lasso with all of their might.  Their combined strength proves insufficient, however, to bring the beast under control.


A heartbeat later, Cy strikes with one of his swords.  The halfling uses the flat of his blade to attack.  Unfortunately for the diminutive warrior, the unfamiliar use of the weapon causes the sword to land an awkward, glancing blow to the beast’s hide and twist in his hands.  The weapon falls to the ground near the beast’s hindquarters.


In response, the beast lashes out wildly, turning toward its right flank as it does.  Cyzicus’ height saves him from being gored by the beast’s horn.  The beast lets loose with another agonizing honking cry – its hot breath washing over Cy’s face.


Suddenly, a red beam shoots from the blob-like creature, accompanied by a strange croak-like noise.  The beam streaks across the marketplace and strikes one of the stalls near Alani.  Immediately thereafter, a fireball erupts around the stall.  Alani feels the heat from the sudden inferno but is otherwise left unharmed. 


Arriving near the blob’s position, Dolak comes to a stop near the agonized Red Cloak.  The dwarf waves his torches threateningly in the blob’s direction, attempting to dislodge it from the man’s legs.  With a sickening glance, Dolak notices that the body in the blob’s wake is now missing a majority of its flesh.  The man’s bones now provide an outline for his former self; his skinless skull grins in a grimace of death.


The dwarf lunges at the trail end of the blob with one of his torches.  The slimy abomination sizzles when the flame makes contact with it.


Alani grunts in frustration as the dwarf’s body blocks her aim to the blob.  She holds her fire as she glances back and forth from the blob to the beast, looking for an open shot.


Darius shifts his spear in his hand so that the blunt end of the shaft faces the horned creature.  He reaches out to jab the beast.


Before the druid can make contact, however, the beast makes a sudden movement and charges away from its assailants.  It heads southwest and a thundering gallop.  Kryian and the Red Cloak both cry out in defiance as they are once again pulled from their feet and dragged along behind the running beast. 


As the beast runs by Cyzicus, the halfling makes an opportunity attack against its flank.  Again, he strikes with the flat of his blade, this time using his off-hand weapon.  Cyzicus’ adjusts for his earlier mistake and his weapon connects solidly against the beast’s hindquarters.  


Seconds later, the torment of being drug across the ground ends quickly for Kryian and his Red Cloak partner as the horned creature rams into the stone wall of the Tankard and Sheaf without stopping.  The building shudders under the impact and the beast sits back on its haunches, apparently stunned for the moment.


Without warning, yet another croaking sound originates from the blob.  This time, it is accompanied by an orange beam that flashes to the south and strikes a nearby pillar.  Before the adventurers’ eyes, the pillar grows taller and wider, becoming just less than twice its original size.


The door to the tavern opens slowly and the faces of Lucas, Kjira and Slyvia are visible.  The three mages’ eyes widen as they take in the scene in the marketplace.


* * * * *


{In the Tankard and Sheaf}


Pushing and shoving against the flow of patrons, Lucas, Kjira, and Slyvia try desperately to reach the front door of the Tankard and Sheaf tavern.  Chaos reigns supreme in the establishment.  The former customers flail about in purposelessness as small groups try to simultaneously flee the tavern and escape the terror in the marketplace.  The mages are forced at times to use their quarterstaffs to open gaps in the mass of panicked citizens. 


After what seems like minutes, the trio manages to reach the front door of the tavern.  Shortly before they reach it, however, the entire building shudders under some unseen impact, accompanied by a loud, honking noise that is audible even over the commotion in the tavern.  Slowly, the three adventurers prod open the door to see what lurks in the marketplace, beyond.


What greets their eyes is a scene of pure chaos.  A path of destruction blankets the southern portion of the market.  Johann’s wagon lies on its side, shattered by some tremendous blow.  Several merchant stalls lay in collapsed heaps and many of their former wares are strewn haphazardly across the southern edge of the market. 


Near the shattered wagon, Dolak and an unidentified Red Cloak battle some sort of blob-like creature.  The slimy being has draped itself around the legs of the frantic soldier; Dolak waves a torch in each hand as he tries to assist the imperiled man.  On the ground nearby lies a corpse; most of its flesh has been stripped clean and its skeleton is visible in several places.


Across the square, Alani stands with an arrow nocked to her short bow.  Her point of aim drifts from the blob a frightful scene that is occurring directly in front of the tavern.


The cause of the earlier impact is readily apparent.  Near the northwestern corner of the tavern, a large creature sits on its haunches, a glazed look in its eyes.  If it were to stand, it would be easily equal to a man in height and is twice or more that distance in length.  Four short, thick legs propel a massive, grayish-brown body.  Equally impressive to the beast’s size are its two wicked-looking horns, set in line along its long pointed snout.  Another loud, honking cry emanates from its mouth as it struggles to stand.


On the ground behind the beast, Kryian and a Red Cloak soldier cling to the end of rope.  The other end of the rope forms a lasso around the beast’s neck.  Scuffmarks on the ground behind the pair seem to imply that the two warriors have been recently dragged across the ground by the creature.


Between Alani and the beast, Cyzicus and Darius stand with weapons readied, their bodies turned in the direction of the beast.  The druid holds a spear with the blunt end held forward (rather then the pointed end).  The halfling wields a short sword; a second short sword lies in the dirt near his feet.


Lastly, just to the north of Alani, one of the merchant stalls is in flames.  The conflagration is rapidly consuming the tent and its wares.


* * * * *


{In the Marketplace}


Without warning, the blob emits an orange beam of light, accompanied by an odd sound.  The beam streaks to the southeast, barely missing both the enlarged pillar and the corner of the Goldcoin House.  An instant later, it strikes the corner of a nearby stone-and-wood dwelling. 


With a flash, a fireball erupts at the point of impact.  Dolak and his Red Cloak partner feel the heat from the blast, but neither is injured.  The immolation also leaves scorch marks on the walls of the house and the Goldcoin House, but neither structure is set aflame.


“LLLUUUCCCAAASSS!” screams Dolak as he again attacks the blob with the torch in his right hand.  The amorphous creature undulates itself and manages to avoid harm from the burning brand.


“Damn lazy traveling zookeepers!” Kjira shouts out as she sees the commotion in the square.  “Never bother to make sure their livestock is secure!”

Lucas and Slyvia charge past the lady mage and into the square.   Both of the adventurers skirt the battle with the beast and the ruined stalls as they head for their destinations.


“Lucas!  Can you do anything to slow down that beast?” shouts Kjira at the other mage’s back.  “I have nothing.  I’ll try and burn off this blob!”


Lucas continues on his chosen path.  He moves quickly to help the dwarf who has called for his aid.

Near the beast, both Kryian and the first Red Cloak soldier manage to regain their feet.  They tighten their grip on the rope and prepare to engage in yet another tug-of-war with the creature.


Cyzicus and Darius race to assist the two warriors.  Cyzicus pauses to scoop up his dropped weapon, and then follows behind the druid.


Meanwhile, Alani runs quickly over to where the druid and halfling just stood next to the wrecked stall.  She nocks an arrow as she travels quickly across the suddenly deserted marketplace.


Across the square, the blob begins to undulate away from Dolak.  It moves slowly to the east, toward the gaping hole in the front of the Goldcoin House and away from the torch-wielding dwarf.  The wounded Red Cloak also backs away from the melee, taking a few steps to the west before falling to the ground and holding his badly burned legs.


Back at the beast, Kryian and the other Red Cloak pull hard on the rope with all their combined weight and might.  Once again, their efforts are daunted by the sheer mass of the huge creature.  The beast ignores their efforts and continues to sit on its haunches, slowly shaking its head as if trying to clear it.


Clearing the wrecked merchant stalls, Lucas’ and Slyvia’s paths diverge.  Lucas cuts to his right, running eastward across the market toward Dolak and keeping the ruined stalls to his right.  Slyvia, moving more cautiously, cuts to her left and begins to move northward across the market.


Alani skids to a halt at the spot where Darius stood just moments ago.  Pulling up abruptly, she orients herself toward Dolak and the blob and screams “Get down!”


Immediately, Lucas and Slyvia – the nearest people to the Alani – throw themselves to the ground.  Dolak is focused on the blob, however, and – with his back turned to Alani – does not realize that he is included in the order.  The dwarf moves slowly after the blob, waving his torches, frustrating Alani’s aim. 


Suddenly, another bizarre croaking noise emanates from the blob.  This time, a yellow beam rockets outward and strikes Dolak.  Yellow motes of light surround the dwarf for a few seconds.  When the motes disappear, the dwarven warrior has been shrunk to only four inches tall!


Unaware of the happenings with the blob, Kryian and his Red Cloak helper yank on the rope again.  This time, their efforts are rewarded as the beast tips over off of its haunches and onto its side.


“We could use some help here!” screams the mariner as he moves toward the beast’s legs, holding his end of the rope.  The Red Cloak follows in his wake.


Darius raps the beast’s flank with his spear, trying to keep it on the ground. 


With more rippling motions, the blob continues to travel away from the tiny Dolak.  It oozes over the rubble in front of the gaping hole in the front of the Goldcoin House and then slides into the ruined building.  The shadows inside the building swallow up the retreating thing.


Meanwhile, Alani grunts in frustration as her aim at the creature is ruined by its withdrawal into the ruined Goldcoin House.  She glances around to see what assistance she can lend to the others.


Seeing the Dolak’s dilemma, Lucas struggles to his feet.  The mage races across the market toward the events transpiring at the front of the Goldcoin House.   He skids to a halt next to Dolak, towering over the tiny dwarven warrior. 


Slyvia, on the ground near Alani, also regains her feet.  She dodges around the elven scout races across the marketplace, headed for the burning stall along the northern end. 


Kjira, standing in the open door of the Tankard and Sheaf, sees Dolak’s situation as well and takes off at a run toward the tiny dwarf and the party’s other mage.  After several seconds of running, she arrives next to Dolak and Lucas and skids to a halt at their side.


Meanwhile, Cyzicus pulls up to the beast and delivers another strike with the flat of his blade.  The blade bounces off the creature’s thick hide without causing any apparent damage.


“Stop that and help hold it down!” screams a frustrated Kryian.


At the northern edge of the market, Slyvia skids to a stop at the burning stall.  Suddenly, a man dressed in workman’s clothes and carrying a short bow appears from the other side of the conflagration. 


“What is happening here?” he asks the half-elf, shouting to be heard over the roar and crackle of the flames.


* * * * *


{In the Marketplace}


“Wild beasts are destroying the market.  Help me with this fire!” says the breathless Slyvia to the newcomer.  The two of them then spin around, looking frantically for anything that could be used to douse the flames.


Near the front of the Goldcoin House, the miniature Dolak bellows, “Kruk!”  His tiny body trembling with anger, he follows this dwarven epitaph with several other selected dwarven phrases.  Although most of the party cannot speak dwarven, the dwarf’s feelings are clearly communicated across the language barrier by his string of verbal expletives.


Watching the tiny dwarf’s vocal rampage, Kjira turns to Lucas.  “Aye yay yay,” she mutters as she watches the Lilliputian Dolak.  “You'd better do something quick, or put him in your pocket before he gets stepped on!” she shouts outs to the other mage.

Lucas nods wordlessly and takes a knee beside the shrunken adventurer.  He mutters some words in an arcane tongue and then touches the excited dwarf.  “That should at least afford him some protection,” he announces.


Back near the fallen four-legged foe, Darius yells to the group assembled around the creature.  “Don’t kill it, Kryian!  And you, Red Cloak, come this way and PULL it out of town.”


Kryian shakes his head vehemently in response.  “Nay.  I ain’t getting’ drug another INCH by this land whale.”  The mariner continues to wrap the running end of his rope around the beast’s legs, lashing them together.  The Red Cloak’s mouth sets in determination as he struggles to hold the creature’s legs still so that Kryian can secure them.


Cyzicus finally figures out what the two warriors have been trying to do and rushes to the beast in an effort to help hold it down.  He makes his way around the fallen beast’s carcass.  Reaching its legs, he sheaths his short swords and prepares to assist the Red Cloak in pinning the legs.


From her position near the ruined merchant stall, Alani curses loudly at Dolak’s reduction.  Grasping her short bow, she sprints for the corner of the Goldcoin House.

Reaching the northwest corner of the structure, Alani stops her progress and moves so that her back is against the wall.  Slowly, she peers down the front of the structure, looking toward the gaping hole where the front door once stood.


As if on cue, the now-familiar croaking sound springs from the shadowed interior of the building.  A heartbeat later, a cloud of noxious vapors is visible just inside the shattered entrance.  The pea-green fog blocks any view of the inside of the structure, but does not seep out into the marketplace.


With a final curse, the minuscule Dolak takes a step toward the building.  Quickly, Lucas shoots out his hand to stop the tiny adventurer.  “Wait!  Let’s not be hasty!” the mage explains.  “Your torches,” he continues, “did they work against that thing?”


Dolak stops his vengeful oaths long enough to nod in response.  “Aye, they seemed to.”


“Good!” exclaims Kjira.  The lady mage dips her shoulder and allows her pack to fall gently to the ground.  She opens the top flap and begins to rummage around inside the leather backpack.


With a jingle of armor, and few words, a ten-squad of Red Cloaks arrives at the western edge of the marketplace.  They pause as one of them, apparently the leader, barks short, terse instructions.  They begin to move in practiced form, assuming an open order battle formation before continuing slowly toward the open area of the market.


Meanwhile, at the fallen beast’s side, Cyzicus grabs the creature’s hind legs so that they cannot gain purchase.  “Anyone have any more rope?” he shouts.  “We can tie its legs together.  Otherwise I don’t fancy our odds at holding this critter.”


Kryian grunts as he loops the remaining rope over the hind legs and swiftly ties a knot into lashing.  “Won’t be needin’ any more,” he grunts.  “That oughta do it.”  He sits back with a sigh and admires his handiwork.  The noose is still in place around the beast’s neck.  Now, however, the running end of the rope has been lashed around the creature’s legs, effectively hindering any further movement on its part.


Darius moves to a position near the beast’s head.  He glances in concern at the strange creature, trying to discern its injuries from the collision with the tavern as he also attempts determine its land of origin.


At the front of the Goldcoin House, Kjira’s hands emerge from her pack grasping two flasks of lamp oil she had stuffed in there somewhere.  Holding them out to the others still present, she points to the burned-out Goldcoin house and says, “It’s now or never guys, let’s get it!”


Alani has been moving carefully along the front wall, edging toward the entrance.  She glances quickly inside and grunts in frustration at the greenish vapor that is blocking her view.  She frowns as she sees that all the windows have also been boarded up.


“There’s no way to see  -- ” she begins to say when a sudden flare erupts from the building. 


Flashing from the entranceway, a jagged fork of lightning lances out into the square.  The bolt streaks to the northwest, glances one merchant stall and strikes another directly, blasting the small cart and tent to smithereens. 


Fortunately for Alani, the bolt manifests itself eight or nine feet above the ground, near the juncture of the stone and wooden portions of the building’s construction.  Pieces of blasted stone and lumber rain down on the elven scout as she crouches protectively against the front façade of the building.


All of the action in the marketplace stops for a moment as the lightning bolt burns its image into peoples’ minds.  Then, the silence is shattered by a strong, commanding voice.


“Yield immediately and move away from that soldier!” the voice orders.


Quickly looking toward the source of the voice, the adventurers see that the Red Cloak contingent has formed a half-moon shaped battle-line near the market’s center.  The tips of nocked arrows glitter softly in the sunlight as the missiles rest on the partially drawn strings of the soldiers’ short bows.  The soldiers’ distinctive cloaks are parted, revealing suits of chainmail underneath.  Swords and spears hang ready in baldric scabbards on every belt.


Three of the soldiers stand between Slyvia and her helper, there weapons trained on Slyvia.  At least six others concentrate their aim on the small group near the front of the Goldcoin House.  The band near the hogtied beast seems to escape direct attention; apparently, the intervening stalls have blocked the view of the soldiers.


At the scene of the trussed beast, the Red Cloak soldier speaks up.  “Easy, friends,” he says softly to the trio of adventurers that stand nearby.  “Let me speak on your behalf.”


With that, the man moves slowly to the head of the beast.  He positions himself so that he is between the group of soldiers and the three companions with their captured prize.  He then waits patiently to get the attention of the squad’s leader.


“What does this joker mean - speak on our behalf?” asks Cyzicus aloud, looking thoroughly confused. 


“Have we done something wrong?” the halfling asks Darius and Kryian.  “Do they think we’re taking our blasted pets for a walk or something?”  With each word, the halfling seems to grow a deeper shade of red
and speak faster and louder.  He is obviously losing his temper.

Both the druid and the mariner shrug wordlessly in response.  They stand motionless as they wait for the situation to further develop.


Meanwhile, the stranger near the burning stall addresses the Red Cloak leader.  “This woman here is trying to put out this fire, we could use your help, Marik!” 


As if to punctuate the man’s plea for help, the fire that consumes the merchant stall spreads to another nearby stand.


At the front of the Goldcoin House, Alani moves away from the ruined structure and toward the injured guardsman’s side.  She stoops down and grabs the man’s cloak, only to find his armor and gear make him too heavy to move. 


“Hold your fire!” the elf yells at the Red Cloaks who stand with leveled weapons across the square.  Struggling with the guard, she screams, “Help me!” to Lucas and Kjira.  “And someone pickup Dolak!” she finishes in the same breath.


In response, Lucas picks up the irate Dolak and quickly but gently places him in his pouch.  “At that size, he won’t drink too much ale at least!” adds Lucas as he closes the drawstring. 


“Yer overgrown heap o’ mine tailin’s!” screams Dolak in defiance.  “Put me down a’fore I lose me temper!  I’ve got some unfinished smithin' to do!”  Dolak continues to struggle in the pouch.


Ignoring the miniscule dwarf, Lucas turns to the lady mage.  “Kjira,” he says, “throw the oil and help me drag this guard clear.  That blob could be coming back out soon especially after you fire the building.”  The mage begins to move toward Alani to assist in moving the guard.

Nodding, Kjira glances at the two flasks of lamp oil and then sets them down while she grasps the bottom hem of her plain blue hooded cloak.  She tears a ragged piece of fabric from the article of clothing and then proceeds to divide it hastily in half.  She opens the end caps of the flasks and stuffs a wad of cloth in the openings of each container.  Then she plunges her hand into her backpack, searching for her flint and steel.


Frustrated at the lack of obedience to his orders, the Red Cloak leader screams across the open marketplace.  “I said YIELD!  I will not repeat my – GET DOWN!”  The leader’s eyes widen in terror as he looks past the disobedient adventurers at the Goldcoin House.


Hearing the guard’s sudden change in voice, all eyes turn toward the Goldcoin House just in time to see a roiling wall of flame billowing from the gaping front entrance.  The flame swells to twenty feet in height and spreads instantaneously in all directions from the ruined doorway.


Lucas and Kjira have just enough time to scream in terror and before the wall of flame reaches them.  Both mages throw themselves frantically toward the ground but are engulfed in the flames nonetheless. 


At the guard’s side, Alani winces in preparation, but the flames travel only ten or so paces from the doorway and stop just short of reaching her and the injured Red Cloak.


As fast as the flames appear, they dissipate.  In their wake, they leave Lucas and Kjira motionless in the dirt, their cloaks and robes smoldering with unspent flames. 


“By Tempus!” the Red Cloak leader exclaims in horror.  Instantly he regains his composure.  “Go to them!” he shouts to the half dozen militiamen nearest to the inferno’s aftermath.  “You three help with THIS fire!” he orders the three guardsmen nearest to Slyvia and her unidentified assistant.


Holding their bows loosely in their hands, the six Red Cloaks and their leader race across the market.  At the same time, Cyzicus, Kryian, Darius and their Red Cloak helper also start to sprint across the market headed toward the fallen adventurers.


The Red Cloaks reach the unconscious mages first.  As they do, a spitting and struggling Dolak frees himself from under Lucas’ motionless body.  The dwarf is slightly scorched from the blast, but he has been saved from the brunt of the flames by Lucas’ own body and the leather pouch he had been dropped into.


The tiny dwarf wisely steps aside two militiamen go to each of the fallen mages and tear their own scarlet cloaks off.  Using their cloaks, the soldiers suffocate the flames that still lick at the two adventurers’ bodies.


Two other Red Cloaks stop near Alani and the injured guardsman.  “Are you alright?” the two of them ask the elf and the soldier.


As the two soldiers wait for a response, Cyzicus and his small band of companions skid to a halt at the scene of the fallen mages.  Before any of them can speak, a new voice bellows, “Stand clear – let us attend to them!”


Glancing in the direction of this new arrival, those at the front of the Goldcoin House are relieved to see a man leading a group of six others.  All seven of them are dressed in plain gray robes with unadorned skullcaps.  A bracer of braided rope is on each man and woman’s wrist.


The Red Cloak leader nods.  “As you wish, Supplicant Asgar,” says the leader obediently.  “Stand back and let the priests do their work,” the Red Cloak leader announces to the gathered band of concerned soldiers and adventurers.   “Guards, watch the Goldcoin House!” he orders with a final breath.


Remembering the source of the flames, all eyes now turn to the ruined building nearby.  Flames now lick at the roof and in the interior of the building.  Although they do not seem to be in danger of spreading, it is likely that they will consume the remains of the damaged building.  The cloud of noxious fumes is no longer – visible.  Apparently, it was consumed by the sudden inferno.


One human priest immediately begins to attend to each of the injured soldier and adventurers.  Dolak, the guardsman, Lucas and Kjira each receive personal attention as does even Alani and the now-skeletal corpse nearby.


“What happened here, Malik?” asks the senior priest – earlier identified as Supplicant Asgar – to the Red Cloak leader.


The militiaman shakes his head in response.  “I do not know, holy Supplicant.  But I was just about to ask the same question myself.”  With that, the man turns to look at Cyzicus, Darius, Kryian and the Red Cloak that earlier helped them.


Meanwhile, across the marketplace, Slyvia, the unidentified laborer, and the three Red Cloaks set about trying to douse the flames from the burning stalls.

The content of The Sunset Vale Saga are the property and copyright of Brian Flood, and are not to be published or redistributed without permission.

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