By Brian Flood
Chapter 39 - Biology Lessons
Along the Dusk Road
North of Asbravn, The Sunset Vale
Mid-Afternoon, 2nd Day of Marpenoth; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
Gradually, the adventurers' heartrates subside and they breathe a sigh of relief at the rather rapid defeat of the latest potentially dangerous foe. Then, they exchange glances with each other as each of them formulates what to do next.
Seeing the beast fall lifeless, the Kjira takes a moment to put her pack back in order before slipping it back on and standing to survey the scene.
"Perhaps we should investigate the farm buildings," suggests the lady mage while the others clean their weapons. "Make sure there are no injured that need assistance hiding inside?"
"Kjira, wait a moment," the druid asks. "My father, and my mentor both, once told me about these beasts, and I am trying hard to remember."
Darius looks at the beast, bends down to absently scratch behind Soft Fang's ears, and a few moments later, says, "Yes, I remember now. My father called them 'farmer's bane', but Florin called them 'ankheg.' It helps with irrigation and subsurface fertilization, but there are stories of them causing vast damage to farms as well. Some have been rumored to eat entire flocks of sheep."
The druid looks around at the group, "There may be more of them. If this one is solitary we are safe, but it could be half of a mated pair, and this is the time of year when the young are born," the druid remembers out loud.
Scratching his own head this time, he continues, "There's something else, important too, about mated females, but I can't remember. It was so long ago that dad and I talked about this."
Lucas nods to Kjira and pauses to listen to Darius' information on the 'farmers bane' before he speaks. "Let us proceed cautiously. I say we form back up in our marching order and proceed to investigate the rest of this farm. Does anyone know if these creatures are good for other than mulching up the sheep and fertilizing the land they dig up?"
With that said, the red robed mage gatherers his belongings back together and takes his place in the marching order. "Perhaps once all is investigated we can check out the tunnel to see any farmers may have been dragged down below."
Corax recovers from the rear of the now dead creature and rejoins the party, his rapier kept at the ready. "So Darius, as Lucas was saying, are these creatures of use for anything other than irrigation? I've heard that a skilled armorer can craft a hell of a suit of armor from its shell."
"You'll have to ask Dolak for that kind of information. I'm not interested in armor or things like that," the druid replies.
Dolak looks at the creature, "I've worked only in metals, tho' I 'ave learned how to use leathers 'n such. Perhaps ano'r armorer would prefer to use the shell from one such as this ankheg, but I prefer the harder metals, iron 'n mithril. Dragonhide interests me some, how'er."
Corax moves toward the ankheg and taps his rapier against its hardened shell while addressing the group. "Shouldn't we investigate what it was that this thing ate before we go charging into people's homes?"
"Hmmm...Corax maybe we should inspect the stuff that the critter sprayed all over Dolak when he sliced open its belly," adds Lucas with a chuckle. "As for not barging into the farmhouse, I don't think we will find anyone alive inside. I bet the worm critter did a little of its own interior redecorating inside the farmhouse if it didn't get everyone outside. Perhaps we can find some tracks as we search the rest of the area."
Sporting a half-frown and arching an eyebrow at Lucas, Dolak heavily salts his words with sarcasm. "The ankheg had a roasted duck, with a helpin' o' buttered mushrooms on the side. Now kin we git down the path. There's a well ahead I'd like to use after we figure out what's what."
"Unless someone has anything else to add," Lucas then adds, "let us start moving before it gets too dark." Lucas waits for the lead party to start its movement - allowing for a ten-foot separation - before starting to follow.
Cy nods. "Did you not say you smelled someone earlier Darius?" he asks as he moves back to his spot in the marching order.
"Right, Lucas," Darius says, as he and Soft Fang spread out and head towards the farmhouse at a slow pace. Both of them stop every few minutes or so, and the others can observe them sniffing at the air. The other adventurers form into their agreed-upon order and follow behind.
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