“I hope you’re not expecting me to lug those things all the way back to La Roche.” Lucinde challenged Iezecele.
“And we can’t just cut off their heads.” Val added. “It’ll look like we just killed a bunch of animals.”
Iezecele began to form a Will-shaping in his mind. “Don’t worry, I’ve got them.” The Willworker released his spell. Small pieces of rock swirled into a disc shape floating a few feet off the ground. “There, that should be good enough to handle two of them.” Gaspar and Lucinde loaded two of the man-beasts onto the floating disk.
Val silently wondered if he could convince Iezecele to summon one of the disks for him. He would never have to ride a horse again. “Come on, let’s get out of here.” Everyone agreed moving quickly, eager to equally get away from Karg as to get to the safety of La Roche.
The party traveled the entire length of the cave in half the time it took them to reach the fallen city of Karg. Just outside the waterfall that hid the mouth of the great tunnel, Garrn motioned for the party to take cover. His Devonan eyes saw further in the darkness, seeing another patrol of man-beasts lurking in the distance. “There’s more of those things,” he warned.
Iezecele pulled out a scroll immediately summoning the Will stored inside, reinforcing the strength of his clothes, making them as strong as a suit of armor. He then cast his Will on the tall grasses, they spun and wove themselves together, forming a floating shield that would protect him.
Val knew that the man-beasts would have the advantage in the darkness. He took his lantern and threw it towards them. He moved away from the light, treading silently among the rocks and tall grass. Lucinde, Gaspar and Garrn rushed out to face the monsters head on.
The man-beasts charged to meet their attackers, their ferocity surprising Garrn and Gaspar. The thick blades of the man-beasts cut through their attacks, pushing the Devonan’s axe and man’s blade aside with their power. Lucinde stopped short, the man-beast’s blade missing her by inches. She swung her flail connecting with the beast’s arm. Val stepped out from the cover of the tall grass and slashed at a man-beast, cutting a gash in a gap in the creature’s armor.
Gaspar and the wolf-headed creature he fought traded blows. Despite his new wound, the warrior was glad that the man-beast howled in pain. Just knowing that it could feel pain was a relief.
A goat-faced man-beast caught the top of Garrn’s head, just as the Devonan cut low into the monster’s leg.
The shield weave of tall grasses blocked the blow the boar-faced monster aimed at Iezecele. The floating shield moved moved aside just far enough to allow the Willworker to lash out with his new staff. He had learned that he could store a portion of his power in the staff. As he struck the boar-headed monster, he released the shocking spell he had stored there.
Val slashed with both his blades, cutting first along the ram-faced side, then along its throat. The creature bleated in pain as it died.
The goat-faced creature struck Garrn a second time, cutting deep into the Devonan’s shoulder. Stunned, the Devonan dropped his axe. Val and Iezecele saw that their guide was in trouble. The Willworker pulled the energy from the earth and sent it out in a wave, healing the worst of Garrn’s injuries. The rogue rolled behind the creature and slashed at the arteries in its legs, killing it.
Lucinde blocked the blow of the man-beast with her shield and pushed forward, throwing the creature off balance. An upswing of her flail shattered its jaw, sending bone fragments into the creature’s head, killing it.
Gaspar spun underneath the wide arc of the wolf-headed creature’s heavy blade and cut into the beast with his sword. He followed the initial blow by dragging his dagger along the same path, widening the wound. The creature gripped its side in a vain effort to keep its insides from spilling out onto the ground.
Iezecele knew that his staff was out of spells. He himself was drained of the energy that he needed to enact his Will. He knew that attempting to escape the boar-faced creature would only open himself up to a deadly attack. Left with no other options, and completely expecting to miss, Iezecele struck out with his staff. His swing connected with the creature’s ear, dazing it long enough for the rest of Iezecele’s party to finish it off.
“Damn it,” Val exclaimed, pointing at the two man-beast corpses from the tunnel. “We dragged these guys all this way for nothing.”
Iezecele wondered what Val was talking about. Gaspar and Lucinde had lifted the creatures. He, himself, had summoned the disc that had transported the corpses from the tunnel. Val hadn’t done a thing. “Come on, let’s get out of this valley.”
The group traveled as quickly as Garrn felt was possible back to the mountain fortress of La Roche. After showing the guards the man-beast corpses, the party was quickly ushered into a private chamber.
They didn’t have to wait long. The Devonan king strode into the room. As he took his chair, he paused, “I’m deeply sorry that you were unable to find your priests.”
Priests? With the state of Karg, Iezecele had forgotten all about them. “It’s much worse than that. Karg has fallen.” He walked over to the corpses they had brought out of the valley and unveiled them.
The king walked over to the corpses and inspected them, going so far as to check to see if the beast heads had been stitched onto the bodies of men. “Tell me.” The group shared their story of what they had seen in the fallen city. Val told a tale of the battles they had with the Eyeless creature and the man-beasts. Garrn wept as he told of the broken Devonans that had been enslaved by the army of man-beasts. “So they know of the passage.”
He waved over an aide and whispered some words to him. The surprised aide left in a hurry. The king turned back to the party, “I’ve just ordered the destruction of the tunnel. The armies of Har’Thelen will meet this threat. We will trap these beasts in Karg with our fallen brethren.”
Val remembered the fog he had seen in Karg, how it had reminded Iezecele of the cliffs in Cendrillion. “Your majesty, these monsters may have invaded by sea. It may be wise to send messages to the other nations.”
The king nodded. “I assume that you will be returning to Cosette. I will send messengers to Artegal Cearnach of Carwithian , the Council of Six in Cendrilion, even Queen Allegra of Kantora.”
Val was surprised to hear that his cousin had assumed the throne. Had the Queen stepped down, or had something else happened? Regardless, it was a question for another time.
“Queen Allegra?” Lucinde questioned. “When did that happen?”
Or it’s a question for right now, Val thought. “She assumed the throne a few months ago.”
“Did the old queen die?” Lucinde pressed.
The king waved his hand, “I couldn’t say for sure. Har’Thelen was only notified of the change in leadership.” He stood, “Rest, but be on your way quickly.”
The group was leaving when Val stopped at the door. He had remembered something, “Your Majesty, when you send your men to the tunnel, arm them with enchanted weapons if you’re able. Those eyeless creatures can not be harmed by normal means.”
The party returned Garrn to a happy reunion with his wife in Hamilton. His wife knew something had happened to her husband, but focused on being happy that he was home. “Tobias will be so happy you’ve returned.” She looked around, “I think he’s just outside.”
Outside, the party saw Tobias wheel up to a pair of arguing Devonans. They couldn’t tell what the argument was about, but they saw Tobias calm the men down. Moments before, they were about to fight, but now the two Devonans were shaking hands.
“Quite the negotiator you have there.” Lucinde mentioned to Garrn’s wife.
“Dear, he’s always been like that.” Deidre mentioned with a smile.
The party had pressed on towards Cosette. Val was on watch, wondering about his cousin, when two dogs-like creatures attacked. They were black as night except for their glowing red eyes. They bit deep into the rogue. His scream of pain was both verbal and mental through the ring.
The rest of the party came to Val’s aid, stepping up as Val withdrew from danger. Gaspar hit one of the dogs with his sword and dagger. “My dagger did nothing!” The dog attacked Gaspar, biting deep into his leg.
The other dog locked its jaw on Lucinde even as she drove her flail into it time and again.
Iezecele summoned shards of stone from the earth to strike at the beasts.
Val drank a healing potion. The powerful liquid healing the worst of the creature’s bites. He moved around to the creature attacking Gaspar. “Now you’ll taste my fangs!” He drove both of his short swords into the beast, killing it.
Lucinde continued to hit the remaining dog, even as it continued to bite her. Iezecele summoned his stone shards again. Between both the warrior and the Willworker, the beast died.
“This wound burns.” Gaspar grunted in pain.
As Iezecele tended to Gaspar’s wounds, Val searched to see if there were any more beasts waiting for them. He noticed that the creatures that they had fought left no trace on the ground where they had fought, but further out, he noticed that their paw prints had been burned into the stone where they had stepped. He pointed it out to the rest of the party.
Lucinde looked at the tracks left in the stone, “Does this make sense?”
Iezecele laughed harshly, “Nothing makes sense anymore.”