- Kobold Raider (70 Platinum, 70 Xp, 70 Energy, 3 HP, 4 HP Hard, 5 HP NM) all Nightmare
- Kobold Looters (70 Platinum, 70 Xp, 70 Energy, 3 HP, 4 HP Hard, 5 HP NM) all Nightmare
- Beastman Pillagers (80 Platinum, 80 Xp, 80 Energy, 4 HP, 5 HP Hard, 6 HP NM) all Nightmare
- Beastman Marauders (80 Platinum, 80 Xp, 80 Energy, 4 HP, 5 HP Hard, 6 HP NM) all Nightmare
- Bloodhowl (150 Platinum, 150 XP, 150 Energy, 1 HP All) Locked until others are defeated.
Chaos. That's the word that fills your mind.
Beastmen and kobolds throng the streets, howling and hissing in triumph. Some of them have wine and ale-jugs in their hands, no doubt looted from the town's tavern, and sway and stagger with inebriated delight. Not since the Drake War has a human settlement fallen to them, yet now they stand as the masters of Marsonne.
So engrossed are they in their revelry that they don't even notice your arrival. Only one nearby kobold turns in your direction, and his eyes barely have time to widen in surprise before Tessa's arrow pierces his throat and renders them sightless.
"They're trying to force their way into the town hall," one of the fishermen says, directing your gaze with a pointing finger.
Several of the creatures are clustered around a large building on the other side of the town. Some are driving their shoulders against its doors. Others are even kicking its walls, out of savage frenzy or animal stupidity. A tall leonine warrior stands close by, a sword clutched in each hand, gesturing with his blades and bellowing out instructions to the besiegers. He must be their leader.
Most of the other creatures are facing in that direction, urging on their allies and howling in anticipation of the slaughter. That explains why they didn't notice your arrival.
"There must be survivors inside," Tessa says.
You nod. Then you gesture to your comrades and begin the attack.
The lion-man's sword clatters to the ground, next to a chunk of fur and flesh. Blood spurts from the ruined stump at the end of his arm, lashes of crimson that decorate the fallen blade and lost hand like the strokes of a drunken artist's brush. But he doesn't falter, does flee or howl in pain. Instead he roars and lunges -- his other weapon driving towards your chest.
But the battle is unequal now. You catch his sword on your shield, knocking the deadly steel aside. Before he can recover his poise and renew his attack, you thrust your blade into his chest. Strong, sharp East Krunan metal tears through the thick slab of muscle. His bestial face shifts into an expression of shock, and his pupils widen like explosions of shadow. The tip has found his heart.
The leonine frame collapses, mighty thews robbed of their power in an instant.
Cheering fills your world as you tear your blade free. You look around, and see your companions standing alongside men and women you don't recognize. Together they form a ring around you and the lion-man's corpse, encircling you with shouts of triumph and thunderous yells that mingle into indecipherability. You catch sight of Tessa at the forefront of the crowd of onlookers, and she gives a small, almost imperceptible nod as she meets your gaze.
Clever girl. She kept the others back, allowing the battle to end with a duel between you and the leonine leader. Just the kind of thing you spoke of before setting sail. If you're to succeed, if your quest is to end in victory, your legend must grow. Everyone must see that you're a worthy heir to the Dragon-Rider, a fitting champion for West Kruna.
The exhileration of victory, the joy at seeing their enemies slaughtered, is soon eclipsed by sorrow for the inhabitants of Marsonne. Though most of the townspeople made it to the fortified hall, thanks to the swift and decisive orders of their mayor, others weren't so fortunate. And in a little town, where each life touches every other, even a single death is a tragedy for all its denizens.
Men, women, and children are left to tend to their dead kinsmen, to take stock of their ravaged homes. An outsider's aid would be an intrusion in such matters, so you content yourself with helping throw the carcasses of kobold and beastmen onto carts. They'll be taken where they may be burned without the stench of roasting flesh, scale, and fur drifting towards the town.
It's after you've heaved the leader's corpse onto a pile of his minions, straining under the muscular bulk, that Tessa approaches. An elderly man walks alongside her, his silver hair and greenish tunic both splashed with crimson. Most look to be the stains of a slayer, not a victim -- blood sprayed from the wounds of his foes. But the shifting of his body, the faint traces of supressed pain on his face, show that he didn't emerge from the fighting unscathed.
"You arrival was fortuitious," he says. "We couldn't have kept them out of the hall much longer. If an old man's gratitude is of any worth, rest assured that you have it."
The man's voice and visage are new to you, but his choice of words strikes a chord in your memory.
He nods and a faint smile crosses his lips.
"Mayor Jaren Melcarius Tullian of Marsonne," says Tessa, "meet--"
"The scion of the Kasans," the old man says.
You take his measure, curious to look upon this man you've until now known through ink alone. What you see pleases you. As a three-name noble, Jaren doesn't share the same ancient Tullian blood as Tessa. He wasn't descended from the warrior who fought alongside the Dragon-Rider. Yet there's something so very similar about the two of them... Somehow his appearance seems to match the hand in which his missives were written. The script upon the parchment was old-fashioned and ornate, the tutored fist of a nobleman. But the firm lines, like sword strokes, hinted at a strength of purpose and character that you see echoed in his glinting eyes and martial bearing. The fight spirit of the Tullians burns in both their breasts.
"Your letters said we'd find kobolds lurking in the countryside," you say.
"Until a few days ago we thought that the sum total of our dangers," he replies. "I fear that you've already done more fighting for us than you ever agreed to."
Tessa's eyes flick to the side, and you glance in the direction they indicate. Some of the townspeople are wandering over, keen to overhear your words with their mayor. This isn't an opportunity to be wasted.
"I agreed to protect Marsonne. The number and nature of the enemy make no difference. If the kobolds have become brave because of their new beastmen allies, so be it. Their races can die beside each other as they did in the days of our ancestors."
Murmurs of approval ripple through the audience punctuated by ragged cheers. Tessa and Jaren nod their heads at the same moment, a subtle gesture identical to the one earlier. Both trunk and branch of the Tullian family believe you spoke well. Your words, your dauntlessness, will be remembered and pass from lip to lip. Though you lament the suffering of the townspeople, and wish you could have prevented it, your mind races at the possibilities this attack has opened up for you. Marsonne has suffered but the proverb rings true: it's an ill wind that blows nobody any good. If you can turn their tragedy into a victory...
As if on cue, a scout runs over.
"There are more of them nearby," she says. "Kobolds and beastmen."
You gather your companions, and prepare to set out. Jaren does the same, mustering those of the townspeople still willing and able to fight. You consider dissuading them from further danger, but bite back the words. They deserve a chance at revenge.