Chapter One: Monsters
“I don’t know what’s worse, the monsters or the heat,” lamented Eihn as he struggled to gut the reptilian thing before him.
“I don’t know what’s worse,” echoed Kafiel, the elf next to him, “the monsters that try to eat us, or the ones protecting us.”
Laughter, booming like thunder, drew all eyes across the sands to where their monsters lay. Al’rashal pinned one of the reptiles to the ground with her man-catcher. The scaly thing struggled to free itself, but the centaur put the full weight of her body into holding the creature in place as her husband, Urkjorman, lumbered up to it. The minotaur took his time lining up a swing with the long, iron-studded pole he used as a defensive weapon and struck. Blood washed the sands as fragments of bone and flesh exploded from the creature’s skull. Once more, booming laughter filled the air as the minotaur reveled in the shower of gore.
The elf shuddered, then turned from the scene of the two making sport of the creatures to focus on gutting the one before him.
The centaur and her husband looked around, seemingly disappointed there were no more creatures to kill and dragged the last two corpses back to the circle of wagons and threw them on the pile with four others.
Master Muraheim seemed to have been angered by the display of violence and marched up to the two. The old gnome had to crane his neck considerably to look up at the two demi-humans, but he seemed utterly uncaring by the size difference.
“Enough,” ordered Muraheim. “This is not your time to make sport!”
The minotaur looked to his wife, who shrugged in response and returned his attention to the gnome. “Our sport keeps you alive and fed, Master Muraheim.”
“I do not like your revelry.”
Urk took a deep breath and moved as though to take a step forward but Al placed a hand to his chest to stop him.
“Monsters,” Al began, “can’t be reasoned with, Master Muraheim. So, we need to use more aggressive methods to protect you from them.”
The gnome looked at the two and turned about to walk away. “You are right, monsters cannot be reasoned with.”
Al raised to her hind legs as though to kick the gnome but came down without incident. Eihn turned to his master when he neared. “I don’t think angering them is right, Master. They —”
“Have a job to do,” said the old gnome, cutting Eihn off. “Get us to Karden so you and the other neophytes may dedicate to Mehrindai. I do not care if they are mad the whole way there and back. They will serve or answer to the baron for their failure.”
Eihn wanted to say more, but he was interrupted as a high-pitched shriek tore through the air.
All eyes cast about in alarm as the shriek was followed by a second and then dozens more as small, malformed creatures pulled from the sands about the caravan. They raised crude, ill-maintained weapons to the sky and demanded something in some guttural version of the language common to the area.
“Goblins,” shouted Urkjorman with something that sounded like relish. “Al’rashal! Charge!”