The Whisperer in Darkness
Something distinctly not-goliath lumbered out of the midnight darkness – huge, spiky, walking on four thick, low legs. Its body was reminiscent of a rage drake, though its hide was far better armoured. It waddled towards us like an overladen wagon, baying and growling in equal measure. Tarkus realised his folly and charged back to our house to arm himself as Grimlock and I prepared for combat.
As it came closer I realised its tail bore a huge, bony club. It made for an odd opponent, attacking from its rear end with clumsy, backward-facing tail spins. I would hazard a guess that it is more defensive than offensive a creature, though getting hit by that tail would still almost certainly have been fatal… for me.
By the time Tarkus returned, Grimlock had discovered that its hide was as tough as stone, causing nothing more than a bruise with a reckless, charging axe swing. Tarkus ran in, swung his own axe, managed to score a small but jagged cut into its side, but unfortunately also stepped into tail range and got smashed in the ribs with the clubtail.
I conjured and dropped flesh-eating ooze onto the beast, but my aim was poor and it slopped off its back onto the ground. Grimlock’s accuracy was no better, not even distracting it as it smashed Tarkus once again as he attempted to get back to his feet.
However, while on the ground, Tarkus had noticed that the creature had a fleshy underside which he proceeded to uppercut with his axe, scoring a vicious hit on the animal’s flank that unleashed a spray of its blood.
A second monster rumbled out of the darkness from the direction of the tavern, and this one was bigger still – 30 feet long and 14 tall; with two lines of striking, angular plates running down the entire length of its spine like an unfinished jigsaw. Four spear-like bones protruded from the end of its tail and, trumpeting aggressively, it turned and swung them at us.
Though Grimlock reacted in time by hopping out of the way, Tarkus was oblivious and suffered another devastating attack, this time by a tail that was more sword than club. He was flung through the air and crashed to the ground unconscious, bleeding profusely from the violent wound. A pool of blood oiled along the ground like pancake mix.
But by now I knew the drill. I ran in to provide aid, narrowly avoiding a deadly tail swipe from the nervous jigsaw. In the thick of the action, I was close enough to realise that the two monsters, though physically very different, both resembled an ancient beast (note: what on earth was its name?) whose skeleton I have seen in the Great Museum. Kneeling by Tarkus, I found that the light of nearby street lanterns was insufficient, and so set a floating light above the scene of battle.
As I administered to Tarkus’ wounds, Grimlock launched himself off some nearby rocks, landed roughly on the back of the clubtail and, after scrambling for purchase, sat astride the furious beast and steered it away from us. The jigsaw remained close, but found itself obstructed by a pillar of rock and wasted enough time smashing it to rubble that I was able to finish binding wounds.
After distracting the jigsaw with the conjured sound of a dragon roar, I dragged Tarkus a short distance out of the way. This distraction turned out to be very timely for a second reason, for as it turned around to meet this phantom noise, Grimlock somehow managed to charge the clubtail into headbutting its side, knocking the spike-tailed monster heavily to the ground.
Roaring in triumph, Grimlock then attempted to hack at the jigsaw as it stood up, but instead glanced off its plates and was thrown off the clubtail by a violent sideways shake. I used this moment to drag Tarkus further still, who awakened at a safe distance, stood groggily despite my attempts to keep him down and stumbled back into striking range. The jigsaw spun around in a circle, swinging its tail in an arc at Tarkus (who deflected it), Grimlock (who was lightly maimed) and the clubtail (which yelped slightly but took no damage).
Out of the inky black, two goliath soldiers arrived to help us against the lumbering giants.
Meanwhile, Grimlock charged along the back of the clubtail, smashed its head into the ground with one foot and leapt upwards, bringing his axe down on the ribs of the jigsaw and carving a deep wound. After landing awkwardly, he was crushed between the two monsters, squeezed out on the side furthest from us, shouted to all present that he had ‘dibs’ on killing the now-bedraggled-looking clubtail and then threw his axe at it, missing spectacularly and losing the weapon somewhere in the darkness. The goliath soldiers were less ineffectual, slaying the clubtail via greatsword decapitation. As Grimlock bellowed in outrage at this apparent ‘dibs’ betrayal, the beheaded monster disappeared in a plume of orange smoke.
Amazed, I reached towards the remaining opponent with my mind. Sensing it magically, it was immediately clear to me that it was not organic at all, but a summoned magical construct! The client’s terrified screams had been correct! Tarkus, covered in drying blood with one hand pressed on his largest stab wound, somehow scored a good hit. Grimlock too charged back into the fray, aiming not at the jigsaw but at the goliath who slew the clubtail.
The soldier, caught completely off guard, was rammed into the jigsaw, bounced off and landed face first in the dirt. I finished the construct off with a magic missile and, once it too had evaporated into coloured smoke, was able to explain Grimlock’s actions to the incensed soldier. Surprisingly, he was very understanding, even apologising to the furious dragonborn. …It must be a goliath thing.