The stench of the creatures filled the air. Tyler Palintus struggled to hold what calm he had. He was a barman, not a soldier, but tonight, it seemed, every able-bodied man and half the women in Threshold were playing the part.
They’d come from the east, as best Tyler could tell, from the direction of that cursed swamp in double-cursed Gullavia. Scaly hides, strange eyes that seemed not to hold souls, and that awful, gut-wrenching stench.
The elf – Sellion, he’d said his name was, the last time he’d stayed – stood beside him, saber even with Tyler’s own spear. The spear had belonged to Tyler’s grandfather, and he hadn’t been sure when he grabbed it from the mantle that the rusty head would stand up to a fight, that the old haft wouldn’t crack on the first blow he dealt with it, but so far the old weapon had stood up well. Better than its old wielder.
“What are they?” He called out, voice muffled by the cloth that filtered just enough of the stench away that he could stand to breathe at all.
“I’ve not seen them before,” the elf murmured, his quiet voice still plainly audible over the din of a dozen skirmishes. Tyler drove another creature to the side, barely avoiding being disemboweled by the heavy saber it carried, and Sellion ran it through with his rapier. “But they match the stories of the troglodytes.”
“Humbug,” Tyler growled, then dashed forward, winding himself but wounding a creature armed with a bow before it could fire at Dietrich Durgan, who was with his wife fighting another of the monsters near his shop. “No such thing!” He called out, catching the creature’s blade on the haft of his spear. An arrow from Sellion to its forehead downed it, and Tyler reached for its sword.
“Touch that not!” Sellion said, suddenly there, his hand on Tylers. “Troglodytes may indeed be but stories, but if stories are made flesh tonight… their steel is the poison of Laogzed.”
Tyler nodded, withdrawing his hand from the sword. “Good point,” he admitted.
“They strike the mill,” Sellion said, his head lifting quickly.
“I have to hold the inn. My wife and daughter…”
“Will suffocate in the smoke, or fall to poverty, should the town’s mill fall. In a day like this, the fate of one is linked to all.” The elf’s voice made Tyler believe he knew that from experience.
“Dietrich! Lanna!” Tyler called out to the smiths. “The mill!”
Together, the four charged.