Coming in at number was Kira Grasdon. I’m happy when she comes up in a poll like this because I don’t get to promote her solo adventure very often. Enjoy this piece of Quest of the Brokenhearted.
Roland tackles Rayne and twists, so that his body is the one that goes through the wooden door. The wind is knocked from the man’s lungs and he is dazed for a second while the elf scrambles under a table. A shadow falls over the abandoned store and a foul-smelling breeze is pushed through the entrance. Looking up, Roland sees that the opening is blocked by a maw full of yellowed teeth and a dark purple tongue. He rolls and dives to the side to avoid a barrage of drool-dripping chains that erupt from the monster’s throat. They smash into the far wall and grab a red-furred monster, which is promptly yanked into the waiting mouth. Struggling to dislodge the creature after it sprouts spines, the predator moves away from the building and violently shakes its head. The only visible parts of the beast are large paws that are covered in ebony fur, which bristles and ripples with every movement.
“Who would be crazy enough to unleash Freybug inside the city?” Roland asks as he gets to Rayne. The elf is curled in a ball around the burbling Gooie Pig while she shivers from pure terror. “I guess you’ve never seen a monster like this. All you’ve known are the more civilized ones and those who fight as champions. The Shadow Earl and Princess Cyrena must have shielded you from the likes of Freybug. It’s clear he wants to eat you.”
“But I didn’t do anything wrong!” Rayne suddenly shouts. Wanting to get away from the marketplace, she kicks free and scrambles for the nearby stairs. “Monsters like that aren’t supposed to be in Lacarsis. The citizens are nice and don’t eat each other unless it’s an arena fight or they broke a law. I’m going to the castle and telling the Shadow Earl. He’ll find the person who started this and then things will go back to normal.”
“What if he’s the one who did it?”
“He would never cause such chaos.”
“You saw the scrying portals in the sky, which means this is an official match.”
“That doesn’t mean the Shadow Earl did this.”
“I know, but he’s at least aware and letting it continue.”
A loud snort from outside draws their attention to where they see a wet nose poking into the building. Embers fall from the nostrils as Freybug takes a deep breath that sucks most of the air from the room. Roland and Rayne rush up the stairs, the muscular man getting ahead to smash the door with a bone-jarring punch. They hear the plume of fire explode below as they get to the second floor, their retreat stopped by spouts of flame that slip through the floor planks. Smoke billows up the stairs along with the screams of those who were still hiding in the shop. A powerful impact causes the structure to tilt backwards, the wooden beams creaking from the pressure. Knowing it is only a matter of time before the building collapses, they hurry into the nearest room and scramble out the window. On the other side of the roof from Freybug, they stay low and quickly move to where they can jump to safety. Before they can cross the narrow alley, the entire second floor is lifted into the air and shaken as it sits atop the monster’s head. Putting an arm around Rayne’s waist, Roland blindly jumps for what he hopes is another building. To his horror, he misses the next roof and plummets towards the ground.
With a squeal, the Gooie Pig expands to cover both of its companions and use its body to cushion the impact. The creature explodes and splatters across the street, the loud pop creating a shockwave that stuns Roland and Rayne. Unable to move, the pair can only watch as Freybug bucks the building off his broad head and sniffs the air. The enormous dog pauses to scratch behind one of his floppy ears with a rear leg that is thicker than a full-grown oak. He turns in the wrong direction to investigate a food cart, which he devours while happily wagging a narrow tail that cuts through stone like a keen blade. The wind changes to carry Rayne’s scent to Freybug’s nose, the delicious aroma slightly muffled by the Gooie Pig’s rancid odor. Unsure if he is looking at the right morsel, the dog leans in close to sniff at the frozen elf with enough strength to pull her against his nose. Growling and drooling, the feral champion opens his mouth and is about to unleash his chains when he abruptly yelps in pain. Whirling around sends a ripple of agony throughout Freybug’s body, the sensation emanating from between his legs until the agony gradually fades away.
Turning back to Rayne, the giant dog retreats a few steps at the sight of a new figure standing in front of his prey. Kira spins her new kusari-gama at her side, the polished sickle already dripping with blood. No longer wearing her nightgown, the adventurer is clothed in a bodysuit that covers her from shoulders to ankles. A subtle feather pattern is in the royal blue material, which has gold edging around the collar and wrists. Designed to be worn under armor instead of alone, the enchanted clothing looks too thin to give her any protection. Yet, there is an occasional thrum of power whenever Freybug gets close to investigate. A thin aura covers Kira’s flesh whenever she is in direct sunlight, but the energy is dissipated every time the dog snorts in her direction. Reaching up to pull at a dark green choker, the adventurer takes a step forward to see if her opponent backs away. She scowls when the growling beast holds his ground and hunkers down to pounce.
“I doubt this is going to be anything other than a slugfest,” Kira whispers while walking to the side.