The following story is based upon the DnD adventures of @Racie02, @Marendex_T17, @Political_Slime, @Ranaki_Pakewa, @BeefJStag, someone who doesn’t have a boards account (I’ll call him TB), and their DM, @Middlefingerstudios. It was transcribed by me, with help from Racie. Any inaccuracies are due to her memory or creative liberties I took to adapt the story.
Jeszin = barbarian half-elf = Racie02
Mef Darr = dwarven ranger = Political_Slime
Stagro = tiefling bard = BeefJStag
Tepec = lizardfolk fighter = Ranaki_Pakewa
Dromon = warforged paladin = Marendex_T17
Tiwin Beewin = goblin fighter = TB
This is within the same storyline as The Fall of the King, though you don’t have to read that story to understand this one.
with that out of the way, let’s get to it.
Smoke and soot filled the air, obscuring my sight. People were running all around, confused and panicked. I couldn’t see the sky through the smoke, but I could hear the source of the devastation, the huge wings beating the air, the roars shaking the earth. Another blast of heat filled the air, the heat unbearable despite the flames being a mile away. I would not want to be close to that thing.
How did this all go so wrong?
A few hours earlier…
I know the Quentiam Coetus. Of course I do; everyone does. But I know them a bit differently than most people. To most citizens of Slada, the Quentiam Coetus are the heroes of the rebellion, the slayers of King Paxon. To me, they’re the people who make my life interesting.
Through a weird set of circumstances, I wound up travelling with the Quentiam Coetus on their latest quest. They were looking for my dad. It’s a long story, one I’ll probably tell one day, but today, I’m here to tell the story of the carnival.
The Quentiam Coetus team and I had just returned to Slada, where the guards informed us that the “Carnival of the Tide” was in town. Our quarry had disappeared without a trace, and we had no idea where he might have gone, so Mef Darr declared, “let’s check out this carnival.”
I followed them through the city gates, the familiar sights of my current hometown greeting my eyes, but now there were people dressed up, kids and adults running around, booths set up for all sorts of activities.
“Look! The strength game!” Stagro exclaimed, pointing excitedly. I saw a small tower, a bell at the top; a button at the bottom of the tower launched a puck up toward the bell. At the base, a large, muscular human was holding a hammer, swinging it down onto the button. The puck slid upward, nearly reaching the bell before falling.
“Dromon, Jeszin, you’re strong,” Stagro commented. “You’ve got this.”
“No, I’ve got this!” Mef said. Before any of his allies could react, Mef Darr stepped up to the booth. “Yo, how much is this game?”
“10 copper,” the attendant replied. “You look strong; you care to try your hand?”
“Heck yeah,” Mef said, slamming down 10 copper. He picked up the hammer, held it in the air, and swung it down with all his might. The puck slid up the tower… inches away from the bell.
“Dang it,” Mef muttered. “Any of you guys want to try?”
“Dromon, you’re up,” Stagro said.
“All right,” Dromon said. He stepped up and picked up the hammer, raised it above his head, swung it down… and slipped. The hammer flew out of his hands, flying through the air.
Mef stifled a laugh.
“Jeszin?” Stagro prompted.
Jeszin hesitated for a moment, then stepped up. Jeszin… if I recall the legends of the Quentiam Coetus correctly, she has some sort of gauntlets that give her super strength. She’s got this, right?
Jeszin raises the hammer, swings… but she doesn’t seem to have her heart in it, and the puck goes about halfway up.
In short succession, Tepec and Stagro made attempts, both failures. That left just Tiwin… and me.
Stagro turned to me. “You care to try?”
“I’m not that strong,” I muttered hesitantly.
“C’mon, go for it,” Mef said. He tossed another 10 copper onto the desk.
“All right,” I said, stepping up to the plate. To my shock, I nailed it, the puck hitting the bell with a resounding ring!
Yeah, that didn’t actually happen.
Dromon steps up to the manager. “Say, how much did this machine cost?”
“Uh, 20 gold,” the guy said. “Why?”
Dromon tossed him 21 gold. “Step aside.”
With that, Dromon’s arm began to morph, a jet forming at the elbow, and he rocket-punched the button.
Surprisingly, the machine did not break. Unsurprisingly, the puck hit the bell, a resounding ding echoing from it. The crowd watching cheered.
Befitting a carnival worker, the manager was only momentarily speechless. “Nice job, mate. What was the gold for, though?”
“In case I broke your machine,” Dromon replied, his arm morphing back to normal.
“Well, you want it back, then?”
“Keep it,” Dromon said. “A donation to the carnival.”
With that, Dromon stepped back from the booth. “Well, now what… where’s Mef?”
I glanced around for the dwarven leader of the Quentiam Coetus, but he was nowhere to be seen. “He’s disappeared again,” Tiwin commented.
“Well, since Mef’s off doing his own thing,” Stagro said, “I guess we might as well split up and check out the carnival. Me, I want to see if there’s some kind of ‘battle of the bands’ in this carnival.”
“I’m going to find some kind of dart throwing booth,” Jeszin said.
And with that, the Quentiam Coetus parted ways. I shrugged and followed Jeszin.
Jeszin found a dart-throwing booth. I’m not sure why a barbarian known for strength was so interested in a challenge of accuracy, but I didn’t ask.
The dart challenge was interesting. The manager carried around a little doll of Paxon, and the competitor threw five darts at it. Hit all five, you get a Paxon doll. Jeszin tried, but only managed to get four. At the insistence of the manager, I tried my hand, and nailed all five darts.
That one wasn’t a joke. It actually happened. I guess I’m not too shabby at accuracy. I gave the doll to Jeszin, who commented cryptically that she had a use for it. Again, I elected not to ask.
After that, Jeszin went to find her teammates. Without much difficulty, she found the “battle of the bands.” Stagro was there, performing an epic song/routine, with the assistance of Dromon’s lion, Tetsujishi. His performance was on point.
Then… Mef Darr came out. Apparently, he had decided to join in this competition as well. Stagro had had a guitar, a flute, and a didgeridoo, plus a giant robot lion. Mef only had a pair of bongos and his voice. And for just that… he killed it. I didn’t know he could sing.
Still, Stagro was the clear winner, and he got the trophy. But he couldn’t just keep it for himself, and insisted it go to everyone. With the help of Jeszin, the trophy was broken up, a part of it going to all the participants.
Somehow, everyone had reunited again. It’s as if, with Mef Darr there, the crew wasn’t so quick to split up, as if he was the heart of the crew.
And somehow, the crew found themselves at a pie-eating contest.
“Oh, yeah,” Stagro said. “No way I’m missing this. Who’s with me?”
Mef Darr stepped forward, a wild look in his eyes. “Count me in.”
Tepec and Jeszin also stepped forward.
“We’ve got room for one more,” the announcer said. “Anyone else?”
Dromon stepped forward. “Do you take lions?”
The announcer glanced down at Tetsujishi. “If he’ll eat them, then yes.”
And that settled it. Jeszin, Tepec, Stagro, Mef Darr, and Tetsujishi sat down at the table, and the pies were brought out.
As they began to eat, I began to think. During our quest, we discovered that my dad had a crystal that teleported all of us to the mountain above Slada. It was a one-way trip, and by the time we got back, the crystal was gone. Which meant that a crystal that teleported beings to just outside the city was in the hands of a madman. A madman who, last time we fought, had summoned a hydra. I kept expecting an enemy to appear on the mountainside.
Of course, we had already told Chancellor Xanros about this, and he said he was setting up defenses in case anything came. Still… no one in this city knew about this, except Xanros and some of his top men, the Quentiam Coetus, and me. There could be an attack any time, but no one here knew. In fact, here we were having a carnival. This felt… wrong, but I wasn’t sure what to do about it.
Well, the Quentiam Coetus knew all this too, and they didn’t seem too worried. Maybe I should relax and just enjoy the carnival for now.
Speaking of the carnival, apparently the pie-eating contest is over. And everyone is throwing up. Even the winner, Tepec, decided to eat a pie in celebration, and it turned out to be one too many for him.
And why is Mef Darr scooping his vomit into his hat? Sigh, why am I questioning it?
After everyone stopped vomiting, Tiwin came up. “Hey, you guys remember when we were in Nal Garuhm, and we posed as a travelling Carnival? Stag… something?”
“Stag’s Staggering Stallions?” Jeszin offered.
“Yeah, that,” Tiwin said. “We should do our act again. Perform for the people of Slada.”
“That is a great idea,” Mef said. “Let’s do it. Where are our costumes?”
“Wait, wait, hang on,” Stagro cut in. “Is it alright if we do that during another carnival? I feel like we should ask permission.”
“Well, let’s just do that,” Jeszin said. “Who do we ask?”
Tepec turned to the guys in charge of the pie-eating contest. “Yo, who’s in charge of this carnival?”
“Oh, that would be the Lady of the Tide,” the woman responded. “You can find her at the main tent.”
And in a few minutes, the Quentiam Coetus was ready. The Lady had said that it was okay for them to perform, so long as they didn’t take any money for their performance and didn’t interfere with the carnival. The Quentiam Coetus began to set up in the center square.
“All right,” Stagro said. “Now, I know what Jeszin, Mef Darr, Tiwin and I are doing. Dromon, Tepec, you weren’t part of our last performance; what do you guys want to do?”
“I could be a lion tamer,” Dromon offered.
“Don’t you need lions for that?” Jeszin retorted.
Dromon stared at her for a long moment, silently.
“Oh yeah, Tetsujishi,” Jeszin remembered Dromon’s large pet.
“I’ll lure some birds in and shoot at 'em, I guess,” Tepec said.
Meanwhile, Tiwin was going around telling people that the Staggering Stallions were about to perform, gathering a crowd, building up hype. The guy could work as a carnival announcer pretty well.
Finally, it was time to perform. I’d heard a bit about their performance in the dwarven city of Nal Garuhm, but only bits and pieces, and I have to admit to being curious. Everyone knew what the Quentiam Coetus could do as heroes, but what could they do as circus performers?
They started off slow. Stagro played a tune on his guitar. Mef climbed up on Dromon, then did several front flips in the air. Tepec summoned a bird and attempted to train it. Mef jumped around on everyone’s heads. Jeszin lifted Tetsujishi.
Then Dromon began to liven things up. He started out by wrestling with his lion. Then, suddenly, the lion broke off and ran away, then turned and charged toward Dromon. Dromon charged toward the massive cat, and the two jumped, slamming into each other, unleashing a loud thunderclap.
Unfortunately, as cool as that was, it had some unforeseen effects on the other acts. Tepec’s bird, startled, flew off. Tepec, unfazed, shot it out of the air without even looking at it. Mef loses his balance mid-jump, but Jeszin catches him before he can hit the floor. Jeszin, having slammed her gauntlets together and activated them, had become significantly bigger. Scooping up Tiwin as well, Jeszin began to juggle her smaller companions.
Again, things went awry, with Jeszin accidentally dropping Tiwin. But Tiwin took it in stride, bouncing back to his feet. Mef, meanwhile, landed on Jeszin shoulders, and then, Jeszin jumped, flying high into the air. At the apex of her jump, Mef jumped off her shoulders, going about 50 feet into the air total. On his way down, Mef transformed into a copy of Jeszin, and Tetsujishi caught him.
Suddenly, something else caught my attention. Guards are going around, dispersing the crowd, telling people to go back to their homes, that there was some kind of disturbance outside the city. The Quentiam Coetus didn’t stop their act abruptly, but brought it to a close, wrapping up with a big finish and a dramatic bow. The people remaining begin to applaud.
And that’s when it happened.
A loud crack rang out, and four huge meteors appeared in the sky, falling toward the city. The first one slammed into the civilian housing, crushing a few buildings. The second landed on the wall to the second ring of the city, knocking a chunk out of it. The third landed on the capitol building, smashing about half the building, and the last smashed a hole in the outer wall.
And that was just the beginning.
From the sky, a massive, black winged shape appeared, flying over the city. A dragon. The dragon began spewing acid everywhere, nearly hitting me with one blast. I watched the acid melt the wall beside me.
Things got worse. A large humanoid blue creature appeared, flying over the city. The demonic monster landed in the middle of the civilian housing, swinging a massive club, smashing buildings with each swing.
And then, of course, when things couldn’t possibly get any worse… they got worse.
I’ve seen some pretty big dragons, both good and evil. But I’ve never seen any creature as big as this monster. The massive red dragon flying down to the city had to be at least 50 feet long, its wings easily breaching 100 feet. It landed on the capitol building – which promptly collapsed under the monster’s weight – and began spewing fire. The dragon wasn’t even aiming at the city, just above it, yet still the heat hurt as it passed overhead. I think if it had actually aimed at the city, it could easily destroy the whole place.
“People of Bralphry!” the dragon roared. “I am Ildrut, and we are the wings of Tiamat! We are the new rulers of this land, and this city is ours! Our enforcers will soon be arriving to take hold of this city, and then we will take the rest of the land. This continent belongs to us!”
By this point, chaos had erupted. People were fleeing everywhere, screaming, crying, and worst of all, dying. I jumped into action, trying to usher the people away from the danger, but that’s not easy to do when the danger is all around. And then I felt someone grab my shoulder, and turned to see Mef Darr.
“We need to go, now!” Mef said.
“But the people…” I said helplessly.
“Listen, right now, the best thing we can do for them is live to fight another day,” Mef Darr said. “We stay here, we’re dead. We need to get to Nal Garuhm. That’s the safest place to go right now. We can figure out what to do from there.”
I gave a sigh. “All right.” I didn’t know what else to say, what else to do.
And then there was the running. Pulled along by Mef Darr, I followed the Quentiam Coetus as we pushed our way through the city, somehow finding our way to the hole in the wall. There, Dromon transformed, becoming a chariot, and we all jumped on, Tetsujishi pulling our new ride. And we kept going, putting as much distance between us and the city as possible.
As we fled, each of us glanced back at some point. Not to see if anyone was following us, nor to see what was going on. No, our minds were on the city, the people we had just left behind. Many of the members of the Quentiam Coetus had family and friends who lived in the city. We left them all. Left them all to their fates.
“We’ll be back,” Mef whispered, a solemn vow to the people we’d left behind. “We’ll be back.”