After saving the town of Saddlegap, the Scalesworn take a couple of days of much needed rest. Guests of the village, they want for nothing, especially as they continue to help toward the recovery of its people. Clerical aid ensures that everyone in town is back on their feet and recovered quickly.
While out for a stroll, one of the Sworn notices a cloaked figure moving through Saddlegap toward the farms across the road. She follows him carefully, moving to avoid notice. The man gets to a farm near the one the Scalesworn saved a few nights before and enters its barn in the back. Unable to stop him before he ascends a ladder into the barn’s loft, she waits below and listens in on a conversation in a language she does not speak.
Once the figure comes back down and heads back into town, she heads up cautiously and finds a second man, dressed like a farmhand, meditating in front of a smoking brazier.
Sensing the power and evil from the priestly device, she waits and watches. The farmhand speaks while in a trance, conversing with a dimly visible shape in the brazier’s smoke, telling it:
“The plan has failed. Saddlegap stands. The sacrifice was incomplete.”
The answering voice is rasping and clearly inhuman, though its source is obscured in the smoke save for a pair of glowing red eyes.
“All is in hand. Agents are in place. The pyre will still burn bright.”
The moment the conversation ends, the Scalesworn comes up over the edge of the loft, rushes the ‘farmhand’ and batters him unconscious. With the brazier packed away, she carries her prisoner back to town and calls the rest of the Scalesworn together with the town’s Sheriff. The danger to Saddlegap, it seems, has not yet passed.
What follows is a mad race to identify the agent that returned to town, find him and attempt to capture him. During the course of this surprisingly fierce battle outside the inn, the agent nearly kills the Sheriff and several of the Scalesworn, revealing himself to be a rogue of considerable skill. Despite his lethal blades and venoms, he is finally brought down and taken prisoner.
“You can’t… stop us,” he spits past bloody teeth. “She will rise.”
Then something glows hot enough under his clothes to burn away the fabric – a red tattoo the same shape as the ‘hydra’ symbol the Scalesworn found earlier. Remembering what happened to the goblin shaman during the raid on Saddlegap, the Scalesworn’s own rogue shouts for everyone to get away from the man.
The warning nearly comes too late. It is everything the Scalesworn can do to flee the captured assassin before he explodes in a fireball that decimates dozens of feet in all directions. At the same time, three other fireballs erupts through the town. Other hidden agents have also been detonated, their dying flames now threatening to fiinsh what the kobolds began.
The Scalesworn, battered and exhausted, pitch in to save the village yet again. Once the flames are out, and everyone who could be rescued is pulled from the ashes, they collapse in the most defensible building they can find. Stretched to their limits, they have once again triumphed.
But the mystery remains. Who is ‘she’? And why so much effort to burn such an out of the way, mundane little village?