Shayliss stamped her feet a couple of times to make sure the rock was solid and not slippery, then closed her eyes and took a deep breath. It wasn’t the salt air of home, but at least it wasn’t the smell of smoke and mildew that had tormented her for the better part of a week trapped in the inn. The sky was mostly clear, the sun was shining, and there was hope of soon being able to have clothes that were both dry and clean without resorting to magic. Even after months of being able to evoke miracles at her whim, she still wasn’t comfortable using them for household chores, and hadn’t bothered to learn the spells that Balekh relied on for such things… especially since it was so much easier to create fire than banish dirt, and she was always afraid she’d burn the building down, much less her wardrobe.
But, now, the rain was over, the town was starting to resemble civilization again, and everything could go back to some semblance of normalcy. Of course, as soon as she thought that, she realized she’d just cursed herself. It helped that the thought was followed shortly by a thundering sound from the north. She cautiously peeked open one eye, her face having gone from a look of serene peace to pinched anticipation in a moment. Sure enough, the sound was racing ahead of what could only be a surge of water heading down from the mountains.
“I’m glad you’re safe, honey,” she muttered to herself in a deeper tone of voice. “Oh, of course, dear, I ran as soon as I saw it. Shame about everyone else in town,” she replied in a self-recriminating tone.
“Well, it’s not like you had any way to warn them, right?” She started casting around on the ground for anything that wasn’t soaking wet, “No, everything was wet, and I certainly wasn’t going to tear my dress just to try to save a few lives…” Grimacing at the act, she reached down and tore a strip of cloth from her skirt, produced a spark with a whisper, waved the now-burning strip, and then closed her eyes while incanting the words of a more powerful spell.
The fireworks were almost without sound, but the flares were blindingly bright. Citizens going about their daily business turned to take in the ominous sight, only to hear a woman’s voice yelling something. Some of those that were closer or more perceptive were able to make out that it was the pretty blonde girl that came with the adventurers, pointing north and shouting “FLOOD!”
A few minutes’ warning was more than the town seemed fated to get, and it certainly made a difference. Buildings near the river emptied, inhabitants running to higher ground, and the bravest souls rushed into the stables to free the horses. A handful made for the ferries, battening them down and hoping to ride out the incoming wave, now clearly audible to everyone. The slowest rushed into the church, the town’s chief priest/mayor frantically ringing the bell as the last of the flock tried to escape.
The water hit less climatically than Shayliss feared; she watched from the hill amidst some of the townsfolk as it rushed up about 100 feet into the town but failed to hit with tidal force. Besides a few swamped boats and the threat of rotted floors, it looked like the town might have dodged an arrow… but then she heard the noise that had been masked by the water. An unearthly, high-pitched keening wail was swiftly approaching down the river just behind the surge, and shocked voices shouted “Black Magga” at the sight of huge, night-black tentacles reaching out of the river and approaching at high speed.
As they hit the mouth of the river, they found purchase on one of the submerged docks and a horror began to pull itself forth. A titanic body, a mouth full of fangs, and tiny eyes full of hatred glared about at the first thing the ancient beast had to blame for her unexpected trip. Roaring out a challenge that caused several in the crowd to faint and the rest to bolt, the beast began to crawl out of the water and fixed its evil glare on the most prominent challenge an eldritch menace is likely to find in mortal society: the temple of Erastil. With a bellow of aeons-old hate, it began to pull itself towards its target.
Shayliss looked around. Somehow, she was still standing after everyone else had fled, only a few passed-out bodies to keep her company. “Why didn’t I run?” she wondered to herself. “It’s not like this is even my town… I did a lot. I saved most of them, right?”
“Of course you did, we would have done something about it, but we’re big damn heroes with martyr complexes. I mean, that’s the only reason you talked to me in the first place, ‘cause of saving your town when I didn’t really have to. But, of course, we wouldn’t expect you to do the same thing… even though you were the only one there who could.”
She was already running down towards the southernmost dock before she finished talking to herself. The cries of terror from the church were audible as soon as she got into town, even over the persistent, nagging wail of the enraged sea monster, pulling itself into town inch by inch as it wrenched its bulbous body free of the surging river, its rear tentacles seemingly still caught in some flotsam, slowing it down. She hit the dock at a run, skidded to a stop, took a deep breath while both cursing her own stupid bravery and calling to mind her magic.
“Get away from them you bitch!”
The squamous horror turned after about a dozen missiles of searing red light struck her, a few of them actually burning through her defenses and causing pain. It roared and shifted, tentacles straining to tear open the church already falling away, their purpose forgotten. It slowly began pulling itself in a new direction, towards the small mortal blasting it with hellish magics. Three dozen missiles in all surged through the city as the beast drew ever nearer, balancing its weight on the submerged shore, nearly free of the last of the flotsam that had carried it twenty miles downriver.
With the screaming beast filling her whole world, Shayliss felt the last of her magics exhaust, closed her eyes, and braced herself for the end.
And then, with no horrible terror in sight, but close enough to smell its noxious breath, the keening roar blocking out almost everything, she heard it… another surging thunder. With her last moment of coherent thought before the overwhelming realization of her pointless sacrifice, she flung herself down to the dock and wrapped her arms tightly in the mooring ropes, felt the water wash over her and the beast, and hoped that Balekh hadn’t made it to the dam…