The caravan of coaches was somewhat large in size - about 20 in number with about 100 guards and servants riding along side. It progressed slowly, winding leisurely south over the gentle hills with the somewhat more rugged Rattooth Mountains on the right. Their strength in number made them very comfortable in the assurance of their safety and though the horses, late in the day, seemed somewhat more nervous and hesitant to continue on, all were confident that whatever was making the mounts afraid could be handled with ease. "Probably a mountain lion or a pack of wolves," suggested a guard and everyone agreed. They sat up camp slightly before dusk, to the east of the road, about 15 miles southeast of Westmark. Their multitude made the site seem nearly like a fair with the various brightly colored tents and abundance of smells and sounds coming from the various camps. Those grooming the horses and mules of the caravan were probably the only members of the convoy that were alarmed, for the animals seemed very tense, their ears laid back as if waiting to hear an expected sound as their eyes darted all about them.
The groomsmen scanned the skies and there were some fairly small thunderheads forming in the west from the heat of the day.
"We might be fixin' to get a thunderstorm," an older groomsman said to the others, hoping the explanation would satisfy both his and his companions concern over the agitation of the horses. The others nodded and withheld their opinions, secretly praying this was the case. The animals would not take their feed but seemed to want to bunch together, peering toward the south often.
Night fell slowly in the fashion of high summer with a lingering sunset and brilliant stars filling the huge sky above. At the many campsites of the convoy there could be heard laughter, the sounds of eating and drinking as well as talk and even lighthearted song. The sentries at the perimeter of the camp were equally as relaxed at first, humming to themselves and enjoying the cool breeze that was teasing them with relief after the sun had set for the day. But as the night progressed and the sounds from the camp slowly died away as the travelers drifted off to sleep, the sentries all began feeling as if something was not quite right. The night was still, but there was no sound of crickets, owls or frogs. The horses were quiet, but all seemed very alert, quickly turning to any sound that they made.
It was deep in the night, only a few hours before dawn when it all began. First they became aware of something large moving just outside the radius of the campfires, circling the camp. Much too big to be any common animal, they also became aware of a damp, earthy smell that seemed mixed with some odd musk. The horses suddenly went absolutely mad with terror, whinnying, rearing and bucking. Throughout the camp everyone awoke from the noise and rushed to the make-shift corral. The pen was alive with hysterical animals, desperate to break free. But before anyone could do anything, the beast appeared, rushing suddenly out of the darkness its huge maw open and full of rows of sharp teeth. It moved incredibly fast for such a huge creature, leaping over the corral fence like a deer. The horses and mules scattered as it flashed out with its rear claws, splintering the wood of the pen. Chaos filled the camp site as men rushed to the pen with weapons and torches, horrified at the monster that charged across the corral toward them, biting and clawing at any horse that didn't get out of its way.
Men shouted warnings as the thing reared back on its legs and suddenly gave an incredible leap, sailing high into the air and down upon the mass of men standing horror-stricken by the gate to the pen. It used its body like a catapult stone, slamming down hard on its belly with its mouth opened wide and four claws fully extended out. Some got out of its way, but five were crushed beneath its massive weight and the thing seemed to squirm as if trying to squish them like one would a pesky fly.
Others rushed in, weapons drawn, but the monster seemed to be uninjured by the impact and sprang to its feet again as the men swarmed in against it. One guard swung a long sword straight at the creature's massive pointed snout. The creature tried to bite the sword out of the air yet missed and the blade hit it squarely between the eyes with a nearly metallic clang. The well-aimed strike only bounced off the beast's shell-like head, but before the guard could swing again, it shot out with its mouth and snapped the warrior into its maw. The man gave a gurgling scream as the powerful jaws crunched through chainmail, muscle and bone before the thing yanked its head to the side once like a dog snapping the neck of a rabbit. The man was tossed aside and the creature spun around to face another opponent.
From different sides, two guards swung huge war axes down, aiming for where the monster's shoulders connected to its front arms. One blow was deflected like the sword, but the second managed to find the space between the beast's rock-like body armor. A small trickle of black blood indicated a very minor wound, but the thing roared loudly like an enraged elephant and slashed at the axe-wielder with a rear leg. The blow knocked the man to the ground, axe sailing from his grasp. The monster pounded its foot down on the fallen man's chest, its razor-sharp talons impaling him. It was angry now and leaped slightly up, knocking two of its attackers down. The first put up his shield as the vice-like jaws closed down upon him. The metal shield bent like a twig and the creature ripped it away, taking the man's arm with it.
Suddenly there came the sound of several horses charging at full gallop and the men attacking the creature dove out of the way. Before the monster could look up, four lances slammed into its right side, one of the four discharging a blast of energy upon impact. The beast was flipped over by the burst but only for a moment, for it twisted back to its feet. Before it were four plate-armored knights astride experienced warhorses that ignored their terror of the creature and encircled the thing. One knight thrust his lance at the site of the shoulder wound but the creature lunged forward and the lance bounced off the beast's armor. The thing swung its front claws at the warhorse in front of him, aiming for the legs. The horse fell hard, dumping the knight off. Down came the beast's huge claw on the horse, slamming into the downed stead's torso, then sinking its claws deep into the flesh as it used the horse to lunge at the knight that was franticly trying to get to his feet.
But one of his companions leaped from his horse to the ground, sword in hand, in front of his fallen friend, meeting the creature's charge head-on. The monster plowed over the knight, who managed to get a swing aimed at the creature's maw, knocking a few teeth from a mouth brimming with thousands more. The knight was knocked to the left of the beast and managed to roll out of the reach of the thing's claw. Another knight dove on top of the monster, wielding a pole-axe like a spear, aiming at the yellow eyes of the creature. The blow missed its mark, the blade bouncing off the heavy head armor of the monster. Undeterred, the knight reared up and slammed the blade down at the gap where the head plate met the back of the horrid monstrosity. The blow found its mark and sank in about an inch.
The monster screamed in pain and leaped straight up into the air, the suddenness of the movement knocking the knight from its back. Its fury was released on the knight, who twirled his pole-axe at the beast's flashing claws and fangs. The beast took several blows to its head but did not seem to notice in its rage, for after a few moments it had knocked the pole-axe from the knight's hands and snapped its powerful jaws onto his head. The helm only delayed his death a second, and the monster tore the knight to shreds.
Another of the fallen knight's companions grabbed one of the dropped war axes and with a loud roar slammed the axe down on one of the beast's bloody front claws. The blow seemed to do no damage, but the knight brought the axe up and down twice more, aiming for the claws of the beast as it continued to tear up the body of the dead knight. Another knight, still on horseback noticed a gap on the monster's back armor plates, one which stood at an angle from the rest of its plates almost as if it were some sort of strange fish fin. Noticing the space behind the 'fin' seemed less protected, he thrust his lance into the space. The point sunk in half a foot and again the monster howled in pain, jerking around to put the vulnerable spot out of his range.
"The fin! Behind the fin!! Aim for behind the fin!!," the knight screamed to all nearby, but before he could do anything else, the monster reared up on its rear legs and swung its claws savagely into his mount's head, breaking the horse's neck and sending the rider down in front of the creature, who lunged in and snapped him in half before he could free himself from his fallen mount.
But his words had reached the ear of his axe-wielding companion and the knight raced to the rear of the creature, swinging with all of his might at the small space beneath the fin-like plate. His blow was true and the axe went in deep. The monster jerked to his left, his right rear claw flashing out against his attacker. The claws knocked the knight from his feet and it slammed down his foot, pinning the knight's legs as it turned, roaring in pain from the injury. The knight tried to pull his long sword free as the monster's teeth closed around his arms, but he was too late and the beast ripped his arms from their sockets, sending his body sailing into the air like a rag-doll.
The last remaining knight swung his sword at the bloody gap in the thing's armor as a dozen men swarmed over the wounded monster with spears, axes and swords. But apparently its injuries had taken the fight out of the monster, for as the men closed in, it reared up and leaped over some of the advancing men, and raced into the darkness, knocking aside one of the ducal coaches as it raced off. The coach crashed over on its side as the thing disappeared into the darkness, much to the relief of the survivors of its attack.