The battle to free the merchants kidnapped by the Black Raiders rages on, and has reached a point of near desperation. Arvin’s Man is down, unconscious after several vicious blows from a massive, cornered, enraged goliath. The gnoll mercenary, with barely enough time to find his place amongst the makeshift, ragtag group, is dead. Throat torn out at the hands of a slaver’s scourge, poisoned by kank venom, he bleeds out in the sand, surrounded by enemies.
But all is not lost. Thuk’Cha and Carraksul, foraging for small game at night, hear the sounds of the struggle and leap into the fight. With the desert-toughened thri-kreen and the tough former slave entering the fray, the tide quickly turns. The goliath goes down first. Even in death the massive half-giant is dangerous; even as he breathes his last breath, he lashes out and delivers a powerful blow, injuring the dray caravan guard, Toothless. But with the arrival of help, the remaining bandits are dispatched quickly.
The hostages are freed, but only a few of them are in a position to drive the tavern-sized mekillot, or to defend themselves from danger along the way back home to Altaruk. After some begging and cajoling by the freed slaves, and wheedling by Hiccup, the party agrees to take them back to the trading town. They’re able to leave them with another group – some merchants they find traveling along the Trade Road.
Setting back off again, with Thuk’Cha in the lead, they again find the trail of the Black Raiders. More than a day passes. As night starts to fall on the second day, they come across the torn carcasses of two riders and four kanks. Clearly there were more riders here, but there is no sign of them now.
Thuk’Cha squats down and examines the scene. “Anakores. Make haste.” The party starts to run, but the dunes are endless. Soon, the signs are are upon them – shifting sands and burrowing noises signal the arrival of the scaly night creatures.