FEAR THE BEAST, THE MONSTROUS MAN WHO BURNED OUR FIELDS SINCE TIME BEGAN UNLEASHED UPON ALL HOLY PLAN FROM FREEZERS TO THE FRYING PAN FEAR THE MAGE AND ALL HIS WRONGS PLAGUED ON US THROUGH DEMON'S THRONGS DISFIGURED BY A DEATH SO LONG SOUND THE ALARMS, RING THE GONGS! FEAR THE CREATURE, SCALES AND BONE WHO SCREAMS AND CRIES A HORRORED MOAN OFFER ROCK AND OFFER STONE AND PRAY FROM LIFE YOU SHAN'T BE THROWN FEAR THE BEAST, THE MONSTROUS MAN WHO BURNED OUR FIELDS SINCE TIME BEGAN UNLEASHED UPON ALL HOLY PLAN RUN FROM DANGER IF YOU CAN. (THE DEVIL'S POEM) The air was thick with smoke's blackened plague. From the tops of the forests it could be seen, billowing darkness reaching up for heaven's insatiable purity, desperate to be cleansed of the disasters in its wake. Fire licked and slobbered over homes and farms, over families and livestock, rampaging over dried grass and shattered bails of hay littered throughout Millscreek's pride. The Greene family farm had provided bountiful crops and flowers, a great source of income and lodgings for passersby. Now it was ashes. Now it was nothing. Screaming men and women sloshed through rippling ponds and filled their useless buckets, hoping to douse the intruder that had so suddenly destroyed centuries of toil and fruitful labor. Evangeline stood on the brink with courage in her hands, tossing the pail's contents atop what remained of the barn's affliction, blackened wood sent steaming as the pressures of fire were relieved from it. The entire village had emerged from their homes and offered their assistance in quelling the flames that threatened them all, and dangerous though it was the people of Millscreek had always known such horrors awaited at their doorstep. The Darkwoods held more than wild animals and greenery within it's shadowed grasp. Each citizen of the simple village remained solemnly aware of that fact. The final batches of water were dispensed among the last remaining destruction. For a moment, each of the villagers shared a moment of silence and collective exhaustion, panting and observing what The Monster had left behind in his rage. Such temporary quiet was disrupted by the shriek of a woman. All rushed to the area of concern where Annette Greene, the woman of the lands that were burned wept and shuddered over a small mound of unrecognizable something, charred and discolored beyond identification. She knew what it was, though. The woman scooped up the ashen remains of a child and screamed to the skies, holding close to her chest what little the fires had left in their vexated wake. "Elizabeth," she cried, "my sweet baby girl..." Evangeline clasped a porcelain hand over her mouth and stifled her own tears, stepping backward from the scene in sheer disbelief and unwillingness to face the grim reality before her feet. The Monster had burned down homes in his rage, looted goods, slaughtered livestock and halted trade routes, instilled fear and terror in any who lived on the outskirts of Paladia and stolen gold and income for his own. But the death of a child was something different altogether, another type of sin unforgivable and offered the most extreme of punishments. Evangeline clutched her chest and allowed a sob to burst forth, her face drenched in tears and sweat. "Something must be done!" shouted the Elder, slamming his great walking stick into the ground. "We need to satisfy the beast for longer periods of time than weeks or months. He expects too much, and now one of our own has perished!" He gestured to the corpse of the small child and the weeping mother looming over her. "What does he want that we have not already given?!" shouted a man in the crowd, the florist from what Evangeline could see. "We have offered food, ore, gold, valuables, necessities, weapons..." "There is nothing more we can do," said another. "Perhaps we should move on. I hear Ravenscliff is safe." "The people of Ravenscliff are depraved, we can't go there!" "No, he has a point!" came a fifth voice from the crowd, an elderly one laced with the stress of his years. "Ravenscliff has a good treaty with the creature, if we could strike a similar bargain--" "But we have nothing to give! He has burned or stolen all our resources and he cannot be killed." "Move!" shouted one. "Move!" shouted another, and when the disease of unity had spread through the crowd the Elder offered up a hand to silence them all. "We could move," he stated. "That would mean forsaking what we've built here." "It's not worth livin' if we can't even protect it." "Why move when we can sacrifice?" This was the final voice that came through, dark rich tones that made the hair on Evangeline's neck stand straight in sudden alarm. She looked not to the Duke DuBois, not a noble despite his title, only a fierce drunk who owned Millscreek's brewery. "In the old legends, people sacrificed virgins to great beasts who terrorized them. It kept them safe for many years, saved lives even, all for the price of one. I think this is what would benefit our little community most, don't you agree?" The immediate demands of the situation tipped the odds against Evangeline's favor. She studied the faces of her peers to see whether or not they agreed with the nasty implications of Dubois's words, only to find chills shooting down her spine as she noticed the expressions on the faces she observed. All of them were looking at her.