The gnome was cut off suddenly as enemy troops surged forward. The exchange was swift and brief before a second round of fire and explosives went of; devastating the soldiers unfortunate enough to get caught up on rough terrain in front of the ruined door. Arrows rained down, and rogues and front liners alike made quick work of those who survived long enough to make it to them. It was a tidy little trap that could have held off enemy troops for hours, but eventually their people would tire.
She had a feeling the enemy troops would not.
"Good; need one of you to go and retrieve for me, and quick," the oracle cut in when there was finally a break in the action. There was a pause as the Gronkenbonker's exchanged looks among themselves, and one appeared about to speak when Nia shouted "Go! Now!", causing those closest to her to take a step back while those in the back scrambled to fulfill her order.
"Stand ready," she called to her companions as the next wave of enemies began to close in, "The real battle begins when those guys return."
A dwarf scoffed while the ex-knight casting her a dubious look. "What do you have in mind?"
"Bypass the drones; go directly for their commanders," the oracle said with a grinned, and then the second wave was joined.
"Are you certain this is the right spot?" the halfling asked, a hit of irritation in her voice as she straightened; resting her pick axe against her shoulder once more, "There are thousands of crevices along these walls; what makes you think this is the one?" She crossed her arms, waiting for an answer.
"Whatwhatwhat? YoudoubtmywordsyoudoFigg?!" the little spectacled gnome responded, his words spoken as one long slur. "Itsallrighthereitis," he said, tapping at the thick, leather-bound pages, "Yesallrighthere. See!" He shoved the tome unceremoniously into the halfling's face, causing her to cry out and slap the tomb away. "Don't do that, Squibs; you know I can't read that damn thing!"
"Is here, alright," the dwarf said, tracing what appeared to be an imaginary line along the wall, "Though I see no way to open the bloody thing..."
"Great. We have an escape route, but no escape," Figg quipped with a pout, "Doesn't that damn book give us any instructions?"
"What? Oh! Yesyesyesyes, letmesee, yes..." The gnome said, pushing his spectacles up his nose as he thumped through the enormous volume, "Let me see... Escape... Escape..."
"Perhaps we can be of help?" croaked a voice curiously. All three heads turned.
Squips stood, mouth agape. "By the gods... Mud! When did you return?! We heard Gallwqm fell under attack!" he exclaimed, and then his lips pulled down into a frown as he began wagging his finger furiously at the grippli. "Andwhydidntyoucomeseemewhenyougotback?! Youweresupposedtohelpmewiththatthingyouknow!"
The dwarf grinned. "It's good to have you back, lad, but..." he tilted his head at the straw-haired figure beside Mud, "Who's your friend?"
"Yes, yes, yes; I know," the grippli said, waving away the gnome's antics, "And yesterday," He then turned his attention to the dwarf. "Thanks Vic, and this is my friend, Goban; he and his friends came here to help."
Ket was the only companion on the front lines to heard when the bells suddenly changed their toll. The others,- Edwin, Nym, Lago, Nia and Whisper, as well as a small group of volunteers from the Gronkenbonk troops,- were already charging ahead; cutting large swathes through enemy troops in search of their commander. Ket and Rumble had stayed behind to help hold the lines though, and the former knight could not forget that Lin and Nina were still back at the inn.
"Five minutes to Fall Back!" a voice sounded,- the red-haired female appeared to led the tinkers,- and the other groups began to sound off as well.
"Wait, what's going on?" the barbarian asked, obviously confused as he ran his sword through an advancing soldier, "Why did the bell change?"
She gave Ket an apologetic glance. "Look, we're sorry about your friends, truly... but we were only meant to hold them off long enough to open up the escape route. Once the others have had ample time to get their asses out of here, we'll be making our exits as well."
"Sorry lad; Ness tried to tell her, but I don't think your lady-friend wanted to listed," a dwarf said from the sidelines, "You're free to come with us if you'd like, but I'm afraid the others are on their own."
Meanwhile at the inn, it still wasn't business as usual, but the tone had changed considerably as a small group of locals began to take control of the situation; consoling those cowering in fear, organizing them into groups, and finding tasks even for the smallest of people; giving them a sense of purpose while they waited out the attack. Or so it to the witch and the monk who had no knowledge off the escape route, so when the sound of the bells suddenly changed and the order too move out was given, the pair were more than a little lost.
"What? Leave?! We got friends out there on the front lines; we can't just abandon them!"
One wizened old gnome with sharp features looked up at her sorrowfully and said, "We all know someone out there, lass; that's just the way it is. We can't all fight, you know; don't let their sacrifice be in vein."
Lin looks as though she was about to say more, but thankfully Nina was a little more level-headed and grasped the situation a little more quickly then her excitable friend. After some swift coercion, she managed to convince the monk to help her help the little folk evacuate. Lin, of course, was reluctant at first; but when it was explained that the others would likely be following suite once the common folk had time to make their escape, she had no choice to go along
So far her plan had worked out better than expected. Nia had initially planned to lead the charge herself, armed with the antimagic device while the others worked around her, cutting the enemy down. That had changed though when a small group of Gronkenbonkers volunteered to go with them, and Nia had immediately delegated responsibility of handling the contraption over to them.
She still led the charge, of course, but now she did so with sword and dagger in hand and Lago by her side; followed by the eight Gronkenbonkers with the device in the middle. The others followed behind; cutting down the enemy one the magic had passed over them before it could reform, and Whisper dive-bombed at the enemy sidelines to distract them ad keep them from closing in.
The real damage happened inside the radius of the antimagic field though; for not all soldiers seemed susceptible to it's effects. Most vanished as soon as the field hit them, and then reformed on the other side. There were a few however that stayed solid, and the party quickly learned to target these, for each soldier that they brought down, tens, if not hundreds, seemed to disappear or failed to reform. The group did not have time to take out every enemy along the way, but the reduction in their numbers was becoming noticable.
"I think I see their commander up head," the dragon called out from above, "There's a man there up ahead, and some sort of weird, winged snake thing."
Nia nodded. "Sounds like that could very well be the one we're looking for; lead the way, Whisper." Then, to the small folk, she adds, "My friends and I will break off once we get there; you guys keep taking as many of these things down as you can and try and keep them off our back. With any luck, this battle will end once this guy goes down."
The little folk roared (or squeaked) their collective agreement, and all parties turned course to follow Whisper through the crowd
"Fall back!" Ket shouted; one of many doing the same. The line had broken now that the battle had moved into the city, but there were still the brave few like Ket and Rumble who continued fight while the others made their escape. He slashed through one enemy, then bashed the next foe down with his shield, while only garnering a few few scraps to his steel, but was beginning to tire, and it was soon clear he would have to make his escape too, or risk being overrun.
"Ket! Ket! Over here! This way!"
The former knight chanced a glance over his shoulder to see Lin waving at him, jumping up and down. That was all the prompting he needed.
"Retreat!" he called out to the others; cutting down his nearest enemies before he turned tail and ran. As he did, he sheathed is sword and reached down to grab one of the small folk, slinging them over his shoulder. A second, feet dangling, got slung under his arm. Beside him, Rumble did the same.
"What are you doing here?" he asked when he reached Lin, and the three turned down an ally toward the side of the cavern.
"Waiting for you guys," the monk responded, and then looked back at Rumble and the lack of people behind them. "Are you all that's left?!"
"No," he said, shaking his head, and swiftly explained what happened as they went.
They found Nia waiting for them at the mouth of the escape tunnel with the blind and deafened drow, and after herding several remaining Gronkenbonkers through, they turned down the tunnel themselves.
"We have to hurry," Nina warned the others, "They plan to collapse the tunnel once everyone's throu-oh!"
Nina, who was already well-accustomed to running around blind, caught herself quite easily when her toe caught itself on the stone. The drow, on the other hand, was not so lucky, and the witch felt herself come to a halt when his hand wretched free of hers.
"Nina, what are you doing?" Ket said, skidding to a halt; but the half-elf was already at the drow's side when the tell-tale rumbling began, not from above like one would expect from a cave-in, but from below. "Nina, forget him; get out of there now!"
Lin, who had never seen the Worldbreaker before and did not know the danger it possessed, ran up to help them both. Rumble was already there though, and before the others could voice any protest, he grabbed them both and spun; putting his body between the finger that broke through the floor between them and Ket as the ceiling, and their world, came crashing down around them.
All around came the muffled screams of the scared and the injured, and the oread's pained but determined grunts.
"There they are!" The oracle said, catching sight of colourful wings, but it was when she got close enough to recognize the man with the winged serpent that she redoubled her efforts. "You!" Driven by rage, she began to cut her way through the thin line of enemy troops left between her and her quarry.
Edwin, of course, recognized the one-armed man as well.
"You're not escaping this time, Fistian," Nia said, finally breaking through the enemy troops, "This time we're bringing you down.
Silence rang loudly in the ears of those in the down in the cavern, and then a warm energy, invigorating energy washed over the two huddled beneath the mass of stone. Between them, something warm and fuzzy was curled between them shaking. "Lin... Nina..." came a warm, but strained rumbling voice, and then then two soft glowing orbs winked into existence, "Are you alright?"
There was silence for a long moment, and then a second voice, female, answered hesitantly, "Y-yeah, I think so... Nina?"
"That's... good..." rumbled Rumble slowly, almost lethargically, once they had both answered. Had Lin had the light to see by, she would have seen the crack running deep through his diamond core. "You two... need to... go... Can't hold up... much longer..."
"What? No! We can't just leave yo-"
"GO! Please... Others... need you..."
The fox, sensing the oread's desperation, managed to pull itself together long enough to begin poking around. "I thing there's a hole here through the rumble we can all escape through... It appears to be quiet on the other side." The fox leaped out from between them and wriggled free. "Oh... But you might want to get the monk to close her eyes."
Nina places a soft hand on the woman's shoulder. "Come on... Rumble's right. We need to get out of here." she said, and began to squirm her way out as well. The witch could not help but notice the uncomfortable moisture beneath her; she could already smell what it was. "Try not to pay too much attention to what you're about to see," she warned.
Lin paused, but reluctantly followed; thanking the oread and bidding him goodbye as she tried to ignore the lump in the throat... and the blood between her fingers... and the tiny bodies sprawled everywhere.
"Do... Do you see Ket anywhere?" the witch asked, fearing the answer.
"No, but... I think he was on the other side."
"And the elf."
Lin, not thinking, shook her head, but the half-elf was more then apt to read the silence.
When the two were finally ready to move on, they found the once bustling city of Gronkenbonk completely deserted; apparently, with their objective complete, the soldiers completely evaporated into the wind, but as they neared the city gates, the could hear fighting outside; a group of eight Gronkenbonkers still fighting furiously against the enemy forces.
And poor Rumble... As he felt the footsteps of the two young women through the earth as they walked away, the brightness of his eyelights begin to fade.
Sleep... It was finally time to sleep... he thought as he sunk into the ground.