Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Winding Road: Desperate Measures

by Frank Gori

Mal ordered everyone to retreat down a floor, and anyone who was foolish enough to stick around to listen to the guard-turned-dragon hammering away at the palisade deserved to die. In Zool’s assessment, the best current option was to run, hide, and try to sneak around this thing when it came for them.

Dab had to carry Laz down, meaning the team’s magical heavy hitter was tapped. The glazed , confused look to Laz’s eyes indicated Despair had taken hold. As a magus, Zool had pushed that envelope before and reality bended itself in a confusing array that was just too much to handle. Only time and rest would bring Laz back, assuming they survived.

Against a dragon a number advantage meant very little. It couldn’t be a true dragon, the walls and gates wouldn’t even slow a true dragon that size. It was a trick of magic perhaps, though if it was as fierce as it looked the difference was perhaps merely cosmetic. The numbers would only matter if they could get the dragon in a tight space and swarm it from all sides. Considering that roughly half the prisoners were useless in a fight, running was the best call.

“We need another option,” Mal mused aloud. That was bad, Zool had worked with Mal almost five years the man always kept the veneer of being in control of a situation. If he let a comment like that slip, he was close to losing his composure and without real leadership the group would be fucked.
Zool put a hand on Mal’s shoulder and looked him in the eye. It was a quick silent conversation, amounting to “You are not alone. I have your back.” It was enough. Mal took a deep breath before turning away and signaling everyone to gather round.  

“Listen up. I’ve learned something today and that is that we’re dealing with competent professionals here,” Mal seemed to meet each eye, Zool smirked a little as a few of the prisoners muttered. “That means they didn’t leave something as dangerous as that dragon-thing without a plan if it got out.” Mal looked to the prisoners, “one of you knows something… One of you has heard something we can use.”

The elderly blacksmith cleared his throat and every eye turned toward him as he spoke, “well, there was a rumor.” His tone was reluctant and almost betrayed a hint of embarrassment; “ they used to say that there was a secret sixth basement and it has access to the sewers.”

Mal straightened, “we’re going to find out. I want everyone to the fifth basement looking, on the way down grab bunks tables anything we can use to barricade the way behind us. Anyone with enough magic to provide light, pair with the humans. Everyone else knock on the floor, listen for a hollow spot, check torch sconces for latches… get moving… Zool you’re with me. There’s something I want you to try.”

Zool followed Mal off to a private corner. 

“I know you don’t like to discuss your abilities but I know you can manipulate metal. I’m betting the way into that sixth basement is reinforced just like the other floors so I want you to try and sense it,” Mal said this in a hushed tone.

Guild secrets are guild secrets. The abilities of the Lodestone Blades weren’t to be shared. Zool gave Mal the tiniest hint of a nod before walking away. He’d try it.

Even from the fifth basement Zool heard the dragon’s triumphant roar as it tore through the palisade. Soon the sound of hammering was back as it reached the wall of iron conjured by Laz.

It took only a few seconds for Zool to compartmentalize that distressing clamor away to a different part of his mind. He stopped moving and closed his eyes. The familiar feel of the steel at his side and pressed into the rings of chain he wore as a shirt came first. They were as familiar as any part of his body, the weapons carried by his companions was next, then the locks and reinforced portions of the doors, then he felt the floor. He felt the door in the floor and far above the shattering of iron.

Moments later they were in the sixth basement, an armory with a sewer exit.