With Alec distracted by the invading group, I took the opportunity to reach for the sword he had thrown at the ground. He was right about it being fake in the sense that it wasn’t the blade I guard, but it was still a working blade and very sharp. I curled my fingers around the hilt and swung my arm back, cutting into Alec’s bicep. Ignoring his cries of pain, I didn’t hesitate to shift my weight so I could connect my elbow with his side as he started to slide off my back. A shot rang out but it hit the cavern’s ceiling as I scrambled towards the nearest wall. Debris rained down upon us and I felt small pebbles strike me hard on my back like little knives.
As I dug my fingers into the cold ground during my retreat, I felt tingling vibrations and looked up to find one of the two Aatxes charging. Wisps of shadow rolled off of its stocky body and curled horns. It’s ghostly illuminated eyes narrowed at me as it neared and I could hear the labored breaths it took with every gallop. I rolled out of the way just as the great beast passed, but I heard a cry from Alec and I looked over to find he had been knocked hard onto his back almost to the other side of the cavern. He remained still on the ground. With multiple sources of motion going on all around, the Aatxe turned from Alec’s still body and charged into the fray.
“Bear’s back, that’s a lot of blood,” Dee murmured as she knelt beside me. Strands of dark hair stuck to her sweat covered forehead. With all the commotion going on in the cavern, I hadn’t even seen or heard her approach.
Surprised, I turned to her. “What are you doing here?” I wearily asked Dee as she holstered her great blade and crouched down next to me. “I told you all to leave.”
Dee had just about gotten me to my feet when suddenly I felt her push me hard against the cavern wall and disappeared behind a charging Aatxe. I cried out in shock but to my surprise, the Aatxe slowed and I saw a crown of dark hair and a pair of strong hands gripping the Aatxe’s horns. With her boots dug into the earth, Dee fought back against the great Underworld beast’s force. She held on tight, every muscle flexing while the Aatxe dug in its own hooves forcefully into the ground and pushed against her. They remained locked in their struggle but I could see Dee was slowly starting to lose ground.
“Go Nienna!” She roared. “Get to the others!”
I glanced over to the way out where the rest of our group was struggling with the other Aatxe and Alec’s people. Stumbling to the wall, I propped my weakened body against it as I followed it towards the others. Something clanged against the wall and I looked at my hand with surprise to find that I still held onto the blade. Despite the blood, I held onto it so tight my knuckles turned white.
With the others here, I knew I couldn’t overload the walls. It would surely kill them. But what could I do at this point? My body ached and my wounds burned with every shuffled step I took. I was not in good shape and doubted I could fight my way out of here and get the others out. When I looked around at all the skirmishes happening around me, I breathed a sigh of relief when Quint caught sight of me. He rushed to my side, dodging a swift, slender man dressed in black from head to toe. Quint called out to Clarkus who was nearby and the Charr tackled the man in black in a roll but came up with nothing as his prey disappeared in a cloud of smoke. Clarkus wrinkled his nose and growled in frustration as he swiped at the air around him in search for the man.
“I thought I asked you to get them home,” I said as Quint offered to help hold me up but I waved him off.
“It wasn’t me,” he admitted, with a gentle shake of his head. “It was the others. Namely Alena.”
A smile tugged at my lips. They had come back for me and even though I had sent them all away, I felt a deep sense of joy in the gesture. I didn’t know exactly what I had done to deserve their rescue, but I supposed it would be something to discuss if we could all get out of here alive.
My smile fell as the reality of what was happening around me sunk in again. “Dee. Someone needs to help Dee,” I muttered as I looked frantically around the cavern for her and the Aatxe she had been locked in battle with. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of green move quickly through the cavern with graceful ease to Alena’s side before sliding into a kneeling stance to call upon Dwayna’s power. A dome of brilliant blue surrounded Alena and Tuborg just as three of Alec’s men were about to set upon them. The men were pushed back at a distance and allowed Alena time to command her golem into battle.
“Tuborg! Help Dee!” I called to him and he turned to me and nodded before sprinting off again with light but purposeful steps through the chaos in the cavern. I tracked his movement for a moment, just in time to see him find and pick up Dee’s greatsword and breathed a sigh of relief. In Dee’s hands, that weapon proved to be an instrument of great damage and destruction. In Tuborg’s hands, a blade like that turned from blunt instrument to one of surgical accuracy.
“I found her!” I heard the Sylvari call from amidst the sounds of battle filling the cavern. He approached Dee and the Aatxe without even slowing down and as he came within a few feet of the great Underworld beast, Tuborg leapt into the air and brought Dee’s blade down hard on the Aatxe’s head. It reared up on its hind legs, towering over Tuborg and even Dee as it let out a furious roar. Blue and green plasma oozed from its wound and shaking its head, it turned its narrowed gaze towards Tuborg.
A sudden flash of light blinded me and my side ached as if I had been kicked in the side by an angry dolyak. I groaned and almost fell as I blinked to clear my flashing vision. I reached out for Quint who I thought was still by my side but I felt nothing but air. Raising the blade, I steadied myself against the rough wall as I tried to figure out what happened. A cacophony of cries, skirmishing, and Aatxe roars invaded my ears and mixed with the dizzying display of battle. I grew wobbly and in my weakened state I worried I might pass out.
“Quint?” I called out as I searched through the mess. A tall and slender Norn woman blocked my frontal view but I caught a glimpse of Quint’s boot on the other side of her. He was alive and moving for now at least.
Adjusting my weight against the wall, I took stock of my current condition. I was bleeding pretty bad and continuously losing energy, but I needed to do something to help. I looked aside at the cavern wall covered in my sigils. There was power stored there in the marks that I, and only I could access. However, if I did that, there wouldn’t be enough energy to overload the cavern like I had originally planned.
I’d have to rely on what little energy I had left.
I pressed my foot weakly upon the ground and concentrated. A circular pattern of dark energy spread out all around with me at the center. The pain from my wounds started to wane and I found myself growing more alert. My body felt less sluggish so I reached out for the Norn woman near Quint, but as I summoned up the energy to grasp her, a field of purple filled my view. It reflected my magic off its crystalline surface and sent it directly back to me. Instead of pulling me back as I had intended to do to the woman, the cold grip of my magic instead wrapped its fingers around my throat and squeezed until I could barely breathe before it quickly dissipated.
“Looks like your friends were too stupid to stay away,” Alec sneered as he limped through the field of energy. His left leg had been badly hurt as evidence by the long, bloody tear on his dark trousers. His black, greying hair was roughly tousled and there were scratches along his cheek and near his left eye. He glared sharply at me a tapped his pistol against his leg.
I remained silent as I massaged my neck as the sensation of the cold grip faded. We locked in a silent gaze across the small space between us. The magic field fell a moment later but I knew my energy was fading and I wouldn’t have much left to defend myself. The blade slipped a little in my bloodied hand again from my tired fingers so I tightened my grip as best I could and prepared myself as Alec raised his pistol at me. As soon as it was level and within reach, I swung the blade up and over sharply. A shot rang out as our weapons collided and I instinctively dodged to the side. Instead of burying deep inside my head, the bullet missed me and ricocheted off the cavern wall.
Having knocked his gun aside, I tried to quickly take advantage of an opening I created but my body was too worn from my wounds. Alec blocked my incoming strike and grabbed my shoulder, his fingers squeezing tightly. Pain sharply seared through my back and my body immediately broke out in a cold sweat. With my focus on my screaming injuries, I didn’t see Alec bring his pistol hard across my face until it was too late. My whole face stung and I tasted blood. I stumbled back and fell to my knees. The whole world seemed to be spinning and for a brief moment, all I saw were sparks
At some point, the blade must have fallen from my hand because as I looked down, I found it resting on the ground next to me. I didn’t have time to reach over and pick it up so instead, I ignored the pain and connected my boot with Alec’s knee as hard as I could. He fell as a shot rang out in the cavern.
“Hang on Commander!” Alena called out as she left her golem to fight the last man left standing and came sprinting over between Seren and the blonde Norn woman with the hammer. Her chestnut rows bounced furiously as she maneuvered sharply between the two women locked in a tightly gripped stance. “Arise my brainless, arise!” As the cavern echoed with her command, the air around me grew heavy and cold.
The ground around Alec shifted slightly, like something was slithering just under the surface. A pair of minions of bone and sinew rose on either side of him and as the dirt slid off their skinless bodies, they held his arms and torso with their bony claws. With hollow eyes they watched Alec and hissed through clenched sharp teeth every time he tried to move. Unable to free himself from their grasp, Alec merely stared at them with disgust and anger. They were stronger than they looked.
“We need to get our people out,” I said to Alena.
The Asura nodded. “Right.” With a swift motion, Alena turned to Alec and kicked his pistol from his hand. “Hrmph!” She huffed at him.
Alec tried to kick Alena but she hopped out of the way and shot the man a glare. “Nice try murderous scum,” she spat as she bared her rows of sharp teeth. Behind her, her giant golem came lumbering over. It was covered in spats of blood which I knew was from its victims. Golems and minions never bled. “Watch him, Gordo,” she ordered the golem. “And if he moves, smash!”
The golem looked down and moved closer to Alec who at this point had started to pale at the sight of the large undead creature.
I felt the ground vibrate under me again and I looked up to find the other angry Aatxe charging at us. Its otherworldly eyes were locked on us with intent to kill. I let out an exasperated sigh. At the time, having a pair of Aatxes housed in a trap seemed like a good idea. Then again, I had never intended to be the one to have to deal with them.
“Watch out!” I yelled as I grabbed Alena and pulled her back with me as I threw myself out of its path. Alena’s minions huddled close to Alec and stayed safely out of the way.
Sliding to a stop, the Aatxe turned back and let out a frustrated snort. It pawed at the ground and let out a deafening roar before charging for us again. I picked up the blade and pulled myself to my feet and Alena did the same. Focusing as best I could, I mustered what energy I had left. Side by side, we were about ready to strike when I felt something sail by my face. An arrow buried itself in the Aatxe’s snout, stunning the creature. I shot a surprised look over my shoulder and found Artis with a bow in hand.
“What? It’s not like he was going to need it anymore,” the hunter replied as he stuck his thumb over his shoulder at the dead man on the ground behind him. Artis suddenly grew rigid and he pulled back the bow string again to fire another arrow at the Aatxe who was violently shaking its head, trying to dislodge the original arrow from its snout.
A shimmer of red reflection caught my attention as Seren came tearing by Artis with a large hammer in her hands. “Handle her for me!” She yelled at him.
Artis flashed her a confused look but readied the bow once he saw the blonde woman chasing Seren. He pulled the string back tightly and an arrow formed in the empty space as he lined up the shot. He released and the arrow embedded itself in the woman’s gut, causing her grunt in surprise and double over and fall.
Seren never slowed, not even when she reached me and Alena. With a determined scowl on her face, the guardian raised the hammer to her side and gave it a firm swing at the charging Aatxe’s head. There was a flash of brilliant light and the great beast was thrown onto it’s back across the cavern.
“Wow, what a hit!” Alena uttered, her crystalline eyes wide with awe.
Seren was a young woman of small stature but as she stood confidently over the Aatxe about to deliver the final blow, I had never seen her stand so tall. The Aatxe uttered a pitiful groan as it lay on the cavern ground. Rising the hammer high above her, Seren brought the weapon down upon the beast’s head, crushing its skull and rendering it lifeless.
“Wow indeed,” Artis uttered appreciatively as he approached from behind. “Now, can we get out of here?”
A great guttural cry rose up and echoed through the cavern as the tall and slender Norn woman fell lifeless onto her back in front of us. A scepter carved with Norn markings stuck out from her chest near her heart. Blood dipped off of the decorative feathers.
“I second that,” Quint managed to say between heavy breaths. His coat had been torn and burned from strikes of light and there was a narrow cut near his temple that slowly seeped.
“Get Dee and Tuborg,” I said, pointing over to the pair who together had bested the second Aatxe but were now arguing over who got credit for the kill. I turned and glowered at Alec who was still being held captive by Alena’s minions. He still had answers for me. “And we’re taking him with us.”