Insurrection at Simpton : the Sewers (pt. 4a)

The sound of snarls and splashes surf along the sewer walls. “They’re getting closer!” exclaims Faye, who is looking past the figure of a sweat-dripping Arsen who is fiddling with traps on the floor. Syn, Lillith, and Timothy have their hands on their knees; heaving, torn, and tired, trying to catch their breath. Burning torches dance in the distance of the dark, narrow, corridor. Instead of providing comfort, the lights indicate approaching danger. A squad of blood-thirsty gnolls, beasts, and monsters are now inching towards the dead-ended band of wearied saboteurs. The saboteurs had a pyrrhic victory over the gnolls today when they rescued McGregor, a leader of the human revolution, and a handful of humans at the cost of dozens of other mind controlled prisoners. Brittney, former construction manager in Simpton, is desperately tying a rope around his wiry frame. “It’s just up there,” he says, pointing at a metal grate above them. He ties a fuse around a satchel charge. “I need you ladies to pull me back before we blow our way outta here.” A wry smile takes over his bloodied face. “Then, we can drop a big boom for those furry fucks.”

Fwoop-fwoop-fwoop, groans, and a splash — Arsen momentarily forgets about the imminent danger and turns to the group for approval as the arrow trap takes a gnoll down. “Hey kid!” Faye quickly pulls Arsen out of the way of incoming arrows and focuses her mind as she forces the rubble from the crumbling ceiling to block the path. Clouds of dust puff off the obstruction as the gnolls try to break through. Looking at the new hole in the ceiling Brittney mutters, “Time to clock out.” He turns to McGregor. “Hey big guy, toss me why don’t ya.” McGregor nods and tries to toss Brittney up a ledge. His grip slips, however, and Brittney’s brained against the far wall, and falls unconscious to the ground. A large block of stone breaks off the wall and pins Arsen to the ground. Without hesitation, Syn manages to roll the stone off the boy, but onto his left arm. Arsen howls in pain, but all anyone can hear is the monstrous howl coming through a break in the obstruction. Their blood turns icy as a pair of seemingly red eyes leer through the settling dust. For a moment, the group watches while the eyes move up and down as its owner breaths heavily. With one arm, Arsen struggles to raise his thunder cannon and balances it on Syn’s shoulder. “You idiots are taking too — ” Lillith is interrupted by a blast as the cannon deafens Syn and knocks back the beast behind the wall. The beast shrugs off the shot and barrels through the opening. It’s the largest gnoll the team has ever seen.

Gray haired and clad in a mix-match of plate armour with red tassels on the shoulder pauldron, the Elder-Gnoll roars. Even the gnoll regulars behind it seem to cower in the presence of their champion and its blood-rusted greatsword. It has lived a lifetime of brutal battles and has been baptised in blood many times over the normal gnollish life span. It charges the group, but there’s no time for fear as Timothy and Lillith cast eldritch blasts that fizzle off its armour. McGregor gets pierced with arrows while he pulls the unconscious Brittney to relative safety. Meanwhile, Faye takes a breath and projects an indescribable horror into the mind of the elder-gnoll. Startled, it lowers its weapon and swipes madly at the air allowing Syn to run past and behind it, daggers drawn. Her first dagger drags along the beast’s side and the second swings through the air with an overarching thrust that lands in the beast’s nape. It releases a howl as its muscles tighten, and a monstrous Hyena comes forward to block the party’s escape route. Lillith, seeing how ineffective her previous blast was, calls upon her god to channel energy through her. With calm, blackened eyes, she clasps her hands together and points her fingers at the elder-gnoll. A dark beam of energy erupts from her fingertips and slowly starts to engulf the creature, absorbing its strength as she mutters indecipherable words. McGregor, unable to attack, slaps Brittney awake.

“We need ye.”

“The fuck happened? My neck fucking hurts!”

“Ye got a little ahead of yeself.”

“It’s cause you can’t throw for shit, you — ”

Lilith shoots an eldritch blast between the two, hits the Hyena, and runs for it. Faye nimbly jumps up and hangs onto the ledge of the hole. Arsen hops onto McGregor’s shoulders and distracts the Hyena while Timothy shoots another blast at the elder-gnoll. It roars as it swings its great sword down onto Timothy, who deftly jumps out of the way. The Hyena bites McGregor’s elephantine leg but he just shakes the pup off. Seeing her chance, Syn jumps up and catches the next ledge.

Gnolls are now crawling through the ever diminishing wall of rubble. Encouraged at the sight of hanging morsels, they push and shove each other to get through. Seeing this, Arsen fires blindly into the hole, sheath’s his cannon, and jumps off McGregor’s shoulders, McGregor himself jumping after. Arsen grabs hold of a ledge. It crumbles. And he falls five feet onto a startled Hyena. It rears its head back and chomps at Arsen who is desperately clinging on with one good hand as it bucks. McGregor makes it, and signals Timothy and Brittney to make a break for it as he sees the gnolls squeeze their way through. Lillith has already started her way up the chasm and Syn climbs up to make room for Timothy. Timothy, hearing whispers of directions by demi-god ‘Thuls, effortlessly skips past the elder-gnoll and glides through the air over the hyena. Brittney makes a leap, but is propelled further by a swipe from the elder-gnoll. It swings its greatsword upward but McGregor miraculously grabs Brittney’s rope in mid-air, pulling him away from danger as he starts his climb up the wall. McGregor handily transfers the rope to Faye’s hands, who, at the brink of over exerting her mind, begins to look inward. Her fingers lift, like a feather over flame, as she cuts the chains of gravity holding her down. Time slows for her as her consciousness travels through her body, snipping invisible bonds and slithering forward, until, like a leafy sea plant separated from the seabed, she shoots upward, cementing back down certain chains to control her ascent. Arsen, more scared than he’s ever been in his short life clings on as the gnolls burst their way through the wall. The elder-gnoll turns its attention to the boy and barks at the encroaching gnollish regulars who snarl and cower back. Arsen’s palms start sweating, his heart is beating louder than the sounds of his comrades screaming at him to get up. His vision blurs and narrows onto the face of this towering monster. It’s eyes turn blood red; it’s mouth agape revealing rows of uneven blade-like teeth and frothy saliva; it unsheaths its Orcish, saw-toothed dagger. Images flash in Arsen’s mind of his mother’s bloodied hands over his own, and then to the hands of the old Orc pulling him away, and then to the Orc’s smelter that his own hands have tamed countless times. This is not how I die. A familiar feeling overcomes Arsen as a greenish tint surrounds him, masking the foulness and fractures and fatigue of the day. In an instant, he is clambering up the walls, the sounds of snarls below, the blinding light of day above, and his heart hammering faster than the smith’s guild’s halls. A few feet away from salvation, his vision fades to black. Arrows fly upward past him. And the last thing he sees is McGregor’s large hands grabbing him.

Timothy tip toes and peers over the side of the well as the alchemist’s-fire-wrapped satchel charge plummets downward. “What’s with these dumb kids,” says Faye as she sighs and pulls Timothy back by the collar just as an eruption of flame and gib comes shooting out of the well. Black smoke lingers as the team collects themselves; Syn wipes the blood off her daggers, Lillith is basking in the smell of burning corpses, and Arsen is sitting against the well and coming to his senses. “Hey, uh, thanks big guy. Ya know, for uh, catching my limp body.” Brittney says, rubbing his cheek that has a fresh, red handprint. “Nae Probl’m.” McGregor replies, but he isn’t looking at Brittney. His gaze is Eastward where large clouds of billowing dust provide a backdrop for the relatively measly prison walls. “Looks ‘lik thers more work ta be dun.”

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