Scouting and Order
As Yemmi slipped off after Celo and Morath, Bardic waved his arm, signaling the others to hurry into the first gate. He set out what he felt would be a working, two-abreast order of battle. Edric, awaiting the onset of dawn and the return of the scouts with equal impatience, frowned and drew Bardic aside. He quietly lectured the northern barbarian on some tactical insights. Bardic returned to the fighting men with a shrug, and re-arranged the fighting order, three abreast.
Celo and Morath returned. Although the main gate guard had heard some of the noise, they had not become alarmed. The main gate was in a much wider area, lit by large braziers, and narrowing down to the mighty, metal-bound valves themselves. Edric thought for a few moments, and gave Morath and Celo instructions to return to a point near the T-junction and waylay any guards who did check eastward; there to await the arrival of the heavily-equipped fighting men. The two scouts double-checked contingencies and paced back into the darkness of the tunnel.
Advance to the Junction
Bardic made some last-minute adjustments, handing out the two picks and two crow-bars and Yemmi’s bag of cracksman’s equipment. The phalanx walked at Forgrim’s slow pace into the darkness of the tunnel.
Behind them, Keth and Edric greeted Mitra’s blessed dawn with prayer and silent meditation then hastened after the fighting phalanx. By the time they caught up, Bardic had met up with the scouts, and Yemmi was waiting nearby.
“Yemmi, why aren’t you carrying your own bag?” Edric wondered.
“Aw, see it’s best ter keep me hands free,” Yemmi expostulated.
Edric looked at him skeptically. “Yemmi, carry your own bag. You can follow with Kuruk.”
Keth slotted in behind Hod and Edric behind Forgrim. Kuruk rode his pony at the rear: his instruction was simply to advance where he could be useful, otherwise to hold back. Yemmi stayed very much to the side of the passage: he had no intention of being in the thick of the fighting!
Bardic’s plan was simple:
“Morath and Celo slide in the shadows as close to the gates as they can. We move out in ranks. We tackle the guards. Morath and Celo look for their chances as usual and Kuruk rides around the flank. Yemmi – where are you Yemmi? – slips past and tries to make sure the gates are open or stay open.”
The Battle at the Main Gate
Picks and crowbars were laid quietly down by the junction and the first three fighting men of Edric’s force, Bardic Gollarn and Kayan, made their last-minute checks of gear. Behind them, Hod Forgrim and Keth stood ready.
Celo and Morath slipped along the east wall of the great chamber. It was wide-throated, and the irregular walls offered plenty of shadow. Morath’s habitual dark garb proved enough to baffle the eyes of the nine guards, waiting near the gates in two ranks, but Celo’s clothing was more visible. Celo, realizing he had been seen, gave vent to a sharp whistle of warning.
Bardic grunted, slapped down his visor and marched forward and around the corner. Perhaps unconsciously, he moved as swiftly as his armor would allow, leaving the second rank increasingly far behind.
An urgent gonging sound, as though a temple bell had been rung in alarm, could be heard over the constant background of deep, far-off roaring that filled the air. There would be no surprise today!
The guards were all Damsons, and they were more lightly armored than the mercenaries they had sent out into the Gates. They separated into two ranks, one charging forward towards Morath and Celo, and the other falling back to ensure no-one could get through the gates by any chance.
Morath grinned like death: in each hand he held a vial, and as the Damsons raced in, he cast them! One Damson leapt aside and one managed to plough on even with a face-full of Yellow Lotus, but two others toppled and fell, beatific expressions on their faces. Then Morath ducked away, as Bardic, Gollarn and Kayan charged home. The five remaining Damsons – four Berdiche-axe-wielding fighting brothers and a section leader – pulled back inside the main doors, slamming them shut.
The approach of the west gate guards reached Edric’s ears. He called loud and clear in warning, and Forgrim, Hod and Keth were well-prepared as the Pass guard reserves raced to the main gate chamber. Morath weaved through his fellows and readied a third vial. This one contained deadly Black Lotus dust, and two Friars that were caught in its dispersion fell choking to the floor of the chamber! A third, inadvertently kicking up the dust, also fell victim.
Kuruk trotted his pony around the melee forming around Forgrim Hod and Keth, and sent arrows thudding home into easy targets. Clearly these Friars were tough, but the magnificent fighters he was with were making short work of them. Bardic was not even bothering to help: he had shaken the blood off his great-sword, and was marshaling his forces. Yemmi had gathered up his bag and was getting cautiously closer to the main doors. Celo was making sure the fallen did not rise again.
The fighting dwindled then ceased. None of the Friars had given ground, and all were dead. Yemmi inspected the gates glumly, sucked in a breath then expelled it noisily.
“It’ll take a while… there’s bound ter be a bar across them. Gotta drill through an’ pop the bar, see.”
Picks and crowbars were fetched, but Yemmi, working quietly away for about five minutes, sank his auger through the left-hand door on the hinge side, and slid a slender but sturdy stiletto through. He nodded to Celo, who had been assisting, and the Tauranian passed the word to be ready:
“When Yemmi springs the bar, you will have to charge the doors and push them open before they can get it back in place.”
Gollarn and Bardic set themselves, and at Yemmi’s signal, smashed the great doors open!
In Mitra’s Honor
The chamber beyond was large, but dark compared to the brazier-lit area before the gates. The five defenders from the gates stood ready, and behind them, a large pedestal, bearing a massive statue of Mitra. To either side of the pedestal more well-armored Friars could be glimpsed and the chanted words of a Mitran prayer for Aid could be heard from somewhere beyond.
The room was lofty. Its roof was supported by four columns, buttressing the corners. Each column was carven as of many evil creatures cowering from the statue of Mitra. No further time could be spent to take in details, as both defender and intruder flung themselves at one another!
The power of the intruders proved overwhelming. Whether it was Kayan’s dazzling speed, Morath’s toxic bombs, or the brute power of Bardic, the Damsons could not cope. The first line of defenders was cut down and the heavier-armored reserve dealt with piecemeal. Here, Keth’s Quarterstaff skills proved useful – he could often smash a Berdiche axe’s haft, leaving the defender helpless and easy prey for any nearby rogue. Hod struggled to pierce the layered scale and chain of the defenders, and Kuruk held off wasting any further arrows. Twelve heavily-armored foes there were, and they showed no sign of surrender: they died to a man!