Voices echoed up from below.
"You're telling me we've got no way to put out that goddamn fire?"
"Dirt from the ground outside. We can smother it"
"The walls of the pit are still wet. It looks like it's been drained recently"
"Yeah, that might have been useful about an hour ago, you fucking moron..."
Horst of Whiterun turned to Hermione Barca and nodded. Then, he leapt down from the trapdoor, landing on top of a Legion soldier, the sheer weight of the landing crushing the life from him. Then, Horst spun in a full circle, his axe held out wide, and savagely beheaded four other soldiers who were surrounding him. A fifth, a few yards away, spun round and charged at him. He made two paces before he was incinerated by a powerful fireball that roared out of the trapdoor, cast by Hermione.
"You lay a finger on my friends, and this is what happens to you!" Horst roared. He quickly realised he was surrounded, but fired up on adrenaline and anger, he didn't care. Two soldiers charged at him, brandishing swords. Using the handle of his axe, he blocked both of their blows then kicked one of them hard in the stomach, sending him tumbling backwards, whilst he slammed his axe down into the head of the other soldier, chopping straight through his helmet and horrifically splitting his head clean in two. Spinning as he heard footfalls behind him, he raised his axe but knew it was too late, as a soldier rushed forwards in a blur, thrusting his sword before him...
The soldier suddenly stopped in his tracks, falling like a marionette whose strings had been cut, his blade stopping inches from Horst's heart. A crossbow bolt protruded from the base of his skull, the weakest point in standard-issue Legion armour. Only then did Horst look up and see Camri Everlight, dangling from the ceiling, holding onto the rim of the other concealed trapdoor with his left hand and brandishing the Dwarven crossbow in his right.
"You're mad, Camri! Anyone ever tell you that?" Horst called up.
"Behind you!" Camri shouted, raising and firing the crossbow and nailing another Legion soldier. As Horst turned round again, a flash of movement dropped down from above him - Hermione Barca landed cat-like in front of him, leaping to her feet in time to slash a Legion soldier's throat with a dagger.
"Shit, there's a lot of them..." Hermione said, backing off as four more soldiers emerged from the balcony overlooking the pit. Camri's crossbow put paid to one of them, but the other three kept advancing. Hermione drew her sword and stood beside Horst.
From his perch, Camri watched the two parrying with the three soldiers, and raised his crossbow to fire off another shot...
Nothing. He knew he couldn't have run out of ammunition - he had located the weapon's storage chamber earlier and made sure it was full. The weapon had some sort of fault.
"Oh, come on!" Camri shouted as he dropped the now-useless weapon to the ground and followed close behind it, drawing his sword as he landed. An arrow fired by someone came whizzing towards him, but Ariel, hidden back up in the trapdoor, stopped its flight.
Camri reached Hermione and Horst, lunging through the gap between them and ramming his sword into the throat of one of the Legion soldiers, just as Horst delivered a killing blow to another. The third dropped his sword.
"I surrender..." he began.
"You don't get the choice, heathen!" Horst bellowed, thudding his axe into the man's neck and decapitating him. Normally, Camri would have let the man surrender, but he and all his comrades had been associates in the horrific murder of so many of his friends. Things had changed.
"We make a push to the barracks," Camri said. "The fire means it's all one way from here. No more getting caught up in ambushes - one more push"
"I'm with you," Horst said, gripping the handle of his axe harder. By now, Ariel had caught up with them. In formation, moving as an arrow with Ariel at the back, they moved swiftly through Fanacas. In the next corridor, leading off to the left, two soldiers accosted them but they were cut down by two lightning bolts, one fired from each of Hermione's hands. Soon, they reached the large room that still contained the dead bodies of Amador Herelas and his two other men, where the Legion had fortified themselves more, creating a line of men crouched behind shields while others fired a volley of arrows at the four.
Ariel flicked her wrists. The arrows all curved upwards, looping round and all perfectly targeted, struck the archers who had fired at them. But as she was doing this, a second wave of archers jumped up and fired. The four could do nothing but dive to the ground to avoid the attack.
Hermione screamed in pain as she landed. An arrow had struck her leg, shattering her ankle.
"You alright?" Camri asked her.
"No, I'm not going to be much use to you anymore..."
Camri pulled the Dunmer crossbow that he was still carrying off his back and handed it to Hermione. "While you're still breathing you're an invaluable asset"
Camri dragged Hermione to her feet and let her lean on his shoulder, dragging her back towards the tunnel that entered the large room. The other two did the same, Ariel doing her best to keep the repeated salvos of bow-fire at bay.
"I can deal with them, but I'll need some cover" Ariel said.
"On it," Camri replied, drawing a conventional longbow, a weapon that seemed paltry in comparison to the powerful crossbows he had been using. He popped out of cover and fired, expertly aiming the arrow into the gap between two shields - a yelp of pain indicated that he had hit something. A couple of archers returned fire, but Camri leapt to the side, avoiding the attack. It was only then did he see a strange flickering in the light that bathed the room, the familiar pale blue glow coming from a Welkynd glass cradle. Subtly looking up as he grabbed another arrow, he saw that it was swinging, commanded by the grip of Ariel's telekinesis. Camri kept running close to the wall of the room, firing off another shot and dodging return fire, until suddenly he saw the iron lattice containing the Welkynd glass reach the peak of a swing, where the chain securing it to the ceiling wrenched free of its fixings, landing right in the middle of the group of Legion soldiers, crushing several of them as it landed. Those that survived were thrown into disarray, ditching the bows and drawing their swords instead. Camri and Horst both charged at the group, taking down a man each as they hit. Immediately, though, they were both surrounded and desperately parrying off the attacks of several soldiers, unable to help each other. As Camri fought, fatigue suddenly began to set in - he hadn't rested or broken pace since Melethar's Refuge. As he bravely held up his shield and slashed with his sword, he knew he was on his last legs...
Then something quite unexpected happened - a large, bulky object crashed down from the ceiling and pulverised several of the Legion soldiers. It was the cradle of Welkynd glass - Ariel had lifted it and dropped it again. Camri quickly dealt with the survivors with two deft swordstrokes then ran to Horst's aid.
As Hermione watched this, watching Horst and Camri fighting their own battles and Ariel skitting around behind them, helping where she could, she noticed one huge man break out from the group and make for her. Through the gaps in his helmet, Hermione could see green skin and an ugly face - an Orc.
The Orc strode up to Hermione, taking her in as he did so. Young, slender, fair-haired, dressed in a tight-fitting fur jacket and most importantly immobilised by her broken ankle.
"I got orders on how to deal with you!" the Orc bellowed as he neared Hermione. "General Acilius told me to make sure Camri Everlight sees me getting a bit more acquainted with you before we kill him!"
"Is that right?" Hermione said, shifting into an upright position, gritting her teeth at the agony coming from her leg.
"Yeah. Now let's get that fur off you - you don't wanna be getting too hot when I..."
The Orc brute never finished explaining his intentions for Hermione before she pulled up Camri's crossbow and fired it at point-blank range, getting the shot through one of the gaps in his helmet and striking him in the eye. The Orc froze where he stood for a few seconds before tumbling to the ground, dead. Then, she looked past, just in time to see Horst cutting down a Legion soldier, seemingly the only one left alive. Camri raced towards her.
"Are you alright?"
Hermione laughed to herself. "What, you think I've never had some grunt try to have his wicked way with me before?"
"They're all gone," Ariel said suddenly. "From in here, at least. There's a lot of life outside but Fanacas seems to be empty"
"You said that last time," Camri remarked.
"I'm sure this time," Ariel said, pointing to the slightly depleted pile of Welkynd glass littering the floor by the ruined chandelier. "I can see from here to High Rock"
"Sadly I didn't see Marus Acilius," Horst said. "Bastard must have got away. I was looking forward to having a few words with him"
"Take a number," Hermione said. "I wish I'd just finished the job and killed him"
"Thanks to you I doubt he'll get very far," Camri said, referring to the large stab wound she had left in Acilius' leg. "Alright everyone, this is it. There's only one thing we can do now, and that's make a run for Dive Rock. But first we need to find the other way out of here"
After a few minutes of searching the room filled with bedding and crates, it was Ariel who found an uneven patch of wall. Pushing on it with her shoulder, it swung open, revealing a tunnel behind it, and more importantly, a trail of regimented bootprints leading through the dust that coated its floor.
"Hermione, how's that ankle of yours?" Camri asked. He had used some healing magic to numb the pain, but the bone was still broken - it could be fixed with nothing more than rest.
"I can barely walk on it," Hermione answered flatly.
Camri took a deep breath. "This is a difficult decision, but you can't come with us. You're going to have to stay in here. We'll find a good hiding place for you"
Hermione sighed. "You'll come back for me, won't you, Camri?"
Camri put a hand on Hermione's shoulder. "Hermione, as long as there is still breath in my body I will always be there for my friends. I'll take a look at the Dwarven crossbow too, see if I can get it working again. I'm not planning on waiting around long enough to fight anyone"
"Is that your plan?" Ariel asked. "You're just going to run to the top of Dive Rock and hope for the best?"
"Yes, and so are you. Sorry, Ariel, but I need you. I can't do it alone. Which leaves you, Horst"
"Yeah?" the Nord asked.
"You possibly have the most difficult task of all, but I think you can do it. I need a distraction. I want you to go out in front of me and make a run for it - lead as many of the Legion away from Fanacas as you can. Just run as fast as you can down the hill. Once you reach Cheydinhal you'll be safe