It became quickly apparently that this was going to be an uphill fight for Gregory and the first breather he got, he sheathed his own greatsword and replaced it with a longsword and shield, making it easier for him to fight in such cramped quarters. He had been a fighter for years in the woods surrounding Mercia, battle all manner of creature from simple wayward bandits and foulspawn, to demons and undead but in the woods there had always been room to maneuver and for deft footwork - as long as there was no tripping vines or logs. Here it was crowded, almost claustrophobic as his the line of attackers and those fleeing swelled and broke like waves on a rough sea.
Eventually he found himself within the city limits to witness the destruction first hand. The smell of smoke, blood and death permeated the air like a fog making him gag a little, but he didn't falter, his eyes immediately picking out where he might be needed again and again as he joined the fighting, rescuing his follow townsmen, putting the invaders to the sword, stopping the bodies of the fallen being desecrated time and time again...
There was a roar form two streets away - identical to the one from the beast he had killed not two hours earlier and he redoubled his efforts - his sword arm like lead, but constantly moving. But he fought on, never giving a quarter not feeling the dozens of tiny cuts that started to cross his body.
"We're not going to see them again, are we?" Leanna's voice had a desperate edge to it as she watched the brothers leave them in the direction of the city, tears pricking the corners of her eyes. "If the city is under attack I mean, how can they...?" she trailed off with a sob, the brave facade she had worn when Gregory was stood before. lost and eroded away.
"Don't say that lass. The manling said we'd see them again, so we'll see them." Grundown's voice was deep and reassuring as he put the finishing touches to Eliana's crutch. "Just keep them in your prayers to your Lady and their own deities and they'll be fine." he met the Elfs eyes. "That's as good as yer gon' get elgi... wanna try it out?"
"You could use my name, naugrum." Eliana replied, gritting her teeth as she tried - with difficulty to stand several times, but never managing to make it upright.
"Aye, and ye could use mine - but we know it's not going to happen. Our clans have got too much between us to start bein' fren'ly to each other now." he offered her his hand and pulled her to her feet smoothly when she took it, handing her the crutch to lean on. "No matter how much we might disagree with it. A grudge is a grudge. We'd both likely be ostracised by our kin if they knew we were here."
Their eyes met, a long lived sadness passing between them as understanding passed between the two elder races.
"But... enough of all that." Grundown broke the uncomfortable silence as he began to pick up all of their equipment that still lay strewn in the hollow. "I said I'd see yer both to Netherthong - promised the manlings I did, and a Dwarf doesn't break his word."
"I wonder what's happening at the city." mused Leanna aloud some fifteen minutes later as they started down the path to Netherthong and - hopefully - refuge. She was dawdling before the Elf and the dwarf, playing with the cameo brooch pendant around her neck absently. "I mean, why would the Kryganites attack the city like that? Even with most adventurers drawn away, it's still a city with thick stone walls."
"They must have had help." Eliana replied, turning her head to look at the mage briefly before focusing back on the path. "We have had evidence before of Seraklanite activity in the area - maybe the reach of the followers of the God of Deception is further than we previously thought."
"Maybe so..." muttered Leanna, a small smile playing on her lips. "Depending on where they were placed as well - it wouldn't be too hard for them to leak the news of the rituals to the adventurers still within the city to draw them all out at the same time... Feed those more connected with the woods and the land a story about prophecies and times foretold, to lend haste to their actions... The actions of the Kryganites here, can't be to all the followers of the Six's liking."
Ahead, Grundown and Eliana exchanged a look of unease. The mage was being unusually forthright with a confidence in her voice that was unusual for her.
"And even if all of the adventuring parties weren't that successful, they would at least delay the rituals and maybe even kill off some of the followers of the Seven in the process. Two birds, with one stone as the saying goes."
"Are you okay lass?" Grundown asked as both he and Eliana stopped and turned to face the mage.
"I'm fine." she leered, a pitying look on her face drawing her silver dagger and tearing one of her spellcards in the same motion.
"By the Great Bearded..." Grundown's oath was cut short as beside him Eliana fell to the ground screaming in agony from a gash on her arm. Her body convulsed violently as poison coursed through her veins. "What the...!!"
It took a second for his body to register the pain from the dagger in his back below his shoulderblade, and another to realise the fact that he had sunk to his knees, blood trickling from his mouth into his beard. "Lass... what...?"
"Six you adventurers are thick..." Leanna laughed, stepping in front of the dwarf, a grim look of satisfaction on her face. "Months I've been playing you all... months of having to pretend to be in love with that uptight Crowan, months of positioning myself into just the right place to see everything today go off without a hitch... and you know what? It's worked as well..." she crouched in front of the dwarf. "You're always so eager to stop us. Always so eager to thwart the plans of the followers of the Six, you don't realise how often we want the same things, how often the Lord Seraklan wants the same things. None of us want to see His dark brothers and sisters get too powerful, they hate us almost as much as you do."
Grundown's breathing had become laboured, but he was still able to growl. "You made one mistake, manling."
She smirked, rolling her eyes. and leaning in closer to him as she struggled to hear his rasping voice. "Oh, and what's that?"
"Dwarves are tougher than humans or ecklarfar." his fist lashed out, catching her in the side of the head and sending her spinning away off the path as he reached behind him to pull the blade from his back. Leanna shrieked in pain, standing woozily as she scrabbled away from the dwarf. "Yea run you grobi lover!" he roared after her, as she fled, trying to push himself to his feet. His legs appeared to have other ideas however, and buckled beneath him pitching him hard onto his chest. His head struck a rock hard and unconciousness reached up to claim him as blood flowed from the wound like a stream...
((Didn't quite work as the big reveal/twist I wanted it to be. I knew I should have written it straight away last night when I had the idea.))