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Yanbei Cavern Assault
Henry stood in front of Yanbei Cavern, his first dungeon, and didn’t feel very impressed. On the way there, the last couple miles, they’d seen flashes of movement, presumably some of the residents of the dungeon itself. There were inhuman, four toed footprints all over outside the dungeon’s opening. Well defined trails dotted the hillside.
He had to admit the door of the dungeon was somewhat imposing. Recessed into a large cave, the stark rock wall had a huge, metal bound, wooden door. A fresh torch burned in a sconce by the entrance.
It’d be one thing if it was just a common dungeon, but Yanbe Caverns was one of the most dangerous dungeons within a week’s travel of Mirana and had a fearsome reputation. Granted, the most skilled adventurers in Mirana usually worked in the southern wilderness near the coast. However, this dungeon hadn’t been touched in years due to its reputation.
Henry felt insulted. It was just a door in a cave.
They went through a lot to get here. It wasn’t too difficult a journey with the Battlewagon, all the new weapons, and the new team members they had, but on foot it would have been a nightmare. The last day especially, it seemed like a new, random monster popped up every couple hours. When one, huge, slow, shambling monster rose out of a puddle, Jason just made the Battlewagon travel faster and they left it behind. Everyone just shrugged and ignored it.
The Battlewagon itself was a godsend. When the team had to leave the trade road to head toward the dungeon, most of the terrain was fairly flat and open so they just continued with the Battlewagon. The way it hovered made it a fantastic off-road vehicle.
Henry stood with his hands on his hips, glaring at the door. The fact he was underwhelmed by the dungeon’s appearance actually made him more wary. Uluula and Mareen did a great job digging up the historical accounts of Yanbei Caverns from adventurers past. However, sometimes adventurers would leave things out of reports to the Adventurers Guild. There was also the possibility that dungeons could change, or whatever new monsters moved in would make defense improvements.
Henry very carefully examined the doorway from a safe distance. He used his sense enhancements to try finding anything out of place. Eventually, when he increased his sense of smell, he got a very slight whiff of something acrid. Then he looked carefully at the torch and saw the sconce actually had a pivot.
The rest of the team was still gearing up and preparing the tools they put together for the mission. Henry called over his shoulder, “Nobody come near the entrance for now!” Everyone nodded at him so Henry unslung his rifle and grabbed a stick. He placed the stick in the ground and used it to steady his weapon while he carefully aimed. Finally, he held his breath and flexed his magic.
Since Henry’s rifle had no trigger and his projectiles had no recoil, it could be incredibly accurate. His shot was low power, it didn’t even break the sound barrier, but the hardened golden slug easily smashed through the torch’s sconce. The torch fell and instantly ignited the flammable substance on the ground. The fire began running out of the cave, following where the flammable substance, probably pitch, was mixed with the soil.
Henry grunted and slammed his fist down. He first learned how to do this sort of thing months ago when he was upset, but since then he refined it. The ground undulated in front of him before exploding, creating a shallow line of destruction and thrown earth about twenty feet wide. The advancing flames stopped once they hit his improvised ditch.
When he turned around, he noticed the rest of the team was staring at him. Jason just shook his head and went back to getting things out of his pack. Almost everyone else got back to what they were doing too except for Mareen. She walked over and put her hand on Henry’s shoulder. “My Heart, Beloved, next time you decide to do something dangerous on your own that could affect the rest of us, do you think you could at least tell someone?” She smiled sweetly but her eyes glittered.
Henry was simple in many ways. He knew he didn’t always pick up social cues very well. However, as Mareen gently laid a hand on his shoulder and smiled, he felt a distinct sense of danger. She still wasn’t angry at him, though. Yet.
He didn’t think he’d really done anything wrong, something had to be done, so he did it. Life and experience made him pause, though. He was willing to accept that Mareen was smarter than he was. Plus, although she was younger than him, she had an excellent head on her shoulders, and he respected her practical side too. She pretty much grew up in a monster infested world where humans were low on the food chain. If she was upset enough to actually confront him in front of others, he’d be stupid not to listen.
“Okay, no problem,” he grumbled. When her eyes sparkled and she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek before heading back, he knew he made the right choice. Women, he thought and shook his head. But when he turned back to watch the flames, he was smiling.
Eventually, the rest of team got done preparing and came to join him as the fire died down. Mareen was wearing a thick gambeson, her bronze bracers, and thick, wooden lamellar armor. Unlike Thod the bandit, her heavy armor had quick disconnects in case she needed to slip out of it.
Jason was wearing his light armor the same as Henry was. The configuration served them well against bandits so they stuck with it. Bezzi-ibbi, Rark-han, and Tony all wore boiled leather armor. Tony just had a breastplate since he wasn’t used to wearing armor yet. Uluula wore a light jack, the sleeveless armor had thin bronze plates sewn between the canvas cloth.
Everyone had their weapons ready to go. Mareen had her magic flashlight she got from the Adventuring Guild strapped to her leg. They were as prepared as they’d ever be. Henry shook himself, it was time to get back to business.
He turned to face them all and donned the mantle of authority. “Okay everyone, now’s the time to talk about the op one last time. While those flames are still burning, we probably won’t be attacked but keep your eyes peeled anyway.
“You all know your roles. Mareen, you are point with me, but stay behind me. Your job is to protect everyone else and throw the big bombs for Tony. Jason, you are my tactical strike man. You can stay in the rear until I need you. Don’t go charging in or we might have a friendly fire situation. Tony, you are the trigger man. Don’t set anything off unless you’re absolutely sure about the orders given.
“Uluula, you’re next. Your job is to spot things I miss. You’re second in command for this operation in case I am busy or out. Bezzi-ibbi, you have the rear. Keep your eyes peeled.
“Keeja, as usual, will do whatever the hell she wants to do. I have no idea if she’s even going in there with us.”
“Haven’t decided yet.” Keeja was floating about twenty feet above the ground, pretending she was lying on her back. Most of the group was ignoring her. Henry very carefully did not look at her body. He found Keeja attractive, kind of like someone might like watching an exploding volcano, but he didn’t want her to get any ideas.
She’d just pester him more. He shuddered.
“Okay everyone, let’s get ready. Mareen, help Tony place a couple claymores back here that cover the opening of the cave. Jason, move the Battlewagon back so I have a clear shot from the turret. Let’s get to it!”
The battlewagon and the rest of Delvers LLC situated themselves about 100 yards back from the cave. Their formation moved to the side so Henry could have clear shots at the door. Eventually, even Keeja eventually shrugged and soundlessly moved to hover above their formation. Henry rolled his eyes. She was probably just trying to get a better view.
By the time the flames died down, everyone was set. This was Uluula’s plan, and she made a great case for minimizing their use of resources and casualties with her plan. They would draw the enemy out and cut them down before even entering the dungeon.
At first, Henry felt a little bad for how thoroughly Delvers LLC was going to fuck up something’s home. Then he saw the fire trap. That thing would have been pretty nasty. A less frosty adventuring company probably would have already been wiped out. After that, he didn’t feel nearly as bad.
Henry got into his turret and carefully aimed his cannons at the doorway. He had a feeling something was on the other side, and they were about to have a bad day, a really, really bad day.
Smartstrong Gulzug mar’ Tartooth, the battle group leader of the Dark Cave Holy Site, asked his lead warrior, “What do you see?”
The male-warrior he was speaking to, Leaderlisten, was in front of the massive door, their first defense for the Dark Cave Holy Site. The warrior was peering through a tiny hole bored through the door. “I still cannot see anything. There is too much smoke.”
Smartstrong grunted and move back among his troops, checking gear, offering words of encouragement, and cuffing warriors for bravery. The creatures, the races on this world called his kind, “Warthog Toothed, Thick Hide Man-Demons”. It was a stupid name, and Smartstrong didn’t like being called a demon. He was one of the Plains People! Proud and true! It was true he had tusks, but they were very handsome and decorated with scrimshaw.
He also had thick skin… but the name was stupid!
When the Great God Dolos appeared in the Plains People village and explained he was an emissary of Tartooth, Smartstrong was honored to be chosen as the leader of the group Dolos took. He thought it was strange that Dolos didn’t allow them to take any females, but Dolos said the mission shouldn’t take too long. He also muttered something about breeding and rabbits that Smartstrong didn’t understand.
Great God Dolos told them that the locked room at the bottom of the site had treasures of Tartooth they needed to defend. Smartstrong was dedicated to defending anything of Tartooth’s and his warriors were equally seriousl. They would kill anyone and anything that tried to enter the Dark Cave Holy Site!
Smartstrong knew he could be clever. When all the People’s iron weapons and gear rotted in the Dark Cave Holy Site, he ordered his warriors to kill nearby races with rocks and clubs, take the gear, then copy it. They were able to make stone and crude metal weapons. The best weapons stolen from killed new-creatures were kept by the leaders, like Smartstrong.
He also came up with the torch trap outside the Dark Cave Holy Site’s door. It already killed one group of would-be robbers trying to break in and kept his warriors safe. They had to protect the god Tartoot’s holy site!
But he wasn’t a demon. In fact, some of the warriors were worried about the name enough that they captured a few local creatures, the races of this place and sacrificed them to Tartooth.
It only made sense but Smartstrong didn’t think it was totally necessary. He didn’t let them keep the captives alive too long or let any warriors eat captives alive. That old practice was too barbaric. Enemies didn’t have to be alive to when eaten and they tasted better after being cooked.
Smartstrong kept moving among his men. Suddenly, the massive door exploded, thick splinters of wood and solid chunks of gold whizzed through the air, shredding his warriors. The violence of the door bursting inward and flying apart made the world seem surreal for a moment. Smartstrong was at the rear of all his troops when it happened so he escaped unscathed. It still took him a moment to realize what was going on.
He had no idea how the attack happened. The door was half a hand thick and bound with copper. The way it exploded made him think it was probably magic. He snarled, Mages. Great God Dolos told them about the people-creature mages. They were the most evil of the robbers!
That’s fine, he had his own mages. Their piety to Tartooth kept them pure, their desire to kill enemies of Tartooth made them strong.
“Attack!” he bellowed. “And get the mages up here!”
The robbers they were facing this time were far more wily, more powerful than before. However, the Plains People would protect god Tartooth’s treasures or die trying!
Henry nodded in satisfaction, the grapeshot round nailed the door dead center, ripping it apart and scattering pieces everywhere. He hadn’t used much magic for the shot, electing to hit the door at low velocity for maximum projectile spread. A high velocity shot might have just punched a neat hole instead of taking out the whole doorway.
Through the opening, despite the residual smoke, he could see some movement. He waited about 30 seconds, long enough for someone or something to get up and think about charging out the door again.
He paused for a moment, then released a charge of magic power, firing the second barrel. This round contained twice the grapeshot as the first shot. The projectile itself was a big cup made of petals that would open once it exited the barrel, spreading the round, golden balls held within. Despite its doubled mass, Henry put enough power into the shot to quadruple the velocity.
Some of the gold balls, despite their increased density and hardness, actually began to melt and deform in the air. The whip-crack of the sonic boom made the cave rumble. Henry immediately began reloading both barrels of his cannons and shook his head. “Someone is definitely having a bad day now,” he mumbled to himself.
Smartstrong stared in horror and felt his skin crawl. He was in a side hallway and just witnessed the remaining warriors in the entry perishing in the time it took to blink. Their thick hide armor offered no protection at all. The dead warriors were torn apart and perforated with multiple holed blasted through them. Some of them even had burn marks with what looked like gold splattered on them! It had to be the work of an enemy god!
Smartstrong lifted his bronze sword high and bellowed, “Everyone attack! Do not let them use their hell-cursed weapon again!”
Around him, the remaining Plains People ran past, screaming. He felt his heart lift in pride. These were fine warriors. They would surely triumph or sell their lives dearly. They would kill many other enemy warriors, or even bloody the side of an enemy god!
Smartstrong’s eyes widened in battle fever and he sprinted after his warriors. They would taste blood this day!
Henry almost had both barrels loaded again when the first enemy warriors came streaming out of the broken entryway. Yup, definitely look like orks to me. He refused to call them Thick Skinned Tusked Humanoid Demons or whatever. He’d bet all the money he had they didn’t call themselves that.
Nearby, he heard Uluula hiss. On the way to the dungeon, he picked up that UIuula had some sort of history with orks. That was one reason he was placing her further back in the formation when they actually entered Yanbei Caverns. He needed Uluula thinking clearly.
Henry let his mind slide into the cold place he went during combat. He was waiting for more orks to run out of the dungeon before triggering his first reloaded barrel. The shot wasn’t as effective now that the orks weren’t all huddled together inside of a door, but he still blasted at least five from the face of Ludus.
“Aren’t there more of these things than we were expecting?” he yelled back at Jason.
“A lot more.”
“Do you think it was…”
“Probably,” Jason’s voice was grim.
Dolos. Henry felt a tendril of anger leak past his icy, killer’s calm and ruthlessly suppressed it. Right now, things were trying to kill him, ten times more things than they’d expected, in fact. He’d work on surviving first and worry about the implications later.
If they’d been a normal adventuring company, they would have already been torn to shreds. With the normal number of demons at this dungeon, a large, strong adventuring company would have had a difficult, drawn out struggle. Instead, Henry guessed there were still 200 orks screaming for blood.
Henry got his second barrel loaded and aimed it at an ork in a robe making weird gestures. Probably a mage. He triggered the cannon and tore the robed ork to bloody chunks as well as another one standing behind and a few warriors too. Nice shot, he congratulated himself.
However, he noticed the air distort further back in the cave and could barely make out another robed ork with his arms spread. This ork had designs painted on his pebbly greenish brown skin with white paint. The painted ork obviously blocked one of the projectiles with a force field of some kind and was even moving the smoke around himself, using it as concealment. Definitely a mage, Henry thought.
The main force of the bloodthirsty orks was getting closer. Henry hollered, “Tony, trigger Claymore One!”
“Claymore One!” Aodh yelled back.
Suddenly, the nearest claymore exploded. The weapon looked like a shallow “c”, about two feet tall, made from bronze. The rear of the thick device was a tall, thin, gunpowder bomb backed by a thick wall of bronze. The front of the weapon only had a thin wall of tin over balls of gold and coin-shaped objects fashioned of bronze all packed tightly, waiting to be thrown outward by the force of the explosives.
It was placed about five yards outside the cave and angled towards the opening, so the hot shrapnel hurled forward from the claymore’s detonation completely shredded the first rank of orks. They went down in a bloody, torn mess of mangled bodies. The orks in the rear had to keep moving forward due to momentum and trod over the bodies of their fallen comrades.
However, suddenly, the ork mage from deep within the cave gusted out, moving faster than should be possible, his feet not even touching the ground. Another ork mage burst out the other side of the cave, his hands glowing and trailing white-hot flame.
The ork fire mage brought his hands together and an enormous fireball screamed over the battlefield at Henry. Well, shit. I guess turnabout is fair play. Henry knew he wouldn’t have time to jump out of the turret and dodge. He didn’t think converting his skin to armor would help much either.
He did the only thing he could think of; he dropped down into his turret and covered his head, hoping for the best.