“We’re pinned down!” Tythel shouted to Nicandros as another volley of unlight beams leaped from the large imperiplate suits.
“Really? I had no flathing idea,” Nicandros growled, reaching into his belt and pulling out one of those spheres that had disabled the soldiers before. He crouched low as the unlight streaked just over their heads as they ducked, cutting through the wall of the factory behind them and leaving rot stains on the woodwork as it passed through. Where it hit stone it didn’t completely penetrate, but the stone looked aged and worn from the impact. The wearer of the suit arced the beam, cutting through a huge chunk of wall. Behind them in the factory, something burst into an explosion of flame, and Tythel could feel the heat through the gap it left behind.
Don’t they care about destroying their own building? Tythel wondered at the same time as she hoped the others inside the factory were alright. Nicandros was moving, hurtling the sphere towards the attackers. It created a crackling sphere of lightning as it went off, but these larger suits – Tythel dubbed them imperipods – were more resilient than what they had faced before, and weren’t phased by the explosion. Tythel took the opportunity to hurl a sphere of dragonflame at one of them, and the flames splashed against the armor. The metal glowed a dull orange from the impact, but it didn’t seem to do any real damage.
Ossman also peered out of cover, leaning around the damaged doorframe, but he didn’t bother attacking the seemingly invulnerable walkers. Instead, he shot several bursts from his arcwand at the soldiers that had hopped off the imperipods and were fast approaching their position. “We have to try to find the others,” he said, his voice surprisingly calm as he dropped one of the soldiers.
Then the imperipods were firing again, and none of them could speak as all four focused their fire in a broad sweep. Those approaching soldiers saved their lives – if they fired low enough to hit even Tythel, they’d risk hitting their own men. So why are they shooting? she wondered.
Another burst of fire, another flash of heat from behind them and Tythel had her answer. “They’re trying to bring the building down!”
Her warning almost came too late. Although the entire factory was too large to collapse, the section of wall above them had taken too many blasts to remain upright. Gravity asserted itself, and the wall began to collapse towards them. Acting on pure instinct, Tythel dove on top of Nicandros as Ossman rolled out of the way.
They were buried. The impact of the beams and timbers on her back drove the air from her lungs before she could cry in pain. They couldn’t pierce her hide, but the impact and weight was agony.
She planted her hands and feet onto the ground so their pressure wouldn’t crush Nicandros, taking the full weight on her back. She didn’t know how much wood was weighing down on her, or how much of it was actually being supported by the rest of the wood that was on the ground around them, braced against itself. She just knew it was at the limit of her strength, and she had to fight back the urge to scream as the weight gradually drove down, tempting her elbows and knees to buckle and crush them both completely.
“Nicandros?” she asked, spitting the word out with the effort. No light came through the beams of wood, not even enough for her vision to see. The hum of more unlight beams came from outside, and the sound of battle raged on. She hoped Ossman was alright, that Armin and Eupheme had gotten out in time, but right now she couldn’t hear enough to figure out if they were.
“Tythel!” Nicandros finally coughed, and Tythel felt tears spring to her eyes from the combined pain and relief, and she was glad that under the debris they couldn’t see each other. She didn’t want to worry him. “What the flath did you do that for?”
“You promised…you weren’t going anywhere,” she grunted, feeling her knees shaking. The effort to speech was more than she expected, and she began to suspect that she’d die here, having left behind a comfortable mountain home of stone to be buried in a coffin made from a mountain of wood. She forced herself to keep speaking, “I’m holding you…to that.”
For a moment, there was silence, and then Nicandros let out a single chuckle. “Heh. Alright.” He said something else, but the sound was drowned out by the rubble above them shifting, and some of the weight lifting. One of the unlight beams had cut away some of the debris, Tythel reasoned, and she began to suspect they would make it out of here alive. “How long can you hold out, girl?” Nicandros repeated.
“Oh, I’m…” she had to gasp for breath before continuing, “…I’m good. Fine really. But if you could do…anything to speed it up…that would be…great”
“Just hang in there. I’m going to get us out.” As he said that, Tythel heard the sound of his unlight sword igniting, and the darkness they were in became deeper.
Tythel didn’t have another word for it. It was already pitch black under the wood, but now it was beyond pitch black, a darkness that wasn’t the absence of light but went further, plunging it from darkness to a yawning void that seemed to pull at her eyes. She could swear she could see faint points of light at the edge of that void, although that might have been sparks on her vision from the effort of maintaining the support.
If Nicandros noticed the strange texture of the darkness, he didn’t say anything. Instead, he reached out and touched each of Tythel’s arms, making sure he knew where they were, and then began to hack with the unlight sword, starting to chop= a hole they could crawl through. Thankfully, the blade went through the wood with the kind of ease that Karjon’s jaws would go through bone, and only part of the wall had fallen. In moments, he’d made it far enough that the strange darkness faded away, and light began to come through from fires outside. “Come on, girl.”
Tythel shook her head at Nicandros. “Can’t move…without collapse. I can get out once you move. Get your…distance. Go.”
Nicandros considered her for a moment, then nodded and crawled on his belly out of the debris through the hole he had made.
As soon as he was free, Tythel focused her energy, the weight still bearing down on her. She recalled Karjon’s notes, everything she had read of his. Everything about the flames dragon’s breathe.
Tythel had always summoned flames from her hands. It felt more natural to her, but that was it was how humans did magic. She wasn’t doing human magic, however. She was doing dragon magic, and it was time to start acting like it.
Taking a deep breath, Tythel inhaled all the air she could, then let out a gout of flame directly into the wood around her.
Dragonflame burned hot. It would be moments until she wasn’t holding up the weight of wood, but dusting herself out of a pile of ash.
She begged the Light she would be out in time to help her friends.