The wooden door was built into the stones of a tower directly over a lumwell. Over a hundred years of light had infused the wood, strengthening it by miniscule amounts every day. A normal door would have been torn to shreds by the unlight beams by now.
This door was only getting torn to shreds slowly.
Ossman caught a bolt of Unlight first. It had expended most of its energy punching through the door itself, so it only caused him to peel away from the door in pain. “We can’t hold it!” Tythel shouted over the alarms.
“Have a better idea?” Lorathor snapped as a beam of unlight passed inches in front his eyes. He winced, momentarily blinded by the attack.
“Armin!” Tythel shouted over her shoulder, “how much longer do you need?”
“I literally just started! So I’m going to stay with ‘I don’t know,’ for now, but it’ll be a lot longer if I have to keep answering that flathing question! Distractions don’t make it quicker!”
Tythel ground her teeth, and risked putting one of her eyes up to a hole in the door. There were easily a dozen soldiers out there, if not more. If they pushed through, in the narrow corridor, they’d cut everyone in the room down in seconds. “We’re being overrun,” she said as Ossman regained his footing and charged back do the door.
“Nothing I can do about that!” Armin shouted.
“I wasn’t talking to you! You focus on what you’re doing.” She turned to face Lorathor and repeated, “overrun, Lorathor. We need a plan!”
Lorathor’s w-shaped eyes widened. “Why do you think I have one?”
“Someone has to!” Tythel exclaimed in desperation.
Ossman glanced around the room. “How about we start moving some of this stuff to block the door?”
“Don’t you dare!” Armin shouted. “I don’t know what’s needed for these devices to function! You could ruin the whole thing.”
Eupheme hissed in pain as a bolt of unlight punched through the door and caught her in the shoulder. She stumbled back, and Tythel stared at her in worry, but when Eupheme pulled her hand away from the injury it hadn’t even punched through the clothes. “I’m okay,” she said.
“Ossman, Eupheme,” Lorathor said, his voice a sharp whip-crack of command, “get away from the door.” Ossman did. Eupheme, just nodded and stayed where she was.
“Tythel,” Lorathor said, looking up at her. “I have a plan to buy us time. Step back and ready your shield. Get ready.”
Tythel did. “Ready for what?”
Lorathor opened his mouth to explain. Before he could, another beam hit him in the side and sent him reeling away, swearing at the pain. Unlike Eupheme and Ossman, this blast had punched through more firmly. Wisps of smoke rose from where he’d been hit.
The next unlight blast sent the door flying open. Tythel found herself facing rows of soldiers, firing in a constant stream as they advanced. Her shield was already up, but it was already starting show cracks in the field of unlight from the constant barrage.
“Now!” Lorathor shouted.
As soon as he did, Tythel put together his plan. The soldiers were advancing towards them down a hallway.
A tight, packed, narrow hallway.
The instant their fire let up for them to replace energy packs, Tythel took a deep breath and let loose a gout of flame down the hall towards the soldiers. They were not clad in imperiplate, nor were they carrying shields like Tythel’s. It was a blessing that the dragonflame was too bright for Tythel to make out what happened to the bodies.
It didn’t save her from hearing them scream.
As soon as she stopped the torrent of fire, Ossman slammed the door shut.
“That should buy us some time,” Lorathor hissed through the pain.
Haradeth came flying down the stairs. “How did they find you?” he shouted over the alarms.
“Deadman switch!” Armin said from his buttons. As he clicked one, the constant alarm died abruptly. “They had a deadman switch set up. Had to be pressed every five minutes. It only had fifteen seconds left on it when I got in the seat, just figured it out.”
“How long do you need?” Haradeth asked.
Armin’s answer was a frustrated snarl.
With the alarms gone, Tythel could hear another sound approaching. “Imperiplate,” she said hoarsely, “They’re bringing up Imperiplate.”
Everyone looked stricken. The heavy armor would annihilate them in such close quarters.
“Armin,” Tythel said, “change of plans. You’re turned off the alarms, right? Does that mean you can turn them on?”
“Of course I can,” Armin barked, “but I don’t see why you’d want me to.”
“What about other alarms?” Tythel asked. “Like say, the gates?”
Armin’s eyes widened. “Yeah, okay. One second.” His fingers clacked away. “Done.”
Only Tythel could hear it as alarms started going off across the city. The imperiplate soldiers stopped in confusion, and several of them begin to break away to investigate.
“I just set every alert in the city to the highest level,” Armin said. “Now can I return to the prison? We have a whole lot of criminals to get slaughtered.”
Tythel couldn’t miss the bitter note in his voice. “No, we don’t.”
“Excuse me?” Haradeth and Armin said in almost identical tones.
“They know we’re here. That plan only worked because they’d be caught off guard. It’d minimize casualties. Now, however, they know we’re in here, they’re on high alert, it would be a massacre.”
“That didn’t bother you before,” Armin said.
Tythel shook her head. “I didn’t know the Alohym had all this,” she said, waving to the screens. “I didn’t know how connected they were. I thought we were looking at…at a couple dozen deaths. Not wholesale slaughter like that.”
A tension she’d been seeing in Armin’s eyes since the plan had been made began to fade. At the same time, Haradeth’s eyes were hardening. “A noble sentiment, Tythel, but our people are still in there!”
Tythel turned to Armin. “Can you open all the doors? At once?”
“Yes. Absolutely. I was already going to do that,” he said, turning back to the keyboard.
“What are you doing?” Haradeth asked.
The sound of the imperiplate footsteps got closer as Tythel explained, “We let everyone out. The Alohym are going to be running everywhere, trying to figure out where the real fires are. The prison is going to be a madhouse now. If we open all the doors, our people have a chance of pushing out.”
“I don’t see how that changes the original plan,” Haradeth asked.
“Well, for starters,” Armin muttered, “I was going to just do that anyway because the plan was monstrous.”
Haradeth shot Armin a glare, finally picking up that he had always played disobeying orders, but before Haradeth could speak Tythel stepped close to him and whispered so only he’d hear. “Haradeth, there’s three imperiplate soldiers coming up the hallway. In close quarters. We don’t have Nicandros’ disabling spheres. We might not survive long enough for a staggered release. At least our people are free this way.”
Haradeth looked into her eyes, and saw she was serious. His eyes widened. “Armin, open all the doors at once.”
Tythel couldn’t see Armin roll his eyes, but was certain he did. “Again, that was always what I was going to do. Does no one ever listen to me?”
Tythel took a deep breath. “Once you’re done, grab an arcwand. We’re going to be in the thick of it.”
A gauntleted fist punched through the wood, sending splinters into the room, and Tythel whirled, ready to make what she was certain would be her last stand.