D’cafnaet’d pushed his way forward and tossed derisive looks at all who passed. The others followed, trying to look somewhere between scared and brave, as befit their role in this charade. None of the riff raff on the outskirts of the Drow Invasion force’s camp bothered to stop them, deference to a real Drow mixing with indifference to anything more than their next meal.
That all stopped when they reached a checkpoint, where the camp’s perimeter bounded those within its protection from those who merely hoped to snatch up some of the glory and some of the spoils. The drow in charge stepped forward, put up a hand to stop the intruders, and simply asked, “Where are you taking these… things?”
D’cafnaet’d leveled his eyes at the other drow. He held up a fist and dangled a medallion at arms’ reach. The symbol of his house caught the light and glimmered. “I have business in the camp, and you will let me pass.” He did.
Deeper in, the camp was bustling with the activity required to maintain anything as large as it had become. Slaves of one species or another moved from place to place, shuttling messages and supplies. A few drow meandered through the crowds, overseeing.
They found their way to the large square tent in the center of the camp, and circled around its perimeter to the guardhouse. Again the medallion came out, but this guard wanted more. “What news do you bring for General Pep’Ci?”
Lady Ronstien fell on her knees, “We come to offer terms of surrender to your lord; we offer information on the other towns’ troop movements in return for an acceptance of a peaceful supplication from our fair city.” The guard smiled, stepped aside, and waved them through.
Another Drow stepped out of the tent as they approached. He smirked at them, then passed by on his way to the guardhouse. When he stopped to chat with the guards D’cafnaet’d motioned the others behind a cart, out of view, and then around to the side of the tent. Waltzing in the front door wouldn’t have been D’cafnaet’d’s style; he’d rather slice the side of the tent open and sneak in that way.
But when they did they saw a tent empty save for a large golden statue and a figure slumped over a dark wooden desk. Still unseen, D’cafnaet’d crept over to the figure, moved in behind him, and…
It wasn’t Pep’Ci. It was a decoy; a skeletal figure posed in place. Under his head was a note:
My dear brother,
I commend your skill at invading my camp, but I am quite sure you will have less luck getting back out again.
PS I hope you like the Runes I’ve inscribed for you.
An explosion sounded outside, and then another. The floor shook, and the walls shuddered. Then the statue roared as the gold peeled away, falling in expensive flakes onto the floor as the Hydra squirmed its way free of its cage.
Kynun ran forward to take point. Lady Ronstien’s prayers fell into the cacophony of explosions, but as they did the hydra felt his strength falling away, too. "Run!” Kynun shouted, “There is no use wasting time fighting this beast when an army awaits outside; we should pit the two against each other as we make our escape!” Montiago did not hesitate to make his way to the open flap of the tent, and what he saw outside made running seem an even better idea: the huge columns supporting the vast chamber’s ceiling were glowing red with magic sigils, rock spewing forth as each sigil drew light from around it and detonated.
The hydra followed as they ran, catching D’cafnaet’d once, twice, and again, each strike a bite from each of the beast’s three heads. But Lady Ronstien’s prayer had sapped the hydra’s strength, and the distraction caused by Kynun’s flying sword made each blow a glancing one. The important part would be getting out alive, and the beast at their back made them run no faster. Indeed, D’cafnaet’d and Kynun made a dance of the chase, taking the blows and returning them with stronger ones, all the while dodging the cave itself as the edifice collapsed around them. When the hydra lost a head– and Montiago seared the wound with a fireball– it made little difference. When the beast fell, the chase became only a race against time and gravity. When they tumbled out into the ancillary chamber they had been in a few hours before, the path behind filled and still filling with rubble and dead men, they knew there would be no invasion, but their chances of making it out alive still seemed sketchy at best: dust clouds were still billowing around them, and the crash and clatter of collapse still echoed off the dark stone in every direction.
But D’cafnaet’d was too busy cursing himself to care: Pep’Ci had known exactly how to play his brother. D’cafnaet’d could not let it happen again.