Bjorn’s group kicked up dust as they ran and Bjorn hoped it would obscure them from further arrows. They ran for a few minutes and as he glanced back he thought that he spotted a few more missiles headed in their direction but they were fired by archers briefly pausing their pursuit to do so and so fell well wide of the group. The cavern walls were curving in and the group soon found themselves running into a narrowing corridor. All of them struggled to keep up with Ivar who was leading them to their unknown destination.
Up ahead of them he heard a keening battle cry from a side entrance in the corridor in front of them. A group burst from it and Bjorn found himself shocked at what he saw. Two humanoid figures came running towards them, their skin covered in a short soft grey fur and their heads bore red leering faces that were framed by curved ram’s horns either side. Each was equally equipped with a crude spear tipped with sharpened obsidian and wearing a brown poncho of rough faded leather. A short surge of fear went through Bjorn at the sight of this new enemy unlike anything he had previously witnessed.
The two figures were blocking avenue of escape and there was no room to run around them. Ivar pulled a sword and charge at the rightmost creature but that left one armed and mean looking adversary bearing down on the unarmed portion of the group. Bjorn hesitated but he heard distant wooping sounds from their pursuers and saw the group coming to a stop that would soon see them stuck in a deadly sandwich of foes. He felt inside and a power surged within him, time seemed to stop as an energy seemed to surge forth from his heart and down through to his hands.
There was a clang of steel as Ivar’s sword met the spear and the other creature shouted as he began to bear down on them but he was stopped in his tracks. Bjorn had outstretched his hand and flash of lightning leapt from it into the chest of the attacker. Throwing the opponent backwards into a heap on the floor. He turned to see the rest of through group and saw the faces of shock and horror. The others were all obviously innocent of the charges of unsanctioned magic that sent them here. They feared it with the same fear that was pushed into the mind of every citizen of the empire since childhood.
The flash of lightening had also had the happy effect of momentarily blinding Ivar’s opponent and since Ivar had his back to it, his vision was not effected. Ivar used that moment to bring to a swift end what otherwise may have been a drawn out fight by slashing upwards with his sword through the exposed neck of his opponent. There was no time to celebrate victory though and all of them ran on without breath to comment.
A few more minutes of running and they the tunnel started to widen revealing a new cavern of great breadth and height. Bjorn wondered just how large this underground complex was. Ahead of them within the cavern was a walled settlement, a small hillock covered in shanty houses surrounded by a white wall the height of a man. The gate was open and men seemed to run towards them. Bjorn deeply hoped they were friendly as the lightning early seemed to have depleted his energy more than hours of running could have. His bones seemed to ache with fatigue.
His hopes of respite seemed dashed as the men running from the settlements drew bows towards them. Bjorn looked at the readied arrows and felt that there was nothing he could do. Some of the others runners fell to the ground in terror of being impaled on those arrows while Ivar and few others continued onwards directly into the line of these archers. Bjorn fell to his knees and made no effort to hide. He was too tired to run any further.
About seven archers had lined up and he saw the arrows fly. He wanted to close his eyes as the arrows left their bows but couldn’t. He’d never been on the receiving end of arrow fire and had never realised they weren’t as instant as they seemed. In his adrenalin fuelled perception the arrows seemed to take an interminable amount of time to approach him. Finally they did except they passed a great distance over his head, happily he realised that they were instead aiming for the pursuers all along.
Then Bjorn collapsed in exhaustion. Not into the deep blackness of unconsciousness as he so would have wished but the faint unfortunate consciousness of a person too exhausted to continue movement and yet too exhausted to sleep. He lay on the ground face down and breathing heavily. At some level he was glad to have survived, on other worried that a volley of arrows would not be enough to dissuade the pursuit but most of all he was very tired.