Roman glowered at the Halfling guard who rushed to attack him. The barbarian waited, like a crouching tiger, until the guard was in range, and then leapt forward with a spin of his ten-foot glaive. The guard didn’t even know what hit him as he fell to the ground, unconscious. Roman looked up and snarled.
Up on the third floor landing, looking down on the lobby ground floor at Roman, were four people.
“Bloody hell, he’s big,” whispered the posh-looking male Halfling.
“We’re under attack!” shouted the gruff dwarf, Hartik Froth, the captain of the guards. He had fought many men like Roman and was indifferent to barbarian’s demeanor.
“Stay behind me, my lord Krik,” Hartik said to the male Halfling. “You and your sister need to stay with your father and protect him. Me and my boys can take care of this fiend.”
“This may not be the best of time for this,’ said the Halfling woman.
“What was that Carsa?” Krik asked.
Carsa had already slipped behind the nearly comatose mayor and passed through the door.
Maggie scampered in and hid behind the statue.
Nolofinwe came running into the lobby, speaking in his strange ancient tongue and weaving his hands in odd ways. When he stopped moving, he made one last motion with his arms that appeared to indicate something upwards. For the briefest of moments, time stood still and all in the lobby thought they heard the rushing sound of wind, but felt nothing. Then the earth beneath those who stood on the third level platform started to lightly shake. Krik held onto the railing, looking at the ground in bewilderment. Hartik grabbed hold of Gargen Stonefellow to steady his lord from falling. The stone floor underneath their feet cracked open all around them. From the cracks, thousands of hairy and barbed weeds and vines swiftly sprouted out and started to wrap themselves around Krik, Hartik, and the mayor.
Arien had to leap back to avoid Carsa racing through the door. To Arien’s surprise, Carsa stopped and looked around. She double checked herself to make sure her invisibility spell was still up. It was. Carsa sniffed the air and listened. The Halfling must have either heard or smelled Arien.
The guard in the hallway started approaching Carsa. “My lady…”
Carsa swiftly held up her hand to indicate to the guard to stop moving and be quiet.
“I think there’s someone else with us,” Carsa whispered. She looked directly at Arien.
The floor suddenly rumbled.
Roman jumped over the unconscious body and rushed towards the stairs. The tiger was loose.
The single guard on the stairs didn’t have a chance against Roman’s tiger. He fell to the ground like his comrade, unconscious.
The weeds and vines had warped themselves around the legs, arms, bodies, and necks of the three on the third-level. They could not move. But when Hartik saw another one of his soldiers defeated by a simple brute, his adrenaline took over and he ripped through the plants like paper.
“To me, my boys!” Hartik shouted. “To me! We are under attack! Protect your liege!”
He hurried down the stairs to engage Roman.
With Carsa and the guard distracted by the rumble, Arien used that time to speedily dart past them and down the hallway.
“Wait,” the guard said. “I think I just felt something.”
Carsa drew her sword.
Arien continued down the hallway towards one of the closed doors. She needed to create a distraction. Still invisible, she opened a door and stepped back further into the hallway. She had hoped that the two of them would believe that whoever was invisible went into the room.
Carsa and the guard approached the opened door. The Halfling, still standing out in the hallway, peered into the room. The distraction didn’t seem to be working.
Then the three of them heard Hartik’s call and the sound of battle.
Roman and Hartik engaged in battle on the stairway.
Just as Roman wanted, Hartik focused on the barbarian. Roman had hoped that he would be the main target, while Nolo and Maggie rushed in and out from behind him and attacked the gruff dwarf. Unfortunately, his companions had difficulty penetrating the captain’s armor. Two more guards came out of the second floor door and engaged the barbarian.
While Hartik focused on Roman, he just couldn’t hit his mark. With one of his swings of his battleaxe, he nearly hit one of his soldiers. Roman took that opportunity to take down the two new soldiers. He did not kill them. Hartik was beginning to sweat.
Krik had finally released himself from the vines, drew his sword, and jumped down the stairs to help the captain.
“You shouldn’t have come,” Krik shouted to Roman. “You’re a dead man now.”
With the motion of a sly fox, Krik moved forward and stabbed Roman in the side, right between two of his ribs. He quickly moved behind Hartik out of Roman’s range. Krik giggled.
Roman roared. He was hurt badly, but the tiger would not go down that easily.
Hartik tried to follow up on Krik’s attack with a massive swing from his battleaxe at Roman’s neck, but, to his embarrassment, his palms had become too sweaty and the hilt slipped from his hand. The axe flew in the air and landed on the stairs. Maggie moved in and, while trying to penetrate the captain’s armor and failing, she kicked the battleaxe down the stairs and away from Hartik.
Nolo had grown tired of trying to bash the captain with a staff. He spoke in his ancient language of magic, readying a spell. He slammed his fists together and slowly pulled them apart. In between his hands emerged a flaming sword. In a fluid motion, Nolo struck the captain of the guard in a burst of flames. Hartik screamed in anguish. His white beard and hair were partly burned and half of his chest turned black from the scorching.
Nolo’s weeds and vines disappeared.
Arien knew her time was running short. With the cry for battle in the distance, Arien let loose her supernatural missiles, pummeling Carsa with force magic. With the casting of her spell, Arien’s invisibility ended. The two Halflings saw her and rushed into the attack.
Carsa ut a minor wound to Arien’s arm, doing more damage to her dancer’s dress than her actual flesh. The sorceress cast another volley of magic missiles at Carsa, instantly followed by an acid splash spell that hit Carsa and the guard behind her. The Halflings shrieked in pain.
To Arien’s surprise, Carsa leapt back and started to run away. The guard followed her.
Hartik roared in anger as he pulled out a dagger from his belt. He swung the blade with all his might against Roman and, just like his battleaxe, the dagger slipped out of his hand and flew down the stairs. The Fates were not with the captain of the guard this day.
Krik couldn’t believe what he had seen. ‘If you want something done right, do it yourself,’ he thought. He darted in next to Roman and stabbed the barbarian in the side again, only a few more inches lower than the last wound. Roman grimaced in pain. His wounds were deep. Blood covered his chest and back. He would need healing soon. Krik leapt back behind Hartik and out of Roman’s reach.
The Tiger was tired of the stinging wasp of a Halfling. It was time to break the little thing’s wings. Roman chased after the Halfling noble. He dropped his glaive and reached for the little man, grabbing him by the neck and leg. Krik tried to squirm out of Roman’s grip, but was no match for the strength of the Tiger.
Gargen, the mayor of Burran, who had been trapped by the weeds and vine on the third level, was now freed by the ending of Nolo’s spell. He still seemed feeble or drugged as he stumbled to the railings.
The Tiger raised the little man’s body over his head and roared.
“Hartik,” Gargen mumbled. “Help me.”
Krik squealed in absolute terror. The Tiger readied his knee.
“My Lord! Run!” Hartik shouted.
Down fell the little man. The sound of bone snapping echoed through the lobby.