Running through a city from an angry mob and local guards was something Cato was used to. It required at least some care, as brandishing any kind of weapon tended to mean the crossbows came out. That had a way of ending a chase over stolen food rather disproportionately. Keeping a weapon away meant that one was usually just tackled and locked up for a few days if caught.
Currently, Cato found himself in a situation that was both much easier and far more difficult to deal with. The crimson-robed priests were not far behind him and Anica, and had, from the beginning, taken the unspoken words of that horrific creature to heart. There was no capturing to be had here. Magical spells flew over head, daggers were thrown badly, and bodies of priests that had attempted to cut them off trailed behind.
Something about killing these priests was uncomfortably easy to Cato. Part of it was definitely the fact that they had no misgivings about ending his own life, but seeing their faces beneath the robes seemed to make it easier. These people were not really people all that much anymore. Like the first priest they had encountered outside the cave, all of the ones that Cato could see were missing very important bits of flesh and skin. It was like they were rotting away rather than being some kind of walking dead. That they fell to a good sword to the chest was comforting, at least.
Cato didn’t bother to turn and look to what Anica had seen. He did as she did, dropping as low as possible while still running for the stairs not far down the tunnel now. A blue-white arc of cold air shot right over their heads, hitting the stone wall further off and immediately freezing the rocks.
Anica didn’t stand up completely, instead remaining low as she led the way to the stairs, winding up and out of sight quickly. Cato was only a few steps behind, and he risked a glance back to see another odd looking color of light flying at them. It hit the wall behind him as he went up the stairs, a sizzling sound from the rocks the only thing Cato bothered to notice. In situations like this, looking back too often meant tripping over stairs and ending up dead.
In a few moments, they were back on the upper level of the library near where they had left Kyros and Pel. Though it became immediately apparent that Cato’s brother and the Elf required no urging on, as the two of them were visible directly across the way, fighting off a group of four robed priests of their own.
“At least we don’t have to explain that it’s time to go!” even as Cato spoke, he wasn’t sure if he was being serious or not, himself.
As she ran ahead, looping around the outer edge of the upper level, Anica turned and pointed a raised eyebrow in his direction. The hoods of their robes were finally down, as they only got in the way of much-needed peripheral vision. But she said nothing, instead getting a tighter grip on the small dagger that she carried and heading straight for where Pel and Kyros were fighting.
Four robed priests were between them, and upon seeing Cato and Anica coming at them from behind, two of them broke off to fight the now evened odds. There wasn’t much room on the upper walkway, but Cato managed to step to the outside near the edge so that both he and Anica could deal with the pair at the same time rather than trying to fight over her.
As they reached the incoming priests, Anica ducked under a sword-strike meant to remove her head while Cato simply parried a similar strike aimed at himself. Anica continued to move quickly, even in the bulky robes, stepping in close to the priest in front of her and driving her blade squarely into his torso. There was a momentary pause before she grabbed the man’s arm and then forced him into the one that Cato was dealing with. In another second, the two priests went off the edge of the upper level, falling down onto the bookshelves below with a pair of loud cracks.
Once again, Cato was surprised at how effective Anica was. It must have been maddening to act as the dumb foreign girl as she’d done for so long while in Oriona.
Ahead of them, Kyros and Pel now had little trouble dealing with half the number of opponents. While Pel sent one flying into the rock wall, causing a bone-shattering crack as well as some pieces of what might have actually been bone to go flying, Kyros took a simpler approach and simply took off the sword arm of his opponent. With another swing, the priest’s head was removed and they all had a moment to breathe.
“What happened?!” Pel was clearly not one for breathing, however.
Anica shook her head, stepping past the two others to lead the way again, “Unsure. Tell me you had time to find something useful.”
Pel nodded to a pack slung over her shoulder, “Two more tomes. And I was able to read a great deal more before we were found. I believe I know what they are planning.”
“Good,” Anica looked around, clearly suspicious of the lack of pursuit, “Now what is—”
The entire cave shook. The four of them nearly lost their footing, instinctively grabbing for the rock wall so as not to fall to the floor below. And the cave continued to shake, a loud, rumbling sound drowning out everything else. It wasn’t long before small rocks started to fall from the ceiling, and Cato began to realize what might be happening.
“There is no way!” Kyros was the one to yell it, and Cato couldn’t help but be happy his brother seemed to be on the same page instead of a few behind.
“There are many ways!” Pel’s voice was hard to hear over the sound of the roof beginning to slowly collapse in on them one piece at a time.
So. The crazed cult was going to collapse it all just to kill them.
The rock beneath them still shaking violently, Anica managed to mostly stand up straight and start for the way out, “We have to move!”
Cato did his best to follow suit, a hand over his head in the vain hope that it would shield him from the larger rocks that were starting to come free above them. His brother and Pel did much the same, and they all moved as fast as they could to the stairs that would lead them back down and, hopefully, out of the cave system before it all came down on them.