Headed by a Snake
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455 Best Laid Plans
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Headed by a Snake
Author :CouchSurfingDragon
© Wuxiaworld

455 Best Laid Plans

Ptolema of Guild Snowy Village walked with Tycondrius a short distance away from the Letalis area, out of earshot of Mister Karodin. 

Her rapier was enchanted with a low-level illumination spell, and she held it out to light her path, avoiding obstacles and careful of uneven terrain. As she led the way, Tycon observed her trying and failing to hide the fact that she was wincing in pain... 

"What's this about, Tactician?" The Duelist asked, her patience waning the further she walked. 

"You're injured."

It was not a question. She smelled of blood. 

The Duelist idly placed a hand over her lower abdomen... "It's nothing."

Tycon shifted his weight and grimaced, prompting her to continue with his silent stare. 

Ptolema averted her gaze, her lips quivering in weakness... "Just... I know. I'll manage, somehow... Just don't tell Karodin... please."

Tycon pursed his lips and took a deep breath... "Is it a combat injury? Or..."

The woman crossed her arms defensively... "It's... a girl thing."

An unfortunate realization dawned in Tycon's mind... "I see... Stay strong. We'll worry about the particulars after I get you and Karodin out of this-- alive."

Tycon donned his white helmet, quietly lamenting that he could not offer the young Duelist more. 

Ptolema gave a slow nod, standing and watching Tycon as he left. 

...

"GRRRRAH!" Weaponmaster Bannok cleaved an undead dwarf's head in two, dropping it to the floor of what was likely its home when it was still living. 

Tycon had followed Bannok's footprints and a handful of defeated Unranked undead to inside one of the Dwarven buildings. He stared at the man's armored back as the human stood over his latest defeated opponent. 

"Thirty-seven years... thirty... seven... Flame-taken years..." Bannok growled, deep and low. "--and he went out like... that.

"You. Killed. MY. FRIEND!!!" He suddenly turned, swinging his battleaxe at Tycon's chest. 

Tycon was ready for the attack... but the Weaponmaster was far faster than he was. 

He was barely able to bring up his adamantine scabbard to block. Receiving the forceful strike, Tycon's back collided against a sturdy wall. 

"Augh..." He groaned, "I'm going to assume you were talking to someone else?"

"Tactician?!" Bannok wore a surprised expression... which immediately twisted into a furious glare, "What in the seven hells are you doing here?"

Tycon stretched his back and removed his white helmet. It had saved him from a nasty lump on the back of his head, "I think it quite obvious. I was looking for you."

"For ME?!" Bannok roared, gripping his battleax like he was going to continue his assault. 

"...Yes. For you."

Tycon wondered if he misspoke. 

The light of a magical staff spilled into the Dwarven domicile, a certain dark elf stepping lightly over the threshold of a broken front door. 


"I thought I'd find you here, hon," Priestess Ariadne frowned, "Oh! Howdy, Mister Tactician."

All the strength appeared to drain from Bannok's body... "I don't wanna talk about it, Ari. It's not something you'd understand."

Priestess Ariadne placed a hand on her hip, "Now you just lis'n here, Mister..."

"Not NOW, woman!!" Bannok shouted. 

His face crumpled in regret almost immediately, "Just... not now, Ari..."

"Of all the-- arrrrgh!!" The Priestess fumed, "Mister Tactician, could you please talk some sense into mah mushroom-brained idjit of a husband?"

Tycon nodded... "Grant us a moment, Miss Aria."

Ariadne stomped out, leaving the two to their silence... 

Tycon pulled up a Dwarven-carved chair, taking a seat and waiting patiently. 

Bannok stopped and stared... and finally conceded as he pulled out another chair... "She... she doesn't understand..." 

Tycon nodded... "Very few do understand the difficulties of our positions." 

Admittedly, she very likely did-- not that Bannok wished to hear of it. Priestess Ariadne had a healing class. With the power to literally save her allies from death, she, more than most, would sorely feel every loss in the Brazen Guard collective. 

"I already know what you's gonna say..." Bannok wiped the grime off of his axe with his forearm, "You're gonna tell me to suck it up. I don't wanna hear it, guy."

Tycon shook his head, "I was going to remind you that the time to mourn can be afforded once our mission is complete."

"Mission?!" Bannok sat on the edge of his seat, "The mission's a Flame-taken failure!! And it's all because of those thrice-damned, no good..."

The human took a deep breath... seething in anger and grumbling unintelligibly. 

Tycon took a deep breath to match... "The mission, Brother-Bannok... is to escape this foul place with as many survivors as we can manage."

Bannok grew quiet, brooding... 

Tycon stood up, walking towards the troubled human. 

"Everything I can say, you already know. Hunter Felinus acted as he thought best, at the time. You have a duty to yourself, to your wife, and to your guild to continue onward," Tycon held his hand forward. "Now, come along."

In his frustration, Bannok slapped Tycon's gauntleted hand away. 

It hurt. 

Still, Tycon reached his hand out again, "You cannot refuse me, Bannok."

Bannok glared... "Or you'll do what?"

Tycon furrowed his brows in thought... "I'll ask again, I suppose. I'm sure you are aware that I cannot defeat you in single combat."

...Not without the element of surprise or deception, anyroad. 

Bannok stared at Tycon's hand for a long moment. Suddenly, he scoffed. Chuckling derisively, he shook his head. 

"You're a real piece of shite, Brother-Tycon," Bannok groaned as he clasped and shook Tycon's wrist.

Tycon chose to ignore the human's particular diction and take it as a... compliment. 

"You're not the type to spurn your duty," Tycon smirked. "I merely saved you a few bells of mistakenly thinking you were alone."

...

⟬ Two bells later. ⟭ 

The deepest parts of the Dungeon were composed of tall, twisting corridors, the stone walls roughly hewn, but solid. For Dwarven masonry, the quality of work was at the bare minimum. 

There were more Dwarven structures, these carved into the tall walls... though few and with long lengths of distance between. They could have been filled with treasure. They could have been filled with enemies. The Brazen Guard collective kept on alert, watching for hostile eyes and arrows in those windows. 

Tycon felt the vibrations of rushing water underneath the stone... and he led the collective downstream. He hoped there would be an opening... somewhere. 

In the notes that Tycon had parsed, the Dwarven Formation Mage had expressed the security concern the underground river presented. However, the rushing rapids underfoot would be difficult to enter the city from. Using it as an exit... should be plausible. 

"You see anything, Hero?" Bannok asked. Though the goatee-wearing human was still in a surly mood, his confident and commanding presence had returned. 

"Just undead," Tanamar shut his eyes and shook his head... "Though... there's a building we have to go through... and it's got... metal-centaur-looking things."

Tycon's blood chilled with the Holy Lancer's words...

"Arrrgh... more of those damned constructs?" Bannok complained. 

Tycon held up a shaky hand, "Athanasius... could you... describe the creatures?"

"Huh?" Tanamar raised an eyebrow, "Yeah, sure. Human-like torso with two arms, horse-like body with four hooves... Metal scales for skin, bull's head... maybe eight feet long, twice as tall. "

Tycon took off his helmet to wipe off his brow... "Empty night."

"You know these things, Mister Tactician?" Priestess Ariadne asked. 

Tycon's eyes stung with frustration... "They... sound like gorgons."

"Doesn't sound so bad," Bannok frowned. "Just means 'dreadful', don't it?"

"They're typically Gold-Rank and emit a petrification gas."

"Oh." Bannok's eyes widened and his face paled... "F*ck."

"My thoughts are similar," Tycon groaned. 

The one good thing about having gorgons as opponents was... they were all idiots who fought without a sense of tactics. The worst thing about fighting gorgons... was they were all idiots who fought senselessly and without tactics. 

...

A short planning session later, the Brazen Guard collective arranged in a combat formation outside of a large Dwarven structure. According to Tycon's information, they were at the far edge of the city. The underground river should be accessible somewhere through that very building. 

According to Tanamar... it was a mausoleum where dwarves and Snake Cultists were buried. That meant there were likely hostile undead there. And apparently, it was also guarded by a cadre of gorgons. 

The Holy Lancer and current Scoutmaster of the Brazen Guard would enter with a team of scout-type classes... trying to lure the gorgons out, one by one. Defeating each of them quickly enough and relying on Zenon's wind magic to repel their petrification breath would greatly minimize their casualties. 

"GUOHHHH!!! (I'M VERY ANGRY!!!!)" A one-horned gorgon roared in the old Tyrion tongue as it chased Tanamar out. 

The Gold-Rank Idiot fell quickly to sword and spell. 

The second pull was similar, though the gorgon ran around in a circle, ineffectively trying to dodge attacks. Tycon was glad that Salt and his gunners had so many hours of practice on a range. 

Unfortunately, on the third pull, Tycon was reminded that the plans they made would not always go smoothly. 

"FOUR INCOMING!!!" Tanamar shouted, soaring out of the structure on wings of light. 

The other scouts in his team did not emerge. 

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