A/N: The end of the battle against the Mountain. Enjoy!
Chapter 21: Mount Weather - part2
Now that the complicated part of breaking into the Mountain was over, Lexa focused back on the battle. Noticing that the odds were still mostly even, she called out for the scouts that had remained behind to relay her signal with the flags to join them. There should be no more need for the trebuchets, and she could use a couple fresh warriors to finish the Mountain men.
Besides her, she saw Gustus fall to one knee when a downed enemy managed to reach a discarded gun and pull the trigger. She felt a shiver run down her spine but knew she could not help him now – not until the fighting was over. One of her warriors had obviously witnessed the scene as well and crushed the man's wrist with his foot without breaking away from his own fight.
Though they had been mostly deprived of their guns early on, the Mountain men all carried knives, and they unfortunately proved more proficient with them than Clarke. Their injuries slowed them, but they fought with a strength only desperate men could achieve. And the initial assault had cost many warriors to Lexa.
Years of suffering at the hands of the Mountain, however, had infused her own warriors with a deep rage, and even those who, like Gustus, had been wounded by a bullet kept fighting to the best of their ability.
Lexa felt a burning line on her calf and, without looking, kicked at the man below her. She could feel the flow of the battle turning in her favor. The sight of the two scouts that had joined her had been a clear blow to the morale of her enemies. Also, the smoke from the bombs had completely dissipated by now, and they had noticed it. Their party broke apart, some men attempting to run to the distant, heavy and still open door while others refused to give up the fight.
Their disorganization was their downfall. It was easy to kill or knock out the few wounded men when their companions abandoned them.
She wiped the blood off her sword on one of the dying men, ordering her warriors to get the fleeing Maunons and tie up the prisoners. She would keep them alive, and offer them to the clans that had suffered from the Mountains actions. Blood would have blood. Hopefully, it would also help compensate for the chiefs wounded pride at not being part of the actual battle.
Still, it was dangerous to stay in the open now that the fight was over. The gate was still open, but they had yet to receive news that the acid fog had been disabled.
She turned to Gustus. One warrior was applying pressure to his wound. She hoped he would last until Clarke could heal him.
''The Nymph gave you a radio, didn't she? Do not lie to me, Gustus. I saw you checking for it earlier.'' She added when the huge man seemed about to deny her affirmation.
She should have expected something like that when Clarke stopped arguing about Lexa being in the most dangerous group a few days ago.
Begrudgingly, Gustus showed her the device. She nodded.
''Tell her to send us the second unit. We have too many wounded and prisoners to carry on our own. All those who can walk must retreat beyond the reach of the fog until we know our troops have taken control.''
Initially, she had planned to immediately follow inside if the door was still open. But the trees were closer, and there were more wounded than she had anticipated. This fight had been too even – five more warriors would have saved a dozen lives.
But now was not the time for regrets. She led her wounded warriors away, hating that this miscalculation forced her to temporarily retreat. She was proven right in her decision, however, when she saw the door close just as her first warriors reached the trees.
As the distance was not so great, it only took a few minutes for the second unit to reach her. She immediately ordered the wounded to go to the healing tent that had been set near the trebuchets – she knew Clarke would tend to her warriors. Gustus refused to go, claiming that his injury was minor. The red patch on his thigh failed to support his words, but she had had him as a guard long enough to know that he would not abandon his post in the heat of battle when he could still fight. She considered using his radio and asking Clarke to come and heal him, but it would be selfish. Now that her only real part in the battle was over, the blonde must already be busy healing warriors from Indra, and perhaps even Reapers if the warriors managed to knock them out instead of killing them.
The healer had been adamant that whatever had been down by the Mountain to turn men into Reapers, there was a chance it was reversible – especially with her abilities. The problem, however, was that she needed to approach and touch the Reaper to examine and cure it. Which was impossible unless the Reaper was tightly bounded or unconscious.
Eventually, Clarke had accepted Lexa's argument that the Reapers could not be made a priority in this fight. If the battle allowed the warriors to subdue rather than kill, and Indra had enough warriors that she could spare a few to carry the mad monsters, the healer was allowed to try and cure those. But there were hundreds of sane grounders trapped inside the Mountain, and their rescue and the fall of the Mountain would remain the main objectives of the battle.
Now surrounded by healthy warriors – except for Gustus and her lightly cut calf that she had quickly bandaged – she waited for the signal that she could retrieve the rest of her wounded warriors and finish the invasion of the Mountain. She sent one scout to get news from Indra. She had to know if she had been able to enter the Mountain as well, or if they should fear Reapers attacking them in retaliation.
Several minutes passed, bringing with them her freshly healed warriors that refused to stay behind after Clarke had tended to them. Lexa felt a little guilty of asking her Nymph to exceptionally use her powers even on injuries that would have been fine with stitching and time, knowing the toll it must take on her.
Hopefully, the battle would not last too long.
The healed warriors also informed her that Reapers had been sent to Clarke's tent, and one of them offered her a piece of paper where Clarke had scribbled down her observations and conclusions in gonasleng. Warriors were taught the language, but Lexa knew her own proficiency had greatly increased through her many discussions with Clarke and her increased reading. If the blonde had used old scientific words again, Lexa might remember them, but it was highly unlikely a warrior would be able to repeat them faithfully.
She read the missive. She knew she would have to talk to Clarke to fully understand it, but the main point was that her warriors had been injected with some sort of poison that made them mad. Curing them was as easy as waiting for the poison to be eliminated naturally, but the weaning of the substance could prove lethal. Through her abilities, Clarke had been able to heal the Reapers brought to her, but the process was as exhausting as healing a fatal wound. Moreover, she mentioned psychological – a word Lexa had never encountered before – damage, that was beyond her healing.
She stared at this last sentence. Between her training as a warrior and witnessing Clarke explain their injuries to people, she was pretty sure she had a good idea of how the human body worked. At least, she had thought that she knew the name of all organs, if not the details of their functions. But she had no idea what psychological referred to, despite how important it sounded in the way Clarke warned of the possible damage.
And more importantly, why was it beyond her abilities? Was it the weakness she hid? The one organ that her body was incapable of healing? And did the same limitation apply to her own healing?
It was a matter for another time, though. She asked a warrior for fire stones and burned the paper – she could not let a potentially dangerous information exist in written form.
She looked up from where she was stepping on the ashes when a scout cried out in victory. The door of the Mountain was opening again. A second later, one scout slipped out and waved a great flag.
Her people would never have to fear the fog again.
She divided her troops in two, tasking the smaller group to take care of the wounded warriors they had had to abandon earlier. She hoped some were still alive. She ordered for them to be brought to the Healing Nymph, with the exception of the Mountain men. She might have less blood to offer to the clans, but she would not have Clarke expand her energy on people who had bled Heda's people for decades.
The second group accompanied her inside the Mountain.
The scout was waiting for them at the entrance, and explained that they had reached the command room easily enough. They had captured an old man who seemed to be one of the leaders – Monty had identified him as the President Dante Wallace – but the remaining guards and the general population had retreated in lower levels and opened fire whenever they stepped a foot in the corridors.
With a nod, Lexa sent a handful of warriors to pick up the metal shields they had used in their first charge. It sounded like they would need them again. Then she followed the scout to the command room.
It was a large room filled with devices of the old world. One of the wall was covered with moving pictures – movies transmitted by cameras, she understood, recalling Clarke and Raven's explanations of the devices below the Tower. Monty was tapping on something while looking at another screen. She had absolutely no idea what he was doing, which unnerved her. She hated having to rely on someone she did not fully trust.
She was glad Clarke and herself had not explained the most likely fate of his companions to the boy. Right now, he had too much power over the situation.
She stood in front of the numerous movies, studying them.
''Report, Monti kom Skaikru.'' She demanded.
The boy startled – he had always been nervous in her presence – and pointed at the device he was working on.
''Yes, Commander. I have hacked into the main frame, so I could control everything from this computer. I have turned off the acid fog, and started an evacuation process of whatever they use, so they won't be able to activate it manually. I have also destroyed the program they use to enter the coordinates of the missiles targets. I haven't been able to find anything about how much weaponry they have left.''
He then waved in the direction of the screens she was still studying. She could see a group of people – only five – hiding behind metal tables in a corridor, their guns at the ready. Probably the reason her warriors could not progress further at the moment.
''Here is the projection of their security cameras. There are areas that are not covered by the system. I can't project all of them at once either.'' He explained.
She had noticed the numbers in the corner of each image, and was making sense of them. The first one had to refer to the level the camera showed. The rest probably indicated an area. Through this logic, she mentally build a map until she had a better understanding of who was positioned where. She studied it a bit longer to memorize it before nodding at Monty.
''Show me the rest.''
The boy did something with device again, and the images changed. She took note of the numbers before focusing on the scenes they depicted.
She let out a growl when she saw the cages holding her people.
Movement on another frame caught her attention. Indra. So, she had managed to enter from her side. Perfect.
''Can we reach the prison without going through one of the defended corridors?'' She asked.
Monty grabbed a nearby piece of paper and handed it to her. ''I printed this earlier. It's a layout of Mount Weather.''
She refrained from glaring at him. What kind of soldier forgot to present her with such an important thing immediately?
Oblivious to her irritation, he indicated which corridors were defended, and pointed to the area where her people were being detained. The plan gave her a much better vision of the situation. It seemed Mount Weather had very few fighters left – they were only defending the access corridors of the area were the rest of the population had retreated.
Monty added. ''The rest of them are in this main hall of Level 5, as well as the rest of the sky people. I don't think the Mountain men in that room can breathe the air from the outside. Opening that door is a death sentence for them.''
She held back a sigh. She had no wish to kill children – regardless of the people they were born to – but she would not sacrifice warriors to save them either.
She turned to her warriors.
''I want three teams. The first two will go to these corridors. Do not engage the fight, use the shields to force them to waste their bullets. They have the advantage of position and weaponry, but we will wear them out. The third team will accompany me to meet up with Indra. It is time to free our people.''
Her speech was met with cheers, and the warriors obediently divided themselves in organized units of eight warriors each. She used the plan and cameras to determine the fastest way to Indra, and set out.
It gave her an eerie feeling to march down the empty and dark corridors. Though her warriors were trained since childhood to walk silently, their steps echoed around them. She found the whole thing oppressive, and it made her eager to finish the battle and return to the fresh air and open spaces of the forest.
She could understand why the Mountain men had searched for a way out of this despicable home. But they should never have harmed Heda's people.
She saw Indra and called out to her, knowing her general would recognize her voice. It would be stupid to survive the battle and receive a stray arrow from a nervous seken. The general saluted her Commander, and they quickly divided her troops to go help her teams harassing the remaining Mountain men, and occupy and search the rest of the Mountain. No one would escape her justice today. Indra accompanied her to the room filled with cages.
Despite having seen it on the screen earlier, she was still furious at the sight that greeted her.
Her people were thin, extremely thin, with dark patches under their eyes. There were hundreds of cages, some piled against the walls, others hanging from the ceiling. Worse, a good number of the prisoners barely reacted to their entrance, too weak or numb to realize that freedom had come for them at long last. Some did not move at all, and Lexa was convinced some of them were dead.
She felt sick.
She gritted her teeth and walked to the closest cage. She unsheathed her sword and struck the lock with the pommel until it gave out.
''You. '' She ordered, pointing at a handful of warriors. ''Find the keys. The others, help me open those cages and find a way to lower the rest.''
She turned to Indra. ''Are the tunnels safe enough to evacuate them?'' She asked.
The general nodded. ''Lincoln's knowledge of the tunnels proved useful.'' She admitted begrudgingly. ''We were able to clear the fastest path to the door, and I left half of my troops to hold the entrances leading to this path. If they can walk, a small escort should be enough to bring them back to my healer.''
Because the tunnels were farther from Clarke, they had set up a second healing tent managed by Nyko. He was under orders to sent ahead to Clarke anything that could not be managed by field dressing or a few stitches, unless of course it was unlikely the warriors would survive the trip. The people they were now freeing were exhausted, malnourished and weak, but seemed otherwise unharmed. Lexa doubted this was something anything but time and proper food could heal.
She nodded her approval, and Indra immediately started to organize an escort and sort the prisoners who could walk from those who couldn't and would be evacuated with bigger troops and stretchers. The general ordered the warriors escorting the first group to return with as many bottles of water as they could carry, so they could start caring for the weakest prisoners.
Lexa broke a few more locks, but had to admit that the sheer number of cages made the task very time consuming. She still had to see to the resisting Mountain men. So she entrusted Indra with the supervision of the rescue and returned to the command room.
She demanded an update of the situation. Her warriors had suffered almost no losses, but the situation was at a stalemate since the Mountain men had apparently understood that she was trying to exhaust their ammunition and had stopped shooting unless a warrior showed without the protection of the shields. Three warriors with gunshot wounds had been evacuated.
She could lay siege and wait for her enemies to surrender, now that she had eliminated all their dangerous weapons and also significantly reduced their number of trained warriors. However, she was not feeling patient.
And a prolonged fight without asking for the support of the other clans would just lead to more political problems, whereas a lightning-attack would be more likely to be praised than criticized.
To facilitate the aftermath, she did not need to simply win. She needed a fast, clean and absolute victory.
She turned to the sky boy that was still sitting in front of the device – computer, she recalled – eyes fixated on the cameras showing Indra freeing her people.
''Is there any way for me to talk to them without walking in those corridors?''
She had seen one of the men use a radio, and both group of defenders had stopped shooting at roughly the same time, from the reports. They had some way to communicate.
The boy startled again. Lexa had no idea what he would do in Polis later, but she already knew he was absolutely not warrior material.
''Er… Yes, I can do that. Just give me a minute.''
Soon he handed her a small device, strongly resembling the one from Raven's radio they had used to contact the Ark. She took it and, for the first time, turned her attention to the old man that was tied up in a corner of the room with a couple other Mountain men.
''Since you are here, President Wallace, who should I address to demand surrender?'' She asked.
The man stubbornly looked away from her. She took another step to tower over him.
''Your people have lost this battle already. If you surrender, I will spare the children and perhaps some others. They will be forever banished from my lands, but they will have a chance. A small one.'' She paused and hardened her voice. ''If you do not surrender, I will not rest until each and everyone of your people are dead at my hands. I have the means to blow up that door as soon as your soldiers lose this last, foolish battle.''
The man stared at her, measuring, trying to determine whether or not she truly meant what she had said.
''Cage Wallace.'' He replied in a defeated tone. ''My son. He is head of security.''
She jutted her jaw towards the screens. ''Which one is it?''
The old man indicated a brown-haired man that was amongst one of the defending groups. She fixated her gaze on the new leader of her enemies and brought the mike close to her mouth.
''Cage Wallace, People of Mount Weather. I am the Commander of the Twelve Clans.''
She paused, glancing at the other screens to ensure she had the attention of everyone.
''My warriors occupy all the levels of your home, aside from the one you are in. We have disabled all your weapons, and are freeing our own people. I will not leave until I am certain you will never again threaten my people. If you wish to give a chance at life to your children, you will surrender now. If your guards do not lay down their weapons, I will storm those halls with my army, and you will be offered no mercy.''
She stared at the stubborn face of Cage Wallace. ''You have five minutes to decide.''
She turned off the mike and put it down on a nearby table.
''What… what will happen to us, if we surrender?'' The old man asked from behind her.
She faced him. ''You will be taken prisoners. Those of you that can go outside will be offered to the clans you harmed to pay the debt of blood. I have a healer that can perform the same operation you did to cure the children and those that will be chosen to take care of them. They will be banished – I do not care where they go. The others will be killed. From what I understand, it is mercy to slit their throat rather than let them die from the air that is toxic to your people.''
She was matter of fact in her explanations. She took no pleasure in harming others, unlike some clan chiefs who relished the feeling of power it gave them. She simply felt the pride of accomplished duty. And since those were the people who had killed thousands of her own over the last few decades, she felt no pity for their fate.
The old man sagged at her words, but she saw resignation rather than anger. He knew he deserved his fate and would not attempt to present a plea that he knew would go unanswered.
His son, however, seemed more conflicted. The guards seemed to be arguing, as were the people in the main room. She briefly toyed with the idea of using their distraction to strike and end the battle, but it would be dishonorable. She would wait until the end of the alleged time. But not a moment longer.
She saw one man take the radio from Cage and frowned. What was happening?
A voice echoed in the room.
''This is Carl Emerson. Do you promise that the children's lives will be spared?''
She took back the mike. ''If you surrender, yes. They will receive the same treatment you did, and be banished with a few adults to take care of them. They will only be killed if they try to set a foot on my lands again.'' She confirmed.
That seemed to be enough for the man who stepped over the tables he had used as protection, put his gun on the ground and slid it towards her warriors. Then, he moved to the side of the corridor with his hand raised.
His actions spurred on the others, and soon the other guards imitated him. Some did so very reluctantly, but all eventually gave in, realizing that there was absolutely no hope of victory. Cage was the last one to deposit his weapon.
She gave orders for her warriors to put the weapons away – they had brought large pieces of cloth to allow them to transport the guns without touching them – and tie up the guards. She warned them to be weary of Cage. She did not trust him to come peacefully.
He proved her right by struggling and attempting to stab the warrior that restrained him with a concealed knife, but he was quickly contained. Her warrior seemed to take great delight in punching his face until he stopped resisting.
It took almost two candle-marks to organize the transfer of the prisoners and the evacuation of the last of her formerly imprisoned people, as well as the guarding and supervision of the rest of Mount Weather population – which included the sky people. Clarke's former companions did not appear to have been mistreated.
Since the level they were trapped in contained a lab and surgery room, and the scientists were also present with the general population, Lexa allowed Monty to give them enough power and control back to continue the treatments, with instructions that the children were to be cured first, along with half a dozen of adults who had, according to Dante Wallace, refused blood treatment. Monty had found a file in the computer that allowed her to confirm the names and faces of those people. It seemed the Mountain men had been very rigorous in keeping notes of who supported their methods or not.
At least, it spared her the tedious task of interrogating those people until she found the ones less likely to seek a stupid revenge.
She had also learned that the woman scientist, Dr Tsing, had been the one to supervise the bleeding of her people as well as the process that turned them into Reapers. According to the file, she had already received the bone marrow treatment that would cure her definitively.
She would be brought to Polis with the other leaders from the Mountain, and suffer Death from a Thousand Cuts.
She was glad, however, that this woman could advance the process. It meant that Clarke would be able to rest after all the healing she must have done today, and focus on her warriors or the Reapers.
Once everything was arranged, she gave the signal to the rest of the army to evacuate. Most followed Indra to go through the tunnels as the Reapers were still a threat and they also had to carry the last rescued warriors to Nyko. Tents had been brought from Polis to house all the freed grounders as comfortably as possible, but Lexa knew she would have to decide what to do with them soon. Some were obviously too weak to travel to Polis immediately as she had initially planned. They were also more numerous than she had expected.
Lexa herself exited the Mountain through the main door, followed by a limping Gustus – his wound seemed to have stopped bleeding, but she could see him wince every now and then – and two dozens of warriors. Four remained outside the gate, assuming the first watch of the entrance, in case a spotter attempted to take back control of the command room.
As they drew closer to the area where the trebuchets and the healer tent were, Lexa felt an unease grow in her guts. Something felt wrong. Overlooked. She noticed that the warriors around her tensed as well, picking up on the strange atmosphere.
She saw Anya approach from afar and frowned. Her old mentor should have been back much earlier. It had already been hours since they completed their mission at the dam. Then she noticed the makeshift stretcher the warriors behind her were carrying, and how few they were compared to the ones who had left the previous day.
Something was wrong.
She fastened her pace and sent an interrogative look to the general as soon as she was close enough.
''Unmarked warriors attacked us as we returned from the dam, Heda. We were caught in an ambush. We managed to defend ourselves, but at a great cost, and our last opponent slit his own throat rather than be taken alive.'' She pointed to the stretcher. ''We lost five warriors but have only one badly wounded.''
Lexa glanced at the body laying on it. Though it was lying on its side with the back to her, she easily recognized the red jacket. Raven.
''We stopped the bleeding.'' Anya continued. ''But the wound is deep and bones are broken. I know she is a friend of Clarke. That's why I did not stop at Nyko's tent.''
''You did right.'' Lexa replied. ''The Healing Nymph shall be able to help more than Nyko, and he is busy tending to our people we freed from the Mountain.''
And Clarke would want to help her friend, even if they seemed to be in conflict because of Lincoln.
Anya nodded while looking around, as if searching for something.
''It is too quiet.'' She commented, unsheathing her sword.
With that, Lexa realized what had been disturbing her earlier. There was absolutely no sound. It was not abnormal for animals to flee the area of a battle, but it had now been hours since any fighting happened here. The birds should have returned.
Or they should hear the cheering and victory songs of the other warriors.
Unmarked warriors had attacked Anya...
She gestured for the warriors to follow her and rushed through the trees to the clearing where she had last seen Clarke.
It was a bloodbath.
She gripped her sword tighter as she ordered to search for survivors. She walked through the clearing, searching for a glimpse of blonde hair. She was relieved to see none amongst the dead bodies surrounding the trebuchets.
This clearing was supposed to be away from the fighting, so there had been few warriors in it. And between the space needed by the trebuchets and the fact that Clarke's healing was so efficient, it had been decided that it would be easier and less crowded if warriors removed to other areas or joined back the fight as soon as they were healed. No doubt they had also evacuated the cured Reapers.
What a mistake.
She walked to the healing tent, fearing what she would find inside.
''Heda…'' A weak voice called her before she could pull aside the entrance.
She glanced at the man breathing shallowly and quickly by the side of the tent.
Ryder. The guard that had been shadowing Clarke.
She looked him up and down and held back a grimace. His stomach was pierced. A slow and painful death.
The man weakly rose his arm. ''They were too many. I am sorry, Heda. They captured the Healing Nymph.'' He coughed and groaned in pain. ''They left this.''
She crouched and grabbed what he was offering her. A necklace.
A necklace she had offered to Costia years ago, and that her lover had never taken off.
Azgeda had taken Clarke.