Standing behind the seated technician with his arms folded across his chest, Keileon watched the unfolding scene on the computer's holographic display and tried to project an aura of calm. However he felt his heart rate increase as another of the Clatmere mercenaries vanished underneath a pile of flailing dwarven limbs, swords, and axes. That makes three, he thought.
A second later Besnell's dispassionate voice announced, "Defender Six just flat lined."
Looking to his right, Keileon saw that Besnell was sitting at another computer station. There he had readouts of the vitals for all the mercenaries such as heart rate and blood pressure. He also had readouts on their armor and weapons; power levels and which functions were enabled. Lastly, there was a live video feed from each of the Clatmeres' helmet mounted cameras. These small cameras were controlled by sensors and motors that allowed them to track and follow the Clatmere's eyes.
When Besnell looked over and met his eyes, Keileon had a hard time repressing a shudder. Even after all these years, sometimes the sight of Besnell still caught him off guard. Looking at him was like looking into a mirror, albeit a dark reflection. Besnell's hair was longer, and there was that wicked scar that ran down the side of his face. But what Keileon found most disturbing was the seething hatred that always burned behind Besnell's eyes. How easy it would be to be just like him…
"Oh my god. Is that a human?" Looking over, Keileon realized that the speaker was Brea Walker. She was standing next to him, wearing a shocked expression with her hazel eyes locked on the video feed from the recon drone.
Snapping his eyes back to the display, Keileon saw the figure that the recon drone was focused on and realized that it was the same auburn-haired woman that had been with the drow at the landing zone earlier. "Uh oh," he said unintentionally. Realizing that all eyes were suddenly on him, he quickly continued with, "Recall the drone. Besnell, contact Fangmaster Graylor and tell him that he and his troops are to disengage and return to camp now." Turning away from the screen, he stepped over to a nearby table and picked up his helmet.
"Wait. What's going on?" Simon walked up to stand at Keileon's shoulder as he slipped on his helmet.
He waited a moment for the helmet to power up and come online before he turned to face the taller human archeologist. "We are abandoning base camp," Keileon stated casually.
"And do what?" Simon asked angrily. "The shuttle couldn't be here for at least an hour. What are we supposed to do? Run off into the wild? Those savages would catch us."
Taking a deep, steadying breath, Keileon looked up at Simon. "Quite right Mr. Anderson. The shuttle could not make it to us in time, and if we run we will be pursued."
Simon seemed momentarily at a loss for words. He quickly recovered however. "So what would you have us do? Fight with our bare hands?"
To his right, Keileon heard Besnell say calmly, "I know that you are engaged, Fangmaster. You and your squad do however have jump packs. I suggest you use them and jump off the cliff."
Pressing a button on the side of his helmet, Keileon activated his headset. "Attention, attention. As you might be aware we are having a slight… situation with the natives. As such we are abandoning base camp. Your orders are to grab any and all supplies that you can and meet at the archway that was uncovered earlier. Do not, I repeat do not delay."
Both Simon and Brea began talking at the same time, but when Simon began poking him in the chest that was who he focused his attention on. "What the hell do you think you are doing?"
Slapping the man's hand away, Keileon felt his blood pressure spike. "Tread carefully, human. Or you might find yourself left out in the cold. Now to answer your question I plan to get everyone to safety by opening the arch and getting everyone inside."
"But we don't know what's behind the archway," Brea commented as she peaked out around Simon's shoulder.
"We know there is a rather large room with more than enough space to house the entire team," Besnell commented as he slipped his helmet over his head.
Throwing his arms out wide in anger, it was obvious that Simon was on the verge of losing control. In fact, Keileon noticed that his face was turning red and there was a large vein beginning to rise up in middle of the man's forehead. For a brief moment, Keileon wondered if Simon was going to lash out at him. When he finally decided that he wasn't going to have to put the man down, Keileon released his grip on his pistol. I do not even remember reaching for that.
Making his way past Simon, he pushed open the door and found that the camp was already in full motion. People were rapidly stack crates and bags on to the hover pad even as a man began to guide the floating lift down towards the archway. As he started to follow the crowd, Keileon heard the sounds of the ensuing battle on the cliff above.
He glanced up just in time to see the first of clatmere mercenaries launching into the sky. The whine of the soldier's turbine powered jump pack drowned out dwarven battle cries. The sound of the turbine cut off as the soldier reached of the apex of his climb, sending him into a fall. For a moment it appeared that the mercenary was going to slam into the ground, but just before he hit,
his pack roared back into life, bringing his descent to a near halt. As Keileon walked past, the soldier disappeared in a cloud of dust as he touched down lightly.
Walking quickly down the path that led to the archway, Keileon heard the high pitched whine from the rest of the remaining defenders' turbines. He ignored the mercenaries landing on either side of him. It barely registered when the clatmere raised their energy rifles and started sending bursts of energy fire back towards the dwarves who were calling out insults and challenges.
His eyes were instead focused on the large archway that was made of rhyolite, one of the hardest and most unforgiving mediums someone could work with. Yet the archway that was exactly fifteen feet tall and twenty-five feet wide was perfect. While the lines that made up the arch were smooth, flowing, and elegant, the angles were a precise ninety degrees. Its sides were completely smooth and free of anything that even resembled a tool mark.
On both sides of the archway was a single ten foot tall statue. The effigies were that of humanoid females dressed in robed garments. Their hands were clasped at their waists and the amount of detail was incredible. Fingernails, creases in skin, veins, and tendons were all represented in prefect clarity. For all the beautiful detail in the statues, it was their faces that had made Keileon's heart skip a beat. Their features were sharp and fine with high cheek bones and large almond shaped eyes. Their ears were pointed and delicate and twice as tall as a human's. So much like his own.
A hammer's blow to his left shoulder brought him violently back to the present as he was spun in a tight circle before he finally ended up lying on his back. For a stunned second, all he could do was lay there and stare up at the sky. Regaining his senses, Keileon turned his head and saw a crossbow bolt had buried itself in the lower portion of the shoulder plate of his armor. "That was close," he muttered to himself.
Reaching over, he grabbed onto the bolt close to its wickedly barbed head. A quick jerk snapped the wooden shaft but didn't do much to dislodge the head. "Figures."
A large hand grabbed onto his right bicep and hauled him up. Before his feet even touched the ground, a deep gravelly voice growled at him. "Unless you have some brilliant plan, I am going to give the kill order. I will not lose any more of my people to these animals."
Pulling his arm free, Keileon looked up the side of the mountain and saw that some of the dwarves had lined up at the edge of the cliff. There some were firing or loading crossbows. It was then for the first time did he hear the cries of panic and alarm. Looking around, he saw that the men and women of the expedition were pressed tightly against the wall of the archway. On either side of him, the clatmere discharged their weapons in an effort suppress the dwarves.
Throwing up his arms, Keileon willed the air between the dwarves and the expedition members to solidify. As the air over the entire width of the archway quickly hardened, he watched as crossbow bolts clattered harmlessly on the top side of the new wall. Bolts of energy from the clatmeres' weapons struck the underside of the wall also with little results.
"Besnell, if you would. Make an opening in the arch."
He watched as Besnell quickly moved up to the smooth stone that filled the archway. At first it looked as though he was simply standing still before the wall. But then Keileon noticed that Besnell's hands were tightly balled into fist and his arms were starting to shake with tension. The wall however remained unchanged.
Looking up, Keileon saw that the dwarves were already starting to pick their way down the sides of the arch's enclosure. Then he spied the scimitar wielding drow stepping out from behind a large bolder. His blades were stained with the dark blood of the mercenaries and his face was mask of anger as he stared at Keileon.
"Graylor!" Keileon called as he pointed at the drow. In the corner of his vision, he saw the large soldier spin around and raise his weapon as he dropped to one knee. A beam of green light momentarily flashed into being, connecting the end of the Fangmaster's rifle to the bolder that was next to the drow. The scorched rock hissed angrily as the drow darted back behind it.
"Reloading!" Graylor bellowed.
Keileon looked down as the mercenary quickly loaded another power cell into his weapon. A counter on top of the rifle indicated that the weapon now had its full complement of shots. As Graylor brought his weapon back up to his shoulder Keileon thought he heard someone yell, "Look out!" Whatever the warning was however, it came too late.
A blue-white streak slammed into the side of the Fangmaster's weapon. For a fleeting moment nothing happened and Keileon thought there was an arrow buried deep in the rifle. Then he heard an odd high pitched whine just before the weapon exploded.