The area of the yard in front of the dungeon entrance was, if anything, more heavily guarded than the front had been. As Einarr had feared, their hasty disposal of the torch before had given them away and made getting back in much harder. He glared at Sivid, despite knowing why: should Runa be lost, Jarl Hroaldr would need to name a new heir and Einarr would need to find a new bride. Should Einarr fall, the Cursebreaker fell, and with him all hope of reclaiming their home. It was not a fact he liked to dwell on. Thankfully, the situation ahead of them demanded too much attention to allow room for such things.
Ahead of the dungeon door stood twenty warriors, who for all their helms revealed could as easily have been monsters as men. Einarr was abruptly reminded of the Grendelings appearance under the effect of Astrid’s battle-chant. He frowned. “Looks like it’s four apiece. Think we can kill them quick enough not to draw more from around front?”
“Dicey,” Bollinn muttered. “Wish our distraction had drawn a few more men away from the keep.”
Jorir grunted, scowling at the group blocking their way. “Always like that, isn’t it? Anyone a quick shot with their bow?”
Barri nodded. “Maybe even fast enough.”
Sivid agreed. “Between the two of us, I’m sure we can cover you.”
“Good,” Einarr breathed. “I think we’re gonna need it. …Jorir, you come in from the left and I’ll take the right if you’ve got center, Bollinn.”
The hook-nosed man nodded.
“Fast and quiet. Give us to a slow count of ten to get in place, would you?” Einarr directed the question at the two archers, who also indicated agreement. He breathed out, suddenly nervous. “All right. Fast and quiet.”
Jorir dashed off to the left, both faster and quieter than a man would expect of any dwarf, while Einarr hurried a distance to the right, ducking down an alley to put a building or two between himself and the Skudbrun’s Mate. Even a slow count of ten didn’t give them very long to get in position before –
The first arrow whizzed through the air, lodging itself underneath the helmet of one of the guards near the edge of the group. He crumpled.
Time’s up. Einarr pressed his lips together in a grim line as he charged out of the byway toward the stone door they had found earlier.
Another arrow sailed through the air, and another guard crumpled. The guard Einarr charged at looked about himself in a frantic way. Einarr did not give him a chance to figure out what was going on: he cut upwards with Sinmora and the guard’s head snapped backwards unnaturally with a spray of dark blood. Ein.
A few paces ahead of him, a flash of gold caught Einarr’s attention as one of the warriors toppled like a tree, taken out at the knee. A second flash of Jorir’s axe took the enemy’s head before silent shock could transform into a scream. A third man fell to an arrow even as Bollinn impaled another on his blade through his maille.
Now their enemies were reacting, however. The next arrow clanged loudly off of one of their enemies’ helmets even as Sinmora struck another in the throat. Tveir. Jorir tackled the one who tried to run, his ears probably still ringing from the arrow. They were running out of time.
Sivid was charging into the yard now even as another pair of arrows found their targets. Barri’s boast had been no idle one, with shooting like that.
“Cover me!” Sivid made a beeline for the dungeon door. Between him and it were six of the remaining ten guards. Bollinn was locked down. Jorir was still getting back to his feet after dispatching the tackled guard.
Einarr growled and the man who would have been his next target dashed away. All yours, Barri. If they wanted to succeed, they had to get Sivid to the door.
One of the two guards on Bollinn had put his back to Einarr: that was a mistake. Einarr dashed forward and kicked hard at the back of the man’s knee. He staggered forward and then Einarr was moving again, running hard for the cluster blocking Sivid’s path. Bollinn joined him four paces later.
“My thanks,” the other man breathed, his pace not slacking.
Einarr only grunted, his attention on the fight ahead.
Sivid got there first, his own sword flashing like a silver fish at the first of the guards in his path. He knocked the helmet from his opponent’s head.
The face that was revealed there belonged to neither man nor beast, nor any strange hybrid of the two. Einarr pulled up short, but only for a heartbeat. Long enough for Sivid’s blade to flash again and the monstrous head to be parted from its body.
Einarr shook his head. He couldn’t afford to waste time gawking. Sivid was no slouch, but it would be the worst sort of cowardice not to assist with a mob like that. He surged forward, hacking at the nearest guardsman.
Bollinn surged ahead even as another pair of arrows whistled past Einarr’s ears, embedding themselves in the eyes of two more helmets.
Moments later, Bollinn, Einarr and Sivid all stood in front of the dungeon door, catching their breath. Moments later they were joined by the other two.
“We get everyone?” Barri asked as he jogged up, the last to join them.
“Seems so.” Einarr had been watching their little battlefield for signs of life and finding none. “Sivid? Whenever you’re ready.”
Sivid took a deep breath and nodded. “Let’s get to it, then.”
Einarr moved to stand behind the man, his arms folded in a defiant gesture. “We’ve got your back.”
The mousey little man turned his attention to the stone door, now ignoring the world around him. The others joined Einarr, forming a ring to shield the man who worked at the hidden lock.
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