Hilde led the way, her body hunched over as her snout eagerly sniffed at the ground.
“This way,” she whispered. Her voice so low that Serena could barely make out the words.
She, Inés and Sylvie followed the lupine girl, their eyes adjusting to the darkness as they went.
Hilde stopped abruptly, her ears perked up, her body tense and frozen.
Serena looked around, unable to make anything out but the trees and open space.
“Are they around?” Sylvie whispered.
“Right there,” Inés declared, gesturing. Serena followed her arm and stared. It was faint and virtually impossible to see in the darkness, but there was the outline of an opening hidden right beneath a large tree.
“Serena, you and Hilde stay up here,” Sylvie whispered. “The mermaid and I will go down after them.”
“You just want me away from the fighting!” Hilde whispered, her voice harsh.
Inés put a hand on her shoulder. “I know how you feel,” she whispered. “They hurt your dad and you want to get them back for it, but that kind of thing can lead to mistakes in a battle and they outnumber us. We have to be smart about this. Let Sylvie and I go down there and flush them out. You two deal with them as they try to escape. We’re counting on you, okay?”
Hilde visibly calmed. All right, you can count on us,” she whispered. “We’ll make sure to bring them all down.”
“Good girl,” Inés said. She kissed Hilde’s forehead.
She and Sylvie moved quickly, but soundlessly towards the entrance. Serena watched them go, knowing that they had no intention of letting any of the nine bandits reach the surface.
There was a ladder leading down. Inés and Sylvie both had trouble squeezing in and into the underground hideaway.
They reached the bottom of the ladder without incident. There was no sign of guards. There was a single door.
“Curious,” Sylvie whispered.
“Definitely a trap,” Inés said. “We’re going in regardless, right?”
“Right,” Sylvie agreed. “How many do you think there really are?”
Inés shrugged. “Nine left over from the earlier attack. Who knows how many stayed behind. I can’t imagine many did, considering that they were trying to steal pegasi.”
“Me neither,” Sylvie said. “I’d say there are a dozen at most. You ready?”
“Always,” Inés said. “I’ll open the door, you keep them off of me for a second.”
“Fine, just close your eyes,” Sylvie whispered.
Inés took a couple steps back and rushed the door, kicking it off of its hinges in a mess of splinters.
There were eleven bandits in the room, fully armoured. Humans, trolls, vampire and one feline feralial. Some were taken aback and involuntarily moved back. Most ran forward.
“Bolt Flash!” Sylvie shouted. A bright flash of lightning lit up the chamber. The charging bandits fell back, covering their eyes.
Inés and Sylvie ran in. Sylvie’s rapier went right through a troll’s heavy armour, impaling him all the way through. Inés swung her staff, hitting a human and a vampire. The blow crushed their helmets and skulls, sending blood and brain matter splattering.
The feline feralial leapt at Sylvie. She turned her hand towards him.”Bolt Burst.” Several small bolts of lightning slammed into his face. He moved back, bringing his arms up to protect him. Sylvie freed her blade from the troll’s corpse and jabbed it directly through his neck.
A pair of vampires abandoned their armour and transformed into bats. They flew for Inés, returning to their human forms to lunge down at her. She vaulted up using her staff and executed a flying kick up at them, hitting each one with a different foot. Then she twisted in the air, slamming her staff into their sides and sending them plummeting into the ground.
“Chain Lightning!” Sylvie cried. Lightning burst from her fingertips and travelled through three of their foes, leaving their chest armour visibly scorched. The three dropped, writhing around the ground.
Inés ran for the final two, a troll and a vampire. The vampire gestured and a mist covered the room. The troll brought up a large kite shield to block her staff. The shield broke in twain and the staff crushed his helmet inwards. He collapsed lifelessly onto the floor.
Inés looked around for the vampire, the mist still obscuring her vision.
“Group up!” She felt Sylvie’s back move against hers. “I can’t see a bloody thing.”
The two stood there, looking around for their enemy. Finally, the mist cleared and he was gone.
“Damn,” Inés muttered. “Outside!”
Serena was watching the entrance with Hilde when Hilde’s fur started sticking up. “Someone’s coming,” she said.
A bat flew from the underground. Hilde lunged for it, her claws scraping against it. The bat shifted and changed into a vampire. He bared his fangs and grappled with the lupine girl, trying to rip her throat out.
Serena rushed to her aid, slamming his head between her tonfa. To her surprise, the weapons emitted a blue, fiery flash upon coming into contact with his flesh. He screamed in pain and reared back. Hilde pressed the advantage, ripping his throat from his neck with her fangs. She quickly spit it onto the ground.
Shortly after, Sylvie and Inés returned to the surface.
“Did everything go okay?” Serena asked.
“Yeah,” Inés answered. “We were a little worried when that slippery bugger got past us, but I see you got him.”
“It was weird,” Serena said. “When I hit him some incredible fire magic came from my tonfa.”
“Sylvie shrugged. “Not surprising. These are weapons we got from Hephaestus. My rapier is sharp enough to pierce through armour easily and Inés’ staff seems to have its own advantages.”
“Heavy enough to do massive damage and so sturdy that I can swing it with all my strength without any problems,” Inés confirmed.
“You guys got weapons from Hephaestus?” Hilde asked, her eyes wide.
“Long story,” Inés said. “For now, let’s head back to your inn and let your parents know that we dealt with the bandits.”