We were able to quickly and quietly make our escape back up the ventilation shaft. By pushing on a few hours longer we made it back to the merchant’s house that had been our refuge 2 nights earlier. We decided not to reclaim the axe from the entrance hall as it was too likely to make noise. During the night we began to hear a great roaring of machines moving quickly, at the time we didn’t know what this meant, but assumed it was bad. We kept up our watch but had few problems that night.
The next day we were able to see down into the entrance hall and saw the cause of the noise, several very fast bladed wheels that bore enemy riders. They looked ungainly and clumsy, but having seen the effect to which the bladed wheels of a chariot can be put to effect I shudder to think how these would rip through ranks of soldiers on even ground. With the expertly crafted halls of the hold they would be able to travel at high speeds and it was only a matter of time till their search pattern discovered us, we had to move quickly. I informed Lilith and we set a quick pace that day, making it to the entrance. During that day there was a great cacophony that worried us all, till Jez realised it was the sound of one of the devices crashing, that raised my moral at least.
By the time we reached the entrance it was obvious that they had our trail. I gave tactical options to Lilith. We had 2 real strategies. The first was to blow the charges we had laid to collapse the only tunnel to the entrance and quick march and hopefully escape, though the march would e a true ordeal till we could safely cache our loot. The second was to barricade the tunnel and make a stand. The devices would be unable to overcome a sturdy barricade and they would have limited numbers so our chances would be very good, but we would also give time for greater numbers of pursuers to come, maybe even to find the entrance and trap us. Lilith picked the first option and we began our forced march, overladen with our booty, leaving our pursuers nothing but collapsed stonework to follow.
Lilith and I did our best to keep the party moving, but the ordeal was exhausting for all of us. To make matters worse it appeared that the dark magic of the enemy leader was still taking its toll, robbing those affected of sleep. Lilith recovered quickly, but William and Bidnae were like dead men walking before we reached safety.
We buried the cache of gold by a landmark and were glad to rest. I found a plant that the dwarves claim can restore energy to the exhausted by brewing its berries. I made sure to gather a pouch full and took some clippings. I brewed it up for Bidnae and William. While it is no replacement for sleep, it did help in the short term.
The rest of our return journey was of little interest. We made good time and before long were within a days march of the hold. That night I made sure to see to my dress uniform and fold it carefully to mallow for its donning when we were close to the hold. The next day we received a heroes welcome. Few had expected our success, fewer the speed of it. I looked forward to the days of feasting and celebration that were sure to follow our return