Callindra shouldered him out of the way and saw with a shock that the figure standing on the pulpit did indeed look a lot like the black clad figure whom she owed a good deal of pain. Brightfang was in her hand as quick as thought and she was moving to kick the door open when Tryst and Vilhylm each grabbed an arm.
“Let. Me. GO!” She hissed, “He’s right there with his back to me the bastard!”
“He has an entire room full of innocent people in thrall there.” Tryst said, his voice steady as a rock. “You can’t endanger their lives.”
“Dergeras has not shown himself to be helpless.” Vilhylm said, “I hardly think you could strike him down in one blow, if he allowed your blade to score his flesh at all.”
“As much as I want to go with you battle sister, we can strike a stronger blow against him by taking this artifact and leaving.” Cronos said, gesturing at the tongue hanging from Tryst’s fingers. A momentary flash of indecision was followed by the absolute grip of certainty.
Callindra jerked free of her friends with a violent movement accompanied by a blast of wind, grabbing the amulet from Tryst’s shocked grasp in the same motion. With a burst of speed, she slammed through the door, tying the artifact around her neck.
“This THING isn’t even a PERSON!” She shouted, pointing at the shocked form of Dergeras, “It’s lower than the filth on the bottom of your shoes! It has taken my master and friend by dint of treachery and foul play and must be DESTROYED if it’s the last thing ANY of us does!”
The assembled crowd looked from her to Dergeras and snarled in hatred and rage, closing on the dais with clear intent. Dergeras looked at Callindra with pure venom and spat in her face.
“Your precious Glarian is still waiting for you.” He said, his voice grating with spite, “I’ll see you at Hellgate Keep.” He seemed likely to say more, but a dagger sliced through his cloak, nearly pinning him to the wall and he incanted a spell, vanishing in a foul smelling gout of flame.
The rage of the assembled masses still washed over her like waves on a beach, eroding her sense of self with each assault. Strong hands parted the leather thong around her throat and Callindra returned to herself. Tryst looked down at her with concern in his eyes.
“Are you all right?” He asked, “What in the name of the Gods were you thinking? Those folk could have torn you apart!”
“I’m fine.” She said, her voice sounding harsh and rough to her own ears, “It was the only way I could think of to get rid of him… like you said, nobody can stand against thousands, no matter who they are.”
“Who is Dergeras?” Tanner asked, a slight quaver of fear in his voice. They all turned to look at him.
“Tanner, I think you might need to use this just once more.” Tryst said, “These folk need to be calmed down and evacuated. Is there a way out of town anywhere nearby? A secret way?”
“I’m not sure.” Tanner said, reaching for the talisman.
“Wait Tryst.” Callindra said, “He doesn’t need to be the one to tell them what to do. Why don’t you try it? You have the Hand after all, and I think it might help you deal with the… discomfort I experienced while using it to influence the crowd.”
“Discomfort?” Cronos asked, raising an eyebrow.
“You have to ride it. Like shooting the rapids in a canoe.” Tanner said, his eyes shining. “Their emotions push and pull you and if you don’t do it just right they sweep you downstream.”
“Well I didn’t find it exciting.” Callindra grumbled, “It was more like drowning than anything else, and didn’t you say you had no idea you were using magic?”
“I can tell you aren’t good with words.” Tanner said, ignoring her question. “I was a bard once, and should have been able to play any noble house but I caught the eye of the wrong girl and was expelled by the Lord whose house I had been playing-“
“I’ll take care of it.” Tryst said, cutting Tanner’s reminiscence off with an apologetic look at Callindra. “The Hand will protect me regardless I think.”
He stepped out onto the balcony and began speaking in his sonorous voice, the crowd quickly quieting down to listen. Cronos and Callindra kept an eye on Tanner while Vilhylm watched over Tryst.
“So this back way out. Is it big enough for all the folk to come with?” Callindra asked, “We don’t want to leave anyone here if we can help it.”
“Why are we leaving again?” Tanner asked, “It’s not as though there’s a plague or anything, just those damn merchants and Lords are keeping more than their share.”
“No, it’s far worse than that.” Cronos said, “Unless I miss my guess this city will probably not last more than a day or two. Callindra, I think those monsters we killed who were attacking the Gild’s wagons were scouts for a much larger force.”
Even as he finished speaking, horns began frantically blowing and the great bells of the citadel began to ring.
“The city is under attack!” Tanner said, his eyes going wide. “Just like you said! Oh Gods what are we going to do?”
Cronos slapped him efficiently across the face and then grabbed his chin, forcing him to make eye contact. “You are going to gather all the supplies you have been able to pilfer and show us the way out. The faster you get it together the quicker we can get out of here and the more of the people you’ve been leading in rebellion will survive.”
“Um. Right. The way out is the caverns though. Not really a place fit for the women and children…”
“Listen to me you halfwit!” Callindra said, allowing her anger to flare, “This entire CITY is going to be overrun with hostile forces in a matter of days if not hours! If Dergeras was here and gave that to you, the odds are he is going to be coming BACK for it and he won’t be alone.”
She was inches away from him now, looking slightly up into his startled face, “Since he knows you’ve lost the priceless gift he gave to you he’s sure to want a little retribution and since he’s bothered to appear here, himself, this group of people is part of his plan.”
Just then, screams erupted from outside in the great hall. Callindra drew Brightfang with a whistle of steel, “Tell me where the entrance to the caverns is or I swear by Wind and Blade I’ll gut you like a fish right here and now!”
Tanner pointed a trembling finger toward the great hall, “It’s beneath the dais. There’s a lever…”
Cronos snorted, “And he said you didn’t have a way with words.”
Both of them broke off when they heard Tryst’s battle shout and saw that Vilhylm had donned a mask and was leaping through the door. “Poxy rotting bastard must have already had his creatures infiltrating the city.” Callindra growled, barely pausing to glance at the scene below her before running through the door and vaulting over the railing, bringing Brightfang down to slash an infected man savaging another with long black claws.
The momentum of her swing coupled with her falling weight cut the thing in half, splattering glowing emerald ichor across the crowd. Behind her, Cronos incanted a spell, sending bolts of arcane Power lancing through the crowd to strike another of the infected, punching five small holes through its skull. Vilhylm and Tryst had claimed two more and some of the refugees were less helpless than others, drawing swords to hack at more.
With a grinding, grating sound the floor of the podium began to slide to one side revealing a ramp that led down. Cool, moist air wafted out and Callindra began ushering the nearest townsfolk through, making sure each one looked her in the eye, ensuring they weren’t infected.
“Cronos, either take over for me here or get down there and make sure they aren’t walking into some kind of trap!” Callindra shouted over the din of frightened voices and the clash of steel on steel. He nodded and turned to move with the refugees into the dubious safety of the caves beneath the city.