One weakness the large gophers had was their relative fragility. Besides their teeth and claws, the rest of them wasn’t much tougher than a regular animal of their size such as a boar or wolf. That meant they were easy for Kaylani to take out with her metal spikes while all Barrett had to do was block the tunnel and protect himself.
Of course, sometimes the best way to protect himself was to kill whatever was attacking him. If he could slip past claws and teeth, almost any ‘casual’ hit would kill them. Of course, he still needed to use berserk energy or manage to build up momentum behind his attack even in the awkward fighting space.
The gophers themselves seemed to not be interested in preserving their own lives, so Barrett inevitably took damage. However, just because they could bite or claw into his flesh didn’t mean they could kill him. He took a few wounds, but nothing serious enough to inhibit his fighting. However, if it continued long enough he could get worn down.
After the battle was over, Barrett asked, “How many could live in these tunnels?”
Kaylani shook her head, “I’m not sure. Usually people avoid entering, and these seem exceptionally extensive. Probably hundreds. If we go the wrong way we may run into more than we can easily handle. But…” Kaylani nodded, “I sense Kail is near. To the right this time.”
Barrett moved the bodies in the tunnel out of the way and proceeded to crouch walk forward through the tunnels. He briefly wondered why they would dig so deep through the hard earth- but then he considered what else lived in the area. Great worms basically swam through the sand near the surface or the metal sea itself, but likely couldn’t burrow through the solid metal down below. They didn’t have any method of actually digging, merely being able to push their way through loose areas. If the gophers here could find food, they would be safe from basically any other predator as very few things would be willing to enter the territory of a great worm. Not even Barrett- though he hadn’t really known or had much choice when he first did so.
Barrett sensed the tunnel opening up before he saw it. Though the giant gophers didn’t give off any traces of energy, they also didn’t hide from his senses except by naturally feeling like part of the space they live in. Up ahead, he could feel a large mass of them… and finally Kail’s energy. Barrett crept forward, but his attempt at stealth was destined to be thwarted by his need for light to see. The gophers also could see, though they didn’t rely on their eyes within their burrows. That said, the sudden appearance of light actually gave them pause for a moment.
Before the fight broke out, Barrett could see the rodents in a somewhat larger ‘cavern’ which was approximately three meters high and about twice that wide at its largest point. All of the gophers were surrounding a metallic crystal formation in the center of the cavern, with all of those that could reach- including those piled on top of others- chewing on the metallic crystals. In the center of that formation was Kail, his eyes closed in concentration and clutching something in his grip.
Barrett wasn’t sure what type of metals the crystals in the center were made of, but some were more golden, some silver, and some were almost rainbow. Regardless, they were tough- the gophers were making some gouges with their bites, but any normal metal would have been bitten straight through with little effort.
It was a quick and easy decision for Barrett to pull out his axe and stand blocking the entrance to the tunnel. As he did so, rodents started swarming towards him, but with the improved fighting space he could stand up straight and get in a good stance. Then, he swung his axe, cleaving through a handful of gophers in a single swing. Even so, twice as many replaced them before he could go for another swing, pressing in and climbing over one another.
Kaylani didn’t stand idle, sending metal spikes into every gopher she could. Barrett was impressed by how many individual groups of spikes she could control at once, targeting several enemies at a time while retracting other sets of spikes at the same time to where they could build up momentum for another wave of attacks.
Rodents swarmed at Barrett, biting at his legs and arms, but he held his ground. Though his skin was as strong as steel, the teeth of the rodents bit through skin and into muscle, scraping his bones. Though Barett couldn’t move out of the tunnel entrance or leave Kaylani up to attacks, he still avoided any attacks directed at vital areas, mostly by slicing the gophers in half. Several rodents still pushed their way past Barrett, but Kaylani could handle them well enough herself- it was just better for her to not have to focus on defending herself when she could be attacking. Barrett’s position also kept him from being surrounded.
Soon enough the bodies of the rodents were piled up enough that their attacks slowed down, and some of them even started retreating down other tunnels connected to the larger chamber. When the battle finally finished, there were hundreds of dead rodents and Barrett was dripping blood from all over his arms, legs, and chest. Though, he only let the bleeding continue for a few moments. One area at a time he held the skin together and sped up that particular area’s healing with Pure Body Tempering. That didn’t stop the internal bleeding, but he was able to deal with that as long as he still had the blood somewhere in his body. At the same time, he kept his ears open for the skittering of more rodents.
Kaylani stepped past him into the center of the room, pushing bodies out of the way as she went. Then she knocked on the metal in the center of the room, making it ring out. “Hey. Kail. Wake up.”
Kail opened his eyes. “Oh. Hello.” He blinked for a second at the sudden light. “Good to see you.” He breathed heavily, “I don’t suppose one of you could carry me out?” He breathed out heavily and then collapsed along with the metal crystals around him.