Our formations were basically the same but with more people. Those with magic and ranged abilities at the rear, and those with heavy armor up front. We weren’t currently worried about attacks from the rear, but if the battle was like we expected there might be reinforcements. Thus, Alhorn and Kantrilla were at the very rear- almost making a new front. It would only take a few moments to reshuffle people if we needed to, except for one clear outlier.
Socks was too big to conveniently move past others in the corridors. She was also eager and quick, so she was the first into the room near the core. There were over a dozen rock monsters in the room, but the room was large enough to have ample room to move around… or at least it seemed that way. The crushing traps we had spotted earlier limited where we could move. Socks had also been told the layout of the traps… as we had understood them.
Then two sections of the floor slammed into either side of Socks. Or rather, because she was so large, both slabs hit her ribs from below. With a yelp, Socks let herself go flying backwards. With the awful noise involved I expected something to be broken, but neither Socks nor the slabs seemed damaged. Then they returned to their place in the floor, basically indiscernible from the rest of the ground.
However, Alhorn’s quick thinking provided us an advantage. He rearranged the lights he was sending into the room, marking out the dangerous sections of floor. It was likely everyone had seen what had happened, but he called out a caution regardless. “Careful! It seems the ‘crushing traps’ don’t merely move up or down!”
Nobody would blame Arara’s assessment of the traps for being incorrect. One would presume slabs of floor that were loose in that manner to be crushing traps, moving up and down to catch people in them. Picking out anything in the dungeons with the material itself eating light was difficult enough, and avoiding the area had actually still been safer for Socks- she just hadn’t expected them to be able to move. In the brief moment they were up, I didn’t see how they could move that way either.
The ground rumbled during those few moments, and we had to think about our tactics. I stopped my motion into the room and switched out to my hammer… the one designed for breaking walls and the like. It would work just as well on floors, too. I was only a couple seconds behind Socks, who recovered from her surprise and then leaped past the crushing traps onto one of the rock monsters in the room. She knew that we still had to do this fight, even if things changed.
If I said I had easily memorized all of the trap placements Arara had mentioned, I would be lying. Instead, I had a general idea- and two that Alhorn had marked. I didn’t know how the traps were set triggered, but if I destroyed their structure it didn’t matter. From what I had seen the slabs were about as tall as a person and just as wide, and maybe a foot thick. It would be a bit of trouble to destroy one while having to worry about being attacked, but it wasn’t like it couldn’t be done.
I moved towards one, cautiously avoiding being anywhere near the other. Even as I was swinging my hammer down towards the ground, it rose up to meet me. I hadn’t stepped anywhere near where Socks had, and the way it rose up was strange. But I didn’t have time to think about the mechanisms as the impact happened. I had been expecting to meet a still object, but my form was good enough for what happened. I smashed off perhaps the left third of the slab, and the rest of it flipped over to slam next to me. I immediately recovered and swung to my right and sundered the remaining piece in half, and then everything happened at once.
“There’s the gas!” Arara called out, beginning to call upon magic, “I’ll maintain the air for everyone!”
“Enemies coming up from behind!’ Hallette cautioned, even as she fired her arrows into the side of one of the rock monsters in the room, shattering pieces off it. “It’s like there was a boss call!”
Yuri chucked his throwing spear through the neck and torso area of one of the rock monsters in the room, helping slow their advance towards the rest of us. Kasner created patches of ice to hold off further creatures as Socks finished crunching the one she had tackled. Alhorn managed the lights in the room, making it so everyone could see the moving slabs. Kantrilla had already given barriers to everyone, and was preparing to fight at the rear.
Larr dodged flipping slabs of floor, seemingly keeping three of them distracted simultaneously. Distracted… like they were attacking him. Of course, traps were meant to attack people… but there was a difference between moving in a way that would kill someone and actually attacking them. The slabs moved with purpose, and Larr was the first to figure that out and mention it. “The traps are the boss! I mean the boss is the floor! Or-” Larr ducked as two slabs tried to flip onto him from opposite sides, slamming into each other in the middle and forming a sort of tent over him.
He didn’t really need to explain more. I got the general idea… and it didn’t change my job. Right now, that involved going to help Larr, because he was dealing with most of the trouble near the entrance of the room. When I took the slabs to be enemies- large, rectangular prism shaped enemies instead of ones with torsos and arms and legs- I understood their movement better. I slammed my hammer right into the middle of one, and the dungeon brick shattered. It was a bit sturdier than standard dungeon brick, but not all that much. With such a big target, Bash was exactly the sort of skill I needed.
Socks rocketed around the room, not stopping to engage any of the rock monsters and instead seeming to try to distract as many of the slabs- bits of the boss- as she could. Until that point it wasn’t clear if they really were the expected boss, or just a bunch of individual monsters. However, as she moved around some parts were slower to react to her changing placement, and in turn the slabs by Larr and I were reacting more slowly.
The rear of our group had started to edge into the room as I heard the sound of combat behind them. Kantrilla and Alhorn would be guarding the back, which would be why the lights were stationary now. The group didn’t need to move entirely into the room- it was better to fight the approaching enemies in the corridor- but they did need some space. I had to finish clearing the entrance.
Wind whipped around me- and the others- as Arara continuously poured fresh air into the area, pushing away the hidden gasses that had been underneath the slabs- at least some of them. My hammer came down again, right in the center of a slab, and I was glad that the brick was fairly brittle, especially when intentionally damaged. Of course, most weapons weren’t suited to hitting it, and I had to reinforce my own weapon to resist the impacts. As cracks splintered from the center, the slab fell to the ground and stopped animating. Hopefully it wasn’t a trick, but I didn’t exactly have the time to pulverize each and every bit of the entire room.
“Llyr!” Halette guided me, “We’ll be fine here.” As she said that, she shot a fire arrow into a slab that was frozen by Kasner. It had still been moving, since he hadn’t frozen it to anything else, but the sudden difference in temperatures cracked the stone and made it fall apart. “Get to the objective! It’s best not to draw out this fight!”
I nodded. As the one with entirely too much Strength, breaking through the floor- the real floor and not the bits of this weird boss- was my job. I also had a good idea of where I needed to go… which was unfortunately most of the way across the room. The total number of enemies in the room was about the same- they were being destroyed by Yuri and Socks and the others at about the rate they came in from other corridors. We’d destroyed a dozen or so slabs, but that was only a small part of what they seemed to be. Maybe one in ten of the ground sections was part of the boss, but an equal part of the ceiling also was coming down to crush people as they went under- and then moving around to attack as they saw fit. With the room vaguely a hundred feet in either direction, that meant dozens of the slabs to deal with, and that was just what I saw now. Moving through the room would be… a difficult maneuver. I prepared my swinging muscles and my dodging ability.