I had to get to the core, but I wasn’t exactly able to just ignore everything else in the room. The rock monsters weren’t quite as brittle as the slabs, but sometimes when I hit them I managed to break off a few chunks. If not, I was at least able to bash them away. I took to swinging my hammer at mostly-random bits of floor. I wasn’t sure where there might be parts that suddenly moved, since there was so much happening. I also had to watch where I stepped, because suddenly being a foot lower than you thought wasn’t a good thing in a battle scenario. Fortunately, for all I could tell, the layer below the ‘boss’ was good, solid, normal dungeon brick. I still hit it sometimes anyway, just in case.
I basically had a sledge hammer, not at all optimized for hitting anything that moved. It also wasn’t optimized for ease of carrying and weight, and continuously swinging at full power was tiring. I was glad I’d put so much work into increasing my Constitution, or I might have collapsed halfway through. As it was, it took me a few minutes of intense fighting to reach the right area, even though it seemed like only a handful of steps away. There was a lot of hurriedly running back and forth to avoid attacks.
I smashed into the brick one section over from where I had sensed the core. Because there was no sagging I determined it was probably normal and not going to try to smash me. I took a step forward and swung down at my target… and as I hit I had to twist my body and push off a slab trying to crush me. I flung myself away, glad I had been watching out- and that I used Martial Trance at just the right time to position myself.
Then there were a dozen slabs in the area, blocking it off. Experimentally, I moved further away and smashed a different slab. I found it to be a bit slower and more awkward. That is to say, using less of the concentration of the ‘boss’. That meant if I went over towards the core I would be crushed in an instant.
I took stock of everyone else. Socks was darting around like mad- so probably normal. Yuri was doing a good job of taking out the rocky reinforcements, but the slabs were too thick for a throwing spear to do much, no matter the force behind it. Even if he broke through, he needed a bit more impact to break apart a slab. Luth was nearby, protecting him by drawing the attacks of the stone slabs as they flipped around, occasionally deflecting them by barreling into them from the side or down below.
The rear guard was just inside the room, taking care of the passageway we’d come in. Kasner was dealing with the enemies in the room, while Arara supported Alhorn and Kantrilla. I manage to catch Halette’s eye as she scanned the room, inclining my head towards the core. Loudly announcing my intention probably wasn’t good, and pointing would certainly be noticed. I had smashed out a bit of the floor where it needed to be done.
I couldn’t finish the task assigned to me at the moment, not alone anyway. However, that didn’t mean I couldn’t deal with some of the brick slabs. They had sort of been meandering from the edges of the room towards people, and they were starting to build up around people… though Socks managed to keep a good portion of them moving about trying to catch her.
It was a perfect time to start taking them out while they were distracted. Swing, swing, smash, swing, crush, swing, swing, swing, crumble. The number of things in the room actually started thinning out, but that came with the cost of fatigue to all of us. We couldn’t afford to wait around and fight everything that kept pouring in.
Fortunately, we didn’t have to. I felt a surge of magic from Arara and Kasner, flying towards the core. Twin bolts of lightning crashed through some of the slabs there, but they barely even scratched the floor beyond. Not that they needed to. A seemingly normal arrow was fired at the same time, slipping through the gap created and through the floor.
I heard a sharp crack… and another arrow immediately followed the first. I wasn’t sure if it hit, but it was pretty obvious that one of them had done it. The dungeon started trembling and the slabs that had been protecting the core went wild. “It’s done!” Arara shouted, apparently having used his magic to confirm the destruction of the core. I was already running towards the same exit as everyone else anyway.
Socks stayed behind a few moments longer than everyone else as we pushed out of the room, darting about occasionally being clipped by rock monsters and sections of dungeon brick. She nimbly jumped over holes and dodged past attacks, and when something struck her she barely seemed to notice. Not that I thought she couldn’t feel pain… but she had Toughness and determination.
She only left the room, leaping through a pile of rock monsters, as we were about to get out of sight down the hall. As she crashed to the ground outside the room she turned and howled, momentarily stopping the following monsters.
We’d fought our way out of collapsing dungeons before. At least, the main party. The other four were new, but they had been apprised of how things would work. Mostly, it meant not having any time to even slow down, barreling over enemies as we went. Socks and I were the rearguard who were there to make sure the less martially capable members didn’t get left behind, but those in front did a good job of crushing things on the way. Sometimes, I smashed rock monsters Kasner had half-frozen to the wall as they tried to move, but mostly we ran.
Towards the stairs. The dungeon couldn’t instantly change, and unlike one we had dealt with it didn’t even manage to throw up a thin wall in our way. As for monsters… well, that was why we had the plan with all of the other parties. The area near the stairs was mostly clear, though we could hear more coming as we joined up with another group and expanded our numbers.
At the end of the next floor we took stock. “All parties accounted for?” There should have been another group on the semifinal floor. We counted and found one missing.
“That way!” Arara shouted and gestured down the corridor. “They’re coming. Being chased by a good horde, but they’re on their way!”
They appeared around the corner in a few moments, carrying some wounded members that Kantrilla immediately healed- not fully, but enough to stabilize any issues. I could see her wanting to do more, and recognizing she couldn’t exhaust herself just yet.
Floor by floor we fought our way back out, gaining momentum and people as we did so. Organization was indeed very helpful, and the dungeon didn’t have any tricks we hadn’t seen before. Everyone might have been gasping for breath by the time we reached the surface, but despite the injured, we all made it.
We couldn’t quite stop at the exit, instead dragging ourselves just a bit further away… to a place we were fairly certain wouldn’t collapse as the dungeon did. Even if it gave way, it was soft earth so it would just sag down unevenly, and only towards the dungeon. Sage Norwood and others were there- those who couldn’t go in the dungeon without risking it doing anything crazy. I saw him look sadly towards the dungeon, and I knew why. A good portion of our work excavating the ruins would be undone- and some things would be erased, lost forever. However, though learning from the buildings of the past was important, learning from their troubles also was. Perhaps they hadn’t seen any signs of the dungeon acting strangely until it was too late, but we chose not to let something happen again.
In Ekralas, the adventurers guild was already monitoring the remaining two dungeons very closely. It was a bit difficult to remove them for both structural and economic reasons, but any further settlements around dungeons would likely be more carefully placed. Until people forgot again.