NPCs by Drew Hayes Read Free Book Online

Book: NPCs by Drew Hayes Read Free Book Online
Authors: Drew Hayes
squeeze through the cage, she took a new approach.
    Seizing the axe wedged on the far side, Gabrielle jerked it free with a solid pull, then slid its head through the hole and set it on the ground. Using the shaft for balance, and with Eric’s help, she was finally able to maneuver her way out of the wooden cage and land safely on the ground. Safely, here, was a relative term, since she was still in proximity of a claw-clacking demon and several dozen armed goblins. Still, she wasn’t trapped, and that was progress.
    Gabrielle’s freedom nearly coincided with the demons’ leaping; she landed only moments before they took off. For an instant, she thought it was a good thing. After all, fewer demons near them meant a higher possibility of living to see the sunrise, didn’t it?
    “Dragonshit,” Thistle muttered as he watched the horrid creatures crash back down to the dirt.
    “What?” Eric asked.
    “They’re coordinating,” Thistle explained. “The one in the center is there to draw focus and stir up chaos among the warriors. Meanwhile, the three on the outside can pick off the ones on the edges of the crowd, while still cutting off the best exit routes. This is very bad. Demons set on a random slaughter are troublesome, but can be outmaneuvered. When they’re smart enough to work together, well, let’s simply say our survival chances just got lower.”
    “What do we do?” Gabrielle asked. Without thinking, she pulled the axe up from the ground and brought it to rest on her shoulder. It might not be of much use to her, but better a clumsy weapon than none at all.
    “You two get clear,” Thistle ordered. “Grab any weapons or armor you see on the way out — it wouldn’t do to be picked off by wolves after escaping demons — and get out of camp.”
    “And what will you be doing while we’re turning tail?” Eric asked.
    “Someone has to go check on Grumph,” Thistle replied. “And I certainly draw far less attention in this crowd than you two.”
    That part was true. The gnome stood nearly shoulder-to-shoulder with the goblins, meaning he could blend in easily. Two humans would stick out like, well, like a pair of humans in a crowd of goblins.
    “I don’t want to leave you like that,” Eric said.
    “Good sentiment; hold onto that later on when we’re back to playing our roles. This isn’t you abandoning me, though. This is you trusting me to do my job, and not making me worry about you as well. We’re a party. We each have our own tasks to fulfill,” Thistle explained.
    Eric didn’t particularly like that answer, but he also didn’t foresee changing Thistle’s mind, and the longer they were here, the worse their chances of survival grew.
    “Fine,” Eric agreed at last. “We meet at the clearing we passed on the way in.”
    “Deal,” Thistle said, almost immediately darting off into the crowd.
    “Works for me,” Gabrielle added.
    “Glad we’re all agreed. Now, which way should we go to get out of here?”
    “I’m going for a gap I know about on the west side of the camp.” Gabrielle pointed somewhere past the goblin warriors. “You should probably go another route. I have to pass a lot of goblins on my way. They know me and won’t attack in surprise. I can’t say the same for you. Plus, it’s probably better to go separate ways… just in case.”
    Eric nodded; there was no need for explanation. They were in a very dire situation and the odds of all of them making it out were slim at best. At least going different ways meant one might find a clear path.
    “Be safe,” he told her.
    “You, too.”
    With that, each hunkered down and began moving away as quickly and quietly as they were able to manage.
    * * *
    There are few sensations like staring eye to eye with a demon, nothing between you and it but a polearm that somehow felt even smaller than it had moments ago. Grumph and the beast locked eyes with each other for less than half a second, yet both could feel the weight of a

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