74 Tricked Ou
The stairs that Zoey was following down while carrying Athena were quite long. She had already left behind all twenty of the spider taser mines on the way down, and by her judgement she had traveled around two kilometers before she finally reached the bottom.
"I don't remember asking for a ride this rough…"
Zoey was startled when she heard Athena talk to her. She quickly lowered her friend from her shoulders to see if she was OK, and was greeted by a perfectly fine and grinning Athena.
"You're OK?" Zoey asked, more than a little confused about Athena's apparent lack of side effects from her imprisonment.
Athena laughed as she got to her feet and wrapped Zoey in a bear hug, lifting the smaller woman off her feet.
"Of course I'm fine hun!" She said with a smile as she released Zoey. "You didn't think I would actually let them take me that easily did you?"
Zoey took off her mask and looked at Athena in disbelief. "You tricked me! You could have gotten out the whole time!" Zoey said, a little upset at being tricked by Athena so easily.
"Don't be mad hun. Look, I had a good reason to do what I did!" Athena said as she patted Zoey's shoulder. "I did actually get caught off guard by the initial trap they placed, and even though I could have broken out and avoided the cage, when I felt that you were nearby, I decided to get caught. There are two reasons for that. First, I wanted them to think that I am weaker than I actually am. They have no idea how strong I actually am. The more they realize I am far stronger, the more dangerous their attempts to capture me get… although this is mostly Loxon's doing. So, I want them to underestimate me, and being the damsel in distress once in a while has a certain appeal you know?"
Athena grinned and put her arm around Zoey's shoulders as they walked further down the dark pathway. "Second, I needed them to realize that you are not someone to mess with. They will no doubt realize that it was you who "rescued" me, and judging from the damage you did to them back there, that will earn some respect from them in the future."
Now that she understood what Athena was trying to accomplish, Zoey was less upset.
"So you're telling me you weren't excited to get married to Loxon?" Zoey asked as she glanced at Athena with a sly grin.
"HA! The only meaning marriage has to him is servitude. He has been trying to force me into a blood contract since he first saw me. All that would do is turn me into his obedient slave, and that is exactly what he wants. Not that he will ever get it!" Athena finished with feeling. Clearly she was less than enthused with the Sand Shark leader.
"What I really want to know is what you used back there against the mercenaries! Even through my defences I could feel the impact! And what was the cloud? Poison?" Athena had an eager look on her face as she barraged Zoey with questions.
"Concussion grenades and tear gas pellets," Zoey said as she pulled one of each from her inventory to show Athena. "One will stun the opponent and the other produces a gas that makes the skin burn, and severely irritates the eyes and lungs making it very hard to do anything."
Athena admired the craftsmanship of the grenade for a moment then asked, "Where did you find these? I have never seen anything this well made except for some extremely rare relics."
"My talent lets me create things using magic, so things like this are easy enough to fabricate," replied Zoey.
Athena had an amazed look on her face that made Zoey laugh when she heard about Zoey's talent. At this point, Zoey had no reason to conceal her talent from Athena, and rather than create distance by avoiding the question it was better to just tell Athena.
She also ended up explaining what the spider taser mines were that she left behind. They were tiny, autonomous spiders that would patrol an area, and when triggered by proximity alert, they would completely cover the area in electrified webbing. They were a nightmare to spot, and good luck trying to walk for the next two days if you got hit.
By the time she finished explaining to Athena how the taser drones worked they had reached a large, open area that was clearly the way out of the dungeon. At the far side they could see the exit portal, the only issue was between them and the portal were somewhere around a thousand Gnolls lined up in a defensive formation that left no way around them.
Zoey remembered that she had encountered one of these creatures on the second day she had arrived on Darren. Two meters tall with a powerful build, the creatures had the heads and teeth of hyenas, and vicious claws at the end of long arms. They typically moved hunched over on all fours for speed, but could easily walk on their legs as well. The ones Athena and Zoey were facing now were unarmed, but that did not make then weak. Those teeth and claws could shred armor like it was made from paper.
"You ready?" Athena asked as she received her staff back from Zoey.
"Better now than never," replied Zoey as she put on her mask and readied her knife and some concussion grenades she had left.
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They started the fight with a literal bang. A grenade tossed into the nearest group gave them an opening, and with Athena leading the way, they carved their way into the Gnoll ranks. Athena had once again transformed her staff into the blueish-silver spear, and its gleaming edge reaped a bloody harvest as Athena wielded it like a goddess of war.
Since Athena could withstand the concussion grenades, Zoey used them liberally as they slaughtered their way through the Gnoll squads to create gaps and opportunities for Athena to attack. In the meantime Zoey was controlling her knife with ruthless precision as she cleaned up what Athena left behind.
They worked really well as a team they both realized, and the longer the fight lasted, the better they got. When Zoey eventually ran out of concussion grenades, they switched tactics with Zoey taking a more active role in attacking while Athena supported.
The howls and shrieks of the Gnolls were a discordant symphony that eventually grew quieter and quieter until the final one died on the end of Athena's spear.
The thousand strong army of Gnolls had been completely wiped out.