Out in the tunnels, someone was screaming.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry" wept the soldier, his white hair and skin matted with blood and sweat and dust. The stench of fire and carrion was being driven in the city, now. The gnoll clenched his fingers around one of the improvised palisades, and tried to ignore it.
"We almost broke them! We were so close!"
The other soldiers, the other survivors, were grieving openly now. They had suffered enough, far more than enough, being forced back deeper and deeper into their ancestral city, seeing their friends and families, boys and old men falling around them as they were slowly overwhelmed.
"We thought we'ld cleared out the Fourth Chambers... but they had a sorceror.. He.. he... "
Tears ran freely down the soldiers face, twisted beyond recognition by his exhaustion and shame.
"We ran, lord. I ... I...."
Less than a handful. A handful out of thirty men, and the enemy controlled the Fourth, Thirteenth, and Eighth Chambers...
Vitus closed his eyes, feeling the rising bile of sheer exhaustion inside himself... He tried to say something, tried to find some words of comfort and support for the few remaining soldiers under his command...and failed.
"Collapse the Oblong tunnels. We have to abandon the level. Seal them and spore them, then seal them further back."
The captain sagged, accepting the order, and was led away by his men.
Vitus opened his eyes, and looked over the buried city. Its buildings, damaged now, the stink of terror strong in his nostrils from the people he led, and the city he had discovered and made his own, stood blue and dark in his vision.
His words were quiet, with none but himself to hear
"They won't take my home without a fight"