They were many and there was only one monitor, so they crowded in front of it while shoving each other away to see which one of the ancient noble families had managed to find a cure for their condition and repress the revolt.
What appeared in front of their eyes was much worse than the dreamless sleep they had just escaped from.
"What does this mean?" A male asked. "Those aren't even Odi possessing human bodies. According to the sensors, they are actual humans, or at least most of them are."
Nimble feminine fingers ran across a keyboard, activating the surveillance devices scattered throughout Kulah. The cameras showed them the camp on the outside and how many buildings had been breached.
"These people are no helpers, but raiders." A female said. "We need to exterminate them before going back to sleep."
"Don't be so hasty." Another woman replied. "Look at their equipment. I've never seen anything like that. They might hold the key to resume our research."
After a quick debate, an agreement was reached.
"Fine. Let them come like lambs to their slaughter, but we must make sure that no one of their slaves manages to escape." A second male voice said while pressing a button which activated their ultimate defense mechanism.
In the meantime, Lith could see with Life Vision that something was terribly wrong. The world energy compressed and accumulated inside Kulah's buildings was being released all at once while more was being pumped from the mana geyser below.
"This is a quake! We must make sure that the people at the camp are alright." Yondra said, worried about Rainer.
Yet it was no quake. The world energy was being converted into a thick, black miasma that was flooding the whole underground cave and its tunnels, consuming every form of life on its path, even the moss they had painstakingly grown during the last few weeks.
The camp was already submerged in darkness element and the only reason its occupants were still alive was the multi-layered array that Neshal and the other Professors had left. Yet it wasn't going to protect them for long.
The dark energy was eating at the magical formation, whereas the miasma could slowly pass through it. Barriers wouldn't prevent air and light from entering, making the situation of those at the camp even more desperate.
Luckily, the cave was now filled with air, allowing them to use fire magic to destroy the toxic gas before it got too close. Without all the moss they had planted, they would have had no defense against such an attack.
Jerth was about to contact Phloria, but she beat her second in command to the punch.
"Is everything alright at the camp? The quake…"
"Is caused by a mass destruction spell that's consuming the whole cave." Jerth cut her short, the external layers were already crumbling. "What do we do?"
Jerth pressed a few buttons on the amulet, allowing Phloria's group to take a look around.
Lith didn't waste time, opening a Warp Steps right in front of Quylla, quickly followed by both Phloria and Yondra who had started to chant as soon as they had seen Jerth's terrorized expression.
Only thanks to the three dimensional corridors did the rest of the expedition team manage to get to safety before the array collapsed.
"And now what? We can't get outside and we have no idea how much further that thing reaches the tunnels." Almost as a reply to Morok's question, the black miasma started to flow inside the administration office through the ventilation system.
"Give me the card!" Lith took the keycard from Phloria's pocket, quickly swiping it from both sides, just to be safe. The metal doors closed in the nick of time and the elevator started to move down, allowing them to survive.
"Amazing!" Said a woman. "They managed to use dimensional magic without runes! We must interrogate them thoroughly and learn their secrets."
"You're insane, Leela." Replied a man. "They speak gibberish and none of us is willing to waste their time teaching a bunch of monkeys our language."
"Talk for yourself, Rizo." Said another man. "If we learn their language after we steal their bodies, we could get outside and learn how close the Odi empire is to defeat the rebels."
"Are you insane?" Rizo's voice was full of poison. "Taking the body of a monkey? Have you forgotten why we hid inside Kulah? It would mean throwing away all of our efforts and sacrifices!"
"I haven't forgotten, but have you seen how low have we stooped? What we have become to remain alive and preserve our magical talents? I'd say that even a monkey's body is better than this thing you call life."
Rizo was about to kill Jiira, but many seemed to share his vision and even more blocked Rizo's arm, keeping it away from his sword.
"There' something I don't understand." Leela said, ignoring the commotion around her. "Why did they save their slaves instead of using dimensional magic to escape? How can a bunch of children be worthy of their masters' lives?"
"The answer is simple." Jiira said. "Either those are not slaves or their spells are flawed and can't bend space far enough to escape. By the way, I call dibs on the brown-haired youth. It's the less disgusting among them."
No one wanted the Professors because they were too old, also in the following quarrels for who would obtain the Assistants' bodies, the Odi agreed on only one thing: the non human had to die.
'Solus, what was that thing?' Lith asked.
'Some kind of poisonous gas strengthened by darkness magic. In a way, it's worse than the explosion we were afraid of. No matter how powerful, we could have avoided the explosion by Blinking away whereas we have no idea how long will it take for the gas to disperse.' Solus replied.
Phloria was checking that Quylla was alright, casting all the diagnostic spells at her disposal. Yondra was doing the same for Rainer, while the other Professors were too worried about themselves to care about their Assistants.
"Captain Phloria, how in the gods' name one can fail even to use a goddamn key?" Gaakhu's fury hid the terror she felt for being trapped hundreds of meters below the ground, without knowing if she would ever see the sky again.
"I made no mistake nor I triggered any alarm. You checked the door yourself." Phloria kept her voice calm. The only thing worse than being underground was to remain imprisoned in a metal box with no way out.
None of them had ever been in a mechanical elevator before, all those they had experienced in the past were magical in nature. The buzzing of the engine and clanging of cables were upsetting everyone but Lith.
"Then how do you explain our situation? We did nothing and the Assistants were too far to mess up!" Gaakhu wasn't willing to let it slide. Each squeaking she heard felt as if someone was hammering nails into her coffin.
"I don't owe you any explanation. I don't know what happened, but I know that arguing won't take us anywhere. We need to keep calm."
When the elevator reached the bottom floor, the structure jolted to a stop, making the group yelp.
The metal doors quickly opened, forcing the two women to interrupt their quarrel. It was best to not ignore the welcome committee waiting for them.