The tunnel was just big enough so that the Homins could walk upright, and wide enough for three of them to walk next to each other.
Its walls were smooth and polished, and nothing grew inside it. As they travelled quickly through it they realised that one end was exactly underneath the strange shield on the ground.
They could still hear their foreman being dragged along the ground, but they also knew that even a young Vorax would be a serious opponent for them. They only carried torches and their small daggers, and these beasts were rarely afraid of fire.
They followed the noise deeper into the darkness, passed forks and crossings in the tunnel system, until it suddenly stopped. As they passed through the passages, they could hear faint groans, and finally a bloodcurdling scream that suddenly stopped with a tearing sound.
As one, the Fyros stormed ahead and into a small cavern. As quickly as that they came to a halt, since what they now saw went far beyond their wildest imagination.
Something similar to a huge spider was chewing on the foreman's flesh and was drinking his blood, making disgusting sounds as it fed. Its body was green with white speckles, and stained with fresh blood. It had six legs and a slim body and on its back, which was drawn underneath its torso, it had a vicious looking sting. A second being, exactly like the first one, joined the scene and also started chewing on Benodir's dead body, tearing large chunks of flesh from his thigh. Then, the second creature noticed the men and briefly reared up to its full size. It was almost as tall as a man. A threatening hiss left its mandibles and blood sprayed towards the men.
This was too much for the proud Fyros. They stormed through the cavern and a wild battle began. Medrig took a painful sting to his leg, which went numb right away and made him fall over. Only with much trouble did the men manage to defeat the creatures and Rabur helped his brother up immediately, supporting the weight on his strong shoulders. None of the Fyros spoke a word. Mydix lifted the foreman's corpse onto his shoulders and they began to head back the way they came. When they had made it half way back, passing one of the many crossings, they heard the clatter of fast legs. Many legs.... There were more of these beasts!
They ran towards the exit, where Barnus and the others awaited them. They were carrying swords and shields, weapons they were able to find in all haste. The fleeing men climbed out of the hole as fast as they could when the first claws hit their legs. One of them cast a small fireball into the depths below, giving them a little room to breathe. But no one was prepared for what happened next.
A flood of giant insects appeared from the hole and the men fought desperately over the rope to climb up to safety. Rabur tied the rope around his injured brother's hip, while around them the battle waged. Men cried; creatures screamed and hissed. A second rope was thrown down, then another one. As Medrig was hastily pulled up, he could only look down at his brother trying to ward off tens of the evil creatures simultaneously.
Then his eyes fell onto something unbelievable.
The heavy wood node that had created this mess for them slipped and swayed. It started swinging wildly, and finally flipped over leaving another hole in the ground. From this hole came a horror that noone had ever seen before.
A brown insect, gigantic in proportion, as tall as three men, climbed out of the hole into the narrow cave and started to lash out with its enormous claws. It threw down the men like blades of grass on a field. Lightning bolts surrounded its gruesome presence, numbing everyone who was hit. Then it continued the bloody massacre of the brave Fyros.
Medrig yelled down into the hole as he was dragged up from its edge. He watched in horror as all the other ropes came up empty.
Some time after that, a team of experienced warriors started from Coriolis to clean the mine with rocket launchers and rifles. They would surely get rid of the strange insects, the hysterical men were talking about. The warriors all agreed on that. A decent battle would be good for morale.
As they left the city towards the mine, they saw a cloud of dust on the horizon. A sandstorm! That would make things a little more difficult. There was to be no turning around now though, and the company rode cheerfully on.
After a few minutes however, they became aware of a strange trembling beneath the ground. The desert was quivering as if Atys shook itself in disgust, and when the squad of 50 men and women reached the peak of a high dune, they suddenly became aware that they had never been so wrong in their lives.
The Great Swarm had begun.