Catti-brie knew as soon as she saw the dwarven courier's face, his features a mixture of anxiety and battle-lust. She knew, and so she ran off ahead of the messenger, down the winding ways of Mithril Hall, through the Undercity, seeming almost deserted now, the furnaces burning low. Many eyes regarded her, studied the urgency in her stride, and understood her purpose. She knew, and so they all knew. The dark elves had come.The dwarves guarding the heavy door leading out of Mithril Hall proper nodded to her as she came through. "Shoot straight, me girl!" one of them yelled at her back, and, though she was terribly afraid, though it seemed as if her worst nightmare was about to come true, that brought a smile to her face.She found Bruenor, Regis beside him, in a wide cavern, the same chamber where the dwarves had defeated a goblin tribe not so long ago. Now the place had been prepared as the dwarf king's command post, the central brain for the defense of the outer and lower tunnels. Nearly all tunnels leading to this chamber from the wilds of the Underdark had been thoroughly trapped or dropped altogether, or were now heavily guarded, leaving the chamber as secure a place as could be found outside Mithril Hall proper."Drizzt?" Catti-brie asked.Bruenor looked across the cavern, to a large tunnel exiting into the deeper regions. "Out there," he said, "with the cat."Catti-brie looked around. The preparations had been made; everything had been set into place as well as possible in the time allowed. Not so far away, Stumpet Rakingclaw and her fellow clerics crouched and knelt on the floor, lining up and sorting dozens of small potion bottles and preparing bandages, blankets, and herbal salves for the wounded. Catti-brie winced, for she knew that all those bandages and more would be needed before this was finished.To the side of the clerics, three of the Harpells-Harkle, Bidderdoo, and Bella don DelRoy-conferred over a small, round table covered with dozens of maps and other parchments.Bella looked up and motioned to Bruenor, and the dwarf king rushed to her side."Are we to sit and wait?" Catti-brie asked Regis."For the time," the halfling answered. "But soon Bruenor and I will lead a group out, along with one of the Harpells, to rendezvous with Drizzt and Pwent in Tunult's Cavern. I'm sure Bruenor means for you to come with us.""Let him try to stop me," Catti-brie muttered under her breath. She silently considered the rendezvous. Tunult's Cavern was the largest chamber outside Mithril Hall, and if they were going to meet Drizzt there, instead of some out-of-the-way place-and if the dark elves were indeed in the tunnels near Mithril Hall-then the anticipated battle would come soon. Catti-brie took a deep breath and took up Taulmaril, her magical bow. She tested its pull, then checked her quiver to make sure it was full, even though the enchantment of the quiver ensured that it was always full.We are ready, came a thought in her mind, a thought imparted by Khazid'hea, she knew. Catti-brie took comfort in her newest companion. She trusted the sword now, knew that it and she were of like mind. And they were indeed ready; they all were.Still, when Bruenor and Bidderdoo walked away from the other Harpells, the dwarf motioning to his personal escorts and Regis and Catti-brie, the young woman's heart skipped a few beats.The Gutbuster Brigade rambled and jostled, bouncing off walls and each other. Drow in the tunnels! They had spotted drow in the tunnels, and now they needed a catch or a kill.To the few dark elves who were indeed so close to Mithril Hall, forward scouts for the wave that would follow, the thunder of Pwent's minions seemed almost deafening. The drow were a quiet race, as quiet as the Underdark itself, and the bustle of surface-dwelling dwarves made them think that a thousand fierce warriors were giving chase. So the dark elves fell back, stretched their lines thin, with the more-important females taking the lead in the retreat and the males forced to hold the line and delay the enemy.First contact was made in a narrow but high tunnel. The Gut-busters came in hard and fast from the east, and three drow, levitating among the stalactites, fired hand-crossbows, putting poison-tipped darts into Pwent and the two others flanking him in the front rank."What!" the battlerager roared, as did his companions, surprised by the sudden sting. The ever wary Pwent, cunning and comprehending, looked around, then he and the other two fell to the floor.With a scream of surprise, the rest of the Gutbusters turned about and fled, not even thinking to recover their fallen comrades.Kill two. Take one back for questioning, the most important of the three dark elves signaled as he and his companions began floating back to the floor.They touched down lightly and drew out fine swords.Up scrambled the three battleragers, their little legs pumping under them in a wild flurry. No poison, not even the famed drow sleeping poison, could get through the wicked concoctions this group had recently imbibed. Gutbuster was a drink, not just a brigade, and if a dwarf could survive the drink itself, he wouldn't have to worry much about being poisoned (or being cold) for some time.Closest to the dark elves, Pwent lowered his head, with its long helmet spike, and impaled one elf through the chest, blasting through the fine mesh of drow armor easily and brutally.The second drow managed to deflect the next battlerager's charge, turning the helmet spike aside with both his swords. But a mailed fist, the knuckles devilishly spiked with barbed points, caught the drow under the chin and tore a gaping hole in his throat. Fighting for breath, the drow managed to score two nasty hits on his opponent's back, but those two strikes did little in the face of the flurry launched by the wild-eyed dwarf.Only the third drow survived the initial assault. He leaped high in the air, enacting his levitation spell once more, and got just over the remaining dwarf's barreling charge-mostly because the dwarf slipped on the slick blood of Thibbledorf Pwent's quick kill.Up went the drow, into the stalactite tangle, disappearing from sight.Pwent straightened, shaking free of the dead drow. "That way!" he roared, pointing farther along the corridor. "Find an open area o' ceiling and take up a watch! We're not to let this one get away!"Around the eastern bend came the rest of the Gutbusters, whooping and shouting, their armor clattering, the many creases and points on each suit grating and squealing like fingernails on slate."Take to lookin'!" Pwent bellowed, indicating the ceiling, and all the dwarves bobbed about eagerly.One screeched, taking a hand-crossbow hit squarely in the face, but that shout of pain became a cry of joy, for the dwarf had only to backtrack the angle to spot the floating drow. Immediately a globe of darkness engulfed that area of the stalactites, but the dwarves now knew where to find him."Lariat!" Pwent bellowed, and another dwarf pulled a rope from his belt and scrambled over to the battlerager. The end of the rope was looped and securely tied in a slip knot, and so the dwarf, misunderstanding Pwent's intent, put the lasso twirling over his head and looked to the darkened area, trying to discern his best shot.Pwent grabbed him by the wrist and held fast, sending the rope limply to the floor. "Battlerager lariat," Pwent explained.Other dwarves crowded about, not knowing what their leader had in mind. Smiles widened on every face as Pwent slipped the loop over his foot, tightened it about his ankle, and informed the others that it would take more than one of them to get this drow-catcher flying.Every eager dwarf grabbed the rope and began tugging wildly, doing no more than to knock Pwent from his feet. Gradually, sobered by the threats of the vicious battlerager commander, they managed to find a rhythm, and soon had Pwent skipping about the floor.Then they had him up in the air, flying wildly, round and round. But too much slack was given the rope, and Pwent scraped hard against one of the corridor walls, his helmet spike throwing a line of bright sparks.This group learned fast, though-considering that they were dwarves who spent their days running headlong into steel-reinforced doors-and they soon had the timing of the spin and the length of the rope perfect.Two turns, five turns, and off flew the battlerager, up into the air, to crash among the stalactites. Pwent grabbed onto one momentarily, but it broke away from the ceiling and down the dwarf and stone tumbled.Pwent hit hard, then bounced right back to his feet."One less barrier to our enemy!" one dwarf roared, and before the dazed Pwent could protest, the others cheered and tugged, bringing the battlerager lariat to bear once more.Up flew Pwent, to similar, painful results, then a third time, then a fourth, which proved the charm, for the poor drow, blind to the scene, finally dared to come out into the open, edging his way to the west.He sensed the living lariat coming and managed to scramble behind a long, thin stalactite, but that hardly mattered, for Pwent took the stone out cleanly, wrapped his arms about it, and about the drow behind it, and drow, dwarf, and stone fell together, crashing hard to the floor. Before the drow could recover, half the brigade had fallen over him, battering him into unconsciousness.It took them another five minutes to get the semiconscious Pwent to let go of the victim.They were up and moving, Pwent included, soon after, having tied the drow, ankles and wrists to a long pole, supported on the shoulders of two of the group. They hadn't even cleared the corridor, though, when the dwarves farthest to the west, the two Pwent had sent to watch, took up a cry of "Drow!" and spun about at the ready.Into the passage came a lone, trotting dark elf, and before Pwent could yell out "Not that one!" the two dwarves lowered their heads and roared in.In a split second, the dark elf cut left, back to the right, spun a complete circuit to the right, then went wide around the end, and the two Gutbusters stumbled and slammed hard into the wall. They realized their foolishness when the great panther came by an instant later, following her drow companion.Drizzt was back by the dwarves' side, helping them to their feet. "Run on," he whispered, and they paused at the warning long enough to hear the rumble of a not-so-distant charge.Misunderstanding, the Gutbusters smiled widely and prepared to continue their own charge to the west, headlong into the approaching force, but Drizzt held them firmly."Our enemies are upon us in great numbers," he said. "You will get your fight, more than you ever hoped for, but not here."By the time Drizzt, the two dwarves, and the panther caught up to Pwent, the noise of the coming army was clearly evident."I thought ye said the damned drow moved silent," Pwent remarked, double-stepping beside the swift ranger."Not drow," Drizzt replied. "Kobolds and goblins."Pwent skidded to an abrupt halt. "We're runnin' from stinkin' kobolds?" he asked."Thousands of stinking kobolds," Drizzt replied evenly, "and bigger monsters, likely with thousands of drow behind them.""Oh," answered the battlerager, suddenly out of bluster.In the familiar tunnels, Drizzt and the Gutbusters had no trouble keeping ahead of the rushing army. Drizzt took no detours this time, but ran straight to the east, past the tunnels the dwarves had rigged to fall."Run on," the drow ordered the assigned trap-springers, a handful of dwarves standing ready beside cranks that would release the ropes supporting the tunnel structure. Each of them in turn stared blankly at the surprising command."They're coming," one remarked, for that is exactly why these dwarves were out in the tunnels."All you will catch is kobolds," Drizzt, understanding the drow tactics, informed them. "Run on, and let us see if we cannot catch a few drow as well.""But none'll be here to spring the traps!" more than one dwarf, Pwent among them, piped in.Drizzt's wicked grin was convincing, so the dwarves, who had learned many times to trust the ranger, shrugged and fell in line with the retreating Gutbusters."Where're we runnin' to?" Pwent wanted to know."Another hundred strides," Drizzt informed him. "Tunult's Cavern, where you will get your fight.""Promises, promises," muttered the fierce Pwent.Tunult's Cavern, the most open area this side of Mithril Hall, was really a series of seven caverns connected by wide, arching tunnels. Nowhere was the ground even; some chambers sat higher than others, and more than one deep fissure ran across the floors.Here waited Bruenor and his escorts, along with nearly a thousand of Mithril Hall's finest fighters. The original plan had called for Tunult's Cavern to be set up as an outward command post, used as a send-off point to the remaining, though less direct, tunnels after the drow advance had been stopped cold by the dropped stone.Drizzt had altered that plan, and he rushed to Bruenor's side, conferring with the dwarf king, and with Bidderdoo Harpell, a wizard that the drow was surely relieved to find."Ye gave up the trap-springing positions!" Bruenor bellowed at the ranger as soon as he understood that the tunnels beyond were still intact."Not so," Drizzt replied with all confidence. Even as his gaze led Bruenor's toward the eastern tunnel, the first of the kobold ranks rushed in, pouring like water behind a breaking dam into the waiting dwarves. "I merely got the fodder out of the way."