While Bruce takes care of the wounded, the other party members cautiously advance down the hill, past the SS garrison building and past the main garrison into the courtyard containing the building occupied by the Kommandant. Although most of the vehicles at the castle were rendered undriveable as a result of the battle, there are a couple of Sd. Kfz 215/1’s and a couple of staff cars parked in the area that managed to survive intact.
As they are surveying the vehicles, a very sheepish looking Father Cerny emerges from the stairway leading down to the Well Tower.
“I … I …” he stutters.
Taffy is in no mood for hearing the Father’s excuses or apologies, however. He simply takes down the cleric with a quick burst of fire.
None of the others admonish him. Luckily Bruce is still seeing to the injured. With the coast now clear, the party members return to the Great Keep and start to escort the townspeople down to the vehicles. They decide to take two of the half-tracks, just in case they face any more opposition on the way.
The townspeople are ushered into the back of the vehicles while Vaclav takes the driver’s seat of the first vehicle and Terry the second. Lodd mans the MG42 of the lead vehicle, while Bob takes the second. Piotr and the Padre ride shotgun in the two cabs.
Once everyone is onboard, Vaclav leads the small convoy through the main gate and down the steep track that leads down to the village. Those manning the MG’s and riding shotgun keep their eyes peeled for any sign of a German counterattack or ambush as they depart from the area of Karlstein and head into the countryside.
It is fortunate that Vaclav knows the area like the back of his hand and also that they took the two half-tracks rather then the Opel Blitz truck as Vaclav leaves the road and starts to go cross-country in order to avoid the large village of Grossmorchin that stand between Karlstein and their quarry hideout. The passengers are rattled around as the twin half-tracks bounce up and down on plowed fields and crash through bushes as they by-pass the village and cross over several tracks leading to it. After twenty minutes, Vaclav crashes through a line of bushes and Terry brings his Sd. Kfz. up next to it.
“This is as close to the quarry as I dare get,” Vaclav says. “We’ll have to make the last 500 metres on foot. Any closer and it will be too easy for the Germans to figure out where we went.”
All disembark and then assist the still-terrified villagers and children traverse the rough ground in the pitch darkness as they make their way towards the quarry.
They find the two members of the mortar team waiting for them at the entrance to the quarry and they assist the party members in helping to get the remaining villagers and children down into the safety of the cave network. It is a little after midnight by the time that all are safely inside.
Once the adrenalin has worn off, the surviving resistance members and villagers seem to be in a stunned silence, the euphoria of having been rescued and survived nullified by the horrors that they have witnessed and the heavy casualties that both the resistance members and the villagers themselves incurred during the rescue mission.
One by one, the party members succumb to their tiredness, as do the villagers. Bruce stays up late through the night, however, attending to the injured and comforting the most traumatized in his slow, relaxing drawl.