The Silver Tower Chronicles Adventures in other worlds, other times, and other realities

4Jul/12Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0001

A light breeze blew across the grass as the man in the watchtower surveyed the area. He did not see the slight movement below him and he heard the slight whistle in the air too late. The arrowhead pierced through the bottom of his chin and shot up into his skull. The sentry collapsed to the floor of the watchtower in a heap. The figure in the grass below moved upright and waved the rest of her team forward. She slithered ahead to the wall of the brigand encampment as the rest of the team advanced. The archer noted that the newest member was as loud as the largest member. She only hoped he was anywhere near as skilled.

***

“Excuse my poor grasp of your language,” the stout creature said.

The creature was roughly humanoid in shape, though it was barely six inches over four feet in height. It was very nearly as broad across the shoulders as it was tall and its thick arms reached well past its knees. It had a thick torso and short but powerful legs. Its skin had a rough texture with a reddish grey tone and its features were very craggy. He had hair and a beard, though it almost looked like crystalline strands in the sunlight. Like all of his kind, his eyes were completely black. His race called themselves the Halz, though most human legends just called them dwarves.

“Your grasp is better than many who were born to it friend,” the human replied.

The human was a native of Feergrus. Like all of those land his skin tone was chocolate brown with a dusky grey tone. His hair was white, betraying his age, and his pale hazel eyes showed wisdom and a great fiery resolve. Some would call those eyes yellow in color and all would be drawn to look towards one of them thanks to a scar on the man's face that crawled from under his right jawbone across his cheek, under the right eye and over the top of the bridge of the nose. It was by no means the man's only scar, but it was the most obvious one.

“You have come to seek our aid? Or to become a mercenary?”

“Both in a way,” the dwarf replied, “My people are fading. Most want to stay hidden in our hidden homes as each of the clans die out. A few, like myself, have decided to venture into the world. Perhaps we will find a way to grow our people again, to thrive once more. We have broken from our old clans, set in their ways. We call ourselves the Earthbreakers.”

“So how would one address you?”

“Well, most would just call me Ritter. If you need more you can call me Ritter Earthbreaker. I highly doubt you are going to run into many of the Halz, especially ones that might share my given name. The chances seem quite slim.”

“Do you know much of chance?”

“It is something all our people have to learn at least a small bit about. Engineering is in our blood, and that requires a solid understanding of mathematics and probability.”

“That education places you above most humans in those matters then, though I would warn you not to always assume so.”

“So I've told me my name, what should I call you?”

“I am called Enzi. We will leave it at that for now,” the man said with a grin, “But you should be happy that you ran into me. A lot of humans would seek to take advantage of an outsider. Especially one who is not human. I specialize in mercenaries of an unusual nature.”

“Yes, so I had heard. After some fool sought to imprison me for his profit. He was quite talkative when I had my axe out and him at his disadvantage.”

“Usually I am the one who seeks out the people I want to join my mercenary company. However we could certainly use someone with a bit more formal education.”

The Halz nodded, “Luckily I learned the language of the Nuvroci at home, and some of my people's allies among the Nuvroci taught me some of the other tongues of you humans. One would think you would have just one, it would be more efficient.”

“Humans are rarely efficient.”

“Then I can understand why you might want me among your mercenaries. It will give me a chance to learn more of your human conflicts. Perhaps with a more neutral look than joining one side or another.”

“Then let me introduce you to the rest of the team,” Enzi said, “Follow me.”

Enzi walked with a slight limp, something that few would notice. Ritter was one for seeing small details. Having seen the scar on the man's face, a slight limp did not surprise him. This human was one that had seen a large number of battle and had survived. That was an accomplishment for any warrior. Enzi still walked tall, standing a little over six feet tall. His age had not yet caused him to hunch over. When the pair arrived, Ritter was slightly surprised at the final location. He saw a large covered wagon hitched to four powerful oxen. There was writing on the side of it, and luckily the Halz could read one of the languages.

“Enzi's Irregulars,” Ritter said under his breath.

“Did you say something?” Enzi asked.

Ritter raised his eyebrow at the sharp senses of the old man, “Ah, nothing.”

The old man smirked and came to the back of the wagon as Ritter came up beside him. Inside the darkness Ritter could make out several shapes. He heard a growling sound and saw a large wolf perched near one of the shapes, obscuring most of that shape's bottom half.

“Quiet Mayitso,” a feminine voice said, “It seems we may have a new teammate.”

The voice came from the shape behind the immense wolf, but then another feminine voice was heard. While the first voice had been soft and soothing, the second almost seemed to croak.

“A dwarf? What is next? Go find one of the scrawny elves if there are any left?”

Ritter's face immediately turned more sour. He had heard plenty of stories about the elves throughout his life. He had never seen one and hoped for their sake that he never would. Before their betrayal, the dwarves had been a thriving race. After that, most of his race had been slain, and then separated into a few small and dying clans. The insinuation that they too had failed as a race seemed to be like karmic justice to his ears. Still, the thought of them brought no happy thoughts.

“They are called the Halz, Kava,” Enzi said, “I would think you would be more sensitive to racial nicknames.”

“What would it matter to me?” Kava replied in her croaking voice, “Your people called us Bullywugs, the damned lizards called us Kappa, and we call ourselves the Vodyanoi. Different languages, different words. Though I do enjoy your peoples' word for the lizards. Troglodyte has such a perfect sound to it. Much better than them calling themselves the Naxaeless.”

Enzi merely sighed, “That is Kava Roukami, a vodyanoi warrior.”

The dwarf's eyes had quickly adjusted to the dark inside the wagon. The eyes of a Halz were used to such dark conditions. The one called Kava was a short amphibian creature, not much taller than Ritter himself although she was certainly not as broadly built. Her greenish skin was roughly textured and her back almost looked like a shell. Her head was squat with large orange eyes and a wide mouth. She resembled a cross between a turtle and a frog, except in a humanoid form.

Enzi motioned to a huge hulking cloaked creature, “And this is Aldebaran Celeno.”

The massive form snorted and turned its head enough that Ritter could see beneath the cloak's hood. The face of the creature reminded him of the oxen that pulled the wagon. Even the Halz had heard the myths and legends of the minotaur. Now he could see one for himself. Ritter had imagined that such tales were not quite true, but he guessed that nearly anything was possible.

Enzi then motioned to the enormous dark grey wolf that had growled earlier, “This is, as you may have guessed from earlier, Mayitso Hastine. His people rarely mix with humans.”

“People?” Ritter asked.

Enzi chuckled, “This is no mere wolf. We call them lycanthropes although most do not realize what they really are. Their ability to disguise themselves in human form can be useful, although their human forms usually look more like the Vashimi.”

“Not a disguise for civilized lands,” came the soft female voice from the cloaked figure seated behind the protective lycanthrope.

“And finally the one who leads the forces in the field, the esteemed Eurysa Thulea Medenos.”

Ritter wondered at the cloaked woman and he soft spoken manner. If she commanded this crew in the field it spoke a lot about her skill. Now that his eyes had adjusted to the darkness, he saw that the lycanthrope had helped to hide the fact that Eurysa was sitting strangely. She did not appear to have normal legs. As she reached out her hand in greetings, the Halz saw the hand was covered in brownish scales. He also noticed that her lower body was that of a serpent.

“I hate to cut this short,” Enzi said, “But I have a mission for us. One against just the sort of trouble we need to stop. A mercenary group has turned to banditry. They have a small encampment with three towers and a wall. Any attack on them by regular forces would cost far too many resources and lives.”

“Do we have to take any of them alive this time?” Kava asked resignedly.

“They are just bandits, nothing special needed,” Enzi replied.

Blood lust sparkled in the eyes of the vodyanoi, “Oh finally. I love being able to let loose.”

***

After killing the sentry with her bow and slithering up to the wall of the bandit encampment, Eurysa peeked through the entrance in the wall nearest that tower. A single guard sat inside, paying little attention to the entrance. He obviously expected the men in the towers to catch any problems. Eurysa noted the arrival of most of the rest of her team. Mayitso was missing, but she knew he had to be close. She had never known anyone to be better at stealth than him. Eurysa knew she would have to move soon. She could almost feel Kava's need to kill something radiating from the vodyanoi. The guard was not in a good position for Eurysa to stop him stealthily but she really did not want the bandits to be alarmed quite yet.

Mayitso solved her problem in a flash of grey. A slight gurgle was the only noise the man made as the lycanthrope tore his throat out. Eurysa was not even sure where Mayitso had sprung from. She merely motioned the team to move into the encampment. Weapons were drawn and they moved inside only to have a bandit exit his tent at exactly the wrong moment. Eurysa met his gaze as he stood mouth agape. Her cloak's hood was off and the man was merely staring at the snakes that writhed atop her head with a fearful gaze. Then he saw Eurysa's green eyes on her scaled face. The eyes were like that of a serpent and enthralled the man.

Eurysa's eyes flashed with power as she hissed, “Don't move. Don't make a sound.”

The bandit suddenly found his muscles locked. He had no choice but to be a living statue.

Eurysa smiled, “Sometimes being the world's last Gorgon has its benefits.”

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