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

11Jul/12Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0002

Ritter charged across the open plains towards the walled bandit encampment. His steel armor clattered as his short legs worked to propel him. The rest of Enzi's Irregulars quickly outpaced Ritter. It allowed the Halz to get a good look at his companions in the open sun, and the dwarf disapproved of them taking the lead. He was the only one that wore armor, but none of the others seemed to have enough natural armor to make up for the lack of it. He had thought of many questions just from the ride to the bandit camp, but seeing the others in motion really let him see what he thought were their flaws.

The vodyanoi had appeared to have the thickest natural armor as they were seated, but in motion Ritter saw that the shell was softer and more flexible than it had originally appeared. Her weapons also seemed like a joke to the Halz. She had a few simple hatchets slung on her belt, and one in each hand. They were not of any particularly noteworthy design or quality. It was the kind of tool for chopping firewood, not for the slaying of foes. They somehow fit the primitive ferocity the amphibious humanoid exuded however.

The leader of the group, the gorgon Eurysa, had scales like a snake. Ritter doubted that they would do much to slow a weapon however. However, armor would not go well with her stealth or mobility. Ritter doubted most armorers would find an easy way to protect her tail either. She used a bow of Agonish design, much to the dwarf's disdain. The Halz had invented crossbows for their ranged weaponry, and Ritter knew such weapons were popular in Nuvroc. As far as Ritter was concerned, the bow was an inferior weapon based on elven designs. He chalked up the preponderance of bows among the humans and their ilk as mere ignorance that time would rectify.

The minotaur had an enormously bulky build covered in reddish brown fur. He moved like one would in heavy armor despite wearing nothing more than a cloak and a loincloth. A full eight inches over eight feet tall and with shoulders even more broad than the dwarf, Aldebaran towered over the rest of the group. Ritter imagined it might be difficult to armor a creature of that size. The weight would be troublesome, although the minotaur appeared quite strong.

Yet all that paled in comparison to the creature's weapon. It was a sword of obviously elven design. Unlike a straight edged human blade, the two handed sword Aldebaran used had curves along the edges. The Halz could see no point to such wavy edges on a blade. Curves were difficult to fashion, and straight edges served well enough in the dwarf's eyes. It was easy enough to see in dwarven construction with square pillars and straight lines. Anything that could be supported by a curve could be equally and elegantly supported by straight lines. They did not have to connect at pure ninety degree angles after all.

The lycanthrope Mayitso was an unusual case. He had no weapons and no armor. He was just an enormous wolf in his natural form. A wild animal with the intelligence of a sentient race was certainly dangerous. The Halz could respect that. Armor on such a form would be impossible. That was a serious problem in the dwarf's eyes. Hunters had learned for years upon years the best spot to place weapons to kill such prey. Ritter did not expect Mayitso to last long on a field of battle against a prepared foe. The Halz expected that Enzi's Irregulars would have a short existence in the Disputed Lands. He just hoped they would not get him killed before he could evaluate the human world.

***

Aldebaran, Kava, and Ritter moved into the bandit encampment. They rushed past Mayitso and Eurysa who had opened the way. Mayitso joined the rush in and the four melee combatants spread out. As their alarms had not yet been raised, the first few bandits were easy targets. The sound of battle quickly alerted the camp. Ritter quickly worried about the other warriors as all would soon be outnumbered. The Halz knew he could handle the soft bandits in number, but suspected the others might not fare as well.

Ritter kept his shield up and swung his warhammer at his foes. Like most of his armor, the hammer had been lovingly forged with Halz craftsmanship. His helm and his shield were of human manufacture. He had picked them up in Nuvroc. The dwarves usually put the symbol of their clan on their shield and helms. As one of the Earthbreakers, Ritter had no clan symbol. The use of human gear seemed an appropriate symbol to the Halz.

He glanced over his shoulder to see how his team was doing, expecting to have to run to the rescue. The minotaur was drawing the most attention, but the huge sweeps of his blade were cutting foes down handily. Several times he cleaved right through one foe to hit a second. The bandits quickly learned to fear the giant creature. Kava fought in an entirely different style. She kept low to the ground and used her powerful legs to propel her in random directions. Her acrobatic skills were impressive as she tumbled around her foes confusing them with her unpredictable movements.

Her hatchets were deadly. Hamstrings were hewn left and right. Blood flew as the hatchets seemed to find the weakest spots in the bandit's defenses. Their offense seemed useless against her as their blades always seemed to swing through the area Kava was no longer in. Mayitso's tactics, however, gave the dwarf great concern. He seemed utterly fearless. He charged foes and pounced upon them to tear out their throats. The dwarf saw an archer take aim and fire a perfect shot at the great wolf. Ritter was rather shocked to see the arrow glance off the lycanthrope's hide.

The Halz was certain it had been a perfect shot, but assumed his eyes were playing tricks on him in the heat of battle. The archer that fired at Mayitso never got a second shot. In the rear, watching over the assault was Eurysa. Her bow supported the group. She picked off targets that were difficult for the melee combatants to reach or at other times evened the odds if it looked like any of the group was outnumbered too greatly. The dwarf merely shook his head and returned to his work. The humans were soft in Ritter's opinion. Most of the bandits wore little more than leather armor.

Ritter put his full concentration into the battle in front of him. He felt the satisfying crunch of bone as his warhammer fell time and time again upon his foes. His shield kept most blows from connecting to him and the rest found his armor impenetrable. Quickly the bandits turned to flee. Ritter did not give chase. His short legs were a disadvantage in such races. Eurysa stopped those that fled easily enough. Her arrows were deadly and accurate. Though the Halz had found many reasons to be wary of the team, they had proven competent enough for this venture at least.

As the battle quieted down, most of the group began to gather near Eurysa. Kava stood over the fallen mercenaries she had slain, her slick skin coated in the blood of her foes. The blood lust still ran in her eyes as well as disappointment.

“This was all?” the vodyanoi asked, “We need a bigger battle. I need to be standing on top of a pile of corpses I made so high that I can see the far end of the marsh from here.”

Aldebaran grunted in his gravelly voice, “You could return to the Marsh of Vashim if you miss it so much.”

“Miss the sulfur vents and their wondrous smell?” Kava replied, “Well maybe a little. Human stench is not much better. I just don't get a good opportunity to kill things there. Everything likes to hide. Where is the fun in that?”

The minotaur merely snorted in disgust. The Halz thought he could understand the beast's feelings. Such blood lust should be saved for a foe worthy of disdain. Goblinoids seemed the obvious choice there, or perhaps elves. Ritter wondered if the elves were somehow related to the nose-less vermin that infested the world. One could always tell the presence of a goblinoid by their heavy breaths trough their gaping maws full of misshapen teeth. The dwarf imagined that their lack of noses meant a reduced sense of smell. This certainly made a lot of sense to him. The smell of a den of goblinoids was enough to make Ritter want to smite off his own nose.

“Enzi and the wagon should be here shortly,” Eurysa said with her soft yet forceful voice, “Let us see if there are any spoils of war to claim.”

Soon enough, the five non-humans had searched the camp for loose coins or salable materials. The wagon pulled up to the partially fortified encampment and the five mercenaries began loading armor, weapons, and other gear into it. Enzi made his path around the wagon to greet the mercenaries. He nodded to Eurysa and smiled at the rest.

“Good job,” the human from Feergrus stated as his yellow eyes twinkled, “Three towers, some walls, but no gates yet. Not that hard a job then. Still, this will keep a lot of innocent people from being harmed.”

“Find us a harder job next time,” Kava grumbled, “I barely whetted the thirst of my axes.”

Ignoring the vodyanoi, Enzi looked to Eurysa, “So how did our newest recruit fit in?”

“Well he certainly had time to pay attention to the others as he fought,” Eurysa said, “His skills will do if he keeps his mind on the job at hand.”

Ritter raised an eyebrow. The gorgon had certainly had the perfect view to keep an eye on the team and coordinate. However he bristled at the thought that he might have been distracted. It was fair to think that certainly, though he had his reasons. He imagined that the gorgon would never know them if he didn't speak them aloud, despite her obvious power over the mind.

“Aye,” the dwarf said, “It would be easier to keep my worry on only my own foes if I had trust that the others would survive and not need a rescue. You are lucky these bandits are weak. One good blow looks like it would slice any of you. Especially the poor wolf, I was certain they had him dead to rights once until luck intervened.”

Eurysa let out an odd hissing sound and her serpent-like eyes sparkled. It took a moment, but the Halz figured out it had to be mirth and the hissing was her form of laughter. The great wolf beside her perked up its ears at the sound.

“You need not worry,” Eurysa said, “Though I suppose you have not had time to learn our abilities. Mayitso may very well be the toughest of all of us. A lycanthrope is a fey creature, tied to the magic of the world. Most weapons will have a hard time harming him. I am glad you had concerns for us, but you will quickly learn that they are not warranted.”

The lycanthrope preened a bit at the praise.

Enzi chuckled, “Well, you certainly have had your chance to begin learning of the world, friend Halz. Now, let us head back to Center Point and see if we can offload these goods.”

***

The Enzi's Irregulars wagon sat behind one of the rows of tents that made up the merchant's area of Center Point. The shop that Enzi was visiting was built into one of the stones that scattered Center Point. It sat in the center of Merchant's Row and was a highly prized shop. Enzi had done business with the man that owned it for many years and knew exactly how far to trust him.

“Enzi!”

“Ah, Gharaf Targata,” Enzi said, “Still here I see.”

“You don't think any of the other merchants could get the upper hand on me do you?” the man said, his oily voice oddly soothing the Feergrus man.

“Not likely,” the dark skinned mercenary captain replied.

Gharaf was dressed as flamboyantly as he always did. Like most Ravaleians, he loved fine clothing, jewelry, and body art. While he played the part of the ostentatious Ravaleian well, Enzi knew that Gharaf would gladly use every bit of the reputation of his people to his advantage. They were known to be free with their coin and the merchant knew how to make his customers feel like they had made a great deal with him. He pretended a servile manner when it suited his purpose, but did little of such with Enzi.

The Ravaleian man quickly looked over the goods that Enzi had brought him and the two haggled out a price. Money changed hands and the Feergrus man left the shop out the back door, the same entrance he had used to come inside originally. After he left a tall gaunt man in pure white robes stepped out of his hiding place.

“That was him?” the Kurrot asked.

Gharaf nodded, “Enzi. Leader of Enzi's Irregulars.”

“And you are sure he harbors unusual creatures there?”

“Certainly. While it might not be entirely common knowledge, it is well enough known. As long as he is useful and his monsters don't cause any problems then those that know of them turn a blind eye.”

“You seemed familiar enough with him,” the Kurrot said warily, “Why would you betray him for coin?”

The Ravaleian laughed, “Betray? I give out information if people pay me enough. There are others who know of him and his business. I would rather the coin come to me than anyone else. I am a businessman, pure and simple. If someone wants me to forget something, it merely takes coin. My memory can be refreshed with larger amounts of coin. What is done with the information is none of my concern.”

The Kurrot nodded, then turned and left the shop. He looked out in the distance as the wagon carrying the monstrous mercenaries rolled away. He smiled, then continued on his journey. He would cross path with Enzi's Irregulars soon enough. He had some research to finish first.

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