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

15Aug/12Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0007

Ritter's nose was assaulted by an odd scent as he started to head away from the medical tents. A mercenary sat looking towards the tents. Smoke came from his lips. He was burning something, inhaling it, then exhaling the smoke. This puzzled the dwarf as he assumed it could not be healthy. He knew of many a tale of the old forges where his people would die from smoke inhalation. Black lung had been a common way to die until they had manufactured better ways to ventilate their industry.

The man was a Nuvroci mercenary. His skin looked tough as leather with a yellow tint to it. His build was every bit as bulky as the Hirkan barbarians Ritter had seen about. The Nuvroci had some of the most varied of builds, from the short to the very tall. Most were broad across the shoulders. Their eyes sat slightly different than the other human groups, almost as if they had been slightly tilted. They were perhaps the palest of what was considered the civilized races. Ritter had dealt with a great many of them in his time.

The Nuvroci man did not appear to notice the dwarf. His eyes were watching the medical area with an almost frightening intensity. As Ritter approached, the man did not seem to notice him. Despite his intense stare, his body seemed relaxed. As the Halz came within a meter of the man, he finally began to take notice. Ritter noticed that the man's reactions were muddled and it took a while for the man's eyes to focus on his new target.

“Are you alright?” Ritter asked the man.

“Huh?” the man asked, then as comprehension dawned on him, “Oh yes. Just waiting for one of the priests.”

“You need healing then?” Ritter asked, “Admittedly you do seem a little off.”

“Oh no,” the man said, “I'm battle ready. Their stuff makes you not feel the pain, it is perfect for a warrior.”

“Stuff?” the dwarf asked.

The man showed off his pipe he was smoking from, “Feergrus Smoke Weed. It is everything a good soldier needs. Calms the nerves, soothes the pain. Though I ran out again. My pay just can't quite cover the quantities needed.”

Ritter was skeptical, “Wouldn't you just need it in battle then?”

“Well, there are other pains. Wounds and such never seem to entirely go away, you know?” the man replied, “And of course you never know when an attack may come, you always want to keep your edge.”

It sounded like the man was desperately trying to justify the use of the drug, but it seemed to be having less than optimal effects on the man. His slow reactions certainly would not help him in any battle. Deadening pain might have some advantages, but it also brought a great many disadvantages.

“I can't see how dulling your senses helps in combat,” Ritter said, “You are more likely to take wounds, even if you don't feel them. They still add up. Plus if you spend all your coin on it, you won't ever leave this life.”

The man looked up blankly at the dwarf, seeking desperately for a reason to keep using the drug. Yet there was also the smallest glimmer in his eyes. The man could almost see the truth of his desperation, the addiction that he had. The dwarf was a chance to escape before it was too late. Fate, however, was often not kind. One of the healers had glided across the field from the medical tents with a silence that had left the dwarf surprised by his appearance.

He was a priest of Rakar. He wore a circlet on his head that denoted his deity and rank within the church. Ritter had little idea what the gems meant but knew enough of the Feergrus to guess what he was correctly. The man had an aura about him that made Ritter feel even smaller than he was. This was a powerful man, his presence was intimidating. His dark skin was matched with sharp gray eyes that seemed to pierce to the very soul.

He ignored the Halz and looked to the Nuvroci man, “You have need of me?”

The mercenary seemed to relax immediately, “Yes. I have a need of more of the Smoke Weed, but I have run low on coin.”

“Yes, that is not a problem,” the priest replied, “We help all those in need. Come with me, I know how to aid you.”

The priest then turned his gaze on Ritter, “He shall be taken care of. Worry not for his safety.”

The dwarf merely nodded. The power of the words were quite persuasive. The healer certainly had to know how to deal with a drug addiction. As he stumbled off from the encounter however, he started to wonder. The words almost had the tone of a threat about them. Ritter decided he would discuss the issue with Enzi. He was from Feergrus and likely would know far more about it than anyone else he could ask.

***

“You seem troubled,” Eurysa said.

Enzi nodded, “From the description you gave me of the Tarvoni mage and his robes, he must be from the Void cult. I find it odd that one from that cult would go after the leaders and want to avoid harming the rest of Feergrus. They have nothing against the undead but despise magical healing. They believe a life lasts as long as it is supposed to last and that death should be final. Yet they use the undead as they believe that the dead body is merely an object to be put to use as part of the cycle of life. It will still rot and feed the plants, but they see no reason not to make use of it while it rots.”

“That mage seemed to have nothing necromantic about him,” the gorgon added.

Enzi nodded, “Exactly. Though he did summon a flesh beast. Those creatures can use dead bodies to aid them. Yet still his actions strike me as odd. He had to know that he had no chance to get to his goal.”

“In defense of your sanity, his seemed slightly off,” Eurysa said, “Those whose minds are twisted may not do what is in their best interests.”

Enzi smiled at her attempt to soothe his worries, “I have some... Other reasons to suspect all is not as it seems. It may be that the mage was manipulated into his rash course of action. I worry what could have done that. The Void Cult is generally peaceful as long as they are left alone. While this could just be the action of a single warped individual, I have plenty of reasons to worry that more is going on that I don't know about.”

“If you did, could you do anything about it?” Eurysa asked.

“I could perhaps be better prepared, but it depends what the problem is. For now I guess we continue on.”

The two heard the distinctive clanking thuds that were the footfalls of someone in heavy armor. Someone was coming to the wagon of Enzi's Irregulars. They were sheltered behind a large rock not far from the medical tents and few knew where they were camped. Fewer would even want to visit. The pair quickly saw that it was just Ritter returning. The Halz seemed almost as troubled as Enzi. The dwarf then explained his encounter with the drug addict and the priest.

Enzi sighed, “It is too bad for that young man. That priest is obviously a recruiter.”

Ritter looked puzzled, “He is being recruited as a priest?”

Enzi looked surprised and had to suppress a laugh as the topic at hand was a serious one, “No. They only allow other Feergrus to become priests. His fate is a more dire one. He will soon be shipped back to Feergrus to serve as a slave.”

“Slavery?” Ritter asked with disgust.

“Effectively,” Enzi said, “Though they have many other terms for it. He will be working for them to pay off his debt, a debt that can never be paid off as he will continue to need their drugs. A lot of soldiers use their drugs to take the edge off their pain. Some become addicted. It results in a steady recruitment.”

“Aren't they spreading the religion to other lands?” Ritter said, “Certainly they won't stand for such things?”

“As long as it does not affect anyone important, no one cares. It is a sad truth. Of the northern nations, only Nuvroc has refused to allow the Feergrus to build churches. Their laws allow only Nuvroci to own land and build.”

Eurysa hissed, “And this mercenary was Nuvroci?”

Ritter nodded.

“A valuable commodity then,” Enzi said, “You are lucky you did not attempt to stop things. The priest would have done a lot to secure such a prize and you would have been caught unprepared. I imagine they are gathering enough Nuvroci to find those they can completely control. With enough coin, no one will question a purchase of land from a mercenary. I doubt it will be soon. The leaders of Feergrus take their time in doing things so that they can do it right the first time. Sometimes waiting generations. Their patience can wear down other nations.”

Ritter nodded, “I noticed most of you humans are rather poor at patience. From what I have learned, it seems your short lifespan is to blame. I suppose if I only had a hundred years to live at best, I'd want to get a lot more done with what little time I had. Still, I had not thought of it as a weakness that some might exploit. Though it does make some things difficult. It is amazing how easily you forget about my people. Until they see one of us, most humans seem to consider us a myth. It was only a couple thousand years ago that we all fought the goblinoids side by side and drove them off.”

“The tales of King Ago being aided by legions of dwarves and elves is often seen as a heroic myth around a larger than life figure,” Enzi said, “Some of the exaggerated stories make it hard to discern fact from fiction.”

Ritter snorted, “One should set a proper record in stone. Any engineer will tell you that measurements should be exact and facts are facts. Trying to exaggerate or do anything fancy will likely leave you with an unstable structure.”

Eurysa spoke, “You will find humans are creatures of superstition. The Halz value logic and facts. Such things banish superstition.”

Enzi nodded, “Magic does not help the situation. To those who do not understand it, it seems it can make anything possible. Superstitions can easily build around that.”

“Or creatures of myth and legend,” Eurysa said, “Until one day we no longer exist.”

“That will be a sad day indeed,” Ritter said.

Enzi nodded, “Yet that day is still far off. We shall do our best that if such a world comes to pass that it will remember the past. That it will remember the bravery of a few. The sacrifices that were made, the heroes that made the world a better place. It would be nice to make Doulairen a world of peace, a world free of schemes and evil.”

“So, a complete fantasy?” Eurysa asked.

“Everyone wants to live in their own fantasy world,” Enzi said, “If we are lucky, we will have a chance to make one. Or at least as close as we can with what we have to work with.”

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