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

22Aug/12Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0008

“Is there anything we can do to stop this slavery?” Ritter asked.

“The priests are remarkably adept at making service to the noble caste seem like a good thing. They often call these slaves their servants, using that word to make it sound less vile,” Enzi said, “But they convince most of the slaves to choose the life for themselves. At least at first. Compared to the uncertain and terrible lives led by many of those they choose, a life of service sounds much better. A certainty of food and shelter sways many to choose that life.”

“But you can't unchoose it I suspect,” the Halz replied.

“That is indeed the catch,” Enzi agreed, “But by then they are deep in Feergrus territory. Outside of their territory, they take no one without the consent of the person. The other countries then have little say over it, though several have thought about laws to prevent such choices being made. However, such discussions never get far. An alliance with Feergrus is too profitable to ask too many questions.”

“So there is little we can do to help the poor man?”

Enzi shook his head, “It would have to be by force. A priest is a formidable foe. Beyond raw combat ability there is also their ties to the government of Feergrus. Even if you did rescue the man, by now he believes the choice to join them as his own. He would go to them of his own free will. To him, the idea of service to the nobles is less dangerous than being a mercenary. He will have access to food, shelter, and the drugs he craves. A tempting offer to be certain. Most people have little concept of how long eternal service may be. Especially in a land full of necromancers. In Feergrus, the most menial of tanks are performed by the undead.”

“I worry more of the undead turned into an army,” Eurysa said.

“The body of one who falls inside of Feergrus or within the power of one of my people never rests,” Enzi said, “At least until it completely falls apart. Unlike other countries we have no graveyards, tombs, or crypts. A dead body is considered an object and is promptly taken to a necromancer to be used as raw materials for a new servant. The number of undead within Feergrus is a staggering number. Even I would not want to make a guess. But it certainly makes the country an opponent few would want to face in battle. Even if the mindless undead are not that difficult opponent, their sheer numbers make them dangerous.”

“You would think the people would rise up against his,” Ritter said.

“The caste system gives the people of Feergrus order and a place in their society,” Enzi said, “And those at the top work hard to keep things as they are. Those at the bottom are given hope of rising, though very few succeed. Even the success stories are of the people that those at the top wanted to succeed. People with exceptional skills they wanted to add to their families to make them stronger. It is amazing how even a small glimmer of hope is enough to keep most people in line.”

The Halz nodded. With the short lifespan of the humans, he imagined it was easier to miss the long term. It seemed there was little he could do at the moment. The human world had many problems it seemed and he wondered if the aid of his people could solve them. However, the thought struck him that his people had their own problems to solve as well. That was why he had come to the human lands. To see if the races could work together to make a better world for them both. Ritter began to ponder his options. He knew there was a lot of work to do and a long way to go.

***

The Kurrot man in white robes looked at the walled city of Rheamoor. It was one of the city-states of Kurrot and widely thought of as the capital of the country. The mighty walls stood as a stark contrast to the sweeping grasslands of the country. It was by far the largest city in the land, and definitely the most well built. Tales said that it had been the first settlement of the land, back when the people of Kurrot were only exiled criminals and deserters from the armies of Agon and Casea.

That culture of the time, however, had meant a lot for some of the more unusual things about the city. It was a place built on top of a great many secrets and there were hidden passages, secret tunnels, and massive rooms hiding within the city. The great walls had been built much later, when order had came to the area. That had mostly come at the hand of the Kurrot military, led by the Bladestorms. But this Kurrot had no tie to that group. He was Naphar Bura and he was a Cleanser. He wandered the lands hunting monsters and eliminating them for the safety of the people.

He made his way through the city after passing the enormous stone gates. His white robes afforded him some respect. The Bladestorms might not have always liked the Cleansers as they had no control over them, but they did see a use in those specifically trained to deal with inhuman threats. Finally he passed into a rarely used alleyway. He pressed in on one of the stones on the wall of a building, then shoved hard to open the secret door he had unlocked. He traveled down a flight of stairs and lit a torch on the wall.

The flickering light revealed some of the room before him. It was a library. He lit a few more torches to give himself plenty of light then began searching through the array of tomes looking for the specific books he was after. Soon enough had had a varied array of literature in front of him. It was time to begin his studies in earnest.

“Oh which first?” he mumbled to himself, “Gorgons, minotaurs, or vodyanoi?”

He looked down at the silvered blade he had on his belt, “At least I already know how to kill a lycanthrope.”

***

Mayitso rested in the shade beside Eurysa as Ritter cleaned his armor. Aldebaran was nowhere to be seen, but the Halz suspected he was visiting Kava. The Vodyanoi had been trying to leave her bed and begin practice but she had not entirely recovered. The minotaur seemed more concerned than the others about the team's smallest member. It made the dwarf think for a moment. He could not remember a time that the minotaur had spoken that wasn't somehow a response to the vodyanoi. He was sure that Aldebaran probably had spoken outside of that context, but it seemed to be responding to her in some way was prevalent.

Ritter looked to Eurysa, “So what is with Aldebaran and Kava? She seems to be about the only one he really talks to.”

Eurysa's hissing laughter came next, then she spoke, “Well, he used to never speak unless he had to. Kava likes to antagonize people, as you might have noticed. So she began volunteering him for things. Or asking if she could do things and taking a lack of response as a yes. Aldebaran very quickly learned to answer her. It helped to open him up. No matter how much she aggravated him he put up with it. It was his attempt to be noble. Of course, his instincts are rage. Eventually he snapped. The fight was amazing. Yet it also made them friends. In both of their cultures, combat was a way of life. You sparred with your friends. You respected your enemies with a fair fight. Admittedly the vodyanoi had far less of a sense what we consider to be honor in their code of combat, but that didn't stop the two from bonding a little.”

“I guess in many ways they would be well matched in combat. The small and fast versus the large brute,” the Halz replied.

Eurysa nodded, “Kava has always been the most social of us. Even if her attitude would not normally be considered socially acceptable. She is not about to care about such things.”

“I imagine if she was given a lot of restrictions, she would rebel just because it was something to rebel against.”

“One might call her a free spirit.”

“Indeed.”

***

“You need to stay down and get more rest,” the gravelly voice commanded.

Kava snorted, “It will take a lot more than you to keep me still. I'm plenty recovered enough. I'm not gonna get any stronger sitting in bed doing nothing. My training will start wasting away. Vodyanoi don't exactly live for a long time, so I don't want to waste what little time I've got. Now get out of my way before I have to kick your butt. Again.”

“Again?” Aldebaran said, “You haven't even done it a first time!”

“I must have really hit your head too hard if you don't remember me winning all our spars.”

“If I swing fast enough to be effective against you, I'd actually hurt you,” the minotaur said.

“You would have to actually hit me first.”

“The faster blade would catch you.”

“Not a chance,” Kava cackled, “You move like Eurysa used her gaze on you at the best of times. Maybe now that I'm not at the top of my game you might actually come close. But I doubt it.”

“With an attitude like that you might be recovered after all. Or at least deserving of a smack across the head.”

“Besides, I need to see how sharp my new choppy arm is. You could use a good shave I think.”

Kava pulled herself to her feet and attached her prosthetic to the stump of her right arm. It had always been her best arm, and now she had to get used to it all over again. Something about having an actual weapon as an arm excited her. The ground felt odd against her feet, her balance felt slightly off. She needed to move. Even more, she needed to fight. She grabbed the bucket of water that the minotaur had brought with her one good hand and dumped it over her head.

The moisture felt wonderful and made her feel a lot better. The ground seemed more stable to her and she shook off the excess moisture. She grinned with her wide monstrous mouth.

“Are you ready to bleed?”

“I seem to have left my blade back at camp,” he said, “Maybe by the time you walk there you will be too tired to fight. I know how weak you are.”

Kava snorted, “You are definitely going to pay for that comment.”

***

Enzi watched Kava strut back to the group. His trained eye saw every weakness in her movement. She still needed more rest, but had recovered remarkably well. The spar with Aldebaran went well, though Enzi could tell that the minotaur was taking it easy on her. He paid for that a couple of times when she got in close enough to slice through some of his shaggy fur. She had taken to the new prosthetic incredibly fast.

That was good news as the Feergrus man had already found them a new job. He expected the five inhuman mercenaries would be tasked to their limits on this one. Enzi looked out at the horizon and wondered what Devis Lane was up to. The shapeshifter did not seem to have any tie to this latest job but that did not stop Enzi from pondering how he might be involved. Devis was one of the most dangerous creatures on Doulairen, and certainly one of the most cunning. If he was involved, then any job became a thousand times more dangerous.

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