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

29Aug/12Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0009

“Oh a good fight then?” Kava asked with a gleam in her orange eyes, “Terrible odds?”

“Oh, something far more difficult for you than that,” Enzi replied, “This is a job that requires diplomacy and tact.”

“Oh ugh,” Kava replied, “I don't see this going well.”

“That is a possibility, but only you five are going to have a chance to get close,” Enzi said, “As this is a recruitment offer to a rather dangerous individual. Especially to humans. I am hoping that you five will have a better chance. I have a decent idea where to find it, but it is certainly being hunted as well. We need to eliminate the threat, one way or another.”

“What exactly are we dealing with?” Eurysa asked.

“It is hard to say exactly,” Enzi replied, “Myth, legend, and rumor surround this tale. Knowing exactly what is true is difficult. It could end up this is just a mindless abomination that needs to be destroyed. I suspect there is more. We need to gather into the wagon. We have a long trip ahead of us. I've already gathered provisions. We can discuss the matter more on the trip.”

“Where are we off to?” Ritter asked.

“A place you are more familiar with,” Enzi said, “And we may need the reputation of your race to keep the rest of us safe from suspicion.”

“Nuvroc then,” the Halz said, his logical mind drawing the most obvious answer.

Enzi merely nodded. The mercenaries quickly gathered up their belongings and jumped into the wagon. The dwarf wondered how the group would fare at diplomacy without Enzi. He would be going with them for most of the way, but not to talk directly to the foe it seemed. Ritter tried to imagine what kind of creature would be violent towards humans. Too many options came to mind as the humans had been ruthless in their expansion. Certainly the dwarf thought many of the foes deserved their fall, like the goblinoids and the giants, but his imagination quickly thought that there could be many others that had been wronged.

He would have to wait until the evening to hear the briefing. Enzi wanted to get moving as quickly as possible and the dwarf could not blame him. If this mysterious creature was that dangerous it should be dealt with as soon as possible. His curiosity drove his thoughts as the wagon rolled eastwards across the Disputed Lands. Nuvroc would be a long trip and there were a great many potential dangers on the way.

The campfire that night attempted to fight the chill in the air. Eurysa had found a rock to wrap around as a seat while Mayitso laid contentedly beside her in his wolf form. Kava was busy sharpening her axes while Aldebaran prepared a place to rest for the night. Enzi seemed almost unwilling to talk, but finally the dark skinned man began to tell the mercenaries what little he knew.

“I can not claim any or all of what I am about to tell you is true. This is built from rumors and hearsay. We will investigate the rumors and deal with the threat. The story starts with a Ravaleian man...”

“Oh wonderful,” Kava interjected, “Some abomination of nature then?”

“Perhaps, though I am not sure how much nature has to do with it. The man's name was Sisera Dane.”

Eurysa drew a sharp intake of breath. The sound it made was unusual. A lot of her sounds were odd to the Halz due to her serpentine features. He imagined they were equally odd to the rest of Enzi's Irregulars. Obviously the gorgon had heard of the Ravaleian. Such infamy did not bode well.

“All his life he had worked to create the perfect golem. He made a giant leap forward with his prototype of a Halzium golem.”

“Halzium?” Ritter asked, recognizing his racial name in the word.

“Yes, sometimes called dwarf steel, it is a metal alloy exported by Nuvroc that is a green so dark as to look black.”

“Ah yes, we Halz call it adamantine. The only metal even an adamant can not scratch. We had to find new ways to engrave such armor when our diamond tipped tools did not work.”

Enzi nodded, “He was able to made the golem much smaller while still being more powerful than any other. It was nearly human sized. But it was just the next step in his mad quest. He did not just want a stronger and tougher golem. He wanted a smarter golem. This adamantine golem had the ability to understand and fulfill extremely complex commands. It could even be mistaken for a very large human in massive armor, especially if given the right commands.”

“That was not enough for Sisera. He wanted a golem which had a mind like a human. He wanted it to be truly sentient. So he began a quest to make his greatest creation. He nearly disappeared from the world after that, only being seen when he was selling off his personal golems for the coin he needed to purchase the raw materials he needed. He had always been a private man, so it was not unusual for him to disappear for extended periods.”

“The last of the absolute facts I knew is that someone finally checked up on him after he had not been heard from for over a year,” Enzi said, “What they found was terrifying. People had been disappearing off and on for well over a year, but no one thought to tie it to Sisera and his experimentation. However, they found a huge number of dead bodies at his laboratory. Several had decomposed to naught but bone, but all were in terrible shape. One of the more recent bodies was Sisera Dane himself.”

“This is where rumor and guesses begin to take place,” the Feergrus man said, “The slaughter was placed entirely upon the golem that had long since left. I expect that there is more to it than that. I believe that Sisera Dane was using people in his experiment to create sentience in a golem. Almost certainly though, the creator had been slain by his creation, though even that I cannot be sure of. Suicide after such a set of terrible crimes is not out of the question.”

“I believe that the golem did indeed slay its creator based on what I've been able to learn of it and its creation. With the methods used to create it, I would not blame it for stopping such a madman. Although I suspect it is more a glitch in its programming. From the studies done by Ravaleian scientists, I suspect the golem's self preservation programming is too sensitive.”

“Self preservation?” Kava asked, “I thought golems were made to just wade into battle since they are nearly invulnerable.”

“Yes, but this golem was made to act human,” Enzi replied, “To want to live. Tales of this golem have spread across the land as myth and rumor. Some believe that Sisera never finished it. Some talk of it stalking prey across the continent. There are enough tales of a metal man being encountered and the destruction left in its wake for me to believe that it is definitely real.”

“The thing that both worries me and interests me is the question on whether Sisera actually succeeded or not.”

“Don't be silly,” Eurysa said, “You can't just infuse a soul into an inanimate object.”

Ritter cleared his throat, “That is not entirely true. The power of a soul can certainly be infused into an item. Sentience, however, that I am unsure about.”

While the other mercenaries looked at the dwarf with curiosity, Enzi nodded and continued, “So our mission is to find this golem and learn more about him. Recruit it if possible or destroy it if the danger to humans is too great. Based on the reports of its appearances, I believe it has fled from humans into the uninhabited areas of eastern Nuvroc. This behavior makes me wonder if it is sentient.”

“Seems doubtful,” Eurysa interjected, “Fleeing from the humans is a good way to fulfill a need for self preservation.”

The small mercenary band then drifted off into their own conversations or readying for sleep. Kava approached Ritter, her orange eyes twinkling with curiosity. Ritter kept himself busy with his preparations but the vodyanoi would not be avoided.

“So, what does a dwarf know of soul infused items?”

“The Halz have seen a great many things over the years and we keep excellent records,” Ritter said.

“I suspect you are dodging the question,” Kava said, “What effects would a soul have on an item?”

“Great power,” Ritter replied, “Life is the very basis of magic. Rumors of the Halz having little magical power comes from our home being deep beneath the mountains where there is less life.”

“Oh, and the rumors of powerful elven magic is from their dwellings deep in the forests that are overwhelmed with life?” the vodyanoi asked.

“That would make sense, yes,” Ritter said, “Though no race has a monopoly on powerful magic, it would be much easier to learn when surrounded by growing, living things. In the end, it makes no major difference.”

“Well, the Tarvoni are known for their magic and they live within the Tarvo forest.”

“They got their name as Tarvoni because it was the name of the forest first,” the dwarf said, “But yes, it makes logical sense that humans would learn best within such a place.”

“I would mention that the Ravaleians and their multitude of wizards go against that, but as I think about it, they incorporate vegetation in all their town and maintain a few wooded preserves in their lands. I mainly remember their vast number of golems and their laboratories. It is a place I never want to be again,” Kava said with a shudder.

Things soon quieted down and the mercenaries had a calm, restful night. The next two weeks of travel took them towards the northeast. At the end of that, they were on the edge of the Tarvo Forest. They were near the border zone between Agon and Tarvon. The Tarvoni made no direct claim on the land adjacent to Agon and the Agonish people did not dare to build there. The mercenaries were planning to travel through the buffer zone on their way to Nuvroc.

Ritter was surprised they had not run into any trouble in their trip through the Disputed Lands. A dingle wagon would seem like a prime target for attack by Hirkan raiders, Tarvoni provocateurs, or bandits. Of course with an area as large as the Disputed Lands, it was possible to never see another group. Two armies could pass by each other without ever knowing. It was a reason why scouts and trackers were so important. Mayitso served that purpose for Enzi's Irregulars. His nose and ears served them well. The path the group followed now, however, had much less land area and was often patrolled.

The wagon made its way into the lightly forested area the next day, making their way towards the foothills of the Nuvro Range. All of the group was on edge. They could encounter nearly anything and the foliage meant that the wagon was not going anywhere fast. However, as the days passed the group began to relax more and more. A full week passed without incident, bringing the wagon within a day or two worth of travel from the border to Nuvroc.

A deep, powerful voice called out in the Nuvroci tongue from the forest, “Halt!”

There was no sign of who said it and even Mayitso seemed surprised. Whoever it was had the skill not to be easily noticed by one with the senses of a wild animal.

“Come out from the wagon where I can see you and leave your weapons behind,” the voice said, “I wouldn't try anything if I were you.”

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