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

5Sep/12Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0010

Gharaf was happy to hear the sound of coin hitting his counter as a voice spoke to him, “Your information was quite helpful. I have found exactly what I have been looking for.”

“Then I have a business proposition so you can earn those coins back.”

Greed tinged the voice that replied, “And more?”

“Potentially much more,” Gharaf said, “Coin flows freely if you have the right allies. You should take the offer, it is like getting in early on a business before it grows much, much larger.”

The customer across the table from the Ravaleian fence glared suspiciously at him. Gharaf could certainly be quite convincing but not all of his contacts were entirely trustworthy. Those who dealt with him knew that Gharaf Targata's information could only be trusted as far as the source he got it from. However something about his manner this time was far more confident.

“It sounds tempting, but you could have been fooled by someone whose idea is not workable.”

Gharaf chuckled, “Oh this information did not come from some unwise words from a random source. No, this is something I know personally. My business succeeds here with thanks to this group. We have an advantage in our unity. We could use your skills as an agent. You could even work on your own goals as well. There will be ample opportunity in what we have in mind.”

“Then I might just agree. My target seems to have left off somewhere though.”

“Yes,” Gharaf said, “Enzi took his mercenaries on some mission of his own. As long as nothing distracts them, perhaps when they return we can put our plan into motion.”

“Good. I have a score to settle. And a profit to make from it.”

“Then it is settled. Come back here tomorrow after closing, I will have an agent of Unity here to speak with you.”

“Wait, they call themselves Unity?”

“Among other names, depending where they are and what they are doing,” Gharaf said, “Our organization sprawls across the continent and is involved in many things. All of them could mean great profit for someone who has proven their loyalty. Even if the loyalty is only to wealth.”

“If the coin is good, I'd do about anything.”

“That sounds perfect,” Gharaf said, “I think this will work quite beautifully.”

***

Mayitso's hackles raised as he growled at the unknown voice.

Enzi made a hushing noise before he spoke, “Do as he says. This is not unexpected.”

Ritter left his hammer in the wagon trusting to the Feergrus man. Enzi was surprisingly calm. The Halz assumed he had to know what he was doing. Eurysa left her bow and Aldebaran left his massive two handed elven wave blade. Kava left her one hatchet but did not remove the prosthetic right arm.

Whoever it was had sharp eyes, “Take off the hatchet arm.”

The vodyanoi yelled out, “Aw man, this thing is part of my arm.”

“Kava.”

The simple word from Enzi did not dissuade her, “Do you know how hard it is to get this thing on or off?”

There was a loud twang and a crossbow bolt planted itself in the ground right between Kava's legs.

“Okay, okay,” the orange eyed amphibian said, “But be warned that this is putting you on my list of people I really don't like.”

“Isn't that about everyone?” Aldebaran asked.

“Yes,” Kava said as she struggled with the straps on her prosthetic weapon, “But they all deserve it.”

Finally the prosthetic hit the ground and a single Nuvroci man strode out of the bushes. He wore a leather jerkin and held a crossbow. He was broadly built, like most Nuvroci, but was more lithe than most. He moved like an experienced woodsman. His eyes glared with suspicion at the Irregulars.

“A Nuvroci Ranger,” Enzi said, “Good. We are on our way to Nuvroc and hope the way is safe.”

“A bunch of monsters and a Feergrus don't make me want to be very helpful,” the man said, “You are lucky the Halz is with you, though I wonder why he is with such odd company.”

“The first group that hasn't judged me for what I am,” Ritter said, “Or tried to sell me off to some circus or such. Plus they have been quite honorable thus far.”

“I can certainly believe the first, and I might have heard rumor of the second. Though my suspicions are still aroused,” the ranger replied, “What reason do you have for coming to Nuvroc?”

“A monster hunt,” Enzi said, “We want to deal with a threat so that it does not bother any innocents again.”

“Is that the goal of your little mercenary band?” the Nuvroci asked, “Deal with monsters? Make them part of your team?”

“If it makes sense,” Enzi said, “Your first reaction is to view them as a threat and attack. If someone attacked you, you would want to fight back and protect yourself. Some races just need a chance not to be slaughtered without questions. And some things are just monsters.”

“Why exactly would I trust you?”

“You do realize we could have just slaughtered you, right?” Kava asked.

“Not before I shot one of you at the least,” the ranger said.

“Depending on who you shot, you might have found your weapon ineffective,” Eurysa said, adding her tactical knowledge to the conversation.

“I have a couple of silvered bolts for dealing with things like your lycanthrope friend,” the ranger said, “But you make a point. If you were determined I would not have lasted long.”

“Especially not even now as your current bolt is normal and a lycanthrope is always armed,” Eurysa said, “You have some considerable knowledge of the woods to recognize a lycanthrope this far from their normal lands. You likely realize that all of us have our own skills and talents that would make any combat encounter with you go very badly for you.”

“But we won't,” Enzi said, “We are here to help you. We hunt a danger that is already within your borders before it might hurt your people.”

The ranger lowered his crossbow, “You can pass. Bet you will be watched.”

“I never doubted that,” Enzi said, “Your partner watches us still.”

The ranger seemed a bit shocked at those words but merely smiled, “Perhaps you are skilled enough for your endeavor. If you speak the truth, then I wish you luck.”

***

The woods had been purposely timbered near the mountain river. It gave a clear view across the river which was the southern border of Nuvroc. The rangers patrolled beyond the river to keep the area safe. The wagon which rolled alongside the river had been watched by rangers as it had neared the border. Now as it approached the bridge to the town of Water's Gate the town guards took notice. Especially as it crossed the Border River into Nuvroc.

Ritter now sat in the front of the wagon, acting as an ambassador. Seeing a Halz returning from his adventures made the Nuvroci more trusting. The people also had the assumption that the rangers had vetted the strangers. The mercenaries entered Nuvroc without hassle but not without suspicion. It mattered little to Enzi. He stocked up on provisions in town and readied the group to head off the road. They were headed away from the rocky hills snuggled against the mountains where the Nuvroci civilization was built and out into the dry desert badlands where none dared to live.

Near the mountains the Nuvroci had access to water. While Water's Edge had the Border River flowing down from the mountains, most other Nuvroci towns had built massive aqueducts that brought water down from the mountains. Ritter knew of them quite well. The records of his people told of the engineers that had originally designed them and the many Halz who had helped build several of them. As the mercenaries were headed away from the forest's edge the ground was going to become rougher as well. The Nuvro Range shielded Nuvroc from rain and blunted the winds. Without as much erosion, the area was full of sharp edges.

Traveling without roads across such terrain was extraordinarily difficult with the wagon. It had been built to handle rough terrains, but the two oxen that powered it were having trouble. They were not used to such harsh terrain. The days that passed were rough but eventually Eurysa's sharp eyes spotted something in the distance.

“What is that?” she asked, “It looks like the ruin of a building!”

“An elven ruin,” Ritter said, “From ancient times when they pretended to be the allies of the Halz until they got all they wanted from us. They had talked of a plan to bring the forest northwards and cover Nuvroc with life, but it was a lie to let the humans accept them. As soon as they gained what they wanted, they abandoned their outposts and retreated deep into the Tarvo Forest.”

Enzi spoke, “Usually only bandits inhabit the ruins, and usually only the ones closer to the cities.”
The sound of ocean waves crashing upon rocks could barely be heard by the group, though they could not see the water except a possible hint of it across the horizon. They were approaching the Scorpion Cliffs, a great wall of rock that stretched from the great ocean to nearly a full mile above the sea at its highest point. It was almost completely vertical along much of its length. The darkness on the rock wall spoke of a high content of Halzium, like the reason that erosion had not carved further into it.

There were certainly small caves and other such things on the cliff wall, but they usually held the reason that the cliffs got their name. The Nuvroci scorpions were immense, some as large as a small dog. Their poison could be quite deadly, especially to the weakened or in high quantities. The scorpions were another reason that few dared venture into the dry wastelands of Nuvroc.

“From my information, I believe our target has fled here,” Enzi said.

“I imagine you are right,” Eurysa hissed, “As we do not appear to be the only ones who have come to such an out of way place.”

Her finger pointed towards the ruin, but only her eyes had picked out the details. As the group closed in, however, the rest saw that a large group of people had traveled across the wasteland. It was possible they were bandits so the team armed themselves for whatever might come next.

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