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

19Sep/12Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0012

Enzi stood silenced by the loss of the golem. The Nuvroci soldier took advantage of that quiet pause.

“Now it is time for you to leave,” the Nuvroci man said, “Though I wonder if we should let such monsters remain free.”

“It would be a mistake to slay those who have shown honor in combat and saved the lives of many. Ones that have shown no threat to you or your people,” Ritter said.

The grizzled old man snorted, “In deference to the dwarf's words, I'll let you leave untouched. But never return to my country. We don't need your kind here.”

Kava's orange eyes almost seemed to be on fire, appearing nearly red as she seethed with anger.

“Come Kava,” Enzi said softly but firmly, “We have other business to take care of.”

Within a few hours the wagon was well away from the trouble. Enzi seemed sad and worried.

“There was nothing you could do,” Eurysa said with her calm soothing voice, “Any action would easily have led to slaughter.”

“I know,” Enzi replied, “That is not what strikes me the hardest. Knowing the stories of Sisera Dane and with the evidence I gathered, I can only come to one terrifying conclusion. He ultimately succeeded in his life's goal.”

“A truly sentient mind and soul in a golem's body?” Ritter asked.

Enzi nodded, “And not just any sentient mind, not just any soul. He was driven because he had a goal he felt that he could not fail to meet. A disease had killed his wife. That disease had been passed to his son. He was dying, and Sisera sought a way to save his life. I fear that he succeeded. The mind of a small child, unable to understand all that had happened to him. Forced to watch as he killed his own father. Forced to see the deaths of many others as the programming of the golem body killed any that approached him.”

“In the end, he had sought only to get away from everyone,” Enzi said, “So that no one was ever hurt again. It was obvious that he was struggling to control that body. The step off the cliff was his final action against his programming. A defiance of self preservation.”

“Is it possible to have survived such a fall?” Kava asked.

“The rocks at the bottom of the cliff are sharp and deadly,” Enzi said, “The ocean wears away at the rock except for the Halzium deposits. Unlike other rock that might be worn to smoothness or to being rounded, Halzium is almost impossibly sharp.”

Ritter nodded, “A good Halzium weapon can pierce armor with ease.”

“Golems had always been weak against such weapons,” Enzi said, “I fear the rocks have ended the life of an innocent trapped in the body of a monster. If by some chance it has not, we shall still never see him again. The ocean floor can bring no other harm to the golem. There are no humans there for him to harm. He would remain there. The world is safe from danger.”

“Then what is next?” Kava asked.

“Another day,” Enzi replied, “Another job.”

“Another several weeks of travel with you lot,” the vodyanoi said, “Maybe we should have stayed and killed the crowd. It would have made us all feel better.”

Aldebaran snorted at that.

“See? The minotaur agrees!”

Aldebaran merely raised an eyebrow at that.

***

The snowflakes drifted slowly through the air. The Enzi's Irregulars wagon sat outside Center Point.

“Ugh, the first snow of the year,” Kava said, “I hate the cold. Mayitso, mind if I carve off your fur?”

The wolf merely growled at her and curled up near Eurysa. The gorgon also seemed affected by the chill air, though perhaps less than the vodyanoi.

“I'm surprised Mayitso doesn't tell Kava off like Aldebaran,” Ritter said to the gorgon.

“Well, he can't speak human languages in wolf form, and it is a bit cool now to shed his fur to take human form.”

Mayitso began to snore as Ritter continued, “And Kava doesn't follow through on her threats against him?”

Eurysa hissed with laughter as she replied, “No. Mayitso is not like Aldebaran. Being a wolf is his natural form. A wild animal. Being able to take human form is something he does only when it is required. Kava is smart enough not to annoy a wild animal. They can bite.”

“He seems quite attached to you,” Ritter said bluntly.

Eurysa nodded, “Lycanthropes deal with others based on assumed rank. When he fought that other lycanthrope, it was to see who was dominant. As I lead the team on missions, Mayitso sees me as the alpha of the group. That means he will follow me anywhere and follow my orders without hesitation. At least until he decides he would make a better alpha.”

“I somehow don't see that happening,” the Halz said, “Are you sure there isn't more to it?”

Eurysa made an odd hissing snort sound, “That would not make any sense. We are not even the same species. Or as Kava would say, we are not even the same type of species. Not that I am a type that exists anymore. A mix of lizard and what she calls mammal. It was only possible with magic, and even then I do not know how it was possible.”

The snow had begun to accumulate. It was not much, but it was enough to discolor the ground and give footsteps a slight crunch. It was that noise that alerted the mercenaries to a visitor. Ritter was rather surprised when he looked up. It was another Halz. The crystalline hair of this Halz was a silvery white in coloration. Like all Halz, his eyes were entirely black with no discernible iris. Like Ritter, his features seemed like carved stone.

The Halz looked at Ritter and spoke gruffly in Nuvro, “About time I saw someone around these parts who looks trustworthy.”

Ritter absentmindedly stroked his nearly platinum blonde beard, “Well I do admit it has been a while since I've seen another of my kind. What do they call you stranger?”

“Gierig Earthbreaker,” the silver-haired dwarf replied.

“Oh, same clan and you two don't know each other?” Kava asked.

Ritter chuckled, “Let us just say the Earthbreakers are unusual in that way.”

“That is one way to put it,” Gierig said, “But it is truly good to find another Halz. I've been searching for a good group to help me with a small problem.”

“We help for any good cause,” Enzi said as he joined the conversation.

“Ah, the famous Enzi, I assume,” Gierig said, “I had to come see if the rumors were true about your crew. I have an item that needs to be recovered. I would not trust most of the mercenaries about this place. They would want to take an heirloom and keep it for its material value.”

“An item?” Enzi asked.

“A box,” the dwarf replied, “Made of the finest adamantine and with ancient designs of the Halz carved on it. It is a legacy of our people. It was made to seal away something of even greater value.”

“Oh?” Ritter asked, “What would one seal in a box like that?”

“I am not entirely sure,” Gierig said, “But I know the thieves that took it care only for the value of it. They would ruin the box, a work of art, to get at whatever is within. The box itself will certainly become scrap sold to metalsmiths for a handsome sum. I know that metal is somewhat rare in the human world.”

Enzi nodded, “Halzium sells for about ten times as much as regular steel. Iron is expensive enough. I imagine that quite a few look at Ritter's heavy armor with some jealousy.”

“Yes,” Gierig said, “Metal is not so rare in the mountain homes of our people. Yet even we value adamantine and the green hue hidden in its dark depths. A full suit of plated armor matched with a weapon of similar quality makes for a nearly unstoppable warrior.”

***

The wagon set off towards the north. Enzi and Gierig had negotiated out a price of the services of the Irregulars. Now Ritter sat wondering which clan Gierig had originally came from. His silvery hair suggested the Diamondheart, Platinum, or Silveraxe clans. Ritter was certain it was not the Platinum clan, but dared not ask his fellow Halz of his heritage. Taking the clan name of Earthbreaker meant that one had broken with the clans. The stone-kin did not speak of such things openly. It was considered an invasion of privacy.

The two Halz sat near each other, and Gierig spoke in the ancient tongue of the dwarves, “It is good to be able to speak my native tongue again.”

“True,” Ritter said, “Though it might seem rude to leave the others out of the conversation.”

“There are some things only another stone-kin can know. I trust you more than the others on this. Your honor is needed. I ask only one thing of you. I want you to carry the box yourself. I do not want any but an honorable Halz to handle this.”

“I'll see what I can do.”

Soon the mercenaries and their dwarven passenger paused to camp for the night. It would be several more days before they reached their final goal.

“The south branch of the Devil's Fork?” Enzi asked.

Gierig nodded, “It seems they chose a neutral place near Agon and Feergrus to bid on the box. Some powerful Agonish man with substantial money convinced them to hold it that far north.”

“Kyran Diafand,” Enzi said, “That is my guess. He is a noble from the city of Lucantul. It is only a few days travel to the Devil's Fork from there, especially if they just go down the river. At least if he got his hands on the box, you would be assured that no one would ever open it. He collects rare and unique items for his own personal museum display. A lot of people just call him the Collector.”

“I'd rather see the art back where it belongs,” Gierig said, “Back in the hands of the Halz. It was bad enough that it had been stolen by goblinoids. To think that some humans had dealings with those foul creatures and gained the box seems somehow worse to me. I can't imagine anyone on good terms with those monstrosities.”

Ritter nodded, “Obviously humans of the lowest sort if they are dealing with goblinoids. I imagine you have met some of the less honorable humans in your time above ground.”

Gierig nodded, “Yes. I have learned quite a lot about their deception and trickery. It makes me question the goals of the Earthbreakers.”

“I can understand that,” Ritter said.

Several of the other mercenaries obviously did not understand what that meant. Enzi certainly did, and Ritter wondered if Eurysa had learned much of Ritter's goals from Enzi. Aldebaran, Kava, and Mayitso certainly seemed clueless. Eurysa's gaze, however, was on Gierig. She seemed to be studying him. Ritter guessed it was a good opportunity to examine two Halz beside one another. Enzi's brow was furrowed with worry. Ritter hoped that the Collector would not be a problem.

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