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

10Oct/12Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0015

Eurysa was busy with target practice. She was experimenting with different ways of keeping her one dead snake from compromising her aim. Kava and Aldebaran were busy sparring. Mayitso had found a quiet area to rest and recover. Enzi made his way over to Ritter. The Halz was busy cleaning his armor, but the Feergrus knew he would likely not find a better time.

“Lets talk,” Enzi said with a serious tone.

The dark skinned human motioned for the dwarf to follow. The Disputed Lands provided plenty of cover, and Enzi had found a nice grown over clump for the two to sit behind and discuss their pasts. It was hard to tell what the small mass had once been. It could have been a forgotten wagon, a pile of corpses, or many other things. Whatever it had been, now it was enough shelter to hide from prying eyes for a short time. It also helped to shelter them from the cold winds when they sat on the lee side of the mound.

“You have been a part of the Irregulars for many months,” Enzi stated, “Soon winter will truly let loose and coat these plains with snow. We often get our most dangerous missions in the winter. Few groups wish to dare the freezing temperatures. Mercenary jobs are dangerous enough without such complications. We may not have time to discuss things once we get back to Center Point.”

“I assume you would like to know what the heir of the Platinum Clan is doing topside?” Ritter asked with the angular smirk his stony face allowed.

“Actually I thought we would both share our pasts,” Enzi replied, “You know as little of me as I do of you. Plus it would be good to know if we have any more surprises in store for us.”

Ritter chuckled, “I certainly didn't expect to see another Halz, and certainly not one with a grudge. I suppose I should start my tale at the beginning, the event that made my people they way they are today. I can only tell this tale as I have heard it. I have seen hints that all the clans have their own views on these events. Gierig certainly showed that some views are more extreme than others.”

“As well as showing that not everyone can forgive and forget,” Enzi said with a knowingly sad look in his yellow eyes.

“The tale of the Halz begins and ends with a city,” Ritter stated with a wistful look of his own, “The great capital of all our people, the metropolis of Tralenheim. It was built over four thousand years ago. It was a place that all the clans were welcome, though we still each had our own great hidden cities as well. It was the seat of the king as well. In the capital, the clans could easily trade with each other, as well as arrange marriages and other deals to make the Halz one united and strong people.”

“The great cave that held the city had everything a Halz could want. A great underground lake had formed there. It glittered green in the light. We called it Lake Emerald. It was fed by what we called the Waterfall of Jewels. Near the lake were the great mushroom fields that fed our clans. In the center of the cave was a great pit. It was from there that we mined adamantine. Yet it was none of these things that truly made Tralenheim great. There was one reason that the Halz gathered and made a city and one alone.”

“It was the Forge of Souls,” Ritter said with a sense of awe, “For as long as my people had existed, it was an artifact of legend. The Soulforge Clan was named for the myth and had long been our greatest artisans. When the artifact was discovered, all the clans sought to claim it. It was one of the Soulforge Clan that made the treaty that made Tralenheim possible, a Halz we now call Strongarm Clanfather. All clans were to be equal with an elected king to administrate. He was the first king of the Halz. Most of the successors were of the Platinum Clan, though we had many blood ties to the first king.”

Ritter's words were tinged with sadness again, “We did not have the city for even twelve hundred years. The forge was powered by magma and something went wrong. Lava devastated the city. The clan hall of the Soulforge was the worst hit, as they lived closest to the source. The Silveraxe Clan was also hit hard. Emerald Lake helped halt the advance of the lava towards the hall of the Goldbeard clan. The Platinum Clan hall sat across the mining pit from the source and like the Goldbeard we escaped relatively unscathed from the disaster. The Diamondheart Clan was hit nearly as hard as the Silveraxe Clan, except that they could escape up the Sapphire Staircase to the source of Lake Emerald.”

“The Stonehammer and Orcdoom halls were far enough that any living in them could have escaped easily. Unfortunately, they made up a lot of those that worked in the mining pit. The magma flowed over the easiest escape from there, leaving thousands of Halz trapped until the heat and fumes of the lava killed them. This tragedy changed our people. Blame was thrown around for the catastrophe. Many blamed the Soulforge for trying to run the Forge of Souls too hard. All of us have hard feelings towards the elves who did not fulfill the duties of our treaty with them.”

“The Silveraxe had a different target. They blamed the Platinum Clan for their pain and suffering. We ran the administration of Tralenheim and held the seat of the king when the tragedy came. We denied funding to a great many projects that were seen as a waste. Those hit the hardest by this were the Silveraxe Clan. Their projects were always designed to give them superiority over other clans in whatever area they were trying to horn into that day. Yet they also had several odd requests that made little sense to us at the time. They wanted to build great bridges across the pit and over inhabited areas. They wanted to make great streets that were easy to traverse.”

“We saw no benefit to this. The system we had set up within the metropolis worked quite well. The materials from the pit had a direct thoroughfare to the forges. We saw nothing else that needed to be so expedited. However the Silveraxe Clan would constantly speak of the rulings being an impediment to progress and safety. When the magma came, they saw themselves vindicated. Their great roads and bridges could have saved a great many Halz. The Silveraxe Clan stated that the Platinum Clan had denied the funding despite the potential disaster that the magma presented.”

They wanted restitution for their dead, as well as restitution for the dead of all the other clans,” Ritter said as his tone showed some aggravation, “It was this that lost them the support of the other clans. The Silveraxe Clan wanted it all for themselves. Their greed had swept their moral high ground from beneath their feet. The other clans might have been willing to listen if the Silveraxe Clan had been willing to share and help others. Instead they merely reminded everyone why their many extravagant requests had always been turned down.”

“That did not stop them. In fact it brought us to the situation that created a Halz like Gierig. Only a few of the Silveraxe Clan held their extreme views. No one dared speak against them because they held the great symbol of the clan. It was a magical axe that had given the clan its name. Its power was extreme, perhaps more than the artifacts held by the other clans. It was like the whole clan was under a spell when that axe was presented before them. The wielder of the axe attacked the home city of the Platinum Clan.”

“The assault on the city of Carmarthan was seen as the ultimate insult. The small force seemed unstoppable until the leader was disarmed. Without the magical silver axe it seemed all their will to fight faded. The axe was taken and sealed away. Those that led the assault were banished from the lands of the Halz. The rest of the Silveraxe Clan was embarrassed by their actions and upheld the banishment. Those few Halz that were banished took their families and were never seen again.”

“Until now,” Enzi said breathlessly.

Ritter nodded, “As well as the great axe. I was stunned to see it. It had been lost for generations, much like the ancestral relic of the Platinum Clan. I knew that no one of the Silveraxe Clan could dare let it get away, especially not in the hands of a human. It has the power of being not only a symbol, but true power as well.”

“That is something that worries me greatly,” Enzi replied, “I have some experience with magical items. The more powerful they are, the more dangerous they can become. Age also has a tendency to increase their potency. This comes with an increasing price. To my ears, your tale speaks of an item that has become extraordinarily dangerous. It already affected the mind of those that wielded it. Excessive greed, a need for domination, ideas that were taken to an extreme. I have seen magical items take a minor quirk of a person and turn it into the driving force of their lives. Worse, when it comes into the hands of another, those same drives appear in that person.”

“Even if they have never had such drives before?” Ritter asked.

Enzi nodded solemnly, “Even the most innocent can be corrupted.”

“Then are the Magehunters right? Is magic corrupt?”

“I can not claim to know for sure. However, magic often falls into the hands of the powerful and corrupt. It is hard to say if it is their corruptions that twists the magic or if magic itself has some of the blame. In the end, it matters little. The items become corrupt and can then corrupt those that use them. As time passes, their corruption grows stronger.”

“That is something to worry about,” Ritter replied thoughtfully, “Though I am not sure what we can do about it at this point.”

“True enough,” Enzi said, “I expect that your tale is not yet done, however.”

Ritter chuckled, “Yes, you are right. My tale is of the Halz, and not yet of me. I have not yet even reached eighty years of age and the tale I told is of things that happened over three thousand years ago. Yet that was an important part of the tale, as you can see. After all the excitement, things calmed down for many generations. Trade between the clans slowed down until it was rare to see a Halz that was not of your own clan. Our numbers slowly dwindled as blood ties became closer. Without outside blood, marriages were something we had to be very careful of. Being too closely related could cause severe problems with fertility.”

“Expeditions were sometimes sent to explore the potential of reclaiming Tralenheim. None were ever successful. This was the world I was born into. My father had been Clanfather of the Platinum Clan for nearly three decades when I was born. His father had been the Clanfather before him, and it was expected that one day I would take my place as leader. I spent much of my young life learning. I was coached in the intricacies of mathematics and engineering. I was trained by the greatest warriors of our clan. In my studies, I also saw the hard work of the wedding planners.”

“They sought out the few rare females and tracked their blood lines. It was their job to find the best matches to keep our race alive. Looking at their problem was daunting, but I applied my skill at mathematics. The answer I came to frightened me more than anything. At best, we Halz have two more generations left as things are. I knew then that I had to find an answer. The Halz need something to unite them once again. I suspected that I would not find the answer below the mountains where we hide. My people need a place where we can gather and meet together. Yet we have long hidden away, even from each other.”

“Your people, however, mix freely. Even if you do not all get along,” Ritter said, “I have already learned some about you, both good and bad.”

“I worry about that as well,” Enzi replied starkly, “As a mercenary group, we often deal with the worst of my kind. Not all humans are pleasant.”

“While the Halz are less likely to fight with cold steel than I have seen for you humans,” Ritter replied, “That never stopped us from constant fighting and bickering. I heard a great many tales of the arguments between the clans in Tralenheim. Drawing blood was always taboo, however. The attack by the Silveraxe Clan was an aberration beyond anyone's belief.”

Enzi showed his understanding, “Thus why the banishment was accepted so easily, even by the clan they came from.”

Ritter merely nodded.

“This certainly explains a lot of you,” Enzi said, “I believe it is time I return the favor. In some ways, my life is not so different from yours. My own family was... Is one of the most powerful families in Feergrus. It means that any of us will rise in rank quickly in our fields of employment. It also comes with great expectations. A failure can mean more than just your own dishonor. Sometimes it is better to be thought of as dead then to be known as who you truly are. It is why I do not talk of who I once was. That man is dead. Yet today, for you, I will discuss this man.”

“I was once known as the greatest military leader of the military of Feergrus, the high general of the forces of the Temple of Chasar. I was thought to be the greatest tactician and soldier ever to come from the powerful Cala family. My fall could have only brought them down. So now I work in the Disputed Lands. Enzi is a common enough name in Feergrus that it draws no attention. However, the name General Enzi Cala will draw attention. It is sometimes amazing how a mere four letters can change the meaning of everything.”

“Then this is not a story with a happy ending.”

“Not yet,” Enzi replied with a weary smirk, “But for now I will tell what I know of it and hope that the future brings a satisfactory conclusion.”

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