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

7Nov/12Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0019

Enzi's Irregulars stood in the snow beside the hermit's shack. The wooden structure soon erupted into a pillar of flame. Mayitso was still in his human form from having to climb the ladder to get out of the tunnels hidden beneath the building. There had been no sign of the man who had once lived in the building. Ritter expected his fate had been quite grim.

“At least the fire is warm,” a shivering Kava said, “I guess we won't have any hides to take back then.”

“No,” Eurysa said, “But at least the Disputed Lands are safe from this threat. We don't need more problems.”

The five mercenaries began to trudge through the snow back towards Center Point. Behind them the flames burned for over two hours before they finally began to die down. Eventually all that was left of the flame was smoke. The cocoon had been thoroughly cooked, the creature inside was dead. As the giant worm corpse deflated, a single large object could be seen.

The scorched skin broke around the object. It was an egg. It twitched slightly, then the shell broke. A single scoop-like leg busted out. It was alive.

***

The man that approached Enzi wore a black robe. There was a symbol on it, a swirling vortex shaded in a deep purple that nearly matched the blackness of the robe. It was the insignia worn by the Abyss Cult, the largest and most powerful of the Tarvoni cults. Like most Tarvoni, the man was not tall and his pale porcelain skin stood out in a crowd. Like all Tarvoni, his ears had a flat top and back, giving them a boxy shape and a point where the two straight edges met. Like most of the Abyss Cult, this Tarvoni had dark red eyes.

The color of the Tarvoni's eyes almost seemed to glow with power as he focused them on the Feergrus man, “I find I have need of your talents.”

“Then let us talk.”

The five mercenaries were gathered around a campfire. The winter had been brutal and jobs had been scarce at best. However, hints of spring could be seen in the air and on the ground. None of the mercenaries was happier for the coming of spring than the amphibious vodyanoi. Used to the heated marshes that had once been her home, Kava had little love for snow or the cold. Her need for moisture was not helpful when the available water was freezing.

“Someone with a job for us,” Kava croaked, “Good. At least if we are moving I might be able to forget this damnable ice.”

Finally Enzi approached the group with their next mission. It would require travel deep inside the Tarvo Forest, but the Tarvoni would escort the mercenaries so that they would not be hassled. It was a long trip and the mercenaries learned little of the Tarvoni man. He spoke little to the mercenaries, keeping his relationship cold and professional. Ritter worried about that, it reminded him of the attitude of the elves. The odd ears of the Tarvoni made him wonder if they were somehow related.

Certainly it was not possible. If elves could mate with humans, it would have been seen long ago. Breeding across species just was not possible. As the weeks of travel passed and the group delved deep into the territory of the Abyss Cult, the Halz felt sure that eyes watched them. He never saw any other Tarvoni and no one hindered their passage. Ritter wondered if the escort had really aided them or if they had merely missed any patrol. His instincts told him that without an escort they would have been attacked a great many times.

Then the dwarf saw something amazing in the deep forest. A great tower could be seen ahead. It looked as if it had erupted out of the ground and through the woods. It had a slight lean to it but Ritter recognized the material. It was build out of solid halzium, or adamantine as his people called it. Such a structure was impossible. That much halzium just could not exist. Even if it did exist, shaping it into such a tower would have taken a hundred generations of dwarves, or perhaps thousands upon thousands of human generations.

“This tower did not exist a few months ago,” the Tarvoni said in Nuvro, the first he had spoken in weeks, “Our investigations have been fruitless. We thought bringing in some people with different expertise might give us a new start.”

Ritter felt the pale human's red eyes on him. He wondered if the mercenaries had really been hired just because of him. Still, this mystery was intriguing to the Halz. His knowledge of engineering was screaming to go investigate the odd tower. Ritter began to walk towards the structure, his black eyes soaking up the architecture. Then he saw the doors. There were runes on the door, etched with mithral. The blue metal stood out brightly against the dark hue of the halzium.

“Or magics have been unable to affect the tower at all,” the Tarvoni said, “Even our divinations have been absorbed. I suspect that beyond the halzium and mithril that can be seen, this place also has a significant amount of orichalcum used in its construction.”

“Orichalcum?” the Halz asked, unfamiliar with that metal.

“It is a reddish material with a slight golden hue. It has an odd affect on magic,” the pale man replied.

Ritter remembered having seen a metal like that several months ago. He dismissed the thought and turned his attention to the door. The runes were in his language. The writing of the Halz on an impossible tower deep in what he would consider to be elven territory made a thousand questions flutter through his mind. The dwarven runes were complex and Ritter noticed the language they used was ancient. It was difficult to understand, but his education as a noble had given him a lot of insight into such older texts.

The runes mentioned several features of the doors. Examining those, Ritter quickly deciphered how to make the mighty gateways open. The gates rumbled as Ritter worked the mechanism behind them. However, this also disturbed something else. No one had paid much attention to the hideous gargoyles that sat upon the tower. However, they were creatures known as rock falcons. A large and hideous bird that looked like stone, they often perched on buildings to blend in while surveying the land for prey.

The massive falcons swooped down on the six beings below. Kava rolled instinctively out of the way while Ritter felt sharp talons scrape at his armor. Mayitso, Aldebaran, and Eurysa each avoided the attacks and prepared for battle. The Tarvoni yelped as blood was drawn on his shoulder. The falcons flew up out of reach and circled around to come for their next attack.

This time, however, everyone was ready. The gorgon loosed an arrow as the rest of the mercenaries readied their attacks for when the creatures came in melee range. The Tarvoni narrowed his eyes at the creatures and Ritter saw the red coloration of those human eyes flare up. As the falcons neared he could feel the sheer power of the Tarvoni beside him. A flame leapt from the mage's hands and erupted across the birds. While their appearance was stony, their feathers were as flammable as any avian creature.

The creatures that survived turned and fled, though several looked like flight would not be possible for long. The Halz turned and looked at the Tarvoni. The small wound and the massive display of magical power had exhausted him.

“Go,” he said, “Investigate and return. I will rest here. The other Tarvoni will be here soon after that display. Those things likely won't come back, so I'll be safe.”

Ritter nodded and the group entered the massive doors. Their job was to find a way inside the tower and make the entrance safe for further exploration. Ritter nearly swooned as he looked at the internal dimensions of the tower. It was not built to the scale of the giants. That meant only one thing to him. This tower was from before the time when they had ruled the Halz and made them build the seven great halls that now served as the clan halls of the seven surviving Halz clans.

The orichalcum that had blocked the Tarvoni's magic coated the entire inside of the tower. Light gleamed across it with a golden gleam. Its luster was beautiful on the eyes. Mithril was used as trim and decoration as well as sparkling gems. The tower was beyond anything that Ritter could have imagined. Just the smallest bit of light that came in through the mighty double doors lit up the whole place. The way everything reflected light was amazing.

Statues lined the entry hall. Faces of people of many races, all with names that the Halz did not recognize. He had studied the history of his race, but this place likely held tales of times long lost to his people. Much of the records of the Halz had been lost in the destruction of Tralenheim. Ritter saw statues of fellow Halz, of humans, and even of elves. The further he moved inside the tower, the more his guard dropped.

Kava, however, was less comfortable, “This place gives me the creeps. It seems safe enough. Lets get out of here and report.”

“Agreed,” Eurysa hissed.

The voices of the two seemed to carry through the tower unnaturally. Aldebaran shivered noticeably as the voices echoed back hauntingly. Mayitso growled. His growl returned with a quality to it that raised the hackles of the mighty wolf. However none of the sounds broke the growing reverie of Ritter. The Halz continued onward, drawn in by the beauty and mystery before him.

“Hey Ritter, you coming?” Kava croaked.

The Halz did not answer and merely continued onwards.

“Bah, keep looking. This is your kind of place anyway I guess,” the vodyanoi said, quickly making her way towards the entrance.

As the group exited they found a small collection of Tarvoni outside. Their contact was there and looked much better. His wound had been magically healed. All of the Tarvoni wore the robes of the Abyss Cult and all but one shared the vivid red eyes of their contact. That one different Tarvoni had violet eyes that were every bit as vivid and bright as the red eyes of his colleagues. Two of the Tarvoni were female, but all of the seven gathered humans had blonde hair, though the shade ranged from nearly platinum blonde to a dark golden blonde.

The contact handed a bag to Eurysa, “Your final payment for your aid. Your dwarf friend was quite useful.”

Eurysa nodded, “He is still inside looking around.”

“Good, perhaps he will answer a question or two if we have it,” the Tarvoni replied.

The seven Tarvoni headed inside while the mercenaries made a quick camp. Night was approaching and they had to wait for Ritter before leaving. Plus the gorgon wondered if their trip home would be safe without an escort. These were all worries that could wait for the moment.

***

Ritter stood before a great throne of gold and gems. It was made for a Halz. There was no doubt in his mind. The mithril text told of great kings that Ritter's history books had no mention of. As he looked at the dates, they made little sense to him. He wondered just how old the tower was. There were legends that the history of Doulairen was far older than anyone imagined. This room lent credence to that tale. Then he saw something that drew his attention fully.

It appeared at first to be an altar of solid diamond. Such a thing astounded his imagination. The mighty altar was enormous. However that made him worry. He wondered why an altar would sit in a temple of the Halz. His people worshiped no deities. Suddenly the glamor that had held his attention was broken. He began to notice all the oddities that surrounded him. Something was terribly wrong with the tower.

Ritter noticed now that the altar before him was similar to a box. The lid could be removed. Then he noticed the seven Tarvoni. Their eyes were full of wonder much like his had been. They all came to the altar, just as he had. They ran their hands across the mighty box of diamond. Ritter saw runes had been carved on the lid. He was not sure how he had missed that before, but his reverie had dimmed many of his perceptions. The text touched something is his memory.

A Tarvoni asked, “What does it say?”

Ritter answered, “Avoid me now, but not forever for I am always near. It is useless to run for I come to all. The final answer to all things lies within. Learn of me, just as did those immortalized in my hall.”

“Answers,” the Tarvoni said, almost in a daze, “That is what we truly seek.”

The seven Tarvoni shoved at the lid of the alter and it shifted slightly. The riddle on the lid flew through the mind of the Halz, As clarity had come to him once again he realized what the answer must be.

He spoke as fear leapt to grasp at his heart, “Death...”

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