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

28Nov/12Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0022

The wagon sat well outside of Center Point. Ritter and Eurysa had the unenviable job of keeping Gierig alive while Enzi paid a visit to the bureaucrats that tried to run the mercenary town. Most of them had positions of leadership due to control over something. One led the guards that protected the merchants. He was effectively the justice for Center Point. That was the man that Enzi had gone off to interrogate. That left Ritter and the gorgon working to try to keep the vodyanoi and the minotaur from ripping apart the Halz guest.

The rage of the minotaur was difficult to contain for Aldebaran. Ritter had seen Aldebaran in combat and understood that well. He had heard hints of the mighty creature's past. It seemed it was filled with violence and anger. Kava was another matter. Her thirst for combat was insatiable. Gierig had crossed her, which gave her more reason than she needed to kill him. Eurysa was hard to read, but her self control and calm nature helped keep the others in line.

Mayitso was completely calm. Oddly enough, the lycanthrope was the most well adjusted to the change of anyone. Ritter wondered what that meant. Ritter had plenty of hard feelings for his fellow stone-kin. Now the mercenaries were likely targets. As many were monstrous they had already been targets to some and suspect to most of the rest. Things had never seemed dire, especially with Enzi around to keep trouble at bay. Now suddenly Ritter thought the outlook seemed bleak.

The Disputed Lands were full of mercenaries. It would be far too easy to put a bounty on the head of the Irregulars. At that point, it would take a miracle for them to survive long. The thought of being persecuted and hunted washed over Ritter. Suddenly he felt more kinship with the others in the mercenary group. As a Halz he had never felt racism in the same way as the others. Certainly many humans were racist towards him, but he was not considered to be an animal to be hunted down. The difference in scale was staggering to the dwarf's mind.

He had underestimated the suffering of his fellows. Their survival was against all odds. That they kept fighting for righteous causes was beyond commendable. Ritter's stony face showed a slight smirk. This was not the time to become disheartened. These warriors had been through worse. This was just a minor obstacle for them to overcome. Kava shifted in her seat. Her attention span could be counted in seconds and Ritter had a sudden foreboding feeling that her shift meant she had become bored with the current status quo.

The orange eyed amphibian opened her overly wide maw, “So Gierig. You don't like our short little walking ball of metal? I can understand that. I fully hate at least half of the dwarves I've met myself.”

Gierig said nothing which to Kava was an invitation to dig deeper, “I love how you prove your so called honor by seeing to the death of a lot of others, innocents as well. I'd invite you to our little club here, except I took the position of amoral murderer myself.”

Gierig snorted, “You have killed for money. What happened was a job. You should be pissed at my employers. If it had not been me, another mercenary would have taken the job.”

“Going after Ritter was just a job?” Kava asked.

“It was getting paid to do something I wanted to do anyways. You and your allies were nothing I wanted to deal with. My employers seemed more than happy to come after you for themselves. In the end, they betrayed me. In this we have a common enemy. I may still wish to unleash my vengeance upon the Platinum Clan, but I harbor no ill will to the rest of you. You are mercenaries. You understand the life.”

Ritter was surprised at how good a point Gierig made. Gierig certainly seemed sharper upon this meeting than the last. Ritter suspected that his fellow stone-kin was not among the brightest of his kind, but he certainly proved he was not a dullard. Ritter's training in engineering had taught him to think through problems. He wondered how well Gierig would have done with such training. Perhaps he would have been able to see the flaws in his thinking. Certainly, though, he could not predict the randomness of the vodyanoi.

“Why would anyone but a dwarf want a stinky old dwarf axe anyway?” Kava asked.

“You are quickly becoming someone I might enjoy killing if paid to do so,” Gierig growled.

“Good, good,” Kava said, “Now I am beginning to like you. Maybe. Even if you do like ancient rusty useless poorly crafted weapons.”

The fire of anger filled Gierig. The Halz had great passion and showed it strongly. The relative stiffness of their stony features meant their emotions were often exaggerated. It took a lot of control to hide those expressions and Ritter highly doubted Gierig would have had reason to practice that. That only meant trouble. Seeing that she had provoked Gierig, Kava would surely continue to torment him.

“You know nothing of craftsmanship,” Gierig said, “My people craft things that are made to last. The axe of my clan is a great and powerful artifact.”

“It is from your clan then?” Kava asked, “Proof that it must be weak.”

“If it was so weak, then why would humans want it for themselves?” Gierig asked.

The vodyanoi grinned, “Ah, no fun. You should keep to the anger and blurting out silly things.”

The rage cooled on Gierig's face as he resumed a neutral look, “I see now your game.”

“Well yes,” Kava said, “I just told it to you. Perhaps I could have said it more plainly even.”

“Indeed. I will be happy when the axe is safely out of human hands and back with the Halz.”

“Ugh,” Kava croaked, “I don't really want you to be swinging it around either.”

“Such a proud weapon is not for me,” Gierig replied, “I would not wield it. It needs to be returned to a spot of honor in the clan hall of my people. Safe from misuse.”

Ritter narrowed his eyes at the thought of the axe being misused. He wondered if the Silveraxe clan would rise up once more if they had it in their hands again. Ritter began to wonder exactly what would need to be done if they finally did retrieve the axe.

“So your clan had the only super magic axe?” Kava asked, “The other clans must have been jealous.”

“Perhaps,” Gierig said, “But the axe was the relic of our clan. Each of the other surviving clans had their own relics.”

This made Ritter pause his train of thought. He knew of no relics within the Platinum Clan. Certainly one might count the Forge of Souls as a great relic of the Soulforge clan. The Diamondheart, Goldbeard, and Orcdoom clans had no appreciable relics that Ritter knew of. The Stonehammer clan often spoke of the mighty hammer of their founder, but it had long been lost. It was the only thing that Ritter could think of that might be considered a relic, though at least tales of the hammer told of no magical properties.

As if reading Ritter's mind, Gierig spoke, “Of course the most relevant one is the Hammer of Ruin, the mighty weapon of the founder of the Stonehammer clan. Even now an expedition moves to recover it from where it had been lost.”

“How would anyone know where that is?” Ritter asked, “It was lost long before the fall of Tralenheim and the loss of records could not have aided any search.”

“Being lost that long ago was a blessing is disguise,” Gierig replied, “The records of it were hidden away in the clan hall of the Stonehammers and never sent to Tralenheim. Scholars unearthed the hidden texts and even now seek to obtain the relic.”

“Where would it have been hidden and not found?” Kava asked, “I imagine you dwarves go digging everywhere.”

“Of course you do,” Gierig said dryly, “It was not hidden in stone, but in the land here above.”

“Then it might have fallen in human hands?” Ritter asked.

“Worse,” Gierig replied, “Elves.”

Ritter made a face of disgust as Gierig continued, “It was at a time that we had some trust for the foul creatures. Yet luck holds for us. The treacherous elves threw the hammer away in their betrayal of the Halz. Records were found that indicated what had happened to it, many found in the recovered texts of Center Point itself.”

Ritter swooned at that. Center Point was a ruin of the ancient kingdom of the giants. He wondered what exactly the giants had been doing in that ruin when it had been whole and new. He pondered why records of the Hammer of Ruin would have been there.

“So if they found the records in a human controlled area, you think the humans want that little dwarf weapon too?” Kava asked, “I bet it has to be more awesome than your rusty axe.”

“There are few tales of the Hammer of Ruin,” the silver-haired Gierig stated, “It is mostly just stated as the weapon wielded by the founder of that clan. It certainly has a lofty title.”

The blonde-haired Ritter spoke, “Kava may have a point though. If the people that wanted the axe learn of the hammer, they may seek it as well.”

“Especially if they think it is powerful,” the vodyanoi croaked, “Everybody loves power.”

“Do you know a lot about this?” Ritter asked Gierig.

“Quite a bit actually,” Gierig replied, “As I was in Center Point at the time, I aided in the recovery of the texts and read them myself.”

“Then perhaps this Unity needs to learn of the hammer. And learn of its many mighty magical powers,” Ritter said.

“Magical powers? I thought dumpy here said it was just some old leader dude's favorite toy?” Kava asked.

“Yes, but Unity does not not need to know that,” Ritter said, “Then we can lure them out.”

“Not a bad idea,” Gierig stated, “I would ask how we get the humans to believe it, but I think I actually have an answer for that.”

“Oh?” Ritter asked.

“I read those ancient texts for a reason,” Gierig said, “They were carved into stone, so actually moving them would have been difficult to say the least. Unless one was a giant. So they are still there. Unity has people that can read Halz runes. We just need to convince someone to look.”

“A few rumors could take care of that,” Ritter said, “Seeing the runes would make them believers. Although I am uncomfortable with them knowing the location of the relic. Even without power it is a great historical artifact.”

“I know where the hammer should be. We just need to be there first,” Gierig replied, “The expedition should still be there as added backup.”

Ritter nodded, “It sounds like a solid plan, depending on what Enzi learns. We can run it past him when he returns. Perhaps he will have more ideas to add.”

Comments (0) Trackbacks (0)

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Trackbacks are disabled.