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

5Dec/12Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0023

Enzi looked quite displeased when he returned to the wagon, “We need to move. I avoided detection, but trackers will be on to us soon enough. I just do not have a sure location to go to.”

“We may have an idea,” Ritter replied, then explained all that he had learned from Gierig.

Enzi nodded, “Not a bad idea. A few dropped clues here at camp might get things rolling. If nothing else, at least it is a direction to go.”

The group packed up their gear and leapt into the wagon. They rolled off eastwards. As they rolled along, Enzi revealed what he had learned. It was not good news. Unity had complete control of Center Point. Several mercenary groups had been paid off to track the Irregulars. Enzi wondered how he had missed such a group taking over so much of the trading post. Having Gharaf as a member had certainly helped. Likely he had bought up much of what was needed. A few bribes and a little blackmail could work wonders.

Unity seemed like it was a group that was well funded. Mercenaries always gravitated to such people. Ritter had a hard time imagining how they would escape a grisly fate. The Halz wondered what could possibly be more profitable than a bounty for a powerful organization.

***

The Tarvoni standing in the circle had light blonde hair, though age had faded it considerably. He was just short of five and a half feet tall. Like most Tarvoni, he was shorter and thinner than most of the other races. His foe had once been his mentor, a man whose hair was quite gray with his old age.

“Laesiethys,” the younger Tarvoni said, “Your time has ended.”

“Yes, Raen. I knew this time would come. Your magical prowess has grown to match mine, even when I wear the trappings of leader. I have taught you well.”

The two spoke in the tongue created by the Abyss cult, a language that had formed based on the magic they wielded. The Abyssal tongue had terms for all known magical phenomena. Many of its words could be used to enhance the very flow of magic itself. When people used magical words in their spells in other lands, those words were familiar to the Tarvoni. It was part of their language.

“Some new leaders would slay the old,” Raen said to the elder Tarvoni, “I do not see the need. Our friendship can continue. After our losses at the odd dwarven tower, we need all our mages.”

“I agree,” Laesiethys replied, his red eyes still sharp, “I had long prepared for your ascendance. I relinquish now the leadership of the Abyss. Now Raen Nychte shall lead us, for good or ill.”

“Long have I developed plans to deal with our enemies,” Raen said, “Now they shall be set in motion. Agon will be crushed. Whether by war or coup, their country shall not survive. Long have their Magehunters come for our kind.”

The elder Tarvoni smiled, “I knew you had begun moving pieces of some plan. I knew when Gree Vanier disappeared.”

Raen returned the smile with a devious look in his eyes, “Yes, one of the greatest of our summoners. He has gone to aid the goblinoids. They have a new weapon. Along with the power of the summoners Gree recruited, the goblinoids will wage war upon the civilized nations. I do not expect success in this venture, but that is not the goal.”

“Of course not,” Laesiethys said, “The alliances of the north will crush the goblinoids. But not without serious losses. Especially depending on this new weapon.”

“Perhaps new is the wrong word,” Raen said, “It is an old weapon, stolen by Ahk separatists in Feergrus. Our agents liberated it, and made sure it was delivered to the goblinoids. The true owners will be quite displeased when evidence that the Feergrus stole it is laid at their door. All the world will be at war while we watch. Then when all are weakened, we make our next move.”

“Our next move?”

“We shall place a new king on the throne of Agon, one which will be favorable to us,” Raen said, “We shall be the ones to decide the heir to Agon.”

“Interesting,” Laesiethys said with a nod, “What if the plan should fail?”

“Then it fails,” Raen replied, “Our enemies will still be weakened. We shall use mercenaries where we can and not expend our own strength unless we have to. The war will bring a great bounty of experienced mercenaries to us. Nothing is as juicy a job as war for a mercenary. When the war is over, many will be desperate for work. We shall provide it.”

“Do you have further plans beyond that?”

“I have some thoughts,” Raen said, “But it is too far into the future to think about them in detail yet. Perhaps when the war is over and the plan for the coup of Agon is moving along, it will be time to look at them in more detail. Who knows what opportunities may come by then?”

***

Surprisingly the Irregulars made it to their destination without being harried. They were near the southern tip of the Nuvro Range. The sign of stonework had drawn the eyes of the two Halz. Someone had been digging into the rocks of the mountains. What had once been a rubble strewn cliff now showed signs of being cleared. However, it was far too quiet.

Enzi, the Irregulars, and Gierig proceeded on foot. The first sign of trouble was found quickly. Ritter knelt beside the body of a fallen Halz. The normally solid black eyes were a solid white. That Halz was dead. Arrows had pierced the stone-kin. They were obviously of elven make. A quick investigation found a trap had been hidden in the plants that grew on the mountain side. Warned of the possibility of traps, the group moved carefully forward.

They found one trap after another that had been set off. The Halz who had been excavating the site had obviously gotten more careful after losing one of their own. However, Ritter was worried. The slain Halz would have been cleaned up after the area had been secured. Something had obviously happened to the rest of the expedition. Then they saw the bodies. The stone-kin had been cut down in battle. Someone else was there.

A lilting voice spoke the Halz tongue with obvious disgust, “Ah more of your blight has come to my home. You brought foul monsters with you as well. Perhaps you will be more of a challenge than the other rock born abominations.:

A creature stepped into the light. It was perhaps half a foot taller than five feet. Long and ragged blonde hair cascaded from the creature's head, but the unkempt locks could not conceal the pointed ears. Its skin was pale with an almost porcelain sheen. The creature was far too narrow to be human. Its build was unmistakable. It was an elf. Tales of them often called them thin, but that was the wrong word. While reaching human height, their body shape was differently proportioned. The widest part of them were perhaps the hips or shoulders, and even the largest elf did not pass a foot wide.

The Halz had a broad build, so the narrow shapes of the elves struck them as particularly alien looking. Even to human, the elves looked odd. Their skulls were too narrow. Their eyes slanted heavily to fit. It gave their features a very pointed look. This elf wore no armor but his curved blade was stained with the blood of the slain Halz.

The elf watched the Irregulars with an unnerving stillness. Elves had an uncanny ability to be very still. They showed no emotion either. While the Halz supposedly had the stony faces, that meant that any emotion the dwarves made was exaggerated as their faces had limited movement. The elves were capable of extremely subtle movement instead. Rumors also told of their lightning speed when they actually did move.

Enzi did not understand the Halz tongue, but spoke in Abyssal, “Fair elf, we come not as enemies.”

“Ah, the human speaks,” the elf replied in Abyssal, “You bring monsters including two dwarves and think to say that you do not come for war?”

“We did not even know you were here,” Enzi replied calmly.

“That matters little, you are here for the Hammer of Ruin.”

“We were here to stop murderers and thieves who will be coming for the hammer. Investigating the slain Halz is a logical part of that.”

“You appeal to my intellect,” the elf said, “You are a cunning foe indeed. The hammer shall not fall into anyone's hands. Now I must eliminate you, as I will all who find this place. If there are no survivors, none will tell of this place again.”

“What of the path that allowed anyone to learn of this place at all?” Enzi asked.

“As it seems to bring the dwarves to the slaughter, it seems fine to me. The less of such traitorous monsters in this world the better. It has been entertaining to speak with something that is not dwarven, but you are no more clever than they in the end.”

The elf moved with a blur. His curved blade slashed at Ritter, but Gierig's shield caught the blow.

“Sorry treacherous elf, but this Halz is not yours to slay,” Gierig said in the tongue of the stone-kin.

Gierig's axe slashed through the air at the elf, but it was fat too slow. The elf seemed to dance past the weapon with practiced ease. The elf leaned suddenly then Ritter saw why. One of Eurysa's arrows sailed past his head. He had never known her to miss like that. Certainly bad conditions or a touch of luck could make her miss, but this was not even close.

“You have never faced an elven warrior, little dwarf,” the elf said, “I have trained in combat for over two hundred years. I have experienced true combat many dozens of times. Your pitiful little group is no match for an elven...”

Suddenly he lurched and mad an odd sound. Between his legs laid the vodyanoi Kava. She was stealthy when she wanted to be and her small size allowed her to maneuver past the two Halz. They nearly blocked the entrance to the cave and access to the elf.

“Don't know what you were saying buddy,” Kava croaked in Nuvro, “But I didn't like the tone. You seem human shaped enough that I hopefully just skewered you in your most sensitive area. I figured that would work as a nice little attitude adjustment.”

Blood dribbled from the mouth of the shocked elf. His stoic face showed no emotion except his eyes. A fire of rage, pain, and confusion seemed to flow from the green colored orbs. He raised his blade and sought to drive it downwards into the prone Kava but Gierig's axe chopped into the elf and finished him off.

“You were quite right,” Gierig said, “He was being rather insufferable. We may not agree on many things, but I must admit admiration for taking that useless creature down a peg or two.”

“That is two you owe me then,” Kava said.

“Two?” Gierig asked.

“Oh you still owe me for causing trouble at the auction slaughter. I'll think of an appropriate payment for all your debts eventually.”

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