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

12Dec/12Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0024

All the mercenaries stepped over the dead elf except Eurysa. She stayed to watch the cave entrance. Mayitso looked back once as the group traveled on. He stayed in the rear, keeping his sharp senses ready. With his speed, he could aid the gorgon is battle quickly. That was assuming that their goal was not much further inside the cave tunnel. Soon the group came to the back wall of the cave.

The wall had obviously been built there. It appeared to be perfectly flat and smooth. However, there was writing upon it. The flowing script was almost certainly elven. No one in the group could read the language. Gierig merely snorted and kicked the wall. There was a loud cracking sound and the treacherous Halz grunted. Enzi soon had the group rearrange themselves so that Aldebaran was at front. The massive minotaur was able to break down the thin wall quite easily.

Beyond the broken wall sat a vast domed cave. The lantern Enzi had with him only lit enough to show the walls seemed to be as smooth as the one they had broken through. The floor also looked perfectly smooth. In the center of the room sat a pedestal. On the pedestal sat an enormous dwarven maul. As he was in the lead, Aldebaran took the first steps forward. However, as soon as his hooves stepped past the debris from the shattered wall, they slipped.

The minotaur hit the ground with a loud thud and Enzi spoke in Nuvro, “So the floor very nearly is perfectly smooth. At least we have been provided a solution. The debris and the damage done here gave some traction. This floor, like the walls, seems easily damaged. So let us make a path.”

This time Ritter led the way. Using his warhammer, he smashed the floor and any rocks the mercenaries tossed forward. It made for a path that was treacherous to walk upon, but far safer than the smooth and slippery floor. Ritter sheathed his weapon and stowed his shield as he stood at the base of the pedestal. With both hands he grasped the enormous maul.

The weapon was extraordinarily heavy. The Halz was not expecting that and it nearly slipped from his grasp. The mighty two handed hammer hit the floor with a loud reverberating thud. Ritter felt his ears pop from the sudden change in pressure in the room. The floor rippled from where the hammer had hit and the ripples continued until they hit a wall. Suddenly a section of that wall shifted backwards.

At first the group thought it was some sort of secret door, but the engineer in Ritter told him the truth. The stone had been compressed by the hammer. It had been used to create the room they were standing in. It puzzled him that the compressed stone would be so brittle and easy to damage, however. That went against his knowledge of materials. He wondered if the properties that allowed the hammer to shift stone like that also weakened the stone somehow. Certainly weakening stone could earn the maul its title as the Hammer of Ruin.

“I didn't think the hammer was supposed to have any power?” Enzi asked.

Ritter shrugged, “No stories tell of that. I am as surprised as you. I expected a less fantastical reason for its name.”

Mayitso raised his head suddenly, sniffing the air. He growled then turned and ran down the tunnel back towards Eurysa.

“That can't be good,” Kava said, “But I sure hope its fun.”

The group rushed back towards the entrance. Eurysa's bow was at the ready as Mayitso sniffed the air. Ritter could see shapes moving outside, but the transition between the dim cave and the bright outdoors made it difficult to ascertain exact numbers.

“Leave the hammer here,” Gierig said, “Lets go meet these foes as a wall of Halz forged steel.”

Ritter nodded, putting the dwarven maul down and drawing his shield and warhammer for battle. The two heavily armed dwarves led the way. Out side sat a ragtag collection of mercenaries.

One of the armored men swaggered forward and spoke in Nuvro, “Ah, Gierig. First you brought us our axe, now our hammer. How nice.”

“So where is the axe?” Gierig asked.

“Oh, we couldn't leave the dwarf weapons apart. We brought it with us.”

“That seems foolish, do you think this band of mercenaries is enough to stop even two Halz, let alone the rest of the warriors here with us?” Gierig asked.

The man shrugged as the two Halz moved forward. The rest Enzi's Irregulars came out of the cave, maneuvering so that all could fight.

“Finally some room to fight,” Kava said, “Too bad there are so few foes.”

The male mercenary who had addressed the two Halz smiled, “Well, we can certainly fix that.”

Dozens of soldiers in heavy armor made their way out from behind rocks, as more stealthy warriors rose from behind the grassy hills. A small army now faced Enzi's Irregulars. Eurysa and Enzi glanced back at the cave and the strategic cover it provided.

“I wouldn't do that if I were you,” the mercenary leader said, “We have more than enough crossbows trained on you to kill you all. I don't see the hammer.”

“If you could see it, we would already be dead,” Enzi replied.

“True enough,” the man said, pulling out the magical heirloom of the Silveraxe clan as his own weapon.

Ritter and Enzi shared a glance. They could see the blood-lust in the man's eyes. The overconfidence. It was perhaps warranted. Gierig, however, was strangely confident himself.

“Surrender the axe of my clan and perhaps we shall let you live,” Gierig yelled out, “Both heirlooms will fall in the hands of the Halz this day!”

“You served your purpose little dwarf,” the leader replied snidely, “Your little group stands no chance. Provide the hammer willingly and I might consider letting you live through this.”

“Oh, let me tell you an ancient Halz saying,” Gierig said, then yelled something in his native tongue, “Beendenklar!”

Ritter's eyes showed his visible shock. Gierig had just yelled the Halz signal that all was in place and ready. It was a simple term that was used to signal that someone else should do their part of the job as all was complete and the path was clear for them. At that signal the many rocky formations near the cave seemed to fall apart. A small battalion of Halz seemingly erupted from the stone itself.

The human army seemed surprised, but there was nowhere to run, the Halz had them surrounded. There was no time to ask questions, the Irregulars burst into action. Kava croaked out a mad cackle as she dove into battle. Eurysa's bowstring sang as it loosed arrow after arrow. Mayitso's mighty jaws hewed flesh from bone. Aldebaran cuts his foes down as if he were a farmer reaping wheat. Enzi's unarmed skill continued to impress Ritter as the Feergrus man took down his foes with cold efficiency.

Ritter himself smashed foe after foe with his warhammer, fighting nearly in sync with Gierig. Gierig's battleaxe cut down foes easily. The two Halz may have been rivals or enemies, but their combat training and their trust that each would keep their word of an alliance allowed them to fight seamlessly together. The other Halz showed equally efficient teamwork.

***

Naphar Bura watched the scene unfold and shook his head. The Kurrot Cleanser had hoped the time had come to end the menace of the monsters known as Enzi's irregulars. He worried about the future. News told of an increase in goblinoid attacks. Bugbears had been coming from the Siren Swamps into Kurrot. They dared not try to attack Ravalei with the golems that protected the borders there. This merely funneled them into Nuvroc or Kurrot in the north. To the south, Lake Hargis and its mighty rivers pushed the goblinoids into Agon unless they dared use boats or take the even more foolish route of trying to swim across.

While Bugbears were used to water, the other goblinoids did not have the same natural advantages of the marsh dwellers. If war came, Naphar wondered if that would lower the number of opportunities to slay the Irregulars. He could not imagine anyone hiring them to help in the war effort, even against foes like the goblinoids. Especially now that their crimes were known to many. He feared most of all that the mercenaries of the Disputed Lands would leave it undefended in order to end the larger threat of the goblinoids.

The damage that the Irregulars could do without anything to stop them was staggering to Naphar. He had to find a solution. He turned and left as the battle soured for the humans. To Naphar it proved that even the dwarves could not be trusted. The Nuvroci put too much stock in their supposed nobility. They were not human, despite their similarities. The Cleanser pondered his options as he left. He would not give up in his quest. The trophies that the Irregulars would provide for him would make his name in the world. He would be able to ask any price for his services.

***

The field of battle was slick with the blood of a great many. Aldebaran nursed a cut he had taken across his mighty chest. Kava wiped blood from her enormous orange eyes. Mostly it was not her own blood, though she had hit her head pretty hard once to avoid a blade. The ground had not been forgiving to her skull. The battalion of Halz made sure their foes were down then slowly gathered. The Irregulars gathered together, taking stock of their situation.

Gierig joined the new group of Halz, a grin on his stony face. Ritter instantly was on guard as the battalion formed into ranks once again. One of the Halz soldiers stepped forward. A ragged scar marked his grizzled face. One of his eyes was blinded, showing as a pure white rather than the normal pure black. His crystalline hair was gray with age.

He spoke in the language of the dwarves, “You have recovered the Hammer of Ruin.”

“Who are you?” Ritter asked.

“I am Grandmaster Befehlen Diamondheart, a general for the Foundation.”

“The Foundation?”

“Yes,” Gierig said, “While you Earthbreakers leave the home and search for an answer among these useless humans, the Foundation builds a better world for the Halz.”

“I thought you were an Earthbreaker as well?” Ritter asked.

“No, my family line was banished. I am of the blood of the great leaders of Silveraxe that stood against you in the old days. I have walked the world above, dealing with a world without comforting rock. I called myself one of your traitorous kind as there was little other explanation for me to stride this land that would not rouse your suspicion. When I learned that the axe and the hammer resided in this world, I sent world to the Foundation.”

“Yes,” Befehlen said resolutely, “These weapons are the symbols of the great dwarven clans. Already we protect three other relics from misuse by humans. We know who you are, Ritter Platinum. Though the Foundation believes the Earthbreakers are foolish and misguided at best, we hold no hostility towards a fellow Halz.”

“I hold all the hostility towards you that you need,” Gierig snarled towards Ritter, “Now is the time to end this.”

He took a step forward, axe raised. Ritter prepared his hammer. Noticing the shift in positions, the other Irregulars prepared for battle. A great many dwarven crossbows were leveled at the group.

“Stay out of this fight,” Gierig growled in Nuvro towards the Irregulars, “You have been of great aid and you stand against the group Unity that has wronged the Halz. It was they who had paid to make sure you were there to be attacked at the auction. Their treachery shall not be mine any longer. However, this Halz must now face my justice.”

“Then let us fight,” Ritter said, his brow furrowed and his shield at the ready.

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