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

19Dec/12Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0025

Gierig grinned as he charged forward. His axe slashed through the air. Ritter deflected the blow with his shield as he stepped to the side for a better angle. His warhammer crashed past Gierig's defenses and clanged on heavy armor. Gierig grunted, but no real damage had been done. The two Halz traded blows, each seeking an advantage or opening. Neither could land a solid blow. Ritter was surprised at Gierig's skill. He thought the quest for vengeance would have distracted his foe.

However, Gierig had perfect focus. Ritter wondered if their last combat had prepared Gierig for this. Another possibility flitted into his mind. Working together may have allowed Gierig to get used to Ritter and to properly focus his rage. It had made the treacherous dwarf far more dangerous than Ritter had anticipated. However, it was obvious that Gierig did not have Ritter's extensive training. Ritter waited and fought, learning his foes moves while Gierig slowly became frustrated.

When the opening came, Ritter swung with all his might. Gierig's armor caved in on that side. He hit the ground with a thud and his axe clattered across the rocky terrain as it slipped from his grasp. Gierig was beaten. He laid on the ground panting. Ritter's warhammer had not only damaged the armor, but had likely shattered at least one of Gierig's ribs.

“It is over then,” Ritter said in Nuvro.

The general of the Halz forces nodded in return, “We shall take the axe and hammer and keep them out of anyone's hands. They will be symbols to inspire our people. We will survive, and we will do it without aid.”

“I see no reason to stop you,” Ritter replied, “I wish you luck in aiding our people. I shall continue my search out here for now. Hopefully one of us will find a solution.”

“That is quite pragmatic,” Befehlen stated, “But I would expect no less from someone with your background. I may think your quest to be pointless, but even I can admit my plan may fail. Perhaps we will meet again under better circumstance young prince.”

As things began to settle down Ritter turned and moved back towards the Irregulars. He heard a yell of protest from Befehlen towards someone not to grab the Silveraxe. This didn't strike Ritter as odd. It was a dangerous artifact. It had to be handled carefully and it made Ritter relax to think that this Foundation group had their priorities straight on that. It was the eyes of his teammates that told Ritter that not all was right.

A growl from behind him and the odd looks of his fellows made Ritter turn. He saw Gierig rushing him with the Silveraxe itself. His eyes were consumed with rage. A fire burned in the black orbs. The power of the axe had let Gierig come at unheard of speed. He was ignoring his wounds, feeling no pain. It might have been shock or adrenalin. More than likely the power of the magical axe had given Gierig strength.

The manic Halz stopped his charge suddenly. Ritter wondered how that could be. Beside Gierig was Kava. Her axe was planted firmly in the weak spot in Gierig's armor. The rage faded from his eyes as he slumped to his knees. Kava ripped her axe from his side and kicked the bleeding dwarf to the ground.

“I told you there were debts you owed me,” the vodyanoi croaked.

Befehlen's soldiers quickly and carefully retrieved the axe as the general spoke, “You have shown no honor Gierig Silveraxe. We shall not slay you, but you are not welcome among us.”

It was another exile. Gierig was no longer welcome anywhere. Unity was his enemy. The Irregulars and the Foundation wanted nothing to do with him. He had nowhere to go. Ritter wanted to feel sorry for him, but it was a punishment of Gierig's own making. The Halz were tough. Ritter imagined that Gierig would survive the wounds he had been given.

“I will recover,” Gierig gurgled, “I will have my revenge.”

“Perhaps you should find a better reason to live on than revenge,” Ritter replied as he joined Enzi.

Enzi and the five mercenaries made their way back towards their wagon. The group nursed their wounds and bruises as they set off. With Unity and a great many mercenaries after them, they had no idea where to go. Enzi was not deterred.

“Are you sure those weapons are safe from causing harm?” Enzi finally asked.

Ritter nodded, “Our people have a love for our culture and the well being of the future of the Halz. This drives our need for honor and trust among each other. Gierig is an exception. His lust for revenge blinded him.”

Enzi nodded, “Perhaps it would have been better to slay him.”

“Perhaps,” Ritter agreed, “He may yet die from his wounds. I doubt it, we Halz have a strong fortitude against disease and infection. I imagine he will recover. But he has no friends or support. All those that hunt us now also hunt him, yet we still have allies. He is no threat to us. He showed that he had some of the honor of a true Halz inside him, despite his treachery. I could not slay him and deny him the chance to redeem himself.”

Kava grinned with her overly wide mouth, “Yes, hopefully he comes back for more. I owed him for two, and only gave him one.”

***

The foul smell seemed to seep into everything. The Tarvoni did not believe he would ever be able to get used to the stench of the goblinoids. It did not help that most of they land they lived on was swampy. The amount of filth they left around rotted in the moisture. They didn't care where they dropped their trash or even where they unleashed their biological waste. Their resistance to disease was remarkable.

As for the stench, the Tarvoni suspected that the goblinoids did not have much of a sense of smell. They had no noses, they breathed through their mouths. It made them almost sound like they were panting at times. It was unnerving to the human. The enormous creatures they rode, the creatures they called wargs, also had no nose. The Agonish called the wargs barghests. Rumors had said the barghests were able to take a humanoid form. The Tarvoni knew that wasn't true.

However, the wargs had a hairless humanoid face and their four legs were shaped and muscled in a way that reminded people of human proportions. Otherwise they seemed more like massive wolves. The Tarvoni suspected that lycanthropes had been mistaken for wargs at some point. In their animal forms, however, the lycanthropes appeared like a giant wolf. Even then, the wargs were much larger. The smaller goblinoids rode them like horses.

One of the goblinoids approached the Tarvoni and spoke in its own foul tongue, “You come human. They ready for you.”

There were four basic types of goblinoids. This messenger was of the smallest type, what humans called a goblin. Goblins rarely had much hair, what hair they did have made them look like an animal with mange. They were scrawny, but were otherwise as large as a dwarf. They were the most numerous and bred like rats. However, the larger goblinoids often used them as slaves or as expendable soldiers.

Larger than the goblins were what humans called the hobgoblins. They were human size but were covered entirely with fur. They rarely lived in the swampier areas, instead making their homes in the hillier areas near the mountains. They trained griffins as their steeds and perhaps had the most skill with weapons. Their main competition for that was the orcs. Orcs were mostly hairless, like goblins. They were slightly larger than hobgoblins in height, but much larger in pure muscle.

Orcs were the brawn of the goblinoids. Their ferocity made them dangerous, even among the goblinoids. The largest of the goblinoids, however, were the bugbears. They did not have the raw muscle of the orc, but their bulk was considerable. They were the survivors of the goblinoids, living deep in the swamps. They were furred like the hobgoblins, but their fur was made for the water. They would often make their way stealthily through the swamps and ambush their foes. Their ability to hold their breath was unrivaled.

The Tarvoni was led out of the slightly marshy area he had been waiting in. He followed the goblin into the nearby hills. The majestic Nuvro Range blocked passage to the east, but caves and paths on the mountains made for a large number of places for the goblinoids to work. A hobgoblin shooed the goblin away and turned to address the Tarvoni.

“Gree,” the hobgoblin said, “We know you have skills in summoning creatures. We have been training our pet that had been brought to us, but we no longer have anything worthy for it to fight. We also need something to convince those who stand against our crusade that the beast is unstoppable. The war with the humans is inevitable. We appreciate that your people see our worth.”

Gree knew that his people had sent him here to help the goblinoids weaken the northern kingdoms. He had no respect for them. They were useful pawns. He suspected the goblinoids saw him in the same light. A pawn to aid their goals. However, the goblinoids were too divided to ever win. Their goals were pitifully obvious to Gree. However, as he was led to the creature that was being trained, he breath was swept away.

The egg that the Tarvoni had brought had been enormous. Sneaking it into Goblinoid territory had been one of the greatest subterfuges that the Abyss Cult had ever pulled off. Gree had expected a dangerous creature, but this thing was beyond his imagination. Greenish black scales glistened on the creature's hide. Immense leathery wings stretched out and knocked over some careless goblins. The immense flying lizard turned its head towards Gree.

The eyes bit into the Tarvoni's soul. This was a monster. Yet it was worse than that. It was intelligent and cunning. It had been adopted by the goblinoids and taught to be a weapon of war. Gree wondered how much sharper its mind might be if it had been filled with knowledge. Even without that, it was capable of learning and understanding.

Then it spoke, “This is the one to bring me a challenge?”

“Yes, great one,” the hobgoblin beside Gree replied.

“I hope so, this is starting to get boring,” the mighty lizard said in its booming voice.

The goblinoids words sounded unnatural from the creature's mouth. But this was a creature that Gree had trouble believing was real. He had thought the egg was from some ordinary monster that the lizardfolk had worshiped. Yet now he saw that the lizardfolk were correct. This was the offspring of a dragon. This child of a dragon, a drake as legend called them, was certainly powerful. Gree grinned as a number of terrible ideas flitted through his mind.

“Well then,” the Tarvoni stated, “Let us see what you are capable of, mighty dragon.”

***

Ritter looked out over the Disputed Lands. He wondered why he hadn't gone with the other Halz. If the humans were hunting him with the other Irregulars, it was questionable as to what use his experiment above ground would lead to. He realized his goal had changed, however as he looked over those he had fought beside. They were in trouble through no fault of their own. There was an enemy that needed defeated.

The Halz planned to do his best to make sure that the Irregulars would survive and prove themselves once again. Having a new goal comforted the dwarf. It gave him focus. The future was impossible to predict and he had no idea what fate had in store for him and his allies. However, as long as he could stand on his own two feet, he would not allow the villains to win.

Enzi's Irregulars would have their day in the light again. Ritter planned to see to it himself if it came to that.

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