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

26Dec/12Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0026

“So we got to meet one of your nasty elves,” Kava said, “If they are all like that, I can't blame you for your distaste.”

“For a long time, the Halz thought of them as allies. We have several stories of adventures together. After their betrayal, however, research proved the hidden motives of the elves in each tale.”

“I'd like to hear that,” Kava said, “I love tales where people get fooled.”

Ritter sighed, “They are devious. We had no reason to suspect that they only worked with us for their own goals and never for mutual aid. We had given them support for many of their endeavors. We thought it was a wonderful partnership. Let me tell you a tale that demonstrates the difference between what we thought was happening and the real truth behind it.”

“Good, I'm bored,” Kava croaked in reply.

“This tale starts with one of our females,” Ritter said, “Her name was Freya Soulforge. She was the greatest smith of her time and was to be married to the heir of the clan. Unfortunately, not everything went according to plan. The great hall of Velindre was assaulted as giants broke through the great mountain walls. The terrible giants battled the warriors of the Soulforge clan and were quickly driven off. All seemed well. However, the great heir to the clan was missing, He had been kidnapped.”

“The clan leader had several sons, however, and named his second son to be heir. If his first son had been captured, he would certainly die at the hands of the giants. Their first priority was to rebuild the mountain wall that protected the city, to make it stronger than ever. After that, vengeance would be sought against the giants for the attack and slaughter. Freya's marriage would now be to the new heir. This did not sit well with her, however. She had fallen in love with the first son. She would not give up on him. There are few things in this world as unstoppable as a Halz woman with a goal.”

“I find it hard to believe your people would just give up on him and attach Freya to a different fiance,” Eurysa hissed.

“This was when giants ruled the world above the ground,” Ritter replied, “Militarily we were not match for them. What little we even knew of them meant we believed they kidnapped people in order to eat them. Our people felt that any lost were already dead, as any that tried to rescue them were slain or captured as well. Our vengeance was meted out in strategic raids, especially using our engineering skills to act as sappers on their buildings.”

“As for a new fiance, that is not unusual for a female Halz. Even in those times when we were at our most fertile, only one in ten children was female. Keeping the population from shrinking was important to our kind, and most Halz women spent most of their young lives bearing children. A Halz who could no longer bear children often was too old to join in more youthful activities. Most end up as leaders of various sorts. Our teachers for most subjects are our women, their knowledge is invaluable. Those who are more physically inclined become the hearth guard, warriors who protect our youngest from harm. They are widely considered to be among the best warriors of the Halz.”

“We had lived all our lives in the mountains, we knew nothing of how the world above ground worked. We were about to learn. Freya pulled out her personal armory. She had crafted the finest of weapons and armor for herself to hone her skills. Nothing like them existed anywhere in the world. She had perfected the art of steel, far stronger than our iron or bronze armaments of the time.”

“Bronze?” Eurysa asked, “This must have been quite long ago.”

Ritter nodded, “It is true. Although we do sometimes make ceremonial armors of bronze even now as a tribute to our past. The clan leader was determined that Freya would not leave, that it was too dangerous and would only result in the loss of another Halz. The fact that it was someone who was both a woman and with such excellent craft skills only made the desire she not be lost even stronger.”

“The attempt to lock her in her room until she came to her senses failed. The guards were found unconscious the next morning and Freya was long gone. The great clan hold went into mourning for her loss. Her death was assumed as there was certainly no way to catch her. She knew all the secret ways, and even if she did not, there was a massive hole to the outside that the giants had created.”

“Freya followed the trail of the giants. She found their encampment and saw her fiance alive in a cage. He was not the only creature caged there. She understood the tongue of giants, many of the Halz had learned it so that we could better defend against them. It is far easier when you know what your foes words and plans mean. She overheard that the giants did not eat people of any kind, they were using the various people they captured as labor. The Halz were valued for their engineering expertise.”

“Even with the power of steel, Freya knew she was no match for the giants. Yet the news that her love was valuable to the giants and would be treated well meant that she had time to rescue him. Thus she began a quest to find people who would aid her in her quest. She visited the clan halls of the other Halz. Most thought her tale insane. As the creativity and inspiration of the Soulforge clan were quite often mixed with madness, Freya was easy to brush off in their minds. However, there were those in each hold who held out hope that their relatives remained alive. She slowly gathered a few boon companions to follow her.”

“There was Gunther Goldbeard for one. He was a portly Halz who had turned to drink when his son had been stolen. He was not much use as a warrior, but Freya admired his determination. He gave up his drink and traveled with her on the quest to rescue his son. By his reckoning, he was of no use to his people as he was. The hope to see his son again drove him.”

“Another was Ulf Silveraxe. He had no one to rescue in the most literal of senses. His family had been slain in a raid by giants. He was out for revenge. He had honed himself into a deadly warrior. Without Freya intervention, it was likely he would have gone on a suicidal attack. He was wise enough to recognize that as a team, the group might actually effect some real vengeance on the giants.”

“Then there were the twins Barnard and Barrett of the Orcdoom clan. Like many of the Orcdoom at the time, they one one of a large number of offspring. They wished to prove themselves on an adventure, or at least to prove one or the other was the best. They had long been in competition with each other, as well as all their older siblings.”

“Perhaps the most intelligent of the group was Klaus Stonehammer. He was a student of many fields and he leapt at a chance to study and document the giants. He figured that anything they could learn about the giants could eventually be used to defeat this ancient enemy. He was enormous for a Halz but had never believed in violence. Still, Freya valued his wisdom and his keen tactical mind.”

“Dietrich Diamondheart promised a small retinue of warriors to aid the cause, but that he needed to see the situation for himself before he would commit his resources. The Diamondheart clan had long suffered some of the worst losses to the giants. If this was an opportunity to strike at the giants in a way that would cripple them, then his clan would certainly provide enough warriors to give the giants pause.”

“Otto Platinum was the last of the Halz to join the cause. At first it seemed that none of my clan would join Freya. We had never been attacked by the giants and felt quite safe from their depredations. Otto had the wisdom to see past the politics of hiding. He had long felt that the isolationist tendencies of my people caused more problems than they solved. As Freya was leaving our great hold, he made a stealthy escape to join the company.”

“Freya dared not return to her own clan hold. She feared they would capture her and try to hold her for her own good. All the other clans had deemed her words likely the ravings of the insane, only her status as the female of another clan kept her from being imprisoned by any of them. The rarity of our females meant a great many codes that protect them from harm, persecution, or prosecution by other clans unless there was a direct threat of harm to the people of that clan. Even then the role of justice was merely to capture the female unharmed and return her to her home clan for restitution.”

“However, eight Halz with few warriors among them was not enough to rescue the heir to the Soulforge clan. Freya's first goal was to take the group through the land and show them what the giants were truly up to. Then she could have aid from the Diamondheart clan at the very least. All of the Halz were quickly shocked at how easy it was to travel through the land without being attacked. While each giant was mighty, they were relatively few and could not be everywhere.”

“The group studied the giants and their movements for many months. Then in the far south they spotted something odd. The giants had taken prisoners, but they were not Halz. They were a race we had never seen before. It was the elves. Freya had found the potential for new allies in her quest. Finding the home of the elves would be impossible for Freya, but the elves found us first. They were suspicious of Freya, especially as our only common language was that of the giants.”

“However, as they had lived above ground for all their lives, they had seen the giants take other Halz as prisoners. They agreed that being able to deprive the giants of their captives was a good plan. They wanted their own people returned as well and promised to mobilize a great many elves to aid the cause. For now they sent a mere three with the group to scout out the situation and to help convince the Halz to send more soldiers. The elves saw our great clan halls and met our people.”

“They were astounded by our knowledge of smithing and engineering. Our people were amazed by their knowledge of nature and of the lands above. Even the Soulforge clan sent representatives. Soon Freya was leading a small army of Halz. They were joined by a small army of elves. Freya led a mighty attack on the fortress that stood near here, the ruins we now call Center Point. Most of the slaves were kept there. The battle was ferocious, but the giants were not expecting to be attacked.”

“Freya had won the battle to free her love, but the war had just begun. The madness of the Soulforge clan had been manifested fully, but it was not in Freya. There is a reason I have not used the name of her love, the long lost heir to the Soulforge clan. It is because I do not know it. His name was scrubbed from all records and he was cast from the names of the Halz for all time. His madness had led him down a dark path. The attack on the Soulforge clan hold had not been random.”

“He had led the giants there and they made a distraction so that he could escape. He had no love for Freya or his fellow Halz. His sole love was in creation. As heir to the clan leadership, he would have no time for engineering and construction. His duty would keep him from his true love. With that knowledge, he snapped. There were many paths he could have taken to flee his duty, but in his madness he chose the one with death and destruction. He wanted not just freedom, but to destroy his shackles without mercy.”

“Madness runs deep in the Soulforge clan it is said. Learning of the betrayal of her love broke Freya. It is said the roar she unleashed that day could be heard across the continent. That is where this tale turns dark indeed.”

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