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

9Jan/13Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0028

“It seems that the troglodytes are making some sort of move,” Kava croaked, “They have driven this tribe out of the marsh. We probably just killed most of the warriors they had left.”

“So it isn't an invasion into Hirkan territory, it is a flight,” Ritter replied.

“Yes, and with no warriors, we have two fun choices,” Kava said with a manic look, “We can slaughter the villagers. Or we can make their home safe by slaughtering the slimy lizards.”

Ritter knew why Kava had grinned. Either situation appealed to her murderous streak. He imagined she would prefer killing the lizardfolk. They would put up a real fight. The vodyanoi's ploy with slaughtering the village was meant to get an immediate reaction to fight her most hated enemies. Kava was cunning and could be manipulative. The combination of a sharp intellect and an unrelenting lust for blood made her predictable, however frightening the combination might be.

“There is another option,” Ritter replied, “We can actually try talking to the lizardfolk and learning why they are on the move.”

Kava glared coldly at the Halz.

“You can speak their language, and most of the lizardfolk are not the kind to attack first if we come in peace,” Eurysa said, “You know Ritter is right.”

“Do you really think they would talk to one of my kind without fighting first?” Kava asked, “We had a bitter battle. As far as most of them know, they wiped out every last one of us.”

“Oh I think we can pull this off and get everything in order,” Eurysa said, “And don't think I won't know if you are sabotaging things.”

“Hey now,” the vodyanoi said, “I may want to slowly peel their scales off one by one as painfully as possible, but I am honest.”

Ritter smirked. Kava was right about that. She was very honest. Bluntly honest, in fact. It was part of what made Enzi's Irregulars work. Each member could be counted on to do their part, even if they did not like it. Such dedication was expected among the Halz, but it had seemed quite rare among the humans. The group released the poor Vashimi woman after Kava said a few words to her. The mercenaries made their way towards the marsh.

Ritter felt the slight change in the ground before he noticed anything else. The softer ground was only one change. The air held more moisture as well. Kava had perked up considerably. The trees had begun to change as well. What grew in the swamps seemed to have drooping greenery. Between that and the vines and odd tangles of plants that made up the underbrush, the whole area felt alive with plants. It was almost overbearing. As the ground became more soggy the underbrush began to disappear, replaced by shallow pools of murky water.

The scent of sulfur could be found on the wet breeze. It reminded Ritter of the forges of his home. However, as the scent grew stronger, the Halz quickly decided it was nothing like home. Without the heat of the forges and the dry air of the caverns, the sulfur seemed to settle everywhere. Ritter expected it would take more than one bath to wash away the stench when this mission was complete. A horrific burping and whistling sound awoke the Halz during their camp that night.

All the camp was awake except Kava. When woken she laughed at the group's description. It was a sulfurous fumarole. The burping sound came from it erupting through the boggy ground. The whistle was the gas release as it continued afterward. While the group returned to sleep or watch, none but the Vodyanoi were able to get comfortable again. The next morning they slogged through the increasingly marshy area until Kava pointed out a light. The group crept closer and saw a large group of lizardfolk sitting in the remains of a Shimese village.

“This is not a war party,” Kava croaked, “These are smaller males. They work the land to provide food for the tribe as a whole. Still, there should be more warriors. This strikes me as odd.”

“Then let us learn more,” Eurysa hissed, “Time to get their attention. Call out to them that we wish to talk.”

Kava sighed, then made some horrific noises. Something about that language made Ritter's skin crawl. There was an odd power to it, something primal that made him feel an instinctive fear. He shook it off, the Halz had nothing to fear from primitive humanoids like this. They were powerfully built, but no match for the hardy Halz and their advanced technology. He watched as several warriors came forward. They wore no armor and carried large but simple spears.

There was some obvious shock among the lizardfolk upon their sighting of the vodyanoi as well as suspicion. They seemed most aggravated over Ritter, but calmed quickly as Kava talked with them. Their language was harsh and guttural, but the Halz was surprised at how well things seemed to be going. Kava was not exactly diplomatic, but he wondered if her simple, blunt manner might not work better with these savages. Finally the vodyanoi turned to the group with a slightly puzzled look.

“It seems some humans stole some relic of theirs,” Kava croaked, “They thought Ritter might be a human at first. After some discussion, I got the point across that there are different tribes of humans, much like there are different tribes of troglodytes. The female they work under had ordered them to slaughter all humans in their path. As we are not humans, we are safe for now. They are pushing northwards to set up a major war camp in the far north. This area should be safe for the Vashimi to return in a few days.”

“Won't they slaughter the Vashimi again on their way back?” Ritter asked

Kava shrugged, “I doubt it. Once they get their stupid rock back they will slaughter the people around it and forget about continuing revenge. Especially as discussion of different tribes filters through their people. They mostly ignored the humans as only the Vashimi were foolish enough to live in the swamps.”

“This is over a rock?” Ritter asked.

“They call it a dragon egg,” the vodyanoi replied, “But I've seen the troglodytes worshiping lots of silly things that are supposed to be dragon related. Many of the tribes are obsessed with this sort of thing. I figure they found a large egg shaped rock they couldn't break and worshiped it. It was probably a chunk of halzium or something like that. Some of the odd trinkets I have seen them worship are downright odd. Things they claim to be of dragon origin but obviously are not. At least obvious to those with an intellect. There is no such thing as a dragon. My people lived in these marshes for generations and never saw anything even remotely dragon-like.”

“Well, other than letting the Vashimi and the Hirkans know what is going on, I guess this is all finished,” Ritter said.

“Yeah, this was too easy,” Kava replied in a depressed tone, “We barely got to kill anyone.”

The trip back to the Shimese camp was surprisingly uneventful. Ritter strode in first, letting his armor take a few hits as Kava stayed behind him and yelled out what all she had learned. The rocks soon stopped pelting the Halz as questions came. The Shimese people quickly calmed and swarmed out to hear the news. Ritter was surprised at how human and peaceful they seemed. The tales of the cannibal tribes and their vicious and heartless nature seemed hard to grasp

It made the Halz wonder if they were the same as any outcasts. If they might share a kinship with Enzi's Irregulars. Life had not treated them well. They fought to survive. It was what all living things did. Ritter wondered if there was any way to bring all living things together to live in peace. He knew such a thing had to be impossible, but it was a beautiful dream. If it wasn't for all those who sought selfish desires, perhaps the world would be perfect.

Even that made him pause. How many of his desires were selfish? The desire to live was certainly selfish. The Halz may have been well educated with a strong background in complex subjects, but pondering on philosophy was beyond his comprehension. So many things seemed like they might be the correct path. So many ideas looked like they might bear fruit. In the end, every philosophy seemed to be flawed. It made him wonder if life itself was flawed.

Soon the group was on its way back towards the edge of the forest. The trip back to the wagon was also surprisingly uneventful. Ritter was wondering if Kava would ever get a chance to really satisfy her violent nature. Eurysa explained all that had happened to Enzi and the Feergrus man left to chat with his Hirkan contact. When Enzi returned, the wagon moved off towards the northwest. That quickly brought them into drier lands. Over the next few days the ground grew rockier. Ritter knew they had to be near the border to Feergrus.

“Well, now we can follow the border to Feergrus northwards. We should be safe here,” Enzi explained to the group as they made camp, “I expect some jobs near the border to Agon. I am hoping to get a chance to prove ourselves to the people of the area after the debacle we had earlier.”

“Hopefully it involves lots of violence,” Kava growled.

The trip northwards was quiet for several days. However after five days the wagon rolled to a stop. Three Feergrus men were standing in its path. None of them appeared to be armed or armored. Knowing what Enzi was capable of, this fact only worried Ritter more. One of the dark skinned men stepped forward.

“Enzi's Irregulars,” he said in Infernus with a deep, booming voice, “Exactly who we were looking for.”

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