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

16Jan/13Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0029

Enzi looked down at the three men, “Looking for us? This is a vast world to find us so easily.”

“We were given a few acceptable choices of who to hire for this job, people that could truly be trusted,” the leader of the men replied, “That we found you first is merely fate.”

“I don't believe in fate,” Enzi said.

“And I did not believe that you should be on the list of trusted mercenaries. I have heard many things about your group, but I will not question my superiors on their choice. They know more than I.”

“You might be surprised at how often that is not true,” Enzi said.

The man grunted, “We have a great need for your aid. We need someone to protect an acolyte as she travels to the coast and perhaps further.”

“An acolyte?” Enzi asked.

“Yes, a young acolyte in service to the temple of Chasar. Her skills are extraordinary and she is headed to Ravalei as part of an exchange of young talent to learn from each other,” the man stated, “However, she is threatened by Ahk separatists. To ensure that her protectors are not separatists that infiltrated our ranks, we were ordered to hire outsiders.”

It was Enzi's turn to grunt, “Ahk separatists. I have a few scores to settle with them. We are in.”

***

The Feergrus town of Zubayr was not a lot to look at. It was a border town near the Disputed Lands. But it was a starting place. Now Enzi's wagon would be riding down well maintained roads. This was a land that Enzi had long fled for the safety of himself and his family. It was unlikely that anyone would recognize him now, but he wore a cloak anyway. It would be about a day and a half ride to the next town, an equally small town called Golbahar.

After that Enzi would have to decide whether to head to the city of Tafresh or to Badarash, They would have to backtrack away from where they wanted to go if they went to Tafresh, but that would have to happen at some point. The rocky badlands made roads the only safe way to get anywhere. One could not always go exactly the way they wanted to. In the end they had to reach the city of Iskandar on the north edge of the Boneyard. Tacking southwest to Tafresh would put them on the edge of the Boneyard and then the group could just follow the roads that circled that dangerous place.

The Boneyard was one of the major tourist attractions in Feergrus, while also being a place people wanted to avoid. Creepy stories were often told of the place. Enzi had been there. It was merely a vast area where a great many creatures had gone to die. Ancient sun bleached bones had fossilized across the area. Great walls of bones had formed in some places. No one knew why so many creatures went there to die, but many myths were made up to frighten the superstitious. The real danger there came from the scavengers that lived there. Such a place of death attracted a great many creatures that were not afraid to gnaw on the recently dead.

Enzi decided he would go ahead on to Badarash and then make the southwestern trip from there, heading to Khaymah. From there they would circle the Boneyard, heading to Dashkotan and finally to Iskandar. In total, Enzi expected about a ten day ride from Zubayr to Iskandar. He imagined if there was a road straight between the two cities that the group could shave three or four days off their travel time. He decided he might as well make some use of the extra time. Feergrus had several laws that could hinder the group.

“Well for camp tonight we get to begin a discussion of rules and laws in the country of Feergrus,” Enzi stated.

“Ugh,” Kava croaked, “I don't do rules, you know.”

“I will try to appear sad at your funeral,” Enzi quipped back.

Kava snorted, “You are not that good an actor. Although I would totally pay to watch as the giant hooved furball over there cries his eyes out missing me and my awesomeness.”

Aldebaran rolled his eyes as the rest of the mercenaries settled in to listen. They quickly learned that they would be encountering several odd things. Menial tasks in Feergrus were usually handed by mindless undead creatures raised by the necromancers of the country. There was nothing to worry, they followed the commands given to them mindlessly. They could be dangerous in large numbers, but the real threat would be whatever necromancer would dare disobey the laws of the land to bring harm using the undead. They were considered tools and nothing more.

A more dangerous thing to encounter would be a Feergrus panther. These large dark furred felines could easily kill or maim someone. There was a problem in dealing with them, however. Harming them was illegal, even in self defense. It was not uncommon to see them stalking through the great cities of Feergrus. Of course, not all the panthers one saw were actually panthers. Some of them were the Feergrus themselves, ones who had learned the ability to use magic to shapeshift. These sentient panthers kept the normal ones in line. The two species had learned to live together, although there were still accidents from time to time. The panthers were wild animals after all.

The next evening, Enzi went over the basics of the Ahk separatists. Back when the country of Feergrus was forming, there were two groups of people fighting to rule. One were the followers of the three deities. The others were the powerful necromancers that had planned to rule over a vast nation of undead. They were known for their chant of Adhabu Hatari Kifo. Roughly translated it meant pain, danger, and death. They thought that life was pain and that becoming undead was a release from the suffering. They offered immortality as sentient undead. Enzi could only speculate on the rest of their philosophy. Their forces had been crushed. However, that had not stopped their movement.

The Ahk separatists were a group that claimed to follow the ideals of the original undead necromancers. They wished to at least make their own country but their real goal was to usurp the whole world under their thumb, starting with Feergrus. They were one reason why the necromancers of Feergrus only created mindless undead. The highest ranked necromancers of the land learned the techniques for the more powerful sentient undead certainly, their knowledge was a weapon. It allowed them to more easily control or defeat such undead.

There were a great many cultural reasons why the necromancers did not raise people as sentient undead of course. The evils of the Ahk separatists were one. The other was how the Feergrus saw death. They believed their souls would continue on to serve their deities in the afterlife. Their bodies were now just objects. There were no graveyards or burials in Feergrus. The dead were sent to a necromancer to be used as a new zombie for work in menial tasks. Tying a soul into an undead body was seen as an insult to the deities and an insult to the country for the loss of another body to do the hard labor so that the people would not have to suffer.

Creating sentient undead was certainly possible, and had happened a few times. It was always for reasons of the greatest need and only at the permission of the highest religious authority. Rumors said that the greatest leaders of the church had been granted immortality this way. However, Enzi stated that he had met the three leaders himself and all three were definitely living beings. He could not speak for their mortality. They had rules for as long as he could remember. Enzi suspected the rumors were spread by the separatists in order to try and weaken the arguments against sentient undead.

***

Iskandar was a beautiful city. It sat to the north of the Boneyard. Mighty stone walls protected the city from the danger of the Feergrus Badlands. Mighty spires stretched towards the heavens. Feline carvings adorned walls and panther statues littered the area. The Feergrus people glided through the city, at most wearing breezy silken wisps of clothing. The sun bleached area did not feel warm enough to Ritter for such clothing or lack thereof, but he imagined the people were used to it. Those who felt a chill in the air gathered together to embrace and share body heat. It was obvious this could turn to much more very easily.

The culture of the Feergrus was very open about sexuality. The Halz shook his head. Ritter's people were very orderly about such things. Lines of inheritance were very important and women were very rare. The Halz could not wrap his head around the very open nature of the Feergrus. From what he understood, inheritance was derived from the mother. Women held many powerful positions in the land. It was the men who often got the terrible positions or difficult jobs that no one wanted to do. Enzi had once led soldiers in battle as a general, risking his life on the orders of the state religion. More than likely, several of the orders Enzi followed had come from a priestess before he had finally come to the attention of the very highest ranks of the government.

The wagon had rolled into town with no fanfare. Enzi had told the mercenaries that Iskandar was a training area. Here many children came to learn the ways of divine magic. Some became necromancers and practiced on the abundant bones from the Boneyard. Others became acolytes of one of the three faiths. The group was to meet an acolyte who had graduated and was ready for the next step. Instead of advancing normally, they would be headed to a port city and headed to Ravalei to train at the magical college there. The mercenaries were supposed to protect the acolyte while still in Feergrus.

While the Halz understood the fear of infiltration by separatists, he wondered if it would not be easier to slay the acolyte while in Ravalei. The Feergrus certainly did not have the military force in that land that they did here. Ritter suspected there was more going on than Enzi had been told. He bet good money that Enzi thought the same thing. Finally though, the wagon came to rest outside a temple dedicated to Chasar, the war deity of Feergrus.

Two templars guarded the gate to the great spire. They wore chain hauberks underneath an odd collection of thick plates. A large round plate hung on their front and backs and smaller plates at their sides. It looked highly flexible for the amount of heavy armor it provided. The pair also wielded odd looking polearms. They looked like the spears that the goblinoids had crafted to use for dismounting Agonish cavalry, except these were crafted with the care and skill of a superior blacksmith. It was still slightly unnerving to see humans wielding goblin spears.

One of the guards nodded to Enzi and spoke in Infernus, “Enzi's Irregulars. We have been expecting you.”

Ritter grunted under his breath, “That sounds familiar.”

“Rukiya Bora will be out shortly to join you,” a guard stated.

“Bora?” Enzi asked.

The guards nodded. Enzi looked to his mercenaries and explained quietly that the Bora family had long been a rival to his own family. The Bora family did not have the fame, fortune, or other advantages of the Cala family. While the Cala family was comfortably seated in the highest caste, the Bora family struggled. They would devote all their resources towards their best hopes, trying to help them reach the apex of society so that hopefully they could drag the rest of their family with them.

Finally a tiny girl strode out of the temple. She could not be more than eleven years old. Her skin was flawless and unmarked, something that seemed impossible from a temple of the war deity.

“You? You are Rukiya?” Enzi asked, “You seem awful young to have completed the training of an acolyte.”

The child smiled and spoke with a soft, sweet and innocent voice,, “Yes. They call me a prodigy. I will spend the rest of my time learning the ways of the Ravaleians. I don't know what all that means, but I can't wait to find out!”

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