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

6Feb/13Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0032

Naphar Bura looked at the corpses of the two oxen. Scavengers had already turned them into little more than skeletons. The yellow-orange dust of the badlands had tried to scour away any other evidence, but the Cleanser saw the stain of blood. The name on the side of the wagon was obvious. Enzi's Irregulars were up to something. Now they were out of their wagon and walking out in civilization. The Kurrot could not imagine that lasting for long before a mob rose up against them.

He hurried down the road. He did not want to miss the opportunity to end their threat. His presence might save a few lives. As long as there were enough lives there to finish the job. Naphar wasn't about to make himself a target until he was sure he was at such an advantage that his foes had no chance of defeating him. He felt it was a prudent measure. Some of the other Cleansers thought Naphar was a coward. However, most of them were now dead. It was a dangerous job and Naphar felt justified in taking his time to make sure it was done right.

***

“Bring me the leader. Leave the rest of the corpses until we find out what happened. Then we can decide on their fate.”

“Yes, master,” a Feergrus man replied, rushing off to do as he was told.

His master was an ancient monstrosity. It was an undead who had led the Ahk Separatists for over a thousand years. He was a necromancer of exceptional power, though his body was little more than a withered husk. His life was sustained through his vast magical power. He avoided physical labor as much as he could. He was sure his undead form could handle such things, but he thought it better to yet the younger and fresher members of the separatists take the risks. He could always raise them as undead later.

The master was quite surprised that this latest group had failed. It filled him with dread as to the answer. The man he had sent was an excellent warrior and he had taken a great many skilled warriors with him. The master assumed that it had to be an error or incompetence on their part. Even the worst fears for this mission meant that they group should have had at least some success. The leader would be able to answer those questions. Soon the corpse of the man was dropped at the master's feet. He spoke a few arcane words and used a few ancient gestures.

The dead body on the ground twitched and shivered. It gasped and coughed as it tried to breathe, despite no longer needing to. The newly raised ghoul worked to understand his magically animated body. The master was patient. He had lived for many years, giving his vassal a few moments to adjust did not even register. Finally the master looked down from his throne of bones and spoke.

“I have found you and your men slain,” the master growled, “How have you failed me?”

“I apologize master,” the ghoul said in a gravelly and tentative voice.

Finding his voice, the ghoul continued, “It is as we suspected. It was General Enzi Cala who leads those mercenaries.”

“Even if he was more than your equal, you should have had more than enough men to grab the girl and bring her to me while the rest of you sacrificed yourselves for the cause.”

“We attempted that plan. However, the girl is far more dangerous than we realized. She is a war enchanter.”

“Impossible,” the master replied, “I know the real reason they send her to Ravalei. They need a necromancer for that, though admittedly an enchanter's skills would come in handy. I can not believe she is both.”

“Then perhaps she is not trained in necromancy. She certainly showed her other skills.”

“Hmm, perhaps some false information has been leaked. Or this girl is far more exceptional than even we were led to believe,” the master stated, “If this is so, then our mission is more important than ever. I will give you and your men one more chance. I will send some of my other undead warriors with you. You will be boarding the ship and bringing it back. Bring me Enzi Cala and Rukiya Bora. Alive or dead, it matters not.”

***

Luck seemed to be on their side. Enzi had seen signs where their pursuers had left the road in search of them and no sign of their return to the road. The mercenaries and their charge marched on towards Ubayyid. Time passed quickly that day and the lights of the city could be seen as they finally had to pause to rest. The mercenaries were exhausted. If their enemies were ahead of them with some sort of roadblock they would need their rest for the fight ahead.

“So what do we do if they are blocking our way?” Rukiya asked, “I can't refuse a direct command. Keeping me held only depletes your resources, whether I am held by someone or on the sidelines.”

“We don't need to fight them,” Enzi said, “If we can't ignore them, we just need to delay them. We have allies in the city, perhaps more than you know.”

“Oh, perhaps your family?” Rukiya prodded.

Enzi chuckled, “No, even if they lived here they could not aid me.”

“Didn't you see any of them on this trip?” she asked.

“No, the last time we were near any was in Iskandar,” Enzi said, “From what I know, my sister's granddaughter should be in training to be an acolyte of Rakar.”

“From what you know?” Rukiya asked.

“I have been away from Feergrus for over twenty years. She would be perhaps thirteen or fourteen. If any of the information I have is correct,” Enzi said, “I know you have guessed much. I am not exactly welcome in much of Feergrus, although the government has decided I am more useful alive.”

“I would agree with that,” Rukiya said, “Though the powerful gain powerful enemies. Much of your story becomes clear to me. I want no more information. It is easier to deny knowledge of things if you do not actually know them. A powerful enough priest could magically force a confession if they did not believe me.”

Enzi nodded and the group worked to get some rest. Morning came far too quickly. The bleary eyed warriors awoke to face the final push to the docks. As they trudged towards the city, Enzi saw a glimmer of hope. He saw their enemies. The priest and his men were rushing up the road, the mercenaries were ahead of them. Enzi grinned, his day had just been made. Even if the priest had sent some of his forces ahead, they were not nearly enough to stop the mercenaries. Without the priest to give orders to Rukiya, the rest of the trip seemed like a cakewalk.

The exhausted mercenaries quickly lost ground to their foes as they made their way to the city. They had made it halfway to the docks when the priest finally got within shouting distance.

“Halt! In the name of Chasar!”

“Ugh,” Rukiya grumbled as she ground to a standstill.

“No worries,” Enzi said, “Sometimes it takes experience to notice something that others may have missed. I suspect our priest will shortly find himself in over his head.”

The priest was panting, but grinned as if he had won. The path they were on was remarkably free of bystanders. The priest was too tired to make note of that being strange and merely took it as fortune on his side. Mayitso was looking around and sniffing the air, growling. The rpiest did not even take this hint, assuming the growls were for him and his templars.

“You thought you could get away?” the priest snarled in Infernus, “Fleeing against orders, I would be well within my rights to kill you now. But I am a kind and generous man, I'll just kill your escorts and take you back with me Rukiya. Be a good girl and surrender.”

“As you wish,” Rukiya said with a bow, “Your orders may keep me from my mission, hopefully you will gain knowledge of it soon.”

“You have no mission, not now or ever,” the priest said.

“So you won't follow the orders of a higher ranked priest,” a voice growled.

The priest looked around as a man dropped down from the roof of a squat nearby building. The man wore no circlet so the priest snorted.

“You are no priest,” the priest said, “Get out of my business.”

“No, but Balozi Dini is,” the man replied, “And he gave you strict orders about this little group.”

The templars with the priest all looked to each other at the mention of that name as the priest spit on the ground, “Templars, this man seeks to confuse you, slay him and these foul mercenaries!”

As quick as the wind, a dozen panthers pounced down from their hidden perches. The man who had leapt down earlier transformed into a hulking hybrid of man and panther. It was the same transformation Ritter had seen from Enzi. The priest paled at the fearsome sight as the panther corralled the templars. Even they could not attack the panthers. The hybrid leapt forward with blinding speed and with one heavy swing he ripped the priest's head from his shoulders.

The hybrid snarled at Rukiya, “You seem to be the highest ranking member of the temple of Chasar. I think these templars need your direction.”

“Flee,” Rukiya said, “Return to your temple. They have greater need of you now that their priest has betrayed them.”

The templars backed off. Enzi imagined they would stop at the local temple for new orders and reinforcements if needed but even if the temple sided with them, it would be too late. The panthers gave slow pursuit to the templars as the hybrid became human again.

“Your mission is known to us Rukiya Bora,” the man said, “Though you have questionable allies.”

“They have proven quite worthy,” Rukiya said, “And done well in their mission.”

“Yes, they have been given special dispensation from the highest level,” the man said, “Which is lucky for you, Enzi. I know who you are. I imagine you know what I am.”

“One of the Shadow Guard,” Enzi said, “I saw your trap.”

The man nodded, “I imagine you did. Tales of your skills rank you among legend and myth. Even if they are overblown in the tales, I would expect at least competence. Go about your business. None shall bar your path.”

Enzi nodded, “Let's get to the docks.”

Enzi looked at Rukiya as they walked toward their final goal. Worry filled him. Dispensation from the highest level meant only one thing to the former general. It meant that Devis Lane was involved. Enzi could not think of any situation involving Devis which did not make him uncomfortable. He wondered what exactly Rukiya's mission truly entailed. He had gained Rukiya's trust, Enzi knew he would now have to learn more about what was going on. He had hoped not to get involved. Now he saw no choice but to dive in fully.

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