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

13Feb/13Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0033

The docks of Ubayyid were well maintained. The yellow-orange dust of the badlands seemed to try to get into everything, but the salty air of the sea seemed to help keep the dust levels down. Most of the ships were made to hug the coast, they were little more than barges. However, there was one full size ship at the docks. The flag it flew was instantly recognizable to Enzi. It was a pair of blue waves on a white background. That meant the ship was run by the Rava Coast Trading Company.

That had to be the ship that would take Rukiya to Ravalei. The mercenaries employed by the Rava Coast Trading company were professionals. Enzi did not agree with a lot of what the company did, but he did have respect for their mercenaries. They were treated well and were known for their loyalty and devotion. There were few warriors one could trust more. At least as long as their employers like you. Crossing the business interests of the Rava Coast Trading Company was a good way to make your life more difficult.

Of course, Enzi did know one group that was even more trustworthy than the mercenaries of the Rava Coast Trading Company. The reasons were frightening, however. That group was the Shadow Guard of Feergrus. Each one was personally screened by Executor Devis Lane himself. As the secret police of the land, they were terrifying. A myth to most, but a horrifying reality to any that threatened Feergrus and its masters. Devis Lane could see into the minds of mortal men. He picked only the most loyal of people for his Shadow Guard. Even then he watched over them and made sure that circumstances had not changed them into someone he could no longer use.

Enzi was quite familiar with Devis and his methods. He had been the one that had spotted his own findings. He had seen how Enzi had learned the deepest secrets of Feergrus. Then Devis had moved to eliminate Enzi as well as all the sources he had found. Learning the secrets of Lord Glanar Dale were harder than ever. One would think that the simplest of questioning would have revealed the immortal nature of the country's leaders. Questions of the age of the leaders, their birthdays or birth dates were never available. Even immortality would not be considered a sin, however. Those that suspected it only saw it as proof of the power of the religion, assuming they did not think they were undead.

Public appearances by Devis Lane and Karrum Tamb helped dissuade most rumors, but only the highest ranked priests ever met Lord Glanar Dale. Enzi was sure it was the ones that were most likely to fall in line with Glanar as well. That ability to read people like a book by Devis certainly helped and Enzi suspected that Glanar and Karrum had similar abilities. Enzi could not imagine anyone could claim equality or superiority over Devis without some serious firepower to back up that claim.

Having the Shadow Guard in town was somewhat of a comfort as they would protect Rukiya. However, Enzi was worried as to why they were there in the first place. If they had been available to handle her transfer, they would have been involved sooner. Devis knew who Enzi was and knew Enzi had knowledge of the secret police. They had to be in town for another reason. Taking care of a traitor was just a side job. Enzi could almost smell the conflict on the wind. Something major was about to happen. Devis certainly had to know what was going on. The mobilization of forces worried Enzi.

This was more than just a border conflict with the tribes of lizardfolk. A concentrated effort would wipe that out quickly. Even if the Ahk separatists were making a major move as well, there was more than enough military force to deal with that. That meant one thing to Enzi. There was a major war brewing somewhere. The possibilities were endless. Enzi hated the idea of such large scale combat. He preferred surgical strikes. He liked his small band of mercenaries to take care of those kind of special situations. The only good thing about a war would be that all the attention that had been turned on the Irregulars now had a new focus.

As Enzi's Irregulars approached the Rava Coast Trading Company vessel, several heavily armed and armored men watched them. They wore the company symbol on the tabards they wore over their gleaming armor. The company spared no expense in equipping their mercenaries. Enzi knew they had excellent training as well. They were an authority wherever they went, thanks to their sheer might. A Ravaleian in the finest of merchant robes strolled towards the group.

“You appear to match the description I was given,” the merchant stated in Ravaleian, “I assume this sweet young girl is our precious cargo?”

“Yes,” Enzi replied in Rava, “We are here to make sure she has a safe trip to Ravalei.”

“Then you need have no worries, we have several expert warriors to make sure the trip is quite safe.”

“While I find your mercenaries more than capable, we will be coming with her,” Enzi stated.

“Oh?” the merchant asked, giving a glance askance at the inhuman mercenaries, “I am sure that is not necessary.”

“I am quite sure it is. I am sure our benefactors will pay you quite handsomely for the extra assurance that our dear Rukiya makes it to her final destination in one piece.”

At the mention of compensation, the merchant looked over the irregulars once more. He waved his mercenaries off and showed the group on board. After the irregulars were on the ship, the Ravaleian hurried away. Enzi suspected he was off to confirm his payday. Most of the Irregulars looked rather uncomfortable with being on the ship. Ritter had never been on a boat of any kind in his life.

Kava spoke up, “So what exactly are we doing? Tell me we aren't headed back into Ravalei. Our last trip there did not end well.”

“We won't have to worry about that this time. There are some major events brewing and the only way we are going to survive is to be ready for them. We are already in too deep in this. Trust me that I know what I am doing,” Enzi replied in Nuvro.

Eurysa hissed, “You have a hunch again.”

Enzi nodded.

Eurysa looked at the others, “Then let us settle in. We have a job to do.”

Rukiya spoke to Enzi in Infernus, “You suspect there will be more trouble?”

“Much more,” Enzi said, “We have gotten lucky so far.”

Hammocks were soon set up for the mercenaries in the cargo area. There were no passenger accommodations for them, just a nice room for Rukiya. It was a small room, but comfortable none the less. After a few hours, the boat lurched as it set sail. Ritter immediately found himself off balance. The movement of the ship did not agree with the Halz.

“Ooh, lets get you topside quick,” Kava said, hauling the ill looking dwarf by the arm.

“I'm surprised you care,” Aldebaran said.

“It is a winning situation for me,” Kava yelled back, “I get to see him suffering and I don't have to smell vomit in a cramped cargo hold.”

The vodyanoi and Halz climbed the steps form the cargo hold and made their way to the side of the ship. Ritter then promptly ejected everything he had eaten in the past several hours. After a short while he sat down, panting.

“Didn't know that rocky skin could turn that color of green,” Kava croaked.

“Halz are not made for the sea it seems,” Ritter said between deep gulps of air, “I think I will just stay up here a while.”

Kava nodded and headed back down into the cargo hold. Below decks, Enzi Aldebaran, Eurysa, and Mayitso tried to make themselves comfortable for the long trip ahead. Rukiya was having a much easier time in her tiny but well furnished room. The light of day soon faded to dusk. On the deck, Ritter wobbled about trying to get his sea legs. The motion of the waves threw off his balance and he could not seem to find his center. He wondered why it was so difficult. He had fought over rough terrain before. Certainly he preferred solid ground beneath his feet. He was a warrior and a proud Halz. He would not let something like this defeat him.

The sound of the waves lapping at the ship was soothing. The creaking of the timbers was unsettling. As an engineer and a Halz, he preferred the sturdy construction of metal and stone. Making such materials groan was a more difficult task. He was familiar with the sounds of those materials and their breaking points. Wood seemed far too fragile for his tastes. The sounds it made were unfamiliar to him. He had no idea when anything might be at its breaking point. A rough wave made him lose his balance entirely and the Halz decided to just lie down on the deck and try to let himself become one with the vessel and learn its movements.

***

They called them panther claws. They could be used in hand to hand combat, but their primary purpose was to cling to things and make it easier to climb. The ghouls had these blades strapped to their hands. They had dug them deeply into the wood of the Ravaleian trading vessel. The warriors clung to the ship's bottom, keeping out of sight below the water. The undead did not need to breathe. They never got tired. They could cling with all their strength and power forever if they wished it.

However, they merely awaited the darkness. One of the powers they gained as a ghoul was the ability to see in the dark. It gave them an advantage over the crew of the ship who had to see by the light of the moons or a lantern. As the stars came out to greet the world, the ghouls began to clamber up the sides of the ship. The noise of their climb was mostly hidden by the splash of waves and the straining wood of the vessel. The few who walked the decks on watch would not be expecting this form of attack. It had never been done before. That was why the Ahk separatists expected it to succeed. With surprise on their side, they believed the whole ship would fall with ease.

The ghouls climbed up to the railings, glancing around to spot the men on watch. Two guards strolled the decks with lanterns and a third sat in the crow's nest to watch for other ships or other oddities in the water. A pair of ghouls waited for the right moment, then slipped over the rails behind each of the guards. One hand muffled the guard's mouths, the other raked the panther's claws across the men's necks. They unceremoniously dumped the corpses overboard.

With that a flood of ghouls poured over the rails. One made his way to the main mast to climb up and take care of the man in the crow's nest. The job would be much easier if more people were caught sleeping. There was one thing that the ghouls failed to take into account. While they could see in the dark perfectly well for most things, they could not see color or detail. Laying on the deck near a barrle, a pile of rope, and other junk was an odd lump.

This odd lump also had the ability to see in the darkness. It was one he was born with deep in the mountains of Nuvro. This lump was a Halz, a dwarf warrior in full armor with his weapon by his side. He had been resting and recovering from his sea sickness and had been lulled by the rocking ship. He had noticed the odd sound of too many feet on the deck. He quickly assessed the situation from his prone position. As one of the ghouls passed near a lantern to douse it, Ritter could see exactly what he was dealing with. He was alone for the moment, but he did what had to be done. He leapt to his feet. The ghouls immediately noticed the motion but it did not matter.

“Alarm!” Ritter yelled out in a great bellow, “We are under attack!”

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