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

20Feb/13Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0034

Ritter's hammer slammed down on one of the ghouls. There was a sickening crunch of sinew and bone. But the undead did not fall. It did not feel pain or suffering like a living creature. Ritter could not count on pain or blood loss to put a foe out of commission. The claws of the various ghouls slashed at the armor of the Halz. Ritter had raised the alarm but he could not see himself surviving the battle. He felt relieved that he had at least saved a few lives.

He was determined to go down fighting. He fought back with all his strength. It was not enough. Claws pierced his armor more than once. He felt pain as blood was drawn. One of the ghouls stepped into his vision as it blurred. He was familiar to Ritter. It was the same man that had attacked them earlier. Only now his features were sunken as his form had become gaunt.

“It is too bad little dwarf,” the ghoul said in Infernus, “The wounds are not enough to slow a warrior like you much. It is the toxins that make a ghoul deadly. Can you feel the poison from our claws sapping your strength? You and your little band defeated us while we were alive. Now we have come back stronger and with extra help. You stand no chance.”

Ritter grinned. The wounds hurt mightily, of that the ghoul was correct. However the one thing Ritter had learned of the humans was that few were truly strong in constitution. It would take a mighty poison to affect a Halz. The ghouls had paused expecting the wounds and poison to make Ritter too weak to fight effectively. He proved them wrong with a mighty swing that slammed into the head of the lead ghoul. The ghoul stumbled back as Ritter fought onward. He felt his warhammer strike true again and again, then he felt pain as claws found as opening again.

The Halz collapsed to the ground. Even he had his limits. He had killed at least three ghouls and disabled one or two others. It had to be enough. Then another ghoul hit the deck beside the dwarf. An arrow had pierced its skull. The real fight had begun. Knowing that, Ritter allowed himself to sink into the darkness of unconsciousness.

***

Enzi heard the yell of the Halz on the deck above. He quickly woke the rest of the Irregulars. He dashed towards the stairs as Aldebaran, Kava, and Eurysa grabbed their gear. Mayitso trotted along behind Enzi, not wanting to get too far ahead of the other mercenaries. Enzi saw the crowd of ghouls and leapt into battle. Mayitso was on his heels, but worked to protect the passage up to the deck so that Eurysa and the others could safely enter the fight.

The crew was awakened as well and a glorious battle began. The crew were little match for the ghouls, but when the mercenaries for the Rava Coast Trading Company finally arrived they made a huge difference. It took time to put their armor on, and without it they would have been easy prey for the ghouls. The regular crew had been little more than a distraction for the undead monsters, but that had helped Enzi's Irregulars in their job to eliminate the threat. The ghouls were powerful and well trained. The battle was not going well. Then Enzi saw the leader. The ghoul's jaw was dislocated from a warhammer blow but he was still recognizable to Enzi.

This was confirmed as the ghoul leader spoke, “Good to see you again. This time you are beaten. You had to transform last time to be a match for me. Now I am more powerful. Will you dare use that power in front of all these outsiders? Confirm some of the rumors about the Feergrus and their powers?”

Enzi narrowed his eyes, “If I have to. To get the job done.”

“It won't be enough and you know it,” the ghoul replied coldly.

The crackle of lightning filled the air and a bolt of pure electricity arced past Enzi and struck the ghoul leader in the chest. It left a giant gaping and smoking hole in the undead man's chest. He collapsed to the ground as small feet could be heard on the deck behind Enzi.

“Mere ghouls?” Rukiya asked, “How cute. Time to end this.”

One of the ghouls rushed towards her and she stared at him and spoke coldly, “Stop.”

The ghoul suddenly stopped and Rukiya grinned, “You may be an intelligent undead, but I am a very powerful necromancer. Go kill your undead friends now.”

The ghoul turned and leapt into battle against his former allies as Rukiya shook her head, “It is extraordinarily difficult to force a living person to attack their allies. An intelligent undead is far more difficult to control than the mindless ones, but once you have control it is absolute. That they would send undead against a necromancer shows how much they underestimate me. It was a foolish move.”

Rukiya took a deep breath and then began controlling one undead after another, turning the fight in her favor very quickly. Soon all that was left of the enemy were three of her slaves. Rukiya offered them up for anyone to do as they pleased but Enzi stopped anyone from attacking them.

“We should question them first and learn what other attacks may come,' the Feergrus man said.

Rukiya nodded and looked to the three controlled ghouls, “Honestly answer any question this man asks.”

Enzi quickly questioned the three undead on the attack, who sent them, and what they knew. He learned that this was the final strike by the separatists. They had no resources to strike in Ravalei, especially if this force was destroyed. He learned that they certainly had underestimated Rukiya, assuming that her skills as a War Enchanter precluded any skill in necromancy. Both were paths of magic that usually took skill and a great amount of time to learn, but Enzi had seen that Rukiya had an exceptional mind. It gave the child a frightening amount of maturity. It made Rukiya seem quite creepy to most everyone she met.

The fact that she had been taught how to kill her enemies without any sign of remorse was what prompted worry in Enzi. Rukiya was a cold blooded killer. The priests of Chasar had turned her into an efficient killing machine. Enzi shuddered to think what such training had done to the psyche of a small child. It could not have been a happy childhood. Certainly his own brutal training had not been pleasant. Enzi then saw her end the undead lives of her three slaves without any care.

People moved through the deck cleaning up the fallen. A familiar shape appeared on the deck as bodies were cleared. An armored Halz lay on the ship's boards. Enzi rushed over to check on the dwarf. Ritter was badly wounded, but the Feergrus found that he was still alive. Enzi was surprised that the poison claws of the ghouls hadn't finished the Halz off. With the help of the rest of the Irregulars, the dwarf was hauled off to the cargo hold. They removed his armor and bound his wounds.

“After I get some rest,” Rukiya said, “I'll see what I can do with magic. The battle left me drained. This one saved our lives. It is the least I could do to return the favor if I can.”

It was easy to notice that the little Feergrus girl was correct about her condition. The mercenaries noticed her sunken eyes and her stumbling walk. Enzi knew that magic could be quite draining, especially if one used more powerful spells. Rukiya had certainly used a lot of power in that fight. Healing magic took a lot of power as well, it was why most priests learned regular methods to deal with wounds. It did not help that the human body had trouble handling such magic as well.

After magical healing, a person needed at least a day's rest to recover enough to accept that power again. Enzi knew a few healers who had refined their magical healing skill to be able to use such magic twice on a person. Such talent was uncommon, but the followers of Rakar were taught the methods. Not all could master it, but finding one of them to heal you was as close to an assurance of surviving a terrible wound as one could get in the world. For the moment, the group could only rest and hope.

***

Pain wracked his body. Ritter opened his eyes, wondering what terrible afterlife he had been drug into. Then he saw the faces of his allies around him. He would bear the scars of the ghoul claws for the rest of his life, but that was nothing to a warrior. Most of his allies shared such a reminder of combat. Enzi's largest scars were his leg and his face. Ritter had learned how Enzi had earned the scar on his leg. The fact that one of the leaders of Feergrus had cut the man's hamstring in a battle was brutal. Even with magical healing, Enzi still had a slight limp.

The scar on Enzi's face was still a mystery. It was his most obvious scar, one that crawled from under his right jawbone across his cheek, under the right eye and over the top of the bridge of the nose. Aldebaran bore a scar on his chest from a nasty wound he had taken a while ago. Eurysa had lost the head of one of the snakes that sat upon her head. Its limp body had been tied back and hidden in the tangle of other snakes however. Kava, of course, had lost her right hand and part of the forearm. The prosthesis she wore was a weapon and she had learned to use it effectively. She was as good with it as she had been with her normal hand and a regular hatchet.

Even Mayitso had a scar, though it was small. A silver dagger had stabbed the lycanthrope in the side. It was completely unnoticeable beneath his fur, however. The lycanthrope likely had the toughest hide among the group, easily matching the protective power of Ritter's own armor. All it took was a bit of silver to get past Mayitso's armor, though it was far more flexible and had better coverage than anything Ritter could wear. The Halz would have though that such a hide would have been hunted for its protective ability. Enzi had once mentioned that the lycanthropes were what the Feergrus called fey creatures. Some of their abilities were inherent to their life and faded with their death.

This meant that hunting lycanthropes was unproductive. It was one reason they still survived. Their numbers were shrinking, but most of them lived far from human settlements. Mayitso was still mostly a mystery to the Halz. The lycanthrope preferred to remain in his wolf form. While in that form, he was unable to speak. Even those few times he took human form, he did not seem to care for talking. Of course, the minotaur Aldebaran was little better at opening up.

“So now we sit on a boat for a week or two, right?” Kava said, “Someone entertain me!”

“I am more worried about what happens in Ravalei,” Eurysa said, “Aldebaran does not have a good reputation there.”

“Really?” Ritter asked.

The minotaur nodded, “That is where Enzi found me and brought me to a new path. Tales of my destruction there are likely only myth and legend to most, but seeing a real minotaur will make people rethink that.”

“Well we seem to have plenty of time,” the Halz said, “Why don't you tell me all about it and maybe a new solution will come to us.”

Aldebaran patted Ritter's head and spoke in his gravelly voice, “You have proven a staunch ally. You should know exactly what I have been. What I may still be if provoked.”

“Yeah,” Kava croaked, “A monster. But we got plenty of that on the team. You fit right in.”

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