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

6Mar/13Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0036

The Ravaleian port city of Calal was also the country's capital. It sprawled along the best harbor of the Rava Coast. Over a dozen vessels sat at the docks. Most were small coastal vessels, little more than barges. They could sail down the two major coastal rivers of Doulairen in order to bring trade inland. The Tranumea River marked the eastern border of Ravalei and split around the Siren Swamp and into Lake Hargis and Singer Lake. The Ago River helped define the borders of Agon, especially as it was split into dozens of rivers inland, although only a few were major enough to send a barge down.

Ritter stood on the deck on the latest vessel to enter the harbor. His stomach had mostly made its peace with the sway of the vessel, but the Halz would certainly be glad to get on solid ground again. The dwarf noticed the seemingly every ship in the port had the symbol of the blue waves on them. They were all vessels of the Rava Coast Trading Company. All except one. That one vessel was also perhaps the largest ship in the harbor. Something about it looked ancient. The wood also was extremely dark.

Enzi followed Ritter's gaze, “Ah, the Black Ship. The last independent vessel of any significance. She travels back and forth between Calal and the isle of Casea. The only vessel that does so now. Aspiring adventurers pay to be taken to the isle so they can attempt to grab some of the forgotten treasures of the isle. Few ever return, and those that do usually return empty handed. The ship has its own reasons for going to the isle. They harvest a massive load of a rare mold that grows on the isle and transport it back. Taking adventurers is merely a chance for a little extra coin for them.”

“I imagine they take a good tax out of anyone bringing loot back too.”

Enzi shook his head, “No, they always offer free rides back to the mainland. Anyone that has survived the isle gains their respect. Even if they gained nothing more than the humility of defeat.”

The ship shuddered to a halt at a dock. A flurry of activity erupted. Ropes moored the great vessel as workers began to transfer cargo out of the ship to make room for new cargo. Rukiya made her way down the gangplank with the Irregulars at her back. A powerfully built young man walked up to them. He wore a mail hauberk of a familiar greenish black metal. Ritter's eyes were shocked to see halzium armor worn by a human. However, Ritter could tell that while the armor was expertly crafted by human standards, it was nowhere near as good as that crafted by the Halz.

The man gave a suspicious glance at the Irregulars with his glare remaining longest on the minotaur then spoke in Rava, “I am Captain Aurari Koto. I am the head of the mercenaries of the Rava Coast Trading Company.”

“Captain Koto!” a voice said from the ship.

It was the delegate from the Rava Coast Trading Company, “We have arrived mostly safely, and only thanks to this mercenary company.”

The mercenary captain raised an eyebrow, “You must tell me the details later. For now what is the plan?”

Enzi spoke up with a grim determination, “We get Rukiya to her destination and keep her safe. I don't thin this is over.”

Aurari sighed, “It seems you have been of great aid to our concerns. I will see what I can do to make your life easier in town. People have low opinions of creatures like your allies. Especially a minotaur. There are a great many myths and legends about them and none of them are pleasant. I would suggest wearing them cloaks to hide their appearances as well. No offense meant, it just seems prudent for their safety.”

Enzi chuckled, “They won't take offense. Not that any of them speak your language. Their appearance isn't popular much of anywhere, until people learn of their good deeds. Even then, people are often leery.”

“I am more worried about people causing trouble. We are extremely short handed. Most of the best warriors in town have headed off to war.”

“War?” Enzi asked, “What war?”

“The goblinoids have struck out in all directions. They took down a pair of our border golems a couple weeks ago. I sent all the mercenaries we could spare. I am afraid people will take advantage, but I would rather see that than to have people slaughtered by the nose-less fiends.”

“I am surprised you are still here if things are that serious.”

“I am sure I will go to war before the end of it comes,” Aurari answered, “Few have taken it seriously yet. They think merely to replace the golems and wait it out like it is a small flare up. Rumor says that Agon has mobilized its army and that even the Kurrot are organizing.”

“Well then, I will leave you to your duties. I need to take care of my own mission for now. Your sense of responsibility makes me feel better already,” Enzi replied.

Aurari nodded in response, heading off to take care of business. Enzi quickly explained that a touch of disguise would likely aid their movement through the city. He provided cloaks for all the group. Mayitso whined at that.

“Yes, even you,” Enzi said, “The Ravaleians have a good relationship with the Tarvoni, so the pale skin of your human form will not be out of place.”

The lycanthrope grudgingly transformed into his humanoid shape. He slipped the cloak over his otherwise naked form. The motley crew trudged along with Rukiya as she made her way through the city of Calal. The streets were long and winding. It was easy to get lost as the roads would often come to dead ends or turn off into a useless direction. The freewheeling design of Ravaleian towns was enough to drive some outsiders quite mad. Enzi had been to Calal before and kept the group from getting lost.

It was helpful, at least, that each building was entirely unique. They each made their own artistic statement and each served as a landmark. The group was headed to the edge of town to a place called the Rinn Institute. It was a place of science. Rukiya would be working on a project and furthering her studies there. Enzi still wondered what that project was. It had to be something very interesting indeed to draw the attention of the Ahk Separatists.

The Rinn Institute was where all the cutting edge research was done. It was made up of several different buildings, each with its own project. If something went terribly wrong, it would only affect the one building and therefore the one project. There was also a central building for records and administration. That was the building that the group needed to stop at first. From there, Enzi was not sure what to do next. The threat of war worried him, but it also meant that a great many countries would become vulnerable as their soldiers marched off to battle. To Enzi that also meant that Rukiya would be much easier pickings for her enemies.

The group entered the administration building for the Rinn Institute. A bored Ravaleian woman sat at the front desk playing with some of her jewelery. Like most Ravaleians, she had numerous piercings and tattoos across her body. She barely acknowledged the group, which surprised Enzi. Even with their cloaks the group had to stand out.

“What'cha lookin' for?” the Ravaleian said with a flat tone.

The small Feergrus girl spoke forcefully in Rava, “I am Rukiya Bora. Your institute was to expect my coming.”

“Oh that is nice dear,” the woman said, “Lemme see what we got on the schedule.”

Kava scowled at the woman, though it could not be seen beneath the cloak's hood. Enzi could feel the patience of several people in the room being drained. Enzi sighed and prayed that things did not get worse.

***

The actors on the stage were performing to their fullest. It made for a perfect distraction as the cloaked ghoul slipped into one of the balcony boxes. The Ravaleian theater could not see what was going on in the darkness above, but the ghoul's eyes could see just fine. The Ravaleian man in the box had a weapon in hand, ready to protect himself. The ghoul was an expert in stealth, he had ridden the vessel with Rukiya all the way north and had stayed hidden during the attack by his fellows. He was there to enact a backup plan. Despite the ghoul's skill in stealth he had not been able to surprise the Ravaleian man.

“Do you think you could slay me so easily, undead monster?” the Ravaleian hissed.

“I had hoped not,” the ghoul replied, “We wish to hire the best. If you were not good enough, you would have never known I was here.”

“Hire?” the man asked, “Why would you hire a mere patron of the arts?”

“You have a great many arts in Ravalei. The art I seek is assassination. I am no fool and neither are you. You can drop the charade.”

“Admittedly no law enforcement would use the undead,” the man replied, “Though most of our actions are technically legal under Ravaleian law. As long as we don't get caught.”

“It would seem that would apply to anything. Not getting caught could make anything legal,” the ghoul replied.

“Yes, but there is an air of legitimacy to our organization. The authorities let us do our work as long as we do not cause too much trouble. Being discrete is one of our specialties.”

“I care little about how discrete you are,” the ghoul growled, “I care only to end one life. She has escaped our attempts and is protected by most ferocious guardians. I can give you detailed information on them. Currently we believe she is at the Rinn Institute. She must be slain before she can complete her work there.”

“Then all we need to do is discuss our fees,” the man replied.

The ghoul pulled out two bars of solid gold and grinned, “Is this satisfactory?”

The man nodded, “Your target will be eliminated.”

The undead monster gave all the details on his target and their protectors that he could. The ghoul left, feeling satisfied. The assassins had been paid. He knew that they would finish the job. No matter what it took, they would not quit until Rukiya Bora was dead. Nothing would stop them, especially not Enzi Cala and a ragtag band of inhuman mercenaries.

The assassin grinned as he took the two bars of gold and left the box seat. He made his way through the theater, disappearing into the shadows. He slipped through a secret door and delved into the depths of the basement. Several of the actors in the play were assassins. The theater made an excellent place to train someone to not be noticed. The man looked over the roster of his assassins. Infiltrating the Rinn Institute would take some skill. Getting past Enzi's Irregulars would take mastery.

The master of assassins picked out two of his most promising minions. He began planning. One of them would scout out the situation from the inside. She already had a job at the institute and could provide the information he needed. The other would do the actual job. To him it sounded like easy money. Certainly the outsider mercenaries would have some weaknesses to exploit. A simple distraction or two would be all his assassin needed.

Some would think that the Ravaleian man would feel some guilt over planning the death of such a young girl. However, he had taken far worse jobs. He did have to consider the conscience of the assassins he sent. He picked someone perfectly suited for this job. She had been subjected to several tortures in the hands of the Feergrus, having been a drugged slave for the Temple of Rakar. Her motive of revenge was strong. She always loved the chance to end the life of a Feergrus. He imagined ending a child's life would please her more with her strange views on life and revenge. After all, it was a life cut far shorter than normal. What better revenge could there be?

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