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

10Apr/13Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0041

The forest in the north of Nuvroc was known as the Halcyon Wood. It was meant to be a place of hope, a frontier land full of promise. Now it was a major front in the Fifth Goblinoid War. Through this forest walked five odd mercenaries and their leader. The leader was a man from Feergrus. He was far from his native land this far north. He was Enzi Cala, once a general in the armies of his homeland and now merely the commander of his unique mercenary band, Enzi's Irregulars.

With Enzi were the gorgon archer Eurysa Thulea Medenos, the minotaur warrior Aldebaran Celeno, the vicious vodyanoi Kava Roukami, the shapeshifting lycanthrope Mayitso Hastine, and the newest member was the Halz known as Ritter Earthbreaker. His original clan name had been Platinum instead of Earthbreaker, but he had discarded that name when he came to the surface to find possible answers for the woes of his people. Now this ragtag group was headed to aid the war effort.

The Halcyon Wood was a not as dense as the Tarvo Forest but was far less populated. Most of the Nuvroci town were fishing villages on the shore at the edge of the forest. The only other town was Brixia, a mining town on the Nuvro Range. The hills near there had trees but near the town the forest quickly waned. It was the town closest to the Goblinoid Lands and had an extensive military presence there to protect it. The northern front was south of there closer to the border.

Unlike the rigid border of Ravalei, the border between Nuvroc and the goblinoids was porous. As this was a wild frontier, the only protection in the Halcyon Wood had long been the Nuvroci Rangers. Enzi was unsurprised when one of them challenged the group. He was surprised that no one had noticed them before, but the focus was certainly more for the goblinoids in the far south. This ranger, however, looked as if something had been pestering him.

“Who goes there?” the stout ranger called out in Nuvro.

“Warriors to fight the goblinoid menace,” Enzi replied in the same language.

“You seem to have a unique collection with you,” the ranger said, “How do I know you are telling the truth?”

Ritter barked out, “Are you trying to deny a Halz a chance to bash some nose-less skulls in?”

“Admittedly the Tarvoni have summoned some odd monsters to their bidding, but I can't imagine a Halz working with them. Especially with their alliance with the goblinoids.”

“The Tarvoni have allied with the goblinoids?” Enzi asked.

“Just the Abyss Cult from what we have seen, but that is dangerous enough. They have their mages working to summon monstrosities to aid the goblinoids in their war effort. Such creatures are skilled in the forest and negate a lot of the advantage the Nuvroci Rangers have here.”

“We are here to give you a new advantage then,” Enzi replied, “Our skills will hopefully help turn the tide of the northern front back completely in your favor.”

“We need it,” the ranger replied with a sigh, “I will escort you to base camp as soon as I find my blasted apprentice. She has gone to ground to take a nap again.”

Mayitso snorted the air and the ranger laughed, “Good luck with that. She masks her scent well.”

Eurysa hissed, “She might at that, but the senses of our friend are quite excellent.”

The lycanthrope snuffled around then began circling around. Suddenly he growled at what appeared to be nothing. It seemed to be nothing but underbrush but as they neared the group could her the distinct sound of soft snoring. The ranger jumped down and sneaked up to the underbrush thinking to surprise his apprentice. As he neared however, there was a glint of metal. An arrowhead poked up from the underbrush.

“Lunaris Justis!” the Ranger yelled, “It is time to get a move on.”

A small stout Nuvroci teen snorted and seemed to appear out of nothingness as she emerged from the underbrush yawning. Like most Nuvroci she was broadly built with a yellowish skin tone. Unlike most Nuvroci she was covered with bits of foliage. Twigs and leaves had become embedded in her long tangled dark brown hair. Bits of dirt acted as natural camouflage. Her main weapon was a Nuvroci bow. They were built to fire heavy arrows and do considerable damage to unarmored or lightly armored foes. They were less likely to penetrate heavy armor.

This often led to a Nuvroci tactic of shooting into the midst of their own front line soldiers. The front line was mostly made up of what were known as the Steel Warriors. These brave soldiers not only wore heavy armor but even had steel plates fused onto their own skin. Not every Nuvroci could handle the process, so every person that could was recruited into the force. It did not matter if the person was the son of the rich and privileged. The Steel Warriors were largely considered to be nearly invulnerable. Enzi was certain it was not true, but such armor and their reputation both worked to their advantage on the battlefield.

Lunaris was certainly no Steel Warrior. Enzi imagined she was almost the same age as his sister's granddaughter. Lunaris might be slightly older, but Enzi was not entirely sure of how old his own great niece was as he had no contact with his family for a great many years. It reminded Enzi of what he had lost but he was not sad. His great niece might never know him but she was safe from his reputation and safe from the war. As she was learning of the healing arts, Enzi suspected she would never see the front line of combat. Lunaris, however, was learning to be one of the Nuvroci Rangers.

Enzi was not sure how seriously she was taking it. She had skill with her bow and with stealth. Yet she had used her stealth merely to avoid her teacher and get more sleep. It was obvious that the elder ranger had found frustration in dealing with the young woman. Enzi could not imagine how anyone could seem as calm as the young Lunaris. The southern part of the Halcyon Wood was dangerous. He could understand why her teacher was having problems. Such an attitude likely meant he would be returning without an apprentice.

“I am Enzi,” the Feergrus man said to break the silence, “These are the rest of my force. We call ourselves Enzi's Irregulars.”

Lunaris snorted slightly at that as her teacher nodded, “I am Kasamir Contego, ranger of the Halcyon Wood. This is my young apprentice Lunaris Justis.”

Enzi nodded and introduced the Irregulars and Kasamir led the group southwards through the forest. As they moved further south Kava seemed more and more spry. The air was getting moist. The Siren Swamp dominated a lot of the area and most of the goblinoid lands were marshlands as well. Clouds that hit the Nuvro range dumped their payload on this side. It was one reason Nuvroc was so dry. The drainage eventually led to the sea at the Rava Coast, but the swamps and Lake Hargis held a lot of the moisture.

Further south were the dryer lands of Agon A lot of the land there was similar in composition to the badlands of Feergrus, but the constant moisture from the rains caused by the mountain range kept it green. It certainly has not the best farmland, those rolling plains instead housed Agon's mighty horses. The Disputed Lands had soil similar to the fertile soil of Agon's river basin but did not have the moisture to support crops except near the Tarvo Forest. That was a dangerous place however, thanks to the Hirkans and the Tarvoni.

After several hours of walking, the day turned towards dusk. The group settled down to camp. It was still at least another day to the base camp. Most of the group was leery of having Lunaris alone on watch and Kasamir still did not fully trust the Irregulars. He did show some trust to Ritter, so Kasamir and Mayitso took first watch and Ritter and Lunaris were to take second watch. It was certain to be a long night.

***

The goblin sharpened his knife. Like most goblins, he was short and wiry. Unlike most goblins, his weapon was of the very highest quality. It was an iron blade of nearly the finest human make. The finest crafters of Nuvroc could make a sturdier blade with the quality of a dwarven weapon. The experts of Tarvon could make a sharper blade with quality equal to elven make. The Caseans had learned to master both of these disciplines in order to make their superior weaponry. Yet this weapon was still far deadlier than would be expected in the hands of a goblinoid.

The greenish gray skin of the goblin was marked with lines of mud as camouflage. Grime caked the masterfully crafted knife to hide its metallic gleam. The dextrous fingers of the creature delicately traced the line of a human skull on a shelf beside him. It was one of dozens. The entire place reeked of blood and death. It was strong enough that even the goblin could experience the scent as he breathed through his mouth. Like all goblinoids he had no nose and smelled with mouth. It was his weakest sense.

His strongest sense was his sight. The eyes of a goblinoid were large. They could see in the dark with ease, even where no light seemed to reach. Their hearing was excellent as well, their large ears aided them with that. A poor sense of smell had allowed the goblins to deal with the stench of the bogs and the filth they lived in. It was said that disease had once run rampant among the goblinoids, but now they were nearly immune to such things. At least those that survived were, a lot of goblinoid children died.

This goblin had lived. He had seen the suffering of his people. Their living conditions were horrible. The humans had driven them into the lands that the humans did not want. When he had learned of the push for war, this goblin had been the first to join the cause. He had long hunted the humans when he could, always narrowly avoiding retaliation. Now that the war was on he had a great many new skulls to add to his collection. He expected to add a great many more.

He no longer had a name. He had given it up. His old name had told of ancient tribal affiliations and therefore held all the rivalry that came with that. This goblin had decided that the rivalry between tribes was petty. He had even decided that the rivalry between the four different goblinoid races was petty. Each had their place. The raw muscle of the orc, the tactics of the hobgoblin, the aquatic surprises of the bugbear, and the stealth and agility of the goblin.

Now the goblin was nothing more than a shadow. The humans had many names for him. Some called him the Hunter of Man. Some called him the Beast that Takes Trophies. They called him a monster. Perhaps he was. He did not care. He had been made into a monster by the humans. He would show them what a true monster was. It was time for another hunting trip into what the humans called the Halcyon Wood. He hoped for an actual challenge this time.

He moved silently from the small hidden home he had made at the edge of the Siren Swamp. He had honed his skills to be sharper than his blade. Even the wildlife did not seem to notice him. For many years his worst foes had been the Nuvroci Rangers. He had finally taken the first of ranger trophy in his last trip out. His skills had finally come to a point where he could match them. Finally he would have his revenge on the human race. There were none who could stop him now.

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