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

17Apr/13Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0042

The base camp was swarming with activity. Humans of several countries were there, though it was mostly Nuvroci and Ravaleians. Enzi suddenly had second thoughts about bringing the Irregulars to the front. Could such a diverse group of humans work with an even more diverse group of monsters? It was too late now, the group had been spotted by the sentries. It would be up to the word of Kasamir and Enzi's own persuasive skills to make this work.

Kasamir and Ritter led the way as Enzi hung back slightly. Lunaris was at the rear, looking exhausted. The encampment itself was interesting. Simple walls had been built between trees to make a basic fortification. It was well camouflaged. The walls were covered with various underbrush. Vines from Siren Swamp helped hold much of it together. It was enough to keep the base camp relatively safe from passing eyes unless they got too close.

Kasamir called out softly to the camp guard in Nuvro, “Allies incoming.”

A pathway opened through the greenery and Kasamir led the Irregulars inside. Many eyes were on the odd new arrivals. One man stepped forward. He was a Nuvroci wearing plate armor. He was perhaps twenty-five years old but his brown eyes told a tale of having seen rough times. He had shaved his head and it was obvious that somehow this young man was in charge.

“This is an interesting group you have brought us Kasamir,” the large Nuvroci man said with a respectful voice.

“Yes general,” the Nuvroci ranger replied, “A mercenary group of some fame here to aid us against the goblinoid threat.”

“Then welcome to the northern front. I am acting general Cassius Tessium of the Nuvroci army.”

“Acting general?” Enzi asked.

Cassius nodded, “I was the second in command until the last general was slain by a monster.”

“And now you get thrust into command,” Ritter said, “It is never a pleasant experience.”

“Ah, one of the mountain folk,” the general said with obvious relief, “I know you have little love for the mouth breathers.”

“Yes. My hammer could stand to crush quite a few more of their skulls. With their eyesight in the dark, they often encroach on my people's lands under the mountain. Our history tells us plenty of times where the goblinoids brought havoc to the world. By my count this would be the Fifth Goblinoid War after all.”

“Not sure how comfortable some of the foreigners will be with your allies, but we need all the help we can get,” Cassius said, “We have been losing good people here thanks to some sort of invisible monster. It got one of the most experienced rangers last time. Now our best are Kasamir and Medeus. Which is why I am glad you are back Kasamir. We need your skills to stop this monster.”

“Perhaps we can help,” Ritter said, “I believe we have proven we have some useful skills in detection.”

Kasamir nodded, “The nose of your friend there is sharper than my skills of perception, that is certain.”

“If it can stop our best people from being taken out we will take whatever help we can get,” the acting general looked around, “With that in mind, I guess I should introduce you around. Better we be up front about things and avoid confusion.”

The general led the group over to a stocky Nuvroci man. He was a solid four inches under six feet tall and looked to be in his early twenties. Like Lunaris he had a Nuvroci style bow and a mace strapped to his belt. However, he wore a buckler on his arm for extra protection. Normally Enzi would imagine such a weight would be a drag on the archer's aim, but this man had serious muscle. Enzi imagined this man would be just as deadly with his mace as with his bow.

“We have over a dozen rangers here, but only two masters. You have already met Kasamir. This is Medeus Tarim.”

“Greetings,” the stout Nuvroci said gruffly, followed by introductions of the Irregulars.

“While most of the Kurrot are dealing with the western front, we actually have one of the Bladestorms here,” Cassius said as they approached a man who was not much taller than Medeus but was at least twenty pounds lighter.

He was all lean muscle and his ice blue eyes told of some past Ravaleian ties. If he was even eighteen years old however, Enzi would have been surprised. He wore a pair of short blades. Paired weapons was a signature of the elite Bladestorms. His tabard was green with a white eight pointed star on it, the symbol of Kurrot. It was rare to see a Bladestorm that young by himself at the very least, more so that he was on the northern front. Enzi imagined there was a story there.

“This is Syrian Dow,” the general said before he proceeded to introduce the Irregulars.

The Kurrot nodded, “Nice to meet you. Hopefully all of you together can keep up with the number of goblinoids I hope to stop.”

“Ooh, I like this one,” Kava croaked, “A killer after my own heart.”

“Next up we have our small Ravaleian contingent,” Cassius said, “They have a few warriors but their main muscle is in the form of a couple of mechanics and the golems they keep in working order.”

The powerful Nuvroci made introductions as the Irregulars shuddered at the thought of the power of golems. The encounter with the Bone Golem had been a harrowing experience. The two golems here were both made of hardened wood and likely had been pulled from the golem wall that protected Ravalei after they had been replaced by more powerful golems.

As a small contingent of soldiers passed by and were quickly introduced the acting general spoke, “While we have several dozen Nuvroci soldiers here, I am the only Steel Warrior and the only one who had joined the order of the Myrmidon. The former general was a Steel Warrior as well, but he is gone now. There is one other person I think you should meet. Other than you, he is our newest arrival. He came to us after an adventure on the isle of Casea of all things.”

They saw the man at first from behind. He was powerfully built with hair that was a surprisingly light brown for an Agonish man. He was wearing a shirt of mail armor and had a buckler on his arm. On his belt was a blade of astonishing quality. It had to be a Casean blade. As the nearly six foot man turned towards the Irregulars, they all felt a moment of fear and worry. White paint marked the man's dark face up from his nose, across his eyes, then down his cheeks. It was the Agonish letter M. The only people that wore such makeup were the Agonish Magehunters.

“This is Beren Gendar, Magehunter of Agon.”

***

“Sir, all is in readiness,” the Agonish soldier said.

“Good, then we wait,” his commander replied.

“We aren't attacking?”

“Of course not. This is the southern front. Like the western front, if we push forward we dive directly into the marshy areas. We would be at a serious disadvantage. No, we are here to held the line. To protect the innocents. Even if we were to push, it would only drive the goblinoids into the wilds of the northern front. There may be some missions into the Goblinoid Lands from here, but our job is to but stand and wait. The goblinoids will come to us. The northern front is where all the action is.”

“But they are undermanned up there, it will be a slaughter,” the soldier answered.

“It may be rough at first, but more men will arrive there each day. The skills of over a dozen of their rangers are there to stymie our foes until we can secure the border. The Ravaleians are even sending golems. Once things are solid, the real push will begin. The goblinoids will be driven into our lines. They won't stand a chance.

***

The wizened goblin spat on the ground. Burn marks covered most of his body and one of his hands was missing. He walked with the aid of a staff. The young and powerful hobgoblin in front of him looked rather disappointed.

“Have the humans driven such fear in you with what they did to you Ranum?” the hobgoblin asked, “I would have thought you would be the first to call for this war and support a leader with vision.”

“It is not fear,” the elderly goblin replied, “It is knowledge. You follow the plans of the humans, these pale mages. You think with their power you will be able to crush the other humans.”

“They have more power than just their magic,” the hobgoblin stated.

“Yes, I have seen their beasts. I even know of the young dragon they prepare as their ultimate weapon. You may succeed for a while, but in the end you are missing the key components to win. Your impatience will be your downfall.”

“If we follow your way, we will never see victory. Your hopes rest on your young protege. His military tactics are quite impressive, we could use him in the war.”

“He is not ready to lead yet,” Ranum replied coldly.

“Not the whole army, no, but he could gain some glory in control of a smaller group. We could use your shaman powers as well.”

“This path is folly. I have every reason to hate the humans, as you know. This alliance with the scum will only bring pain and suffering.”

“It is only a means to an end, but I see your hate runs too deep to deal with them. I can not argue this. It burns me to deal with them, but if they are willing to fight the other humans I am all for them slaughtering each other.”

“They can do that without us,” Ranum said wearily, “We are not yet prepared for what it will take to win this war. The dragon is young. It may be powerful but it is still vulnerable. If we press this attack now, we will lose. It will delay our revenge for a great many years. Until we have shored up our resources, this war is mere foolishness.”

“I am sad that you and your followers will not join us in the glorious conquest. I am sure you will change your minds when we unleash the great beast and sweep into Agon, laying waste to the horse lands and eliminating their steeds. We will no longer cower in fear of their cavalry charges and the dreadful music of their heralds. They have nothing that can withstand such a creature. Acquiring the egg so many years ago and hatching it as part of our army was brilliant. It now serves us rather than itself.”

“What of the mother of the beast?” Ranum asked.

The hobgoblin snorted, “There are no such creatures left in this world or we would have heard more tale of them. This is the last remnant of their once great power. A trinket taken from the lizardfolk who had no vision and merely kept the egg safe and unused.”

“I can't imagine an egg that lasts for so long, only to hatch when it is convenient,” Ranum said, “This whole situation stinks of treachery.”

“We will see,” the hobgoblin said firmly, “But we control the dragon now. It is too late for treachery on behalf of the monster. I shall leave you know to contemplate things. I hope to see you on the war front some day soon.”

As the hobgoblin left a much younger hobgoblin appeared from a back room, “What will this mean for your plans?”

“Nothing,” Ranum said, “If we can find the old artifacts we will have what we need to stand against any foe. The Three Brothers are said to be weapons beyond all reckoning. Weapons that have slain even dragons. We must find a way to minimize goblin casualties in this war. We will need our armies for the real war later. Go and use your mind. It is your greatest weapon. Find answers to this riddle. I shall seek answers of my own as well.”

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