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

5Jun/13Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0049

Enzi's Irregulars trudged towards the southeast. Syrian had gone to make sure his mother would escape the swamp. Her wounds were serious but likely not life threatening as long as they did not get infected. Enzi and Ritter stayed towards the rear. The goblinoids would be more likely to attack a human or dwarf than any of the others. They had a chance of being cautious around a more monstrous creature.

The marsh had other dangers than the goblinoids. Tales told of the Siren Swamp say that explorers headed down the great rivers would disappear, tempted by songs by a feminine voice. This was the mythical siren herself, Tranumea. The Tranumea River was named after this legend, as well as the Singer River, the town of Tranum, Singer Lake, and of course the Siren Swamp itself. This tale was told by the sailor Juranem, one who escaped to tell of the siren's capture and slaughter of his fellow sailors. He had a river named after him as well.

Enzi had seen a lot of strange things in his time. He wondered if the siren of the legend had been real. It could just as easily been something else entirely. Yet Enzi knew that sometimes the myths were real. He had a gorgon, a minotaur, and a vodyanoi on his team to prove that. Even a lycanthrope like Mayitso was rarely seen outside of the Tarvo Forest. The Halz were quickly becoming more like legend as well as fewer left their homes beneath the Nuvro Range.

***

Medeus Tarim looked at the dagger he had taken from the Hunter of Man. He had a hard time imagining that a blade as encrusted in filth as it was could have killed so many men. Yet the edge was sharp. It was a far more dangerous weapon than it seemed. The ranger should have given the weapon over to the general as a sign of the defeat of the Beast that Takes Trophies. Yet he could not stand to part with it yet. He had so many questions. There was vegetation on the blade and its handle, part of the camouflage.

Yet this vegetation had turned black. It had an odd shine to it, a luster that was unexpected in a plant. The Nuvroci Ranger stared at the blade and its oddities for a while longer before he heard motion. Someone was moving through the base camp. Morning had come and it was time to begin the daily duties again. Medeus quickly hid the blade in his gear. As he made his patrol he would absentmindedly touch where he had placed it. He was distracted as he continued to ponder the blade's mysteries.

***

Syrian and Jaeris struggled through the swamp headed westwards towards Kurrot and hopefully more solid ground. Finally the found an island of firm soil in the midst of the marsh. Syrian used the water from the skin he wore to clean out his mother's wounds. He wrapped them up as best as possible. It looked like she would make it, but it was too late to continue on that night. She needed her rest.

“Was it worth it?” Syrian asked, “So many dead in that ambush.”

Jaeris smiled, “It was a gambit and we found more enemies than we could have imagined. They sent their best against us. The griffin riders were their most elite. Their skills were exquisite and the largest thorn in our side in that battle. Yet we nearly won. We crushed most of their forces. In the end there were only two left and things looked bad. I got the attention of the goblinoids and led them away. The few that remained would be no match for any of the Bladestorms I brought with me.”

“Yes, but that move nearly ended your own life. If you had not fled north and found us, I do not know what might have happened.”

The Master of Blades chuckled, “I had led them on a merry chase through the swamp. I nearly lost them several times and was able to eliminate a few here and there. Unfortunately I got a bit too cocky and was wounded in my last spar with them. After that they were hot on my heels until I ran into you and your friends.”

Jaeris settled down to rest while Syrian kept guard. He did not wake her during the night, letting her rest fully. When she awoke she gave him a dirty look, although it was obvious the rest had done her a lot of good.

“And now you will be the exhausted one, though I think it is time to part,” Jaeris said.

Syrian nodded, “You look healthy enough now and the rest of the way should be easier. I should return to the northern front. They need all the help they can get.”

“We will win this war,” Jaeris said, “No matter what weapon the goblinoids may have. They may triumph for a day, but we will win in the end. I hope your friends can blunt this attack. Such a victory may end this war early.”

“Good luck to you, I will see you when this is over.”

“Farewell my son. May the training I gave you keep you safe.”

“Goodbye mother, when next we meet I will call you naught but the Master of Blades once more.”

Jaeris smiled, “Someday that will no longer be true. Already I think I have inspired more women to come forward and challenge the old ways. It is but a small step, but I will take what little I can get for now. A full revolution might be needed to solve the inequality, but I hope it does not come to that.”

The two parted ways. As Syrian headed northeast, Jaeris continued westwards. As the days passed she finally felt the land beneath her feet change. She was nearly home.

***

Tuvaar Lat was a Kurrot. He had survived the Battle of Lake Hargis. He had seen Jaeris Hyn flee the scene of the combat chased by a dozen goblinoids. The Master of Blades had led them into the disastrous battle. The group had been the best Bladestorms in all of Kurrot, now only Tuvaar had escaped. He blamed the deaths on the leadership of a woman, a mere female who had chosen to flee and leave him behind. Yet Tuvaar had won against his foes, most had decided to chase Jaeris.

That seemed like Karma to the warrior. Yet he was sure she would find a way to survive them. She had been wounded and the chase would leave her tired, but she would find a way back to Kurrot to lead another disastrous attack on the goblinoids. Tuvaar believed it was time for such random attacks to end. He foresaw a Kurrot that was no longer chaotic. It was a land of order. He could see a mighty army under his command. He would grow the Bladestorms into a mighty force that would not be wasted on an impossible strike behind enemy lines.

There was only one obstacle left in his way. The old leader had to fall. It was tradition that the greatest warrior would lead the Bladestorms. Tuvaar set out to track down the Master of Blades. It was time to end her life and take his position as the new Master of Blades. She was wounded, tired, and a woman. Tuvaar thought all women were weak. He would make sure that women were relegated to positions he saw more fitting when he took control. The ascension of Jaeris to Master of Blades had empowered a great many women to strive for greater things. Tuvaar planned to undo all that and tell the world of the failure of a woman as leader.

He trudged through the Goblinoid Lands and into the Siren Swamp. Following the path of the Master of Blades was easy enough. The goblinoids had left quite a trail. Tuvaar tracked his prey day after day. He found the goblinoids that Jaeris had slain once in a while. He passed Enzi's Irregulars unknowingly one day, their paths missing each others by virtue that they mercenaries had decided not to follow Jaeris' path back to the goblinoids.

Tuvaar found where the female Kurrot had been seriously wounded and then entirely missed the slain goblinoid party as he followed the trail of her blood. As he followed the trail of the Master of Blades he marveled that the goblinoids did not seem to still be on her path. To his mind, Jaeris had finally lost her pursuers. Tuvaar did not notice that two people traveled together. He had little talent for tracking, but the two Kurrot had left enough of a trail between them that Tuvaar could follow them.

Soon he came to where Jaeris had her wounds cleansed and dressed. Tuvaar was worried that this meant that he would lose her trail. However he knew she had to be headed west towards Kurrot. He hurried through the Siren Swamp, worried that he had lost his advantage in speed now that she had tended to her wounds and was no longer being chased by goblinoids. That also meant that she might slow her pace if she felt safe, but Tuvaar took no chances. He could not be too far behind her, he put all of his stamina into continuing after her.

As the trees began to thin in the days ahead and the ground grew more firm, Tuvaar began to lose hope. Then finally as light shined through the trees he saw the silhouette of a human form. Whoever it was had stopped to bask in the sunlight. Its welcoming warmth would certainly be tempting to any who had traveled the marsh for too long. The vegetation grew thick and even Tuvaar had begun to despair because of it. The target had to be what he was looking for.

The Bladestorm crept forward and confirmed his target. Around him the birds sang and the day seemed brighter than any he had ever known. His future was now in his hands. He gripped his twin blades and drove them both into the back of the Master of Blades. As Jaeris stood enjoying the sunlight she felt the pain of the blades. She looked down to see the protruding metal as it erupted from her chest. She slumped to her knees and then saw the face of Tuvaar Lat, the man she had saved.

“Why?” she gurgled.

“You are unworthy,” Tuvaar replied, “I am the Master of Blades now.”

With a smooth motion Tuvaar wrenched the blades out of Jaeris and spun towards her. His swords cleanly severed her head. The woman collapsed into the slightly marshy ground. Tuvaar dragged her back into the swamp a short ways, dumping her corpse into a small watery depression. There he left her to rot. The scavengers of the marsh would find her body and destroy any evidence. Tuvaar was now the lone survivor of the Battle of Lake Hargis. He could make up any story he chose. He sheathed his blades, smiled, and strode out into the sunlight.

***

It was hard to tell where the Siren Swamp ended and the Goblinoid Lands begun. The goblinoids lived in such a dire place in great numbers, but Enzi knew that the more powerful would live in the hills by the mountains where the rockier ground left things drier. The problem would be getting there alive. The group slipped deeper and further into the Goblinoid Lands, finally finding fry land. They had seen many abandoned camps and homes along the way. Certainly more had been hidden in the thick vegetation.

Even with the thought that the goblinoids might be gathering their forces, it struck Enzi odd that they had seen no signs of their foe. The lack of resistance worried him greatly. As the vegetation began to grow less dense and the hills began to rise his suspicions grew. Each passing hour increased his apprehension. As another day passed by without incident, his anxiety had grown into a near frenzy. His senses on edge he nearly yelled out when he heard a voice speak out in rough Nuvro.

“Ah, finally you have arrived. I have been expecting you.”

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