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

26Jun/13Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0052

Rumors had begun to flit through the base camp. First Medeus had not returned and now a second scout had disappeared. Fears of a second Beast that Takes Trophies flitted through the camp. The men had suddenly grown to respect the power of the goblinoids. Fear drove many of their decisions. Severe solutions were being fielded. Someone even suggested cutting out a swath of trees and then lighting the goblinoid side of the forest on fire.

The southern forest quickly became wetlands however. It was far too likely, even with an area cut and burnt out to keep the flames under control, that any fire would instead burn northwards into human lands. That such an attempt at genocide was even seriously discussed brought the words of Ranum to Enzi's mind. If the humans learned to fear the goblinoids too much, they would slaughter them all. Defeating the young dragon was needed for the sake of innocent human lives as well as the very survival of the four goblinoid races.

For now, the mercenaries needed to find out what was happening to the scouts before their disappearance brought on a panic. With Mayitso down for the count, the team' had lost their best tracker. Eurysa, Aldebaran, Kava, and Enzi headed out to see what they could find. Hopefully the problem would present itself to them. They began to search the patrol area, although the process was slow. The first day was fruitless, as were the next two. The fourth day, however, finally provided a clue.

Kava practically tripped over a crossbow hidden in the weeds. It had to be the weapon of the ranger that had gone missing. The clue did not bode well. Enzi could not imagine the ranger leaving his weapon behind. Even if he had lost it, he would have returned to the base camp to secure another. Enough rangers had fallen that spare equipment was available. There was no other sign of the ranger. Morale at the base camp continued to slip while the group searched for more clues.

***

Medeus watched the creatures wander around outside the base camp. Only one of them was a demonic goblinoid. Medeus could not understand why the minotaur, gorgon, and vodyanoi now aided the enemy. He wondered if it had something to do with the missing Halz and lycanthrope. Medeus knew that the Halz were usually a noble race. Perhaps the monsters had finally betrayed him and joined the side of evil. It mattered little at the moment, they were too powerful for Medeus to take on alone.

He could be patient and pick off his foes one by one. He was a ranger of Nuvroc. He had been trained to survive in the forest. He was perhaps one of the best at his job. He sat and waited, keeping an eye on the base camp and waiting for an opportunity to strike. He hoped that human reinforcements came soon. He had to warn them of the danger. With their help they could stop the invasion of demonic goblinoids and their monstrous allies. He positioned himself north of the base, hoping to intercept the next group approaching the base camp. That group would be coming soon.

Soon the ranger was rewarded with the sound of travelers. However, he was shocked at what he saw. It was more of the demonic goblinoids. They traveled heavily laden with supplies. Medeus assumed that they had stolen the supplies from the reinforcements. There were not many of them and they appeared to be lightly armed. The ranger knew that he had to strike. The knife had to taste blood again. Yet Medeus knew that it could not slay all of the foes. He had to stop as many as possible with his bow before the melee began. His first shot struck true. The ranger watched as the panic began below him.

His bow found another target, but the goblinoids had spotted him. Medeus leapt into battle. He could not let any escape to warn the goblinoid camp. The knife almost seemed to sing as it tore through the flesh of the demonic goblinoids. One after another fell to the ranger. Finally one tried to run for the former human base camp. Medeus grabbed his bow and fired a shot. It did not kill the goblinoid but it did hit them in the leg. The ranger quickly caught up to the wounded monster. It was mewling and whimpering like a coward.

“Only now do you seek for life,” Medeus said in Nuvro, “Perhaps you should not have slain the humans and stolen their supplies.”

The knife did its dirty work. The goblinoid screamed and squealed. Medeus would leave a message with this monster. After he was done, he gathered what supplies he could. Then he burned the rest. The smoke would warn his foes. Medeus knew he had to flee. He hoped that the blow he had struck would weaken the demonic goblinoids.

***

Enzi and the Irregulars had returned to the base camp. They were resting when smoke rose on the horizon. There should not be any smoke to the north of the base camp. Several rangers immediately made their way in that direction. Enzi followed, hoping to find some clues into the loss of two rangers. The scene of slaughter that the group found, however, shocked the Feergrus man. The arrows of an archer had slain several people, and a cruel knife had killed the others.

One, however, had been dealt with in a most horrific fashion. The knife had cut deep gashes in the body. It was as if the person had been filleted. The body had been hung up in the trees. It was a gruesome sight as flaps of meat dangled from the bones and blood dripped to the ground. Enzi wondered what kind of creature would do such a thing. Then he suddenly noticed the Vodyanoi nearby. She was an expert in weapons and wounds.

“I recognize this,” Kava said, “These cuts and wounds. This was not made with a normal weapon. This was made by the same dagger that goblin used to kill people earlier.”

“Medeus had that dagger earlier,” Enzi said, “The foe must have taken it from him. I guess that confirms he is lost as well.”

“And now we have some new foe out there causing problems,” Kava said, “I can't wait for him to meet my hatchets.”

“I can not find a reason to disagree with that statement,” Enzi replied coldly, “We need to find this new enemy and deal with them. This scene should be enough that the base camp will let us borrow a ranger or two for tracking.”

After burying what was left of the dead, the group returned to the base camp. After the soldiers reported to the general, Cassius immediately ordered a pair of rangers to begin tracking the new enemy. The next morning the rangers set out with Enzi, Kava, Eurysa, and Aldebaran at their side. By the end of the day the group had returned to the camp disheartened. It was obvious that this foe was skilled in the art of hiding their trail. With Mayitso still badly wounded, the group needed a new solution to finding an enemy that could not be found.

“You need a different set of senses,” a female voice said as the group discussed their possible plans.

Enzi looked up to see the young girl known as the Storm Queen. She had been the one that had wounded Mayitso with her over the top display of magic. Her skill was undeniable. It was quite possible that she had ways of finding people with her magic. It was worth a try, although Enzi worried not only about the girl's ability to control herself but also what her reason for joining the expedition was.

“I missed being able to stop the terror the first time,” the Storm Queen stated, “This time I will end it. Plus I feel bad about getting rid of our best tracker. I am sure he might forgive me if he knew what it was like to channel lightning. It is a feeling like no other. You feel unstoppable. Which is pretty close to the truth.”

Enzi sighed. The young mage was arrogant. She had a huge amount of power and would likely become a terror all her own as time passed. The Feergrus man hoped she would learn to tame her passions. However the glint in the girl's eyes reminded him of Kava's blood-lust. It once again reminded him that not all monsters were inhuman. The words of Ranum once again crossed Enzi's mind. A thought occurred to the man. Perhaps humans were the monsters in this world. It was a frightening thought. It was definitely a sobering thought when it came to the inhuman creatures of the world.

As another morning came, Ritter had begun moving around. He was still sore, but ready for a fight. Enzi left him at the base camp, wanting to be sure they were protected from whatever the new threat was. Mayitso was healing well, but there would be a permanent jagged scar on his face from the lightning strike. The loss of one eye would be disconcerting as well. It would take quite some time before the lycanthrope was back to full fighting form.

The small group of irregulars, along with two rangers and the Storm Queen, headed out. They searched the area of the attacked supply convoy first. The Ravaleian mage wove a spell of significant power. Enzi could see it had been a drain on her endurance. After it was complete, she looked around the area and shook her head. The rangers saw nothing either. The Storm Queen kept flitting around oddly, glancing from one side to another.

“Can we help you?” Enzi asked.

“I can see living creatures currently. Unfortunately, if someone is hidden completely behind something, like say a wall, I can not see the glow of their life energy. So if I move a little here and there, I might catch a glimpse of something. So far all I can see are squirrels and birds. Nothing larger.”

“Let us move on then,” Enzi said, “How long will that spell last?”

“I put a lot of power into it, it should last for several hours,” the Ravaleian girl stated.

The group then moved for the area where Kava had found the dropped crossbow. As dusk began to settle on the area, the group finally decided to give up for the day. That was when the Ravaleian mage suddenly stopped dead in her tracks. She narrowed her eyes and then raised both her hands. Stones tore themselves off the ground and pelted an area. A yell of pain told the group that she had hit the mark. None of them were prepared for the sight they beheld.

“Damn demonic goblinoids!” Medeus Tarim yelled as he leapt from his hiding spot with the brutal knife in his hand, “If this is my last battle, I will take as many of you with me as I can!”

The Storm Queen raised one eyebrow at that but it was Eurysa who saved the day. She hissed at the ranger and met his gaze. Medeus stopped moving as the gorgon's power crept into his very pores. The Ravaleian approached the frozen man and nodded appreciatively. She wove a quick spell and looked over him again. Her gaze lingered for quite some time on the knife in the ranger's hand.

“A great many interesting things,” the young Ravaleian cooed, “I like your power creature. It is deadlier than any similar spell I have seen. This man, however, is under no other spell. He has fallen to something far worse.”

“Some sort of insanity?” Enzi asked.

“No. It was this blade. Look at the slimy growths on it. I have seen this before. This blade has grown in power. It has a power that is not magical and requires a strong will to resist. We call it an item's legacy. This one was soaked in blood. It caused this ranger to seek the blood of its foes.”

“That blade was used to kill humans,” Kava said, “And now it wants more? That is my kind of bloodthirsty weapon!”

“It is rare for a legacy to come to a non-magical item, but not unheard of. A legacy makes an item powerful, but it also drives its user. The few items that gain such a thing are used by tremendous heroes or villains. Their deeds forever mark the items they loved and used.”

“Can he be cured?” Enzi asked.

“He will forever desire this knife. It is an addiction. Only the destruction of the blade or the death of the user will end it.”

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