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

3Jul/13Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0053

Prying the knife from the hands of the afflicted ranger was difficult. Breaking it was far less so. The knife was of high quality, but it was still just a normal knife. Enzi looked toward the Storm Queen as she studied the ranger and the broken knife.

“Probably safer if it is melted down or something,” the young girl said.

“Wish we had a forge at camp for that,” Enzi said, “Do you think magic can do the job?”

“Fire is not my specialty,” the fifteen year old Ravaleian replied, “But I believe with a little work, we can create a flame capable of melting steel.”

Soon the group had dug out a small pit and layered it with rocks to hold the heat. They placed the broken blade parts on the rocks and covered it up. Kava soon returned from the base camp with some lamp oil. They poured that on the bed of rocks and it soon filtered into the holes. Enzi piled some sticks on the stones and lit a fire. After the stones were warmed by the flames and the burning oil, the Storm Queen summoned all her magical energy.

An immense fireball erupted within and around the bed of rocks. Then not long after that, the Ravaleian blasted the area with a spell that produced severe cold. With the stones cooled, they were pried apart. The heat had warped the blade, but not melted it. Luckily, the cold had made it brittle. The hilt had been wood covered by the black slimy corrupted plant matter. It had been completely destroyed. A few times smashing the brittle blade with a hammer left naught but dust.

They left Medeus in the hands of the medics of the base camp, telling them that he had been afflicted by a terrible curse and would need help to recover. It was close enough to the truth. No one spoke of the deeds that had been done, but Enzi did make sure that the base camp knew that the enemy that had been hunting down people had been dealt with permanently. That was slightly more true than the tale about the curse. According to the Storm Queen, Medeus would recover eventually.

***

The northern front had been surprisingly quiet for nearly a month. The Agonish Magehunter Beren Gendar and the Kurrot Bladestorm Syrian Dow often led strike teams of soldiers southwards to hit the goblinoids and deal with the Tarvoni threat. Beren had already come back with the heads of three Tarvoni magi. Supplies and reinforcements had been pouring into the base. Several people were working to hastily expand the base camp's walls. The golems were doing most of the heavy lifting.

Steady communication had finally begun. The three fronts had been secured enough that messengers usually got through. The information they had could be nearly current, but was often dated. When the message stated that the Master of Blades had not yet returned from the Battle of Hargis, but one of her team had survived, no one thought twice. Syrian gave his own words for the messenger to take back. He told the fleet footed Kurrot messenger that he had seen the Master of Blades and had escorted her safely through the worst of the swamp. The messenger looked relieved at the news. He took what other news the base camp had and headed out.

Things were going well in the war. The goblinoids had not advanced beyond the line. There had only be a few skirmishes. Most of the battle were strikes deep behind enemy lines by people like Beren Gendar. Tales of the daring adventures of the northern front had begun to bring many would-be heroes to the area. Most did not survive their first foray into the Goblinoid Lands. Ravaleians had become the most populous of the warriors in the camp, barely outnumbering the Nuvroci.

Several of the Ravaleians did not appreciate being under the command of a Nuvroci general. They accepted it for the moment, especially as they were in Nuvroci territory, but Enzi saw it as a possible problem down the road. The Agonish were the majority of soldiers at the southern front, which was in Agonish territory. The Kurrot were the majority at the western front, which was in their territory. The Nuvroci, however, had split their forces. Some were at the northern front, but a larger percentage had gone to the southern front. That meant that the more resources the Ravaleians put into the war, the more the northern front would be dominated by them.

Enzi had his hands full with the retraining of Mayitso. Learning to fight with one eye had been a chore at first. The lycanthrope was getting better, but more practice would make perfect. The lull in goblinoid attacks had allowed Enzi's Irregulars to get back into fighting shape. They had all taken a few wounds along the way, but now they were healed up and ready for a real fight. Enzi watched as Beren and Syrian headed off for another trip into enemy territory. He thought about having his team follow them, but he was not ready to commit the team to that severe of a fight yet.

Mayitso was lucky that his sense of smell and hearing were keener than his sense of sight. It made losing an eye slightly more bearable. It still left him with a nasty blind spot on his left side, but he had quickly learned to compensate. The different fighting styles of the other Irregulars helped the lycanthrope to see what worked best for different situations. It also gave the team some much needed sparring practice and new ideas for teamwork. It was soon to be greatly needed.

***

The messenger rushed up to Tuvaar Lat with a big grin. Tuvaar had taken over command of the western front with the loss of Jaeris Hyn. Tuvaar wondered what news could have the messenger so happy. He quickly took the scout into his tent to learn what all news he brought. Most of it was on a scroll, but the messenger practically exploded with news about Jaeris Hyn being seen alive and well. Tuvaar was shocked. He wondered if it was possible she had run into someone before he had slain her. He figured it had to be impossible, but it was worth checking out.

“Tell me more of the sighting of the Master of Blades,” Tuvaar said, “Who saw her? Where and when?”

“It was Syrian Dow that told me,” the messenger said, “He saw her not long after the battle, having escaped it. Is that not great news?”

“It is indeed,” Tuvaar lied calmly, “Who else knows of this?”

“No one yet,” the messenger said, “I had to bring the scroll to you from the general.”

Tuvaar's blade flew from his scabbard with a swift, deadly, and silent draw. The messenger fell dead on the floor. The treacherous Kurrot cleaned his blade and sheathed it again. His tent was well away from the main encampment. Tuvaar led from behind, as a tactical and thinking general. It also gave him privacy. He took the time to clean up the body, and then began his preparations. He needed to turn Syrian Dow into an enemy of the state.

He would begin to spread rumors immediately. He had a few people that were good for that job. After the credibility of his foe was destroyed, then he could announce the official death of the old Master of Blades. He had hoped to do that soon, but now he needed to make sure that any rumors of her being alive came from an untrusted source. He wondered what angle this Syrian Dow had for claiming Jaeris was alive. Tuvaar had followed her trail. No one had seen her. They would have rescued her from that marsh if they had.

Even if Syrian was telling the truth somehow, Tuvaar knew that he had to learn who else he had told. He would send some spies to the northern front. They could help with the rumors as well. Tuvaar would become the Master of Blades. He would let no one get in his way. He was too close to his goal to let it slip through his fingers now. People already saw him as a hero of the Battle of Lake Hargis. The only thing that Tuvaar had heard of Syrian was that he was doing well in slaughtering goblinoids in the north. It had earned him some acclaim, but Tuvaar's new smear campaign would soon change that.

***

Mayitso sniffed the air and growled. Most of the base camp ignored the growl of the immense wolf, but the rest of the Irregulars immediately grabbed their gear. Eurysa slithered to the wall of the base camp and peered out one of the arrow slits. Aldebaran and Kava had their weapons ready and had climbed the walls to get a better view. Ritter was trying to don his armor as quickly as he could. As dusk had come, Enzi had worked on settling down for the night. He groaned as he saw the Irregulars preparing for war. He was feeling his age that night. He forced himself out of bed. He needed to get the rest of the base camp ready to defend themselves.

However, his instincts kicked in as he saw odd shadows in the dying light of Feras. He ducked under cover as a hail of javelins landed within the camp. The screams of the wounded awoke the camp faster than Enzi ever could. Eurysa was firing arrows almost in a panic. There was a loud crunch as several heavy things hit the wall of the camp. There was a terrible grunting noise, then a plume of gas exploded under and over the wall. The Irregulars at the wall jumped back and down away from the odd fumes. Kava rushed over to Enzi with a foul look in her giant orange eyes.

“Somehow they gathered up a huge number of catoblepas and herded them into the wall,” the vodyanoi said.

“Catoblepas?” the dark skinned man asked in surprise.

“Yeah, see them in the Marsh of Vashim all the time. Big, huge, dopey things. You would think they are an easy target, but they burp out poison gas. They also taste terrible. I would rather munch on gelatinous eels.”

Enzi made a face at the mention of the eels. The slimy things resided in the northern swamp as well. They were actually some kind of worm, crystal clear and slithering. They were not violent, but they could feed a person easily enough. Their taste, however, was incredibly foul. Anything that had a worse flavor than that made Enzi want to retch. Enzi knew what a catoblepas was, his surprise was that they were this far north. Obviously the Tarvoni summoners were behind their sudden appearance.

The catoblepas were a lumbering beast, with short, stubby legs. Their neck was long and they had a large head. Enzi had heard jokes that it was a blend of two extinct animals, the hippopotamus and the camel. The head did resemble a hippo, as did the short, stumpy legs. The body resembled a camel, with light, tawny fur and an extended neck. It had a tail like a camel as well, except much larger. The beasts had damaged the south wall and the gas had driven the defenders back.

It was suddenly quiet. The gas dissipated, followed by a tremendous sound as a massive horde of goblinoids poured over the walls. A few hobgoblins zipped by overhead, mounted on griffins. Enzi suddenly wished that Beren Gendar, Syrian Dow, and the few men which went south with them were back at the camp. This was a major assault and even Enzi's Irregulars could not hope to stave off the attack by themselves. Luckily they had a slew of warriors from Nuvroc and Ravalei, as well as General Cassius Tessium and a pair of wooden clockwork golems. Less luckily, they also had the Storm Queen.

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