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

21Aug/13Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0060

One of the Ravaleian mercenaries smiled at the cornered prey, “Charge!”

He jerked forward oddly, his head tilting at an odd angle. Enzi quickly saw why. The head of an arrow pierced out the front of the man's throat. He fell to the ground as a hail of arrows fell upon the Ravaleians. Reinforcements had arrived. The Nuvroci rangers had returned, including Lunaris Justis.

“It will take more than a few archers to stop us,” a Ravaleian soldier growled.

The front gate was open. Syrian Dow had escaped through there earlier. Now coming through the gate were several Nuvroci soldiers in heavy armor. The metal was a dark green that was nearly black. Ritter recognized the metal immediately. It was Halzium. These were not just any soldiers. These were elite troops. A silver lightning bolt was emblazoned on their shields and tabards. They had weapons crafted from Halzium.

The troops charged into battle. Enzi's Irregulars and General Cassius' beleaguered troops rallied with the new aid. The stone golem turned to face the new foes. The Halzium weapons cut through the golems like a hot knife through butter. It was obvious that whatever magical toughness the constructs had was no use against the rare metal. The three golems were little more than scrap after the first minute of the battle. The rest of the Ravaleian forces folded quickly without the heavy support.

It was no victory. The northern front was severely weakened. They now had elite soldiers from Nuvroc, but they could not possibly be enough to hold against an amassed force of goblinoids. The Storm Queen was unconscious and even if she was awake she was unreliable. Things looked grim. The loss of the golems hurt as well. The Feergrus wondered once more what had happened to the mechanics that controlled them. He had thought that they would at least stay neutral. Something had to have changed their minds.

“General Cassius Tessium!” one of the Nuvroci soldiers in Halzium armor barked, “Commander Nuida of The Thirty-seventh legion reporting, sir!”

“Legion?” Enzi asked.

“Yes, six thousand soldiers ready to serve. They call us the Storm Brigade. We are the vanguard. The rest of the unit along with our support will arrive shortly. Your rangers alerted us to the trouble so we rushed to your aid. They spotted us as we approached and were aiding us on our travel.”

Suddenly their fortunes looked better. Enzi relaxed slightly, then excused himself. He had things to investigate. The rest of the Irregulars set off to rest except Eurysa. The gorgon began collecting arrows to refill her quiver. Enzi soon arrived at where he had last seen the mechanics. The scene that unfolded before his eyes was horrific. One of the mercenaries had obviously found them and forced them to send out the golems. Three of the mechanics remained, the others had been brutally slain. It looked like they had been tortured before their deaths. Enzi could not blame such non-combatants from folding under such pressure. What the rest of the encampment might think was a whole different issue.

Within an hour the rest of the Storm Brigade had arrived. The wounded were being tended to by Nuvroci combat medics. The general had quickly gotten things organized. He had been thrust into leadership. He had now faced his first big hurdle. He had stumbled, but Enzi wondered if he could learn from the experience. If Cassius did, then he might become a truly great general in the future. He had a firm grasp of tactics. Now he had a taste of politics.

Enzi remembered his days as the highest ranking general in the country of Feergrus. He had never cared for the politics. Back room deals had hindered his forces more than once. Enemies of his family had maneuvered things to try to make Enzi look bad on the field. It had been hard enough to outmaneuver his enemies on the battlefield. He had also had to out-think his own allies. In many ways, Enzi's exodus from Feergrus had been the best thing that could have happened to him.

Now he could offer some advice to the young general. Enzi was in no mood to do more than that. His time of dealing with politics was done. It was not a game he wanted to delve into again. A few tips and pointers would not hurt, Enzi assumed. As long as the general relied on himself and not on Enzi, all would be fine. Now he had a whole legion of troops from Nuvroc. Only the vanguard had the halzium equipment, but all of the legion was elite.

Lunaris was hanging out with the archers, picking up tips. The support staff was incredible. Those who were not tending to the wounded had gone to work improving the defenses of the encampment. Enzi saw Ritter talking with some of the soldiers with the Halzium gear. The Nuvroci quickly took to the dwarf. Even for the Nuvroci, it was rare to meet one of the Halz. The hustle and bustle about the encampment brought an odd sense of peace and calmness to it. How long that would last was the question on everyone's mind.

***

It had been one year since the war had started. One year until the dragon would be unleashed. The trip to the southern front would take time. Enzi had already begun calculations on when the group would need to leave. He padded the time, as unexpected situations might impede their progress. They would also need to have time to get the southern front to allow them into position. A letter of recommendation from General Cassius Tessium would help. The information on the tactical threat would not hurt either.

That still left the Irregulars with at least six months to serve on the northern front, assuming they would take the long path around the mountains and through Nuvroc. Enzi did not want to chance going the shorter route through Agon and Kurrot. Especially as that meant either going through the Siren Swamp or going back through Ravalei. Neither of those prospects sounded appealing. Enzi thought the safe route was the smartest route.

The camp had changed since they arrived. It was much larger now. The Storm Queen had disappeared long ago. The golem mechanics had been sent back to Ravalei. It was difficult to trust them, despite their hardships. The betrayal of the Ravaleians had cut deep. The greed of the Rava Coast Trading Company had been the source of the problem. There were a lot of good people in Ravalei, but Enzi had seen the country's dark underbelly. The other countries of Doulairen could not claim to be any less corrupt however.

The goblinoids had been rather quiet for a while. Some thought that perhaps the threat had ended. Cooler minds knew that it was the calm before the storm. It seemed too early to consolidate their forces to follow the lead of the dragon. Enzi imagined it was instead the signs of a major offensive. The question became where the goblinoids would strike. Would it be one of the three war fronts, two of them, or all three at once? Whatever it was, it was still only a prelude to the planned final strike.

For now, the peaceful moments meant a time to rebuild. That did not just mean the damage to structures. Relationships had been damaged. General Cassius Tessium had a great deal of work to do. Even the Irregulars had seen little time to rest. The team needed time to bond once more. Constant tension was bad for morale. The new order had made everyone's life easier. Now they only needed to focus on the war.

***

The Ravaleian raised his eyebrow at the tale the mechanics had told him. He had never suspected that the Rava Coast Trading Company would stoop so low. However, he had heard that new leadership had recently taken over the company. He hoped that meant some reform of their bad practices. However, the northern front still needed Ravaleian help. It needed help that was not under the sway of a ruthless business. He knew the exact person to send. A knock interrupted his thoughts.

“Please, enter,” the Ravaleian said.

The man who entered was a middle aged Ravaleian, no more than thirty-five years of age. He was of average height for a Ravaleian male, three inches short of six feet tall. He had dark hair and dark eyes, his lineage had a strong tie to Casea. His family, however, had split long ago. One ancestor had married into the Tarvoni before the family shortened its name. The Ravaleian blood in the Tarvoni Gannel family had mostly been bred away over the generations.

This man, however, was Jenner Gann. He was a gearwork master. He leaned on a staff for support. He was no warrior. Despite his relative youth, he had several scars from incidents in his past that left him in need of his staff. Jenner was considered one of the more intelligent golem creators, but his real skill was with people. He had a calming presence about him. People liked him. At least the people that worked with him.

The Ravaleian man that had called Jenner to his office was much older. He was a grizzled veteran as far as office work was concerned. Yet now he had to restore the confidence of foreigners in the trustworthiness of Ravaleians. He hoped that Jenner could do the job. He did not know if Jenner's charisma would work on the foreigners, but it was worth a try.

“Jenner,” the elder Ravaleian sighed, “We have need of you in these desperate times.”

Jenner smiled affably, “As you wish. However can I be of assistance?”

“We need to replace our golem assistance at the northern front. You need to repair our relationship. Let me tell you the tale of what happened there.”

***

Scars streaked across the orc's face. His body was laced with such tissue. It had begun to limit his mobility, but that mattered little to him. He did not fight on the front lines any longer. He was too old for that. His uncanny knack for survival had turned him into a leader. He looked over his assembled forces. He had gathered together a force solely of orcs. He did not trust hobgoblins. They were too smart for their own good. The bugbears had better uses as ambushers. The goblins were too weak.

“Many of you know who I am,' the scarred orc yelled out, “The rest of you are useless idiots. But even idiots have their place. You can act as a living shield for the more useful members of this force. For those who are too stupid to know, I am Voltagh, survivor of a thousand battles. You sad lot are here to break the human resistance in the north. I don't expect a single one of you sluggards to survive this. You are too weak. Prove me wrong if you can. Crush these humans and return as true warriors.”

The assemblage growled and grunted. They turned and began to storm northwards. There were nearly twenty thousand orcs in the horde. They would overwhelm the humans. The losses would be tremendous, but Voltagh did not care. They were his own people, but they would die in a glorious battle. He had not chosen the best orc warriors. They would remain behind for when the final strike began. It also meant that since many of the greatest orc warriors remained, they would be able to help breed for the next generation.

Voltagh smiled toothily, “The humans will finally fall. I will enjoy crushing them beneath my feet. I will see every last one of them die. Slowly if I can help it. Painfully is a must.”

“You never were one for talking,” an elderly voice stated.

“Ah, Ranum,” Voltagh groaned, “What foul wind brings you to me?”

“A wind of change. One to save our race from extinction.”

Voltagh snorted, “I am listening little old one. This had best be good.”

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