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

28Aug/13Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0061

Kava rolled easily beneath the mighty blade, “Is that all you got?'

Aldebaran grumbled. The minotaur's spars with the much smaller vodyanoi had grown to the point where the two had trouble winning a battle. Kava was too fast to hit. The minotaur had learned how to avoid the smaller and more nimble foe. They had reached a point where neither could learn more from the other until they figured out a new trick.

“I do not see you making a strike,” the minotaur finally growled.

Kava snorted, “We could play for real. Pulling blows makes this harder for both of us.”

“You just want to see blood.”

“No, no no. I want to see other people's blood,” the vodyanoi croaked, “I've seen enough of my own. I want the new and different experiences.”

The two continued to spar as a giant wolf padded by. It was the lycanthrope Mayitso. The jagged scar on the left side of his head showed where the mighty creature had lost an eye. The fur would never entirely heal there, it was a mark he would carry for the rest of his life. He had learned to compensate for its loss, although it was a permanent blow to his senses. He had to rely on his other senses much more. Luckily, his sense of smell and hearing were exceptionally sharp.

He sniffed the air. Nothing caught his attention. He trotted over towards Eurysa. The gorgon had curled her tail around a barrel. She was using it as a seat while she was making sure her bow and arrows were in good condition. Mayitso curled up beside her, keeping his ears listening for danger. Eurysa looked down at the lycanthrope and sighed.

“One more day of rest,” Eurysa hissed, “This quiet can not last forever. I can feel the tension growing. I know you do as well. You prowl more often now.”

Mayitso let out as soft whine.

“Yes, I think even the patience of Enzi and Ritter are being tested,” Eurysa said as her green eyes glistened, “I know that staying sedentary is getting to me.”

Her eyes narrowed with vertical pupils like a serpent. She moved with a flash and launched an arrow. She had struck the target dummy exactly where she had wanted. The dwarf that sat not far away did not even notice. He was busy with his own equipment maintenance. Ritter's equipment had taken quite a beating since he left his home in the mountains. He was no blacksmith, but he did what he could. The Halz had made his equipment well, all he needed to do was take care of it.

Finished with needed repairs, Ritter began to put his armor on. While he did, Enzi stepped out of a nearby tent. The Feergrus man had been chatting with the general again. Enzi looked to be in a good mood. The quiet appealed to him, although he knew it could not last. Enzi began to make his rounds to chat with his Irregulars. He started with the one that was physically closest to him, the dwarf named Ritter.

“Anything to report?” Enzi asked.

“Not much,” the Halz replied, “We have had a few cases of sponge foot.”

“It is the damp atmosphere. Most Nuvroci are used to a drier clime. They should change out their footwear more often and try to keep their feet dry.”

Ritter nodded and headed off to talk to the Nuvroci. They had a great deal of trust in the Halz. Tales of the dwarves and their engineering skills were rife throughout Nuvroc. Occasionally one of the Halz would come down from the mountain and into the human lands. Even so, it was rare for anyone to have met a dwarf, even in Nuvroc. His presence with the Irregulars had greatly helped the mercenaries. The Nuvroci were much friendlier to the monsters of the team than most thanks to their trust in the Halz.

Enzi stroke up to Eurysa and Mayitso, “Scouts have noticed odd things in the swamp. I think the wait may be over. It is hard to say what is coming. Be prepared.”

“I am always prepared,” Eurysa hissed, the snakes on her head moving about.

Mayitso made no noise, but his ears swiveled to listen to the sounds of the forest. For the moment there was little more than the chatter of the birds and the rustling of the leaves. The expectation of coming violence had at first increased tensions inside the encampment. Now that there was news of the scouts sighting signs of the enemy, the mood had lightened. It was no longer a mystery as to when the goblinoids would attack. The scouts would warn the base camp, then the battle would happen.

When things became clear like that, things felt more predictable and under control. It was all an illusion, but it did not matter if it aided morale. Morale itself was nothing more than an illusion. People's emotions were important in war. The Feergrus knew this well, their religion was well trained on feelings. Enzi had learned a lot about the psychology of war in the temples of Chasar. A soldier with hope and drive fought much harder than one who was disillusioned.

Aldebaran and Kava had both taken a seat to rest after their spar. Enzi was impressed with how well Kava had adapted to the loss of her right arm. The prosthetic she wore was quite simple and deadly at the same time. It allowed her to continue using that arm in combat. It was not useful for much more than that, however. Still, it was difficult to disarm her now, as that prosthetic axe was strapped onto the stump of her arm. Kava poured water over her head as she sat.

Kava was amphibious. It also meant she needed more water than most to survive. She kept herself moist as much as possible. The nearby Siren Swamp was similar to her own home far to the south. The vodyanoi hailed from the Marsh of Vashim. That swamp should have been much cooler, as it was so far south. Volcanic activity heated Vashim. This filled the Marsh of Vashim with several unusual dangers, like the fumaroles that spewed heated gasses. The smell of sulfur was often thick in the air. It was an unpleasant place for outsiders.

“Rest up you two,” Enzi said, “I suspect the coming fight will be a large one.”

“Excellent,” Kava croaked, “I have not gotten to kill nearly enough things lately.”

Aldebaran snorted at the smaller creature's blood-lust. He had enough trouble handling his own rage. His life had been a hard one, though no worse that the other monsters of the Irregulars. He had led a life of destruction and now sought to lead a life where he was helpful. His indiscriminate rage against any and all humans had caused trouble in the lives of many innocents. He might not admit it out loud, but the opportunity to vent his anger on some goblinoids was very appealing.

The Nuvroci scouts returned that evening with little new information. Animal patterns suggested that trouble was coming from the Goblinoids Lands. It was impossible to know how soon until the enemy force itself was spotted. The human encampment was prepared for battle. The only known resource they were missing was Beren Gendar. The Magehunter from Agon was on the hunt for the Tarvoni that had allied themselves with the goblinoids.

The dusk settled in around the camp as the light from Feras was hidden by the mountains to the east. Sticking close to the west side of the Nuvro Range meant that darkness came early. This was of great advantage to the goblinoids. Their eyesight in the dark was far greater than any human. The goblinoids had enormous eyes, but also had no nose. They breathed through their mouths and had a limited sense of smell. Considering the foul places they lived, this was also of great advantage to them.

As darkness crept across the land, a massive force of orcs began their charge northwards once again. They had no illusion of stealth. They knew the humans would expect them. It did not matter to them. They were strong in number. They planned to swarm the human encampment. They made their way through the Halcyon Wood. The dry ground was a relief to them, helping their speed. They may have lived long near the swamps, but the orcs were no faster in marshy ground than a human.

The burly goblinoids saw the lights of the human encampment with three hours to spare before dawn. The base camp that the humans had built was too large and active to hide from prying eyes. It might have once survived with camouflage, but it never would again. The orcs planned to make sure that naught would be left of it but debris. The humans had cleared part of the forest to make sure no one could make their way to the encampment by stealth. The orc horde stopped near the edge to rest and prepare for the battle.

The morning would come soon enough, but the orcs wanted to recover their stamina before they attacked. A short rest would be more than enough for them to catch their breath. It did not take long for the excitement to build. The orcs planned to crush the humans in the north once and for all. Most of the orcs would die, but they would ensure the survival of their race in the future. Plus they would get to kill humans. These were the thoughts that motivated the orcs. Survival and revenge were powerful motivators indeed.

The orcs put one foot in front of another. Then they did it again. Faster and faster. The charge had begun. As the humans spotted them the orcs screamed out. Their bloodcurdling roars were sure to wake any that the warnings of the human guards did not. It did not matter to the orcs. They came like an unrelenting wave to crash upon the walls of the base camp. Arrows and bolts flew as the Nuvroci rangers manned the walls. The young Lunaris stood on the walls.

The teen girl took a deep breath. She loosed her arrow. An orc fell. She nocked the next projectile. Her form with the bow had been sharpened with time and experience. Each arrow seemed to find its mark. It was not enough. There were too many orcs. Each orc was a mass of muscle. Some had a few rare patches of mangy fur, but they were mostly hairless. They surged up over the walls. Lunaris thought it was over as an orc vaulted over the edge of the wall towards her.

Time seemed to slow for her. There was nowhere to go, she merely unleashed her last arrow at her foe. It pierced the bare chest of the orc. He was dead, but that did not stop his momentum. He collided with Lunaris and the two fell from the wall to the inside of the encampment. The ground rushed up to meet the teen girl. The weight of the orc on top of her did not help her to absorb the impact. As her head struck the ground, all she knew was darkness.

Dead rangers fell beside her and the vicious weapons of the orcs cut down the defenders on the walls. A line of Nuvroci soldiers rushed to the battle. The Storm Brigade was impressive. They quickly asserted control of the battle. Nuvroc's thirty-seventh legion was trained for war. The orcs had energy for the beginning of the surge, but as time passed they quickly tired. The long run to the north had taken its toll. As the adrenaline wore off, the Nuvroci made gains.

These orcs were undisciplined warriors. Their savagery had given them initiative in the battle, but their gains were slowly being taken back. The archers had fallen back behind the infantry. The arrows cut deep into the back ranks of the orcs. Six thousand stalwart men of Nuvroc stood against nearly twenty thousand orcs that night just before dawn. One third of the Storm Brigade did not live to see the rising of the sun. The orcs, however, had been crushed.

General Cassius Tessium surveyed the scene as dawn's light illuminated the camp, “How did our scouts miss this many orcs?”

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