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

16Oct/13Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0068

As the Feergrus man stepped across the ground of the base Kava croaked, “That limp is getting worse old man.”

The disguised Devis Lane scanned the surface thoughts of the vodyanoi to aid his reply, “Not so old that I can not still thump you in a fight.”

“Ha!” Kava cackled, “You still have fire left I see.”

“It will be needed. It is time for us to leave this place.”

“I thought that wasn't for another month?”

“Things have changed, we have another threat to deal with. I think you will like this one. Let's get the others.”

Kava rushed ahead as Devis changed the magnitude of his fake limp slightly. Soon all five inhuman mercenaries stood before the Rakshasa. They had been Enzi's Irregulars. Now they were a perfect weapon. Devis just need to get them south to start a war. None seemed to suspect him yet. The true test was yet to come. He looked over the five monsters and listened to their surface thoughts. He was as prepared as he could be for the act of a lifetime.

“We have a situation. Thousands of innocent lives are on the line. We can not wait here. We can not take safe routes. Time is no longer on our side. The lizardfolk are on the move in unimaginable numbers. We need to blunt their assault. I believe I know a way, but we have a long way to go. We must leave immediately.”

“A chance to chop up some slimy troglodytes?” Kava croaked, “This is too good to be true.”

“We are prepared,” Eurysa hissed, “It would be easier if we still had transportation.”

“We will make do,” the fake Enzi stated, “Perhaps the fates will aid us. This will be a dangerous trip. We have to cut through the Siren Swamp, Kurrot, and Agon. None of these places will be prepared for us. They will not have high regard for such monsters as we. We will do what we must. For the good of the people of the world. Come now, let us begin our journey.”

The group moved towards the gate and headed out. Upon hearing the news of their departure and what little had been overheard, a surprised General Cassius Tessium looked across the base camp. The northern front was now his alone to lead. The Nuvroci man took a deep breath. This was a true test for him. He wondered if he would pass. Devis Lane, on the other hand, was pleased with the reactions he had seen to his act thus far. The surface thoughts of the Irregulars showed no suspicion.

It was merely a start, but at least the first step was on solid ground. That would quickly become less likely to happen in the physical world. Traveling into the Siren Swamp was a moist affair. Finding solid footing was difficult. Slogging through the marsh took time and effort, but it was the fastest way. Technically the marsh of the Goblinoid Areas and the marsh known as the Siren Swamp were separate with about a four day walk between them.

In deed that area had far more solid ground. The Juranem River had solid definition as it flowed northwards out of Lake Hargis and towards the north coast. The river marked the edge of the Siren Swamp. The Tranumea River also flowed out of Lake Hargis and met up with the Juranem River. It was difficult to find much definition in that river while within the swamp. The Singer River marked another border of the Siren Swamp. Like the siren it was named after, the Tranumea River was a great danger within the marsh.

It was a deeper area within the march and had a powerful current. It could easily sweep one away never to be seen again. Yet it hid within the swamp nearly invisible to the naked eye unless you knew what to look for. It was only one of the dangers down the path Devis Lane led the Irregulars. It took nearly four days to reach the Juranem River from the military encampment. They ran into one of the Nuvroci Rangers who was out on patrol but otherwise that part of the trip went remarkably smoothly.

Crossing the Juranem River was the first challenge. It was not an easy river to ford. The group locked arms and moved into the water carefully. They moved at an angle, headed downstream as they moved across. The current caused a few minor problems, but the team eventually did make it to the other side safely. That meant the danger had only begun. It was only about two days of travel to reach the Tranumea River's current hidden within the Siren Swamp.

The other danger were the denizens of the marsh. It was very likely that goblinoids would be found in the Siren Swamp. They used crude boats to ferry their warriors past the rivers, so it was unlikely that any such foes would be found until the Irregulars crossed the Tranumea River. The ground tried to grasp at the feet of the Irregulars that had such appendages. The marshy ground made terrible sounds as the group tried to find drier ground. Eurysa had it easier in many ways. Her lower body as a snake gave her enough surface area to slide across the marshy ground without too much trouble.

The next day the group found a watery area. It was certain to be the Tranumea River. It was impossible to tell where the deadly currents might be. Devis used a stack to try to feel out where the deeper areas might be. The javelins, however, were a surprise. On what had to be the far side of the river, several goblinoids leapt up from the vegetation to make an ambush. Their javelins did not hit any marks luckily. Eurysa's bow answered the attack, felling one of the goblinoids.

The rest fled, but it was obvious that the goblinoids were watching the river. Crossing it seemed impossible. It was dangerous enough without being harassed by attackers. Devis glanced around the area. He did not have time to go around the long way. He quickly formulated a few plans. The resources of the Irregulars would have to be enough. Devis could certainly make the crossing much easier with his abilities, but he did not dare expose himself yet.

“Aldebaran, Kava. That tree there. It is close to the edge of the river,” Devis pointed, “Why don't you two do a little damage and we will see if we can not make a temporary bridge. Then Eurysa can cover us while we cross and secure the other side.”

The minotaur and the vodyanoi set to work. Aldebaran hit the tree with his two handed elven blade. Kava hacked at it with her two hatchets. Ritter watched and kept his shield at the ready for incoming projectiles. His warhammer would be of little use in chopping at a tree. Mayitso paced back and forth, wanting to find the goblinoids on the other side of the river and slay them for daring to attack his friends, the people he now considered to be his family. Eurysa merely watched for foes with an arrow nocked in her bow.

Devis Lane watched the Irregulars work. He smiled as the tree crashed to the ground, splashing into the water and muck. The current of the Tranumea River could be seen as it crashed against the tree. Devis doubted the bridge would last long against the power of water. It would last long enough for his purposes. Already Mayitso leapt on top of the temporary bridge and charged across the river. Aldebaran, Kava, and Ritter followed after the lycanthrope.

Eurysa got a pair of shots at foes, but the goblinoids quickly fled from combat. Devis and Eurysa made their way across the fallen tree. Aldebaran hacked at the tree a few times. Minus a few branches, the tree was beginning to strain against the flow of water. Devis suspected that a regular crossing would have never worked. Soon enough, the tree was ripped from its position and it tumbled downstream. Soon the tree disappeared from sight to the north.

It mattered little to Enzi's Irregulars. The mercenary group had already began its trek deeper into the Siren Swamp. They knew for sure that they were not alone. A good watch for the night would be imperative. The first night, however, was surprisingly quiet. Devis was not sure if that meant the goblinoids had truly been frightened away or if they were merely planning something. The next morning the mercenaries made their way deep into the marsh.

Keeping to firmer ground drove them further north than Devis preferred. However, they also saw more signs of the goblinoids in the south. The bugbears certainly loved the water and ambushes. Devis did not want to have to fight through all of them. It cost less time to simply avoid the area of greatest danger. The gambit paid off as the group did not run into any ambushes. The sharp sense of smell that Mayitso lent the group certainly helped with that luck.

As the group set up camp for the night, they took extra precautions once again. This was one of the best chances the goblinoids had to strike against the mercenaries. It was during Ritter's watch that the movement began. The Halz woke the others quietly. Whatever was moving crept in from the south. Then the group heard a haunting noise. Somewhere to the north a voice seemed to sing. It sounded like a lilting female voice. The movement to the south suddenly stopped at that sound.

The song became louder, the voice unleashing notes that seemed to tell a tale of sadness. Whatever was to the south of the camp turned tail and fled. They made no effort to conceal themselves. It was obvious the odd music had spooked them. Thoughts rushed through the heads of the mercenaries. The myth of the sirens now seemed less like a mere legend. The possibility of such a creature existing could not entirely be ruled out. Tales spoke of the song and of people disappearing, but only the Casean explorer Juranem had claimed to see a siren.

Now the mercenaries could hear the song. It almost sounded like a woman crying for help through music. The ethereal quality of the tune was haunting. It seemed to coincide with the slight breeze that whistled through the marsh. However, the way it was getting louder meant that it was moving closer. The mix of signs that it might be natural and might be a mythical monster drove the curiosity of most of the Irregulars. Devis Lane, however, wanted nothing to do with it.

The disguised Rakshasa had a pretty good idea what was causing the sound. The goblinoids had good reason to flee if he was right. It was what the elves had called the Orn Baer Agar. Baer was the elven term for consumption. It was suspected that the creatures called bears in the far south took their name from this term. It was likely that the term had been used by the elves talking about ravenous bears coming out of hibernation. The Hirkans had merely assumed that this term was a name for the creature.

However, an Orn Baer Agar was no bear. Agar was the elven term for blood. Orn was their term for a tree. The Orn Baer Agar was a large tree that could call prey to it with a magical ability to charm. That did not account for the sound getting closer. The trees could not move. They could merely call out. If such a thing could become fully ambulatory, it would be dangerous indeed. However, Devis reasoned that the sound, while strikingly similar to an Orn Baer Agar, was likely caused by something else.

The disguised Rakshasa wondered if a creature of the swamp used that call to scare off predators. Those who had not gotten too close to the blood drinking trees would learn to avoid the music. Those who did wander too close had a chance to fall under its spell. Hopefully it was just prey that had adapted a predator's call. If not, the group would need fire. A lot of fire.

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