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

23Oct/13Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0069

The sound continued to move as Devis' cunning mind pondered a dozen different solutions to the problem. It would help him if he knew what the actual problem was. A mobile Orn Baer Agar was the worst possibility. Prey that mimicked it would be the easiest, but Devis doubted mere prey would venture so close to the Irregulars unless it had to. Devis was rather surprised when he finally saw the foe. He grinned, for while unlikely, it was the kind of foe Devis dealt with most easily.

A man walked out from behind a tree, spinning a weird piece of wood. As he did so, it unleashed the siren's song. It was a neat trick. Timing it with the breeze would have been the hardest part, but it did not have to be exact. The way sound traveled was funny sometimes. The person that stepped out was obviously a Kurrot, though his appearance was bedraggled. This was a man who lived in the swamps, likely a hermit of some sort. To survive, he had learned all the tricks of the marsh.

Devis spoke in perfect Kurro, “Greetings stranger. It appears you have frightened off the goblinoids.”

“Lots of things move around here now,” the Kurrot replied, “Your war has made this a dangerous place.”

“Our war?” Devis asked.

“A Feergrus and some creatures out of myth and legend. You are Enzi's Irregulars.”

“How do you know of us?”

“I may avoid the so called civilized folk, but I keep up on the news when I can. I am a little surprised to see you here, however. Shouldn't you be over making war on the northern front?”

“Not anymore. We are making our way to Feergrus. Trying to save a few innocent lives.”

The swamp man snorted, “There are no innocent lives.”

“I can see why you would remove yourself to live here then.”

“Don't get me wrong, some people are decent enough, but the vast majority are enough to drive a man insane. I mean, what else would you call someone willing to come live in a swamp? Still, anything is better than those damn goblinoids. So I help out travelers from time to time and see what news they can give me of the outside world.”

“I can not imagine a lot of travelers come this way.”

“There are always people stupid enough to foolishly come here. Rarely they are more competent like you. People driven by need. Most are just hoping to make a name for themselves in the swamp. If the goblinoids don't get them, one of the trees might. Those blood sucking fiends are always waiting to charm someone close to them.”

Devis nodded, “We are familiar with the Orn Baer Agar in Feergrus. They haunt the Marsh of Vashim as well.”

“That sounds like an awful fancy name for killer trees,” the Kurrot grumbled.

“It is a pretty old name,” Devis stated, “As for new of the outside world, there is little new to tell you. The war continues. It will keep continuing for quite some time yet. I suspect the goblinoids will break eventually. The time is not yet ripe for their defeat. It will come, but the number of people who shall fall is left yet uncounted.”

“I'll be glad when it is over. Goblinoid critters come in droves now. Ruins the peace and quiet. Well, I will let you get on your way then. I have a few goblinoids to scare. If you come back through, be sure to stop by and tell me the news.”

“Yes, if we ever come this way again, perhaps we will chat again. Your aid is most appreciated.”

The hermit danced off to scare off the goblinoids while the disguised Devis looked to the mercenaries, “Well, he should buy us some relatively quiet nights until we get out of this place. Perhaps we will make it out of the swamp without incident after all.”

***

The hermit made his way through the Siren Swamp. He had his whistling rod at the ready. He had worked a long time on the carving of the instrument. Matching the sounds of the sirens of the swamp had been difficult. He quite enjoyed using it to scare the goblinoids. It was a necessary tool for his survival in the marsh. As he was using it to drive the goblinoids away from Enzi's Irregulars, he was quite shocked to see a Feergrus man appear in front of him.

“Enzi! What are you doing out here?” the hermit asked.

The disguised Rakshasa leapt forward and grabbed the hermit as he unleashed a spell. The hermit fell coughing. Blood poured from a hole in his side. He looked up in confusion as Devis Lane. The face of Enzi Cala smiled down at the hermit.

“Your toy will come in quite useful someday. I am taking it for study. There is an added bonus that you will not be able to help any other travelers through the swamp. Any other casualties of these foreigners will help me in the long run. Survivors of goblinoid ambushes will have killed off some of the goblinoids. No matter who dies, I win. These are the kind of situations I love most when I can create them. A situation where I can not lose.”

The hermit gurgled as he twitched on the ground, “Don't worry. Your hard work will make Feergrus a stronger country. In the end, that is all that is important. For love of my gods and country, you had to die. I am sorry, but your usefulness had ended.”

Devis Lane took the instrument that could mimic an Orn Baer Agar from the grasp of the corpse and hid it in his pack. He returned to camp silently and swiftly. The watch never even noticed he was gone. The mercenaries of Enzi's Irregulars were highly skilled, but they were little match for Devis Lane. The Rakshasa had thousands of years of experience in these things. Disguised as the once great Feergrus general named Enzi Cala, the Rakshasa closed his eyes and rested, waiting for morning.

***

The rest of the night passed without any further distractions. The next two days of travel put them past the area most likely to be heavily infested with goblinoids. They spent a quiet night in the middle of the Siren Swamp. The next day brought some hope to the group. By the end of the day, the ground had grown much firmer. Finally after another few days, the woods began to rapidly thin until Enzi's Irregulars stepped out onto the Blood Plains. To the southeast they could see the idyllic Lake Hargis.

To the south, they could see the farmlands of the Kurrot and the reddish grass that helped give the Blood Plains their name. The myth said that when a great combat occurred on this part of the Plains of Kur, it was so terrible that it stained the grass and the ground. The ground was saturated with red clay. While the myths were not entirely true, a great battle had occurred on the Blood Plains during the Second Goblinoid War. The humans had little information on this as they had been little more than small wandering tribes that avoided the area at that time in history.

Legends and myths had a way of remaining, even if the truth was long gone. Lake Hargis had been named after a human warlord. Legend told of him and his two daughters. One ended up as a mate to the equally famous warlord named Kur. The daughters gave their name to rivers, Liandris and Marnea. The Kurrot city-state that called itself Two Daughters was a nod to these legends. Devis could have certainly shed some light on the truth of the humans of that time, but saw little reason to tell people of their history of brutality.

It was easier to give them hope. To allow them belief in an innate nobility, even in a savage. In Devis Lane's eyes, the humans were easy to manipulate. It made them the perfect tool for the empire that the Rakshasa planned to create. There would be no more wars. Even then, Devis would still be needed however. Those who were not content would need to be ferreted out. Devis was the perfect spy and assassin. He would help the empire to be formed, then he would help it to last forever. A perfect utopia with the Rakshasa as leaders and the humans as their servants. It would take time, but the Rakshasa did not age. They had all the time in the world.

The group continued southwards. On the shore of the lake they could see one of the powerful city-states of Kurrot. This one had the unimaginative name of Lake Town. It was the first defense against goblinoid strikes from the Siren Swamp. It had nearly as many soldiers as it did fisherman. The freshwater fish of the lake were well loved across the island as something different from the ocean fish hauled in by the cities on the shore. As the Kurrot economy was mainly built on their export of salt, salted meats had become a major export as well.

Keeping fish fresh enough to be edible over long distances was difficult. Using salt to cure meat often meant it could last for weeks or months. The distance meant that cured freshwater fish was a delicacy in most lands. It was possible to catch them in the river east of Ravalei, but it was rare. That brought the fish too close to the briny ocean waters and the dangerous predators that lurked within. The fish found in the Ago River and its tributaries were freshwater fish as well, although of a very different variety.

Fish were not the only meat export. While Kurrot had significant farms for vegetables on the Blood Plains, its largest farming community were the shepherds of the plains. It was not just sheep, however. Oxen and goats were commonly herded in the Plains of Kur. While the kingdom of Agon was a dominant force in the farming of plants, Kurrot ruled the farming of most animals. Agon spent its skills in animal husbandry on horses. The land that might be used by farm animals was instead used to raise their mighty steeds.

It had allowed the two countries to come to an equitable trade balance. Agon constantly worked to find better deals for itself, dealing with each of the separate city-states of Kurrot. Each city-state was independent, allowing for some interesting trade negotiations. While the city-states of Kurrot were supposed to be allied, there was often competition between them. This was something that could easily be used against them, as long as you were careful. It was never advisable to piss off a Kurrot.

With that though in his head, Devis Lane led Enzi's Irregulars southwards. His plan was to avoid the cities and civilization. It seemed the most prudent thing to do. They would press forward, trying to reach Feergrus as quickly as possible. The wide open plains of Kurrot seemed a good place to make up some lost time. Civilization was sparse and most Kurrot would want nothing to do with travelers. The hermit in the swamp had not been much of an exception to the people of Kurrot.

It would be a solid three week walk to the Agonish border if the group headed straight south. Devis wanted to cut westward some. He wanted to minimize the time spent in Agon. The kingdom was widest in the east and thinnest in the west. Devis hoped to cross the border, then the Capital River, followed by the Ago River. While he could travel down the Capital River to reach the Ago River, that would take the group past the capital of the kingdom.

Devis did not want the inhuman mercenaries anywhere near the city of Agonor. It was too well policed. The criminal organizations there were quite powerful as well. Enzi's Irregulars had few fans in the southern countries anymore. A bounty rested on their heads for events long ago. Devis was sure the group had not been responsible, but that mattered little to him other than how it affected his plan. When the Irregulars had taken care of his problem with the lizardfolk, he could send them off to die. They would no longer be of any use to him.

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