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

27Nov/13Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0074

Mayitso heard the howl in the distance. He listened carefully. He understood the subtleties of the noise. It was a signal that all was clear and safe. It had been a long time since he visited his people. This was the location where the majority lived, far away from civilization. Their only human worries were the Vashimi. The ability of the lycanthrope to take a human form had helped mitigate that, especially as their human form could pass as a Vashimi from a distance or to an untrained eye.

This was not a good thing when dealing with other humans, but it had led to an alliance with some of the less violent Shimese tribes. The cannibalistic Shimese tribes gave no care if someone was an outsider or a Vashimi, they would kill anyone. They didn't have a problem killing people in their own tribe. They called it culling the weak. It was a good thing that their murderous streak included their brethren. It kept their numbers from exploding.

Mayitso slipped through the forest. The land of the lycanthropes was south of the marsh on dry land. A massive ring of volcanoes could be seen in the distance. They were called the Ring of Fire. It was not the most creative of names, but the lycanthropes cared little of such things. It was merely a dangerous place to avoid, and a useful landmark. The smoke that constantly rose from the peaks could be seen anywhere in the Shimese Jungle. The heat permeated the whole area, extending even into the marsh.

The sulfurous fumaroles of the marsh proved that. The jungle was firmer territory, but was still always unseasonably warm. This far south, things should be very cold. It was still a long way to where the water turned to ice, but it was close enough that the jungle should not have been an actual jungle. Evergreen trees should have been more common. They certainly appeared at the far southern edge of the jungle, but near the Ring of Fire or the Marsh of Vashim, the atmosphere could easily get quite muggy and steamy, especially in the summer.

Mayitso crept closer and closer to his kin. He looked for the perfect position to come striding into the group. He needed to make a grand entrance, brave and proud. If they were going to listen to him, he had to prove himself as an alpha. Many lycanthrope customs came from their wild cousins. Regular wolves often ran with the lycanthropes and Mayitso's kindred could communicate with them on the same level. The kinship made the group stronger, although a wolf's lack of sentience often made it an inferior comrade.

Mayitso steeled himself. He stood up tall on his four powerful legs. He then began to crash through the jungle towards his kindred as if he had no cares in the world. The other lycanthropes were immediately alerted to his presence. There was panic among the wolves and the weakest of the lycanthropes as few creatures would dare approach with such disregard to danger. The strongest and bravest lycanthropes moved to the front, just as Mayitso hoped.

Mayitso came in on parade, his head held high, his ears forward and erect, his tail out and raised, nearly level with his spine. It was a dominance display. Many of the lycanthropes were instantly cowed and showed submission. Mayitso's large form and scars were enough to win him respect from the lesser members of the pack. It was the leaders that he had to worry about. The betas growled at Mayitso, but he stared at them without fear or flinching.

That was enough to keep them at bay, though they did not submit. A massive white wolf with light gray markings finally appeared. This lycanthrope was large, but it was not his size that was impressive. His demeanor told Mayitso that this was an alpha who had seen many challenges from his betas and had easily dominated them. Mayitso, however, would not be cowed. The two massive lycanthropes circled each other as the rest of their kindred backed off.

There was a blur of motion. The two mighty beasts clashed with a strength and fury that made even the beta males hunker down submissively. The alpha male that Mayitso fought was older and larger. Mayitso was faster. Even with his missing eye, Mayitso had the advantage. His experience in war had brought him many useful skills. It was very obvious to all that it was not an even contest. Mayitso soon stood above a thoroughly defeated lycanthrope.

None of the gathered lycanthropes had ever seen such a terrifying display of skill. It had bought Mayitso the attention he needed. Unfortunately, he needed information that could not be communicated as a wolf. He shifted to his human form, feeling distaste at it. He looked over the other lycanthropes with his one eye and finally spoke with all the authority he could muster.

“We need to talk. There is a great danger to our people and I will need your aid. First I need to know about any encounters with the lizards that walk as man.”

Mayitso soon learned of several attacks on the lycanthropes. His people had found it odd, usually the lizardfolk left them alone. Mayitso told his people that the Naxaeless now planned to kill all they saw as humans, including the lycanthropes, there was a great discussion. Many wanted to run off and hide, to allow the lizardfolk and the humans to fight. The former leader, however, had knowledge that changed everything.

“The lizards that walk as man must be stopped. The humans can not stand alone in this. I have seen a great and terrible beast that sleeps in the swamp. If they let it wake, it will destroy the humans. Then they will destroy us. Only together can we show the combined might that the lizards will respect.”

Mayitso nodded, “He is right. Already a small dragon has been readied to be unleashed on the humans in the north. If this happens in the south as well, all is lost for all of us. I came here to lead us to war not because I want to, but because I must.”

The former leader grinned, “We will follow you. You have proven your strength. Now let us prove ours.”

***

Enzi's Irregulars had retreated to the town of Dargaz. The mood was dour. The Rakshasa disguised as Enzi Cala had slipped away. Devis had decided to do his own scouting while the mercenaries recovered. The mercenaries were not taking the loss of Kava well. The disappearance of Enzi had not helped matters. Aldebaran had taken the loss the hardest. The mighty minotaur sat slumped in a corner as healers bandaged his wounds. He said nothing as he sat in silence.

His shoulders were hung low, as was his bovine head. His eyes stared at the floor. It gave the impression that the massive creature had shrunken. Eurysa and Ritter remained calm, but without Kava the room had fallen quiet. The vodyanoi had brought a certain energy to the group, now it felt empty. The three inhuman creatures rested and healed. Doubts began to creep into the mind of the Halz. He wondered if they would really be able to stop the drake the goblinoids planned to release.

Meanwhile Devis made his way through the forest with natural ease. Away from anyone, he had taken his natural form as a Rakshasa. If he ran into any lizardfolk, they would be sorry. His ability with stealth was unmatched. Soon he was spying on the Naxaeless. They had regrouped and were making plans for their next assault. They were glad that they had broken the defenders, but angry at the loss of one of their females. Their next assault would be massive.

Thousands upon thousands of lizardfolk gathered. Several females moved through the group, organizing them. Devis knew that many Feergrus soldiers were gathering at Dargaz. He had sent soldiers in all directions to try to bring more men to the front. He hoped that he could prevent the loss of more of the soldiers of Feergrus. If the monstrous mercenaries were lost, Devis would not shed a tear. They were useful tools to save his people and his country.

Once the lizardfolk threat was over, they became a liability. The Rakshasa began to plan for how he wanted to deal with the group. Hopefully he could just send them off to get killed by the drake. For the moment, Devis had to return and prepare for the troglodyte attack. He hoped that he had a decent number of soldiers to hold off the Naxaeless until Devis could get some form of reinforcement. Returning to town, Devis saw that nearly three dozen templars had gathered to aid in the fight.

The templars were the official standing army of Feergrus, charged with protecting the priestesse4s and priests of the land. Soldiers of the theocracy, they were supposed to be fearless, knowing that their deaths would be rewarded with a position at the side of the three deities. Their competence varied, unfortunately, as well as their level of belief. Still, they were well armed and armored, giving them an advantage over the common warrior. If Devis was lucky, at least some of the templars that had gathered would be well trained.

The Rakshasa had already transformed into his disguise as Enzi Cala, former high general of the armies of Feergrus. He met with the scouts that he had fought along earlier. He let them know where the next attack would come. Then he finally went to visit with Aldebaran, Eurysa, and Ritter. The minotaur, gorgon, and Halz were doing quite well. A healer had come along with the templars and had used his magic to heal up what damage he could on the wounded.

“Sorry for the delay,” Devis said towards the Irregulars, “The danger is still close. The lizardfolk have decided to send a massive force directly to here. They want to raze the town and slaughter the people as their first foray into Feergrus. We have to stop them to save innocents. I know we have lost a good warrior, but unfortunately there is no time to grieve.”

Aldebaran grunted softly. He had no energy or will to respond. Ritter and Eurysa got up. It was nearly time for battle. The Halz was somewhat comforted that Enzi had not forgotten Kava, but had been too busy saving lives to worry about the loss yet. Still, something felt wrong to the dwarf. He could not quite put his finger on it. Eurysa felt it as well. Enzi had begun to feel slightly wrong to her. She wondered what had come over him. He had seemed more and more aloof since they left the northern front.

It bothered her. Enzi had always confided in her before. She wondered if something had happened that she had missed. Able to read their surface thoughts, Devis could see the growing discontent and worry. He did not care. His ruse would no longer be needed after the next attack. He just needed Enzi's Irregulars to fight one last time. He was worried, however. The soldiers and the Irregulars could not hold off the coming attack. They needed that help of the lycanthropes.

The Rakshasa hated to lose one town, but it was better than facing the lizardfolk militarily. He decided it was time to have the town evacuated. Those that remained could turn the town into a deadly trap for their foes. He told the Irregulars of his plan, as well as the scouts. All agreed that it was the best way to limit the loss of innocent lives. If they failed, however, the troglodytes would easily be able to catch up to the fleeing humans. Holding them off was the best they might be able to do and no one was confident of their chances at success.

Even with all his power, Devis was still only one creature. None of the Naxaeless would be able to harm him, but they could overwhelm him with numbers. It was not the kind of battle he liked to fight. He wished that Karrum Tamb was here. As one of his brethren Rakshasa, Karrum had similar capabilities. However, where Devis concentrated on subterfuge, Karrum concentrated on the art of war. He was a warrior through and through. Together Devis expected they could defeat nearly any foe. Any aid, however, was but a pipe dream at the moment, however.

20Nov/13Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0073

Kava felt the soothing moisture on her skin. She was home again. The marsh felt like she had never left. The vodyanoi moved with an odd grace through the foliage. It was a good thing that everything was working well, as she needed all of her skill in stealth. She had been investigating the lizardfolk positions for nearly a week. Kava understood their language perfectly well. The troglodytes often did not speak, but when they did it was important.

Kava was making her way back to Enzi and the others. She had learned enough to know when and where the lizardfolk would strike. The news was not good, but it meant a good fight. Kava nearly salivated at the thought of a massive battle with the lizardfolk. She owed them a lot of death. They had slaughtered her people. Kava admitted that the vodyanoi likely deserved their fate, but she still wanted to give as much chaos back to her old enemy as she could.

She looked down at her right arm. It was missing a hand and part of the forearm. That had been the work of one of the troglodytes as well. The prosthetic she wore was deadly. She had learned to use it as efficiently as the weapon in her other hand. It would feel good to sink her hatchets into lizard flesh. Revenge might be petty, but Kava enjoyed being a little petty. She also enjoyed the violence and the blood. It was who she was and she was finally glad to have a chance at showing off her brutal side once more.

“Well, we are in luck,” Kava said to the man she believed was Enzi.

“Oh?” Devis asked, though he could already see the answer in the thoughts of the vodyanoi.

“The main thrust of their first assault will not be far from here, and there is plenty of time for us to get there before it happens.”

Kava was nearly salivating at the thought of battle as Devis replied, “That does not sound good to me, except for our ability to intercept it. I was hoping there would be more time before they finally decided to unleash their attack on Feergrus.”

After Devis let the scouts know the information, the group made their way towards the location where they might intercept the lizardfolk. Without Mayitso, it was Eurysa who maintained the lead, her sharp eyes watching for danger. Kava stayed near, as the vodyanoi was familiar with the kind of terrain they were traveling through. The only good thing was the that incursion of lizardfolk had driven off most of the Vashimi. They had been the first targets of the lizardfolk.

Devis Lane was quite happy to know that the Vashimi had been hurt by the lizardfolk attacks. The Vashimi had long been an annoyance to the Feergrus. They rarely traveled outside of the marsh, but they sometimes would raid the border towns. They might take food, clothing, or kidnap people when they did. Their acts of terror was the reason that so many soldiers remained on the border of Feergrus. It was enough to deter anything other than a focused assault.

This worked out well for the group, as it forced the same thing on the lizardfolk. They would meet resistance anywhere they chose to attack. Therefore the intelligent tactic was simply to pick a spot and attack in force. Enzi's Irregulars would now be there to help blunt that attack. As many of the soldiers of Feergrus nearby that could be gathered would aid the fight as well. They had to blunt the attack. Eventually Mayitso would return, hopefully with reinforcements.

They could not count on his return for many days, however. Even with his increased land speed, it was at least a two week journey to reach the heart of where the lycanthropes lived. Even then, he had to convince the lycanthropes to join the war effort. After two days of travel, Devis and his allies had finally reached the point where the lizardfolk planned to spearhead their attack on Feergrus. The group as well as the forces of Feergrus did their best to find positions to attack and surprise the enemy force.

“Well folks, now comes the fun. Target the largest ones first. Those are the females,” Kava croaked, “They are the leaders. You might not see them, however. They send the males in first as much as possible. Luckily they are a lot weaker and smaller than the females. Their numbers, however, can be troublesome. They should not have the sheer numbers of a human nation, but we do not exactly have a full army here yet.”

Aldebaran grunted in Nuvro, “Our little frog turtle seems to be enjoying herself for a change.”

“I heard that,” Kava growled back in Nuvro, “And there really is nothing like a good fight. Too bad you are not good at fighting.”

“We will see who kills more foes when the lizards attack.”

“I will sit upon a giant pile of my slain foes. From there I will look down upon you and laugh.”

“Then a contest of who has the biggest pile of dead bodies.”

Kava grinned creepily with her overly broad mouth full of razor sharp teeth, “Excellent.”

It was another three days before the Feergrus scouts reported back on the movements of the creatures that called themselves the Naxaeless. The group watched as the lizardfolk approached. They were trying to be stealthy, the colorful frills of the male troglodytes were flat against their necks. The frills of the females did not have bright colors like the males. The Irregulars and the few gathered forces from Feergrus awaited the coming assault. The lizardfolk were unarmored, trusting to their thick skins to protect them.

As the lizardfolk moved past those that were hiding, Kava led the charge with a mighty croak. Enzi's Irregulars and the soldiers of Feergrus fell upon their foes. The less stealthy members of the group had further to charge, as they had to remain back from the combat to allow the surprise attack to work. Kava's hatchets went to work, blood splattering across the ground. Arrows streaked past the humans and their allies and planted themselves in the lizardfolk. Eurysa's aim was impeccable.

Aldebaran's two handed blade soon entered the fray, carving a path into the foe's line. Ritter was the last to the battle, his short legs finally carrying him into combat. His hefty warhammer cracked skulls left and right. The Feergrus did their part as well. Devis spent most of his time working to keep the human soldiers safe from harm. Soon the lizardfolk were slain, but Kava was looking at the slaughter with suspicion. The numbers were far too small.

There were no females in the slain group. Too late, the group saw that it was but a small scouting group. A hulking female troglodyte could be seen slowly approaching as a horde of her lizardfolk swarmed over the human position. The desperate fight had begun. Spears stabbed wildly at the humans and the Irregulars. Devis did what he could to prevent human casualties, but even in the confusion of battle he did not dare reveal his true prowess. A few losses were acceptable.

Ritter deflected spear after spear with his shield and heavy armor. Eurysa tried to stay out of melee range, using her gaze to paralyze a few lizardfolk. Even with that, she felt a couple of spears pierce her skin. Aldebaran looked far worse than that, his huge form was a huge target for the enemy. However, getting close to him was a deadly prospect. His sword was cleaving through the enemy with unbridled ferocity. However none of the Irregulars could match the vodyanoi.

Kava ducked and weaved through the enemy forces with uncanny grace. Her hatchets severed limbs, opened skulls or chests, or ripped flesh from bone. She was in her element and it was amazing to see. With all of her skill though, even the vodyanoi could not defend from so many foes. Blood flowed as several spears cut her, some more deeply than others. The leader of the troglodytes approached the battle, seeing the devastation. She raised her spear and waited. At the right moment she plunged it into the battle.

The Naxaeless were often strong, with the females much stronger than the men. This female was stronger than most. She knew her foes would be difficult to strike in the midst of the chaotic melee. That was assuming she wished to avoid striking her allies. As leader of the fight, she had made a terrible decision. She had decided the male warriors were all expendable. With that in mind, she plunged her spear through one of her own allies. It killed the troglodyte instantly, but it also struck Kava in her what would be a sternum on a human.

The vodyanoi hit the ground, reeling from the blow. She was coughing and gurgling. The wound was nasty. Kava's orange eyes did not show any fear or worry. There was only rage and blood-lust. She leapt over the slain male lizardfolk and attack the leader of the troglodyte forces with dire fury. A dozen lizardfolk spears pierced her from behind, seeking to protect their leader. The vodyanoi did not flinch. Her hatchets landed blow after blow as Kava wildly flailed at the female troglodyte.

The leader of the lizardfolk fell as Kava collapsed on top her her, spent of her fury. At least six spears pointed towards the sky where they were still implanted in the back of the amphibian. Without their leader, the male lizardfolk turned tail and fled, retreating to regroup with new leadership. The battle had been terrible. Devis counted six dead humans. Most of the Irregulars were wounded. If the lizardfolk regrouped and returned, the line would not hold.

It was more likely that they would regroup and find another location to strike, but Devis saw that the best scout for learning more was on the ground. It was the minotaur the rushed to the side of the vodyanoi first. Blood matted Aldebaran's fur, but he did not care about his own pain. He knelt beside Kava to check on her. She looked up at him, her large eyes glassy and unfocused.

“I got a bigger pile than you,” she croaked, spitting up some blood as well, “And took down the damn leader.”

“Yes, I think you finally beat me,” Aldebaran replied softly.

“Say it loud and often,” Kava said, “About time you admitted I was better than you. Now lets get these bastards in a pile. I want to sit on top of them and sneer down at you like you deserve.”

Soon the troglodyte corpses had been made into a pile. A great many had been slain. Aldebaran heaved the massive female Naxaeless on top of the pile, then gently lifted Kava onto the top.

“Ah, much better,” the vodyanoi said softly, her voice fading, “This is a throne to be proud of. The troglodytes felt the roar of the vodyanoi this day. They will not soon forget us.”

“No one will forget,” Aldebaran stated as a tear rolled from his eye.

Kava did not speak again. The vodyanoi had stopped breathing. She would never speak again, nor would her people. Finally the vodyanoi were extinct. It was hard to say if they had made their mark on the world at large, but those that knew of Kava knew of her impact at the very least. As the group moved the wounded back towards the border, Ritter thought about what had happened. The Halz wondered if the humans would even mention the vodyanoi. He wondered if they would become little more than an ancient legend.

It was a sad thought that such a hero might be forgotten. If she had been human, Ritter expected she might have been more widely recognized for her deeds. The dwarf knew that when he returned home, that he at least would remember her sacrifice. His people thrived on such tales of valor against impossible odds. Ritter glanced back one last time. At least the vodyanoi had lived to fulfill her greatest wish. She had died atop a pile of the corpses of her enemies. It was oddly fitting, but the Halz saw it had a deep effect on Aldebaran.

13Nov/13Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0072

The ferry crossed the river slowly. The priestess had certainly been surprised at the warriors that Devis had brought with him. However, she had quite agreed that such monsters would be useful in combat. She had sent a pair of the templars to help make sure that the transfer across the river went smoothly. They had ensured that the locals kept their distance. The less that the Feergrus were seen associating with Enzi's Irregulars, the better. It would not help if their image was tarnished by the proximity to criminals.

Devis imagined that more than enough had been done to minimize any impact in Agon. As the ferry reached the other side of the Ago River, the disguised Rakshasa smiled. He was now in the land where he had the most control. He expected things to progress smoothly and quickly. He led the Irregulars westward, headed for the city of Ta'afar. From there, they would have to take the roads. The badlands of Feergrus made it difficult to travel overland. The roads would be quicker and safer.

The ferry's drift upriver had placed them about one day's walk from the city, walking through the farmlands. Devis felt comforted to see the workers tirelessly tending the fields. The workers were mindless undead, under the command of whatever necromancer controlled the area. While outsiders were often frightened by the undead, Devis could not understand why. The undead were mindless after all. They only did what their controller commanded them to do. If they were uncontrolled, they would merely do nothing.

They were harmless unless commanded to harm something. They were as safe as any tool could be. It was a way to continue to use the few resources of the land. Even in death, the people of Feergrus could continue to provide aid. When the bodies were damaged beyond the ability for necromancy to animate, they still were useful as fertilizer to continue the cycle of life. It was the way of Feergrus. It was also why the creation of intelligent undead was illegal.

The humans of Feergrus were supposed to live by the tenets of their religion, which included the necessity of death. This tenet of the religion, of course, had been put in place by Lord Glanar Dale for good reason. It was easy to keep the humans in line if they did not have a long enough lifetime to see what the Rakshasa were planning. This was one of the things that made the Ahk Separatists so dangerous. Their leaders were intelligent undead, some of which had been around since the creation of the nation.

These elders knew how long Glanar Dale, Karrum Tamb, and Devis Lane had been around. They had good reason to fear the three Rakshasa. To some, that might make the Ahk Separatists heroes. The vile deeds they performed only proved to Devis Lane what he had long since learned to be true. No one group could be considered good. In the hands of a human, power only ever seemed to corrupt. It was why the Rakshasa planned to rule over the humans.

In a position of power, Lord Glanar Dale could control the human populace and keep them focused. To Devis, such a goal was preferable to any flawed human civilization coming into ultimate power of the lands of Doulairen. It was a goal that Devis would work to bring to fruition. He would do whatever it took. It did not matter to him if his acts were evil, they were acts towards his greater purpose. His ultimate loyalty was to his country. He did not care how outsiders saw his actions.

The walk to Ta'afar was quiet. One of the good things about the mindless undead is they were never curious. None of them got in the way of the group. None had any cares that six monsters walked past them. It was a long two days of walking, but the next morning they entered the city. With a brief stop at the local temple, Devis had word spread of his mission. The path to the border of Vashim would now be a clear path. The Shadow Guard would make sure of that.

With that, the travel moved quickly as they headed southwest. Four days after entering Ta'afar, the group reached the city of Shabestar. Following that, they traveled four days westward to the city of Ardishai. Finally they traveled southwest from there for four more days to reach the capital of Feergrus itself. The mighty city of Adazar sat before Enzi's Irregulars. The spires of the city glistened in the morning sun. The mighty star in the sky called Feras slowly made its way eastwards after its rise from the western horizon.

“I have a few places to visit while we are here in order to make sure we are welcome in the battle we are headed toward. We have been pushing hard, so get some rest before we head off again. It will be at least six days to the next city this time. You might want to pick up extra supplies while we can. We will be passing through the Brackenwater Barrens. That place can be rather dangerous and if we are delayed, I would hate to run out of supplies. It is hard to find anything edible in the barrens.”

Devis left the five monstrous mercenaries on their own, confident they would have no problems. The Shadow Guard would keep the locals in line. The Shadow Guard had long served Devis well. They were his spy network throughout the country. They took care of things while Devis was busy handling the things outside of the country. The disguised Rakshasa made his way to the main temple. It was the home of Lord Glanar Dale himself. Devis Lane had quite a few things to report.

Entering the temple would normally be difficult, as the templars that guarded it would be suspicious of strangers. A simple pass word, however, got Devis past the first guards. Such a thing would not work to reach the next part of the temple, but that was no longer an issue. Now that he was out of sight, Devis returned to his standard Feergrus form. Making his way through the temple as himself was far easier. Eventually he arrived at the inner sanctum, where Lord Glanar Dale resided.

“All goes well with the plan to stop the troglodyte invasion,” Devis stated.

Glanar was in his Rakshasa form, his white fur and black stripes seemed quite regal to Devis, “That is good Devis. What of the situation in Agon?”

“Our man Roukaan Pallis is now in place as tutor to the prince. After all is settled, I will visit again to ensure all is going well.”

“Good, it appears all is moving according to plan.”

“For the moment. I wanted to report in before I continues southwards.”

“Thank you for your news. I have little to tell you. Things have been surprisingly quiet with the separatists. I would have thought they would have made a move while our forces were busy with the lizards.”

“That means the distractions by my Shadow Guard have been working. I will have to complement them on their work. Even without me they have been showing considerable skill in manipulating the enemy.”

“Be careful Devis, we do not want them to become too clever.”

“It is no worry, my lord. When an asset is too much trouble, it can be easily eliminated. On that note, I have finally disposed of Enzi Cala. His use came to an end.”\

Lord Glanar dale nodded, “Good luck on your mission. Soon this war will be over and our position in the world will be improved.”

Devis nodded and excused himself. He made his way out of the temple, changing back to his disguise as Enzi Cala along the way. Devis met up with the Irregulars, finding them well supplied for the next leg of the journey. The trip southwards was surprisingly quiet. The Separatists liked to hide in the Brackenwater Barrens and the Rakshasa was pleasantly surprised that they remained quiet, even against a small group like Enzi's Irregulars. When he had taken care of the troglodyte problem, Devis would have to find out what his Shadow Guard had been up to. He was quite impressed.

Devis and the five monstrous mercenaries reached the town of Amarah without any problems. From there it was a four day trip to Dargaz, a town that sat on the southern border of Feergrus. Finally the long trip was over and Devis could begin his master plan. Just by asking around town, he heard of several small skirmishes between the templars and the troglodytes. The real war had not yet begun, but the lizardfolk had been massing for months.

“Well, now we at at the war front once again,” Devis said, “The enemy masses and prepares an attack. Not just against us, but against everyone they consider human. This also includes the lycanthropes. As they have seen some of the priests of Feergrus transform into our panther shape, they believe the lycanthropes like Mayitso are the same. It is because of this that I have a terrible favor to ask of you, Mayitso.”

“You wish to bring his people into a war?” Eurysa hissed.

“They are already a part of it, even if they do not yet know it. I hate to ask, but it would be better if the fight included all the parties involved. The lizardfolk will fall back easier with a concerted effort and a large show of force. Only you have enough speed to get there and back quickly. Only you know the way, The rest of us can hold off the assault until you arrive. Can you do it? For us? For your people?”

Mayitso looked at Eurysa for guidance and the gorgon hissed, “Enzi may be right. The lizardfolk might not be hitting hard here because they are already hitting your people. You should at least talk to them and find out what is going on.”

The lycanthrope nodded and began running off into the forest. Devis smiled, all was going according to plan. He already knew that the lycanthropes had been attacked by the troglodytes. At least the lycanthropes thought that it was the troglodytes. Some of the Rakshasa's best agents had worked to plant that evidence. The chat that Devis had with the Shadow Guard when he first entered Feergrus had confirmed their success. It was possible that other conflicts had happened as well, those would merely be icing on the cake.

Devis and the remaining Irregulars moved on to meet up with the scouting forces for the Feergrus. Devis needed solid information on where to strike the troglodytes to keep them from going on the offensive. Finding them was rather easy. Devis had a good idea of where they were camped. One of his Shadow Guard had been placed with the scouting group, and that agent made relations with the scouts quite easy. Devis had been expected.

“Welcome to Enzi's Irregulars,” one of the Feergrus scouts said in their native language.

“Greetings, Devis replied in Infernus, “We are here to offer our assistance.”

“We are in need of it,” the scout said, “Our forces are spread thin. We have been trying to identify where the first strike will come, but the border is quite long. Scouts have found the troglodytes all along the border, but have not found their plan. Attacking along the whole border would be suicide.”

“They were scouting us, much as we scouted them,” the disguised Devis stated, “They are a cunning foe. Now that my team is here, we can hopefully figure out their plan. We have an expert on the lizardfolk with us.”

Understanding Infernus perfectly well, the Vodyanoi grinned. Her frog-like mouth made her smile frighteningly wide to a human's eyes. The fact that she had vicious looking Pedicellate teeth made things all the more frightening looking. They looked vicious, like a row of long sharp fangs. The teeth of a vodyanoi were longer than the average amphibian, but the vodyanoi were much larger creatures.

6Nov/13Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0071

Devis did his best to disappear from sight. When he was sure no one could see him, he shifted his form into an Agonish man. Enzi's clothing was simple enough it could pass as normal about anywhere. The man had wanted to wear something easy to move around in for combat and travel purposes. It just happened to serve well as anonymous clothing. The disguised Rakshasa then strode directly into town. It was time to mingle and learn how best to cross the river.

The town was bustling with activity. Farmers were trading their goods as people were preparing to ship any extra goods downriver to the capital and beyond. Barges moving up and down the river were a constant sight. Trade thrived on the rivers. Devis knew that finding boats was easy. Finding a boat that was willing to take passengers would not be too difficult. Finding one that was willing to take monsters, however, that was the problem.

Disguising himself as just another one of Agon's citizens helped a lot. Devis was able to chat with a dozen different people and learn about the trade barges expected in and out of town. He also learned about the captains of each. The word captain seemed like a lofty term for a barge owner that poled a barge upriver than let it drift back down towards the ocean. However, the personality of the men often overshadowed their miniscule power. The term captain might have aided that by boosting their ego.

With information in hand, Devis visited a shop to make a few purchases. It was nice to be in the heart of civilization again. He could solve quite a few problems by throwing a little bit of coin around. He kept a small collection of the coin of each country in a few different pouches. He also kept a few small gems to us in bartering for anything that might require a little more buying power. It was more than enough for nearly anything he needed.

Purchases in hand, the disguised Devis headed for the river. He headed out of town, stopping along the way to change his disguise. Falling back into the character of Enzi Cala was easier than Devis expected it to be. He limped along the riverbank until he found the five inhuman mercenaries. They had found a nice spot near the shore where they could rest out of sight of both the road and anyone going down the river. The Rakshasa handed each of Enzi's Irregulars a present.

“I purchased some cloaks for each of you. It may be the wrong season for them, but it will help hide us until we reach saner shores. I believe I know of a barge that will aid us. This particular captain is expected to reach town today and has been known to transport almost anything for the right price. We are lucky that it seems this will not require much diplomacy at all.”

Aldebaran pulled out a rather large cloak, “I am surprised you found anything near my size.”

“I asked for the largest cloak they had,” Devis replied, “I was surprised it was as large as it was, though it might still need to be larger to be fully effective.”

“True. We lost the custom sized cloaks when we had to leave the wagon behind<' Eurysa hissed, “These are not a perfect replacement, but they will be enough. It is the wrong season to wear them, so it will not dampen suspicion much.”

“More than you might guess,” the creature disguised as Enzi Cala stated, “The Kurrot often wear cloaks like this. People tend to give them a wide berth due to their reputation as being potentially violent. It will hopefully deter most people from bothering us as long as we keep away from towns. In the midst of a small town, the local guards might watch out for troublemakers. It changes again in a large city like Agonor. The sheer amount of visitors they get there means that one has to expect people of all kinds will be wandering the streets. The town guard there have much bigger problems to deal with than someone in a cloak.”

“Maybe we should drift down to the capital then,” Kava croaked.

“As we are wanted criminals, it is safer to avoid the area just in case.”

Eurysa hissed, “A cloak would not hide my tail on the hard streets.”

“Yes, the grass and soft ground here helps us considerably,” Ritter said, “I imagine the hooves of a minotaur would draw attention on a hard surface as well.”

Devis nodded, “We do not need that kind of suspicion. There are few groups as unique as ours, we would be chased by the guards far earlier than we could imagine. It is possible that some are on our trail even now if that farmer has sent out word.”

“So now we wait,” Aldebaran grumbled.

“I hate waiting,” Kava croaked.

Two hours passed as Devis stood at the riverbed and watched. Finally the Rakshasa spotted a barge as the captain and his helpers took it slowly upstream. Against the current of the Capital River, however, poles were not enough. One of the crew was walking on the shore, leading a powerful ox. The ox was towing the barge, the poles were used to keep the barge from crashing into the shore more than they were for forward motion. Devis stepped out to great the bargemen as they drew near.

Devis used a standard Agonori greeting, “Hail and well met.”

“Hail stranger,” the captain yelled back.

“I have some business to discuss. My companions and I seek passage across the river.”

“I must admit this seems odd. You could have approached me in town.”

“There are reasons we did not enter town, and equally good reasons not to associate ourselves with you in public. It would likely harm your reputation I expect.”

“Such talk makes me think there is a good profit to make here.”

“I would agree,” Devis grinned, knowing he had baited the hook well, “A handsome payment is not an issue.”

“For a foreigner, you know the language I like to hear well. Let us pull to shore and we will see what we can do for you.”

The discussion was short and simple after the captain was introduced to Enzi's Irregulars. Coin crossed palms and the six foreigners stepped on the barge. The ox was also led on the barge as the crew used their poles to push the barge across the river. It drifted slowly back down the river due to the current, but soon enough it had reached the other side. It had been a good chance to rest as well. Devis led the five monstrous mercenaries southwards, headed for the city of Mocelare.

The ferry across the river had lightened the wallet of Devis Lane considerably, but he did not care. Money was of little concern to him. He had the resources of an entire country behind him. From what he had learned of the captain, he expected most of that coin to end up back in the hands of the Feergrus soon enough. He would likely splurge at the next temple of Rakar he came to. The temptations of the services offered by the temples dedicated to pleasure often drew people like the barge captain.

Enzi's Irregulars spent two days walking through fields of grains. The sheer amount of agriculture in the river valleys of Agon meant that the country was a powerhouse in the trade for food goods. Most of what they grew were grains, as such things traveled well. It also meant that it was nearly impossible to starve the country. Between their control of the majority of the continent's prime farmlands and the required militia training of the majority of the men, Agon was a country that no sane nation would attempt to take on in a direct military confrontation.

Luckily the group passed through the fields without running into any of the farmers. The sheer size of the fields made such encounters unlikely unless one got too close to where the farmers happened to be working or to their house. It was nearly noon when the group approached the town of Mocelare. It was long before that when they could see their goal. The town had a temple of Rakar in it, and the spire of the building could be seen from miles away.

Devis felt much more confident once he could see the temple spire. The temple in Mocelare had been the first of its kind. As the first place that had allowed the religion of Feergrus to enter Agon, the town had long had friendly relations with the native land of the slain Enzi Cala. It was not unusual to see a great number of visitors from Feergrus itself while within the town. Mocelare was not near any particular city of Feergrus, the other side of the river was covered with farms run by the people of Feergrus.

Once again, Devis headed into the city first as well as alone. This time, however, he saw no need to transform. He blended in equally well as a Feergrus, and there was no suspicion about one such as he approaching the temple dedicated to the feline deity Rakar. The Rakshasa walked into the temple and was immediately greeted and welcomed. He was asked what he needed and Devis told them to ask the priest about a special blessing. His question, of course, was a code word that such a priest would understand.

As expected, the head priest of the temple soon appeared, an elderly priestess. Like all priests, she wore a circlet. Hers was made of gold, which spoke well of how long she had been a priest. The quality of material was part of the hierarchy of the priesthood. The gems were less important, they merely showed which deities the priest had learned the secrets for, though often a powerful priest might have more than one gem for a certain deity. This priestess had three red gems in her circlet. Red was the color of Rakar.

“It has been a long time since I have heard someone asking for a tiger root,” the priestess stated.

“I expect so, things have been quiet here. The war has not reached this far into the center of the continent. That is why I need aid. Feergrus is under attack. My allies need transport across the river into Feergrus. I will lead them past the Boneyard and into the Marsh of Vashim. There the troglodytes move against us thanks to the machinations of the Tarvoni.”

“I have heard of trouble there,” the priestess sighed, “I have found it hard to remain here when so many troubles besiege the land.”

“Do not worry yourself. Our healers work with the armies and my allies will help to end the threat to Feergrus. Peace will come to our land. The people here still need you.”

“I can easily aid you, we have our own transport to cross the Ago River.”

“My allies might be seen as unpleasant to the locals,” Devis stated, “They will have circled around the city to the riverbank by now.”

The priestess nodded, “Even now the locals are uncomfortable with the use of the mindless undead. At least they no longer find it entirely horrific. The more they understand, the less they fear. I expect if you have found allies to fight the troglodytes, they must be mighty indeed. Such allies could easily be frightening to the populace.”

Devis nodded, “They are also wanted by the authorities, who see them as a threat. Any aid you can provide in making this go smoothly without causing any problems for you would be much appreciated.”

“Leave it to me,” the priestess stated, “I will not fail you. Your disguise is excellent, my lord. You may not remember, but we met long ago. Only the great Devis Lane would be traveling to aid our country and know of the code word.”

Devis briefly shifted his face to the one that many of the Feergrus thought of as his real face, “It is an honor to aid my country.”

“No. It is my honor to aid you.”