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.

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