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

25Dec/13Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0078

Eurysa spotted the dragon first, “Heads up, everyone, incoming! Get into your lines!”

The archers lined up and prepared their Halzium tipped arrows. As the dragon dove through the sky, Eurysa suddenly felt breathless. The thing was enormous. The egg that had hatched it had been far larger than a human, but this young drake dwarfed the gorgon's imagination. The thing was nearly sixty feet long with a massive wingspan. It had scales that glimmered in the light of the day. They were mostly mottled green, some of them dark enough to look black.

The creature had narrowed its eyes, it had obviously seen the archers below. It still was swooping down on their position. Eurysa wondered if that meant the creature was overconfident. She hoped for the sake of all the soldiers that the creature was vulnerable. The archers held their arrows until the drake came closer. Finally they unleashed their volley. Eurysa's only arrows joined the others. Many of the arrows scraped across the scales. They were not direct hits.

The scales of the beast was designed to turn blows away, like any good armor. The true test was hitting an area where it could not deflect the blow. A direct hit like that would tell the tale of the battle's possibility of victory. There were several direct hits, including Eurysa's shot. However, all of them were stopped cold, and rebounded off the impenetrable scales. Even the Halzium tips could not shear through the dragon's scaly hide. Then came the retaliation.

The dragon seemed to spew out some foul liquid across part of the front line. The vile fluid instantly began to melt anything it touched. The screams of those hit by the acid breath were full of both fear and pain. The drake swooped past the survivors and began to lift back up into the air. Eurysa followed the dragon with her eyes. Her sharp vision scanned all that she could see, searching for some crevice in the armor, any kind of weakness that could be used to stop the threat.

She saw the perfect spot. However, it was behind the wing. Eurysa would have to shoot at a target that was flying away from her. To hit it hard enough, she would have to strike the target right as it paused on the bottom of a dive. That meant she would have to lead the target considerably to have the arrow arrive at the right time. It would effectively be a blind shot and the gorgon expected she would only have the once shot. She only had one Halzium tipped arrow left anyway.

It also meant the drake would get a second attack. Eurysa knew she had to make it the dragon's last aerial assault. She watched the trajectory of the drake as it came around for its second pass. She watched the dive, watched as the drake found its target. Eurysa took a deep breath, drew her bow, and turned her back on the drake. She aimed at the open space where the dragon would be. She drew her bowstring back and fired at nothing.

The huge dark shape swooped past her, spewing out acid. The breath weapon decimated many more soldiers, but the gorgon's eyes were on her arrow. Her aim had been perfect. Eurysa watched as the arrow slid between the scales at a weak spot in the dragon's armor. Like all armor, it had to be more open at the joints. Her shot aimed for where the wing joined with the body. The arrow sank in perfectly. The drake shrieked out in surprise and pain, spinning out of control at the sudden wound and crashing into the ground.

Aldebaran and Ritter hit the ground running as the leapt from their seats out of the way of the archers. They charged across the field toward the felled drake. They hoped for a chance to finish it off before it could do any more damage. Aldebaran reached the drake first thanks to his longer legs. The minotaur brought his blade down on the dragon as hard as he could. A blast of sparks leapt in the air as the metal scraped against the hardened scales.

Ritter took aim at the dragon's other wing. The Halz wanted to make sure that the beast could not take to the air again. His warhammer resounded with a solid crunch as the dwarf slammed the beast with all his might. The drake howled. It erupted up from the ground, leaping to a standing position. Its eyes were full of pain. It swatted the Halz and the minotaur away with its mighty front paws. It took a moment to survey the situation. The humans were mostly dead, though a few had fled.

The only enemies were the three monstrous mercenaries. They had hurt the drake. It wanted to make them pay for it. It could feel that neither of its wings would be of much use. An arrow in one and a broken bone in the other. The dragon had never taken damage before, but he found himself surprisingly resilient. The pain was a new sensation, but he had quickly learned how to manage that. It had, however, learned that there were threats that could challenge it.

He looked first to the gorgon. The archer was slithering over to the first batch of archers that had been slain. She was searching for another halzium tipped arrow. Most had been destroyed, but unless she was lucky, she would only have enough time to fire one, if she could find one in time. The drake would not allow that, however. It charged across the field looking to slay Eurysa first. She had been the first to harm the drake, it seemed only right that she should be the first to die.

Eurysa struggled through the mangled remains of the archers searching for an arrow as the dragon neared. It chuckled as it looked down at the gorgon. Eurysa stared back up at it, knowing she had no chance to escape. She tried to use her gaze, but her power was too weak to effect the drake. It drew in a great breath, preparing to unleash its breath weapon once more. There was a loud clang sound as metal hit scales. At the side of the beast was the mighty Aldebaran.

“No one else on our team dies while I yet live!” the minotaur yelled.

The drake cocked its head to the side and grinned, “As you wish.”

It opened its maw and stretched down to bit the minotaur. Aldebaran did not attempt to dodge the blow at all. He instead raised his blade and tried to jam it down the creature's throat. Feeling the pain of the jab, the dragon ejected its acid all over Aldebaran. The drake stumbled back, coughing up blood from the wound in its maw. It would not make that mistake again. It would be careful about how it bit its foes. Then pain flashed again. A sharp pain came across its front paw.

Looking down, it was the dwarf Ritter. The drake had been worried for a moment that the minotaur had somehow survived the full fury of its breath weapon. However, Aldebaran was little more than melted sludge. The minotaur would never slay another foe. The dwarf, however, was quite annoying. His warhammer could break bones and crush flesh, the scales were not made to protect as well against such a powerful bludgeon. The dragon snapped at the dwarf, teeth sinking into the leg of the Halz.

The drake then snapped its mighty neck, flinging Ritter away with all its might while rending flesh with its razor-sharp teeth. That left only the gorgon. The dragon spun back around to face Eurysa. It saw the archer with bow in had and an arrow nocked. Eurysa let the barb loose. It sailed through the air with perfect aim. The arrow had been aimed for one last soft spot. It hit the dragon's eye and pierced it. The arrow sank deeply inside. The drake shuddered for a moment, then collapsed.

It had taken several wounds from the three monstrous mercenaries, this one had simply been the one that had tipped it over the edge. Eurysa could not even be sure that it was dead, however. There was a different sound, however. Several soldiers were rushing up behind the gorgon. The rest of the humans had arrived. Most of them swarmed over the drake and began to stab at it to make sure it was dead and stayed down. Eurysa breathed a brief sigh of relief, the battle was over.

She looked over at the remains of Aldebaran. It was sad that he had sacrificed himself. He had been a friend for many years. The gorgon scanned the area, looking for any sign of Ritter. It looked like a couple of the Nuvroci had found the Halz although it was hard to tell what was going on exactly. The drake had flung the Halz quite far away and even the gorgon's sharp vision could not see detail at that distance. Eurysa was surprised that the group had somehow won.

“Hmm, so where are the others?” a voice asked.

“It killed Aldebaran,” Eurysa hissed quietly, “I think Ritter is with the Nuvroci.”

“That is too bad,” the voice said, “I wanted to kill him myself.”

Eurysa spun to try to see who had spoken and there was a sudden pain. Her world turned upside down and seemed to revolve. She could not quite understand until her head hit the ground and she saw her headless body collapse on the ground beside her. The man standing over her body was wearing white robes. It was Naphar Bura, a Cleanser of Kurrot.

Eurysa hissed her last thought as all slipped to darkness, “Where were you Mayitso?”

Naphar claimed the gorgon head, putting it in a sack for safety. He looked over the mess that had once been a minotaur. There was nothing there that would serve as a trophy. It was too bad. The Halz was busy being tended by the Nuvroci. They would not let Naphar slay a dwarf, but the Cleanser did not care. The Halz were not a major concern. The world was rid of minotaurs and gorgons. Never would such a beast terrorize the human race again.

The Cleanser strode over to the drake. It was another monster that was dead. The human race was safer now. In the distance a mighty goblinoid army closed in on the scene of the battle. Naphar grinned. The noseless abominations of nature would find their mighty weapon slain and the army of Agon unwounded. Horns blew and were answered in the distance. The cavalry was on its way. The goblinoids closed in on the corpse and Naphar climbed to the top of the drake. He wanted to see the end of the war at point blank range.

Hobgoblins, orcs, bugbears, and goblins gathered and slowed as the neared the fallen drake. Naphar stood on top of the beast, a single human in white robes. Chatter began to flow through the goblinoid ranks and their march forward slowed. A low rumble could be heard as the great Agonish cavalry approached. It was obvious that the goblinoid army was not sure what to make of the sight they saw. The sound of the bards and heralds of Agon brought a great uncertainty to the horde.

Fear washed across the goblinoid army, as well as disbelief. They could not understand how the humans had stopped the dragon. Especially not without having their army decimated. Their stupor was broken as the Agonish cavalry began its charge, swarming around the corpse of the drake and streaming toward the goblinoid army. The goblinoid lines broke before the cavalry even reached them. The horses and their riders crashed against the goblinoid horde. The goblinoids tried to flee, but most were cut down.

It was bloody work. The goblinoids scattered to the winds if they could, though the riders chased after as many as they could to make sure they never came back. The few that survived could send a message back to the rest of the goblinoids. Their army and its weapon had been destroyed. The goblinoids were beaten. The soldiers all cheered. They knew what this battle meant. It meant that the Fifth Goblinoid War was over. They could all go home. It was all that a weary soldier could ask for.

18Dec/13Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0077

Naphar Bura was cleaning his weapons when an odd man approached him. Naphar Bura was a Kurrot, powerfully built for one of his race, though still slightly more wiry in build than an Agonish man of similar athleticism. Naphar wore the white robes of a Cleanser. White was the color of monsters and evil men. It was a symbol of the foul things that Naphar fought with a slayed each day of his career. The man that approached was Gharaf Targata. Gharaf was a Ravaleian, a race that often leaned towards ostentatious displays.

Gharaf, however, was not wearing anything too extreme. He had been busy making good trade with the armies of the southern front. His manner reminded Naphar of a rat. Gharaf seemed like a schemer to the Cleanser, but the Kurrot had dealt with far worse people than Gharaf. The Ravaleian had at least been useful over the past two years. He had provided a lot of useful information to the Cleanser on opportunities to eliminate foul creatures that threatened the human race.

“The time is upon us,” Gharaf said with a vile smirk, “You will not believe what wandered into camp the other day.”

“Oh?”

“A gorgon, a minotaur, and a dwarf.”

“What of the Feergrus, the vodyanoi, and the lycanthrope?”

“No sign of them, but my sources tell me they spoke with General Crowe Spencer.”

“The high commander of the southern front himself? That is most interesting.”

Gharaf nodded, “It seems they continued northwards with many of the force's best archers. They seek to slay a monster. The goblinoids have a secret weapon they have been preparing. They say it is a dragon.”

“Impossible,” Naphar said as he spit at the ground, “If such creatures are anything but myth, they can not be controlled.”

“Supposedly it is but a young child. One raised by the goblinoids for many years. I imagine it is a lie, and merely some abomination raised up by the Tarvoni working with the noseless mouth breathers. It does not matter either way. The monsters will fight each other. All of them need to die. I knew you would want to know that all of these monsters have converged.”

“Yes. Thank you for this information. It seems the opportunity has come to end this threat to humanity once and for all. With only half of these monstrous allies together and with a dire fight against this so called dragon, the threat of these monsters will finally be ended. I will let them fight each other, then the survivors will be eliminated.”

Gharaf smiled, “Good. They have lived for too long and caused too much strife. It will be nice to have one less problem to deal with in this world.”

***

The waiting was the worst part. Several of the best archers in the southern front had joined Eurysa, Aldebaran, and Ritter in a forward camp. Daily forays into the Goblinoid Lands by scouts on horseback kept the front appraised of any activity by the goblinoids. Thus far it had been eerily quiet. The three monstrous mercenaries suspected that meant the attack was coming soon. The goblinoids were likely gathering their forces and readying for the final assault.

This would be the moment that changed the course of the war for better or worse. Eurysa felt the balance of the arrows tipped with Halzium. Whoever had made them knew what they were doing. The gorgon archer was glad that such a precious metal had not been given to a lesser craftsman to make the arrows. They needed every advantage they could get. A dragon was a considerable foe, even if this was only a young drake. The arrows might not do much, and Eurysa was worried that suck small barbs would not slay the beast.

Even if they could knock it to the ground, the gorgon wondered if they could even slay such a beast in melee. Aldebaran was stronger than any human, but even that might not be enough to wound the drake. Beyond that, there was also the worry about the rest of the goblinoid army. If the goblinoids had their whole army with them, along with Tarvoni summoners and whatever monstrosities had been brought forth by their foul magic, then it would be a fight that the few people at the advance camp could not possibly win.

Hopefully the goblinoids would send the drake as their vanguard, leaving time for the military to defeat the dragon before it could do too much damage. Even alone, it was possible that the drake would be too powerful for the advance force to defeat. Hopefully it would give the soldiers at Grafenthal time to modify the ballista to use against the beast, assuming the dragon did not destroy it first. The more she thought about it, the more Eurysa believed that there would only be one chance to defeat the dragon.

She wished Mayitso was there. He would be greatly helpful once the drake was grounded. The gorgon could not imagine what was taking the lycanthrope so long. She did not want to believe that Enzi had delayed Mayitso more than was necessary. The lizardfolk had been a threat, but certainly the Feergrus military could handle it with the assistance of the lycanthropes that came to their aid. They could not possibly need Mayitso any longer. He had to be on his way by now.

***

Disguised as the Feergrus man called Enzi Cala the Rakshasa named Devis Lane smiled. The lycanthropes had been extremely successful at fighting the troglodytes. Devis had been able to keep the soldiers of Feergrus out of the battles and had kept Mayitso busy commanding his brethren. He had done his best to muddle how much time had passed, keeping Mayitso too busy to think about his friends, and distracting him with something else when that failed.

Devis knew it could not last forever, but knew that it no longer mattered. It had been over a month since Aldebaran, Eurysa, and Ritter had left for the southern front. There was no way that Mayitso could arrive in time to help in their battle now unless the dragon came much later than expected. The Rakshasa would try to keep him as long as possible, just in case. Devis need that dragon to do as much damage as possible. He hoped that it tore through the Agonish front lines. A weak Agon would make a Feergrus alliance much stronger.

Mayitso approached Devis, transformed into his human form, “Should I be leaving now? My friends need me.”

“No worries,” Devis said, “You have plenty of time. I need you for one last great offensive. A great queen of the lizardfolk has gathered a huge force to defeat your brethren. They will need your aid to survive. Do this and we should finally have the break we need to survive this war.”

Mayitso transformed into his wolf form and snorted as he turned away. Something about Enzi had begun to rub him wrong. It had been getting worse over the past month. He had a hard time imagining that Enzi would deceive him, especially after the many long years they had worked together, but it was getting hard to deny that Enzi was delaying him. Mayitso could only hope that Enzi was right. He wanted to be there to protect Eurysa from harm when the dragon came. He prepared himself to lead the lycanthropes into battle one last time.

***

The creature soared through the air, free of the caves it had lived in all its life. The cool blew felt terrific as it soared through the sky. It had learned much from the goblinoids that had raised it. It had learned why the caves were its home. The humans hunted those that were different from themselves. The goblinoids had been forced to live in a small area of poor quality. Rage filled the young dragon. Freedom felt so good. Now it would destroy the humans and claim its own freedom. In the process, the goblinoids would be free as well.

In the light of day, the drake looked over its body. Its mottled skin was varying shades of dark olive green and black. It would be excellent camouflage in the swamps, which supposedly were its home. The goblinoids had told the dragon that they had rescued it from humans that had hunted its kind in the swamps. They sought out the helpless eggs to keep the dragons from continuing, since the humans were too weak to face an actual dragon.

The drake swooped, dove, and climbed back through the air. It needed the practice. The time had finally come for the assault on the human forces. The goblinoids had formed a mighty army and marched southwards. The dragon flew overhead, ready to act as their greatest weapon. The drake would pay off his debt, giving a life to the goblinoids for the life they had saved. It would also feel good to slay a bunch of the evil humans that would work to destroy helpless eggs.

The drake soared ahead of the army, scouting out what was ahead. Then he saw it. A small camp of humans had come out away from the war front. It was a perfect target. The dragon felt a sense of elation. It would finally get a chance to unleash terror upon the greatest evil in the world. An evil that would oppress all those that were not human. The drake had even heard of how the humans fought each other over the minor differences across their race. The Tarvoni had helped the goblinoids.

The pale mages had been hunted for being different as well. Their pale skin marked them as evil in the eyes of many other humans. Their ability with magic annoyed yet others. Their tales had only proven to the dragon that the humans needed to be humbled. Perhaps then a more noble culture like the Tarvoni could lead the surviving humans to become a better race. If not, then genocide was always an option. It would be a sweet justice to inflict genocide upon a race that was so genocidal. The drake wondered if that was irony.

It swooped down towards the humans, expecting to watch them scatter. The humans did move, but they formed groups and took aim with their bows and crossbows. The dragon felt mirth at the thought. A hail of arrows flew up towards the beast. The arrows scraped against his scales and flew off. A few hit directly enough to bounce off the drake's armored hide. It was as the goblinoids had said, the humans were no threat. The dragon gathered up all of his rage and hate, as well as his acidic bile.

The drake felt power well up within itself. The dragons were innately magical monstrosities. It unleashed the power of its magic as a blast of concentrated acid. The goblinoids had called it a breath weapon, and while it blasted out as a cone from the drake's maw, it had little to do with breathing. It was a magical ability, and like any magic it caused some drain on the magic users stamina. As a dragon, however, such drain was of little consequence. Even as a drake, his endurance was leagues beyond any mortal.

The effects brought a sense of elation to the dragon. The spray of acid smothered dozens of human soldiers. The screams of pain and suffering brought great joy to the dragon. They did not last long, however. Those struck by the acid did not live long. The drake was instead treated to looks and scream of horror by those who had witnessed the carnage. The sharp eyes of the dragon also spotted a few odd creatures with the humans. One seemed to be some sort of snake woman, another was a cow man, the third looked like a short and strangely proportioned human made of stone.

The drake was surprised to see humans and monsters fighting beside each other. However, the young dragon had seen many monsters summoned by the magic of the Tarvoni aiding the goblinoids. These were obviously just more magical creatures that needed to be slain. Anything that aided the humans had to be destroyed. The dragon lazily came around for a second pass, enjoying the helpless creatures skittering about beneath him. He unleashed another blast of acid on another group of humans, melting them. The drake felt that the battle had been won. There was nothing that could stop him now.

11Dec/13Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0076

“Who goes there? The rider called out in Agonori.

Unfortunately, only Eurysa spoke the native language. The Halz would likely have been the better choice to communicate. Even he would have faced racism, especially with a minotaur and gorgon by his side. The rider that had found them could not see them well in the fading light of the dusk, especially with the tall grasses of the plains. The three would have to take a chance, and Eurysa had an idea. She was quite clever, it was one reason why she had long helped Enzi to lead his mercenary band.

“Just some mercenaries headed to the war front,” Eurysa hissed, “We did not wish to bother anyone so we cut through open space.”

The rider squinted in the dimming light, slightly suspicious of the gorgon's odd voice, “Well, you will be a bigger bother in the fields. Those of us not at war are busy training and herding horses. Stick to the roads.”

“Of course. We will just get out of your way then and head to the road. Sorry about any inconvenience.”

Eurysa hoped it would work. The rider expected that if the shapes he saw were any trouble, they would be more easily controlled out on the roads or in towns where any guards might handle them. While a lot of people had joined the army to be a part of the war, most of the Agonish men had militia training, and many guards had remained behind. Agon had mobilized its regulars along with volunteers. They had not found a reason to pull the full weight of their forces out. The dragon might do that if the Irregulars failed.

The Halz, gorgon, and minotaur continued northwards, hoping to avoid more people. They continued to avoid the roads, but tried to make sure to stay somewhat near the roads so that they could avoid the open spaces and any other herdsmen and their horses. They were lucky and avoided any further entanglements in the plains, finally reaching the foothills of the Nuvro Range. The herds of horses did not usually come into the foothills. There were too many sinkholes and other dangers.

The Agonish did not make many of their homes in the foothills though a few towns sat on the edge of them. The mountains forced rain down on the foothills as the clouds passed over them. Likely this was the reason for the odd sinkholes and the occasional cave. The mighty fortress of Hadrarius sat deep in such lands, as it was built on the side of one of the mountains of the Nuvro Range. It was the home of the Magehunters, a dreary place thanks to the rains of the mountains. The only other settlement near the mountains was Grafenthal.

The three Irregulars still needed to travel north through the foothills for over a week to reach the southern front. Without much human traffic, they expected to find the trip smooth. For five nights, all was quiet. As the three inhuman warriors laid to rest on the sixth night, they set watch as normal. As the mountains were close in the west, the sun dipped behind them leaving the group in early darkness each day. Thus, Eurysa had last watch, when dawn was approaching as her night-vision was the worst of the three.

Their foes, however, had perfect night vision. They were quite hungry for fresh meat. Hungry enough to dare an attack on three much larger creatures. They were the size of a small to medium sized dog and slithered like snakes as they crept up on the Gorgon, Halz, and Minotaur. They had six legs, but often did not use them for movement. They were useful for burrowing or climbing. Their large, reflective eyes glinted in the starlight as they approached the unaware Eurysa.

The beginning light of the coming dawn had not yet crept over the horizon. The light of the two moons were minimal. Then the gorgon saw a flash of movement out of the corner of her eye. She rolled reflexively. Her serpentine lower half made writhing like that surprisingly easy. As the light of the morning started to slowly illuminate the area, Eurysa saw a horrific face in the darkness. It almost looked human except for the gaping maw full of deadly teeth.

The gorgon knew what it was. It was a naga. Their huge eyes and human-like faces made people think they were intelligent. However, they were merely beasts. Their diet was supplemented with minerals, their teeth could tear apart rocks. Their six legs were perfect for tearing apart stone into bite sized chunks, though they were less useful in movement. They were an odd creature to be sure, and many myths had arisen about them as they were often misunderstood.

Eurysa knew they had to be starving to take a chance on attacking. They did not have enough mind for the gorgon's power to easily paralyze them and she was no match for them in close quarters. Luckily, her tail could reach Aldebaran. The archer slapped the minotaur with her tail to wake him. He awoke with a yelp and his eyes had the fire of rage in them. That fire had been missing since the loss of Kava. The minotaur focused the rage as he grabbed his sword. He would not allow anyone else to die.

Brutal teeth snapped as his blade sliced the head off one of the nagas. Another slithered up behind Aldebaran, but a heavy warhammer slammed down and crushed its skull. Ritter had been awakened by the commotion. He was not wearing his armor, as he had been sleeping, but that made him no less of a warrior. He was more vulnerable, certainly, but that did not affect his offensive capability. With the two melee warrior engaging the nagas, Eurysa finally had a chance to take aim with her bow. The three warriors quickly slaughtered several of the serpentine beasts and the rest fled.

“Ugh,” Ritter coughed, “Basilisks. I hate running into those things down below. Those faces are creepy. A lot of people say those huge reflective eyes can turn you to stone too.”

“That is a myth,” Eurysa hissed, “Unlike the gaze of a gorgon, there is no hidden grain of truth to justify the myth in these nagas.”

“I think it is because they eat rocks,” Ritter stated, “People think they turn their victims to stone in order to consume them.”

“I guess that makes sense to someone who has had their mind rattled enough,” Eurysa said as she smiled.

The three stripped the dead nagas for meat and had a good morning feast. Their moods had improved slightly. A good meal and a fight had helped them to forget about their troubles briefly. The time left in the trip to the southern front allowed some of the morose thoughts to creep back in however. The southern front itself looked quite good. The Agonish cavalry had dominated the battle. They would be of little use in a fight against a dragon unless the drake could be grounded though.

The army was gathered outside of the town of Grafenthal. The city was like a small fortress, built near the Nuvro Range. A large keep was a major feature of the town. It had long held a garrison of soldiers to keep the border between Agon and the Goblinoid Lands free of trouble. Now Grafenthal was the command center for the southern front. The front was large, stretching from the Nuvro Range to the Marnea River. The goblinoids would not dare cross the river.

The Marnea River practically erupted out of the ground and spewed forth in a torrential flow towards Lake Hargis. It came from the mountains, but traveled under the foothills until it emerged and generally flowed northwest. The current in the river meant that no sane foe would dare to ford it. Even a boat could easily be swept away. Sharp rocks in the river did the rest. The river had supposedly been named after someone with similar uncontrollable qualities.

It meant that the Agonish only had to protect a border that was perhaps seventy miles long. It was still a significant swath of land, but it was open territory. It might be possible to hide in the foothills, but that was where the city of Grafenthal sat. The western part was open plains. It was a perfect place of the Agonish Cavalry. The songs of the heralds kept fear in the heart of the goblinoids. They all knew such music was the harbinger of the cavalry and their deadly charges.

However, all the power of the Agonish military would be of little use against a dragon. If they were lucky, they might have a ballista at the keep, but such siege weapons had likely not been designed to fire high into the sky. The main threat for many generations had been on the ground. Even the hobgoblin griffin riders were unlikely targets, being too small and quick for a ballista. The Irregulars did not know if they could help change the defenses. They were not even sure anyone would listen to them at all.

Without Enzi, they were just three inhuman creatures. It was possible that their only greeting would be violent. They knew that General Cassius Tessium had sent messages ahead, but anything could happen. They steeled themselves and made their way toward the keep in Grafenthal. A large percentage of the infantry they saw was Nuvroci, including several Steel Warriors. Luckily, they were the first to encounter the Irregulars. The Nuvroci still had good relations with the Halz, even if the two groups did not talk much anymore.

The Nuvroci soldiers were able to provide protection for the three monstrous mercenaries until word reached the leadership. The general of the southern front had received the messages from the north and had some clue who the Irregulars were. He was an Agonish man, his g\hair was a lighter brown than most, but his dark skin showed he was definitely Agonish. He was young for a general, no more than a year or two older than Cassius Tessium had been.

The group wondered if leadership had been thrust on this man like it had for the Nuvroci man at the northern front. However, seeing the man's efficiency at work made them believe this man had worked his way into the position. His command center had exquisitely updated and detailed maps. His officers came with reports on friendly and enemy movements, which allowed the general to update his maps. He sent out orders as needed to keep the southern front working like a set of well oiled Ravaleian gears.

The three Irregulars told the general of the goblinoid's new weapon. The young dragon would be a terrible threat. It could lay waste to entire battalions, turn buildings to rubble, and decimate the innocent with ease. Most of the non-combatants had already been evacuated from Grafenthal, but there was still a large amount of support personnel. Even then, if Grafenthal fell, the drake would be able to swoop into the heartland of Agon without significant opposition.

General Crowe Spencer looked over the maps and thought ab out the tactics, “There is only one thing we can do. While we prepare for the worst, we must send out our best archers to try to bring this monster to the ground. Luckily we have something that may help. We have a few dozen arrows tipped with halzium sharpened by some of our greatest smiths. Hopefully they can help pierce the thick hide of a drake.”

“It can not hurt,” Ritter said, “I know the Nuvroci at least know how to put a good edge on adamantine and the weapons are exceptional at piercing armor.”

“Adamantine?” Crowe asked.

“I find it odd to hear the metal named after my people the Halz, although such a strong metal is the kind of impression we love to be associated with. We call it adamantine as it is a match for the diamonds of the deep mountain, forged by intense pressure. It is very hard to work diamonds, they do not shape like a metal. Adamantine is a metal, though it may be more difficult to work than iron or steel.”

Eurysa hissed, “It is the best plan we have at the moment. Unless we can modify the ballista to for at large moving aerial targets. It would be a useful weapon against a dragon.”

Crowe nodded, “Though I doubt we will ever face such a threat again in the future, it might be worthwhile to be prepared.”

4Dec/13Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0075

The traps were simple. There was not enough time to do anything too elaborate. The warriors had spread themselves out to make it look like the town was still inhabited. They would all flee before the troglodytes to draw the enemy force into the traps. Once the humans regrouped, they would attack the lizardfolk and attempt to hold them back. Devis was prepared for this to fail. He would use his power to change shapes to escape when the time came.

The next part was the waiting. They did not have to wait long. While the lizardfolk had good eyes for dim light, the darkness still affected their vision. They attacked at dusk, swarming the town. The soldiers of Feergrus fell back, as planned. The traps swung to action, crippling and maiming many of the troglodytes. The few traps could not hold back the horde. Eurysa sat behind the human forces and began picking off the lizardfolk with the bow.

They had gathered a large number of arrows for her to use in the battle. It was certain that otherwise she would run out. The Naxaeless army crashed against the human forces supplemented by a Halz, a Minotaur, and a Gorgon. Ritter's warhammer cracked skulls left and right. Aldebaran's mighty two handed sword cleaved through lizard flesh again and again. Devis Lane, disguised as the human Enzi Cala in a monstrous hybrid form, struck foe after foe with his clawed hands.

Enzi had shown his ability as a Shifter before, but had always saved it for the most dire of situations. Devis felt this would qualify. It also allowed him to use more of his natural skill without seeming suspicious to the Irregulars. If any of them survived, he needed to keep his disguise for when Mayitso arrived. Devis felt that perhaps he could just slay them all and blame it on the lizardfolk, but for the moment he tried to play it straight. An opportunity would arise if it was needed. It always did.

Devis knew how to seize such opportunities. He had assassinated dozens of important figures at important points in history. He had shifted the politics and allegiances of many people. Each move might be minor, a subtle step towards his goal. Added together, they had helped build the world they lived in. He had slowly weakened those that might stand in his way, manipulating entire countries into war or out of it. The decline of the dwarves and the elves had seen the hand of Devis Lane in it.

Now his hands were involved in a small skirmish on the border of Feergrus. One warrior after another fell. Devis saw this day could not be a victory. The human warriors would fall. Enzi's Irregulars would die. A shout was raised from the rear of the lizardfolk ranks. Suddenly one after another of the Naxaeless fell. The troglodyte assault force was eliminated swiftly and efficiently from behind. The foes of the lizardfolk then met up with the line of humans as the two forces crushed the lizards between them.

Somehow the lycanthropes had arrived. Devis had no idea how they could have possibly arrived so soon. It had been less than three weeks since they sent Mayitso to find his people. Yet there was a massive wolf with a jagged scar across the left side of his head. It was Mayitso himself. There were dozens of lycanthropes with him, of all shapes and sizes. One of the largest transformed into human form. The Feergrus were surprised as the creature remained naked in human form.

The way the Feergrus transformed into panthers and a hybrid form was a magical power. Things they held close transformed with them. The transformation of the lycanthrope, while still obvious supernatural, acted along much more natural rules. Oddly enough, it meant the lycanthropes fit in best around the Feergrus. Nudity was not uncommon in the land. The only surprise at the nudity by the soldiers was an expectation that the lycanthropes would be soldiers like them in human form, with armor and weapons.

The lycanthropes, of course, had only their natural weapons. Their supernaturally tough hides made them excellent soldiers. Their sharp teeth and powerful muscles worked well on the offense as well. Their distinct lack of ranged capability meant they were not a permanent threat to the Feergrus, especially if one knew their weakness. They had a supernatural weakness to silver, which penetrated their hides as easily as steel did to a human.

The lycanthropes would fall if they tried to rise up. Devis had no worries about that. He expected the war with the lizardfolk to keep them weak. He was overjoyed to see Mayitso's return. While several of the human warriors had fallen, several others still lived. It was a better outcome than Devis had hoped for. Still, the rest of the Irregulars were no longer of any use to him. While he could send them with Mayitso to fight the Naxaeless, he knew they would want to go deal with the dragon eventually and might drag the lycanthropes with them.

Disguised as Enzi Cala, Devis bowed to Mayitso, “It is good to have you back. Now we can take care of the business at hand. We have much to do and little time to do it. We have limited time before the attack in the north by the drake. Because of that, I feel the only answer is to split up. Mayitso, you have proven your speed. We will need you to direct the lycanthropes for a while longer. You can certainly catch up with the rest of the Irregulars later. If something happens here that is unexpected, the southern front will still have at least three of you to stop the dragon.”

“I am uncomfortable going without Mayitso, but you are right that time is limited. Surely the lycanthropes can take care of themselves now?” Eurysa hissed.

“Mayitso has taken over as the alpha. Without him, they are uncontrollable. It will not take long to build a relationship between us and them, Enzi said, but that will take both Mayitso and myself to make this work. Once the relationship is cemented, then Mayitso will be done. He is faster than all of us, thus why I give you a head start. As I said, the only concern I see is any kind of unforeseeable event delaying us. Without Mayitso here there will a great many death of innocent Feergrus.”

“What of the innocents in Agon?” Ritter asked.

“Even without us, Agon can bring a force to bear to defeat the drake. We will try to save everyone, but priorities must be taken.”

The Halz frowned at that. Lives were lives. The dragon was far more dangerous than the lizardfolk. Yet even Enzi showed concern for his own country over another, despite all of them still being human. Ritter had thought Enzi was better than that. Aldebaran was unfazed by the words. He had barely heard them, his thoughts had long been focused on killing the lizardfolk. It was his vengeance for the death of Kava. He had been fighting on autopilot for quite some time.

Eurysa, like Ritter, felt some betrayal in Enzi's words though she could not disagree with them entirely. It would be best if they could save everyone, but she felt the priority should have been the dragon. If Enzi was right, it was possible they might be able to do both. She had a terrible premonition that things would not be that easy. Everything felt wrong, but it all made logical sense. The Feergrus were still Enzi's people. Perhaps he had more feelings for them than he had let on.

“Just trust me on this,” Devis said, “Everything will work out for the best. When have I ever led you astray?”

The group admitted he was right. His tactics had always led to victory. They assumed that Enzi had to know what he was doing. Enzi's Irregulars gave Devis Lane their trust. Aldebaran, Eurysa, and Ritter headed off to the northeast. It was a long trip to reach the southern front. They hoped that enough information had reached that front to prepare the humans for three monstrous mercenaries. It would be odd going without Enzi, but the group would do what they had to do.

Devis, of course, no longer cared what happened to the three creatures. They had a hard road in front of them. They had no support. Devis would send no word ahead to make their trip easier. He would let the authorities deal with the three mercenaries as they saw fit. He imagined that the authorities would do nothing unless the three provoked a response. However, a foolish guard might challenge them. Such foolishness deserved death. As the Rakshasa watched the three leave, he smiled. He had work to do.

***

It was nearly three weeks before Enzi's Irregulars reached the eastern border of Feergrus. Supplies were short. It had been difficult to resupply. Ritter was the least monstrous of the three mercenaries, but even he was met with distrust. The group had to scrounge in the badlands as they traveled. However, they had finally reached the Disputed Lands. The badlands would fade into plains and food would be easier to come by. Still, their rations were meager at best.

Still, the three traveled eastwards for two weeks before the reached the point where they decided to turn northwards. It was at this point that they would enter the kingdom of Agon. The trip through Feergrus had been without incident. The few that had seen the three inhuman warriors had ignored them. More surprising, however, had been the hassle free trip through the Disputed Lands. There were a lot of people that stood to acquire a good amount of coin for capturing or killing the Irregulars for crimes they did not commit.

However, most of the mercenaries were busy with the war. It had made the trip through the Disputed Lands remarkably quiet. The trip through Agon would be the most dangerous part, although they were traveling through the open plains where the Agonish raised their mighty steeds. They would avoid the roads and the towns as much as possible. Even then, it would be a three week trip to the southern front. They were cutting the time a lot closer than they preferred. The group could only hope that Mayitso would arrive in time to aid them.

The three monstrous mercenaries made their way through Agon, day after day. Oftentimes they saw herds of young horses racing through the fields. Usually it was far in the distance. Agonish trainers rode steeds along with the herds, picking out the strongest of the young steeds to take back to a homestead to train. The other horsemen worked to keep the herds together and accustomed to a human presence. The training at the homesteads was to train the horses to accept a rider.

The Agonish preferred their steeds to have spirit and tried not to break it. Getting a horse to accept a rider without breaking its spirit was a difficult job. They had to train the horses to trust the humans as a part of them. The best horses worked as a partner to their rider. It was what made the cavalry of Agon so dangerous. The elite riders and their trusty steeds could crush the most dangerous of foes. It was what most enemies of Agon feared the most.

The Magehunters were feared as well, but in a more localized way. One never saw an army of Magehunters. They were lone warriors. The Agonish Cavalry was more like a force of nature. Now three members of Enzi's Irregulars traveled through the heart of the cavalry's home. They just had to hope that none of the horse herders became too suspicious of three figures traveling northwards during a time of war. Ritter looked around and hoped that the three were not as doomed as he thought. He wondered how Enzi could have let them come without his support. Racism was alive and well, especially against something completely inhuman.