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

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.”

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