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

8Jan/14Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0080

Ranum shook his head at the reports of what happened at the southern front. He had expected the dragon to fall, but the defeat that was handed to the goblinoids was just humiliating. A great many of the goblinoids now looked to Ranum for guidance. The wise elderly goblin had correctly predicted how the war would end. His actions to hold back as much of the army as possible had saved a healthy portion of the goblinoid forces from a terrible death.

If all the forces had gathered, perhaps they could have badly hurt the human forces, but the end result would have been the same. Even then, by the end of it all, the goblinoids would have been hurt far worse than the humans. With Ranum's actions, the goblinoids had taken a terrible blow, but within a few years they would be able to recover fully. With the aid of a few artifacts, they would have a mighty army. It would be one that the humans would not expect.

After the defeat the goblinoids had been handed, the humans would expect that the goblinoids would not be seen again anytime soon. The surprise of a new war soon after the last would catch the humans off guard. The display of power from ancient artifacts would further confuse the humans. Ranum expected to win easily at first thanks to surprise and an unusual direction of attack. Then the goblinoids would consolidate in their new home, a place that was not a foul mire. They would have fresh air, good food, and be safer from strange predators.

Ranum had a vision of a goblinoid utopia. It would not be easy. The elderly wizard did not expect he would live to see it to fruition. He did know that in the end, the humans would have to be completely destroyed. In Ranum's eyes, the xenophobia and greed of the humans meant that they would never accept any other race as equals. They had proven poor rulers of the world, slaughtering all that were not like them. Certainly the goblinoids had made slaves of the humans, but they had not capriciously slaughtered them like vermin.

The wizard touched the scars on his body. They were scars that the humans had given him. Many of his family and friends had been slaughtered for doing nothing more than existing. Ranum knew he might not live to see much of it, but he was certain that he would live to see the beginning of his revenge. The humans would pay for driving the goblinoids into the marshes. They would pay for thinking of them as unworthy of life. Most importantly, they would pay for hurting him.

***

The scaled foot hit the ground with a loud thud. Several of the lizardfolk warriors quickly reacted, coming with weapons ready at the arrival of a stranger. However, all of them backed off. The visitor was one of the Naxaeless, though not one of their tribe. Normally that would not stop hostilities, but this was a female. They were the leaders of the race and no male warrior would dare raise their weapons toward one. It was a death sentence to attempt to fight a female.

They were larger, stronger, faster, and smarter. This female was odd in many ways. She was not wearing the armor and arms of a warrior. That did not lessen her imposing presence in any way. She looked at the male warriors around her and growled. The smaller Naxaeless backed off quickly. The males did not know what to do. They had an intruder but could not dare attack. The female sighed, wishing that the tribe she had entered had smarter members.

“Where is your female?” the intruder growled in the Draconic language.

The language was the tongue of the dragons. Many of the Naxaeless had worshiped the ancient creatures despite the fact that none had been seen active since centuries before their civilization had even begun. The language had spread and was used by all the Naxaeless, even the ones that did not worship the dragons. The fact that an egg had been stolen, hatched, and slain by humans gave more fuel in a fight of whether worship was right or not.

It was proof of the existence of dragons, but also proof of mortality. If your deity was so weak as to be slain so easily by mortals, was it truly worthy or worship? Questions on faith had erupted. The dragon worshipers had long been a dominant force among the Naxaeless, but now other voices had begun to speak and be heard. The ill advised war against the humans and their allies had severely reduced the numbers of the lizardfolk. Many had begun calls for another way.

The female of the tribe finally came to see what the ruckus was, “What is going on here?”

The intruder spoke, “I am called Slass. I have come to speak of the war.”

The tribe leader looked at Slass. Slass was an impressive specimen of the Naxaeless, standing just an inch under seven feet tall. This would be a powerful warrior to add to the war. The tribe leader hoped it was another come to slake their blood lust, although she worried that this Slass was here to challenge for leadership of the tribe. The tribe leader was an experienced warrior, but she was not sure if she was an equal to this new female. Slass nearly radiated power.

“The Naxaeless have come to a crossroads. Some wish for war, some wish for peace and an end to fighting. For many generations, we have hunted and fought, ignoring those who wished for peace. Now our numbers grow thin. In order to survive, we must adapt.”

The tribe leader sneered, “We will not end our fight. We will slay those who dared to steal and egg and slay a child of the great dragon.”

Slass did not react to the tone and sneer of the tribe leader, “Then you will continue to fight. What we propose is simple. An alliance of all the remaining tribes in a great project. To your war we will send all our children with a lust for violence. Those among your tribe that have no thirst for blood will come to our new tribe of peace. It will provide you with warriors. For the rest, it will provide a growing tribe that will live on despite how the war may turn.”

“While having more warriors is nice, what of the other tribes?”

“Some wish for peace, some for war. I can put you in contact with the other warrior tribes. You can coordinate or not, whatever you wish. I merely wish to preserve our species. Those without a love of combat are of little use to you. Those who wish to kill are of little use to peace. It seems to work to both our benefits.”

“While I would prefer all the warriors I can get, regardless of skill, I can see your point. If revenge ends my tribe, then it would be good for us to continue regardless.”

“Then we have an agreement?”

“I see no reason good enough not to. Let us go to my tent. We can work out any details away from the sniveling masses.”

The tribal leader's disregard for her people made Slass sad. It was one reason why she hoped she could save a few of those with the temperament needed to live in peace and harmony with the world around them. The number who favored peace had always been large, but their voice had been lost beneath the savagery of a few. The most vicious females had dominated many tribes and brought them under their leadership. Slass could not claim to be an exception, her hands were covered with the blood of the innocent.

Now she had the chance to make amends for her past sins. She would lead a great tribe of the Naxaeless. It would be a tribe dedicated to nature. They would revere the world around them and all the life within. Such a thing might have horrified Slass' mother, but her mother's proudest day had been when she was murdered by her own daughter. That death had put the tribe in Slass' scaly hands. It was not the last of her own kind that Slass had murdered. Yet now she would murder no more. Now she would only make new life and nurture it.

***

The thump of wood and metal hit the stone floor, followed by the thud of a heavy boot. These oddly paired sounds continued until the one making them paused at their throne. The wood and metal thump came from the prosthetic leg that the creature wore. It sat in the mighty throne. The throne was carved from obsidian and fitted with precious jewels. The finest gold and silver were used as trim and in designs on the surface. It was a work of art that was beyond the skill of any human hand.

Another creature came and spoke in the tongue of the Halz, “Welcome to the throne, oh great king of the Halz. The times have been rough and we have been in need of guidance. Once your father took sick, we worried since you had not returned from your travels.”

The one legged Halz on the throne nodded, “I am sorry that I left. I learned much upon the surface, but none of it good.”

“Yes, they should pay for the loss of your leg, my liege.”

“No, that wound is a reminder of a great battle with noble allies. They were proof that nobility exists outside of our people, but not in the humans. I would not dishonor them to forget their sacrifice in that final battle.”

“What happened up there?”

“We fought a monster out of the myths and legends of old. It would have made an epic tale of heroism like any old tale of our great heroes. The ending was one of betrayal and murder, however. The monster had slain one of us and wounded me. The third of our team stood victorious. We had given her the opening she needed to give the monster a final blow.”

The king sighed, “But victory was short-lived. The humans came to the field of victory. They killed the victor in cold blood. None would stand up for her. If the Nuvroci had not stood up for me, I am sure I would have been slain as well. Even they would not stand up for the mighty Eurysa. It showed that even their supposed nobility is only a self serving deference to our kind for all that we have done and still may do for them.”

“As you say my lord.”

“Even the one human I thought might prove the humans had some shred of dignity proved only to have a use for nobility as long as it served his purpose. It led to the death of another warrior. We will remember the deaths of Aldebaran, Eurysa, and Kava even though the world above will never even know they existed. I once thought as many of the Earthbreakers did. I thought we might find allies above ground. I thought we might find answers to our problems that we were too short-sighted to see. Now I see that we are alone. What few allies we might find will only be slain by the humans. Some day they will come for us when they have run out of room above the ground.”

“My liege, should we prepare for war?”

“War is coming. That much is certain. We must ready ourselves. It may not be for many years, but we are patient. The humans may forget many things, but when they come for us, we will make sure they never forget the Halz. Fire up the forges. Train the warriors. Send word to the other surviving clans. Tell them that King Ritter Platinum has seen that war is coming. We will make a stand like none on Doulairen have seen before, and we will be remembered. We may die, but we will be immortal.”

The End

1Jan/14Off

Enzi’s Irregulars #0079

Gharaf Targata was a very happy man. Two members of Enzi's Irregulars were definitely slain. That helped his mood a little. What made his ecstatic was the dragon. The commander in charge of the drake corpse was a member of Unity. There were sure to be many valuable things to come out of such a dragon. The hide and bones were known to be of great strength. While it no longer had any supernatural power, it was still an impressive set of materials.

Gharaf wondered how many fantastic sets of armor and powerful weapons they could make out of the dragon. Several of the other parts would easily sell for top coin on the black market as delicacies. Certainly a lot of alchemists would love to get their hands on some dragon parts to test new elixirs. All Gharaf could think of was the sheer amount of money he would have access to after dicing up the dragon parts to the highest bidder. Obviously Unity would have a share, mostly by taking the bones and the hide, but Gharaf had plans for the rest.

He would become the most powerful merchant outside the Rava Coast Trading Company. Unity had some connections inside that powerful company, but having other options never hurt, as long as the competition did not turn violent against Unity's establishment. If bad things happened to the Rava Coast Trading Company, that was fine as long as it did not come back to bite Unity. Just being a powerful merchant outside the consortium the Ravaleians had formed would make him a target, but he planned to remain strictly black market as much as possible.

As far as Enzi's Irregulars went, the dwarf had been badly wounded and the Nuvroci had drug him off. His sources told him that his left leg had been 'degloved'. Gharaf did not know what that meant, but it from what his sources had said, the dwarf would not be returning to battle anytime soon, if ever. It had taken powerful magical healing just to save his life. The vodyanoi, lycanthrope, and Enzi himself were still a potential problem, but he was hoping for word on that situation soon.

A face had poked into Gharaf's tent to speak, “A man has arrived from the Disputed Lands with a message from Center Point.”

“Excellent, I have been expecting news,” Gharaf said.

A Kurrot stepped inside and handed a sealed message tube to Gharaf. The messengers of Kurrot were amazing. They had trained for long distance endurance, and could run for miles upon miles without tiring. They made excellent messengers, as their stamina was far beyond even the greatest steeds of Agon. A horse might be faster in small bursts, but nothing ran for long distances like the messengers of Kurrot. Gharaf tore open the tube and yanked out the note inside.

He smiled as he read the message it contained. It seemed that the vodyanoi had indeed been slain. Naphar had gotten some information on that, but Gharaf loved to see confirmation. The lycanthrope Mayitso, however, had disappeared after leading the other lycanthropes into a conflict with the troglodytes of the marsh. Enzi had also disappeared, there was no news of what had happened to either of them. That worried Gharaf, but it sounded like the group had fallen apart. Enzi's Irregulars was no more.

***

The lizardfolk had turned back. Their forces had been badly hurt. They would not dare an attack again. The lycanthropes had decimated the troglodytes. Devis Lane smiled. Plenty of time had passed, he was sure that Mayitso leaving now would be of no consequence. As expected, the alpha of the lycanthropes came to see the man that had disguised himself as Enzi Cala, a man who had died many months before. The Rakshasa no longer had any need or use for charm.

“Ah, Mayitso. Good job. The troglodytes will not be a danger to the innocent humans of Feergrus any longer. You should hurry to deal with the dragon now.”

“What of you?” the lycanthrope asked after he shifted to his pale human form.

“What of me? Everything that is important is taken care of. The affairs of Agon do not concern me. I have bigger concerns here at home. I wish you good luck in slaying the dragon, if it has not already been slain by the army. I would rather it not reach this far.”

Mayitso snorted, disappointed in Devis' obvious indifference. The lycanthrope shifted to his wolf form and ran. He ran as long and hard as he could. He did this for days on end, hoping to find Eurysa. When he finally reached the southern front, he crept around and listened. He was able to learn that the dragon had been slain, though little else. He did not understand enough languages to learn more. However, he was able to pick up on the smell of a former ally. Ritter the Halz was convalescing nearby.

The lycanthrope transformed to his human form and crept over to speak to the dwarf, “Ritter.”

“What? Who?”

“It is Mayitso. I search for the others.”

“Late. Too late. Dragon dead. It killed Aldebaran.”

“Eurysa?”

“No. A human got her. One in white robes. Where is Enzi?”

“Enzi will not come. He does not care about anything except his Feergrus now. He has abandoned us. He kept me from being here. Now so many are dead. I should have seen through him earlier.”

“No,” Ritter coughed, “It was nothing of your doing. It is the humans. They... They are broken. I had thought Enzi to have honor, but even he has shown his true colors in the end.”

“I must go,” Mayitso said, his eyes filled with rage, “There is something I must do.”

***

Naphar Bura laughed heartily. The ale helped with that. The head of a gorgon was the centerpiece of the tavern at the moment. Tales of the death of the dragon and the slaying of a supposedly mythical creature that could turn men to stone with her gaze had given the Cleanser a great many free drinks. He had picked out a nice town on the border of Agon and the Disputed Lands to celebrate in until they got tired of him. Then he would move on.

Free drinks and meals suited Naphar Bura. He had rid the world of a dangerous menace. The Cleanser from Kurrot had decided to ride on his success as long as he could then he would return to Kurrot with his trophy. It would sit in a place of honor in the secret halls of the Cleansers. His name would go down in history as one of the greatest monster slayers of all time. He just wished that he had been able to get the minotaur as well. It would have been easier to string alone the local townspeople.

A loud crash was not enough to awaken most people from their drunken stupor. Naphar looked in the direction of the noise and saw a huge wolf. The huge beast seemed to be staring at the severed head of the gorgon. The creature turned its one rage filled eye towards the Kurrot wearing the white robes. The patrons near the instance were beginning to realize something was off. Even through their drunkenness, something about a feral animal breaking in could bring back awareness.

They grabbed whatever they could and took swings at the massive wolf. The weapons bounced harmlessly off the side of the scarred beast. Something had taken the creature's left eye and left a terrible jagged scar. Naphar knew instantly what he was dealing with. Luckily he had been showing off his collection of exotic weapons to the locals. Naphar grabbed his silver dagger. The giant wolf leapt at Naphar, focusing only at the Cleanser. The silver dagger sank cleanly through the supernaturally enhanced hide of the lycanthrope.

Mayitso's jaws clamped down on the throat of the Kurrot. He did not care about the pain of a dagger being repeatedly thrust into his side. He only cared about the death of the one who killed Eurysa. The two warriors sank to the floor, their blood pooling beneath them. Neither would leave the tavern alive that night. The townsfolk started screaming and beating on the corpse of the lycanthrope. Finally they separated the two. Then they began to debate what to do with their new-found treasures.

The corpses of a hero and a lycanthrope, the severed head of a gorgon, and a collection of exotic weapons from the slain hero now sat up for grabs. The town decided to put the lycanthrope and the severed head on public display. They would make an interesting tourist attraction. The head had already been taken care of with taxidermy, but the wolf would need to be taken care of soon. For the moment, they displayed what they had. The town leader took the weapons, storing them until the townspeople decided what to do with them.

The town was buzzing with turning the fight into a holiday. Many lost perspective that two creatures had lost their lives. Many had quickly seen this as a way to change from being just another poor town full of equally poor people into a thriving community. The thought of prosperity turned many a mind to greed with little regard to the life of an outsider and a monster. The work on the proud display continued through the next day. That night, however, turned in a different direction.

The night was dark and the two moons shed little light on the land below. Numerous dark shapes surrounded the small town. They could see the disgusting display. They had watched the people and their activities during the day. Then one of the shapes raised its maw towards the sky and howled. One after another, the chilling howls filled the night. It was enough to awaken the townsfolk. They milled about, wondering what was going on. The town leader scrambled to get the silver dagger out of storage.

Then the shapes moved. Dozens upon dozens of lupine forms rushed across the plains and swarmed into the town from all directions. The night was soon filled with a different kind of howl, the screams of death. After two hours, a solemn procession left the town, carrying the slain body of Mayitso and the severed head of Eurysa. When morning came to the town, all that could be found within was gruesome. Gore covered the streets and the walls. Not a single living human remained.

The town had become a ghost town, a monument to revenge. The lycanthrope pack returned to their homelands to bury their great alpha and the one he loved. Unfortunately, their peace did not last. They found themselves embroiled in a long term conflict with the lizardfolk. It seemed that Devis Lane had been busy, planting evidence that acquitted the Feergrus of any crimes, and placing the blame on the pale races. While technically true that it was a pale race that took the egg, the troglodytes saw little difference between the Tarvoni, the Shimese, or the lycanthropes.

While it was certain that news of the death of the dragon would come to the lizardfolk soon enough, it was uncertain what effect that would have upon them. Certainly not all of the troglodytes worshiped the dragons, but it was impossible to see if peace would ever come. If Devis Lane had his way, peace would only come with the death of all those who had not become part of Feergrus. The Rakshasa had now set in motion another conflict where his potential opposition fought each other.

The lycanthropes had no idea that the shapechanger had caused the current shift in the lizardfolk's priorities. They merely had to deal with the backlash. The troglodytes had been hurt bad enough that there was no open war, but the sneak attacks on the lycanthropes had caused several problems. It only fueled the anger of the mighty wolves, who then caused problems for the lizardfolk. The cycle of violence continued as each side felt justified in vengeance for what had been done to them.