Rise of the Thrall Lord
Blockade at Colossus Point
Lord Remington Stealle stood at the prow of his ship, the Crusader, looking out at the ocean to the north. He was a tall man, lean and muscular. He was quite handsome, with piercing blue eyes and jet black hair with a touch of grey at the temples. He was dressed in the red uniform of an Admiral of the Royal Navy of Penwick. On his left shoulder was his family crest, a griffon with two crossed swords. And across his back was strapped a katana, his weapon of choice. His chest was decorated with numerous medals from past won battles and various heroic deeds.
Remington was quite proficient with that weapon. In fact, he was a warblade, and one of the best swordsman in all of Thac, if not the entire world of Arinthar. Great swordsman ran down the long line of Penwick men from the noble house of Stealle. His father, Kratos, was also warblade, and his grandfather, Mythos, had been a swordsage. But Remington was the pride of the house of Stealle to date.
In his youth he had fought many battles, protecting the town of Penwick. He had faced undead and pirates alike. His greatest accomplishment had been the defeat of the pirate Eboneye. That pirate and his hoard had descended on the town intent on rifling it and destroying it once again. Penwick had been savaged three times in the last hundred years. But that stopped when Remington faced the dread pirate in an epic duel which culminated in the privateer’s death. His forces scattered and left the good town of Penwick alone.
Remington glanced to his left and then his right, surveying the other ten ships in the Penwick fleet blockade. The ship to his immediate right, the Avenger, was the one his oldest son, Kratos, was first mate on. Kratos, was a Lieutenant in the Penwick Navy. He had his father’s love for the sea and had joined the navy as soon as he was of age.
Lord Stealle and his wife Laura, had two other sons, Zellos and Lloyd. Zellos, while also proficient with the sword, had a divine calling. He had followed a different path and become a Radiant Servant of Pelor. Zellos was currently on board Remington’s ship. A troop of Radiant Servants from Penwick’s church had been dispersed amongst the ships of the blockade.
Remington’s youngest son, Lloyd, was also a warblade, like his father. Lloyd was currently out adventuring. Remington had heard of some of his exploits. The lad had been gone not a month when he and his wife started receiving communiqués from their old friend Grellus Avernos. Grellus had married Fairwind Dunwynn and became the Baron of Restonford. It seems that Lloyd had found himself a group of companions in Grellus’s town and they had made a name for themselves slaying monsters in the area. The group he had joined had the absurd name of the Knights of the Couch, but from all accounts they were formidable if still untrained. Grellus had also told them that his daughter, Andrella, seemed sweet on their son. The Baron seemed quite pleased that his daughter had found a nice Penwick boy to court her.
Andrella was the niece of the current Duke of Dunwynn, Fairwind’s brother Kelvick. Lord Kelvick had no children of his own, thus making Andrella the next heir in line for the Dukedom. This caused the Baron’s family to be besieged with any number of suitors from Dunwynn looking to court their daughter and win her hand in marriage. It seemed that Lloyd’s arrival in Restenford had put an end to all that.
Then a few weeks ago, Remington and Laura received a sending from Fairwind telling them that their friend Grellus was dead. He had been murdered and his heart brutally cut out of his body. Lloyd and his friends were hot on the murderer’s trail, but Fairwind was still worried. She did not fear for her life, nor the life of her daughter, but she was afraid that Dunwynn would march troops into Restonford and annex the town. She was further concerned that she and her daughter would be shipped off to Dunwynn where Andrella would become a trophy prize that the Dunwynn nobles would fight over. But her greatest concern was that Grellus would not be able to be returned to her. Lloyd and his companions were searching for the Baron’s heart, but it seemed that there was a time limit on when they had to find it, or Grellus could no longer be raised.
All this went through Remington’s mind as he continued to gaze across the ocean. His eyes were keen, but luckily that is not all they had to depend on. They had a number of wizards on each ship scrying the sea around them looking for approaching ships. In fact one of those wizards was his wife Laura. She was the head wizard aboard the Crusader. They also had magical devices on board each ship, designed by Laura in fact, to prevent magical attacks or teleportation onto the ship without authorization. She was an extremely talented wizard and could probably have had a seat on the Wizard’s Council if she wanted. But instead, she had stayed by Remington’s side and raised their three boys.
The last few communiqués they had received from Fairwind was perhaps the most troubling. She had told them how her fears had come true and Dunwynn had indeed annexed Restenford. She detailed the arrival of the fleet and troops that had landed in her town. It seemed that Lloyd and his companions had been accused of “harboring weapons of war” by the Dunwynn forces. Luckily they had been able to escape before being falsely incarcerated. What was even better was that Lady Andrella had gone with them, thus avoiding the fate which awaited her mother.
Fairwind’s last message was that she was being deported back to Dunwynn. And that Ignar Strakentier, a Dunwynn Lieutenant had taken over the town. And what was worse is that the fleet let by this Ignar, had headed out of Restonford harbor south down the coast.
That news had spurred Penwick into action. Remington had been keeping the Baron Avernos of Penwick informed of the goings on in Restonford. The Baron had also been in contact with his brother Grellus, and when his communiqués ceased, had become very worried. This last bit of information about a Dunwynn fleet had been confirmed by their own intelligence, hence the reason for this blockage Remington was currently commanding.
Lord Stealle felt a light touch on his arm. He turned and saw his wife Laura standing beside him in her blue wizard’s robes. Laura Stealle was not very tall. But she made up for that in sheer force of will. Laura was a force to be reckoned with, and that became apparent the minute she walked into a room. She was also beautiful. She had long brown hair, blue eyes, and the face of an angel.
“We just received a sending from our old friend Lord Hightower,” Laura said.
“Really?” Remington replied. “I thought the old boy was retired?”
“Yes, he is,” she continued. “However, when you became unavailable, he came out of retirement to lead the Penwick soldiers to Lukescros for the tournament.”
“He was always a good chap,” Remington said, “Ready to lend a hand when necessary.”
“Well, guess who showed up on his doorstep last night?” she said.
“Don’t keep me in suspense dear. Who?”
“None other than our son Lloyd. And with the Lady Andrella in tow,” she declared.
“Seriously? Good boy that Lloyd. Getting Andrella out of the line of fire like that,” Remington said approvingly.
“There’s more. It seems that Lloyd and his companions filled Hightower in on a lot of things we had only heard rumors about up till now,” she said gravely.
Remington said, “Go ahead,” and gave her his undivided attention.
Laura Stealle detailed to her husband all the information the KOTC had relayed to Lord Hightower. This included the rise of the Serpent Cult, the reemergence of the Thrall Masters, the involvement of Princess Anya of Landfar, and the disappearance of a number of wizards off the council.
When she was done, Remington stood there mulling things over.
“I had heard rumors from some friends I had on the council about the disappearances,” Laura said. “But the Thrall Masters? That is worse than we thought. Yet it does explain the recent undead uprising we have had in the area.”
“What really concerns me right now,” Remington said, “is this Anya of Lanfar and her airship. Sea battles are one thing, but battling an airship with mage cannons and dragons, that’s a whole nother story.”
“We do have cannons of our own aboard,” Laura reminded him.
“Yes, but an airship moves faster than a seagoing vessel. It would be much harder to hit. And I don’t even want to begin thinking what dragons would do to our fleet,” Remington finished.
“That may not be a problem,” Laura replied. “I’m working on something that might negate dragon attacks on our ships.”
“Can you do that?” he asked her with surprise.
“I don’t know for sure just yet. Give me another day or so,” she told him.
“Hopefully we have that much time,” Remington replied.
She kissed him on the cheek and turned to head back down below deck to her lab.
Remington watched her go fondly, and then turned to resume his vigil of the sea.