Rise of the Thrall Lord
Knights of the Couch - Part IX – The Fall of the Couch – Section 10
The royal airship Wind Hammer was a large vessel. Approximately 300 feet long and 100 feet wide, it held a crew compliment of 10 and could have carried up to 70 passengers if it had been outfitted for transport. This, however, was the royal family of Lanfar’s personal vessel. It was fitted with 4 mage cannons; one fore, one aft, one port and one stern. Luckily for the companions, only 3 cannons could be trained on any one object at a time. Otherwise, the monolith would have come down on their heads before they could have escaped.
The Wind Hammer had also been upgraded to accommodate dragons. When the companions boarded the vessel they found that the Princess had a number of young dragons aboard that could not quite shape shift yet. The Princess had had the large quarterdeck cabin, usually assigned to the royal family, converted to an area for these younger, non-shape shifting dragons.
Anya’s guard was also out in force. They kept a close watch on the party when they first boarded. There was the wizard, Sigfus, a two weaponed warrior who was eyeing Lloyd, an archer who seemed to be staring at Glorfindel, and a priestess dressed in battle armor and decorated with a sword.
Theria was also there and regarded the group with open malice. She was surrounded by five other young people; a red haired beauty, a young man with dark hair, another young man with white hair, and a pretty blonde woman. The entire grouped studied the group intently as they boarded; except for the white haired young man. He seemed to have a vacant look and was staring off into space.
“They’re probably all dragons,” Cyclone whispered to Lloyd. The warblade just nodded as he returned the group’s stare.
Then the Princess came out onto the deck. Sigfus was by her side. “I wasn’t sure you were going to accept my invitation. I’m glad you did,” she said looking straight at Elvisda. Sigfus scowled as he saw the way Anya was eyeing the bard up and down.
“We appreciate your generosity your majesty,” Elvisda replied in his most gracious tone. He was really turning on the charm now. “If you could be kind enough to drop us off in the vicinity of Restenford we would be most grateful.”
“Well it will take a few days to get there,” Anya replied. “But your highness,” Sigfus interrupted, “the Wind Hammer can make that voyage in…ouch!” The mage cried out as the Princess stepped on his foot. “As I was saying,” Anya resumed, “it will take us a few days to get to Restenford. I was hoping you could entertain me in the meantime.” She walked up close to the bard and gently touched his chest.
“It would be my pleasure your majesty,” Elvisda said, his face flushing slightly.
“Oh, it will be,” Anya replied. Then she turned and began to walk away. As she walked by the wizard who was still holding his foot she commanded, “Have our guests brought to the cabin area in the quarter deck. It will be more convenient that way. Move the crew down to the main cabin on the lower deck.”
“Yes your highness,” Sigfus replied.
Anya began to walk away then stopped and turned. “Oh, just one more thing,” she said to the companions. “You may have free rein of the main deck and quarter decks. But the lower decks are restricted to the crew and my personal guards. You will not be allowed down there unless I invite you personally. That is all.” Then she turned and walked away.
Glo nudged Elvisda and whispered, “Well that was interesting.” But the bard was too busy watching the Princess walk away. “Hmmm,” he replied absently. “Oh, yes, she is, isn’t she?”
Glo turned to Elistra and smiled. The seeress shook her head and smiled back.
It was late in the evening, just before bed time. The guests had been brought dinner in their cabin and then taken turns strolling around deck. Then they had compared notes. The young dragons roamed freely around the main deck. And there were two guards in front of the entrance to the lower decks. The captain of the vessel was at the helm up on the quarter deck with the pilot and the navigator. Neither Anya, Sigfus, her other personal guards, nor the people who were with Theria were anywhere to be seen.
There was a knock on the cabin door. Cyclone went to open it. A guard stepped in and said, “The Princess Anya requests the presence of the Bard Elvisda down below in her quarters.”
Elvisda stood up and said, “That’s me!” He turned to Glo and Donnie and winked. “Don’t wait up!” Then he left with the guard.
“Well at least he’s enjoying himself,” Donnie said. “I don’t know about anyone else, but something definitely does not feel right here.”
“There are disturbing vibrations emanating from this ship,” Elistra agreed. “But I can’t exactly put my finger on what it is.”
“Are you sure it’s not just the presence of the evil dragon, or dragons?” Glorfindel asked.
“No, they’re right,” Aksel concurred. “I cast a detect evil spell before I went for my walk on deck. But Theria was not around. The little red dragon was about but it only registered as a minor evil presence. There was nothing else. But I did get an uneasy feeling at times walking around the main deck. But it was nothing definite.”
“Well, there’s nothing we can do about it at the moment,” the wizard said. “Might as well try to get some sleep. Sounds like we will be on the ship for a few more days, so we should have plenty of time to track down the source of these vibrations.”
“I’m still uneasy,” Donnie replied, “but you are right. Might as well turn in for the night.”
They all went to their bunks and turned out the lights for the evening.
Elvisda was led by the guard down a flight of stairs to the lower deck. There was a long corridor which ran from the bow to the stern. The guard turned towards the stern and led the bard to an ornate door. Then he knocked.
“Yes?” came Anya’s voice from beyond the door.
“I have brought the Bard Elvisda as you commanded my lady,” the guard announced.
“Send him in she replied. And I am not to be disturbed.”
The guard opened the door and gestured for Elvisda to step inside.
The bard walked into a large cabin, easily bigger than the room his companions were forced to share together. There was a round table on one side of the room with maps spread all over it. There was a large window against the back wall with ornate curtains drawn across it. And over to the right was a luxurious poster bed. The Princess lay on the bed wearing a very revealing outfit. “Care to join me,” she asked the bard. She pointed to a flask full of what appeared to be red wine on a small table next to the bed. There was a glass next to it. Anya held the other glass and was sipping red liquid from it.
“Don’t mind if I do,” the bard said flashing one of his best smiles. He went to pour himself a glass.
“Sit here,” Anya said patting the bed next to her. As she moved her arm, her outfit slipped down off her shoulder revealing quite a bit of her. The Princess did nothing to correct the situation.
The bard sat down on the bed and sipped his wine. “This is very good,” he said casually.
“Yes. It is grown in our family vinyards,” she said. Then she sat up and removed the glass from his hand. She reached over and put both wine glasses on the table, her outfit slipping off the other shoulder. She sat back as the bard admired her beauty and said, “Entertain me Elvsida.”
The bard smiled then leaned forward and kissed her passionately on the lips.
“Oh, you are good,” she told him. “This is going to be fun.” Then she wrapped her body around his and pulled him down onto her.
It was five in the morning when Donatello sat up with a start. He was not sure at first what had woken him. Then he heard a wailing sound coming from outside the cabin. He pulled on his boots and then walked out onto the main deck. The deck was completely empty. There were no dragons to be seen and the guards were gone as well. He walked out into the middle of the ship and listened. There it was again! It sounded like a woman screaming. And it was coming from below the decks.
Suddenly, Donnie felt a hand on his shoulder. He whirled around with a start, and looked straight into the face of Glorfindel. “What are you doing out here?” he whispered. “You scared me half to death.”
“Probably the same thing you are,” the wizard replied. “Remember, I have elf hearing too.”
“So you also heard the screams?” Donnie replied.
“Yes,” Glo answered. “They seem to be coming from below deck.”
“Well, either Elvisda is really entertaining Anya,” Donnie quipped, “or someone is in a lot of pain,” he finished seriously.
“Let me guess, you want to investigate,” Glo said.
Donnie looked at him pleadingly, “I have to. I would never be able to live with myself if some damsel was in distress.”
Glo sighed. “You are right. I would not be able to ignore it either. Very well. Let me help. I slept enough. Just give me a minute to compose myself and I will make you invisible.”
“Thanks,” Donnie said gratefully.
The wizard took out his spell book and studied it for a minute or so. “You know, if this does not go well, then we might no longer be welcome on this ship.”
“Yes, that is a possibility,” the swashbuckler replied.
“Well then, that’s just a chance we’ll have to take. I will set a few spells just in case we need to make a fast exit off the ship. And I’ll go wake the others. In the meantime you go and see what that screaming is,” the wizard finished. Then he cast his spell and Donatello disappeared from sight.
“Wish me luck,” the disembodied voice of the swashbuckler said.
“I think we are all going to need luck this day,” the wizard replied. Then he turned and headed back to their cabin to rouse the others.
Donatello made his way over to the door to the lower decks. It was locked, but that was not a problem for him. He quickly unlocked it. There was a port hole in the door. He peered inside. There was a guard down at the bottom of the steps with is back to the stairway. Donnie carefully opened the door and snuck inside. Then he slowly closed the door and made his way down the steps.
As he approached the guard he saw that the man had his head down and was dozing. Donnie carefully snuck around the man. He saw that he was in a long corridor that led from the bow to the stern of the ship. He waited till the next scream came. It was coming from the bow of the ship. Donnie slowly moved down the corridor. He passed by a number of doors on the way until he reached the end of the corridor. There was a large iron bound door there. Another scream came from behind it. This one was weaker than the others.
Then he heard a cry of triumph from behind the door. It was a man’s voice. “Yes! Yes!” it said. “It worked. Finally it worked. I must inform the Princess.”
Donnie heard footsteps approach the door. He pressed himself up against the wall as the door opened. The door opened in front of him and he saw the wizard Sigfus walk out of the room. Donnie took a quick peek through the crack between the door and the wall and saw a naked woman with long blond hair chained to the wall by two her wrists. Her head was hanging down with her hair covering it and Donnie could not see her face. She was also bathed in some kind of strange blue glow.
Then the door closed and Donnie could see no more. Sigfus locked the door and then hurried back down the corridor. “She is going to love me for this,” the wizard muttered himself as he walked away. “That bard will be yesterday’s news.”
When the wizard was finally out of earshot, Donnie moved quickly to the door. He easily unlocked it and slipped inside, closing the door behind him. The blonde woman had not moved at all. Donnie scanned the room. It was some kind of laboratory. There was a table and some books spread around as well as vials filled with liquid. But the most predominant feature of the room was a large blue crystal suspended in mid air. It was about the size of a man and was radiating a bright blue light. As Donnie stared at it he began to feel woozy. He quickly wrenched his gaze away and moved over to the woman on the wall. He lifted her chin and looked at her face. It was Ves!
“Ves, can you hear me?” Donnie whispered. He patted her face. “Ves!” The young woman began to rouse.
Then Donnie heard footsteps and voices from the corridor. “You better be right!” a woman’s voice said. It was Anya. “I did not want to be disturbed.”
Donnie quickly moved back and stood against the wall behind the door as it began to open.
“My apologies for interrupting your fun Princess, but I tell you, she is broken,” Sigfus said as the two of them entered the room. They walked up to Ves and Anya lifted her chin. She looked at the young woman’s face and then said, “Yes, I believe you are right. Get the collar.” Sigfus went over to a bench and returned with a black metallic collar. He handed to the Princess who took it and then snapped it onto Ves’s neck. Then she said, “Wake up.”
Ves’s eyes snapped open.
“Who is your master?” Anya asked.
“You are mistress,” Ves said robotically.
“Very good,” Anya said clapping her hands. “Release her,” she ordered the wizard.
Sigfus unlocked the chains and stood back.
“Now sit down,” she ordered Ves. The young girl walked over to a nearby bench and seated herself.
“Very, very good,” Anya replied with glee. “This is excellent news. Well done Sigfus.”
“Thank you your highness,” the wizard purred.
“Come with me,” she said. “I want to inform him of what we have accomplished. Now he has to take me seriously.” With that the two of them left the room and locked the door behind the, leaving Ves sitting on the bench by herself.
Donnie waited for their footsteps to recede. It was not moment too soon as the invisibility spell Glorfindel had cast on him faded and he became visible once again. Ves saw him appear and said, “Hello Donatello.”
“Hi Ves,” Donnie said walking up to her nonchalantly. “How are you doing?” he asked her trying to gauge her condition.
“I’m fine now thank you,” she replied.
“Good,” Donnie said. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m waiting for instructions from my mistress,” she told him.
Donnie realized that the young woman was completely brainwashed. He did not think that was possible with a dragon, but then he looked over at the strange blue crystal. As he stared at it he began to feel funny again. He wrenched his eyes away from it again. Then he realized it was the same feeling that he had had up on deck earlier, only ten times worse. This thing had some kind of mind numbing effect on people. In fact, it was so strong that he could see where prolonged exposure might affect a dragon. Not looking at it directly helped, but the swashbuckler could feel his concentration waver the longer he stayed in the room.
Then he had an idea. “Ves,” he said, “the mistress sent me with instructions for us.”
“Really?” Ves asked eagerly, “what are they?”
“Well, the mistress wants you to accompany us. The rest of the companions and I are now working for her. You remember the companions, don’t you?
“Yes,” she replied getting a distant look in her eye. “There was…Glorfindel. And Aksel. And…Martan. Ah, yes. Martan,” she replied flushing somewhat.
“Yes, those are the companions,” Donnie agreed. “The mistress has asked us to take a message for her to Restenford. She wants to form an alliance with the Baron. But there is a spy on board who wants to stop us. You are to come with us and make sure the spy does not stop us. Can you do this?”
“I’m not sure,” Ves replied, “The mistress told me to wait here.”
Donnie was caught. They could not risk staying there much longer without being discovered. Then he touched the dagger at his side. Ruka, he thought. “Ves, would you believe Ruka if she told you what I said was true?” Donnie asked.
“Ruka? My sister?” Ves said showing some sign of emotion once again. “Of course I would believe Ruka. Why would she lie to me?”
“Great,” Donnie replied. “I can summon her with this dagger she gave me.” He took out the Ruchan and showed it to the young woman.
Ves looked closely and recognition crossed her face. “That is Ruka’s dagger.”
“But we can’t stay here,” Donnie said. “The spy might find us. We need to find an empty room and summon your sister.”
“Very well,” Ves said standing up. “Lead the way.”