Rise of the Thrall Lord
Knights of the Couch - Part IX – The Fall of the Couch – Section 11
Donatello took off his robe and put it around Ves. Then he moved to the door and unlocked it. Then he slowly opened it and peered out. Down the corridor the guard was standing at his post. He was at full attention now. Donnie was not sure what to do when he saw Elvisda entered the corridor from the other end of the hall. The guard turned to watch the bard as he made his way down the corridor.
Donnie seized the opportunity and grabbed Ves’s hand. He led her out into the corridor and slowly moved down the hallway. He put his finger to his lips as Elvisda caught sight of him. The bard immediately caught on and walked up to the guard engaging him in conversation.
Donnie slowly snuck up behind the guard and then conked him on the head, knocking him out.
“Why did you do that?” Ves asked from behind him. He turned and told her, “This is the spy. Right Elvisda?”
“Right,” the bard said playing along.
“I explained to Ves how we are on a mission as envoy’s to Restenford for the Princess,” Donnie told Elvisda. “I told her how there was a spy on board and that Anya was worried he would try to stop us. So now we are going to summon Ruka. Once we are all together, we will leave the ship,” Donnie finished.
“Okay,” Elvisda replied looking at the Ves and seeing the condition she was in. “I’ll go inform the others that we need to leave at once.”
“Great,” Donnie replied. “Ves and I will take care of this spy and then summon Ruka.”
“Good luck,” Elvisda told them. Then he headed up the stairs and out onto the main deck.
Donnie turned and checked a nearby room. There was snoring coming from it. He checked a second door and it was silent. He opened it and he and Ves dragged the guard into the room. Then Donnie closed the door and took out the Ruchan. He concentrated and thought, Ruka I need you. Come at once.
A few seconds went by and then a bright light appeared in front of him. It grew and swelled into the form of the young girl. Then the light faded and Ruka was standing there. “Hi Donnie,” she said shyly.
The swashbuckler grabbed the girl by the shoulders and stared directly at her. He said in as seriously as he could, “Ves here does not believe that we are working for the mistress.”
“Ves!” Ruka shouted turning to see her sister.
“Yes,” Donnie said, not letting Ruka go. “Ves doesn’t believe me about the mission that the mistress assigned us.” Ruka looked at him like he was crazy. “You know,” he continued, “where we are supposed to take her with us to Restenford and get help? You know, the alliance with the Baron?”
“Oh, that mission,” Ruka replied catching on. She turned to look at Ves and saw the condition her sister was in. “Ves!” she cried running over to her. “Are you alright?”
“Yes, of course,” she said somewhat robotically. “I am fine. I am just waiting to serve the mistress.”
Ruka turned to Donnie and gave him a worried stare. Then she turned back to Ves and said. “Of course Ves. We all are.”
“You serve the mistress too?” Ves asked.
“Yes,” Ruka lied, “as does Donatello and his friends. He was not lying to you. We need to get out of here and to Restenford. The mistress wants us to make an alliance with the Baron.”
“Very well,” Ves said, “let’s go.” She got up and headed to the door.
“Wait!” Donnie cried. “Let me go first. The spy might not be working alone. The mistress was very clear. Nothing is to stop us. Whatever the cost, we must make it to Restenford.”
Donnie listened at the door and heard nothing. Then he opened it and checked the corridor. It was empty. “Quickly,” he waved them on. Then they moved into the hallway and up the stairs. Donnie opened the door to the main deck and saw the companions gathered around on deck near the railing. The sun was about to rise and the sky was lightening.
They went to join them. Elvisda was playing a tune and fascinating the young dragons that were now up on the deck.
Then Ves saw Martan standing at the rail. “Martan!” she cried.
The archer turned and saw her. “Ves!” he yelled. Then the archer suddenly seemed to lose his balance and fell backwards over the rail.
Ves did not miss a beat. She took off at a run and launched herself overboard shape shifting into a bronze dragon as she dove after the hapless archer.
Simultaneously, Lloyd invoked his flying cloak and dove overboard after the archer.
Ruka grabbed Donnie and said, “Come on!” They ran and both dove overboard. Ruka shifted and Donnie grabbed her neck, hanging on for dear life as she sped after Ves.
“That tears it!” Glo yelled. “Get ready to fly! Cyclonne, you’re first.” Then he cast the fly spell on the dragoon.
Elistra said “Don’t worry about me! I have my own mode of transportation.” She began incanting and summoned a flying astral construct.
“Nice trick,” Elvisda commented to the seeress.
“I’ll also be fine,” Aksel said. “I’ll float down with my feather falling ring.” Then the little cleric cast a spell and turned invisible.
Glo turned to Elvisda and said “Your turn next!” Then he cast the spell of flying on the bard.
“We need to go now,” Elvisda cried. “These dragons are not going to stay fascinated for long.”
“I got you Glo,” Cyclone said. He grabbed the wizard around the waist and leaped overboard. Elvisda was right behind them.
Below Ves had caught up with Martan. She flew underneath the archer.
“Get…get away from me!” Martan screamed at the bronze dragon.
“But Martan,” Ves said, “It’s me! Ves!”
“Ves!?” Martan cried, “But you’re a dragon!”
Ruka and Donnie caught up with them. Donnie yelled, “Martan, it is Ves! Ruka’s a dragon. So is Ves!”
Martan shook his head as he continued to fall. It suddenly made sense. He had seen Ruka change into a bronze dragon before. So it would only make sense if her sister was one too. The archer gulped and then reached out and grabbed the bronze dragon’s neck. “Ves? Is that really you,” he whispered.
“Yes dear Martan. This is my true form,” the dragon replied. “I am so sorry. I never meant to deceive you. But I was honor bound not to tell anyone.”
“Can…can we land please?” Martan asked Ves anxiously.
“Of course,” the young lady dragon replied in an understanding tone. “Hang on!” she cried. Then she veered down towards a clearing below.
“Well that went well,” Donnie said as he and Ruka followed the other two.
“You think?” Ruka replied sarcastically.
When Lloyd saw Ves catch Martan, the warblade stopped his rapid descent. He turned to look at the others. Cyclone, Elvisda and Glorfindel were now all flying on their own power towards the warblade. Elistra was nowhere to be seen. Lloyd was just wondering what happened to her when he saw five shapes launch themselves off the ship. They were dragons! And they were coming fast! “Look out!” the warblade cried as he pointed back towards the ship.
The three companions heard Lloyd’s cry and looked back over their shoulders. Five dragons were headed their way and catching up to them fast. There was a large red, a medium blue, a medium white, and two medium black dragons.
“We’re sitting ducks up here,” Elvisda cried.
Cyclone took out his lance and prepared for the coming onslaught. But the dragons flew underneath them. They were headed for the clearing below where the two bronze dragons had landed.
Lloyd was flying to intercept the dragons.
“Is he crazy?” Cyclone asked.
“That’s Lloyd!” Elvisda replied. “The boy has no fear.”
“Okay then,” Cyclone said. Then he yelled, “Go Lloyd!”
The warblade closed in as the dragons flew passed. One of the blacks veered off to face him. It went to bite the warrior, but Lloyd had just engaged his Soaring Raptor Strike maneuver. He arced around the dragon’s mouth and ran his adamantine blade into the neck. Between the dragon’s speed and his own, he gutted the creature down the neck, through its chest and clear down to the abdomen. The black dragon coughed once and then it’s body went limp as it fell from the sky in a slow arc to the ground far below.
“Holy crap!” Cyclone declared wide eyed. Then he began cheering in earnest. “Way to go Lloyd!”
The warblade came out of his arc and turned, but the other four dragons were now too far away for him to catch. They totally ignored what had happened to their comrade and continued to bear down on the two bronze dragons.
Meanwhile, in the clearing below. Ves had landed and gently lay down. Martan jumped off her back and looked up at her. He began to slowly back away. “Ves!” he said quietly. Then he buried his head in his hands and began to cry.
Ves was heartbroken. She lay on the ground unmoving. “Martan,” she pleaded. “Please don’t be mad at me.”
Ruka and Donnie landed. He turned to Ruka and said, “That collar must be what Anya uses to control the dragons.” He pointed to the black collar around her sister’s neck. “While she’s still distracted with Martan, we have a chance. We must break that collar!”
“So what do we do?” Ruka asked obviously unsure.
“Well,” Donnie reasoned, “there must be an enchantment keeping the collar in place. Let me try something,” he said reaching into his backpack and drawing out a pair of gloves. “These are gloves of spell disruption. If I can grab her collar with them, then I can break whatever spell is holding it in place. Then you can use your lightning on it and break it off.”
“Okay,” Ruka said. “I can do that.”
Donnie walked up to Ves and gingerly placed his hand on her collar. The large bronze dragon was still brooding. She was trying to reason with the archer who was still beside himself. A red aura glowed around the collar then faded. Donnie backed away and said, “Okay Ruka. Do your thing.”
Ruka let loose with a fierce, but targeted bolt of lightning. It hit the collar straight on. The collar sizzled then sparked and broke in half falling off the large bronze dragon.
Ves raised her head and turned towards Ruka and Donnie. “What are you doing…” she began, then stopped in mid-sentence. She shook her head and said, “Wait. What am I doing here? Last thing I remember is…being on that woman’s ship. And…that crystal…that horrible blue crystal." The dragon visibly shuddered.
“It’s ok now Ves,” Ruka said calmingly. “We removed the collar that was controlling you. You’ll be fine now.”
Martan had looked up to see what was going on. Then the archer’s mouth opened wide. He pointed at the sky and yelled, “Dragons! More dragons!”
Ves, Ruka and Donnie turned to see four dragons descending on them from the ship. “It’s me they want,” Ves said. “I’ll lead them off. The rest of you should be fine.”
“I’m coming with you Ves!” Ruka yelled.
“Okay,” Ves said. Then she turned to Martan and told him, “I never meant to hurt you. I really like you. Please be safe.” Then she began flapping her wings and raising up into the sky.
“Take care Donnie!” Ruka cried. “You know how to reach me if you need me!” Then she too rose up into the sky.
Then both dragons shot up skyward to intercept the other four. They bronzes drew close to the other four then banked and flew off east as fast as they could. The four other dragons were right on their tails.
“Think they’ll be alright?” Martan said worriedly.
“They’re bronzes and they’re headed for the sea. If they get to open water, the others will never catch them,” Donnie replied.
A few minutes later Lloyd, Cyclone, Elvisda and Glorfindel landed in the clearing.
“Is everyone alright?” Lloyd asked.
“Yeah, we’re fine,” Donatello answered.
“I just hope Ves is okay,” Martan said, still seated on the ground.
“Right now we need to worry about us,” Elvisda replied. “Anya is going to be very mad at us. We need to disappear fast.” He pointed up in the sky. The airship could clearly be seen to the east. It was a good mile away, but it was turning around.
“I’ve got an idea,” Glo said. “But we need to all be together. Where’s Elistra?” he said looking around the clearing.
“I’m not certain,” Cyclone said, “but I could swear I saw her double back to the ship after we all flew overboard.”
“Why would she do that?” Glo said puzzled.
“I don’t know, but maybe she was the one who told Anya we were at the monolith,” Elvisda offered.
“I can’t believe it,” the wizard replied. He seemed crushed by the thought of a betrayal by the seeress. They had grown very close over the last month.
“What about Aksel?” Lloyd said.
“Up here,” a voice said. They looked up and saw nothing. “I’m invisible. I’m still feather falling down. Almost there. And….I’m down.” They heard the cleric land a few feet away from them. “So what are we doing?” his voice asked. “Anya’s ship is turning back this way.”
“We’re going to hide,” Glo said. He began to cast a spell. When he finished, a rope hung in front of him leading upward and disappearing into nowhere.
“Ah, a rope trick!” Elvisda cried. “Very clever,” he said hitting the wizard on the shoulder.
The companions quickly climbed up and in. Glo was the last one up and pulled the rope up after him.
Six hours later, the companions climbed down and the rope trick disappeared. They scouted the area but did not see any sign of the airship or any dragons.
“I still can’t believe that Elistra would have betrayed us,” Glo said.
“What makes you think that?” Aksel asked.
Glo repeated what Cyclone told them about seeing Elistra heading back to Anya’s ship and Elvisda’s thoughts on the seeress possibly informing on them to the Princess.
“That’s all well and fine,” Aksel replied, “except that your forgetting one thing.”
“What’s that?” the wizard asked.
“Anya captured Ves, right? And what does Ves carry on her? A pearl of friendship. In fact a pearl that communicates with your pearl…and Ruka’s…and Maya’s,” the cleric said.
“So Anya has been listening in to our communications with the dragons the whole time,” Glorfindel said hitting himself on the forehead. “Why didn’t I see that?”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” Elvisda said putting his arm on the wizard’s shoulder. “You’ve been a bit distracted lately. After all, Elistra is a very pretty lady.”
“Anyway,” Aksel continued, “now that that’s settled, does anyone have any idea where we are?”
“I would guess that we are near Twin Oaks,” Elvisda replied.
They discussed their next move and decided to head through the forest to Restenford. Glorfindel sent Raven ahead to Restenford to request that the Baron send riders along the west road with horses for them. They were worried about their dragon friends, but knew they could not contact them because the Princess would be listening in.
The next day they reached the eastern edge of the Bendenwood Forest, and took the road towards Restenford. They were a mile out in the open when they saw a small red dragon flying overhead.
“We can’t let it see us and report back to Anya!” Elvisda cried.
“I’ll handle it,” Lloyd said. He invoked his cloak and took off into the air. Lloyd had learned a lot about flying over the last few months. He approached the dragon from the east keeping the sun at his back. The creature did not see him until it was too late. Lloyd hit the creature with an airborne Soaring Raptor attack. The dragon did not stand a chance. It was dead before it hit the ground. Cyclone went to retrieve the body.
“Nice work,” he said as Lloyd landed. “Ever think of becoming a dragoon?”
They decided to put the body in the bag of holding. They had to empty out a few things, but it did fit. The companions began their trek down the road when they spied riders up ahead. As they got closer they recognized one of the men. It was their old friend Francis, the guard from Restenford keep.
“Am I glad to see you guys!” Francis said riding up with their horses. “Restenford is in an uproar.”
“What’s going on?” Elvisda asked the guard.
“The Baron’s been assassinated,” Francis replied obviously shaken.
“What?” the companions cried all at once.
“It happened two days ago,” Francis told them. “The Baroness is beside herself with grief. When she heard you all were headed back this way she immediately sent us to get you. We really need you guys back there.”
“Well then let’s head out!” Elvisda cried. The party mounted up and galloped off down the road towards Restenford.