Rise of the Thrall Lord
Knights of the Couch - Part IX – The Fall of the Couch – Section 3
Aksel had gone back to his room to begin his daily prayers. But he was having a hard time concentrating. He kept thinking back to the previous day. It was after Donnie had saved Ruka. While everyone was gathered around the young girl dragon, Aksel had been standing back by the Colossus. Seth had walked up to the cleric and began talking quietly.
“I need to tell you something,” the ninja began.
“Sounds serious,” Aksel replied hearing the tone in the halfling’s voice.
“I’m going to leave the party,” Seth said softly.
“You’re what!” Aksel cried.
“Keep your voice down,” the ninja whispered looking at the rest of the party. “Elves have extremely good hearing.” But Donnie was too engrossed in Ruka’s injuries and Glorfindel and Elvisda had flown off after the succubus.
“Sorry,” Aksel whispered back. “So why are you leaving?”
“It’s a long story,” the ninja replied. He had a pained look on his face. Aksel had never seen the halfling so serious before.
Seth continued. “You know I never talk much about my past. Well there’s a reason for that. My clan has a…red dragon bloodline.”
“Oh,” Aksel said, “that’s interesting.”
“Yeah,” Seth replied, “they’re basically evil. A real nasty lot of assassins, black guards and dark mages.”
The halfling face had taken on an angry look as he talked.
“So how did you end up being a ninja?” the cleric asked calmly.
“Well…” Seth went on, “My father wanted me to follow in the family trade.” When the halfling mentioned his father, Aksel thought he was going to spit.
“He insisted on me becoming a dark mage like him. I started to study with him, but the more I learned the more vile the teachings became. I hated them!” Seth stopped his voice thick with emotion.
“Go on,” Aksel said gently.
“My father’s former traveling companion was a highly skilled ninja. He had settled down in Ilos, only a few streets over from our clan’s compound. His name was Minato. He was very skilled. We both seemed to have common interests. When Minato saw how agile I was one day, he said I should be a ninja instead of a mage. I really liked the idea. I convinced him to teach me in private.”
Seth stopped. Aksel waited.
“This went on for a little over a year,” Seth continued, “then my father found out what was going on. One day I was training with Minato when my father burst in. A huge fight ensued. They were evenly matched until my own father threw a fireball at me! That damn bastard said that if he couldn’t train me, no one could.”
Seth stopped again, tears in his eyes.
“What happened?” Aksel asked quietly.
“I froze. Me. I couldn’t believe my own father was going to kill me. The fireball was coming right for me and I couldn’t move a muscle. Then at the last possible second, Minato pushed me out of the way. As I fell to the ground, I saw him turn to block the fireball. But just as it was about to hit, the fireball expanded and turned black!”
Seth grew very quiet. His race was dark with anger and tears flowed freely down his face. After a few minutes he began to talk again.
“Minato never stood a chance. When it was all over, my father said That’s what you get for going behind my back. Next time it will be you! Then he stormed out and left me with the remains of my master. I buried Minato, or what was left of him. Then I just left town. Never went back home, never looked behind me.”
The tears had stopped now. Seth dried his eyes. “I met you and Glorfindel a few days later on the road to Kai-Arborous.”
“I remember,” Aksel said. “You did seem to be traveling rather light.”
“Nothing but the clothes on my back, a few kunai knifes and a smoke bomb or two,” Seth replied with a small smile.
“So I still don’t understand why you need to leave,” Aksel said.
“It was that damn fire room,” Seth replied. “I almost got burned in the trap. And Glo almost took a dive in the lava. It brought back those memories of Minato. I swear, I will never let that happen again. I learned some healing as part of my ninja training, but I need to learn more. I never want to be burnt again nor see it happen to one of my friends. So I am going to find myself a good trainer and learn how to use my chakra for powerful healing. Like you do.”
“Well, I would never stop anyone from following the path of a healer,” Aksel replied. “But I never imagined you to be one.”
“Oh don’t get me wrong,” Seth responded with a grin. “I will always be a ninja. Just one that specializes in healing arts.”
“Well I for one look forward to the help,” Aksel said grinning in turn. “You are coming back aren’t you?”
“To this monolith?” Seth smirked. “I don’t think so.”
“You know what I mean,” Aksel shot back.
“Yeah, I know what you meant,” Seth responded. “You guys will probably be headed to Lukescros a month from now for the tourney. Look for me there.”
There was a knock on the door. “Aksel, Lloyd and Elvisda are back. You almost done in there?”
“Be out in a few minutes,” the cleric replied. The he began to pray in earnest.
Lloyd and Elvisda had made it to the top of the monolith. They walked to the edge and looked down below. Sure enough, there was a green dragon in the clearing. It was lying down in front of the open entrance to the monolith. Its head was facing towards the doorway.
“Don’t see any of the Knights of the Rose,” Elvisda noted. “Maybe Glo’s dream was true after all.”
Then Lloyd pointed. “Look down there, over by the treeline.”
Elvisda looked at where Lloyd was pointing. A man had just walked into the clearing behind the dragon. He was wearing a blue outfit and held a long spear in one hand. “Who the heck is that?” the bard said.
The man in blue began walking up behind the green dragon.
“Whoever, he is, he must have a deathwish,” the bard continued.
The man stopped a few paces behind the dragon and called out to it, “Hey ugly!”
The dragon stirred and turned its head to look. It began to talk to the man, but Lloyd and Elvsida were too far up to hear what it was saying. The dragon got up and turned towards the man.
“Uh, oh. Now he’s in for it,” Elvisda declared.
“We better get down there,” Lloyd said moving towards the stairs.
“What are you crazy?” the bard cried grabbing his arm. “We can’t take on a dragon. Not by ourselves anyway. We need to get the others and then come up with a plan.”
Lloyd wrenched his arm free. “Well I can’t just stand here and let it eat him! I’m going down there. You do what you want.” The warblade ran to the steps and began descending the spiral staircase quickly.
Elvisda was torn. He knew it was suicide to go down there, but he could not let his friend go down alone. As the bard stood there debating, he heard the dragon roar. He looked down and saw it lunge forward towards the man in the clearing. Elvisda watched in horror as he expected the man to become the dragon’s next meal.
Then the totally unexpected happened. The man leaped into the air and over the dragon’s head, sailing past its jaws as it snapped at him. He landed on the creature’s back and immediately leaped again landed behind it right next to the doorway of the monolith.
The dragon turned and roared again. Then the man scrambled into the monolith, the dragon chasing after them. It stuck its long neck into the entrance, leaving its body exposed below.
Elvisda shook himself and turned and ran down the steps after Lloyd.
Down below, Cyclone had made it inside the monolith. As he ran across the empty room, the dragon stuck its head in through the archway. “Come back here you!” the creature roared.
Then they heard a voice from up above yell “Quick! This way!”
Cyclone looked up and saw the man running down the steps at the top of the center pillar. He took off for the pillar. As he approached it he heard the dragon drawing in its breath.
Cyclone turned and yelled, “You’re just making this way too easy!” He reached behind his back and pulled out an item which expanded into a javelin. The dragoon leaped forward and threw the weapon directly at the dragon’s open maw. Halfway across the room the javelin turned into a lightning bolt.
The dragon, seeing the bolt hurtling at it paused as its eyes widened. It tried to withdraw its head, but it was too late. The bolt struck it in its still open maw sending electrical arcs coursing all through its head and neck. The dragon shuddered from the shock and was momentarily stunned.
Meanwhile Cyclone turned and hunched down. Then he took a mighty leap up towards the pillar. He landed thirty feet up just ahead of the retreating archer. He began scrambling up the stairs together as Lloyd met him coming down.
“Nice move with that javelin!” Lloyd said.
“Thanks!” Cyclone replied. “But that won’t hold it long. And it can still reach us with its breath weapon from down there. So we better get moving!”
“Ok,” the warblade said sounding somewhat regretful.
The dragon roared from down below. “I’ll get you for that!” its deep voice echoed inside the huge first floor room of the monolith.
The two men turned and began to rush up the stairs as they heard the dragon drawing in its breath.
“Pick up the pace!” Cyclone yelled.
Then the dragon let loose its breath weapon. The men were almost out of range. Cyclone was in back of Lloyd and pushed him forward as the stream of acid coursed up the pillar and fell just short of them.
Cyclone turned and laughed as the stream of acid died down just below him. He yelled down to the beast, “Guess you need to work on your range there buddy!”
The dragon laughed. It was a deep, rumbling sound that filled the entire chamber.
“Work on my range you say,” the dragon said in a purring voice. “Work on my range? And who is it who has the audacity to tell me I have to work on my range?”
“Don’t listen to it,” Cyclone whispered to Lloyd. “It is trying to mesmerize us with its voice. I’ll draw its attention while you two go upstairs.” He pushed the warblade to continue upward.
“Are you sure?” Lloyd asked concerned.
“I’m a dragoon,” Cyclone replied. “We’re trained to deal with dragons from birth.” He saw the concern in the warblade’s eyes. “Don’t worry. I’ve got this.”
“Ok,” the warblade said. Then he turned and continued the other twenty feet to the top of the chamber.
Cyclone turned and yelled down, “Me? You want to know who I am? Nobody special.”
The dragon laughed again. “Nobody special.” It repeated. “No regular human could have jumped over me like that. And no regular human could catch me in the middle of my breath attack with a lightning javelin. And you say you’re nobody special.”
“Not really!” Cyclone yelled down. “I mean, don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the praise and all, but trust me, I’m just a human.” The dragoon turned and saw that the other two had made it up the stairs and out of sight. He began backing up the stairs himself.
“And do you have a name, human?” the dragon asked coyly.
“Yeah,” Cyclone replied, “doesn’t everybody?”
“Indeed,” the dragon laughed again. “But what is your name?”
“I…don’t really want to bore you with those details right now. I promise I’ll tell you next time we meet.” The dragoon had reached the top of the stairs. “Anyway, gotta go! Nice meeting you. Really!” Then he disappeared into the upper stairwell as the dragon roared below and began banging against the wall of the monolith.
“Get back here! I will kill you and eat you, you foul little human! Get back here!” The dragon continued to scream and have a temper tantrum, but the two men were well out of its reach…for now.
Elvisda met the others in the second floor chamber. “What were you thinking? Taunting a dragon like that? I could hear it all the way up the stairs!”
They could still hear the dragon roaring and beating against the side of the monolith.
“Oh,” Cyclone replied, “We were just having a casual conversation.”
“You were just having a casual conversation? With a dragon?” Elvisda exclaimed.
“Well it’s not like I know it very well or anything,” the dragoon replied.
Elvisda just shook his head.
“What’s your name stranger?” Lloyd interrupted.
“Cyclone,” the dragoon replied, “from Lukescros.”
“I’m Lloyd from Penwick,” the warblade said, “and this here’s Elvisda.”
“What are you doing all the way up here?” the bard asked suspiciously.
“I’m a dragoon,” Cyclone explained. “I hunt and kill dragons. A couple of weeks back I had a vision. In it I saw this monolith and that dragon out there. I did some asking around and one thing led to another until I made my way out here. I was camping out in the Darkwoods a little ways from here when I heard the dragon fly overhead last night. I followed it to the clearing but it had already decimated most of the camp. Only one knight was left standing. I was going to rush in and help him when Martan showed up chasing down those two crazy squires.”
“You saw Martan?” Elvisda interrupted.
“Yeah,” the dragoon replied. “The squires were frantic with fear. I mean, they were totally out of control. I helped him catch them before they ran back into the clearing and got themselves killed. Then when the second dragon showed up, everyone fainted. I couldn’t just leave them there. So I dragged them all back into the woods.”
“The second dragon?” Elvisda repeated skeptically.
“Yeah, that was the big one,” the dragoon replied.
“The big one?” Elvisda exclaimed.
“Yeah,” Cyclone said, “that one was huge. Probably an elder or even ancient dragon. It made this one look kinda shrimpy.”
“What happened to it?” Lloyd asked.
“The rider jumped down and healed that knight…Sir Craven I think Martan called him?” the dragoon said.
“Rider?” Elvisda cried. “He wouldn’t have happened to be wearing black armor by any chance?”
“Yeah” Cyclone replied, “how’d ya know?”
“We heard rumors when we were still up in Restenford,” the bard explained.
“So what happened to Sir Craven?” Lloyd asked.
“The rider took him away with him on the other green dragon,” Cyclone told him.
“What about Martan?” Elvisda asked.
“He’s hiding in the woods about a mile back with the two squires,” the dragoon told them.
Just then the tower started to shake again and they heard the dragon bellowing below. When it was over, Elvisda said, “Let’s go rejoin the others and bring them up to speed. Then we can come up with a plan to take care of that overgrown green lizard.”
He led them over to the lift and they descended down to the basement of the monolith.