Rise of the Thrall Lord
Knights of the Couch - Part IX – The Fall of the Couch – Section 4
Glorfindle, Donatello, Elistra, Alana and Ruka were all still in the living area when Lloyd and Elvisda returned with Cyclone.
The wizard and the lady knight had been pacing around the room. When the others came down the steps Alana rushed up to them. “What happened out there? Where’s Sir Craven? How are my men?”
“I’m sorry my dear, but it is as we feared,” Elvisda began, “There was a dragon attack and the Knights are all but gone. All that remains are a few squires in hiding with Martan.”
“No!” Alana cried, “Not my entire company! Not Sir Craven!”
“They put up a good fight,” Cyclone added, “but the dragons were too much for them.”
Glorfindle had stood back till now. He was staring at the newcomer with a strange look on his face. “Did you say DRAGONS?”
“I asked the same thing,” Elvisda offered.
“Yeah, dragons,” Cyclone answered stepping forward. “Two green dragons; one was definitely an adult, but the other one was huge. It was old, maybe even ancient.”
“And who are you?” Alana asked forcefully.
“Me? I’m Cyclone,” the dragoon introduced himself. Then he repeated the tale of what happened last night based on what Martan had told him and what he had seen himself.
When he was finished, Alana sat down on the couch and buried her head in her hands. She was grief-stricken. “I should have been there” she kept repeating over and over again.
Donatello moved over to comfort her. The swashbuckler put his arm around her shoulder. She looked up and then buried her head in his shoulder, openly weeping now.
Ruka got off the couch and knelt in front of the lady knight. The young girl gently placed her arms around the lady’s waist and hugged her.
Alana looked up, surprised, and then reached forward and hugged the young girl back.
“You wouldn’t have been able to do anything you know,” Ruka said quietly. “I wouldn’t have been able to do anything. If either one of us had been there, we would both be dead now.”
Alana stopped sobbing. “Thank you Ruka. But I really should have been there.”
“You were with us Lady Knight, protecting us as you were charged,” Aksel said.
“Plus the one green dragon is still out there,” Elvisda added. “I say we make a plan and kick its butt!”
“Cyclone here kills dragons for a living,” Lloyd also added, “Maybe he can come up with some ideas.”
Ruka turned and looked at the dragoon and his long spear, really seeing him for the first time. “A dragoon huh?” the young girl said looking him up and down. “You must be really brave going after a dragon with only that glorified pig sticker; or really stupid.”
Cyclone just laughed. “A little of both actually,” he replied with a grin.
Ruka stood up and walked over to the dragoon while the other’s held their breath. The young girl only came up to his chest. She looked up at him for a long moment. The dragoon stared back down at the girl trying to decide what to make of her.
Then Ruka turned around and plopped herself back on the couch next to Donnie and Alana. “I like this one,” she declared. “He can stay.”
The other’s let out a sigh of relief.
While this was going on, Glorfindel had been whispering in the corner with Elistra.
“Are you sure he’s the one?” the seeress asked the wizard quietly.
“Definitely,” Glo whispered. “That’s the warrior in blue armor I saw in my dream.”
“Then its fate,” Elistra declared softly. “Between his vision and your dream, it is pretty clear. This young man was destined to join us in our hour of need.”
The wizard nodded. Then he walked over and put a hand on Cyclone’s shoulder.
The dragoon turned and looked at the elf.
“I think you should stay as well,” Glorfindel declared. “And you have come to us at an opportune time. After all, we do have a green dragon to kill.”
The wizard looked around the room at the others.
Aksel nodded his agreement. And everyone seemed to approve except for Elvisda. The bard gave the wizard a look which translated to Are you really going to trust this guy?
Glo raised an eyebrow and then gave the bard a barely perceptible nod.
Elvisda just shrugged in return.
Glorfindel looked back at Cyclone and said, “Well then, if you’ve got nothing better to do, how’d you like to join our little company and help us slay a green dragon?”
The plan they fleshed out was based on misdirection and timing. Cyclone had described the way the dragon had stuck its neck into the monolith chasing after them. If they could get the dragon to do that again, then a group could attack the beast’s exposed rear flank from the top of the tower. The trouble was that someone had to act as bait.
“I’ll do it,” Donnie volunteered.
They were sitting around the table in the library using pieces of parchment to denote positions. A stack of books at one end signified the entrance to the monolith.
“Over my dead body!” Alana declared slamming her fist down on the table. “I should do it! It’s my men this thing killed. I should be the bait!”
“Actually,” Elvisda interjected, “you both can do it.”
“NO!” Donatello said flatly, “I can’t let Alana risk herself like that.”
“Oh, but you can risk yourself?” the Lady Knight said incredulously.
“Ahem,” Aksel said clearing his throat. They companions all turned to look at the cleric. “I will go with you, and Alana can heal as well in case you’ve forgotten.”
“And I will cast spells of protection from acid on you,” Glorfindel added, “so just keep out of reach of its jaws and you should be just fine.”
“You just need to keep it busy for a minute or two at most,” Elvisda told them. “The rest of us will be in position up top. As soon as its neck is in the building, Mr. Jump Good over here can pounce on it,” he finished pointing to Cyclone.
“And Lloyd and I will fly down and launch our own attacks,” Glorfindel added.
“As will I!” Ruka declared.
They all turned to look at the girl. “Are you sure you’re well enough?” Donnie asked, the concern obvious in his voice.
“I’m fine!” she replied emphatically. “Aksel cast another spell to delay the effects of the poison.”
Both Donnie and Alana gave the girl a look.
“I’m a bronze dragon for g-ds sakes! I fly and shoot lightning bolts as easily as you walk and breath! It’s not like I’m going to grapple the damn thing!” she finished exasperated.
Cyclone raised an eyebrow but kept silent. So she’s a bronze dragon he thought to himself. Cool.
“Fine,” Donnie relented, “but don’t take any unnecessary chances.”
“You should talk!” the girl fired back. “You two are going to be right in its line of fire!” she yelled at both Donnie and Alana.
The electricity in the air had grown thicker during this last exchange. Everyone in the room could actually feel their hair stand on end. Then Ruka took a deep breath and the storm brewing in the air subsided.
Ruka reached behind her back and drew out a dagger holding it out hilt first to Donatello. Then she said to Donnie and Alana, “I wish I had two of these, but I only have the one. Both of you have been very kind to me on this journey. And you have risked your lives for mine. Among my kind, a life debt is not something to be taken lightly. I do not have much to give, but I would like you to have this dagger. It was carved from a scale closest to my heart. With it know that you can always call me and I will come."
For the first time since they had met him, Donatello was at a loss for words. When he could finally speak he said softly, “Ruka. While I very much appreciate the thought, I am not worthy of such a gift.”
Alana elbowed him. “Donnie! Accept the gift,” she whispered hoarsely.
“You might want to listen to her,” Cyclone said quietly. “That’s not the kind of thing dragons do all of the time. You gotta be pretty special for one to offer you a gift like that.”
Donnie still looked uncertain.
Ruka still held out the dagger looking at him expectantly.
“Donnie, do you really want to offend her?” Elistra added.
“Take the dagger Donnie,” Glo said flatly.
Donatello took a deep breath and then said “Very well.” He reached out and took hold of the hilt of the dagger. Then he removed it from the young girl’s hands and knelt down in front of her. “I pledge to only use this dagger for the most virtuous of causes. And I will only invoke it to call for you in the direst of circumstances.”
Then the swashbuckler rose and hugged the girl thanking her again for the incredible gift she had bestowed upon him. Alana joined them.
“Well,” Elvisda said breathing a sigh of relief, “now that that’s settled, can we finish planning out the attack?”
The companions were gathered at the top of the monolith. The green dragon could be seen down below parked in front of the entrance once again, its head facing the doorway.
Donatello, Alana and Aksel were preparing to climb down the stairs to the first floor. Glorfindel had cast the protection from acid spell on them and Elvisda had played them songs to inspire courage and heroic action.
Then Elvisda kept a close eye on the beast below while Cyclone, Lloyd and Glorfindel prepared for their attack.
Ruka came over to Donnie, Alana and Aksel and said, “I am going to be fighting in dragon form.”
Aksel replied, “That is to be expected.”
The girl continued, “So I won’t be using my sword, Inazuma.”
“And?” Donatello asked anxious to get going.
“Inazuma and I had a brief conversation and he is willing to allow you to wield him for this battle,” the girl said all at once.
Donnie looked even more flustered than when he had been offered the dagger. “Inazuma agreed to this?” the swashbuckler asked obviously shocked.
“Yes,” the girl replied.
Elistra, who had been standing nearby interjected. “The truth is Donatello, that you are probably one of the few people in this world who could safely wield Inazuma. The karmic bond that was forged between the two of you makes it possible.”
“It might come in handy,” Aksel urged. “After all, we are facing the front end of an adult green dragon.”
Donnie considered for another moment. Then he spoke. “If Inazuma agrees, then so do I.”
“Great!” Ruka exclaimed. She removed the short sword from its sheath and handed it hilt first to the swashbuckler.
Donnie took the blade carefully and held it aloft in his hand. It briefly sparked, but then fell silent. The swashbuckler bowed before the young girl dragon and said, “I will return your blade to you as soon as the fell creature below is vanquished.”
“Come on Donnie! We don’t have all day!” Elvisda exclaimed.
“Very good,” the swashbuckler replied. Then he led Alana and Aksel down the spiral staircase towards the first floor of the monolith and their impending meeting with the green dragon.
Donatello crept across the open floor of the monolith towards the archway leading outside. Alana was back at the pillar as was Aksel. They were to keep out of sight unless absolutely necessary. The swashbuckler was going to taunt the dragon until it followed him into the monolith.
He reached the archway and peaked through. The green dragon’s snout was no more than 20 yards from the door. Its head was turned sideways so that its eye was facing the door. The eye was closed.
Donnie slowly and quietly snuck out onto the lawn. He had Inazuma in the one hand and the Ruchan dagger in the other. He took comfort in knowing what he was armed with. But this was a full adult dragon he was facing.
It almost made him wish he was back in some rich Lord’s house, fighting his way out after painting a nude portrait of the noble’s wife. Those were more carefree days. He had more purpose now and more responsibility to go with it. And, for the first time in a very long time, he had friends. Go figure. He had always been a loner. Now he was part of a whole group of companions.
The swashbuckler came to a sudden start when he realized his mind had been drifting. He looked at the dragon. The eye was still closed. Then the dragon’s mouth opened.
“I don’t need to see you or hear you,” it said in a deep rumbling voice. “I can smell you elf.”
Donnie froze in his tracks. Then his bravado kicked in. “Well met good sir. I merely wanted to gaze on your magnificence.”
“Really?” the dragon replied mockingly. “And?”
“And what I see definitely lives up to your reputation. I heard you single handedly decimated two companies of knights last night.”
The dragon laughed. It was a deep rumbling sound. “So the little scamps that snuck into the tower must have told you that. Good. Now I am glad I let them get away. They spread my reputation for me.”
“Oh, and what a reputation it is!” Donnie cried warming up to the role he was playing. “A destroyer of men and animals. A decimator of warriors. A scourge of all human kind.”
“You paint an accurate picture of me little elf,” the dragon laughed again.
“Well, I am an artist,” Donnie boasted.
“Indeed,” the dragon rumbled, “An elf and an artist. I’ve never tasted one of those. You will make an interesting snack.” The dragon opened its eyes and lifted its head.
Donnie carefully gauged his distance. He was only 5 yards from the door. He should be able to make it back through the doors before the dragon got to him. But then it was a long 50 foot run to the pillar. He had to think of something quickly.
Then an idea struck him. “I can think of no better way to end my life than being a snack for such a glorious creature,” the elf began, “however, it would be criminal of me if I did not first offer to immortalize your likeness for all time.”
“Eh, and how do you intend to do that?” the dragon asked its curiosity peaked.
“As I told you before, I am an artist! And a fairly good one I might add. Before you finish me off your magnificence, I would propose that I paint your portrait. Consider it my farewell gift to you.”
The dragon laughed. Again it was a deep rumbling sound. “You would paint a portrait? Of me?”
“Can you think of a more grand subject than yourself?” Donatello laid it on thick. “Just think of it. These lesser creatures, Lords and Ladies of elfs and men constantly have their portraits painted. Shouldn’t a greater being such as yourself have one? Think of how splendid it would look.”
“Hmmm,” the dragon mulled it over. “You make a salient point for a lesser being. Very well, get out your implements. I shall grant you my leave to capture my likeness on canvas.”
“Excellent,” Donatello said. He took out his easel and planted it on the ground. Then he pulled out his brush and paints.
Inside Alana whispered to Aksel, “What is he doing out there?”
“It looks like he is….painting the dragon!?” Aksel exclaimed.
Up on top of the monolith, Glorfindel asked Elvisda, “What’s going on down there?”
“I think Donatello just…took out his easel,” the bard replied incredulously.
All the companions exchanged glances.
“Donnie…I hope you know what you are doing,” Glorfindel said quietly.
Back below, Donatello was thinking furiously as he pretended to scope out the dragon’s likeness. Think Donnie, think! How do I get this beast inside?
Then it hit him all at once.
“No, no, no!” Donatello cried throwing his brush down on the ground. “This is all wrong! All wrong!”
“What’s the matter artist?” the dragon rumbled. “Having second thoughts about painting me?”
“Oh, no, of course not your magnificence,” Donnie said smoothly. “It’s just…”
“What?” the dragon roared fast losing patience.
“Well, the background is all wrong!” the artist cried. “One as glorious as you should have a regal backdrop for his portrait.”
The dragon calmed down and seemed to be pondering.
Got him! Donnie thought. Out loud he said, “Were that there were a setting nearby that would appropriately frame your radiance!”
“Hmmm,” the dragon pondered. “I seem to recall the inside of the monolith was rather splendid. The stonework was quite fine. And there were some fine tapestries on the walls. Not as nice as my hoard back home, but it might do in a pinch.”
“Are you sure?” Donnie asked, not wanting to seem too eager.
“It’s decided!” the dragon roared. “Get your implements and set up inside. I shall follow you and you will paint me in there!”
Yes! Donnie thought inwardly. Out loud he said, “Yes your magnificence!” then he gathered up his easel and paints and hurried inside the pillar. When he saw Alana and Aksel he shushed them behind the pillar.
They disappeared just in time. Donnie heard the dragon’s breathing as it poked its head into the monolith. The artist went all the back to the pillar and set up his easel.
The dragon poked its neck partway in and struck a pose. But Donnie wanted to get the entire neck in if possible. He pretended to frame out the portrait and then said, “Can you lift your head up a little higher? The tapestry over the archway would look splendid behind your mighty visage.”
The dragon looked peevishly at the artist but said nothing. It inserted its neck the rest of the way into the archway and raised its head up above the floor. “How’s that the dragon said?” its deep voice reverberating around the entire room.
“Perfect.” You fool, Donnie thought. Then he pretended to begin the painting.