Rise of the Thrall Lord
Knights of the Couch - Part IX – The Fall of the Couch – Section 9
The companions arrived back at the monolith with Anya and Mallona in tow. Alana met them at the entrance. And to their surprise, Aksel was there as well.
Glorfindel and Donatello took them aside while Elvisda entertained the Princess.
“When did you get back?” Glo asked the little cleric.
“Just a few minutes ago,” Aksel replied. “Ruka, Maya and Cal are hiding down by the river.”
“How did you manage to convince Ruka to stay behind?” Glo said shooting an amused look at Donnie.
“Well, it wasn’t easy,” Aksel replied, “but when Maya insisted on following her up here, she realized she had to stay with them. Believe me she wasn’t happy.”
“I can bet,” Glo said chuckling at the thought of Ruka not being able to rush back to Donatello.
Donnie gave Glo a dirty look in response.
“Cut it out you two,” Alana said annoyed at the superfluous exchange.
“Anyway,” Aksel continued, “someone want to explain to us what the dragon Princess is doing here at the monolith?
Glo and Donnie related to them what the Princess had told them about the Colossus and the Golem Thrall Master. Then they told them about their decision to destroy the giant golem. The cleric and the lady knight agreed with their decision. They rejoined the others and entered the monolith together.
The party followed the spiral staircase up to the top of the monolith and then took the lift down to the basement. Then they went down the next set of spiral stairs to the Colossus room.
When Anya saw the huge golem her jaw dropped. “That thing is enormous!” she cried. Mallona also stood staring in surprise. The red headed woman seemed stunned by the sheer size of the stone creature before her.
As they both stood in awe, Glorfindel dropped back and asked Alana, “Can you use your abilities to see if these women are evil?”
“I can try,” the lady paladin replied. She stood still for a moment and concentrated. “I do detect an evil presence,” she said finally. “But it is only radiating from one of them. I am not sure which one however. I’m sorry.”
“No that’s quite alright,” the wizard told her. “At least we have a better idea what we are dealing with.”
The group had slowly moved out onto the walkway towards the Colossus. Glorfindel and Alana hurried to catch up with them. Elvisda was keeping the Princess and her guard occupied telling them the story of how they had first found the creature and of the battle with the Serpent Cult.
Glo caught up with the others and whispered what Alana had sensed. The group came up with an impromptu plan to capture the Princess and her guard once they entered the anti-magic field.
They began to move forward once again. As they reached the anti magic field, Anya continued to walk through. But Mallona stopped. Anya turned and said, “Mallona, is something wrong?” But the red haired woman didn’t answer. Her body began to shimmer and then change. She grew and grew until in her place, now stood a large juvenile red dragon!
The rest of the party had stepped back. As the warrior had begun to change, Elistra appeared from behind the throne on top of the Colossus. She had been waiting there the whole time for the right moment. As soon as she saw the woman shifting she ordered the golem to reach down and grab her. By the time Mallona was in complete dragon form, the golem had its hand over the creature.
“Mallona look out!” Anya cried, but the red dragon was still woozy from the effects of the impromptu change. Elvisda had walked up next to the Princess on one side and Alana stood next to her on the other side. They each grabbed an arm and restrained her from running forward to her “friend”. Then the giant Colossus hand closed around the red dragon and held it fast.
“What do you think you’re doing?” the Princess of Lanfar demanded in her most regal tone. “I thought we had a deal!”
“We did, and we still do your highness,” Elvisda answered her.
“But we cannot and will not tolerate the presence of such an evil creature!” Alana finished for him.
“But Mallona is my friend!” Anya wailed.
Mallona had finally regained her senses. She roared from above, “Get this overgrown thing off of me! You better not hurt the Princess or I will kill you all!”
“You’ve got an interesting choice of friends,” Aksel observed. “Red dragons are notoriously evil your majesty. And much as we would like to believe your intentions are honorable, how can we possibly trust you when you have aligned yourself with such a being?”
Anya looked at them all and then looked up at her “friend”. Then she said, “I give you my word as Princess of Lanfar, that no harm will come to any of you as long as you keep your end of our bargain. We are only here to see this monstrosity…” she looked up at the giant golem, “…destroyed. Do that and we will honor our agreement.”
Aksel took a step back and motioned everyone except those restraining the Princess to join him. They deliberated back and forth for a few minutes. The dragon was obviously evil. Anya was not however. Alana had confirmed that. Although they were not thrilled with the Princess’s association with the red dragon, it did not make her evil. Of course it did not make her good either. But if they continued to hold her eventually the rest of her crew would come looking for her. So it was not feasible to restrain her indefinitely. Then there was the lingering question if she was right about the Colossus being a threat to all of Thac. In the end it came down to the same decision the KOTC had previously reached. They could just not take the chance that this ultimate weapon could be unleashed and destroy the entire island.
Aksel motioned to Alana and Elvisda to let the Princess go. The looked at him questioningly, but the cleric explained that they really had no choice. “It is a question of the greater good,” Aksel said. “Much as I cannot abide evil, I will not be a party to something which could potential destroy the entire island and kill thousands in the process.” Alana and Elvisda both just nodded their heads and let the Princess loose.
“Elistra, let the dragon go!” Aksel yelled. “And Princess, I trust we can depend on you to keep your friend in check.”
“Yes,” the Princess replied, rubbing her arms gingerly. She turned to the red dragon and yelled, “As soon as you are released, you are to fly down and return to your human form! Do you understand me Mallona?”
The dragon growled, and tried to struggle free, but it was stuck fast. “Fine!” it roared back, “It shall be as you wish Anya.”
Elistra ordered the golem to release the dragon. The huge hand opened and the dragon began to drop. It flapped its great wings and with great difficulty flew out of the anti magic field and landed on the walkway. The group stood ready, but as soon as she landed, Mallona shifted back to human form. Anya rushed out to meet her friend who was having trouble standing. “Are you alright Mallona?” Anya asked seemingly concerned. “Damn thing nearly crushed the life out of me!” the red headed woman replied. Anya slipped underneath the woman’s arm and helped steady her. Then she turned and looked at the party. “Well?” she asked.
“Very well,” Aksel replied. “Glo, would you care to do the honors?”
“Surely,” the wizard replied. He turned and yelled up to Elistra, “We are going to destroy the Colossus.” The seeress cocked an eyebrow, but otherwise did not respond. “You better get down here as fast as possible,” Glo finished. Elistra got off the throne, shaking her head, and began to descend the stairs.
Glo turned back to Lloyd and said, “Would you care to join me?”
“Okay,” the big warblade replied. The two companions cast their individual spells of flying and launched up into the air.
“I suggest the rest of us all step back towards the entrance,” Aksel said. Everyone began marching towards the exit.
Meanwhile, Glo and Lloyd stopped briefly at the top of the golem. Glorfindel grabbed Elistra and then the three of them lifted off again and flew up to the top of the room. They disappeared into a hatch in the ceiling. A few minutes later they came flying back down to join the others at the end of the walkway.
“It was set on a timer,” Glorfindel explained. “It will go off in less than a minute.” They silently counted down. Fifty seconds later, an explosion rocked the cavern. The giant stalactite above the Colossus shook loose and came crashing down onto the giant stone creature’s head. Smoke and dust went flying in all directions. The party all covered their eyes.
When they looked back up, the whole cavern was still covered in a giant cloud of dust. It slowly began to clear. As the dust began to settle, the cloud faded. Then the companions saw the top of the Colossus head reappear. The throne was smashed, but the head was completely intact!
“The deals off,” Anya said. Then she and Mallona winked out of existence.
“She teleported!” Glorfindel cried.
Then they heard a muffled explosion from above and the whole cavern began to shake. A few seconds later, there was another explosion and the cavern shook some more. Gravel began to shake loose from the ceiling.
“It must be Anya!” Aksel yelled. “We saw three mage cannons on her ship when we flew in.”
“She’s going to bring the whole monolith down on our heads!” Elvisda cried. “We gotta get out of here.”
The cavern rocked from one more explosion as Glo quickly cast fly on Cyclone and Elvisda. Then the mage grabbed Elistra. Lloyd grabbed Alana and Cyclone grabbed Donnie. Then they all flew up the stairs. As they reached the basement they headed straight for the lift and began to fly up the shaft. The monolith rocked another three times as they headed for the roof. The walls of the shaft began to crack and chunks began to come loose and fall down the shaft. The companions had to dodge the falling debris as they continued to fly up the shaft.
They finally made it to the top and flew out the top windows. They headed down to the edge of the clearing where Martan waited with the two squires. As the landed, the turned and saw the airship fire on the monolith three more times. Smoke rose from the base of the structure and then the entire monolith crumbled from the top down to the ground.
The companions turned and ran into the woods as debris flew all around the clearing. They hid behind the trees as stone flew past them out into the forest. Finally, the barrage of flying debris stopped. The company came out from behind the trees and saw a huge dust cloud where the monolith had been. Above the airship could be seen hovering over the clearing.
When the dust finally settled, all that was left of the Golem Master’s monolith was a pile of rubble that spread all over the clearing.
“Well that was a close one,” Donnie commented.
“Yeah, I thought we were all pancakes for sure,” Cyclone added.
A voice from behind them said, “I’m glad to see you made it out alive.” The companions whirled around and saw Anya standing there with Mallona and another guard.
“Yeah, no thanks to you,” Elvisda replied angrily.
“Don’t be mad at me,” Anya said acting hurt. “You didn’t fulfill our agreement. I warned you that I would destroy the monolith. It’s not my fault you were still in it. But I am genuinely glad that you made it out in time.”
“I’m sure you are,” Alana said indignantly.
“There’s no need to be angry,” Anya replied. “Tell you what. I’m heading to Dunwyn on my next stop. In order to show you there are no hard feelings, I will offer you a ride to anywhere you want to go along the way.”
“You must be crazy if you think we’ll accept a ride from the likes of you,” Alana declared. “Right guys?” she said turning to look at the rest of the company. But when she saw their faces, she realized that they were actually considering the Princess’s offer. “You can’t be serious!” Alana yelled. “This maniac just tried to kill us all, and you are thinking of going with her? Well if you do, you can count me out. I won’t get on a ship with that evil witch and her minions!” the lady paladin declared. Then she turned and stormed away in a huff.
“Alana!” Donatello cried. The swashbuckler went running off after her.
“Anyway,” Anya said, “I am landing my ship in the meadow where we first met. I’ll be there for the next hour loading everything back on board. If you decide to come with me, then show up before we are done. Either way, we leave in an hour. Oh, and Elvisda, it would be nice to have your company on this voyage. These trips can be so boring and you did promise to entertain me.” She blew the bard a kiss. Then she said, “Bye, bye” and winked out of existence once again.
Donnie showed up a few minutes later, without Alana.
“Is she still pissed?” Elvisda asked the other elf.
“Yeah,” Donnie said ruefully, rubbing the back of his head with one hand. “I think she is serious. If we take the airship, she is not coming with us. She just went to get Lamorn and Syndir and they are packing up their gear.”
Just then a voice cried, “There you are!”
The companions whirled and saw Ruka and Maya running through the woods towards them. When they reached them, Ruka said, “We saw the monolith come down. We weren’t sure if you guys were still inside. So we decided to come and investigate.”
“Cal is a big chicken,” Maya giggled. “He wouldn’t leave the river. He said the dragon lady will get us for sure!” Then the little girl saw Cyclone. She walked up to him and said, “Ohhhh, you must be Donatello. No wonder Ruka likes you!”
“Ummm Maya,” Ruka said in an embarrassed tone, “that’s not Donatello. That’s Donatello,” she finished pointed to the swashbuckler.
Maya turned and looked at the elf. Then she began to laugh hysterically.
“It’s not that funny,” Donnie said in a hurt tone.
Then the little girl started prancing around the group chanting in draconic, “Ruka’s got a boyfriend. Ruka’s got a boyfriend….” This continued on until Ruka finally walked up and decked the little girl. The group gasped, but then Maya started to giggle even more as she rolled around on the ground.
“This is getting us nowhere fast,” Aksel finally interjected. “We have a decision to make.”
“What’s going on?” Ruka asked, ignoring her sister who was still giggling on the ground.
The companions explained the current situation to Ruka. Their horses had been scattered or eaten and they faced the prospect of walking all the way back to Garrotten, a trip that would take them over a week on foot. At that rate, it would be a full two weeks before they made it back to Restenford. And they could not be sure what other mischief the Serpent Cult would try in that time. Anya’s offer seemed like the only solution to get them back to Restenford in a reasonable amount of time.
Aksel was worried that Ruka was going to blow up like Alana did, but the young girl dragon listened gravely to their explanation. At the end of it she said, “Well you need to do what is best for everyone. I’ve got to take Maya and Cal and start searching for Ves.” Then she turned to Donnie and said, “If you need me, you know how to contact me.” Then she went over and pulled Maya off the ground where the little girl still lay, still having fits of giggles. “Come-on giggle puss,” Ruka said as she hoisted her sister to her feet, “we need to go get Cal and then go look for Ves.”
“Oh yeah,” Maya said delighted, “Let’s go find Ves!” Then she ran off ahead of Ruka back down towards the river.
Ruka rolled her eyes skywards and then said, “Good luck to you all. And be careful. Alana is right. Don’t trust that dragon lady any farther than Aksel could throw her.” She grinned then turned and took off after her sister.
“Well, I guess that’s settled then,” Aksel proclaimed. “We fly with Anya.”
Alana, true to her word, declined the invitation. Her and Donnie bade a tearful goodbye and the lady knight set off with her two squires back down the path that eventually led to Garrotten.
Then the rest of the companions headed south towards the meadow. When the reached it, the airship was just gearing up to take off. The Princess saw them and halted the lift off. The party boarded the ship and it rose up into the air. As they gained altitude, the companions could see the remains of the monolith in the clearing to the north. Then the ship turned and headed east leaving what was left of the Golem Master’s obelisk behind, the Colossus buried deep below.