Rise of the Thrall Lord
Knights of the Couch - Part V - The Disappearing Ships - Part 2
“I don’t have time for this!” Peltar declared as he slammed the parchment down on the table. Glorfindle sat on the couch in the study and observed his “master” curiously.
Peltar continued to rave. “How I am supposed to get anything done with these constant interruptions? Now, Grellus wants me to babysit the body of some half-baked wizard that got himself killed by a group of novice adventurers!”
The old wizard paused for a moment and looked over at his apprentice. “No offense Glorfindle.”
“None take,” the elf replied quietly, doing his best not to react.
Peltar paced back and forth across the room muttering obscenities. Then he turned to the elf once more and asked, “Who was this mage in league with once again?”
“They’re called the Serpent Cult,” Glo replied. “We were told they are a group of dark magicians who worship serpents and can change into snake form. They are based up in Serpents Hollow.”
Peltar scoffed. “Magicians. Bah! More like children playing with magics beyond their comprehension.” Then he paused in mid-stride. “Serpent’s Hollow you say?” the old wizard intoned, his voice suddenly calming down.
“Yes,” Glo replied, “that is the information we received under a zone of truth spell.”
“Hmmm,” Peltar considered. “On second thought, maybe I was too hasty. I think I will keep the body of this…what was his name?”
“Voltark,” the elf said.
“Voltark,” Peltar repeated slowly. “Yes, I will look after the body. After all, Grellus is an old companion and friend. It wouldn’t be right to turn down his request.” The old wizard’s eyes became unfocused as if he was a million miles away while speaking these last few sentences.
“Very good then,” Glorfindle said. “If it is alright with you, I would like to do a bit more training. My companions are already off seeing to their own studies and I should not fall behind.”
“Yes, yes,” Peltar replied his mind still somewhere else.
“Well then, I will need access to some new spells,” the elf stated.
Peltar looked up as if something the elf said jarred his memory. “Spells you say? Yes, yes of course. This is one other thing you can do for me, however.”
“Yes?” Glo asked uncertainly.
“A ship was supposed to arrive the other day. I was awaiting a shipment that was on it for me; specifically a pendant. If you could find out what has happened to the ship, and possibly track down the pendant and return it to me, I will make it worth your while” the old wizard said.
“And the name of the ship?” the elf asked.
“The Lucky Coin.”
“The Lucky Coin,” Gelpas said, “One of four ships that have disappeared in the last month.”
“One of four?” Aksel asked.
“Yes,” Gelpas replied. “The Gail Runner, the Sydion, the Zephyr, and the Lucky Coin. The first three disappeared without a trace. This fourth ship, the Lucky Coin, actually had some survivors. They showed up in town a day ago, claiming that the ship was sunk by a sea monster.”
“We know,” Seth interjected. “I talked with some of the sailors down at Falcon’s tavern. According to them, they were coming in at night, in the middle of a storm. They spotted the lighthouse to their north and adjusted course for the inlet. But somehow they hit a reef and the ship started to sink.”
“That’s when the story gets weird,” Seth said and paused for a moment.
“Go on,” Gelpas encouraged.
“Well,” Seth continued, “they said it was kind of dark, except for occasional flashes of lightning. But they claimed they saw a large, scaly creature with a serpent like head grab one of the other sailors. Then they said an Angel appeared. They described her as having long blonde hair with a shimmering bronze outfit. And she was riding a dolphin. She rode up to the sea monster and commanded it to drop the sailor. The monster supposedly dropped the sailor and then just disappeared. The Angel then touched the sailor and he was healed. Then she carried the sailors to shore one by one on her dolphin and disappeared. They huddled in the rocks watching the ship sink. In the morning, the ship was gone, but the sky cleared and the seas were calm. Strangely though, they saw that the lighthouse was to their south when they had seen it’s light to the north the night before.”
When it was clear that Seth was done, Gelpas responded, “That is quite a interesting story. But sea monster, or angels non-withstanding, whatever is sinking these ships has to be stopped. And it would be even better if we could recover some of the cargo as well. As it stands we are going to have to postpone Andrella’s party a few days. Some very important guests were due to arrive via ship, but now no ships will dare sail past Cape Marlin to Restonford. So it will take a few extra days for them to get here.”
He paused for a moment then asked, “Do you all think you could take a ride down the coast to see what is going on down there?”
“I thought no boats were willing to sail in the area,” Aksel said.
“Well,” Gelpas responded, “We do have one ship that is willing to make the journey; the Endurance. The captain of that vessel is one of the best sailors on the high seas. And also, it doesn’t hurt that there is a substantial reward for retrieving the cargo of the ships that have disappeared.”
“So what is the reward?” Seth asked.
“Well we will pay you 5000 gold pieces outright if you can stop whatever is behind the disappearing ships,” Gelpas told them. “But, there is a 15% finder’s fee if you can recover the stolen cargo.”
“That sounds more than acceptable,” Aksel said. “Give us the rest of the day to prepare and we will head out first thing tomorrow morning.”
“I’ll make the arrangements with the captain of the Endurance”, Gelpas told them.
“Well Elvisda is busy training for the party, so we should probably let him be,” Glorfindle said.
“That’s fine,” Aksel replied, “but we still should have a tracker with us. No offense Lloyd. You are good, but we need a professional. Especially if we plan to investigate the source of the second lighthouse signal up the coast.”
“Well you can forget about Brundon,” Seth said. “He and Glendor split up and Brundon left town.”
“Really?” Aksel asked. “What happened to Glendor then?”
“He left town too. He came to me just before he left and said he wanted to join the Knights of the Rose,” Lloyd replied.
“That’s a shame about Glendor,” Aksel said, “He was a good man. Probably just as well though. Brundon was getting a bit troublesome to manage anyway. But that still leaves us without a tracker. Unless…”
“Martin!” Aksel and Seth exclaimed simultaneously.
“Didn’t he also leave town?” Lloyd asked.
“Yes, but that’s not a problem,” Glorfindle responded. “I can scry for him with the crystal ball we took off Voltark.”
As it turned out, it didn’t take too long to find Martin. He was camped in the foothills north of town. When the KOTC members showed up and offered him a steady paying job he jumped at the chance.
So first thing the next morning, Aksel, Lloyd, Seth, Glorfindle and Martin arrived at the docks. The Boulder trailed behind them, Aksel thinking the golem might prove useful on this quest.
The Endurance was making ready to set sail. The ship’s captain, Rochino, was at the dockside, talking with the ship merchants who were funding the expedition. One of them turned out to be their old buddy Haltan.
“Well if it isn’t the Knights of the Couch,” Haltan greeted them. He was friendlier than they remembered him to be, but after all, they were helping him to recover his lost cargo. “I hope you are as successful on this journey as you were when you handled that bandit problem we were having a few weeks ago.”
“We’ll do our best,” Aksel replied.
“Say, where’s your bard friend?” Haltan inquired.
“He’s busy rehearsing for the Lady Andrella’s party,” Lloyd replied.
“Ah yes,” Haltan said. “That makes sense. He is really very good with that lute of his. Sometimes too good one might say.”
“So these are the Knights of the Couch?” the Captain Rochino said. “I hope you’re as good at handling yourselves at sea as you are on land. Anyway, we’ve prepared quarters for you below deck. Stow your belongs. We’ll be under sail within the hour.”
Then the Rochino looked behind them and caught sight of the Boulder. “And where do you suppose you’ll be stowing that thing? Surely not on my ship. He’d sink it soon as he stepped on board.”
“Actually,” Aksel replied, “I gave this a lot of thought. He can ride the anchor.”
“Ride the anchor?” the Captain replied incredulously. He looked at Aksel as if he was daft. Then he seemed to think it over and suddenly burst into laughter. “You know, that just might work. Well, you have my permission to give it a try.”
“Thank you Captain,” Aksel said. Then he turned to the Boulder and commanded it to enter the water, grab the anchor and hang onto it.
The golem did as it was told and walked off the docks and into the water.
The KOTC members turned and walked up the gangplank to board the Endurance. They could still hear the Rochino chuckling to himself saying, “Ride the anchor. Heh, heh, heh. Ride the anchor.”
The Endurance made it to Cape Marlin in just over two hours. The ocean was calm and it was a beautiful clear day. The lighthouse could be clearly seen on its little island a few hundred yards off shore. The beach itself was a clear wide expanse of sand backed up against a high cliff face about 300 feet above the shore.
The ship weighed anchor and a boat was dropped to take the party to the beach. The KOTC boarded the boat and Aksel ordered the Boulder to begin walking to the shore.
Then the Endurance lifted anchor and headed back to Restonford. Captain Rochino was not about to leave his vessel in these waters overnight. So he agreed to come back and pick up the KOTC members first thing the next morning.
They were almost to the shore when Glorfindle said, “I can make out two figures about a half mile up the beach from here. It might be nothing, but I’ll send Raven to check it out.” The elf sent his familiar winging through the air northward towards the two figures he had spied.
By the time they reached the beach, Glo said, “According to Raven, those figures are two females. And one has long blond hair and her body glitters.”
“Very interesting,” Aksel replied. “We should check that out.”
“While you guys do that,” Seth said, “Martin head north to look for that other lighthouse.”
“Very good,” Aksel said. “Good luck.”
The little ninja and the archer headed towards the cliff face and found a trail up to the woods at the top. They soon disappeared into the trees and could no longer be seen.
Aksel, Glorfindle and Lloyd headed up the beach. When they reached the area where the two females had been spotted, a young girl, looking to be about 8 years old, stepped from behind some rocks. She was a cute little thing with long blonde hair, bright blue eyes and big dimples on either side of her mouth. When she saw them she grinned and said “Oh, there you are.” Then she turned to look over her shoulder and called out, “Ves, they’re here!”
“You were expecting us?” Aksel asked the little girl.
“Oh my, yes,” the girl replied. “When we saw your raven fly over, and heard it talking to someone, we figured they would be by sooner or later.”
“You heard Raven talking?” Glorfindle asked curiously.
“Oh yes,” the little girl replied. “We talk with animals all the time.”
Just then, another girl walked from behind the rocks. She was a stunning young woman, about 5’ 2” with fair skin, long blonde hair with a faint greenish tint and vivid aqua-blue/green eyes. She was wearing a shimmering bronze-colored dress. She looked to be about 17 years old.
“Maya, where’s your manners?” the older girl said. Then she turned to the group and said, “I am Ves and this is my sister Maya. We were just having a picnic on the beach. Would you care to join us for lunch?”
“Well, I am rather hungry,” Lloyd said.
“You’re always hungry,” Aksel said. “We would be honored to accept your gracious invitation” he told Ves.
“Wonderful,” Ves said. “Right this way.” She led them through the rocks to an open area beyond. There was a fire pit with a makeshift rack over it and some fish on top of that. They were simmering nicely over the fire.
“Lunch should be ready in a little bit,” Ves said. “Why don’t you make yourselves comfortable in the meantime.” Then she went over to fire and checked on the fish.
Glorfindle and Lloyd followed Ves over to the fire and continued talking with her. Meanwhile, Aksel stayed with Maya who had picked up some rocks and was skipping stones into the water.
“So do you and your sister come out here often to the beach?” Aksel asked the little girl.
“No,” Maya replied. “We just got here a day or two ago. We’re on a trip.”
“Really,” Aksel said, “Where are you going to?”
“Oh we don’t know exactly just yet,” Maya said skipping another stone.
“Well then, how will you find out,” Aksel asked somewhat amused.
“Oh, Ves will take care of it,” Maya replied confidently. “She’s good at that kind of thing.”
Aksel was about to ask another question when he spied a black and white cat sitting on a rock a few yards away to his right. It was staring at him intently. He stared back for a few seconds and then turned his attention back to Maya. But the little girl had stopped skipping stones and was heading up the beach towards the others. When he turned back to look at the rock, the cat was gone.
He was just about to turn to join the others himself, when another girl appeared coming out of the water. She was wearing a leather tunic, had short blonde hair, mercurial blue eyes, and moved with a cat like grace. She looked like she was related to the other two girls, but was approximately 12-13 years old. She walked right by Aksel without so much as a nod and went up to the others. Aksel turned and followed.
“Oh, everyone, this is my other sister, Ruka,” Ves told them. “Ruka, this is Lloyd, Glorfindle and Aksel,” Ves continued, pointing to each of them in turn. “They are here to investigate the ships that disappeared.”
“You mean the sunken ones down by the reef,” Maya corrected her sister. “There are four of them.”
“That’s right,” Glorfindle replied. “How did you know that.”
“Oh, we’ve seen them while swimming with our dolphin friends,” Maya said jubilantly. “They told us where to find them.”
“Maya!” Ruka growled.
“It’s fine Ruka,” Ves said smoothly, warning her sister to back off with her eyes.
“Sure, it’s fine,” Ruka said, “Go ahead. Give away all the family secrets. See how far it gets us.” Then she got up and stormed away.
“You’ll have to forgive her,” Ves said apologetically. “Ruka is not very trusting of strangers. Give her time to get to know you. She’ll come around.”
The fish were finally ready and they sat down to eat together. Ruka came back a few minutes later and joined them. Though she did sit back away from the newcomers.
When they had finished lunch, they sat back and Glorfindle repeated the story they had heard from the sailors of the Lucky coin. When he mentioned the lighthouse, Ves said, “That’s strange. We’ve been here all week and the lighthouse has never been lit.”
“Hmmm,” Aksel said, “That confirms a theory we are developing.”
Glorfindle continued telling the story. When he got to the part about the sea monster, Maya began coughing.
“Easy there little girl,” Lloyd said patting her gently on the back.
Maya turned to look up at the big warblade and giggled.
When Glorfindle got to the part about the Angel and how she saved the sailors, Ves blushed a tiny bit. But she quickly recovered and said, “That is a very interesting story. But we have been here on this beach for the last week and have not seen anything like that at all.”
“But you have seen the sunken ships,” Aksel prodded.
“Yes,” Ves admitted. “We have seen the sunken ships.” She paused then quickly said, “You see, our family has some special talents. Our father is Rodric Greymantle.”
“Greymantle,” Glorfindle repeated. “Rodric Greymantle. I know that name. Wasn’t he a member of the Wizard’s Council?”
“Yes, that’s him,” Ves replied. “We are on a pilgrimage to see where our father grew up. You see, when Dad met Mom, he gave up being a member of the Council and moved with her back to her homeland on the Glittering Isles. We three girls were born and raised there. I even studied for a short time at a temple in Lanfar across the channel. But none of us have ever been to Thac. And we really wanted to see where our Dad had been born and raised. So here we are.”
“And you have certain special talents, such as talking to animals,” Aksel added.
“Yes,” Ves replied, “we can talk to animals.”
“And dolphins!”, Maya added exuberantly.
“And dolphins,” Ves agreed.
“And swim very well underwater?” Aksel inquired.
“Really well!” Maya cried. “Ves and I are good, but Ruka is the best. You would think she was a dolphin if she wasn’t…”
“Maya!”, Ves cut her off, “that’s quite enough.”
Ruka sat back and said nothing. It was obvious from her demeanor, however, that she did not approve of the way the conversation was going.
“Look ladies,” Glo interjected, “we are merely here trying to find out who, or what, is responsible for the sinking of these ships. And we need to recover the sunken cargo if we can. You obviously have some very special talents which make you far better suited for such an operation than we are. Would it be possible to enlist your aid in this undertaking?”
“Well, I’m not sure…” Ves began to say.
“How much?” Ruka interrupted.
“How much what?” Glorfindle responded, taken aback by the young girl’s sudden interest.
“How…much…are you willing to pay us for our services?” Ruka said.
Glorfindle looked over at Aksel who shrugged his shoulders. Then he looked back at Ruka who was staring at him intensely. “What would you say to 5% of the finder’s fee?”
“And how is that calculated?” the young girl inquired even more intensely.
“It’s 5% of whatever we can recover. The more cargo we recover, the more we get paid,” Aksel told her.
“That sounds interesting,” Ruka said. She turned to Ves and they exchanged looks. Then she turned back to them and said, “Alright, we’ll do it.”
“Excellent,” Aksel replied. “But first we need to check out that lighthouse. It would be better if the Boulder was here already.”
“The Boulder?” Maya giggled.
“Yes,” Aksel replied, “He is our stone golem.”
“And you named him the Boulder?!” Maya shrieked. Then she fell over on her back and held her stomach while having a fit of snorts and giggles.
They watched the young girl with amusement until she had almost laughed herself out. When she was finally done she sat back up. Still smiling and occasionally giggling she said, “The Boulder, hehe, is almost to the shore. The dolphins told me just before we ate lunch.”
“Very good,” Aksel replied. “Then let’s walk back to the end of the beach.”
By the time they made it back down the beach, the Boulder had appeared. Aksel commanded it head to the lighthouse. The creature turned and began walking in the direction of the tall building.
“Well that will take awhile,” Aksel said. “Might as well get the boat and begin to head over ourselves.”
They gathered their packs, got in the boat. Ves joined them, but Maya and Ruka insisted on swimming over themselves.
This is going to be mighty interesting Aksel thought to himself.