Knights of the Couch - Part V - The Disappearing Ships - Part 5

Two more loads of cargo had been retrieved from the depths. They were carting the second one back to the Endurance.
Aksel looked back over his shoulder to the shore. The Boulder had reached the cliff summit half an hour ago and headed inland. All the goblins had since disappeared from the top of the cliff.
“I wish I knew what was going on up there,” the cleric said aloud.
“I would send Raven, but they have lots of archers in their midst,” Glo responded.
“That’s ok,” Aksel said. “I know you can’t send her out there. It was just wishful thinking on my part.”
They were approaching the ship when suddenly the mast of the Endurance bursts into flames. Two seconds later lightning hit the deck. They looked and saw that the sky was clear. Then they spied three black robe figures flying above the ship. The figures circled a few more times and then turned back towards the shore.
“Oh no you don’t!” Lloyd shouted. He invoked his cape and rocked into the air after the three figures. He had drawn his blades and was about to intercept the black robed figures, when one of them cast a spell on the big warblade.
The air around Lloyd’s head turned dark for a second and then it dissipated. But the warblade was now flying erratically. It didn’t take a genius to figure out he was blinded.
“Damn!” Glo exclaimed. “I’ll go get him.” The wizard cast fly upon himself and then took off after the warblade. He got near Lloyd and stopped just out of range of the big man’s swords. They exchanged words, and then Lloyd put his blades away. Then Glo flew next to the big warblade and grabbed his arm. He guided Lloyd all the way to the Endurance where they both landed on deck.
Aksel and the others finally made it on board with the last cargo. They were admonishing Lloyd for flying off on his own when Ruka suddenly called from over the side.
Ves leaned over the rail and yelled, “What is it?”
“Someone threw one of the container’s overboard. We’re going to get it now.” And with that she dove back under the water.
When they retrieve the container and brought in on board, they saw it had Peltar’s seal on it.
“Lloyd?” Glorfindle said. “Let me park you hear on this container.” He led the big man to the cargo box and had him sit down on it. “If this moves at all, you have my permission to swing first and ask questions later.”
“My pleasure,” Lloyd complied. He was still blinded from the dark magician’s spell and was non too happy about feeling useless. This task seemed to cheer him up.
Meanwhile, other things were spotted being moved around the deck. But when they went to investigate, no one was there.
Ruka had the dolphins circling the ship. They made a barrier which nothing seen or unseen could get by. Then Seth and the rest of the KOTC members searched the ship top to bottom. They found two bodies stuffed in the ship’s vault with no clothes.
When they got back up on deck, Ruka was there with a third body. It was a man without clothes.
“Why that’s one of my officers!” the Captain Rochino exclaimed.
“Well, looks like we’ve got an imposter on board somewhere Captain,” Aksel replied.
Just then Lloyd called out. “Hey!”
“What is it Lloyd?” Glorfindle shouted back.
“Come here,” Lloyd yelled.
The party walked over to Lloyd.
“What’s going on?” Glorfindle asked.
“I was sitting here, guarding the crate like you asked me to, when I overheard a couple of the sailors talking. They were complaining about one of sailors over there,” Lloyd pointed to the port side of the ship, “not knowing what he was doing.”
“Good ears Lloyd,” Aksel said.
They walked over to the port side of the ship, Rochino with them. After a few minutes, the Captain pointed out the imposter.
Seth and Martin tried to sneak up on the man, but when they got close, he whirled and stabbed Martin square in the chest. Then he went to throw Martin overboard. Seth only had seconds to react and he grabbed Martin before he fell.
But the sailor took the opportunity to jump overboard himself. But Ruka was right behind him. She arced over the railing and hit the water in a clean graceful dive.
Meanwhile, Ves had reached Seth and Martin. She took the hapless archer in her arms and began healing his chest wound.
Two seconds later and underwater explosion rocked the boat. They all went to peer over the side and Ruka popped up from out of the water with the imposter in her arms. He looked as if he had been charred.
Ruka brought the man aboard. Then they tied him up and Seth searched him. In one of his pockets he found Peltar’s amulet.
“I’ll take that,” Glorfindle said. Seth turned and handed the amulet over to the wizard who neatly slipped it into his robes.
Seth continued to search the man and found the dagger he had used on Martin.
Over by the railing, Ves had just finished healing Martin’s chest wound.
The archer grabbed her hands and kissed them thanking her profusely. “You are like my own personal angel,” he told the young girl. She blushed slightly, but did not push his hands away.
Aksel was staring over the rail at the shoreline. “I really wish I knew what was going on over there.” It was obvious he was worried about the Boulder.
Ves gently extricated herself from Martin and stood up. She walked over next to Aksel and said, “There might be a way.”
“If there is please tell me,” he replied. “I’m willing to try anything at this point.”
“Very well,” Ves replied, “but we will need some privacy.”
“Captain?” Aksel called.
Rochino came over and said, “What can I do for you?”
“We need a section of the deck cleared. We are going to try something to find out what is happening on the shore and we need some privacy to do it,” the cleric told him.
“Very good,” the Rochino replied. “All hands to the starboard side of the deck.” He ordered.
When the port side had been cleared, Ves and Aksel disappeared behind the cargo crates. Two minutes later, a giant eagle appeared winging its way off the deck. On its back sat the little cleric.
“Would you look at that,” one of the sailors whistled.
Glorfindle looked at Seth and winked.

The wind was exhilarating in his face. Aksel had never flown before, except of course the kites back in Corizon. But those were nothing compared to this.
Ves, or the eagle, was extremely fast. The water flew by below and before he knew it, they were over land. They were pretty high up at first so it was hard to see much down below. But Aksel was not able to see any movement at all up on the cliff.
“Can we get any lower!” he cried.
The eagle let out a screech and then began spiraling downward in a slow arc. When they got a bit farther down, Aksel spotted the Boulder. It was standing a few hundred yards in from the cliff. There was at least fifty bodies strewn all around it.
Aksel concentrated for a moment with the command ring and finally felt the connection. The stone golem turned and began heading back towards the cliff.
“That should do it!” he yelled over the wind.
The eagle screeched again and they turned and soared back up into the sky.

When they were back on board, Ruka came to meet them.
“I think your golem had quite a fight on its hands,” she told them. “It’s got two large gashes. One on its front and one on its back.”
“That’s not good,” Seth said.
“No, it isn’t,” Aksel replied. “We are going to have to get more scrolls from Peltar to repair him.”
“Maybe he’ll give us the scrolls for his pendant,” Glorfindle added. “He promised us a reward anyway.”
Aksel visibly brightened at that.

About an hour later, the ship tilted slightly signifying that the Boulder had reached the anchor. With that, Captain Rochino gave the order and the Endurance weighed anchor and took off into the inlet back to Restonford.
While they were heading back, Glorfindle took out Peltar’s pendant and tried to identify it. But he couldn’t get anything on the item. He finally gave up and put it away back in the chest it originally came in. Lloyd, still blinded, sat back down on the chest to guard it.
“Don’t worry Lloyd,” Aksel said. As soon as we get back, I’ll go and rest and pray for a spell to remove blindness. Then you’ll be good as new.”
“Thanks Aksel,” Lloyd replied.
“Can you identify some of our items?” Seth asked Glorfindle.
“I can try,” the wizard replied.
Seth handed the elf the dagger he had just acquired. Glo concentrated on the item for a minute and then said, ‘it is a magical dagger with a better than average chance of puncturing its target.” He handed the dagger back to Seth.
Then Aksel handed him the ruby ring he had found at the lighthouse. It turned out to be a minor ring of health.
Seth was just pulling out another item when Martin came over to them and said, “What’s that in the sky?” The archer pointed to the east.
They all looked and barely visible a spec appears. It started getting larger as they watched.
Glorfindle said, “I can’t quite make it out yet. It looks reddish-orange, whatever it is.”
Seth was staring intently. Then recognition crossed his face. “It’s a Copper Dragon,” Seth said.
Ves had come over with Martin. Now she pulled Glorfindle aside and said, “My sisters and I cannot be seen by that dragon. Please do not tell it that you have seen us.”
“Okay,” the wizard agreed.
Then the three girls jumped overboard and disappeared underwater.
The dragon grew larger and larger in the sky as it got closer to the ship. When it finally caught up with them it turned out to be an adult copper dragon. It hovered over the ship making the crew nervous.
Seth called out to it in Draconic and struck up a conversation with the dragon. The dragon asked the little ninja if he has seen three girls. Seth, having overheard Glo and Ves’s conversation, hemmed and hawed, when all of a sudden the copper dragon spiraled out of control and landed in the water.
They all rushed to the railing and saw the dragon was floundering in the water. It obviously could not swim.
Glorfindle immediately began casting a spell. He raised his hands and the dragon levitated out of the water just enough to save it from drowning. Next the elf jumped out onto the dragons back and cast another spell. A rope appeared above the elf, seemingly suspended in mid-air. Glo grabbed the rope and climbed up disappearing at the top of the rope.
Then the dragon grabbed for the rope. After a couple of tries, it finally caught hold of it and then hauled itself out of the water. It shook the water off its wings and then turned and began to fly away. Over its shoulder it yelled, “Thank you” in Draconic.
Seth shouted back, “Meet me in Restonford later today.”
When the dragon had completely disappeared, Ves and Maya climbed back on board the ship. Glorfindle pulled them aside and said, “Ladies, you realize that your actions put this ship in a lot of danger.”
“We’re sorry,” Ves replied. “We didn’t mean to cause you any trouble.”
“Well, that’s all well and fine,” the wizard replied, “but if you are to continue to associate with us, then you need to explain a bit more about yourselves.”
“You’re right,” Ves agreed. “I guess that is only fair. Once again, I am sorry for any trouble we have caused you. The dragon you just saw is named Calephorous. He is a friend of our fathers and has been watching out for us while he has been away. You see, I wasn’t completely honest with you earlier.”
“Oh?” Glorfindle said.
“Umm, yeah,” Ves continued. “When I told you we were on a pilgrimage to see where our father grew up, that was a lie. We actually snuck away from home without anyone knowing. That is why Calephorous is looking for us now.”
“I see,” Glo told her. “So why did you run away?”
“Well,” Ves paused, “our father, who actually is Rodric Greymantle, was once a member of the Wizard’s council, as you had said. He had retired when he married our mother and moved to the Glittering Isles as I told you. However, several months ago, he was approached by some current members of the council. They told him that several of the twelve council members had disappeared without a trace and asked him for his help in finding them. Well Dad felt obligated to aid them, so he agreed. But he had been gone some three months now without so much as a single message.”
“So you and your sisters decided to go looking for him yourselves,” Glo finished.
“Why yes,” Ves agreed. “That’s exactly what we thought.”
“Well, I thank you for your honesty,” the elf told her. “Let me talk this over with the others.”
“Okay,” Ves said. She seemed somewhat pensive.
Glo went back to get Aksel and Seth. He pulled them aside and told them the whole story.
“You know, this might be related to this recent rise of the Serpent Cult,” Aksel mused.
“Possibly,” Glorfindle responded. “Peltar might know more about this. We could take the girls to see him.”
“Maybe,” Aksel replied slowly. “Let’s at least see what he might know about members disappearing from the wizard’s council though first.”
Glorfindle went back to Ves and told her what they had decided. “So we’ll talk to Peltar and see what he might know. Also, we could enlist the aid of the Baron of Restonford. He has become a friend of ours and might be willing to support us in a quest to track down your father.”
“You would do that for us?” Ves was surprised.
“Of course dear,” the elf replied. “What else are friends for? We have become friends have we not?”
She took his arm in hers and replied, “Yes. We most certainly have.”
They walked back over to Maya and Ruka and Ves brought them up to date.
“It’s ok with me,” Ruka said. “After all, we need to go to town anyway if we are to collect our reward. But I still think we need to be careful. Especially with Calephorous floating around. We don’t want him finding us and spoiling everything.”
Maya spoke up and said, “Ves, he couldn’t make you come back even if he tried.”
Ves turned to Maya and said, “Hush dear. That’s no way to talk.” Then she turned back to Glorfindle and said, “Kids. You never know what they will say next.”
The elf took a fresh look at the pretty young girl standing in front of him as if seeing her for the first time. He judged there was far more to this young lady than he had originally imagined. But time would tell he thought.
“So,” Ves was saying, “We will meet you all in town outside the wizard Peltar’s house. We will be in the forms of a peregrine falcon, a cat, and a flying squirrel.”
“Agreed,” the elf replied.
Ves reached up and kissed the wizard on the cheek. Then she walked over to Martin to say her farewells. She waved to the rest of them, and then the three girls dove overboard once again.
About a half hour later, the Endurance entered the harbor at Restonford. She pulled up to the docks and weighed anchor.
The KOTC members disembarked and met the merchants who had funded the voyage. They were delighted to hear that all their cargo had been recovered.
Seth stayed with them while they examined their cargo. He wanted to collect the 15% finder’s fee, plus someone needed to guide Lloyd back to their rooms at the tavern.
Meanwhile, Glorfindle and Aksel made their way across to Peltar’s house.
“You know,” Glorfindle said as the two of the walked along, “this has been a very strange turn of events. I daresay there is far more here going on than meets the eye.”
“I couldn’t agree with you more,” Aksel replied. “I have a feeling that things are just starting to get really interesting.”
The elf and the gnome continued to walk across town as they talked about what the future might have in store for their little band.

Knights of the Couch - Part V - The Disappearing Ships - Part 5

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