Rise of the Thrall Lord
Knights of the Couch - Part VI - Party Crashers - Part 4
Aksel and Seth entered the tailor’s shop. “Aksel! Seth!” said the man behind the counter. “You just missed Elvisda. He was here picking up his new outfit.”
“Hi Briginus,” Aksel replied. “We’re all running last minute errands before the party. In fact, Seth and I are also here to pick up our suits.”
“No problem,” Briginus replied. Then he turned and shouted, “Arwel! Customers! More Knights of the Couch.”
The tailor, Arwel, came walking in from the back room. “Seth. Aksel. Your outfits are ready. Come in back and try them on.”
Fifteen minutes later, they were leaving the shop. As they stepped outside, they saw a crowd gathered. From the center of the throng they heard an argument ensuing.
“Non-humans are not to be trusted,” a man’s voice was saying peevishly. He talked with a pronounced lisp. “And Elves are the worst of them all. They act all superior, like they are better than the rest of us. But in reality, they just keep to themselves because they are scared.”
“I resent your attitude friend,” a voice replied. “My companion here is an elf as you can plainly see. And he has stood by me through more dangerous encounters than you’ll probably ever see.”
It was Lloyd! Aksel realized. He motioned for Seth to follow him and they made their way to the center of the crowd.
There they saw Lloyd with his back to them. Glorfindle was standing a pace behind him. Opposite Lloyd was a man with long brown hair, a mustache, and a small goatee. He was dressed in a blue doublet, with lieutenant bars on his arms, an insignia on his chest, and two swords strapped to his waist. There was something decidedly feminine about the man.
“That insignia is from Dunnwyn,” Seth said softly.
“I’m sure that whatever encounters you have had may have been challenging for one of your station,” the man replied snobbishly, “but to a real knight, these backwater confrontations would be a mere trifle.”
“Some folks throw the term knight around very loosely,” Lloyd replied through clenched teeth. “Where I come from, that title isn’t something that is given to every noble’s son that comes along. It has to be earned.”
“And just where do you come from?” the man asked haughtily.
“Penwick,” Lloyd replied proudly.
“Ahhh,” the man replied, “Penwick. That explains much.” He turned and look behind him.
Aksel followed the man’s gaze to three more men dressed in blue uniforms, each with a Dunwynn insignia on their chest. They all snickered at the Lieutenant’s last statement.
This could get ugly quick Aksel thought to himself. He turned to Seth but the halfling was no longer next to him. Aksel quickly scanned the crowd and saw the ninja stealthily working his way around behind the group from Dunnwyn.
The Dunwynn Lieutenant had turned back to talk to Lloyd again. “It’s a quaint little town, with charming customs to be sure. But it is a mere village when compared with the grandeur of Dunnwyn.”
“Bigger doesn’t necessarily imply better, friend,” Lloyd replied, his anger now thinly veiled. His hands were resting firmly on his sword hilts.
“I’d suggest you take my friend here very seriously,” Glorfindle interjected. “He singlehandedly took down an Ettin a fortnight ago, which was decidedly bigger than you and your entourage put together my friend.”
“Ahh, the elf speaks,” the man chuckled. The Dunwynn group behind him snickered as well. “But the likes of you and your elf loving friend here do not scare me,” he continued. “We are made of sterner cloth in Dunwynn and do not frighten easily.”
“Then you are stupider than you look,” Glo replied acidly, glancing over at Lloyd. Aksel followed his gaze and realized that the big warblade was about two seconds from drawing his swords and tearing into these buffoons.
“Those are fighting words,” the Lieutenant responded, placing his hands on his sword hilts. His men behind him followed suit. “I am surprised an elf would show that much courage. But then, you do have this human to do your dirty work for you.”
“Oh, I can assure you, he will not fight alone,” Glorfindle replied darkly.
Aksel realized that things had gotten way out of hand at this point. He moved out of the crowd and walked up behind Glorfindle and Lloyd. It was too late to reason with either of them, so he positioned himself to back his comrades in the fight that was sure to follow.
Suddenly a lyrical voice came from the crowd to their right. “Friends! Friends! What goes on here? What is all this talk I hear of fighting?”
Aksel turned and saw the crowd part. A familiar figure entered the circle walking purposely into the center and placing himself between Lloyd and the Lieutenant from Dunwynn. It was Elvisda! A second elf that Aksel had never seen before followed the bard and stood next to him.
“And what have we here?” the Lieutenant said mockingly, “Two more elves. Why am I not surprised?”
The Dunwynn entourage burst into open laughter.
Elvisda turned his head and whispered back over his shoulder, “Steady Lloyd. I don’t think Andrella would be too happy with you for getting into a fight on her birthday.” Then the bard turned back to the Lieutenant and said calmly, “My good men. Dunwynn’s reputation for goodness and fairness is widely known around these parts. Surely you would not want to tarnish the good name of your fair city in a street fight on the day of the Lady Andrella’s birthday celebration.”
“Dunwynn’s reputation is no concern of likes of you,” the Lieutenant replied, “but you do bring up a salient point. The Lady Andrella’s wishes are more important than a minor skirmish with some street urchins.”
“That’s a pretty speech there my friend,” the unknown elf spoke up, “but from what I’ve already heard of this group you are facing, and adding to that my own prowess with the blade, I think that you would find this encounter anything but minor.”
“Yes, I’m sure that common riffraff like yourselves are used to handling the average ruffian or monster. But against trained troops from Dunnwyn, let me assure you, you wouldn’t stand a chance,” the Lieutenant replied in an infuriatingly insufferable tone.
“Really?” Elvisda responded. “Tell me friend, are you entered in the tournament tomorrow?”
The Lieutenant scoffed. “Of course I am. I am Sir Fafnar Strakentir, of the noble Dunnwyn house of Strakentir. Close personal friend to the Duke himself. My spot in the tournament was reserved before my arrival here.”
“Well then,” Elvisda said, turning and putting his hand on Lloyd’s shoulder, “you are looking at Lloyd Stealle, of the noble Penwick house of Stealle. His spot in the tournament has already been reserved by Baron Grellus himself.”
“You can’t be serious,” Fafnar responded. “Looks like they’ll let anyone into these backwater tournaments.”
The Dunnwyn group snickered yet again.
“Steady,” Elvisda whispered to Lloyd whose hands had gone to his sword hilts once again.
He turned back to the Lieutenant and said, “Furthermore, this entire group that you are addressing so derogatorily are personal guests of the Baron and Baroness at tonight’s festivities. We are what you might call local heroes and are held with a certain renown around here.”
The crowd surrounding the group began cheering KOTC! KOTC! as if to emphasize Elvisda’s point.
“Sooo,” Sir Fafnar drawled, “this is the mighty KOTC we’ve been hearing rumors about. Just as I suspected. Nothing but upstarts and hooligans. The town would be better off without you. What these people really need are some good Dunwynn knights protecting them.”
The crowd booed and hissed at that suggestion. Someone yelled, “Dunwynn go home!”
Fafnar seemed unperturbed. “Of course, the backwards people would not know the first thing about real law and order,” he countered.
“Well then, Sir Fafnar,” Elvisda said smoothly, “being that you are so sure of your own prowess, might I suggest a little wager on tomorrow’s tournament?”
“What do you have in mind?” the Dunwynn noble asked feigning boredom.
“Being that you dislike our presence in this town so much, how about this then: if you can best our friend Lloyd here in the tournament, then we will pack up and leave Restenford, never to return.”
The crowd booed.
“However, on the other hand, if Lloyd here beats you, then you will publicly declare that you were wrong about us and that the KOTC has every right to continue acting as protector’s of this town,” Elvisda finished.
“It will be no contest,” Fafnar replied.
“You’ve got that right,” Lloyd said darkly.
“Well?” the unknown elf needled Fafnar, “are you going to take the bet, or chicken out?”
“Fine!” Sir Fafnar almost spat the word. “But bet or not, you can be certain that I will be keeping my eye on you till you are banished in tomorrow’s tourney.”
“That remains to be seen,” Elvisda replied with a smile.
The crowd started chanting KOTC! KOTC! once again.
“Bah!” Fafnar said spinning on his heels, “Let’s get out of here.” He walked through his men who then pushed their way through the chanting crowd. The crowd parted and the KOTC members saw the Dunwynn group mount some horses and then ride away to the castle.
“Enjoy your last day in Restenford!” Fafnar yelled over his shoulder as he galloped away.
“What a pompous ass!” the new elf said.
“You’ve got that right,” Elvisda declared.
The crowd had dissipated and the KOTC stood alone in the street now with this new acquaintance.
“Not to be rude,” Aksel said, “but just who are you?”
“Oh,” Elvisda replied, “I never got a chance to introduce you. This is Donatello. Donnie, this is Aksel, Seth, Lloyd and Glorfindle.”
“Well met gentlemen,” Donatello said, bowing deeply to the others.
“How do you two know each other?” Aksel inquired.
“Actually, Elvisda and I met outside of this shop a little over an hour ago,” Donatello replied. “We are kindred spirits one might say and hit it off instantly. When he told me about your group, I just had to meet all of you.”
“Donnie is a very useful fellow,” Elvisda continued. “He has certain talents and knowledge that might prove very useful to our company. From what little I have been able to find out about him in the last hour or so, he is a bit of an artist, an acrobat, an expert on rare objects, and is quite handy with that blade at his side. I was thinking he might make a good addition to our guild.”
“Hmmm,” Aksel pondered. “It would be good to have an extra set of hands around. Especially with the party and the problems we may encounter tonight. What do you think Glo?”
“I have a bit of a sixth sense about these things,” the elf wizard replied. “I never told you about my mother, but she is an accomplished psionicist. I seem to have inherited certain gifts from her. They are untrained at best, but I do get impressions now and then.” He paused then continued. “My current sense is that…this fellow is predestined to join our little group.”
“Okay,” Aksel said, “Lloyd?”
“Well I don’t have any sixth sense like Glo,” Lloyd replied, “but I do like the way Donnie stood up to Fafnar back there. So he’s got my vote.”
“Seth?” Aksel said, turning last to the little ninja.
“As long as he doesn’t get in my way,” the halfling responded flatly.
“Well then,” Aksel said, “I guess that was unanimous.” He waited a few seconds, and when no one objected he continued, “Welcome to the team Donnie.”
They all shook hands. All except for Seth that is who stood a little bit off to the side.
“Looks like we’re being followed,” Donnie said as they walked up the road back to the Dying Minotaur.
“You’re just noticing now?” Seth shot back. “I saw him back there ten minutes ago.”
Aksel glanced quickly back and saw a Dunwynn guard about 30 yards back down the street. The little cleric led the group over to the other side of the road. He looked back and the guard did the same. Then he stopped the group. The man also stopped. When they started again, so did the guard.
Finally Aksel had enough. He turned around and strode back down the road towards the man. The rest of the group followed him.
The man stood his ground till they reached him.
Aksel walked up to the man and said, “Excuse me sir, but are you following us?”
The man did not answer. In fact he would not even look at the cleric.
Aksel was getting perturbed. He shouted this time, “Excuse me, but are you following us?!”
The man still ignored the cleric.
Elvisda walked up directly in front of the man. “I believe my friend here asked you a question.”
The man remained silent.
Then Lloyd shouldered his way in front of the man. He towered over him. The guard could not help but flinch.
Lloyd said in a rough tone, “Are you deaf or something? My friends here asked you if you are following us. Now answer their question.”
“Of course I’m following you,” the man replied, trying not to look intimidated by the big warblade. He was not succeeding.
“Why?” Aksel asked.
The man did not answer.
Lloyd was losing his temper. He got even closer to the smaller man and said angrily, “My friend asked you why?!”
“Sir Fafnar ordered me to keep an eye on the lot of you,” the man responded, obviously intimidated at this point.
“Fafnar,” Lloyd almost spat the name.
“Sir Fafnar,” the man responded trying to be brave.
“He did say he would be watching us,” Elvisda said in an amused tone.
“I’m glad you think this is funny,” Aksel retorted. He turned to the man and told him, “Why don’t you go back to Sir Fafnar and tell him you failed to keep an eye on us. It’ll do you no good to spy on us now that we know you are there.”
The man ignored him completely.
Lloyd had had enough. He grabbed the man by the collar and yanked him off his feet up into the air. The man flailed wildly but could do nothing but hang onto his collar to keep from choking.
“Now,” Lloyd said between clenched teeth, “why won’t you answer my friends?”
“They…they…” he tried to say but was having a hard time talking.
“Put him down Lloyd,” Elvisda said, “He can’t answer you while you’re choking his windpipe.”
“Fine!” Lloyd said and he dropped the man down on the ground.
Then Lloyd stood over him and said, “One last time. Why won’t you answer my friends?”
“They’re…”, the guard stammered, “not…human. Dunwynn…does not…associate with…elves or gnomes or halflings.”
“That’s dragon-dung!” Lloyd swore. He was about to pick the man up again, when Elvisda put his arm on the big man’s shoulder.
“Lloyd,” Elvisda said quietly, “let me handle this.”
“Okay,” Lloyd said. The big man took a deep breath and then stepped back a few paces.
Elvisda took out his lute and began to strum it. He looked down at the guard, who was still on the ground and said, “Friend, let me sing you a little tune.”
The guard looked wild eyed at the elf until the music caught his ear. Then suddenly his eyes went blank and a stupid grin crept across his face. In another minute he was staring off into space without a care in the world.
“There,” Elvisda said softly. “He won’t be bothering us again for quite awhile.”
“That’s a handy talent,” Donnie commented. “I’ve seen it done before, but never so well.”
“Style, my friend,” Elvisda replied. “It’s all in the style.”
The group laughed and walked away back towards the inn.