Rise of the Thrall Lord
Knights of the Couch - Part VI - Party Crashers - Part 5
Half an hour later, the KOTC, now with Donatello, Martin and the Boulder, were headed back up towards the castle. Aksel was actually riding on the big golem’s shoulder. There recent encounters with Dunnwyn had unsettled him and he was in no mood to be ignored anymore. Let them try to overlook me now the little gnome thought from his perch atop the Boulder’s shoulder.
They marched through the town and reached the road that led up to the keep. A short pace up the road sat eight more men in blue uniforms on horseback.
“Great. More idiots from Dunwynn,” Donnie remarked.
“We’ll just march right over them if we have to,” Aksel said calmly. He started the Boulder up the hill once again. The others followed.
When they got within 10 paces of the force from Dunwynn, the lead rider held up his hand and cried, “Halt!”
“In whose name!” Lloyd yelled back roughly.
“In the name of Sir Fafnar, right hand man to the Duke of Dunwynn himself,” the man replied smugly.
“We do not recognize Sir Fafnir’s right to order anyone around in the town of Restenford,” Aksel replied from his perch. “We have been invited to this party by the Baron himself. Now kindly move out of our way or we will be forced to plow through you.”
The Dunnwyn men laughed at the little gnome. Then the lead man spoke up again. “Those are big words from such a little fellow. I see that you ride a stone man. Are you a golem master, or a great wizard perhaps?” The last was said mockingly. The group snickered.
“Why, yes. In fact I am a great wizard,” Aksel replied grandly.
“Then show us,” the lead man said smartly.
“Very well. If you insist,” Aksel said. Then he began to cast a spell.
Suddenly the Dunnwyn brigade were surrounded by dozens of dancing lights. They were obviously not very familiar or comfortable with magic. Some of them visibly flinched back.
“Not very bright are they?” Donatello whispered.
“If that scares them, I’d like to see how they would react to one of Glo’s fireballs,” Elvisda said turning to the elf wizard and winking.
The elf wizard winked back.
A small smile had crossed Aksel’s face. “Is that good enough for you,” he asked loudly to the Dunwynn troop.
“So you may be a conjurer at that,” the lead man admitted. “But we still have our orders. You may not pass us.”
“Enough of these idiots,” Seth said. “Aksel, why don’t you just mow them down. If they’re too stupid to move out of the way, then it’s their own fault.”
Now a broad grin crossed Aksel’s face. “I like that idea!” he declared. Then the little gnome commanded the Boulder to move forward.
“Anyone want to bet on how long it takes them to move out of the way?” Donnie whispered.
“I give them till the Boulder is within ten feet,” Elvisda replied.
“I don’t care if they move or not,” Seth said point-blank.
The Dunnwyn group tried to hold their ground. “Wait, you can’t!” the lead man cried as they bore down on him. As the Boulder drew closer, he loomed larger and larger over the men. Their faces became more and more frightened. Finally, when the Boulder was almost on top of them, the group broke and moved to either side of the road.
“Guess they’re braver than I thought,” Elvisda laughed.
The KOTC moved passed them at a steady pace. As they continued up the hill, the troop from Dunnwyn fell in behind them. When the entire entourage came close to the gates of the keep, a familiar rider, in a blue doublet trot up in front of them.
“What goes on here?” Fafnar asked loudly. “I thought I ordered that these varlets were not to be allowed anywhere near the castle. Especially with this thing,” he finished pointing at the Boulder.
The lead man broke from the group behind the party and rode up to the Dunnwyn knight. “I’m sorry Sir, but they would not stop.”
“Well then, you should have forced them to,” Fafnar said peevishly. “These are mere ruffians. You are trained Dunnwyn troops. You cannot tell me you are afraid of these upstarts?”
“N-no, Sir!” the man cried. “It’s just…”
“It’s just that they had no stomach to face us and our golem,” Elvisda finished for the man.
“I guess Dunnwyn troops are just not as brave as you think,” Donatello added.
“I was not talking to you, you non-humans,” Fafnar said distastefully. “Well, you may have frightened my soldiers, but you will not get through me so easily,” the knight declared.
Lloyd moved to the front of the party and placed his hands on his sword hilts. “We’ll just see about that,” he said in a low, dangerous tone.
Suddenly a voice came from behind Fafnar. “What goes on here,” the voice cried. It was Francis, their friend from the castle guard.
Fafnar turned and faced the Restenford guard. “These ruffians were headed up to the keep. I told them that the likes of them would not be welcome here.”
Francis looked past the man and saw the KOTC. “Why these are the Knights of the Couch!” the castle guard declared, “They are guests of honor at tonight’s proceedings. There must be some mistake.”
“Indeed, there must be,” Fafnar replied coolly. “We ran into these hooligans in the town a little while ago. I cannot believe that the likes of them are invited to tonight’s festivities. That right should be reserved for nobles and royalty alone.”
“There must be some misunderstanding here,” Francis declared. “Please wait here. I will get Captain Gelpas.” Francis turned and headed back up to the castle.
“Uh, oh,” Elvisda taunted Fafnar. “You’re in trouble now.”
Fafnar declined to respond.
Two minutes later, Captain Gelpas walked out to where the Dunnwyn entourage was confronting the KOTC. “What goes on here!” the Captain demanded in a no nonsense tone.
“These morons won’t let us into the castle,” Seth said before anyone else could speak up.
Fafnar turned to the Captain and said coolly, “I’m certain that these elves and what not are not on the guest list.”
“Well of course they are!” Gelpas shot back angrily. “They’re honored guests of the Baron and Baroness themselves. In fact their presence is essential in tonight’s proceedings.”
Disbelief crossed Fafnar’s face.
“Would you look at that,” Donnie quipped. “He’s actually speechless. Never thought I’d see the day.”
“Now I’m sure you are used to giving orders in Dunnwyn,” Gelpas continued, “but this is Restenford Sir Fafnar. So if you and your troops will kindly move out of the way?”
Fafnar finally recovered his voice. “I still don’t believe it,” he said in a shocked town. Then he regained his composure and stated, “But, I guess this is just a backwater town after all, so one could not expect the proper forms of propriety to be followed here.”
“Are you questioning the Baron’s choice of guests?” Gelpas said angrily, folding his arms over his chest.
“This is getting good,” Elvisda whispered to Glorfindle.
The elf wizard gave the bard a quick smile in response.
“No, no,” Fafnar replied quickly. “I wouldn’t dream of questioning the choices of the barony of Restenford,” he said somewhat mockingly. “By all means, let these ruffians pass and join us inside the keep.” He paused then added, “All, but that monstrosity”. Fafnar pointed at the golem. “That is a weapon of war and has no place among the lords and ladies inside. I refuse to let such a thing anywhere near the Duke.”
Gelpas threw up his hands in exasperation.
“That’s okay,” Aksel said suddenly. “The Boulder can stay outside the gate and stand guard.”
“And I will have guards around it to make sure it stays there,” Fafnar shot back.
“Do whatever you want,” Aksel replied calmly.
“Like that will make a difference,” Elvisda chuckled.
“Thank you Cleric Aksel,” Gelpas said in obvious relief. “Now, gentlemen, if you will please follow me inside the keep. The Baron is waiting.”
The KOTC moved forward. Fafnar fell in alongside them. “Don’t think this is over,” he whispered to the group.
“You can bet it isn’t” Lloyd replied evenly.
When they reached the gate, Aksel got down and parked the golem.
Fafnar waved his troops over and left four men standing around it.
“Now that that’s settled,” Gelpas said in exasperation, “can we all go inside now?”
“Surely, Captain”, Aksel replied loftily.
The KOTC followed Gelpas into the keep with Fafnar trailing behind.
Once they entered the castle grounds, a Dunnwyn guard walked up to Fafnar and whispered something to him. The Dunnwyn Lieutenant turned to Gelpas and excused himself. He said something about having to report to the Duke and took off hurriedly.
“I thought he would never leave,” Elvisda said.
“My thoughts exactly,” Aksel agreed.
“Oh come on,” Donatello said. “Everyone has a good side. Fafnar is showing us his right now,” the elf remarked and pointed at the fleeing man’s back.
There were mixed groans and guffaws from the group.
“Ves,” someone said out of the blue. The group turned as one and saw Martin staring across the courtyard. They followed his gaze.
Walking out of the garden area was a stunning young woman with long blonde hair in a flowing bronze gown. She was holding onto the arm of a tall older gentlemen in long brown robes. Skipping around them enthusiastically was a little blonde girl in a pale blue gown.
“And Maya,” Glorfindle added. “I was beginning to wonder if we were going to ever see them again.”
“Me too,” Martin said quietly. He seemed entranced as he stared at the lovely young woman.
Elvisda slapped the archer on the back. “Snap out of it man!” he told him sharply. “We’ve got work to do here.”
“Oh, right,” Martin said smiling wanly. “I guess I’ll go set up on the top of that tower.” The archer took one last look over at Ves. She was smiling and laughing with the old gentlemen. Then he took off towards the keep’s tower.
“I’m going to go talk with them,” Glorfindle said. He walked away towards the three figures.
“And I need to start preparing for tonight’s performance,” Elvisda announced. “Lloyd, come with me. Donnie, you can join us if you want.”
“Surely,” Donatello replied. “Always glad to see a fellow artist at work.” The three men walked off towards a big stage that had been set up in the center of the courtyard.
“I think I will go do some scouting around,” Seth told Aksel. “I saw some new wagons outside the keep.”
“Go ahead,” Aksel replied. “I’ll go with the Captain here and update the Baron on our security plans.”
“See you in a bit,” Seth said. Then the little ninja turned around and headed back towards the gate.