Rise of the Thrall Lord
Knights of the Couch - Part VI - Party Crashers - Part 8
Down on the stage, Elvisda and Shalla had just finished their performance. They received yet another standing ovation, both from the remaining audience and those already seated at the tables. Once the applause died down, some folks began lining up to meet the bards and get their autographs.
Back at the head table, the Baron was speaking with Glorfindle. “That was spectacular. I don’t remember when I’ve ever seen such an exciting show. Elvisda is fantastic on stage.” Grellus turned to his daughter and said, “Don’t you agree Andrella?”
Andrella had been busy talking with Lloyd. She turned in her chair and said, “Oh yes father. It was a marvelous show. Elvisda and that lady bard were fantastic! But Lloyd here was wonderful on the drums, wasn’t he?”
“Yes, Andrella,” Grellus agreed. “Mighty fine job there lad,” the Baron added looking at Lloyd.
Across the table, Fafnar was whispering in the Duke’s ear.
Then, Lord Kelvick, the Duke of Dunwynn cleared his throat. They all turned to look at him and the Duke said, “Baron Grellus, I am not familiar with this young fellow sitting next to the Lady Andrella.”
“Oh, my apologies, Kelvick,” Grellus said, ignoring the Duke’s title. “This is Lloyd Stealle. He is a young noble from Penwick.”
“A noble you say,” the Duke repeated, “from Penwick? I did not realize that there were very many families of nobility left in Penwick; Except of course for your own Avernos clan that is Grellus.”
Sir Brennon scowled at the Duke but said nothing.
“I assure you, Kelvick, there are numerous noble families still in Penwick,” the Baron retorted.
“Oh, I stand corrected then Grellus,” the Duke fired back. “But nobility and refinement is not exactly the same thing. This little performance of yours, while novel, was not exactly the kind of culture that someone of Andrella’s stature would be exposed to in Dunwynn, I can assure you.”
“No,” Glorfindle interjected suddenly, “were it Dunwynn, I am sure she would be taught how to be both snobbish and rude with equal aplomb.”
The Duke turned to regard the wizard and then said, “And who is this elf whom speaks to me so insolently?” He said the word elf as if it were a disease.
“Ahem,” the Baron cleared his throat, “this is the Wizard Glorfindle. He is Peltar’s apprentice. As my good friend could not be here this evening, I asked the good mage to stand in for him.”
“And you couldn’t find someone other than an elf?” the Duke asked with obvious contempt.
“Some would think it an honor to have an elf wizard in their midst,” Glorfindle shot back at the Duke. “But I guess it is too much to expect someone who is caught up in appearances and propriety to recognize talent, even when it is right in front of them.”
“What I recognize when it comes to elves,” the Duke shot back, “is arrogance and a tendency to look down on all the other races.”
“Perhaps that is because the other races still have a lot of growing up to do,” the elf wizard shot back heatedly.
“Gentlemen! Gentlemen!” the Baron interrupted, “this is supposed to be a celebration for Andrella’s birthday! Can we please put our differences aside for this evening at least?”
“Well I certainly can,” Glorfindle replied immediately.
“Yes, yes,” the Duke responded, “we wouldn’t want to do anything that would mar our fair Andrella’s party. We will save this discussion for another time elf,” he finished staring at Glorfindle.
Glo stared back unflinching. Then without warning the wizard received a message from his familiar.
Movement in the grass inside the keep Raven thought to him.
Glo stood up and began looking around. He saw nothing.
Where? he thought back to Raven.
Inside the gate. Near the stage Raven answered.
“What is that elf doing?” Kelvick asked behind him.
Glo ignored him and stared in the direction of the gate. Then he saw it. The earth was being pushed up from underneath. Something was moving underground; more than one something. Whatever they were, they were big, and they were headed this way.
Glo turned towards Lloyd and said, “They’re here!”
“Where?” the big warblade replied, rising immediately, hands on his blade hilts.
“Who’s here?” the Lord Kelvick said from behind him. “Whatever is this elf babbling about?”
Glo ignored him. “Towards the gate,” he told Lloyd, “moving underground.”
“Got it!” Lloyd yelled. He rushed off towards the gate drawing his twin swords. “Protect Andrella!” he cried back over his shoulder.
“And my dinner!” Donatello cried. He had also heard and was two steps behind Lloyd, rapier drawn and keeping pace with the big man.
“Protect her from what!” Kelvick demanded.
But Glorfindle was too busy to answer. He sent a message to Aksel first. They’re here, moving underground from the gate towards us. Aksel immediately thought back I see them now. I was looking out the gate. I’ll get the Boulder.
“Answer me elf! What is going on?” Kelvick commanded.
Glo turned to the Baron. “As we suspected your lordship, we’re under attack. Please have everyone stand back.”
Then the wizard turned around again and began messaging the rest of the party. Elvisda groaned, Man I was still signing autographs!
“Under attack?” Kelvick said incredulously. “From whom? I don’t see anything.”
The wizard continued messaging but Seth had already spotted them.
“The elf is mad your grace,” Fafnar remarked. “No one in their right minds would attack us with a platoon of Dunwynn soldiers at…”
Just then, across the courtyard in the direction Lloyd and Donatello were running, the earth blew open in multiple places. Seven giant snakes reared up out of the ground. They were huge, each easily six feet tall, except for the one serpent in back. That one was a full eight feet tall. It towered over the others.
Three dark figures in robes were astride three of the snakes. The one on the largest snake stood up as Lloyd and Donnie took up battle positions and Elvisda and Shalla joined them.
The bards began buffing the fighters as the figure on the largest snake stood up. He threw back his hood. It was Voltark! The dark mage spoke. “We are the Serpent Cult. You shall all bow down before us and worship our Serpent God, or you shall die here tonight.”
Back at the table Grellus and Fairwind said at the same time, “Voltark!”
Then Grellus continued, “You and Aksel were right, Glorfindle. They took his body to revive him.”
“So it would seem,” Glorfindle replied. “Now would everyone please move back? I am going to make myself a target for these wizards. I would hate for anyone else to get caught in the crossfire.”
Grellus herded all the people at the table back, including the Duke and his guards. Two of the Penwick knights, however, moved forward drawing their swords. “Calric, protect the Baron!” Sir Brennon commanded the third Penwick knight.
The two Knights of the Rose and Captain Gelpas who had been at the Baron’s side also ran forward towards the impending battle.
Sir Fafnir moved to join them but mysteriously tripped onto the ground.
Then Glorfindle got up on the table and shouted at Voltark. “There you are you poor excuse for a black mage!”
“Ah, if it isn’t Glorfindle!” Voltark yelled back. “Come to convert perhaps?”
“Actually, I was planning on killing you again!” the wizard replied.
“We shall see who kills whom this time,” the dark mage bragged. “The odds seem in my favor this time.” He spread his hands towards all the serpents around him.
Then a steady rumbling came from the gate behind him. The dark mage turned and looked as the Boulder came through the gate with a group of castle guards at his side.
“Maybe not!” Glo taunted the mage back.
Then Lloyd and Donatello rushed forward, the battle joined.
Lloyd rushed in his twin blades dancing. He parried an attack from the snake’s mouth, and as the monster recoiled, he spun and sliced through it with each blade. The snake flinched, deep wounds opened on its abdomen.
Donnie, meanwhile proved very quick and agile. A second snake went to attack him. He stood his ground as it lunged head forward towards him. It was quick for such a big creature. But Donatello proved faster. At the last possible second he tumbled out of the way and ended up behind the creature. He skewered it with his rapier and then dodged out of the way once again as it thrashed around looking for its tormentor.
At that same moment, Voltark had whirled his giant serpent around to meet the Boulder. The two behemoths clashed head on. The Boulder swung at the huge snake with both fists. They connected rocking the creature visibly where it stood.
The enormous snake recovered quickly and then slammed its body into the stone golem. The force knocked the Boulder back a few steps.
Meanwhile, the other two dark wizards had begun to cast spells.
Glorfindle, sensing what was coming, cast a quick spell on himself.
Then the dark mages both pointed at the wizard and two large balls of fire erupted from their hands and careened towards the elf. The fireballs struck the elf and the table he was on bursting into flames and charring the table. But Glorfindle stood in the midst of the flames, virtually unharmed.
Unfortunately, some of the flames had flown off the table and hit some of the guests. Then both Ves and the Baroness Fairwind moved into action and began healing the wounds of those individuals. However, poor Sir Calric had been burned badly. Before the ladies could get to him, Calric had succumb to his wounds.
Back in the fray, Lloyd had deftly deflected the attacks of the snake he was fighting and had inflicted a number of serious wounds on it. The snake began to droop from loss of blood and Lloyd saw his chance. He set his stance and then launched himself into the air swiping his blade clear through the snake’s neck. He landed on the other side of the snake as its severed head hit the ground. The big warblade did not wait but immediately ran at another snake and engaged it.
Donatello continued to confound his opponent. He dodged, parried, tumbled and struck at every opportunity. While he did not have the sheer power of Lloyd, he was wearing the giant snake down. It was beginning to sway dizzily as it tried to cope with the acrobat’s speed and its own wounds.
The other fighters had also joined the battle now. Gelpas and his guards were taking on a third snake. The Penwick knights took on a fourth, and the Knights of the Rose took on the fifth.
The sixth snake was moving in behind Donatello. Glorfindle had just been preparing his counterattack on the wizards when he caught sight of it. He turned and pointed at the snake. Then a bolt of lightning let loose from his finger and arced its way towards the snake. It passed through the giant serpent stopping it in its tracks and electrocuting it at the same time.
The bolt continued its path and caught a second giant snake behind the first one Glo had hit. That snake was being held at bay by the Penwick knights. They moved back quickly so as not to be caught by the electrical attack.
Back near the gate, the Boulder and the enormous snake continued their slugfest. The golem continued its two fisted pummeling of the serpent. And the serpent continued to slam the golem with its huge body.
Voltark had flown up off the snake and was hovering above battle. “You cannot defeat us!” he yelled in a booming voice. “The Serpent Cult is the future! Embrace our cause or die!” He twirled around as Glorfindle caught two of his snakes with a lightning bolt. He concentrated and launched a fireball at the elf wizard. Glo had been concentrating on the snakes and was caught by surprise. His previous protection spell absorbed some of the blast but the rest of it singed the elf.
As Glo fell back, Ves ran up and placed her hands on the wizard. A blue light appeared and his burns disappeared.
“Thanks Ves,” Glo told her. “When this is over, we need to talk.” She nodded in agreement. Then Glorfindle stood up again and began his next attack spell.
Meanwhile, Lloyd was hacking up another snake. He had been caught once by the snake’s head, but it was a glancing blow and the last one it landed on him. He launched into a furious flurry of attacks around it. His blades moved so fast that they were a blur. He slashed through the creature, sidestepped an attack, spun and cut again. The snake attacked again and he parried this time and sliced through it with both blades. On the last snake attack, Lloyd stood his ground and drove both blades into its snout and sliced the head wide open. The snake fell to the ground dead.
The two other dark mages had been trying to get in another clear shot at Glorfindle. But once their snakes came under attack they had abandoned them and moved out of sword range. When they saw Lloyd kill a second snake in just under five minutes, they both decided to attack him. They sent a dual flurry of magic missiles at the warblade.
Lloyd could not block the attack and took direct hits from six missiles. They did quite a lot of damage and kept him from moving onto another snake. Lloyd turned to advance on the mages, but they were too far away for him to get to before they could cast again.
Seth, however, had been watching the battle from the rooftop. He stayed up on the rooftop with Ruka not seeing a need to join in the battle. He felt his friends had things well in hand. But now that Lloyd was facing two magic users alone, things were different.
“I think your friend needs help,” Ruka stated the obvious.
“Yeah. That would be my cue,” Seth said. With that he launched himself off the roof and did a mid air flip down to a courtyard tree. Then he leaped from the branch and came running up behind the two mages. Before they could cast their next spells, he let loose with two knives. Thrown with deadly accuracy, each knife embedded itself in the back of the two mages, right behind their hearts.
The mages stopped in mid cast and clutched at their backs falling to the ground. Seth yelled to Lloyd, “I’ve got this,” then dove onto each mage and finished the job.
Donatello stood over the giant snake he had just killed. He pulled his rapier out of the beast and then accessed the battlefield. He saw the two Knights of the Rose handling one snake. They were using hit and run tactics and slowly whittling down the beast. Then he saw the Restenford guards having trouble with their snake. He decided to run in to help them.
Donnie moved in quickly and caught the snake with his blade and dodged out of the way. The snake turned to attack him and Gelpas took advantage, moving in and hacking at the creature’s flank. The snake then whirled back towards Gelpas.
Donatello looked at Gelpas and grinned. Gelpas grinned back. Then the acrobat launched himself in for another assault. The two continued this two pronged attack slowly wearing the creature down.
The snake the Glorfindle had stunned was getting up again. Glo saw that the other fighters were occupied. He wanted to attack Voltark, but that would have to wait. He aimed his lightning bolt at the recovered snake and caught it once again in the lightning arc. The bolt passed through the creature and once again hit the second snake behind it. The Penwick knights had been on either side of the creature and pulled back as it was electrified.
When the flash was done, both snakes fell to the ground dead.
A cheer went up through the fighters. Lloyd was now hurt, but he moved in joined Donnie and Gelpas in their assault of the last six foot snake. They attacked the snake from three sides. The creature did not know which way to turn. Finally Gelpas got in the last shot and ran his sword through the creature’s head. It fell to the ground dead.
Around the same time, the Knights of the Rose finished off their snake. They stood over the beast and looked around the battlefield to see what was left to fight.
Meanwhile, the Boulder attacks had taken a toll on the enormous snake. Its attacks were growing weaker and weaker. On its last attempt to bash the golem, Aksel ordered the golem to grab the snake. The Boulder caught the creature in its arms. Then the little gnome commanded the golem to rip the snake in half. The Boulder pulled on the serpent with both hands and the monster started to bulge. Then there was great tearing sound and the golem dropped the two halves of what had been a gigantic snake to the ground.
Voltark screamed, “Nooooo!” He leveled a finger at Aksel and was about to fire off a spell when a bolt of lightning caught him in the back. The dark mage faltered, the whirled around to face the elf wizard. “You shall die first then!” he cried and raised his hand to point it at Glorfindle.
Then an arrow came whizzing through the air and caught the dark mage in the throat. Martin stood on top of the tower with a second arrow knocked and ready. But one was enough. Voltark grasped his throat, sputtered, and coughed up blood. Then he fell over and landed on the ground with a thud.
Everyone stopped and looked around. All the attackers had been defeated.
A cheer went up around the courtyard. The castle guards grabbed Lloyd and Donatello and carried them on their shoulders back to the Baron.
When they put them down, Andrella went running to Lloyd. “You were magnificient!” she said breathily. “I’ve never seen someone move like that in battle.” She hugged him tightly.
The big warblade flinched slightly.
“Why, you’re wounded!” Andrella cried.
“It’s nothing really,” Lloyd said.
“Here, let me see,” Fairwind said coming over to look at Lloyd’s wounds. He sat down and let her heal him.