Knights of the Couch - Part VII - Journey to the Dark Monolith - Section 2

“Stay still,” Aksel admonished Lloyd.
“I’m fine, really,” the big warblade told him. He was sitting on a bed in one of the castle guestrooms. Andrella had insisted that they take him there to finish healing his wounds and rest up. The rest of the companions had been invited to follow.
Now Andrella stood on the other side of the bed. “Stop arguing with the healer,” she told him. “You’re being a baby. Now sit still like he asked you.”
“Yes, dear,” Lloyd replied.
“See, he’s learning already,” Elvisda whispered and nudged Glorfindle in the side.
“I could think of worse ways to learn,” Donatello added in a soft voice. “Look at this place!”
“Are they always like this?” Elistra asked Glorfindle.
The elf wizard looked at the beautiful gypsy woman and smiled. She had not left his side since the moment they met the night before. “Actually…” he replied, “Yes. At least Elvisda is. I’m still getting to know Donnie here, though, so the jury is out on that one.”
Elistra glanced over at the two high elves who were still whispering to each other and occasionally heckling Lloyd.
Just then, the Baron and Baroness entered the room. “How’s our boy doing?”
“He’ll be fine in a few more minutes if he would just sit still,” Aksel reported.
“That’s good news!” Grellus declared. “I was hoping to see him win this tourney.”
Fairwind nudged him, “Grellus. You’re not supposed to play favorites.”
“But he’s a good Penwick boy, dear!” Grellus complained. “How could I not want to see him win?”
“Ahem,” Glorfindle cleared his throat. “About that your lordship…”
“Yes?” Grellus said, turning towards the wizard.
“Well, we came across some information last night after the attack. But with all the chaos with Dunwynn and all, we never got a chance to tell you.”
“Then tell me now,” the Baron replied.
“Very well your lordship,” the wizard said. “This is Elistra Moonglow. You may remember her last night as my guest at the head table.”
“Lady Elistra,” Grellus nodded.
“Your lordship and ladyship,” the gypsy woman said bowing gracefully.
“Elistra, your grace, is also a very gifted psionicist,” Glo continued. “She helped Seth with his search of the wagons after last night’s attack. I’ll let her tell you what they found.”
Elistra detailed their search and discovery of Telvar to the Baron and Baroness. She told them about them also about the Golem Thrall Master’s book, the Darkwoods Monolith and the Serpent Cult’s interest in all of this. She finished with her knowledge of the Thrall Masters reemergence and their desire to become the new Thrall Lord.
When she was done, Grellus was silent for a long moment. The rest of the companions had gathered around as the gypsy was telling her story. Now the Baron looked at all of them. Finally he said, “And you all believe this all to be true?”
“Yes, your lordship,” Aksel replied. “We do.”
“It actually makes a lot of sense,” Glorfindle added. “There were a number of things that just didn’t add up before. Like these wizard disappearances, from the council and now our own Peltar. The Serpent Cult attacks and how brazen they are. The golem and other items we got from Telvar. It all fits together neatly if this last bit about the Thrall Masters is true.”
“But it also makes it imperative, your lordship,” Elvisda said, “that we stop the Serpent Cult from getting its hands on the Thrall Golem Masters books, and whatever else is at the Darkwoods Monolith.”
“I agree with them,” Fairwind spoke up. “They would be a danger to all of Thac if they were to get their hands on such great magic.”
“Yes. Yes, you are right of course,” Grellus agreed. He seemed to still be deep in thought.
“Then, your lordship, we would like to propose an expedition to the Darkwoods Monolith,” Aksel said.
“What will you need?” the Baron asked.
“Any funding and provisions you can provide,” Elvisda answered. “We should spend the rest of today getting prepared and hopefully leave on the morrow. The Serpent Cult is already ahead of us.”
“Do you want troops?” the Baron said. “We don’t really have that many royal guards to spare.”
“I think I have a better idea,” Fairwind spoke up suddenly. “What about the Knights of the Rose?”
“Of course!” Grellus declared. “Brilliant dear! There are two knights here now. You met them last night. Dame Alana and Sir Cravenn.”
“I think that would be an excellent idea,” Donatello added. “I saw them fighting one of the serpents last night and they were very capable.”
“The Knights of the Rose reputation is quite well known,” Glorfindle said. “We would be honored to have them join us on this quest.” However,” the wizard hesitated.
“Go on,” Grellus encouraged him.
“Well…all things considered your lordship, would it be possible to keep this information from the Dunwynn party? I’m not sure they would even believe all this and I don’t think they would want to help us anyway.”
“You don’t have to worry about my brother and his people,” Fairwind said. “They have withdrawn to their rooms and are leaving for home later this afternoon.”
“Thank you your ladyship,” the elf wizard smiled.
“Very well then,” Grellus said. “I’ll talk to Gelpas now. He can get you started on your preparations. Once the tournament is over, we will call in the Knights of the Rose and tell them what is going on. I am certain they will join your cause.”
He stopped for a moment and turned to Lloyd, “I suppose this means that you will not be able to continue in the tournament then?”
Lloyd looked at the rest of the group. He seemed torn.
Andrella put her hand on his shoulder and said, “You’ve already won in my eyes. I think you should go ahead and get ready for this trip. It sounds extremely important.”
“Yes, you’re right,” Lloyd got up and turned towards her, “Thanks.”
She reached up and kissed him.
Lloyd started blushing and looked out of his one eye at the entire group staring at them; especially the Baron and Baroness.
“It’s quite alright, my boy,” Grellus said with a grin. “If I had my choice, I rather see her with a good Penwick man.”

The Baron had brought Gelpas up to speed. Then he and the Baroness went back to the tournament.
The Captain took the companions to the armory and then went to the treasury to get them some funds. When they were done, they were well outfitted and had gold to buy provisions in town.
The Baron had also left them a note for Haltan to give them anything they wanted from his shop. Elvisda was looking forward to that. He headed into town to do some shopping with Donatello and Lloyd.
Seth decided to go back to watch the rest of the tourney. Aksel went to the temple for some last minute prayers. And Elistra went back to her wagon to gather her things.
Glorfindle, meanwhile, had a pre-arranged meeting with Ves. He met the young woman in the Druid’s glade on the outskirts of town. She was alone when he found her.
“Where is Almax?” Glorfindle asked.
“He had some things to take care of in the woods,” the young lady replied.
“And your sisters?” he inquired.
“Maya went with Almax. She loves running around the woods. As for Ruka, she is competing in the tournament.”
“Ruka?” Glorfindle asked, “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
“Trust me, she can handle herself,” Ves replied softly.
“That’s the second time you’ve said that about your sister,” Glo replied. “The funny thing is I am inclined to believe you.”
The young woman sat down on a rock. She looked as if she had a lot on her mind. She looked up at the elf and said. “Please sit down.”
He sat next to her and waited for her to speak.
“That attack by those serpents yesterday was…troubling,” she began. “You and your group were very valiant they way you fought them off.”
She paused then continued, “I am not fond of dark magic. I could sense the evil flowing from those creatures. It is warped and unsettling. Were you able to find out anything more about them and where they came from?”
Glorfindle considered for a moment and then came to a decision. “Look Ves, if I am going to tell you all this, I need to know that I can trust you completely. Trust is a two way street. Are you willing to go down that road at this time?”
The young woman looked away. She seemed to be lost in thought. Then she said, “This is difficult. I had made a promise, and I cannot break it. But you and your companions have been nothing but kind to us. You don’t even really know us but you accepted us on face value, even when it is obvious that we are more than we seem. So although I cannot break that promise, I can make you a promise. My sisters and I can be very powerful allies. We have much magic at our disposal. I promise you that wherever you are, if you need help, we will be by your side. To that end, please take this.”
She reached into a pocket and pulled out an amulet. She handed it to the wizard. “It is a Pearl of Friendship,” she told him. “With this you can contact us anytime, anywhere.”
“This is a priceless gift,” Glorfindle replied holding the amulet in his hand. “I am honored that you would trust me with it. Very well then, this is what we have found.”
When Glorfindle was done telling the young woman about the Serpent Cult and the Thrall Masters and the apparent relation to the disappearance of wizards, she looked at him gravely.
“It is just as I feared. Father has gotten himself into more than he may be able to handle on his own,” Ves said, the worry written all over her face.

“That may well be,” Glorfindle replied. “I wish we had some clue as to where he was. But for now we are going to gather a party and set out for the Dark Monolith. We intend to stop the Serpent Cult from getting its hands on the Golem Master’s work.”

“That is probably the most important thing right now,” the young girl agreed. “In the meantime, I will find Almax and tell him all this. The Druids should know what is coming as well.” She stood up.
“That is a good idea,” Glorfindle agreed standing up as well. “Very well Ves. Till we meet again.”
The hugged each other and went their separate ways.

Seth was watching the tournament finals. The two finalists were quite different. On the one side was the Knight of the Rose Alana. She was a tall red head with brown eyes and a lean muscular body. She was clad in gleaming silver heavy armor and armed with a long sword and heavy steel shield.
On the other side stood Ruka. The short blonde girl was wearing her leather tunic and had a short sword strapped to her side. She looked outclassed by her opponent. But looks could be deceiving.
Seth had watched a few prior matches. Ruka had knocked out large men twice her size. And that short sword of hers was magical. The blade was able to discharge lightning bolts seemingly as powerful as Glorfindle’s. Maybe even more so, Seth reflected.
Seth had also seen Alana’s previous match. The knight was very skilled. She was quite proficient with her longsword, and she made up for her lack of weight with her agility. He saw her also fell a larger opponent quite deftly to make the finals.
This would be a very interesting match, the little ninja thought.

Dame Alana Benefilla had been a Knight of the Rose for almost five years now. She had undergone intense training and prayer to achieve this goal. Alana was fourth generation in a line of knights dating back a hundred years. Sir Nigel himself, the head of her order, was a squire to her great grandfather. But a place in the order was not a hereditary right. It had to be earned by proving one’s prowess and piety. Alana had done both.
She had grown up in Wind Tower among the Knights. Her family owned a huge estate right outside of town. Alana’s father and older brother had already earned their place in the order and were active Knights. The former, Sir Rothar Benefilla, was a Knight Grand Master of the order. While the later, Sir Rothar Benefilla II, was a Chevalier.
When Alana eventually applied for Knighthood, there were those who thought that a woman would not be able to make it in the holy order. But Alana was gifted. Sir Nigel was duly impressed with Alana’s tenacity and fortitude as well as her piousness. So much so that he took her on as his own squire.
When Alana reached the age of eighteen, she gained her Knighthood. In the last five years since then, she had achieved the rank of Guardian, and had become the eight ranked knight in the order. She now commanded her own unit of seven heavy cavalry and even had her own squire, Syndir.
Now she had been sent with Sir Cravenn to pay the order’s respects to the Baron’s daughter. They had stayed for the party and rose to action accordingly during the serpent cult attack. She had watched the Knights of the Couch during that battle and although their style was diverse and somewhat unorthodox, found them to be worthy allies.
When she had entered the tournament, she was hoping to come up against Lloyd. He was the son of Remington Stealle, whose reputation with the blade was known well in eastern Thac. And Lloyd’s prowess in battle against the Serpent Cult was impressive. Alana had wanted to test her mettle against the young warblade. But he had dropped out of the tournament after he had proven his cause righteous in an epic dual with Sir Fafnar of Dunwynn. Alana would not forget that battle soon. She had been entranced watching the two swordsmen, their blades dancing around almost quicker than the eye could see.
Though she was disappointed, Alana still met some good competition in the rest of the tournament. None were as skilled however as she; till now that is. She was in the finals and her opponent was not to be trifled with. She had watched the young girl, Ruka’s matches with interest. The girl was far more than she seemed.
Alana looked across the field now at her opponent. A slim young blonde child wearing only a simple dress and carrying a rather crude bladed bronze short sword with an elaborate hilt grasped loosely in one hand. But the intensity of the child’s gaze, and the tight smile as of some joke restrained gave lie to the casual stance, and Alana prepared herself for a fight, but she was not prepared enough. Captain Gelpas gave them the order to begin and the first lightning bolt solidly caught her before the starting flag even hit the floor.
Alana moved in with a feign and waited for any sign of further casting; there was none other than a small frown and a quick change of the girl’s eye color from green to amber. Alana managed to dodge the worst of the second bolt which sprung from the girl’s sword, but the charge was still numbing. Alana’s training took over. She leapt and struck immediately in two solid blows. She had a brief surge of worry that she may have mortally hurt the young caster in spite of the tourney safeguards, but any worry for others was short lived.
If anything, Ruka seemed invigorated by the damage, replying with a series of skilled strikes almost too fast to follow. In spite of Alana’s heavy armor, one of the strikes landed with more strength than many large men she had fought and an extra charge of electricity to boot. They traded blows, hers landing easily on the unarmored girl, but seeming to affect her little; Ruka’s blows piercing Alana’s heavy plate more often than expected with deft skill and shocking strength.
Alana was careful to watch Ruka’s eyes and turn her enchanted sword to avoid any further lightning strikes, when the girl simply reached out with her other hand. She almost casually touched Alana’s armor, the electric charge caught Alana full on, and her tourney scarf burst into flames signally her loss. As Alana gave her knightly salute due the victorious, a grinning Ruka sincerely thanked her for a good go of it, more like a little girl after an enjoyable game of hearth stones than a bloodied combatant.
Alana and Ruka both went to bow before the Baron and Baroness. Ruka was crowned the tournament winner and give her prize of gold for the win. The Baron motioned for Alana to approach before she turned away. He wanted her and Sir Cravenn to meet with him in his private room off the throne room within the hour. She told him that they would.
Now what could this be about? she wondered as she walked off to find her fellow Knight.

Knights of the Couch – Part VII – Journey to the Dark Monolith – Section 3

Knights of the Couch - Part VII - Journey to the Dark Monolith - Section 2

Rise of the Thrall Lord starlord