Knights of the Couch - Part VII - Journey to the Dark Monolith - Section 7

Lloyd and Glo passed over the boat on their way to the opposite shore. As they approached they saw Aksel, Elvisda, Alana and Elistra gathered on deck. Captain Basmar was still in the pilot box and Martin was in the crow’s nest. The archer waved as they came closer. Then Lloyd heard Elvisda say, “See! I told you they would be ok!”
Then Aksel yelled, “What happened over there?”
Glo yelled back, “We’re going to check on Donnie and Ruka! We’ll fill you in when we all get back!”
“Good idea!” Aksel shouted as they flew past.
They reached the opposite shore in another minute and came across a clearing. In the center were the bodies of six dead goblins. The two companions stopped in mid-air and hovered there. Then Glo tapped Lloyd’s shoulder and pointed to the east end of the clearing. The warblade turned and saw Donatello and Ruka standing next to a fallen tree. The tree was ablaze.
As they landed, Donnie ran over to greet them. “Am I glad to see you guys!” the swashbuckler said just a little too enthusiastically.
Then Ruka yelled, “Hey Glo, got any fire spells left? Got a troll here that could use a light!”
They walked over and found the girl standing over a struggling troll. It was pinned under the burning tree. Lloyd stared in amazement. “How did you manage that?” he said in awe.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Donatello replied wryly.
“Hey!” Ruka yelled, “Less talking and more burning.”
“Ok,” Glorfindel said, “Everyone stand back.” He motioned them back about 20 feet and then took aim at the pinned troll. The creature saw the wizard point at him and started to frantically thrash around trying to free himself. Then Glo let loose a ball of hot white light. It traveled from his finger directly at the frightened troll and exploded into a ball of fire on contact. The troll roared as it and the tree on top of it went up in the blast. It was over in less than a minute.
When it was done, Ruka turned around and rubbed her hands together. “Well that’s that,” the young girl said. Then she walked up very close to Donatello, looked up at him and said, “Now where were we?”
Donnie quickly backpedaled and stammered, “I-I think I should go search the bodies.” And with that he turned and practically ran towards the dead goblins in the center of the clearing.
Glorfindel burst into laughter as the nervous swashbuckler retreated. Ruka turned to look at them with a smirk on her face. Then she winked and shape shifted into a hawk. Within seconds she was winging her way back out towards the river.
“What was that all about?” Lloyd asked the wizard.
Glo stopped laughing and smiled at his friend. Then he replied, “Let’s just say that Donnie may have bitten off more than he can chew.”
Lloyd just stared at the wizard still not sure what he was talking about. Oh well, Lloyd thought, it can’t be that important.

They all reconvened on the boat a short time later. They had undone the chain across the river and Ruka had checked the bow to make sure there was no damage to the hull. Then the gathered on deck and traded stories. Ruka did not join them, choosing instead to sit up in the crow’s nest with Martin.
When Donatello related the story about what the young girl had done to the troll, he expected them all to be amazed. But Alana just shook her head in agreement. Glorfindle and Elistra exchanged a knowing look as did Aksel and Seth.
“You all knew about this already!” Donnie said accusingly.
“Well,” Glo replied, “it’s not that we really know anything.”
“But you suspected!” the swashbuckler said reproachfully. “So what else aren’t you telling me?”
“Oh Donatello,” Elistra said walking up to the elf and putting her hand on his face, “you still have much to learn.” She patted him on the cheek and then turned to go below decks. “Coming Glo?” she said over her shoulder.
“I really should go and rest,” the wizard agreed and then turned to follow the seeress.
Donatello stared after them holding his cheek where the gypsy had just patted it. Then Alana put her arm in his and steered him away from the others. “I think you and I need to have a little talk,” Lloyd heard her say as they walked away.
Seth snickered and Elvisda commented, “That’s never a good thing.”
Lloyd shook his head. He still felt like he was missing something important. Then he realized he was bone tired. “I think I need to rest as well,” he told the others.
“Maybe I should heal you first?” Aksel said appraising the warblade’s wounds.
“Oh yeah,” Lloyd replied. He had forgotten about the slashes he had taken from the goblin swords.
“Might as well go below decks and get comfortable,” Aksel said. “Come with me.”
Lloyd followed the cleric to his cabin.

Glorfindel and Elistra were just getting comfortable when they heard a knock on their cabin door. “Who’s there?” the wizard called.
“Seth,” a voice replied. “I’ve got to show you something. Meet me over in my cabin.”
“This better be important,” the wizard grumbled. He got up and put his robes back on. Then he and Elistra went over to the cabin Aksel and Seth were sharing. Lloyd, Aksel and Seth were already there. The cleric was just finishing healing the big man’s wounds. Then Elvisda walked in behind them.
“Where’s Donnie?” Seth asked.
“Alana’s still giving him a piece of her mind,” the bard said with a big smile. “I didn’t have the heart to disturb them,” he finished with a laugh.
“No matter,” the ninja said, “we can fill him in later. I found an interesting item on our friend the Barghest. I thought it might be best to check it out in private.” He reached into his pouch and pulled out a large black gem.
Aksel and Elistra immediately reacted. “That is not a good thing!” the gypsy declared.
“I concur,” the cleric added. He cast a quick spell then nodded. “Yep, definitely evil.”
“Can you identify it Glo?” Seth asked.
“Be careful with that,” Elistra warned.
“Wait a minute,” Aksel said. He cast a quick spell and a white circle formed around the entire cabin. “There, that should help to protect against evil influences.”
Seth handed the gem over to Glorfindle. The wizard took the item and began concentrating on it. As he looked at the gem, the crystal facets seemed to waver. They an image began to appear. It slowly cleared and Glo was looking into a woman’s face. She was a dark woman, with a cold beauty. But she also radiated power; decidedly evil power Glo thought. Then the face turned and looked right at him. Did you find them? a voice said in his mind.
Who are you looking for? The wizard thought back. Oh, the voice said, you are one of them. I guess my minion must have failed. No matter. Now you shall be mine.
Glorfindle felt a pressure building on his head. His vision started to cloud and he felt nauseous. Then Elistra grabbed him by the chin and turned his head away from the crystal. That will be enough of that! he heard the gypsy’s voice say in his mind. Then he heard the other voice scream in frustration. This is not over! It wailed. But by then it was fading as if it were a great distance off.
Glo shook his head until his mind cleared. “What happened?” Aksel asked.
The wizard told them about the woman’s face and the voice in his head. He only left out the part about Elistra’s voice. He would talk to her about that in private later.
“Well,” Aksel said, “we can’t just leave this gem lying around for anyone to pick up.”
“I could crush it,” Lloyd offered.
“You might find that more difficult and dangerous than you might think,” Elistra said cryptically.
“Do you know something more about this gem?” Seth asked the seeress.
“Not this particular gem,” she answered, “but I’ve seen ones like them. They are used to locate, communicate with and control beings over great distances. They aren’t necessarily evil, but they do resonate the power of their current owner. This one is owned by a decidedly evil being. And destroying the gem could create a psionic backlash on anyone nearby.”
“So we don’t destroy it,” Elvisda said. “Will it work across dimensions?”
The gypsy considered the question for a moment. “It might not,” she answered finally.
“Then put it in here,” the bard said, taking out his bag of holding and walking up to Glorfindel. The wizard reached out and dropped the gem into the bag. Then Elvisda closed the drawstrings and put the bag away. “Well that’s that,” he said rubbing his hands together gingerly.
“We shall see soon enough,” Elistra said quietly.

The next day the adventurers were all up on deck. Martin continued his watch from the crow’s nest, but Seth and Ruka had decided to join him on the top mast. They still had two days till they reached the monolith and they did not want to be taken unawares again.
Meanwhile, Lloyd was busy sparing with Alana. The two warriors danced back and forth on the deck. The warblade was strong, quick and quite clever with his blades. But Alana was a seasoned veteran and was quite skilled with her longsword. The two of them continued their workout, sweating and smiling the whole time.
Aksel was off in the corner praying, as was Elistra, who was meditating. Glorfindle, Elvisda and Donatello sat on a bench near the stairs to the upper deck. Elvisda was teasing Donnie. “So which girlfriend are you going to pick?” the bard needled.
“She is not my girlfriend!” Donatello said probably a little too emphatically.
“Alana will be sorry to hear that,” Glo quipped.
“I didn’t mean Alana,” Donnie said dryly.
“Oh, I’m glad you clarified that,” the wizard shot back.
“But she wants to be,” Elvisda continued teasing.
“She is way too young for me,” Donatello said flatly. “Don’t you two have any morals?”
“Nope,” Elvisda replied. Then he started to laugh. The other two elves soon joined in.
“Cut out that racket!” Elistra said from across the deck. “Some of us are trying to be productive!”
They stopped laughing and Elvisda whispered to Glo, “She sure told you! By the way, is she that bossy with everything?”
Glo gave the bard a dirty look.
Then Donnie began, “That reminds me of the time…”
-————————————————————————————————————
“Holy dragon dung!” a voice suddenly interrupted them. It was Martin. Then they heard Seth say “Umm guys, you’re going to want to see this.”
The three of them stood up and looked towards the south shore where the halfling was pointing. Alana and Lloyd had also stopped their training and turned to look. Aksel and Elistra stood up and turned to look as well.
A large tree overhung the river. Standing upon one of the tree’s thick branches was a beautiful woman with long flowing red hair. She was also completely naked.
“Oh my,” Donatello let slip.
“You can say that again,” Elvisda agreed.
Lloyd stood with his jaw hanging open. That is until Alana slapped the back of his head. “What would that pretty little Andrella say if she saw you gawking like that?” The big warblade flushed and quickly closed his mouth.
“She looks to be a woodland nymph,” Aksel observed clinically. “We should probably make sure though.”
“I’ll go and check!” Elvisda exclaimed perhaps a bit too enthusiastically.
“Are you sure?” Glorfindel asked the bard skeptically.
“Yeah,” Elvisda replied, “Lloyd can come with me.”
“Sure,” Lloyd said gathering his flying cloak.
“Very well,” Glo replied. He prepared and then cast a spell of flying on the bard. Then Elvisda and Lloyd launched themselves into the air and took off across the river and into the forest after the nymph.
As the ship continued upstream they lost sight of their two companions. About ten minutes later, they spotted the two figures flying back towards the boat. Lloyd was carrying the nymph in his arms.
They landed on the deck and Elvisda walked over to the others while Lloyd put the nymph down. The woodland creature draped herself over the warblade’s shoulder and watched the others curiously.
“What’s going on?” Aksel asked the bard.
Elvisda spoke softly. “When we approached the nymph, she tried to charm us. I was unaffected, but she cast her spell on Lloyd. So I took out my lute and played her a little tune. Then I suggested we fly back to introduce her to all our friends. She just couldn’t resist. I figured one of you could break Lloyd out of his spell.”
They looked back over to where the nymph stood hanging on Lloyd. Then Glo noticed that Elistra was staring intently at the creature. “Something wrong?” he asked the seeress.
“Something’s off about that creature,” Elistra said slowly. “I’m not sure she is quite what she appears to be.”
“Well, there’s a way to find out and snap Lloyd out of his spell at the same time,” Aksel said. “If one of you can keep her distracted, I can dispel any magical influences in the area before she realizes what is happening.”
“I’ll keep her occupied!” Donnie offered perhaps a bit too eagerly. Alana shot the swashbuckler a look, then turned her back on him and walked away to the other side of the boat.
“I’ll come with you,” Elvisda offered. The two elves walked over to Lloyd and the nude woman.
“Aren’t you going too?” Elistra asked Glorfindel sounding mildly annoyed.
“No,” the wizard replied, “I fine right back here.”
“Good!” she said and she put her arm through his. They both watched the other two elves as they attempted to strike up conversation with the nymph.
Aksel, meanwhile, turned around and covertly began preparing his spell to dispel magic.
“Good morning my lady,” Donatello said as he approached the woodland creature. “Welcome aboard the Rusty Nail.”
The nymph let go of Lloyd and walked up close to the swashbuckler. She was quite beautiful. Her deep blue eyes and pouty pink lips offset her pale complexion perfectly. Her long red hair hung down past her shoulders. Every move the nymph made was sensuous. She put her finger on Donnie’s chest and looked up into his eyes. Then she said in an innocent voice, “Is this your ship?”
“Um no my lady, it is not. We are just passengers aboard this vessel,” Donnie answered. “Tell me, what is a beautiful girl like you doing in a place like this?”
The nymph giggled. Then in her innocent voice she replied, “I was wandering around the forest all by myself. I was rather lonely and wanted some company,” she emphasized the last word. “Then I saw your boat. I was so happy when you flew over to get me.” She continued to run her finger around Donatello’s chest as she talked.
Donnie was starting to blush a bit. He was starting to get a bit embarrassed by the nymph’s forwardness in front of all the others. He reached down and gently grabbed her hand, carefully moving it away from his chest. “I’m just glad we could be of assistance my lady,” he replied in his most eloquent voice.
“Who’s your new friend Donnie?” a voice asked to his left. The swashbuckler turned and saw Ruka standing there. She must have climbed down from the mast while they were all preoccupied. The young girl was looking a bit upset.
“Oh, Ruka!” Donatello said quickly. “I didn’t see you there.”
“That’s because your eyes were focused elsewhere,” came a voice from his right. The swashbuckler turned the other way and saw Alana standing with her hands on her hips. She also did not look very happy.
“Alana!” Donnie cried, obviously feeling even more uncomfortable. “I was just greeting our visitor.”
“I’m sure that’s what you were doing,” Alana replied in a deceptively mild tone. “Wipe that smile off your face Elvisda!” she said glancing back at the bard.
Elvisda was enjoying the precarious position of his compatriot perhaps even more than the view of the lovely nymph. “Why I was just taking pleasure in this beautiful day my dear,” Elvisda replied smoothly. “Look around. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, we are surrounded by friends and we have this lovely visitor. There’s plenty to smile about.” He gave her one his best pearly whites.
Alana’s face took on a softer look. “I’m sorry Elvisda…” she began.
At that moment Aksel’s spell released across the deck of the Rusty Nail. Lloyd who had been standing with a blank look on his face blinked and seemed as if he was awakening from a slumber. Simultaneously, Donatello was stilling holding the woodland nymph’s hand as she began to change. It wasn’t exactly a huge transformation. The creature still had her red hair and pale skin. But the swashbuckler watched as her eyes darkened and her lips turned blood red. Donnie stepped back, dropping the creatures hand and noticed the bat like wings now protruding from her back.
“What’s the matter?” the creature said to the swashbuckler. “Don’t you still find me attractive?” she said in a seductive tone. Donatello’s face went blank as his mind clouded over. “You do, don’t you?” the succubus said to her latest slave. “Then protect me.”
Donnie turned around and drew his sword. “Woah! Watch where you point that pig sticker!” Elvisda yelled as he stepped back. Then Ruka slammed into the swashbuckler knocking him to the deck. His sword went flying out of his hand. The young girl held him down and yelled, “I’ve got him!”
The others began to circle around the creature. Elistra, still holding onto Glorfindel said, “Let me guess. You grew tired of sucking the life out of woodland creatures. So you saw this boat full of males and thought you would seduce them instead.”
“How could they resist me,” the naked woman shot back, “when all they’ve got is the likes of you?”
“Take that back foul creature!” Alana said stepping forward and brandishing her sword.
“Oh, and what do we have here?” the nude woman replied, “Ah, it is a little girl playing knight I see. Be careful with that sword little girl. I might just feed it back to you.”
“Come on and try me!” Alana declared assuming a defensive stance.
“Ladies! Ladies!” Elvisda said throwing his hands up in the air. “I’m sure we can settle this in a more peaceful manner.”
“You’re thinking with your loins Elvisda,” Elistra replied. “This creature is pure evil and needs to be destroyed.”
“But how can you destroy such a thing of beauty!” Donatello declared.
“He’s back to normal!” Ruka yelled still sitting on top of the swashbuckler.
“You men are hopeless!” Alana cried out in disgust.
“Not all of us,” Glorfindle said calmly. Then he faced the nude woman and said, “State your business here succubus, before I lose my temper and melt your hide.”
“Oooo, a fiery one,” she cooed. She stared at him enticingly. The wizard felt a momentary fuzziness come over him, then he shook it off. “And immune to my charms too,” the temptress continued. “I like a challenge. Maybe I’ll make you fight over me,” she said seductively.
Suddenly a knife came flying at her from overhead. The naked woman stepped out of the way quickly and yelled, “Who dares!”
“That would be me,” Seth replied calmly from the upper mast.
“Why you little wretch! I’ll make you pay for that!” She unfolded her wings and rose up into the air. Then she quickly flew at the little ninja. But Seth was quicker. He dodged out her way at the last second and landed nimbly on the deck below. The flying woman screamed in frustration and then dove after the halfling. But halfway through her dive she was met by a semi-transparent axe. It caught her full on swiping across her body. The succubus screamed.
“You dare!” she sneered. Her face had taken on a dreadful look and she opened her mouth wide bearing her fangs.
Then a red hot beam arced up and hit her square in the chest. The demon screamed as the skin blackened and sizzled between her exposed breasts. “You burnt me! Look what you did to my perfect skin! I’ll get you for this! I’ll get all of you!”
She swooped down to the deck in front of Lloyd. Before the fighter could react, she kissed him. The warblade fell under the succubus’s spell once again. The creature flit behind the big man and said, “Fight for me.”
Alana stepped in front of the others taking a defensive stance. “This isn’t going to be pretty,” Elvisda commented. The bard took out his lute and started playing madly. Alana seemed to grow more confident as the bard’s song took effect.
“Just hold him off a minute,” Aksel said from behind them. Lloyd charged and Alana met him head on. But this was different than the sparing session that had had earlier. Neither one was smiling now. Lloyd had a deadly look on his face and Alana was deep in concentration, doing her best to keep up with the warblade’s fast moving weapons.
Lloyd slashed at Alana multiple times, but the knight was able to parry every blow; except for the last one that is. It caught her on the right arm. The cut was deep and started to bleed immediately. The succubus was elated. “Ooooo, looks like we’ve drawn first blood!”
Then Aksel released his spell. A white circle radiating ten feet in all directions fanned out from where the little cleric stood, engulfing everyone around him including Lloyd.
“Now why did you have to go and spoil all my fun,” the nude woman said with a sigh.
Lloyd blinked a few times then stood up straight, his swords hanging at his sides. “What just happened? Don’t tell me. That lady cast a spell on me again.”
“So now I’m a lady? I knew I liked that one,” the succubus said seductively. She launched herself back into the air. “Well, now that you’ve spoiled all my fun, who’s going to play with me?
“Oh, I’ll play with you,” Glorfindel replied ominously.
At the same time Elvisda pointed up at the demon and said, “Lloyd, kill!”
The warblade turned around and saw the naked woman hovering above him. Then he turned back to Elvisda and said, “But she doesn’t look like a monster.”
The bard realized that the big man was still very young and innocent at heart. Elvisda pointed to Alana who was clutching her right arm. “You see that wound? You gave it to her.”
Lloyd stared at Alana and his eyes grew wide. “Don’t blame yourself,” Elvisda continued. “Blame that harpy above you. She made you do it.”
Lloyd’s face darkened visibly. Then he turned and launched himself into the air.
“Stay in the circle!” Aksel yelled.
The warblade nodded his head as he rose up to the succubus’s level. “Oh, so you’re going to play with me now?” the naked woman asked innocently.
“You made me hurt my friend,” Lloyd said darkly. “Now I’m going to hurt you.”
“You? Hurt me?” The succubus laughed.
Then Lloyd swung at her with his adamantine sword. It sliced across her torso and left a wound across her skin.
“You cut me! I can’t believe you cut me!” the demon screamed. The demon charged the warblade huge claws suddenly sprouting from her fingertips. But Lloyd had experience now being airborne. He took a defensive stance that would enable him to react with lightning reflexes. As she swiped at him, he caught her clawed hand with his left blade and then spun his body around and sliced at her once again with his adamantine blade. The sword hit the demon’s skin and sliced right through again leaving another wound across her side.
The demon broke away and put some distance between herself and Lloyd. The demon was totally enraged now. “You…will…all…die!” she said venomously.
Then four attacks came at her all at once; a knife from Seth, an arrow from Martin, a beam of white searing light from Aksel, and another red hot scorching ray from Glorfindel. The arrow and knife both bounced off of her skin but the light and the ray both connected once again burning her flesh.
The demon arched her back up to the heavens and let out an ear splitting scream this time. Then she looked down at them with open hatred. The succubus hovered for about ten seconds then screamed once again and launched herself straight up into the air at an incredible speed. When the scream subsided, Lloyd started to give chase, but Elistra stopped him. “You’ll never catch her now. She’s got a head start and is just too fast with those bat wings of hers.”
“Best to just let her go for now Lloyd,” Aksel agreed. “Plus if you leave the circle she’ll just put you under her spell once again.”
“We’ll just need to be more on guard from now on,” Glo added.
“Can I get up now?” Donatello asked still prone on the deck with Ruka sitting on him.
“Oh, right,” the young girl said, blushing as she got off the swashbuckler.
“So what did I miss?” the Donatello asked getting up and dusting himself off.
“Oh, not much,” Elvisda told him, “The demon just took you over, that’s all.”
“Sorry about that,” Donatello said sheepishly. “I didn’t hurt anyone did I?”
“No, Ruka stopped you before you could harm anyone,” Alana told him.
“Yeah,” Elvisda added, “she tackled you like a fullback. I’m surprised you’re not sore.”
“Actually, I am,” the elf said rubbing his shoulder.
“Sorry about that,” Ruka said self-consciously.
“Well I think she was just marvelous!” Alana declared. She walked over to the young girl and put her arm around her shoulders. “How about us girl warriors go spend some time together away from these buffoons.”
The others were not sure how Ruka would react to her rival’s offer. They all braced themselves for the inevitable explosion. Then to everyone’s surprise, Ruka smiled up at the lady knight and said, “Yes, let’s”.
They turned away and walked off by themselves. As they retreated off, Alana looked back over her shoulder and said “Men!” in the most derogatory tone she could muster.
“What’d I do?” Donatello said throwing up his hands into the air.
“If you don’t know,” Elistra began, then she shook her head and walked off to join the other ladies.
“Anyway,” Aksel interjected, “maybe it’s time we left this river.”
Glorfindel nodded his head in agreement. “Second attack in two days. Someone obviously knows where we are, or at least where we are headed. And we are sitting ducks out here on the river.”
They talked it over for awhile and then agreed. They had Captain Basmar pull the boat over towards the north shore and weigh anchor. The north bank was where the Knights of the Rose would be traveling. Then they set a watch while everyone rested for the evening.

It was the middle of the night. Martin had the watch and was up in the crow’s nest. Seth could not sleep so he had decided to get up and stretch his legs.
He looked up at the archer. Martin was busy scanning the shoreline and did not notice him down below. Not that he would be able to spot me if I didn’t want him to anyway, Seth thought to himself. The little ninja quietly moved around the deck. He did not feel like talking.
As he drifted around the Rusty Nail, he heard a soft voice coming from the prow of the ship. As far as he knew, no one else was awake. The prow of the vessel was lower than deck level. He would have to move to the front of the ship to see who was there. The little ninja invoked his cloak of invisibility and snuck forward as silent as a ghost.
As he got closer, he realized the voice was familiar. It was Ruka! But she was speaking a different language. It was Draconic. Interesting, Seth thought. Luckily it was a language he knew as well.
Then he heard a second voice. It was the voice of an old man. He was also speaking in Draconic.
What is she up to? Seth wondered to himself. As he drew closer, he began to hear the whole conversation.
“Why do you waste your time with these elves and the others?” the old man was saying.
“They’re interesting,” the young girl replied.
“You mean the one elf is interesting,” the old man corrected her.
Seth crept closer. He was at the forward rail now and could see Ruka. She was sitting down with her back to him. She held her lightning short sword out in front of her. A light was emanating from the sword. It focused a few feet in front of her in the image of an old man.
“Grandfather!” Ruka said abashed.
“Admit it child. It is this elf that intrigues you,” the image of the old man said.
“It’s not like that,” she replied hastily. “At first I just wanted treasure. Then this group seemed fun.”
“And that drew you to them,” the old man stated.
“Yes!” the girl said emphatically. “Ves is always so stuffy. We always have to do the right thing when she is around. She is not mother!”
“And Maya?” her Grandfather asked.
“Is just a child,” Ruka finished. “She adores Ves and follows her blindly.”
“So you took this opportunity to go off and have fun. Is that it?” the old man said.
“Yes,” Ruka replied.
“And then you fell in love with this elf.”
“I’m not in love with him!” she said a bit too loudly. She quickly looked over her shoulder.
Seth held his breath. He knew she was very good at spotting him, even when he was invisible. But he had learned from their training together. He moderated his breath so that it was barely a whisper. And luck was also on his side. He was downwind from her.
Ruka scanned the vessel behind her for a minute, then turned back and continued to talk with the sword.
“Inazuma,” she said imploringly, “Donatello is different. He acts like a rogue, but there is something more underneath. He has one of the purest hearts I have ever seen.”
“Ahhhh,” Inazuma said, “now we come to it. His heart has resonated with yours. Yes…that explains much. Very well child. I will not interfere. But if he ends up disappointing you in the end, do not say I did not warn you.”
“Very well Grandfather,” the young girl replied. The image before her wavered and vanished. She went to put the sword away.
Seth decided to get out of there while he was still unnoticed. He carefully snuck back across the deck. He kept his breath even and shallow. When he finally made it below decks, he did not let up. He continued his stealthy movement till he made it back to his room.
Once behind the door, he became visible again and made his way over to his bunk.
“Out for an evening stroll?” Aksel said quietly.
“Yep,” the little ninja replied evenly. He would not let the cleric know that he had surprised him.
“I trust it was uneventful?” Aksel said.
“Well…” Seth said pausing. Then he told the cleric about the entire encounter. When he was finished Aksel was silent.
Finally the cleric said, “That is one interesting sword. I seem to remember that name from somewhere but I cannot place it right now. Still how many named lightning short swords were ever made?”
“Not many I’m guessing,” Seth replied. “But the whole thing with Ruka talking to the image, and calling it her Grandfather…that was just freaky.”
“Go to bed Seth,” Aksel said.

First thing in the morning, the group left the ship and headed out into the forest. A few hundred yards from the river they found a path that paralleled the stream. They camped out off the path for only a short while when they heard horses coming from the east. It turned out to be Cravenn with his and Alana’s units of heavy cavalry.
After greetings and stories were traded, the group mounted up together. Cravenn had brought Alana’s horse, a couple of spare horses and two riding dogs for Seth and Aksel. Ruka ended up riding with Alana.
“Now that’s unexpected,” Elvisda said nudging Donatello.
“Tell me about it,” the swashbuckler replied in a hushed tone.
The two elves shared a horse, as did Glorfindle and Elistra. Lloyd, as big as he was, had his own mount.
“We’ve still got about a day’s march ahead of us,” Sir Craven told them. “By this time tomorrow we should reach the monolith.”
“And then the real fun begins,” Seth added.
The companions and troop of knights began the rest of their march west along the path through the Darkwoods forest.

Knights of the Couch - Part VII - Journey to the Dark Monolith - Section 7

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