Rise of the Thrall Lord
Knights of the Couch - Part X - The Barons Heart - Chapter 6
The Fop and the Warblade
Donatello, Lloyd, Elvisda, and Glorfindel arrived at Restenford a little over half a day after they had left Garrotten. They first stopped off at the Golden Golem Inn and met up with Shalla. Elvisda sent Shalla on some errands for them. Withdrawing all their funds from “safekeeping” with Haltan the merchant was top on the list. Then he changed into his Elvisda clothes and went across the street to Aragorn Schwartz offices to pass the title of ownership of the inn to “Johnny Cash”. He also sent their Golem, the “Boulder”, walking up to the castle with orders to stand just outside the gates. That should intimidate any Sky Knights from Dunnwyn who were hanging around the castle grounds.
Meanwhile, Donnie, Lloyd and Glo headed straight up to the castle with Francis. In the castle courtyard they noticed about a dozen hippogriffs and a few Sky Knights with them. Relkin, one of the other guards, was standing duty at the gate. “Where are the rest of the Sky Knights?” Glo asked him.
“They’re in the throne room” Relkin replied, “meeting with the Baroness.”
The party headed straight to the throne room. Immediately on entering they saw about a half dozen Sky Knights of Dunnwyn standing in front of the throne. The Lady Fairwind was sitting on the throne. Gelpas stood at her side. Split on either side of the room stood a half dozen castle guards.
At the head of the Sky Knight brigade stood Fafnar. He was just finishing what was most likely a rather long winded speech to the Baroness. “…and so your ladyship, we beseech you to look upon us as your humble servants, merely here to help protect your town in these troubled times.”
The Lady Fairwind replied, “While we appreciate the kindness of your gesture, Sir Fafnar, I assure you our town of Restenford is in good hands and not currently in need of your services.”
“But your ladyship…” Fafnar began.
Glorfindel pushed his way through the Knights and walked up to the front of the room, taking a place next to the throne on the opposite side of Gelpas. Donnie and Lloyd followed and stood next to him. Gelpas nodded his head at the group as they walked in and couldn’t restrain a slight smile. The Baroness also nodded; although she did not smile, her eyes lit up when she saw the group.
“…knows who her friends are and who she can trust,” Glorfindel finished for him.
Fafnar turned his eyes to look at the wizard and the swashbuckler with disdain. However, when his eyes rested on hulking warblade, they held a hint of fear. He recovered quickly and said, “If she wishes to entrust the protection of her town to knaves and rogues.”
“Which is exactly why we are here,” Glorfindel retorted. “To make sure that, that does not happen.”
“Oops, too late,” Donatello quipped. “It seems that the knaves got to the throne room before us.”
Fafnar was about to comment when the Baroness interrupted. “Gentlemen, please. This is neither the time, nor the place.”
“You are right your ladyship,” Glorfindel responded. “There are much more pressing matters that need to be discussed.”
The Baroness leaned over close to the wizard and said softly, “Do you have any news of my husband’s heart?”
Glo responded quietly, “We have uncovered some facts that you should be made aware of as soon as possible Baroness.”
Fairwind straightened on the throne and said, “Very good. Sir Fafnar, this audience is at an end. Please convey my gratitude and good wishes to my brother, the Duke.”
“As you wish your ladyship,” Fafnar said, bowing deeply, all the while staring darkly at the wizard. He then turned and strode on out of the throne room, his entourage of Sky Knights following him. When they were gone, Gelpas turned to them and said, “Whew, I thought they would never leave!”
“Let’s us adjourn to the private room,” Fairwind told the little group. Then she added, “By the way, where is Elvisda…and Aksel? Will they be joining us?”
“Aksel stayed back in Garrotten your ladyship,” Glo responded. “Elvisda is in town, but had some pressing errands to attend to. He should be joining us shortly.”
“Good,” Fairwind replied, with just a hint of a smile on her lips.
The Baroness, Gelpas, Glo and Donnie sat around a table in the private room adjoining the throne room when Elvisda walked in wearing his Johnny Cash disguise. Lloyd had excused himself from the group and had gone in search of Andrella.
“Your ladyship,” Johnny said, walking up to the Baroness and bowing deeply.
“And who might you be…” she started, but then got a good look at his face. “Elvisda!” she cried, perhaps just a little bit too enthusiastically. She blushed a bit, and tried to recover by saying, “Whatever are you doing dressed in that ridiculous black outfit?”
“Merely a disguise my lady,” he replied with a flourish of his cape. “It seems that the Princess of Lanfar was displeased when we liberated one of her captive dragons. The dragon in question just happened to be a friend of ours and we could not leave her in such a distressing situation.”
“You do have some interesting friends,” Fairwind replied, somewhat amused. “We had heard rumors, however, that there was some kind of price on your head.”
“I’m not quite sure why the Princess has singled me out personally,” Elvisda lied, “but I do intend to rectify the situation once we have restored your husband to you.”
“Well,” Fairwind continued “if the Princess causes any harm to befall you, I can assure you that we will take it as a personal affront.”
“Thank you your ladyship,” Elvisda replied with a broad smile. “I am speechless at your kindness and consideration”.
Donnie leaned close to Glo and said softly, “Elvisda? Speechless? That’ll be the day.”
Glorfindel suppressed a smile.
Glo turned to the Elvisda and said, “We’ve just been catching her ladyship up on events in Garrotten. We have relayed to her all our findings so far and some of our suspicions, especially with regard to our friends from Dunnwyn.”
“As I was saying,” Fairwind interjected “the Duke is my brother and I am sure he has our best interests at heart. I cannot imagine that he would in any way be involved in my husband’s demise.”
“Nor do we,” Elvisda replied. “But Dunnwyn is a large realm, your ladyship. There are many factions. Any one of them could have had a hand in this without your brother’s knowledge.”
“We have to look at the facts, your ladyship,” Glorfindel continued. “The Assassin’s Guild was contracted to kill your husband and take his heart. Further, they went to great lengths to frame the bard, Balmarrow from Garrotten, a man who openly speaks out against them throughout that town. Also, Sky Knights from Dunnwyn just happened to meet us on the road between Restenford and Garrotten. And those Knights knew about the Baron’s death before we ever mentioned it. Then a contingent of Sky Knights from Dunnwyn, lead by Sir Fafnar, who had been banished from Restenford, shows up on your doorstep to offer their condolences and services. Your ladyship, these are just too many coincidences to overlook.”
“So either someone from Dunnwyn was involved in conspiring to have you husband murdered,” Elvisda continued, “or someone is going to a great deal of trouble to implicate Dunnwyn in this matter.”
“Very well,” the Baroness replied. “You may be right about this. I will send a note to my brother informing him of what you have found so far and asking him to look into the possibilities of a conspiracy in his realm.”
“Thank you your ladyship,” Glorfindel said. “We really need to check all possibilities, no matter how remote. Now Aksel was going to contact Seth. He is probably our best bet at infiltrating the Assassin’s Guild. In the meantime, there is one more thing we should follow up on while we are here in Restenford.”
“And what’s that?” Fairwind asked.
“Well,” the wizard began, “we know that Grellus traveled with Peltar and Qualtan during their adventuring days. It may not be a coincidence that Peltar disappeared around the same time your husband was murdered. Do you think we could talk with Qualtan? He might be able to shed some light on any enemies the Baron made in his adventuring days.”
“Why of course,” Fairwind replied. “I will send for Qualtan at once.”
While Glo was talking with the Baroness, Donatello leaned over and whispered to Elvisda, “I really don’t like Fafnar skulking around the town unwatched. Maybe it would be better to have him right in front of us, say at a dinner where we could ply him with drink and perhaps get him to reveal his plans?”
“Good idea,” Elvisda whispered back. He turned to Fairwind and said, “Your ladyship…perhaps we have been a bit…hasty with our accusations of Sir Fafnar. He may only mean well after all as you suggest. Would it be possible to invite him back to the castle along with Qualtan? It is getting late in the day. Maybe we could all sit down like gentlemen and share an evening meal. We could gather information from the good Cleric and mend fences with the Knight from Dunnwyn as well.”
“Well said, Elvisda!” the Baroness applauded. “You know, you have the makings of a fine politician.”
“It’s a gift,” he said with a smile.
Fairwind actually laughed. It was the first time they had heard her do that since the Baron had passed. “Elvisda, you lighten my heart in these troubled times,” she said. “Thank you. Thank you all.”
Dinner had been set in the main dining hall the castle. It was a fair sized room with a large fireplace at one end, and a large table with seating for 20 in the center. There was a pair of rather ornate chandeliers over the table and two tall windows at either end of the room.
The seat at the head of the table was left empty in honor of the fallen Baron. The Lady Fairwind, Baroness of Restenford, sat at the other end. She was dressed in black, with the Avernos tabard on the front of her gown. To her right sat Elvisda, disguised as Johnny Cash, but in a very formal black outfit. To her left sat the Wizard Glorfindel, dressed in fine purple robes. Next to Glorfindel sat the Cleric Qualtan, in white robes. Sir Fafnar of Dunnwyn was seated next to Elvisda. Fafnar was wearing a formal blue doublet, with the tabard of Dunwynn on it. Donatello sat on Sir Fafnar’s right. The swashbuckler was dressed in a fine green doublet with a frilly lace shirt underneath. Lloyd sat on the other side of Qualtan directly across from Fafnar. He was wearing a fine red doublet with a Penwick tabard on it. And the Lady Andrella, also wearing a black formal gown, sat next to the young Penwick noble. Everyone who was not wearing black had a black armband in respect of the Baron. Everyone, that is, except for Qualtan.
“This is a fine setting here your ladyship,” Fafnar said. “We highly appreciate being invited to dine with the royal family, even if we find some of the other dinner guests questionable.”
“Really, Sir Fafnar,” the Baroness replied. “You do yourself a disservice. It is these other guests who suggested inviting you to this dinner. It is their wish to mend fences with you, Sir Knight.”
“Really?” Fafnar mouthed in obvious disbelief. A small smile crossed his face. “Well then, perhaps I have misjudged these fellows after all. They are starting to show remarkable good sense, even if they are mostly elves.”
“I assume that was supposed to be a complement?” Glorfindel asked with amusement in his eyes.
“Yes, yes indeed it was,” Fafnar replied. “We in Dunnwyn are a growing realm. We are the future. A kingdom built and run by the rising race of humanity. We build and expand, unlike the Elven nations which are in obvious decline and will eventually disappear off the face of the earth.”
“Hmmm,” Glorfindel said. “That is an interesting view of the world you have, Sir Fafnar. But I am from Cairthrellon and have also been to the Elven city of Kai-Arborous recently. I can assure you, the Elven race is both well and continues to thrive.”
“Well we in Dunnwyn have really not seen much evidence of that,” the Knight replied. “As I said, we are a race of men and have taken it on our own to unite the peoples of Eastern Thac and build a thriving empire that can stand against the enemies who would seek to disrupt this world and subjugate our peoples. We have neither seen nor heard any offer of help from any of the other races. Especially the high and mighty Elves of Kai-Arborous nor Cairthrellon.”
“I can see your point,” Lloyd suddenly interjected, putting down his utensils and placing his napkin on the table.
Everyone turned around, surprised to hear the warblade agree with Fafnar.
The Dunnwyn Knight looked the most surprised. “Really, my good man?”
“Why yes,” the Warblade continued. “It is a noble and righteous goal to unite the peoples of Eastern Thac to protect them from their enemies. I, as member of one of the high houses of Penwick, know only too well what can befall a kingdom that stands alone against the tide of evil that besieges this world.”
Glo leaned over towards Elvisda and murmured, “Seems like you’re rubbing off on the boy.”
The Baroness, sitting between the two men, had to suppress her laughter.
“Ah yes,” Sir Fafnar replied. “Penwick. A smaller kingdom to be sure when compared with the glory of Dunnwyn. But, yes, I can see where coming from that downtrodden realm would make you aware of the need to bring together the peoples of Thac under one solid ruler.”
“A toast then,” Lloyd responded. “To standing strong and united in the face of our enemies!”
“Very good,” Fafnar said. “To standing united!”
The two men clinked their tankards together and drank deeply.
Lloyd and Fafnar leaned in close and began to have a private conversation which went on for quite some time. The Lady Andrella, sitting next to the big Warblade, sat quietly and listened. A look of amusement played across her tiny, perfect face.
Glorfindel, seeing that Fafnar was now being effectively handled, turned to the cleric Qualtan and began questioning him on the exploits of his old adventuring companions.
“Our basic company was the three of us: Grellus, Peltar and myself,” Qualtan told them. “Sometimes we were joined by the Druid Almax.”
“Isn’t that the same Druid who now lives in town?” Donatello asked. He had moved his chair over to sit with the small group at the head of the table.
“Why, yes it is,” replied Qualtan. “We also had one other occasional party member. A rogue named Flandril.”
“And where is he now?” Elvisda asked.
“Somewhere down far south. I’m not sure of his exact whereabouts.” Qualtan told them.
“So, do you think any of your old enemies in particular might still be holding a grudge against the Grellus and/or Peltar?” Glorfindel inquired.
“Hmmm,” Qualtan thought. “There was that Black Dragon that we were famous for killing. But that couldn’t be related to his recent murder.” Qualtan pondered for another moment. “Perhaps the Drow. We had a number of run-ins with the Drow over the course of our adventures. We foiled quite a few schemes that they had hatched to gain power in the area. Yes, I do believe the Drow could be behind this.”
“Just the Drow then?” Donatello repeated.
“Probably. But there is one other thing going on lately that has been bothering me,” Qualtan lowered his voice. “The Druid, Almax. I think he may be dabbling in dark magic. I don’t have any proof, but he has been seen performing some strange rituals in the woods at night lately.”
“Hmmm,” Glorfindel murmured. “That is strange. Maybe we should check it out. Anyway, do you have any idea where Peltar might have gone off to?”
“Funny you should ask that,” Qualtan said. “One of my clerics thought they saw him in the marketplace a few days ago. But he had not appeared at the palace and his house remains empty from what I have heard. Anyway, your ladyship, gentlemen, it is getting late and I must be getting back to the abbey.” He got up from his seat and said, “With your permission your ladyship.”
“Yes, of course,” Fairwind replied smiling at the cleric. “Thank you for your time Qualtan. It is most appreciated.”
Qualtan’s face turned slightly red for a moment. “Anything for you Fairwind,” he almost gushed. Then he recovered his composure and quickly left the dining hall.
“Well where does that leave us?” the Baroness asked.
Glo pondered a minute then responded. “Well, Aksel is still down in Garrotten. Seth has probably joined him by now. While they try to infiltrate the Assassin’s Guild, it might be best if the rest of us try to find Peltar. He seems to be the key missing component in this mystery. Strange that they thought they saw him in town a few days ago. Of course, he is an accomplished wizard. He could just be teleporting in and out of town at will.”
“Now that you mention it,” Fairwind said, “I seem to remember Grellus saying that Peltar had some means of long distance transportation. I think it might be in his old tower here in the castle.”
“A teleportation circle?” Glo asked. “If he is using that, then we might have a chance to track him down!”
“That’s worth a shot,” Elvisda concurred. “Your ladyship, I think we should get our party together and travel through that teleporter to see if we can track down Peltar.”
“I agree,” the Baroness said.
“But we are short a cleric right now,” Donatello reminded them.
“Well,” Glofindel mused, “Perhaps, our new buddies from Dunnwyn could fill the gap for us.” The wizard called across the table, “Sir Fafnar?”
“Yes?” Fafnar looked up from where he was still in deep conversation with Lloyd.
“The Baroness has just sanctioned us to proceed on a quest vital to the restoration of the Baron. We were wondering if you and some of your good Knights would care to join us on this adventure?”
Fafnar stood up and faced the wizard and Baroness. “Why of course! Your ladyship as I said before, consider myself and my knights at your disposal.”
“I’d love to dispose of them,” Donnie whispered to Elvisda. The bard had to hide the smirk the crossed his face.
“Very good Sir Fafnar,” the Baroness replied. “Please coordinate your party members with the good Wizard Glorfindel here.”
“As you wish your ladyship,” Fafnar agreed.
He came over and sat down with the group. When they were done, it was decided that Fafnar and two of his Knights, one a cleric, one another wizard, would join the party. They would enter Peltar’s tower late the next morning and investigate the teleportation circle he reportedly had there. Once they got that working, the party would hopefully be able use the device to travel back to where it was last set.
Lloyd was not pleased with this. On their way back to the inn that evening, the huge Warblade was seething with jealousy.
“Don’t worry Lloyd,” Elvisda told him. “Andrella seems to have eyes only for you.
“I could rig his saddle to make him fall off his Hippogriff in the morning,” Donnie offered.
“Arrrggghhh,” was all Lloyd would say. And he stormed ahead to the Golden Golem.
“He’s not happy,” Donnie observed. “Anyway, I was thinking that maybe I should spend the morning paying a visit to our Druid friend.”
“Sounds good,” Elvisda said. “Meanwhile, I’ll stock up on provisions and equipment for our journey.”
“And I’ll take Fafnar’s wizard friend and go examine Peltar’s tower in the morning,” Glo added.
With that, the three KOTC members entered the inn and adjourned to their rooms for the night.