Rise of the Thrall Lord
Knights of the Couch - Part X - The Barons Heart - Chapter 9
Imp in the Fold
The next day Aksel left the tower early in the morning. He started on the west side of town and made a wide sweep from north to south as he headed generally eastward. He had not detected anything until he got down to the riverside near the warehouse district. Suddenly he began to feel a tingling. It was not very strong, but there were lingering negative energy traces. Aksel realized this meant that a very strong undead presence had passed through the area in the very recent past. It has to be within the last few days at the most.
The little cleric continued to follow his divine senses until he was in front of Haltan’s shop. He knocked on the door and after a minute a burly man opened it and looked down at him. Aksel could see past the man into the shop, but it was mostly dark.
“What do you want?” the man asked in gruff tone.
“I was wondering if the shop was open,” Aksel replied.
“Sorry, but the place is off limits. We’re inventorying right now, and my boss don’t want anyone inside until we’re done.”
“Is your boss Haltan?” Aksel asked thinking he could ask the merchant for permission to check out the shop.
“Nah,” the big man replied. “Didn’t ya hear? He left town when he heard Dunwynn was coming. Phulbit has taken over for him and he now owns this place. And he don’t want anyone in here till we’re done. So ya best be on yer way.” The man stepped back and closed the door to the shop.
While Aksel was busy sweeping the town for undead, Seth went to the abbey looking for Qualtan. But he was told the same story as Mirye. The head cleric was still locked in his room in meditation and could not be disturbed. Seth was going to push the point when he caught sight of Aksel coming down the road through one of the windows in the abbey. The little ninja left the abbey and found Aksel standing on the side of the building staring at the abbey.
“Hey Aksel,” Seth cried. “What’re you doing here?”
Aksel turned and saw the little ninja. “Oh, it’s you Seth,” he replied. “This is very strange.”
“What is?” Seth asked.
“I just followed a faint trail of negative energy traces to this abbey of all places,” the little cleric replied.
“Interesting,” the ninja replied. “I was just inside and Qualtan is still in meditation and can’t be disturbed,” Seth mimicked sarcastically. “It seems like no one has seen him for days.”
“So the head cleric has been in seclusion for days, and there are negative energy traces around the abbey,” Aksel summed up. “I think we should report our findings to the Baroness.”
“Right behind you,” Seth said as they headed back up to the castle.
The duo informed Lady Fairwind of the negative energy traces around the abbey and Qualtan’s continued unavailability.
“Well, the negative energy is troubling, but Qualtan’s behavior is just intolerable,” the Baroness fumed. She turned to the castle guard and said “Gather some men together. Follow these two gentlemen back to the abbey and inform the cleric Qualtan that I wish to speak with him at once. I don’t want any excuses. Bash his door down if you have to. Then escort him back here to me” she commanded.
The guard yelled “Yes your highness! At once!” He saluted, then turned and marched out the door at a brisk pace.
“Now you’re talking!” Seth exclaimed jubilantly.
The Baroness couldn’t help smiling.
The guard returned in ten minutes with five castle guardsmen, including their friends Francis and Relkin. They followed Aksel and Seth back to the abbey. When they got to there, Aksel cast a magic circle against evil and had all the guards gather in a circle around them. They entered the abbey and started down the corridor. On the way down, they ran into the same old cleric who had told both Seth and Mirye that Qualtan could not be disturbed.
The old cleric asked “What are you men doing here? This is an abbey. You can’t just come barging in.”
“Sorry your holiness, but we are here to escort the Cleric Qualtan back to the castle,” Relkin replied.
“Like I told this little fellow before,” the cleric responded nodding at Seth “Qualtan is deep in meditation in his room. He really shouldn’t be disturbed”
“We are under direct orders from the Baroness herself,” Relkin told the old cleric. “We are to find the cleric Qualtan and escort him back to her at once. Please point out his room to us.”
“Very well,” the old man replied, obviously flustered. “It’s right down here.” He led them a few doors down and pointed to a door.
Relkin walked up to the door and knocked. There was no answer. He knocked again and yelled “Your Holiness, Cleric Qualtan! The Baroness wishes to speak with you at once! Please open the door!”
They heard a crash from inside the room and then some strange guttural sounds emanating from inside.
“Well that sure doesn’t sound very holy,” Seth quipped.
“Francis, give me a hand here,” Relkin commanded. Francis moved up front and he and Relkin tried to bash down the door. But it wouldn’t budge. “Now what?” Francis asked.
“Gentlemen,” Seth said, pushing his way past the two guards “Allow me.” The little ninja stepped up to the door and examined it closely, presumably searching for traps. After a minute or so, he started playing with the lock. An audible click was heard, and Seth stepped back. “All yours,” he told the guards, nonchalantly.
Francis opened the door and they all peered inside. The room was a mess. There were books scattered all over the place.
“Stay in the magic circle,” Aksel ordered as they all inched in the room together.
“Cleric Qualtan?” Relkin called.
Suddenly something moved. It jumped up from underneath a pile of books. It was a small creature, perhaps two feet tall, with a scaled, bloody red body, tiny horns on its head, small wings protruding from its back, and a long tail with a barbed end. The creature turned to look at them and an evil smile crept across its face.
“What is that thing?” Francis asked.
“It looks familiar, some kind of minor demon,” Aksel said, trying to place its exact nature.
Then Seth said “It’s an imp.”
Aksel turned to look at the ninja with a puzzled look on his face. “Yes, that’s it. How’d you know that?”
“Considering my family history, do you really need to ask me that?” Seth replied.
Aksel thought about it for a second and then said, “Oh. Yeah. Sorry.”
The imp started yelling at them in a guttural language. As they turned back to the creature, it rushed them. But as soon as it hit the edge of the magic circle, it stopped in its tracks and started yelping.
Seth cried “Sick ‘em Francis!” from where he was standing in the middle of the circle next to Aksel.
Francis, Relkin and a third guard all drew their swords and swung at the imp. But none of their weapons did any damage. They were well into the room by now, and the creature was penned in. It could not escape through the door. It picked up a chair and threw it at the window, smashing the glass. The imp then flew out the window.
Before it got ten feet, a blast of searing white light shot out after it and knocked it out of the sky. Seth turned his head and saw Aksel still pointing at where the creature had just been.
“Nice shot,” the ninja told his companion approvingly.
They all went outside and approached the body. When the examined it, they found the imp was dead. “Really nice shot,” Seth repeated to Aksel, slapping the little cleric on the back. The guardsmen all concurred.
Two of the guards stayed with the body while the rest of them went back to search Qualtan’s room. There was no trace of the head cleric. After careful search, however, they found a scroll which said Good job. You did well. Meet me tonight at the usual meeting place. The date on the scroll was three days prior.
The group returned to the castle and informed the Baroness of all that had transpired. The Lady Fairwind deliberated for a few minutes and then told them she had decided to have a town gathering to inform everyone of what was going on. At the meeting they would cast magic circles against evil to suppress anyone who may have been dominated by the vampire. Perhaps that way they would get some information on its whereabouts.
As Aksel and Seth were about to leave, the Baroness called them over into the private side room once again. “Before you go, I wanted to ask you if you know how to work this?” She pulled the ring that controlled their golem the Boulder from a pocket in her dress.
“Is that what I think it is?” Seth asked, incredulously.
“Yes,” Aksel said, “It is indeed. I can show you how to work it, your Ladyship.”
“I would highly appreciate that,” the Baroness responded. “Elvisda gave this to me before they departed through the portal. He said that I could use it to protect the castle if need be. But he did not have time to instruct me in its use.”
“Whenever is a good time for you,” Aksel replied.
“Well it’s getting late,” Fairwind replied. “How about tomorrow, before the town meeting?”
“I will come to find you first thing in the morning,” Aksel told her.
Then he and Seth left heading back to the tower. On the way Seth said “I can’t believe Elvisda gave up that ring.”
“Well if you think about it,” Aksel replied “It does us more good here, than it would have it he had taken it with him.”
“True,” Seth replied “But it’s still not like him to part with something like that.”
“He must really trust the Baroness,” Aksel replied.
“Or, perhaps she’s managed to addle his brains,” Seth smirked.
They reached the tower and went inside to spend what was left of the day crafting.