Knights of the Couch - Part XI - Vampire Season - Chapter 8

The Invasion of Restenford

There was a knock at the door. Lloyd stirred in his bed. He rose up and looked around. It was still dark out. As he surveyed the room, he remembered; he was in the keep in Restenford. Andrella had procured this room for him when he had been drained by the vampire attack.
Andrella…Lloyd thought suddenly. He looked over to his right and saw the golden hair lying on the pillow next to him. Then he noticed one slender pale arm draped over covers, atop the beautifully curved form lying underneath.
It all came back to him in a rush. He returned from the search for more undead last night and reported to the Lady Fairwind. Andrella had been there as well and ended up escorting him back to his room. It was late and no one else was around. They went to kiss goodnight and things got, well, rather heated. All he remembered now was a flurry of clothes flying in all directions. Then he and Andrella were under the covers and, well…
Knock, knock, knock. It was the door again. Lloyd slipped out of bed and threw on a robe. He made his way quickly over the door and opened it. One of the castle guards, Relkin he believed was his name, stood there.
“Sir Lloyd…” Relkin began.
Lloyd stepped out into the hallway, forcing the guard backward, and closed the door behind him. Relkin looked somewhat startled, but quickly recovered. “Sir Lloyd,” he began again, “sorry to bother you so early, but there’s a sky knight from Dunwynn here to see you.” Relkin sounded absolutely amazed as he stated this.
Lloyd was also rather amazed and perplexed. A sky knight from Dunwynn? And he wanted to see him? What could this possibly be about? The big warblade shook his head to clear it. Then he said to Relkin, “Tell him I’ll be out to see him shortly.”
“Very good Sir!” Relkin responded and then turned and headed back down the hall quickly.
Lloyd watched him go then slowly opened the door to his room. He quietly walked back in and carefully shut the door behind him. The slender form on the bed stirred. He listened carefully till he was sure Andrella was still asleep. Then he walked over to where his clothes were laid out by the dresser and began to get changed.
He was just finishing snapping on his sword belt when a pair of slender arms reached around his waist. He turned to find Andrella looking up at him. Gods she was beautiful!
“I hope I didn’t scare you,” she said playfully.
“You are quiet,” he replied putting a hand under her chin. “Are you sure you’re not studying to be a rogue?”
“No,” she said nonchalantly running a hand up his arm to his shoulder, “just a wizard. But light footedness does run in the Averno’s family.”
“Really?” Lloyd said with an amused look on his face. “Is that how the Averno’s gained their standing in Penwick? They snuck past all the other noble families?”
Andrella smacked him on the arm. “Lloyd Stealle! You take that back! The Averno’s are an upstanding clan. You of all people should know that!”
The big warblade openly laughed now at the young woman staring petulantly up at him. At that moment, he knew his goose was cooked. This little blonde woman had a firm hold on his heart, and was probably never going to let go. But Lloyd could think of worse fates.
“Oh Andrella,” he sighed. “What did I ever do without you?” He lifted her chin up, leaned forward and kissed her soundly. When he was done, he gently eased her arms from around him and headed towards the door.
“Come back soon!” she whispered as he opened the door. He turned and saw her flash a bit more skin than would have been decent in public. He blushed and then quickly went out closing the door behind him.

When Lloyd reached the courtyard, Relkin was waiting. He pointed out a knight standing in the middle of the yard next to a fully saddled hippogriff. As the warblade approached, he saw that the knight was dressed rather plainly. There was no indication of rank or clan on his outfit. I wonder what this is all about, Lloyd thought as he walked up to the knight. But when he got close, he was in for the surprise of his life. The man took off his helmet when he saw Lloyd and reached out a hand in friendship.
The warblade immediately recognized his face. It was Sir Fafnar of Dunwynn!
Lloyd stared at the hand for a moment then reached out and took it. “Sir Fafnar!” he cried.
“Shush, not so loud,” the Dunwynn Knight admonished. “I’m not supposed to be here.”
“Well I’m just glad to see you’re alive,” Lloyd replied softly.
“That’s in large part thanks to you my friend,” Fafnar replied. “If you had not stepped in when you did, that foul creature might have had the best of me.”
“I only did what was right,” Lloyd said sheepishly.
“Oh, no, you did far more than that,” the knight from Dunwynn declared. “After the hard time I gave you when we first met, and how I tried to sully your good name, you still stood by my side in a time of most dire need.”
Lloyd started to protest once again, but Fafnar waved him off.
“No, no my friend. That is not something an ordinary man would do. No, you have a truly noble soul Lloyd Stealle of Penwick. You are an honor and a credit to your station. Wouldst that more men were like you. Even some Dunwynnians,” Fafnar finished looking around over both shoulders.
“Which brings me to why I am here,” the knight continued. “I came to warn you. My brother Ignar is headed here with a fleet of Dunwynn ships; three to be exact. They will arrive in Restenford when the sun comes up in two hours time.”
“Why are you telling me this?” the warblade asked.
“Lloyd…” Fafnar began. “You need to distance yourself from these elves and gnomes and such. They are only going to get you in trouble.”
“They are my friends!” Lloyd replied hotly. “They have stood by me through every battle these last few months. In fact, they have saved my life! I will NOT desert them. Now are you going to tell me what this is about, or not?”
“Very well,” the Dunwynn noble said in a defeated tone. “When the fleet lands in few hours, they have orders to arrest you and your friends on sight. Charges were filed in Dunwynn against the lot of you.”
“What charges?” Lloyd said raising his voice.
“Please, keep your voice down,” Fafnar begged. “I come here in direct defiance of orders. If my brother knew I had come here to warn you, I would be thrown in jail alongside all of you.”
“Your own brother would do that to you?” Lloyd asked incredulously.
“You don’t know Ignar,” Fafnar told him, a trace of fear in his voice. “He is not…a very nice person. Anyway, I do not know the exact nature of the charges. I am supposed to be heading south. I have lost favor in Dunwynn and have been assigned far away from the capital.”
He put his hat back on, turned and vaulted onto his waiting steed. He looked back down at Lloyd and said, “I wish you good luck Lloyd Stealle. As I said before, you are an honorable and noble man. I do not for a minute believe any charges that have been trumped up against you. But my brother does not know you. Nor would he listen to me. Ignar believes in his own might and the law of Dunwynn. He will not hesitate to crush you if you should get in his way. Be wary my friend.”
And with those words the Dunwynn Sky Knight launched his steed upward and winged his way into the sky. Within seconds he had disappeared into the inky darkness.
“Did you hear all that Seth?” Lloyd asked not moving from where he stood.
“There is NO way you could have known I was here,” the ninja replied from the darkness.
Lloyd turned towards the voice and smiled. “You’re right. I just took a guess that you might be around.”
“Nice bluff,” the ninja said approvingly as he appeared in front of the warblade. “Elvisda must be rubbing off on you.”
“Thanks…I think,” the warblade answered. “I think we better gather the others and decide what to do.”
“I’ll go to the tower and get Aksel, Glo and Martan,” Seth said.
“And I’ll go back into the keep and rouse Elvisda,” Lloyd replied. “I’ll send Relkin to wake the Lady Fairwind as well. She should know that Dunwynn is right on her doorstep.”
“So we’ll gather in the regular meeting room?” Seth asked.
“As fast as possible,” Lloyd replied.
They both took off in opposite directions to gather their friends.

A half hour later they were all gathered in the antechamber off the throne room; the Knights of the couch, the Baroness Fairwind, Captain Gelpas, the Lady Andrella and Shalla. Lloyd filled everyone in on what Sir Fafnar had told him, with Seth’s interjections here and there. When they were done, Elvisda commented, “I guess Anya got to Dunwynn after all.”
“What makes you say that?” Aksel asked.
“Why else would they have a price on our heads?” the bard replied.
“Well I for one won’t stand for it!” Andrella said vehemently. “These charges are a farce!”
“I agree my dear,” Fairwind concurred. “I didn’t want to pry before, but just what does the Princess of Lanfar have against all of you anyway?”
Glorfindle shot a look at Elvisda and then proceeded to tell the Baroness the story. He described Anya’s arrival at the monolith, its subsequent destruction, their impromptu ride on the airship, the discovery of Vestralana as a prisoner below decks, their rescue of her and their “flight” from the airship. However, he discretely left out any mention of the bard’s involvement with the Princess.
When he was done, the Baroness sat quietly for a minute. Then she said, “You mean that nice young lady Vestralana and her two sisters are all dragons?”
“Yes your Ladyship,” Aksel confirmed. “They are our friends. They were a great help to us during the recovery of the cargo from the disappearing ships a few weeks back. And Ruka was an integral part of our party through most of our trip to the Darkwoods monolith.”
“Yes, yes, I understand,” Fairwind replied. “They are good aligned beings and deserved your help. I did not mean to imply otherwise. I was just surprised, that is all.”
“Well I say we stand and face these false charges!” Lloyd declared rising to his feet. “I will not have the good name of Penwick besmirched like this.”
“He is starting to sound like Elvisda,” Seth commented quietly to Aksel. The little gnome smiled.
“The castle guards will stand behind you!” Gelpas responded also rising. “As will the entire town if I am right after all you’ve done for us!”
“Gentlemen. Gentlemen! Please! Sit down,” Aksel said. “While I appreciate the sentiment, as I’m sure we all do, standing against Dunwynn will just cause a fight, and probably get a lot of people needlessly hurt.”
“I hate to admit it,” Fairwind chimed in, “but Cleric Aksel is most likely right. I know Ignar from my time in Dunwynn. He is a dangerous man and not one to be trifled with. He is also a stickler for the law as his brother intimated. If there are warrants for your arrest, he will not rest until you are all on ships back to Dunwynn to stand trial, no matter how trumped up the charges are.”
“Well then, your Ladyship,” Elvisda replied, “I guess that we have no choice. I’m afraid our only recourse is to leave Restenford…for now.”
“Begging your pardon,” Martan interjected. They were all surprised as the archer never spoke in meetings, especially in front of royalty. “If we must go, then we’re going to have to do it soon. We’ve only got about an hour before sunrise.”
“Martan’s right,” Glorfindel added. “We do need to start preparing. But I don’t think we need to rush out of town. When we are ready to leave, we can just use the teleporter.”
“Nice idea!” Aksel said approvingly. “That way we can scout out the Dunwynn forces and see what we are up against.”
“Very good,” Elvisda added. They could see the gears whirring in the bard’s head as he put his strategy cap on. “Martan go back to the tower and pack up what you need. Then head to the top and see what you can spot down in the harbor. Let us know when you see the first Dunwynn ships. I’m going to go and park the Boulder somewhere safe, away from prying Dunwynn eyes. Seth you come with me. I have an idea. Lloyd, go and pack up. Glo and Aksel, maybe you two can rest a bit. We’ll all meet in the tower as soon as possible.”
“Gentlemen,” Fairwind stopped them, “before you go, I just want to thank you for everything you have done. Both for the town of Restenford and for the Baron as well.”
“Your Ladyship,” Seth replied, “before we go, there are a few things you should know about Garotten.” The ninja along with Elvisda told the Baroness about what they knew of the Assassins Guild including the secret passage in the tavern, and the Mayor’s probably involvement.
“If you were to tell this all to Ignar,” Seth finished, “he might just decide it is a good enough excuse to move on Garrotten. They would not have to actually find the heart. If they just broke up the Assassin’s Guild and interrupted the nightly ritual, the Baron’s soul would return to his body. Then you could have him resurrected.”
“My dear friends,” Fairwind said standing and putting a hand on the little ninja’s shoulder and another one on the bard’s. “I am truly moved by your concern. Here you are on the verge of being hunted down, and you take the time to think of my Grellus. I am truly moved.” She bent down and hugged the ninja. Then she turned and hugged each one of them in turn.
When she got to Lloyd, the warblade stood blushing. Then he drew his swords and bowed down before her. “I vow to you on my honor as a noble of Penwick…I will not rest your Ladyship until your husband’s heart is returned to you and he may be brought back to your side!”
“Dear, dear Lloyd,” she said, touching his shoulder and bidding him to rise, “It warms my heart to hear such words. I have no doubt that you will try your utmost to fulfill that pledge. Would it be so. Either way, your heart is as broad as your shoulders. I am pleased that my Andrella has found one such as you.”
“Thank you your Ladyship,” Lloyd said rising. His face was red as a beet.
“Well don’t just stand there!” Elvisda cried. “We have things to do!”

It was still dark outside, but the eastern horizon was showing signs of lightening. Martan left the party and headed towards the tower with Glorfindel. Lloyd had gone straight to his room with Andrella in tow. Aksel followed Elvisda, Seth and Shalla headed to the front of the keep to where the Boulder was stationed.
“So what’s your plan?” Aksel asked the bard.
“It’s simple,” Elvisda replied grandly. “We park him in the vault underneath Haltan’s shop! Let’s see if they can find him down there.” He laughed as he said it.
“And I can reset all the traps too,” Seth added. “That’ll make it a bit harder for them.”
“Very nice,” Aksel nodded. “But you better get started. It’ll take at least twenty minutes to get the Boulder down to Haltan’s.”
“While you’re doing that,” Seth said, “I want to take a quick side trip.”
“Where to?” Aksel asked.
“Peltar’s” the halfling replied. “There are a few books there I would like to take with us being that we might be gone awhile.”
“Will you be ok by yourself?” Shalla asked with concern.
“I’ll be fine,” Seth replied. “No one will see me or hear me.” And with that he turned invisible. “I’ll meet you at Haltan’s in twenty minutes,” his incorporeal voice said as he moved away down the hillside.
“Let’s get going then,” Elvisda told Shalla.
“You go ahead,” the lady bard replied. “I’m going to go get your things and bring them over to the tower. You won’t have time to go back to the keep and pack.”
“Thank you my dear,” the elf bard replied. He put his arms around her and kissed her soundly. When he was done, he released her.
Shalla stepped back, flushed. “I…am going to miss that,” she said catching her breath.
“Come on! Go already!” Aksel urged.
The elf bard turned and followed the stone golem down the hillside towards the town.
Then the cleric headed towards the tower and the lady bard strode back to the keep.

Back in the keep, Lloyd and Andrella had gone back to the warblade’s room. “You start packing,” Andrella told him. “I’ll be right back.” Then she rushed out the door and down the hallway.
Lloyd was a bit surprised and disappointed. He thought that they would spend their last few moments in Restenford together. Oh well, there was no hope for it now. He turned and began gathering his gear together.
Twenty minutes later he was almost done when the door to his room opened. A small, slim figure dressed in a blue cloak slipped into the room. Lloyd turned, his hands going to his blade hilts. The figure turned towards him, stopped and dropped a bag to the ground. Then it reached up and drew back it’s hood. It was Andrella!
“Andrella?” Lloyd cried, “What are you dressed up for?”
“Don’t you like them?” she said turning left and right as if modeling for him. “These are my traveling clothes. I wear them when I want to move around the town unnoticed.” She did look cute in them, he had to admit. But then to him she would look cute in just about anything.
“I don’t understand,” he replied slowly, “Why are you dressed that way?”
“Because I am going with you silly!” she said walking over and putting her arms around his neck. Then she kissed him. When she was done, she still held on to him and said, “You didn’t think I was going to let you get away that easy, did you?”
She had that pout on her face. Lloyd already knew he had lost this argument, but he had to try. “Andrella,” he said calmly, removing her arms from around his neck and holding her tiny hands in his huge ones, “it might be dangerous where we are going. If anything were to happen to you, I would never forgive myself.”
She extricated one of her hands from his and reached up touching his face. “Dear, sweet Lloyd. You really are a softy at heart, aren’t you? I am glad that you worry about me. Don’t ever stop. But you are going after my father’s heart, are you not?”
“Yes,” he replied slowly, not liking where this was going.
“Well then, that is where I must go to!” she declared. “Don’t you see? Mother will be tied down with politics and red tape as soon as Ignar gets here. She will no longer have time to support the search for his heart. Someone in our family has to do something. And that responsibility now falls on me.”
“But it can get dangerous out on the road,” Lloyd told her. “Especially the places we may need to go.”
She patted him on the cheek. “That is why I have you to protect me!” she declared.
“But…” he was running out of arguments, “what will your mother say?”
“I’ll leave her a note. She will understand. Believe me, if she could, she would come with us,” Andrella finished.
Lloyd sighed. “Very well,” he said finally, “you can come. But you better promise me to be careful.”
“I promise!” she cried, clapping he hands together. Then she hugged him and kissed him.
When she let go he said, “Andrella?”
“Yes?” she replied looking up into his eyes.
“The note? For your mother?”
“Oh yes. Right.” She went to the desk and drew out some parchment and a quill. Then she proceeded to draft a letter to the Baroness. When she was done, they left the room and headed out of the main keep towards the tower. They met the castle guard, Francis, standing watch outside.
“Francis?” Andrella addressed the guard.
“My lady?” Francis replied.
“Can you please give this to my mother?” she said handing him the note.
“At once, my lady,” Francis replied bowing.
“Umm, it doesn’t have to be right this minute,” Andrella said hastily. “I think she has retreated to her room to prepare for the impending Dunwynn arrival. It can wait until she is done.”
“Very good my lady,” Francis said, rising and snapping to attention.
“Thank you Francis,” she replied with a smile and a courtesy. “I knew I could count on you.” She flashed her dimples and Francis visibly melted. Then she turned and hurried off with Lloyd towards the tower.
As they hurried along Lloyd said, “Sometimes I think that smile of yours is more devastating than my swords.”
Andrella giggled and replied, “It’s just like any weapon. You just need to know when to use it.”
“You’re a dangerous woman Andrella,” Lloyd said trying his best to sound frightened.
“Just be glad you are on my good side,” she replied trying to sound ominous.
They both started laughing as they continued on towards the tower.

It was just around sunrise when Martan came running down from the top of the tower. “Three ships with Dunwynn colors have docked in the harbor!” he announced.
A group was gathered on the first floor of the tower. Elvisda and Seth had returned from Haltan’s, Shalla had brought Elvisda his clothes, and Lloyd and Andrella had arrived. The only two missing were Glorfindel and Aksel who were still resting upstairs.
“Let’s go see!” Seth cried.
“Go wake Aksel and Glorfindel,” Elvisda told Martan.
Then he, Lloyd and Seth went up to the top of the keep tower. They looked out and clearly saw the three large ships in the harbor.
“Dunwynn colors,” Lloyd confirmed looking at the flags on the ships.
“Lots of soldiers on board too,” Elvisda added. They could see a number of troops disembarking from the ships down to the docks.
“I count about 50,” Seth noted. “But aren’t Dunwynn troops supposed to wear blue?”
They looked and saw some red armored men intermingled with the blue Dunwynn troops.
“They’re Ruby Knights,” said Aksel’s voice from behind them. They turned and saw the cleric followed by Glorfindel climbing to the top of the tower. “Follower’s of We-Jas. There is a large church dedicated to her in Dunwynn.”
“And that’s not all,” Glo announced. “They also have iron golems. Raven just spotted them on board.”
They continued to watch as the Dunwynn troops lined up on the peers. Then front end of the first ship seemed to bound upward as the Iron Guardian detached itself from the prow with a huge splash. The guardians on the other two ships immediately followed. They slowly made their way up onto the shore and lumbered along until they were in position in front of the troops.
“I think that’s our cue,” Elvisda said.
“Very good,” Aksel agreed.
They all turned and headed back down the stairs to meet the others. Then they all went down to the basement.
As Glorfindel set the teleporter, Elvisda turned to Shalla and said, “Take care of the Golden Golem for me.”
“I will,” the lady bard replied. Then she embraced him and kissed him one last time. When they were done, she pulled away breathless once again. “I am really going to miss that,” she said quietly.
“Don’t worry little darling,” the elf bard replied with a wink. “I’ll be back for you. That’s a promise.”
“All ready,” Glorfindel announced. He climbed up between the teleportation rings and waved Elvisda to follow. Everyone else waited inside the rings. The bard entered them as well and then the rings glowed brightly until the group could no longer be seen. Then the light faded leaving the lady bard standing alone in the basement of the tower.
“Be safe my love,” she said, and then turned and launched herself up the stairs.

Knights of the Couch - Part XI - Vampire Season - Chapter 8

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