Rise of the Thrall Lord
The Fall of the Couch - Part 4
To Guard a Princess
The table in the center of the meadow was covered in pure white silk cloth. The heavy chairs of gleaming mahogany were similarly upholstered. The table was set with ornate silver goblets and a crystal decanter glittering in the bright sunlight. A fine woven carpet, with intricate red and black designs was set underneath, creating a strange oval island of luxury in an otherwise rough and unfinished setting. It was an incongruous sight, but fitting for the Anyabarithia Ulteshto Farbican, the Lady of the Amber Mount, Mistress of the Crystal Towers, and Princess and sole heir to the magical Kingdom of Lanfar.
Sigfus, the princess’ wizard, and somewhat personally proclaimed guardian-protector survey the royal retinue present.
Princess Anya had instructed the young dragons under her control to hide several hundred yards from the meadow on the far side from the monolith. They would come fast when she called. The princess often enjoyed such dramatic surprises for guests.
Oripeah was at the edge of the meadow behind the princess, leaning on a tree, her bow held almost casually. But some of her mage slayer arrows could be in hand in a flash. Perhaps she’d finally get a chance to prove they worked today.
Wandering the meadow like she was some caged animal looking for outlet, Deldrania hands never strayed far from her blades. But her blades remained sheathed; her whip at her belt. Del was known for her sadistic streak; her only problem was she wasn’t real smart, and the Princess had taught her recently about clever cruelty. She seemed more restrained than usual today.
Anya’s personal priestess, Jesira stood at attention to the left and slightly behind the princess. As a battle maiden of Kord, Jesira was perfectly capable of dealing with enemies with slashing blades or divine magic. Battle capable and eager, Anya had specifically gotten Jez to promise not to attack anyone unless ordered. Although a bit wild in battle, Jez always followed orders from her ‘war mistress’, at least until battle was joined.
To Anya’s right, Mallona casually lounged in a chair. She smiled at the princess who returned the grin; they always seemed to be sharing some secret joke. The unlikely but strong friendship between these was puzzling, although their capricious, dangerous and occasionally cruel personalities were in as perfect synch as their physical forms were not.
Mallona was currently in human form. Her hair like a wild, red mane, she was sprawled on the chair like some great jungle cat waiting for prey. She couldn’t shape change herself yet; perhaps the juvenile red dragon was just too young to master that feat. But Mallona could maintain a shape that Anya gave her indefinitely. And she was eager to learn, especially since she had discovered that most metallic dragons could shape shift from a young age.
Thinking of metallic dragons, Sigfus looked up towards the area the ship had moved off to. It was partly blocked by trees, but he could still see the command deck clearly from here and thought he caught a glimpse of long red hair. Sigfus was worried about the bronze dragon imprisoned on the ship. She was older and more powerful than any of the other dragons the princess had aboard except, Theriaxus.
A young adult red dragon, Theria had no problem mastering shape change, a good thing since her normal form was so huge it would dominate the main airship deck, with no chance of her getting below decks.
Not that she was likely to go below. Theria intensely disliked to go anywhere near the crystal room, and Sigfus couldn’t blame her. Like the bronze and most of the handful of young dragons currently under the princess’ control, Theria had been captured by the Dragon Master himself, and exposure to the crystal had bonded them to the princess. Usually it took hours; the bronze had been exposed for three days, and still showed no signs of breaking.
Theria had supposedly succumbed in two days, but unlike the princess, Sigfus had no delusions that they really controlled Theria. He suspected she played along because they controlled her wyrmling, Scorch. A chaotic dragon could bend under such duress, while a lawful one of that power would eventually have to break, go mad, or more likely in this case simply die.
Theria was currently on the ship looking after the youngest dragons and supposedly keeping an eye on the prisoner. The grand, royal airship Wind Hammer is no more than a glorified, airborne dragon daycare Sigfus mused.
All in all, the princess was surrounded by an impressive array of protectors, not even counting the dragons, who Sigfus considered unreliable at best.
Still he was quite surprised when the princess received the ‘request’ from the Dragon Master to destroy the Colossus under the monolith. It was always a ‘request’; technically the Dragon Master worked for Anya, and a year ago that was certainly the truth. But with each powerful dragon under his control the power shifted a little. That the princess could control young dragons with the help of the crystal was certainly true, and Sigfus had not yet ascertained the nature or full extent of that power. But he suspected it would only be a matter of time before the Dragon Master no longer needed his liege and benefactor. And when that day came, Sigfus, her loyal and powerful wizard protector would be there to deal with the upstart. Then maybe she’d realize that he was…
“Make sure the wine is properly chilled,” Anya commanded to no one in particular.
Each of Princess Anya’s high powered retainers looked at each other; no one moved. They couldn’t see him since he had been invisible the entire time, but they knew he was there. Sigfus sighed to himself and cast a ray of frost on the decanter, and an unseen servant spell to take care of the pouring. Really, the other classes were so useless. He supposed that is why the princess kept him around.
As usual Princess Anya picked the most elaborate way of dealing with any situation. She never thought these things through, and made it quite difficult for him to keep her safe. Difficult, but always interesting, he thought to himself as he looked her up and down. Being invisible had a few perks, and being able to openly ogle the princess was his favorite.
The statuesque figure of the princess stood near the table. She was wearing one of her more revealing outfits, mostly small isolated pieces of black silk held together surprisingly well by strategically placed strings, and no small amount of minor magic. It just perfectly accented her…
I know what you’re thinking, Darilyrus’ words formed in his mind. Her mental tone was playful, so he knew the coming emissaries from the monolith couldn’t be too dangerous. He was going to ask, but she had already read his mind.
There are four of them, two elves, two humans. Dari entered the other end of the meadow, her invisible form appearing translucent to his eyes. She had taken the shape of the princess; an exact replica, except the outfit was not so well secured. She wouldn’t dare that shape if not cloaked in invisibility; the princess wasn’t the forgiving sort.
Couldn’t pick up much from the elves, one is a bard and the other some kind of rogue. The rogue was invisible or darn good at hiding; didn’t pick up his thoughts too clearly either. All I got from the bard was music and some lewd daydreaming about the princess… and he hasn’t even seen her in this outfit yet! Dari spun around, her top falling off in exactly the way Princess Anya’s wouldn’t.
One of the humans seems smart, Dari continued, seemingly unaware the dress had completely fallen off her assumed form. He’s appropriately worried and paranoid about everything… maybe he’s psychic. The other is a knightly squire, all for the glory… too boring to live. Can I have some fun with him?
Not yet my pet, Sigfus thought at her. Now enough play. Take a shape that is a little less distracting.
Dari assumed the form of a serving maid and stood by the table, still invisible. That girl had caught his eye in a tavern in Palt a few weeks ago. He hadn’t thought Dari knew about it at the time, and had subsequently forgotten about her. The girl was probably dead now, all because she smiled at him and he had a careless thought about it later.
It was possible the bard could see invisible Sigfus thought; but he couldn’t be sure. So much about this group didn’t make sense. But the conversations he had picked up from the Pearl so far led him to believe that they did not have very skilled spell casters with them.
The bard Elvisda entered the clearing with a jaunty walk, his lute strumming and a grin on his face. Even from this distance, Sigfus could see his grin spread when he caught sight of the princess. His bright-white outfit in stark contrast to the red-shirted follower behind him, the bard strutted up to the table like a rooster on parade.
The princess watched him approach almost hungrily, and Sigfus wished against all logic that she would strike him dead on the spot. He had immediately taken a disliking to the bard and everything about him, from his ridiculous hair style down to his exaggerated cod piece.
It’s not a cod piece, Dari’s appreciative thought invaded his mind. She did like to tease him about that one small matter.
Enough! Focus on the job at hand, he thought at her exasperatedly.
The other elf had entered the clearing, his invisible form also appearing semi-translucent to Sigfus’ sight. He wondered if they could see them. He waved at the elves, and then gave them the finger. Obviously they couldn’t, or were really good at bluffing.
Only one way to find out, Dari thought. She flashed the bard her cleavage. When no reaction was forth coming, Dari concluded definitely can’t see invisible.
I wouldn’t be so sure, Sigfus thought at her, with the princess in front of him, why would he look at lesser merchandise? He knew he would pay for that comment later.
Do you know what he is thinking of doing with the princess? Dari thought slyly. Oh! We should try that! But I’m not sure you’d be up for it…
Enough! Sigfus tried to make his thoughts feel irritated to her. When serious, he knew that Dari was a formidable adversary. But when feeling playful she could be so distracting. She seemed to think this group no threat, but there was still something that bothered him. Maybe they were something more than bumbling fools who had somehow gotten control of a Colossus.
Sigfus switched to arcane sight, quickly categorizing every magic item in the meadow. Not much on the bard, a ring, an instrument, a wand, all dim glowing. The buffoon behind him had nothing except a holy symbol under his shirt. The rogue’s shoes and gloves also gave off a dim glow, his short sword a little brighter, but the dagger was like a pinpoint of intense light. Very interesting he thought, at least Magi level power crafted that one and it had a hint of both evocation and conjuration enchantments to it.
I claim it! Dari thought at him. Can I kill him now? She wasn’t serious he knew, no one killed anyone until the Princess said so.
Dari, where is the fourth one? He thought at her. I can’t spot any of his gear, he could be shielding against my sight somehow.
He’s just a country bumpkin Siggy. Really, he was super easy to read, his name is Martin, he’s scared, and the only danger is his thoughts could put you to sleep. He’s out of my range now, but if he’s near the meadow, he should be in yours. Now where is the rogue? I can’t see him like you can, and he is really quiet; even his thoughts are quiet when he sneaks.
Sigfus finished his search of the meadow while Dari rambled. No sign of any unaccounted for magic enchantments. Now he was worried, anyone capable of shielding from arcane sight had to be pretty powerful; perhaps the mastermind of this group.
Dari, find me this Martin. I want to know what he’s really thinking.
This is not good, Martin thought to himself. We are so dead!