Knights of the Couch - Part VI - Party Crashers - Part 10
Back inside the keep, they began accessing what was left of the dinner. The feast food, tables and settings had been ruined by fireball blast; the great oaken tables had been charred, and most of the chairs were smoldered kindling.
The Baroness was quiet, but noticeably upset. Andrella, however, was not so quietly.
“My party is ruined!” she cried. Lloyd was standing behind her. He reached forward and put his hands on her shoulders to comfort her. She turned to look at the handsome young man and then buried he head in his broad chest, weeping openly.
Grellus looked at his daughter and said, “Now, now Andrella. It will be ok.” Then he raised he voice saying, “I want everything repaired here and ready within an hour.” He turned to the servants and began giving specific instructions.
Fafnar had been staring at Lloyd with obvious malice as he held Andrella. Then the noble leaned over to the Duke who was also watching the two youngsters with concern. The Duke nodded his head at what Fafnar was saying and then stepped forward.
“Ahem. Baron Grellus. Lady Andrella. Please allow Dunwynn to assist you in your time of need.” The Duke then snapped his fingers and one of his servants came over and handed the Duke two scrolls.
“Stand back please,” the Duke said. Fafnar and the Dunwynn retinue began pushing everyone out of the way.
Andrella turned around from where she was nestled in Lloyd’s arms. But she did not move away from the big warblade.
Kelvick began reading from the first scroll. It was a short incantation. When he finished, an entire feast materialized in the open space they had created. A magnificent table had appeared with chairs, service, food and drink. It was a banquet fit for a king. The spread made what the Baron had originally had prepared look quite meager in comparison.
The Duke read from the second scroll and another table appeared, just as marvelous as the first.
Andrella clasped her hands together like a schoolgirl and beamed. She ran up to the Duke and kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you Uncle!”
“You are quite welcome, Niece,” the Duke beamed. He cast a look around him at the others and smiled smugly. “Why don’t you come and sit with us at the head table Andrella?” he said waving his hand.
“I would be honored Uncle Kelvick,” she beamed.
Fafnar smiled arrogantly as he put out his arm for Andrella to take.
But then the little lady said, “Just a minute please.” She turned, ran back to Lloyd and grabbed him by the arm. “Coming?” she said to the big warblade. She didn’t really give him a choice. She began dragging him along with her. The young man couldn’t help by smile. He let the young girl lead him to the first table.
Kelvick and Fafnar followed with sour looks on their faces.
“Grellus, Fairwind, would you care to join us?” the Duke said as they made their way to the table.
Grellus said, “Thank you Kelvick.” The Baron turned to the KOTC members and said, “Please join us friends. After all, we would not be having this banquet if it were not for you all. And of course, the Duke he added.”
Kelvick’s face was even more sour, if that was possible, when the KOTC members sat around the head table. But then he spied the Lady Ves all alone. The Druid Almax had decided to leave the party after the attack. He had said he had some matters to attend to that could not wait.
The Duke approached the beautiful young girl and said, “Fair lady, you seem to have lost your escort for the evening. Would you be so kind to join me at the head table?”
Ves curtsied and responded, “It would be an honor your grace. Maya, please come along,” she told her sister who had been scampering around her.
“Ahem,” the Duke cleared his throat. “Perhaps she could seat herself at the other table with the younger crowd. This is more of a time for adult conversations. Don’t you think?”
Ves looked at the Duke critically for a moment, then said, “Very well your Lordship. Maya, please go to the other table.”
“I will go and keep her company,” Aksel offered. “I’m sure that Seth will join us as well when he returns.”
“Thank you,” Ves mouthed silently to the little cleric.
“Don’t worry sis, I’ll keep an eye on them too,” came a voice from behind them.
They turned and saw Ruka standing there as if she had appeared out of thin air.
“Rukastanna! Where have you been?” Ves asked her wayward sister.
“Oh, around,” the younger girl replied. “Don’t worry, I’ve been keeping out of trouble. I was actually with Seth for awhile.”
“Well please stay with us now,” Ves said emphatically.
“Yeah, yeah,” Ruka replied, “I’m going to sit with Maya and Aksel here like I said.”
“See that you do,” Ves said and then turned to the Duke taking his arm. “Please lead on your grace.”
Kelvick seemed smitten with the young lady. He was almost giddy as he led her to the main table.
When they were finally all seated, the Duke, Ves, Fafnar, the Baron and Baroness, Andrella and Lloyd, Glorfindle, Elvisda and Donatello sat at the first table. Almax had left as had Qualtan. The head Cleric had gone back to the temple to prepare to raise Sir Calric in the morning. And the Penwick knights had gone to stand vigil over their fallen comrades body. That left one more empty seat.
They were trying to decide who should sit there when Seth came walking across the courtyard with a young woman in gypsy clothing. She was a stunning blonde with short hair and beautiful purple eyes. Glorfindle immediately found himself attracted to her.
When they reached the table Seth said to Glo, “You have to hear this. It is very important.”
Glo turned to the Baron and said, “Would you excuse us for a few moments your lordship.”
“Absolutely,” Grellus replied. “We will hold the feast until you return.”
Kelvick was too busy talking with Ves to notice. But Fafnar seemed annoyed by yet another interruption. “Do not keep us waiting too long, wizard,” the noble said haughtily.
Glo ignored him and walked away from the table with Seth and the gypsy. Aksel came up and joined them from the other table.
“This is Elistra,” Seth introduced the gypsy woman. “I ran into her out by the Serpent Cult wagons. She has some interesting powers,” the ninja told them giving the woman a sidelong glance.
Elistra looked down at the halfling and gave him a small smile.
“Anyway,” Seth continued, “together we investigated the wagons and found something mighty interesting.” He went on to tell them about his encounter with Telvar, the references to the Serpent Cult, the Golem Thrall Master, and the Darkwoods Monolith.”
When he was done, Glo remarked, “That is quite a story. If what you say is true, then we must go to this Darkwoods Monolith ourselves.”
“Yes,” Aksel added, “I quite agree. If the Serpent Cult were to get its hands on the Thrall Master’s Golem book, then the results would be catastrophic.”
“It may be even worse than you realize,” Elistra said.
They looked at her quizzically. “How so?” Glorfindle asked.
“It is more than just the Thrall Master’s legacy that is driving the Serpent Cult. It is the Thrall Master’s themselves,” the gypsy said.
“But how can that be?” the elf wizard asked skeptically. “The Thrall Lord and his Masters are all dead some hundred years now.”
“That may be,” Elistra replied mysteriously, “but trust me, the Thrall Masters are on the rise again. They may not be the same individuals they were a hundred years ago. Then again some of them may be. But believe me, there are Thrall Masters out there now, today, scheming and planning to recover their lost power. And what’s worse is that they are all vying to become the next Thrall Lord.”
“If what you say is true,” Aksel said, “then this is far worse than anything we had previously imagined.”
“However, it does explain a lot of things,” Glo remarked. “Like the disappearances from the Wizard’s Council as well as Rodric Greymantle and now Peltar. Also, the brazen attacks of the Serpent Cult.”
“It does seem to all nicely tie together now that you mention it,” Aksel concurred.
“Yeah, yeah, that’s all well and nice,” Seth interrupted. “You two can go on and ponder all you want. But what we really need is a plan and some action.”
“You’re quite right Seth,” Aksel replied. “Glo, let the Baron know that we will need to talk with him after the feast. If we can get his backing on this, we can put together an expedition to the Darkwoods Monolith.”
“Keep it quiet though,” Seth added, “We don’t want Dunwynn sticking their nose in this. They’ll just get in our way.”
“Agreed,” Glo replied.
“May I go along with you on this journey?” Elistra asked.
They turned to look at her.
“I have certain abilities that might prove useful on your quest,” she continued.
“Trust me,” Seth added, “she can be quite useful.”
“Very well,” Aksel said. “If Seth of all people will vouch for you, I certainly won’t say no. Glo, do you agree?”
The elf wizard replied, “Yes, yes. I think it is a very good idea. I must admit, I am quite curious about your abilities Lady Elistra. Perhaps we could talk more about them. Would you care to join us for dinner? We do seem to have an extra seat at the head table and I think I can convince the Baron to let you sit with us.”
The gypsy women looked intrigued. “How could I refuse such a gracious invitation from such a handsome young wizard? I accept.”
Glorfindle extended his arm and the two of them headed back to the main table.
Seth and Aksel watched them walk away with amusement. “Looks like Glo’s got himself a new girlfriend,” the ninja observed.
“Yes,” Aksel replied, “he seems quite smitten. Anyway, we’re over here at the second table. I saved you a seat.”
“Good,” Seth said. “I’m starved.”
The feast took about an hour to consume. Its magical properties had certain effects above and beyond an ordinary meal. When they were done, everyone felt refreshed and invigorated as if they had gotten a full night’s sleep.
They were about to have desert when a Dunwynn guard came running and whispered something to Sir Fafnir. Fafnir’s face took on a look of triumph. He turned and whispered in Kelvick’s ear. The Duke, who had been busy talking with Ves, suddenly sat up wide eyed.
He turned to the Baron and said, “Grellus?”
The Baron had been in conversation with Glorfindle. He turned to the Duke and said, “Yes Kelvick?”
“Some alarming news has just come to my attention,” the Duke stated seriously. “It seems that a Dunwynn guard was attacked by these ruffians that you call the Knights of the Couch. He was robbed, beaten and left lying on the banks of the river. I will not stand for this Grellus! An attack on any of my men is an attack on all of Dunwynn. What do you intend to do about it?”
The Baron turned to Glorfindle, Elvisda and Lloyd. “Do you know anything about this?”
Elvisda replied, “There was a Dunwynn guard who was following us around earlier today. He said he was one of Sir Fafnar’s men. It actually all started when we ran into the Lieutenant earlier that day outside of the clothier’s shop. He was actually quite rude and insulting. He said that we did not belong in Restenford and that you would be far better off under Dunwynn protection.”
“Is this true Sir Fafnar?” Grellus turned to ask the nobleman.
“I did run into your so called protectors earlier today. But I was only stating the obvious. There is no way they could provide you with the kind of law and order we have in Dunwynn.”
“Well, Sir Fafnar,” Grellus replied angrily, “we are perfectly happy with our own castle guards thank you. And the KOTC have done the town of Restenford many a great service in the last few weeks.”
“That maybe so,” Kelvick interrupted, “but it still doesn’t answer the question of why they assaulted my man.”
“I was just getting to that,” Elvisda replied smoothly. “After our encounter, it seems that the good Sir Fafnir here felt that we needed to be watched. So he sent one of his guards to keep tabs on us.”
Grellus and Fairwind both looked over at Fafnar with disapproving looks on their faces. The nobleman, however, did not return their gaze. He was staring at Elvisda with obvious contempt.
Elvisda continued, “The man was quite obvious about it. So we confronted him. However, he was extremely rude. He refused to speak to, or even acknowledge most of our party, even when we were standing right in front of him. The only one he would say anything to was Lloyd.”
“And did you ask him what prompted this behavior?” Fairwind asked incredulously.
“In fact we did, your ladyship,” the bard responded. “The man told us that Dunwynn does not associate with elves, gnomes or halflings. In fact, Sir Fafnir himself here has stated to us a couple of times now that non-humans are not to be trusted.”
“Sir Fafnar!” Grellus slammed his hand on the table, “You may have your own viewpoints in Dunwynn, but this is Restenford! I’ll trust you to keep your opinions to yourself in my town! And the same goes for your men!”
Fafnar just stared back vapidly at the Baron.
Kelvick, on the other hand, said mildly “That still does not give them the right to beat and rob my guard, Grellus.”
“But your grace,” Elvisda responded, “we never touched your man. I just played him a little tune that made him rather sleepy. The last we saw him he was napping on the street just outside the Dying Minotaur.”
“So you say,” Kelvick shot back, “but are we to believe you?”
“I believe him, Kelvick” Grellus replied smacking the table again.
“As do I,” Fairwind said mildly.
“And I” Andrella added.
“That still does not prove anything,” Kelvick stated flatly.
“Then how about we prove it in battle,” Lloyd said standing up. “That is if Sir Fafnar here is up to the challenge.”
The Duke stared at the young Penwick noble for a second or two and then, without taking his eye off him said, “What say you to this challenge Sir Fafnar?”
“It will not really be a contest,” Fafnar replied with feigned boredom.
“I can assure you it will not be,” Lloyd shot back angrily.
“Then it’s settled!” Grellus said loudly. “Tomorrow, at the tourney, Lloyd here and Sir Fafnar will face off to decide who is right and just in this matter.”
Grellus then walked around the table, leaned over Lloyd who had sat back down and whispered, “Kick his ass, son.” Then stood up and stormed away into the castle.
The Lady Fairwind excused herself and followed the Baron into the keep.
“This is gonna be great!” Elvisda said to no one in particular.