Knights of the Couch - Part XII - To Resurrect A Baron
Lord Commander Ignar Strakentir
The ironclad boots of the Ruby Knights thudded across the deck of the warship in perfect synchronization, their glaives held upright before them. The visors of their helms were up, but there was not a flicker of expression, or glance to either side to mar the perfect discipline of their ranks.
The silent glide of scarlet robes behind the knights was perhaps more imposing. Although they lacked the strict lines of the armored column, there was a dread uniformity to the Red Robes of Wee Jas. With their faces hidden in shadowed cowls, their hands only visible when they were casting, they lacked even the small rank insignia and heraldic differences of the Ruby Knights.
The gatherings of red made sharp contrast to the royal blue clad soldiers of Dunwynn also mustering on the deck.
Sativola Indutioamrus picked her way carefully around the human tide of crimson and blue, her plain grey scribe robes somehow seeming to standout among the bright garments surrounding her. Sati hurried as best she could while precariously clutching the stack of scrolls trying to escape into the ocean-borne morning breeze.
She stumbled into the railing on the steps to the command deck, and silently thanked the goddess that she didn’t drop any of the precious documents.
The wind was even stronger on the upper deck, but at least the familiar Dunwynn blue was not outnumbered by the mystic red. The ship’s captain, helmsman and navigator all wore the light blue of the Dunwynn navy, also the same color adopted by one of the new Sky Knights standing nearby. The knight’s large blue hat with the outrageous gold feather was tucked under one arm and thankfully, his ferocious mount was currently waiting on the foredeck.
Lady Molaug Killede, dressed in the deep royal blue of a Knight Protector of Dunwynn, stood stiffly at the rail eyeing the haphazard sprinkling of mismatched buildings that seemed to form the little town of Restenford. Her expression seemed sour, as well it should be; it would become her job to establish order in this backwards village.
Next to the Knight Protector, also in Dunwynn blue, stood Lord Dinogad Natanleod, he looked upon the town almost wistfully. He had the much more enviable job of escorting the Lady Fairwind and her family back to Dunwynn. Reportedly he was a childhood friend of hers, and after so long in such a primitive place, Sati was sure that would be a pleasant surprise for the Lady.
In the one small pool of red on the deck, a scarlet robed mage stood in silent attendance next to the deep burgundy outfit of Lord Commander Ignar Strakentir. Lord Strakentir seemed almost bored; not sparing a glance for the town he idly watched the muster below.
It seemed odd to Sati to see her master, Finched Potitus standing as equal next to the Lords and Lady. Old Potitus wore the pure, impartial white of a Magisterial Arbitrator. Up until a week ago, he had worn the same grey robes as her. It was a surprise and honor that he had been appointed to full Arbitrator from the ranks of the magisterial court. And she was still in shock over the fact that of all the possible apprentices, he had chosen Sati as his scribe.
She hurriedly moved to stand next to her master, almost juggling the scrolls in her nervousness.
“Ah, all the documents are in order I trust,” Lord Strakentir’s smooth voice rolled with a deep timber tinted with only faint echoes of contempt. He didn’t as much as glance at Arbitrator Potitus as he spoke.
“Of course,” Potitus replied simply. The lack of honorific in reply would have been more impressive if not for the reedy sound of his voice and his nervous glance at Lord Natanleod, who just smiled and nodded back at him.
Sati hoped fervently that they would not request a specific document from the jumbled mess she clutched. For the twentieth time that morning she silently bemoaned the loss of her travel satchel. Where could she have put it?
“Very well,” Lord Strakentir still sounded bored as he ordered, “Captain, deploy the Iron Guardians to the edge of town.”
“Sire,” the Captain seemed surprised. “I hardly think that is necessary for such a place as this.” He waved his hand at the river banks to a mottled assortment of fishermen and farmers gathered to watch the great ships. There were only a few town guardsmen sprinkled between them who looked no more than farmers with sharpened sticks themselves.
Lord Strakentir turned and raised an eyebrow at the captain who showed extreme mettle by only blanching slightly. The Lord Commander replied in the slow manner usually reserved for a dense child, “We wish make an example to the forces of chaos that are hiding in this town. Do not under estimate them, I certainly don’t; and it will save the troops trouble in the long run.”
The captain nodded with an “Aye M’Lord” and passed the order along.
Sati clutched her scrolls tighter as the wind suddenly picked up. She managed not to gasp as a genie appeared a few scant feet from her and bowed to Lord Strakentir.
The genie reported rapidly and tersely seeming anxious to complete its task. “The inn known as the Golden Golem is closed and empty, as are all the inns in town. The home of Peltar is closed up tight, and there are strong wards against summoned creatures extending into the ethereal plane as well. The shop of Haltan appears deserted with its entryway smashed in. The temple is quiet with only a few clerics in Morning Prayer. There seems to be a large number of people gathered at the keep, among them some elves.”
“Interesting,” Lord Strakentir said to no one in particular, he waved his hand at the genie who promptly vanished with a gust of wind that nearly blew all the scrolls from Sati’s hands again.
Lord Strakentir then turned to the Sky Knight.
“That agrees with your report in most aspects, although I believe there are still some things missing. Where is my brother?”
“Your Lordship,” the young knight bowed to one knee in front of him and said, “He has flown south to check on some knights in pursuit of a criminal.” Sati couldn’t help but notice how gallant and confident the young man appeared.
Lord Strakentir said nothing, but his eyes were dark as he considered the junior knight still bowed before him. He casually gripped the railing behind him.
“Hold on!” Potitus whispered urgently to Sati. She looked over at him in confusion, he stood by the rail holding tight. The river was calm; did he expect Lord Strakentir to blow up?
The front end of the ship seemed to bound upward as the Iron Guardian detached from the prow with a huge splash. With the deck surging beneath her Sati had two choices, catch herself or hold onto the scrolls. She attempted both and fully succeeded at neither.
Two scrolls escaped her grasp as she fell sideways with no way to break her fall. A mere foot from the hard deck, a strong arm caught and hauled her upright. She found herself looking up into the smiling face of the handsome young knight. With one hand around her waist, he had a scroll in the other, and the second scroll just barely caught under the toe of his outstretched boot. Out of the corner of her eye, Sati saw his hat flying over the side in a flutter of blue and gold.
“Thank you Sir…” she started breathlessly and faltered with “err…” His face was inches from hers and for some reason she couldn’t focus enough to recall the knight’s name. She usually had perfect recall, but wasn’t sure she could remember her name at the moment.
“Sir Arbek Adhnuall, please call me Arbek or Arby. My friends call me Arby… not that we should be friends…” his voice faltered and fell to a whisper and he seemed almost as confused by his name as she was.
“Is the ship still moving?” Sati asked in a breathless whisper.
“’Fraid not,” he replied.
“Then I guess you should let me go.” Sati had just noticed the amused looks from Potitus and Lord Natanleod. Thankfully both Lady Killede and Lord Strakentir seemed temporarily engrossed by something in the water.
“Like the constant baying of dogs,” the Lord Commander began as he turned from the railing; only the intensity of his eyes gave lie to his casual tone. “The flashy show and pomp of the Sky Knights does have its place. It heartens the commoners to see our own forces flying overhead and does occasionally flush game into the reach of true hunters.”
As the full attention of Lord Strakentir’s dark eyes fell upon him, Sir Arbek stood silent, rooted in place; still holding a scroll in one hand and with another trapped carefully under one boot. Sati didn’t dare interrupt to recover them; she felt like a bird transfixed by a snake’s stare.
Sati stole a glance at the others. Was everyone as confused by the Lord Strakentir’s statements as her? She couldn’t tell, perhaps it was a courtly skill, but only her master Potitus and the young knight Arbek showed the puzzlement she was sure they were all feeling.
“If you were a little more observant, instead of staring into the young scribe’s eyes you would have seen a dolphin steal your hat.”
Sati wondered if this was a joke that she should laugh at. No one else seemed to think so.
“A dolphin that has been following us for two days, even up river; and was not frightened away by the Iron Guardians,” Strakentir continued.
“A Druid spy?” Sir Arbek asked.
“Possibly, but if I believed it were that simple I would have disposed of it quietly already.” Strakentir said casually.
“And through your serendipitous excess, we now know it is a dolphin with a penchant for absurd and foolish hats, or at least a sense of humor.”
He paused and looked around as if this made everything clear; then sighed and continued.
“I have agents about; observant, careful and quiet agents who hear things. If only some of the stories are true, it is quite probable that the dolphin is a creature entirely different and a potentially useful piece in a game far more important than this little town.”
He looked meaningfully at the captain as he said. “I had more than one reason to deploy the Iron Guardians.”