Part 136: Tales from The Lost Kingdom - Rescuing The Princess, Part 2
Tales from the Lost Kingdom - Rescuing The Princess, Part 2
Shortly after midnight, a cloud hid the moon. Nevertheless, an attentive spectator would've been able to see something - a bat hanging from a branch of the old Gallows-Tree, staying there for a short while.
Just before the cloud wandered off, the bat flapped away, on the search for nutritious insects.
Meanwhile, in another corner of the town, a young man named Aidan packed his rucksack. He had recently seen the young princess at a festival, and was enchanted by her beauty. But, since he was a poor man, without any influence at the King's court, and not being able to fight like a real fighter, he knew that his chances of getting to know the princess were rather bad. After having read the parchment, he decided that he would go, seeing in this quest the only way to get her, or to die. Aidan knew that any group of heroes would hardly tolerate him as a member. He knew some recipes for healing potions and herbs supporting courage and strength from his grandmother, but he couldn't fight. His weapon was the lute. Aidan was a most talented singer, who earned his income by singing. So he took some potions and herbs, fetched his lute, and went after the group of heroes.
At the same time, the group moved on towards the lair of the Dragon. The four different fellows wrapped themselves into icy silence, looking at one another with mistrust.
Sajet, the Southerner woman, examined her unwanted companions to get to know their strong and weak spots.
Ulath, the Northerner, was still under the influence of his excessive consumption of alcohol. Nevertheless, he gave the impression of being highly trained. His axe - which he always took with him - was quite worn, telling tales of many 'incidents'. However, it was possible that he could lose his courage to fight the Dragon as soon as he was clear-headed again. Also, he produced a terrible noise as he staggered after the group. She feared that this would clearly lead waylayers on to their trail. She was sure that this particular man would make many troubles during their three-day journey to the dragon.
The "Redhead" was slimly built and had fine fingers. His fingers told her that he had more experience with books than with hard physical work. She only hoped that he understood a bit of magic, because she couldn't imagine him as a fighter. On the other hand, an academic, having studied books for the most of his life wouldn't be able to sneak away and inspect his surroundings as he could. The "Fox", as he was called by his fellows, was a riddle or her.
Thorwyn was far easier to judge. Like Ulath, he looked trained and seemed to have his strange sword under good control. Sometimes he seemed to do things faster than he thought, but he seemed to be a humorous and open-minded fellow. He stepped cheerfully on, hardly noticing his surroundings. He seemed only to concentrate on the expected confrontation with the Dragon.
Sajet drew the backbend with her two sabers firm, as she suddenly heard something cracking in the bushes. Instinctively, she took her dagger and went after the Fox. "Hey, Fox", she whispered, "I have a feeling as if someone is following us. I see you watching our environment; have you seen or heard something suspicious?"
As the night came, and the moon enlightened the market-place with the old Gallows-Tree, only interrupted by some clouds passing by, a shadow scurried from wall to wall. He was a strayer, known as Alrik by those few who knew him.
He had been there, leaning on the tree, as the men attached the parchment to it. He hated being in the middle of a crowd, so he quickly went away, but not without having memorized the look of the strangers.
The stars sparkled where the sky was clear and open. Occasional clouds, becoming thicker and thicker, although they were no rain-clouds, changed the light on the place.
He decided to stay in the shadows of the Guild-House, so he could inspect the parchment with his small telescope (which he had bought once in a small shop). He directed his small telescope on to the parchment, and...
Oh, my! A big cloud had just drawn itself before the moon, and he couldn't read anything anymore!
So, he had to get closer to the tree...
He decided to use one of the main ways to the market-place, to appear as one of the normal citizens coming home late. So he scurried away, to the next shadow.
Having got to one of the main ways, he glided out of the darkness into the light, after he was sure he was not being watched by anyone. As he went closer to the Gallows-Tree, he stepped a little bit more strongly with his shoes, giving the impression of someone coming right out of the house's shadow. He stepped to the tree.
The parchment was really so fresh, exciting and new, as he had expected. The finest parchment ever, he felt. And he hadn't seen men in such clothes for quite a while. A dragon, having kidnapped the King's daughter Sahita? That hasn't happened for quite a while, too. Was this dragon new to this region?
... And the hand of her in marriage upon rescue! That was it! But no, he thought, if she is too young for me, inexperienced with life and people, I don't want her. But that would be rather good, to heal my loneliness which followed me for years now. For that, I would even give up the Gold...
Alrik had been seeking a female strayer, a wanderer, like him, experienced with Light and Shadows, that was the kind of woman he had been looking for for many years. And he wondered why these women were so rare...
He moved on, making his way to his small house he lived in. Once, he had inherited this small house, and it was enough for him. He was glad that this town did not demand any "house-maintenance fee", that would've been too much for his income. He would've had to sell his house, which he called "his base". As a normal citizen now, he could afford to pretend not to hear his squeaking main door, although he was terrified by its sound. Inside, he packed everything he thought he would need into his bag, including his ranger-clothing. Tomorrow he would show up at the Town Guards barracks.
Arriving at the Town Guards barracks, he heard that the others were already on their way. Some things never change. He decided to walk after them. The footsteps of the Northerner couldn't be overlooked...
After a long, hard and boring march, our fellows chose to find a place for the night. Well, obviously it was Ulath, who "decided". Due to the high amount of alcohol in his blood, he simply dropped - or rather collapsed - on the road, shortly after sunset. The others glumly dragged him over to a rock, which hung like a roof over a small piece of meadow nearby. Well, at least it would give them a bit of shelter from strong winds, they thought.
The "Fox" showed astounding abilities to make wet wood burn, and that with still withering winds in his back. From that, he made a small campfire. Soon, all others sat around it. At first, they were quiet, still looking at each other with mistrust. But a few jokes from the Southerner about the sleeping Northerner made them laugh, and soon they began introducing themselves.
"Hello, my name is Eolus, and I think, I can help you with your hunt for the dragon. I don't want the Gold, I only want the Karfunkel-Stone from the Dragon, that is all I want." said a voice suddenly coming from out of the back of the rocks. He sat down next to the fire. "I have read the King's appeal, and have followed your tracks. I thought you might be in need of a Magician," he said. The others had nothing against another supporting member of the group.
After they had introduced themselves, the group organized the night watchers from the group, with Thorwyn being the first one. They surely had to sleep.
In a tower far, far away an old Wizard observed the gathering of our adventurers with skeptical eyes. Too long had he weaved his own threads, but now he was sure that he was able to fulfill his own quest. He was only unsure whether those adventurers were a threat to him, or if they would be able to support him. Quickly he packed his scrolls, and left his residence.
The fox in human shape wanted to do the night-watch at midnight, and that had a special reason: The old friend of him, the magician, had said: "Your transmutation will last perfectly for 30 days.
No-one will be able to identify you as a fox. But there are two things you should be aware of! Every night at midnight you will transform into your original shape for an hour. It is not possible to prevent that. That's why you should be careful!" After having said that, the magician fell into a deep sleep, so the fox couldn't hear the second thing.
At midnight the fox was the night-watcher as he transmuted back into his original fox-shape. Being like that, he roamed the following hour around the fire, looking for suspicious scents.
Meanwhile Qarn, the dark shrouded figure from the castle drew closer to our heroes. It wouldn't have been possible for him to follow them, if not for the amulet provided by Tira the King's sly daughter.
The way hadn't been easy. He was scratched by many boughs and had a bump on his forehead. Glumly he asked his sister, using his amulet.
"Their camp lies barely two hours away from you! You must go around it this night!" a shrill voice said in his head. "How long is it until we reach the Dragon's Lair?" he thought. "There are 5 days march before you! Tomorrow their way leads them to a ford in the river passing through the wood. It's the only ford in a wide area. The river is swollen at this time of year, they won't have a choice! They can only pass this way. And even this ford is dangerous!"
"So I will perform an ambush?" the rascal asked.
"Very clever!" came Tira's sarcastic reply in his head. "I have already positioned a number of Ogres there. They are not very smart, but they are good with clubs and spears. You will instruct the ambushers, and then move on, so that you will be before the 'heroes'. Don't forget to approach the ford carefully, or the ogres might attack you! They are not that smart."
"You said this before," Qarn sighed.
1. Sajet, The woman from the Southlands
2. Thorwyn (with his magical sword)
3. "The Fox" (an intelligent Fox polymorphed into human shape)
4. Ulath, from the Northlands (a bit of a drunk)
5. Aiden, an inexperienced and unworldly bard (Not yet with the party)
6. Alrik, a strayer or wanderer who is uneasy in crowds (Not yet with the party)
7. Eolus Thunderstorm (a Dwarf magician)
"Sajet drew the backbend with her two sabres firm,"
I left this line as it is because I'm not quite sure what it's saying.