Part 137: Tales from The Lost Kingdom - Rescuing The Princess
Tales from the Lost Kingdom - Rescuing The Princess, Part 3
The night passed uneventfully. The magician Eolus woke up the peacefully sleeping fellows.
In a surprisingly good mood the group went on. The weather couldn't have been better, and the companions japed and listened to the now clear-headed Northerner Ulath, who told them many incredible deeds (with his loud and sounding voice) from his life as an adventurer. The way led them through a dense wood, but suddenly it became thinner, and the "Fox" - who had a good sense of hearing - told our heroes about the murmur of a small river nearby. "Well, this will be the ford the King's Advisors told us about! Let us cross the river!" Thorwyn cheerfully shouted to the others.
But Sajet looked with a glumly face to the river and said: "Hm, that looks too good. That is THE ideal place for an ambush!"
"For the Wale-God's sake, who should make an ambush here? We're in service of the King! That's a fact!"
"Well, sure, but normally even Kings have foes..." Eolus cynically threw in.
Confused, our heroes looked at each other, not knowing what to do next. "Does anybody know a better way?" the Northerner asked. But he earned only silent looks. "Then we have no choice. Let us trust in our Gods and let us go to the river. But be careful and take your weapons out! Although I don't think anyone could beat us! Ha ha ha..." Having spoken these words, he went to the river. The others followed him...
Aidan, who was never a good traveler, having spent most of his life in inns and taverns, singing from adventures, travelers had told him, was not as fast as the other the group. Fearing the night in the wilderness, he went away from the road, looking for a calm place. After he made a small fire, he took his lute, beginning to sing songs which should support his courage. "Bravo!" said a voice suddenly. Aidan looked up, scared. A female Wood-Elf leaned on a tree. "What are you doing here, in the forest, without an audience?" she asked. Aidan told her from his unfortunate love to the King's Princess, and that he was on his way to the Dragon.
"Good idea. I guess you want to defeat him with your lute?" she asked. "Well, I..." "Would you mind me going with you? I must have a look at this! I recently left my own forest, to take a look at the world outside. My name is Xera."
Aidan was shocked. "You alone? Have you no fear being alone, as a...?"
"...Woman? In contrast to you, I've already learned fighting skills with the bow and the dagger. And what's more, I don't make such a noise in the middle of the night, so that every bandit in the area knows where I am."
"A bard is always safe!"
"That may be in the Handbook for Bards, but Goblins are not able to read! I see I must come with you and protect you. Otherwise you won't get to the Dragon alive! Go on, get yourself to sleep, I will be your guardian."
Aidan had nothing left to say in protest against her, so he went to sleep. Tomorrow will be another day.
Knör, the Ogre at the river, was an expert on strategy. At least that was what he thought about himself. Early in the morning he had positioned his people. A clearly simple task, the foreign Ogre with the strange accent had told him. Ambushing a bunch of heroes at the river.
"Ey, Schnickschnack and Gröntz, you will go to the other side and go down there! Don't let yourselves be seen, you maggots."
"So what? Schnickschnack! No one will see us! Come on, Gröntz, let us cross the river. Our boss is always telling Schnickschnack..."
Knör made an sceptical face. He had to watch over this Schnickschnack. He was becoming too self-confident. And he was talking too much. But he was also good at using the spear. The right man for this task.
Carefully he positioned the rest of the group. "And don't forget, we attack only when they are in the middle of the river!"
He looked into the silently agreeing faces. "Who, then?" he suddenly heard a low voice, just as he was about to go. Of course Brocken, who else. Some things never changed. It seemed as if he hadn't listened at the discussion earlier this morning. He only wondered why he was the boss of such dummies. Some things never change.
"Be careful with aiming your spears!" he grumbled. "You won't let anyone out of the water, you worms, or you'll get to know MY club! Simply BUM-BUM, and their heads are mashed..."
He was sure that they would obey. It wasn't the first time that they ambushed a group of unsuspecting travelers. So the Ogres were happily waiting for our heroes being entrapped in their "net".
Soon he saw the hand-sign of Gröntz. The travelers were near! In a wild, happy anticipation of what was coming, he rubbed his big hands...
... It was one of those nights with the full moon Alrik loved so much. On the other hand, this particular night was not so good, since he had lost his way. Somehow - he wasn't able to recall how - he had lost the footsteps of the group. Overtired, he had stumbled through a path, looking for a safe place to sleep. So he didn't notice that the real path had dissolved. The way he had used, suddenly became into nothing - the way simply disappeared between herbs and bushes - which told him that he had followed an animal-trail for the last hours. He had taken the wrong path. He cursed silently. That was something he didn't want.
Now he stood in the middle of the forest, the light was between the trees like silver honey, a light breeze let the leaves rustle and the boughs and branches groaned. In the distance he could hear a wolf howl. He was confused. He feared that he had to sleep in a tree, something he didn't like. But it was safer than sleeping on the naked ground. The only problem was, that he couldn't find a fitting tree... He stumbled further on...
Suddenly, Alrik saw something glittering in the moonlight. He went closer to inspect this thing. Maybe it was an ancient ring, or a gem, left in the earth for aeons? Or maybe a piece of gold, fallen out of the bag of a ranger or a wanderer? A jewel, lost by a raven? But as he drew closer, he recognized the "glittering" thing as a firefly, enlightening the night. He was frustrated. He really would have liked to get a piece of gold. He took a close look on the insect that was on his palm. It was so small, and he was so big. He could have easily crushed it between his fingers. But now this living being became valuable for him. He didn't know why. He had the strange feeling as if this single being had its own value, its own place on earth. And it didn't make sense to him destroying that life that didn't harm him. But since he had no use for that animal, he let it walk upon the next leaf of a bush. From the corner of his eye he saw a small lizard quickly crawling away. "What? A lizard in the middle of the night?" he thought.
On the search for a tree that was strong enough to keep him, so that he wouldn't fall off the tree in the middle of his sleep, he walked on. Alrik tried not to step upon boughs, but he was not perfect. Sharp-hearing animals would surely notice him walking.
Totally exhausted, he leaned on a tree. Fatigued, his body lost its hold, and slipped down, with his back towards the tree. He had no chance of thinking about that - whether it was safe or not - he slept almost immediately.
He woke up. Did he hear something, or not? He was perturbed. He didn't wish being the meal for some hungry wolves now. He decided to find out more about what had disturbed him. The moon was still in a silvery light.
He heard a short noise, then it was quiet again. He managed to get upon his feet - although still tired - and walked in the direction of that puzzling sound. But as he walked, he was too tired to be absolutely quiet. He did hear that.
Suddenly Alrik came to the border of a small clearing. The clearing was covered with grass. Moonlight Grass, he thought, as he saw that the moonlight lighted the grass and the dew and the and the spider's webs in it.
Further on, he noticed a white blur. Struck in surprise he rubbed his eyes. He didn't believe what he saw! The entity looked in his direction. His breath stopped. His amazement grew stronger! : This was truly an Unicorn! He heard many stories of them, always believing that they were fairy-tales. He did not know that they actually existed! "Now I believe in wonders again..." he whispered to himself.
He even didn't dare breathe, caught in fear that this wonderful entity could be scared away by him. In his eyes this being was so beautiful, so perfect, that it seemed not to be from this world. He never believed it to be possible that there might exist such a perfection, such a perfect Beauty. This entity seemed to not be from this world, he thought.
The female Unicorn looked at him, and as their eyes met, he was overwhelmed by the aura which surrounded the Unicorn. "You are new in this area!" He suddenly heard a amused voice in his mind. "You have never seen a Unicorn before! And you have never even believed that we might exist!" Alrik was sure, that he heard a smile in this voice. "And you have lost your way..." he heard.
The white Unicorn drew closer. The moonlight seemed to be gathering around it. Mist rose from its nostrils. It snorted shortly. "I want to help you. The Goddess sent me to you. I knew you would be here. You succeeded in her trial." He was irritated. But then a thought arose in his mind.
"Go back to your tree, gather what you have left there. Then come back to me, quickly. I will lead you through the forest. We have several hours of walk before us." So he went back - as silent as possible - to do what the Unicorn had told him. After having got together his things, he went back to the clearing in the forest, back to the Unicorn. "Well here you are again. Now, follow me." They went into the wood.
They walked for a long, long time. He had totally lost his sense of time. He didn't know how far they had been wandered, or even how long. The light moon was his only proof that the night was passing by. He felt more and more tired and exhausted. He began stumbling upon boughs. Then, finally, he flew across a big branch and landed on the earth. The Unicorn turned towards him. "You are tired, hm?" she asked. "Yes," he answered in a whisper. "We have been on our way now for such a long time. I can't walk anymore." Slowly, he stood up. She seemed to think, then turned to him and went to him. As she stood before him, he suddenly felt a strange feeling, no longer feeling tired or exhausted. "We must go on..." she said. Feeling fresh, he followed her.
The sky forebode the new day, the coming morning. The sun would be up in the sky in only a few hours. Finally, they reached the border of the forest. He could only guess the way the Unicorn had taken. She had consequently avoided clearings and meadows, so they could travel more safely in the shadows, at the cost of a longer journey with more indirect ways.
Not far from the border, in the neighbourhood of a river, he noticed smoke, possibly a dead fire. "There are your fellows." the Unicorn said. "Stay here for a while." he just heard, and then she was gone.
He waited and waited, but there was no trace of the Unicorn. The sun would arise in about one hour, he estimated. Just as he was about to leave, going into the direction of the dead fire, the Unicorn returned. "Take this amulet." she said. "It will bring you good luck. But I won't say what for." The voice in his head sounded like the equivalent to a smile. Then she took a close look at him, as if she wanted to create a mental image from him, then she went back into the forest again (with a loud rustling this time).
Alrik put on the amulet, then he went to the extinct fire. He would be there, just in time when the sun arose, he thought. Then he would awaken them, that was his plan.
As he had walked a bit on his way, he just looked back, to the woods. He believed he had seen a scurrying, white "something" that went into the forest, from the corner of his eye...
"Get up, lazybones!" Aiden heard a voice pulling him out of his dreams. Everything ached. "Oh, my, how could I be so crazy to replace my own nice bed with the forest-ground?" he thought.
It was a beautiful morning. Dewdrops were glistening in the sunlight. "Have you been sleeping, Xera?" Aidan asked the female Elf who looked much more fresh than he was.
"Of course! One who can succesfully attack a sleeping Elf still has not been found! I think I get more sleep than you do, even when you're awake!"
After a light breakfast they went on, following the rest of the group. Aidan had troubles finding the clear footsteps from the day before. "I fear we must go back, Xera" he said " I can't see the footsteps from the group anymore!"
"Methinks you have forgotten opening your eyes?! Do you have a fear of getting to the Dragon?" That was a thing Aidan would never admit; so he followed Xera, who seemingly had no problems at all at following the traces of the group of hopeful Dragon-Slayers.
The way was plain, and so they had the opportunity to get to know each other much better. Aidan had thought he was good with herbs, but he couldn't catch up with the knowledge of the Elf - so he learned many new things. The way she deduced from the broken bough and the half footprint in the plash was also interesting for him. "Soon we will come to a river, which can be crossed easily at a ford. From the next plateau we will be able to see it. If we are lucky, we will even be able to see the others who are a way before us!"
Suddenly, a figure came out of the bushes. "Greetings for the God's sake!" he said to the frightened two travelers. Aidan, who stood behind the Elf, was the first to recognize the man. "Isn't that Eolus Thunderstorm, the Archmage?" The Elf didn't know him.
"Who is that?" she asked. The stranger smiled friendlily, saying: "Is it possible to become a member of your group? I've lost the trace of the others, since I had to help a helpless farm which had to withstand an assault by small, nasty, grimly Goblins. The thing got even worse, because the Farmer himself was in the town, and his wife was alone with her children. But thanks to the Gods, we managed it. Well, what's going on?"
"You can come with us, if you wish." answered Aidan. "Well, another of those Dragon-Slayers; that is going to get funny. I have nothing against protecting two men! Then I might be able to see how they manage it to defeat the Dragon!" she laughed. "If we hurry, we could catch up the others!"
That the fire was left alone was no surprise for Alrik. So Unicorns didn't have the Ultimate Knowledge, too. It was morning, and the others were surely gone. He explained it so, that the others might were gone as he had been on his way, together with the Unicorn.
He wandered further on, to the river, without feeling exhausted or tired.
Naturally, he wandered along the woods, in the shadows, always having the way in his eyes. He didn't want to get lost once again.
Suddenly Alrik heard a wheezing. Creeping closer, he noticed something threatening: Ogres! They were squatting in the bushes, with their backs to him. Seemingly, they were waiting for something.
Then he heard a splashing in the River. Someone was trying to cross it.
1. Sajet, female human from the Southlands
2. Thorwyn, male human (with his magical sword)
3. "The Fox", male "human" (an intelligent Fox polymorphed into human shape)
4. Ulath, male human, from the Northlands (a bit of a drunk)
5. Aiden, male human, an inexperienced and unworldly bard (Not yet with the party)
6. Alrik, male human, a strayer or wanderer who is uneasy in crowds (Not yet with the party)
7. Eolus Thunderstorm, male dwarf (a Dwarf magician separated from the party somehow)
8. Xera, a female Wood-Elf (who wishes to see some of the world) (not yet with the party)