Chapter VII: Redoubt
Copyright © 1999 C.E. by Dustin Jon Scott
[Last Update: June 6th, 2018]
13th Month, 19th Day, 4,632nd Year
Note: All of this is going through heavy revisions.
The sun shone brightly in the unseasonably blue autumn sky. Just outside of Talenburg, a group of Orcs and Troglodytes lead by the Ogren Blackguard was escorting a horse-drawn cart up the hillside.
Upon the flat surface of the cart were two iron cages, each carrying two prisoners, and one large wooden crate. The first cage held the half-Ogre, William Huxley, the Human cook, and the half-Elf, Rylen Llyraeus. The second cage held the Wood Elf, Llaralynn Harnram, and the Humans, Alyssandra Foxley and the bar wench. The crate held William’s Ogren warhammer and double-headed war axe, Rylen’s composite short bow, Alyssandra’s staff, Llaralynn’s repeating crossbow and bolt magazines, and even her buckskin vest with the brigandine lining.
“Well, so much for finding Lodin,” said Rylen, sitting on the grated floor of the cage with his back against the bars, bleeding somewhat heavily.
“I can’t believe we’re being sent to Grandshire,” said Alyssandra. “That’s almost a week’s travel on foot, and in the wrong direction.”
“Don’t worry,” said William, “we’ll get out of this.” The half-Ogre was bleeding from the assault in the hostelry, though not as badly as Rylen. His eight foot tall, four hundred pound build was capable of sustaining quite a bit more injury than Rylen’s frail little half-Elven body.
“If only we sill had our weapons,” said Llaralynn, squeezing the bars of the cage as she looked out at the crate. Llaralynn reckoned that their weapons were probably being taken with them to Grandshire to be used as evidence of the ‘crimes’ they committed against the Unseelie Court back in the hostelry.
The cart slowed to a halt.
“What’s happening?” said Rylen, standing shakily to his feet.
“Alright!” shouted Mortis Necron, the Ogren Blackguard. “Everyone clear the area!”
Mortis began walking away from the cart, as did the Orcs and Troglodytes, back toward town. Rylen, William, Llaralynn, and Alyssandra were now left at the top of the grassy hill, completely alone.
“Why’d they leave?” said Llara. “I thought they were taking us to Grandshire?”
“That’s why!” said William, pointing up in the air.
In the distance, Llaralynn saw with her sharp Elven eyes that a large black drake, mounted by a Drow dragonrider, was coming straight for them at an alarming speed, with two more just behind it.
“I think it’s a black drake,” said William.
The first black drake swooped down, grabbed the iron cage containing William and Riley, and flew off again; beating its tattered, charcoal wings hard enough to blow Llaralynn and Alyssandra back against the other side of the cage. The next black drake screeched as it dove toward the second cage, captured the iron enclosure with its tremendous, scaly black paws, and took off toward Grandshire, trailing the dragon before it. Alyssandra and Llaralynn then watched from the air as the third Black Dragon grabbed up the crate that held their weapons.
The black drakes continued to flap their immense, ragged wings as they climbed higher and higher into the sky. They flew so fast, rising so quickly that within moments they’d breached the clouds. The drakes leveled off, soaring just above the milky white vapor of the clouds beneath them.
“Are you alright?” asked Llara.
“What?” replied Alyssandra.
“I said, ‘Are you alright?’” Llara shouted.
“I can’t hear you!” Alyssandra shouted back. Alyssandra opened her mouth as though yawning and wiggled her jaw around a bit, attempting to pop her ears.
“Can you hear me now?” said Llaralynn.
“Yeah, I can hear you,” the Witch answered.
“Where’d you learn to do that?” Llaralynn inquired.
“Dragonriders,” said Alyssandra. “I overheard a dragonrider explaining it to a friend in a bar once. Said something about having to pop your ears if you make a really quick ascent.”
The tavern wench, not knowing what Alyssandra had done but noticing nonetheless that it appeared her and Llaralynn were now able to hear each other, instinctively imitated the Witch’s movements. Sure enough, she was able to hear within a few moments.
The waitress then spoke up. “Could either of you answer a question for me?”
“We can try,” said Alyssandra.
“How is it that Drow can be dragonriders? Or for that matter, what are Drow balisters doing walking around in broad daylight? I thought sunlight hurt the Drow.”
“The Drow generally despise sunlight,” said Alyssandra, “but it isn’t as painful for them as you’d think by the way they usually avoid it. Their keen Elven vision fails them in the daylight -- it makes them as nearsighted as the average Human, if not even more so. Though I doubt you’ll ever have the chance to spot one at a close enough range for your Human eyes to tell, if you had the vision of an Elf, like Llaralynn here, you’d notice that Drow dragonriders wear shades to shield their eyes from the sun.”
“Shades?” the wench asked.
Llaralynn nodded. “Stained spectacles, dark enough to dim the bright sunlight but not so dark that you can’t see through them.”
“What’s your name, anyway?” the Priestess asked.
“Kirsten,” said the bar wench. “Kirsten Ericsson.”
Suddenly a stream of fire blazed past the cage. Alyssandra, Llaralynn, and Kirsten looked around, attempting to pinpoint the source of the fire, as it didn’t appear to have come from either of the other two black drakes.
“Look, over there!” exclaimed Llaralynn, pointing to a green drake swooping down from above, barreling down on the black drake’s port-stern.
“I see it,” said Alyssandra.
The green drake came up quickly behind the black drake’s tail, and maneuvered itself into a flanking position. The dragon lowered itself a bit so that the dragonrider was level with the cage.
“Do you and your friends up there need some help?” the Human dragonrider shouted, as two more green drakes appeared in the distance behind them.
“No, we put ourselves in these cages and then hired Drow to kidnap us with black drakes!” Alyssandra shouted back.
The green drake then banked hard to port, disappearing into the clouds below. The two green drakes behind them banked starboard, diving down into the clouds like the first.
“I didn’t honestly think he’d take me seriously,” said Alyssandra, her face rife with utter astonishment as she turned around to look at Llaralynn and Kirsten.
The cage shook hard, jostling Llaralynn, Alyssandra, and Kirsten, and then shook again, tossing them against the side of the cage.
“What’s doing that?” Llaralynn screamed.
All three women looked above them to find that the black drake was flying somewhat unsteadily now, but couldn’t see any apparent cause for the turbulence they were experiencing. Unexpectedly, the black drake was hit with fire as it shrieked in pain, and the three women suddenly found themselves plummeting down into the clouds, trapped within the iron imprisonment.
Llaralynn, Kirsten, and Alyssandra gripped the bars of the enclosure as tightly as they could, their innards feeling positively weightless as they fell. This was to last only a moment, however, before they were slammed against the bottom of the cage.
“We stopped falling!” cried Alyssandra, climbing to her feet and rubbing her head where she’d just banged it against the bars.
“Really, you don’t say...” said Llaralynn, climbing to her feet as well.
Below them, they could see the black drake spiraling toward the ground. They looked up to see the leathery yellow underbelly of a green drake soaring just below the clouds. It appeared they’d just been rescued.
The green drake changed course slightly. As it did this, Llaralynn and Alyssandra looked back for any sign that William or Rylen had been rescued by one of the other two green drakes.
A green drake came down out of the clouds, but was falling quickly toward the ground.
Another green drake appeared, carrying neither crate nor cage; moments later its wing was hit by a ball of flame that came from the clouds above it, and with a hole in its wing, the creature fell like a stone.
“It looks as if Riley and William aren’t going to be rescued...” said Llaralynn, watching the two green drakes plummet toward the ground.
“Do you think they’ll be alright?” asked Alyssandra. “Do you think they’ll be able to escape after they’re taken to the dungeon in Grandshire?”
“Well,” said Llaralynn, “my Riley may only be a half-Elf, but he’s stealthy and quick, a skilled thief and lock-pick who I’ve no doubt can sneak his way out of any dungeon. Will’s as strong as an oliphaunt, so powerful sometimes it seems he’s made of solid granite, and in a fair fight could probably best any foe they’d encounter.”
Alyssandra laughed a bit, “Riley once got his hand stuck in someone’s coat while he was trying to pick his pocket, and you can hear Will breathing from a mile away,” she said, unable to hide the worry in her voice. “Let’s just pray that the Gods be with them, and that they manage to get out of this just like all those other times they tripped and stumbled their way out of trouble.”
“It’s a shame Lodin isn’t with them,” said Llaralynn. “Those three could always trip and stumble their way out of any mess they’d gotten into. Lodin was an expert at it. He’s a legend in half the towns in Béowyn because of it.”
“I hope we can find him,” said Alyssandra.
“So do I,” said Llaralynn, “but first we need to get to Will and Riley. There’s no way we’ll be able to make it through Faelore on our own. Wherever this dragonrider’s taking us, we need start making our way to Grandshire as soon as we land.”
Alyssandra nodded her head in agreement as they began to descend. Looking to the ground ahead of them, they could see the fortress city of Krendor. The green drake that carried them ceased to flap its wings, maneuvering them so as to slow its descent as they neared the borough.
“What do you see down there?” said Alyssandra.
“Paladins,” replied Llaralynn, “loads of them.”
With its wings titled so as to be nearly perpendicular with its body and angle of descent, the green drake managed to slow itself considerably as it came down upon city.
“The Paladins must’ve fended off the armies of the New Sovereignty,” said Alyssandra.
“So far, at least,” replied Llara, “Else that Ogre was lying when he proclaimed that this ‘New Sovereignty’ of his had overtaken Béowyn and absolved the Neutral Zone. Although this cage we’re in somewhat negates that theory.”
“Somewhat,” agreed Alyssandra, feigning a grin as Llaralynn smirked back at her.
Moments later, Llaralynn, Alyssandra, and Kirsten found themselves descending upon the city center. As they finally neared the ground, the green drake began backflapping its enormous wings, creating a truly ferocious wind as it set the cage gently upon the ground, and then set itself down just alongside it.
The dragonrider dismounted the green drake, sliding down from the creature’s shoulders as many a Paladin soon surrounded the area.
“We found these two being carried by away from Talenburg by Drow Dragonriders, probably to Grandshire,” said the Human dragonrider, as one of the Paladins approached him.
“And what of Orvyn and Frang?” asked the Paladin.
“Their dragons went down, and I didn’t see any parachutes open,” the Dragonrider explained.
Llaralynn turned to Alyssandra, “What’s a parachute?” she said quietly.
“I’m not entirely sure,” the Witch answered. “If memory serves, it’s something like a big piece of cloth stuffed inside a rucksack. When a dragonrider finds himself falling, he pulls a cord, which deploys the parachute from his pack, and that catches the air on his way down. It makes him float to the ground like a feather, or at least that’s my understanding of it.”
Llaralynn raised an eyebrow at Alyssandra, then shook her head slightly. “Must be some sort of Gnomish invention....”
Alyssandra shrugged, “Those Gnomish Tinkerers think of everything.”
“Have Woden, Bodil, or Ordway returned yet?” the dragonrider asked the Paladin.
“Yes, they returned just under an hour ago,” the Paladin replied. “Fynn and Cullen are due back any time now.”
Llara knocked on one of the cage’s iron bars, catching the attention of both men. “Just out of curiosity, when were you planning to let us out of this cage?”
“Ivor,” the dragonrider shouted, looking around at the crowd, “come get this cage open!”
A squat, stocky Dwarf lumbered out of the crowd of Paladins, carrying a large, steel battle-axe. His braided red beard dangled back and forth as he stomped determinately to the cage, lifted the battle-axe above his head, and brought it crashing down against the lock on the cage door with a sonorous clang. The cage door drifted open, vibrating audibly as it did so.
Llaralynn promptly stepped out of the cage, as Alyssandra and Kirsten followed shortly behind her.
Alyssandra stopped. “I wonder if Jadia managed to get away?”