When Lloyd bumbled down the stairs to the dining table the next morning, Ralph already had breakfast set out on chipped ceramic plates. Breakfast was a slice of bread and a carrot. There was also one of Lloyd’s spell books laying out and opened up. This made Lloyd curious, so he read the spell that the book was opened to and almost laughed. It was a spell for drying meat into instant jerky.
After breakfast Lloyd went to the hung-up venison that was drying into jerky and tried the spell. The venison seemed to shrivel a little bit, and Lloyd felt a bit drained of energy. He checked it, and sure enough, it was all dried out into jerky. He pulled off a large chunk and brought it in to pack it for the journey. Next he hunted down Ralph and thanked him for finding the spell. He had taught Ralph how to read last year, and now Lloyd was glad that he had taught him.
Lloyd packed some more food along with some money. The dungeons were his next destination, so down he went. On the way down he lit the torches, with their flickering light, noticing how cracked and musty the stairs were. He walked over to the first cell, which had some light shining in from some high window, and he opened the cell door. Inside were five goblins playing dice. They looked up when Lloyd entered.
Lloyd had caught the small goblin band trying to raid his larder several months ago, so he had thrown them out. When they had consistently kept trying to raid his larder multiple times, he had thrown them into the dungeons instead of the out the door. Since then, he had been feeding them all the organs, fat, bones, and skin from his deer carcasses, which they gobbled up and actually quite liked.
“All right, goblins, you are going to come with me to save a princess,” Lloyd said.
“Why would we do that?” they asked.
“Because if you don’t, I’ll just keep the treasure to myself,” Lloyd answered.
“Hey! You never said anythin’ about treasure, you said we were goin’ to go rescue some princess, I heard you meself,” accused one of them, whose name was Bluk.
“The person we’re rescuing the princess from is rich, so there will be lots of nice, shiny treasure to steal,” Lloyd explained.
“Hrmm…” said Bluk. “Wait, how much treasure, exactly?” he added suspiciously. Bluk was a sort of ringleader and spokesperson among the goblins.
“As much as you could carry,” Lloyd told him.
“Really?” they all said excitedly. “We’re in!”
Lloyd let them out of their cell, and they all exited the mildew infested dungeon and went to the armory, of which one of the walls looked suspiciously like it was about to collapse. At the armory, Lloyd outfitted them with plated armor and various weapons. For himself, Lloyd wore only a light chainmail vest under his black cloak, and his witchsteel sword for a weapon.
After they finished gearing up, Lloyd instructed Ralph how to use Lloyd’s crossbow, just in case Ralph might need it. After that, Lloyd grabbed a compass from the library and headed back down to the dungeons, trying to of think some way to get rid of the mildew. When Lloyd arrived at the dungeon, he went to the shade’s cell. He pulled out his large key that he always kept at his belt and opened the door, releasing the expected burst of cold that caused the temperature to drop.
“What does master want?” came the shade’s usual question in the usual language. Lloyd explained what they were going to do, and he brought the shade out of the cell. He headed out of the unpleasant dungeon, while the shade glided beside him silently. The goblins glanced at the spectral creep nervously while Ralph, used to seeing the shade do various gruesome tasks, ignored the waves of fear emanating from the creature.
They finished getting ready around lunch time, so Ralph fed everybody before they left. After lunch, they walked over to the portcullis, and the skeleton let them out. Instead of going on the path that lead to the road, they went straight through the forest. Every once in a while, Lloyd checked the compass to make sure they were going in the right direction.
After several hours had passed, Lloyd realized that they had left the part of the woods that he knew, and that they were walking through an area that he did not recognize. When evening came on, he noticed some rustling in a nearby bush.
“Hey Bluk,” he said.
“Wha’?” the goblin asked. Lloyd lowered his voice.
“I think we’re being followed. Why don’t you and Snip go try and catch our stalker. I think he or she was in that bush right there a second ago,” Lloyd told him, pointing. The two goblins dropped back in the group and snuck off into the underbrush. A few minutes later Lloyd heard a high-pitched squeal and saw Snip and Bluk come out from behind a tree holding a struggling kid.
“Let me go, bandits!” yelled the kid. “I don’t have any money!”
“We’re not bandits and we aren’t robbing you-” Lloyd began to explain.
“We’re not? asked a goblin, disappointed.
“No, Koot, we’re not,” reprimanded Lloyd. “Anyway, kid, what were you doing following us?”
“I was following you to see where you were going. Duh,” said the kid. “My name’s Fareleck, what’s yours?”
Fareleck was wearing traditional wizard apprentice garb, so Lloyd could see that he was, well, a wizard apprentice. “I’m Lloyd of the Viper clan,” he said.
“Ooh! A necromancer! My master said they were really dangerous and mean!” spoke Fareleck excitedly. Then, he narrowed his eyes. “You better not be dangerous and mean, because if you are, I’m gonna beat you up. I know four spells!”
“You wouldn’t beat me up, wizard apprentice. Where’s your master?” asked Lloyd. Fareleck grinned mischievously.
“I ran away. My master doesn’t know where I am,” he said. Lloyd sighed.
“Well, go on then, and don’t follow me,” Lloyd said, turning to Snip and Bluk. “You can let him go now.” They let go of Fareleck.
“Where are you guys going?” asked Fareleck.
“Bob’s castle,” answered Lloyd. Fareleck made a face.
“My master said Bob’s a meanie. Why are you going there?” he asked.
“Um… to rescue a princess,” said Lloyd.
“Awesome! I’m coming too!” exclaimed Fareleck with a wide grin.
“No, you are not. I am not going to have a little kid get in the way,” Lloyd said sternly.
“But I know four spells,” argued Fareleck.
“No! the answer is no, you are not coming,” said Lloyd, beginning to lose his temper. “Now leave.”
“Make me,” resisted Fareleck, putting his hands on his hips.
“Sure,” said Lloyd. Then Lloyd told the shade in the underworld language to pick Fareleck up and put him elsewhere. The shade obeyed, ignoring the young apprentice’s protests.
“Finally, got rid of that annoying kid,” said Lloyd as the shade returned. Lloyd noticed that the sun was setting, so he decided to set up camp. Lloyd pulled out and ate some of his jerky, while the goblins ate some of their bones and gristle from the deer carcass. When everyone was done eating, Gorble, one of the goblins, made a campfire. Everybody relaxed around it except the shade, who was keeping watch.
Lloyd started to get sleepy, so he curled up on a soft patch of moss on the ground. Eventually, everybody else lay down too, until everybody fell asleep.
Irvina had had an uncomfortable first night in the wagon, and now it was morning, and she was sore all over. She felt completely miserable, being stuck in a cramped, uncomfortable storage wagon going somewhere she most definitely did not want to go. Along with being sore, she was also thirsty. The only drinkable liquids in the wagon were a couple barrels of cheap ale, which were out of reach anyway.
Just then she heard a slave cry out from being whipped. That made her try to stop feeling so sorry for herself, because the slaves had it much worse, but she couldn’t quite manage it. As she was thinking these thoughts, the wagon stopped.
“Hey! Get up right this instant or you’ll be put to death you lazy bum,” roared Bob over the clash of a whip. Irvina looked out a of small slit in the wagon, and saw a slave laying on the ground with a bleeding back.
“Thirsty,” moaned the slave.
“Thirsty, eh? You want a drink?” asked Bob, who was sitting in a litter.
“Yes please!” the slave begged.
“Well, since I’m feeling particularly stringent today, you aren’t getting one!” Bob yelled as he struck the slave violently with his sword.
Irvina winced, and she felt claustrophobia grip her strongly. She felt a sense of helplessness and panic rise up like bile and she began pounding the door to the wagon. A few seconds later it was opened, and a soldier conked her on the head with a chunk of wood. She collapsed on the floor of the wagon, drifting out of consciousness.
Aldwyn walked through the forest to pick more mushrooms and wild herbs. He had wandered quite far north, even farther than George’s castle, and was finding quite a lot of sage and wild garlic. As he picked yet another sage clump, he thought about Lloyd and wondered how that expedition was going. He also tried to think of some way to convince George that Bob was not worthy of his daughter. That part of his plan would be extremely difficult, as George was rather thick-headed, not to mention stubborn.
He picked a few more mushrooms, and glanced at the sky, noticing that it was getting dark out. Even though it was still early summer, Aldwyn liked to stock up on food for the winter. He was about to turn around and start heading back to his nice, cozy tree house when he saw some smoke rising in the distance above the treetops. He reckoned it was probably just some travelers, or even more likely in the middle of the forest, robbers. It was not likely to be a forest fire, but Aldwyn headed over there to make sure, staying low in case it was robbers.
As he got closer, he realized that the fire was both farther away than he thought, and bigger than he thought. Much bigger. If it was a band of robbers, it would have to be a huge band of robbers, not to mention a bold band of robbers, setting off such a huge beacon like they were doing. When Aldwyn got even closer, he heard some coarse laughter.
He crept closer and closer, almost crawling in the undergrowth. Since Aldwyn was an elf, he naturally made no noise as he arrived behind a bush conveniently close to the humungous bonfire. When he finally arrived and peeked through the bush to see what was going on, he barely stifled a gasp of surprise.