Aided by the puka, Alton discovers Marigold’s true name is Topaz. He also discovers where his friends are being held, and that the women won’t know him.
Topaz shrieked, her eyes blazing at him. Laughing, Alton went inside. The few servants he met, scurried out of his way.
He stopped one of them with a gentle hand on her arm. “Mistress Rialtia is a prisoner. Mistress Topaz is wrapped up, at the moment, so I’m in charge. I’m Alton, and I need help with a few things. Do you think you and the others could assist me? When I’m done, you can go.”
“Home. That’s if you want to. I can’t imagine a forest nymph like you enjoys being in the desert.”
“Not at all. You’ll release us?”
“Yes. But first, I need to get my friends free.”
“The black haired one is in the dungeon. This way.’
Alton followed her, wary for attack. Not everyone was going to like the new regime. He expected resistance, and wasn’t surprised when he got it. It didn’t come from the nymph. She was, as Alton suspected, ready to leave and wanted to get her part done as soon as possible. However, Topaz must have friends among the guards, because he was attacked before he got across the courtyard. Already, two men were trying to free the gnome from her binding, only to get trapped themselves.
The men who attacked him, had more sense than to touch him, but that made them no less dangerous. One had a crossbow, another a pike. He’d crossed the courtyard, and entered the great hall, when a bolt smacked into the door beside him. More annoyed than anything, Alton merely slammed the door shut behind him. That’s when the pikeman struck, coming at him from behind a tapestry. He got tangled in it, but slashed his way through, rushing Alton.
The nymph screeched and ran in the opposite direction. Alton had no choice but to draw his sword and dagger. Against a pike, it was minimal protection, but his fast thinking saved him from a worse fate. His dagger in his right hand, sword in his left, he caught the pike, crossing the blades to prevent an upswing. For a few precious seconds, he had the man trapped. It was all he needed to kick sharply, connecting with the pikeman’s knee. A satisfying crack, followed by a yowl of pain, and the pikeman fell to the floor. Alton snatched up the pike, throwing it across the room, burying the tip in the door. A yelp from outside told him the tip had gone through, surprising someone on the other side.
“Anyone else want a go at me? Or would you rather go home? I’m here to end this, you fugging lumpties!” he bellowed as he searched for the dungeon steps.
After much trial and error, he finally found what he was after. The spiral stair was long and dark at the bottom. Taking a torch from up top, he carried it in his right hand. Sword in his dominant left, he trotted down the stairs. Listening carefully as he neared the bottom, he heard the usual moans and groans one anticipated in a dungeon. There was also the crack of a whip, followed by muffled curses.
“Revanth! Is that you, my friend?”
“Alton! Make this idiot quit hitting me, would you?”
“Gladly. Where are you?”
“Ahead and to your right.”
The sounds had stopped, but Revanth’s curses hadn’t. Seconds later, Alton burst into the room, torch and sword in hand. A gnarled gnome held a whip which was hardly big enough to qualify. He was short, scrawny, wizened and probably the oldest living creature Alton had ever seen, next to Old John. He brandished the whip at Revanth, then at Alton. Revanth was suspended by chains from the ceiling. His shirt was removed, his boots gone. His back was covered with welts and he looked mad as a wet hornet.
With the tip of his sword, Alton forced him closer to Revanth. When the gnome was in range, the warrior prince wrapped his legs around the gnome’s neck and squeezed until the gnarled old coot fell on the ground.
“Is he dead?” Revanth asked as Alton undid the cuffs which held him.
“More’s the pity. I hoped I’d cracked the pissing bugger’s neck.”
Alton examined his friend. The wounds were scattered around about halfway up his torso both front and back. “This doesn’t look too bad.”
“He’s short, isn’t he,” Revanth said in a matter of fact tone. “Doesn’t even come up to my hip.”
Shrugging, Alton helped his friend stand. “So?”
“So—he’s got no reach much above the knees. Think, man!” He bent over, hissing.
“Oh, the dear gods. He didn’t—” Alton hissed as well, covering his balls with one hand.
“No, but that doesn’t mean the little prick didn’t try!” He kicked the gnome in the head and was delighted to see him bleed profusely. “The girls are upstairs, but they don’t know me. They called on Marigold to lock me up!”
“Her real name is Topaz. Might come in handy, knowing that.”
Revanth nodded his thanks.
They limped up the stairs. When they were near the top, Alton left Revanth, doing a quick check for trouble. He didn’t find any. The castle had a deserted air, for which he was grateful.
“I suppose I should go back and free the other prisoners,” he remarked casually as he helped Revanth sit.
“Might be nice of you.”
“You’ll be all right here?”
© 2019 Dellani Oakes