The Lord of the Socks
Episode 3: Rescue Princess – Check
“What are we going to do, Myrick?” Nut-boy asked, pacing back and forth next to our bunk in the messenger’s barracks. We were the only two messengers in the castle at the time, so we had some privacy. “I don’t want to fight troglyns. And I don’t want to go anywhere near the Valley of Death again. I’d rather die.”
“Calm down, my boy, I’ll figure a way out of this,” I said from where I sat on my bed. “There has to be a way around that spell. I’ve heard that they are limited by distance.”
“But he can kill us before we get far enough away! We’re stuck with this job until we die.”
“Which may be very soon,” I muttered.
“Nothing. Look, maybe if we just hang out in here until they leave, they’ll forget about us.”
Nut-boy nodded, though the wide-eyed look on his face said he didn’t believe me.
Without warning, I felt myself being yanked up from my bed as if an invisible hand had grabbed my shoulders. I tried to sit back down but some force held me.
Nut-boy stiffened as well. “Myrick?” he asked, his voice shaking. “What’s happening?”
“I don’t think our plan will work after all.” The force that held me dragged my legs toward the door in jerky motions making me look like an epileptic marionette. Nut-boy followed after me looking just as awkward.
We were magically dragged out of the messenger’s barracks and soon found ourselves in the courtyard next to the main gate. Korac and half a dozen other men in armor and packs waited for us. Bum-stabber stood there with his arms folded, glaring.
“Ah, there you are,” Korac said. “Glad you could make it.” He snapped his fingers.
The spell holding onto us released, allowing me control of my body again. “Yeah, sure, would hate to miss it,” I said.
I looked around at our ‘army’. It consisted of Bum-stabber, Korac, Nut-boy, and five aged guards who probably hadn’t seen action in half a century. I feared for our combat readiness.
“This is it?”
Bum-stabber snarled at me.
“It’s the best we can do for now,” Korac said. “Let’s get going. I’d like to be past the river by nightfall.”
I shook my head. “Are you sure there aren’t more troops we can round up?”
“I’m sure,” Bum-stabber said. “Now grab that pack there and git yer butt movin’.”
I got an idea. A few months before, I’d stumbled into a prison cell and made a promise to help that person escape. I realized an opportunity to fulfill it had just presented itself. “I know of another warrior we can take.”
“Oh?” Korac asked, raising an eyebrow. “Who?”
Both of his eyebrows shot up. “How do you know she’s a warrior?”
Oops. I hadn’t thought about how I’d explain my knowledge of her. I knew they wouldn’t be too happy to hear I’d broken into her prison-apartment and met her. It was there I’d found out that she wasn’t the gorgeous princess the troubadours had advertised, but was a large, strong woman who knew how to handle a mace.
“I, uh, overheard a guard at the Gluttonous Boar talking about how she was training in the tower and that she was a really good warrior.” I hoped they bought it.
Korac stood there regarding me. After several seconds, he said, “I’ll have to have that guard’s tongue removed. Sergeant, go get the princess and have her pack for combat.”
“But, sir,” Bum-stabber said, “what will the king say?”
“Right now, the king can’t say anything, but I think he’ll accept whatever help he can get. Now, go get her.”
“Yes, sir.” Bum-stabber turned and went back to the main castle.
He returned fifteen minutes later with Princess Frederica towering behind him. She was by no means pretty, but not ugly either. She stood a head above Bum-stabber and had broad, muscular shoulders. Frederica wore a steel breastplate and carried a large mace.
As soon as Frederica saw me, she shouted, “Myrick!” A smile spread across her face.
I’m sure my eyes went wide as I tried to subtly shake my head and put my finger to my lips.
Too late. Korac’s head snapped around to stare hard at the princess. “You know this boy?”
Frederica noticed my signal and regained her composure. “Uh, no, Korac. I’ve heard about him, though. My father talks a lot about him during his visits.” She winced as she said it.
Korac turned to look at me, his eyes narrowed. “He does. Interesting.” I expected Korac to expose the lie but instead he said, “Very well, let’s head out.” He motioned to the other soldiers and they all picked up their packs.
I picked up the one designated for me and followed them out of the castle.
Nut-boy lumbered under his pack as he walked up next to me and whispered, “That’s the princess? I thought she was the prettiest in all the land.”
“You can’t believe everything the troubadours sing about,” I answered. “The king keeps her locked up in order to maintain the myth, hoping someone rich will come along and marry her.”
“Yeah, I’m not wild about it, either. That’s why I promised to help her get out of her dungeon.”
“You’ve been in there?”
“Well, yeah, it was kind of an accident. I’ll tell you about it later.” I couldn’t talk anymore due to Bum-stabber coming within range to hear our conversation.
We trudged along for a couple of miles, stopping several times to take more things out of Nut-boy’s pack to make it light enough for him to carry without collapsing.
We crossed the bridge as night fell and made camp along the riverbank. Bum-stabber, in his normal, gentle manner, smacked the back of my head and ordered me to set up the tents. As I went about it, though, I thought about my situation. A thrill went up my spine. I realized I was doing what I’d always wanted to: be on an adventure. After all, that’s what sent me on my quest to Castle Fringol in the first place. And now, finally, I had my chance to battle evil and save the kingdom. I felt another thrill when I realized that I’d just accomplished one of my life’s goals: to rescue a princess. Check that one off my list.
Frederica picked up the other end of the tent I was setting up and started helping. After making sure no one else was near, she said, “Thank you, Myrick. You kept your word and got me out of that cursed dungeon.”
I smiled. “I said I would. So when are you going to make your dash to freedom?”
“At least not until my father is rescued. I was going to escape tonight after everyone was asleep, but Lord Korac told me that my father and the rest of the Fringolian army are being held in some kind of binding spell. Do you know anything else about that?”
“Not much. All I know is that Korac wants to find some orb in order to save them.”
“It’s an orb with the power to break the spell, from what he said. Anyway, I can’t leave my father in the hands of some evil sorcerer who’ll turn him into a zombie. I have to save him.”
“You do?” I asked, confused. “After all those years he’s kept you in prison?”
Frederica shook her head. “I know you must think he’s a monster, but he’s not. He’s a good man, and he cares about me, he’s just a little…”
“Crazy,” I finished for her.
“I guess that’s one word.”
“But to keep you locked up just because you’re…” I stopped myself before I said something I’d regret.
“Ugly? I know what you’re thinking.”
“No, Princess, no. You’re not ugly. You’re far from ugly. I think you’re quite pretty, actually.”
Frederica shook her head. “Thanks for trying, Myrick, but I know what I am. I’m a disappointment to my father and my kingdom.” She finished wedging the other tent pole into the ground before setting the tent canvas over it.
Before I could come up with something else to try and cheer her up, I heard my favorite gate guard’s voice shout, “There ya are, ya little runt.” He stormed over and stopped, glaring down on me. “Thought you’d run away there fer a minute.”
“No, I’m doing what you told me to do,” I said.
“Leave him alone, Uchdehn,” Frederica ordered. “Just because you’re bigger and stronger than someone doesn’t give you the right to pick on them.”
“Yes it does,” Bum-stabber muttered so that only I could hear him. He said out loud, “I don’t have time to keep one eye on ya and lead this expedition. Fil!”
“Yes, sir,” said one of the older guards as he approached.
“I want you to keep an eye on this wart. If he even looks like he’s gonna run, stab out his gizzard, got it?”
“Yes, sir,” Fil said.
Bum-stabber gave me another loving snarl before returning to his other duties, whatever they were. Fil rested the butt of his spear on the ground as he kept his eye on me. Frederica and I finished putting up the tent and went our separate ways, no longer able to talk with Fil around.
The next morning came too early for my taste, but after a quick breakfast, we broke camp and resumed our journey. All I can say is that I was sure glad my magic socks kept me from tiring much. I did get to thinking how odd it was to make such a powerful magic item that only granted endurance while traveling. Was there something else to them?
Over the next several days we stopped at each village we encountered. The soldiers would spread out and ask questions of the inhabitants while Nut-boy, Frederica, and I waited on the outskirts of the village with Korac keeping an eye on us.
One evening near sunset, we stopped at a village and went into our normal routine. A few minutes later, Fil came back and reported to Korac. “We found him, sir,” Fil said. “We found the barbarian.”
“You have? Where?”
“One of the peasants said that he’s been staying at the inn on the other side of the village for the last few weeks. He’s been posing as a troglyn hunter.”
“Excellent. Gather the others and we’ll sneak around to the back side of the inn. That stupid barbarian won’t know what hit him.” Korac smiled menacingly.