The second day of the vaccine drive went well. We travelled all over the inner Southlands visiting small villages and farmsteads. In return for the vaccine, we were given gifts of home-baked pies, cakes and preserves from the grateful villagers. They wished us luck in our rebellion against Koronin and his followers.
As day drew to a close, instead of heading South towards the Summer Palace, instinct told me to head Northwest to Vipava. Hobbs the apothecary tried to dissuade me, but I pointed out that our soldiers may need medical attention after the planned attack on Koronin’s soldiers who had taken over Erasmus’ castle.
The Long Wait
As we finished up our vaccine drive in Vipava, the villagers made us most welcome. One of the winegrowers was preparing a feast for the returning soldiers, being confident of their return. He was delighted to host another royal visitor, and the de facto royal physician. His wife offered us a hearty meal, but I couldn’t eat a bite. Hobbs drank several glasses of the local wine to calm his nerves. I took to pacing the courtyard, which only served to make the time pass slower.
I really was most worried. By now, the rebel band had been gone for almost 24 hours. I couldn’t imagine anything but the worst: why had they not yet returned through the secret tunnel network? Eventually, after a strong draft of Valerian, I fell asleep.
News at last
The next morning, I was awoken by the sound of the herald’s horn. He rode into the village most excited to proclaim:
‘Erasmus’ Castle is retaken! Koronin’s General Vector is killed, and the ranks of the rebel army swollen with defectors!’
My heart heaved a heavy sigh of relief at this, and yet I felt compelled to ask:
‘Why are they still not here?’
‘They have been celebrating, drinking all of Erasmus’ ale and wine, and packing up the riches of Koronin’s Army. They plan to return here at noon, for more feasting and revelry. ‘
My relief being complete at this point, I admit that I was also somewhat vexed that they had not returned directly to Vipava and spared me a night of worry.
At noon, as promised, the rebel band drew up, looking somewhat dishevelled but triumphant nonetheless. Sir Nicholas recounted the details of the surprise attack:
We made slow progress through the labyrinth of tunnels. We were most fortunate that the Cavern Keeper knew the way. Wading through dank and dismal waterlogged sections of cave, we were a sorry and sodden band by the time we approached the Great Gate. We were fortunate once again to find it had remained locked.
The Cavern Keeper opened the gate most tentatively. Close to it, we could hear the snores of two sleeping sentries (apparently shirking their duty, as luck would have it for us but not for them!) Without a moment’s hesitation, the King and I ran the men through with our swords. We then posted two soldiers to guard the cavern entrance, which would serve as our escape route, should we need it.
Vector’s men who had drawn guard duty that night were all fated to die, for with stealth we penetrated the inner sanctum of the castle, killing them on sight and posting one of our men in their place at every door. We expected to find General Vector in Erasmus’ quarters, and as expected, there he lay, sleeping soundly with a buxom wench at his side. Said wench posed a certain problem, for we did not wish to kill her, but knew she would scream immediately we dispatched the General. Luckily Hobbs had given me a handkerchief soaked in an anaesthetic potion, which I employed for the purpose of sending her into a deep sleep before depriving General Vector of his head.
Sword in one hand, dripping decapitated head in the other, we entered the dormitory quarters of Koronin’s sorry army. To a man they surrendered, happy to join our cause, having been press-ganged into service against their queen by Koronin’s evil threats. I present them to you now…
The newest members of the Rebel Army bowed low before me. ‘Forgive us, Majesty, for following Koronin upon pain of death. We are now your humble servants and will do everything within our power to defeat him.’ I accepted their apology and welcomed them, Sir Nicholas, the King and even the revived Buxom Wench, who happily served generous drafts of ale to the returning heroes. As for Koronin, he had not ridden South with Vector’s army, preferring to hide within the safety of Caer Pathogen’s impenetrable walls!
I sent a runner to the Summer Palace to inform the King Mother we would be back late the following day, for in the morning we must attend Erasmus’ funeral.
To be continued…
Read the story so far in the Chronicles of Lockdownia archives…