Part 16: The Old Monastery.
Update 15: The Old Monastery.
From the troll canyon, I ran south and rejoined the road.
I took out my map when I neared the Old Camp. My next destination laid northeast of the Old Camp, quite close to the edge of the barrier. I decided I would cross the river just past the eastern forest.
With luck, the river was shallow enough to be forded. On the other side of the water I encountered some lizards who noticed my intrusion into their territory. They attacked but posed little trouble. Just when I was finished skinning the creatures, I heard the shrill cries of an animal and the voice of a man just to the northeast.
I immediately the left the lizard corpses and moved northeast toward the sound. Some ruins were now within sight, as well as a human dressed in what appeared to be mercenary armor. I withdrew my sword and inched my way closer to him.
I arrived just in time to see the figure cleaning a bloodied Axe with two dead snappers lying at his dead. He must have heard my arrival as he soon turned toward me. I immediately recognized the face. It was Gorn, a mercenary from the New Camp. That's certainly a surprise. I had not expected to see him so far from the New Camp.
Gorn cleaned his bloodied hands on the fur adorning his armor. "Hi, greenhorn. As you can see, the colony is quite a small place. You can't help bumping into people all the time."
"What are you doing here?" I asked, genuinely surprised to see him.
"Oh, I'm trying to track down an old legend."
"Yes. Milten, my pal from the Old Camp, told me that monks used to live here. It's said they worshiped a God who gave them the power to turn into animals. I'm sure there are still treasures from the old times here. What brings you here?" Hopefully one of those treasures is a focus stone
"I'm looking for a magic focus. It must be somewhere in this area."
"The thing you're looking for might be in the old ruined monastery beyond the canyon." I gazed past Gorn. A crumbling wall and an old tower stood in the distance. If it was anywhere nearby, it was probably in there.
"We could go together" I hoped he would agree. I knew little of the immediate area.
"Good idea. This area is crowded with snappers. When they're on their own, they're no problem for an experienced hunter. Most of the time they hunt in packs though. A pack can tear the cleverest sword fighter to pieces" I knew that from experience. Even alone they were dead and quick. In packs they acted together, launching synchronized attacks on both flanks.
"So we'll go together?"
"Okay, but before we cross this log, I'd like to examine the canyon. I like to know what's at my back. Come with me, I've discovered a path which will take us there. "
Gorn led me to just south of where we were. A winding, sandy path led us down to the bottom of the canyon. More Snappers awaited us here, seeming to have taken the cave at the end of the path as their home. The Snappers were no match for our combined skills. Gorn guided me into the cave and stopped a short distance in.
"That's what I call luck. Apparently this used to be a storage cave." Gorn gestured further into the cave. Some broken barrels, wood, and chests were scattered about the cave. There was only one that was still left intact.
The lock was opened quite easily. Whoever put this here must not have cared much for security. Inside was a sword and axe, both now too weathered and rusted to be of any use, a lock pick, some ore, and a few barely legible magic scrolls. I took the scrolls and ore. I returned to Gorn.
Together we returned above. A tree trunk was the only way across the chasm where a pack of snappers awaited us on the other side. I volunteered to take the lead. When I reached the end of the log the snappers took notice of me. I realized that if I moved off the fallen tree they would be in a position to swarm me. I unsheathed my sword and allowed them to come to me. The snappers fell for it.
We followed the path ahead and it took us to a crumbling wall and a barred gate. Gorn and I spent several minutes searching for a way to open the door.
Gorn and I were both frustrated.
"This damn gate. They say nobody in the colony has been able to open it." Gorn gestured to some meatbugs crawling in and out of a hole on the bottom of a wall "The little beasts there seem to be the only ones who have managed to get into the inner yard."
Frustrated, I moved to smash a meatbug with my foot. Just before my foot hit the creature, I recalled something that Gorn had said earlier. The monks worshiped a God who gave them the power to turn into animals. I remembered back to the storage cave and the chest that I had opened. I rifled through my pack and took out a scroll. It had the faint image of a meatbug upon it, something I had previously overlooked.
I had an idea. I started to recite from the scroll, hoping that age had not faded anything of use.
Just as I'd thought! The scroll transformed me into the form of a meatbug. It was quite a disorienting feeling. I went from being aware of a mere four limbs to triple that. In this new body I clumsily made my way through the large, to a meatbug at least, hole on the bottom of the wall.
The spell wore out a few minutes later. I was now on the other side of the gate. I used the winch and opened the gate. No wonder no one in the colony had gotten inside.
Gorn was impressed. "You actually managed to open the gate. That spell of yours was real clever."
I impatiently prodded Gorn along. I still had two other focus stones to acquire after this. "And on we go, come on."
Another pack of snappers resided past the gate. While no human in the colony had gotten past it gate, it seemed that the snappers had no trouble with it. Gorn and I engaged the snappers so that they would not ambush us with our backs turn.
With the snappers dead we searched the inner courtyard. A large entryway, flanked by two statues of suspiciously orc-like creatures, led upwards. Gorn suggested that we try that way first. I agreed.
The ramp took us up a short distance to a pedestal, similar to the one that I had found in the troll canyon. It was empty. "Perhaps the artifact you're looking for used to lay here" Gorn said.
I checked the pedestal, hoping that the focus had simply rolled just out of sight. It hadn't. Gorn and I decided to search the remainder of the monastery.
We investigated the tower that the Snapper pack had taken as their home. It did not contain anything useful.
However, when we returned from the tower we'd noticed a cave. It was obscured by rock if you were looking north from the gate, but from the tower we could see it just fine.
The passage led down. It was difficult to tell whether or not the cave was natural. What little that was man made had since been overgrown by fungus and other cave plant life. At the end of a cave was something I did not expect. A shadow beast had made the cave home. I was ready to turn and leave when Gorn pointed out the door a short distance from the shadowbeast. We would need to go through it.
The shadowbeast was not as difficult as I had expected. I'd heard many exaggerated tales of shadowbeasts in my time here. I'd come to think of them as immortal man eaters. That was not the case, fortunately for us. Gorn and I raced toward the creature, our weapons held high. With our combined skill we defeated it, though not before I sustained two heavy wounds from its claws. I opened the door and revealed what appeared to be an old alchemy lab and library.
I downed a healing potion to treat my wounds and set out to investigate the room. The books on the shelves were covered in dust and faded beyond recognition. They were useless to me. Against the wall sat a locked chest. I spent the next few minutes picking the lock. Eventually I heard a click and it opened to reveal the focus stone, as well as a handful of transformation scrolls and ore. Thank Innos it was still here.
Gorn had been standing guard while I opened the chest.
"So you found your magic artifact!" Gorn said, quite relieved.
"Yeah. I have to take the focus to the Magicians of Water. They need it."
"I'll accompany you for a while."
We left the cave and made our way back to the surface.
I was the first to reach the surface and saw something I did not expect. A troll!
Gorn arrived moments later. "OH HELL!!! What monster's that over there?"
"Where did THAT come from?" I asked. I'd not seen any sign of a troll on our way in.
"Looks like one of those virtually invincible trolls. Only smaller! Whatever, if we want to get out of here, we have to get past that beast." The troll grunted loudly and started to run at us.
Gorn and I withdrew our weapons and quickly formulated a plan. We would strike at the limbs and cause it to fall down. When it was on the ground, we would quickly finish it off. As it was a younger troll the skin would not yet be hard enough to fully protect it from an axe or sword blow.
Gorn struck a grievous blow and the creature fell, suddenly unable to support its own weight.
We were both exhausted from the fight and took a few moments to calm down and catch our breath.
"That was hard work." Gorn said.
"Yeah, we defeated that monster. But if that was just a young troll..." I'd faced a mature troll only a few hours ago. I did not wish to do it again.
"...then you'd rather not bump into its parents, huh?"
I laughed. "Something like that."
"This is where we go our separate ways. I want to stay here for awhile and have a look around." I nodded. I too needed to go on my way. I exchanged goodbyes with Gorn and traveled south, cutting straight through the forests in an effort to save time.
When I'd finally reached the end, I paused a moment to study my map. My next focus stone should be due south from here.