The Lord of the Socks
Episode 6: At the Monastery of Goode Eats
“What…what do you mean?” I asked the livid girl standing in front of me. “What did I do wrong?”
“You just messed up over a year of work,” she said in a high, scratchy voice. “Do you know how long it took for me to gain the trust of Frbg and Gtk? How long it took to be invited to their most sacred ritual? And then you come bursting into the middle of it and mess everything up!” She spun away from me as she clenched her fist and put it on her forehead.
“Look, sorry. I didn’t know. I thought they were going to eat you.”
She jerked back around, tears streaking down her dirty face. “That’s the problem, isn’t it? All of you city dwellers assume troglyns are these evil creatures. But they have families, and feelings. They love and they hurt. They have dreams and goals.”
“And they eat people, too,” I blurted.
She looked at me, flustered, and snapped, “That’s beside the point. You still burst in and assumed the worst.” She studied me for several seconds before asking, “And just who are you and what are you doing in my valley?”
“I’m Myrick. Myrick the Magnificent. Perhaps you’ve heard of me?”
“No. What are you doing here?”
I deflated somewhat at her sharp response, but continued undaunted. “I was sent ahead to scout out where the troglyns were camped. We’re on our way to the Monastery of Mentat.”
“We? Who else is with you?”
“A wizard and several armed guards,” I answered.
“Who won’t think twice about killing any troglyns they see,” she spat.
“Well, we’d like to avoid that if possible.”
She studied me some more before growling. “I see I’m going to have to guide your party through here to avoid bloodshed. Not only do I have to deal with you, but there’s some half-naked savage with a huge sword running around hunting my tribe.”
I winced. “I wouldn’t know anything about that.”
“Take me to your party so I can get this over with.”
“They’re this way.” I pointed up the trail.
She started along it.
I chased after her. “Say, you never told me your name.”
“Sister Nyn. Now, are you going to tell me how you ran me out of the temple so fast?”
I didn’t know if I dared tell her about my secret socks, so I said, “I used a spell.”
She cast a skeptical glance at me. “You’re a wizard?”
“Well, yeah. Sort of. Learning, anyway. So far, I only know one spell.”
“Is that what makes you so magnificent?”
“Of course.” I smiled at her.
She frowned as she stared up the trail and continued walking.
I tried to draw her out in conversation all the way back to my group but failed. She ignored me as if I were an insect.
When we reached the top of the hill, Korac stood up from a rock and stepped forward. “It’s about time.” He raised an eyebrow and studied Sister Nyn. “And who is this?”
“This is Sister Nyn. She’s going to guide us through the valley to help us avoid troglyns.”
Korac nodded as he studied her torn robe. “Very well, Sister. If you can help us avoid a fight, I’d appreciate it.”
“Just make sure your brutes don’t harm any of my tribe,” Sister Nyn snapped.
Korac’s brow furrowed as he looked at me. I shrugged in response.
We packed our gear and followed Sister Nyn into the valley. Once again I tried to get her to talk to me, but she continued to just stare straight ahead. In spite of her odd affection for troglyns, I’d never met a girl who fascinated me more. If only I could find a way to get her fascinated with me.
At sundown we reached the rocky hills on the other side of the valley. As we stopped for a short break, Korac said, “Thank you, Sister Nyn, for your assistance. I believe we can handle it from here.”
“I doubt it,” she replied. “There’s another less-friendly tribe inhabiting these hills. I think one of them may have been following us for the last little while. Since I don’t think any of you speak troglyn, I’ll guide you all the way to the monastery to make sure no one does anything stupid.” She cast an irritated glance at me as she said it. What did I do?
Just before midnight we reached a large, stone structure built up against the side of a cliff. It was hard to see in the moonlight and I didn’t realize we’d reached it until Sister Nyn opened a door into the rock. Candlelight poured out from inside. After we shuffled in, an elderly man in brown robes scrambled up from a long hallway that led deeper into the underground complex.
“Greetings, travelers,” he said once he reached the foyer we were in. He looked at our guide. “Ah, Sister Nyn, it is so good to see you again. How has your research been progressing?”
“It isn’t. Not anymore,” she said with a scowl. “I just brought these morons here to prevent them from doing any more damage.” She turned to leave back out the door.
“Sister,” the man said. “Father Jem wants to speak with you. He has a new assignment for you.”
“Fine. I’ll be in my room.” She turned and disappeared up a side hall.
The monk turned back to us. “I’m Brother Marc. How may I be of service?”
Korac said, “I received a message from Father Jem stating that he might know the location of the Orb of Trineer. What can you tell me about it?”
Brother Marc answered, “Father Jem will have to tell you. But come, I’ll get you some refreshment while you wait.” He turned and led us back into the hall he had come from. It was lit by candles set into the stone walls. The halls were carved out of solid rock, making me wonder how many centuries it took to dig them out as we went deeper into the underground complex.
Finally, Brother Marc turned at an archway and brought us into a lavish room with several cushioned chairs and a blazing fire in a fireplace.
“This is our reception room. Please make yourselves comfortable,” Brother Marc said. “I’ll return with Father Jem shortly.” He bowed, turned, and left.
I wandered around the edges of the room. It was more lavish than Castle Fringol. It had richly colored tapestries hanging from the walls and solid gold candelabras mounted around the room in order to keep it bright. I didn’t expect to see this nice of décor in a monastery. I noticed Princess Frederica admiring the room as well. Nut-boy just stood in a corner and looked around as if he expected a troglyn to jump out at any second.
Some other monks silently came in and left trays of food on the central table. I wasted no time before digging into the fine cheeses, breads, and meats laid out there. Oh, and the wine was the best I’d ever tasted. These monks really knew how to party.
During my third trip to the food table, we heard a scuffle from back in the main hall. A minute later, six large monks came in dragging a large, almost-naked man in chains. One of them asked, “Do any of you know this man? We found him outside looking for a way in.”
Korac didn’t show any reaction as he turned to look at Nonac. “No. Kill him,” he said with cool detachment.
“As you wish.” Another monk lifted Nonac’s large sword over his head.
“No, don’t,” I said, putting my hand up and stepping toward them. “He’s a friend.”
The monk stopped and regarded me.
“He is an enemy,” Korac said. “Kill him.”
The monk lowered the sword. “We shall have Father Jem decide his fate.”
I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad, but at least it bought Nonac a few more minutes. The six monks turned and left the room, taking Nonac’s sword with them.
“Nonac, are you okay?” I asked as I knelt next to the giant.
Nonac sat up and grunted, studying the chains around his chest. “Nonac okay. Nonac let self be captured to find Mah-reek.”
“Why were you following me?”
Nonac cast an angry glare at Korac. “Nonac not trust vizard. Nonac keep friend Mah-reek safe.”
I have to admit, I was touched. “Nonac, you shouldn’t have. Besides, I can handle him. He’s only a wizard.”
Brother Marc entered with a tall, thin man following him. This man was older but had an air of command. His robe was white and highlighted with gold chains. Brother Marc said, “Distinguished guests, I present to you Father Jem.”
Father Jem stepped forward and bowed. “I am honored by your visit. I see you got my response to your inquiry about the Orb.”
“Yes,” Korac answered. “Is it here?”
“No. And it can only be retrieved at great peril. Why would you risk your life for this?”
“A few weeks ago, I detected a powerful magical event in the Valley of Death. I suspected it was the Orb of Trineer being activated, so we took an army to secure it before it could fall into the wrong hands. Unfortunately, we encountered a time binding spell. I managed to weave a counterspell to allow myself to escape, but my king and our army are still trapped.”
“So you seek the Orb to free your king?” Father Jem asked.
“And what then? What will you do with the Orb after your task is complete? Will you use it for other purposes?”
Korac’s face showed a brief irritation before he said, “Of course not. It is too powerful of an object. It would be best kept here under your wise guardianship.”
Father Jem nodded. I could tell Korac was lying through his beard but could Father Jem? He didn’t seem to indicate one way or the other.
Korac asked, “What will be the difficulty in retrieving the Orb?”
Father Jem answered, “It is guarded by Xern and a legion of undead.”
Korac visibly paled. “Xern the Destroyer? But, how? He was vanquished by Arnabet over two thousand years ago.”
Father Jem started pacing. “We don’t know how, but Xern somehow broke the binding spell Arnabet had placed upon him. Arnabet’s crypt must have been found and his skeleton destroyed. That’s the only thing that would allow Xern to escape.”
I had a sinking feeling. I glanced down at my feet before looking at Nonac.
“Who would do such a stupid thing?” Korac asked. His face hardened as he turned toward me and pointed. “Myrick. You were in the Crypt of Arnabet. After all, you possess something of his.”
Korac’s eyes narrowed. “So it was you who destroyed Arnabet the Wise and released the evil Xern.”
“No, I didn’t, I…” I knew I was sunk.
“Nonac did,” Nonac’s voice boomed. “Nonac destroyed evil sorcerer to protect Mah-reek.” He thumped his chest with pride, causing his chains to clank.
“Except Arnabet wasn’t evil,” Father Jem corrected. “He was the good wizard who sacrificed himself to stop Xern. And now that he’s been destroyed, Xern is loose again.”
Nonac looked down at his hands. “Oh.”
We stood in silence for several moments, not knowing what to say. I grew tired of the quiet and asked, “So, how do we stop Xern?”
Father Jem answered, “You need to get the Orb of Trineer from him and bring it to me.”
“Sounds easy enough,” I said. I figured I could dart in there, snatch the Orb, and be back by lunch.
Father Jem shook his head. “Xern’s lair is surrounded by powerful spells. That is what trapped your king and his army. Plus, Xern is a master necromancer. He is busy animating every skeleton and zombie in the Valley of Death to protect him while he resumes his diabolical experiments.”
I said, “Oh. On second thought…”