Patch 17 (realm of arkon.., p.18
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       Patch 17 (Realm of Arkon, Book 1), p.18

           G. Akella
 
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  ***

  The remnants of stone walls formed a trapezoid around the ancient castle. There were four destroyed towers in the corners—like ever-vigilant sentries, they eyed the surrounding area with the dark pits of their embrasures. I could see the ruins of the structures that lay inside the perimeter and the sinister remains of the castle keep. The area around what once used to be a castle was peppered with large rock, with groups of zombies and skeletons maneuvering in between.

  Around two weeks and a half had passed since my arrival to Urcahnta. I had managed to waste so many pigs, wolves and bears in the surrounding area that animal rights activists would definitely have placed a bounty on my head if it were happening IRL. Half a month of endless farming, ten to fifteen hours a day, had made me so weary that one sight of the local fauna made me ready to retch. However, level 82, fully studied Silence, and 43% Toughness were totally worth it.

  I no longer had to recollect Cheney to invoke this fury—simply entering combat sufficed. Rage no longer blinded me—I never lost touch with reality. Fury and hatred seemed to have become inverted in some way, and now I could only sense them remotely. Pain would only come after the loss of half my XP, so I was quite content with myself.

  Today I decided to sneak into the ruins and take a good look around. The levels of the local fiends (79-80) and the packs of three or four skeletons or zombies didn't scare me at all. On the contrary, it was much easier to use the shield for blocking the strike of a former humanoid than to parry a side blow of a bear's paw or the attack of a wolf clinging to the very ground.

  Earth Shackles bound a tall skeleton with a two-handed sword, and the bonehead running my way with a club was met by an Ice Blade. Then I cast Silence on the third skeleton, whose hands became surrounded by dark flashes indicating that it was preparing to cast a spell. I used my shield to parry the strike of an ironclad club, sending my first opponent to be reborn again with two strikes, and then cast Ice Blade once again, getting the dead sorcerer who had swung a club at me right in the head—the stupid mob was deprived of his capacity to cast spells for ten seconds and decided to try his luck in a melee attack, of all things. The blade's Frost kicked in, and it took just one more blow to make the hapless lich's bones fall to the ground with an icy clangor. The enormous skeleton's dash stunned me for a second and a half, and I failed to parry a powerful strike with the two-handed sword that knocked off almost a quarter of my HP. Before the warrior skeleton swung again, I managed to land two blows, then crouched, with the second blow swinging over my head, and struck the warrior in the exposed side. There was a cracking sound—I'd knocked two ribs from his ribcage. Before he managed to react, I chopped off his head with my final blow. I calmly waited for the pinkish HP bar to refill and bent over the bones scattered underneath my feet.

  Skeletons are no fat cats for sure, I grunted. Thirty three copper coins, three quest skulls, a rusty ax and a few pieces of woolen fabric—not what I'd call a good haul! You'd need to kill about a hundred mobs hanging around the area to earn a single gold coin. Oh, and Neyl ran out of money on the third day. The magistrate had allocated only fifty gold coins of bounty money, of which nifeteen had been claimed by local hunters.

  The captain took a long and thoughtful look at me as I just returned to the village and told me that a necromancer he knew in Nittal was looking for an assistant, and that if there was anyone he could think of recommending, it was yours truly.

  I thanked him for caring so deeply about my career and that I would think about it, and took his last gold coin. Good thing I was still getting experience for these quests, or I would have needed those skulls about as much as an oyster needed a parasol.

  The sun was beginning to set, painting the ancient castle ruins in somber crimson and wine red hues. I looked toward the fallen gate. Another three hundred yards or some fifteen packs of the undead were blocking the direct way through with their aggro zones. And there were more in the courtyard. All right, no use tarrying—I need to take a look at the dungeon today. I chose the next group of fiends as my target and cast Shackles on the far skeleton armed with a sword and shield…

  All that remained from the keep was a story and a half. The hexagonal building, once formidable, looked squalid and dilapidated, and even the narrow slits in the walls could hardly scare anyone now. It only took me an hour and a half to get there—most of the time was spent on entering the gate of the castle and wiping out most of the mobs roaming the courtyard. I didn't get much richer—all I got was the copper equivalent of eight silver coins and an unusual helmet for level 71, as well as skulls and pieces of woolen fabric that filled my bag.

  The entrance to the main part of the castle doubled as the entrance to a level 75-80 instance designed for a group of three to five. It was at the end of a fifteen-foot passageway, some sections of which had crumbled down. Another week of farming and I should be able to take a look inside and say hello to whoever lived in the castle.

  Something glittered on the ground—some ten yards away from the keep's wall, pockmarked by centuries. I came closer and saw a rusty dagger on a gray stone. This is weird—how did a level 190 dagger end up here? As the thought occurred to me, I heard a horrendous grating noise. I noticed a blurred movement to the right, upon a protruding part of the wall, and turned instantly, grabbing the shield with my left hand. A powerful blow threw me back onto the cobblestones, and an agonizing pain seared my body—it felt like being caught in a mangle.

  Gh'khorsh the Stone Gargoyle hits you for 4742 damage.

  Attention! You are stunned!

  As I was falling, I cast a teleport spell to a point some twenty yards to the side, shaking off the stun and evading the blow of a level 232 stone gargoyle. The six-and-a-half-foot bulk looked like an inflated bodybuilder with membranous wings. It landed at the very spot I'd just left with a crash. The appalling simian snout with huge fangs made a sharp turn toward me, its yellow eyes flashing. The muscled and taloned paws flexed. The gargoyle was preparing for another leap.

  It took a Herculean effort, but I managed to rise again and meet the monster's leap standing, holding my shield in front of me…

  Gh'khorsh the Stone Gargoyle hits you for 288 damage. You die.
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