To the Monastery
Per Kaela’s wishes, we left the situation with her mother alone. As she said “She made her bed, she will have to lie in it.”

And so we finished our preparations and set out for the monastery. After a long first week of travel through the hills, we started having a harder and harder time keeping track of Cabhan. He was following his memories to lead him back, and we were doing our best to follow him, but it was as if something was trying to seperate us. Even tying ropes to keep us together didn’t work - a loop would come up empty, or the rope itself would be cut.

Yvor had to continually redirect and reorient us over the next couple days. Finally, the effect wore off, but was replaced by a feeling of a low-grade mythic presence. It was, we realized, the environment itself, not a creature or a particular point.

We saw, in the distance, some stone plinths. Cabhan told us that once we got through that marker we would be on the lands of the monastery. Feeling a little silly we decided to chain hands to cross, but we were soon glad we did as a force began to press on us. It cost significant effort and a focus of will to get through, and Avalor was not with us when we reached the other side.

Ahead of us, the monastery sat in a bowl of a small valley. There was a scattering of basic stone buildings, and there were few plants other than the fields. In the center of it all was another depression, a natural amphitheatre perhaps? Within it, several figures seemed to be engaging in training exercises.

We made our way down the hill, Cabhan in the lead and myself just behind him. A small group of the figures detached from their work and approached us. They were surprised to see Cabhan, although one of the six also seemed concerned to see him. Cabhan replied to their challenge that the status of his Quest was between him and the Master, and Ser Jarrad cut the tension of the moment by asking for a traveller’s respite.

Alone again, we quickly and quietly planned. Cabhan would need to make his report, but when I asked he did not think that he necessarily needed to do so alone (although he admitted that was his first instinct). He wryly admitted that they may not have prepared for the possibility of his successful return. I remembered how we had all thought the task he had been set to was perhaps a fool’s errand.

Cabhan explained, while we waited, some of how the monastery was structured. Below Master Garus, who had mastered all four elemental styles, were four Incarna, who each headed one style. Below them, senior students, initiates, and novices. He had remained a Novice because advancement required winning a battle to the death. He never saw the point in killing someone for no reason.

In the morning, we were summoned to speak with Master Garus. The floor of the amphitheatre was warm, and the edges were carved with infernal runes. Padhraig had identified them the evening before as dedications to Asmodeus, and posited that blood spilled within their bounds might feed Him. Most of the monks stood in a circle around us, while ahead stood the four Incarna, and behind them a lone figure, presumably Master Garus himself.

Cabhan, when told to prove he had completed his task, produced the Scales. But he refused to hand them to his Master, even when directly ordered. “You were set a task. You agreed to it, on your word.”

“That is so.” Cabhan replied. “And yet I believe I was misled as to the reason for this task, and I was kept in the dark about the nature of this place.”
“That is not for you to concern yourself with. We took you in. Saved your miserable life. The Mountain would have devoured you.” I rankled at his harsh words, but could not decipher if he was telling the truth or not.
The Earth Incarna broke in, “You swore an oath to your Master.”
Padhraig replied with something in Infernal, which earned him many long looks.
Trying to regain control of the moment, Master Garus continued. “One last time, Novice. Will you obey your oath and surrender the Scales to me?”
“Master, I will not.”
“Very well. Kill them.”

We had been preparing for this moment, and so were ready when the attacks began. It was a fierce battle, and none performed better than Cabhan. In an impressive show of strength and skill he managed to land the final blow on all four of the Incarna, claiming each of their sashes in turn, before turning his attention to his (now former) Master. When all were defeated, and the illusions surrounding Garus gone, Padhraid broke the circle of runes on the amphitheatre.

The moment he did, all of the Initiates of the Order dropped dead. Cabhan snapped the neck of the prone Master and turned to the group of Novices. He declared the Order over, told the assembled that they were free to stay or go, but that what had happened here would never happen again. Finally, it was over. He had perhaps not learned as much as he would have liked, but at least he had faced this part of his past...
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