Chapter 13 - The Hunt Begins
Awakening the following day, Vahn immediately set about his final preparations for the quest. Since his inventory had long since been filled with miscellaneous items he had stored many of the non-perishable goods near the back of his home.
As a means of self-preservation, he was now filling his inventory with the various traps and gadgets he had been using during his hunts. He figured he could lay them along the path and if things got dicey he would be able to safely retreat. There was also the possibility any goblin chasing him could fall victim to the traps, giving him an edge should things go awry.
Leaving the cave, Vahn noticed the sun had yet to rise. The morning was cool and he could feel a refreshing breeze blowing in from the north-west. Confirming the time with Sis, he realized it was only 3:40 AM which would give him ample time to make his preparations and scout the goblin camps.
He moved towards the range he had established outside his home. There he had placed several targets at varying ranges between 10 and 50 meters. As a means of experimentation, Vahn decided to use the bone arrows with his older bow. He wanted to see how much damage they were able to do without the enhancements of his new bow.
After his experience last night he determined he was able to inject 'source' energy that could increase the damage output of his arrows by around 100 points in both physical and magic attack respectively. Nocking an arrow, Vahn pulled the bow to its maximum allowance while simultaneously observing the changing attack value through the system interface. It seemed as though the conversion was taking longer than the previous night which he assumed was a result of actually trying to fire the arrow instead of just holding it.
As the arrow began to approach 1000 attack, Vahn released the arrow at the target 10m away. The arrow seemed to have turned into a beam of light as it tore through the air and pierced the target. It continued to travel unhindered for several meters until it disappeared into the treeline in the distance.
Vahn was completely shocked at the penetrating power of the arrow and began to commend himself for his selection the previous night. Without searching for the arrow he had just fired, Vahn inquired with Sis about the time it had taken to charge the arrow to its maximum potential. He learned that instead of the 10 seconds recorded the previous night, it had now taken 17, almost twice the previous amount.
Moving on with his experiment, he now decided to use his new bow using his old arrows. He didn't know the safety limits of the bow, but since the attack power of bow was typically much lower than the arrows themselves he decided to limit it to 100 points. The new arrow itself was plenty powerful and he was unwilling to risk breaking what could become the key to completing the upcoming quest.
He nocked the arrow into the new bow and began channeling 'source' while observing the change in its stats. He noticed that as the attack value increased it became increasingly difficult to keep the bow fully drawn. Given the increased size, it seemed to take much more energy to increase the strength of the bow so Vahn began to worry about the efficacy of its use.
After approximately 7 seconds the value finally reached 100 in both physical and magical attack. Loosing the arrow, it flew silently towards the 20m target (the 10m target got destroyed). Upon contacting the wooden support the arrow penetrated about 3/4 it's length into the log. It was significantly weaker than the previous arrow but had the added benefit of flying almost completely silent. Looking down at the bow in his hands, he noticed the runes on its surface were still emitting light which caused him to investigate it through the system. Though the bow took much longer to supply energy to, it appeared to retain the energy for a longer period of time as Vahn noted the attack values slowly decreasing.
Pleased with his discovery, he moved on to his final test using both the 'Runic Tempered Yew Shortbow' and 'Runic Tempered Bone Arrows' together. He noticed that it was impossible to split his focus between both the bow and arrow, so he experimented with channeling 'source' energy into each of them and seeing how fast they lost the charge. The arrow lost energy almost instantly since the runes along the shaft seemed to only serve the purpose of funneling the energy into the arrowhead. As soon as the supply stopped the energy would begin to rapidly disperse. As he had expected, it seemed the complexity of the runes on the bow gave it a far greater ability to store energy as compared to the arrows.
He charged the bow to around 110 attack power before switching his focus to the arrow. After about twenty seconds the arrow was fully charged and he noticed the bows' attack had only decayed by eight points.
Increasing his focus to the limits, Vahn took aim and loosed the arrow towards the target 50m away. Compared to the first experiment which produced an exceptionally loud sound, the arrow now traveled almost silently which Vahn assumed was a hidden property of the magical bow. Almost immediately after that thought crossed his mind, the arrow made contact with the target and easily pierced it through, continuing its journey unabated into the woods beyond.
Traveling through the woods with a practiced pace, any observer that had known the boy previously would be shocked with how smoothly he transitioned through the various obstacles. He kept a steady pace and generated very little sound as he moved unhindered, a far cry compared to the many scratches and abrasions he had acquired on his initial treck through the forest.
Satisfied with the result of the three tests Vahn decided to rest and eat breakfast. Though he had only fired three arrows it had begun to cause a dull sensation in his mind which Sis informed him was the result of exhausting a large portion of his internal 'mana'.
After breakfast, he finalized his preparations and began heading towards the south-western direction where he could see a river indicated on his map. With any luck, he would be able to scout the area and determine the location of the Chief before making preparations to engage.
After about twenty minutes of travel, Vahn had covered a distance greater than the 1km perimeter he had set up around the cave he called home. Shortly thereafter he finally reached the border indicated on the map and began to slow his pace to increase the efficacy of his observation. He decided to scout areas on the map that had clearings or other landmarks as his experience with goblins had shown they prefer to loiter around open spaces.
He continued his search for several hours without finding a single mark but wasn't disturbed since he had been using the opportunity to increase the detail in his map. As he progressed continuously towards the river which Sis suspected of housing the Chief, he would move in a zig-zag pattern placing traps and tripwires periodically.
Eventually, around 500m from his destination, Vahn finally encountered his first group of goblins. They had established a small camp near the remains of a large tree. Judging by their demeanor Vahn assumed they were acting the role of scouts or an advance guard. Their presence indicated that his thoughts of a 'village' or 'nest' being nearby was highly likely
Instead of immediately engaging the goblins, Vahn decided to wait for about half an hour as he slowly scouted the perimeter of their camp. His prior experience with the goblin ambush had left a shadow in his heart, and he wanted to make sure there were no unexpected surprises waiting for him if he failed to kill them quickly.
His intuition had proven correct as an additional pair of goblins had shown up twenty minutes later to join the previous three. It almost seemed like they were performing a 'change of the guard' as two of the goblins left the way the others just arrived.
He contemplated whether or not he should follow the two, but he didn't want to leave a path of escape that was populated by goblins. He waited for ten or so minutes for the newer goblins to settle in and made his final preparations as their guard began to lax.
Using his stealth skill he was able to creep within 15m without drawing their attention. As they were simple goblins he had decided to eliminate them using his normal yew short bow instead of its magical big brother. Lining up his first target Vahn loosed an arrow while immediately using a mental command to nock a second while the first was still in flight. With practiced movements, he drew back the bow and took aim as the first arrow penetrated directly through the eye socket of his initial target.
The other two goblins turned towards the direction of their companion and in the short period they were both stunned, a second arrow slammed into the neck of the goblin furthest away.
The final goblin, as if being startled awake from a nightmare, immediately turned and ran while howling towards the sky. It seemed as though he was trying to call for aid as he fled the scene of carnage. Unfortunately for it, he just so happened to flee in the direction of one of the tripwires Vahn had previously lain. As the goblin fell and tried to scurry back along the path, a third and final arrow pinned him to the ground.
Quickly gathering his spoils, Vahn retreated 100m away from the campsite and tried to find a vantage point to observe the response of any approaching goblins. Ten minutes later a squad of nine goblins came running towards the camp where Vahn had just slain three of their brethren. Finding the camp empty they began to rage and disperse around the area trying to find the perpetrator.
Because he had set various traps in the area, Vahn was satisfied to observe the two goblins had sustained heavy injuries when their legs got caught in bear traps. Other than that a few others just tripped over the wires he had spread out before the entire group gave up around an hour later. Leaving behind three members, the remaining four carried the two injured goblins back along the path towards where Vahn assumed their main camp was located.
"It took around ten minutes for them to respond, and the entire group came running. Sis, can you analyze the distance a group of goblins could run and try to mark the most likely area in the direction they headed on the map?"
(*Certainly Vahn. Analyzing data...please confirm the coordinates on the updated coordinate on your map.*)
Confirming a new area had been highlighted on the map, Vahn gathered what traps he could before making his way home. The sun had already risen high in the sky, and he wanted to return before darkness arrived as it would be unwise to engage any patrolling goblins during the night as they possessed some degree of night vision.
After retreating about 200m, Vahn had a moment of inspiration as he faced towards the direction of the goblin camp...
Equipping his magic bow and arrow, Vahn took aim and channeled a fully charged shot at the distant silhouettes. Loosing the arrow, he turned to flee before confirming if it had hit the intended target.
On the goblins' end, they were all on high alert waiting for the reappearance of the enemy that had attacked the camp previously. They had spread out a bit and moved around investigating any sounds or suspicious movement that caught their eye. The largest goblin among them had even climbed the rotting tree to try and get a better vantage point. Looking into the distance he saw a golden sheen which seemed to immediately grow larger within his vision. Before he was able to understand what was going on darkness claimed his mind as the golden light penetrated entirely through his brain...