Chapter 16 Loss
Sitting in a meditative state with both her hands over the fire, Ilea kept an ear out for anything that might attack the group. After roasting and eating some of the meat...a lot of the meat, the group had shared some stories for a while before calling it a day. Ilea had offered to take the first, second and third watch of the night, still trying to learn something from burning herself.
‘I should at least get an award for being stubborn or something...’ the wounds healed as they were created. Her tough skin and heat resistance slowly made it hard for the fire to harm her. Six hours of this earned her another four levels of heat resistance and a new general skill called pain tolerance.
‘ding’ ‘You have learned the skill General: Pain Tolerance lvl 1
Being a bit of a masochist, you have learned to ignore some of the pain. No, only physical pain. You’re feeling a little more numb towards pain but careful...the damage is still being done!’
She would’ve earned that skill much earlier in her time on Elos but her passive skill Body of Azarinth increased her pain tolerance by a lot already, causing the normal tolerance skill to be much harder for her to achieve. Waking up Oliver who volunteered for the fourth and last watch of the night, Ilea finally lied down. She only woke up four hours later, the others laughing while some more meat was roasting over the fire.
“I really really am eating too much meat...aren’t there plant monsters here?” sitting up with her hair disheveled she asked “Where are the salad monsters?” the group stared at her and laughed even louder.
Back in the tunnels the group continued to map out the once mine now dungeon. No enemies crossed them as they made their way past the tunnels they had already explored. “They don’t roam as much as I thought they would...” Ilea commented after hours of not encountering anything.
“It’s a new dungeon, although they breed more and faster it takes some time to fill a massive mine like this. Though I have to agree...there are still not enough here.” Oliver agreed. The day passed as the group mapped out more and more, trying to get higher and higher.
They encountered stalker hounds five times that day but with much more time in between the fights than the day before and only groups of two or three. The now more coordinated team took care of the enemies with little effort.
At least Ilea thought so. ‘They complain about the difficulty of the fights...barely any of them get wounded more than once in a fight anymore. Where’s the adventuring spirit?’ grumbling a bit to herself, Ilea kept burning her hand but the fire was barely doing anything to her anymore. Her Reconstruction skill earned another level though as she continually only healed her hand. Fighting monsters of double her level also earned Ilea a lot of experience. Not as much as if she were fighting them alone but comparing to a more cautious adventurer she was rising at a very fast pace.
‘ding’ ‘Azarinth Healer has reached level 49. 5 Stat points awarded.’
A couple hours and two small fights against stalker hounds later the group entered a big cavern. More importantly though it was bright in there, the fire they brought was barely improving their sight anymore.
“I think we finally found another exit...” Aaron commented but the sound of fighting made the group tense up immediately. Coming into the room they saw seven stalker hounds facing off an equal number of men.
[Undead warrior lvl ??]
Watching the fight, the undead were slow but somehow weren’t being overwhelmed. Not responding to any of the wounds they received, they traded blows with the hounds who didn’t have the luxury of being unfeeling.
“What does that...why are there undead here?” Geronimo said.
“Hey guys I have an idea...they fight each other and are distracted...let’s do a surprise attack alright?” the others just stared at Ilea with a mix of surprise, anger and confusion.
“Are you mad? There are over ten enemies there, we struggled against five!” Oliver said.
“Plus we’re pretty hidden here...we’ll just wait until they’re done and then get out of here...maybe finish the rest if they see us.” Ilea just shook her head.
“I won’t let this opportunity get away...I’ll teleport away if I get into danger. You guys don’t owe me anything and you’ll still be hidden. If anything I’ll make getting out of here easier for you. Once out you shouldn’t have a problem getting back right?” getting no answer from the group, she took it as a yes.
Turning around Ilea immediately blinked to the stalker hound she deemed most injured. Her analysis was confirmed as its head exploded in a red shower of brains and bones as her leg hit from above. Now Blinking behind the undead she carefully looked for one with a lot of injuries. Not able to make out an obvious target, she ran to the Undead most separated from the others.
‘If they don’t feel pain...I’ll just have to incapacitate them...’ a kick to the undead’s knee broke through. Landing on top of its back, Ilea proceeded to punch on its skull. After seven punches she heard a crack. Another five and the skull gave in with a wet squelch.
“Ew that’s disgusting...” Blinking back she shook the rotten flesh from her hands. Some of the monsters turned to her after she had killed one of each group.
“Haha you’re as stupid as expected...” her smile was widening even more as the ones not distracted by her fall onto the monsters turned towards the healer.
“Chaos...” getting into a stance, the faintly glowing healer vanished again. Only to appear at the side of the battle, sending an already wounded hound flying with a kick. Following the monster she quickly finished it with some more kicks and the help of the stone wall.
‘Eleven to go...’ eager for more she looked towards the fight ‘More like eight...damn don’t kill my experience!’ three of the hounds were killed by the undead, not able to handle the unfeeling monsters.
Ilea appeared behind the line of undead and broke several of their legs. Finishing one that didn’t have a hound as an immediate opponent with ten blows to the head too quick for the single undead to offer any real resistance, she turned only to find a blade abruptly impaling her. ‘Fuck..’ kicking at the new undead before her, she released herself from the blade and Blinked away.
Falling to one knee she held the bleeding wound in her stomach. Grimacing from the pain, all her healing efforts went towards the wound, the gash slowly closing. Half a minute passed before the bleeding stopped.
‘That took nearly a third of my health...guess that’s the level difference….’ the frown on her face that the others, waiting at a safe distance, interpreted as a realization of her mortality and frailty was but annoyance that in the time she had lost, another three creatures fell in the fight.
‘Stupid...’ getting back into the fight Ilea took more care at watching all around her. She still received two more cuts and a bite to the shin in the fight but managed to finish the remaining four enemies.
The noise in the cavern ceased as Ilea repeatedly stomped on the Undead that had managed to gut her. “You” stomp “stupid” stomp “fucker” stomp. The rib cage gave way to the powerful blows.
“Well that was...something.” Oliver said from the side.
“Fucking amazing...are you looking for some fun later?” Geronimo said “I’d love to be ravaged like that...well not literally...” he looked at her with hungry eyes tinged with a little fear.
“It’s been a while actually. I’ll first have to check something though before I get a drink with you.” winking at the warrior Ilea gathered the rusty swords of the undead and started skinning the hounds ‘Don’t want to get fantasy aids after all...”
‘ding’ ‘You have killed [Stalker Hound] x3. For killing an adversary 50 or more levels above your own you receive bonus experience.’
‘ding’ ‘You have killed [Undead warrior] x6. For killing an adversary 50 or more levels above your own you receive bonus experience.’
‘ding’ ‘Azarinth Healer has reached level 50. 5 Stat points awarded.’
You have learned the skill Active: Azarinth Sphere – lvl 1
Perceive everything in a sphere around you while this skill is activated. The higher the level the further the sphere reaches.
Category: Aura – Perception Aura
For reaching level 50 in Azarinth Healer and having five class specific skills in the second tier you have learned the skill
Passive: Azarinth Perception – lvl 1:
Increases your perception and reflexes while fighting. To keep up with your faster moving body a healer of Azarinth has to be able to control it.
Category: Body Enhancement
‘ding’ ‘Azarinth Healer has reached level 51. 5 Stat points awarded.’
‘ding’ ‘Azarinth Healer has reached level 52. 5 Stat points awarded.’
‘ding’ ‘Azarinth Healer has reached level 53. 5 Stat points awarded.’
‘ding’ ‘Azarinth Healer has reached level 54. 5 Stat points awarded.’
‘ding’ ‘Destruction reaches 2nd lvl 18’
‘ding’ ‘Blink reaches 2nd lvl 11’
‘ding’ ‘State of Azarinth reaches 2nd lvl 15’
‘ding’ ‘Azarinth Fighting reaches 2nd lvl 17’
“Hah, that’s more like it” grinning at the messages, Ilea continued to skin the hounds ‘And finally some new skills! They seem amazing already, can’t wait to fight again.’ Some of the others had started to help her skin the hounds.
“The exit is here!” Aaron shouted from a little further down the cavern.
“We’re pretty high up though.” approaching the group he looked warily at the corpses. “We’ll have to report the undead. I’ve never heard of any dungeons with both any kind of hounds and undead.” Finishing up they stored the skins and swords in some old backpacks they had found in one of the miner shacks on the way there.
“You guys don’t have to carry that stuff, don’t worry.” Trying to take the backpacks from the others, they refused.
“I honestly don’t know if we’d survived this whole ordeal without you. Don’t get me wrong you’re crazy and I hope something like this never happens again. If it does though, you’d be my first choice to have my back.” all of them nodded to her after Aaron’s words. His debt was of course a little more personal.
Her healing had saved all of them more than once in their time down there, again showing the importance of a healer in any long term adventuring. “No worries guys, thanks for carrying me.” her only reply was greeted with confusion or ignored.
“..but we didn’t carry...” Oliver started but Geronimo stopped him with a pat to the shoulder.
“Let it be man...” mistaking her reference to role playing games or what little she’d heard of them for perhaps lunacy, they finally finished packing and left the dungeon. Carefully surveying the surroundings of the entrance, Aaron had Eleonora fly some birds out to check for any danger.
“They found nothing...” releasing a breath, Aaron walked through the entrance, his lute ready to block and all his defensive magic activated. After a minute he signaled for the others to join him.
“Normally they’d attack immediately...they hate people plundering their oh so holy dungeons and trust me they’re emotional. Let’s just hope the way to Riverwatch is clear.” putting his lute on his back, the rocky surface of Aaron’s skin slowly crumbled away as he started walking.
“if it still exists...” Geronimo commented. Nobody replied as they walk, tension in the air and ready to fight at any moment.
“We shouldn’t be more than a couple hours away from the city. Let’s keep in the forest. Eleonora please send out your birds to warn us from any possible danger...in any direction.” Aaron said.
“Yes siiir!” the woman exaggerating a salute that annoyed Aaron. The sun started to fall below the horizon on the adventurers as they traveled closer to the city.
‘Lucky that the visibility is this good.’ looking around the forest seemed to lose density. I’ll have to ask Aaron how he navigates...there are no stars and I have no idea where we are...’
looking at the man he seemed to be sure of every step he took.‘...or maybe it’s just confidence...’ she thought.
“My birds can see it now...” were the first words after two hours of traveling through the forest later. Motioning for everyone to lay low, Aaron gestured to Geronimo.
“I believe you have the most experience in scouting. Do you mind checking the situation?” nodding, Geronimo slowly started walking when his eyes suddenly opened wide in shock.
“Well I don’t believe scouting will be necessary...” he said.
At least six figures in shadowy black armor appeared around the group, Ilea was the only one moving into a fighting stance.
“...the hand...” Aaron grumbled. One of the figures chuckled as another spoke. His voice was deep and seemingly just as shadowy as his armor. No emotion was shown on his black full plate helmet as he relaxed into a less threatening stance.
‘Creepy...’ was the only though going through her mind, unwilling to reciprocate his gesture.
“You must be quite on edge. Quite a thing to see the healer being the one ready to attack. Maybe you’ll find your way to Ravenhall in time….”
Glancing over the group his perceived sight rested Aaron. “Who are you, what are you doing here?” the man asked. Aaron quickly reported everything about their experience in the past couple days to which he simply nodded.
“We’ll inform the city guard about the losses and where to find anything that’s left. The elves left after a couple hours of heavy attack. Some of the city is still burning. More information you’ll have to acquire yourself.” Aaron nodded.
“Good luck on the hunt.” taking a last glance at Ilea, the man moved into the forest and quickly vanished, the others already gone.
Ilea shivers slightly as she finally relaxes. “Creepy troup..” turning to her Aaron nodded.
“The Shadow’s Hand. Elite mercenaries you should hope to never stand against. I hate to say it but their presence is comforting...although not for Riverwatch.”
‘Guess their awesome armor justifies the stupid name...I just hope my stuff somehow survived the flames.’ moving on the group seemed to be much more relaxed. The mercenaries having had quite an influence on the tension that just a moment ago filled their minds.
‘They seem to be quite a big deal around here...’
Clearing the woods after another half an hour of walking, the group looked over a burning Riverwatch. The smell had started right after they had encountered the hand.
“Well that looks fucking awful.” Geronimo’s comment summed up their thoughts.“And I was so looking forward to that tournament. Although I got to see some of the contestants quite close...” sighing he started to walk down to the city. “Any of you care for a drink? On me.”
Soon after the group found themselves in a half burnt down inn. The first floor was quite windy after an impact had taken half of the roof away. “A miracle that this place is still standing...one of my favourites...” the ranger commented as he stood up. “What can I bring you guys?”
Sitting there the group enjoyed the rather morbid view over a burning city. The opposite house being completely destroyed improved the initial view from the inn by quite a bit. The smell of fire and death lingered as their drinks arrived.
“Scuse the wait, lost two of our waitresses in the attack. At least most of the alcohol wasn’t hit.” placing the lemonade in front of Eleonora, the rest received the inn’s own dark beer.
“Cheers Gary. Appreciate the business still being open.” raising his beer to the innkeeper, Geronimo gestured to the others. “To surviving...and to a crazy healer.” raising their mugs they each took a deep gulp, finally calming down after their rather stressful days.
Finishing his beer, Oliver got up and bows to the group. “It was quite a pleasure to fight at your side. If you find yourself in need of my services I’d be honored to give you a more than fair price. I’m afraid I’ll have to go see what’s happening to the tournament and my pay. Thanks for the drink and good luck everyone.”
Raising their mugs to the pyromancer, Aaron soon joined him. “I’ll go see if I can be of use to the city guard. Damn shame...thanks for the help. Ilea I’m in your debt. Find me here or in Dawntree whenever you wish for anything I can provide. I bid you farewell.” shaking his hand, Ilea got up too.
“I’ll have to go check on my things. You sure none of you want to accompany me back to the mine?” smiling at them she didn’t get a response. “And Geronimo...I might come back to you about that offer...” winking at him, she left right behind Aaron. Nodding to each other a last time, they parted ways.
‘Wow they really hit this city hard….’ the healer walked through the still smouldering rubble. A lot of the mostly wooden buildings were burnt down, even though the majority of the city had been spared.
The blood on the streets was underlining the impact of the attack and the fact that destroying architecture hadn’t been the main goal of the elves. Walking through the streets Ilea was a bit perplexed by not finding any injured people.
‘Guess I’ll check a guard center and offer my services...never wrong to build some easy reputation, money and skill levels. Won’t do to only injure and heal myself. First the mansion though...’
Arriving at the Forkspear mansion Ilea fell to her knees tasting true despair for the first time in her life. ‘My beautiful bed...may you rest in peace.’ closing her eyes for a moment she got back up and started to move the rubble.
Some of it was only possible with her Aura active. Mostly ashes remained of her belongings. Only the resilient charred drake scales remained intact.
‘Even more charred I guess….although they don’t seem different. Hey at least nobody stole them. Maybe the smith is still alive...what was his name again?’