Chapter 21 The Unlife
“This is delicious!” Ilea proclaimed, raising the cup to the barkeeper and smiling wide. Walter only smiled back while cleaning another mug. “Where did you get this stuff?” She asked but the barkeep only shrugged at her question.
“He brews it himself. No idea how he manages to do that down here. He’s good with earth magic and one of his helpers has a talent for wind. That’s also how the fire in here isn’t killing us with the smoke…,” Indra explained.
She nodded towards Walter and turned to Indra. “That’s quite a nice place you got here. Where are the murder and experimentation rooms?” she asked, with a smile on her lips. Indra sighed while Walter chuckled from the side.
“I’ll show them to you later. For now I’d like to know what you’re going to do next. You can’t go back up the way you came and I’m not sure we can let you go with the knowledge of us being here. No matter how nice you seem.”
“Oh I was aware of that. I’m alright with staying for a while… maybe a couple weeks, if that’s alright with you. Sightseeing and learning about your work would be a nice change of pace. I do hope there’s not too many people here… not the biggest fan of large crowds.” Ilea replied.
Indra again smiled his strained smile at which Walter nearly dropped his mug. “HAH!” the barkeep exclaims “You smiled you old bastard!”
At which Indra growled “That does seem appropriate. Maybe we’ll be able to find an agreement that includes you leaving this place while being alive after your stay. For now please wait here, I’ll inform the others and then get you a room.”
Getting up, he started leaving the room but stopped “Oh you mentioned food right? Walter can get you something, just ask. I’ll be back in a couple hours, hope that’s alright with you.” she simply nodded at that and kept drinking the delicious ale.
Walter watched the girl drink from one of his best batches so far and smiled to himself. Looking down at the mug he’d been cleaning, he marveled again at the intricate design Lucia had put on them. ‘I should ask her to work on more than just the mugs...’ looking back up, he was surprised to see the table in front of him empty.
A chill went down his spine as a soft whisper entered his left ear. “I heard there was food…,” turning toward the creepy girl, two bright blue eyes stared into his own. A manic grin was plastered on her face. “Whatcha got?”
Indra finished filing his notes on the new mushroom he had started cultivating last month and got up. ‘Time to inform the others. They’ll soon be going to the common room I wager. Even I am getting a bit hungry… if only I were undead… the time I wouldn’t have to waste on sleeping and eating… hmm hmm’ The man hmmed to himself as he exited one of his personal rooms. Walking down to another section of the molded cave, he heard a gruff greeting from the side.
“You smell of someone new Indra. Are you sneaking out? Or is there a new pet you’ve found?” A gravelly voice said to him before a massive hand clasped his shoulder.
“Harthome, nice to see you. How are your… experiments going?” The massive man laughed at that.
“Experiments? Indra they’re hammers. Just hammers… with darkness in them… still, just hammers.” He was of course talking about his passion, making hammers. Dark hammers to be precise. Indra wasn’t a fan of the crude work of a blacksmith but even he had to admit that Harthome’s hammers were one of a kind. Especially because they brought a sizable income to the Brotherhood.
“Yes yes, just hammers. Listen, this new person. It’s a healer that dropped down into our caves. She doesn’t seem to be a danger to the order and maybe we could employ her services. The effects of healing on the undead is a rather fascinating topic I’d very much like to...”
Harthome stopped him there with a gruff noise “Yes yes, I’ll meet your new experiment later then. Did you see Lucas? He messed up.”
“I did not, no.” He answered. Harthome grunted and left Indra standing ‘Well poor Lucas. Maybe I can revive him after. An undead necromancer? I do have some theories on the creation of a Lich… hmm hmm’ Indra thought as he looked for the other members of the Vultures.
He passed Ellie and Naiir, who quickly went for the common room to see the new person. The initiates seemed rather excited at the prospect of a guest. Coming up to the summoning hall, he heared a heated discussion from inside.
“You can’t do it Celene! I don’t give a flying fuck how high your bloody level is and how much you prepared for this shitty moment. Just don’t, aight? It’s not how you think it’ll be. Trust me, I’ve seen one of them once and they are hot yes, but bloody murderous. And not in a good way!”
Coming into the room, the woman who just spoke gathered some notes and stamped out of the hall while quickly nodding to Indra. “Lucia, there’s a woman here as a guest in the common room… thought I’d let you know!” Indra said as she walked by him.
“I told you I know what I’m doing!” The remaining woman shouted at Lucia’s back.
“Oh hello Indra. How are you doing? How’s the hip? Aren’t you like forty… this really shouldn’t happen at that age already should it?” Sighing at her, Indra already wanted to leave again.
“Celene, yes. I told you it was the accident back when I was an adventurer. You also heard the part about the guest? So I’ll leave again. You know where Bones is?”
“Yes I heard you. He’s not here, so I guess he’s digging up something… somewhere.” nodding at her, he quickly left again lest he be trapped in one of her lengthy discussions about her hobby again.
‘Less of a discussion and more of a monologue to be honest… now where is that geezer?’ Indra needed the better part of an hour to walk through the cave system they deemed their own until he heard the sound of metal hitting stone.
Turning a corner he came up to a group of skeletons with pickaxes, hammering the walls. In their midst stood a man shrouded in a black tattered robe. A massive skull resting on his head. “Grandpa bones, what are you digging for this time?” He asked, knowing that sneaking up without warning wasn’t the best for the old man.
“Aaaah, Indra.” The man turned around in a comically dramatic fashion and opened his arms in a greeting. “I told you to call me Neeto. How often do I have to repeat that! I’m digging for crystals my dear friend.”
“Neeto then. What for? As far as I know they rarely hold any magical power in them. Did you come across a new theory?” Indra’s eyes sparkled as he asked that question, his thirst for knowledge knowing no bounds.
“What? No. I just thought I could put them in the eye sockets of my summons. Wouldn’t that be marvelous!” This was the fourth time today that Indra was paralyzed.
‘How did I expect any different?’ He asked himself as he informed Neeto about the guest that would be staying here. Neeto didn’t seem particularly interested and simply kept talking about colored crystals and how they would reflect light differently.
Arriving back at the common room, there was laughter coming from inside, and oddly, music. He had to stop himself from entering for a couple seconds to control the smile that might’ve started to creep onto his face. ‘Once a day is enough for that man to see me smile.’
Entering the common room, Indra was surprised to see a table full of empty dishes. Lucas, Ellie and Ilea were raising their mugs to the song Walter was singing while playing along with his lute.
‘Still love the live music. This is like a personal concert!’ Ilea thought as she emptied her mug. The drink was incredible. And using Reconstruction on herself during drinking, she kept her intoxication at a minimum level. ‘Maybe he has a music related class and that’s why he’s so good? If people can level up those skills…,’ Looking towards the door, she saw that Indra had come back.
Waving at him she gestured for him to join them. “There’s no food left anymore but the ale is still flowing!” she said while the two initiates smiled in his direction. He shook his head as he sat down at the table next to them.
They listened to Walter play for another half an hour. Lucia and Harthome joining them in the meantime. When Walter stopped everyone started cheering and applauding while the barkeeper nimbly jumped on top of the bar and bowed to the crowd several times. “Fucking brilliant!” Lucia shouted and Ilea thought the man blushed a little at that.
“What happened for you to get out the lute again so soon?” Harthome asked the man as he helped himself to some ale.
“Well we do have a guest, and I didn’t want to make the welcome as cold as the guards standing outside.” While some chuckled at that he went to the back and got more food. Apparently it was the time most of the others would eat normally. Harthome and Lucia introduced themselves to Ilea while they ate. Surprisingly to Walter and the two present initiates, Ilea ate too, again.
‘They’re surprisingly nice. Maybe they’re like the guys I knew working in the fast food place and smoking weed… doing something illegal that’s not actually bad. Just with corpses and souls… I’m having difficulties drawing the parallels.’ the discussion on the table took her out of her daydreaming.
“They’re gonna be more bold in the coming months I tell you. Moving on Riverwatch like that is no easy feat. Especially during a tournament. It wasn’t a raid, more a demonstration of their power.”
They were talking about the Elven attack ‘Guess they do go outside.’ She thought, as she bit into a piece of bread.
“I just wish we could get one of their corpses… nobody ever sells them to us…,” Indra said
“Yea… we don’t really have the resources for that either… as much as it pains me to say that.” Walter mentioned while bringing more filled mugs.
“What are those markings by the way?” Ilea asked as she studied one of the mugs. Walter seemed to light up at that as Lucia explained.
“They’re enchantments… make the shit in there more tasty. Pretty low level stuff and barely noticeable.” she said.
“Well that’s neat.” Ilea commented and got a chuckle from Lucas.
They continued talking and eating for an hour before most of them started going back to their work, research or to sleep. Indra showed Ilea the place where she would stay. “It’s not a luxury inn but then again you’re not exactly an esteemed guest. Tomorrow you can show me some of your healing magic and maybe I’ll be able to include you in some experiments I wanted to try.”
Ilea nodded and looked at the rather poor room. ‘Experiments? You creepy fuck. The room is alright though, considering we’re in a cave. And compared to the mining stations it’s miles better.’
“Sure.” she said, while putting her belongings next to the bed. “When will you give me my sword back? I’d like to keep my training routine up. Now that I can’t really heal anything.”
Indra nodded at that “I’ll see to it tomorrow, maybe I can get you something a bit less dangerous… although that thing didn’t seem exceedingly so…,” He mumbled the last part but Ilea heard and smiled a little.
‘Oh it’s pretty harmless… especially if I use it.’
He soon left and she started meditating with all her buffs applied. Trying to grasp the extent of her new sphere ability and implementing her heat vision. She used her Flame spell to create sources of heat while using different ways to look at it. Her heat vision even leveled once and she got much better at grasping the heightened senses from her Sphere. She however meditated for nearly eight hours straight doing it.
After that she wanted to go check on the common room but found that two undead had been placed on her entrance. One of them held up a notice for her to read.
‘Ilea. These two will see that you do not enter any forbidden rooms or try to leave. They will warn you with a grunt before attacking. I do hope you can agree to those terms. Do find me on the third room to the left one floor down if you wish to negotiate the conditions.’
She nodded to herself after reading and started towards the common room.
The guards at the common room let her pass and her undead followed inside. She waved her hand in front of them and poked them in their rotten faces. “No reaction hmm? And Walter isn’t here either…,” placing a couple copper coins on the counter, she helped herself to a pint and walked back out of the bar. Looking behind her, she read the letters above the entry. ‘Vultures Den… original, are we?’
Walking around in the cave system, she was stopped from entering some of the rooms by her guardians and found little of interest in the ones she could enter. ‘I do like the common room but this place is pretty boring, I do have to say…,’ she walked, sometimes trying to trip her followers.
After the third fall that also got boring. ‘They’re reeeeally boring pets. I’d rather have a baby dragon or something. Not a fae though, those are bloody annoying I hear…,’
Entering another big room, she found someone she hadn’t met before. A woman with red hair, looked to be in her thirties. She had a beautiful black dress on and was chanting something from the book she held in front of her. ‘VERY revealing dress…,’ Ilea thought, as she sat down on a nearby chair. Mana gathered around the woman and as she finished the chant it went into the complicated carvings etched into the stone floor.
Smoke rose up but nothing else happened. Ilea saw with her magic perception that the used mana slowly dissipated. She loudly groaned at that.
The woman sharply turned around and glared at her. “RIGHT??? WHY does it not WORK?” without further notice, she sat down opposite of Ilea and poured herself what looked like whiskey. “You’re that guest girl hmm? Sorry for the disappointing show. Guess there’s not much interesting going on in this bloody cave… Indra plays around with his mushrooms, papa bones digs for gold or whatever and Walter cleans his glasses… at least the ale is good.”
She sighed, downed her glass and arched her back. Then poured herself another glass and downed that too. Gesturing to Ilea, the healer declined while motioning to her mug. “You took one of his mugs out of the common room? Brave girl… brave girl. You’re a healer eh? How’d ya get here? Well whatever. Do you like reading?”
Ilea felt that answering in the positive would open a barrel that she wasn’t sure she wanted to open. Having nothing better to do she nodded. Not like she could’ve said no to that question anyway. She indeed did open an apparently sparkly barrel as the woman that turned out to be called Celene started talking about her passion of writing romance and erotica novels. She was apparently obsessed with vampires and demons, thinking them to be the superior lovers.
‘Maybe Earth and Elos aren’t that different after all…,’ Ilea thought as Celene was showing her different anatomical pictures of vampire and demon penises. It did actually get very interesting as she described the species transforming capabilities.
“As a healer you really ought to try at some point. You being here just reaffirms my latest tries… you could patch me up easily should it be too much!”
Ilea just sipped her ale, trying not to interrupt the passionate woman. ‘It always is a pleasure to hear someone talk about what they love… be it the prospect of mating with a vampire…,’ She had a good time until Indra entered the room.
“What in Halthir’s world… Celene, stop tainting that innocent girl! Ilea, I have something I need you for, if you would.”
Affirming him and saying her goodbyes to the now again caught in her notes Celene, she followed Indra to another room. There were several undead there on which she was supposed to apply her magic. Indra was surprised to see that he didn’t know which elements were used in the healing process.
“Hmm… this is not a holy power… nor a natural one… interesting interesting… it seems rather arcane at its core, pure healing power…,” he said as Ilea repeatedly used Reconstruction on the living corpse before her. It did have an impact as new wounds produced on its body were healed by her.
“Normally healing magic that heals the living would destroy the dead. Your power works on both I suppose…,” he shelved that knowledge as interesting yet ultimately useless as most necromancers had ways of un-healing their creations, or simply raising them again.
Several hours later, Ilea excused herself to take a two hour nap. Afterwards she went back to the common room to find an agitated Walter looking around the place. His eyes fixated on the mug in her hand as she entered as his eyes turned completely black. Black lightning started to spark around him as he approached her slowly. She activated her buffs as well as he stopped right in front of her, ready to react in a fraction of a second.
He just grunted in an ethereal tone and took the mug from her hands. “At least you paid. No mugs outside the common room.” He said, the mana vanishing as he went back behind the bar, immediately starting to clean the mug she brought.
She sat down and enjoyed a meal after the scary ordeal. The initiates soon joined her, three of them this time. Naiir was the last one’s name. He had a sling around his arm, apparently the punishment for working on a hammer of Harthome he hadn’t been supposed to.
“I could heal that for you you know?” Naiir just shook his head at the suggestion.
“I appreciate the gesture but a punishment is supposed to be borne… otherwise what is the purpose?” she shrugged and continued eating.
They were caught up in a conversation about the different quality tiers of corpses when Ilea suddenly felt a massive pulse of mana go through her. She had her buffs on low burn most of the time now as she had more mana to spare and the higher levels would continue to reduce the cost. Walter and herself immediately looked into the direction that the pulse came from as the three initiates noticed the sudden change in their moods.
“Wanna get that heal now?” she asked, as a grin spread on her face.