Chapter 31 Arrival
The journey took them close from the base of Karth back into the forest. After around five days of traveling through the forest, it suddenly opened up into open and a bit hilly territory as far as the eye could see.
From their position a bit higher up than the country before them, Ilea could see kilometers into the distance. A cold breeze was ruffling through the healer’s hair and made her cloak flap a bit.
One of the survivors had a bit of talent in tailoring so offered to patch up everyone’s clothes if he could sit on one of the carts. Most of them had obliged immediately, some even trying to pay the man. He certainly had enough materials to work with from all the gear the deceased had left behind.
There were lonely trees moving in the wind, some having only half or less of their summer adornments left, filling parts of the landscape with orange or brown color.
A particularly strong gust of wind made some of the horses recoil. Ilea’s blue eyes pierced the sky as she looked at the gray clouds above, the color a testament to their past week of travel.
“Three to four days now.” Arven said as he walked up next to her, his armor clinking a little as he moved. “And we’ve made it through the danger zone.”
Ilea chuckled at his joke but then remembered that for one, Arven didn’t know that the crocodile was an apex predator that lived for over 100 million years because it was the perfect killing machine. And secondly, Arven didn’t do jokes.
Traveling through the albeit hilly yet non forested land was much easier than through the woods, where danger could lurk behind every tree. The caravan reached a hill overlooking Salia four days later, the quiet pace a welcome change to many of them.
Ilea did get a bit bored after finishing the books she had with her from Splicer. Knowing that the whole caravan knew at this point that she could fight and had some sort of fire magic, she instead tried to work on her skills.
‘Why isn’t there a redmoon grass or something...’ the progress of even her flame spell was certainly not impressive. It made sense as she was traveling surrounded by lots of capable warriors. Nearly no danger was associated with her skill usage. They would certainly grow with time but nothing compared to using them in a battle where her life was on the line. Especially facing off higher leveled enemies while completely alone.
Healing skills and even something like the buff of a bard were subject to this. When you healed someone in a walled off facility inside of a city, the skill growth was lower than stabilizing people while enemies were still around, trying to stop you.
Smithing or cooking were apparently subject to the ingredients and the difficulty at which they were used. Ilea had been a bit frustrated and a nice enough adventurer explained that to her after her sixth hour of using the Flame spell.
She did however gain a level in the Flame spell and also one in the Body of Flame skill in the week they were traveling. Whenever somebody was in the mood and had time, Ilea would ask them to spar with her, learning a lot about different weapons and commonly used skills.
Nobody felt like holding back information as many were personally familiar with the healer that had saved theirs or a friend’s life.
The last stretch to the city that lay in the distance became a bit of a struggle because the dark clouds that had been looming over them for half a day now finally released their payload. Not a dangerous ones to humans but certainly not favorable to the wheels of the carts or everyone’s footing.
“Who goes there!” a shout came from atop the city walls, a little less high than the ones in Riverwatch but still quite impressive to Ilea.
Arven emerged from the group and removed his helmet. “Arven, we’re the caravan planned to arrive three days ago from Riverwatch.”
The man on the wall signaled someone below. Presumably to open the gates as a loud mechanical noise resounded while the massive metal structure came to life.
“Come on in then. Welcome to Salia!” the man completely misread the mood or perhaps thought the gloomy atmosphere was caused by the dark sky and the pouring rain. It was late afternoon when they arrived, the city alive with merchants and people going about their business.
Some merchants came up to the caravan immediately, already starting to haggle for prices. A couple of them quickly realized that too few merchants were with the carts.
Arven talked to a city guard who quickly sent another to get someone. “Alright, let’s move the wagons somewhere dry and wait for a guard officer. Tom, can you go get someone from the guild? Then we won’t have to go through the whole story twice.”
They moved the carts, horses and themselves to a nearby a little secluded area where the horses could eat and drink, the architecture providing shelter from the rain.
Ilea noticed that the buildings reminded her a bit of pictures she’d seen of Italy and old Roman structures. Quite a different style compared to the practical approach most of Riverwatch was built on. There were intricate design here adorning nearly every building. A lot of them looked rather old.
‘Do they have a colosseum?’ she thought while drying herself off. Heat Surge certainly wasn’t a possibility here with all those people but her flame spell did the job just fine.
The city guard officer joined them rather quickly, a bulky man with black hair and full plate armor. Ilea couldn’t see his level which meant he was at least lvl 94 in his main class.
The officer listened to a quick explanation from Arven, his eyes widening slightly at the mention of a Basilisk. The man agreed to wait for the guild representative before they went into detail though.
Ten minutes later, a woman with blond hair and an incredibly bored expression joined them. Some gasps resounded around the group as they saw her. Apparently she was famous or perhaps infamous.
“Valery, glad you’re the one to join us. Then this will be done with even faster.” Arven seemed glad at the woman’s presence and went into a detailed retelling of their travels. He left out anything that wasn’t vital while still painting an understandable picture.
His good reputation and relationship with Valery was as Ilea later discovered the reason why their group wasn’t questioned more thoroughly about the loss of over two thirds of their caravan’s personnel.
Arven informed them all that they were free to enter the city and do as they will. Payment for the guard services could be received at the city’s branch of the guild.
Some of the people immediately left in groups or alone. A couple of them nodded to Ilea before going back into the rain while five people personally thanked her and Sebastian again. She refused money from two of them.
Arven was the last one to approach her. “Again, thanks for your work. Many more would’ve died if it weren’t for you.” the man shook her hand.
“Same to you captain Arven.” she returned the handshake and he was off ‘Not one for overcomplicated farewells.’
“Look at you...” Roland stopped leaning on the wall next to him and grabbed his pack. “the famous healer Ilea. Or murderous slapper I hear? Maybe even Psycho healer?” he joked and approached her.
“The invitation stands, it’s already late and the inns have little space even if you book a week prior. You’ll also have your own room.” he winked at her as he passed, stopping a couple meters further and looking back at her.
“I’m not one to turn down a free room.” she said and followed him through the city, the rain falling on the cobbled ground. Arven's talk with the guild and guard took nearly an hour as the sky darkened even further.
The walk took them through a rather large part of the city until they reached a house among many. The architecture again impressed Ilea, although she assumed the sun would change the scenery quite a bit in its already high favor.
Roland knocked on the door, noticeably holding back his strength. Still the noise must have woken at least some people inside the big building because a comotion could immediately be heard behind the heavy door.
The door swung open and a horde of kids smashed into Roland with shouts of “Dad” and other variations joining the noise of the rain outside. Behind the children stood a woman that stared first at Roland and then at Ilea. Her red eyes piercing seemingly into her soul.
Ilea smiled and waved at the brown haired woman. 'Scary...' her only thought at the sight of the demon. The children at that point started to notice the woman, their reactions as different as their looks. 'This looks more like a kindergarten instead of a family...'
One of the kids immediately hid behind the woman that was now standing in the doorway. Another one of them came up to Ilea, dark eyes staring into hers.
“Hey” Ilea said, lifting her hand in greeting
“Ello” the kid replied, imitating her gesture nonchalantly.
“Now now children, why don't you go in with Roland and welcome him back in the kitchen.” they immediately followed the woman's suggestion like a well trained group of huskies.
Passing her, Roland got a kiss on his cheek “Welcome back, glad you're alive.” she told him while was dragged away. He looked back a bit apologetic to Ilea.
“Hello, I'm Samantha. Roland's First wife.” she said to Ilea while folding her arms in front of her. Seeing no reaction from Ilea, she continued “He told you?”
“Two wives and one husband. He seems like quite the man for me to get that introduction.” Ilea said while closing in on the woman “I'm Ilea, nice to meet you Samantha.” she said, holding out her hand.
Sighing, the woman returned the greeting “Nearly every time he comes back...can you believe that the men usually react much worse?” Samantha seemed relieved to hear that Ilea wasn't too bothered, the situation apparently nothing new to her.
Ilea looked the woman over. She had dark brown hair, red piercing eyes and was of a medium build. In this world however Ilea had no idea regarding her capabilities. Her status told her the woman was a [Mage - lvl 43] which wasn’t much.
Samantha was wearing a very nice looking apron and a rather plain skirt and shirt below. “I can imagine...didn't expect him to be like that at the start. Considering his tendencies though...” Ilea told her while looking her up and down.
Samantha laughed at that, a very nice sounding laugh that reminded Ilea of her mother. 'Hope she's doing alright with me gone...oh who am I kidding, she'll be fine.' she thought, a part of her knowing that even a mother as uncaring as hers would not be unscathed by the disappearance of her only daughter.
Ilea cleared her mind of those thoughts. 'Nothing I can do about it now. Maybe there's a clone of me there now, or time is frozen. Or maybe that world never even existed...' she thought.
“You alright?” Samantha asked but didn't wait for an answer “There's still some dinner left. The people he brings usually stay for a night or two considering the housing situation around here. You're the same I presume?”
Ilea nodded and was promptly led inside while Samantha kept talking. “Well his 'tendencies' as you call them have certainly landed us one or the other quite special guest. I like you more than some already.” they walked into the nicely furnished building, the temperature rising as they passed the doorway.
“Not all of them?” Ilea said while smirking.
“You're not a man. So no, not even close.” Samantha said. Ilea did have her fair share of experience with relationships but certainly nothing as open as the people in this house had.
Ilea knew from her time in Elos and in Riverwatch specifically that polygamy wasn't considered too weird but it wasn't something you saw every day either.
They entered what Ilea thought was the kitchen slash dining room. A big man was cleaning behind a wooden counter. Apparently a warrior with a level of 52, not that she needed the prompt to determine that. He had scars all over his arms.
He looked at Ilea and then Samantha before shaking his head while smiling. “A healer even, how did he manage to land that?” he asked while throwing the towel over his shoulder.
“Nice to meet you lass” he said as he approached her, but was stopped short by one of the small boys running into him.
“You must be the husband then, or maybe a lover and cook?” she smiled at the scene as the man picked the boy up and whirled him around himself.
He stopped and put the now disoriented boy back down “All three hit the mark Ms Healer. George's the name. Warrior cook.”
‘Warrior fucking cook...oh well’ from another door in the room two of the kids ran inside while talking loudly about their returned dad. ‘One of their dads at least’ she thought but smiled as the scent of food entered her nostrils.
Ilea joined all the others at the a bit small table and shared a meal with them. She had long given up on remembering or even caring much about the different names and excited stories about hunting dragons and discovering ancient treasure, most of it coming from the kids that is.
She made an effort to remember the second wife’s name who joined them an hour later. ‘At least the adults...Sophie...Sophie, it’s Sophie Sophie Sophie...’ sadly her high Intelligence stat didn’t seem to help a lot with remembering names. ‘150 Intelligence my ass...although I wonder how differently my studies would go like this...’
‘...I could go into pro kickboxing...’ she finished the mead in front of her and sighed in a relaxed manner. The room had gotten a little more quiet since Samantha chased the kids away to bed. Roland had joined them again and the three were talking about the Basilisk and Roland’s travels while Ilea simply drank her mead.
‘Some time alone would be nice...maybe I’ll only stay the night.’ she thought, looking at the ceiling.
“How does your healing help with your periods?” Sophie asked and got Ilea out of her daydream.
‘How’d they get to that?’ she thought while looking at the three interested pairs of eyes. Ilea shrugged and explained a bit about how her pain tolerance skills would remove that problem while Reconstruction dealt with most of the rest. The blood was certainly a mess sometimes but nothing even comparable to what she dealt with after fighting...well, anything really.
Sophie seemed satisfied albeit a little annoyed at the benefits. She did however completely ignore Roland’s idea of becoming a healer or having some of the kids work towards it.
“I’ll not have that, they have to be able to defend themselves. No offense Ilea...you’re apparently a maniac and we’re working hard not to let them strive after their father’s way.” Sophie said.
“No offense taken. Hey if you’re alright with it it’s been quite a long day and I’d like to finally get some sleep in a real bed again.” Ilea slowly got up from her chair and was joined by Roland
“Sure you won’t join us? Trust me it’s fun and there’s plenty to like...” George said while Sophie blushed a little.
“Thank you but again, I’d prefer to just stay the night. I do appreciate the hospitality though and of course the invitation.” she winked at a disappointed George and followed Roland who had gestured her to do so.
“It’s certainly not the most luxurious home but it beats sleeping on the road every day of the week. George is right you know, our bed is better.” he finished while opening the wooden door to what was apparently the guest room.
“Thank you. Really. Also for accepting my way of life.” she told him and gave him a kiss on his cheek.
Roland nodded and closed the door behind himself “Have a good night Ilea.”
“You too” she said to the now quiet room but smiled at the comfortable looking bed before her. Ilea meticulously removed the damaged armor and clothes before entering her own personal heaven. It wasn’t as if this was the best bed she’d ever entered but it felt like an eternity since her last indulgence.
The girl with black hair and blue eyes got lost inside her blankets, resting inside the wooden room. Five children were sleeping in the house while two others worked on their magic and skills, trying to be as sneaky as possible. The adults of the house were training other skills of the more fun kind, at least if you asked most people.
The rain kept falling over the city and unbeknown to most of its inhabitants it also fell over Riverwatch and most of the lands directly south of Karth. An ominous feeling went through one or the other seasoned adventurer that night. Some of them rushing outside to find an enemy to fight while others were plagued by an uneasy rest or even nightmares.
Night passed and while many an unnamed monster and adventurer died of various different reasons that night none of them could explain the feeling that spread in that single moment the night before.
Ilea didn’t notice a thing like most creatures in and around Salia. She woke up to the faint smell of sizzling bacon pushing through the door to reach her enhanced senses. The noise she produced while waking was more akin to one a beast would make but nothing weird to anyone that knew the woman cuddled inside three blankets.
‘New day, less talk...hopefully.’ she thought and kept laying there until the taunting smell overwhelmed the comfort of bed and blankets.