Chapter 33 #Traveling
Ilea walked through the city towards the north and soon found herself in front of the store she’d seen earlier in the day. Blinking inside, she made sure to be as quiet as possible and started to browse.
Five minutes later, she found what she was looking for and started to sketch in her notebook. It took her thirty minutes to copy the map as well as she could. The lack of light wasn’t a big problem with her enhanced senses. Her cloak, armor and some shelves were blocking most of the light caused by her active buffs.
‘Good enough...’ she thought as she looked at the end result. Buying maps was exorbitantly expensive and Ilea always had a bit of talent in sketching. ‘People would think me mad for going somewhere based on this though...’
Closing the book, she put it into her backpack and put the map back inside the shelf. ‘I should stop with the stealing though, bad for the economy...’
The healer blinked back outside and finished her way to the north wall. Checking the other side, she simply blinked there and continued on northwards. Ilea broke into a jog and then a sprint. After five minutes of running, her runes came to life and fire started to dance around her.
‘Certainly faster than a caravan...’ she thought as she ran into the night. What followed was a series of running, hunting and sleeping. The colder weather didn’t bother the highly resistant healer. She didn’t even consider selecting a Fire Enhancer skill to make herself more warm, she already was warm after all.
The first three days of traveling were met without any interruption. Ilea enjoyed being alone and lost herself in the speed, the view and simply being free in the dangerous wild. In those three days she had unknowingly already traveled as far as a caravan would’ve gotten in a week and a half.
With her very small need for sleep and enhanced body, most normal travelers were much much slower. Her being alone made the biggest difference. Even though there were some that matched her in speed and endurance, they mostly still had slower members in their team or people that couldn’t forgo sleep for a couple days.
At that point Ilea had reached the base of the mountain Karth, it wasn’t easy to find as even from miles away the massive mountain towered in the distance.
The wind was blowing through her hair as Ilea scratched the top of her head. “Where the fuck do I go now…,” she asked the wind, sadly not receiving an answer. The mountain was huge and in her sketched map the city of Dawntree was somewhere halfway up the mountain.
“I need a road to follow.” she said and started running diagonally towards the mountain. Seeing how easily she had come to the mountain itself, she never really followed any of the roads she came across.
They often went around the straightest path to the destination for various reasons. Reasons that Ilea didn’t really care about.
It took her nearly five hours of consecutive running until she finally found a road that led up the mountain. The healer still wasn’t sure if this was the one leading to Dawntree but it was the best she had at the moment. As she started following the street though, she soon came across other travelers.
At first there were lone teams of adventurers and as time went on, there were some carts as well. Seeing how some other people were running as well or rushing through on horses, Ilea didn’t find anything wrong with continuing this way.
She did however stop at one time to ask someone about where the road led and it was indeed Dawntree. Their confused looks meant that either one should know or that there simply wasn’t anything else up this mountain.
Another four hours of running later, Ilea finally came up on what looked like a dam to her. A massive dam. Of course it was instead the stone wall of Dawntree, half built and half carved into the mountain side. Ilea stopped in her tracks and continued in a walking pace, a bit stunned by the sight.
‘This magic thing really puts another level on medieval architecture…,’ she thought as she looked upon the nearly two hundred meter high structure that nearly seamlessly blended into the mountain on each side. ‘Like a half finished carving...’ she thought.
Nothing could be seen behind the wall itself and while on her right side, the rock simply continued into the mountain, on the left side there was a straight drop further down than Ilea could see from her current angle.
It took her another fifteen minutes to reach the gate at the bottom of the wall, where an assortment of guards with rather high levels controlled everyone that went inside. Some were even a higher level than Ilea.
“Reason for coming?” one of the guards talked to her in a rude tone.
“Visiting a friend.” she answered and shrugged. The guard wasn’t amused though and motioned to two other guards standing nearby.
“Trying to be funny eh? Well we’ll see why you’re here soon enough. Grab her!” they advanced towards her while some of the other travelers looked on interested or tried to get out of the way.
“Alice Forkspear. I’m a friend and on my way to see her.” she said, lifting her hands placidly. “I have a letter from her with me.”
The guards hesitated immediately upon hearing the name. Apparently it held a certain amount of weight in Dawntree. ‘What am I getting myself into...’ Ilea thought but got the letter out of her pack nonetheless ‘…I hope some good fights.’ she finished her thoughts and handed the letter to the guard that first talked to her.
“That’s the original seal. Please excuse us for offending you young lady. She’s with the Forkspears guys.” he apologized mechanically and informed his colleagues.
‘Either he’s not used to being nice or just really wanted to mess up my day.’ she grabbed the letter from his hands again and entered through the gate before anyone could change their mind or got the brilliant idea of her not being the actual recipient of the letter.
The wall was massive and it took her a full minute to cross through the gate that was more akin to a tunnel. Reaching the other side, bright sunlight blinded her for a split second before she could take in the city before her.
It stretched downward and into the mountain for hundreds of meters. Houses of stone filled the whole place with colorful flags and banners flying here and there. There were temples and what looked like forts and castles. High above the city was the rock of the mountain forming a natural wall and even topping that was another man made wall with defensive structures and patrolling guards.
Avoiding any further questions, Ilea quickly made her way into the city, descending the first fifty steps and entering the city proper. The now familiar noise of a medieval city greeted her as adventurers, merchants and carts made their way here and there.
The city stretched much further than Ilea first thought, the mountain seemingly having formed a crevice in which the city was placed. And right where the opening would be, they placed the wall. It would only be feasible to attack the city from the air and the citizens of Dawntree certainly knew about that. Nearly every bigger building and certainly every castle and fort had several anti air machines and likely even more mages or rangers that were specialized in ranged combat.
‘The cities I’ve been to so far are nothing compared to this...’ she thought, remembering the attack on Riverwatch. Size wise the cities were rather similar but everything else was like day and night.
‘I enjoyed being outside though so I’ll go check on Alice as soon as possible before leaving again. Maybe find that dungeon the adventurers in Salia spoke about. Or go to that bath house again...’ she smiled at the thought and noticed an incredibly light tug on her armor.
Seeing with her sphere skill, she quickly found the culprit and grabbed his arm. “That’s not yours little man.” she said and put pressure on his arm. The boy immediately released the pouch he had gotten from her.
Prepared to let the kid go, Ilea suddenly had a different idea and removed two silver coins from her actual coin pouch that was a bit more hidden inside her armored skirt. “Lead me to the Forkspear residence and these coins are yours. Hmm?”
The kid made big eyes and quickly nodded at the obviously rich tourist. Everyone knew after all where the six big houses had their residences. He held a quick pace, obviously excited to get two whole silver coins for this little amount of work and they reached one of the big castles half an hour later. Ilea handed the coins over and took in the structure before her. Within her sphere she saw the kid already sneaking away quickly, hoping she wouldn’t change her mind.
She didn’t though and soon approached one of the guards at the massive gate. “I’m here to see Alice Forkspear. My name is Ilea Spears.” she handed over the letter to the guard who took his time to study the seal and letter itself. He looked her up and down before shrugging.
“I’ll have someone tell her you’re here. Please wait a moment.” he said and gestured to a young woman behind the gate. The moment turned out to be just under fifty minutes long as Ilea even witnessed a change of the guard.
“Ilea spears?” a woman that just approached asked the waiting healer who by now was leaning on the wall. To the displeasure of the guards of course but they weren’t sure yet if she’d be a guest or not.
“Yea that’s me.” she waved, slightly annoyed at the waiting time. ‘Does she want to see me now or does she not?’ she asked herself but followed the woman nonetheless.
Ilea was led to a house next to the castle. It was still impressive but she was certainly a little disappointed that she wouldn’t be entering the real residence. “Please wait here, Lady Forkspear will be with you shortly.” the woman bowed slightly and left Ilea standing inside one of the house’s rooms.
‘You’ve got to be...’ she closed her eyes, trying to focus on the past three days of quiet nature before sitting down on one of the fancy looking chairs that adorned the very beautifully furnished room.
Paintings on the walls showed different presumably important members of the house but Ilea was more interested in the mounted bear head with antlers. ‘Where can I find something like That? Can I ride it?’ she thought before a knock on the door got her attention.
A woman in a traditional maid outfit entered the room with a plate in her hands. An unfamiliar yet somehow nostalgic scent filled Ilea’s nose as she unconsciously got up from her chair. ‘...coffee...’ she thought, advancing on the plate.
The woman swiftly put it down on the table and poured two cups before bowing and leaving the room again. Ilea sat down and grabbed one of the cups. Smelling it, there was a distinct difference to the beverage she knew and loved. She took a sip and was intrigued. ‘Not quite...but it’s the closest anything here came so far...’ she thought and noted to herself to ask Alice or one of the maids about this beverage.
The door opened again three minutes later and Alice entered with a big smile on her face. She was followed by a man in what Ilea could only describe as a suit. “Ilea! I’m so glad you could make it, how have you been?” Alice greeted her merrily.
‘Is she already over it? Or maybe she’s trying to forget? Well it’s her decision anyway so I’ll play along.’ Ilea thought and got up from her chair to greet the girl. She took her into a powerful bear hug.
“Hey Alice, did you miss your ride so much that you had to send a letter my way?” she asked and noticed a small shiver run through the girl while they hugged. She let go quickly after and made some distance.
“My ride, well not quite. Although the job I mentioned has turned into somewhat of an emergency I’m afraid. We’ll talk about it later though, do tell me about the attack, were you there when it happened?” Alice said, looking so similar to Rory with her excited questioning.
‘There’s less bulk on her though… it’s eerie, knowing what happened to her. What else can people do though but to go on with their life?’ she thought and shook her head.
“It was quite impressive, one moment I’m watching the arena battle and the nex…,”
They talked for nearly an hour, sharing stories about their lives. Ilea’s travels and progress, Alice’s studies and advances in healing magic. Ilea found out that the beverage was called Saaih and was apparently a tea rather famous in Dawntree.
“So what was this job or emergency you mentioned. The reason you got me here.” Ilea asked while pouring herself another cup of Saalih
“Well it’s a rather complicated situation. Have you ever heard of the sleeping plague?” Alice asked, her tone changing from jolly to serious. Ilea shook her head at the question and started to sip on her tea.
“It’s no wonder, considering it’s a rare disease that only ever pops up in cities right around Karth. The problem is that conventional healing methods don’t work with this disease. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue, there aren’t many deaths attributed to disease every year after all but my sister has contracted the sickness.” she looked away thoughtfully and continued after a short pause.
“We currently have no cure. I think the Forkspears might even be the only ones knowing about the disease. What we know though is that the Taleen quite certainly did have a cure.”
“This is where you come into play. We’ve discovered a new Taleen ruin around two months ago. It’s bigger than anything we’ve uncovered before and right in Forkspear territory.” Alice smiled a bitter smile.
“I’m afraid I’ve sent everyone I could trust or afford into the ruin already to look for a possible cure, to bring back any artifacts, machines, herbs or mushrooms that can be found.”
“My family won’t do more either so if you go, you’d be going alone. If you find any other team inside you could join them of course but I remember you were alone in the forest too so I thought...” the girl was running over her own words, getting seemingly worked up about the issue.
“It’s fine Alice, I do prefer to explore alone anyway. Who are the Taleen though? I apologize if it should be common knowledge.” Ilea said, holding one of Alice’s hands in her own.
Her eyes widened a little at the question but she quickly focused again and answered Ilea “I forgot about your remote healing order… the Taleen were an ancient dwarven civilization. We’ve found ruins all over Elos but they’re most common in the cave systems of Karth. They were highly advanced with technology and magic. Different from what most people use today.” she explained as Ilea nodded to the new information.
“Sure, I can check it out. I’m pretty good at running away should something dangerous show. And some ruins to explore was pretty much exactly the thing I’ve been looking for.” she said but refrained from smiling.
“I can leave immediately to start the search. How do I identify a possible cure? And you don't want me to see her first? Maybe I can do something, my healing IS a bit different...I think at least”
“I'm afraid that's not possible. We consulted every healer in the city and some outside. The disease has been researched for decades in secret and nothing was found. My family is unaware of you being here and they wouldn't allow a wayward healer to walk in and look at her, even if you saved me before. Please accept it, I've gone through enough to even be allowed to send people to the ruin...”
“We’re not sure how to identify the cure sadly. That’s why you should simply map out the ruins, clear out whatever machines and traps you can. Mark possible places of interest or machines too big to carry on the map. And of course take any machine, device or artifact with you that seems out of the ordinary. And of course any mushrooms or herbs. And most importantly, don’t die. Taleen ruins are incredibly dangerous, their defensive mechanisms and machines rival the strongest beasts you might stumble upon in the cave systems.” Alice explained.
Thinking of the Basilisk, Ilea shook her head to get the thought out again. ‘I can just run away should something like that happen. Though it’s a good way to fight strong opponents and explore while helping out a friend in the process.
“It's ok, if it's not possible to see her that's ok, still do consider it if I don't find the cure. I have everything I need already with me then. Is it alright if I leave some unimportant things here so I have more space in my pack?” Ilea asked and upon Alice’s nod started to remove the books she bought from Splicer from her pack. Additionally she set aside some of the food she had brought from Salia.
“Jaime please get Ilea the map to the ruins.” Alice told the man she came in with and continued talking to Ilea “The entrance to the cave systems is at the very bottom of the city. You can simply go down and you’ll find it. Or ask around.” she finished just when Jaime got back with a big map.
“This is the most accurate map we have at the moment Miss Spears.” he said as he placed the map on the table. He handed her a smaller version as well. “This one is for you but you’re free to copy your own version.” he finished.
Ilea chose to quickly sketch the map into her notebook but also keep the map she got from Jaime. Backups were never a bad thing after all. “I’ll be on my way then Alice and I’ll bring back whatever I can. Don’t worry too much.” she said and hugged the girl again. ”I’ll be back in a jiffy.”
Ilea got up and quickly left the room, ready to take on some ancient dwarven machines. And for a good cause even.
Alice’s weak smile vanished after Ilea left the property and she sighed.
Jaime shook his head. “The sleeping plague… really?”