Chapter 49 On the trail of history
Jeremy retreated with the other four people that had spent their energy. He deflected two rounds fired at him by the ranged machines with his massive shield as another tank took his place. “Good job mate….” the woman said as she raised her massive two handed sword and shouted at the enemies, instantly gaining their attention.
‘Reckless...’ he thought but still hadn’t seen the woman injured even once in the past day. Jeremy was a Dawntree native and had joined a couple different adventurer teams and expeditions into Karth in the past couple years. He loved investigating old ruins and finding timeless artifacts left behind by long lost civilizations.
In his spare time he taught history at the College of Magic in Dawntree but he certainly preferred the exploration his job brought with it. First clearing out guardians or pest infestations was just part of the job as well but he certainly didn’t like that part.
Getting back to the camp, he and his group reported their progress, and then went to eat. Next to the forty adventurers there were cooks, smiths, tailors and many other utility workers brought with them. ‘Even managed to hire an alchemist...’ he thought as he looked at the old man with disheveled hair. ‘Commissioned healing potions...what a luxury.’ he thought as he looked at the man work.
Certainly a dedicated healer was miles above what a potion could do but saving a life is saving a life. Jeremy got some food from a cook and then walked through a Taleen house inside their barricaded camp. ‘Fascinating…’ he thought as he looked at the stone structure from within. It was the first Taleen ruin he’d been in, having jumped at the opportunity of joining the expedition.
Jeremy was lucky enough to have known some people in Forkspear employ and had heard of the expedition. His small abilities in healing had landed him the spot in the end. He sat on a window ledge and ate while looking at the dark and greenish scenery before him. ‘It’s just a tunnel system but somehow they managed to make it feel like a city...’
“Healer!!” a shout made him drop his food and jump down immediately from the window. Running up to the bloodied man dragging an adventurer behind him, he ignored the obviously injured but standing man and applied his limited healing spells to the man on the ground. He had several deep cuts in his chest, the guardian had gone right through his thick plate armor.
His spell managed to stabilize the man enough for the healer to do his job. “Thanks...” the adventurer that had dragged the dying man touched his shoulder before Jeremy went back and got some new food. ‘Another close one…’ he thought. At these levels many of them could die in a couple hits from the enemies and every mistake would cost them dearly even with perfect group compositions, plans and healers.
“Scouts have returned.” someone said next to him and jogged into the square to check what the rogues had discovered. Jeremy turned around as well but continued eating. ‘Only three have returned...’ he thought. Five had been sent a couple hours ago.
‘This whole expedition would be deemed as a disaster already...’ only the pay and the fact that it was a Taleen dungeon seemed to justify the deaths already suffered.
“More guardians here, here and here.” one of the rogues said and pointed at specific parts on the map. Someone else marked the spots before nodding to the rogue. The second scout had something interesting to tell though.
“I’ve found destroyed guardians all the way through here...” he pointed to the map and compared it to the one sketched on a smaller one he had with him. “...I’ve only spotted isolated guardians in these streets but decided not to go further.”
“How many destroyed?” one of the expedition leaders asked, an at least level 190 mage. Seeing his decorated armor Jeremy was sure the man was a lightning mage.
“Two to ten in each street and square. Both sword and ranged. Some dented, others melted. Most of them show precise cuts though. As I said it went on but I decided to report before I went further in.”
Another leader nodded, his dark horned armor and helmet didn’t let any of his thoughts slip. “We’re not the first down here then. Someone broke through before us. The question is if it was a thousand years ago or more recent.”
“It’s hard to tell down here. We have to assume it was more recent though as other Forkspears have definitely sent people down here before. That healer we saw a couple days ago might’ve only been a small part of a bigger expedition.” the mage said.
“We should’ve questioned her.” the man in black armor said.
“And anger someone in a big family. No, what does it change that someone was here before? We are perfectly equipped for this and can retreat at any time should something insurmountable appear.” the mage responded.
“They left a path then...” a third voice said that had been quiet before. A man who seemed to be in his late fifties thoughtfully scratched his neatly trimmed beard. “Whomever they are or were. They seem to have cleared a path. Judging by the streets chosen they either knew where they were going or simple charged through like some maniacs.” his words quieted the others.
“I vote that we stay and continue the same way, I won’t gamble on them having a specific target.” the mage said but the man in black armor shook his head.
“We’re already surrounded. Like this we will have to resupply soon and we will lose more and more while morale drops. I say we follow the path. There aren’t many guardians we’ve seen so far that would follow someone more than a couple streets back. As long as we don’t make too much noise we won’t alert them to our presence. Either we meet more guardians at the end, some dead adventurers or a cleared path to...well something.” he said and the older man nodded.
“I agree with Agor. Should the road lead to anything but despair we would at least save some time and maybe lives.” he stopped stroking his beard and put both hands on the table.
“What about the people who are here for the experience?” the mage said but the old man simply waved his hand and answered.
“Then they may return again. The guardian’s have been here for a thousand years or longer, they may wait another month or year. We’ll put it to a vote as soon as the current streets are cleared.”
Jeremy was sure of his answer already and was glad the leaders decided to be open about the plans and put most bigger decisions to a general vote although the three had a veto right. He didn’t think any of them would use it for this though, as Mr. Horim had said, there was no detriment of choosing an already cleared path.
He smiled as he looked at the busy square that had become the expedition’s camp. ‘I wonder what we’ll find...’
Ilea dodged several spears that shot out from the wall opposite her. Bending this way and that she sometimes deflected some of them with her bare hands while slowly advancing. She decided to tackle the last couple trap rooms without using her blink skill. She thought she’d started to rely on it too much and even though it was an absolutely amazing skill, she had to learn how to deal with things the normal way instead of just teleporting behind them.
Seeing as these traps weren’t very dangerous to her it was the perfect opportunity. After entering the doorway in the chasm the dwarves had shown her some new traps but generally much less deadly than the acid or green fire trap she’d encountered in the treasury. Sadly she hadn’t found any guardians to fight but sticking to evasion without blinking it didn’t get boring either.
Two spears closed in on her as she took one light step to the side to have them both pass her head, one of them scratching slightly into her ashen mist. Reaching the end of the room, she punched the door three times and entered through the created rubble. ‘Another one down. That was five already.’ she thought as a noise reverberated inside her head.
‘bing’ ‘Azarinth Perception reaches 2nd lvl 6’
‘bing’ ‘Eyes of Ash reaches lvl 9’
‘bing’ ‘Body of Ash reaches lvl 9’
‘bing’ ‘Ash Wielder has reached level 150. 5 Stat points awarded.’
‘bing’ ‘New skill available for Ash Wielder’
‘150 already...well that certainly didn’t take very long. And a new skill, let me guess, embered fireball...’ she thought but stopped in her tracks with wide opened eyes as she continued reading.
‘bing’ ‘You have met following conditions: Reached level 150 in Ash Wielder class. Reached at least lvl 15 in Ash and Ember Manipulation.’
‘Passive: Ashen Wings – lvl 1
Your understanding of Ash Wielder allows you to form wings from ash and ember. Strike your enemies from above and close the distance to deliver your wrath.
Category: Body Enhancement – Ashen Magic
‘You have no more free slots for Passive skills in your second class. Please chose a skill to be replaced by Ashen Wings or chose not to gain the skill.’
Ilea shakily steadied herself on the wall nearby, her hand digging into the stone while she quickly thought over her skills. ‘Heat perception...’ she thought and the skill was replaced by something she’d been waiting for for quite some time.
‘Wings...’ she thought and smiled, blinking back through the five trap rooms she’d come through. Coming to a stop at the entrance and small ledge before the chasm, she activated her new skill. Ash immediately shot out from her back and she looked left and right to see wings quickly extend several meters on each side.
They were formed from ash and shrouded at their edges. A slight glow of ember could sometimes be seen between them. Ilea felt them upon activation. Like a third and fourth arm. The skill helped her move them and understand how they worked. She moved them closer towards her back and then closed them before her as if to hug herself.
“AAAAAH I love you...” she said in her blanket of warm ash. They were a very dark gray, nearing on black just like her shroud of ash. “Now let’s see how this goes...” she said and extended the wings again. Moving them up and down, Ilea found the process rather instinctual and soon slowly lifted off the ground.
The magic wings could easily carry the human where physics would have needed a massive wingspan to accomplish the same. “Hahahahahahaha!” Ilea laughed as she got higher and higher. First one meter then ten. The wings felt light to her, barely a distraction. She smirked and moved forward.
Like a baby bird thrown from its nest, Ilea flung into the wall of the chasm, falling for ten meters before catching herself again and stabilizing. A wise regular at the local pub would’ve described Ilea’s performance of the drunk flying man as spectacular.
Nearly thirty minutes of trying later, Ilea could steadily move forwards. ‘Flying life ain’t easy...’ she thought while still smiling. Blood ran down her face and arms as she had refused to heal herself from her flight training. The wings were rather powerful in acceleration and the walls were made from the strong white stone.
‘ding’ ‘Ashen Wings reaches lvl 2’
‘Heh.’ she thought and continued. Three hours had passed as a winged demon fell downwards into the chasm below only to spread its wings to slow down and twirl several times. The demon used its momentum of falling to quickly gain height again and sped upwards at an incredibly high velocity before landing on a ledge of the chasm.
Sitting down, the demon summoned some bread and meat in its hands and began eating. “I’m getting better at this...holy shit though, without the skill to help I might’ve just fallen down and died...” Ilea said while chewing.
Having finished the quick meal, she got back to training. A couple more hours later the skill had leveled up to three and Ilea had gotten more and more used to the feeling of flying. The last hour had been pure joy instead of her previously high concentration and wall banging.
She soared through the sky at an incredible speed, even beginning to blink in between and smash into the walls with more and more precise punches and kicks. She especially liked to accelerate to full speed before slamming knee first into the wall. A maneuver previously impossible because she needed her legs to gain speed.
Flying through the full length of the chasm Ilea found her speed to be even faster than her full sprint, although she wasn’t as flexible in the air because her wings didn’t have the stopping power her legs did. ‘Preferable to fight on the ground then still...’ she thought as she continued to laugh and twirl around in the air.
Activating the wings used up around thirty units of mana but keeping them didn’t seem to have a noticeable mana cost. Although her stamina sank faster but she simply attributed that to the low level of the skill and her difficulty in using it.
Another two hours later Ilea likely wasn’t ready yet to fight a flying sword guardian, should something like that exist but using the skill to get from point A to point B with even some skillfully executed twirls and evasions included had certainly become possible.
She landed on the ledge and thoughtfully put a hand to her chin while smiling. “Awwww, I really really want to continue but I should use my time alone down here productively...” she thought of the adventurers she’d seen. A lot of them had shown question marks upon her identification which meant they probably had people on Edwin’s level there. ‘Something still tells me those three were a bit different...’ she thought and obviously continued to enjoy her new wings for another hour.
Two hours later she stopped though and went back through the still activated trap rooms, simply blinking through the ones she’d already crossed without the skill. Another three rooms with simply spear and fire traps followed, none of the fire being green. Ilea worked through them without using blink and got done even faster, still enthused by her new wings.
“I have wings!” she shouted while activating them and catching a spear shot towards her with her bare hand. The metal weapon clanged to the ground as the healer continued barefeet through the door.
On the other side was a big hall. Ilea smiled and slammed a fist into her palm, all her buffs coming to life. “Well hello there darlings!” the woman said to the waking guardians that clattered the ground and walls of the otherwise empty room. Even some turrets were installed in the room. “Here to do some security system checks...” she said while walking onwards and dodging three slugs fired towards her.
The fight in the hall before the treasure room still somewhat fresh on her mind, Ilea took her time to meticulously dismantle every single guardian without taking too big of a risk. Two heavy ranged ones were present and the turrets helped as well at battering the sword guardians around her.
Blinking through, she destroyed seventeen sword guardians and six ranged ones in the span of twenty five minutes before blinking out to restore her mana. No sword guardians remained in the room as she entered and took care of the two heavy ranged guardians. Before she worked on the turrets though, she had an idea and blinked back out of the room to regain her lost mana again and checked her messages.
‘ding’ ‘You have defeated [Taleen Guardian] x17’
‘ding’ ‘You have defeated an enemy forty levels or more above your own. Additional Experience is granted.’
‘ding’ ‘You have defeated [Taleen Guardian] x6’
‘bing’ ‘Azarinth Healer has reached level 156. 5 Stat points awarded.’
‘bing’ ‘Azarinth Healer has reached level 157. 5 Stat points awarded.’
‘bing’ ‘Azarinth Healer has reached level 158. 5 Stat points awarded.’
‘bing’ ‘Azarinth Healer has reached level 159. 5 Stat points awarded.’
‘bing’ ‘Ash Wielder has reached level 151. 5 Stat points awarded.’
‘bing’ ‘Ash Wielder has reached level 152. 5 Stat points awarded.’
‘bing’ ‘Ash Wielder has reached level 153. 5 Stat points awarded.’
‘bing’ ‘Ash Wielder has reached level 154. 5 Stat points awarded.’
‘bing’ ‘Shroud of Ash reaches lvl 12’
‘bing’ ‘Wave of Ember reaches lvl 13’
‘bing’ ‘Ashen Warrior reaches lvl 5’
‘ding’ ‘You have defeated [Taleen Guardian] x2’
‘ding’ ‘You have defeated an enemy forty levels or more above your own. Additional Experience is granted.’
‘bing’ ‘Azarinth Healer has reached level 160. 5 Stat points awarded.’
“Levels...levels for me, aha.” she sang and danced a small victory dance. ‘Now...’ she put the fifty stat points into her five important stats again and walked back to the hall. Activating her skills, she let the first slug from a turret hit her. It didn’t break through her shroud of ash and only did marginal damage. Smirking, her wings extended and she lifted into the air.
The other nine turrets aimed at her as well and her training began. Dodging the slugs on the ground had become easy enough but in the air it became a completely different thing. At least Ilea quickly learned that her wings being hit wouldn’t actually damage her although it could create quickly closing holes in the ash which lessened her stability in the air a little.
She got hit a lot in the first thirty minutes of her training and had to leave to actually heal herself and not because her mana was low. The next three attempts were each better than the last and she even gained a level in Ashen Wings and Eyes of Ash.
At that point Ilea was able to dodge all slugs fired from the ten turrets with her wings only. ‘Now let’s try something a little more offensive...’ she thought and flew at high speed into one of the turrets, her knee easily bending the metal upon impact, destroying the target with a single hit. The others quickly followed until nothing but bent metal and cracks in the ceiling remained.
Ilea gently landed on the ground and her wings disappeared.
‘ding’ ‘You have defeated [Taleen Turret] x10’
‘No levels eh...guess I’ll have to find stronger enemies than that...’ she thought and walked onwards into the complex, leaving only rubble and bent metal behind.