Chapter 63 Onwards through the storm
“You just let her go?” holding his forehead, the guard captain sighed and looked to a mage standing near the wall. “No risk?” he asked and the mage nodded.
“She's fine. I’m sure of it cap.”
“Alright alright, come on then. Line up people we have to check you for taxable and dangerous materials...” the guard captain said.
‘Dawntree is under attack and this is what they do...maybe we should’ve stayed in that dungeon.’ Jeremy thought but lined up nonetheless. No reason in making the guard your enemy, they were unpleasant enough as it was.
“You would expect them to treat such a high level expedition like us with some leeway. Not like we couldn’t be a serious help up there...” Rin commented quietly from the side, the first people were being checked by two mages with detection skills.
“I agree with the first comment. Dawntree has a lot of higher leveled people though and we both know that the noblehouses hold so much influence not only because of money and history. I’m sure they’re doing fine on defense even without us there. I’m not so sure about the other cities south of Karth...”
“Yea, even though we’re the westernmost city it’s quite the fortress...”
“Alright you’re up, come on...” one of the guards motioned for Jeremy who quickly walked up to the mages. He was still wearing the Taleen armor Lilith had given him.
‘I hope that girl’s fine. So strong at her age...’ the guard nodded and Jeremy waited for Rin a couple meters in the front. Some of the previously checked had already ran to the city to check on the situation and their families. Seeing the guards’ casual behavior though Jeremy wasn’t too worried. Not like he had many people in the city he cared about anyway. The ones he did care about would likely have a way to get away anyway.
“You’re thinking about her?” Rin asked as she joined his side.
“Yea, the way she reacted. She might be much less experienced than we had assumed.”
Rin nodded “Shock and awe...she makes quite the impression, though I do hope she doesn’t lose that smile of hers because of this. You think she’s gonna be alright?”
“That she does...I hope so too Rin and I don’t know. I’ve seen people broken by less but then again I’ve seen people persevere where I didn’t expect them to. Life is full of surprises, so let’s give her a chance to surprise us.”
A couple minutes later all the surviving members of the expedition had joined the group while some had left already. The remaining group walked together to the city above. Coming out of the tunnel they saw the snow fall.
“Winter eh...” Jeremy said and looked above, only to see a massive bolt of lightning strike the magical barrier held up by mages around the city. The noise was deafening and both the golden light of the barrier and the lightning itself made Jeremy look away quickly and blink his eyes. A combined effort of several level 100 people was easily enough to stop an elf’s attack. ‘Sadly that doesn’t work out as well if you’re fighting something close quarters inside a throne room...’ he thought as he glanced towards Rin. Though he wasn’t sure how an elf would compare to a Praetorian.
The woman was beautiful, the snow falling in her red hair and the cold giving her cheeks a slight red tinge. Jeremy felt a pang of guilt at the fact that he felt glad someone else had died in her place.
“I’ll go check on my family Jeremy...do you...wanna come too?” she asked him and he nodded.
“Sure, let’s go then.” they had talked quite extensively in the past week and Rin knew he had nobody in the city to check up on in the event of an attack.
They walked through the streets, passing fights and nervous animals. The ongoing bombardment certainly didn’t help and even though the people were inside the city at all times anyway, knowing that there was no way to get out changed the feeling of protection to a feeling of imprisonment.
‘They can still escape into the mountain...yet that is even more uncertain than escaping into the wild.’ Jeremy thought as he looked at the storefronts. ‘They’re already hoarding food...’ though with magic there was likely no shortness coming, everything but mushrooms would become a luxury. A lot of coins would trade owners in this siege. ‘Let’s just hope there’s someone left to spend it after this is over...’
The two reached Rin’s house a while later. It was nothing too special yet to even own a whole house in Dawntree was quite an achievement. With her adventurer rank and level the pay way obviously good enough though.
“I’m home!” immediately skidding could be heard upstairs as a light brown mutt ran down the stairs. The dog jumped Rin and she hugged it and laughed. “Yea yea, I missed you too...”
“You’re back Rin...” a voice came from upstairs as a woman quite similar looking to Rin slowly advanced but stopped in her tracks, looking at Jeremy. He smiled at her as he did to some students but she just stared at him.
He nodded and quickly left the house. “I’ll be outside.” Rin looked at him and put the dog down.
“I’ll get you in a minute...sorry.” she said.
Jeremy waited outside, moving his armored boot in the snow. The noise of it being pushed together still was a delight, even at his age. Luckily Dawntree got a lot of snow in Winter. He watched the people hurrying past, preparing for whatever they thought this siege might bring. In the past hundreds of years the city hadn’t been breached by anything so nobody truly expected that to happen.
‘Should always be prepared for the worst though...’ Jeremy thought and looked up. Though seeing how unorganized the elves’ attacks were he just shook his head. ‘The only reason they haven’t destroyed humanity is their arrogant nature...’ he saw how the spells hit different places of the shield every time. They didn’t want to strategically weaken one of the barrier mages, they wanted to break through with their individual power. Additionally there were pauses in between the strikes as well, as if the elves were giving each other time slots to attack. Jeremy didn’t smile at their efforts though, he knew what happened when they did break through and it wasn’t pretty.
The door behind him slowly opened and Rin peaked out. “You can come now Jeremy.” she said with an apologetic smile.
He couldn’t help but smile back as he entered the house again. The other woman was sitting in the living room now and was fidgeting with her hands. “Jeremy, meet my younger sister Laura. Laura, this is Jeremy, he’s a friend of mine.” she said calmly, sitting close to her sister and motioning to Jeremy who sat down on a chair opposite the sisters.
“It’s nice to meet you Laura. I’m a teacher in the academy.” Jeremy said, smiling as he got off his armor. Rin nodded at that and got up to do the same.
The two were putting the armor in a corner of the room as a loud explosion could be heard above. Jeremy quickly checked outside but came in again and nodded. “It’s fine.” he said. Laura had began to fidget more at the explosion but the dog jumped on her lap and curled up to cuddle her.
“I knew you’d be doing ok with her.” Rin whispered to him when they hid away their armor. “And good idea with the armor. I’ve been so lost in though...at least there’s no blood on it.” she finished and joined her sister again.
“We’ll have to go to the Forkspear estate soon. Agor will be waiting.” she said as she petted the dog.
“We probably have a couple hours for the reports to finish. Jasper will probably leave quickly to join the defense organizers so it’ll be Agor. He’ll probably need a little longer.”
“You’re right...” she answered and calmed down a little.
“You don’t have to come you know.” Jeremy said but she shook her head.
“We’re not getting paid otherwise. Agor might trust us but not Bjorn.”
He didn’t say anything to that as he knew it to be true. “What’s his name?” he asked and motioned to the dog.
“Her...and it’s Bug.”
“Bug? That’s peculiar. I like it though.” he chuckled “It’s not a bug though.”
“It isn’t, no. The previous owner had named her and Laura didn’t want to change it. She said it wouldn’t be fair to take its identity and give it a new one.”
Jeremy nodded at that and they enjoyed a couple more quiet minutes before the next explosion rang out above. He went to check again and gave the all-clear before sitting down.
“I think as soon as this attack ends we’ll finally go east. Somewhere close to the sea. Asila maybe.” she said as she petted Bug.
“It’s not necessarily safer there. Perhaps less frequent monster or elf attacks but man is just as bad.”
“But I know men and I can deal with them. These creatures at our doorstep...I don’t think I could face one or even get away.” she said.
“We can face them together. What else is there to face for people if there’s no common enemy?” he asked.
“We’re not all like that.” she said and looked at him fiercely.
“I know yet we can’t change our nature, even though some go a different path. Yet the stronger we are the more chance there is for corruption.”
“You’re talking in absolutes Jeremy. Humanity is more than that. In times like these we just tend to forget that...”
More powerful magic gathered and condensed in a blindingly bright ball of light that was sent downwards at a slow speed, it’s impact inevitable. The ball hit a magical barrier and lit up the white city below in a brilliant flash. Far above the city three beings sensed something in the distance and rushed away, carried by magic they grinned widely at their careless prey and the coming feast.
Ilea shone in the snowstorm raging outside of Dawntree, her wings easily cutting through the winds. Something deep inside her conscious rejoiced at the freedom of flight and the unstoppable speed she was moving with.
Her more pressing concerns were outlined by the three pursuers whose attention she had gained by her hasty departure. She wasn’t annoyed or angry though, she could’ve likely sneaked away more safely or might’ve learned more vital information in the city but Ilea only knew one thing for certain. That she wanted to get away.
Away from Dawntree and all the people she had met in the past weeks. She had the goal to go check on Roland, on Dale and maybe even Walter but if she was honest, she just wanted to get away.
She glanced behind her and saw again as one of the pursuers attacked another one with lightning magic. Her magic perception let her see the defender use ice magic to stop the attack. ‘Infighting...’ she thought and pushed downwards to the south.
The third elf had managed to get past the two fighting ones and show a beam of condensed fire at her which she easily dodged. ‘All mages.’ she thought, her lips twitching. Adrenaline filled her body as Ilea again was in a highly dangerous situation. The difference though was that this time she was alone again.
‘Alone with the enemy...’ she thought as she pushed on, occasionally dodging magical fire that threatened to burn her. ‘Maybe I should...’ she thought and didn’t dodge the latest beam of fire. Time didn’t slow down for her so nothing close to a deathblow was coming her way. The fire impacted her back, seeping through the joints in her armor and burning the clothes and flesh beneath.
Her Heat Resistance at lvl 16 the fire attack did minimal damage though and Ilea didn’t lose the smallest bit of concentration from the attack. The wounds were healed in the next five seconds. The elf had gotten closer and closer while the other two were fighting a little further back.
A moment later Ilea came out of the storm and a snowy landscape opened up to her. The sun didn’t manage to shine through, the clouds gray and looming above. She continued on as another fire beam was dodged. She was a couple hundred meters away from the ground and continued descending. ‘I don’t want to bring them to Salia. And I can’t lose them in the air.’ she thought and rushed towards the ground.
She went for the densest forest she could see from the distance and entered it. Trees flew past as she moved left and right to avoid destroying any of them before she suddenly came to a stop and deactivated all her skills except for the Sphere.
Ilea hid behind a tree and looked behind. An elf landed moments later in a massive explosion, sending several trees the the side.
[Mage – lvl ??]
‘Undefined hmm...engaging seems stupid right now. I want to check Salia as quickly as possible.’ she thought as the elf scanned his surroundings. His magic was blinding in the eye of magic perception and he didn’t seem to see her sphere. The elf sniffed the air before looking directly at her. “Ffooound you human.” its voice again sounded like a loud whisper but this time Ilea heard it quite normally. The pressure in its obviously magic infused voice did nothing to her.
Ilea blinked away to a tree thirty meters away while being at an angle the elf wouldn’t see. An explosion of fire rocked the earth where she had just stood and she kept on blinking to the next tree and then the next.
The explosions continued behind her though as she moved they went further and further away. To her left was a small lake frozen over and covered by snow. Another five blinks later she looked backwards and saw the ice elf and fire elf fighting on the lake.
They both teleported around while magic came and went, sending explosions and shards of ice through the lake and the trees beyond. Both of them were flying yet had no wings and both of them were wielding the strongest magic of the respective element Ilea had seen so far.
Contrary to what she had seen men do, these two would engage in close combat battles, teleporting close and using powerful magic at point blank range, often injuring themselves. ‘They likely have more resistance to the element they’re wielding so it only makes sense...’ she thought as she turned around and continued to blink. She soon did a sharp turn to the right and continued blinking through the forest while staying airborne.
No tracks would be left behind except her smell but she couldn’t really do anything about that right now. She regulated the heat in her body so that she would blend into the environment as best as possible. She hoped the elves wouldn’t see her blink usage or her sphere but from the distance she had looked at the fight, Ilea could only see magic when highly volatile spells were being used. ‘Let’s hope they have similar limitations...’
Twenty minutes of blinking later, she finally stopped at a tree and started meditating. Ilea still had plenty of mana but should she be forced to engage one of them she wanted to be decked out. The explosions had stopped a while ago though Ilea was sure she would still hear them at the distance she had come so far. ‘One of them won...something tells me it was the ice mage...’
She kept on rushing through the woods, trying to orient herself to the south yet not quite sure if she was on the right track. An hour later Ilea was rather sure she had lost the elves. ‘At least for now. Let’s hope whatever they want in Dawntree is more important than me.’
Another hour later Ilea finally found a road. The snow crunched below her armored boots and the healer in elven armor looked through the white forest and the road that split the scenery. Sighing deeply, Ilea closed her eyes and took a deep breath of cold air. Her instincts told her that it was too cold, that she should seek shelter, warmth and food but her body desired nothing of the sort. She felt powerful, cold yes yet it didn’t matter.
Her wings sprouted out of her armor and Ilea flew over the road, keeping lower than the trees on each side. Half an hour later she came up on a hill and crossing it the forest beyond opened up. In the distance were more hills and beyond was smoke. Ilea fastened her pace yet continued to use the road, her ashen wings moving gracefully in the winter air.
A determined expression was on the healer’s face and not a trace of a smile could be seen as she closed in on the next hill. More and more of the landscape seemed familiar to her and as soon as she reached the hill overlooking the city beyond her breathing quickened. A slight cold spread in her abdomen but it quickly faded again as she steadied her breathing. Lifting her hand she found that the shaking lessened slowly. ‘Let’s go Ilea.’