Ilea came out into the still dark forest. The sky was a little clearer and no snow was falling in the vicinity. “You’re sure they didn’t follow?” Ilea asked.
“About ninety percent. Though there are surprises in life.” Aki answered. She nodded at that and double checked her armor. All straps hat to be in order, a thing that took her less time by the day now that she was wearing it most of the time.
‘Maybe I shouldn’t show up with this in Ravenhall though. Try to lay a little more low...though that usually goes right out the window whenever something happens...’ she though about it and decided to ask her new traveling companion about it.
“You should be able to summon it directly onto your body. I thought you were just paranoid and wore it at all times because of that.” Aki’s answer was surprising to Ilea as she had tried and failed to apply that technique.
She looked into the night with a skeptical expression. “You sure? Maybe my necklace doesn’t work that way.”
“You just suck.” Aki said.
“I swear as soon as we find a smithy you’ll get another flaming bath.” Ilea said, a grunt her only reply. She looked around again and decided to step out into the wild. With the same tactic as before she flew a little over the ground to not disturb the snow. This time she went slower though, not to alert something with keen eyes. Though it was a gamble, slow or fast.
The map told her to go east. Where the human empires and kingdoms resided. At least in this part of the world. There would be a mountain range to the south and near the sea where Ravenhall was located. With her literal bird’s view she wasn’t too afraid of getting lost, though it certainly was a possibility. Not one she cared about deeply though.
She had planned to explore anyway. Her only goal where time mattered was finding Edwin, Aliana and Felicia. ‘I doubt they’d die. And every day I get stronger, the same is true for them of course but I have a feeling I’ve been doing rather well in that regard.’ she thought and smiled. Hours passed in silence as Ilea flew through the snowy forest.
The night had gotten rather clear and after around four hours the two suns of Elos made their appearance. First slowly but soon the land was cast in light, bidding farewell to a dark night filled with blood. Ilea slowed down and went up to the top of a tree. She had gotten quite far though she didn’t know how far exactly. Around her were no remarkable natural phenomenons, just trees. ‘You could think I’m on earth...’ she thought and decided to risk flying up higher to get a better view.
Nothing had assaulted her in the night though she had heard and perceived different monsters and animals around her. Many of them fled after sensing her though more didn’t even notice her passing. The ones that could’ve challenged her, if there were any, decided not to do so. ‘The elfs wouldn’t have waited so long...’ she thought and ascended.
A couple hundred meters high in the air the view from the endless forest changed a little. There were few clouds around which helped Ilea orient immensely. She saw something change in the distance and decided to go there. It was the only way that held anything else than trees. And it seemed like the so far hilly terrain became flatter in the direction of her new goal.
Ilea accelerated with her buffs active, the air rushed by making the sensation something she couldn’t help but smile to. She twirled in the air and tried to go faster and faster until she noticed that there were no more trees below her.
Coming to a sudden halt that would’ve torn a normal human apart, Ilea looked ahead. Before her stretched a vast land with occasional lonely trees and hills. She could see small dots in the distance that would either indicate cities, higher hills or perhaps massive creatures. Though she was pretty sure they were cities. No streets were visible around her though she was sure they were there.
Winter had reached the plains as well as a white blanket covered all that she could see. “Do you know where south is?” she asked, taking the dagger into her hand.
“Not if you twirl me around like that...” Aki said and was thus held up high into the air.
“To your right should be south, in addition considering the tree line it’s only logical.” the answer was satisfying enough for Ilea. She didn’t mind the edge of mockery.
‘I’d be mad and bitchy too if I didn’t have a head. Or lungs.’ she thought. A herd of seemingly wild horses could be seen in the distance, running towards her. They split up into two groups as they saw her approach though, running into two directions. “Now that makes me a little sad...” she said out loud and then noticed the riders that had been following the herd. They came to a halt a hundred meters away and she could make out shouts in the distance.
‘I really don’t feel like bothering...’ she thought and simply continued. Though she did fly around the riders. A couple of them tried to fire arrows at her but she noticed what seemed to be their commander stopping them.
“That’s gonna be double shifts for the guards today for whatever place they belong to.” Aki said but Ilea just shrugged.
“With the elfs so close I don’t think that’s a bad idea.” she answered and went up higher again. The plains stretched far and wide. Ilea flew for hours until she finally saw the mountain chain in the distance. She had seen a couple of cities and was even approached from time to time though nobody got close enough for an actual interaction. She avoided it and simply made a arc around whatever city these people worked for.
Ilea did realize thought that Elos didn’t have quite a comparable air force as some nations on earth had. Or they simply didn’t bother as much because of shield magic. Why confront a flying enemy in their territory if you can just bunker down and attack from a distance. She probably would’ve had to deal with a rather expansive array of magic if she had approached any of the settlements closer.
The mountains were massive. Seven or eight of them towered out from the more and more hilly terrain, the tallest cutting into the clouds above. It wasn’t comparable to some pictures Ilea had seen of the Himalaya but it was certainly more impressive than anything she’d seen before. Even Karth which likely towered above what she was seeing now.
Just as impressive as the mountains was the ocean expanding out next to them. The plains ended in rocky beaches and Ilea decided to go there first. ‘The ocean...’ a deeply terrifying thing to her yet also something connected to the freedom one felt on vacation. A reminder of more peaceful and less complicated times. ‘Though what I’m doing now isn’t that complicated either….’ she smirked, remembering just the paperwork required for a uni application and ten times worse the stipend she had applied for. Hitting things until they stopped moving was in some ways much less complicated, at least once you got used to the mess and emotional trauma of killing. Something easier said than done.
She reached the ocean half an hour later, a longer travel than she had expected. No cities were around where she landed and she walked up to the cliff overlooking the waves below. The smell of salt lay in the air and the wind brushed through her hair as she removed her helmet. Her eyes closed and she took a deep breath.
“One of my past wielders has always dreamed of this view.” Aki said as Ilea sat down, dangling her legs down the cliff side.
“It’s beautiful...” she said and summoned some food. She was glad that she could eat and sleep as much as she liked even though her body wouldn’t need even a fraction of it. “I could build a restaurant here...” she said suddenly. “The view is spectacular.”
“What about the harpies?” Aki asked.
“Do some pest control first.” she said as she suddenly shot out her hand, stopping the crude spear thrown at her from one of the flying monsters. She looked at it and threw the spear back, making the creature fly lazily to the side.
“Let’s not disturb the residents then.” she said as she got up and flew away. They didn’t follow, though with a glance back Ilea saw the harpy dive for the discarded spear. Likely a prized possession for the beast.
This part of the cliff side was mostly occupied by the harpies though Ilea saw some drake like creatures as well. These ones had wings though but were only in the level range of fifty to eighty. Not something worth bothering for her. She liked their flamboyant colors though, especially with the contrasting bland colors of the snow and water below.
“Do they not migrate somewhere warmer in the winter?” Ilea asked while chasing one of the drakes. She finally reached the monster and landed on its back, holding on to the feathers. It seemed more annoyed than anything and tried to get her off with twirls and dives. Nothing seemed to work though and an hour later the beast flew downwards and landed on the ground, breathing heavily.
‘That would be a cool ride if it were five times as fast...’ she thought and petted the drake that bit at her with its massive maw. Ilea easily dodged to the side and continued petting the drake. It didn’t seem to have an ability to breathe fire so Ilea just smiled at it as it tried to attack her. Soon those attempts came to a stop as well and the beast accepted its dreadful fate.
“Some species do fly south or north to warmer climates.” the delayed answer came as Ilea tried to feed the beast some vegetables.
It refused, obviously a carnivore. “North? Wouldn’t that be even colder?” she asked and summoned some meat which she threw into the creatures mouth. This time it chewed and swallowed, seemingly calming down a little before a sudden bite was dodged with a blink to the side. “Cheeky bastard...” Ilea said and resumed her petting. “If you weren’t so cute I’d make a bed out of your feathers...”
“There is more heat coming from the ground in the north. At least that’s what I’ve heard before. I was never there. At least not north of the great divide.” Aki explained.
“The great divide? You mean the massive mountain chain in the north...I forgot its name...” she said and summoned her notebook with the maps in it. “Naraza mountain chain...”
“That would be it, yes. Though its name is different in my memories. The great divide was a somewhat common one among different species though. Do you want to keep that drake?” Aki asked.
“No no, we’re going now.” she got on her helmet again and blinked a meter backwards at another attempt from the beast. “Goodbye you beautiful beast...” she said as her wings sprouted and she flew into the air.
“You could’ve killed it and sold the parts, I’m sure you could’ve made a couple silvers at least. If not more.” the dagger said.
“I’m good on money for now. And there’s other ways to get it that are less messy. Trust me I’ve done it before...” she answered and they continued in silence.
Ilea followed the coastline for two hours until she finally came upon the first changes in terrain. More rock could be seen between the snow and it would’ve become much harder to tread if it weren’t for her wings. She looked up towards the high mountain ahead of her and enjoyed the sight that held true natural power and beauty. Something untouchable and ancient, the world of magic around her only added to the feeling of mystery and adventure she got from looking at it.
‘I love you guys...’ she thought as she hugged herself with her wings, falling down towards the ground before she spread them again to catch herself. In the next half hour the mountain was climbed. Literally. Ilea read about extreme climbers that didn’t use any security measures and it had intrigued her at times. Though she would never try something like that it must’ve felt amazing.
At least that’s what she thought. Now she was hanging from the steep mountain side, hammering her hands into the stone to make herself get higher. It wasn’t as fun as she’d expected and she quickly stopped again to resume one of her new favorite pasttimes, flying.
It took quite a bit longer to get to the top as she let herself fall several times just for the fun of it. Quite a change compared to the way she felt when going to Salia. ‘Time heals...though flying heals faster...’ she thought as she giggled while accelerating downwards. Some mountain goats looked up at the intruder and one troll even threw a massive ice ball at her. Ilea obviously caught it and sent it back right where it came from.
When the suns were up high and Ilea determined it to be midday, she decided to finally find Ravenhall. She flew up to the top of the mountain and gazed at the scenery below. ‘This is much bigger than it seems on the map.’ she unsheathed her dagger and held it over the map.
“Where to? I have no idea if I have to go there or there.” she asked and pointed towards two directions in the distance.
“Neither...how did you survive again? Oh yes, self healing and the luckiest possession of a storage item.” Aki said.
“Hey I didn’t have that thing for long. And yes the self healing is quite useful. Better than being inside metal.”
“That’s a low blow. You see the rock in the distance, the one shaped more spherical than everything around it? Do you know angles?” Aki asked.
“I don’t know which rock you mean. Though yes, if you mean this is zero and this is ninety degrees to the right and this left.” She pointed first to the front and then to her right and left.
“Yes, so go about thirty degrees to the right. I think that’s the direction.” the dagger explained and Ilea finally saw the rock he had meant. She flew downwards and towards the stone and passed it, coming out into a massive valley high in the mountains. A frozen lake covered a third of it and only the lacking trees and nearly perfect smoothness of its surface betrayed its existence.
Beyond the trees and lake was a city of stone. Bigger than anything Ilea had expected it stretched into the valley and onto the mountain with high walls and different sections. An impressive view and certainly something that inspired fear in an approaching enemy, more so than a beautiful castle would inspire awe.
“So this is Ravenhall.” she said and decided to walk the rest of the distance. There was a road close to the lake down in the valley and Ilea could already see carts and people going in and out of the city in the distance. The road down in the valley was nearly empty in comparison and she reached it in fifteen minutes of walking.
Ilea walked through the forest and tried to get as much nature into herself before she would go back into another city. She certainly liked both sceneries but the absence of people was something she sometimes needed. More and more it seemed. Ilea stopped then and moved her armor into her necklace. She got her backpack back on and moved her money pouch into it. The one with all the gold she had before finding the treasury.
‘Perfect time to join a mercenary team then...’ she though and chuckled as she exited the forest and joined the main street towards the city gate. A massive thing that even had a bridge in front of it with a fifty meter fall on each side. ‘Missed opportunity for a drawbridge...’ she thought as she joined the stream of people going towards it.
She got some looks, likely because of her lack of warm clothes though it was much more subdued than one would expect. People had magic here after all and she saw some people wearing even less than her taleen clothes. ‘Will I get a set of that edgy shadow armor as well? I sure hope so...’ she thought as she listened to the people around her talk.
Processing at the gate was fast and she didn’t have to wait even a minute.
“Reason for entering? Fee is two silvers.” the guard quickly looked up at her with a little bored expression on his face.
“Shadow’s hand.” she stated and handed two silver coins to him which she had gotten from her backpack. The man nodded, seemingly used to seeing high level people going into the city. He was at 122 as well, quite high for someone working as a guard.
Ilea walked into the city and went into the first restaurant she found. ‘Time to explore then.’ she thought, a smile spreading on her lips, her sphere observing everything around her. Looking for hidden pathways and weapons. ‘Let’s see what this city has to offer...’