Chapter 85 A fine Establishment
“Come on, we have to continue.” Roland quietly said to Lily, waking her from her slumber with a gentle brush to her cheek. Most of the others were already up, preparing their packs and checking the surroundings for any danger. They had left Salia behind nearly a week ago. Ilea and the Hand had given them a chance at survival and Roland wouldn’t throw that away.
“Already? But I’m so tired dad...” the girl told him in a sleepy voice. For many of the lower leveled people it had been a very difficult week. They had lived inside the city, protected by its walls and guards for all their life. The didn’t have any skills that let them forgo sleep or let them walk for hours on end without tiring.
If he had to be honest, Roland would’ve likely left them behind to make his own way with Lily a while ago already but Valery held them together. She was the reason he had stayed and with her they might even survive an elven attack, should worst come to worst.
“I’m sorry alright, I’ll carry you for the first hour or so, ok?” he said to Lily and lifted her up on his shoulder. The weight was nothing to him and he joined the group of waiting people, only to hear their bickering again.
“We have to leave them behind if we want to survive, don’t you see that?” a man said to Valerie who seemed rather full of him. Some people in the group seemed to agree while others looked at the man with tired and hateful eyes. The waiting group consisted mostly of adventurers, or guards who had a certain amount of strength to them. Nothing compared to a member of the hand or even Roland or Valery but enough to maybe survive in the wild.
“We’ve come this far, we won’t stop now. As soon as we reach a safe city you can go wherever you want to.” Valery said in a tired voice, shutting the man down. Roland didn’t know exactly where she planned to go, though east seemed to be the way for now. They had heard from the Hand that many of the independent cities had been destroyed similarly to their own so it wouldn’t be a quick journey, especially lacking any horses and wagons.
They had enough gold to live like nobles wherever they got to, they only had to survive getting there and keeping the gold when they arrived. Some places had already been ruled out because of that and their journey would take at least another two or three weeks at this speed to reach any reasonable city in Kroll or Nipha, the westernmost human countries.
‘They won’t leave...’ Roland thought, looking at the man grinding his teeth. They were too afraid of any dangers in the night. Even Nazarks would be their doom if it weren’t for some select members of their group. An elf might be the end of them all but by staying, they might at least have a chance. Roland just didn’t know if that chance would be at fighting or at flight.
He looked up towards the shrouded suns, hidden behind cloud formations and sighed. The breath turning into white mist. “Papa, you’re h..hurting me...” Lily said. His eyes focused again as he loosened his grip on her legs.
“I’m sorry.” he said and looked back to the preparing group of survivors. ‘I’ll find a way to avenge them...’ he thought, but his chest felt hollow and the fire that had burned his house and their corpses was nowhere to be found within him.
‘She forgot to give me the bow...’ Lorcan was standing on the wall of Dawntree, looking up to see the elves hovering in the distance. Around him were members of the guard, the adventurer guild, the noble houses of Dawntree and even a squad of the Shadow’s Hand. The city’s defenses had held true and though some of the elves had broken through one way or the other, Dawntree stood strong.
With four more people at level 200 they now were nearly equal to the number of elves he could see on the horizon, let alone the amount of defensive weapons and mages they had. It annoyed him. The waiting annoyed him. He wanted to go out and meet them and not wait here for them to taunt the humans. Days passed and all he could do was wait and watch their game of magic while the city fired at them from a distance.
The elves must know that the city wouldn’t starve or thirst. Certainly crime and the respective violent guard response rose heavily through the attack but what were they planning to achieve? Lorcan shook his head and sat down again on the edge of the wall, ignoring the flashes of magic and conversations around him.
‘She left the city I think...’ he looked around and again noticed someone looking at him a little too intently. It wasn’t a secret anymore that one of the Forkspear daughers had disappeared and with her the healer that had been seen with her. At least in the circles Lorcan resided it was known and he couldn’t help but be happy about it. Smiling below his helmet, he pictured the reaction of whoever was hunting her when the level 100 healer they were expecting turns out to be not quite so defenseless.
‘Why even care about something like this while the city is under attack...’ he looked down at his hands. Lorcan Agor had never been one for politics, though right now the elves were doing more for the nobles in the city than for themselves. At least for the winning side of the nobles.
“Are you annoyed at their taunting?” someone said behind him, his annoyance rising a little more at being talked to.
“May I sit?” Lorcan turned to see a masked member of the Hand standing a meter away from him. Lorcan simply nodded lightly and looked back out towards the white landscape below.
The man sat down and sighed. “If only we could lure one of them.” he said and Lorcan found himself agreeing.
“Why are they here?” he found himself asking the man next to him, looking at the wisps of shadow moving away from the armor. The mask turned towards him at the question and then back towards the elves.
“I do not know. They have attacked many of the independent cities, decimating the population in many of them. This might be the last one standing.” the man said.
“I heard of that, so you were the ones bringing those news?” Lorcan said and chuckled “The leaders of the city will never move out to attack with that, so thanks.”
The man didn’t say anything for a while before answering. “It is the wise choice. Though you thirst for battle it would likely bring death.” he paused and watched Lorcan’s reaction. “The elves will bore soon, I have rarely seen them stay so long in one place. Either that or they will attack. You will be free again to follow or you will be fighting.” he finished.
Lorcan just nodded once and touched the bracelet on his arm thoughtfully. “If I may ask, as soon as this is over. Would you join me on my way to Ravenhall? And perhaps join the Shadow’s Hand?” the man asked him which brought a laugh out of Lorcan.
“No. Apologies Elder but you will found me cast out already.” Lorcan said after he had stopped laughing. He prepared to fight but it seemed the man only sighed again.
“A shame then. I am no Elder of the Hand and I hold no grudges against cast out members. I do hope you will find your way, do not give up.” the man said and got up, leaving Lorcan to his thoughts.
Flying towards the city again, Ilea felt a little melancholic, nostalgic even. The vacation home her family had owned near the sea was something very close to her, for many different reasons. Choosing the place for her blink ability felt right to her and she wouldn’t leave the barren ledge as it was. There was enough space to make something, build something. A place to rest and to recover, should that time ever come again.
Ilea reached Ravenhall half an hour later, flying up and through the mountain chain at her top speed. The suns had nearly set already when she reached the entrance to the Shadow’s Hand.
‘Now let’s see how useful the skill really is...’ she thought as she concentrated on Hunter’s Sight. Immediately Ilea focused on a specific smell. She was sure it was his and quickly she followed its trail. It seemed obvious to her where the smell had been lingering longer. The trail led her out to Ravenhall and even out of it towards the forest she had walked through on her first arrival.
Deeper and deeper she went until she finally found him. Kyrian was standing in the middle of a pulsing circle of magic. Trees had been cut down and the snow below his feet was disturbed, intricate patterns were drawn into it and magic pulsed from it in a sickly green light. Sweat covered his brow and she watched as the light got brighter and brighter before with a flash, it vanished.
Kyrian was thrown back a little and wobbled on his legs before he held his head. “Nice show, need a healer?” Ilea commented from the side, startling him immediately.
“I thought you were a beast deciding on attacking.” he said after he registered the voice.
“Best moment to blow your magic and cripple yourself then smartass.” she said as she walked closer. Stepping into the circle, she stopped and walked back again, the smile on her face vanishing.
“I know...though the effects should linger for a while.” he said, looking at her for the first time. “Are you ok?” he asked, the effects of the curse vanished instantly after he quickly closed his eyes.
“I don’t n… need healing.” he said and walked closer to her, leaving the circle behind. “We wanted to get food right?”
Ilea looked at him and nodded. ‘I can’t space out like that whenever I get cursed...’ she thought and answered his question.
“Yea, let’s look for Eve. I have a feeling she’s somewhere in Ravenhall and not Viscera.” she said, turning around. Her buffs came active and she blinked away, her heart beat first accelerating and then slowing down because of her buffs.
“What the hell, you dipshit!!” Ilea shouted as the reason for her sudden teleport started giggling and then outright laughing.
“Got you!” Eve said, after she had stopped laughing.
“You’re sent a clone after me?” Ilea asked as she walked closer to the two. Kyrian’s reaction had been much more subdued though Ilea had missed it in her flight.
“They’re illusions. And no, this is me.” Eve said and smirked.
“I can’t perceive you...” Ilea said, trying to see the woman with her sphere. There was nothing there, no matter and no smell. She didn’t even hear her.
Eve grinned as she locked eyes with Ilea. “I think I figured your skill out…” she said and giggled again.
“I swear if I find you in my room again...” Ilea said and continued to focus on the place where her eyes told her the woman was standing. Slowly she realized something. Though her skill couldn’t see her directly, she noticed the air flow was different around her. There was weight pressing down on the snow below Eve’s feet and where there was the smell of trees and snow around her, there was nothing where Eve stood.
‘God, now I have to focus on things like that too...’ Ilea thought and sighed, before shaking her head.
Eve’s smile turned into a frown. “You found a way to see me?” she asked and Ilea shook her head.
“It’s more that I can see the absence of you if that explains it. Maybe you should try to blend in better. Invisible yet not leaving a void. Like a chameleon.” Ilea explained, asking herself why she helped the woman hide even better.
“What’s a c...chameleon?” Kyrian asked from the side but Eve seemed to have understood the meaning.
“I’ll try though I think it’s gonna take me a while...perception skills like you have are pretty rare though, as is mental resistance.” she said, smiling at Ilea.
“Let’s go eat.” Ilea said, tired of being cursed and sneaked upon.
“I suggest Ravenhall itself and I have some restaurants I like already but I’m open for suggestions. Haven’t tried nearly all of them yet.” Ilea explained as the three walked back out of the forest and towards the city.
“How long have you been here? I have a really nice place in mind!” Eve said, lifting her arms to signal her good idea. At least that was what Ilea thought it meant.
“I… might n...not be able to pay that.” Kyrian said from the side and Ilea frowned.
“First off, I’ve been here a couple days so it’s only reasonable that I haven’t tried all the restaurants Eve. And Kyrian, how the fuck do you not have money for food? You’re level 204, you probably get paid more for a single day’s work than most of the people in the city get for a year...” Ilea said. She knew he likely couldn’t pay the Hand and was now in debt but it was food they were talking about.
“It’s more a saving strategy. I’d rather not waste money on luxuries and be done with paying my debt earlier.” Kyrian explained and Ilea nodded, seeing some sort of sense in his actions. She for one would never try to save on food, though remembering her solo days on earth without the financial support of her family made her question her thinking.
“I’ll invite you then and I won’t accept a no.” she said and the man looked at her briefly. “I said N O.” Ilea said and he closed his mouth again, continuing in silence.
“So how’d you guys get here?? Why join the hand and how’d you get to level 200?!” Eve asked as they approached the city gate. Ilea handed the guard a couple silver coins before they were let in, getting a look from Kyrian.
“Let’s wait with the socializing until I have food in front of me, ok?” Ilea asked a minute later, walking behind the woman as she led them to her restaurant of choice. It turned out to be an incredibly high class place. The building itself was already decorated and styled quite more intricately than most buildings in Ravenhall.
The inside didn’t disappoint either though Ilea wasn’t sure if she arrived in a restaurant or an art gallery. There were paintings on all walls and even some structures behind barriers. Magical ones at that.
“I really really like that piece...” Eve commented on the abstract looking piece Ilea was staring at. To Ilea it looked like several miniature beams of metal were melted into some sort of star or sea mine.
“I don’t get art.” she said and looked back towards Eve. She wondered how the woman hadn’t stolen everything in this place yet. Looking back at the piece Ilea wondered how the art looked modern, at least what would likely be considered modern on earth. ‘I’m glad they haven’t discovered guns yet...’ she thought, wondering if her speed and reflexes would allow her to dodge a bullet from a modern rifle already and how much damage it would do to her skin or armor. It was hard to tell how much the previously encountered Taleen machinery differed.
“...depends on the caliber...” she mumbled when an attendant walked towards the standing group.
“Aaah, miss Aillan. I am glad to see you back and you’ve brought… company.” the last word was obviously meant as an insult though as Ilea looked at the man she was convinced he didn’t mean it to attack them. It was a simple fact to him that Ilea and Kyrian were lesser beings.
‘Maybe he’s a demon of art...’ Ilea thought and smiled at the man.
“Filemon my dear. I apologize terribly for their attire though it couldn’t be helped. I’ve joined the Hand today and they were assigned to me. I will do my utmost to teach them, do not be concerned.” Eve said while walking around the man and winking at her two waiting team members.
Filemon seemed to be torn between pity and sadness as he looked at the guests. “Alright, alright. Follow me please. Your usual space?” he asked and Eve confirmed with a gesture.
“He’s very sensitive.” she whispered to Ilea and Kyrian.
The group was led upstairs and then towards a corner of the room. Their table was set a little higher than the middle of the room which was a opened up, though Ilea wasn’t sure for what. A dance floor perhaps. At least they could see the whole room and all of the art spaced around it and on its walls.
Ilea had to agree that it looked nice. “How is the food though?” she asked, looking towards Eve who was whispering and giggling with Filemon.
“The food is exquisite my dear warrior.” Filemon turned and said to her, bowing slightly.
“I’d like to start with something you would suggest then. To get a taste.” Ilea said.
“With the refreshments then?” he asked towards the whole group.
“Yes please, some wine and ale as well if you would.” Eve said and Filemon nodded to her.
Ilea found the place to be a little empty, only a couple tables even occupied any customers. “How do they stay afloat?” Ilea asked, a little confused at an establishment like this placed in a rather rough city up in the snowy mountains.
“The hand houses some very rich members and the few who appreciate service and art like this finance the place themselves.” Eve explained, relaxing in her chair.