Chapter 134 Virilya
“Oh I like her. I’m Petra! Charles can we go please? I want a piece of those fuckers.” the woman said, first happy and smiling, turning furious at the last part of her sentence.
“We’ll think about it alright. I’m Charles as you already know, I assume you want to meet the people in charge?” the man said.
“Ilea, nice to meet you two. And yes, who would that be? Adam was the one summoning the demons by the way so he’s out.” she said.
“What? Adam? That’s gonna change things a little. Elder Urn was killed during the assault, Elder Quil has vanished with that massive beast and at least twenty of our own. She’d be the one in charge if she’s alive. The other two elders are nowhere to be found as always, probably in the north or looking for natural wonders for all we know. Dagon is actually the one organizing the members staying in the capital at the moment.” Charles explained.
“Hmm, the librarian? Sounds alright. Lead on then, I assume there’s no trouble with these guys?” Ilea asked, motioning behind her where the group of flying soldiers she had initially encountered were floating.
“Don’t worry about them. Petra would you take care of it and join us later darling?” Charles asked.
“Of course.” the woman said, her smile a little too enthusiastic but Ilea wasn’t going to stop whatever fun she would have with the soldiers.
“Well follow me then.” the man said, walking off towards the gate. “Time of essence?” he asked, looking sideways towards Ilea. The soldiers and workers around them glanced at the two completely black armored people every now and then, avoiding eye contact.
“Not really. I’ll go back whenever I’m done here. I have a letter from one of the squad leaders for Dagon. We’ll meet at Morhill in a week or two if it takes longer. Worst the demons will do is summon the literal devil to destroy all of Elos.” she answered.
“Alright, well it’s not gonna be less than a week anyway with everything going on. Maybe some of us will come with you immediately. Scouting the city and planning will take at least that much time. At least we know the terrain, secret entries and every building.” Charles said, walking through the humongous open gate. Ilea looked around, taking in the view.
“I’m not sure what that devil is you speak of but I assume you’re joking.” the man said, Ilea not reacting to what he said, stopping in her tracks right after entering the city. The smell had changed, a square opening up before her with beautiful trees, a massive fountain and colorful houses built with attention to intricate detail. It looked like a theme park’s interpretation of a medieval European city with the budget of Wall Street, sprinkled with magic.
“Didn’t grow up around here did you?” Charles asked and chuckled. The streets were bustling with activity, the people unconcerned about the massacre that had just happened a couple hundred meters outside their walls. The sun shined through the trees as merchants, bakers and smiths were shouting their wares and prices, restaurants and pubs serving food to their patrons as music played from their interiors.
“It’s beautiful…,” Ilea simply said and looked towards Charles. “No, never been here before.”
“Well then you’ll want a tour. It’s quite rich in character. I believe Viscera was inspired by Virilya, or the other way around. Both been here for a while. Considering the circumstances I suggest we wait with the tour though, objection?” he asked, surprising Ilea that he would even consider asking her. With the possible ramifications they didn’t know about Ilea was sure they should at least treat the retake and clearing of Ravenhall with utmost importance. She didn’t want to find out if there WAS a devil that could be summoned and knowing one mind weaver she knew they wouldn’t just sit idle on their newfound prize.
“No objections, lead the way. If it’s more than a couple minutes we can run or fly.” she said. The man nodded and started running, Ilea following behind a second later as they both sped up to find a comfortable pace for both of them, avoiding the people in the streets by jumping up to the buildings. Ilea nearly stumbled as she got a better view of the massive buildings, churches and literal wonders of architecture.
“Found myself in Rome eh?” she smiled and followed the man. “Why not fly?” she asked as they jumped over another building, both of them landing with such expertise that not a single brick moved out of place.
“They don’t like it. Not that it matters much but a happy host is a happy host. Running on the rooftops is already considered rude.” Charles replied in a loud voice as they sped through the city.
Ten minutes of high speed running later, Charles jumped off the building into a small square with a lot of trees and benches, devoid of people. The buildings adjacent were overgrown with ivy, their dark red color below reminded Ilea of something you’d see in the southern parts of central Europe.
In front of them however was a cathedral in gothic style, smaller than most of the others she had seen in the distance while running but not any less impressively built. Charles walked towards it, Ilea close behind.
Coming inside a massive man in black full plate armor nodded towards them upon entry. Next to him was the biggest sword Ilea had ever seen.
“Nice sword.” she said, looking at the thing, the man puffing out air as a response as they walked into the cathedral proper. The windows had a sand like tone to them, dimming the sunlight a little from outside. To Ilea it looked similar to one of the old churches she had visited, the only things missing were the rows of benches, an organ and pictures and sculptures of holy men and angels.
Instead she found tables and chairs, gear in piles and boxes, a bar near the wall with a man cleaning glasses. Warm magical lights gave the place a homely feeling. The place was near empty, only around six people sitting or walking around. Four of them were playing cards and drinking which didn’t leave many.
“Dagon, we have a visitor. With news from Ravenhall.” Charles said as the two walked to the man occupied by piles of letters in front of him. The man looked out over his glasses and took in the two people, a small smile forming as he spotted Ilea.
“Another survivor. I will note it. Welcome back to the Hand.” he said, getting up from his chair that nearly broke under the stress.
“Hey Dagon.” Ilea said and waved. The card playing people perked up and paused to see what she had to say.
“Letter for you.” she said as the item appeared in her Hand, giving it to the man who opened it immediately and started reading.
“So much for the worth of knowing you have a spacial storage item...” he murmured, looking at her for a split second before he continued reading. Ilea shrugged and waited.
“Hmm yes, yes yes. This is good. I’m happy he survived.” Dagon said. “A shame about Adam but I’m sure he had his reasons. Making himself an enemy of the Hand, I never thought he’d go that far.” he shook his head, his voice cracking with the last bit. Ilea noticed his hand was shaking a little.
“I suspected it….” he said and shook his head again, his hand brushing against his glasses as he steadied his breath.
“You lot, get together all the members you can find. We’re retaking Ravenhall.”
Ilea discussed the details she knew about with Dagon before she sat down at the bar, getting some mead as they waited for the Shadow’s Hand to gather. After finishing her drink she asked the barman if Dagon drank. The man didn’t know so she simply ordered a drink of his finest strong alcohol, walking over to Dagon with it.
“Do you drink?” she asked and stopped next to him, seeing that he had a blank page with a dried out feather next to it on the table.
“Here to buy information?” he asked after a moment.
“No, but I don’t want to be rude.” she said, placing the drink next to the paper. “I’m sorry about the elder. The way he talked he seemed sure of his decision but not happy with it.” she stated and walked back to the bar, not waiting for an answer.
“Do you have food as well?” she asked and the barman nodded, serving her a cold plate of snacks. “Any idea where I can get information on survivors from Ravenhall?” she asked and the barman looked at her like she was an idiot, nodding towards Dagon on his chair.
“I don’t want to bother him right now.” she said, getting an understanding nod from the barman.
“You don’t speak do you?” she asked, the mustached man just staring into her eyes with high intensity. He was at level two hundred as well, giving the stare quite a bit more weight.
“I’m looking for a cook. Keyla is her first name. Worked for this establishment… damn I forgot the name of it.” she said, starting to drink the fresh mead he had placed next to her.
The barman put down the glass he was cleaning, walking over to Dagon and taking one of the books on his table. Flipping through the pages he stopped at one and placed the book next to Ilea, a finger on the name Keyla Aranoth. Alive and in the capital it said next to the name.
“Glad to hear that. I’ll get in touch with her at some point then. Thanks.” she said, summoning a gold coin and placing it on the counter. He nodded and took the coin when he was behind the counter, picking up the glass again.
It took a mere three hours for the previously empty cathedral to be bristling with life. At least a hundred people were present, not a single one below level two hundred. Certainly a force to be reckoned with.
Dagon cleared his throat, the room going quiet a moment later as all eyes focused on him, most of the people seated or leaning onto something, previously occupied by their own conversation.
“Welcome. Shadow’s Hand.” he started, Ilea looking on from the bar that was now occupied by more than just her.
“Thank you all for coming. We have word from a survivor near Ravenhall. Morhill was cleared of the demon infestation, seven members having stayed behind to hunt down the beasts.” he said, some of the people starting to murmur.
“The most likely suspect for the summoning is nobody else than our own Elder Strand.” he said, the people reacting less enraged than Ilea expected, a couple even laughing at it. One of them got hit by a team mate, shushing him.
“Now I’m sure I’m not the only one who would like to punch the man. First though we will have to retake Ravenhall and Viscera. A simple matter of principle. There is no pay involved here.” Dagon continued, the room quieting down again.
“I’m sure all of you have lost people and while some might be happy about that let’s just get this over with and fuck up the invaders to our halls.” Dagon said, getting up from his chair as some people smiled and chuckled, apparently a surprise to hear the man curse.
“I’m tired of this city’s pretentiousness and bureaucracy. Let’s go back to the mountains.” he said, getting a cheer from some people who lifted their hands. Ilea smiled, not quite the inspiring speech she had expected but then again the man was a librarian, not a warrior.
“We meet in Morhill. The woman at the bar leaves today and I’m going with her. Feel free to join.” Dagon finished as Ilea walked up to the table, noticing the glass was empty.
“Let’s gut some demons!” a man shouted from the corner of the cathedral.
“Shut the hell up.” a woman stated before the people broke out into their own conversations again, Ilea ignoring most of it.
“You alright?” Ilea asked Dagon as she reached him. The man extended his hand and shook hers.
“Thank you, for coming. And for caring. When are you leaving?” he asked.
“Don’t mention it Dagon. As much as this cathedral is nice, your library just has a certain charm to it. Whenever, now?” she asked and shrugged, having no reason do delay further.
“Now it is then.” he said and opened one of the heavy tomes on his table, slamming it together. The created shock wave and sound caused people to look towards them, some shrouding themselves in shadow or preparing spells to counter the attack.
“We leave now. Meet me at the central south gate in one hour.” Dagon said before walking out. Ilea smiled as a puff of air left her nose.
“An hour to check out the city.” Ilea said to herself as she looked around and found Charles. Walking up to him, she put a hand on his shoulder.
“So we have an hour for a quick tour.” she said, smiling at him.
“An hour? For Virilya? That’s not even enough for Viscera. You won’t see all of this city in a month.” he answered, shaking his head.
“I can show you some of the places around the most southern part if you like. I’m sure Petra will gladly play the guide though.” he said, the woman perking up and jumping towards them, leaving her previous conversation behind upon hearing her name.
“Did I hear the words Petra and guide? City tour?” she asked excitedly and locked eyes with Ilea as a big scary smile blossomed on her face.
“You’re intense.” Ilea said as she grabbed the woman’s shoulders. “Show me the city Petra!”
“You better keep up then, newbie.” Petra replied and ran off.
“We’ll meet you at the gate then.” she said to Charles who stood next to her, his eyes focused on Petra.
“How was it?” Charles asked as Ilea and Petra joined the man at the south gate. Everyone not in black armor or robes looked on at the scene, more people gathering by the minute to see the spectacle.
“More running than seeing. She does know a lot more about history than I would’ve expected.” Ilea answered, checking around her. The hour would be up in a couple minutes.
“She does.” the man said, his voice holding a little sadness but Ilea didn’t ask.
Dagon came out from the gate in that moment, the man covered in heavy armor from head to toe, a metal book the size of Ilea’s chest under his arm as he walked through the gathered people, reaching her a moment later.
“Let’s go then.” the librarian said, breaking out into a run, each step he took pushing deeper into the ground until he was past what any human on Earth could manage. Around her, Ilea watched as people took to the air, wings and magical extensions sprouting from people’s backs as animals and monsters were summoned, to carry people both on land and in the air.
“They all came.” Charles said next to her as he started floating upwards, pride in his voice as Ilea joined next to him.
“Carry?” Petra asked from below, lifting her arms towards Ilea with a smile.
“Carry.” Ilea said as she lowered herself down again, letting the woman grab her right arm.
“Still think it would’ve been a good to stop her?” a guard of the seventh southern aerial squad asked his colleague as they watched from the top of the wall as over a hundred people in black left the capital. They didn’t know where but the guard himself felt a little lighter with all of them gone.
“Fucking spectacle isn’t it?” his friend said.
“Yea, whatever they’re heading for I don’t want to be there.” the first guard said as the people around them started to disperse again, the gate below would soon close again, lest another demon attack followed the earlier one from that day.
“Shift’s over in ten, wanna go to Tally’s?” the man asked his friend.
“Sure, you’re paying and stop trying to talk to that barmaid. I told you she’s not interested.” the guards argued as a faraway bell rang in the busy city, only a small number of people even hearing about the Shadow’s Hand coming and going. The name Lilith had reached a couple more people that day and more than one soldier had gulped at the distant warrior standing before the approaching demon tide, arms wide open.
A bandaged woman woke to the bells ringing in the evening hours, a heavy cough shaking her body as blood reached her mouth. The room was dark again, Eve lying back down as she checked herself. The cuts had healed, enough for her to be ready again. She got up and walked to the other side of the room, grabbing some water to wash herself, the bloodied bandages were carefully removed and stacked to be burned at a later time. Blood magic was to be taken seriously after all.
Today she would go find some people to interview. A man, a woman and a butler, though she doubted the last one would yield anything important. Then again there were surprises waiting for you at every corner in life, especially when you were in Virilya. Her daggers were washed next, the blood already dry and sticking to the blades in an annoying way, one of her prime reasons not to get injured in fights too heavily. She could clean the blades right after.
A quiet hum filled the room with an eerie atmosphere as the near naked woman continued to scrub her blades, short red hair and cold eyes focused on the task at hand.