Chapter 135 Roguey Rogues Doing Rogue Stuff
“How does it look?” Sulivhaan asked, Navailis having arrived just a moment ago. One of the most central pubs in Morhill had been chosen by the squad leader to use as their base. The square in front had been prepared by Rock. Barricades blocked all the entrance streets to the square, the pub only easily accessible by air or by climbing over everything.
As soon as they had any earth mages around, the defenses would be extended. For now it wasn't feasible to defend the whole city against possible intruders but the empire would arrive at some point and perhaps Ilea would manage to convince a couple of the Hand's survivors, if there were still some in the capital.
Senia regularly scouted the city and gates, taking care of stray demons near the city's walls.
“At least three mind weavers visible. Ranged demons stationed on all walls and high buildings behind. High level scouting bands patrolling around the city and I saw at least five unidentified previously unknown demon variations.” Navalis reported, walking next to the big table in the middle of the pub. The rest of the tables and chairs had been moved away to make space. Oil lamps burned around the room, giving it a warm feeling. The hearth was currently cold, the remaining occupants of the city not in need for the warmth although the soldier who had stayed behind was sitting huddled in a corner, covered by several blankets.
Even at level one thirty the man didn't seem to have a cold-, frost- or ice resistance. Sulivhaan ignored the man, perhaps he would finally gain such a resistance in the coming weeks. It would take some convincing for the empire to assist them in retaking Ravenhall, at least in the time necessary, now that the demons were still establishing themselves. The army wasn't quite known for their timely reactions when it came to an external organization like the Hand. Retaking the city would cost quite a number of lives, combined with the resources that wouldn't be available elsewhere, where cities were still under control and the population alive.
“Good, it seems their movements haven't changed much but either they were hiding those creatures or creating or summoning new ones. We should focus first on destroying their scouting teams, I'll talk to Trian and Kyrian about this. They should be able to take care of that.” the man explained, marking the newfound information on the big map of Ravenhall and its surroundings. At least the demons didn't seem to be immediately expanding already.
Other than a few stragglers and small groups, no enemies had come close to Morhill.
“No word from Ilea yet?” he asked and didn't receive an answer. “It's been four days already. She shouldn't need longer than a day to travel to the capital. We'll have to send someone if she doesn't come back in the next two days.” he said, though having another one of their already small group depart would put a dent in their plans.
“No resources, no resources...” Sulivhaan grumbled under his mask when Rock bust into the room, a big grin on his face.
“You should come see this.” the warrior said into the room, motioning with his hand for them to follow him outside as he held open the massive wooden door with his free arm. The three occupants of the room left a moment later, Sulivhaan and Navalis looking at each other before following Rock.
The square looked the same but when Sulivhaan looked upwards to the sky, a content smile replaced the frown that had plagued him for the past month. In the distance a group of flying people, all in black broke through the heavy clouds above, a lot more than he had expected. More importantly it wasn't the empire, it was the Shadow's Hand.
“I always say you're too pessimistic, old man.” Rock said, looking towards their squad leader. Even Navalis sported a light upwards curve on her lips, a rare sight to say the least.
“There's a difference between realism and pessimism Rock.” the mage replied, their banter evidence for the immediate mood improvement as they walked towards the center of the square.
Ilea and Dagon were among the first people to land, the woman waving as she put down the man she had held with one arm. Quite an impressive feat, Sulivhaan thought. More importantly it seemed the librarian had taken the lead, which explained a few things. Among them the appearance of what likely amounted to nearly all surviving members of the Hand. It would make things considerably simpler. His posture less tense, Sulivhaan walked up to the big man with extended arms.
“We rushed here as early as we could. I'm glad you survived, old friend.” the librarian said, hugging the smaller mage, yet not managing to lift him up. Sulivhaan's gravity magic fought against the other man's strength, a tradition they had upheld for quite a long time, originally a bet.
“Come then, we have much to plan.” Sulivhaan said and nodded to Ilea who copied the gesture. The two men and several interested people followed and went into the pub while some others put up tents or claimed houses or floors for themselves. Others again spread out towards the walls of the city, to ensure a higher security or to go hunt. The Hand's members were mostly independent, working in small teams. This situation wouldn't change their approach, they simply had more teams and firepower available, not a problem with the big city they would have to cover.
Ilea watched the two men's backs as they walked towards the pub. “Good job, you were faster than I expected.” Rock stepped next to her, following her gaze. “I assume it wasn't exactly hard to convince him?”
“No, well I'm not sure what exactly the letter entailed but he was certainly eager to take back the city. Most of the others as well.” she said, looking around.
“Yea, it's weird isn't it. We're not exactly fighting for a cause but I think most of us saw at least Viscera as somewhat of a home, if perhaps only a temporary one.” Rock said after a while.
They stood in silence for a while, before Ilea stretched and yawned. “Been a while since I slept. I think I'll catch a couple hours. Let Trian and Kyrian know I'm here, will ya.” she said and punched the man's arm, walking away on her hunt for a nice bed.
Sulivhaan looked through the info in front of him, a list of all the people who had come to Morhill with general abilities and class information. A big chunk of them were here with their full squad, likely having survived the demon summoning together. Others were alone or with lacking members to their registered team. He wouldn't ask, simply glad they had come.
“I expected the empire to form the bigger chunk of the force but I think with this, we'll be able to work our way through a big part of the enemy until they even decide on sending reinforcements.” Sulivhaan said, sitting down on a chair next to the map.
“I talked to some officers before we left Varilya, so there's a chance we're gonna see imperial colors earlier than you'd expect.” Dagon said as he removed his helmet to sit down next to the central table, his small glasses still sitting on the bridge of his nose. The other people that had followed were entering by now, each taking either a chair or standing position around the map, each a veteran in one way or the other.
“Alright, let's start then.” Dagon said and pushed his glasses upwards a little.
'Damn, too late...' Eve thought as she took in the scene before her, her body camouflaged against the red stained white walls. The corpses were nobles again, the first ones she had found before the authorities or the weird organization that was looking for the people she was now hunting as well. Not to kill them but perhaps they knew more about where she could continue the search. Additionally staying on their trail would mean staying on the organisation's trail.
'Edwin Redleaf...' she thought as she carefully walked around the carnage. 'A bit of an enthusiast when it came to killing it seemed.' a man to her own heart. She smiled as she enjoyed this hunt more than many others before. Instead of farmers and children, this time it was nobles riddled with illegal backgrounds and more than questionable morale who paved the road to her goal.
A noise could be heard from a couple rooms over and Eve enhanced her Illusion magic, quickly moving to the room with complete silence. 'There he is... I thought he'd be smaller.' she thought as she watched the man touch the ground where someone laid dead. Perhaps not the person she was looking for in the end but at least someone had made it to the scene of the crime before her, impressive.
“Already someone here?” the man suddenly asked, turning around as a dagger appeared in his hand. The black blade shimmered a little as he turned, not looking at Eve directly. She was still hidden. Perhaps he had sensed something about her, his surroundings or there might be someone else around that he noticed as well. She usually stayed silent in those moments, more often than not was the discovery of an intruder not quite as helpful as one would assume. If the intruder was hiding right next to you, all you get is a skill activation and perhaps an enhanced defense.
If Eve was good at anything though, it was at waiting. And right now she would learn quite a bit about both the person in front of her and the soon to follow investigators should the man choose to stay.
“Interesting skill... yet you haven't shown yourself. Who are you?” the man asked towards his surroundings, turning in place, his blade held at the ready. Eve stayed silent as well, now smiling a little as she heard people approaching through the front door. The man would probably want to move should he be Edwin Redleaf, or perhaps killing guards was not something he would frown upon. A minus point in Eve's book, the men and women employed by the city or empire to guard it and keep it safe had rarely much to do with political decisions.
She moved backwards, standing right beside the hallway wall opposite the room. A moment later four imperial soldiers marched through, scouts as she saw from their uniforms. Not green ones either, each looking around the place, skills activated and careful not to disturb any of the corpses.
The front man ran into the room with his mace drawn but quickly stopped, sheathing the weapon and saluting to the man in black still standing in the room, blade drawn.
“Sir? What are...” the man asked and quickly prepared his weapon again, moving his hand in a couple motions that Eve knew meant the perimeter wasn't safe and that they should create a defensive line. 'Good soldiers...' she thought and watched them quietly discuss what happened and what the next steps would be.
“If you're here for me, then find me. I wish to talk, if only for that hiding skill you're using.” the man said, sheathing his blade again.
“Are you sure sir?” the squad leader asked, his voice calm as he scanned his surroundings. The other soldiers did the same, one of them with a little shaky hands.
“If whomever is hiding wanted you dead then I believe you wouldn't have reached the entrance of this house. And I believe they are not directly involved with the murders. Continue your work.” the man said, suddenly vanishing out of sight. Eve concentrated to fend off an attack, thinking his inability to find her a possible move to manipulate her or gain further information about her before he would strike.
Two minutes later that didn't seem to be the case, the soldiers' tension lessening by the minute. A good opportunity to strike but she had learned what she could from this. The man was involved somehow, or perhaps he was investigating as well. Meeting him would be her next step, now that all her other sources had either vanished or were silenced.
'An intriguing skill...' Baltimore thought as he blended into the city's shadows thrown by the low hanging suns. Virilya was as busy as ever and while he welcomed the noise and people as a good way to make his own movements less noticeable, he had been too late. Too late to find Edwin before another one of his murders. Already he had the attention of an enemy he wasn't prepared to handle and while he was still of little consequence to them that would change with time and amount of people killed.
Still he smiled a little, knowing that was exactly what Edwin wanted, the little Redleaf tornado. He wondered how much the boy had progressed. At least so far he didn't make any mistakes, remembering his lessons from so long ago. Baltimore moved slowly, not using his teleporation ability as excessively as he would normally, still feeling the presence somewhere close, not close enough to endanger him but whomever it was, they were following. 'Another possible lead...' he thought as he jumped to the next house over, his view of the city blocked by bigger buildings around him.
He was leading her on, Eve was sure of it. The man had moved leisurely, at least for what she assumed to be his skill. As much as she was looking for another clue, perhaps so was he.
[Warrior – lvl 220]
She identified the man to make sure. Any warrior at that level with a goal in mind would be moving more quickly through the city, even on his first day here. Thinking of Ilea, she stopped that kind of thinking as she continued to follow. Then again the man hadn't seemed like an impulsive fighter nut, otherwise the house probably wouldn't be standing anymore.
For the next hour, she followed the man as he went deeper and deeper into the city, below bridges and through sewers and rotten away cellars and underground tunnels until finally he stopped, deep down inside a place that was so mundane Eve just couldn't think of it as a trap. Seeing the man hadn't attacked or looked for her in the noble's house, he probably wanted to at least talk first. Something she could agree with.
A clone of her materialized a meter to her left, the man shifting his eyes to look at the clone.
“A projection? Interesting again. That's already two things about you that I like. I nearly can't tell the difference between that and a real person...” the man said as he slowly clapped.
“To follow me was a risk, what if this was simply a trap? A runed destination specialized in uncovering you?” he asked.
“You had four members of the scouts with you, I believe a strike would've been most reasonable then, why wait? You don't seem like a fool to me.” she answered.
“True, your analysis is sound. What if I simply wanted to capture you, murder you or torture you? For my own joy?” he asked, a black dagger moving around his hand in a fluid motion as he delivered the questions in a completely monotone voice.
Eve's clone started to grin, a little too wide to still look beautiful. “Then all the more reason to come here.” she answered his question. Apparently she had taken the man by surprise as he chuckled a little.
“Oh I see. Well aren't you motivated. Plenty of targets for you then in Virilya. Now tell me, do you know anything about the man you're hunting? Or were you the one to kill those nobles?” he asked.
“There are, there are. I don't assume you're one of them then. Perhaps a trade of information might be beneficial for the both of us?”
“What do you want to know?” the man answered, Eve quite happy at his direct approach.
“The name of the organization that is hunting this... Edwin Redleaf. And perhaps a location or person that would be able to tell me more... yet I do believe I might've found such a person already.” she said, smiling at the man. Depending on his next words she would take her chances at engaging him. No external influences would be around to save him and her close call with the huntress three days prior still sat sour with her.
“So you're hunting the hunters. An efficient way to look for them, that certainly is true but if you have any thoughts of engaging the Golden Lily, you're not even gonna wake up again to realize your mistake. Edwin seems to be trying himself, a little stupid for someone taught by me.” the man said, Eve preparing to fight. Nobody would reveal so much without the intention to silence anybody close by.
“The Golden Lily hmm? How come I've never heard of them?” she asked, unsheathing her daggers, still cloaked and standing a meter away from her clone.
“Oh they're quite good at silencing people who shouldn't know. A passion for some of them I wager.” and with that, he vanished. A black mist appearing in front of her clone, expanding quickly.
Eve moved backwards and through the tunnel as the black cloud advanced for another twenty meters, touching her back a little in the last moment. 'Black magic...' she winced at the phantom pain, knowing a little about how that particular magic worked. Quite effective and without her iron mind skill she might've already been knocked out by the contact.
Dropping her camouflage in the next room, four of her clones appeared as she turned around and skidded to a halt. Out of the smoked tunnel the man stepped, a black mask completing the light armor set he had been wearing. The time for talking was over.