Chapter 146 Night Shift
The night was bright, the moon shining down onto Vilirya as Eve ran across dirty rooftops towards her destination. She had made some progress in her search for the so called Golden Lily. The organization she thought to be behind a lot of smaller gangs and corrupt government in at least the empire and maybe even beyond.
To destroy the problem at the root was what she believed in. If she could find and kill a single high ranking member of that organization, she could destabilize it immensely. Some of the people she had met and worked with in the years would discourage her, another one would fill the spot. Eve knew though that people who held a high position had years of experience and organizational skills. If it took a month or a year for the replacement to become just as efficient as the one before, then hundreds if not thousands would be spared pain and suffering.
There were holes in her argumentation and Eve had learned enough to know it wasn’t the right approach at all times but for the kind of work she did, it was necessary to steel herself. In the Hand she had finally gained the strength to face the people responsible and to become the executioner where no judge was allowed jurisdiction.
The sky was cloudless as she ran, only the sound of her featherlight steps on the stone and brick roofs resounding in the vicinity. Eve calmed her breathing and focused, thoughts would be distracting. She soon approached a small patch of land in one of the noble districts of Virilya. Flowers of all kinds proudly looked to the moon, alive and eager to grow even as winter came to an end. Magic no doubt.
A small house compared to the big noble mansions usually built in the city stood to the side of the piece of land. Eve ran through the field of flowers, the rustling of leafs filling her ears as she prepared to kill.
“What do you mean, I’m not going to cooperate with these people.” Claire said to the man in front of her, the lord of Vihal. She had practically taken over the defense and lead of the city while the demons attacked and now again she felt as if her power was ripped straight from her.
“You saved this city, I know this and so do you. The people will remember you but I cannot risk it. Their influence is too great I’m afraid and you of all people should understand the politics involved.” the man explained. Claire understood. Her rational mind understood but still she rejected it. It was unfair. A betrayal right after she thought to have finally reached the status she needed.
“They ask for a dear friend of mine and I’m not going to cooperate. Those are my principles and I will not budge.” she said, her voice calm as she locked eyes with the lord. The two were inside his office, enchantments kept listening ears out. He looked down and sighed.
“I thought it would come to this. Claire I’m sorry.” he said and she already prepared to defend herself but his next moves surprised her. The man got up from his chair and moved to a bookshelf, removing one book in particular which he opened. Inside was a letter that he handed to her.
“I’m a simple lord in a small town but still my word should hold some meaning to those who would listen. You’ve already joined the Shadow’s Hand and I’m sure you will be able to advance quickly with your talents. This might help pave the way. I know Ravenhall is occupied but my sources have brought information of the Hand gathering outside Virilya and moving out to take back the city. When you get there they will either be dead or back in power, likely more powerful than ever.” he started explaining with a quiet and fast voice.
Claire calmed herself again, he wasn’t going to betray her, at least not yet. To think a noble house in fuck all Dawntree had so much influence in the faraway town of Vihal to control the local Lord’s actions.
“It’s the safest place I can think of for you two. If you cannot be convinced to talk about your friend then Vihal will not be safe. WE will not be safe here because of you. You have three hours until we will agree to cooperate with them, your house will be empty and you will be declared an enemy to this town. We will look for you but we will find nothing, you’re a Shadow after all.” the man said and showed her a rare smile.
She had only seen him smile twice in the past weeks, once when they had rebuilt the city after the attack and it was safe enough again for people to resume their daily business. That was four days ago. Two days ago the adventurers hired by a noble family in Dawntree had arrived, asking for Claire and someone called Lilith. A name Ilea had mentioned from time to time.
“I need more time to prepare provisions…,” Clarie started, thinking things through, what to take and what to leave and how to transport her mother through the dangerous and still cold environment. The Lord stopped her with a move of his hand before he put it into his pocket.
“It’s something I prepared. This town is old Claire and you know that. When you came here you were Claire Russel, part of a forsaken noble house from far away. Now you have to leave again, branded as a public enemy but you will be remembered by the people. This is the parting gift and something that will let you remember. An apology if you will and my family’s biggest treasure.” he explained before he took out a small black ring from his pocket.
Handing it to Claire, she identified it and was prompted with the question to claim it as her own. Looking up to the man with a confused face, he just nodded. “Go ahead.” he said and so she did.
Tears nearly came to Claire’s eyes as she allowed herself to smile. “Good damn I hate politics. I thank you Lord Felt. Rule this town well.”
“Call me Damien.” the man said and bowed, deeply and with meaning. Claire was out of the room a moment later, rushing through the dark streets with purpose and anger in her eyes. She would burn down the whole city of Dawntree. Not now, not soon but in time. She had worked for years to get to this position, to ensure her own and her mother’s safety and she would work for decades to bring fire upon those that dared interfere.
Ilea looked up and spread her wings, tired eyes glimpsed upon the moon while fires burned around her. The smell of blood lay thick in the air as she ascended, clawed hands grasping at her legs before she blinked away, nearly fainting as she wobbled through the air. Meditation took over as she slowly recovered but her mind was burnt through. The concentration required to keep up the style of fighting she had pursued was immense but so too was her growth, even with lower leveled enemies.
“God I’m tired...” she said as she flew back to the meal and rest station. Some of the people were already sleeping, others looked to the ground with cold eyes. Mages still unleashed their magic but as soon as this was done, more than one of them would drop unconscious for more than a couple days. A whole day and night had passed since their initial assault on the city and the mercenaries were tired.
Many were used to it, to fight for so long without much rest, to be stuck inside a dungeon or dangerous terrain for weeks or even months but the constant killing weighed on them, the seemingly endless stream of demons coming out of the city. At least their numbers were thinning, less and less clusters were seen in the distance but the work simply shifted from the long ranged mages to the warriors on the ground as they had to take care of each demon individually.
Ilea grabbed a bowl of food and flew away, to a secluded spot near where the whale had destroyed the terrain with its sound attack. Sitting down, she crossed her legs and started meditating as she ate and concentrated on the food. The skill helped her brain relax after hours of constant fighting and killing. She would have to go back soon enough but this time she gave herself half an hour. Ilea thought of Earth, of mornings in her bed with food and shows.
After this was over she would take a week off, just relax in her bed, eat and read before she would get back out to get stronger again. Hopefully her team would still be with her then. They could just do jobs until she felt powerful enough to look for the demon she had fought. Maybe find Edwin first. She chuckled at the thought, maybe she should wait. Find him when she was much stronger to simply slap him around like a kid. The thought brought joy to her and a warmth spread from near her heart.
“This is unhealthy thinking...” she said quietly and sighed, the smile was still on her face though. “This newfound freedom hasn’t been exactly free these past months...” she added and remembered a certain spider’s uncle and his talks of responsibility. Well soon enough the demons would be destroyed and all she had to worry about were more of them being summoned, elves attacking the humans of this world, eldritch beings getting interested in this realm, dwarven machines coming to life in hidden chambers deep underground. She stopped herself and slapped her cheeks.
She was free and she could do whatever the fuck she pleased. Maybe any of those things would happen and maybe she would join the fights but she would do it for herself, not some misplaced sense of duty or responsibility. The demons had destroyed Viscera and Ravenhall, places she thought of close to home. The elves had attacked Riverwatch and Salia, she wouldn’t forgive them anytime soon. And the Taleen machines, well the fuckers are creepy and nearly killed her. Thinking of the curse and the Praetorians made her angry. She would find them again and she would dismantle them piece by piece. “And it will be fun.” she said and continued eating, Meditation working overtime to keep her calm.
“You’re freaking me out a bit there woman.” Aki commented.
“Oh yes, I forgot about my fucking talking dagger.” Ilea said quietly. “Don’t worry about me. Just been a long day.” she added.
“I know, just trying to help.” the dagger said and kept quiet after that as she sat and finished her meal while watching the faraway stars. Before she started thinking of aliens she got up and walked back, renewed vigor in her tummy and mind. A smile on her face, her wings spread and soon enough she was back in the thick of it, her sphere allowing her to operate just as effectively in the night as many of the others huddled around magical lights created by the mages.
An hour later four mages were following Ilea around in the dark, destroying the groups of demons she managed to bring together. Her loud movements, shouting and fighting attracted them quickly as she ran through the destroyed environment around Ravenhall. The city itself still likely held tens of thousands of demons, in buildings and cellars. It would be safest to get as many of them out but Sulivhaan had decided to first clear the city’s surroundings.
More people had been sent to Viscera and the lake in Eregar’s Haven to both investigate and take care of the monsters that came out. Weavy insisted that only spawn would make it through and no bigger monsters like the ones summoned by the mind weavers the day before would even be attracted to the connection of planes but Sulivhaan was cautious at best. A dimensional connection like that had to at least be monitored by a sufficient amount of capable mages and warriors.
Ilea didn’t mind either way, less people fighting around the city meant more demons for her to kill. Her newfound power in State of Azarinth was now already a part of her, used in quick succession and more and more efficiently right before a blow. The power was overkill against the comparably weak demons but she had to learn how to use it, learn to control it. She was getting used to the pain, more and more with each use.
‘Maybe my pain tolerance will even level… I wonder if General Skills can reach the third tier...’ she thought as her fist smashed through a demon’s skull, the blood bone splashing onto her Veil before it fell down. A moving sea of ash followed her as she moved through the burning environment, four silent shadows following her in the air, waiting to unleash death and carnage.
A group of demons screamed as she approached the northern gate of the city, at least the place where it had stood before. Ilea focused her mind as she came to a stop, the four mages behind her powering up their spells as she moved the ash around her forward with the highest speed she could. The ash formed into sharp tendrils, condensed as much as possible at their tips before they reached the horde of demons. The impact was underwhelming but Ilea smiled as some of the demons’ skin was lightly scratched.
Deafening sound and flashes of light followed as the mages unleashed their spells. Ilea watched as the monsters were torn apart and burned to ash as blood and guts splattered onto the Veil before her. “Alright, to work then...” she said to no one in particular as she blinked into the lingering flames and started picking off the surviving and approaching demons.
“Hey, look who we have here...” the voice of Rock reached Ilea before the man landed, flattening a demon with his hammer before he grabbed another one with his bare hand, smashing its body on the ground. Ilea heard bone cracking before he got up again.
“Surroundings clear then?” Ilea asked as she brushed away the sweat on her forehead, Meditation working as she looked around to find the gap in the wall devoid of any demons, at least living ones. Hours had passed and the mages had left one after the other to regain their resources. Right now there was only one remaining who was refilling his mana while sitting on the broken off wall. The man’s shiny coat reflected the moonlight from above. It was a cloudless night, good for the Hand as not everyone of them could see very well in complete darkness.
“More or less, yes. I can’t believe how easy it became to kill them after the mages left, could’ve done this all alone.” Rock said and smiled. The man had apparently rested long enough, Ilea thought as she smiled a little at his carelessness.
“Well while you slept I’ve been clearing out the city, though I haven’t gotten very far.” she said, looking around the rubble of the once big square. They were standing barely twenty meters away from the wall.
“You should rest as well Ilea.” the man said, his face turning serious as more members of the Hand entered into the city.
“We’re supposed to form teams and start clearing out the buildings and streets one by one.” Rock said as Ilea spotted Navalis landing on the wall.
“I’ll be fine, go on then. You’re wasting time hammerman.” Ilea said as she walked to a piece of rock and sat down, removing her helmet, a tired smile on her face.
“Gods you’re beautiful, you know that?” Rock said as he shook his head and motioned for Navalis and presumably the hidden rogue of their team who was hiding somewhere to follow.
“Thanks.” was all Ilea could answer, she really appreciated the honest compliment though she had little interest in the man, not anymore. She sat there for a couple minutes, twirling around the dagger in her hand as more and more teams of mercenaries entered the city. A long night following a long day. She put on her helmet again and looked at her hands before they were balled into fists.
The Shadow’s Hand worked for three days and four nights straight to clear out every cellar, every house and the whole underground of Ravenhall. Demon corpses littered the streets and occupied nearly every house, it reeked of rot and blood. Curses, the undead, spirits and other monsters would appear soon enough. Ilea didn’t mind as she strolled through the city streets, more monsters would mean more experience, more strength and at least a small piece of revenge.
The Hand had repurposed some of the most central government buildings of the city to establish their command. People worked in shifts, some cooking, some sleeping and others scouring the beaten down city for any surviving demons. Ilea reached the gap in the wall where earth mages were already working on rebuilding it to ensure any surviving demons would be trapped inside.
Her wings spread behind her in silence before she took to the air, landing on the wall a moment later. The suns were coming up slowly, the horizon bathed in red and pink. Ash was created around her and clung to her battered armor, Ilea’s growing control of the element allowing her to clean it from the blood and grime that managed to get through her Veil. The sunlight illuminated a part of the field in front of the once proud city. Fires were still burning all around as mages created holes in the ground to burn the corpses as others moved said corpses into the holes.
The work would take longer than even the fight had been but still the mercenaries worked tirelessly. Ilea would join them soon but first she would find something to eat.