Chapter 150 Politics, meh.
“The cleanup of Viscera will fall onto our tasks.” Sulivhaan said as he wrote down the terms on the paper before him.
“Agreed. The requested purchases in the city should be fine, though we will have to request permission to accept.” one of the officers said.
“That is all for now?” another officer asked before yawning. The negotiations had taken hours already and they were barely through with the immediate necessities. The Shadow’s Hand would gain a lot of new power in Ravenhall, the contract accepted thanks to their independent retaking of the city and the empire’s interest in keeping in good relations with them. Considering the demon problem they could either blame the Hand or try to work together to resolve it.
The majority of the present officers luckily thought more of cooperation. They knew exactly what the capabilities of their army were and what the Shadow’s Hand could bring to the table. Of course the empire acted though through the negotiations but the ultimately finished contracts painted quite a different picture about the balance of power.
The Hand had neither the resources, nor the desire to take over a kingdom or empire but they might have the power to weaken or even destroy one. All the present figures knew such and while the elders were preoccupied with other things, Sulivhaan and Dagon had plans for their order. Working together with the empire was in the interest of both parties.
“That is all for today. We can offer mercenaries to deliver the necessary documents by tomorrow if you wish.” Dagon suggested but the officer in front of him waved the man off.
“We appreciate the notion. Two squads of our fastest will build a constant communication network between the empire and Ravenhall for as long as necessary.”
Ilea quietly closed the door behind her as she and Claire walked towards the main table. Two imperial scouts stepped in front of them.
“The negotiations are ongoing, please wait outside for now.” one of them said, annoying Ilea already.
‘Don’t kill him, he’s just doing his job...’ she thought and felt like Claire was projecting the same thing into her mind with the stare she gave her.
“Sulivhaan, I need to talk, gonna wait outside.” she said to the man sitting at the table a couple meters further back. He looked at her and nodded. The wait wasn’t long as the meeting had just concluded for the day. The officers and imperial soldiers walked out, some of them giving Ilea and Claire looks. Most of them seemed respectful at least.
Sulivhaan opened the door a moment later and ushered them in. “Come inside.”
Sitting down on the table, Dagon was pouring himself a drink behind the bar. “For you guys?” he asked but they declined.
“What can I do for you Ilea.” Sulivhaan asked as Dagon came back and sat down, starting to read through the documents.
“Oh I’m just here to endorse my friend here. I’m sure she can speak for herself.” Ilea said, nodding towards Claire before she summoned a meal.
“Ilea please, can you at least move to another table?” Dagon asked, protecting the papers in front of him from the food. Ilea rolled her eyes and leaned back on her chair, before hitting a supporting beam of wood. Dagon nodded thankfully as their attention moved to Claire.
“My name is Claire Russel, I’m in the same team as Ilea here.” she got out a letter from a pocket in her armor and handed it to the men. After they had read it she talked for a while about her home town and measures taken by her to ensure its survival. She went on to describe the current situation in Ravenhall and measures she would implement if she had the necessary influence.
“So you want a job?” Dagon asked.
“You got it.” Sulivhaan said. “Though I don’t think you can be an elder for now. We have no idea how that will go anyway. Verena still hasn’t returned but I’m sure she’ll have some plans in place. Maybe you’ll be able to work with her as well. I found it… difficult.” Sulivhaan explained.
“It would be my pleasure to try.” Claire said and smiled, as did Dagon.
“Great, the politicians have found each other. If you need anything else I’ll be at home. Oh Dagon, now that I’ve gotten you a capable helper, care to share some info on ash creation, element creation skills in general and their use?” Ilea asked, leaning back forwards as her empty plate vanished.
“You wanna know if you can fight with it? Sure, I mean most mages focused on one element or property have skills enhancing the power of it, not sure if you have that as a melee fighter.” he started explaining, quite open with information. Perhaps he really felt like he owed her something for bringing Claire to them.
“Your class is focused on ash though so there must be a way at some point. I have little information on ash related magic and skills though as I’ve previously told you. You should find more in the Foundation of Glass.” he finished.
“Ah, maybe I’ll go check it out finally, people have been talking about that one forever. Or I’ll just try and see where I can go with it.” Ilea said as she thought about the possibilities. One way or the other she had to increase her levels and skills to get more usability out of them or perhaps something that would increase her ash’s power.
“I think that’s the better way for you to go. I find it hard to categorize either of your classes. With little external influence you might be able to go where nobody has gone before.” Dagon said, looking at her with the creepy eyes of a scientist looking at a rare species of bird.
“Well you’re the last one who will find out.” Ilea told him and grinned at his disappointment.
“Suit yourself woman.” he said but then smiled again. “Thanks for coming to find us in Virilya. Any more days of waiting and I don’t know how this battle would’ve turned out.”
“Elder Strand really fucked us eh?” Ilea asked and the two men looked at each other.
“He did, but perhaps for the Hand itself, it might not be so bad.” Sulivhaan said and looked at the papers in front of Dagon. “You better have a look Claire, may I call you Claire?” the woman nodded in response and received the contracts.
“No shit this is good for the Hand. I suggest a change in paragraph six, both the third and fourth street house some very important stores that could easily be rebuilt and restaffed. Their reputation goes further than even the empire itself…,” Claire started and Ilea found them lost a moment later, excusing herself to finally find her bed. It had been a long week, she wouldn’t clean up anymore of the mess she made but she’d return to get paid for the already done work at least.
Stepping out into the open, she found that the sunlight had already left the city. The air smelled of smoke and death, something that wouldn’t change for at least another week. Too much blood was in the streets, too many corpses.
Two near black wings formed on her back before she started ascending. The city’s houses below her became smaller and smaller as she watched the mercenaries and soldiers work outside and inside Ravenhall to clean up the demons. Perhaps it would be better to send those people out to defend and help other towns in the empire but she didn’t know the situation and she was sure the people in charge would at least think of distributing their resources.
It wasn’t her problem though. At least she’d check out Riverwatch after she dropped off Weavy but the possibility of any demons reaching that far north and west was small. She flew off towards the sea, her wings flapping merrily as she enjoyed the wind on her body and face. Her armor was replaced again by the more comfortable leather kind. A little wariness remained as she checked around to see if a flying demon by the name of Green was anywhere to be found but he didn’t seem like the biggest planner. Ilea deemed it likely that the mind weavers put him up to keeping Ravenhall and summoning those beasts.
At least there wasn’t anything she or the Hand could do now that he had vanished. She just hoped he was as simple minded as he seemed to her. The fucker was strong though and if she wanted to best him next time, more than just a bunch of stats in Strength were necessary. She doubted her newfound levels and the change to State of Azarinth were quite enough to overpower that demon, not with what he did to her in just a couple of attacks. Plus next time there probably won’t be another lucky paralyzing scream from a nearby abomination.
Ilea landed quietly near her home. The cat was nowhere to be seen as she advanced on her house, a faint light coming from within. Opening the door, she stepped inside. No cleanup was necessary as all the filth from the past weeks was on her elven armor. A shower would be nice to be sure. Sighing, Ilea stretched and walked to the table.
“I’m back!” she greeted and heard scrambling feet coming from downstairs.
“Welcome back Ilea!” Cless greeted, an electric cat in her arms.
“I’m not sure if that’s the best idea.” Ilea said. The cat cuddled up closer to the girl when it recognized Ilea’s voice.
“They’re fine. I found a record in one of your beast encyclopedias. They make other creatures feed them, long term exposure is fine as well. Some people keep them as pets far in the south.” Kyrian stepped out from the stairwell leading to the kitchen, drying his hands with a towel.
“You look good.” Ilea said, trying to catch the man off guard. He did in fact look good though.
“And you stink. I didn’t see a bath in here but I wouldn’t believe you if you said there isn’t one.” Kyrian replied.
“Ah, you’re getting better at this. There is one. And yes, I’ll be there for a while. Did you prepare dinner?” she asked and walked past him, patting Cless on the head in the process.
“Currently working on it. Can I see the bath too at some point?” Kyrian asked. “I’ve been jumping into the ocean before.”
“If you behave, maybe.” Ilea played and blinked downwards into the big library. Several rooms hat been placed and sealed off from the rooms accessible upstairs. Runes placed in the armory would open paths but it was easier for her to just blink into them.
One such room was the bath and Ilea removed her clothing with her necklace before stepping into the room and activating a couple runes on the wall. Steaming water started flowing into the big space before her as she smiled at her investment. “Aaaah, luxury that comes with wealth...” she commented and stepped into the already half full bath. Magic really was even more convenient in some places than the technology she had enjoyed on Earth.
Ilea relaxed into the bath and scrubbed herself clean of the dried blood from both herself and her opponents. She nearly fell asleep as she enjoyed the scathing hot bath that she doubted she’d even step into without her Resistances and the general defense she’d acquired in Elos.
Cleaning up twenty minutes later, she put on the black dress she had found in Morhill. Looking into the mirror in the bath, she was quite pleased with herself. A bit too much muscle to be the graceful noble that this dress would usually accompany but she did look good. Better than she ever had.
Blinking upstairs again, she was happy to find a marvelous smell going as far as the armory. Kyrian had even finished the cleanup already, the pots simmering on low heat.
“Sh...” he started as she stepped into the living room but stopped and just stared at her.
“Do you like the dress? Thank you.” Ilea said and sat down on the set table.
“Ilea is like a princess!” Cless exclaimed as she joined her at the table, the cat following her a moment later.
“Yes I am, a battle princess dear.” she said, mimicking an English accent as best as she could.
Kyrian had left to get the food and a minute later full plates were set before all of them, even the cat, which was sitting casually on its chair, eating the food with its paws. The illusion was broken a little and Ilea imagined the lightning tentacles sucking up all the food.
“Cless, tomorrow we’ll leave for Ravenhall. You’ll be staying with aunt Clarie for a while.” Ilea said and watched confusion come to Cless’ face. She didn’t know why she added the aunt part but it just felt right.
“You know I’ve barely ever been here and I won’t be able to stay in one place. I’ll come visit though. Aunt Claire will be able to train you and teach you about the world. We’re not in England anymore but I think you’re smart enough to have figured that out already.”
“So it’s true? I thought so… nobody knew anything about the royal baby. I just don’t understand.” the girl shook her head, apparently more disoriented by the lack of news about the baby than the existence of magic and literal knights.
“You will understand soon enough. Staying with Claire will be the best bet for you. Just promise me to keep drawing and work on your spells ok?” Ilea said and smiled as the girl lit up.
“I will!” she mimicked a salute, likely seen in a movie back on Earth.
“Are you from England as well hmm?” Kyrian asked as he continued eating.
“No, not England.” Ilea said and didn’t comment on it further. She was happy that he didn’t pry. Kyrian knew she wasn’t from around here, he must’ve realized she really wasn’t from around the whole realm even. Though it didn’t seem like he cared much.
“So what are the plans? You go to Ravenhall with her tomorrow?” Kyrian asked, having finished his meal. He got up and started cleaning up, Ilea joining a moment later.
“Yea, and I’ll bring Weavy away. The imperial soldiers already looked at him like he’s a monster.” Ilea said as they started to clean the dishes. A magical dish washer would be nice to have as well, she thought.
“I understand their sentiment. He’s up above, dunno but he seems to have an obsession with snow.” Kyrian said.
“I mean didn’t you? In your first winter?” Ilea joked.
They brought Cless to bed in the armory where she had built a nice little nest next to all the animals they had found in Morhill. Claire would think of something to do with them that didn’t involve living in a cage anymore. Ilea didn’t get her supplies of food just for a bunch of random animals they had found.
Both Kyrian and Ilea fell asleep on her bed pretty much as soon as they fell down on it. At least the man wasn’t wearing his armor anymore.
Eve grit her teeth and breathed hard as she ripped out the thorns in her arm, each one fitted with barbs that tore out a piece of skin as they went out, cutting deeper into her. She hissed and concentrated to keep her illusion spells going. Shakily, she opened her pouch and downed her third health potion, the last one she had. ‘Fuck that woman…,’ she thought and allowed herself to sigh as the wounds on her back and arm slowly closed.
The poison was strong, her foe wasn’t playing around anymore. Even for her, with a second stage resistance the substances used were potent and weakened her considerably. Her natural health regeneration was nullified at least but luckily it didn’t go further than that for now.
She was laying on rock, no flower or tree nearby as she waited. Eve wasn’t the only one injured but she had to move quickly, the woman had already regenerated a half removed head, three stab wounds to the heart, belly and neck as well as the curse that was still growing inside of her. Without it Eve didn’t think she’d still have a fighting chance.
“Where are you, damn cunt!!” the woman screamed as the ground was rolled through by roots and thorns, the beautifully placed flowers ripped apart in the process as the enraged mage unleashed her spells. It quieted down again as the woman started coughing hard, something wet hit the ground and Eve knew a chance presented itself again. She waited though, a full minute, even after the coughing had stopped.
And then she moved. Her body shot up as the pain of her foe’s poisonous mixtures flowed through her body and the half healed wounds ripped open again in some parts. Eve advanced at a terrifying speed, her remaining dagger flashing in the crystal light from above as the roots thorns around her started moving, responding to the attacking rogue.
A high pitched hum filled the whole cave like cellar and the roots aiming towards her shot into the ground around her target, some even injuring the caster herself. Only a moment, but a moment was enough for Eve as she dashed the remaining distance to sink her blade into her opponent’s skull, using her other hand to rip out the second dagger that was still stuck inside of her. The curse would spread one way or the other and she needed a weapon to continue the fight.
Jumping backwards, she avoided the onslaught of roots forming a cocoon around her enemy, an attack that had nearly cost her life ten minutes earlier. This time she was prepared. She heard the scream even through the defense and allowed herself to kneel down. Soon it would be over.