Chapter 154 How much we grow
“I’ve never fought them really.” Ilea said as she got up again from her crouched position.
“They’re nasty, evil and breed like nothing else I’ve seen. Good thing the usual monsters around here tear them to shreds. As do we.” Dale said and sighed before he leaned on the wall of the underground cellar. Looking around, Ilea realized it must’ve once been a crypt.
“I guess they are, caught you unawares it seems?” she asked.
“They did, some of them are higher leveled than expected. It’s mostly the bad weather though, spotting traps is harder like this and they’re small.” Dale said and then looked at her. “I didn’t even greet you yet. It’s been a while Ilea. You’ve well changed as expected.” he said and sent a meaningful look towards Kyrian.
Most of the soldiers were in the crypt now, somewhat apprehensive of the newcomers but seeing that their captain knew at least one of them made them ease up a little bit.
“A lot has happened, joined the Hand and fought some demons. What about you? I can see you’ve been taking the training seriously.” Ilea asked after she had identified him to be at level 121, considerably higher than last time they had met.
“And every week brings more reason to do so. First the elves and now the demons. I heard rumors about the Hand being involved in all of it, I do hope you’re still on our side.” he said but didn’t seem to put a lot of faith in such rumors considering the casual way he talked about it.
“The Hand was involved but we cleaned it up again, at least in Ravenhall, at the core. I’m sure it’s gonna take a while to kill all the remaining demons but in time it’ll clear up.” Ilea said and looked upwards, hearing shouts from the room above.
“Goblins?” Kyrian asked and Ilea shrugged.
“Let’s go check. Or do you want to let the recruits deal with it?” Ilea asked as she looked around, finding the eyes of young soldiers staring back at her.
“Today is not the day for that, I’m not going to lose anybody here. Let’s finish them.” Dale said and unsheathed his sword, an aura of power forming around him. Ilea nodded and blinked upwards twice to find herself in the room with four soldiers. There were a couple small green creatures, most of them naked and armed with crude weapons running around and attacking the taller soldiers who used their weapons to keep the monsters at bay.
Ilea kicked one of the creatures and blinked to one of the soldiers who was getting cornered by two of the goblins. She grabbed their heads and smashed them together, creating a sickening crunch of bone as blood splattered on her veil and the soldier before her. Another blink and a kick killed another goblin before the remaining ones scrambled to flee.
“Any of you hurt?” Ilea asked as she looked at the fleeing goblins. The creatures were between level five and twenty. Weak to be sure but she had seen the tactics they employed. They weren’t stupid, not something as easily dealt with as a Drake or demon spawn. Daled rushed out into the room at that moment, sword in hand and looking around to find a couple dead goblins and Ilea looking out into the rain.
“You killed them already?” he asked and sheathed his sword. “Still like to put up a show don’t you?” he asked and shook his head.
Ilea didn’t reply. It was less about the show and more about simply using her abilities but Dale wasn’t like her in that regards. The man had something to protect and a lot to lose. A more careful approach was reasonable for him, plus not everybody loved fighting as much as she did.
“Someone’s coming.” Ilea said as she watched a man approach through her Sphere. Kyrian had joined them as well by that point. They all looked towards the entrance when a warrior clad in full plate armor entered and looked around, mostly ignoring the people and focusing on the goblins. He walked up to one of the corpses and stabbed his sword into its chest.
“They’re quite dead mister.” Ilea said but the man simply continued to do the same thing to each goblin before he looked up.
“Where did they go?” he asked and Ilea pointed the way.
“I see.” the man said and left back into the rain, towards the indicated direction.
“Hunting goblins I guess.” Ilea said and shrugged.
“Yea, seen him around. He’s capable enough but there won’t be any more goblins here for us to train the recruits anymore.” Dale said.
“Back to Riverwatch then?” Ilea asked.
“We’re going to venture further north tomorrow. For now we’ll stay here. For some of them it’s the first time out in the wild.” the man explained and sat down next to the fire. “You and you,” he pointed to two guards who stood at attention immediately. “Clean out the corpses and the blood.”
The men confirmed their orders and went about their business as Ilea joined Dale at the fire. Kyrian leaned on one of the walls and looked towards the rain. The other guards in training warmed themselves on the fire or stayed down below.
“Expedition tour for the new trainees. Isn’t the experience somewhat bad if you’re with them?” Ilea asked as she summoned a meal. She didn’t deem the people around her dangerous enough to do anything stupid with the information on her necklace. The stares were getting a little annoying though, as if she was some rare breed animal. Then again if the guard was anywhere close to the military on earth these guys probably haven’t seen a woman up close in weeks.
“Levels aren’t everything Ilea. I forget that you’re pretty new to all this yourself. At least your growth is ridiculous. Surviving in the wild, knowing what beast to approach and what not to. Learning to track and finding abilities you’re talented in. This is a good way to start. You can always go out and kill monsters, being as prepared as possible is key.” the man explained and she had to agree. If she didn’t have her healing and blink abilities, she’d be dead fifty times over. Good thing she got lucky with her class.
“Agreed.” she simply said before she started eating in silence. The recruits were looking at her still and Dale seemed to be mulling over something.
“Guys, I get that I’m really really nice to look at but stop staring or your heads will be the next thing to be scraped off those walls.” Ilea said with a mouth full of food. They all looked away rather quickly, some of them changing their focus to Kyrian instead.
“You’ve fought demons then? Only a few have reached this far west but I wasn’t involved in any of the encounters. They sounded terrible.” Dale said. “We lost ten guards two weeks ago. Took a group of adventurers and guards four hours to hunt and kill the responsible monster. Above level two hundred. And we had to burn the corpses.”
Ilea swallowed. “I’m sorry.” she simply said and waited for a while before continuing to eat.
“We lost many as well.” Kyrian said from the side. Dale looked downwards a little before he chuckled.
“Crazy world isn’t it?” he asked. “Elves and demons, the past year has been rather turbulent around here. I wish we could just stick to wolves and goblins.”
Ilea didn’t say anything. She didn’t agree with the man of course but seeing how much they lost she understood. Having lived the past year in this exciting and dangerous world made her unable to return to the boring and safe place she grew up in. Would she have realized that something like a professional kick-boxing career was what she truly wanted? Probably not. She lacked the talent as well and the means to focus on the sport enough.
One unlucky fight could’ve ended her aspirations as well. Here she could heal even a lost head when she took her skill descriptions seriously.
“You came here just to see me?” Dale asked after a while.
“We had something to do nearby. Thought I’d check in.” Ilea said and finished her meal, making the plate vanish into her inventory again. Dale nodded and got a ration from a nearby pack.
“I hope you get a break for a while, with the elves and demons I mean.” Ilea said.
“Me too. The refugees are still coming from the west and soon they'll come from the east as well. The cases of murder and theft have gone up and we barely have enough cells to keep all the people we catch. It's not going well, I tell you.” the man said.
“Didn't a lot of people leave after the elven attack. There must be plenty of space in the city.” Ilea said.
“Space? Yes, there's plenty of space for people to hide. For people to form gangs and try to take over the bloody city.” the last words were spoken in a hiss.
“And there's nothing you guys can do about that?” Ilea asked seriously.
“We tried. Looking for the leaders but every time we got close, we simply lost more people. There's some high levelled assassin or rogue class involved I'm sure. We simply don't have the resources to deal with something like that. We train to fight monsters and keep the peace with citizens and normal adventurers, not trained murderers.” Dale spat. Power flowed around him.
“You must have some adventurers who can deal with that? What about all the strong people I saw when the elves were around? You managed to defend against them, I doubt a human as strong as that would target Riverwatch.” Ilea said.
“We're an independent city Ilea. It's the exact place someone like that would target. Though I agree, he or she is likely weaker but the people you saw weren't from here. You remember the Hand was around as well when the elves were here.” he explained and smiled at her.
Ilea sighed. “Yea alright, I can weed them out and bring them to you. Or outright murder them if that seems like the best option.” she said. “Alright with you?” she asked towards her companion who shrugged.
“Why not. I assume we get paid?” he asked.
“I didn't intend to ask for payment. I'll invite you to a nice dinner if you join me.” Ilea said and smiled. Kyrian nodded two seconds later.
“Are you sure you're up for something like that?” Dale asked. He had been there after all, when Ilea had her first experience of a battle involving humans as the enemy. “And we could certainly pay you.”
“Don't worry about either. What info do you have on them? We can leave right now.” Ilea said.
“We don't have a name and most that likely got close enough were taken out by something that burned their insides, others simply had their throat cut. Likely they're stationed in the northern part of the city, where the rebuilding from the elven attacks hasn't been finished yet. They're organized enough and some of the guards already avoid that territory. It's not gonna be long before half of us are paid by them.” he said and shook his head.
“Alright, northern part it is. I'll do it my way Dale and I don't want to hear shit from you afterwards. If someone attacks me not clad in your guard outfit, I won't guarantee their safety.” Ilea said.
“Don't worry about it. There's no empire here. I have enough influence to keep this quiet.” he said and looked towards the recruits. “If any of you go missing suddenly I'll personally hunt you down.” he said offhandedly.
“Aight, we'll be leaving then.” Ilea said and put up her hood. Kyrian pushed off the wall as metal spheres floated out from behind him. “I'll find you in the wild.” Ilea said as her wings spread to raised eyebrows from Dale and a smile.
Blinking outside, she flew upwards into the rain, followed by her companion. It seemed the rogue in Riverwatch was a little unlucky that she had made friends with Dale of the Guards and not the local representative of the thief's guild, if such a thing even existed. 'Who am I kidding, of course it does.' Ilea thought and smiled as they rushed towards the city with terrifying speed.
Dale breathed out as he noticed the ration he had put on the fire was burning. Getting it out quickly, he looked at it and sighed. This wasn't like him at all. Wasting food was not a good thing to teach his recruits. Seeing Ilea was a little much for him to take after the goblin disaster. She had bloody wings. And her companion looked positively murderous. He smiled, thinking that perhaps his sleepless nights would finally have an end, at least for a little while.
“Why are the goblins not cleaned up yet? I think I remember giving orders.” he said a moment later, calming himself down. He couldn't quite wipe the smile off his face. Helping people all the time had paid off again, he thought as he remembered the weak healer he had found in the forest near a rogue adventurer convoy. The archers next to him had asked to take her out but he wanted to make sure. A healer so far away from the main group didn't make sense.
He got up and brushed off his armor. “Now get some sleep, three guards at the top, four hours per group.” he said and walked down into the crypt, his hand steady and his breathing even.
Night had fallen as Ilea and Kyrian entered Riverwatch from the air. Rain was falling and the clouds were dark, barely any light making it through the thick veil of black. Two iron clad warriors landed, their black armor reflecting the lantern light coming from the street below.
“Now what exactly are we looking for...,” Ilea said out loud, looking around.
“Want to lure them out?” Kyrian suggested.
“And how would you do that?” she asked, sitting down on the ledge.
“Perhaps a fair maiden such as yourself could pose as a virgin alone and scared in the city streets?” Aki suggested which got a snort from Ilea.
“You know they can use identify. Maybe if I still had the healer tag but an unidentifiable warrior posing as a target is a bit hard to pull off.” she said.
“I think it’s the easiest way though. They avoid working in the open according to your guard friend and I don’t know if you want to start an investigation from scratch.” Kyrian said and Ilea had to agree.
“Hire someone then?” she suggested to which Kyrian shrugged.
“Maybe. If you’re willing to lose money on this mission.” the man said though he didn’t seem to judge one way or the other.
“I don’t mind really, I have more gold than I could spend in a decade.” Ilea said and summoned a gold coin which she moved around between her fingers, not a simple maneuver considering the gauntlets of her Juggernaut armor.
“Life is sometimes longer than ten years Ilea.” Kyrian said.
“I’ll get a savings account, alright? And it’s not like I’ll suddenly become jobless. I’m a healer, fighter, adventurer, scout and possibly aerial carriage. Plus I have a house, that has to count as an investment?” she asked seriously.
“Ilea I don’t know much about finance. I agree that with even just my set of skills it’s simple to make a living.” the man explained.
“You’re drifting off.” Aki casually interrupted.
“Do you have history in banking Aki?” Ilea asked, baiting the dagger but he didn’t bite to her disappointment.
“There’s a bunch of people in the house below us, maybe we can ask them. One of them is a good looking woman, at least it looks like that through my Sphere.” Ilea said.
“Wanna go knock?” the man asked and jumped down from the roof. Ilea followed a moment later and watched as he knocked. Kyrian had gotten considerably more social in the past months. She couldn’t have imagined him to walk up to a stranger’s door and initiate a conversation when she remembered the man she had met in the training room of the Shadow’s Hand.
The knock had a reaction inside immediately. Ilea smiled as she watched on from outside, explaining everything to Kyrian and Aki.
“The woman and her husband perhaps… well they woke up immediately and took charge. He is hiding the kids in the basement and the woman is helping an elderly man down. Dale wasn’t exaggerating it seems, if this is how someone reacts to a knock on their door.” she said.
“It is the middle of the night, not a time you expect visitors.” Kyrian said.
“They’re arguing now about what to do it seems. He wants her to hide as well it seems. The rain makes it hard to hear anything.” she said before Kyrian knocked on the door again, with the same intensity as before.
“I don’t think it’ll be an issue but they armed themselves. She’s hiding a dagger in her sleeve and the guy put on chain mail, probably a mage that one.” Ilea said right before the door opened. Kyrian had stepped back far enough not to seem threatening, their armor didn’t help much of course.
“Good evening. I apologize for the late visit and the disturbance to your home.” Kyrian said and waited for a moment. The man opened the door a little more, revealing the woman behind him. She really was quite beautiful, her hair a deep black and her eyes a shade of green. The man looked good as well Ilea thought, perhaps they should take him as the bait. They both looked somewhat thin, not malnourished but it was noticeable.
Identifying them she found the woman to be a warrior at level 39 and the man a mage at 68. ‘Perfect’ Ilea thought and smiled under her helmet.
“It is no issue. What do we owe the visit.” the man said yet neither let them inside nor opened the door any further.
“Well we are in a bit of a pinch you see. We were asked by the authorities of Riverwatch to look into a certain group in the north of the city.” Kyrian started and Ilea focused on every little change in the people’s faces she could notice. The man seemed to relax a little immediately, as did the woman. The latter less noticeably.
“And how can we be of assistance. We’re not involved in any way.” the man said, glancing at Ilea who was standing a step further back.
“We don’t believe that you are. Are the streets already dangerous enough for you to walk outside?” Kyrian asked. The man looked at him confused but the woman raised her eyebrows.
“I’m not su…,” he started but the woman interjected, pushing past him.
“No, neither of us will be coming with you to lure them out.” she said, her shaking voice betraying her resolve.
“I see.” Kyrian said and looked towards Ilea who had looked through the house with her Sphere in the meantime.
She looked at the woman and summoned a gold coin that she moved through her fingers again, plain for them to see. “Your stocks seem to be rather low, even with the hidden sack of potatoes behind the third cupboard in the kitchen. Additionally I doubt the coins below the floorboard upstairs are golden.” she said and watched both of them widen their eyes. “Six mouths are not easy to feed and I doubt the situation in the city will improve much in the coming months.” Ilea said, flipping the coin up into the air. Two sets of eyes followed the shiny coin. She had them already, money really was a powerful tool.
“Can we discuss quickly.” the woman asked and Ilea shrugged before they closed the door. It took barely ten seconds before it opened again and the man waved them inside.