Chapter 157 Judge and Executioner
“If you move you will die.” Kyrian said, loud enough for all of them to hear but not shouting. Some of them were still confused. The whole fight between Ilea and Melian had only taken a couple minutes after all. Most of them were drunk in addition. They looked towards either Ilea or Kyrian, the armored man floating with metal spikes next to him. The black armor was known in Riverwatch as well and they could make their assumptions.
Ilea put on her helmet again before she reached the group, dragging the destroyed corpse next to her as they stared at her in silence. She walked to the bonfire and flung the corpse into it. Watching the fire for a moment, Ilea sighed and turned towards the barn where the prisoners had been held.
Blinking towards it, she reached the people inside mere seconds later and checked on the woman as they all parted to let her through. She was dead and Ilea closed her eyes with her hand.
“I’m sorry.” she said, to the dead woman and not the people around her. One man was crying, his hand held in front of his face as he looked at the corpse. Ilea looked at him. “Carry her.” she said. “It’s safe now.”
Walking outside, she saw the man nod and clean his face of the tears before he carefully grabbed the corpse. The others were watching on and most of them followed.
“Bury or burn?” Ilea asked without looking at him. He was quiet, a man in his late twenties, his hair disheveled and his body covered in filth. He smiled as he looked at the woman’s face.
“She was so brave.” he said. “E… everyday, she was so brave.” he said again as more tears streamed down his face. “I’d like to burn her. But not here.”
“Do you need help?” Ilea asked but he shook his head.
“Don’t move too far away for now, I don’t know if some of them might’ve escaped.” she said. “Who feels capable to move clothes, food and water to the rest of the group?” Ilea asked. Five people stepped up and she nodded. “The rest, stay here. We’ll be back soon.” she said and walked towards Kyrian who was still floating. There were two corpses lying near the big group that hadn’t been there before.
Ilea spread her wings and joined Kyrian. “They raped and killed a lot of them. Most were tied up and living in their own filth. This is scum.” she said to the man.
Ilea floated for a while and looked into the fire. “I need some time. Do what you want but I’m not in a state to judge them.” she said, feeling the rage inside of her. It was cold and deep. She wanted to simply rip off each and every one of their heads.
“We have time. Help the survivors, it will help.” Kyrian said calmly before he carefully moved his hand towards her helmet. He hesitated but then touched it gently.
“Thanks.” she said and floated down, joining the people who were ready to help.
“All of you undress. Everyone who isn’t naked in the next two minutes I will kill.” Kyrian said to the outlaws in front of him but Ilea focused on the survivors.
They looked through the wagons and the used barn, finding different sets of clothing first for the people that helped and then for everyone else. There were twelve survivors in total, all of them soon clothed and fed. They had moved the survivors into the barn and gave them all food. Ilea watched a girl not older than sixteen unable to stop her shaking hand before an older man helped her eat. Not a word was spoken and Ilea was glad she had her helmet on, tears dripping down onto the metal from within.
She checked on the man in the basement. His condition was stable but he was still knocked out. She moved him upstairs into a small bed still standing in one of the side rooms. The mage who had helped Melina was taken outside as well, gagged and bound just as all the rest. All of them were naked and kneeling on the ground. Some shivered from the cold, some from fear.
‘Is this what I have to do now?’ Ilea asked herself as she dropped the mage next to the others, grabbing his head and slapping him awake. ‘Fighting and killing, that is one thing...’ the mage woke up and gasped through his gag, looking at her with wide eyes and then his surroundings. ‘Passing judgment on men and women like these.’ the man in front of her closed his eyes before Ilea felt mind magic try to enter her head.
She slowly walked behind him and grabbed his chin, her buffs activated and she ripped his head off. Kyrian walked up to her. “Mind mage? I felt it too.”
Ilea nodded and threw the corpse into the fire. She smelled some of the people around her pee themselves. This work was dirty, there was nothing good about it. The survivors were traumatized, never able to completely return to their own lives. She would fight on and perhaps at some point lose her humanity as well. But she would do it. Get stronger to protect her friends and their families. Dale, Kyrian, Trian, Eve, Claire and all the people she had met, the people she had fought with.
She would inspire both them and the survivors from this fucked up side quest to get stronger, to fight for themselves and she would strike fear and terror in those that opposed her, those that would torture and kill the people she cared about. She was no shining paladin, no bastion of good morals. She was a monster, to all the monsters out there, human or not.
“Tomorrow we will find out who of you will live.” she said in a calm voice. “I need a god damn shower. Can you watch over them?” she asked Kyrian who just nodded.
“I’ll keep watch. Can you get Trevor, he’s still hiding.” he said and she nodded before flying off towards the forest.
Trevor was in the same spot. “Did you get her?” he asked.
“I did. Come, you can help as well. There are survivors.” she said and flew back without waiting for the man.
There was sadly no shower to be found on the farm but there were some water runes and a tub she found in the farm house. She filled it and removed her clothes, sliding into the cold water before she started scrubbing.
‘ding’ ‘You have defeated [Lightning Valkyrie lvl 210 – Sorceress of Storms lvl 203]’
There were no level ups from the kill and Ilea thought the information away a moment later. It left a bitter taste in her mouth. Drying herself up, she stepped outside again, in leather armor and a hood. Just to make sure her face wouldn’t spread too much among random people and criminals. She had calmed down considerably. While the bath hadn’t been warm, it had been relaxing and her thoughts had drifted away from the filth and death surrounding this bloody farm.
Kyrian was sitting on a stool someone had brought him and moved around a sphere of metal. Over twenty people were kneeling in front of him, gagged and bound still. Most of the survivors had found a bed and at least tried to sleep at this point. Ilea saw through the closed barn gate that many of them couldn’t quite sleep yet.
“How are you doing?” the man asked her.
“Better.” she said and sat down on the ground next to him. He nodded at her reply and formed a metallic flower that be moved into her lap. It bloomed as she held it up and smiled.
The barn gate slowly closed behind them and Trevor walked up to the two, an expensive looking bottle in hand. “God damn that woman was worse than I thought. I mean I saw some of it first hand but this place is horrible.” he said and held the open bottle towards Ilea. She took it and sniffed on it. A wine but she felt more like juice right now. Handing it back to the man, she shook her head when he looked towards Kyrian.
“Where’s her corpse?” he asked.
“Burned.” Ilea said.
“Damn, I’m sure we could’ve sold her equipment.” he murmured.
“If anything survives the fire, we will. The rest of that monster should turn to ash.” Ilea said as a bit of the element formed in front of her, twirling in the air and carrying the metal flower towards Kyrian.
“I… I don’t know if you want to hear this but I know some of these people.” Trevor started.
“We will decide when the sun rises. At least I will gladly listen to what you have to say. Kyrian will decide for himself.” Ilea said. She felt drained but looking at the naked and scared people in front of her she felt not a shred of pity.
“Trevor, come.” Ilea said and whispered to Kyrian “I’ll be back in a couple hours.” the metal mage nodded and moved the flower into a strap of her leather armor.
“He should be around here somewhere…,” Ilea said as she flew over the dark landscape. Trevor held onto her harder than anybody else who had flown Azarinth Air previously. Fear of heights she supposed.
“There it is…,” she said a couple minutes later as she dove down to the little village where she had met Dale around six hours earlier. The sun was rising already and when they landed, the fire was out and there were no guards to be found. The trail was fresh though and with her Hunter’s Sight, it was easy to start following the trail.
Twenty minutes later, they found the guards moving through the forest in formation. Ilea allowed herself a little joke and smiled, moving silently through the forest, appearing behind one of the recruits and whispering into his ear. “You’re already dead…,” she said and brushed the side of his face.
The scream was surprisingly feminine and Ilea laughed as he swung his sword in her direction. She dodged it and jumped backwards, not to embarrass the man any further. This was exactly what she needed after last night.
“Hey don’t worry, it’s your local healer.” she said and put up her hands in defeat. Most of the others had noticed the commotion and rushed towards the scream, most of them smiling at the result and deducted events that had occurred.
“Thanks for not picking me.” Dale said as he joined the group as well. “We’re gonna pause for a while, secure the perimeter, I want a report on wildlife, trees, tracks and possible points of interest and tactical advantages and disadvantages of the surrounding hundred meters in half an hour. Get on it.” the captain said, the recruits spreading out immediately.
“Come out!” Ilea shouted towards Trevor’s position, where he came out from behind a tree and waved towards them.
“Riversong…,” Dale was immediately on alert but looked at Ilea with a confused expression.
It took them a while to explain the whole situation but in the end Dale and Trevor begrudgingly respected each other. They were already talking about how to cooperate in secrecy without having to alert the higher authorities or other criminal organizations. One thing was sure, Trevor wouldn’t sell out anybody and neither would Dale let anybody go from imprisonment. Other avenues could be explored though, like the regulation of certain drugs or a network of healers and doctors independent of each group.
“You’re getting along then?” Ilea asked after a while, interrupting the talk between them.
“I wouldn’t say getting along.” Dale said, grinding his teeth.
“Better than murdering each other.” Trevor said and winked towards the guard captain.
“Good, we’ll be off then. Let me know whenever you need help with anything else Dale.” Ilea said.
“Ah yes, the prisoners…,” Trevor murmured as he prepared to leave, scared of flying as he was.
“I will let you know. Ilea, thank you. Truly.” Dale said and bowed.
“Hey, thanks for giving me a chance back then. And give your family my greetings.” Ilea said.
“Appreciate it but they will remain as ignorant of your existence as ever. Otherwise I’ll have children running off to become adventurers…,” the captain said and shook his head. Ilea didn’t comment further and just waved as she ascended. She heard Dale shout for the recruits right after. Half an hour hadn’t passed so she hoped he’d go easy on them.
The way back to the farm was faster than before and Ilea landed close to the still sitting Kyrian who had a dozen or so small spheres of metal floating around him in an intricate manner. ‘Maybe we should train together…,’ she thought, looking at the metal flower still placed on her leather armor.
“Welcome back.” the mage said as Trevor let go of Ilea.
“Hey, I’d rather get this over quickly. Trevor wait here.” Ilea said and walked towards the barn. The survivors were all up already, quietly talking or sitting on the table. Opening the gate, some of them flinched at the sudden entrance.
“Who is the leader here?” Ilea asked and waited for a couple seconds as the survivors looked at each other, in the end focusing on a man who looked to be in his forties. He was around that level as well and walked up to Ilea with an uncertain look on his face.
“Come outside quickly.” she said and walked out. The man joined her a moment later and following Ilea’s line of sight, he looked at the still bound people in front of Kyrian.
“We will judge them. Each and every one of them.” Ilea said. “They all looked on, they all didn’t do anything so they’re all criminals. I believe not all of them deserver death though. Do you disagree?” she asked the man.
“I know some would disagree but…,” the man started “not all of them were as bad. Some even came to apologize, saying they’d be killed if they helped. So no, I agree with you.” the man answered. Ilea kept looking at their prisoners.
“Can you get everyone who can stomach seeing them into the main house. I’d like to bring every single one of them inside. I want to know what they did, the good and the bad.” she said. The man looked at her from the side and slowly nodded.
Ilea waited for a couple minutes as around half the survivors walked out of the barn, led by the man. He nodded towards her and walked to the main house.
The campfire was reduced to embers and ash. Ilea waited for the survivors to enter the house and then walked over to Trevor and Kyrian. “You go inside as well, perhaps you can speak for some of them.” Ilea said. Trevor gulped and nodded, leaving to go into the house.
“How about you?” Ilea asked, after a minute of silence.
“What do you mean?” Kyrian asked, looking up towards her.
“What do you think we should do with them?” she asked him, looking into his eyes behind the metal helmet. The suns warmed the yard slowly, the smell of burning flesh still in the air.