Chapter 165 Silver Lining
“And you are said help?” he asked, looking at Ilea with suspicion in his eyes. “The Shadow’s Hand. I must say I’ve had it with mercenaries. Who paid for this job?” he asked.
“If this isn’t the rudest welcome I’ve gotten in quite some time. First a spider attacks me and now I get interrogated by the man I just saved.” Ilea said and shook her head.
Orthan sighed, as he let go of Aurelia. “Look girlie, I don’t care who you came to save. I certainly didn’t pay for it and I want you gone off this property.” he said, looking at her.
Ilea cocked her head to the side and smiled under her helmet before her buffs activated. She was right in front of him barely a blink later, her hand on his neck as she pushed him back and over the table, smashing the man into the stone wall. A gasp left him as she kept the pressure on. The bone blade coming out of his arm was slapped away by her free arm as she looked at him.
“Don’t talk to me like that old man. And calm the fuck down, I’m here with Trian.” she said and let go, the man falling down on his knees, coughing as Aurelia ran up to him, prepping him up.
“This one has bite…,” he said after catching himself again, coughing a couple times as he let Aurelia help him up.
‘And now he respects me? Why can’t people just not be assholes?’ Ilea shout as she sat on the table.
“You’re with Trian then? His team yes, I did hope he somehow slipped out of this whole mess. The demons weren’t a good sign…,” the man said, mumbling the last part of the sentence.
“You owe me an apology.” Ilea said, looking him in his eye, her buffs still active and a light mist of ash coming into existence around her.
“Tsk, ok ok calm down. I apologize.” he said, the ash vanishing again immediately as Ilea got up.
“Then let’s go to Trian, I’m sure he’s gonna be happier to see you than I am.” she said with a smile under her helmet. “You’re alright.” she said, pointing to Aurelia who showed a weak smile.
The way back would be quite slow, considering the man’s recovering body. The curse must’ve weighed on him quite a bit more than it seemed to.
“What was that curse?” Ilea asked as they rounded another corner, the boy Samuel having taken the lead with the torch. She was a little unnerved at the spider literally following above.
“One of their mages, I managed to take his head but the curse stayed. Damn near killed me the fucker. Got four level in Pain Resistance at least.” the man grumbled.
“Who’s their? Who attacked?” she asked but he shook his head.
“No fucking idea lassie. Capable people, that’s all I can say. Barely one below level two hundred. They were quick, had several areas of the house covered in curses, blinding spells and traps before most of us were even awake. We might’ve been able to win, no I’m actually sure we could’ve but with their preparation…,” he said and sighed. “They knew about everything, countered both heads of the house and their strongest abilities. I can only think of another noble house, either Carter or Birmingale. We underestimated their resources. Still I’m not sure. For now we must protect what has remained.” he finished, Ilea just listening to the names and theories.
She had no clue who the families were that he spoke of but she once again was glad not to be of noble birth. What she knew of history and any country’s nobles, their intrigues and murderous schemes, she now had one example of how that would play out in a world like this one.
“I agree. We will have to investigate but you surviving changes things a little.” she said, knocking on the closed of wall that was hidden in the cellar.
“The man inside his room is with us.” she said. “Can you open this?” she asked and the man nodded, walking over to the wall and activating a hidden rune. Suddenly the brick shifted and a small opening presented itself to the group, Ilea walking out first, knowing through her Sphere that there was nothing unexpected waiting for them on the other side.
They walked silently through the cellar and up into the mansion, before they stopped in front of Trian’s room.
“That’s not his room.” the man said.
“What are you their bloody butler?” Ilea asked. “The other beds were soiled in blood.” she said, regretting the comment a little as she saw Aurelia and Samuel looking down a little. Knocking on the door, she stepped inside.
A metal needle rushing towards her stopped right in front of her face. “It’s you.” Kyrian said, still sitting in a meditative pose on the ground. Were it not for the rather dark circumstances of their being here, Ilea would’ve commented on his impressive introduction.
“Yes, it’s us. How’s he doing?” she asked. “I found some survivors of the attack. His sister, a boy and some old fuck.” she said, stepping next to Trian. The others entered the room carefully but Aurelia rushed to her brother immediately, as soon as she saw his face.
“Trian, Trian!” she exclaimed, hugging his sleeping form that slowly stirred.
“What a cruel dream…,” he said, turning around before he suddenly jerked back to her, grabbing the girl in a hug. “You’re real… you’re real aren’t you!?” he said, tears forming on his eyes as Ilea leaned back on the wall next to the bed. The man seemed rested enough, even after just over an hour of sleeping.
“You should all eat and drink something.” she said a minute later. Samuel was still standing near the door and Orthan only moved a little closer to the bed.
“Orthan, you damn old hag. You actually survived.” Trian said, looking at him as he kept embracing his sister.
“And here I thought you might be some illusion. Master Trian, I’m truly sorry.” he said and knelt down in front of the bed. “I have failed in my duty.”
“You haven’t failed anything, stand up, I can’t bear to see you this way.” Trian said and slowly moved his legs off the side of the bed, moving his sister a little for him to be able to stand up.
“We have to discuss a lot.” he said, looking at the man with cold eyes.
“We do.” Orthan said and nodded.
“Yes, first though you eat.” Ilea said. “And I suggest we get the hell out of here. I doubt there are any leads to be found here, of course if any of you are master investigators or trackers?” she asked the three survivors, none of them responding.
“I agree, it might not be safe here.” Orthan said. “Where to?”
“There is a safe house twenty minutes from here.” Trian said. “It should be fine enough for us to plan the next steps at least.”
“We don’t have horses and you’re the only one with a flying skill. I’m afraid I still haven’t discovered one even now.” Orthan said and Trian just looked at Ilea. She shrugged.
“I can carry you, Kyrian can take one as well.” she said and opened the window, a cool night breeze flowing into the room. “Come on.” she said, holding out her hands to the kids. Both of them grabbed one arm as her Ashen Wings spread behind her.
“You know where to go?” she asked, looking at Trian who nodded.
“Kyrian can you carry me as well? My skill is a little too noticeable for this.” he said and grabbed the metal pole that formed from one of Kyrian’s spheres. Orthan did the same, looking at each of them before he nodded.
The flight was low and short as the group tried to stay as hidden as possible, even deciding to fly through the last stretch of woods instead of above it. Tracks left by running would’ve been too dangerous to leave behind. The safe house was nothing more than a hidden cave from outside. Upon opening it, a rather spacious and nicely furbished room revealed itself to Ilea as she stepped inside.
There were supplies, weapons and two beds. As well as a big map of the empire on one of the walls, their current location near Virilya marked with a pin.
Orthan, Aurelia and Samuel spent the next hour explaining what had happened in the mansion, forming a somewhat understandable picture of the situation. As mentioned to Ilea several times before, it seemed someone had caught the family completely by surprise. Poison, paralyzing spells, curses and an incredibly fast and efficient attack that took out more than half their forces before most were even awake.
They had fighters and mages with specialized classes ready to counter the strongest of the house’s warriors while capitalizing on the chaos and the will of most of the elders of the house to protect the younger generation. Orthan had succeeded and it wasn’t completely out of the question that some of the others did as well.
“The corpses and… pieces… that I found amount to most of the house, as far as I know. The festivities on the previous night made most members attend as well. I only know of three distant relatives that weren’t here for sure but two of them I don’t think we’ve heard of in years.” Trian explained. “Nobody of the core family either.” he added, shaking his head.
“Father tried so hard to keep the relations peaceful.” he said. “Why now of all times?”
“Exactly for that reason. With the elves half a year ago in the west and now the demon attack. Baralia is scheming as always but I tell you Trian, the empire will be at war again soon enough. This is just one of many. We should’ve moved immediately when the stream of refugees from the west started coming. I don’t doubt many were involved with nearby countries.” Orthan said. “Now it is too late.”
“It is. We don’t have the power to build up again. Not for now. The safe houses aren’t going to be a solution and I want neither you, nor Aurelia or the boy out here.” Trian said. “Do we still have gold somewhere?” he asked.
“I didn’t check the vault but I doubt there to be anything left. Perhaps some of the Guilds and banks in Virilya would still listen to you?” Orthan asked.
“Might be too risky. They’d know I’m alive.” Trian said.
“That’s how we could get them out.” Ilea said. “Or we could go look for Eve.”
“She warned you with a letter? I thought she had died in the demon attack somehow.” Trian said.
“She did, so she knows at least something. And if anybody is a help at finding someone it’s Eve. I’m sure her… background and her skills would come in handy. If she’s willing to help of course.” Ilea explained.
“She’s with the team isn’t she?” Kyrian asked, hovering a sphere of metal in his hand.
“I don’t think the team still exists Kyrian. Especially her. Claire is staying in Ravenhall. I think it might be good if Aurelia and the others go there. She can get you a house.” Ilea said. “Maybe even a shop or something.”
“I doubt she has the money nor the influence.” Trian doubted her idea. “I’ll visit the Guilds first.”
“I have the money and Claire is managing it. Trust me. Can you help me write a mana signed letter for her and the three of them can be on their way by tomorrow.” Ilea explained. Her newfound property would need staff and at least the older two didn’t seem incapable in the least.
“That would be great. Are you sure Ilea? I don’t know if I can pay you back.” the man asked.
“We probably need more staff anyway and I’m doing it for you, not for them.” she said and looked at Trian.
“Thank you.” he simply said and opened a drawer in a nearby cabinet, getting out paper and a pen, as well as some weird looking devices. Ilea would’ve thought him rather calm but the light shaking of his hand when he began writing made her doubt his strong demeanor. There was only one reason she could think of for him to behave that way.
“I’ll make sure to pay you back if ever possible.” Trian said as he finished the first part of the letter, handing Ilea the pen. She added a couple lines, confirming the request and used one of the devices to push mana into her writing. Claire wouldn’t move to Virilya for Trian but perhaps she could pull some strings for them as well. Ilea felt a little bad for busying the woman so much. All she ever did was punch stuff with the occasional healing. Much more exciting.
The three survivors went to sleep soon after, having discussed the plan with Trian shortly and agreeing on the next steps. The remaining members of team 34 were either standing in the room or sitting in the big leather chairs.
“You guys don’t have to do that you know?” Trian said. “I doubt we can take whatever wiped out damn near my whole family.” he added. “My parents were strong. Perhaps not much stronger than I am now but their experience….,” he stopped, his hand starting to shake again.
“You don’t have to talk about it now.” Ilea said, leaning forward in her chair and putting a hand on his knee.
“You would find and face them one way or the other, would you not?” Kyrian asked after a while of silence. Ilea noticed in her sphere that Aurelia’s breathing wasn’t as steady as the other two’s but she chose not to say anything.
Trian sighed. “I would. Even if I die trying.” the girl stirred a little but stayed quiet.
“What about Aurelia? I know the old asshat wouldn’t mind much but she’s your sister.” Ilea asked. The man looked at her thoughtfully and shook his head.
“She is strong. More talented than I ever was. Orthan is a good teacher and he knows the family, the two of them must survive. Me? Yes, I’m her brother and I’ll try my damn best not to die but I can’t leave this as it is. They killed my p… my parents.” he spoke the last word very softly. “Would you stand by and do the reasonable thing Ilea? Kyrian?” he asked them.
The candle light flickered as it moved in the wind, illuminating the three of them only barely in the dark safe room.
“Probably not.” Ilea said after a while. Kyrian stayed quiet.
“I don’t ask you to come with me, this is ridiculous and I know it. The danger is incomparable to any of the missions we’ve done before.” Trian spoke. “And I don’t have anything to pay you with.”
“Mate, we were in the demon realm. How much more dangerous can it get. We’re probably talking about shit old humans. That doesn’t sound scary, does it?” Ilea said, balling one of her fists.
“No, it really doesn’t.” Kyrian added and smiled a little as he looked at Trian. The vampyr mage stayed quiet, sitting in his chair as he looked at the two.
“You damn imbeciles. How did I ever end up with you.” he said finally and Ilea chuckled lightly.
“You were too much of an arrogant noble ass fucker to take anyone, don’t you remember?” she said and summoned something to eat.
“Ah yes, yes I was. I’m sorry for that.” Trian said, looking down on the carpet.
“Don’t get sentimental now, you’re still a fucking idiot.” Ilea said with a mouth full of food.
“You should sleep some more.” Kyrian said to the man who nodded in response.
“We’ll start the search tomorrow.” Trian said. “Thank you.”
Ilea just continued eating and Kyrian started leaning on one of the walls.
It only took a couple minutes for the man to sleep as well, he wasn’t entirely rested after all. The joy of seeing some of his family survive must’ve brought back some of the life in him.
“You should sleep as well little one.” Ilea said, feeling the heartbeat of Aurelia quicken. She too soon calmed down and slept, leaving only the two members of the Hand awake.
“What do you think?” she asked the man, playing with Aki in her hand.
“I think he is right, we might die on this one.” Kyrian said and sat down on the chair opposite her.
“Eh, I could’ve died the first day I came to this place. I didn’t. Could’ve died in the Taleen dungeon and I didn’t.” Ilea said, twirling around the dagger.
“Did you have a class already?” Aki asked and she stopped the twirling.
“No, level zero baby but I could still kick around some wolves.” Ilea said, not mentioning the fear she had felt, encountering her first Drake. Not that any of that wasn’t reasonable.
“Still, these aren’t thoughtless monsters.” Kyrian said.
“Neither were the demons, or some of the Taleen machines I’ve faced. Nor are the elves. I know it’s dangerous but all of us are rather resilient and quick to escape. If we get away the others, we’ll be free to move.” Ilea said in a whisper, motioning to the sleeping figures. Kyrian nodded and thought about it.
“We don’t have Claire and we have no idea where Eve is. Other than that Golden Lily thing she was writing about, we don’t have anything.” Kyrian said.
“So we find her, or someone else who can help us. Claire isn’t the only one capable of tactics. I don’t think we’re too bad as a team anymore.” Ilea said, stretching in her chair.
“We’re not and I’ll be with you guys no matter what.” the man said.
“Maybe you should get some sleep as well.” Ilea said as she started twirling Aki again. Kyrian nodded and soon tried to get comfortable in the chair. There wasn’t enough space in the beds for him, nor would he have likely wanted to join any of the others.
“What do you think?” Ilea asked in whisper after Kyrian had fallen asleep.
“Hmm, well you’re unpredictable at least. If anything they won’t see you coming.” the dagger spoke.
“It’s weird you know? Never thought to ever be in a position where my friend’s family gets murdered.” Ilea said, looking at the piece of metal. “Didn’t think I’d be the one to join his mad grasp at revenge.”
“We sometimes don’t end up where we expect it. I thought I’d be stuck inside that dungeon forever.” Aki said.
“I mean you basically were there forever.” Ilea joked.
“More or less. Thanks for not hiding me away during all this. Was that what you did in Ravenhall? Give all your money to Claire?” the dagger asked.
“I didn’t really think about it and yes, more or less.” Ilea said, not in the mood to hide anything from the dagger right now. Her day had been quite enough already.
“Well I’ll make sure to sell that information to an influential family. Perhaps I’ll manage to be placed into a beautiful armory.” the dagger said, and Ilea could tell he was joking.
“You can be rather dry.” she said.
“You never use me to stab anything so yes. And I don’t think I hold any water.” Aki said and Ilea continued to thoughtfully twirl the dagger around. He didn’t complain as they fell into silence, Ilea’s blue eyes staring at the entryway to their saferoom. They had chosen the wrong family to attack.