Chapter 168 Tools and Information
“Maybe Cameron can help you as well.” Balduur said at some point. “As long as you’re not doing anything against the empire.”
“Worth a shot.” Ilea said and blinked downwards. The street had gotten less busy in the past one and a half hour and she was standing close to alone with the man. Summoning one of Keyla’s meals, she handed it to him with a smile.
“Are you poisoning me?” the man asked with a raised eyebrow. He looked to be fifty with partially gray hair and more than one scar showing on his face. Black eyes stared at her, the man ready to strike at any moment.
“Relax, it’s a peace offering.” Ilea said, summoning a spoon and eating a little of the stew. ‘God her cooking is good…, she’s here isn’t she?’ Ilea thought and concentrated on the moment again.
“Yea alright, been a while since I ate.” the man said and took the bowl.
“That sounds like you’ve not eaten in decades.” Ilea said and got a chuckle from him.
“Might as well be the case.” he said and took a bite. “Wow this is good. By the necromancer.” he said and looked at her with a suddenly worried look.
“What, yea it’s good.” she said and leaned on the wall. He kept looking at her and then shook his head, continuing to eat.
“So you know Balduur?” he asked after a while.
“Yea, met him a couple months ago near Ravenhall.” Ilea said.
“What do you want then? From me that is.” Cameron said, not looking at her.
“Can’t I just want to be your friend.” she asked and chuckled. This time he stared at her.
“I’m looking for someone. Someone so incredibly sneaky I’m not even sure about their gender.” Ilea said.
“And how the hell would I be able to help there?” the man asked. “Better hire some trackers then.”
“Where is the most dangerous neighborhood. With the most unexplained disappearances, where somehow the guard is never allowed to investigate?” Ilea casually asked.
“Now would you want to take care of such a problem or would you somehow cause even more?” the guard replied, checking the surroundings for any listening ears.
“I believe the person I’m looking for likes to take care of such problems. And I need their help. That’s all you’ll get.” Ilea said and watched his reaction.
“Hmm, well that does sound intriguing. I doubt anybody involved in something like that would care about me. Still I’ll have to have someone vouch for you.” the guard said. “I don’t feel like ending up dead in a river somewhere.”
“I can empathize.” Ilea said. “How about Balduur himself?”
“I barely know the man. Got any other important connections.” he asked.
“How about Trian Alymie?” Ilea asked, saying the name with a whisper. This time his eyebrows rose.
“That Alymie family? So you’re looking for the people responsible?” he asked and shook his head. “No matter the reasons, slaughtering children and servants alike. I’d point out whoever did it, if I knew.”
“You seem like a good man.” Ilea said.
“I do have some principles. Killing children is not one of them. I can give you some places to start but also a warning. You’re not the first one to come and try to rip out the corruption. This is not like your backwater village where the elder dabbles in blood magic. This is the place where the elder got his blood magic tome from.” Cameron explained, somewhat confirming what Ilea had read in Eve’s letter. She wouldn’t mention the name she had read there either. Cameron already had a lot of information but after this talk, she was sure she could trust him with that much. Running into a trap set by him or by someone else, it wouldn’t make a difference.
“Nobody even mentioned the killings?” Ilea asked after a while and the man shook his head.
“Everybody knows but with the demons and Baralia, well it’s not exactly on everyone’s mind. You can feel the tension as well can’t you? This place would usually be guarded by a whole ten people.” he said.
“I thought the capital wasn’t hit that hard by the demons?” Ilea asked.
“It wasn’t but a big chunk of the imperial army residing here was sent out to clean out the mess your bloody order caused.” Cameron said, his voice composed.
“I’d be lying if I told you I care much.” Ilea said and shrugged.
“Tens of thousands have already died, likely even more. All of them citizens of the empire.” the man said and Ilea chose not to further engage. She didn’t know any of those people. A mere statistic. It wasn’t that she couldn’t see the tragedy but it didn’t exactly impact her directly. She remembered the reports on slavery and civil war just a couple hours of flying away from her back on Earth. Perhaps she had been a little more idealistic back then, even just a year ago but her experiences she made in Elos definitely left their marks.
The man sighed and calmed down a little. “At least you’re only striving for personal power and not political. As much as I want to condemn the Shadow’s Hand, I can’t deny the kingdoms and the empire have done just as bad if not worse.” he said. “I’ll join you upstairs in an hour when the next shift starts, if that even comes to be.” the man finished and Ilea nodded. She decided not to stay any longer, his information at least a start in her search.
“I’ll be back in an hour.” she said to Balduur and blinked outside, not waiting for an answer as she spread her wings and flew upwards with her full speed, coming to a stop only when she went beyond the clouds.
The stars were breathtaking as always but she was a little in a hurry. The other two would be waiting for half an hour already, or even longer. Having memorized the direction to the current inn they would meet at, Ilea accelerated and dove back into the clouds and out below. She could already see a squad of flying humans rushing towards her as she moved downwards. Perhaps going further out of the city first would’ve been the more reasonable decision.
‘Oh well.’ she thought and moved towards the group with reasonable speed.
“Hold, State your name and your business in Virilya!” one of the guards said. They were all between level one twenty and one forty. A good thing as they still couldn’t identify her. Ilea hoped they wouldn’t delay her too much, head trauma wasn’t something she wished on anybody.
“I’m Lilith, of the Shadow’s Hand. I’m looking for jobs at the guild. The Hand is a little short on paid work at the moment.” she said immediately, summoning her badge into her pocket and getting it out to show them.
“Let me see.” the woman next to the previously talking guard said and moved a little closer. Ilea tossed the badge her way and waited for a moment as the woman’s eyes started glowing yellow.
“Yea, that’s a real one.” she said and handed the badge back to Ilea.
“A safe stay to you then.” the man said and Ilea nodded, rushing downwards immediately, putting her badge back into her necklace. She didn’t expect it to go that smoothly but the badge certainly helped. Thinking about it, the thing didn’t really identify you as an actual member. The shortage Cameron talked about must make it a little easier to get in.
“They were afraid of you…,” Aki said as Ilea landed on a rooftop near the inn, checking her surroundings before she blinked down into the house’s cellar.
“What do you mean?” she asked the dagger.
“Well you were wondering why they let you in so easily weren’t you? One of them seemed to be trying to run at least three times…,” Aki explained himself.
“Well that’s not a good sign then.” Ilea said after thinking about it for a moment.
“Can I ask you for something?” Aki asked, stopping Ilea from blinking towards the inn.
“Sure, what is it?” she asked, looking over to the spider crawling across the wall.
“Can you leave me with that smith and his daughter for a while? As much as I’ve been enjoying this, my personality I feel has become closer to yours… and with that I’m kind of sick of being a dagger hanging from your armor. I want to move, explore and after seeing you… fight.” the dagger said and paused.
“Yea sure, the girl seemed interested enough in you. I’ll ask them when I go back later. Would you still be bound to me in some way if I leave you behind?” she asked, not sure how their connection worked.
“Perhaps, maybe I’ll bind in some way with Iana but with all these runes I’m not quite sure of anything anymore…,” the dagger provided.
“Well as a dagger you’re not exactly useful to me.” Ilea said and chuckled. “Maybe I can pay for the armor like this.” she murmured and nodded. “Yea why the hell not.”
“I thought of it more like a gesture for a work colleague or something.” the dagger said. “But whatever.”
“That as well, not like I wouldn’t have agreed either way. We’ve traveled together for quite some time now, haven’t we?” Ilea said and sheathed the dagger again. “If you want to join me again after whatever they make out of you, do let me know.” she said and blinked into the next house, continuing until she was close enough to the inn.
Leaving through the back entrance of the current house, Ilea looked up to find the moon staring back at her. The clouds had cleared a little in the past hour and she made her way over to the inn, opening the heavy door as she checked the surroundings through her Sphere. Kyrian and Trian were sitting near a corner of the room, untouched beverages in front of them as Ilea joined the two and sat down.
“You’re late.” Trian said immediately, annoyance in his voice. “Any luck?”
Ilea just took the first mug and drank from it, casually relaxing in her chair. “I found the smith, they’re repairing my armor. What do you guys need?” Ilea asked. Trian looked at Kyrian and then back to her.
“They?” he asked, waving away the waitress who had come to their table.
“Yea, some other smiths that work with him. And I might get a lead on good neighborhoods to look for Eve. The guard who protects the smithy agreed to share some information. He knows your name and would like to see the people responsible removed.” Ilea explained as she finished the mug, removing the alcohol from her blood immediately.
“You told him my name…,” Trian said, starting a little too loud but calming himself down immediately, leaning back again. “What did I expect really…,” he mumbled.
“Relax, it’s not like it’s a secret that you are with the Hand. And seeing the circumstances it’s not too far fetched that you’d want revenge. Plus he seems like a good man.” Ilea explained.
“Seems like a good man. You are far too trusting Ilea.” Trian said but his annoyance was already fading.
“We’ll see.” Ilea said. “Any luck on your side?” she asked.
“Some. Back to the smiths first though. My armor is fine but some of the enchantments have been broken, is there someone there who could fix that?” Trian asked and she just nodded. “Good, Kyrian’s armor probably needs maintenance as well.” he said and the other man grunted.
“Some haven’t forgotten my family.” Trian continued in a whisper, knowing that Ilea could hear him well enough. “I managed to get around sixty gold, enough to finance this whole thing at least. To pay you some as well.” he said, looking at the others. “The only property that still remains is the estate itself, everything else was sold immediately after the attack, at ludicrously low prices. Seems like I was never mentioned in any contracts so they had the right to sell everything. More names on my list…,” he explained and sighed.
Ilea had no understanding on how much gold a noble family near Virilya would have but even she could guess that sixty gold wasn’t the norm for their treasuries. Trian had been prepaid at the Hand and that alone was a hundred gold.
“And I’ve received information, most of all. Many of the sellers seem to have been forced, obvious with the relationships my family had with them. The picture of who was responsible isn’t exactly formed yet but we have some pieces. Pieces we can follow.” Trian said. “Let’s visit that smith first.” he said and got up, leaving a bunch of copper coins on the table.
“How far is it?” Kyrian asked as he got up as well.
“All the way at the other end of town. If we fly, the guard will stop us.” Ilea said and followed the others outside.
“I don’t care.” Trian said and grabbed the metal frame that formed next to him. “Let’s just go lower than I did…,” Ilea said as she joined the others in the air, ascending just a little higher than the surrounding buildings. The two people out in the street so late at night watched them with drunken interest before they rushed off, Ilea taking the lead as they shot right above the houses, moving around the bigger buildings that stood in the way.
Not only was it more fun to move through the city like this but also a better way to stay hidden from the guards watching the skies. There were some shouts coming from below but the people or guards either didn’t have the ability or desire to follow the three.
“Stop.” Ilea said and landed on a rooftop, crouching down as her wings disintegrated behind her. The other two landed behind her, the frame Trian had held onto flowed back into the form of a smooth sphere before it vanished into Kyrian’s quiver like contraption on his back.
“We’re close, let’s move the rest on foot.” Ilea said, looking left to see the big main street around a hundred meters further back. Trian and Kyrian followed in silence as she started running across the rooftops, jumping and landing with graceful dexterity and silence. Neither of the two mages had as much control over their bodies it seemed, producing quite a bit more sound than her.
In the windy night it didn’t matter much and being a little further away from the still active main street, the trio avoided any more guard encounters. Coming up on the smithy, Ilea blinked inside and quietly opened a window for Kyrian to come in. Trian had used his teleportation ability as well.
“You’re back.” Cameron said, watching the smiths work.
“Why is a guard here?” Trian asked.
“Those colors, you’re the survivor then?” Cameron asked and locked eyes with Trian.
“I am debating if I should let you live right now.” Trian said as a little lightning formed on the tips of his fingers. Ilea shoved him hard from the side.
“Relax man, he’s here and he’s alone. Doesn’t that speak for his sincerity?” she asked and looked at Trian.
“It could still be a trap, or he sells information.” Kyrian commented.
“I could yes, I could also be an imperial soldier tired of the corruption in this city and empire.” Cameron said as he stood up and walked towards Trian. Stopping a meter before him, the guard went down on one knee with his head bowed. “I am truly sorry my lord. The empire has failed you. If there is anything I can do.”
“Stand up. You can give her the information we need.” Trian said, not prepared to deal with a situation like this after all that had happened.
The door to the room opened and a tired looking Iana walked inside, rubbing her eyes. “Are you the reason I have to work in the middle of the night?” she asked with a resigned voice as she looked at the group. “Oh it’s you. Well that changes things a little.” she said and walked towards Ilea, waving at her.
Ilea just waved back and unsheathed Aki. “Well then maybe see you later friend.” she said and twirled the blade around.
“Hopefully, yes. It’s been a pleasure.” the dagger said, surprising Cameron who seemed already conflicted with another civilian entering the building without his permission.
“Nice to see you, we’re a bit in a hurry, otherwise I wouldn’t dare disturb anybody’s sleep.” Ilea said as she walked up to the smith’s daughter. Trian focused on Cameron in the meantime, starting to talk about anything the guard knew about his family’s demise and possible responsible parties.
Kyrian went to talk to Balduur about his armor. They would finish Ilea’s first, having already managed to melt a little over half of the armor pieces.
“It’s fine, really. What’s with Aki?” Iana asked as Ilea handed over the dagger.
“He decided to stay with you for a while. I’ll check in at some point, I’m sure it’s beneficial for both of you. And maybe having him will cover for the armor.” Ilea said, winking to the girl as she ceremoniously received the dagger.
“I… it would be an honor. Welcome back Aki.” she said, not able to keep the big smile from her face.
“I’m glad to be back. Less exciting but probably more useful to myself. We can get started as soon as the three are done with what they need. You’re also here to check over their enchantments.” Aki said and Iana nodded quickly.
“I understand and sure Ilea, with this ancient artifact I’ll be able to convince Baldy to give you the armor for free. You didn’t seem to have much trouble on the money front last time we met.” the girl said and put Aki into her bag.
Ilea casually removed the dagger’s sheath from her armor and handed it to Iana, including the belt. “He likes to watch.” she said and winked. “I invested most of it.” Ilea added.
“Alright, so let’s get to work. In the middle of the night. Don’t tell me I’m turning into my father. Don’t.” Iana said and walked over to the others, everybody occupied with work or in conversation.