Chapter 171 Silent Escape
The square was empty and Ilea ran around it, checking the side streets through her Sphere, finding a couple guards and other people running around, all armed. No demons were in sight and she hid herself next to the big archway leading outside.
Trian and Kyrian followed quickly after and ten minutes later the villagers came out of their temporary home. Not the only refugees in the city that would try and get out tonight or in the coming days. It would become significantly harder as soon as the initial chaos was taken care of or the demons had taken over.
Ilea heavily doubted that the same fate as Ravenhall was waiting for Virilya. That demon she had fought back there would've had to gather another army of mind weavers and thousands of high level demons to accomplish such a task. No, this wasn't going to bring down the capital of this empire.
“North east is the best bet. The forest is the closest there, at least from this part of the city.” Trian said. “Ilea, warn us from any groups, we'll move through the streets.” he added.
“How will we get over the walls? Only two of us can fly and that'll take a while to move everybody.” the armored man they had met first said.
“Our metal mage can surely assist there.” Ilea said and saw Kyrian smile under his helmet. They ran through the streets, the three members of the Hand and around sixty people from the village. She noticed that only three children were in the group but they kept up all the same.
Ilea lifted her hand in a signal for the group to stop, the people shuffling to come to a halt behind her, the closest ones trying to look out from the side street they were standing in. Iana held up a small trinket and her eyes glowed a light blue as Ilea felt her perception through her Sphere dampen.
The group of soldiers she had spotted ran by with a sense of urgency. She noticed that one of them was holding his side, a nasty wound spilling blood onto the cobbled street. The man grit his teeth and moved on, his perseverance the only thing Ilea would remember about him before she moved on, following Trian through the mace of streets the man seemed to know by heart.
The rather large group avoided the bigger explosions and fires in the distance, not encountering any demons or other groups trying to get in their way. Ilea thought that this night was probably the dream come true for any criminal in the city. Guards leaving their posts to help out with an invading force or even demonic enemies. The wall had been visible in the distance for a while but when they finally reached it, Ilea was glad she could fly.
Standing right below the massive structure made her again realize how impressive it was. Any army would have trouble breaching such a thing. Kyrian was already forming a platform with his metal and a moment later the first people started stepping onto it. Ilea was a little surprised at how much confidence they showed towards a magically constructed elevator a man they didn’t even know had conjured right before them. Then again he was a member of the Shadow’s Hand and Balduur seemed to trust him, making the decision likely a little easier.
“Come on, I can take three or so as well.” Ilea said, looking at the group of people that sceptically looked towards her before wings of black ash spread behind her. Looking up into the sky, more clouds had gathered, making the night quite a bit darker than it had been before. Only a couple hours were left until the suns would rise again. Time they better use to look through some bad neighborhoods, especially on a night light this, where anybody that could get in their way was likely occupied themselves. Three people disengaged from the group and walked towards Ilea who welcomed them with open arms.
“Hold on tight.” she said and felt their grip harden before she ascended with high speed, checking their states through her healing spell, its diagnostic monitoring quite helpful at determining her passengers’ well doing. She was moving much faster than Kyrian’s platform of course and came out on the top a couple seconds later, finding only a single guard closer than a hundred meters, her sight locked onto the city below, an easy pick for any attacker that would come from outside.
‘Good for us then…,’ Ilea thought as she crossed over the wall, descending quickly downwards. Noticing that one of the people she was carrying was about to pass out, she slowed down little by little until she stepped onto the freshly growing grass on the other side of the wall.
“W… We made it.” the woman on her right said as she let go of her arm, her hands pale from the tight grip she had held around Ilea’s armor.
“Not really, the forest is quite a while away, best cover here and wait for the whole group before we move off. We’ll deal with anybody noticing us should that occur. Hug the wall.” Ilea said and flew up again as she watched the people move closer to the wall below her, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. Coming up on top, Kyrian’s platform was just crossing over the wall and she waved at the group before she descended again quickly. Blinking through the wall would’ve saved her some time but she could check out the guards on top and any group possibly closing in on them from below. The aerial view gave her a definite advantage.
She did actually spot some people in the streets but found one of them to be a drunk according to his walking pattern and the other one to be a burglar, considering the shattering of a window that followed right before she moved past the buildings, obscuring her view. Landing, she took the next group of people and repeated her previous flight until there was nobody left to get.
It took less than seven minutes to move the whole group. Standing close to the wall, the village people of Indur waited for Trian’s signal. Ilea watched them from above, hanging on the wall with one arm whilst checking the guards closest to them. The one she had spot before was still focused on the town itself but another guard standing a little further away was focused on the outside, taking his job a little more seriously it seemed.
She watched as the group of people below started running across the field. It was quite a long way until the safety of the nearby forest would cover their movements and at least half of the field wasn’t cast in darkness, the moon breaking through the gathering clouds at around halfway towards their target.
Ilea moved closer to the guard, identifying the man to be at level one twenty. A moment later he too identified something. Rushing to the nearby bell, he grabbed the string to ring it when he found his arm unmoving, an armored hand clasped around his wrist and moving downwards steadily.
“They’re not enemies. Neither am I.” Ilea said as he turned his head towards the woman, his heart pounding faster every second as they stood in silence, Ilea looking at the other guards in the distance, none of them as attentive as the man before her.
Seeing her group safely making it to the forest, she released the man who stood there unsure to his next actions. “You did your job well, make sure that the others do their as well.” Ilea said and pointed to the guards on each side of him. “Oh and if I hear that bell ringing, I’ll come for you.” she said, pretty sure the man wouldn’t exactly risk his life to reveal their group. Especially not after one of them revealed themselves and didn’t kill him already. A calculated risk. Plus she doubted he could arrange a group to follow them quick enough to change anything.
Rushing towards the forest with her full speed, Ilea came down and landed heavily in the dirt, finding tracks and the smell of the villagers passing through just minutes earlier. Following with her Hunter’s Sight, she soon caught up to the running group and joined Trian and Balduur at the front.
“How long until we go back?” Ilea asked.
“Soon, after we crossed the forest. I doubt anybody will be following. At least not until late tomorrow. They’re capable of moving fast and for a long time.” he said, Balduur nodding towards Ilea, the run not bothering the huge man nearly as much as she would’ve expected. They did survive in the mountain village without any impressive walls or help.
They reached the other side of the forest fifteen minutes of running later and the villagers immediately spread out to check the surroundings for any dangers. Ilea had been a little apprehensive about leaving them to their own devices in the wild but that worry had been shattered in their run. She wanted to get back to their search as soon as possible.
“… and then I suggest moving further south until you reach Clamfell, the road west should be safe enough for your group if you’re not unlucky.” Trian explained, looking over the map with Balduur and a group of other villagers, one of them holding up a magical flame for them to see.
“The rest of the way plenty of us have gone before. We will be fine. Exiting the city was the difficult part. Thank you, all of you.” Balduur said and looked around to find Ilea and Kyrian.
Trian nodded and locked eyes with first Ilea and then Kyrian. “We’ll be off then.” he said and grabbed the metal handle forming from a floating sphere before him. His flashy way of flying really had been a detriment to tonight’s operations. A good thing they had the metal mage with them.
Ilea shook Balduur’s hand. “Good luck, the help means free service for life right?” she said and watched them an grin.
“5% off for the next three years.” he said but the tone indicated a joke more than anything.
“Don’t die.” she said and moved on to Iana whose hand she squeezed in a much gentler way.
“Good luck on your mission.” the girl said. Ilea stepped back and joined her group, the enchantress unsheathing Aki and waving at them with dagger in hand. Ilea’s wings spread as she waved back, her expression turning serious again below her helmet as she turned around and started flying, Kyrian and Trian following close behind. It would be interesting to see how the city changed from this attack. For now, they had a couple hours of darkness still to work.
The flight back to the city and subsequent entry was laughably easy. Nobody came to stop them and nobody rang any bells either. A stark contrast to what Ilea had experienced even earlier in the night when a flying squad of guards had stopped her high above the city. Fires were burning in many parts of the capital, some barely noticeable in the far distance. The operation of whoever was attacking them had been extensive to say the least. What their exact goal was would likely stay a mystery to Ilea but considering the ensuing chaos, many an opportunist would seek to fulfill their plans tonight.
“Let’s go, we’ll check them systematically. Closest one first.” Trian said as he let go of the metal, landing on a building not far below. The others followed and continued on foot, a little slower than flying but Trian’s maneuverability wasn’t in control of Kyrian. He was the man who knew the city after all.
“This is it.” Trian said and stopped on a rooftop, overlooking a part of the city that didn’t exactly look any different than anything Ilea had seen before. Jumping down from the building, she noticed the details. No color on any houses, a smell that spoke of a definite lack of hygiene, rot even. Eyes in the dark that shied away from the hooded individuals much too important looking to be visiting their downtrodden district.
Ilea spread her senses, enhanced through her skills as she took in the smells and surroundings, their group starting to walk. Trian occasionally knocked on doors but an answer failed to appear. Ilea knew there were people behind some of the doors but neither of her companions would force their way into somebody’s home to get information. Trading for that good would be much better, and a willing merchant would likely open their doors to such an opportunity.
Ilea found indications for murders, thievery and a downright criminal lack of bathing as they continued on through the district that more and more seemed like a slum to her. While its outwards appearance with the high quality houses might fool an onlooker, what was laying inside painted quite the opposite picture.
“The shadow’s hand, visiting on such a dangerous night.” the first to willingly open their door said, a shiver running through them as they finished the sentence. The man was frail and looked to be in his twenties, his eyes holding a dangerous spark that Ilea would avoid at all cost back on Earth. She locked eyes with him until he looked back to Trian.
“We’re looking for a woman. Around level two hundred, last time we saw her she had blond hair. A rogue and a killer.” Trian said and flung a piece of copper into the man’s direction. He caught it with surprising dexterity, grinning at the coin that he put away with shaking hands.
“That’s a broad description sir shadow. Rogues at that level are rarely even seen, let alone known to give much worth to their outer appearance. Might as well look for a dwarven man at this point.” he said. “Still, I can tell you about where to find people that might know more, more than me that is.”
Trian flung another copper coin his way and the man told them about some places that sold information, people whose sole business was the very trade of it. Ilea smiled as she realized she had overpaid all those guards and people she had paid for information so far. Another way to save some money now that she had less to spend.
They moved on with reasonable speed. Slow enough that Ilea could still check her surroundings for a stray clue on her friend’s whereabouts. They had to go through another district to find the first information seller. Unluckily for both them and the seller, they found the window to the woman’s flat broken in and a corpse inside. Likely hers, considering the bloody letters on the wall that spelled Lyer. The spelling made Ilea a little sad. An information seller killed by a barely literate. The reality of the world. Still she didn’t know if the woman had actually been a liar.
The next stop was a little more successful. A rooftop bar with a copious assortment of plants and herbs. The man had simply told that this was a prime place one could go to learn things. The lack of tenants didn’t tell them much as Trian walked up to one of the barkeepers. A question and piece of silver later, they were directed to a woman sitting alone on a small round table, smoking a fancy looking cigarette.
“The Shadow’s Hand. Oh it has been a while. This night truly is exciting.” she said as Trian and Ilea sat down, the latter ripping out a piece of an herb growing next to the table in a big box of wood.
“An exciting night indeed. We’re not here because of that.” Trian said and they watched the woman rise her eyebrow. A sudden flare of magic made Ilea tense up for a moment before she noticed the similar feel it had to Claire’s spell that helped keep out any listeners.
Trian looked around and settled back on the woman. “I believe we have found a rather capable seller.” he said and she smiled.
“Go on, I can see you’re in a hurry.” the woman said, her smile shifting to a more business like expression.
“What do you know of the Alymie massacre?” Trian asked and watched her silently put out her cigarette.
“You might be getting into something you don’t want to stir, boy.” she said and locked eyes with the man. Ilea was irking to throw the woman off the high building but this was Trian’s matter and not her own.
“Perhaps stirring is exactly my intention?” he asked and this time the woman chuckled.
“Ah to be young again and reckless. And stupid. Well the Shadow’s Hand was never famous for their intellect, at least not its baser members. You have suspicions already and I’m afraid I can’t give you any definite proof of anything. Whoever did it made sure to pay the right people and cover their tracks. I can’t give you anything concrete and any less would betray the quality of my service.” she finished, surprising Ilea with the statement. It was of course possible that she too had been paid, or she simply didn’t feel like sharing with a member of the Hand.
Trian leaned back and sighed. “Is that all?” the woman asked getting a grunt from the man opposite her.