Chapter 175 Hunting in the Woods
There were many targets she could’ve grabbed and interrogated but the two people in the room below her were the most interesting ones she had found. A plain looking man and a beautiful woman. Of course Ilea had been interested immediately because they weren’t dressed in the uniform everybody else in the estate was wearing but the fact that the man was strapped to a bed with metal chains while the woman was sitting in a nearby chair, both her arms bandaged and soaked with likely blood, added to her interest.
Ilea couldn’t tell through her Sphere if it was blood on her bandages but she could certainly tell that the man had been riddled with cuts. He was bleeding from several of them, enough to kill any normal person in mere minutes. Buckets had been placed below the bed and she could hear the blood dripping inside the already half full containers. Her instinct combined with the picture she saw below told her that these weren’t people she would want to engage unprepared.
The man’s constant moaning didn’t help in that regard. The wounds must be painful, either cursed or something else. She could see them rip open again and again after they had healed a little bit at first.
“They won’t heal if you move that much.” she heard the clear voice of the woman through the floor, her ear pressed closer to understand every word. Only thanks to her buffs could she even hear anything.
“He has...lear...aaaaah...ned a thing or two. The blood is strong Tiana.” the man said “I will be ready tomorrow. Any more reports?” he asked right before another wound reopened.
“We know the general location. Still around Fort Keenshill. That bitch is killing all the hunters and trackers, we should stop wasting resources and get back to it as soon as you are up.” Tiana suggested.
“Don’t talk nonsense. That’s all they’re good for. Send all we have, keep them busy.”
“I’d rather send for more healers, your arrogance has caused this delay Kyle.” she said and Ilea watched as his hand flicked her way, a small projectile flashing towards the woman who casually sat there. The projectile was stopped right before her face by a thin surface. Ilea couldn’t tell what it was.
“Stop playing around and focus on healing your wounds.” Tiana said before she looked up, right at Ilea. Her face tilted a little to the side as Ilea blinked into another room, still having the two in her Sphere’s influence.
“What is it?” the man asked.
“Nothing.” Tiana replied. Ilea had heard enough for now. The two of them would likely come for Edwin and his group the day after. Rushing back to the others, she explained what she had seen.
“Should we take them out now? They’re obviously injured and will be a problem down the road.” Kyrian suggested.
“No. I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Trian answered. “Maybe I’m wrong but I’d rather not attack two complete unknowns in an enclosed space. What do you think Ilea?”
Ilea shrugged. “Whatever you think. I do believe we could take them despite the bad feeling I got but the other people in the mansion were all at least level one hundred. Some even noticed me and went checking into the rooms I had been in. Weirdly nobody informed the two injured people.”
“We don’t know enough to act. Finding Edwin should be the first goal. If he and whoever he’s with managed to injure the two here so badly, then with our help it should tip the balance, no matter with whom we side.” Trian said and stood up.
“Then let’s find them. Fort Keenshill you said? Let’s hope the woman didn’t notice you and we’re walking headfirst into a trap.” Trian added and Ilea shrugged again. If there was a fight, there was a fight.
Flying north, they soon came up on a small walled off village, the people there rather keen on directing them far away from themselves as they explained where exactly Fort Keenshill was. Trian paid them to stay quiet about their visit as well. Another two hours later, the ruined fort could be seen in the distance, surrounded by tall trees.
It was an impressive structure, standing alone and defiant in the wilds of the northern plains. While abandoned and partially destroyed, some enchantments in the walls seemed to still be working, ever so slightly slowing the retake by nature.
The group landed nearby, Ilea activating her Sight and Sphere to check for any tracks, any signs of human life. She did find tracks, but not human. “There are tracks, look like wolf but bigger and bipedal. Some sort of werewolf perhaps.” she suggested.
“Well let’s hope we don’t wake it up.” Trian said, looking a little more worried than before. The three had put on their helmets again, the cloaks stored in Ilea’s necklace as they walked through the forest. The trees were high and thick, older than the fort itself it seemed.
“There’s a corpse.” Ilea suddenly said, the group stopping and preparing for a fight as she walked closer to the half eaten ripped apart body.
“Looks like a monster got him.” Kyrian suggested but Ilea was pretty sure the man was wrong.
“This is a woman. And her heart is missing. It’s like someone ripped out a sphere from inside her chest. I’d say the monster got to her afterwards. An easy meal.” she said and looked up. “There are tracks over there. Human ones.” she added and got up, walking in the direction of the tracks.
“I don’t know a monster that can rip out someone’s heart from within.” Trian commented absentmindedly. The suns were high, indicating noon or something close enough as the group followed the tracks Ilea had found. At some point they stopped but Ilea’s Sight showed her a path where the tracks had been removed. The ground looked ever so slightly more disturbed, enough for her skill to pick it up.
‘ding’ ‘Hunter’s Sight reaches 2nd lvl 8’
Willing the notification away, Ilea continued following the path. It led them a little away from the fort and towards a fenced off part of the estate. A small hut could be seen behind a couple of trees. Movement could be seen within. “Someone’s in there.” Ilea said when she suddenly felt a weird sensation in her chest. Moving to the right instinctively, a sudden surge of magic could be felt within her arm as a part of her bone and flesh simply vanished.
“We’re under attack, keep moving, they can rip out parts of your body.” Ilea said to the others as she vanished, appearing ten meters ahead. Her skills were running overtime as they tried to make out where the attack had come from. Hunter Recovery already worked on regrowing the missing parts of bone and flesh as Ilea decided to move closer to the hut, likely holding whatever the attacker wanted to defend. Another weird feeling spread on her back right before she blinked away.
Ilea heard the suction of air from where she had just stood. She’d find the attacker and she’d rip out their throat. Continuing her walk towards the hut, a woman suddenly appeared a couple meters to the left of the wooden structure. Light leather armor, gray hair and purple eyes. Ilea noticed the features but kept staring at the eyes.
“You’re not attacking?” the woman asked in a tired voice. “Why is the Hand here? Perhaps we can find an arrangement.” she added as Trian and Kyrian joined Ilea’s side.
“If you attack again I will kill you.” Ilea said. Her eyes locked with the woman’s and there was a moment of consideration. A small part of her hoped that she would attack.
[Mage – lvl 231]
A formidable opponent, at least level wise. Her magic was too slow to touch Ilea, at least without the factor of surprise. She was sure the woman had more up her sleeve than just ripping out body parts from within.
“We’re not here to hunt you.” Trian said, trying to defuse the situation somewhat. Ilea’s arm was healed by then and she moved her fingers as she stared at the woman.
“Neither are we here on the Hand’s orders. We’re looking for information. Perhaps we Can find an arrangement.” Trian added.
“I’m not looking to trade and I can’t trust…,” the woman was interrupted when the door to the hut opened and someone quite familiar to Ilea stepped out. The woman looked at the three before she started smiling, waving towards them.
“Hello Ilea! Wow you’ve become strong, I knew you would!” the wave was replaced by a thumbs up before the woman turned to the confused mage next to her. “I’m going to get fresh water, is that ok? Aliana is exhausted.”
“Hey Felicia. Is Edwin alright?” Ilea asked, waving back.
“No, he’s nearly dead. Hey weren’t you a healer? Well you’re not anymore… can you help us? Some dangerous people are after us.” Felicia said.
“I can have a look if you convince your friend there to trust us.” Ilea said, winking at the purple eyed mage.
“Are you using an illusion spell on her? Mind mage?” the woman asked as she prepared to fight again.
“No no, Maria calm down.” Felicia said and sighed. “We know her. Ilea the battle healer. She was in the Taleen dungeon we used to get to you. She defused all the traps for us, hahaha. Remember that one!” Felicia exclaimed but the rings under her eyes painted the excited picture with a dark shade.
“Yes, I remember.” Ilea said as she removed her helmet. “I’m glad you’re alive Felicia. You’re brother still owes me an explanation.” and his face to punch but to her surprise Ilea was simply happy to see the woman had survived thus far. Felicia seemed a little childlike but there was more to her than seen at first glance.
“You look horrible Ilea. Where’s that smile you always sported?” Felicia asked as she walked towards her, stopped a moment later by Maria.
“I can heal and the guy in the spiky armor can heal poisons and likely curses as well. Edwin might have some answers that we’re looking for.” Ilea explained. “Oh and Aliana can back up the story. She’s a water and fire mage, likes to boil stuff and eat meat all the time. Edwin is a manipulative asshole, two swords and blood magic as far as I remember. Felicia there is a wind mage. And you, you seem pretty vulnerable with your obvious defensive objective. I’d just teleport in there and rip Edwin’s head of if I wanted to. Think about it.” Ilea finished. She really was about to just attack the woman, tired of having to justify herself. Beating the information out of Edwin sounded annoying but she’d do it if needed.
“I agree it seems unlikely you know all of this without knowing the people. I doubt you’re a mind mage either.” Maria said, Ilea looking down at the mention of mind magic. She watched on through her sphere as Felicia dropped the bucked she had been holding and walked up to Ilea, her arms folding around her in a hug.
“It’s ok.” Felicia said. “It’s ok.” Ilea’s arms hung uselessly at her side as the woman hugged her. She didn’t quite know how to feel but she was sure that this helped. Felicia had been the only one of the three she had considered something like a friend. The only reason for her to go look for the group other than smashing Edwin’s head into some medieval cobbled road. Eve was dead. She’d have to come to terms with that. Soon. And then she’d get her revenge, no matter how long and hard it’d be.
“I know it’s selfish but my brother is dying. I know he used you and I know you are angry but we will help you however we can.” Felicia whispered to her and Ilea nodded. Noticing the wet spot on Felicia’s shoulder.
“Alright, let’s have a look then. Kyrian come.” Ilea said as Felicia jumped up in joy before she ran towards the hut, Ilea’s arm pulled behind her.
Maria didn’t move to interrupt them, instead following into the hut as well. It reeked of blood and death inside. The small space was occupied by a stone table with a man on top of it. His shoulder looked eaten from inside out. Like an infection blood red lines spread on his whole body as he convulsed from time to time.
Aliana was sleeping in a corner of the room as they stepped inside, Ilea looking at the man she had sworn to punch when she saw him. In a state like this, both Edwin’s and her own, that notion seemed childish to her now. A bout would happen eventually but there were more important things to think about right now.
It was an infection. Blood magic originating from the small and big cuts on his body. It looked vaguely similar to the wounds she had seen on the man in the mansion earlier that day. More savage though and spreading more quickly it seemed. The man had been sure he’d survive and be ready to attack the next day. Edwin on the other hand looked to be ready to die. Her healing mana was countered by the infection, not completely but it would take days if not longer to heal the man.
“It would take days but we don’t have that.” Ilea said. “Can you do something?” she asked Kyrian whose needles floated above Edwin’s flesh.
“It’s not a curse, and neither poison. I could try to attack the infection but it’s wild, ever changing.” he said.
Ilea nodded and touched Edwin’s shoulder. Moving him would worsen his condition, which left only one way to go. Her reversed healing rushed into his shoulder, destroying everything in its path as she observed the reaction. The man coughed up blood while Ilea tried to localize her attack, watching the infection get removed along with the man’s health. Stopping before she actually killed him, she started healing the area again. Both the infection and her healing worked to reclaim territory on the man marked for death.
Contrary to the infection though, her resources would regenerate. “It’ll take an hour or two.” Ilea said as she continued to destroy and heal his body. The blood magic had spread nearly all over and she couldn’t weaken him too much as that would worsen the spread as well.
‘ding’ ‘Azarinth Reversal reaches 2nd lvl 16’
Ilea was pretty sure she had gained some insight into her healing spell as well although that one was already at its current maximum level.
“He’s fine now.” she said to the room of waiting individuals. Slapping him with enough force to send someone else flying, Ilea held Edwin with her other hand. Maria moved closer but stopped as the man started groaning and then coughing.
“What the hell…,” he said, coughing again. His eyes opened as he looked around the room, locking eyes with Ilea for a second before his head fell back on the table. “How the hell did you surpass me.”
Ilea had noticed him to be level two twenty two earlier. “I disable the traps myself and don’t use people’s lives as decoys.” Ilea said and stepped out of the room to get some fresh air. Felicia immediately went to hug her brother and Maria seemed quite happy as well. Trian remained in the room as Kyrian stepped out to join Ilea.
“Are you alright? Any history I should know about?” the man asked as he leaned on the hut. Sunlight was broken by the trees above, illuminating parts of his armor.
“Nothing major. Nothing that matters right now.” Ilea said after a while, putting her helmet back on.
A couple minutes later the others stepped out as well, Edwin being supported by Maria.
“So the little Ilea has managed to come this far… and with the Hand as…,” she stopped him with a gesture and a hard stare.
“We need to move. The man who I assume did this to you is recovering and him with that beautiful woman will come for you tomorrow. I’m not sure if you want to be here when that happens.” Ilea said, surprising him.
“How do you know this?” Maria asked.
“I heard them talk. In the Redleaf mansion. Now for healing you we require some information. And you still owe me from back in the Taleen dungeon. The exchange wasn’t exactly fair.” Ilea added.
Edwin looked at her for a while before he sighed. “I do. But I have an alternative suggestion.” he said and looked first at Maria and then back towards Ilea. “I will give you the information you need for saving my life. If I have it of course. But if you help me kill those two and help me hunt down one more target, I will personally assist you in whatever goal you have.” he said.
“First the information then. We will consider anything else afterwards.” Trian interjected and looked at Ilea.
“Fine with me.” she said and the man nodded.
“My name is Trian Alymie and my family has been murdered. I’d like to know by whom.”