Chapter 190 The Walls of Virilya
“The Shadow returns. Now how many people have you saved?” Falken asked in a mocking tone as he looked at her sideways. His attitude reminded her of her time in Kindergarden. She was long past caring about provocations of that manner. Who hurt you spoiled noble boy? She asked herself but assumed his every word part of a deliberate game, a master assassin poking at her for a reaction to find her weak spots and possible ways to manipulate her. Ilea didn’t know which interpretation was the right one but she knew that she preferred facing monsters of non human nature compared to an environment like this.
“I’ve killed one hundred and forty two soldiers having murdered or raped civilians. Should I pile the ears on your desk?” she asked in a naive tone.
“An impressive number. How many of those were imperial?” the man asked in turn, a sly smile on his face that Ilea mimicked under her helmet.
“None of course master Falken.” she said.
The man stared at her before he laughed. “Perhaps I don’t dislike you as much as I thought. You’re a Shadow after all. You’ve got a storage item I assume? Pile them in there.” he said and motioned to a metal bin next to the massive desk showing a map of the city.
“I don’t, I hid them outside. Let me get them.” Ilea said in a completely serious tone.
The man just grunted and continued his word while she took the bin and walked outside again, dumping the ears when she thought to be far enough away from the guards.
“What a gory fucking mess.” Ilea murmured to herself and looked at the bin. The ears looked freshly cut off, basically telling anybody with an ounce of knowledge on the subject that she had a storage item. Ah who cares. They should come and get it if they want. She thought and walked back, thinking that most influential people probably had one anyway. There were easier ways for someone capable of stealing from her or killing her to get to money or such an item.
Looking at the ears made her look through her notifications quickly. The fact that hardly any of the soldiers even noticed her, let alone put up a reasonable defense meant her level gains were rather unimpressive. Still, they were all human and fitted with two classes. At least better than hunting level one hundred birds.
‘ding’ ‘Hunter’s Sight reaches 2nd lvl 9’
‘ding’ ‘Embered Body Heat reaches 2nd lvl 1’
And the last one at second stage. Took me long enough. She thought, checking out the added description.
Active: Embered Body Heat - 2nd lvl 1
Regulate the heat in your body to protect yourself against harsh climates or even blend in with your environment.
2nd stage: The Embers run deep. Your blood boils and the ash around you singes, should you will it.
Category: Body Enhancement – Ashen Magic
So I can heat the ash and my blood is hot? She thought but decided to simply test it later. Intervening in this war was certainly not gonna help her advance much in personal power. That much was sure and Ilea wasn’t going to try and seek out the higher leveled enemies on her own. They were people, cunning bastards likely with good ways to flee and recover as well and most of them teamed up too. The thought of even facing herself in combat was pretty terrifying. Exciting, yes but incredibly dangerous too. And as much as she liked to believe herself to be a special snowflake, there must be people or creatures out there similar enough in their classes and skills.
Well let’s see if this was worth it. Ilea had of course saved more than a bunch of people but neither did she care much about their lives, nor did she believe she did much more than postpone their ends for a couple hours, maybe a day or two. At least some were spared immediate pain and tragedy.
“That’s one ugly bin.” One of the guards said when she entered again, winking at the man before she ascended the stairs to reach Falken.
“Here you go.” She said and waited. The man just put his hand into the basket and Ilea watched as the ears quickly vanished.
“A hundred and forty two. At least not a liar then. Well what do you want for your services?” The man asked, seeming a bit annoyed at the interruption to his work.
“I’d like to discuss that somewhere a little more, private.” Ilea answered.
“Oh I’m not going to service you Shadow. I’m asking if you are looking for information on a country, an organization, a person, a beast, an item or something of the like. I don’t have a library of knowledge in my head but there IS a library where I can send you.” The man told her.
“A person.” Ilea said and Falken quickly snapped his fingers, an armored rogue appearing next to him immediately.
“Take this Shadow to the Library of Souls.” Major Falken said and the man nodded. “Your contract.” he demanded of Ilea before he wrote the number eight on it and pushed some mana into the paper, at least that was what Ilea thought happened. Perhaps he had activated a spell of some sort as well.
“Follow me Shadow.” The rogue said before he vanished and reappeared on the roof, Ilea appearing next to him nearly instantly.
“Good.” He said and sped off, Ilea following behind. The man was far below her level but his graceful movement and speed were similar to hers, perhaps even higher if her really tried. Then again, she doubted he could take a bunch of her punches without flinching. The two of them ran through the central district, Ilea getting her first view at the architecture around here. While a lot of the places she had seen in the capital were filled with houses meant to be inhabited, the central district was a collection of more and more impressive government buildings reaching higher and higher, their intricate detail and near reckless architecture probably wouldn’t be possible on earth. Not with magic and runes, stabilizing everything. The streets and stairways were broader here, a massive wall surrounding the district itself, not rivaling the outer wall in size but definitely as impressive, its stone nearly humming with the powerful enchantments laying within.
Ilea checked out the different structures and when she focused found every single one of them having military machinery, patrolling mages and archers in near unreachable positions with great vantage points. She understood why the empire wasn’t too eager on defending the whole city against an attack and instead would focus on this central district. Still a large area, rivaling at least the size of Dawntree itself. She even glanced another wall further in the center, surrounding likely the core military buildings and the palace.
So Falken isn’t quite as important as I thought…, she thought but maybe that was part of his game as well. Or he feared a massive strike at the central most buildings, avoiding the same fate all the other occupants would be exposed to. The rogue stopped in front of a massive building, somewhat high level guards standing in front of it.
“The Library of Souls.” He stated and vanished again. Ilea saw him appearing in a blind spot through her Sphere. The man apparently liked to be mysterious. She had no issue with that, after all, vanishing is a pretty cool skill to have.
“Shadow? May I see your badge if my assumption is correct?” One of the guards asked. Ilea handed him her badge before he opened the massive gates and let her in. Ilea’s Sphere couldn’t reach past a certain point in the building, neither downwards nor upwards. Entering, she found herself inside a hall, two guards sitting in a corner talking about the progression of the Baralia attack, ignoring Ilea other than a quick glance.
At the end of the somewhat small hall was a massive steel wall, only one small window like opening at the end of it. The air seemed distorted and Ilea couldn’t see through it with her Sphere either. Her eyes told her that there was in fact a person sitting on the other end of the window. A woman looking to be in her forties with a kind face, brown hair to her shoulders and wearing white horn glasses.
“Greetings.” Ilea said, waking the woman from her concentrated stare at what Ilea could only assume was a book. This was a library after all.
“Oh hello dear. Wait are you with the Hand?” The woman asked.
“I am. Looking for a person, I have this.” Ilea said and showed the woman the contract from Falken.
“Working for Falken heh? Well that fits. Hand me that will you?” The woman said.
“Eight, that doesn’t exactly give you a lot. Been in the capital for long? Any news from Ravenhall? The retaking was a success but numbers on casualties and specifics of the fighting haven’t reached us sadly and none of the scouts were there before the battle.” The woman said, Ilea’s brow rising.
“There should’ve been at least one scout, maybe I remember it wrong. I was there. Is that information going to get me anything in return?” Ilea asked making the woman smile.
“Of course it is. More than what that freaky old fuck gave you for what I assume was a damn shitload of work.” The woman said with the same smile on her face.
“Good, let me get a chair then.” Ilea said and walked to the guards where two free chairs remained.
“Is she just allowed to take a chair?” One of them asked the other quietly, Ilea walking back to the woman.
“Look at her, if she wants a chair, she can have a chair.” The second guard helpfully supplied and Ilea couldn’t agree more. If she wanted a chair she’ll bloody well take it.
“Now tell me child, what happened in Ravenhall.” The woman said and Ilea could tell there was something more than just a thirst for knowledge there. Something personal. A good thing she was there.
“You won’t tell me but I can only think of a couple people who could’ve done that. Specifically Adam Strand. Ever since…,” The woman said but stopped, looking up at Ilea.
“You know a damn lot about the Shadow’s Hand. What’s your name?” Ilea asked.
“Elise. My name is Elise. Now you must be that Lilith girl, black full plate armor and you’re not a mage. I doubt that’s your real name. Care to share it with me?” The woman asked. Ilea thought about it, looking back at the guards. She couldn’t identify the woman behind the magic field, another enchantment. One that she’d have to look into at some point.
“I’m Ilea. Team thirty four.” She said and took off her helmet.
“Ilea, you have beautiful hair. You should really let that out more, the armor is intimidating. It suits you but…,” She didn’t continue on that but paused instead. “Thank you, for telling me about Ravenhall I do appreciate it. Why were you in the city then?” Elise asked, leaning back in her chair as she locked eyes with Ilea.
“You’re asking a lot without anything in return.” Ilea said, smirking at the woman who looked away for a second. Something about her made Ilea feel at ease. Illusion perhaps? She asked herself but didn’t feel any intrusion. Her Veil came up to enhance her Resistance but nothing changed.
“You don’t have to be on alert. It’s just. There’s…,” She started. “I needed to know about the Hand. But now we have Baralia to take care of. I owe you Ilea, big time. And while what you have told me has great personal value, it also adds to our archives. Forgive me for being rude, it’s been a long day. What would you like to know?” Elise asked.
Someone in the Hand she cares about? A child perhaps? Ilea thought but focused. “I came to find a friend. Her name was Eve Aillan, or at least that’s the name she told us.” Ilea started.
“Was? So you seek to find out who is responsible for her death.” Elise stated.
“Later, perhaps. If whoever did it killed Eve then they’re capable of killing me as well. No, I would like to know who Eve was. Learn why she was here and why she was killed. Afterwards I will seek out the person or people who did it.” Ilea said.
“You are not completely lost then. A friend to you but not an honest one? I will do my best to find who you are looking for. Who your friend was. Tell me all you know.” Elise said and smiled at Ilea. The look on her face nearly made her tear up. Nearly.
“Why do you care?” Ilea asked. Or was it just a lie, an actress hiding behind her enchantments?
“You are not the only one who has lost people. I like you. I like what you did today. While it is likely fruitless you have shown an effort to protect those who can’t protect themselves.” Elise said.
“They will die most likely or be enslaved.” Ilea said as a matter of fact.
“Yes. Everyone has a choice, everyone has a life to live and everybody has the chance to seek power. To destroy and conquer, to build and protect. Your choices both in Ravenhall and here today have shown me who you are. Or at least a part of you. Perhaps you could even…,” She broke it off and shook her head.
“I will look for this Eve, master of Illusions. Come back tomorrow and I will have something for you.” Elise said and Ilea nodded. “Oh, before you go.” she added. “Just out of curiosity… the individual Trian Alymie… he is part of your team is he not?” She asked and Ilea winked at her, a smile spreading on Elise’s lips. “A choice was made and consequences followed.” The librarian said to herself as Ilea put her helmet back on, the first impacts of artillery resounding outside.
“Could’ve at least brought the chair back…,” The guard grumbled as he got up.
“Sorry.” Ilea said and looked at him, the man freezing up immediately.
“I didn’t mean no offense miss Shadow.” He said respectfully.
“None taken.” She said and walked out. Something told her she was lucky to have met Elise today. Looking up at the transparent yellow shield, she smiled to herself. I’ll get your real name Eve. Hope you’re watching. She thought, in a good mood suddenly. Ilea didn’t believe in god but in this magical as fuck world, who knew?
Where to now…, she thought, looking at the impacts of magic and stone on the shield. It would take a while for Baralia to take over the rest of the city. With their quick advance, Ilea didn’t really question their takeover anymore. The center will be the issue, she thought as she identified an officer running by.
[Warrior – lvl 183]
Better. She would visit Trian for now and see if he still intended to leave. He didn’t look to be his best self earlier but perhaps some brooding helped. She doubted it.
The checkpoints were still open, although fewer of them. More civilians and even soldiers were asking to be let in, soon they would have a hard time stopping the masses but the fact that people could also flee the city didn’t escape their minds. A better option than to turtle behind the central shield, perhaps a deathtrap after all. Ilea spread her wings and flew off, to the southeast where their inn was located. The streets were filled with people trying to get southwards, pure chaos it looked like. The sheer mass off residents in the capital astounded her and having such a number of people panic and flee was something she had never seen before. Terrifying really. A good thing she could fly.
Curiosity got the better of her as she ascended further and further to see over the southern part of the wall, overlooking the plains beyond. Streams of people were moving southwards, nothing standing in their way. Either Baralia didn’t plan for that or they wanted those people gone anyway. The logistics of feeding and organizing such a mass would likely daunt even them. And without a simple way to arm those people and turn them against the enemy in a manner of days, they had little to fear and no reason to slaughter them.
No militaristic reason at least but what Ilea had seen of them so far this war seemed primarily territorial, not about race or a long growing hatred. Perhaps this wouldn’t end in a travesty similar to Ravenhall’s population. The refugees would further destabilize the remaining empire. They could go to Ravenhall. Ilea thought and flew downwards, hovering over the fleeing masses.
“If you manage, Ravenhall has a city to fill with people. Craftsmen and women, guards and adventurers. Go south and survive.” She said loudly, most people stopping for a second to listen to the flying Shadow. She saw fear and hostility but also hope and determination. Perhaps some of them would make it into the mountains. Claire sure as hell had a lot of work on her table already. The thought made her smile as she turned and sped up, going for the inn. News of Ravenhall would spread, many citizens likely had the goal in mind anyway.
The independent western cities had been scratched from the map by the elves, at least most of them. Baralia to the north was the enemy and the empire was flooded with refugees. There were more kingdoms to the west of course but had Ilea been one of the fleeing people, she would’ve sought the mountain city as her goal.