Chapter 196 Rebuilding
Viscera itself was walled off as well now, the entrance to the main quarters opening only after a guard had confirmed the identity of Claire, activating a nearby enchantment to open the heavy metal gate.
“To keep in and out.” Claire said, nodding to the guard who was also clad in black armor.
“Requirements lowered?” Ilea asked, seeing that the guard again wasn’t close to level two hundred.
“No, not for the actual members. They’re the Shadowguard. I know the name isn’t the best, we’re still working on it. A guard added to the city guard, employed, trained and selected by the Shadow’s Hand. Benefits and possible jobs and later membership are enough incentive for many to join. I imagine the war with Baralia will sway more than one mind to join us instead of the empire.” Claire explained, leading them through the halls. No demon corpses remained and Viscera itself was cleaner than Ilea had ever seen it. It was impressive in the first place, all of Ravenhall but knowing how it had looked like just about a month ago made it damn near unbelievable.
Magic really showed its power in production and if enough powerful people pulled on the same string, impossible results could be accomplished. Most of that power was usually focused on destruction, killing and warring. Here too the growth will come to an end at some point, at least the explosive growth the city currently experienced.
“He had the window repaired.” Ilea commented, looking up at the library.
“Any other kids survive?” She asked Claire when they were a little ahead of the others, Cless riding on Kyrian’s shoulders.
“Few. Most of them traumatized I’m afraid. A couple members volunteered to take care of them for now.” Claire said. The deaths and individual tragedies caused by Adam Strand were unimaginable. Mere numbers to Ilea’s mind. The waves it had already sent over the empire and beyond would only be observable through future history.
“Any news on Strand or any of the other elders?” She asked but Claire shook her head.
“Nothing. Dagon and Sulivhaan are doing a decent enough job. Verena is the only one who cared about managing in the first place. I’ve not worked under her so I don’t know if we’re a good replacement or not.” Claire explained as they made their way through the headquarters, coming up to the elevators.
“We? So you’re an elder already? Thought you’d need another couple months or years.” Ilea said jokingly.
“Oh I’ll get there. Though I’ll need ways to increase my level too. The demon pool in the Haven might come in handy for that. Personnel has to be there at all times to take care of them but the positions are surprisingly always taken. Even in the Hand it seems like people won’t turn down an easy way to gain experience.” Claire explained as they entered the elevator.
“It’s not real experience.” Ilea said. “Even if they’re getting stronger, they won’t get used to the power if they don’t use it.”
“Many have climbed high by using an advantage over others or a certain kind of monster. Many of them are with the Hand and trust me, most of them could still beat down a whole squad of imperial scouts. Even with that lacking experience. That’s what sparring is for.” Claire said and Ilea didn’t have an argument against that. She wondered how they kept the demons under control when they came out, otherwise it wouldn’t be an easy fight.
They’re pretty stupid, a wall around it and mages on top would already do it. She thought but didn’t ask. If it was such a desired spot then it wouldn’t do her much. Plus she would have to gain more than a couple of levels to get where she wanted to be. More training and experience than sitting in a safe place training with friends would give her.
The elevator ride commenced in silence other than Cless’ humming. A popular song that Ilea remembered but couldn’t place at the moment. Something with dinosaurs perhaps? The question remained unanswered when they exited and made their way to Dagon’s office.
The man was sitting on his desk just like Ilea had found him the first time she had visited. He looked tired, more tired than usual but she found the look good on him. Gave him a more serious flair. His massive form and the frown on his face were certainly not inviting. The brooding librarian. Ilea titled the picture as she waved at him. Elise had stopped at the entrance she noticed, staring at the man behind his desk who completely ignored the visitors.
“Leave me alone, tomorrow is a better time.” He grumbled before taking a sip of tea.
“We’ve brought some reinforcements for you.” Ilea said, making him look up at her, either because of the voice or the content of what she had said. His eyes flickered from her to the group and lastly to the person looking back at him at the entrance to the library of Viscera. A middle aged woman with a weary smile.
“Elise.” Dagon said and got up, moving around the table quickly, a pile of papers nearly falling down before Ilea blinked closer and stopped them. The librarian ignored it and quickly walked to the woman before he stopped around half a meter before her.
“Elise, what are you doing here? The Library of Souls…,” He started, obviously dumbfounded at seeing her here.
“I didn’t know if you’d remember.” Elise said in a whisper. He just smiled and went to hug her.
“We have the same skills dummy. How could I forget?” Dagon asked, the two embracing each other happily.
“So she actually came back for me. Virilya will be under siege for a while, enough perhaps for me to be efficiently hidden away.” Elise finished retelling the events since she met Ilea.
“You’re already safe. With your records removed I doubt many will care for you, nor invest heavily to bring you back. Still, you’ll be staying in Viscera for now, get used to things. I’ll have a place ready for you by tonight.” Dagon said, his step a little lighter as he went back to his desk.
“I thought I could stay with you. Would save you the trouble of organizing. I don’t need much.” Elise said nonchalantly which made him stop and put down the papers.
“We haven’t seen each other in forty years Elise… I think that’s a bit quick no?” Dagon asked, a little unsure of the situation and obviously uncomfortable with all the other people in the room.
“What better way to get to know each other again then? If you want I’ll stay in a separate place of course.” Elise said but he waved her off.
“Let’s discuss that later, alright?” He asked. The woman didn’t seem opposed to that.
“Ilea, you have first hand reports from the city? Is it really as bad as the scout reports?” Dagon asked, now finally sitting down again. His eyes still lingered on Elise as he asked the question.
“Not sure what the scouts are saying. Baralia is attacking, hard. The empire is already in the center but I doubt it’ll be a short battle for either side. Most of the city’s population is fleeing, the rest I’d assume enslaved or killed already or in the span of the next weeks. Many will probably be coming here.” Ilea said.
“So much work. Cless can you be a dear and get Sully? He’s down in the Haven I think.” Dagon asked and smiled at the girl.
“Yes sir.” Cless said and saluted the man before she jumped off Kyrian’s shoulders and vanished in a mist of blue.
“Can everybody except for me do that now?” Kyrian asked and shook his head.
“Can’t do that either. Well not exactly, working on a rune.” Claire said, looking away from the man after she said that. “Speaking of, Ilea can you show me your teleport again later?”
“Of course. Guess I’ll be staying for today at least.” Ilea said.
“If what you’re saying is true then Ravenhall will soon be flooded with people again. How is the work going Claire, are we ready?” Dagon asked as he looked at the woman.
“As ready as we can be. The reconstruction of the Haven is going well, the soil and ambient mana is impressive. I don’t know why we never used more of it to grow crops. Compared to manually growing through magic it’s much more efficient.” Claire said.
“Because the guilds didn’t want us to flood the market, neither did the empire. Plus I doubt the elders wanted to use Eregar’s Haven for something mundane like that.” Dagon explained but shook his head in the process.
“Not sure what exactly they wanted to do in the first place.” Claire said but didn’t elaborate.
“Ask Verena when she’s back. I hope she doesn’t throw us out immediately.” The librarian said but didn’t seem too serious about it. “Seeing the results she might agree to leave some of the work and decisions to others.” He added.
“We’ll need her power.” Claire said. “I don’t think we have anything to fear from any of the members, not with the retaking of the city. Still, other interested parties might try to gain influence.”
“We’re not going to make it easy for them. While we have lost many in the summoning, the Hand has never been more powerful.” Dagon said.
“Good. Now Dagon, Eve has been killed. I’m sure you’ve heard already.” Ilea started. “We suspect it was the organization called the Golden Lily. Let me know if you have anything on them, for now add Arthur Redleaf to that list. He should be part of the organization.”
The man nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, I’ve heard and I’m terribly sorry for your loss Ilea. For our loss really. Although I doubt she would’ve stayed with the Hand for much longer. We’ll look for records on the order and Arthur right away.” He said as he got up.
“Thank you Ilea. For what you did for Elise.” The man said and touched her shoulder. “Now come, I’ll show you around.” He said, looking at the other librarian. Ilea didn’t reply to anything he said but she would return in a couple hours to see if they found anything. She doubted it, considering even the empire’s own library had little to no records. Perhaps they didn’t have much influence in Ravenhall, or at least not with Dagon. She trusted him enough to at least tell her she shouldn’t ask questions about it were he a part of it.
“Dagon, the glasses, dress and hair. It’ll have to change and soon.” Claire reminded the man but he was already lost in conversation, leaving Claire to shake her head.
“Guess you’ll have to check in on them again.” Kyrian said as he sat down in the nearby armchair.
“Of course I have to.” The woman replied. “So you’re going to hunt Arthur Redleaf. I doubt you could take down a family like that on your own, are you sure you’re not running into the lion’s den like you promised?” Claire asked.
“We’re working together with Edwin, the man’s son. Him and some of his friends will hunt Arthur down, hopefully taking him down. He’s the only link we have to the Golden Lily right now and while I won’t face him alone, Edwin won’t wait for me to get stronger. And I won’t ignore the opportunity.” Ilea explained.
“We? You, Kyrian and Trian I assume?” Claire asked as she leaned on Dagon’s desk.
“Just me.” Kyrian said.
“Trian needs some time I think. After what happened to his family.” Ilea said. Claire nodded absentmindedly.
“I can’t leave my post for this. Not now. We’re in a very delicate situation and we have to steer the city and the Hand into the right direction. I’m truly sorry.” Claire said and by the tone of her voice, Ilea believed her.
“I didn’t intend to ask you in the first place. You have obligations now. Your mother is here too I heard?” Ilea asked, distracting the woman from the topic of Eve. She didn’t want her to change her opinion on it, lest there be another person she could lose in the mission. The thought quickly passed through her mind, glancing at Kyrian right after.
“She is and I think something finally changed.” Claire said happily. “She sometimes visibly reacts to Cless, especially when the girl shows her the new paintings. And somehow she likes the Haven. You know, she was a nature mage before… I think maybe using the Haven to grow all kinds of foods might help her too. You two could meet her later, how much time do you have?” Claire asked.
“Today, we could do longer but only if absolutely necessary.” Ilea said.
“I’d be up for meeting her. What’s her name anyway?” Kyrian asked.
“Leia. And thank you, for understanding. I hope you don’t hold it against me either Kyrian.” Claire said when Cless returned with Sulivhaan.
“Of course not. I’m glad you’re safe here. You’re not mobile enough for this mission.” Kyrian commented with a smile, getting an eye roll from Claire.
“Welcome back. Come here.” Sulivhaan said and walked to Ilea before he hugged her lightly. “I’m so sorry to hear. I remember the first time I lost a teammate. A horrible experience.” He said in an understanding tone. His mask even looked somewhat sympathetic.
“Thanks. I’ll keep myself busy.” Ilea said to which he nodded.
“Let me know if you need anything. It was me who tried to have you join the order in the first place.” Sulivhaan said.
“Were you working in the Haven?” Claire asked.
“I was.” Sulivhaan replied.
“Then perhaps we can combine things. Let’s walk.” Claire said and went to the door. “Sorry for getting you up here. Now Kyrian and Ilea confirm the attack on Virilya and it might be an actual threat to the empire. This war is happening and I doubt other big cities will be exempt.”
“That is concerning news. Until the empire falls we will likely not be a significant target. Not if we don’t interfere.” Sulivhaan said as they made their way down to the Haven.
“Each side will pay mercenaries to fight for them.” Claire said.
“And we won’t stop them. Humans fighting humans is of no concern to the Shadow’s Hand. Or do you disagree?” Sulivhaan asked.
“In this case I don’t. In other situations I might.” The woman replied.
“Then you are free to convince them to join your cause or pay them yourself.” Sulivhaan said. “The Empire is just as corrupt as Baralia. The only difference worth mentioning is the slave trade. A difficult thing to implement in the empire’s cities for sure. I doubt they would risk it even if they took all of them, lest a civil war will possibly result. Baralia still wants profit and they have their own enemies in the west.”
“You talk as if they’ve already won.” Claire said, the group now descending in the last elevator, Eregar’s Haven opening up before them. Fields now dotted the landscape closest to the elevator but far fewer than Ilea had thought.
“How will we feed the whole city with such a small amount of fields?” She asked to the confusion of the others.
“I’m not sure how you do it where you’re from Ilea but a field like that manned by a nature mage can feed thousands.” Kyrian said, obviously understanding that there was some difference between her homeland and how it worked in Elos.
Magical farming. Ilea thought. Hunger wouldn’t be a problem. And much easier to control for the leading class.
“We’re planning to expand to five times what we currently have but it takes time to nurture the ground to the right conditions. As soon as the fields are ready our nature, earth and plant mages will be able to sustain it indefinitely. Especially with the rich ambient mana in the Haven. If need be we’ll be able to expand even further. I just don’t want it to get close enough to the spawning pool.” Sulivhaan explained.
There was a high wall built around the farming area with a couple of guards on it. The rule that only full members were allowed down here apparently didn’t apply anymore either.
“We will be ready to take on refugees from the war in no time. Many stores are standing without personnel, their runes and machines unused and their shelves remaining empty. There is housing already furnished and hundreds of positions to fill in both the Hand and the local government. Even the Guilds will likely recruit refugees.” Sulivhaan continued.
“The contracts are ready as well, anybody choosing to own a shop, apartment or house will have to work to pay it off. It’s in our favor enough to be mostly fair.” Claire added.
“Mostly?” Kyrian asked, a smile showing on the woman’s face.
“Well it would be foolish not to use their refugee status to our advantage at least a little. Not enough for them to resent the city or the Hand but enough to bind them a little tighter and for a little longer.” She explained.
“I can see why you’re not bothered by the slavery part.” Ilea said absentmindedly.
“I won’t justify myself to a mercenary.” Claire jabbed back.
“Just don’t overdo it.” Ilea said.
“I won’t. You can look at the contracts too if you want to. Change things up as well. Many of your own properties will be housing refugees.” Claire said.
“Just make sure they’re not unhappy. That decreases productivity. Who would want to go to a glum feeling inn?” Ilea asked.
“At least you understand some things. As I said, I’m not planning for the short term. I want these people to stay and thrive.” Claire said. “Don’t worry.”
“I’ll return to work if that’s all you wanted to tell me.” Sulivhaan said.
“We need to discuss some of the plans regarding housing and the logistics of arming new guards. I’ll be back later today for that. Will you be here?” Claire asked.
“I will be, or in my study.” Sulivhaan said as he turned to Ilea.
“You’ve grown so much in this short time I’ve known you. Do remember to be careful and don’t let revenge consume you. Take your time to train, to plan your enemy’s demise and execute it ruthlessly. That is how you will survive.” Sulivhaan said to Ilea as he took her hand.
“I’ll take it to heart. Thank you Sulivhaan. Don’t overwork yourself.” Ilea replied, holding his hand tight.