Chapter 197 Preparations
The man left again to continue his work and the rest of them visited Leia. She was a frail woman looking to be in her seventies, her eyes without focus nor any reaction to their approach. Ilea didn’t know anything about her condition but it was doubtlessly connected to some traumatic even in her past. Seeing Claire care for her and talk to her lovingly made her remember her own parents. Not a lot of pleasant memories but it made her feel a little nostalgic still.
“Cless, can you look after her for a while. You know she loves your paintings.” Claire said after a while, smiling at the girl who seemed to beam at the suggestion. She nodded quickly and ran to a nearby shed, getting a canvas. Ilea didn’t see any colors or brushes but she figured the girl had her own ways.
“Will you two be leaving again?” Cless asked after she had prepared everything.
“We will.” Kyrian said and lifted her up again, one of his spheres forming a round plate below her feet. He let her fall a moment later, making her shriek before she landed just two centimeters further down.
“I hate this!” She shouted while laughing and hit the man on his chest, making him chuckle as well.
“We’ll be back in no time.” He said and hugged the girl.
He’s gotten close to her. Ilea thought, enjoying the scene. Hopefully it’s not the wrong decision. For both of them.
“Bye Ilea. Next time you should be stronger.” Cless said, waving at her.
“I’ll try my very best M.” She said, saluting to the girl with a little less enthusiasm than Cless had shown earlier. They both high fived the girl before they made their way back.
“Let me know if you need gold, there’s already a substantial amount coming in each day.” Claire said to Ilea as they walked towards the elevators.
“I’m fine for the moment.” Ilea replied. “Reinvest a big part of it.”
“Of course.” Claire said, likely already thinking about how specifically to spend the gold.
“Where’s Trian, I’d like to meet him before we go.” Ilea said to her when they exited into Viscera. Again there were gates put into place to trap something in the Haven, or to protect someone against whatever came into Viscera. A good addition. Ilea thought. A lot of demons had been summoned into the city itself when Adam Strand had executed whatever plans he had. Still, sections could be blocked off and cleared out easier like this.
“He’s here actually. Deeper inside, staying with his friends.” Claire said, looking at Ilea when she said the word friends. “I’ll take you to them.” She added, leading them to another lift that led downwards, to the training halls.
Unknown to her, there were hidden passages leading further down into the mountain, passages that not even her sphere picked up. “Were those here before?” Ilea asked as the stone wall melded back into place behind them, leaving no trace and cutting off her sphere.
“No. Most of them are new additions. A combination of rune magic and enchantments. Can they block out your skill?” Claire asked and smiled when Ilea confirmed. “Good. Seems like the efforts weren’t in vain. I doubt many have something more potent than yours. Elise will get something similar in the library above. Just in case.”
“So you’re going for him.” Trian said, still looking at the same spot on the wall he had been staring at for the whole duration of their conversation. Ilea didn’t really want to call it that either, the man only barely reacting to what she said.
“We are. Just wanted you to know that I guess. It was nice seeing you.” She said and got up, not receiving a further response from the man.
“He’s not quite himself, is he?” Kyrian asked when she joined him in the hallway.
“No. He needs time. Come on, let’s see if Dagon and Elise found out anything or if they rather busied themselves with other things.” Ilea said, walking to Claire when Aurelia came running from the room.
“Ilea. Thank you for visiting.” She said, closing the door behind herself. “I’ll get him back to his old self in no time. He’s always been too hard on himself.” Aureila said and punched Ilea on her shoulder.
“I’ll get stronger, for him and you.” She added.
“Perhaps next time I won’t have to hold back as much then.” Ilea said, grinning at the girl who just shook her head.
“You’ll see.” She answered with a perfect smile before she went back to the others. Perhaps they were the first refugees in Ravenhall after all.
As expected no new information on either Arthur or the Golden Lily was unearthed by the two librarians. A lack of influential nobles in the Hand was likely the reason, as well as the privacy of the rare noble that actually joined. Dagon’s knowledge and research was more focused on skills, classes, stats and most importantly monsters. Enemies to humanity itself, other intelligent races, their possible goals, philosophies, culture, weaknesses and preferences. They were an order of mercenaries, not bound to one country or another. However they were bound to humanity, to protect their species against anyone that would come to destroy them. Elves were the main focus of course, especially since the destruction of the western independent cities. Still there were other races, some of them trading with humans or even living in their cities. No major war had happened in the last several hundred years. The dwarves resided in the Naraza mountain chain or wherever they decided to dig themselves into the stone.
They had no interest in the human plains and had stated so on several occasions. The elves were a mystery still, their intentions differing with every attack it seemed and the results varying just as much. Dagon was convinced they could end humanity as a whole if they decided to put all their energy towards that goal but so far nothing spoke for such an effort.
The Shadow’s Hand was one thing that would stand in their way should they decide to execute such a plan. There were dangerous monsters in the north, several expeditions not coming back at all, others defeated and decimated. No expedition east and into the ocean had succeeded so far, everyone vanishing without a trace. Monsters of the deep would attack port cities from time to time but at least for a couple kilometers off the coast, the sea was considered safe. At least as safe as the wild in the human plains.
Cities and walls would protect against the normal kind of monsters, either too weak to get over or through the walls, taken down by a group effort of the defenders or hunters or simply disliking the high number of people inside. Most predators liked to isolate targets instead of invading the middle of the herd after all.
“You said before that I need five skills at second tier level twenty for third tier becoming available?” Ilea asked after Dagon had told her about the lack of information regarding the Golden Lily and Arthur Redleaf.
“It’s usually the case, yes. For most people, at least the ones who shared this information with me, they have at least one or two available skills to advance. There are likely some conditions that one needs to fulfill for the third tier becoming available. Either that or it’s random. The fact that some people have the option to advance any one of their ten skills, none at all or anything in between makes me think it’s the former.” Dagon explained. “Your second class getting close then? Why not stay and train for a while, I’m sure you could reach it soon. Couple weeks or months maybe.” He suggested but Ilea shook her head.
“I’m gonna get there when I do and I already have a couple favorites should the time be inconvenient. I already have plenty of options to flee and survive, I hope it’s enough.” She said and sighed.
“You really have that many skills at the end of the second tier already?” Kyrian asked. “Took me most of our missions and training to just get a third to that level.”
“I focused more on skills than leveling for quite a while.” Ilea said. “Didn’t the training do a lot for you as well?” She asked.
“I mean yes, it definitely did. To get to two hundred I generally didn’t use more than five of all my skills though so most of them were lagging behind quite a bit.” The man explained. “The training definitely helped but I’ll need a while longer to use either of my third tier points. Got nothing available either.”
“Good to know we’re in a similar boat then. Are you sure you’re up for this then? You lack a teleportation ability.” Ilea said and looked at him.
“I thought we discussed this before. Of course I am. You don’t need a teleportation ability when you can bust through walls with metal. Plus being trapped in a room with me isn’t good for anybody. You remember when you didn’t have your curse resistance and tried to walk into my runes?” He asked. “It’s not a common ability.”
“Yea but we’re not fighting common people.” Ilea said. “I trust you though. And your abilities. Let’s just hope they didn’t already heavily train against curse and metal magic.”
“It’s painful to do that. I doubt many nobles have experienced such or would like to do so when they can get more powerful by killing people and monsters delivered to them.” Kyrian suggested. “Plus we’re together, we’ve got each others’ backs”
“Alright. Sorry about this, it’s just that…,” Ilea started but he just punched her shoulder.
“Don’t worry about it. Plus it’s just this mission. Afterwards we’ll train. To get strong enough to face them we’ll have to face death many times. This is just the first.” Kyrian said.
“Arthur Redleaf took over from his father. He’s not self made which makes me doubt he has suffered the pain of curses quite as much as you have as a hobby.” Dagon added.
“It’s not exactly a hobby.” Ilea said but smiled. “Fucking idiots.”
“We’ll look through the records and see if we can find anything related to Eve, the Golden Lily or Arthur Redleaf. Perhaps something pops up. Just make sure to come back again at some point. May you prevail.” Dagon said as he got up, walking around the table and hugging Ilea tightly. Her rib cage groaned under the strength of his arms.
“I don’t have to tell you not to die, it’s probably easier to destroy this city again than it is to kill you.” Dagon said when he let go and turned to Kyrian. “You, you don’t die kid.” He said. “Now leave my office, I have to catch up on forty lost years.
“Of intercourse?” Ilea asked.
“Imbecile. Forty years of romance and conversation.” Dagon said but the light shade of red on his face wasn’t lost to her.
Ilea’s instinct would’ve liked to add another comment to the situation, especially considering his body size in relation to hers but she simply didn’t feel like it. Not after all that has happened. Maybe I’m becoming less of an insufferable twat. The thought made her chuckle to herself to the confusion of the others.
“Of course, then I will let you get to it. Thank you for the help and for taking care of her and Trian.” She said, to both Dagon and Claire.
“You brought the news from Ravenhall. I doubt we’d be standing here without you. You rescued Elise from the dungeons and you helped avenge Trian’s family. If anybody should be receiving thanks, it’s you.” Dagon said.
“Don’t encourage her, she was finally becoming a little more humble.” Kyrian said and laughed as he touched Ilea’s shoulder.
“You’re living a dangerous life Kyrian.” Claire said. “We’re here for you two and anybody you consider a friend. To you or to the order. And you will have a place here always.”
“Thank you. I have to admit that I kind of fell in love with danger.” He said, winking at Ilea at the last part.
She groaned and pushed his arm away. “I’m not ready for a committed relationship Kyrian. Even without all the shit that has happened.”
“I said danger, not you.” The man said and smiled.
“Alright, we’re leaving. Thanks again and don’t let demons destroy the city again. Remember, there was one incredibly tough one and it’s still around somewhere.” Ilea warned as she walked to the door.
“We have scouts around and in the city. Plus we took down those giants, I think we can handle a single demon.” Claire said. Ilea didn’t doubt her, not with all the changes she and the others had brought to Ravenhall. Still, that demon was dangerous. Similar as with the Praetorians, the normal size of them and their speed made for a much more dangerous enemy than a massive, high leveled and powerful monster.
They could be taken down with teamwork, distraction and tactics. For human sized or slightly larger enemies, that was much more difficult. Especially if they could think and that demon spoke. They still gave her more of an uneasy feeling than the monster whale or the Basilisk she had faced so long ago. And I was weak then compared to now. Still it hadn’t killed her. Had it been a Praetorian, she doubted anybody in that cave would’ve come out alive.
With their business concluded in Ravenhall, the two of them finished their preparations for the journey and the eventual destination. Food and drink was bought, as well as necessities like bandages, cloth, weak health potions in case their mana ran dry or healing spells were interrupted. Cloaks to hide and some spare clothes. Ilea had initially planned to get some things in Virilya but decided on getting them here instead. It was quicker and wouldn’t result in possible fights. Plus putting some money into the local economy would benefit her too in the end.
“Ready to go?” She asked the man when they met up again near the northern gate.
“Yep, although all my stuff is going to be cold. Sure you don’t want to trade your necklace against my ring?” He asked jokingly.
Ilea just grinned under her hood. “I doubt you’d look as smashing in it.”
“You’re covered in bloody armor all the time. Nobody ever sees it.” Kyrian said as they exited the city, seeing more than a couple people on the road leading towards the city. An unusual sight considering the dangers involved in traveling. They had grouped up but looked to be far from the same making, some clad in armor, others freezing in the cold weather as they clutched to the thin shirts they had, showing no further possessions.
“You’ve seen it.” Ilea said absentmindedly as she watched the newcomers. Hope and exhaustion on their faces as they gazed upon the high walls of Ravenhall a city that might soon rival Virilya in defensive capabilities. They need some more shield mages for that I think.
“Which is why I wish you’d show it off more.” Kyrian said. “The first refugees are already here. Hey, where are you from?” He asked when they reached the closest group. The man who was spoken to looked around and shied back a little but managed to stammer out the name Harptown.
“Where’s that?” Ilea asked.
“Right next to the mountain chain. Not far from Morhill actually. Well it’s far if you’re moving like these guys are. Thanks.” He said, nodding to the man who seemed happy that the conversation had ended.
“If people from that town are already coming here…,” Ilea started, the two of them walking away from the road and towards the forest lying north of Ravenhall.
“Well Claire might have to get some more fields ready.” Kyrian completed her sentence.
“Maybe all that space below the city might be used finally.” Ilea said and he grunted.
“Half of it was destroyed. I doubt they rebuilt it all. But yea, there’s certainly enough space.” Kyrian said when they entered the forest, his body starting to levitate from the ground as his magic activated. Ilea’s wings spread in turn and she started flying too.
“Let’s stay low until we’ve crossed the mountains.” She said and he didn’t reply, just starting off towards their destination.
“Are you sure about this?” Walter asked after looking over the combination of runes. “I can barely read them and they give me a massive headache. We’ve summoned a demon before by accident.”
“I can take over most demons, should one show up.” Weavy said, his mind racing through the runes again and again. He had planned for this the entire week.
“Master I trust in you.” The boy said into his mind. An annoying trick he had learned. Perhaps I shouldn’t have taught him at all. Now he can annoy me through walls. Weavy though and sighed, a gesture he liked more and more. He still didn’t quite know what exactly it meant but the humans did it to show frustration.
“Master Skorn. Please trust in my abilities. One more try.” He telepathically said to the human next to him. Walter frowned and looked at the big black sockets in Weavy’s head.
“Last time we had to clean the room six times to get the smell of blood out.” He grumbled as he left the room, closing the door behind himself.
“That is a yes then. Ein, step aside and watch carefully how I circulate my mana through these runes. More and more I gain understanding of the Old ones.” Weavy said before he went to the door and listened. Walter’s footsteps decreased in volume, meaning that he would have some time for himself. Good. He thought, his facial muscles deforming his mouth into a scary smile.
The boy stepped aside as he started activating the runes, their light humming fueling his excitement. They will understand soon. He thought as his teeth started to show.