Chapter 205 Discovery Channel
“Who are you guys anyway? You said Shadow’s Hand before but your name wasn’t Lilith either.” Maurice said as they walked through the dark and dilapidated hallways that led into the island’s very foundations.
“I’m Ilea. I am with the Hand actually but not here on related business. They were just here to kill Arthur.” She said.
The man snorted and kicked open the door before them. “That was his workspace. Why kill the man? Seemed like more or less a decent fellow.”
“He tortured and abused me and my brother. Imprisoned Maria for years, had her raped and tortured.” Felicia explained as they entered the simply decorated room. Ilea noticed the Taleen furniture immediately. This wasn’t a castle built or made for humans.
“Ah, nobles. Lucky I grew up in the slums of shit Virilya.” Maurice said as he took an expensive looking letter opener.
“I didn’t know the dwarves built outside of mountains.” Ilea said, walking around the table to look at the letters and notes.
“They do. Never heard of the city of gold?” Maurice asked.
“I haven’t, no.” Ilea said and picked out a booklet from the table. The writing style made her think it was a diary.
“Supposed to be at the top of a mountain. The sun reflecting off its splendor.” Maurice told in a mocking voice as he opened the drawers on the table.
‘The motivations behind the Taleen’s actions are yet to make sense to me. What they created was incredible but again, this island is devoid of the creators and only teeming with their machines. Piles of dust that my botanists say were bones at one point but who knows if it really was them? Did they vanish, living in a place far away or a completely different realm altogether? Perhaps this gate will lead us to new answers. I fear more questions is all that I will find…,’
One of the entries in the diary from a couple weeks back according to the date. Ilea skimmed through the pages after that date, learning about their conquest of the Taleen dungeon spread below the island, going deeper than Arthur had anticipated.
‘Another three of my strongest guards were vanquished today. The mercenary named Zoy has proven vital to this operation again. It is a miracle that I found such a willing soldier for this mission. Were it not for our aligning goals I wouldn’t even dare talk to her. The magic she wields is dangerous to any mage. To any man. To see her heal from fatal wounds on her own in mere hours, even regrowing lost limbs without a healer. The lack of her sight just a distraction from her all seeing powers, ready to appear behind her enemies and slash through their necks.’
He did seem to hold Zoy in high regards. To find that he apparently more than just respected her was news to Ilea.
“Did you and Zoy work together long Maurice?” She asked, leaning back in the chair.
“Zoy? No, first time I’ve seen the woman. She’s a creepy one that. Couldn’t identify her either but she opened up to Popi a little. Hates the Taleen machines I think. Probably something that happened to her at one point or another.” He explained.
“The Taleen machines don’t come out of their dungeons though.” Felicia said as she too read through some of the documents on the table.
“Beats me. Maybe her family fell into one and got butchered.” Maurice added. “Can we move on? There’s nothing else here.”
Ilea nodded and put all the documents into her necklace. Seeing Edwin and Maria fight let her know that even if they wanted the necklace, it wouldn’t be worth fighting her over it. Perhaps she had been too paranoid after all.
“Ilea, I will want to look through all that as well.” Felicia said.
“As will your brother. You can have it all as soon as I’m done with it. I doubt much will be of interest. The man seemed to be obsessed with his work.” Ilea said and continued reading while Maurice led them further through the castle.
‘The teleportation unit in this dungeon is in tact. To find I’ve wasted all of those mercenaries and guards when it was at the very top of it all. A costly error. It looks different than the ones we’ve uncovered so far, not as noticeable but the runes are in place nonetheless. Though similar it’s different, more nuanced. Testing will begin in the morrow.’
That part was from four days ago. Ilea sighed. It seemed the man didn’t know much about the teleportation either. Let’s see how productive you were in those days.
There was nothing written for the two days after that.
‘The gate can be activated but it looks like the destination cannot be chosen, not anymore. A defensive mechanism activated by my most trusted rune mage. He paid with his life and it nearly took two others with him. The gate after all is more advanced than the previous ones we’ve found. Connected to more than a single destination. To think we were this close and to fail nonetheless. Another expedition north has failed, only two survivors telling of unsightly beasts, the freezing cold and burning suns. Incapable all of them. Another dungeon in the plains is unlikely, too much of it uncovered. Dawntree refused to comply and the mercenaries sent despite the city’s cooperation haven’t returned either. The Shadow’s Hand may be my last resort, despite the order’s complaints. I’m sure they will understand if it’s for the good of mankind. What we’ve found here, it has to be enough.’
Ilea stopped walking and read through the part again. A defensive measure and the destination cannot be chosen anymore. Did that mean it chose one at random? What was his goal in all this? Why the expeditions north, to find more of the Taleen dungeons? He knows about the dungeon in Dawntree but with the Praetorians likely still lurking below it would be impossible for anybody but perhaps the whole remaining Shadow’s Hand to storm in there and destroy them. Ilea somehow doubted even that was enough. A chilling cold ran down her back when she thought about it. Despite them winning against the demon horde, even taking out that massive whale, at a likely higher level than the Praetorians. Still, in an enclosed space with their speed, destructive capabilities and highly advanced defenses, she didn’t know how they’d fare. With enough preparation it might be possible. Were the machines alone, there were hundreds if not more normal Guardians around though.
The order Arthur mentioned, was it the Golden Lily? It was likely, or perhaps something that could still give Ilea some answers. They didn’t like the Shadow’s Hand it seemed. For the good of mankind? Isn’t the Hand exactly for that? Ilea’s thoughts were interrupted when Maurice slowly opened another wooden door, this one leading into a somewhat large hall. Ilea saw people moving inside, moving into a formation as soon as they heard the door opening.
“They’re scared.” She said, feeling their distress through Hunter’s Sight.
“Yea, they’re the caretakers of the plants. I’d be shitting my pants by now as well.” Maurice said and opened the door with a grin on his face.
“Fellas!” He bellowed out, some of the people showing relief on their faces before the rest of the group walked into the room, despair spreading immediately. One of their group, a nervous woman moved her hand, a barbed root moving out of her robes towards them.
Ilea stepped forward and caught the root, using her free hand to do a calming gesture. “We’re not here to kill you. Arthur Redleaf is dead. Choose wisely how you act now.” She said, looking towards the woman with her icy eyes, ignoring the root that tried to claw into her armor, entirely ineffective.
“I’m Felicia Redleaf. If you served my father then I ask you to do the same for me.” She said, the root letting go of Ilea a moment later.
“I’m s…,” The woman who had attacked said when Ilea appeared next to her, grabbed her neck and simply threw her backwards into the nearest wall. The woman hit her head and landed on the stone floor with an unhealthy sound, unconscious from the blow. She was below level one hundred but should survive the blow.
“Go take care of your friend, I think she fell.” Ilea said to the others, two of them nodding quickly and running to the woman.
“What are all those plants?” Aliana asked as she paced around the room.
“Father was obsessed with them always. That’s why he was still keeping an entourage of vegetation mages around. Mages that could be used to feed thousands, instead kept for his own hobby. He always talked about bettering humanity but it seems he himself was above that.” Felicia said as she touched one of the plants. Two of the mages instantly winced, another one moving his hand towards her.
“You mustn’t!” He exclaimed.
“He is dead. You no longer have to worry.” Felicia said and removed her hand from the plant.
“Why would they worry?” Ilea asked, turning away from the woman bleeding on the floor. They looked like they had some healing ability. She was worried there for a second that she had killed the poor frightened girl.
“He beat them, tortured them. And killed them if any of his plants died.” Maurice explained. “Weirdly he was less inclined to punish failure in the real mission.” He shrugged. “At least that’s what I’ve heard.” He added.
“It’s true.” Felicia said. “He treated them as harshly as us children.” She added and walked to the closest of the mages, touching their face.
“Ravenhall could use them.” Ilea said off handedly before she looked at the group. “Do you know about the portal?” She asked but none replied. “He said there was more than a single rune mage.”
“Ser… I… I am a rune mage under Lord Redleaf.” One of them said and stepped forward. “Please spare my life and those of the others.” The man knelt before her making her a little uncomfortable.
She grabbed him by his robe and lifted him up. “I won’t be killing any of you without good reason.” She said. “Come with me.” Ilea said and walked back to the hallway they had come from, closing the door as Felicia started talking to some of the other mages.
The man before her seemed terrified, his eyes averting her own, his whole body language basically submitting to her. “Were you tortured as well?” Ilea asked.
“I was… beaten. Rarely… not as often as the others.” He replied.
“Look. I’m not going to hurt you ok? And if you want something out of this situation then maybe I can help you with it. If you help me first.” Ilea said and let him think about it for a moment.
“The gate you found here. It was activated and sent me and a friend away.” She said, the statement making him look up for the first time in their talk.
“You were sent away? When? How did you get back? Did you find another dungeon?” He asked the questions before he started talking to himself.
“You sent people away too didn’t you?” Ilea asked.
“None of them returned. The runes… I was sure the destinations were random, the gate perhaps even completely shut down.” He explained.
“I was sent to another Taleen dungeon. A place called Iz. My friend wasn’t there. Is it possible he was sent to the same dungeon?” Ilea asked.
“Iz… Iz. Are you sure that was the name? That’s unprecedented… one syllable…,” The man asked.
“My friend.” Ilea stated which got him back.
“Yes… I mean no. The chances of him appearing in the same dungeon… with what we assume is hundreds if not more of them in Elos, no, I don’t think statistically speaking he was in the same dungeon. But are you sure it was Iz?”
“I am sure, yes. Why is it relevant?” Ilea asked. “And can you help me find him?”
“It is relevant, very relevant. The dungeon below us is called Iztacalis. There are references we’ve found related to a major city, a stronghold with the name Iztaca. You speaking of Iz, if our theories are right then you might have found the core… the very center…,” He spoke quickly now and Ilea calmed him down again.
“Perhaps that’s true. I’ll tell you everything I know about it as soon as you tell me about my friend.” Ilea said.
“Yes, well he was sent somewhere else. To another Taleen teleportation gate somewhere. It is possible that the gate isn’t able to send him back. Not all of them are meant for more than a single destination. The one we found here was but it is useless to us now.” The man said.
“Are you sure about that?” Ilea asked.
“Certain, all of us were. More study of the runes is necessary but my knowledge is limited and my ability inhibited by my lacking levels. The master rune mage died when he activated the gate.” The man said. “I won’t be able to determine where your friend went but perhaps with more understanding, we might be able to achieve Arthur Redleaf’s goal after all.”
“And what was that exactly?” Ilea asked, a little skeptical of his optimism.
“A copy of the Taleen teleportation technology. A network between human cities to further trade and diplomatic relations. I believe Lord Redleaf had his own plans regarding the diplomatic parts but can you imagine the economic and military advantages of whoever holds a technology like that? It’s unprecedented. Elven attacks, we could…,” The man explained.
“We could summon a force to fight them in an instant. The land masses between the cities wouldn’t matter. I can see the appeal. Now mister?”
“My name is Christopher Volaris.” He said and bowed deeply.
“My name is Ilea, have you ever been to Ravenhall?” She asked with a smile, her helmet vanishing.
“The city of the Shadow, holding Eregar’s Haven…, no. Sadly I have not been there before.” He said.
“I happen to know a rune mage above the two hundreds, perhaps she will be of use. Do you need to be here, near the gate to continue your research?” Ilea asked.
“No, no. The inscriptions, mana pathways, everything is documented to the last bit. While we theorized earlier that the material is relevant, that was dismissed at a later time. I cannot be definitive but we are somewhat sure the material used is irrelevant.” The man explained.
“Good. Then would you like to work under my employ? To continue your research and find a way to replicate the teleportation gates used by the Taleen dwarves?” She asked and watched his face light up.
“And here I thought you to be a monster… incapable of thought and merely trapped by her lust for blood and destruction.” He said and she smiled, storing her helmet in her necklace.
“What a lovely assumption. We’ll talk about the details in Ravenhall. Don’t say a word of this to anybody here. Where are your notes on the runes?” Ilea asked.
“Welcome back, I see you’ve found a new guide.” Maurice said and looked at Christopher who looked to be very interested in the stone floor.
“There doesn’t seem to be anybody else in the castle as far as they know.” Felicia said, walking towards Ilea.
“You mentioned Ravenhall being in need of vegetation mages?” She asked.
“I mean Ravenhall is basically empty right now so they’re in need of most mages.” Ilea answered, looking at Christopher.
“Three of them dislike the idea of serving the Redleafs still. We can’t use people unwilling to work with us.” Felicia said simply. “If you are willing to take them, you can.”
What is this? Slave auction after the conquest has ended? Ilea asked herself and looked towards Aliana. The woman didn’t seem to be bothered in any way by the proceedings. Considering Edwin would’ve likely just slaughtered everyone there, perhaps they were lucky after all. Ilea sighed and looked at the three people standing a little separated from the group.
“Sure, I’ll take them with me.” Ilea said. She watched them visibly wince when they heard her speak. Her helmet was back on and her Veil looked much more threatening now that it was at its third stage, still, literally causing fear wasn’t her goal. I’m gonna be happy when I can finally switch to leather armor again. Although this armor is so fucking comfortable.
Thinking of third tier, maybe? She finally checked the numerous messages still lingering in the back of her mind.
‘ding’ ‘Your group has killed [Inheritor of the Storm – lvl 250 / Child of Blood – lvl 241] – For killing an enemy twenty or more levels above your own, bonus experience is granted.
So Felicia killing Arthur still gave her experience? At least one good thing remained about his untimely demise. Then again, getting answers out of him would’ve likely proved difficult.
‘ding’ ‘Your group has killed [Rose of Everlasting Winter – lvl 224 / Champion of Silver – lvl 220]
‘ding’ ‘Your group has killed [Necromantic Enhancer – lvl 248 / Blood Monster - lvl 240] – For killing an enemy twenty or more levels above your own, bonus experience is granted.
Two of them near two fifty and still they had each lost against their group of barely two twenties. The fights didn’t even seem close, at least with the blood monster it didn’t. Note to self, don’t get mobbed.
‘ding’ ‘Azarinth First Hunter has reached lvl 228 – Five stat points awarded’
‘ding’ ‘Azarinth First Hunter has reached lvl 229 – Five stat points awarded’
‘ding’ ‘Inheritor of Eternal Ash has reached lvl 223 – Five stat points awarded’
The fifteen stat points were put into Intelligence immediately before Ilea continued through the notifications.
‘ding’ ‘Azarinth Reversal reaches 2nd lvl 18’
‘ding’ ‘Wave of Ember reaches 2nd lvl 15’
‘ding’ ‘Ashen Wings reaches 2nd lvl 16’
‘ding’ ‘Body of Ash reaches 2nd lvl 18’
‘ding’ ‘Ashen Warrior reaches 2nd lvl 19’
So damn close. She thought and bit her lip under her helmet. Another Ashen Warrior level and she’d be able to advance another skill to the third tier. At least it was a likely assumption. There were still more messages remaining.
‘ding’ ‘Ice Resistance reaches lvl 8’
‘ding’ ‘Ice Resistance reaches lvl 9’
‘ding’ ‘You have learned the General Skill Silver Magic Resistance – lvl 1
A rare magic to be sure and just as deadly. Not quite corrosion or poison, silver magic can be devious, its effects complex. You have survived and are one of few who have been exposed and lived.’
Another one for the defensive arsenal. Ilea thought and smiled before she got back to work. There was still plenty of castle to be searched through, plenty of documents to be read. It would be a long day. Likely without any more battles, sadly.