Chapter 219 A City on the Rise
Ilea led the men to the central circle of the city, where Claire likely resided at the moment. Either that or she’s with Christopher. She thought but didn’t exactly want to share that knowledge with Viper. The man had a stake in the Shadow’s Hand and certainly in what had happened to Ravenhall during the demon summoning. She checked the gains from her training earlier as they passed the guards at the gate to the central circle.
‘ding’ ‘Heat Resistance reaches 2nd lvl 1
Ignoring the warnings of your parents and friends, you refuse to not stand in fire. This skill will help lessen the damage and pain a little.
2nd stage: You’ve been burnt and melted again and again. Through extreme exposure, your skin, muscles and bones become much harder to burn and melt.’
‘ding’ ‘Water Resistance reaches lvl 8’
‘ding’ ‘Earth Magic Resistance reaches lvl 7’
‘ding’ ‘Corrosion Resistance reaches lvl 11’
‘ding’ ‘Light Magic Resistance reaches lvl 8’
The variety in the adventurer’s magic was a little disappointing still. Perhaps Elise’s and Viper’s promised information would bring some light into what kind of magic was out there. Then it was just about finding someone willing to use it on her to gain another resistance. Worst case she’d just have to endure it from a wild monster. The second stage of Heat Resistance was welcome, just a straight up upgrade but seeing how easily Viper had burnt through her skin, Ilea was glad to have it.
The shadowguard at the entrance didn’t even check them and just nodded them inside. Ilea motioned for the two to wait outside while she went to talk to Claire. The door wasn’t shut and she glanced inside after knocking.
“Come in.” The woman sounded stressed, not that that was anything out of the ordinary.
“Hey, it’s me. Your favorite person.” Ilea said as she closed the thick wooden door behind her, feeling the magical enchantments click into place again when they connected with the frame. Her Sphere was cut off again and she smiled.
“Ilea, nice to meet you. Heard you’re the one training all the new adventurers coming to the city?” Claire asked, not looking up from the letter she was reading. Ilea didn’t answer and looked through the books on the walls.
“Got anything on existing classes and magic?” She asked, each book title she glanced over more boring than the one before.
“Not really. I’m more busy negotiating with a war torn empire while managing all your assets and the ones from the Hand.” Claire said and finally looked up.
“Got your attention. That’s nice.” Ilea smiled at her and closed in on the desk. “How are you doing?”
Claire rubbed her eyes and then stretched, making a noise Ilea had never heard out of her. Refocusing, the woman smiled back and answered “Constantly tired, stressed and overworked. I love it Ilea.”
“I’m not sure if you’re sarcastic. You need to convey that in a way.” Ilea said but Claire just waved her off.
“I don’t know myself, that’s the problem. You’ll be better off asking Dagon or Elise about the books you’re looking for. Who are the two waiting outside?” Claire asked.
“I already asked Elise. Just thought while I’m here… how’s Christopher doing?” Ilea asked, ignoring the question for now.
“He’s unconventional… smart. Progress is well… I’m gonna continue helping him but I doubt we’ll have a functioning link to the teleportation network of the Taleen anytime soon. Sorry.” Claire said.
Ilea sat on the big table and sighed. “Don’t worry. If we don’t find him, he’ll find his way back alone.” She said. “The two are Shadows looking for the Head Administrator. Couldn’t think of anybody else that fit that description.”
“Sounds like a horrible job.” Claire said. “What do they want?”
“Answers. Regarding the demon incident. I told them what I knew but I don’t know if you guys are looking into it. A way to find the elder and bring him to justice. I think that might be their intention.” Ilea explained.
“Sure. There’s plenty who want revenge. Are they any good other than being able to blow stuff up and kill high level things?”
“One of them maybe. You’ll see. Thanks for seeing them.” Ilea said and jumped up form the table.
“Sure, just bring them in.” Claire said when Ilea waved towards her and blinked out to the others, her teleportation not stopped by the runes to her surprise.
“She’s in there and you can go talk to her. We’ll start the training tomorrow night in Eregar’s Haven. Philipp, make sure to join me again in the pit.” Ilea said and winked to the man before she blinked out of the building not waiting for their replies. They’d be there or they won’t be. For now she stayed close to the building, just in case they were trouble for Claire. While the chance was low she’d have some backup.
‘Gold magic is one of the rarest forms of metal magic, specializing in body enhancements the users show similar feats to other enhancers. Specifics about high level usage are unknown but theories suggest that gold creators, for evident reasons, hold high positions in kingdoms and empires.’
“Add another one to the list…,” Ilea murmured and scribbled into her notebook before taking a sip of her tea. The suns were rising behind the distant mountains overlooking Ravenhall, Ilea squinting her eyes at the bright light. The city itself at least wasn’t covered in snow anymore. Spring had come to Ravenhall at last.
“A lovely view isn’t it?” A familiar voice asked, the librarian coming from the staircase leading to the terrace of a lovely restaurant that was mostly owned by Ilea. Not that anybody except for her and Claire were aware of that.
“It is.” Ilea replied, closing the book on known magics she had gotten from Elise.
“You will bring those back to the library I hope?” Dagon asked as he gestured to the chair opposite her. She made a welcoming motion and took another sip of her tea.
“Of course. I wouldn’t want the whole Shadow’s Hand hunting me down.” She said.
He touched his spectacles and smiled a thin smile. “I don’t hold that kind of authority. Nobody does.”
“And yet everyone came here to destroy the demons.” Ilea suggested, taking a bite of her croissant, something she had seen in Salia before but not Ravenhall.
“That is an exceptional situation. We are simply a mercenary order.” Dagon said and motioned to the waiter who checked on the only customers on the terrace.
“Of course we are. Why are you here? As highly as I think of myself I doubt you’d be delighted by this conversation. Or were you just here to tell me about my late fees?” She asked while he ordered a glass of whiskey.
“I hear you can heal the negative effects of alcohol?” He asked when she raised her eyebrows at his order.
“I’m not going to use my skills to support your alcoholism. You’re old enough to hire a healer.” Ilea replied. He was joking of course, their daily routine not in the slightest comparable to a citizen at a lower level. High Vitality and different skills allowed them to stay up for days without the need for sleep or food, although Ilea didn’t know much about his capabilities in the area.
“Elise asked me to dissuade you from going north. Before you retort or vanish, I know you for a little longer than her. I’m aware that you will go either way. My real reason is something a little more personal.” The man explained and looked around to make sure nobody was listening in.
“I was looking for some… advice.”
“Advice on what? The great librarian of the Shadow’s Hand, the mystical order of powerful mercenaries coming to me for advice?” Ilea joked. It’s about love isn’t it.
The man looked down at the table but finally spoke. “Are you pure?”
Close enough. “You mean did I ever have sex? Or are you talking about some kind of religious term, in which case I’m not sure in what world I’d be the person to talk to.”
“Sexually… I mean. Yes.” He said.
“I’ve had sex before, yes. Been a while though but I guess killing monsters and getting to the brink of death is a suitable outlet for my frustrations.” Ilea explained before she finished the croissant. They really need to add twice the amount of butter.
“I’m unsure. Well I’m not sure how to put it… I don’t know why I thought to ask you…,” The man started and shook his head. “She seems to like it but sometimes…,”
“You feel unsure about your performance?” Ilea asked bluntly and he nodded after a while.
“If you put it that way…,”
“Don’t worry about it. I think it’s normal. For men and women. Now I’m not selling any pills but have you talked to her about this at all?” Ilea asked the man and he looked at her as if she was a mystical being of lore.
“You haven’t.” She stated.
“I haven’t. I don’t want her to think I’m incapable.” He explained.
“I think Elise loves you. The you that can be insecure. To be able to share an insecurity I believe is a show of your character’s strength. Plus communication is the most important thing in a relationship. If you can’t talk about something this small, real issues will be even worse. Trust me. Just bring it up and talk about it. You’ll be fine.” Ilea said, finishing her tea.
“Thank you. I guess I’ll talk to her later.” He said and sighed. “To have learned, worked and fought for decades and this women is what makes me seek help.”
“Relationships take time. Treat is as a learning experience together with her. I have a feeling her damn near imprisonment brought her to a similar level of knowledge in the matter.” Ilea said. His Whiskey arrived and he downed it in a single gulp.
“Got anything to share regarding possible resistances I could acquire?” Ilea asked. “While you’re here.”
The man nearly sunk into his chair as he looked up at the sky. “You’ve been keeping up the arena training for weeks already. I doubt anything I tell you will make a difference.”
“I’ve not learned a single new skill in two weeks. Everybody is using fire, ice, earth and wind. Some have variations and rarer things but nothing I haven’t seen yet.” Ilea complained. At least the training with Philipp and Viper had gone well, though Philipp wasn’t much help, his skills more suited to hunting and less to an upfront confrontation.
“You could join the war for a while.” Dagon suggested.
“That’s terrible advice. It’s the whole reason I’m going out of this shithole of an empire.” Ilea retorted.
“To fight monsters? Is fighting humans so different?” He asked.
“It is to me.” Ilea didn’t want to go into explaining why. Her morals seen as foreign to most of the people growing up in this war torn and conflict ridden land. Humans at least were a monster they understood.
“You could just travel through a part of the country on the way north. Maybe you find some people with interesting or rare abilities capable of helping your insatiable need to have your body broken down.” Dagon said, putting a couple copper coins on the table.
“It’s on the house.” Ilea said, suppressing the grin that nearly broke through to her face. I always wanted to say that.
“You own this establishment?” Dagon asked. “Wait you’re one of the investors for Claire’s manic takeover of half the city? No, don’t answer that. I don’t want to get into arguments with her again.” Dagon said and got up. “Thank you for the advice. I have matters to attend to.”
“Enjoy fucking.” Ilea said and raised her empty cup to the waiter that tried very hard not to listen to the Shadows discussing private matters. People got killed for less on a daily basis. Dagon grumbled something as he walked down the stairs. Ilea had chosen not to share the praise Elise had given him behind his back. Perhaps he wasn’t ready to know that women talked about their men’s sexual habits more so than the other way around.
“I’m Lilith by the way. You know what that means?” Ilea asked the waiter when he came to take the empty cup and Dagon’s glass.
He looked her over for a second and then nodded. “The description fits Lady Lilith. Of course there will be no charge.” He said and bowed deeply.
“Where are you from?” She asked the man. “Don’t keep bowing, I’m the owner not your queen.”
He looked up but didn’t meet her eyes. “From a small village near the southern mountains.”
“How did you survive?” Ilea asked.
“We hid in the forests and traveled from town to town until we were found months later by imperial scouts. They told us they were on the way to Ravenhall, that the Shadow’s Hand had returned to fight the demons. Me and my sister thought that’d be the best bet for us and followed.” The man explained briefly.
“And you’re paid fairly? Treated well?” Ilea asked. The man nodded quickly.
“Of course. Someone collects complaints every other week. At first people were afraid it was something to weed out people who didn’t want to work but when the head cook complained about the kitchen situation, it was taken care of the next week.” He explained. Ilea was impressed by Claire’s management. Good word would spread but the interaction was still kept professional and somewhat impersonal. She left the details to Claire though, the woman was much more knowledgeable about that stuff.
“Good to hear. Thanks.” Ilea said and got up, stretching her arms before she jumped off to the adjacent building. It was nice that her money could get parts of the city running again. Better than just letting it rot in a dwarven dungeon or inside of her necklace.
She made her way towards Viscera, her training with William would soon start. It was still one of the most horrific things she’d ever done. Still, she hadn’t gotten a skill in their nearly three weeks of training, his estimate already passed. The suns were still rising but the city streets were bustling with life. She had seen the influx of people with her own eyes, her hopes that among them some rare magical talents would join her training sessions had been dashed but at least there were new street food stands.
Rice balls, fried fish and hearty soup. People from all over the empire and beyond now contributed to the diversity in Ravenhall. She knew that many other cities, at least in the western and southern part of the empire would experience a similar situation. Hopefully they handled thieves as efficiently as they did here. Guards clad in black, others in the imperial colors patrolled the alleys. While the guards had a lot of power at their disposal, the fact that there were two factions of them brought another level of scrutiny between them.
She was more worried about the guards fighting each other than someone abusing their powers. Of course she had seen both in those three weeks. A newly rebuilt city filled with refugees of war wasn’t safe and perfectly civilized, it wouldn’t be for a long time. Her black armor at least made people part and make way for her even on the busy streets. In Ravenhall seeing a shadow didn’t incite the fear and respect it did in farther away places but they knew what a Shadow could do. Most had seen one or a few in action.
Ilea liked the personal space she got through that, making her just a little less inclined to immediately flee the city whenever her training sessions ended. The colors and new additions to the otherwise somewhat bland and medieval buildings brought by the refugees of various cities were a treat nearly as joyous as the various new foods she got to try. Soon it might look like Salia but with proper walls. Ilea couldn’t help but shake her head at the thought. A whole city of sentient humans wiped out by a bunch of angry Elves.
Better than demons looking to eat something tasty in a hundred years for a change I suppose. Ilea thought, looking at all the merry people going about their daily business. Feeling safe behind the walls of a city that had literally gotten wiped out by the actions of a single determined old man. I don’t actually know how old he is. Ilea thought. She reached Viscera soon enough and the line of people waiting to be interviewed to join the Shadowguard.
Of course not everybody felt safe and those that had seen what happened to their villages and cities due to the war or the demonic invasion at least understood the need for capable fighters. Joining the empire during the war was understandably less popular than joining the city guard or the shadowguard that brought additional benefits with it. A possible membership in the Hand being on of them.
She bypassed the group of waiting people, some of their conversations dying out when they looked at her, tugging each other when she walked by. Living that rock star life. Ilea thought. She was surprised how few of the people seemed to be angry at the Shadow’s Hand for basically causing the demon invasion. Either they didn’t know it was them or were too afraid to speak up. Or they acknowledged that the Hand had cleaned up after themselves. She knew that some squads were still out there, cleaning out demons from forests far away from Ravenhall, crushing every last one of the monsters roaming the empire and the lands beyond.
A couple minutes later she found herself in the usual training hall, William waiting for her with a stack of his workload he had brought with him. Ilea still didn’t exactly know what he was doing other than evaluation. Perhaps the line above was there because she in fact occupied his time. Oh well. They can wait. I’m here to drown after all.