Chapter 231 Compass Rose
The room had little else that held her interest. She added the position of all the figures in her notebook as well just in case it would be relevant. If this had been some kind of strategy meeting then it was possible someone had rearranged them to make sure it wouldn’t give away anything should a spy or someone like her enter the room at one point or the other.
As cocky as the Azarinth Order seemed to have been according to all the books I doubt they’d bother. Ilea looked through the room once more but there weren’t even any books. She was happy the map had survived considering the state the library in her training hall had been in. Going back up the stairs, she was back in the hall with the guardian and blinked back up. Another blink and she was on top of the temple.
The trees around the temple had grown close, taking back what was theirs in the past. Leaves rustled when the wind blew through them. Ilea looked around, a Drake’s call audible in the distance before she looked down on the stone roof. “Still here hmm?” The question answered itself when she crouched down a little and cleaned away the leaves and dirt that had covered her compass rose and the small mountain to the southwest. She smiled and straightened herself again, not adding anything to the map today. Ilea closed her eyes and breathed in deeply, enjoying the quiet, the nature. She had been mere prey when she arrived in Elos but as some comical god, fate or RNG had it, she was still alive and had turned into a huntress herself.
Her eyes opened and her body turned, northwards. To the mountain chain she could barely make out in the cloudy distance. Quickly glancing towards the lone mountain in the south, she winked at it and let her wings spread. The ashen protrusions moved in the wind before her legs left the roof, ascending towards the sky. Ilea sped towards the north, her mind focused and brimming with excitement.
She kept flying low, only a couple meters above the treeline, avoiding some of the higher ones sticking out of the forest like overgrown buildings. Regularly checking the western sky for any signs of movement other than the leaves and small birds, she advanced on her destination. Ilea had her sphere and some other skills active at all times now, making her prepared for an ambush. Combined with her healing and high speed, she hoped it was enough to at least survive alone in the north.
If not she’d find a dungeon somewhere and train until she was strong enough to do so. The mountains grew closer but visibility was good today, meaning she was likely still a while away from her destination. It took her an hour to get close to the mountain chain, close enough to see them reach up into the clouds and beyond. Accelerating, she flew in an upwards curve to pass the mountain tops, ignoring any of the routes the expeditions had planned to use. Perhaps that was why they had failed in the first place.
Maybe they didn’t fail and simply found a nice place to stay and decided to become independent. The thought vanished from her mind when she crossed over the lowest mountain before her. The country stretching behind it was littered with massive cracks and crevices running deep into the stone, mountains and valleys forming and breaking off in at points extreme angles. The terrain continued as far as she could see, dark storms visible far away and snow covering the higher parts of some mountains.
She slowed down and hovered in the air, gulping while trying to think about where to go. Looking east, she couldn’t see the ocean, the mountainous environment continuing further than she though possible. Except for the south, she could not find an end to it, purple lightning flashing in one of the dark storms making her head turn. It’s harder to breathe. Ilea found but it wasn’t an issue. She knew about higher altitudes having lower levels of oxygen but to her it felt like the air was thicker, heavier in a sense.
Shaking her head, she woke herself out of her reverie and flew downwards to a relatively nearby valley, deep cracks showing at the bottom of it. Her eyes opened wide when one of the high mountains overlooking her destination seemed to turn black, enveloped by dark clouds that moved towards her. She slowed down and watched as the mountain got enveloped, her instincts telling her to run but her mind unable to pry herself off the view, the massive clouds moving through the air like a beast prowling the skies. Move.
Ilea heard herself think and started rushing downwards. Her whole body screamed at her that something about that storm was dangerous. Trusting her instincts, she quickly reached the ground, looking for somewhere to take shelter. There were small cracks in the rock but other than protrusions sticking out and providing shade against the sun, there was nothing she felt safe enough to actually hide behind. The crevice. Enhancing her speed with the third tier of her aura, adding blinks in to cover even more distance, she rushed towards her new target.
Ilea blinked past big rocks and rushed by near mountains, seeing not a single living being on the surface as the sky darkened and a purple flash cut through stone a couple hundred meters to her left. The shock wave pushed her to the east, all her power and body fighting against the natural force. Her healing spell told her something was wrong with her left side but she couldn’t figure out what, simply pushing mana towards it and feeling the damage subside, albeit slowly. Let’s not get hit.
The storm was now right above her, the light of the suns a forgotten memory, unable to pierce whatever it was that formed the massive storm front. No rain fell from the dark giants looming over her, Ilea’s breathing and heart beat accelerating as she enhanced her body to the fullest. The only sound she could hear were her own wings, her frantic breathing and her heartbeat, even the strong winds that had accompanied her previously scared or pushed away by whatever was happening. A distant purple impact sent a wave of air to her back, the woman happy to find her speed picking up with the help.
The valley wasn’t visible anymore, hidden behind high hills and sharp stones sticking out of the ground all around her. Another bolt of lightning hit the stone, this time only a hundred meters to her right, the explosion of rock sending shrapnel as big as some of the massive protrusions around her flying, her body tumbling in the wave of pure power as she tried to stabilize herself, pieces of rock impacting against her Veil and the ashen mist she started forming around herself. She blinked out of the way of another flying rock as big as a car, finding herself stable enough to fly again.
What the hell is this bullshit… She continued forward, using the terrain around her to ignore the flying truck sized chunks still impacting slowly around her, one of them forcing another blink as it rushed down at her from a steep angle. The sound of impacting mass, sending debris and air to the side made her reduce her hearing capabilities not to take damage there as well. Crossing over another large hill, the crevice at the bottom of the valley was visible again, still several kilometers away. Her eyes focused on what she assumed to be shelter, her awareness suddenly peaked, the terrain that had rushed by her a moment earlier slowed down to a crawl, the flying debris pushing through the air like stone through water.
And then she saw it, above her the sky turned purple, tendrils of energy zapping at the clouds before they moved down towards the ground, trying to find a way to go as it snaked through the air with moderate speed. Ilea blinked backwards, knowing she had two seconds to prepare herself as the ash around her moved forward, forming several walls as her arms shielded her body, her legs moving up to her stomach and her wings cutting forward through the air to cocoon her small form. Five hundred points of health were sacrificed to increase her State of Azarinth for a moment, her healing already kicking in to recover the health while she formed more ash to protect her.
Ilea felt herself fall towards the ground, the purple lightning moved through the air like cracks in the sky, invisible to her a moment later as it passed the ashen defenses before her. Ilea prepared to blink again when the lightning impacted around forty meters in front of her. The shock wave came a moment later, her ash vanishing like sand washed away by the tides, her Veil resisting for a moment before the force pushed through. Ilea’s muscles and bones pushed backwards, her vision nearly going dark when her skull cracked behind her armor, the force nearly shatteringher bones, some of them snapping and cutting out of her skin as they slashed through her organs and tissue from within, onlystopped by the armor on her back as she was flung through the air like a rag doll.
Fighting with all her will to stay conscious, her healing skill took over. Trying to stop the internal bleedings, Ilea focused on her heart and brain secondarily. Her body flying at high speed impacted a rock, the bones still sticking out of her skin cutting through even more of her body as she was flung sideways, finally landing on the ground where her body tumbled for twenty more meters before coming to a stop. Blood seeped out of the thin openings in her armor, her head looking towards the sky. One of her eyes had miraculously survived, the bloodied thing barely registering the dark clouds above while she tried with all her power to stabilize her dying body.
A purple tendril of energy slashed through the sky above when she saw a winged shadow amidst the clouds, vanishing as quickly as it had appeared, the lightning impacting somewhere far off, the wind nearly moving her body, Ilea willing her hands to dig into the stone with whatever strength they had left. One of them still responded, a swift jab brought her some stability at the cost of even more of her body rupturing. Her visionwent dark for a moment before she came back, breathing hard. Flying debris rained down on the ground next to her, small pebbles impacting her surprisingly intact armor. The bleeding was under control now but half of her organs were still mush, her heart and brain damaged and at the brink of failure as well.
Ilea’s instincts took over as her hand held on to the ground, a massive rock impacting a couple dozen meters next to her, her body lifting up from the force. She landed again with a groan, blinking her prone body away when a stone the size and weight of a tank crashed into the ground, the impact making her stumble again. Some of her organs had recovered but got injured again, not as badly as with the initial impact at least. Her brain and heart recovered and bones snapped back into place, Ilea using the existing bone instead of building new one to save time but also because nothing had been completely pulverized. Nothing she needed to move.
As soon as the bleedings were taken care of and most of her organs were functioning at least somewhat, she spread her wings, one good eye focused on the crevice that looked to be so close. Lightning hit making her turn her head, wincing at the damage the movement did to a part of her spine. Luckily unable to feel the pain, she found the lightning hat impacted several hundred meters away and behind a big hill. Focusing forward again, Ilea continued to heal her body, the recovery getting quicker now that she wasn’t leaking blood anymore and no more of her bones were trying to damage her. She was back.
Energy hit behind her, increasing her speed as she rushed past the desolate landscape, veering left before she entered the crevice. Ilea’s speed was too high, her body too injured for her to navigate properly through the quickly thinning tear in the land. She impacted the wall before stabilizing, grazing the other side of the crevice before landing hard on the ground a hundred meters further down. Her body came to a halt. A line of stone had been scratched and cracked from her landing.
Breathing out, the woman started laughing, wincing at the pain when she reactivated its perception. Half her body was still mush but it was quickly recovering now, stable and soon back at peak condition. It was good to feel it. To know she had survived. She couldn’t feel her legs but that was a minor concern.
A hiss made her tense up, her one eye frantically looking for the source of the noise as her second one started rebuilding. A moment later she stared back at the huge eagle that clung to the side of the crevice, a snake as broad as herself and longer than she thought possible struggled against the eagle’s claw that dug deeply into its body as it hissed and tried biting at the unmoving bird.
It’s looking at me. She focused on healing up, not moving a single muscle as the light of her second eye returned. The eagle was several meters in height, its talons longer than most swords a human would wield. Is it hiding or hunting? The storm was still above them, the valley a dark and quiet place, noise coming from the lightning impacts from above and the occasional stone that fell. Ilea blinked closer to the stone wall, building ash again just in case lightning managed to somehow find its way down the narrow crack.
The eagle still watched her but it already had a meal in its talons. If it was a wild animal she’d likely be safe. Maybe its apprehensive of me as well? The idea didn’t fit with the majestic monster that casually held onto the side of the crevice, its wings retracted and sometimes moving to stabilize its massive body. They waited together for another fifteen minutes until light fell in from above, Ilea noticing the grass and plants growing at the bottom of the crack for the first time now that the danger of the storm had moved past.
She watched the eagle lift its head and look back down at her before it jumped off, the wingspan too broad to fly straight in the crack as it ascended quickly, both using its wings but also digging into the stone with its one free clawed foot. And it was gone, alongside the snake that had beenless lucky than Ilea had been.
Ilea breathed a sigh of relief, finding the air easier to breath again down here and outside of the silent storm. What was the thing I saw? She thought and tried to remember, the memory like a haze of her barely conscious self. There were wings, she was sure of it. Big wings and a tail. Moving out of the hiding spot under some protruding stone above, she grinned to herself. Was that the first dragon I’ve seen? And I didn’t even fight it. Excitement flowed through her, the adrenaline from her tense arrival in the north slowly faded as she activated her meditation skill and focused to control her quickening heartbeat.
She hadn’t seen the levels of the beasts but her instincts at least had sounded an alarm. Both the snake and the eagle would likely be formidable opponents should she stand in their way. Hunters of prey themselves and they survived here where lightning was strong enough to kill her. Maybe I’ll follow the crevice. Ilea thought, reminded that the expeditions planned to use tunnels and similar cracks in the land to go into the northern territory. With the lack of animals she had seen above, it seemed like the more sensible bet. Especially with how quickly that storm had moved around her.
Deciding to simply move further north and see what she’d find, Ilea carefully walked alongside the crack, the occasional flower growing out of the dry stone greeting the new visitor. Life finds a way hmm?
The crevice opened up when she came out of the previous section. Not by much but enough to have allowed stones to fall into it more easily, some stacking several dozen meters high, their structural integrity questionable at best. A small clear stream of water flowed lazily through the crack, ending in a small cave near where Ilea stood. More plants were growing here, their green splendor reflecting the sunlight from above alongside the sparkling creek. Movement caught her eye, a fox like creature with scales instead of fur peeked out of a hole before it moved to the creek, its red brown form hidden among the stone before it started sipping the water.
Ilea moved through with as little noise as she could produce but the fox rushed away when she came closer. Not as stealthy as the little guy. Looking around, she blinked to a group of massive stones, the suns residing nearly right above her not reaching this part of the creek because of the steep angle. She jumped up, her wings spreading before she rushed to the top of the crevice, looking out over the terrain. Hills and big chunks of rock inhibited her view but she could see the dark clouds in the distance, purple flashes continuously impacting the ground. Even from so far away she could feel the tiny tremors. Seeing a group of birds flying by, she jumped down again, grabbing the edge of the cliff to hide her body from the predators. The hairs on her back were standing when she watched the leathery wings of the vicious looking birds flap in the winds. Welcome to the fabled north. It’s been 0 days since the last near death experience.