Chapter 240 Mapping out
It was still night when she woke up, rested and prepared for fighting. The skills that had flared up were deactivated again, her battles having continued in her dreams. “God, fuck.” She said, rubbing her eyes after taking off her helmet. The rose knight set was still lying on the ground next to her as she scratched her head. Looking at her own helmet she had to give it to the knight. Dents all over and her head piece was the one part in the best condition.
A yawn left her as she stretched. “What shall we do today?” She looked at the rose knight helmet next to her, the thing staring back with about as much life as when the man had still resided inside. Summoning a meal, some sort of chicken soup with vegetables and a fresh lime like taste, she sat back and ate. The suns started shining into the dark cave when she was nearly done, illuminating the houses in the distance.
She could make out the palace if she squinted, at least the towers reaching above the lines of buildings. Ilea stood up when she was done, putting away the box into her necklace. Neither the amount her food nor the boxes occupied changed at all. How can four and a half hundred meals equal five storage points and a single set of armor is eight? She knew it had to do with volume and individual pieces. There was some way to stack things but either it didn’t apply to armor or the pieces were simply not similar enough.
They did however look the same to her. Then again her ashen hunter armor took up considerable space too whenever she stored it. Connecting the armor pieces together with the related hooks and strings, she dragged it out towards the exit. Elfie was reading still, writing notes or a translation into a second book he had conjured out of nowhere. Does he have space issues too sometimes? Maybe he doesn’t lug around entire sets of armor.
Ilea left the armor in a corner of the room and went towards the remaining ash on top of the platform at the end of the cathedral. Setting up some of the wood she had gotten from inside the dungeon, she carefully put the corpses from each slain knight onto the pyre. “Fire?”
The elf absentmindedly summoned the cube and threw it towards her, Ilea catching the thing and looking it over. It was smooth all around, just a small cube around eight centimeters on each side. She pushed some mana into it and was met by fire rushing towards her face, into the openings of her helmet. The elf put down his book and looked at her in disbelief but she simply continued and turned it around, the flame not even singing her skin with her high resistance. It was enough to set flame to wood but compared to a high level fire mage’s spells it wasn’t worth a mention.
Jumping down, she threw the cube back to the elf. He inspected it before it vanished, “I see your success is accelerating. Eight this time. Congratulations on the two levels.” He said and continued working. Ilea walked closer and looked at his second book.
Wines of Rhyvor, he is translating it. “What about the second book, is it of more use than a history on wines?”
He grunted and wrote another line, “Perhaps. It is encoded however and I’ve yet to crack it. Translating this one helps me calm down… it’s irritating. Why make it harder for knowledge to be accessed.”
“For spies maybe?” Ilea suggested but he just hissed, a gesture she was used to by now. She wasn’t sure yet if it was like a sigh or a groan. Then again he used those gestures too.
“I am aware of its uses, simply annoyed at their existence human.”
Ilea nodded, walking over to the armor and dragging it towards the elf. The first set he had studied was neatly stacked on a bench. “Can you forge something out of this? Mine is breaking apart.”
He scratched into the page with his pen and looked her, “Do I look like a smith to you?”
Ilea smiled under her helmet, “You elves are just so amazing I thought I’d ask. Any idea where I might find one? Need to sell some of the knight sets too.” She considered if it would bother him. Old armor was history too after all.
“Elves have two classes as well. You should know that if you’ve killed any of us. We’re in the north. There are people weaseling about, however few I’m sure a smith or two is among them.” He explained, the sarcasm lost on him.
Ilea stored the armor in her necklace, bringing it back to capacity. All the corpses she had stored amounted to the same units a single set of armor needed. Should just leave them on the bodies… or a box maybe? Remembering how she had stored all the things in Salia and how little space it occupied made this a reasonable idea. There was of course plenty of things still in her necklace that she could sort out but throwing away five perfectly good cakes or two kilos of dragcal meat just wasn’t in the cards for her.
The fire burned through the knights and their old bones, everything quickly turning to ash. It had taken all her strength to bring them down and now a simple fire took care of everything. Damn necromancers. Ilea spoke to the elf without looking at him, “No locations of a city where people live?”
“There is no city in the north, not anymore as far as I know. I have locations of other dungeons and am willing to give them to you on the same conditions we have agreed upon here. Some are far away. Do you have ways of traveling quickly?” He asked, carefully turning the page of the old book.
Ilea nodded, “Depends on what you’d consider quickly. I can fly at least.”
“Flying? Foolish human…,” He sighed and stopped working. “The Famine Crows will shred you apart if they catch you flying in their territory. There’s worse up there as well.”
Ilea squinted at him, “Well I’ve flown by night, I know the storms are happening by day. Nearly killed me before. Are those the ones with leathery wings? I never came close enough to identify them.”
He summoned a notebook and flipped through the pages before showing her a sketch of the leathery birds she had seen before, “Famine Crows. I have seen them travel in groups of up to forty. Their levels I would guess at above three hundred fifty but not above five hundred.”
Meaning he’s able to identify up to three fifty but they don’t have three question marks? Ilea speculated. “I have also seen them rip apart anything else they touch. The only thing they don’t attack is the mist.”
“You mean the Miststalkers.”
He turned in his notebook again and showed her one of the six eyed monsters, “They are a part of the mist. I have my theories about them but as I have said, not even the crows attack them.”
Ilea smiled, “Well there’s little meat on them isn’t there.”
“I suggest you travel by day and only through the crevices and cracks lining the terrain. Yet. You have faced these knights, in a dungeon and alone, I doubt you will wish to travel safely.”
“Finally you understand something. Got a map I can copy?” Ilea asked. She was debating if she should stay until her armor was completely done for. The thing definitely had a couple more fights in it but maybe it would be better to survey the area and maybe find some better armor. Going back to Ravenhall was an option as well but she doubted she’d find this dungeon again.
He hissed in response, looking at her with an annoyed look, “That is information I have collected over decades. What will you pay in return?”
Ilea rolled her eyes and spread her wings, “Never mind. I guess I’ll just find them myself. Will take me longer to find any more books for you sadly.”
Glancing at him, she smiled, “Tragedy really. All that forgotten knowledge. Old runes, forms of governments…,”
“Alright, stop. Yet how do I know you will not simply vanish with this knowledge?” The elf asked.
Ilea shrugged, “You don’t. I don’t mind lugging a bunch of books with me though, especially if you can translate them. I’m mostly looking for dungeons and monsters to fight. Learning a thing or two about them in the process might be beneficial too.”
She rolled her eyes, “Look I’m working together with an elf, you’re supposed to be the enemy of my race. Isn’t that sign enough that I will honor the deal?”
He considered her words and ultimately nodded, putting away his notebook and summoning a big tube. Inside of it was the map, rolled out and flattenedby his magic as she stepped next to him. It nearly covered the whole table he was working on. Ilea’s eyes opened wide when she took it all in. This wasn’t a simple map with some dungeon locations. Every crack and narrow corridor he had found was carefully painted onto it. Considerations, mentions of monsters and their locations as well as where the mist pooled was noted.
Hiding spots for the night and deeper layers, caves as well as water sources were listed. High peaks and dangerous zones as well as what she was looking for mostly, dungeons. There was a whole bunch of them. Each named. Had he really not stepped inside?
“Where are we now?”
He pointed at one of the northernmost dungeons named ‘Rhyvor Capital – Tremor’ The name she had given him.
Ilea nodded, “I think the ones closest are enough for now. Not that I don’t have enough with this one already. Did you find any adventurers near one of them? Maybe some have lower leveled monsters, are half empty or close to the surface?”
He looked over the map before putting his finger on one specific one. ‘Root Vault’
“Anything you can tell me about it?” The dungeon was located west from their current location but Ilea had no idea how far exactly. There was no reference point she had on the map, however there were many landmarks described both outside and in the crevices that would lead her to the right destination. As well as it would let her find back. She was already sketching into her own notebook, only focusing on the part around Tremor and up to the Root Vault.
“I could not enter but there were signs of intelligent life, fireplaces and hidden sleeping pockets in the stone walls leading up to the dungeon. It is possible the very denizens of the dungeon itself are responsible but it is rare for monsters to show this kind of intellect. Especially in dungeons.” He explained and continued, “The entrance does not lie deep underground but there are strong roots growing even beyond the point where I felt the mana grow more dense. Perhaps you will find a trail there.”
She nodded and wrote some of the notes next to the dungeon mark. Two other places were mentioned, even closer than the Root Vault. ‘City – Rhyvor?’ and a place he had simply named ‘Cliffs’, “Anything you can tell me about those two?” She asked, finishing her crude copy as she added the crevices, water sources, big mountains and other notable additions he had chosen to include.
“Other than that they are dungeons, no. I would suggest you don’t go to the one I named Cliffs yet. There were winged creatures that paralyzed me even before I could walk out of the entrance.” He said.
Ilea closed her notebook after a while, “What’s your Veteran level at?”
The elf looked at her, “The Veteran skill… mine is above level fifteen. I won’t tell you the specific level.” He stated. It surprised Ilea that he even shared anything related to the skill level. She didn’t exactly know how the skill worked yet, only that really powerful creatures could produce sounds or according to the skill description spells as well to paralyze her completely.
She considered his answer and asked, “How long were you stunned?”
“Ten seconds. Enough to possibly have died were I closer to the edge.”
That’s why you level bone density and healing my friend. “Any other tips when I go out? I’ve not been in the north for very long.”
He looked at her as he rolled up the map again, not touching the thing at all. “Come on, you wouldn’t want your only cooperative and capable dungeon diver to die to an invisible volcano or something.” She joked. The elf sighed again and shook his head.
“There are wolf like creatures appearing at night.” He turned to the page where a simple but completely black wolf was drawn, “I haven’t managed to identify them but I saw them disappear and appear at random.” The elf paused and closed his book again, “I’ve seen many species here but a lot of them you’ll find similar to the beast found at lower altitudes, simply stronger and faster. Do I have to tell you to avoid the ones as big as mountains?”
Ilea waved her hand in response, “I’ll try not to enter their mouths.”
“That might actually be the best option, if you can avoid the teeth. Other than the arcane storms you have mentioned, there are occasionally blizzards appearing near the mountain tops as well as strong winds if you fly too high. Both of them are at least as dangerous as the arcane lightning.” The elf explained, Ilea taking some notes in the process.
Natural winds as strong as Arthur’s magic? She asked herself, remembering her cracked bones. Her resistance was higher now but if it was anything close to the lightning she’d try to stay low. “Thanks. I’ll be back in a couple days or longer depending on what I find. If I don’t, I’ll leave a message here in the cathedral should you not be here anymore.”
He nodded at that and put away his map, summoning the book on wines again as he continued his translation. She definitely wanted to learn more about his people. It also felt good to talk to someone other than herself every other day or week. Her wings taking her higher, she decided to fly to the opening where the sun shined inside instead of the small crevice she had entered from. Looking outside, she found herselfat the side of a mountain, between rocks covering up most of the area. Climbing out, she squeezed through a small crack, not choosing the exit up top to avoid lightning that might hit her there. She saw a steep decline leading downwards when she finally managed to get through, her armor scratching on the rock. Arcane storms raged in the distance as she searched for the closest crack in the landsbelow.
Checking her notes, the Tremor dungeon was painted under a mountain, where she was right now. Another long range of mountains was painted to the east, the one she saw from her elevated position. And another big one there, with a massive and visible valley and a fissure at the bottom. Ilea found it a minute of searching later. According to the map there were several smaller cracks leading to the valley she saw from here.
Quietly listening for storms, she activated all her buffs in preparation. A destination in sight, she pushed off and accelerated in a steep dive with all power. The clouds moved quickly and unpredictably, sometimes turning as if they were beasts themselves. Ilea made it. Lightning cracked a couple hundred meters behind her when she blinked the last stretch into the thin crack, smashing into the wall before she could stabilize herself.
Pieces of rock fell downwards as she moved off the wall, jumping down and landing on the somewhat flat terrain. A thin line of water flowed through and ended somewhere between a bunch of boulders. Checking her map again, she would have to follow the trail until she entered the valley, then westwards in a curve until she reached the Root Vault. I wonder what it’s actually called. She asked herself why he had called it a vault of all things.
Maybe he did know something about the place but had chosen not to share it with her. Not that he had any reason to give her any information. For all she knew he was lying about everything. She could at least write it all down, maybe she’d meet another elf to talk to at some point to compare things. Plus if the locations of the other dungeons were true then she had already gotten more than enough out of it.
Ilea flew low and at moderate speed to be able to react to anything that jumped her, thinking about the Tremor dungeon and her talks with the Elf. His reaction wasn’t much when she mentioned her being from another realm, seemingly more focused on the lack of research than her experience. For what it was worth, he actually seemed kind of nice, a little weird at times but not unpleasant.
A loud roar resounded but it was too far away to be meant for her. And the way that sounded too big to be meant for such small prey. The sound had come from ahead, Ilea picking up some speed more interested in seeing what it was than her self preservation.
Coming around a corner, she saw the end of a massive scaled tail slither through towards the next section of the valley, sunlight glistening on parts of its green skin. The crevice started to open up more and more. At the end of this one she could see two ways, one west and one northwards. With the tail going west and her destination lying in the same direction, her next step was cut out for her. A smile blossomed on her face as she watched the dark clouds move by above, quickly finding cover as the arcane smashed into the overhanging walls of stone.