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Chapter 241 Contact



Coming out into the valley, Ilea ducked back behind a big boulder. An arcane storm was passing by above and the valley was simply too vast to provide ample cover. The tail she saw belonged to a snake, glistening green as the lightning hit it. The hiss that followed was enough to freeze her in place.

ding’ ‘You have heard a mighty beast’s roar. You are paralyzed for 15 seconds.’

What the hell is at that Cliffs dungeon when that humongous snake only paralyzes me for fifteen seconds. She didn’t know if the size and strength of an animal would influence the paralyze duration, maybe it had to do with the sound they could produce alone. Or it was a separate skill they used for hunting. Maybe I should’ve just stayed and leveled until my armor broke. She considered if no armor wasn’t just as fine but losing an arm or getting cut deeply would have her spend more mana on healing.

A dangerous hit could end her life so she wasn’t about to continue unprepared. At least not if there were other options she could exploit first. Taking a glance again, the snake had moved on as well as whatever beast she had heard roaring earlier. The valley looked like not a living thing had passed through in a hundred years, the sky above as calm as on a sunny afternoon near a desert. It just took that lightning…

Checking for storms, she kept on the side of the valley and rushed through as quickly as possible, right until the crack in the middle could be seen. Ilea quickly blinked towards in and flew down, landing on her feet a moment later. The area around here seemed deserted as well, likely because the huge snake had just passed through. Flying onward, she kept her Hunter’s Sight activated to find any trail she might miss otherwise.

The map he had given her helped tremendously with navigating the terrain. Dead ends were visible and knowing where more cover was, she became more bold with traveling the surface. Storms could appear and move quickly but when her next destination lied just fifteen seconds of flying away, she’d risk it. Plus her armor might take another hit without her dying in it. After that she would stop being so reckless. At least against nature. That would be a lame death. Killed by lightning.

She had no plans of stopping until she could punch the lightning to death herself. For two hours she traveled through the cracks, only finding small critters that fled immediately when they heard or saw her. The Root Vault couldn’t have been far anymore, Ilea coming into the crevice that according to her map led right up to the dungeon. Slowing down and focusing on her Hunter’s Sight, she took in every little pebble in her sphere and through the hunting skill.

Jumping over a small hill, she saw the first roots. The area darkened, leading further down as the crack in the land turned into a cave. More and more roots as big as herself showed, breaking through the stone as they grew. Wood magic, let’s see if that girl can show me something like this when I come back…

The cave where she thought the dungeon started led downwards in a steep angle, thorns big enough to impale a human broke out of the roots, illuminated by glowing plants further down. Ilea wasn’t fooled. This wasn’t some oasis in the wasteland that was the north, this was a deathtrap. Only powerful magic could create what lay before her. Focusing back around her, she was successful even before finding the hidden pockets the elf had mentioned.

Fresh blood. She crouched down and touched the red stain on the rock. Someone or something was injured. And it was recent. Her sense of smell coupled with her Sphere quickly led her towards a small cave entrance to the side of the glen, helped by Hunter’s Sight. It was dark when she blinked into the tunnel, water dripping from the ceiling somewhere but she could still smell the blood. After several jumps further down, nearly no light found its way into the dark cave anymore. Her eyes could still make out silhouettes but Ilea was mostly trusting her sphere at that point.

She could hear voices and saw light flicker on the walls five minutes later, her quick pace quickly finding whatever was bleeding. A gruff and deep voice talked quietly, Ilea slowing down as she got closer. “It’s gonna be alright warlock.”

“Something is coming.” A second voice said, ethereal as if wisps had followed the sound to Ilea’s ears. She stepped closer and saw the group in her sphere. A lizardman holding a nasty cut in his belly, a hooded and masked figure looking her way. The last one was something that looked like a robot, legs and hands connected to a big torso and core with straight connecting pieces as well as tubes that continued before they plugged into its back. Tubes came out of its shoulders ending in valves. The robot was holding its hand onto the wound when the lizardman coughed.

The hooded figure suddenly appeared before her, a sword clad in black lightning advancing on her. Ilea instinctively moved to the right, hitting his hand with her left wrist before she punched at the figure’s side with her fist. A quick move and the man hit the wall of the cave hard, something breaking in the process.

[Rogue – lvl 172]

Ilea walked on towards the other two after checking his vitals with a tendril of ash, “Stay down.” The robot turned to her when she approached, saws extending out of his arms. Yellow eyes stared at her in the dark, “I’m a healer.” She said and continued towards the lizardman, the robot not moving as he watched her. She put her back towards him and checked up on the lizard, “What happened to him? His health is draining quickly.”

Poison or a curse, She thought as her healing mana pushed into the creature. He groaned in pain making the robot tense up a little behind her, two spear like objects slowly extending out of its chest.

“Stop… Stonebreaker…,” The ethereal voice said as the man moved closer, holding his shoulder before he winced. “She is… healing him.” He finished and sacked down, the robot rushing at his side.

“What did you do?” His deep voice asked, still remaining as quiet as it had been before.

Ilea stabilized the lizardman, his eyes closing as the poison or curse racked through his body. “His shoulder is damaged, nothing more. He has several cuts on his legs that worry me more but those didn’t come from me.”

“Damn fool.” The robot said and tried ripping away the mantle covering the man’s legs but was stopped.

“I will be fine. No poison.” The ethereal voice said and Ilea could see wisps of smoke coming out from behind the black mask under the hood, its smooth surface turning her way.

Ilea continued healing, “I’ll take care of him afterwards.”

The robot nodded and answered her initial question, “One of the monstersin the nearby dungeon. He was poisoned.”

Shequietly continued. Whatever poison it was, it was strong. “Did you not know the dungeon would have venomous animals in it?” She asked and looked at the robot.

He walked over to her and crouched down next to the lizardman, “Of course we did.” He didn’t elaborate further as he held one of the lizard’s hands.

His voice isn’t coming from the head, Ilea noticed. Were her own body poisoned she’d be healed already but the different biology of the lizardman made it even harder than healing another human. She trusted her skill fully, not helping guide the mana or focusing overly on specific parts of his body. “No antidote? Do you have whatever caused the poison? Maybe it helps.”

The robot nodded, checking one of the packs lying next to the lizard before he took a small box out, “No antidote yet. The alchemist has given up on it,their poison varying in properties and even changing from time to time.” He took out a monster’s claw that looked more like a thorn, gray and ending in a sharp slightly glistening tip, about as big as her hand. “Careful lassie.”

She just looked at him and grabbed the thing. Rolling down the pant leg where her armor had been taken, she turned the thorn and pushed it into her leg. The thing penetrated to her blood with a little bit more force, the robot standing as if frozen before he rushed at her, “Don’t move so rapidly.” Ilea said, her ashen limbs lashing out to make him stop, “You’ll poison yourself too.”

ding’ ‘You have been poisoned by Drop Saurian venom, -25 Health per second for five minutes.

Enough to kill me and that’s from a single scratch of this thing. She looked at the lizardman and frowned. He was over it already luckily. Good thing I found them, perhaps they wouldn’t be up for trading if their friend just died. The lizardman was at level one forty and the robot man at one eighty, both identifying as mages.

“Why would you poison yourself?” The robot asked, obviously confused when the lizardman woke and gasped for air. Ilea let go of him and simply let healing mana flow through herself, the pain a dull tugging in her leg as she walked over to the other mage. He tensed up when she touched him but relaxed when she took care of first his shoulder and then the cuts on his leg. Something about his anatomy was fascinating.

Ilea continued looking at him through her healing skill even after his cuts had been healed, “What are you?” She asked in fascination, looking at his mask. He pushed her away a little and got up, Ilea not resisting. “No wonder you can’t get poisoned.” She said, turning to the others. The rogue didn’t reply and neither did she press. It was likely offensive already to whatever race he was a part of. Not that she cared much, he had attacked her after all.

ding’ ‘Poison Resistance reaches 2nd lvl 1
You are a target of assassins or not very good at distinguishing berries. Surviving either of those you have developed a general resistance to poisons.
2nd stage: Either you need better guards or you need to stop eating everything you see. Experience has granted you an ability to sense poison. Additionally its spread throughout your body is slower, reducing its effects.’

That’s why I poison myself. Ilea thought with a smile.

The rogue walked to the othersas Ilea watched them help up the lizardman who was still weakened from the exertion and near death experience, “We have to go, a trail of blood was left behind.” The robot said and turned to Ilea. “What do you seek as payment warrior?”

“I need a place to sell my things, more importantly a smith. Know anyone around that fits that description?”

He nodded and started walking into the dark, “Aye, not a pleasant one that one but perhaps you’ll survive it. If the poison doesn’t drop you after all.” He said and chuckled, a click resounding from his right eye, an enchantmentflushing the dark cave with light. “We should be quiet, not to attract more attention.” He added before they climbed down through a tight opening.

Ten minutes of silent climbing later, they came into a tunnel that seemed unnatural, its walls straight. She noticed for the first time how tall the robot was now that he stood upright. Easily two hand a half meters, even taller than the lizardman. The smoky rogue was the only one similar to her in size. “Where are we going?” She asked after a couple minutes of walking down the corridor.

The light of his headlight waved over to her before it moved forward again, “Hallowfort, our home.”

Ilea looked at the others but they ignored her, lost in their own thoughts. “That doesn’t really tell me anything robot man.”

He laughed at that, deep and loud before he checked behind them, “We should be safe now. You’ll see lassie. Seeing your worn out armor and those horns on your head I think you’ll fit right in.”

“I will show you to the smith with a good word as soon as we’re there. I doubt that is fixable sadly.” He added, “A shame, looks like Niameer steel.” A test perhaps but she had no idea what the name meant.

“Found it on a corpse a while ago, had it reforged.” She said, the robot holding up a thumb.

“We’re here.” Pushing aside a big stone plate, he leaned on its side and gestured them all to go in. Following inside, he pushed back the massive stone gate with the handle that was attached on the other side. Moving through the waiting people, he touched a runed plate that was on the other end of the small tunnel, a section on the ground opening immediately. Fresh air immediately flowed in, “Careful, it’s a bit of a drop.”

Ilea waited until they were all through before she looked down, jumping and landing two seconds later, looking at the waiting group of people. They stood at the edge of a massive cliff, crystals growing on the stone behind and around them, stretching for kilometers into the underground cave, illuminating everything in a pale light. Ilea stepped towards the edge and looked down, several hundred meters of air until it ended in what looked like a massive lake. Natural stone pillars grew from the lake up towards the ceiling, everything covered by crystals in patches of white.

A bridge a hundred meters to her right led over a chasm and towards warm torch light interspersed with magical lamps. Houses of all sizes and styles riddled the plateau, built on top of the massive statue depicting a humanoid figure, its head missing. The stone monument reached down and into the natural rock below before it all ended in the distant lake. “I’m impressed.” Ilea said, smiling as she took in the view and looked over at the robot. The metal on him was rusted in parts, dark gray and black as well as patches of red showing.

“No monsters here?” She asked as he joined her side and chuckled.

His eyes twirled before he spoke, “Rarely. They reside down in the lake or the dungeon. We’re safe here from the storms as well as most wild beasts. Come now, a warrior able to heal will be a most welcome addition.”

Ilea nodded and followed him when the lizardman knelt on one knee before her, “I owe you my life warrior.”

Ilea grinned and flicked his lizard like head, “You owe me a drink.” The lizard looked confused when the robot started roaring with laughter.

“You heard the lassie, come before you get yourself into more dept than you can carry.” He said and helped him up.

A three meter tall guard with dark armor and a hammer as big as Ilea grunted when they came over the bridge and entered Hallowfort. It wasn’t big, nothing compared to any of the cities in the human plains. Perhaps a village or even just a bigger camp but what it lacked in numbers and size, it won back in diversity. To Ilea it felt just as alive as any bigger city she’d been to. Half the races running around, trading and shouting she had never seen. Is that a dwarf? The man was as tall as a kid but with sturdy arms and legs, no hair on his head as well as a scar on his scalp. He looked about as heavy as she would be were it not for her dense bones and muscles.

The scents of unknown foods mixed with body odor entirely alien to her as they walked through the village before they came up on a small house. “I’ll see you later, let me know how it goes.” The robot said to the rogue. The man didn’t reply, nodding lightly towards Ilea before he vanished. The lizard bowed deeply before he too said his goodbyes, at least for now. It seemed clear that responsibility for her would fall on the robot.

“Come on in.” He said and opened the door, stopping in a contraption near the wall before his chest opened, steam exiting from both the pipes on his back as well as the chamber itself before a man about one meter forty in height jumped out. A black bushy beard, one mechanical eye and black greasy hair looked at her with an outstretched hand, “Terok Stonebreaker, very happy to make your acquaintance.”

Ilea smiled and shook his hand, “Ilea Spears. The same. You were moving that machine?”

“Never seen a dwarf and his rig!” He laughed and walked over to it, “It’s smaller than most but trust me this thing can take a punch. The runes and gears allow for the finest movements coupled with my metal magic. Not the most beautiful thing but it does the job. Don’t ever insult it or I’ll pummel you.” He said, laughing again before punching the exoskeleton.

“Fascinating. You think I could get one of them too?”

He frowned, “Well you might as well try, it’s hard without metal magic. The fine control I mean. You need specific metal too, that elven stuff you have on your armor might be a start but you’ll need much more.”

Ilea nodded and smiled, happy to have found this little place. Still, she didn’t come to the north to join another village and get involved with their problems and wars, “Can you show me to the smith? I don’t plan to stay long.”

The dwarf smiled and nodded, “I understand, not one to dwell. I shall stay true to my word. If you ever need anything just come back.” He said and opened the door, beckoning her to follow. “He was good as dead, glad you appeared. I just hope he will go out again.” Terok said as he led her through the village.

Ilea spotted smoke coming out of a big building, hearing the sounds of a hammer hitting metal, “What about that one?” She asked as he led her further down, away from the forge.

She’s not bad but won’t be able to handle your level of steel. There’s only one here that could but he’s… well. He doesn’t want to work with everyone. Not me either but perhaps I can convince him to take down the runes, you’ve saved one of us after all.

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Rhaegar

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