A note from Rhaegar

Hey guys and gals :). New chapter up.

I'll be on vacation starting tomorrow and will be back on the 13th or 14th. I might not be able to answer comments / messages during that time frame. I will of course be scheduling chapter releases so you have something to read.

I wanted to give a quick thank you to you all for reading my content, giving ratings and commenting. The volume is a bit much for me to reply to these days but I still try to read at least most of them :). I've been doing this full time for two months now and it's been pretty fucking great. To think writing and sharing a story on RoyalRoad would lead to what it is today. Well I won't annoy you longer (I will with chapters, if you like it or not - do tell me if you don't and why).

Last thing, shout out to Hello Future Me. If you want to learn how to write or are interested in the subject. Here's for example a video on power escalation When I started doing this I knew jack shit, still know very litlte but I'm improving hopefully. He's a good source for detailed information instead of more general and broad tips and tricks.

Chapter 244 Real Steel

Ilea smiled brightly at the finished product. The armor had the exact same form but was a little less dark. Still black but Niameer had a midnight like property to it that the coating to her Rose Hunter sets just couldn’t replicate. A good thing she had taken the mold with her, the armor as if she was wearing a body suit. It was heavier, certainly but her power had increased continuously since the group of smiths had made her first set back in Virilya. Plus I’m getting enchantments done as well.

Goliath’s eyes danced happily as it watched her move around in the armor. “I love it.”

“It was a mold, not one made by me but still. I am happy to be of service, Ashen Hunter.”

“Why hunter?” Ilea asked, curious at the name. She did identify as a warrior as far as she knew.

The smith started melting down an ingot of Niameer, ten of them put in a crate and stored in her necklace. Four had been reserved for the dwarf. “The armor was made for you. It has chosen the name Rose Hunter. You look more like a hunter to me. I do not know what the word rose means.”

Ilea laughed at that and smiled, “You’re how many thousand years old and don’t know what a rose is?” Instantly regretting it she instead continued, “It’s a flower. No offense, I was just caught off guard. Here, they’re usually other colors than silver and not made of metal.” She said and summoned the silver rose she had gotten from the Tremor dungeon.

The smith made joyous eyes and carefully took the rose, “Marvelous. You see, my curse withers most plants, especially delicate things like flowers. They are of life after all.” Handing it back to her, she held up her hand.

“Keep it. I can get more of them.”

“A gift I shall treasure, Ilea, huntress of ash.” It whispered and bowed.

She tested out moving in the armor for a while, her other four sets cooling in their buckets after the coating had been applied. It felt good, she hadn’t even noticed how dented and bent her ash hunter set really was. Adjusting wasn’t difficult of course but it probably impacted her performance, at least a little. “You said the Taleen came for you, their machines or the dwarves themselves?”

Goliath didn’t reply, carefully forming a small piece of glowing Niameer with two pliers before finally putting it into liquid, a sizzling sound coming from the bucket. “They came with their guardian machines. Neither of the two dwarves that died that day were fighters of any capability. Creators they were, their machines putting up a formidable resistance.”

I mean it is a floating level two hundred creature with a hammer head as big as my chest. I wonder how it’d do against a Praetorian, knowing so much about metal. “And their machines were so different than other ones you’ve seen?”

“Oh yes. Quite astounding. An internal mana source, capable of harnessing a part of the ambient mana around them. Truly groundbreaking. I was unable to replicate it.”

“And you think Terok is making something like that?” Ilea asked.

The smith poured another form before he answered, “Not at all. Whoever is responsible for a mana source like the ones found in a Taleen machine is far beyond even my capabilities. A true master. Most exoskeletons I have seen were brutes, massive and specialized in destruction alone. No such machine would require such precise and small pieces of Niameer. The Taleen Guardians I believe they were called, they had no such steel but a more common metal found in the south. To think they formed it into what became such quick and agile opponents… it is, impressive.”

Ilea summoned a Taleen sword and showed it to the smith, “That the metal?”

“Indeed.” It took the blade and inspected it, “It’s perfect. As much as one can make out of that steel.”

Ilea summoned a second one and then decided to just dump all of her remaining Taleen weapons bar one dagger and one sword. The weapons appeared on a workbench, spears, maces, warhammers and swords. She was left with 152/250 storage capacity in her necklace. Hopefully enough to carry all the armors that were cooling down still. “You can have all that, not sure if it will be any use.”

The smith inspected the weapons, dismissing most of them quickly before it held two of the swords and looked at them. Goliath turned the blades and moved them around, “Impressive.”

“What is it?” Ilea asked. They already knew the Taleen crafted their blades perfectly.

The smith turned towards her and showed her the blades, “They are identical to my eye.”

Ilea nodded, “Well the Guardians look the same as well, must be some kind of mechanical production.” She said. Did the dwarves have their own little industrial revolution?

“Blades forged by machines… of this quality? I will study them more. If you find a production facility, machine, runes or enchantments please do show them to me.” Goliath added before motioning to her armor sets. “They are done.”

Ilea smiled brightly and stored all of it in her necklace. Four full sets of Rose Hunter armor plus another one she was wearing. Each set weighed ten units in her necklace, bringing her capacity to one ninety two at the moment. “Thanks Goliath, you really saved my ass here.”

“Do not speak of it. You have brought me ample compensation. This is the last piece for you dwarf as well. Let him know I will want to see the finished product.” The smith said with excited eyes. Ilea was getting better at gauging the emotions in them, the intricate small movements and changes in the golden light or their form.

She smiled under her new helmet, the two horns sharp again as they protruded out and forwards. Twirling once, she came to a stop in a stance. Nearly done then.

“Will you remain here? I might come again in a couple weeks… for reforging and with new metal.” Ilea said and moved back into a casual position.

“Of course. Perhaps I will be able to improve your armor while I learn more about Stonehammer steel.” Goliath said as she stored her armor mold and nodded.

Holding out her hand, she smiled when the smith shook it, “I’m looking forward to that. Have fun.”

“Good luck on your hunt, ashen warrior.”

“Five whole sets? Wow… you know I… ah fuck it. Yea lay them out. Did the smith agree to form ingots at least?” Terok asked, checking the first piece of the empty armor, nodding at its quality.

Ilea just summoned one of the pieces he had ordered and twirled it around her fingers, smiling at the dwarf. His brows lifted while his eyes opened when he finally looked at her, “You damned miracle. Sure I won’t be cursed or murdered for accepting your help?” He laughed.

Ilea stored the piece again and motioned to the armors, “Only if you don’t finish the job. I’d like to leave today if possible.”

The dwarf nodded, a big smile on his face as he started working, “Unreasonable requests are my specialty.” He said and cracked his knuckles.

Ilea decided to stay and play around with her ash a little while he worked. She had felt out the limits of her ash manipulation and had come to the conclusion that eight semi sturdy limbs were the ideal number. Semi sturdy because it allowed for them to still be easily movable. Highly dexterous with steel like tips dense and sharp enough to penetrate weak opponents easily. She was of course preferring their use with Wave of Ember, against enemies like the rose knights who she couldn’t hurt with the ash’s pure physical properties.

More than eight limbs couldn’t use the skill, otherwise she would simply create a fifty of them and spend a big chunk of mana with each blow. Switching between different levels of density in different parts of the limbs let her optimize a little while the dwarf finished her last set, until finally he exclaimed happily. “It’s done!”

Blinking next to him, the dwarf nearly jumped into the wall face first. “Don’t do that again.” He said when he had calmed down, Ilea looking at her armor.

[Rose Hunter Armor Helm – Rare Quality] Enchantments [Lightening 2 / Durability 2]
[Rose Hunter Armor Chest Piece – Rare Quality] Enchantments [Lightening 2 / Durability 2]
[Rose Hunter Armor BracersRare Quality] Enchantments [Lightening 2 / Durability 2]
Rose Hunter Armor Gauntlets – Rare Quality] Enchantments [Lightening 2 / Durability 2]
[Rose Hunter Armor Legs – Rare Quality] Enchantments [Lightening 2 / Durability 2]
[Rose Hunter Armor Boots – Rare Quality] Enchantments [Lightening 2 / Durability 2]

Not quite as good as Iana’s but that was to be expected. It certainly made a difference however, the lightening enchantments would bring some more speed to her movements. “Perfect, here you go.” Ilea said and dumped all the pieces, screws and springs on the work table he had used, the dwarf frantically looking through all of it.

He nodded after a while and smiled brightly, “All there… this is going to be a long week.”

“Well have fun. I might return at some point for more enchantments. Don’t die on me.”

The dwarf chuckled, “Same to you, same to you.” He was already lost as he started distributing the pieces into separate piles, taking another set of plans he had and started working. He didn’t even ask her where his plans were.

“Smith wants to see the end result it said. I think it can hear you if you go down and shout.” Ilea added before she quietly left, leaving the dwarf to his passion. She had remained here long enough, not a single point of experience gained as she waited for her gear to be finished. Now I have a smith and an adequate enchanter. Maybe I’ll find a better one at some point too.

Spreading her wings outside, she flew directly towards the exit in the stone. Testing it out, she found herself even able to blink through. Whatever enchantment was on the door neither prevented her sphere not her blink to work. Finding the way back out was simple enough, through dark tunnels and caves until she finally breathed fresh air again.

It was dark outside but the shattering impacts coming from above told her the lightning wasn’t over, neither was there a mist laying at the bottom of the valleys. At least not as far as she could see. The roots to the dungeon lay exposed, the entrance like the gaping mouth of a carnivorous plant. A big fucking plant. She knew the knights in her dungeon were capable foes, ones she could use to level both her skills and levels but perhaps the beasts in here could somehow be killed easier.

It was worth a shot to her, unlike whatever lay below Hallowfort. There had been mentions of another dungeon but the underground sea didn’t particularly entice her. Not until all other close by resources had been used up. Stepping into the big opening, she jumped down onto one of the roots that led further in.

ding’ ‘You have entered Penumra dungeon’

Penumra…, Writing the name down in her notebook quickly, she took in her surroundings. Stone with roots growing through it. She just hoped they didn’t come alive suddenly, the size of the things enough to crush her alone. Jumping down another couple of roots, the space below her opened up. Like a network of webs spun by tree spiders, illuminated by reddish moss growing on the walls as well as what seemed like fireflies, their golden light contrasting the red.

Jumping to the side of the massive cave, she touched the moss and grabbed a little.

[Penumra Moss – Poisonous]

Is that the second tier effect of Poison Resistance? Ilea asked herself when she heard movement a little below her. Looking down, she glimpsed something blue before it vanished under the roots. Her sphere wasn’t quite close enough to give her a view of what her eyes had missed. Grabbing more of the moss and putting it in her sphere, she focused her senses around her. The fact that the moss was poisonous wasn’t a good sign, enough to level her resistance perhaps but it likely wasn’t anything special like the Bluemoon Grass had been.

Considering it nearly killed me, maybe it was in a way poisonous as well… or cursed. Ilea glanced behind her, turning just when a claw slashed at her. It broke through her veil and scratched against her armor, not quite managing to dig into it significantly. Her fist answered, hitting the head of the beast that looked like a starving dragon, two long arms and legs. The thing didn’t react, its head lacking any discernible eyes as it clawed at her again, this time in a frenzy.

Ilea blinked behind it but found the beast turning quickly, continuing its assault as her ashen limbs smashed into it, not managing to break through the hide.

[Drop Saurian - ??]

At least it wasn’t at three question marks but Ilea had to blink again, flying upwards this time to avoid its relentless attacks. It moved frantically, too quickly for her to reasonably dodge, using its teeth as well as all four legs to attack when it got close enough. Ilea looked at the shallow scratches in her armor, the silver metal shining through the dark coating as she frowned. The beast jumped around the roots quickly, landing upside down above her before it shot towards her. Ilea blinked again but found three more of the beasts crawling up the sides of the cave. She wasn’t deep, maybe fifty meters but somehow they had come for her.

If I can’t fight a single one of them I might as well give up… She thought but tried nonetheless, forming big swaths of ash around her as she tested blinding them in some way, heating up the ash as well. The beasts moved quickly, jumping towards the root she was on before they attacked, their aim still focused on her body as she again blinked upwards to avoid them, two of the Saurians clashing into each other before they again jumped up. The third one was nowhere to be seen until it shot downwards from above, Ilea only able to blink because her Sphere notified her early enough.

At least the roots haven’t grabbed me yet…, Four thorn like claws suddenly shot towards her, stopped by her Veil as she looked at the origins. Another two of them were crawling on the cave wall, weird growths swelling on their backs. Some sort of mushroom? Ilea questioned as she watched thorns grow out of them before they shot towards her. Blinking up twice more, she was back at the entrance. The beasts didn’t follow, already out of sight. She didn’t hear them either, the Drop Saurians more stealthy than she would’ve expected with such a size.

They had been around one meter fifty in height. Teeth and claws long enough to penetrate through her skull and then some as well as a thin tail. Neither flying, ash nor heat could deter them from finding her, even with no visible eyes. Magic perception perhaps, Ilea questioned but the fact that more of them had shown up made this a difficult dungeon to approach. She would have to be able to kill them quickly and efficiently, or at least be able to drop them further down into it to be able to stay focused on a single one. The ranged ones made for another annoyance as well.

Ilea sighed and cracked her neck, looking downwards. Knights it is. She thought and rushed back through the valley where she had initially come from. No storms looked to be close by, letting her push her speed as she ignored the small critters that sometimes showed up. She dared thinking her eyes and ears would warn her early enough should a massive monster like that snake she had seen earlier show up. Her blink as well as second stage of Azarinth Perception allowed for a safety net should she need it.

Maybe I can hunt something out here as well… the birds Elfie mentioned don’t seem viable but maybe I can try some things with the Miststalkers again. Checking her second stage of Mana Drain Resistance again, she considered trying it. If she could somehow outlast one of the stalkers she could easily gain experience. The problem was that more and more would come from the connected lakes of mist. One was perhaps possible but two or three at the same time? She didn’t know.

Ilea quickly reached the area again where she had first entered the crack in the land, the mountain with its entrance to the Tremor dungeon visible in the distance as she carefully checked for storms. Waiting for a couple minutes, a dark cloud started moving over the very mountain, ominously moving through before purple lightning shattered the stone, the shock wave making Ilea duck down into the crevice again until the storm had passed two minutes later.

Checking around her again, she rushed back, her wings pushing her to the highest speed they could before she blinked, finding herself in the small cavern that led into the dungeon. Breathing out, she blinked downwards and hovered in the air, overlooking parts of Tremor dungeonand the cathedral at its top. Making her way down, she entered through the missing windows and landed quietly. The elf was still working on the book, looking up to meet her eyes, “Returned in one piece. Found your smith?”

Ilea released her Veil and smiled under her helmet, “Indeed. Learned something about wine?”

He snorted and continued, “Let me know if you learned anything interesting. Smith someone that could tell me some stories?”

Not really.” Ilea lied, thinking of when or if at all she should tell him about Goliath. For now it would remain her secret. There was enough in the city below to get answers out of him without endangering her smith.


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