Chapter 261 History

“Should I read it to you or do you think your dull mind will be able to handle the letters. There are many.” He grinned and licked his lips, sharp teeth showing.

Ilea matched his expression, “Good job.” Grabbing the book out of his hands, she flipped it open, “I’ll have you know that my mind can withstand a Blue Reaper’s magic assault. I doubt some letters come close to that.” She grumbled, happy with the expression on Terok’s face when he heard the name drop.

“I have not heard of that creature.” The elf stated, looking to Terok when Ilea didn’t react.

“Blue Reapers? Above three hundred at least, strong mind magic and lightning. Wait Ilea did you really fight them? Are you crazy? Wait no I know you are. Why am I surprised.” He said and sat back before awkwardly standing up again and shaking his head, “I need to get back to work.” He said absentmindedly and collected his plans while grumbling about healing magic and thick skulls.

‘… Tremor is not the only place affected. Cities all over the kingdom report changes in their dungeons, more powerful monsters with unprecedented abilities and levels. If the spy reports are correct we aren’t the only ones dealing with this. The queen has ordered to treat the news delicately, a panic highly possible depending on the nature of beasts…’

Ilea read through the reports, most of them simply daily activities, reports from one kingdom or the other, places she had never heard of. Comparing the names with her notes from back in the Azarinth temple, she found no matches either. Different times? The order didn’t have the north charted so maybe they just didn’t reach so far?

‘… The king insists on elven perpetrators but I have my doubts. He listened to me at least, agreeing not to start another war on mere whims. I have to find evidence but the dungeons are impenetrable. My own power is not enough to break through, the Soul Rippers too many, too powerful. Even with the whole kingsguard I wonder if it would be possible. They don’t wander out of the dark but if we want answers, we have to seek them in the depths.’

They had been at war, with another human kingdom. Their cities more and more destabilized by the high level monsters suddenly appearing in the dungeons that had initially brought so much people, wealth and power to their kingdom. Adventurers drifted off to other places, safer and more prosperous, mercenaries fought for better paying employees and the army was thinning out more and more, protecting the citizens and walls.

‘… Tremor is all that is left. The flames of war have taken all but the capital. The king has lost his mind, the news of his son’s passing summoning a wrath I have never seen in him. His majesty has barricaded himself in his laboratory and the queen is nowhere to be found. I will bring an end to this. We will scourge the beasts that brought this terror upon our lands, human and monster. Should the chroniclers find and decipher this then they shall know the name of Rhyvor. In glory we fight.’

The pages were blank after that. Ilea sat back and tapped the closed book. It had been hours since she started the read, most of it not very exciting. Knowing that the events had actually happened in the place she now knew to be a ghost town definitely added to the mostly dry reports. “So the king is alive and a necromancer.” She exclaimed, putting the book aside.

“Don’t be ridiculous. He must have found a source to power everything. The taleen machines work and there is nobody controlling them.” The elf hissed from the side, looking over what Terok was working on.

The dwarf added another line on the paper before looking up, “I think they use some kind of ambient mana gathering technology. Otherwise it makes no sense how they’re still standing. Maybe this king found something similar.”

Interesting approach to renewable energy. If we had mana on Earth…, Terok’s assumption was only a theory of course. Ilea could see it though. The machines had to have some way of staying operational. Batteries only lasted so long. Undead could work without a source but the ones found here were connected in some way to the palace and the enchantments were still active as well.

“Enchantments can stay active for hundreds of years with a single charge.” The elf said but Terok snorted.

“Of the intricacy we’ve seen here? Even the most efficient ones would dry out without a source. Maybe a hundred years with enough mana crystals but after that. You said this place was thousands of years old.” The dwarf said.

Ilea rolled her eyes, “Doesn’t matter. It’s running still so just continue to try and crack it. Do you know of the Soul Rippers? They’re mentioned several times.”

The elf looked at her but shook his head, “The beast is unknown to me. The dwarf does not know either.”

“Just seems like something we should be on the lookout for. Supposedly stronger than whatever else was in the dungeons around the city before and enough to make the captain think the whole kingsguard can’t handle it…,” Ilea shook her head, “They’re above level five hundred, each of them.”

Terok shook his head, “Not necessarily. Well they are now but who’s to say the actual kingsguard was that high back when they weren’t part of the dungeon.”

“Perhaps they are not part of it still.” The elf suggested.

“Fair enough. We’ll find out at one point or the other.” Terok replied.

Ilea put away the book and stood up, “Terok I’m going to try and lure one of the undead knights out of the dark zone. Make sure not to be close by while I do that.”

The dwarf looked at her with eyebrows raised, his metal eye zooming in on her, “And what makes you think that’s a good idea. They demolished you. And don’t bring up my failure. I’m well aware they’re worlds beyond me.”

“You said they don’t have the connection to the palace. Maybe I can whittle them down more quickly. Plus I’ve killed the Blue Reapers reasonably fast. Since when do you care anyway?”

Terok was silent at that but grinned, “Well let’s just say that working with a crazy human and an outcast elf has brought back some life into these old bones. Be a shame if you died prematurely.”

Ilea snorted, “Why outcast?”

“Well he isn’t eating either of us. I’ve not met any elves but the stories are pretty unanimously the same.” He chuckled and looked at the elf who seemed to be actively ignoring the two.

Ilea shrugged, “Are you an outcast Elfie? Maybe you’d like to come into the dungeon then and help.” Terok’s eyes opened wide at that but the elf just sighed.

“Human. Don’t test me.”

“Oh but I love to test you.”

He grumbled something in what Ilea thought was elvish before turning away and summoning barriers around himself. “Now you made him hide in his box.” Terok said before they both laughed.

Until he thanked her for free food and told her his name, Ilea wouldn’t consider her teasing bullying. Terok was definitely right, any other elf she had met so far would rather rip out her throat at those comments than hide behind defenses and ignore her. Definitely more of a mature reaction but she started to doubt he was simply an old wise elf. Maybe he’s the teenager and everyone else are the adults. Like a phase of historical and exploration interest instead of eating anything that moved.

“Be careful out there.” Terok said and continued on his papers, tapping the metal pencil he had made on his bearded cheek.

Ilea nodded before she went in. Killing something high above my own level would definitely weigh in on possible evolutions. Next to high level skills, a lot of resistances and possibly unknown dangerous situations, her solo kills of higher beings had certainly helped with previous class changes. If she could lure one of the undead knights out and fight him alone, she thought it a possible match. They didn’t have the power to end her in a single strike and left enough openings for her to deliver damage. All she really needed.

How they were of such high levels was a mystery to her considering the danger levels of the Blue Reapers and the Kingsguard. Maybe they had more up their sleeves as well. Did I fight the triple mark one for longer? She wasn’t sure anymore. Fighting any of them might be beneficial for her levels though as without the connection to the palace, they might not be able to recover.

In a mere ten minutes, Ilea landed on a rooftop in what she had marked as the dark zone in her map. Terok probably had a more detailed one of the dungeon already but her own served her purposes just fine. Hovering down to the street, the warrior was shrouded in ash. When she had come here previously, it didn’t take long to find one of the undead knights but their ensuing fight brought them through dozens of streets and a second one had only showed up afterwards. The rose knights above had definitely populated the sunlit part of the city more densely.

It took her twenty minutes of silently walking through the dark city to find something. Finally…, She saw the leg in her sphere but it wasn’t that of an undead knight. Carefully moving a little farther without making any noise, she saw the creature hanging off the side of a building’s wall. Two legs and arms, both long and thin with five fingered hands that ended in claws as long as her forearm. It was at least four meters long, its torso thin and elongated just like the arms and legs. A shiver went down her spine. There was something alien about the creature that Ilea couldn’t place. Something wrong. Its head looked a little like a blooming flower, tentacle like extensions writhing within.

Other than the opened head, the creature lay entirely motionless and silent. Waiting, preparing. Something deep within her told Ilea to run, to hide and to never come back to this place. A terror she had not felt in quite some time. Not something logical, either born from the beast’s magic or something instinctual within her. Curious…, She thought and ignored the feeling. Instead she created a projectile of ash and sent it to the wall opposite of the beast, interested in how it would react. The angle didn’t allow her to identify it but she was prepared to blink away at any time should it attack her directly.

The ashen spike shot out and slammed against the stone wall. Ilea barely noticed the motion as the beast jumped off and landed, its hands grabbing at the space where the projectile had landed. It was now standing on the ground, its slender form slowly standing up on the thin legs as its hands again grasped at nothing, her ash already disintegrated. A moment later it went back on all fours, returning to the waiting position it had been in before.

[Sould Ripper – lvl ???]

Sounds about right…, She thought, unable to take her attention off its elongated body, the smooth leathery skin that covered it. Nope…, The single word in her mind, Ilea blinked back towards the higher sections of the city. She knew exactly what captain Reyker had meant when he had talked about them. Ilea would definitely face them but she needed a moment to process it. After big insects, knights and talking foxes, its sheer presence, the way it moved, silent and deadly. It unnerved her, more so than anything she had seen before. The demons in their realm seemed like puppies in comparison. Maybe it was the added triple mark it had. The simple display of power was not easily ignored.

First, undead knight. She calmed herself down, a little upset at how easily the thing’s mere presence had made her freak out. You need to get a grip. That’s hardly the worst you’ll face…, She told herself. At least she knew the knights weren’t the only things in the dungeon. It also told her that the captain had likely failed his last quest.

The Soul Ripper didn’t have an ability to sense her at least, meaning she got away rather easily. Focusing on her search, Ilea found what she had been looking for a couple minutes later. The roaming form of an undead knight. This one had only two question marks but that fact made it an even better target to test on. It had both its head and both arms, dragging the rusty sword on the stone floor. Positioning herself towards the higher areas of the dungeon, Ilea shot an ashen projectile at the creature. The knight hunched down and screeched towards her before its surprisingly powerful legs propelled it off the ground.

A series of dodges and quick movements, jumps and flying sections followed where Ilea tried to avoid her pursuer’s attacks without using blink. She knew they could easily sense her and sometimes threw their weapons to intercept her appearing form. Blinking against them was to dodge when all else failed, not to reposition or run away. At least not when there was no cover between her destination and the monsters.

Many a house was destroyed on the way, the knight ignoring the walls, fences as well as heaps of rubble between its quickly moving form and the target. Despite stumbling, sometimes falling down completely, it kept up rather well. Ilea would be able to get away if she moved at her full speed but the undead was quicker on his rotten feet clad in rusty armor than its brethren unliving in the noble district. Crashing through solid stone walls as well as smashing face first into the ground didn’t seem to dissuade nor damage the creature in the slightest which did give Ilea a little bit of pause.

At least a second knight didn’t appear, despite the noise her hunter continuously produced. Ilea had chosen the same route she had taken to come down into the dark district, hoping that none of the knights would stroll into her escape and luring path on the way back. Reaching the wall, she rushed through and turned in the air before she skid to a halt, waiting for the enemy to come charging towards her. A couple seconds later she knew the knight had given up. Running back in, she found him walking off to the lower parts of the dungeon, Ilea hitting him with a projectile of ash.

Again he screamed at her and engaged. This time she dodged closer, taking steps and jumps back towards the wall as the undead pursued. As soon as she reached the wall, most of the section mere rubble, the knight turned and rushed off again. This time he ran at a full sprint. Ilea reached his side a couple seconds later and tackled the heavy form, sending him into the nearby building as the impact ran through her bones. “Alright, your turf then.”

A flying sword was her answer, the massive dull piece of metal rushing over her as she crouched, the knight’s form following behind, its fist deflected as she used his movement to smash the heavy undead into the ground. The impact dragged her a couple meters towards where he had landed, Ilea letting go of him before he could grab her. Stepping back, she watched in amazement as his sword flung from the wall it was stuck in back to the knight’s hand. Something akin to respect showed in his body language as he took a couple steps to circle her. His armor was dented in various parts, a piece of his side missing entirely, ribs and rotting flesh showing below.

Its eyes were white just like the other knights, one of them looking at her through the cracked helmet. Its armor was more rusty than the knights still connected to the palace, its sword dull and really more of a mace or club. Four quick steps suddenly brought the twometer figure right in front of her, Ilea bracing for a quick attack but he simply studied her, waiting for a reaction before his hand reached out. Ilea stepped out of his reach before the sword slashed at her. Three quick attacks, two of which she deflected and one entirely out of reach as she had continuously walked back.

Her Veil reformed where she had deflected, the ash around her gathering again to form a mist around her. Another screech and this time it was answered. A second knight stood on top of a nearby building before it jumped down, landing with an eerie grace, sword at its side, held by the one arm it still had. Ilea decided the test was a failure then and there. Maybe she would try some more if she had any ranged attacks that could deal reasonable damage to the creatures but as it stood, she had to rip off limbs or incapacitate them quickly enough before their kin arrived, something they seemed to know as well. As much as the knights above seemed more trained and knowing, the ones here had somehow retained more of a tactical knowledge and perhaps less of the honor one would associate with a knight of old.

Ilea gave it up and rushed back to the wall, both knights leaving her alone as soon as she had reached it, their figures returning to the dark. Sighing, she sat down on a nearby roof, legs dangling down as she summoned one of Keyla’s meals. A proven alchemical formula against frustration and failure. Temporary failure…, She reminded herself. Facing one of the Soul Rippers was put on her list but while undead knights resided in the dark as well, it didn’t feel reasonable to try.


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