Chapter 310 Opinions and food
“Figured as much. I’m Ilea, joined a couple years ago. Any reason you’re here in the North instead of you know… doing your duty as an elder?”
The man looked at her and laughed again, pulling on his pipe. “My dear. The duties of an elder aren’t very well defined. Perhaps it is changed now… well it is no concern of mine.”
Of course it is…, Ilea was confused, the man certainly not making the most competent impression. “Maybe helping out when another elder destroys the whole city?”
He nodded and sighed, “Maybe. Yes. I’m sorry. Being so far away, I didn’t even know.”
Maro touched her shoulder as she noticed the ash coming to live around her. She swatted his hand away, “I’m sorry? Hundreds of thousands of people died… turned into demons and nearly wiping out all of humanity!” She kept her voice leveled, more ash moving around her.
“Now now.” The man said in a calm voice, moving his hands as he nervously looked at the ash, “I am sure you handled it well my dear. I’m far removed…,”
“Would you have cared had you known?” She asked, sitting back again as her ash vanished. The answer didn’t matter of course, either way he hadn’t known, couldn’t have. Still, somehow she felt like blaming him. The other elders that weren’t there are at fault too. He knew immediately that it was Adam.
He murmured something to himself before he spoke, “You did well. I’m glad you were there. If I could give you my title, I would. Sadly it involved votes by current elders… well. I suppose it doesn’t matter anymore.”
It matters that you didn’t stop Adam. Ilea ground her teeth, thinking back on the carnage left behind by the demons, all the people that had been slaughtered. A statistic, hard to grasp. A numbing feeling she hadn’t thought about much. Perhaps now that someone who could have prevented it stood in front of her, it became more real, not an unavoidable tragedy but the massacre it had been.
The elder stopped and sighed, “We have arrived.” He said and pointed at the ruined house missing a roof and half of its front.
Ilea blinked up, finding a nice table with a good view before seating herself. Maro appeared a moment later and sat down too after looking around. “Certainly changed.” Ilea didn’t react to his comment, waiting for the old man slowly entering below.
“Ah, no no it is quite alright. Bring whatever you have. How is the family? Another three hundred babies… well I hope you can get some sleep.” They heard the elder talk below. He laughed at the answer Ilea didn’t understand, spoken in a language she had never heard, “Don’t worry about it. The plums should be ripe in two weeks. Beautiful, the taste is exquisite I tell you.”
Is that code? She wondered but if he spoke the language why use code in standard? He walked up the stairs a moment later, groaning at the movement. “Why don’t you teleport?” She asked in an annoyed tone, staring at the man while he avoided her eyes.
“Aaaah, no no. These old bones need some movement too. It took too long to reach the two hundreds and now?” He paused, “I pay for it.” He sat down with a loud sigh and rested his back, the staff vanishing from his hand.
Ilea leaned forward, resting her head on her hands, “You knew about Adam then? Why not prevent it?” She felt herself get agitated again at the sheer thought. It annoyed herbut she couldn’t ignore it, thousands had died because of that man.
“I know Adam.” He said and paused, “If… if what you say is true, then perhaps I hadn’t known him as well as I thought.” He puffed on his pipe and leaned back, “I’m aware of some things about him that others do not know. Yet I couldn’t have fathomed him going as far as summoning demons into Ravenhall. Unthinkable.” He shook his head.
“How did you know it was him when I mentioned the demons?” Ilea asked, impatient with his slow explanations.
Lucas looked at her then, “Hmm.” He removed the pipe and leaned forward, “He is the only summoner I know that is capable of such a feat. The only one who could hide something like that.” Seeing that Ilea wasn’t satisfied with his answer he continued, “You know… the man has been looking for a way to get there. To bring back something that was taken.”
“Bring back something from the demon realms?” Maro asked, the elder nodding in return. “What exactly? Are you suggesting demons can steal things from our realm? Steal people?”
The elder waved him off, “Hmm, yes. Well no. I do not know. Summoning as well as the demonic realm are no interests of mine, Adam is the one I learned from about these things but… well I forgot most of it.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Ilea asked, “You could have prevented this, prevented the summoning and saved all those lives.” Her ash was back as he held up his hands in a placating gesture.
“Hey now dear. I have summoned nothing. You have the wrong elder.” He said in a shaky voice, smiling again as he put his pipe back into his mouth.
“He’s right you know. I get that you’re angry Ilea but trust me on this… some people’s actions can hardly be predicted.” Maro said, calming her down somewhat.
The elder relaxed, touching her arm despite the ash that twirled around her, “I am truly sorry my dear. It is past… let bygones be bygones.”
“So Adam is looking for something in the demon realm? Any idea how to get there?” Ilea asked, her ash casually moving away his hand from her arm. He shook his head slowly. “What is he looking for?”
“I… ehm… I forgot.” He said. “If you find him… tell him I am disappointed.”
Disappointed…, Ilea couldn’t help but laugh, sitting back as she calmed down. She looked at him with contempt. You did nothing. Hid here in the nor…, She stopped the thought and looked down, her ash receding. It’s different. She heard herself justify herself.
“You were the human that fought the spirit last.” Maro said suddenly, interrupting the awkward silence and changing the topic.
Lucas smiled, puffing on his pipe, “Hmm, perhaps. Maybe I have sought to discoursewith the undying lord. I am not keen on fighting anyone but I suppose that one has a way to make me show the worst of me. I’m thankful you took that burden from this town. One of the few things remaining to retain the feeling of a dungeon.”
Ilea sighed and sat back, her chair leaning on a wall of ash she had created. “Why are you here? Just to help out the community?”
“I am sorry I disappointed you my dear.” Lucas said, “I tend to have that impact on people.” He added with a quieter tone, “I meant that before you know, you becoming an elder. Or doing something similarly impacting. Surviving here is enough to get you a high position in any human order, kingdom or empire.” He pointed at her, “I am frankly tired of it all. The constant wars… battles. Dark Ones are much more relaxed.”
“I came here for the exact opposite reason.” Ilea retorted, his talk about the wars and battles resonating with her. The only thing she disagreed on was that the Dark Ones were any different. Some perhaps but she knew plenty of humans who just sought to live their lives in peace.
The elder nodded, “I’m here to study the north, the events that changed this environment two to four thousand years ago. More so I’m here to try and change it back. The trees and vegetation you see growing in this dungeon are the first step. With time I’m sure at least a part of the magical imbalance can be restrained. Not perhaps to the extent it had been before but better at least.”
“That event. We believe Elos had three suns before.” Maro interjected, the elder nodding and pointing his pipe at him.
“A theory. Well many exist but one can’t realistically replace a sun. Trees is the next best thing, water and a working ecosystem. Introducing animals and monsters back into the environment.” The elder replied but Maro shook his head.
“No, no. I was there. Before. I was trapped and unconscious for thousands of years. There were three suns before. These lands were normal, the beasts below level one hundred. At least outside of dungeons. Lisburg was the pride of Rhyvor, its wine unparalleled.” He explained, the elder nodding as he looked at the king.
“You must tell me about before… how it looked, where the lakes and rivers were.”
“Later.” Ilea interrupted, glaring at him, “Why not fix the war down south?” she asked with a smile.
The man pointed at her with his pipe, the pipe she was about to rip out of his hand and snap. She wasn’t quite sure why he irritated her so much, “Hmm, Baralia. They areincapable of winning such a war. At least not if anything major changed in the last decade.” He laughed and shrugged.
“Why don’t you go and stop it?” Maro asked Ilea instead, “You seem to care a great deal. I have fought Rhyvor’s enemies whenever necessary.”
Ilea was about to answer when the elder stood up, “Ah yes, the food is here.”He laughed as a tiny dark one with two leathery wings brought eight plates filled with food at the same time. More quickly followed.
“To answer your question Maro.” Ilea said, finishing another plate. “I’m not even from there. I don’t know the politics, background or anything else. Even if I know Baralia with its slavery sucks, what do you think happens if I run in there and kill a bunch of royals? A month after I left the whole country would be in flames. All the soldiers now leaderless might just scatter and burn down whatever settlements they can find.”
Lucas re lit his pipe and nodded, “Mhm, you’re probably right.You should listen to her.” He said to Maro.
Ilea burst out laughing, the elder smiling at her before she pointed at him with a bone she had cleaned off of meat, “You’re not excused. You’re obviously knowledgeable and could do something with both your influence and power.”
“I am the king of Rhyvor.” Maro said, “To get disrespected like this… refreshing.” He wasn’t wearing his helmet anymore either, a content expression on his face.
“Ah, the king of Rhyvor. My respects.” He bowed without really moving. “A necromancer. Well most of the surviving records and murals only talk about the queen.” Lucas said. “As I said young one, Ilea. I have not been down in the south for a decade. My intervention would be… problematic.”
Maro smiled, “Good to know that at least history will remember the true ruler.”
He lifted his mug and spoke, stopping Ilea’s retort, “To Rhyvor, Elana and to Gadrian.”
Lucas just puffed on his pipe, Ilea raising another dinosaur leg, “To the chef, bloody delicious. You get points for that at least, old man.” He really hadn’t offered much more. Still, Ilea had enough self awareness to know food was the way into her heart.
The elder laughed, “Hmm, points are always good, are they not. Maro my friend,I wondered if you could share some knowledge on death magic with me. It has become increasingly hard to find a capable necromancer willing to come so far north.” He puffed again and looked at Ilea, “Let us stop this talk of war, I would rather just plant trees to be honest.” He laughed and Ilea sighed before continuing to eat.
“Yes, yes. I have cast aside all violence from my life, all war and slaughter. I have tried convincing people, talked to many leaders that would listen but did it change anything? No.” He added sending smoke upwards.
“Didn’t you fight the spirit just recently?” Maro asked, “Or are you just an occasional pacifist?” He laughed, the elder waiting for him to calm down.
He puffed again, refilling his pipe before he lit it again. He leaned back and sighed, “My failures are many, some more recent than not. I try my best.” He winked at Ilea, “Maybe you should too, stop all the fighting and killing. Do something good for once, create something or help people out.”
Ilea rolled her eyes, hearing him preach after admitting his inaction, “They were pretty grateful hearing that the death spirit was dead.” She said, finishing the plate and taking the next one, “I don’t disagree with you by the way. The world would certainly be a better place without war but sometimes to stop violence, you need even more of the same.”
“No, I disagree I think. Endless killing. Well I do not fault you either, you are young and I am sure you have suffered terrible losses to become so cynical and jaded. Just remember my words.” He pointed at her, “Time, my dear, will heal.” Lucas said, Ilea looking away from his gaze.
Maro leaned forward, “What do you think of monsters then? Even in my time, after other people, the highest cause of death were monsters. Wild animals acting on instinct.”
Lucas raised his eyebrows before he spoke, “Walls…deterrents perhaps? There is little understanding. Of their nature, their thoughts. They are wild perhaps, yet exactly that may allow for us to find a way to deal with them. Without killing.”
Ilea couldn’t believe it, after what she had see the demons do. They weren’t even completely mindless. She could understand his logic, knowing the worst animals humans had to deal with on Earth were put into zoos to amuse visiting children. To suggest to a cave man any other way but violence was ridiculous.Peaceful ways were reserved for those with overwhelming power. The cold war didn’t turn hot because of nukes, not because people understood and talked to each other. It’s easier to ignore someone without weapons of mass destruction. Here she fought monsters capable of wiping out villages or even towns on a daily basis, humans weren’t at the top of the food chain, not by a long shot.
“They want food and they eat. We can relocate them or whatever, at least the lower leveled ones. Animals aren’t the only monsters though. What do you call someone who starts a war where thousands die, someone who murders others just for their own gains, someone who summons demons into a city full of civilians for whatever reason?” She asked.
“Mhm, it is certainly a difficult question. I believe people act for a reason, do horrible things because they think them justified. With sufficient time and convincing arguments I think even someone like Adam could be redeemed.” The elder suggested.
“I thought this was just going to be a nice dinner.” Ilea whined, “I get where you’re coming from Lucas. I really do. But for what you suggest we need proper education, rehabilitation of criminals, proper laws and people to enforce them. You guys don’t even have psychologists here.” She ran her hands through her hair, “You can talk it out with humans. Monsters sadly understand only two languages, mind magic and good old violence. I only have the latter at my disposal.”
Lucas smiled brightly as he took another puff, “Hmm, you are fascinating. Are you a realm traveler perhaps?” Ilea didn’t reply, “Very rare those I think… even rarer for them to reach such a level of power. To adapt so well to a new environment, yet the things you talk about… your world must have been so different. Maybe you could build a school, become a teacher or one of those psychos you mentioned. I am very interested in the things you suggested we need.”
“It was similar and different at the same time. I’m not a teacher, I just like to complain about everything.” Ilea said, drinking a mug of ale, “Neither am I here to teach you about my world.”
“Perhaps then, you might hunt monsters and help with the gold. The Hand should enable you that much at least. Maybe we could learn from the world you were born in. If you are not willing to tell me, I am sure others would listen. It is your choice of course, your life.” He said, leaning back as he patted his belly.
Ilea nodded, “Oh we weren’t born there. I’m artificial, made of nano robots.” The sarcasm wasn’t lost on them but Ilea wasn’t in the mood to talk about Earth anymore. Neither did she care what the elder could share about world travelers.
“Thank you.” Lucas suddenly said, “It has been a while since I talked to humans. The dark ones think differently, they rarely are very opinionated on topics like morals or nonviolent communication. Whenever you feel like telling me about your world, I am here.”
How many people have you talked to death to reach that power. We’re all monsters here. Ilea thought and leaned back with a smile, Have I always been this edgy? I think so. She breathed in deeply and sighed, Guess it’s all that power going to my head. Fighting unthinkable beasts, losing my head and pretty much becoming a spirit of ash. Now I have to invest in the establishment of psychology as well as therapy before I can even get help.
She was thinking on the possibility of a healer existing that had a skill like that, just let magic solve it. “I think what you talk about Lucas, it’s an interesting approach. I’ll definitely think about it.” Maro said when she focused on the conversation again.
Oh no, did I miss him using his skill to ensnare Maro. “Think about what?”
The king shrugged but Lucas answered for him, “Try to live a life less focused on power and violence, prioritizing creation and harmony over all.”
“Yea, I think your charm stat was overwhelmed by his.” She said to Maro, the man looking away a little embarrassed.
“What that’s it? You’re not going to make fun of me for considering it?” He asked when Ilea continued eating, his voice almost disappointed.
“Why?” She asked with a full mouth, “You’re free to do whatever the fuck you want Maro. As does he. I’m gonna question it maybe but in the end we all reached insane levels of strength. You can become a gardener for all I care. Who’s going to stop you?”
“A gardener… no, none of my skills would work. Maybe that’s exactly why I should try.” He said. Ilea hadn’t realized the king was so lost after waking up.
Guess it makes sense, he basically went through what I did when I was brought to Elos. Just that he’s already a powerhouse to begin with. “I don’t think you’d make a good gardener. Maybe you could become a counselor or trainer, or you could try yourself at brewing. I know a necromancer who’s pretty good at that.”
“Hmm, yes. I agree with her.” Lucas said, “Death magic and gardens are not a favorable combination. The plants would die if you just looked at them.” He laughed, “Ah, I could put in a good word for you at the Hand, some will still know me I am sure.”
“I can do that too. No need to move yourself from the north.” Ilea said.
“Good, good. She is your woman then.” He said. Ilea wasn’t even mad. She was more irritated with herself, trying to fault him for his choices.
Aren’t you the one advocating for freedom of choice? She asked herself and smiled at him. If you fault him you have to fault yourself too. Stop that, you know our circumstances are complicated. So are his. Why are we pretending to be multiple people? Eat more. Ilea listened to the last thought and continued her meal, the waiter continuously exchanging empty plates with full ones. She thought about his suggestions and would certainly consider some of it. The philosophy wasn’t unknown to her of course, Gandhi being a famous example from Earth. Yet there were plenty of historic examples where violence was the solution in the end, some people simply too ignorant, stubborn or convinced of their ways to even listen.
Maybe there were some waysto change some things for the better without giving up her freedoms or catching herself stuckon a side of a war she couldn’t stand behind completely. She smiled to herself, Time will heal? I wouldn’t even have considered his words last year when I came to the north.
She frowned when she saw the old man smiling at her, “Don’t look at me like that. Your charisma has no influence on me.”
Maro leaned over to him, “She thinks it’s a hidden stat.”
“Oh no. Does she know our secret?” The old man whispered.
“Being insanely attractive, eloquent, powerful, mysterious and filthy rich?” The king suggested.
“You’re not rich Maro. That treasury is probably being raided by Terok right now. And with those rags I doubt the old man has anything but debt.” Ilea said.
“Hey hey. It was a common style in the south.” The elder said with a chuckle.
“Did you give him the key already? I intend for you to have most of it. I don’t want to bring him into the moral dilemma of choosing between our friendship and gold. You know what he would choose.” Maro replied.
“Calm down, I have it. Speaking of Terok, we should meet up again soon.” She said, summoning a piece of gold and putting it on the table, “I like this place.”
“No, no. I said I would pay.” Lucas said, pushing the gold towards her.
“Do your finances really allow for that? I ate thirty four plates worth of food.” She said, patting her belly. There was nothing there to show. Makes me sad, all food babies destroyed and digested before they even see the light of day. Damn my insanely powerful body.
She stood up and yawned, “Come on old man. On your path of peace I doubt there’s a ton of money to be made.
“I think that’s way too much money for the food we had still.” Maro said but she waved him off.
“It’s a tip.” She said.
“You are being unreasonable with your money.” The king said, “You’re going to be poor by the end of the month if you continue this trend.”
“Just have to find a couple more thousand year old death spirits to kill then. One point for the path of violence.” She replied.