Chapter 326 Cleaning out a Ruin
“No, no, no. You’re not putting your weight into it!” Most of the hall was cleaned out, Ilea and Terok having filled up their storage items with the chests as well as the weapons and armors, the rest of Maro’s crates as well as some available in the treasury used to stash all of it without reaching the limits of their respective items.
Ilea had used her bracelet primarily, storing all the armors and weapons. Maro and Terok had little interest in any of that, the king only asking to keep a couple more sentimental treasures. One of them was a small cuddly toy dog, worn with age. He hadn’t shared if it was in fact his own but Ilea doubted the thing would have been in the treasury for any other reason.
She centered herself again and lifted the massive obsidian hammer up above herself before slamming it down, the floor cracking as the weight came down, her body easily taking the force flowing through her. Terok groaned next to her, “You’re literally just using your hands.” Maro nodded at the dwarf’s comment. “I mean it’s enough to kill most people lassie but if you want to get a skill out of it at some point, you better work on it. That’s coming from me. I know little about using hammers.”
“Your feedback isn’t incredibly helpful, Terok.” She replied and put away the hammer, Guess I’ll have to find someone who can show me how to use a bloody hammer. With all her Dexterity and Strength, as well as the seemingly simple weapon, she felt a little embarrassed.
“The problem is that you’re already so strong you don’t really need to use it the correct way.” Maro added, “Still, getting the hang of it should make it even more deadly. Right now, you’re basically a troll hitting things with a tree trunk.” He said it seriously, leaving her to question if it had been an insult or not.
Terok of course laughed but he stopped immediately when she turned his way and summoned the hammer again. “Hey now. We wouldn’t want to hurt good ol Terok, now would we?”
“Maybe… maybe I do Terok, just maybe.” Ilea said and eyed him, the dwarf vanishing into his metal suit before it closed, Ilea throwing the hammer his way with as much power as she could muster, the dwarf rolling away to avoid it. “Wish I could get it back… is there an enchantment for that?” She asked Maro, the dwarf laughing as he hovered through the room. “Don’t taunt me again!” She said with a smile.
Maro glanced at the weapon, the chunk of steel stuck in the white marble wall, “You mean like the Praetorians? Possibly, I’m not sure how it would work with such a heavy weapon. I can barely lift it as is…,”
“I’ll ask Iana.” She said, Terok trying to rip out the hammer in the meantime. When it finally came free, the weight immediately brought him to the floor, his metal head hitting the wall. Ilea chuckled, Maro smiling as he shook his head.
She went to pick up the weapon, “Who’s Iana?” The necromancer asked from behind her, Ilea helping up Terok before storing her hammer.
“She’s the daughter of a good smith I know, good with enchantments that one.” She supplied, “Yes Terok, better than you.”
The dwarf crossed his arms, “You’ll see Ilea, the next time we meet…,” He paused, thinking on his next words, “I’ll save your life ten times in a row, how does that sound?”
“Improbable.” She replied instantly.
“Impossible.” Maro added.
The dwarf took a step back, “No trust at all, well that is just another reason to prove you wrong. I will pay back my debts, Ilea. If you want me to or not.” He pointed at her.
“Make sure to stay alive for now and maybe you can help the elves be less stupid.” She said, continuing when he crossed his arms, “If that doesn’t satisfy you, I can evaluate what you owe me in gold, adding interest of course for every week you didn’t pay anything back.”
He laughed and clasped his hands together, “No need to let my bad influence get to you, Ilea.”
“There you go.” She said, “Are you leaving for the Taleen dungeon immediately?”
“There’s still the armory.” Terok said, “And no, I’ll go to Hallowfort first. The gold from here will more than pay back my debts. Can’t wait to work with Goliath.” He was beaming with joy, even with his voice only.
Ilea nodded, glancing at Maro, “Hey, what’s in the armory? There were tons of weapons here.”
The mage turned and started up the stairs, “Well, the things here are higher quality, often made for one person specifically and on request. The armory holds more standardized gear but with that I’m sure most of it is gone. Soldiers and guards need to be supplied after all.”
The ex king of Rhyvor was right in his assumption, most of the armory emptied out. The difference was that the small part remaining was still around five times as much gear as the treasury held in total. Mostly Stonehammer steel armor in different variants, the knight one being the most elaborate and highest quality one, only a couple of those sets remaining. “How big was Rhyvor exactly?” Ilea asked as they walked through the halls, Terok collecting all the gear in his ring. There hadn’t been as much ore as there had been weapons and armor in their previous find.
“Hmm, I don’t know what to compare it to. There were eleven cities nearly as big as Tremor, about forty smaller towns and even more villages. All of it was connected by roads, some better maintained and safer than others of course. The actual area wasn’t as big as many other kingdoms of its time but the resources here, dungeons, rivers as well as metals and especially the variety in monsters attracted a lot of adventurers trying to make a fortune.”
“That’s how it started and it only got bigger with time. Settlers, smiths and everyone else followed as soon as the first areas were mapped, the monsters known and the dungeons culled and controlled. But what you see here isn’t the only vault. Every city had to supply their own guards. The knights however were only trained here.”
Ilea nodded, not asking more as he seemed to lose himself a little, talking about it all. How many people were there. A million? Ten? She didn’t know, stepping next to him before she rested her hand on his shoulder.
“Don’t think about it. Rhyvor was probably long gone before the north changed.” Terok said, giving a thumbs up. Ilea rolled her eyes. Maro actually chuckled.
“You’re probably right. The past is the past. Take your time here, I’ll wait outside the palace.” He said, Ilea joining him.
“Hey Ilea, what do you want me to do with all this stuff?” The dwarf asked, “I guess you want me to clean the place out completely?”
The gear wasn’t damaged, neither by age or anything else. “You’ll go to Hallowfort anyway, give a third of all to Catelyn, fill the rest into crates. I’ll get it later from Goliath.”
He gave her a thumbs up, “Sure thing.”
Maro spoke when they walked up the stairs, “What do you plan to do with the rest?”
She shrugged, “I don’t think the Ravenhall guards or the Shadowguard has gear that good.”
“Yea, the Shadow’s Hand, mercenary order I’m a part of. They made their own guard when we cleared out the demon infested city.” She explained.
Maro snorted and smiled, Ilea looking at him with a raised eyebrow, “Well let’s just say that would worry me strongly, were I the emperor of… Lys, was it?”
“Yea. The order was pretty independent already as far as I know. With all the changes and the empire being busy with the war…,”
“Now I’m interested too. Might just be a civil war when we get there.” He laughed.
She sighed, “You’re not making me excited to visit.”
He smiled, the two stepping into the throne room, their steps echoing through the empty ruin, “Well, depending on your allegiances, the gold you found here alone will make a difference.”
Ilea was glad he didn’t mention what she could do with her personal power. “Still, kind of your gold.”
He waved her off, the two stepping onto the courtyard. It felt empty, even more so now that all the knights were gone. “Ilea I told you. It’s fine. Even if I choose to travel alone, gold is the least of my worries. Plus, you were kind enough to leave me some. Enough for anyone to live for decades. If prices didn’t change.” He paused and turned, Ilea forming two comfortable ashen chairs on the empty dry field, “How much does a set of common leather armor cost?”
She sat down and sighed, closing her eyes and enjoying the quiet, their voices the only sound in the vicinity, “Maro, I have no fucking clue. The last dozen sets I just stole from the Hand.”
Laughter made her open one eye, her own joining in a moment later. The necromancer sat down, Ilea adjusting the ash to his form.
“This courtyard… would be the perfect place to finally have our bout, if you’re still up for that.” She said, her eyes closed again as she leaned back.
Her chair expanded and moved back, becoming more like a lounger. “No, I haven’t slept in a while.”
“You’re going to sleep here, in your ash?” He asked. “Can you make mine a little more relaxing too?”
She obliged, forming herself a blanket of ash. Ilea didn’t think on it too hard, being the Kin of Ash and all. “I’m going to go to my apartment as soon as Terok is back.”
“Ah yes, you claimed one of the noble houses.” He said, having his own lounger now.
“What is this?” Terok spoke up when he came out of the palace. “And here I thought you two are obsessed by training. Didn’t know you actually sleep.”
“Going to Hallowfort now and then back to Goliath. Plenty of work to do.”
Ilea turned to face him and opened her eyes, “I didn’t take you to be a workaholic. Did you get all of the gear?”
He nodded, “Yes. I take my opportunities seriously at least and you two gave me plenty of that to work on. Not sure if that is a blessing or a curse.”
Maro groaned, “You’re in a dungeon, according to the oracles, you’re cursed.”
“Do you want to go back to explore Penumra below level two hundred?” Ilea asked, “I’d actually pay to see that.”
Terok looked to the floor, “You know what. Yea I think I’m gonna go now. Thanks for all the help you two, I’ll make sure to not let it go to waste.”
Ilea got up, her lounger vanishing as well as Maro’s, the man teleporting right before he hit the floor, appearing with both feet on the ground, “Why would you do that?” His question wasn’t serious, the necromancer dusting off his armored robes.
“I’ll visit again in a week.” Ilea said, “Keep the idiots in check. Especially if they think of fighting another Praetorian.”
Terok opened up his suit and stepped out, shaking his head with a grin, “I don’t think I have that kind of power, Ilea.” Holding out his hand, she grasped it immediately. “Thank you. Really. You changed my life and I know how fucking stupid that sounds.” His one eye looked serious, Ilea glancing over to Maro for help.
The dwarf laughed and let her hand go, “You’ll have to learn how to deal with this.”
Maro touched his chin with one hand and stared intensely, “Or… hear me out… huge cloud of ash, vanish and fly up until nobody can possibly follow you. Problem solved.” He nodded and gave her a thumbs up.
She smiled, “Just a bit weird, you know. Helping other humans was one thing but now I have Dark Ones, dwarves and elves thanking me.”
“That’s a way to brag.” Maro said, laughing at her vicious face she made in response, “Relax, take it in stride. If you dislike the attention, just lie and say it was me all along.” His thumbs pointed at himself, he gave her a brilliant smile.
“Hey, maybe it was him.” Terok said and nodded, Ilea smiling before the dwarf chuckled. “Well, you take care now. Maro try not to die while traveling with her… you…,” He looked at her, “I don’t think you will die. Don’t try to fight something too dangerous. Work your way up and don’t get to the next evolution without maxing out your skills.”
“And when exactly is that?” She asked, crossing her arms as he shrugged.
“How the fuck should I know… you two already have information on that most would kill to know. Just… keep punching things. You’ll get there eventually.” He said with a laugh, the suit hovering towards him before it closed around his body, the eyes lighting up when he looked at them.
Pretty bad ass. Ilea thought and gave him a thumbs up, “That was the plan anyway.”
“Take all you can get and trust your instincts.” He said before ascending, glancing at each of them once more and flying off.
She noted his speed had improved, the dwarf really showing off the power of his evolutions and training with the elves. Ilea yawned and spread her wings, “How about here at sunrise?”
Maro nodded, “Sleep well.”
Ilea woke up and noted that it was still dark outside. Pulling her blanket at little closer, she turned in her bed and sighed, enjoying the warmth and feel of the fabric. She hadn’t dreamed, even with all the impressions in the last days. Feynor… Praetorians…, She turned to the other side and simply lay there, thinking about what had happened, her new abilities, the faces and monsters that had burned themselves into her memory.
She touched the bracelet, looking at the silver rose, I’m loaded again, Claire will have a field day. She can wait another couple weeks though. Ilea calmed down a little, the fiery lines of her Aspect of Ash lighting up the book she summoned. An adventure she had started a couple weeks ago, this was actually the second book in a series. The Late Knight it was called, a powerful protagonist that always appeared a moment or a day late to the quests he accepted.
In the second book he had accepted his weird curse of fate, using it to his advantage as he planned and prepared his approach with the knowledge that he would be late anyway. It wasn’t particularly deep and the side characters lacked personality but be it real or not, the monsters and towns as well as ruins were captivating. She even wrote down some of the names in her notebook, perhaps all fiction but there was a chance they were based on legends that held some truth. She was sleeping in a once noble owned apartment in the capital of a once great kingdom after all.
When the sun broke into the dungeon and reached her room, she sat up on her bed and summoned a meal. Only around eighty remaining from the batch Keyla had prepared. One thing was clear, she didn’t eat enough in her time in the north. At least once a day I should take the time. She was worried her priorities were shifting, most of her days spent training and fighting. She summoned the small book Niivalyr had translated, the Legate Guardian’s diary.
Not much remained… She noted, flipping through and only finding a couple pages with anything on it. The contents however were certainly interesting, Ilea trying hard not to spill any of the sauce onto the pages.
‘… Most of the humans are focused on themselves, those that do move their eyes our way are more than willing to take the gold we provide for their silence. Eregar’s mercenaries, the Azarinth order and even Lyrian’s newly formed empire, weakened, reduced to numbers easily ignored. It is suspected that the two small orders might not recover at all, not with the shaking of the world, the coming suspicion of the elven domains. The common enemy is gone and those moving first will be the ones to thrive… ‘
Ilea was surprised to find Eregar and the Azarinth order specifically mentioned. The Shadow’s Hand must have come from those mercenaries. Perhaps after he had died. She read the next page.
‘… The technology we uncovered, if the rumors are to be believed, enchanters and engineers will present solutions to previously impossible problems. Time is of essence, surely, but with unlimited energy, who is there to stand in our way? The Ascended are destroyed, the few survivors scattered to the realms they deem their own. Should they look at Elos once more, we will be prepared… ‘
The Ascended, most arrogant name award. And they attacked Elos? Ilea thought, moving on.
‘… It was inevitable, the elven mages too numerous, their elders and oracles too knowledgeable. There remains no other way, premature and untested. The Taleen will not yield to those wretched creatures, we will stand and fight, even if it takes each and every one of our lives.’
So they fought the Ascended, the human groups weakened by that? And then they did something that needed paying off humans? The elves somehow found out and attacked them? Technology and unlimited energy. Seems like they were still overwhelmed by the elves. She thought about it and finished her meal, putting her bed back into her necklace before spreading her wings.
Maro was waiting for her, sitting on a beautiful brown leather armchair in the courtyard of his palace. There were several crates nearby, some filled with books, others with stacks of paper. “What’s all this?” She asked, her wings disintegrating as she walked the last steps andtook one of the books.
He looked up and smiled, “Good morning.” He paused and showed her the front of his book, “Records mostly, taxes but also more interesting things. There’s more in there but I’ll need the key to open the other rooms.”
Ilea sat down on her own ashen chair and summoned the translated diary, “Why look through all that? This by the way… might be interesting.” She held it up to him as he pondered on her question.
“I’m not sure. Seeing all the names, the reports and all. I think it might help.” He explained, “Is that the diary Niivalyr translated?”