Chapter 336 Revelations
The reactions were different, Dagon giving her a knowing smirk when she entered his library. Elise rushed in for a hug, overjoyed that she had survived. “I thought you were lost for sure. Even Verena showed up before you.” The woman said.
“Level three hundred?” Dagon asked, Ilea nodding with a smirk of her own, the man making a fist as he rejoiced. “You have to share everything with me.” He said, “Finally, someone who doesn’t want to hoard everything they find has come to such power.”
Sulivhaan appeared a moment later, glancing at Ilea. He wore his black robe and mask as always, clasping his hands together in front of him, “And so she surpasses the masters. Marvelous.” He bowed lightly, Ilea copying the gesture as she walked over to Dagon’s chair and sat down. “The leadership of the Hand answers to you, it seems.” He added, looking over at Claire who just entered and closed the door behind her. The woman had brought Cless to her class beforehand.
“Enchantments are in place, the door is locked.” Claire said right after Trian had appeared near her. She summoned herself a comfortable arm chair before sitting down. A small table, bottle of wine and a glass appeared as well.
Ilea ignored it, looking at Trian instead, the lightning mage having cut down on his over designed clothing, wearing a black vest over a doublet of the same color. Embroideries in red had been weaved into parts of the doublet, a black leather belt holding up his pants. He was shaved, his brown hair styled and a little longer than he had worn it a year ago. All in all, a good look. “You look good.” She said, the man bowing lightly.
“Thank you. Fierce and powerful, more so than ever before.” He replied, Ilea pretty sure it was her he was talking about. He appeared in front of her and grabbed her hand before letting go and hugging her, patting her back, “I’m glad you’re alive. The paintings sometimes made it hard to tell.”
He let go and smiled, “Welcome back.”
Ilea insisted that nobody interrupt her, Dagon and Elise to write down what she shared. Her revelations about Niivalyr and the elven hunters as well as their war against the machines was the first topic, already too many interruptions for her to continue. She simply stopped talking, waiting for them to calm down, their discussions shelved until the continued, insisting that they should hear everything before coming to conclusions.
She went on to talk about the north itself, the storms, the Dark Ones as well as the Feynor and their war. The possible danger of them coming south and preying upon humans. Her leveling process and three hundred evolution was next. Not much that would help out others but Dagon was bombarding her with questions, gleeful at every little bit she shared. The last part she talked about was the supposed third sun and the implications that came with it.
When she finally stopped talking, she handed the transcribed notebook of the Legate Guardian to Dagon. With all the questions they had during her talk, a heavy silence fell upon the group when Ilea was finally open for questions.
Elise was the first to talk, “There was a woman working in the library of souls… she constantly looked for records on the stars, their alignment as well as folklore about their shifts. I remember she talked about a missing sun, how many old stories talked about it but nothing official, just obscure tales from villages, never written down or shared with outsiders until her employed agents specifically asked for them.”
“It’s impossible to hide something like that.” Dagon commented, shaking his head as he looked at the woman. “Such a massive event, to even transform the lands of whole kingdoms into the chaotic north.”
Sulivhaan spoke up, “It is hard to believe such an event would be lost throughout time, not without help.”
“You believe the records were destroyed on purpose?” Dagon asked.
“We all know Ilea is trustworthy, to a degree where I would believe her if she told me I was an undead dragon.” Sulivhaan said, Ilea a little confused as to how she inspired such trust, “Combined with the records, Elise’s friend in the library of souls, the north… we must assume someone wanted that knowledge to be gone. If they even managed to infiltrate the Hand’s records…,”
“I would still like to hear the necromancer king’s testimony.” Dagon said, “I trust you, Ilea but it has been a year. There is no telling if you have changed or if you’re influenced by something or someone.”
She nodded, “A valid assumption. We already have some theories but nothing reasonable. The problem we have with a natural occurrence is that the human plains were somehow unaffected by it all.”
“Who says it was? We don’t know about the event, perhaps records of how the lands here were before were changes or destroyed as well.” Trian said, “Do we have a clue when this happened?”
Ilea shook her head, “No, likely at least two thousand years ago but it could just as much be ten thousand or a million. I just deliver the information I have, you lot can think it over.”
Sulivhaan nodded, “If there was a force trying to remove the records, then we have to assume they are still around. This is sensitive information we’re dealing with here, even if all of it is a theory still.”
Dagon laughed and rubbed his hands, “Finally, something more interesting than this bloody war.”
“As to the revelations about the Elves.” Sulivhaan said and paced through the room, “They confirm some of our theories. It is good to hear there was no outright war, despite the numbers and their efforts. Until we know the goals of the oracles we cannot prepare accordingly but at least with them dealing with the Taleen, they will be too busy to look our way.”
“I don’t think the oracles consider the machines a threat at all.” Trian said, “If what this Niivalyr said is true then the whole splinter force of the Cerithil Hunters formed and operates precisely because the oracles are not doing anything about the problem.”
Elise nodded, “Either there is a bigger goal or threat around or they simply don’t consider the death of their population to be an issue at all.”
Ilea weighed in with her opinion, “It’s possible their goals aren’t based on any human interests. The way they talked about them, the oracles are quite different from the elven males. Even with every female being an oracle automatically, I’d have to meet one to find out more.”
Sulivhaan chuckled, “Truly, a mission worthy of the Shadow’s Hand.” He mused, “The plans to reclaim the western cities can likely be approved then. Probably the coordinated plans of an overzealous elven youth compared to the war efforts of their leadership we assumed it to be initially.”
“It could still have been a goal of the oracles.” Dagon said.
“Then Riverwatch and Dawntree would be destroyed by now too but their aggression stopped.” Elise suggested, the man nodding as he reconsidered.
“I suppose we should worry about the Feynor more than the elves, their claim of superiority and aggressive invasion and extermination will surely apply to humans as well.” Sulivhaan said.
“Or we lead them to attack the elves.” Claire suggested.
Ilea shook her head and looked at her, “One of them will win eventually if that happens. It makes more sense to side with one. If war truly is inevitable.”
“You suggest siding with elves?” Sulivhaan hissed, magical pressure felt from him. The rest of the people sat up, ready to defend themselves. The man was by far the highest leveled mage in the room, except for Ilea of course, who remained casual. “They slaughtered thousands!”
“How many humans have you slaughtered, Sulivhaan?” Ilea asked, Trian glancing at her and then the mage, “How many have I killed? How many humans have died in the war raging over the empire right now?” She stood up and walked towards him, ash forming around her, writhing as she felt the gravity increase around her, Ilea unbothered by the thrumming magic, “How many suffer and die because we enslave our own people?” She tapped his chest with a finger, her ash vanishing as she turned around and walked back, his magic pressure gone as well.
She could feel the tense atmosphere in the room, not only through her sphere, “I don’t know what the fuck the oracles are doing and the elves attacking humans are obviously our enemy. Yet there are those capable of thoughts beyond a murdering psychopath’s. The Dark Ones as well as the Cerithil hunters could be valuable allies, against our elven enemies but just as much against our human ones.”
The man ground his teeth behind his mask but didn’t reply. “I understand that you fought them for decades and that isn’t going to stop. If the oracles are the cause or some upstart male from the southern domains, perhaps helping the Cerithil Hunters gain influence would win the possibly coming war before it even starts. Instead of reacting only, watching them slaughter whole cities. The elves or the Taleen machines will prevail at one point or another and then they will look elsewhere. We can either wait for that to happen or try to join the game.” Ilea expanded.
“I can’t.” Sulivhaan said simply. “I won’t associate with them, never.”
“Then don’t. As far as I could tell, in their society fighting and killing each other is not only encouraged but glorified. While you slaughter each other, more reasonable people and elves could work on possible deals.” Ilea said.
“We are all your friends, Ilea. Indebted to you in different ways, sure but you are not the queen of Ravenhall, or the Hand.” Dagon said. “Even if you were, you overestimate the influence we have on the empire, let alone the kingdoms surrounding it or the independent cities of the west.”
She smiled, “I’m not, nor do I want to be, Dagon. I’m just a fast-food worker from Earth, I take orders and work the cash register.” Some of them raised their eyebrows at that, “I’m a realm traveler that found herself in this fucked up land. Yet here I could gain power, enough to bring together the leaders of the most feared order humanity has to offer. I don’t want to force anything on you Sulivhaan, Dagon. I guess I’m a little old fashioned but if I can use this power to make people’s lives less shit, I will.” She paused, hoping that everyone was on the same page by now, “Economic growth, more powerful adventurers, research and knowledge. Ravenhall is already miles ahead of others and I don’t think any of you will want to just stop there. While everyone else slaughters each other, holding on to whatever wealth they acquired, whatever views they fostered in the decades of their lives,” She paused, “Maybe we can try to learn from the ancient Dark Ones, Elves, Dwarfs and Demons. I already have some ideas from Earth that could be implemented and I’m sure there are people from other realms around that could offer insights as well.”
Claire started laughing, standing up before she clapped Sulivhaan’s back, “Dagon, maybe you shouldn’t underestimate the influence we already have on the empire. Sulivhaan, didn’t you push a favorable contract on them, making us mostly independent? Our members are valuable assets of humanity, we crushed the demons that took over the city, thousands of them. I think the least we can do is try. If we can make Ravenhall and the Hand more powerful, what’s the harm in considering other species as allies?”
Sulivhaan shook his head, “Even if we considered it, trying to establish contact is impossible. Ilea went to the north but even I wouldn’t consider it. The elves kill on sight, I’ve seen it too many times.”
Claire smiled, “We should focus on Ravenhall first, see where the war will go as we grow. Ilea knows an elf personally, as well as Dark Ones in the north. The distance is a problem and I have to inform you Ilea, that Christopher hasn’t had a breakthrough either.”
Ilea raised an eyebrow and smirked but didn’t say anything, Claire squinting her eyes but not saying anything either. “We knew the forces of the world wouldn’t play with us in consideration.” Sulivhaan said, “You brought us valuable information and for that I thank you. More than trying to make Ravenhall and the Hand more efficient and powerful, I can’t promise anything else.”
“I don’t want anything else.” Ilea said, “You’re all people I trust and you’re all capable in your own fields and abilities. I’ll provide what I can and you do what you can. All I ask is that you keep an open mind, the world is bigger than the human plains.”
“It certainly is.” Trian said and chuckled, “I’ll help where I can, to make people’s lives less shitty, as you so eloquently put.”
“You pretty much own me anyway.” Claire said and sat back down, summoning another bottle of wine, “I will defend Ravenhall with my life and the people within it too. Perhaps it really was time for the Shadow’s Hand to have a more active leadership.”
Elise smiled, “We are all already doing what we can. I guess some aspects will have to be reworked thanks to the new insights our healer has brought to the table. I will try to get in contact with Jasmine again should the capital breaks out finally.”
“It is reassuring to hear that Elder Lucas approves of us as well.” Sulivhaan said, his voice much warmer than before, “I suppose with Verena’s and his trust, we can continue work on the broader plans.”
“And what are those exactly?” Ilea asked.
Sulivhaan looked at Claire, the woman raising her glass. Dagon nodded as well when he looked his way, “We plan to take over Ravenhall completely, declare independence upon the war’s end. Contracts and deals are already drafted for each of the possible winners. Either had massive losses both in people and resources, it is likely they will agree to our terms.”
He looked at her, “We plan to expand over the southern mountains and use the geography as a deterrent to possible enemies. Access to the ocean, the southern desert and of course Eregar’s Haven will provide all we will ever need. Ravenhall itself is mostly owned by the Hand at this point, only one unknown private investor holding around forty percent of the city’s assets remains but we will buy whatever we can back from them as soon as Claire has found them.” He looked towards Claire who poured herself another glass.
“I’ve found them actually. She calls herself Lilith.” Claire said, the man taking a step closer.
“Finally. Did you initiate contact?” He asked.
Ilea shook her head and chuckled, Claire pointing at her, “I wanted to keep it a secret until the end of the war but I guess now is just as well. You can ask her if she’s willing to sell.”
Sulivhaan turned, Dagon getting up and nearly toppling his desk, “You…,” He said, the librarian laughing before Sulivhaan too at least chuckled.
“I suppose we could offer her a seat in the council.” Claire suggested. Trian gave a nod, as did Elise.
Dagon smiled, “Well, if I know her at all, she’s going to be gone most of the time anyway.”
“Know that we all have a veto on decisions. Elven cooperation included.” Sulivhaan warned.
Ilea shrugged, “I doubt anything will come up in the next decade. I will keep my investments privately and have no obligations.”
“Your obligation is to get powerful enough to be a deterrent to possible enemies.” Claire said, already drafting a contract on her lap, “Scout of Ravenhall? Sulivhaan is already responsible for foreign affairs.”
“Not for other species.” The gravity mage said. “I refuse to deal with elves.”
“How about Sentinel of Ravenhall?” Ilea asked with a smile, musing with the idea of becoming the nuclear bomb to bring peace.
“A bit much.” Trian said while chuckling.
Claire scribbled some more, “Sure, we all get to chose our titles I guess. Sentinel seems fitting too, with your newly found power. We will have to find a way to call for you if we need help. I’ll try to figure something out.”
Ilea took the paper Claire handed to her and read through it. She would become part of the council, the governing and pretty much all powerful leaders of Ravenhall. An autocracy basically. She would have to suggest some changes once they had independence. It certainly was a step in the right direction to separate from the empire. Not because they did anything inherently wrong but like this she had much more influence on decisions and knew as well as trusted the people in charge. She had no idea who led the empire. There were some general laws and goals listed, all more or less aligning with her own world view.
She signed it with her mana and a pen before handing it back to Claire, the woman making the paper vanish, “Is it too early to suggest some changes?” Ilea asked.
The others looked around, “There is a whole book full of laws that we worked out already. What’s the general gist of your ideas?” Claire asked, her pen ready on a new sheet of paper.
“Education for everyone, provided by the city. Basic gear for everyone who wants to become an adventurer. No slavery but I hope that’s in there already. Health care for everyone as well as a place to live for those unable to afford it.” She quickly listed the things coming to her mind.
Claire tapped her pen on the armchair, “Education is provided, as is lodging. I’m not sure what you mean by Health Care. No healing order is currently represented in Ravenhall, mostly due to the demon connection. Slavery is not allowed obviously. As for the gear… the guard as well as the shadow guard provides recruits but it would take quite a lot of gold and time to have the gear for what you ask.”
Ilea smiled, touching the bracelet on her arm, “I possibly have some solutions to offer.”