Chapter 337 Plans put in motion
The whole council followed Claire into one of the nearly empty storage halls of the Hand where Ilea emptied her bracelet of the armory gear remaining from Tremor. It was worthless to her personally but a new adventurer or even a guard would be overjoyed to have one of the well forged swords, a good helmet or armor.
“Take it as a donation to the city.” She said, “There are more ruins of Rhyvor that I might explore at some point, more armories to raid.”
“What do you want in return?” Sulivhaan asked, a tinge of worry in his voice.
Ilea glanced his way, “Sulivhaan, I’m with you and I am with Ravenhall. This is simply something I can provide. I’m not a leader, nor an administrator, a librarian or a negotiator. I fight things, explore dungeons and get loot and gold. I doubt this will be enough.” She looked at Claire with the last sentence.
“Hardly but it’s a start for what you have in mind. Many of the adventurers will have gear already anyway. We will attract a lot of people with this offer.” She said, “Of course we’ll focus on the people in Ravenhall first.”
“The terrain is dangerous around here, dungeons are rather high level.” Trian commented, “I’m not sure if this will benefit us at all.”
Claire was already writing into a notebook, “Another contract then, get the gear but it’s only for Ravenhall citizens. Also a part of their revenue goes to the city early on… I’m sure the guild will allow for that.”
“Dawntree has something similar.” Sulivhaan commented, “Not a good deal though so few take it.”
“Then we’ll make it better, the goal is to get more adventurers, not gold. I assume that’s your intention, Ilea?” Claire was right on the spot, Ilea giving her a thumbs up.
“I’ll see what I can do regarding more gear. Maybe Balduur is willing to work with the city too if we can somehow convince them. Not entirely sure if Indur would want to cooperate but with all the new smiths…,” Ilea mused, the others confused at the mention of the names.
“The village near Morhill?” Sulivhaan asked.
Ilea nodded, “Yea, there’s a very good smith there as well as a couple good ones.”
“If they want independence… perhaps they could be moved to Morhill. The empire’s skeleton garrison has left long ago but we can’t make a move before being independent.” Sulivhaan commented.
“I could find out what they want, going to visit soon anyway. Don’t worry, I won’t blurt out your treason.” She said, laughing at their stony faces, “Come on, don’t be so serious. I’ve seen horrors in the north that make the empire look like a bunch of kids.” Maybe that wasn’t the best thing to say.
Dagon pointed at her, “I would still like the descriptions of the beasts and dungeons in the region you were.”
Oh boy. “Yea… I’ll put it on the list, Dagon.” She said, giving him a weak smile. Elise giggled, the man missing Ilea’s reaction completely.
“If that’s it, we better get to work. Dagon, I wanted to run some ideas by you. Do you have time?” Sulivhaan asked.
“With all that information from Ilea, barely. Can it wait a couple days?” The librarian asked as him and Elise walked towards the exit.
Sulivhaan replied, “It can wait.” Looking at Ilea, he added, “Anything else you wanted to talk about?”
She shrugged, “Not for now. Thanks for the time.”
“Of course.” He said, Dagon and Elise waving at them, “Oracles… Ascended…,” Sulivhaan murmured to himself as he too left the storage hall.
“I should get back to work as well.” Claire said, Trian shrugging as he looked at Ilea.
“You don’t?” Ilea asked him.
“There’s a ball tomorrow… managing the nobles’ requests isn’t actually that much work. Feel like having a bout? I’d be interested to see how far you’ve come.”
[Mage – lvl 227]
“Oh Trian. I don’t know if your self confidence could take it.” She said with a grin, glancing at Claire who packed up her things, “I need you for a moment longer, Claire. It’s going to be worth your while. You too Trian.”
“I’ve come a long way in the past year Ilea. I knew you could wreck me the moment I appeared in the library.” Trian said and laughed. His eyes sparkled with a joy she had never seen in him.
“You’re not the only one who changed.” Ilea said, smiling at him. “We should go somewhere safer. Your office?” She asked, Claire nodding in response. “Call for Christopher too, if he’s available.”
“For you? Always.” Claire said, the three making their way back to Viscera and then her home in the central circle of Ravenhall.
Snow had started to fall, coating the streets in a thin layer as the suns marked the end of the afternoon. The streets beyond the Hand’s official headquarters outside of Viscera were just as busy as they had been earlier, Ilea watching out of the window. “You’re still not drinking?” She heard Claire ask Trian, the man sitting on the couch.
“No, thanks.” He replied. Ilea decided she definitely liked his hair more now. Not shoulder length but not as short as before either. She looked at him closely through her sphere, realizing that it was neither his hair nor his clothes that changed his appearance much. It was the way he held himself, the way he looked relaxed instead of tense and serious all the time.
“Ilea?” Claire asked.
The healer turned, “Do you have ale?” Claire nodded and grabbed a bottle standing on an ice magic rune. The boons of being a rich head administrator. She thought and smiled.
“So, what else do you have to share with us?” Claire asked, her message for Christopher already sent out, the woman leaning back in her leather chair, her hair as always bound in a pony tail, not a single strand awry.
“I’ve been wondering.” Ilea said, opening her bottle, a glass appearing in her hand before she poured some of the ale into it, “What I could do. With my power, gold, all the stuff I own now here in the city.” She said and walked around. “Well, now with your council, there isn’t much need for anything else anymore.”
“Health care. Hmm, yes that might be an idea.” Claire said with a big grin on her face.
“A healing order?” Trian asked, “That’s a dangerous political move.”
“And what exactly is our declaration of independence?” Ilea asked, “I’m not sure about the details but my classes have secrets that we might be able to figure out. The Azarinth order is ancient but with the elixir requirements and the healing on touch alone, I don’t see it being of much use. My class by the way. I stumbled upon a temple of theirs when I appeared in Elos.”
Trian and Claire glanced at each other, “I still think a healer and fighter hybrid would be the best way to go. Healers wouldn’t have to fear being used or killed easily, the main reason there are so few healers around.”
“The main reason is healing orders monopolizing them but I agree. Few choose something in the middle. Paladins are rare as it is, true healers are mostly in employ of an army or supplied by the orders who take exorbitant sums for their services.” Trian said, “I definitely like the idea. If we could get backing from Ravenhall and the Shadow’s Hand, the pressure of the big orders could mostly be ignored.”
Claire took a sip of her wine, “It’s still dangerous. They will try to interfere.”
“Then I will persuade them to do otherwise.” Ilea said, “First we need facilities and we need to figure out how we can get a fighter and healer hybrid that isn’t quite as hard to learn as the Azarinth Healer class.”
“Do you plan to do all that yourself?” Claire asked, a smirk on her face. Ilea knew she already had the answer.
“No. But perhaps you know someone who could work on all that. William already trains a squad. Dany is a healer too, so we could start there.” Ilea replied.
Trian shook his head, “He is with the Hand.” He looked at Claire and smiled, glancing back at Ilea, “I’ve had quite some time lately and I did wonder about how to fill it. Setting up such an order and training newcomers does sound interesting. If you would have me of course.”
Ilea smiled at him, drinking from her glass before she thought about it. “Why?” She asked, “Did you give up being a member of the Hand?”
He crossed his arms, “I’m tired of fighting. I will, if it’s necessary. The last year has shown me that there’s more that I can do, more than seek revenge. You have set me on a path when you forced me out of my dark room, hiding from those seeking revenge yet again. I was trained from an early age, I know how nobles do it, how cruel and efficient they’ve become. We know what it does to people, Edwin and Maria just two examples in an endless cycle.”
He got up and took a couple steps towards her, “I think I would do a good job, selecting people, training them and preparing them for the real world.”
“You will need funds, I can stop reinvesting for a while as well as use what’s set aside to jump start the idea.” Claire said but Ilea stopped her, walking over to her desk.
“We need a class first.” Ilea said, summoning a chest onto the table. “Use what you have to and invest the rest as you did prior. Feel free to use gold for the city as well.” She said, checking her necklace. She had 3325 gold remaining. Coins started to drop into the chest until three thousand were in there. “Oh and Claire? For this your share on the profits is three percent, seven percent for the Hand and the rest for me.”
“Three thousand coins.” Claire said, checking the chest before it vanished, “You learned something about gold too it seems. I’ll have the contracts ready within the week. Thanks for your renewed contribution and your trust in me.” The woman added with a smile.
Trian was writing stuff into a notebook already, “I will look for facilities, knowledge and possible teachers.”
“Theoretical and practical medicine, first aid and resistance training within reason. I’m not sure if we should go for a defensive mage or warrior class.” Ilea said.
“We’ll figure it out. Though I believe being more open than what I know of the healing orders will benefit us.” Trian said, “Their rules and training is so strict, something like you could never grow out of their students. I aim for the opposite.”
Ilea nodded, “Sounds good. I’ll check in on you too. Maybe something in the inner circle?” She looked at Claire.
“I assume we can use things you already own?” The woman asked, Ilea nodding in return, “Then sure. Your gold will have less of an impact, now that most of the Ravenhall pie has been distributed already but I’ll keep some on the side in case our independence plan works out.”
“Do what you think best. Your share as well as the Hand’s share will thank you.” Ilea replied, happy that she had someone to take care of everything.
“I love this idea.” Trian commented, a big grin on his face as he continued to write things down. “We’ll have to discuss some more about this of course. What’s the goal in the end? To provide healers for the city?”
Ilea beamed at him, “No. I want to supply every adventurer team with an indestructible healer.”
“Every team?” He asked, “That’s quite a goal.”
“What do you think?” She said in return.
“I think it’s a worthy goal for team thirty four.” He said with a big grin. “Got a name already? Azarinth Order?”
“With what little I know, I’d rather not use the name.” Ilea replied, “Healers without Borders maybe.”
“Peculiar idea.” Claire commented.
“It’s a name from my realm. I’m open for suggestions. Not the most important thing either right now.” Ilea said, “Speaking of our team. Do you have more of Cless’ picture with Kyrian in them?”
“I do.” Claire said, when a knock came from the door. “Christopher.” She added, looking at Ilea.
“Trian, I’d be happy to have you as a leader in the healing order… kind of dislike the name, let’s not go with healing order. What about the healing mercs?” She looked at the man who closed his notebook and made it vanish.
He smiled at her and clapped his hands together, “We will think on some names. I’ll get started as soon as we’re done here. I think the idea is brilliant, Ilea.”
Another job delegated to someone capable. She smiled and nodded towards Claire, the door opening a moment later. In came Christopher, about as tall as Ilea but considerably thinner, his blue eyes scanning the room before they halted on Ilea. He stepped inside but kept his gaze down towards the floor.
“Welcome, been a while since I saw you. How do you like your new workplace?” Ilea asked the man.
“I… I’m sorry… I’ve failed you, Ilea. I couldn’t develop a working gate… to much information is missing, the…,” She held up a hand to stop him. The man actually trembled.
“I’ve told him it’s alright.” Claire said, “Not easy to work through those experiences.”
Ilea could feel the mana in Trian surge, “It’s alright Christopher. You do your best. I don’t expect unreasonable results. Now how far along are we exactly?”
He looked around before finally glancing at her, Ilea smiling back and casually leaning on the windowsill. “I…we figured out most of the enchantments and runes used. The notes as well as Claire’s help have brought us closer but the Taleen had security measures built in. Not just to prevent someone from using their gates without a key but also from understanding the magic involved.”
At least he seemed less scared by now. She hoped he hadn’t been constantly stressed for a whole year. The lack of meat on him spoke against that assumption. “Christopher. First of all, know that I don’t want to push you beyond what is reasonable. You should take care of yourself, eat well and do something else but work all the time. I’m not Arthur and neither is Claire. If you need anything, help or even if you don’t want to work on the project, it’s alright. Just tell me. I don’t want to be known as a shit employer and most of all not someone comparable to Arthur Redleaf.”
“I mean it. Do you understand? I apologize for the stress I’ve caused you.” Ilea said.
“It’s not a problem.” He said immediately, “I… I love my work, Ilea. The opportunity, the haven… all of it. It’s incredible, really… just, the gate. I’ve been stuck on the same problems for the past three months. It’s frustrating. I wish I could give you results. I can work freely, no… threats or beatings. There’s plenty of food too.”
Ilea looked at him, glancing at the other two in turn, “Well. That should be the minimum. I hope the two of you understand as much. Fair pay for the work done as well as humane hours are the absolute basics.” She walked closer to the man and smiled, “As to your research, I found something that might help you.” Summoning the Taleen Gate Key, she held it up, watching the mage’s eyes grow big, even Claire raising from her chair and smashing into the table with her thighs.
“Is…. Is that?” She exclaimed, Christopher not managing any words.
“A taleen gate key, yes.” Ilea said and put it on the desk. The man needed a moment to calm down it seemed. “We fought and destroyed a bunch of Praetorians. I do hope this helps in your research.”
“Help? Are you fucking kidding me?” He brushed a hand through his thin brown hair, his voice shaking a little, “It’s a key… THE Key.”
“So I didn’t miss anything in our earlier conversation.” Claire commented, looking at the little thing. “Marvelous work. The Taleen really were something extraordinary. That, I assume is also your plan for the cooperation with the north?”
Ilea nodded, “If successful, yes. Though I would suggest adding any allied city to a possible teleportation network of our own. Rules apply of course. I would assume you could add your own security measures.” She looked at Christopher, the man now crouching next to the key on the table, his eyes mere centimeters away from the thing.
“Of course we can. Whatever you want. This… that’s how they do it, to think such simple enchantments could used for identification… brilliant.” He was mumbling now, lost in his thoughts.
“I’ll talk to the others about it too, as soon as we have a working gate of course.” Claire said. “I suppose adding this, Hallowfort was it? Shouldn’t be a problem. If your trust them. The resources in the north as well as training opportunities for Hand members would be a great opportunity. Of course at the same time we would open ourselves to an invasion as well.”
Ilea nodded, “That as well as the security of it all, I’ll leave to you lot. The benefits are obvious of course and it would be a waste not to use it.”
“I agree and neither will the others veto something like this, I’ll make sure to bang it into their heads if they do. A working long range teleportation gate… and here I thought you were done surprising us.” Claire said.
“It’s not working yet.” Christopher said, “I will need, time. And more stone as well as steel and metals…,”
“You’ll get whatever you need.” Claire said, “This might actually give us the edge we need.” She added, “You beautiful healer, you.” Her joy was almost palpable, grabbing Ilea’s face in a very uncharacteristic manner.