Chapter 346 The Necromancer
Ilea was led into the complex, a balcony overlooking five floors lit in various colors, both torches and magical light present. On the ground floor a red hue was prominent, the smells of smoke, sex and blood were prevalent. Puke and alcohol too. “Lovely.”
The guard next to her grunted, “Lovely that we have to fix the door. Again.” He shook his head and walked off, “Joe! Get your ass out here, the door is busted again!”
Ilea heard a distant cursing. She chuckled at that. Maybe if Fuck off wasn’t the first thing they said to people trying to get in, it would make these circumstances a little less numerous. She spotted Maro instantly, the man standing near a roulette table with a following. His armor stood out amongst the scantily clothed bystanders.
She jumped over the railing and fell down, blinking right before she landed to soften the fall. Few even noticed her, most of them in a daze or focused on the dancers moving around the various platforms and stages. Ilea admitted she stole more than a glance too, yet still making her way to the gambling necromancer.
“Black, black, black, black.” She heard him as well as the crowd murmur, the little marble finally coming to a stop.
People parted for her and a moment later, she was standing next to Maro. “Shame.” She said, “Should have bet on red.”
The man laughed, welcoming her with a tight hug, “My friend! It is no shame, winning and losing is part of the game! And black is the color of death, there was no choice.”
She smiled, “Been enjoying yourself?” She asked, “I hear you organized an orgy and lost a ton of gold.”
He moved his hand around her back, “Ah, that small party?” The man laughed, “I might need to borrow some gold from you if you have anything left.”
Ilea rolled her eyes, “Not for gambling. I can get you food and something to drink though if you like.”
“What about some escorts? We could enjoy them together?” He suggested.
Ilea thought about it. “If I hire one, then without you.”
He acted hurt and smirked, “Am I so hideous? It pains me to hear that. This city is wonderful.”
“It surely is. Do you feel like getting some fresh air? I’ll visit an enchanter friend tomorrow morning. Or do you want to stay here?” She asked.
Someone grabbed at her ass, getting confused at the ashen armor in their way.
She rolled her eyes and pushed the man away, gently but firm. He stumbled and caught himself on a nearby sofa, sliding onto it and closing his eyes.
“Now? Sure. I don’t have anymore gold to play. Can we go hunting?” Maro asked, his wings spreading in her sphere.
“If you feel like it, sure.” Ilea said, spreading her own before they flew up and away, hands grasping at the both of them. “Were those undead?” She asked jokingly as she looked down.
Maro landed on the uppermost railing and smiled, “Close enough, really.”
“Why there?” Ilea asked, the two of them exiting the city in the afternoon light.
He glanced her way, “You mean the gambling hole?”
She nodded, descending a couple hundred meters away and landing in the snow. Going out of the city was nice either way but coming from that sex and fume hole was a level of freedom she hadn’t felt in a while.
Maro landed gracefully next to her, “Well. I believe mostly because drunk and high people don’t fear me.”
She looked his way and smiled, “That’s pretty honest.”
He laughed, “I do like gambling too, as well as sex. In places like that, most of the time, people are equal. Their social standing, forgotten, their inhibitions, clouded. Free, as they should be.” He grinned and stretched.
“I feel the same way about fighting monsters, flying through the wilderness. Doesn’t really apply to groups though, just to me personally.” She replied.
Maro nodded, “I can see that. A little too solitary for me. I’m usually the strongest around too, which can cause problems on its own.”
“I won’t hold you back if you want to return.” Ilea said.
“No, no it’s alright. It’s good to get some fresh air finally.”
She summoned some ash, “You stink by the way. Can I clean up with some ash?”
The man smiled and spread his arms, “Sure, armored first.”
Ilea engulfed him in ash, adding enough density to make it coarse as she moved it over his armor. Most of the dirt was gone when his gear suddenly vanished, the clothes below too. She rolled her eyes but simply moved her ash over his body too. She made it disappear when she was done.
Clothes and armor appeared again as he winked at her, “Very intimate.”
“Hardly.” She replied.
“I didn’t expect you to be so gentle.” He teased.
“I wouldn’t want to hurt an old tortured soul.” Ilea replied, walking further through the valley they had landed in.
Maro followed, “You just did. Where are we going?”
She shrugged, “No idea. There’s bound to be something amidst these mountains. We can also check out Morhill, it’s not too far from here. The demons killed most of the population and we cleared it out a year ago. We can also visit Keyla, you wanted to try her meals.”
“Did already and have enough with me to last a week.” He gave her a thumbs up. “An abandoned city? I’m up for that.” He smiled, “Not wearing your bone armor?”
“The enchantress we’ll visit has it right now. Speaking of which, do you have any Taleen machines with you?”
He glanced her way, the two approaching the deepest part of the valley, “Yea, Guardians. Both sword and ranged variants. Thought I’d try some necromancy spells on them but I wasn’t successful so far. They weren’t really living in the first place, I suppose.”
“No Centurions?” Ilea asked, a little disappointed. Might not be the best idea with an explosive core anyway.
“No. The ones that didn’t explode were too damaged to even consider.” He laughed. “Why do you ask?”
“Aki, the talking dagger? The enchantress modified his body and now he looks like a face hugger.” Ilea informed him.
“A face hugger?” Maro gestured with his hands in front of his face, “You mean like a parasite laying eggs into your lungs?”
Ilea nearly stumbled, “They exist?”
Maro shrugged, “One dungeon had monsters like that. Stupid of them to impregnate our tank. His chest was too hard to get through once the monster hatched so the fire mage basically cooked it.”
“While inside the man’s chest?” Ilea asked with a chuckle.
“Yes. That party was… well. Unique problem solving skills were abundant at least.” He chuckled.
“Did the face huggers have corrosive blood?” Ilea asked. The implications would be rather horrific.
He shook his head lightly, “No, after landing on one’s face, it pumped down the eggs and then let go. They were disgusting more than anything else. Normal blood as far as I remember. So the dagger is now ready to lay dagger eggs?”
Ilea laughed. “That’s good to hear. No but maybe he can control something like a Guardian.”
“Interesting.” He shrugged. “Well, it’s worth a shot for sure. Want to go there now?”
“She’s not done with the work. Tomorrow morning.”
He rolled his eyes, “Come on. The dagger is done, right? I’d love to see that. A conscious dagger controlling a Taleen war machine? Please?”
His eyes literally sparkled as he asked.
Still no resistance to that. “Alright, we can go. The smith isn’t friendly and please don’t start anything in that village. I want to stay on friendly terms. Also, don’t charm the girl.”
“Start something with the girl, charm the smith and corrupt the village. Got it.” He gave her a thumbs up.
She shook her head and smiled, “You fucking idiot. Alright, let’s go. First to Morhill though, I want to check it out quickly.”
The man nodded. “Lead the way, lady of ash.”
Sloppy. Ilea thought. Metal plates, knifes and even a sword still remained in the abandoned imperial camp. The flag, she assumed, was left on purpose.
“Left in a hurry.” Maro commented. “Demons killed everyone here?” He looked around and shouted, “HELLO!”
Ilea used her skills to sense the surroundings, focusing on the smells and magical residue, “Yes. The rest fled I guess. The imperials staying here probably went back north because of the war.”
“And why did you want to check it out? Does the Shadow’s Foot want to take over the city? The houses and walls are pretty undamaged. I don’t even sense any monsters around.” He commented.
“Something along those lines, yes. Ravenhall wants to become independent. Morhill could be a part of whatever this new government would be.” She explained. “Speaking of that, your kingship could surely lend some counsel.”
He snorted, “I’m sure there are enough capable leaders in that city. With how smoothly everything is running. That Sulivhaan guy seemed competent enough.” He chuckled, “If you ask me, I’ll help but I prefer to stay away from government.”
“I won’t ask anything of you. Still, I’m interested. Do you think becoming independent is actually possible? I’m sure you learned some things about the political situation, if you wanted to or not.” She asked with a smirk on her face.
Maro rolled his eyes, “I did notice some things, yes. The presence of empire troops is nearly nonexistent, the defenses are incredible. Better than what I had planned for Tremor. The population is of a comparatively high level and the crafts reflect that. Laws are free enough to allow for fast growth and competition while the presence of this mercenary order of yours keeps people honest. A promising combination.” He explained.
“As to the independence, with the war going on, I think it’s good timing in the very least. If the empress is smart, she will agree to the terms Ravenhall presents. At least as long as the leadership asks for reasonable ones. The geography is in your favor as well. Especially if this city is rebuilt and repopulated as a sort of buffer.” He finished, grabbing the left behind sword and holding it out towards her.
“Makes sense. Very optimistic. I guess we will see.” Ilea replied, “Thanks.”
He twirled and moved the sword around. “Of course. I owe you my life, Ilea. Now come, to death.” He pointed the weapon at her once again.
“I don’t have a sword.” Ilea said and chuckled.
“Make one out of ash. This flimsy thing won’t hold up anyway.” He grinned.
She chuckled and formed a sword in the same shape as his, making it as dense as possible before grabbing it with her right hand. “To the death.” She said, the leather armor Trian had provided appearing over her clothes.
Maro moved quickly, his blade slashing at her horizontally.
She stepped back, avoiding the weapon before attacking herself. The tip of her ashen sword rushed over his hair as he ducked.
Neither teleported, using only their stats to control the blades. A nightmarish display for any master of the blade but likely terrifying for different reasons to any lower leveled person. Each of them easily cut stone, the two of them jumping through the abandoned houses. Stone and glass broke in their wake, the speed and strength of their blows increasing in power with each minute.
Finally, their blades met and Maro’s steel blade was cleanly cut through by her ash. “I win.” She exclaimed.
He held the halved sword up and looked at it, “It appears so.” He said and bowed, “The monster wins against the king. A tragedy the bards will sing about in many centuries to come.”
She rolled her eyes and dissolved her blade, smirking as she watched him rush forward.
Maro slammed the remaining part of the blade into her neck, pressing hard. A thin line of blood flowed down, “His last attempt, all honor gone, all pretense. Yet the monster stands unmoving.” The man continued.
Ilea grasped the blade with her hand and squeezed, the steel shattering when she increased the strength in her grip. The light cuts on her fingers and neck closed again before the pieces hit the snowy ground.
The king stumbled back, “Monster!” He exclaimed. “And now you kill me.”
She rolled her eyes and kicked him, the man sent flying before he crashed through the walls of a house and coming to a stop beyond, rolling on the floor. Ilea blinked and appeared next to him, holding out a hand to the defeated necromancer.
“We should show this play in a theater. People would love it.” He said, blood dripping from the corner of his mouth. He jumped up, “That would solve my gold problems.”
“You don’t have gold problems, Maro. You gambled it away.” Ilea said, “You could also kill some monsters as you had suggested.”
“True.” He admitted, “First, I want to see a talking Taleen Guardian.” The man grinned and held his stomach, “Holy shit, what a kick. You don’t hold back, do you?”
Ilea made big eyes and smiled as warmly as she could, “Not for you, my dear.”
“Lovely.” Maro murmured, patting at the dust on his armor.
“You’re already back? I’m not quite done with your armor. The material is… difficult to work.” Iana said, wide eyed and obviously distressed. She glanced at the necromancer going through the things on the nearby workbench.
Ilea touched her shoulder gently, “Take your time. He just couldn’t wait to see Aki. You’re done with the hammer then?” She asked, in an excited tone.
The enchantress nodded, “Yes. I’ll have to bind the enchantment to your mana signature and then it should work.”
“Perfect.” Ilea grinned.
A loud jangle resounded, Maro having summoned a Guardian onto the floor. “Which one is the talking dagger?”
“I am.” Aki replied.
Maro moved out his hand and grabbed the dagger, holding it high above the Guardian.
“Wait! That’s not how it works!” Iana exclaimed and walked to his side, her eyes glancing into his for a moment, “You… you have to…,”
He lowered the dagger and handed it to her.
Iana was still looking at his face.
Ilea stepped between them and took the dagger, giving it to Iana, “I said no charming the girl.” She said, glancing at Maro.
Balduur had walked over in the meantime, his big hands clasping the necromancer’s shoulders from behind, “If you touch my girl. I will rip you apart. No matter your level, no matter where you hide.”
“You have a lovely daughter, master smith.” Maro said and turned, easily escaping his grip, “I have agreed not to corrupt her.”
“Ilea, what kind of people do you bring into my smithy?” Balduur asked in a defeated tone, looking at her with a sad expression.
She rolled her eyes, snapping her finger before Iana’s face, “If she reacts that way, then maybe she really should get out of here sometimes, before she meets someone worse. Maro, put on a helmet.”
The man obliged, his helmet appearing as he held out his hand towards the smith, “Maro Invalar, former king of Rhyvor, necromancer and admirer of your work.” The voice flowed well. Confident and warm.
Balduur grasped his hand with a frown on his face, “Balduur Birch. I only tolerate you in here because she brought you. And don’t flatter me with lies, I have never worked for you, former king.”
Ilea looked at Iana who turned around the guardian, studying it from each side, “He’s talking about her.” She commented, helping the girl with the machine. A crunching sound of bones grinding against each other resounded behind her but she ignored it. “Let me know if you need a healer.” She said offhandedly.
“Here.” Iana said, touching the part of the Guardian Ilea would define as its neck. “It’s where the runes flow together, I can see it.”
Maro stepped closer, “You have rune sight?” He exclaimed, “That’s… incredible. How did you achieve it?”
Iana looked up and smiled, radiant blue eyes sparkling. “My secret.” She said in a teasing voice.
The former king turned towards Ilea, “I’m the one with a charm stat?”
Ilea shrugged, “She’s cute alright. Keep it in your pants necroking, you heard the smith.”
The enchantress was certainly flustered, glancing between Ilea and Maro but she focused on the task at hand. “Here…,” she whispered before trying to push the dagger into the machine. “Can you?” She looked up at Ilea.
“Sure.” She said, crouching down and holding on to the dagger. Ilea looked at the girl and when she saw her nod, she slammed down the dagger.
“Oof.” Aki exclaimed.
Magic spread suddenly, outwards from the dagger and through the Taleen machine.
“It’s dark in here.” Aki said in the same voice.
“Didn’t work.” Maro said and sighed.
“Wait… give it a moment.” Iana said, a smile slowly spreading on her lips.
Ilea watched through her sphere as the mana flowed into the Guardian, slowly but surely spreading out.
When the mana reached throughout the whole machine, green eyes suddenly flashed.
“Aki?” Ilea asked. She felt the attack coming before it happened, stepping over to Iana before the blades flashed out, slamming into her back and leg as well as the table and the necromancer.
The attack calmed down, Balduur stepping over with a hammer that had suddenly appeared, “Destroy it!”
Maro stepped between the smith and the Guardian, blades scratching against his armor, “Wait.”
Ilea just stood over Iana, seeing the girl looking at her with fear in her eyes, watching the blades slash into Ilea’s ash. “Don’t worry about it. Aki, are you alright in there?”
A sudden, deep scream resounded, “What… what is happening… what is this…, haha… hahahaha.” It was clearly the dagger speaking, his voice a little lower than usual, “I… have… legs!” The machine sprung up suddenly and slammed into the nearby wall. “Oof.. again.”
“Iana, come on.” Ilea said and got her up, moving the girl over to the smith.
The man was watching on with concern in his eyes, taking the girl and hugging her, “You’re safe. Don’t be so reckless…,” He said, no blame in his voice.
“Thanks.” She said, looking at Ilea.
“No worries.” Ilea said and turned to the machine, blinking closer and holding it down, “Aki, move slowly, there are a whole lot of new limbs you just got. I know the feeling, trust me.”