Chapter 350 Hunters
“Ignore him, your people are over there.” Ilea said to the man, her ashen limbs moving out to wake the others she had healed. Most had been in critical condition. “Stop playing dead you two. I can hear your heartbeats.” She said, hearing the very same accelerate.
“Your prey is distressed lady Lilith, I can feel it.” Maro said, moving closer to one of the survivors.
“Oh my fucking god, Maro. They’re already traumatized, do you have no regard for the human mind?” She slashed at him with an ashen limb, finding him vanish.
He chuckled and walked towards the apprehensive group.
Now that she saw them together, Ilea realized they were part of an organization, a military perhaps or a guard.
“We’re leaving for Riverwatch in twenty minutes. You can either ride among the corpses or walk.” She said finally and joined Maro.
“Who are you?” The glaive wielding man asked, his gaze neither hostile nor friendly. Green eyes, black hair, tall and somewhat thin.
Ilea glanced over to Maro, “He’s got your eyes. A bastard maybe?” She asked, focusing on the man instead, “We’ve come to find my friend’s long forgotten son.”
The necromancer snorted, “Yes we have. And you are…,”
Ilea interrupted his speech, “I’m a Shadow. On my way to Riverwatch when we heard you. What are you exactly, adventurers?” She heard the word Shadow whispered by some of them.
“Your armor isn’t black.” The man said.
Ilea rolled her eyes, “Fucking seriously?” She asked, summoning her badge and throwing it at him.
The man caught it and looked it over before he handed it to a mage standing behind him.
“It’s real.” The woman said, about as annoyed by his demeanor as Ilea was.
He took it back and held it out to Ilea, his weapon moved to the side. “Apologies for my rudeness. I’m Linus… it looks like captain Miller didn’t make it. Thank you for the help.”
The rest of the survivors finally came over from the field, some looking a little embarrassed.
A somewhat portly man with a big smile on his face walked over to Ilea, his hand held out. Chest covered in blood. “Captn Miller. Glad to meet you, Ilea right?” He asked and laughed, shaking her hand.
“That was a close one, I tell you.” He said, “Good thing my screams got your attention.” He pointed at some of the people, “Get the carts, move the bodies. If there is space left, take the Nazarks too. Haren and Cliff, collect an ear from each of them.”
“From our troop too?” One man asked, playing with his dagger as he walked towards the field.
“Not again Haren. Just the monsters.” The captain said and chuckled before he looked at Ilea. He hit her arm lightly, “He’s joking. Joking.”
“The rest get ready to return, help move the corpses and spread out a little. You’d be easy fodder for a fire mage. Come on, move your asses!” He shouted the last bit.
“You know who I am?” Ilea asked.
“Hah, now I do. Dale told some stories. A healer with black wings, thought some poison was going to my head.” He tapped his skull, dripping more blood onto his brown hair. “Well I suppose you can move on then. I’ll make sure you’re compensated for the help. Just visit me in the eastern hunter camp.”
“You’re hunters?” Ilea asked, some skepticism in her voice, her eyes moving over the carnage.
“We were going out to hunt goblins. The Nazarks ambushed us around half an hour ago. We didn’t expect it. I killed their leader, a stronger version likely capable of leading the normal variants. The forests grow more and more dangerous.” He shook his head, “You’re here with the Hand or for Dale?”
She looked at him, “Both, I suppose. How’s the city?”
He chuckled, “How’s the city. Standing. Some of the houses feel a little scared at night.”
Maro laughed, “I like him.”
“Of course you do.” Ilea commented.
“A necromancer. You’re a member of the Shadow’s Hand too?” The man asked and held out his hand.
Maro grasped it, “No. I’m just here to raise the dead, corrupt and take over your precious town from within.” His face was serious, his tone dry.
Miller laughed and shook his hand with both of his, “Perfect. Finally, this horrible life comes to an end.”
Maro joined in as Ilea rolled her eyes.
“I’ll help with the cleanup.” She said absentmindedly and walked over to help with the dead. It felt wrong to move them in her storage items, their comrades still around. Still wearing her bone armor, she grabbed one of the corpses and moved the dead woman over to the arriving carts. A mage she assumed, due to the lacking sheath or straps for any weapons.
Some of the hunters looked at her but nobody said a word.
The captain’s mood wasn’t exactly reflected in his hunters. Just lost a third of his men and he’s joking with a necromancer. Ilea felt a smile tug on her mouth. And I think it’s funny.
She carefully placed the corpse in the wagon and turned around. All the other bodies had been moved already, each of the not assigned hunters carrying one.
She found no of her skills had leveled when she checked through the messages. Just a bunch of unlucky Nazarks that ran into her path.
“Already done?” Maro asked as he walked over. “Heard the city is barely an hour from here on foot. Want to go?”
Ilea glanced at the woman once more before she nodded. How many would have died if we hadn’t been here? The thought was bizarre. There are thousands dying all over the world. We just happened to save these guys.
Ashen wings spread. She gave the group of hunters a nod and ascended.
Maro followed in silence, the two flying low. Right next to the flowing ice cold river.
Ilea stopped and landed a couple hundred meters away from the walls. The city sprawled before her. She attributed the size to magic just as much as with Ravenhall and Virilya. Comparing them to maps and paintings of medieval towns on Earth was unreasonable. What confused her a little was the fact that despite all the building advantages, they didn’t like to build high here.
Stone and enchantments should get them at least a hundred meters high, if not much higher than on Earth. Either it was a money thing or more likely the constant fear of monsters. Collapsing a two story building dealt less damage than a ten story one. Area space wasn’t really an issue here. Not yet.
Movement near the gate indicated they had already been spotted. “Riverwatch. Doesn’t look like they did the same defensive improvements as Ravenhall.”
Maro chuckled. “They don’t have an insane mercenary order to defend and fund them either.” He commented. “Or do they?”
“Not that I know. Can we switch to a more normal getup? I don’t want to stand out too much.” Ilea said and put away her bone armor. Luckily there was no blood on her clothes, thanks to her ashen armor she had worn above her bone one.
The man rolled his eyes, walking towards the gate. His armor was suddenly replaced by elegant black pants, a red shirt and a black coat going to his knees. A silver pin depicting a rose appeared in his hand before he pinned it near his chest.
“Not that you won’t stand out just as much.” Ilea said but walked on. “Also your eyes don’t really fit with the red.”
“Red and green? Fits perfectly in my opinion.” He replied, “You’re not a queen so you wouldn’t understand. Damn youths.”
Ilea ignored his comments, “I don’t know what their laws are in regards to necromancers. If you’re not allowed in, just fuck off and sneak back.”
“Do you not want to separated from me then? You’ll be treated as an associate.” Maro suggested but they were already too close.
Four more guards had joined the ones near the gate, more on top of the wall.
Ilea glanced his way, “What? No, I’m the healer you’ve drugged and charmed to work with you. The guards will be my sweet saviors.” She spoke in a serious and flat tone.
“I don’t like how I’m rubbing off on you.” Maro said.
“Don’t praise yourself for work that isn’t yours.” Ilea said, the two reaching the guards’ earshot.
One of them stepped up, all ready to fight, hands on their weapons. “State your name and business! We saw you land.”
“I’m Ilea. Friends with captain Dale. Here on Shadow Business. This is Maro, we helped out captain Miller on the way. They ran into some Nazarks.” She explained casually, pointing first at Maro and then back down the road.
“Ilea. Can I see a badge? I don’t like him being a necromancer, can you vouch for him?” The guard said, a hard stare focused on the mage.
She summoned and threw her badge, noticing a couple guards opening their eyes wide, others talking quickly to the ones next to them. Storage items. Ravenhall would see a lot more, I guess.
Still, she didn’t want to stop using them here, feeling powerful enough to ignore the possible dangers. Any human that could pose a threat would have the resources or strength to get one themselves. If they didn’t have one already.
The guard checked her Shadow badge and nodded, “Yea. You’re alright. The necromancer?”
“He’s not going to raise any corpses.” Ilea said simply.
Maro fixed his coat and stepped towards the man with a smile on his face, “Maro Invalar.” He bowed, “It is a pleasure to visit your beautiful city, dear noble warriors and mages.”
He’s so fucking bad. And they love it. Ilea wouldn’t have believed it had it not been for her sphere that informed her about the distress levels dropping rapidly. “You’re fine. Want to come with me or explore the city?” She asked the man.
“Explore? Just come find me if you need help. Enough fighting for me today though, to be honest.” Maro replied in a low tone.
“Sure. Meet up at sundown in the adventurer guild, the one closest to here?” She asked. “To visit my friends.”
“Ah, yes. Done deal. I’ll be there.” Maro said with a grin. “So much for acting like you’ve been charmed.” He winked.
Ilea rolled her eyes and walked past the guards. She noted that literally none felt distress anymore. “What’s your usual policy with necromancers?” She asked the guard.
The man looked at her and then Maro, “Let’s just say he’s allowed in because of your word.” He stopped the necromancer with a gesture, “The Shadow can enter. I want to hear captain Miller’s confirmation of your story.”
“That’s not exactly logical. If she lied, are you going to find her?” Maro asked with a smirk.
“No. Shadows are allowed some leeway. Necromancers aren’t.” He replied.
Ilea smiled and waved at him, hoping the mage wouldn’t massacre everyone here. She was happy to hearMaro instead starting a conversation about gambling halls and brothels in the city.
The smells and noises inside weren’t quite as overwhelming as back in Ravenhall. Fewer people. She noted. A dog barked at her when she passed, the streets muddy with ice in places.
There was snow on some of the rooftops but most had melted away due to the heating. Stoves and wood for most, runes for those a little more well off. Many with no heating at all.
“Oy… lady, some copper?” A man asked, thin and with clothing that wouldn’t hold another winter.
Ilea summoned and flipped a couple silver coins his way, “Get a bath too.”
[Warrior – lvl 28]
She wondered how many years ago he had gotten those levels. Ilea didn’t stop, ignoring the shouts of thanks behind her.
I don’t remember there being so many beggars. Rounding a corner, she saw three more, ignored by most who walked by. For each, she summoned a couple copper coins, making her way to the guard station Dale had been stationed at.
Ilea recalled the location of his office and this time blinked in front of it directly, without talking to any of the guards around the station. Good timing. She thought, smiling as the door opened before her.
Dale jumped back and grasped his sword, letting go immediately when he realized who it was.
She waved and smiled.
“You? You weren’t here a second ago.” He said, “Really. No regards for this old man’s heart.” Dale added, shaking his head.
Ilea noticed the new scar on his cheek, touching her own. “You’re what? Thirty?”
He nodded. “I’m not telling you. The scar? A close one. Abby forbid me to stay with the hunters until the kids are old enough.”
She smiled, “Did she say a specific age?”
Dale looked at her as his eyes widened, “Damn…,”
“You’re not joining anytime soon. Miller seems decent enough though, even with his disregard for death.” Ilea said, “Am I interrupting you?”
“I was just about to go down join the new recruits. It’s been a month and we’re evaluating the progress. Want to join?” He asked, his eyebrows moving up.
Ilea shrugged, “Sure, if that’s not against guard protocol.” She said and stepped out of the door.
“You even joined in last time you were here. I don’t think anybody would say no to a Shadow giving some pointers. Or even just watching.” Dale said, moving past her and down the nearby stairs.
“You’ve met Miller? I thought he was out today.”
“They ran into some Nazarks. We helped them out. I think he should be back in half an hour or so.” Ilea informed him.
“Nazarks? So close to the city.” Dale said thoughtfully. “An ambush then. Otherwise I doubt they would have needed help at all.”
A nearby guard did a double take on her and Dale before he nodded towards them.
“Are you here with your Hand squad? On official business or just passing by?” The captain asked, the two walking out onto into an open space.
Around eighty people were waiting, fifty of which looked like the new recruits. They stood in formation.
She summoned her bone armor and answered, “I’m here with a friend. I did get the jobs near Riverwatch though. Thought I’d check in on you and ask about them as well as the related contacts listed.” She got out the note form Claire. “Alistair Gallian seems to be the one to talk to. For all of them. At least in part. Know him?”
“Beautiful armor. It fits.” Dale said, the two joining the group of waiting officers. “I do know him. He’s the governor of Riverwatch. Newly appointed after all the… mess.”
“Captain. Everything is ready.” One of them said, glancing at Ilea for a second.
“Good, start then.” Dale said and turned towards the recruits. “Ilea, if you have an hour or two, maybe a demonstration would be helpful.”
[Warrior – lvl 142]
“I think you’re quite enough for that. I don’t want to make anyone feel inadequate.” There was no mockery in her words.
The man noticed as much and nodded, “I will be.” He paused, “Might have been my curiosity too.”
She smiled under her helmet, “A private bout isn’t out of the question. I did look forward to freak you out.”
He chuckled as the recruits started forming into groups of two, each using their preferred weapon or magic to fight one another. “You give off a calmer feeling. If anything, I feel safer standing next to you.”
Ilea pushed air out of her nose. “Not the reaction I wanted. Refreshing though I think.” After all the big eyed looks she had gotten from the survivors, even the reactions from her friends in Ravenhall. It was nice, she supposed. The first human she came in contact with in Elos still treated her in a normal manner.
Dale smiled, starting to walk around, commenting on some of the recruits.
“Guards or Hunters?” Ilea asked after a while, following the man.
“They can choose. Guards for all at first, only small jobs outside the walls with a focus on gaining levels. After they reach level fifty, they can choose to join the hunters.”
“Basically adventurers in employ of the city?” Ilea asked, noting the glances from the recruits.
Most at least tried to stay focused on their opponents.
Dale glanced her way, “Not exactly. The pay is worse but you get benefits in the city. Jobs are usually somewhat close by and we move in much bigger groups. It’s hard to get together twenty adventurers even for newly discovered dungeons.”
She nodded. “More safety then. Sounds like a good system. How many healers do you guys have?”
He laughed at that. “Not nearly enough. I try to encourage people to have it as a second class at least but it’s hard to argue. Even if they’ve seen you.”
“I really don’t get it. You can heal yourself and you’re desired by any adventurer group or the guard.” Ilea shook her head.
“Stigmas, fear of the healing orders, not actually as useful early on compared to a body enhancement or mage class. Many lack the talent for it too or the knowledge. We can’t provide many teachers either. Handing them a sword or spear is much easier and cheaper.” Dale explained.
“If the healing orders gave out their classes and the knowledge they’ve kept to themselves in the past thousand years, I’m sure there would be more around. More people to choose it early on.”
Ilea nodded, ignoring a blast of ice that rushed over her.
The man who shot the spell looked mortified but Dale just motioned for them to continue.
“You high leveled ones are all out there, with adventurer teams and unwilling to teach new healers. Why would you? More competition.” Dale said and chuckled. “We get by though. Still, I’d like a healer in every group of ten.”
“How many do you have now?” Ilea asked.
“One in fifty? A hundred? Sometimes it feels like even less.”