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Chapter 351 Evaluation

 

 

“I can bring you if you’d like. They know me well and it might save you a couple annoying talks and explanations.” Dale said after a while.

The recruits were actually rather well trained. Ilea was particularly impressed with their focus. Most were below level fifty, the bigger part with various warrior and body enhancement classes. A few had rarer mage classes but nothing Ilea didn’t already have a resistance to.

She glanced at Dale. “Sure, if you don’t have any more pressing matters to attend to.”

The man chuckled and shook his head. “You’re literally the Shadow, here to take care of the most dangerous threats that the whole city has to deal with.” He laughed, “It’s pretty much my job to make sure you get where you need to be as fast as possible.”

Ilea just waved him off, “Ah come on Dale, I’m not just here because of that. You’ve leveled quite a bit. One forty already. How have you been, how’s the family?” She smiled at him.

The warriors fighting in front of them tried very hard to seem like they weren’t listening in.

Dale smiled, “Keep those skills up, recruits.” He walked on and answered her after a while. “Most of them I got with the hunters. I can’t complain. The pay isn’t bad and with Alistair it’s only gotten better. My wife doesn’t really have to work anymore, not that she’d ever stop.”

“What does she do?” Ilea asked.

“She’s a cook.” He said with a smirk, “Damn good one at that.”

“I definitely approve of you two.” Ilea said, glancing at the approaching guard.

He smiled and stopped a meter in front of them, “Ma’am, may I ask a question?”

“Of course, lowly peasant.” Ilea said with a serious tone.

“Lowl… you are Ilea, right? The warrior who was here over a year ago, having a bout with captain Dale?” His voice didn’t sound so sure anymore, his expression less confident.

“Yea, that’s me.”

He scratched his neck, trying to avoid looking into her eyes, “Well… there has… sort of been a bet. To see if anyone could land a hit on you. Because… the captain failed to take you down.”

“Neil, you’re talking to a Shadow. I think she has better things to do than that.” Dale said in a calm voice.

Ilea was happy neither of them seemed too intimidated by her, Dale especially. Then again, other than shock he had usually seemed pretty collected. Compared to Walter or her friends in the Hand. Maybe because he was never super powerful to begin with.

“How do you test them, just look at them as they fight?” Ilea asked Dale, looking at the recruits.

“You’re not seriously considering…,” he shook his head but couldn’t hide the smirk that tugged on his lips. “We have them fight officers, they get evaluated and either promoted or they stay recruits.”

“Can they go all out?” Ilea asked, the suggestion evident.

Dale looked at her, scratching his chin. “No, of course not. We tried dummies, before you asked. It’s not in the budget with how many of them get destroyed.” He paused. “But I really don’t want to have you stay here. The missions are more important and you should be briefed as soon as possible.”

Ilea cracked her shoulder and spoke, “I’m not in a hurry, Dale. If it’s really that important, you can inform the governor already. It’s not like he could just make time instantly anyway.”

“You’re underestimating your own worth. I don’t think anybody expected a Shadow so soon. With the siege of Virilya and the war.” Dale said and gestured for a nearby guard.

The man ran over quickly.

“They broke the siege. Earlier this week I think. Huge massacre in the Baralia camp. I heard it right before leaving Ravenhall.” She said.

“What?!” Dale nearly shouted, startling the guard. “Inform the governor that a Shadow has come to answer the summons. Add that said Shadow informed us about the end of the Virilya siege. The empire struck back.” He quickly explained.

The guard nodded and ran off, teleporting occasionally before he jumped over the low walls, continuing over the rooftops.

“You didn’t know yet.” Ilea said and chuckled. “Oh well. So what about it? They all get a shot at me, can go all out and you tell me what I should do. Attack, defend, dodge, fly, ranged. I’ve got it all baby.” She winked at the captain.

He shook his head again and laughed. “You come here and bring the most important news in the last year. You know what, why not. Only if I get a shot too, as well as any other guard or hunter who wants to try.” Dale suggested.

“How priorities suddenly shift.” Ilea joked. “I thought the Shadow needed to be briefed immediately.”

“They wouldn’t let me live it down. Ever. You’re the only Shadow I’ve met that would agree to something like this, let alone suggest it themselves. Plus I’m sick of people thinking I made up all those stories about you.”

Ilea crossed her arms and sighed. “Then we should get started, don’t you think? There’s a bunch of people around.”

Ten pairs of eyes glanced their way, some anxious, some excited, others again outright terrified. A cold gust of wind flowed over the training square, the sand shifting slightly. It almost seemed like the soon to be guards or hunters held their collective breath.

“Well, I’m in too deep now.” Dale whispered to himself. “Did anybody say stop?!” He shouted at the recruits who had interrupted their bouts.

Unsure glances were exchanged before they started again, many of them looking disappointed.

A moment later the captain shouted, “Stop!” He smiled and glanced at Ilea. “Form ranks!”

Three lines formed quickly, some of the men and women stumbling as they got into position. One actually fell down but was up again quickly, helped by his colleagues.

“Can I use your name?” He asked her.

“Sure. I’ll keep the armor on at least. Not that it really matters anymore.” Ilea replied, the last part more to herself. My decision to use Ilea or Lilith is just as arbitrary as me hiding my face. She smiled at her own inability to ever become a spy. A good one that was. I’d get murdered on my first day.

“This is Ilea. She’s with the Hand and today, she will be evaluating you. Combat ability, speed, dodging, range, attack power. If she has time, we might be able to test team setups as well.” He trapped her effectively and looked at his officers. “You’re free this morning but she offered to let any guard or hunter try. Make sure word gets around.”

The guard lit up and were about to vanish when Dale spoke up again.

“If I find any post unfilled, any rotation being done sloppily, I will execute the punishments myself.”

They gulped and nodded, rushing off to likely inform their friends.

“A good test.” Dale said in a quiet voice, walking back to Ilea.

“For what? Loyalty?” She asked.

An officer joined them with a list and nodded to each.

“No.” Dale replied, “Frederick Trail, you’re up first.” He added and looked at Ilea. “It’s not unheard of to distract city guards with an attraction, a festival or something along those lines. Rare, sure but not unheard of. I’ll have some of our rogues and rangers try to get into the city as well as some key locations throughout.” He said it silently, knowing she would hear it anyway.

“Smart. Sure, I’ll be your attraction.” Ilea said. “Whoever manages to draw blood gets a gold coin.” She added in a much louder voice.

The recruits looked at each other with exciting eyes. Some actually looked confident.

“You’ll break them.” Dale said.

“How else would you get them to go all out? Plus, it’s been a while since you saw me, Dale. Enjoy the show.” She said and winked. Ash started to form around her, cladding her in a dark, nearly black armor.

The recruit who had been named stepped up, wide eyed and glancing around as well as back to his fellow doomed.

“Trail…,” Ilea started, getting the man’s attention. She saw him gulp. “Do you know a man named Joseph?”

“No ma’am.” He replied.

[Warrior – lvl 38]

She just nodded, a couple of ashen limbs forming on her back. “You may attack. I can heal myself so feel free to go all out.”

“You heard her. First speed and attack, show us what you can do.” Dale said and stepped aside to join the guard holding the list.

The warrior looked unsure but still unsheathed his sword.

A well made blade but nothing that could hurt Ilea without a seriously powerful and skilled warrior wielding it.

He approached carefully, glancing at the swaying ashen limbs before he focused. Spells were released, his body growing more nimble, his muscles more dense and powerful. His heart rate increased before he dashed forward, his blade slamming down on her shoulder.

It stopped dead, surprising not just the man himself but many of the watching recruits as well.

Maybe it is good to show them what’s possible. Ilea thought and spoke, “You would probably be dead if I was a wild beast.”

The manjumped back and tried again. His blade hit with more vigor, his movements allowing followups and dodges. Despite his level, he showed more experience and composure than she had expected.

“Enough.” Dale said after a while.

The man was sweating, his hands shaking lightly as he held on to the blade. His eyes were focused on Ilea still, ready to strike or react.

“Well done.” The captain added. “Now, you will defend against her. Ilea, I hope you can gauge the limits of my men. I’d rather avoid injuries.”

She cracked her knuckles, walking towards the man. Happy to find he was switching to a more defensive stance, she sped up, trying to body check him.

He rolled to the side and took a couple steps back to make distance, sword held out towards her.

“Injuries build character.” Ilea said and once again sped up. This time, she stopped and changed directions with the help of her ashen limbs smashing into the ground. A light kick sent the man flying, his sword taking the brunt of the force.

Blood dripped from the recruit’s mouth as he stood up slowly, his sword still held up and ready to defend once more.

“Well done. How’s your health?” She asked.

He was about to speak when she appeared behind him and grabbed him in a choke.

“Just some bruises.” Ilea said. “Don’t let an opponent distract you. Expect teleportation at all times.” She let go and pushed him forward.

The recruit stumbled but quickly turned and held his sword out again.

Ilea formed an ashen blade and advanced, striking slowly and very telegraphed. She sped up when he dodged without issues until finally, her blade was about to hit his. The ash dispersed instantaneously.

Frederick used the opportunity to stab at her neck, the blade stopped by the ashen armor and sliding to the side with a scratching noise. His hand moved back but not quickly enough.

Ilea grabbed for the weapon, her hand closing around he blade before she yanked it towards herself. She smiled as she watched him let go and jump back.

“Lost your weapon.” She said, letting the blade fall to the floor. “What’s your next step?”

The man glanced at the captain and retreated, his eyes focused on Ilea.

“Good. Don’t turn your back to the enemy. Sometimes though, you have to.” She said and sped up, trying to be just a bit faster than his back steps.

Finally he had to turn to keep the distance, running as fast as he could with chuckles coming from the watching group of recruits and guards.

Their time will come as well. She thought, increasing her speed as she slammed her heels onto the floor with hard and powerful steps. Ilea was behind the running man in a mere two seconds.

She merely tripped him and clapped when he actually landed in a roll and continued onward.

“What a guy.” She said and chuckled, going back to Dale and his assistant. “Definitely ready.”

“Agreed. Barely any hesitation and quick decision making skills.” Dale said. “He’s pretty fresh but I didn’t expect such good results.” He held his hands near his mouth and shouted. “Frederick! Come back!”

The man was already fifty meters farther away and quickly turned and rushed towards them.

“Stop with the laughter.” Dale said. “Feel free to be a little more rough with them.” He added the second part with enough volume to make sure everyone had heard him.

“Sure. I’ll heal the ones who give it their all.” Ilea replied and tapped Frederick on his shoulder, quickly healing his bruises. “Well done.”

He smiled and nodded, stepping back to his friends who welcomed him with various reactions and gestures. He touched his chest after a while, a little confused at the absent bruises.

“Next up, Gideon Skorn.”

 

 

Half an hour passed with Ilea throwing around recruits, none of them even coming close to injuring her.

Some walked away with broken bones or bad bruises. To be taken care of by their own healers at a later time. Cocky or stupid behavior had led to their results. Many would remain with the recruits.

A sizable crowd of guards and officers had formed, many waiting to test themselves against the Shadow, by virtue of the bet or their own egos.

Ilea didn’t mind. She had settled into a routine already, making the testing quite efficient and fast. The more recruits she fought, the more she could quickly grasp if they were ready to move on to the next stage of their training.

She noticed a group of people approaching that looked a little different than the previous officers and guards. “Defense now.” She said, focusing back on the poor water mage whose attacks hadn’t even landed thanks to her second tier resistance.

His speed and resilience left much to be desired as well. Ilea appreciated the effort at least and left it with a throw.

The water mage landed hard, rolling over himself twice before he came to a stop. He tried to get up but slumped down again, coughing up blood.

“Some more vitality, my friend.” Ilea commented as she appeared next to him, her foot delivering some healing as she touched his side. “You’ll get a teleportation spell I hope. Otherwise try to form a barrier with water. That should be helpful too.”

She once again appeared close to Dale.

The group she had noticed closed the distance and demanded not just her attention. A man with short black hair and blue eyes led the group of five, dressed fairly normal other than the intricate embroideries on his vest.

A woman walked to his left, blond hair and armored.

I know her. Ilea noted.

Dale was looking their way as well.

To their right walked an older man, gray hair and a beard of the same color, or lack thereof. Despite the frail look, he could keep up effortlessly.

The shield mage, wasn’t it? She thought, remembering the tournament a couple years ago.

Two more noble looking men walked a little behind the first three, their clothing and weapons indicating a high standing or at the very least a certain amount of wealth.

They stopped a couple meters away from Dale and Ilea, the man nodding to the captain. “Dale, I heard the news and decided to welcome our guest personally.” He explained in a quiet voice and looked at Ilea. “My name is Alistair Gallian. I am the governor of Riverwatch. It is a pleasure to welcome you, Shadow.” His voice was very quiet but his words were nonetheless spoken deliberately and with confidence.

Ilea heard him without problems but she could tell some of the people around her had difficulties. Is he hiding a stutter? She wondered. He’s focusing way too hard on his words. “Nice to meet you. I didn’t expect the governor to come to the training square.”

The blond women opened her eyes wide but didn’t say anything, looking at Dale before her focus shifted back to Ilea.

The governor looked at her and stepped a little closer. “I. Did not expect a Shadow to be examining our future guards and hunters.” He said. “What do you think?”

“Good base for most of them, I suppose. I didn’t reach this level through conventional training though, so I might not be the best person to ask.” Ilea replied.

[Mage – lvl 203]

“Few Shadows did. I am happy to hear you think them adequate.” He said and bowed lightly. “You bring news from Virilya?”

Ilea nodded. “The siege is broken. The Baralia camp was attacked. That’s all I know. I’m sure you’ll receive more in the coming weeks.”

His eyes sparkled as he smiled. “We sure will. Thank you. For providing this and for offering your time to train with our guards. I am afraid that payment was only reserved for the requests sent out.”

Ilea waved him off. “I don’t expect to be paid for this.”

He blinked twice at that. “You did come here for one of the requests though. Or are you merely passing by?”

“I’ve come for all three. Don’t plan on staying for too long though.” Ilea replied.

“All three? I’m aware that Shadows usually work in teams. Is yours waiting in an inn nearby or perhaps outside the city?” The governor asked.

Ilea shook her head lightly. “I am the team.”

“A single healer. Peculiar. I hope you are not offended at my doubts. It is rare… to see a healer above my own level.”

“First day for everything, right?” Ilea asked with a smile, her ashen armor receding to reveal the bone below. She crossed her arms and smiled. “Feel free to watch or join in. I’m sure you could still place a bet.”

Dale avoided the governor’s look, instead focusing hard on the floor.

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Rhaegar

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