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Ch013-There We Go

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*Nyx

“Any improvement?” Adema asked, finishing her 3rd cup of coffee.

“He stopped crying and trying to run away a few days ago. But he goes off whenever he sees me.” Nyx said, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes.

“Well, what did you think would happen? That he’d brush everything off, and you get to start training him as if he just jumped off the boat?” Adema asked with a tone of ‘I told you so’ but without any of the maliciousness.

“Honestly? A little bit. When he first woke up, he didn’t cry, he didn’t scream, I could see it in his eyes, he was just absorbing information, getting ready for whatever came next. Then he started to cry.” Nyx said, taking the plate of food one of her guards had brought her.

“So where is he now?” Adema asked.

“He’s at home with Venna. He doesn’t freak out with her. I think it’s the eyes, he thinks I’m one of them.” Nyx mused and lifted her long pointed ears up in demonstration.

“It could be the dark blue skin and pointy ears too. He probably thinks your a demon or something. ” Adema suggested.

“That reminds me. Did you manage to find what I asked for?” Nyx said, bringing the conversation back to where it had started.

“I did. Farmers. Well, not farmers exactly, his father was a butcher, and his mother was a goat herder. So peasants at least. And the mother had a witch in her line.” Adema explained, handing Nyx the small folder.

“Anyone I would know?” Nyx asked, flipping through the pages.

“I hope not. I never got the name, but she was burned at the stake next to Gytha, Jane, and fucking Agnes back during the culling.” Adema said just under her breath.

Reading through the document further Nyx whistled at it. “That certainly explains where the full dark came from. It must have skipped what? 14 generations before showing up? I’m not seeing a name here though.”

“Doesn’t have one. They don’t bother naming them until they turn ten, and he was taken when he was eight. And while we are on the subject… Stefan has-”

“Don’t worry about Stefan, I’m handling it,” Nyx said, hitting the table with the closed document. “If he does anything to you, let me know immediately. I’ve got Oneir’s and Demos’ approval, I’m just working on Ushas.”

“Why do you even want him so badly? Just accept Damian. Less hassle for you, Stefan’s happy, you’re happy, everyone wins.” Adema explained, trying to sound upbeat.

“Did I tell you how exactly I found him?” Nyx asked.

“You found him in the river. Probably felt like doing a good deed and since you don’t use kids you were planning to throw him into the hole.” Adema guessed.

“I sensed him,” Nyx said with a strange tone.

“How? He’s a child? His channels aren’t just weak, they’re nonexistent. There’s nothing to sense.” Adema stated.

“I know. But it doesn’t change the fact that he managed to cast… something, even when he was essentially dead. And you felt his core, he’s a pure dark. What could he possibly have cast that I felt from the market?” Nyx asked.

“You felt him from so far away? Do you know what it might be? Old age, Nyx. I know you dark elves live seemingly forever, but maybe fucking around with your body so much, has broken whatever it is that keeps your kind young?” Adema suggested.

Nyx chuckled politely, before giving the healer a glare. “I know what I’m doing Adema, thank you very much. And I’m not losing my mind. I would know if I was. Not to mention, everyone would know before me. Do you know what I think it might have been?” Nyx asked.

“Don’t fucking say it. You almost lost your title over it. Please don’t go ruining this kid’s life, just because you think he might be the key you’ve been missing.” Adema said, the memories of those days giving her a headache.

“He was used as a vampire’s chew toy after his parents were killed and his village decimated. What could I possibly do to make it any worse?” Nyx asked.

“You could make him waste his life trying to achieve something impossible,” Adema answered.

 

*Sylver

“If he dropped his sword, would you have let him go?” Henra asked while cleaning the blood off her sword.

“Of course not. He attacked us. Wussing out doesn’t change the fact.” Sylver answered.

His shades had gathered up the bodies and had moved them into two piles. One was a pile of the more put-together bodies, and the others were the one’s Essa and Edna had fought.

They both seemed very happy with the fact that they didn’t have to do any looting themselves, since there was a small army to do it for them. After gathering all the loot onto a sheet, Sylver let them pick whatever they wanted from it, only wanting the weapons for his soon to be minions.

For whatever reason, these bandits had a fondness for gold jewelry.

A few of the bodies were mangled beyond use, but the other’s were thankfully in acceptable condition. Sylver got 2 more archers, 4 swordsmen, and most importantly the mage woman.

[Shade (Lesser)] Raised!]

[Shade (Lesser)] Raised!]

***

[Shade (Lesser)] Raised!]

[Raise Shade (I) Proficiency increased to 100%!]

[Raise Shade (I) rank up available!]
Choose 1 from the following:

Raise Shade (II)
-Increase CON of all shades under your control by 10%.
-Increase DEX of all shades under your control by 10%.
-Increase STR of all shades under your control by 10%.
-Decrease MP cost to raise new shades by 10%.
-[Requirements not met]
-{Requirements not met]
-[Requirements not met]
-{Requirements not met]

The list went on for another 2 pages, every single line repeating the same thing of not meeting requirements. Sylver’s options boiled down to two. Option one was to pick something right here and now, and allow the skill to continue increasing until it reached level 3. And option two is to put the rank up on hold and do things to meet the requirements.

Option two is usually reserved for when you know what the requirements are. Like when Ciege’s father made him destroy 100 daggers, to unlock a level 5 repair skill effect, that increased how many mistakes a weapon being repaired could tolerate.

The problem with option two was that unless you either paid for the information or were a direct apprentice of someone, nobody would ever tell you the requirements for a specific skill. Not to mention they were often linked to a class. At least as far as Edna knew. So Sylver didn’t just need someone who had the skill, he needed somebody who was a [Necromancer] and had the skill, and willing to sell the information, and had information worth selling.

Not to mention, Sylver’s second class might be influencing it too. There was just too much guesswork for him. And of course, it only tells you the requirements after you’ve already met them. Sometimes it’s other skills being at a certain level, sometimes it’s killing a specific monster, sometimes it’s being under or over a certain total level, sometimes it’s eating an egg sandwich. The last one was only for a specific skill related to cooking that Ciege met by accidents, but the point is that the requirements are extremely hard to predict.

Sylver knew a ton of requirements for skills. But every single one was for blacksmithing skills, which he had neither the desire, ability, time, or resources to unlock. The few general skills that Ciege knew, were also completely useless to Sylver. He had a spell for every single one of them, that didn’t require him spending over 1000 hours hitting a tree with a stick until he became 15% faster with one-handed weapons.

The only positive thing was that he didn’t need any of this. Even if the system didn’t give him the skill, he already knew how to raise shades, how to evolve shades, how to alter shades, and just about everything there was to know about them. From Sylver’s perspective, everything the system gave him was just icing on the cake.

So keeping all that in mind, Sylver carefully considered his choice.

Well increasing their constitution is out, they’re weak and meant to be weak. Decreasing the MP cost is also pointless, they’re as cheap as can be, 10% won’t change anything. So that leaves either strength or dexterity. Considering zombies are significantly stronger than them, there’s no point making the shades stronger. So by process of elimination, increasing their dexterity by 10% is the way to go.

[Skill: Raise Shade (II)]
Skill level can be increased by raising shades. (Repeat raising of the same shade will not increase skill level)
I - Turn a corpse into a shade.
II - All shades under your control have +10% DEX.
*Quality dependent on the corpse.
*Quality dependent on the soul.
*Possibility of failure is dependent on the skills of the castor.

*

Because of the sun already up by the time, everything was over and done with, they had to start moving. The city was only a few hours away, and the caravan leader made everyone skip breakfast, and move away in the event more would be coming. As such Sylver had the mage’s body wrapped up and carried by Tom.

Raising a shade that could use magic was… tricky. And required much more effort and time, than simply slapping on a generic physical movement framework. Her soul was both intact, and inside her body, and while Sylver was within range, that wouldn’t be changing. So he did what any necromancer that's pressed for time does. He had his minions wrap her up into a cocoon made from the clothing he took from the dead bodies he didn’t bother raising, and enchanted the whole thing to preserve the body as much as possible.

Since Tom was the most human-looking one right now, he had the honor of keeping watch over his soon to be sister in arms.

“What was wrong with the others?” Henra asked after she finished watching Sylver’s minions undress the dead bodies and then use the torn up clothing to wrap the grey-robed woman up.

“Too weak. There’s no real benefit to having hundreds of them if they all get killed with one hit. Not to say these are going to do all that well either, but I can justify keeping them around and healing them, unlike any of these,” Sylver explained, gesturing at the semi-nude corpses his shades had moved into a hole Edna had made for him.

If he was alone he would have raised them just to have. They don’t cost anything to maintain, and could still be useful in the event he needed extra hands. And while it may have been nice to raise his skill some more, the time and MP they required wasn’t worth it. And it was important to pretend he was hiding the fact that he had a limit in the amount he could control since it’s very unlikely Nyx’s innovative method of raising the dead had spread. She took the secret to the grave, as had Sylver, and as he had assumed Oska did.

And given how he’s yet to hear of her, it’s very likely she simply settled down somewhere and lived happily ever after. Which would frankly be ideal in Sylver’s eyes. He stopped the traitor to make sure they didn’t get hurt. Imagining them all dying of old age, and happy with the lives he had sacrificed his own for, made the whole experience slightly more palpable.

Jumping back into the caravan, Tom placed the wrapped up body near the exit and sat down on it. Sylver felt like saying something but then saw that he was keeping it from jumping around from the uneven road, and kept quiet. Edna had a small look of disgust at this but thankfully seemed to separate the actions of Tom, from Sylver’s. Tom in turn did not seem to care how Edna felt regarding him.

“Did you get a chance to use the stone?” Edna asked, after getting over the shock of an undead sitting on top of a, soon to be undead, corpse.

“I didn’t. But I can tell you what I could have done with it if you want.” Sylver said, closing his eyes and leaning back on the carriage wall. For all his magic, Ciege’s body wasn’t used to the strain of fighting. Even if he barely did anything this time around.

Edna hummed in response and thought it over. “Is it something I could guess?” She asked finally.

“I don’t know. What do you use it for?” Sylver asked.

“One of my summons is an eagle, and this stone lets it carry things many times more it’s weight,” Edna explained.

“Oh. That’s pretty close actually. I could use it to store a small amount of kinetic energy and release it all at once. I’ve seen people use arrowheads made of it, that could break giant boulders into two.” Sylver explained. By seeing people using it, he meant that’s what he had used them for in the past. And a giant 250kg one to break through an ‘unbreakable’ shield. Pure physical force, is next to impossible to fully defend against. Which is part of the reason the traitor managed to take care of everyone so easily.

“I would have guessed wrong. I thought you were going to give it to one of your shades to make it lighter or something.” Edna suggested.

“Wouldn’t work. Well it would, but they’re shades, so they barely weigh anything as is. I could hypothetically use it to make their weapons lighter, but none of them are using anything all that heavy, to begin with.” Sylver explained, hiding the stone back in his bag. After thinking it over, he decided that regardless of how stupid so many zippers look, they really are the way to go. He wanted to hit himself on the head for not thinking of zippers in his past life.

*

A few of the merchants inside the caravan seemed to be on edge from getting attacked twice in one trip. From what Sylver understood this was extremely unusual. This road was normally very peaceful, and the few bandits that hung around it tended to stay away when they saw that there were guards. A few of the more religious ones, chalked it up to ‘the necromancer’, bringing them bad luck.

On top of the fact that Sylver saved them a lot of potential danger by taking out the first group alone, and the fact that he taught Edna a new spell, there was a question of how to split the reward. After Henra’s idea of playing cards for the whole thing was rejected, they decided to keep it how it was, with the promise that they would work together again in the future and split things more fairly.

Sylver wanted to say that he wouldn’t work well with people who use positive magic like Edna but agreed just in case he ever needed their help. You can’t have too many allies.

*

Medera was a small city, in comparison to Arda at least, and had a very wide river cradling the eastern, southern, and western wall, leaving only the northern area accessible by land. The river provided a very good natural defense, as Edna had explained, but limited the city’s growth significantly too. They rely on trade for food and other necessities and make their money selling hides of aquatic animals, native to the river.

Most of the houses were raised at least a few meters above ground on long wooden logs, and excluding the cobblestone walkways, everything else extremely soft mud. Rope stairs and systems of pulleys were the most common method of transport, and in the very middle was a very strange tower, with a giant boulder balanced on one side, and an extended pulley on the other. Edna explained that it was thank’s to it, that giant blocks of products could be moved from one end of the city to the other, without having to walk through miles of road.

The tall looming construction made Sylver slightly nervous, but he got used to it, and ignored it, after only a few hours of being there. The tower in question held a number of small shops inside of its base, and a spiraling staircase in the very middle was the only way to access it. A branch of the adventurer’s guild coincidentally was also located inside this tower. With Henra being the official leader of her party, and Sylver trusting her judgment, she went off inside the rickety tower with the head of the caravan, while the other 3 stayed at the entrance.

There were a few people staring at Tom with the tightly wrapped up package on his back, but his nonchalant nature prevented anyone from questioning him. And even if they did, moving a corpse around wasn’t illegal. At most, it went against a few small sanitation laws. Sylver had enchanted the wrappings to the point you could eat off them.

“Shera said to make sure you come with us on the return trip, but I’m not really getting the feeling you’re as defenseless as she seems to think you are,” Edna said while they waited.

“I wouldn’t mind the company. How long are you planning to stay here?” Sylver asked.

“We’re going to spend 2 nights and leave in the morning. There’s not much to do here, other than shop around or visit the temples, but that’s not really an option for you. We’re all staying at The Retching Roach, but they probably aren’t going to let you in.” Edna said with a deadpan expression.

“Is there any place you could recommend that would be a little less fire and pitchforks about me?” Sylver asked, seeing Henra walking down the spiraling stairs, with a huge smile on her face.

“I think the dwarves in the eastern sector might be a little more open-minded. But that area comes with its own kind of danger. You’d have to sleep with one eye open.” Edna said.

“Then it’s a good thing I have eyes to spare,” Sylver responded.

They parted ways after he received his 6 gold reward.

*

The eastern sector was a little different from the others. Firstly it hugged the wall very closely, and the buildings here weren’t sparsely placed and well separated, they were almost one giant building, full of passages in it. The rope bridges were weathered and slippery, and Sylver’s weight nearly made him fall through the floor on a few extra sensitive pieces of wood.

Unlike in the center and the northern area, people here were actually using the muddy floor, with strange metallic-looking tents, leathery huts, and essentially mud houses, covering the entirety of the lowest level. Sylver saw snakes making their way through the mud, and watched one chase down a furry rodent of some kind, and swallow it whole.

On top of that, the whole area smelt distinctly of sulfur and rotten fish, as well as an extremely sweet smell that Sylver couldn’t pin down to anything he knew. It was as if cotton candy was made of somehow even more sugar.

On top of all of that, he was being followed. Which was annoying more than anything else. Especially since he was 99% certain it was a child, and while he didn’t have a rule against killing children, he did his absolute best to avoid it whenever possible. As with exploding chests, getting killed in your sleep by a child, because you purposely made your guards incapable of harming children, was a mistake you only had to make once. Or three times in Sylver’s case.

His current shades had none of that. And if the child made any attempt to bring harm to Sylver, it would find itself pinned to the floor, and possibly knocked unconscious.

He meandered his way through the maze-like bridges and passages, getting to the point where he was planning to give up and head back to the center to try his luck with the Ra worshipers when he finally found it.

A large stone building, that looked out of place amidst the light and thin material huts surrounding it, and in place of wooden stilts, built entirely on a rock foundation. A sign covered in dwarven ruins explained the services the building offered, as well as a brief history of it.

Inside it was completely empty, save for a blond dwarf with a magnifying glass in over his eye and in the process of carving something onto a small ring. Upon the gentle tingle of the doors bell, the dwarf swept everything away underneath the table and smiled brightly at Sylver.

At seeing someone so happy to see him, Sylver couldn’t help but smile back. He may have been raised by a dark elf, but he always had a soft spot for dwarves.

“Welcome to the Fox Hole, lad. What can old Salgok do for you?” The dwarf asked. The dwarf clicked his fingers, and the previously dark room lit up from lights appearing out of nowhere.

“I’m looking to rent a room for 2 nights. And some dinner if you have any. And possibly a bath.” Sylver said.

The dwarf smiled even harder, despite Sylver not believing it was possible, and with a clap of his hands, two plates full of steaming hot meat appeared in front of him.

“Want me to get your luggage for you lad?” Salgok asked, gesturing at the wrapped-up dead body Tom was carrying.

Sylver looked at the tightly wrapped body and genuinely forgot what was in it for a second. It didn’t even look that much like a body anymore. The woman’s staff had deformed it to the point it didn’t have human proportions anymore. And possibly the fact that she lost a lot of air during the transit.

“It’s fine, he’ll handle it,” Sylver said, walking over to the bar and sitting down. He wanted to say he wouldn’t be needing the second plate but felt he was hungry enough to eat both right now.

“Anything to drink?” Salgok asked.

“Water please,” Sylver responded.

*

As he had done almost every single time he’d sat down with a dwarf, Sylver was hammered beyond belief, and barely standing on his feet. And as always he had no idea how he got to this state, despite not planning to drink at all while here. It was either meeting a dwarf that got him or the fact that Salgok looked like someone Sylver knew and dearly missed. Or just the result of good company, and good drink.

Sylver wasn’t sure at what point he stopped speaking Eiran and started talking in dwarvish, but Salgok started calling him ‘brother’ pretty much the second he had. With all the alcohol running through his system, Sylver accidentally told him about how he went to live with dwarves for a while, to try to figure out runes a little better, and only by the skin of his teeth did he manage to avoid saying where exactly it was that he stayed at. Thankfully Salgok was about as hammered as Sylver by this point, and didn’t catch on to the fact that a man who doesn’t even look to be in his 30’s somehow lived among dwarves long enough to pick up their incredibly complicated and far too nuanced language.

To prove a point, Sylver forced Tom into his shadow and made his whole group come out with him. The 15 shades looked incredibly confused, Fen taking the lead somewhat, walked everyone back into Sylver’s shadow, while Sylver continued to throw things at his own minions. Salgok joined in on the fun and threw a mug at Dai, who expertly caught it, and returned it to the table, before disappearing.

Salgok in turn clapped his hands, making different meals appear at random, chairs and tables moving around, lights turning on and off, and a firepit appearing in the middle of the room. The axes that decorated the walls, flew around and switched places, passing each other just close enough to send sparks flying.

At the very back of his head, it did worry him that he was so drunk in a foreign territory but felt safe beyond words while Salgok was around. A dwarf would sooner die, then let a guest get harmed in his home. And while Sylver knew a few dwarves who argued that an inn wasn’t a home, Salgok was of the other variety. The dwarf even went as far as to show Sylver pictures of his family, who died tragically a long time ago.

One thing setting off another, Sylver started crying along with Salgok, and the two just sat there for a while, drinking and being comfortably miserable in each other’s company. There was something cathartic about letting everything out like this, that screaming into an empty void, just couldn’t compare to. He obviously couldn’t tell him the whole story, but he didn’t have to.

*

Waking up, Sylver was greeted by a very distinct smell, and about 100 cats sitting all over his room and belongings.

A grey tabby was sitting on his chest, and its face was mere centimeters away from Sylver’s.

“The king of cats wishes to speak to you,” the grey tabby cat said.

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