“First things first. My name is Raba. These are my associates Mister Big and Mister Small. They’re both deaf and blind, so you should just ignore them.” Raba said, gesturing at the two giants standing on either side of her, and with three question marks for their levels according to Sylver’s appraising skill.
The woman that called herself Raba was wearing a bright red cloak, a mask that looked eerily similar to the one Tom wore, and every attempt Sylver made to use appraisal on her, returned absolutely nothing. Her hands were gloved, her armor was obscuring her figure, and in short, if he met her on the street, Sylver would have no idea.
If you ignored the fact that he could see her soul from this distance, and recognized her.
“I’ll be completely honest, I’m not thrilled at being surprised like this, let alone the fact that my meal and rest was interrupted to have this conversation. So I apologize sincerely for being curt, but could we just skip straight to the part where you tell me what it is you want, and then I tell you what I want, and we see if an agreement can be reached?” Sylver said, sitting down on the large chair opposite Raba’s.
He couldn’t see it because of the mask, but he could tell she was smiling underneath it.
“I’ll invite you to dinner at some point in the future to make it up to you. But the short version is, I want you to allow yourself to be kidnaped along with a VIP and protect her for an unknown amount of time in an unknown location. Afterward, you and the VIP will be rescued and returned to Arda.” Raba said slowly, emphasizing with her hands a lot.
Sylver remained where he was for a while. Just mulling her words over.
“I see. So there’s obviously a risk to my life involved, possibly several months worth of my time, and that I’d have to take care of another person, on top of myself. All in a location you don’t know the conditions of, or the whereabouts, or the level of danger.” Sylver counted out, reaching inside his jacket and taking out a small notebook from one of the pockets.
He flipped through the pages for a few seconds, before stopping on one and ripping it out. He placed the small piece of paper, with writing on both sides onto the table.
Raba picked the paper up and slowly read it, first one side, then the next.
“Is this all?” Raba asked, checking the paper over again.
“I understand some of these are difficult to attain, so I’m willing to wait up to 3 months for them. I’ll obviously need to hear the specifics, but if you can’t agree to this, then there’s no point continuing this conversation.” Sylver explained, putting his notebook back into his pocket.
There was a very long pause, during which absolutely nothing happened. Some might call it tense, if not for the fact that Sylver was slightly drunk, and had no expectations out of this meeting. He thought it over, and didn’t particularly care one way or the other. If she agrees to get him what he wants, spending a few months guarding someone is a small price to pay. If not, then he leaves and that’s that.
“I’ll also want to know why exactly you’re after me specifically,” Sylver added as an afterthought.
Raba looked up at the ceiling and something small and grey jumped down from it.
Sylver’s newest skill recognized it as one of Kitty’s subordinates. A small and fluffy grey cat, that was a little fat, and had a bright red collar around its neck. It looked down at the list Sylver had given Raba, and turned it over with its paw to look at the other side.
The cat’s tail swished quickly behind itself, as its mouth moved ever so slightly as it read the writing.
It looked back up at Raba and nodded at her, before jumping back up into the ceiling. Looking up, Sylver saw that there were a bunch of cats sitting on the beams, watching the conversation below.
“If this is all you want, we can agree to that. Except for a few of the rarer materials, we’ll have them delivered to your workshop at Ron’s Rest. The more volatile ones, will be kept in a safe location nearby, until you return” Raba said.
The secret workshop Sylver was paying through the nose to keep secret, was now known by at least 3 people, not counting Ron, or the many cats above. He made a mental note to discuss lowering the price when he next spoke to him.
“Great. First question. Will this mark me as on one side or another of a political faction, or the Cord’s faction?” Sylver asked, sitting up straighter.
“No. The VIP is affiliated with various factions, including ours, but you are under no obligation to side with any of them. You’ll have to go in under a false name anyway, so if you want you can keep using it with the VIP. After the whole thing is over, we can even make sure no one knows of your involvement in this. I’ll know of course, but I’m good with secrets. And I can understand wanting to keep your social life separate from your professional one.” Raba said. She interlocked her fingers and lay them down on her lap.
“I would prefer that. Second question. Why me specifically? And how do you even know about me, or that I’d be able to handle this?” Sylver asked.
“You were recommended by a common friend of ours. Naut, if we are being specific. And as for how we know you can handle this, it’s partially from what Naut has told us, and also information we’ve gathered ourselves. On top of that, you have 2 qualities that make you the best fit for this particular mission. You are young enough, and low level enough, that you wouldn’t seem out of place near the VIP. As well as not dependent on any tools or weapons, which is a huge plus, in this case, considering they will all most likely be taken away on arrival to the location.” Raba explained, nodding her head as she spoke.
“Alright… What would you have me do, and when?” Sylver asked.
“In a few days’ time, a certain daughter of a noble will be attacked during her transit from the Silian academy, and will be kidnapped, along with whoever she shares her carriage with. She, along with her passengers, will be held for ransom, and hidden away at a secret location. Have you ever heard of Xardas’s Hole?” Raba asked.
“I have not.”
“Because it’s a very closely guarded secret. The VIP in question has a very special skill, that would allow us to find her, and by extension you, and by extension the location, and rescue her, you, and a few other people from there. How long you’d have to stay there, is all dependent on where exactly it’s located. We’ve already hired several SS rank adventurers to aid us in this, so once we know where it is, it will be very easy to invade it and rescue the prisoners. A lot of this is speculation, since no one who has returned from it, has any memory of where they were and what they did. But one of the SS rank adventurers can fly at extremely high speeds, so once it’s located you’ll be rescued very quickly,” Raba explained, leaning backward in her chair.
By this point in time, some of the alcohol had gone out of Sylver’s blood and his head was clearing up a little. He thought the whole thing over, and got a pleasant warm feeling in his stomach.
“By the sound of it, you’ve been planning this out for a while. And I’m assuming that without someone to guard the girl, she doesn’t have the necessary skills to survive on her own, ruining all your neatly laid out plans. So correct me if I’m wrong, but if I choose to back out now, you’ll be left without any options. Or at the very least set you back several days or weeks or possibly even months. But going by the fact that it sounds like you’re doing this to rescue someone inside Xandar’s Hole, time is very much of the essence. ” Sylver said, seeing movement from the two men behind Raba for the first time since coming in here. They finally breathed a little.
“She did say you were a bastard…” Raba said, just barely loud enough for Sylver to hear.
“I am. But I’m a reasonable bastard who can be negotiated with. So with this new information in mind, I’d like to add a few more things to that list.” Sylver said. The man on the left of Raba took a step forward, but was stopped by Raba’s hand on his stomach, and stepped back to the wall.
“What do you want,” Raba said, with a calmness in her voice that Sylver wasn’t expecting.
“Let’s see… 100 gold for every day I’m in there. As much information as possible regarding the requirements for my skills and classes when I return. An introduction to the highest level necromancer you can find, or at least someone with similar abilities. And I want the corpse of something that could fly and carry people on its back, before the day I get kidnapped.” Sylver listed, counting his demands out on his fingers.
There was once again a pause as Sylver maintained eye contact with Raba, or at least where her eyes would be on the eyeless mask. She blinked first.
“Would an adult feathered wyvern work?” Raba asked, without a hint of strain in her voice.
“It would,” Sylver answered simply.
“What makes you think you’re worth that much?” Mister Small asked, getting shushed and glared at by Raba from under her mask.
“It’s not a question of how much I’m worth, but what I’m worth to you. I’m the one putting my life on the line, and risking potentially dying in the middle of nowhere. If you don’t like my price, you are entirely free to find someone else.” Sylver reasoned, smiling at the man who’s left hand was right next to the sword at his side, and damn near vibrating. He could almost hear him gritting his teeth.
“We agree to your terms,” Raba said quickly, standing up from her chair.
“Please do not do anything to increase your level, and I will be in contact before the next days’ sunrise. The corpse of the wyvern will be provided at that point, and after you are done with it, you’ll be given a disguise and under the guise of being the son of a minor distant noble, you will enter the academy and pretend to be a student, up until your kidnapping,” she said quickly, reaching out with her gloved hand for Sylver to shake.
“I’ll be submitting a quest to the guild in a few hours, and Shera will accept it on your behalf. If anyone ever asks, there will be people who will corroborate the story that you are off on a quest, and are performing spectacularly. If all goes according to plan, very soon, you’ll be back home, very rich, possibly an E rank adventurer, and getting all the information you’ll ever want for your skills and class. And depending on how you handle the necromancer we’ll introduce you to, possibly even an apprenticeship.” Rada said, with a forced joyful tone, that did little to mask the fact that she was gritting her teeth.
The Cord must spend a fortune on dental, going how poorly these people handle stress.
Sylver reached out with his only working hand, and shook Raba’s. He worried for a moment she was going to break his, before she let go of it. She sat back down onto her chair, as Sylver went to leave the room.
“When you get home do you mind telling Leke I tried to see her, but never got to the house when she was around? I don’t want her to see me like this and Tera is going to be busy for a while.” Sylver said, indicating to his wrapped up left arm.
He got a very frozen nod from Raba/Diarla.
“How’d it go?” Salgok asked, once again covering the table in food and drinks.
“Amazingly well. But I’m going to have to cash in that favor, right now, because I need a few things finished before tomorrow night. I’ll pay double your regular price.” Sylver said quickly, sitting down at the table.
He reached into his pocket and found the page he was looking for and handed it to Salgok. Salgok read through the small piece of paper, and started making notes of his own. While Sylver ate the dwarf counted out the costs and other factors, and finished on a circled number at the very bottom.
“With it being a rushed job, it’ll cost you 31 gold and 25 silver. But I can have everything ready by tomorrow midday.” Salgok said, checking over his calculations, even as he spoke.
Sylver pretended to think about it, as he ate his way through the carved up meat.
“Alright. Put it on my tab, I’ll pay you back when I return.” Sylver said.
He finished his dinner, and since Salgok was already busy working on his order, and left the dwarf to work.
“So I’m guessing me getting a body is going to have to wait for a while,” Lola said. It wasn’t really a question, more of a statement.
“If I find someone compatible, I’ll make one there,” Sylver responded, watching his shades finish cleaning up. “But you’ll be able to join the land of the living once it’s all over anyway. You’re happy, Ciege is happy, I’m rich and happy, a massive win for everyone.” Sylver said, sitting down and opening the packages Salgok had prepared for him while he was sleeping.
“I really wanted to see you go hunting if I’m being honest. I’m as curious as you are what you’ll get at higher levels.” Lola said.
“I’m sure there’ll be plenty of things to hunt inside the hole. And I guess I’ll fix my arm there, since I’m not certain I can drain something without killing it. She said it’s a good thing I’m not dependent on tools, so I’ll get what I can ready, and leave the rest in here.” Sylver explained.
“Is that why you’re making all your shades wear your clothes, weapons, and armor? So you can sneak everything inside and use it when you need it?” Lola asked.
“Exactly. I can’t create a pocket dimension yet, so this is the next best thing. There are limits to what can be assimilated with low-quality shades, but I’ll have all the swords and daggers I could ever want. Not to mention a few sets of robes, and armor, just in case. Once Salgok is done with my orders, I’ll have them assimilate those too.” Sylver said.
All the shades had been undressed, and then one by one, they assimilated clothing and armor, until they reached their limits. Currently, only Fen and Dai, had a little more room to assimilate some tools or weapons. Everyone else was filled up. Once there wasn’t enough room for anything of use to be assimilated, Sylver had them wear rings and jewelry, in case he needed to trade for things inside the hole.
“Have you considered the possibility this is a setup? You trust Salgok, I got that much. And the cats seem at least a little afraid of you, but we don’t know how much pull they have with the Cord. What if this is a trap? All the kings of cats always made a big deal to keep their word, but they didn’t start working with the Cord until fairly recently” Lola said, making a reference to some of the few pieces of information she’d gotten from spending years upon years talking to the cats. Sadly they very rarely let anything of substance slip, even to each other.
“I have considered the possibility that this is a setup. I’ll even go as far as to say I’ve understood that there’s obviously more to the whole story, that there are factors and forces at play that I am unaware of, as well as the fact that it’s all a little too many coincidences happening at the same time. And after thinking it over, my decision is to see what happens. Absolute worst-case scenario, I get the fuck out of there, and fly back to Arda. Best case scenario, I’m rich, you have a body, I get to find out what I need to do to get the best higher level skill effects, and there’ll be one less organization kidnapping and fucking with people.” Sylver said, looking around the workshop and trying to spot any leftover blood or pieces.
“There’s also the fact that this may be related to the woman in white who worked on Ciege’s memories and above all else, I have a good feeling about this,” Sylver said somewhat quietly.
“You’re going to get involved in a potentially several month-long mission, all because you have a good feeling about it?” Lola asked, unable to keep the almost insulting tone out of her voice.
“I am. It’s how I’ve always done things. I take chances, and sometimes I’m wrong but as a whole, my gut has been right many more times than it had been wrong. And I’m smart and resourceful enough that there’s never been a situation I can’t walk, talk, or fight my way out of.” Sylver said, checking the room one final time.
“That just seems irresponsible,” Lola said after a solid minute of quietly thinking it over.
“You could say that. Or you could say that after outliving several kings and kingdoms, I’ve developed something of an instinct when it comes to my decision making. And I’ll say it again, I’ve been wrong before. But when I’m wrong, it’s a tiny setback, at most I just need to leave the area. And when I’m right, I discover a completely unexplored ruin that contains the secrets of ancient immortality.” Sylver said, tightening the laces on his shoes, and watching everyone return back into his shadow.
“Like how a seasoned chef can tell when a steak is perfectly cooked, just by looking at it?” Lola reasoned.
“Exactly. And this steak looks so perfectly ready and juicy, I’m almost drooling. People look down on instinct as some sort of mumbo jumbo nonsense, when in reality, it’s just the smartest part of yourself, your subconscious that thinks on a level you can’t even conceive off and lets you know how good your choice is.” Sylver reasoned.
The last time he felt so good about something like this he found exactly what he was looking for to make Aether’s staff.
“And if I ignored every opportunity that came my way just because I didn’t have all the information, or was fully ready, I never would have become an arch necromancer.” Sylver finished.
Granted this is only my second one since coming here, but that doesn’t change anything.
After cleaning up his room for storage, he talked to Ron and learned that he wasn’t the only one with a secret workshop under the inn. In fact, there were 19 other people, all completely unaware of one another, due to Ron’s many dimensional altering perks and skills. He did manage to negotiate the price down to 12 gold a month for the workshop, and 2 gold for 4 months of keeping his room.
After paying for the room and workshop in advance, paying some of Salgoks material costs, and stocking up on ingredients, courtesy of Tera, Sylver was completely and absolutely flat out broke.
All he had to his name was a small gold and gem-encrusted dagger, and 15 extremely well-armed, and overly equipped shades. He hoped that whoever stole the cursed and marked dagger from him, enjoyed it.
Afterward, he went to see Edna and found that she wanted to invite him to another quest. He had to decline as he had already accepted one, but asked her to handle the bandit threatening the butcher Ron had told him about.
Edna smiled a little too similarly to Tera as she agreed to take care of it for him.
[Shade (Lesser) Raised!]
[Raise Shade (II) Proficiency increased to 15%!]
The wyvern lost most of the feathers during the conversion. Even the ones making up its wings had become short and stubby, as opposed to it’s previously long and fluffy white ones.
In exchange, however, it now looked dangerous, in the way a dragon did. Tight muscles rippled underneath its chiseled chest, bright yellow cracks along its body standing out in contrast to its glossy black skin, and its eyes glowed with an intelligence that would be terrifying to see in any enemy, especially one so much bigger than yourself.
It raised its head upwards and screamed a silent scream, completely mute at the moment, but the ground almost shook with the exerted pressure on the world.
Sylver in turn looked at it with marvel. He’d forgotten how great it was to raise something new. He never bothered with wyverns before, because they were too slow for long-distance travel, and too big for short distances. Truly, they were creatures he didn’t even consider back when he was an arch necromancer. Or on his way to becoming one, anyway.
“From now on your name will be Will,” Sylver said to the wyvern.
[Shade (Lesser)] has received the name [Will]
[Requirements for evolution not met.]
“Are you finished?” Raba asked, still wearing a mask and flanked by mister Big and mister Small. She was the only one who didn’t take a step backward when the creature silently roared into the night.
“I am, yes. Thank you for this.” Sylver said, bowing ever so slightly, as Will liquified and disappeared into Sylver’s shadow.
He followed the two guards' eyes, as they looked at his feet, where a large flying predator now resided in.
Most of the walk on the way to meeting the count was spent discussing the specifics of the mission. The Cord knew insultingly little regarding where the location was, or how people even went there. It allegedly started roughly 50 years ago. And although it’s impossible to know who had been kidnapped in the past, given how often nobles kept things like that extremely private, the Cord estimated that there have been over 400 kidnapping and ransoms, in the last 5 years alone.
They only started working on this operation when 3 extremely important people were kidnapped and held for ransom.
What was interesting was that Sylver’s job wasn’t to rescue these three, simply to keep the girl alive enough to use her skill.
“This is count Martimer De’Leon. He has a reputation for siring a lot of bastards, so you’ll fit right in.” Raba said, gesturing at the portly man. He had a completely bald head, small beady eyes, and a grey mustache that was cut fairly short and just barely covered his upper lip.
“Very nice to meet you son!” The man said, shaking Sylver’s hand with a firm grip. He caught Sylver off guard, by sounding genuinely happy to meet him.
“Thanks, dad. It’s good to be back.” Sylver answered, copying the man’s smile.
“I’m glad you two are getting along. I’ve got your documents all sorted, but there’s one little thing…” Raba said, getting a folder full of papers handed to her by mister Small and handing them to Sylver.
Sylver flipped through the pages and understood quite quickly where the issue lay. The man on the drawn portraits could be almost anyone. Provided they had something distracting the eye from a majority of the details.
With a snap of Sylver’s fingers, Sylver’s hair burst into bright blue flames and gradually receded, until the fire had gone out completely. In his signature grey hair’s place, was now a shiny bald scalp, with only a small scar near the right ear that Ciege had gotten from falling down a flight of stairs.
“If it weren’t for those eyes, I would have honestly believed you were one of mine. Having said that,” count De’Leon explained, as he handed Sylver a pair of extremely darkened glasses.
“Ah… I’d need to be wearing these 24/7 if I wanted to keep my identity a secret.” Sylver thought out loud. He had completely forgotten about his eyes, everyone he talked to didn’t even mention them.
“We have contact lenses instead, but they’ll disable any perks related to your sight. And they’re quite uncomfortable, after a few days.” Raba explained.
“It’s fine. I’ve been thinking it over, and I think I could get away with just using a fake name. And surely the people there will be so grateful at being rescued, that they would agree to forgetting whatever they saw in exchange, right? And the academy students wouldn’t remember me anyway, even if they saw my eyes.” Sylver asked, with a polite smile on his face.
“Most certainly. Considering there’s only 3 people we actually need to save, the rest will be given the option, in exchange for favors and promises and such. We will make forgetting you were there, a requirement, for all those wishing to be rescued.” Rada explained.
Ok, now I get it. No wonder they’re willing to spend so much on me, they’ll make a killing making deals with the people inside. Maybe I should make a few deals of my own, while I'm in there…
Sylver quickly changed out of his throwaway clothes, into his uniform and looked at himself in a mirror to see how he looked with the glasses on. He came out from behind the divider after that.
“You look very nice,” Raba said, as Sylver turned around with a flourish.
“Thank you. Well father, are you ready to go?” Sylver asked the count, stuffing his old clothing away into a bag to be thrown away.
“Are you sure, you’re ready? Because after we leave this room, there will be no further contact between us. You’ll need to pretend to be a regular student, and make certain that you’re in the same carriage as the VIP.” Raba explained.
“Yes, I’m ready. 8th daughter of the Duke of Silia. Katia Du’Rodier. 316th in line for the throne of the high king. And I am Mort De’Leon, bastard son of the Count Martimer De’Leon, recently receiving preferential treatment and being allowed to study at the academy, due to gaining a unique class and being allowed into the main house. My mother is nobody's business, and I have an above-average grasp and understanding of magic due to my unique class.” Sylver said out loud, slowly changing his usual quick and brisk speech tone and pattern, into the slower and deeper one similar to Ciege’s.
“Then I guess this is goodbye for a while. I wish you luck.” Raba said simply. The two behind her nodded mutely.
Sylver almost said his usual quip of making his own. But decided that in his current situation, he could use all the luck he could possibly get.