Ch033-Ain’t No Rest
There was something unbelievably sickening, knowing that all those things were running around inside her, eating her flesh, drinking her blood, and defecating wherever they pleased.
Sylver’s first instinct was to go back inside and spread a plague so potent and deadly that absolutely nothing would survive.
But taking the chance Tuli would be immune to it, was not one he was willing to take.
His second instinct was to go back inside and summon an undead army from all the guards that had been killed and kill absolutely everything left inside.
But with his current capabilities, if they got out of his control for even a second, he would be in danger of causing further harm to her. The whole thing could spread, worse than the plague, and in a few days Tuli would surely be dead, or at the very least a living necropolis. And it might even cause a zombie lord to form, that wouldn’t be loyal to Sylver.
It was again too great of a risk to do. Flooding? Burning? Acid? Suffocation? Entombment? Freezing?
Everything Sylver could think of was just a slip of the hand away from killing her. Not kill kill, of course, that was impossible, but at her size, it would take centuries for her to be reborn.
And Sylver wanted answers now. Today even. As soon as possible.
He didn’t want to wait centuries.
So what option was left?
Just leave her here, as is, and come back when he’s strong enough to break her shell to recarve all the sigils and wake her up? Leave everything to chance and fate, and hope that nothing bad happens while he’s away?
The alternative was sitting here and guarding her. Which would be pointless, since anything Sylver could defeat wouldn’t be a threat to her. And anything Sylver couldn’t defeat, he couldn’t do a thing about anyway. There was no logical reason for him to stay here.
And he sulked and mulled it over, until realizing that he might be severely underestimating her. She’s Basil’s daughter. It’s more likely than not, she’s just sleeping. And doesn’t even care or know about what’s going on inside her shell. In fact, him acting rashly and making a mistake would probably do more damage, than anything those things were capable of.
It’s Tuli for god’s sake. She brushed off a meteor like it was nothing, what were a few relatively microscopic pests compared to that?
With his extremely optimistic explanation in hand, Sylver made his way back to Tolga to ask him to send him back home instead.
“So just tap the base of his skull three times, and he’ll be back to normal?” Raba asked.
“Yeah. Well as normal as someone who’s had their limbs repeatedly broken, and then beaten to just short of death. Is Novva home yet?” Sylver asked, drinking from his cup of tea.
“Not yet. But he’s comfortable, as is everyone else. We’re just working out the kinks and a few other small things. But except for a few people that aren’t nobles, and just random bandits or slaves, everyone is going to be home before the month is over. We’re also keeping Mort De’Leon alive. He’s returned home, and will remain there until he’s needed again.” Raba explained, closing her large ledger.
“We owe you 8,900 gold. Considering how much money we saved on not having to fight our way inside, it’s been decided that your fee will be bumped up to an even 10,000.” Raba explained, sitting up straighter.
“Tolga will be teleporting you to Losha, where you will meet with the team of adventurers you’ve been on a quest with, and they will guide you back to Arda. You will be paid in 10 installments of 1000 gold, Shera will be handling the required paperwork, and you should have the full sum in a little under 23 days. The ingredients you had requested are all stored in your workshop at Ron’s, and we had taken the liberty of selling you a deep storage altaer, for the low low price of hearing us out if we require your services in the future.” Raba said. Sylver nodded.
“And now for the bad news,” Raba said, causing a stifled sigh from Sylver.
“We’ve compiled everything there is to know about your skills and necromancer class, into this book. Or at least everything we could find. With magic classes and skills, the requirements can get a little too specific for anyone to find accidentally. And the mages who find them, just pass them on to their apprentices and almost never sell the information to anyone.” Raba explained, pulling a small notebook out of her pocket and sliding it across the table.
“Could be worse.”
“I wasn’t done,” Raba said.
“We haven’t been able to find anyone with a necromancer class. Between the requirements to gain access to it and the… How do I put this politely… Most necromancers die before they get past level 20. Usually due to followers of Ra, but more often they just disappear.” Raba explained.
“Hence why you decided to bump my reward up to an even 10,000.” Sylver reasoned.
He got a curt nod from Rada.
“Well. I guess that’s that. I’ll accept the lack of a necromancer trainer, for 5,000 gold. For a grand total of 15,000.” Sylver said.
Raba didn’t even make an effort to look upset at this, and simply nodded in acceptance. Sylver couldn’t even imagine just how much money they had made from this venture, and how much they saved from everyone already being out.
“Thank you for everything, and I hope we can work together in the future. But with hopefully a little more information, than just blindly diving into a prison. Why was it called Xander’s hole anyway?” Sylver asked.
“Oh. The man who started the whole thing was called Xander. He died a few years ago, but no one saw any point changing the name, so we kept it as is. His legacy so to speak.” Raba answered.
Sylver sat and listened to the rest of her explanation, as well as which cities he should avoid, for a few months at the very least. Or until his status hads changed significantly enough that no one would put two and two together.
And as much as he was upset at having to leave Tuli behind, the thought of seeing Ciege’s smiling face, alleviated a lot of the dark thoughts that had gathered. Lola would be up and walking too, and maybe the cats even had some good news.
Latching onto his newly refound positive attitude, Sylver left Raba and went to meet his fellow adventurers.
They were excellent actors. If it weren’t for the fact that Sylver could see the fear and envy around their souls, he would have actually thought they really liked him. But given the fact that these were adventurers who worked with the Cord, some awfulness is to be accepted, and forgiven.
He had a lot of free time and used it to read through the notebook Rada had given him. Some of the requirements seemed obvious, now that he knew about them. Other’s not so much.
For zombies, it turned out that the ‘proper’ way to go is to get them to infect living creatures. A lot of the higher-level skill requirements were having a certain number of ‘infected’ zombies under control. But Sylver was pleased to see that at level 5 of [Raise Zombie] he will have met the requirements to get the effect that allows zombies to heal themselves by eating the flesh of the living.
All he had to do was raise over 150 zombies. And luckily he had done just that back in the underground goblin cave. Which made Sylver sick to his stomach to realize the smooth ‘tunnel’ was most likely a vein or an artery of Tuli’s.
Which explained why Sylver was unable to stick to it. It was the same reason it took him 4 tries to get the anti-anti-teleportation device to function. Tuli’s natural internal mana had messed with him. And he was too certain that it was a warped layline to even consider the possibility of the source of interference being biological.
Despite the height difference, Salgok was the one who picked Sylver up off the floor. Sylver hadn’t realized it until just now, but he did miss the man.
“I’m so glad you’re back,” Salgok said, hugging a little tighter and getting a soft creak from Sylver’s ribs in response. He let him go and put him back on the ground.
“It’s good to be back. How’ve you been? I see you got a new forge, and finally cleaned up the boxes.” Sylver said, gesturing at the finally clean corners, and sitting down at the, larger than he remembered, bar.
Even the food Salgok summoned looked incredibly better than he remembered.
“Great! Silia declared war on the western territories, and all the local smiths have been recruited to craft weapons and armor for the army. But as a foreigner, I’m under no such obligations. There’s a 2-year waiting list for my services!” Salgok said with the brightest smile Sylver had ever seen on him.
“War? For what? Why?” Sylver asked, savoring the taste of proper food that wasn’t from a can or dry camp rations.
“Don’t know. I haven’t really left the shop since you left. But don’t worry, they aren’t conscripting adventurers. The guild never takes a side in things like this. But there will be a whole lot more gathering quests since the army is going to be increasing the demand for potions and the like.” Salgok explained, pouring Sylver a glass out of an unlabeled bottle.
Waking up Sylver wasn’t certain what exactly had gone down after visiting Salgok. In hindsight, it may have been better to visit him last.
But he felt a lot better for some reason. Like a giant weight had been lifted off his shoulders.
“You look better bald.” A voice said, touching the top of Sylver’s head.
“How so?” Sylver asked, forcing his eyes open and looking down at Leke.
“I don’t know. Makes you look older a little. Have you considered growing a beard?” Leke asked, tracing Sylver’s chin.
Sylver winced as he remembered the last time he had tried growing one. It was as grey as all the other hair on his body, and aged him a good 50 years. And made him look like an ancient wizard.
“I have. But it doesn’t look good on me. The hair should be back in a few weeks or so.” Sylver said, feeling his smooth scalp.
“Do you have anything planned for today?” Leke asked, wrapping her arms around him.
“Definitely not. I am taking an entire week just to relax and unwind. I need to go visit a friend in the south but that’s not all that urgent. Since you’re here, I may as well ask, what does a person need to set up as a craftsman? An enchanter or potion maker for example.” Sylver asked.
“Your pillow talk could really use some work. And I don’t know, that’s outside my field of work. Why? Are you planning on opening a shop?” Leke asked.
“I’m not. But a friend of mine is, and I wanted to speed things up for her.”
“I wouldn’t worry too much. With how much the army is going to be eating up, if your friend makes anything that they are even remotely interested in, she will get her hand held through the whole process. Shouldn’t take longer than a couple of days.” Leke answered.
After spending the morning doing what Sylver had been planning since the first day he was kidnapped, they had breakfast and went their separate ways. It was nice that Leke wasn’t interested in where Sylver had been for almost 3 months, or why he showed up blackout drunk at her doorstep without any warning.
And because she was kind enough not to ask any question, Sylver didn’t ask anything either. Like if she knew about Raba or the Cord, or if everything between them had been part of some convoluted plan. Quite frankly Sylver didn’t care if it was.
If she was, so what? All she did is put him in a slightly better mood overall. Maybe give Raba a tiny bit of credence on account of her living with Leke. If anyone was an agent it was Tera. She helped build his workshop, and he could tell she was the one who had organized the ingredients for him.
And while Sylver didn’t like the idea of paying for things as personal as what they did, he considered that even if she was hired for this, he gave more than he took. Which may not absolve him of all blame, but it at the very least reduced the amount significantly.
Plus with his soul sight, he could quite literally see when he had managed to make things even between them. And if anything she owed him. Youthful enthusiasm mixed surprisingly well with several lifetimes worth of experience.
“What’s the point of a secret, hidden, underground workshop, if whoever wants to comes in whenever they want?” Sylver asked, wrapping the apron around his waist and preparing his workstation.
“In this case, it’s because human sacrifice is illegal. Killing slaves is somewhat grey, but if anyone with any kind of authority saw this, you would be hunted down and killed. Or fined heavily at the very least.” Ron said, floating over to Sylver and moving the table for him.
“So necromancy is alright, but human sacrifice is where they draw the line?” Sylver asked, measuring out a spoonful of a white powder and mixing it together in a flask.
“They’ve got to draw it somewhere. My understanding is that it’s just something people don’t want to think about. Because life is precious, and killing for personal gain is wrong and all that. And while it’s fine if it’s done in some convoluted way, like murdering a band of bandits, and earning money from their deaths. But something as direct as killing 5 men and sucking out their very life, is too straightforward.” Ron answered, gesturing at the pile of corpses off in the corner, that looked as fresh as they did 4 months ago.
“I can understand that. I forgot to ask earlier, but how are you? Is the butcher alright?” Sylver asked, further mixing and matching, and setting the final concoction over an open flame.
“I’m doing very well, thank you. And yes, Edna handled it. She even took it a step further and found their hideout and killed them all too.” Ron explained.
“Good. Good. Is she still in Arda?”
“Went north and hasn’t been back since.” Ron looked around as he answered, sitting down onto a nearby chair, and watching Sylver work.
They spoke for an hour, mostly Ron telling Sylver of recent events as well as rumors and other inconsequential things. During which Sylver had just about finished preparing everything, and packed it away into a triple reinforced chest Ron had bought and produced for him. He used scraps of cloth to make sure nothing moved around inside, and finally cast his own magic on the thing to keep it as safe and secure as he currently could handle.
The deep storage alter, as they called it, was just a small box with a fairly advanced dimensional warping enchantment on it. On top of keeping everything suspended it time, it also boasted a fairly large volume. The only downside was it couldn’t be moved from its spot without having space fold in on itself and destroy its contents.
Ron supplied the thing with a steady stream of mana, and Sylver placed his chest inside until he was ready to use it.
All that was left was to see if the cats had any good news, and his week of rest and relaxation was about to begin.
“I see,” Sylver said, calmly and dully, and without a single hint of blame or disappointment in his voice.
It was disappointing that they had nothing, but it was expected at the same time. An organization that wasn’t that well known to most people due to its strict rules and codes enforcing secrecy, would be difficult to research while it was still around. After it had been destroyed, almost impossible. It was honestly just something Sylver asked out of naive hope. And because he wasn’t certain just how much power, pull or resources the talking cats had back then.
Thomas explained some of their methodologies, from using high-level divination experts, to just plain sending people to investigate the area. The latter would be returning in several months, hopefully. The area surrounding the Ibis was… unfriendly. And although Sylver had a poor grasp on how exactly the monsters from his old world would translate to this one level wise, he would be hard-pressed to believe any of them were below level 200.
“...and we’ve had one of the healers replaced for a practiced midwife,” Thomas said, finishing his report.
“Midwife? Why?” Sylver asked, sitting up straighter and starting a new line in his notes.
“For the wife. She’s pregnant.” Thomas said, as casually as he mentioned the recent increase in the price of fish. In fact, he seemed a little more enthusiastic about that topic, then the fact that Yeva was with child.
“What’s the polite way of asking this… Is she still alone or-”
“She hasn’t done anything but work during the day, and sleep during the night. Hasn’t spoken a word to anyone who wasn’t a merchant or a customer, and has just short of secluded herself in the smithy.” Thomas explained. Sylver took more notes.
“What is she doing? Who’s she selling to, and what exactly is she selling?” Sylver asked, starting on a new page.
“She’s unlocked some sort of unique class, that we haven’t been able to identify. And she now makes epic level clothing and other fabric accessories, selling them to whoever wishes to buy. There have been 9 attempts to kidnap her, and all 9 have been stopped without her being aware of them. All 9 were most likely done by a subgroup of the Black Mane.” Thomas explained further.
“How likely?” Sylver asked, his tone turning cold.
“Almost certainly. Everyone who’s been captured alive has some perk or trait that has made interrogating them a waste of time. But a few of the captured are known members of theirs, even though that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s been done on the Black Mane’s orders. Why?” Thomas asked, following after Sylver as the book disappeared into his shadow and he walked off.
“No reason in particular. How powerful is the Black Mane?” Sylver asked, rummaging through his closet and throwing clothing onto his bed.
“It’s heavily area dependent. They’re in direct conflict with the Cord, but largely restrict themselves to the southern areas. That town technically falls under their area. But it’s right on the border of the Cord’s area of influence.” Thomas said, jumping up on the bed so Sylver could hear him better.
“So, purely hypothetically speaking, if someone were to completely annihilate all the people associated with the Black Mane from that area, the Cord could move in and take over almost immediately, right?” Sylver reasoned out loud.
He looked up to see Thomas’s tail swishing much slower than before. Thomas spoke with a very careful and slow tone of voice.
“If someone managed to wipe out all 600 plus members, and their level 105 leader, then yes. I believe the whole thing could be swallowed within a day or so, if that were the case.” Thomas explained, looking Sylver right in the eye.
“I would even go as far as to say that the person responsible would be well compensated for his, I meant their, effort. And could hypothetically make sure that certain people living in that area are even further protected. And since we’re talking in hypotheticals here, we have a hypothetical list of all the known members and hideouts. And if this hypothetical person wished for this information, I’m certain it would be in their hands before they got on the first carriage going south.” Thomas said carefully, squinting with his eyes.
Sylver could see, hear, and feel that Thomas didn’t know if he was serious or not. And Thomas was genuinely speaking hypothetically.
But Thomas didn’t know that Sylver took threats to the people he cared about very personally. Even if they were people he cared about by association. There wouldn’t be a whole lot of point to bringing Ciege back, if Yeva was dead or missing. And although Sylver understood this wasn’t a train of thought he should or would be pursuing, Yeva was technically speaking carrying his child. Or his body’s at least.
And although he would never lay claim to it, and would make sure Ciege’s new body was absolutely identical to how Sylver got it several months ago, he still felt ever so slightly responsible.
“If you could tell me a hideout of theirs, that’s nearest to Yeva, I would appreciate it. I’ll meet you near the southern gate, you can give it to me then.” Sylver said, getting up and stuffing his clothing into a large rucksack and going to another chest and opening it.
Inside it was filled to the brim with all the orders Salgok had finished while Sylver was away. His shades came out of his shadow, and one by one, equipped and assimilated the glistening weapons and sharp objects.
“You wouldn’t happen to know when Yeva is due, would you?” Sylver asked, tightening the laces on his boots and handing his bags to Tom and an archer respectively.
“The healer estimates 4 months,” Thomas answered, jumping off the bed and following Sylver.
Taking the chest out of the deep storage altar, Sylver opened it up and inspected the contents. He had another two shades pick the chest up to carry it.
“Do you really think you can kill all of them?” Thomas asked, as Sylver made his way down the stairs.
“I’m not going to kill anyone. I’m going to offer them a peaceful, violence and murder free, offer of leaving by their own initiative and never coming back.” Sylver said as he locked the door to his workshop and pocketed the key.
“And if they refuse?” Thomas asked.
“Then I will violently murder them.”
“I have a question,” Lola said unexpectedly, almost making Sylver jump.
“I’ll do my best to answer it,” Sylver said inside his head.
“You understand the danger of taking on such a large group. I would even go as far as to assume you have a plan of some kind. But my question is, why not just move Yeva and Ciege away somewhere? Ciege is going to come here to study under Salgok anyway, so why do all this?” Lola asked, as Sylver continued counting out coins to pay Tera with.
“Because that would be running away. That would be the same as saying ‘do whatever you like, we are too weak to stop you.’ And if I say that to them now, I’ll have to say it again in the future to someone stronger. And as much as I want to rationalize it, it would eat at me if I let someone dictate my actions like that. I understand I’m weak right now. Too weak to help Tuli, too weak to get past the Asberg, and too weak to do any of the rituals to force my way into 2nd tier magic.” Sylver said in his head as he packed away his purchases and waited for Tera to finish counting his money.
“And even more honestly. Because I like the way it makes me feel when I protect people I care about.” Sylver answered, as he packed away the poisons, toxins, irritants, and explosives, and carefully wrapped them up so they wouldn’t shake or move during transit.
“And you know… More bodies, more shades, more levels, and power.” Sylver added as an afterthought, as he walked out of the door.
“There’s a black cat that lives with Yeva, called Whiskers. If you need to get into contact with us, go through him. Which carriage are you going on, the ones going south aren't arriving for another 3 hours?” Thomas asked, looking around from the small corner he and Sylver were hiding behind.
Sylver carefully folded the list of names, levels, and locations into his pocket and nodded to his shades to follow him.
“On, none of them. I’m going to fly, and drop directly onto their hideout. Give them my offer and go from there,” Sylver said with a faint smile tugging on his lips.