One would think that when the intention of several groups was to work together, it would be easily accomplished. The mages of Bryria, Dalgare, and Othius all had the intention of working together, but outside factors prevented them from easily accomplishing their goals. If Secure Vantage were to be included, things would be even more difficult.
Dalgare was fairly securely in the control of the mages there, and had little in the way of factional disputes. Othius had the intention to form an alliance but had forbidden magic for all of living memory. An instant transition to accepting it wasn’t quite that simple, though the large number of fey no longer completely hiding among them was a strong force for change. Bryria had historical conflicts in Dalgare, and though the leadership of Dalgare had completely changed the nobles of Bryria were hesitant to allow cooperation. Unfortunately, their opinion and influence still mattered enough to slow things down.
Eight mages sat around a large conference table in Dalgare. It was not only the most central location, it was also the country where the mages had the most control. Secure Vantage was barely even a town, and quite difficult to get to- though certainly magic users who made up the majority of the population there were the most in control of any of those meeting.
There were different interests represented by the two people from each of the four groups, though part of the arrangement was simply so that the Lynwood family wouldn’t make up the majority of the participants. Even the Lynwoods themselves weren’t certain that they should be the primary arbiters of such important negotiations.
From Othius, Emerich Welter the former scout and Redbark, a representative of the fey with recent human ancestry.
From Dalgare, Janette Allegri and Xavier Lynwood.
From Secure Vantage, Hagen Reed and Raymond. Douglas was not participating because of his official status in Bryria..
From Bryria, Lucy Lynwood and Claude Tatham.
“What is it?” Claude narrowed his eyes at Raymond, whose eyes had been lingering.
“My apologies. It is nothing important at the moment. Perhaps we can talk later.”
As they were meeting in Dalgare, Janette had the seat of honor and was also responsible for keeping them on track. She gestured to a large sheaf of papers on the table in front of her. “Now then, I believe we are here to review the current arrangements for equitable exchange of magical knowledge. Othius has little in the way of magical texts to offer, but they offer the assistance of the fey in teaching in-depth proficiency of the language of magic, useful to mages of all sorts. Bryria offers to share their library and their most intact magical tradition. Secure Vantage also has a large store of books they are willing to provide copies of. Dalgare offers a location on the western border to serve as convenient exchange locations, what intact magical knowledge we have retained, and special information on Scoubar’s activities. On the latter point, all parties agree to freely share information on Scoubar’s activities and magic where available.”
Claude nodded seriously, “And the provisions for providing mages in the event of Scoubarran aggression? There were some concerns about that overly favoring Dalgare, which is most at risk of Scoubarran attack. Whereas Vospia is currently a larger concern for Bryria.”
“We have drafted another version of the mutual defense pact for review,” Janette handed over copies to each group. “We believe everyone should be satisfied.”
All parties took some time to read over the provisions. Only Emerich and Redbark showed concern. Emerich was the one to speak up, “These terms seem disadvantageous to Othius. We are required to participate in defense against Scoubar or Vospia but Othius won’t be able to take advantage of the mutual defense provisions.” Emerich might not know much about contracts, but he did know about tactics to some degree.
Janette thought for a few moments. “Preventing Scoubar or Vospia from aggressive conduct should be to the benefit of Othius as well, as recent matters show. However, we can add provisions that require a certain amount of knowledge exchange before participation is required.” Emerich nodded in satisfaction.
As they continued to go over other parts of the agreements, Claude occasionally glared at Hagen and Raymond. Hagen eventually brought it up. “You have some concerns with our participation?”
“I don’t like the idea of trusting an unknown group with a former Vospian Librarian at the head,” Claude said bluntly. “I don’t know if I trust that your stores of knowledge are as significant as you state, either.”
Hagen and Raymond exchanged looks, but Lucy was the one to respond. “I can confirm their source is legitimate. Some of the best quality books we have were obtained with their assistance. You’ll be able to verify that yourself, since they will be providing copies of relevant books upon request.”
Claude shrugged, “Anyone can copy a book. Doesn’t mean it’s good. What if they give us Metzger’s?”
Hagen smiled, “We have no intention to provide any copies of Metzger’s works without warnings of their inaccuracies, and only upon specific request. The only reason they have not been destroyed is so they can be used as cautionary tales. While we cannot judge every other title with certainty, a knowledgeable fellow such as yourself should be able to discern useful information from fluff.”
“Metzger is garbage,” Claude experienced a moment of shared disdain with Hagen, and didn’t press the subject any further.
After the meeting was adjourned, Raymond moved to find Claude outside in the corridor. Claude gave him a look. “What is it?” he asked, “I still don’t entirely trust you Vospians, but I intend to keep your secret.”
“Claude, right?” Raymond asked.
“Yeah,” he shrugged. “You’re Raymond?”
Raymond nodded, “Your father was Alton?”
Claude frowned, backing away slightly and looking around them. “What is this, huh? Some sort of blackmail? I’ll have you know he’s already dead, and I can defend myself just fine.”
Raymond sighed, “Is that what it sounded like? My apologies.” He held out his hand, “I’m Raymond Tatham. Alton was my father’s brother.”
Claude just stared for a moment until it clicked. Then he accepted the hand. “I can’t say I expected… this.”
“Me neither,” Raymond admitted. “When Alton left Vospia, we lost contact with him. I’ve only recently left myself. It got worse.”
Claude scratched the back of his head, “I feel sort of foolish now. Hagen’s alright then?”
“He has renounced his ties with Vospia just as thoroughly as myself and your father.”
“And then you started a little secret cabal together. Don’t know how you’d have smuggled many books out, but any that’s not in Vospia’s hands I appreciate.”
“That’s not quite everything, but we’d prefer to keep some secrets.”
“I understand,” Claude waved his hand to brush away the topic. “Probably shouldn’t tell me anything. That way it’s easier to truthfully say I don’t know. Count Leigh is… quite difficult to work with. I do my best to keep his hands out of mage business, but it’s not so easy. I already have to remain vague about the two here,” he gestured to the building in general. “Lucy’s apprentice has shown me sorceresses have more potential for growth than we thought. As for Xavier… Count Leigh doesn’t need to know anything about silent magic,” he gestured to his tongue, “or hints that it might exist. Hell, I don’t even want to think about what that means. The word will probably reach him eventually, but it wouldn’t really help my station to tell him.”
“Best have your excuses prepared,” Raymond suggested. “You never know how people will react.” He thought for a few moments, “We should talk more later. I’ll have to introduce you to my daughter sometime. Actually…”
Raymond stopped, leaving Claude waiting. “Actually what?” Claude asked.
“Finding you is convenient for some of her research. Perhaps we should arrange something sooner.”
“She’s a wizard?” Claude asked, “That would explain why you left Vospia.”
“It would have been a waste of talent to stay there,” Raymond explained, “And she wasn’t going to just not learn magic.”
“Ha! Sounds like she probably gets into trouble. I… don’t have any kids of my own yet. Not sure if I will.”
“It’s perfectly safe with a non-mage,” Raymond noted.
“Yeah,” Claude hung his head. “I know.”
“Something tells me I shouldn’t ask yet,” Raymond smiled. “Don’t worry, cousin. There are many places more tolerable than Vospia. Bryria isn’t the best for me, but I really would like to visit.”
“… I’ll work something out. How do I contact you?”
“An interesting question,” Raymond admitted. “I’ll talk with the others. Not all secrets of Secure Vantage are mine to give.”
“I understand,” Claude responded. “On the topic of secrets, if you plan to keep it that way… maybe choose another name. It gives certain hints…”
“We won’t need to stay secret forever,” Raymond said. “But we currently find it convenient to do so. Still, once these negotiations go through we have to let ourselves be known outside of the mage communities. Not much of a contract otherwise.”
“Good point,” Claude said. “Well… you know where I live. I’d be careful with any letters you send though.” He waved, “Speaking of which, I should be heading back. It’s a long road. Nice to learn I have a cousin.”
“I hope it won’t take too long until we meet again,” Raymond said in parting. “Until then.”