William wished that the carriage could travel all the way to Ostana, but sadly that wasn’t possible. Even if there were roads all the way to the border, all of the locations a carriage could cross through should be defended. William wondered if they actually were, or if they were neglecting that. There hadn’t been any real conflicts with demons since the time of the current generation’s grandparents’ grandparents’ grandparents. A half-dozen generations would have passed without anyone remembering in such conflicts. Most people wouldn’t even know the name of any family members who had been alive them. It was strange, skipping through that much of history… and yet so little changed.
Regardless of whether the border was defended, roads didn’t usually get within a hundred miles of the border, and thus they parted ways with Dechen and the carriage there. From then on, they had to walk. They carried simple tents and other similar supplies, as well as climbing gear- such as it was- and coins. William realized that at least one thing had changed- the face on the coins was different, at least somewhat. There were only so many details that went into such faces, so they all ended up looking similar. The new coins meant Lorelei had acquired them recently- which meant that the humans and gevai weren’t entirely without contact. Apparently, smuggling was profitable enough for the risk. Just like the blueprints for the train, except coins were probably much easier to get.
William and Lorelei didn’t pass directly by the lake, but he thought it was better that way. He didn’t want to see a reminder that he almost erased himself for results that were less than what he wanted. Not that he thought he could have done better, but it wasn’t the kind of place he wanted to visit. He also didn’t want to think about the others that were there, and what happened to their souls. There had been many good people there.
For most of the journey, there wasn’t much to speak about. The terrain was rolling plains, which were both almost featureless and also mostly lifeless. Then they came upon rocky hills, but there was only so much geology to discuss when it didn’t change. “Is there anything I should know about the pass up ahead?” William asked.
Lorelei shrugged, “I can’t say for certain. They change frequently. We may have to do more climbing, or less. There might be rocs, or wyverns, or something else.”
“The mountain passes change frequently?”
“Well, not too frequently, but I haven’t been through this area in… a while. Since you last saw me in Ostana.”
“Ah, right.” Certainly, over that kind of time period, mountain passes could change.
“Anyway, my sources say that there is still some kind of pass near here, which is good enough. It could still be rather troublesome to navigate. That’s one of several reasons our tents are small and light.”
William nodded. Both of them could certainly carry a lot more weight without issue, but too much bulk could get in the way, and past a certain point the weight would still be troublesome when climbing or walking along narrow paths.
Along the way, William practiced using the disguise pendant he was given. While he could do a decent job of concealing what he looked like on his own, it was hard to maintain magic without continuing chanting. With the assistance of an object, that issue was overcome, and it had less fluctuations around for people to see. Not that any but wizards or potential wizards could see anything- and even then only if they were looking. Among gevai, however, they had to choose not to see mana, so these were merely useless trinkets. That didn’t mean they were without value, just that they weren’t produced much. Unfortunately, the magical guise was delicate, so too much manipulation of mana, especially by the user, could cause the disguise to fail. Of course, the physical body didn’t change locations either, so William would have to be careful with how he moved his head. The magical guise kept the rest of his body the same size- merely recoloring his skin to something more believable. He’d chosen a medium brown, since it was easier with his already dark skin. That would likely make people believe he was from Eclea or Ustil, but that was a benefit in some ways. If he really needed to, he could change how the disguise looked, but that was a slow process. Though the energy involved in manipulating that much light wasn’t too significant, it was complex. William wondered how Lila had managed it without a tool when entering the gevai lands… on the other hand, she’d been caught. Probably because of the mana, though.
William had only heard about the passes before, and had never bothered trying to go through them. Upon having a few pointed out to him from a distance, he could see why very few demons had ever come through. At best, the passes were slightly lower points in the mountains. They were heading towards one that might have somewhat of an actual path the whole way, but even so there would definitely be climbing involved. Travelling with armor would be pretty much impossible. As it was, they had to travel along something that could barely be called a mountain trail. Then, it fell away to nothing.
“From here, we’ll have to climb. Our goal should be… that outcropping there,” Lorelei pointed to it. “Since there isn’t anything in the way of real handholds and footholds here, we can do a bit of work with magic, but not too much. Optimally, we would remove a few bits and pieces into the rock face. Otherwise, it may not hold our weight. It might work for normal humans, but with our gear… well, we’re quite a bit heavier anyway. If we use too much magic, we might attract some undesirable things with the noise or the mana fluctuations. Needless to say, this isn’t the optimal place to fight, so it would be best to avoid that.” William nodded.