Trying to parse everything that would be said between Faron and the rest of the Sisters was difficult. Sarah wasn’t even close to fluent in Scoubarran, and nobody spoke slowly for her sake. She did her best to listen. So far, it seemed like merely an explanation of everything that had happened, much like what Faron had already told to her and others. There was some more information about Faron’s operations before what happened in Othius, Sarah was pretty sure. The topic moved on to Cletus. They seemed to be asking how dangerous he was. The discussion became pretty heated. At least most of the words were simple.
“… won’t stand for removing Cletus. He hasn’t done anything,” Faron folded her arms in front of her. “If you don’t trust him we can exclude him in the future but he was an essential part of our safe travels here.”
“We understand,” one of the women up above said. “Though he was considered a criminal even in this… Secure Vantage, was he not?”
“Not any more than myself,” Faron said. “If we ultimately decide he is too much of a risk, he should be returned to their custody. He wouldn’t be able to cause us any trouble over there. Douglas could certainly bring him back.”
“Ah yes. Douglas. He is the one who was born mute? It was said he came up with a way to cast spells silently.”
“When he was young,” Faron added. “He was separated from his family when mage-hunters came to his village. His father survived with his tongue cut out, and his sister managed to escape. At the current moment, the two of them maintain high ranking mage positions in Dalgare and Bryria.”
“The list of achievements seems quite inflated, given his age.”
“He has somewhere around two decades of magical experience,” Faron said. “When I engaged him in a fight he showed surprising adaptability and quick thinking.”
Another one of the council spoke, “It is a shame your facade as a prince was compromised. Many sacrifices were made for the sake of your advancement.”
A third councilwoman spoke, “However, your contact with outside allies is fortuitous.”
Sarah found herself guessing at what many of the words still. She was having trouble processing everything that was happening, so it took her a moment to realize Faron had turned to speak to her specifically. “They would like to hear about you, and the situation in Vospia.” Faron gestured to another woman who had moved to stand next to the council, “They have a translator, since neither of us are… fluent.” Sarah didn’t think either of them were too bad, given the circumstances, but it took more than a couple weeks or months to be good at a language. Especially if one wished to speak about technical topics such as magic.
One of the councilwomen began to speak, and Sarah indeed found that the translation helped significantly. If nothing else, they spoke too quickly. “We apologize for not having a translator up to this point, but we preferred the expediency of direct responses. We now wish to speak to you about yourself and the situation in Vospia.”
Sarah began to explain what she could. All of the women present had the shared experience of living in a magocracy where they were oppressed, though Vospia was not nearly as bad as Scoubar. Secure Vantage was effectively a magocracy as well, but it wasn’t even really a large town yet. It wasn’t clear if it was impossible to have a magocracy with magic freely taught and equality between men and women but it was the closest thing Sarah knew of. Anything at a large scale or over a large enough time period tended to drift away from the original intentions, but that didn’t mean Secure Vantage wasn’t good.
One detail Sarah still kept under wraps was that they had removed a section of the Endless Library. She mentioned they’d secured a large selection of books on magic, but not those exact details. Sarah noted the amount of support she could directly offer was limited, but it was clear their interests aligned. They wanted to remove the Mage-King, and even if Douglas spoke to Lucy and Xavier and they failed to convince Bryria and Dalgare to provide any support to the sisters, it should not be dangerous. Not too much, anyway. There were some concerns about potential Scoubarran spies but that was just a reason to keep information on the Sisters to those who needed to know. It would be dangerous for them if they became public knowledge, as they had enough difficulties operating with Scoubar as it was.
In the end, there wasn’t really much that could be done except that they should attempt to set up contact. Sarah wasn’t sure exactly how, but Douglas could probably come up with some sort of magic that was better than sending smugglers across borders. Something besides the bloodline magic he used to communicate with his family. That made Sarah remember the thing with the princes. It hadn’t really come up so, but Sarah knew it was important. It was also very hard to study, since the first attempt had resulted in a giant lightning bolt. Sarah thought she knew how to avoid triggering that, but she wouldn’t want to try anything with even more members of the Mage-King’s bloodline around. Cletus had mentioned it took his mana from a distance, who could say what it would do with a half-dozen?
Despite the danger, Errold Filby wasn’t willing to stop venturing into the Endless Library. New sections had been revealed- or moved, rearranged, whatever– and the New Vospian Librarians didn’t have every topic covered. Some areas they were particularly lacking, even on subjects that weren’t rare. They Also didn’t have any Metzgers, but Errold considered each one of those they didn’t have a contribution to the library.
Errold had to take things slowly. None of them ever traveled into the library alone, and bit by bit they’d begun to secure their warehouse. It was difficult with limited funds, but at least the actual Librarians had been shaken up by the change of the library and hadn’t looked too hard to find them throughout the city. Hopefully they presumed they were dead. That was one reason they kept operations slow. Another was that in addition with the new sections, all sorts of fading wards were around as well. Sometimes the confused magical energy became a ‘ghost’, and sometimes the wards remained as they were but with unpredictable and sometimes dangerous effects from the ravages of time.
Julie and Harry, formerly and maybe still Fourth and Fifth, were the best at dealing with such things. Errold wasn’t bad himself, but having more perspectives was good. Today he was with Julie, dressed in a plain wool dress instead of her fancier clothes. She and Priscia had lost the most with everything that had happened. The others were at least able to visit their homes, but the two of them hadn’t even dared to sneak back inside to ‘steal’ some of their own clothing. They might not have liked their family, but that didn’t mean they never wanted to see any of them again. If nothing else, they had cousins and friends they couldn’t speak to- though there were considerations being made to include more people in their group. Slowly. They couldn’t afford to be noticed.
“We should be able to repair this one, I think,” Julie said. “It would be harder than dismantling it but…”
“Doing so would increase instability.”
“Right. Even if it’s better for the moment, I’d rather not screw things up for future generations. If there are any.”
Before Errold could think of a response for that, he sensed something. “Ssh! Light’s out!” In response to that, he moved behind the nearest shelf and dropped his own light spell. Julie followed and did the same.
Sitting in the dark smelling decaying books wasn’t particularly fun. The preservation wards in this area had failed, though not so long ago that the books were entirely dust. So they got the worst of both worlds, where there were shelves full of basically unreadable books. They might try to salvage some of that later, but for the moment they had to hide. They were getting a lot of practice with that, and everyone had been experimenting with the best way to hide from mages.
Soon enough there were more light sources, along with multiple sets of footfalls. They were speaking, not in Vospian or Bryrian but something Errold didn’t recognize. Dalgare? That wasn’t quite right. Yaspal was only one country over but the language was quite different from what he’d heard. That could be it. He was tempted to peek around the corner and get a look at the mages, but even if he was invisible it wasn’t worth the risk. The two mages stopped to look at the ward he and Julie had been studying. It was a good thing they hadn’t messed with it yet. They spoke for a few minutes then continued on. Once he felt they were far enough away, Errold sighed in relief. “What do you think?” He whispered to Julie. “Yaspal? Eshela?”
He heard some movement, possibly shaking her head. “No. That’s not it. But I’m certain they’re the ones who messed with the configuration of the library.”
Great. So they really were moving into this section. Now they had to hide from Vospians and this unknown group. It was possible they would be friendly, but Errold wouldn’t bet on it. Wizards liked their secrets. Probably too much.