The Vospian mages had been justified in their caution about approaching the fortress. In addition to the magical defenses, there were archers on the walls who would be sufficient to swarm them with arrows. The archers were probably a larger threat, since most of the magical defenses wouldn’t activate for small numbers of individuals approaching. Unless they wanted their defenses to trigger when a wild animal wandered by, they needed a threshold for defenses to trigger- and they had also chosen for some of the defenses to be manually activated because of the cost required to set them up again if they accidentally triggered.
Lucy first guided Errold to her, and then into the fortress. The fortress had proper cells for restraining or interrogating people if necessary, but going with the assumption that their claims were true Errold was brought to a comfortable, if cramped, little sitting room.
“Wait out here, just in case.” Lucy instructed the mages she’d requisitioned and a pair of the regular soldiers. Then she closed the door. It was made for meetings that required some secrecy, and was set up to limit the sound it let out. That brought a small amount of danger, but while Lucy wasn’t entirely certain about taking out the whole group, the one young man in front of her was hardly a threat. At most there would be damage to the furnishings if anything happened. “We’ll start with something quick. When did you meet Douglas Lynwood?”
“I knew him when he was an assistant at the Endless Library. Then he disappeared, but I saw him again recently. It was near the end of the last war. He…” Errold shrugged, “Well, I suppose it doesn’t need to be secret here. He collapsed the walls around the Endless Library. I saw him and helped him shelter for a bit. He taught me a lot about magic I hardly even knew I was missing.”
Lucy took some notes, but kept her face neutral. Douglas was officially dead at that point, though half of the reason for it was pointless by that point. “What sort of magic?”
“Spatial magic. Actually…” Errold bit his lip. “Did you know him, miss…?”
“Lucy. Senior Mage, actually. And yes, I did know Douglas.”
“I’m sorry, Senior Mage Lucy,” Errold inclined his head. “I meant no disrespect. You said he’s dead?”
“I did say that,” Lucy confirmed.
“How did it happen?”
“That doesn’t matter right now. Tell me about why you’re here. All of you.”
“We’re here to have freedom to properly study magic. I’m not sure what you know about the internal situation of Vospia, but those not from established families can’t learn much. Ironically, women from established mages families aren’t allowed to learn at all. Three of those with us are that sort, Senior Mage Lucy.” Errold paused. “Oh! I need you to pass on a message to whoever’s in charge. There’s someone in charge somewhere, her name is…” Errold blinked. “Lucy Lynwood?” The question was more to himself than to Lucy. “You’re Lucy Lynwood. Douglas’ sister. He talked about you. Well, wrote about you.” Gears turned in Errold’s head, “I think he said something about pretending to be dead? But it sounded like you knew.”
Lucy sighed, “For someone who doesn’t talk, he can sure do it a lot when he gets the chance. That information should stay between us, by the way.”
“So he’s not actually dead?” Errold relaxed and allowed himself to smile. “I’m glad. Without him, I doubt I could have gotten here. Or even been motivated to try. Oh right! The thing I wanted to say!” Errolds mouth opened and words poured out. “Scoubar has access to a different entrance to the Endless Library and might be able to use it to invade Kheles and Vospia at any time!” Errold cleared his throat. “I wanted to make sure that got to the right person.”
Lucy’s hand had stopped on her notes. “You said… Scoubar has a way into Vospia?”
“Yes. I don’t know if you know how the Endless Library works? The actual one, not the building on top.”
“Douglas explained in detail,” Lucy commented.
“Great. Though um, they shifted stuff around. So now their entrance is ‘closer’. Only a few hours of walking?”
“Wonderful,” Lucy sighed. “Anything else to tell me?”
“I don’t think so?” Errold frowned. “Not that I can remember at this time.”
“Then I’ll be confiscating your bag until I can get confirmation of the legitimacy of all of you. I will remind you to not use any magic as well. I’m sure you wouldn’t like to fight a whole fortress.”
There wasn’t much that Lucy learned from the others except for details about themselves. She was sympathetic to the plight of the women, but she had some particular questions for Priscia Saunders.
“What do you know of Douglas Lynwood?”
Priscia shrugged, “Not much. He taught Errold magic, and helped propel his studies. He seems to be where Errold first learned about spatial magic. I never met him.”
“Your brother didn’t say anything about him?” Lucy asked.
“I didn’t really talk to my brother much. Were they friends?” Priscia shook her head, “I doubt that. My brother was too traditional.”
“They weren’t friends, merely acquaintances.” Enemies, technically. “Next question. Did your brother ever talk about a mute library assistant?”
“If by ‘talk about’ you mean ‘complain loudly during dinner’?” Priscia nodded, “In that case, he did. Something about arrogant eyes and posture, not knowing his place. The usual crap. Wait- was that Douglas?” Priscia blinked. “Errold said he taught him spatial magic, and that he knew how to do silent magic, but he was actually mute?”
“From birth,” Lucy confirmed. “That’s sufficient. Your bag, if you would. You can tell the others we should be able to confirm your stories by morning.”
Her parting words to Priscia were meant to make people wonder what sort of fantastic magic she had, but what she was actually going to do was quite a bit less amazing. It wasn’t a commonly available type of spell, but the long distance message spell was only currently functional through bloodline magic. That was how they had been able to confirm Raymond and Claude’s relations. While that blood connection wasn’t terribly important, it at least meant he was the person Raymond thought. That was good enough.
It was difficult to send a long message, but Lucy didn’t need one. She prepared a message to Douglas. “Do you know Errold Filby? Did you teach him magic? Is he a good person.”
If the answer to those questions was entirely affirmative, that was enough for her to accept the rest of their story. Others might need more details about how they learned what they did, but she wasn’t sure why they would make up that lie about Scoubar. She also knew it was possible, which was the worrying part. Perhaps it could have been fabricated to provide legitimacy or a sense of urgency, but honestly fortifying the border against Vospia in a continuing manner was necessary either way.
Lucy could have confirmed things earlier in the day, but the communication spell was still somewhat secret. It was better to use it only at night at the agreed upon times, where the messages couldn’t be overseen by others. Lucy sent off the message, then waited. If Douglas hadn’t been prepared to send her something, it could take ten minutes or more for him to respond.
After fifteen minutes, she got one of the longer communications they’d sent between each other in a single spell. “Errold is good. Helped me out. Taught him spatial magic and silent magic. I’d like to see him again. Where is he? Why do you ask?”
The glowing words lingered in the air long enough for Lucy to read them through twice, though that wasn’t a very long time. Then they were gone. There had been nothing complicated about the answer, so the second read hadn’t really been necessary. She should probably respond though. Lucy started filling her head with the spell, cramming it into the burned out and missing areas it had occupied just fifteen minutes prior when she sent the first one. It was a complex spell involving spatial and bloodline magic, and she didn’t like memorizing it more than she needed to. Too bulky and as all spells uncomfortable after it was cast.
When Errold stepped into the sitting room in the morning, he saw books splayed out all over the table and chairs. Lucy was smiling as he entered. He wasn’t sure if that was a good smile. There were also far too many books he recognized to just be what was available in their bags. At least, the normal parts that she should have been able to access. “Umm… good morning,” he said as he sat down on the one open chair.”
“Good morning,” Lucy said, still grinning slightly. “Quite a lot of stuff in that bag of yours. I could accuse you of trying to smuggle magic past the border.”
“Umm…” Errold tried to come up with a good explanation. He didn’t know about it? That was pretty flimsy considering how many notes were written in his own hand.
“But I won’t,” Lucy shrugged. “I just wanted to see what you had.” She tossed Errold’s magic bag to him- active, of course. “We do want copies of everything you have. For our library. While you’re there, you can study what we have or make some copies of your own.” Lucy paused, “Oh, before that. You can vouch for all of your companions right? That they’re not Vospian spies?”
“Absolutely. Kevin and Harry were just as disillusioned as myself, and we were all together for the… for a dangerous event.” He wasn’t sure if he wanted to mention a heist if they were going to be given access to a library. “The others didn’t have a chance to learn magic without us, and of course the women are women. Since they’re learning magic, I doubt Vospia would be happy with them. Or any of us, really.”
“I did notice many of these books were originals,” Lucy commented, “Or at least ancient copies. But we have no love for Vospia here, as I’m sure you knew. I have enough sway to make sure all of you are safe, though expect some suspicion and poking and prodding by others.” Lucy gestured to the piles around her, “We’ll just pretend you offered all of this up yourself.”
“That was the intention,” Errold said. “We just weren’t sure we could trust you.”
Lucy leaned forward, “That was the right choice. I would say we’re better than Vospia here, but we have our own bad apples. Oh,” Lucy set her hand on one book of notes, partly from Douglas. “Probably best to keep a couple of those hidden. We have the same information but without having to go over questions of origin and timing.” Lucy stood up. “We’ll be staying here until the end of the week, then heading towards Thebar. I’ll see if I can requisition some horses for you or something. It’s a long walk.”
During those next few days they went over some important details, like getting written accounts of what they knew about the Scoubarran danger and Kheles and the Endless Library.
Another important thing was confirming that they wanted to become Bryrian citizens and register as mages and weren’t just passing through. Lucy would have still wrangled them into allowing copies of everything, but it significantly changed how they would be treated.
Becoming official members of Bryria’s mages was what people wanted, in general. The freedom to study magic as they pleased and access to resources. They could even get paid, though there would also be work expected of them. Since almost everyone in Vospia spoke Bryrian anyway the only people who had any trouble were some of the girls from the mage families, where they were instructed to speak only Vospian despite it being impractical to do so. All of the servants spoke Bryrian anyway, and though that section of the Endless Library had been cut off there were still some books in Vospia’s collection written in the language.
In short, they couldn’t really go anywhere else- they wouldn’t speak the language or know anybody, and their best opportunities were in Bryria. So that was where they would be staying. Lucy neglected to mention Secure Vantage both because it was still technically secret and because she thought Bryria could use some more female mages. She and Isabelle were some of the only women of note in the community. She’d have to thank Douglas for inadvertently sending a handful her way, though she would also chastise him for how much he shared.