The news that Errold had fled from Vospia to Bryria only had one upside in Douglas’ mind. He was rather fond of Errold and sympathetic to his situation, and he was glad he was still alive. However, the news he brought was quite worrying. Changes to the internal structure of the Endless Library had been made so that some part of Scoubar had close access to Vospia. It didn’t really matter where the connection came from, because Scoubar could doubtless transfer as many soldiers and princes to the area as they wished.
Nobody who knew anything about Scoubar would believe that they wouldn’t be invading Vospia. It was simply a matter of when and at what intensity. Recent years had included heavy losses for Scoubar, but the sprawling empire had many resources to draw from. In addition to that, Vospia was at one of their lowest points in decades. Some of their more powerful wizards such as Hagen Reed and Raymond Tatham had chosen to separate from them, and a good portion of their lower ranking wizards had died in the wars with Bryria. Vospia had enough history that those setbacks wouldn’t necessarily ruin it, but the timing was unfortunate for them.
And, Douglas supposed, probably not a coincidence. He had to admit some responsibility for the Library reaching its current state fell on him. Yet that was also at the fault of Vospia’s prejudices. If they hadn’t chosen hostility, he would never have severed the mainly Bryrian section. However, in the end, Douglas knew that his actions could have only accelerated the timeline. He hadn’t suddenly given Scoubar access to learning spatial magic- they should have already been studying it and the library, possibly for many years. Having a section removed would have only loosened the structure and made it easier to achieve their results, and even then it had been years since Secure Vantage was established.
The rest of the responsibility fell on Scoubar’s choices directly and Vospia’s willful disregard for the structure of the library. For all of living memory removing any magical wards they came across had been the standard with no thought for shoring up the stability of the Library. The knowledge to do so had been available, though whether or not anyone sought it out or shared it with others was a different question. At the time of Douglas’ departure from Vospia Hagen had known enough to inform the other Librarians and senior mages of the dangers, but further disagreements had resulted in him leaving and then working with Douglas to establish Secure Vantage.
Even though threats of war loomed on the horizon, life had to go on. Sarah had grand plans for the future, though she wasn’t sure which she would be able to accomplish any particular one. She wasn’t concerned about living a life without meaning- she had already been part of several important events. Establishing contact with the Sisters was a big deal- even just knowing they existed changed many things. She’d already been working to advance knowledge in the field of bloodline magic, and that might prove to be important against the Mage-King. She was also involved with developing the communication spell away from the restrictions of bloodline magic, since its current form was limited in scope. It was currently useful enough since magic tended to run in families, but it only worked because they happened to know a number of different relatives in different countries. For the moment it basically only worked for the Lynwoods and her own family- which was slightly larger than she knew because of the recent connection with her ‘uncle’ Claude.
That work was satisfying and important, but Sarah also had thoughts for something more personally relevant and perhaps ultimately the most important thing possible for magic’s future. A way to have more mages be born. Though that would only be a side effect of what Sarah really wanted, which was a way to reduce mortality in childbirth.
As seemingly inherently magical folk, the fey had the biggest problem with that issue. Magic related complications in childbirth were the most likely to arise when both parents actively practiced magic- and since the fey grew up speaking the language of magic and using it constantly, there was never a case that they didn’t have two magic users as parents. The only exception was when they sought out a human partner specifically to reduce that risk. The children of such a union had a thinner magical bloodline, but they were still always inherently able to use magic. At least, in everything Sarah had heard.
One issue with gathering concrete information was her limited sources. Many fey kept records through verbal retellings, and even if that wasn’t the case most of those who ended up in Secure Vantage were there from violent upheavals involving Scoubar. What physical records existed were often lost and likewise many of the wise elders perished- either from natural causes or because they were the weakest.
At the moment Sarah’s best source was Rosebush, a red haired woman that was one of the taller sorts of fey and a mother of five. She had many questions to ask. “Do you use magic while pregnant?” Sarah asked.
“Of course,” Rosebush admitted. “It’s hardly possible to do otherwise, waddling around with another person in you. Though my husband does his best to make sure I don’t have to do too much. I know we’ve been lucky so far, but we can’t help but want more children.”
Sarah nodded, making sure to keep notes. Five children wasn’t actually unheard of among the fey, though it was rare. The chances of surviving a particular pregnancy often seemed to be little better than a coin flip, but that meant in a single village there could easily be several couples with five or more children. Though what could be often wasn’t. Most fey chose to stop having children after one or two because they knew the risks. That was why the population of the fey had remained so small compared to humans- if they only had children among themselves their population would naturally decline, though it was known that those who had one parent who were half or a quarter human had better survival rates. Below a quarter, it was impossible to distinguish them from ‘pure blooded’ fey, though nobody could claim with certainty no human ancestry. In fact, despite the different body sizes and shapes and the fact that they could all use magic, fey seemed to just be human. They required the same sorts of foods and care but more importantly they were always able to have offspring.
Sarah prepared her next question, “So you do perform some magic. Is there anything you’ve done to specifically form a bond with the child or to avoid such a bond forming?”
Rosebush shook her head, “I do my best to keep magic away from the children entirely.”
That might be an important factor, but then again it might not. Rosebush’ case could still be a coincidence. Still, she was the best available source at the moment. When Secure Vantage was publicly known in Othius she planned to journey to fey villages that were still established there to ask for their expertise, but for the moment she had limited access. “If you choose to have another child, would you allow me to record data on you and the child? Non-magically, of course.” While magic might be able to learn more, if Sarah were to inadvertently be the cause of complications she wasn’t sure how she would handle it. Since something about magic was the cause, it was best to avoid it where possible- even from outside sources.
“Of course. Actually, we’re already trying,” Rosebush blushed cutely.
Sarah continued asking what questions she could think to for a time, then continued work on her plans for the study in general. It wouldn’t be enough to just gather information on fey. It was unfortunate that Bryria likely had no records on the topic because mages had been disregarded as unimportant in previous generations, mostly left to their own devices. Still, she could get in contact with Lucy. More than that, she heard there were refugees from Vospia- women from the magical families there. They might have useful details as well. Finally, Dalgare might have information as well- though their mages’ damage at the hands of Scoubar was nearly complete. Janette was the only prominently placed woman and even most of the men had their tongues cut out by Scoubar. Some others had come out of the woodwork when Scoubar was repulsed, but the country would need more time before they had a truly strong magical community.
All of her work would take time, especially the research on birth. It was too much to hope that Scoubar wouldn’t be causing any more trouble, but Sarah could hope that they would refrain from doing so for several years at least. Given their previous haste, however, she doubted very much that they would be so lucky. Nobody else seemed to believe that either.