Seven wizards sat around in a mostly empty warehouse. They had other things they should be doing, but it was nice to take a moment to just be somewhere… normal. Things inside the library had stabilized, partly through everyone’s work. The other part was that whoever had been manipulating the arrangement of the library was finished. It was unclear who had done it and exactly why, but they’d accomplished their goal.
The little group that had been called the students now had several problems. They had all been spotted, most of them recognized, and that meant there were certainly people looking for them. They also couldn’t go home safely. That was a larger problem for some who were used to more luxurious conditions, but then again they also liked everything but the house quite a bit less.
Simon was just a farmer’s son. Nobody should have recognized him or even known he was a wizard, so along with Maynard the cobbler he should be able to move around more freely than the others. Two people who had no previous connections to the wizards and weren’t really of note. It would be a bit careless to just assume they would be alright, so first everyone would scout out the city. A little bit at a time with magical concealments, so they could retreat to the relative safety of the warehouse.
It was supposed to have been a day of victory- successfully sneaking into the area, pulling off a heist, stabilizing the Library. They’d done all those, but it didn’t feel like they’d won. It felt like they survived.
Priscia and Julie were in one corner, comforting each other. Julie had been crying- even if she hated her fiance, she hadn’t wanted to cut off her connection to her family so unexpectedly.
“It’s okay,” Priscia rubbed her shoulder, “We can sneak you in to see your mother sometime. I promise.” Her own eyes took on a far-off look as Julie rested her head on Priscia’s shoulder.
Errold sighed heavily. He didn’t even feel like studying or practicing magic. It was actually a miracle that everyone had made it out alive. At least their planning hadn’t been entirely in vain. The question was, what next? He couldn’t go back to his apartment. Not that he wanted to. All of his spellbooks had been removed long before, just in case someone came snooping. He knew way more than he was supposed to.
That was the whole problem, wasn’t it. He was allowed to learn, but he wasn’t really supposed to learn much. Even if he had the opportunities, it could get quite expensive for those who didn’t have family wealth. It would be harder to steal materials now- and a large portion of what they’d gotten in their little heist went right back into preventing the Endless Library from collapsing with them inside. Buying anything legitimately would be impossible, because now they wouldn’t have money. Julie and Priscia had been the largest financiers of their efforts so far, using money they might have otherwise spent on fancy dresses to buy supplies for learning magic- even basic things like ink and paper. So what should they do? Because sitting around in a warehouse rotting wasn’t it.
“We need to expand,” Errold declared. Everyone sort of looked at him quizzically.
“We likely won’t even be able to keep this place together for long. How will we expand?” Maynard asked.
“Same way as before. Find more people who can learn magic… and who don’t like the way things are being done. We might have to move away from Kheles for a while. Though someone should stay here to maintain this place. Maybe patch it up a bit, to keep the books from getting too damp. We have skills, magical ability. We have to be able to sell those to someone. Just maybe not… in Vospia.”
“I hear Fotharia’s quite nice this time of year,” Maynard said. “I might like to take a little trip there until things settle down. Assuming the borders are open.”
“Right.” That was still happening, wasn’t it. Hopefully it would be over soon.
“I’ll need to talk to my family,” Simon said, “I know they won’t be happy if I just go off, but it’s not safe for them if I stay here. Even if nobody’s looking for me right now. I still want to practice magic, after all.”
Kevin and Harry were in the same boat as Errold- having moved away from their home when they got a chance to learn magic. If only they’d known how limited the opportunities actually were. But now that they were aware how well they could learn when unrestricted, it was hard to give up on the idea.
“Okay,” Errold said, “I’m pretty decent at sneaking about. I’ll stay here and man our little library. It’s too bad I won’t be able to reach the main library safely, but since the lower part is shuffled around I can retrieve books from areas that haven’t been picked through so much. Rent’s paid for the next month, at least… I can figure something out before then.”
“What about the two of us?” Priscia asked. “We’re not exactly educated for work, and we stand out the most.”
“Well, I’d stay here until things die down a bit. Maybe I’d recommend that for all of us.” Errold pondered, “Perhaps you could go to Bryria? It’s a bit risky with this whole war or whatever is happening right now, but they wouldn’t mind having some talented wizards. I suppose everyone could go…” Errold bit his lip, “But I want to stay here with the library.”
“I don’t know if I want to sign up with another group of wizards,” Kevin said. “I like being… independent? Whatever we are, I guess. Besides, Vospia is my home regardless of the prats that run it. Maybe I’ll head away from Kheles a bit, but otherwise stay in the country.”
“I was thinking,” Priscia said. “We’re not really the ‘Students’ anymore. The code names are all compromised anyway. I was thinking something that sounds more…” she waved her hands vaguely.
“Powerful?” Julie asked. “If this is the Little Library, then we’d be little librarians? That’s not powerful sounding though.”
“Maybe it’s not the little library,” Errold said. “How about the… New Library? New Vospian Library? We’re still part of this country… just not part of them.”
“So we’d be the New Vospian Librarians?” Priscia asked.
“Why not? It sounds pretty good,” Errold nodded. “Even if someone goes somewhere else, you’ll always be a part of us. You can still advance our cause.”
“Which is what, exactly?” Harry asked. “Magic for those who have been denied access?”
“Something like that,” Julie said, “Those old men shouldn’t get to have all of the knowledge just because they’ve been sitting on top of the library tearing it apart for a long time.”
Murmurs of assent filled the room. Nobody was completely certain of what they would do or where they would go yet… but they had some sort of plans, at least. They weren’t giving up on learning magic, even if it might be even more dangerous and difficult than before.
The main roads through Testror helped the group of four travel much more quickly. They now had a little cart and a donkey pulling it. The cart was full of textiles of various qualities. That was the best thing they could think to trade. Douglas had knowledge of cloth, though not so much on the high end- while Cletus was more used to dealing with expensive silks and the like. Other important features were that they wouldn’t spoil unless they let them get moldy or something. It also gave the group a look of legitimacy, even if they were a bit odd still. It was better to be a somewhat strange group of traders than a similarly strange group of travelers with no obvious professions. People might fill in whatever they wanted to in the space of unknowns, and they often weren’t good.
“How much further until we find a contact?” Cletus asked.
“A couple more cities further in. We need to get to Letu. I know a Sister there, if nothing has changed. Otherwise, we’ll go on to the next,” Faron answered
“And when we meet them we’ll…” Cletus was half looking for an answer, half trying to come up with one himself.
“Set up contact with Secure Vantage. The Sisters have a distaste for men, but they’d certainly rather work with men who are enemies of Scoubar.” Faron looked towards Sarah and Douglas, “I’m sure they won’t mind the support of other women, either.”
“Still leaves me in an awkward position,” Cletus said.
“I’ll vouch for you,” Faron said. “They might not choose to meet with you but there should be no trouble for you, if we convince them you will help achieve our goals.”
“And those goals are,” Cletus looked at the long stretch of road with no one else in front or behind them, “Kill the Mage-King?”
“… I don’t think you should say that,” Sarah cautioned.
“There’s nobody around to hear.”
“You are,” Sarah said. “The two of you. Full of bloodline magic, even. The closer you get, the more cautious I would be.”
“I don’t think I triggered anything,” Cletus said. “But I’ll certainly take your warning seriously. You studied it more.”
Douglas caught Sarah’s attention and signed. His arms moved both wide and close along with the movements of his hands.
“I don’t know if the Mage-King knows that.”
“Knows what?” Cletus asked.
“Umm… it’s complicated. But to summarize, he said that with space magic distance is immaterial.” Sarah shrugged, “So far I only observed local effects, so it’s hard to say if there’s any merit to it. But I would be careful with what you say.”
Cletus frowned, “Everyone always said that he could hear everywhere. Maybe they were more right than they thought. At least in the palaces, many plots were miraculously uncovered. I wasn’t stupid enough to be involved with anything related to the Mage-King, of course. Subtle disappearances of princes might have gone unnoticed… or simply been allowed.”
Douglas signed more.
“What did he say?” Cletus asked.
Sarah translated diplomatically. “He said that growing up in Scoubar sounds difficult.”
“You don’t have to sugarcoat it,” Cletus said, “Probably more like Scoubar is terrible and awful, and the princes are garbage.” Douglas found a nice butterfly to look at during that moment. “You’d be at least half right, though.” Cletus sighed, “I still can’t believe I’m doing this though.”