There were more humans living in the village of Heartwood, as well as a number of fey who spoke the language of Othius. This included their mayor, an old man who was very much on the smaller side of the fey. Perhaps he had been taller once, but his hunched back left him below Emerich’s waist, at least until he took his seat of honor at the head of the meeting hall… which left his eyes just about level with Emerich and the other humans. Mariana remained with Emerich, but let him do all the speaking. He was the squad leader, after all… and the only one of them who knew about magic in the slightest. That said, if he called himself a wizard he feared even that might be an exaggeration.
There was a long period of silence before the mayor spoke. “It has been… a long time since a human has found their way into a fey village unaided. The most recent in my memory did so on accident. Before that…” he shook his head. “I barely remember a time when a mage came to find us in peace. It makes one suspicious in these times of trouble.”
“I understand, Mayor…?”
Emerich bowed his head, “Mayor Rakthorn. Long in the past, Othius had conflict with your kind. Even in the current day, Othius has little to do with magic. I am not sure what information you have about the current… events… but I would like to assure you that none of the attacks on fey villages have come from Othius, nor did we allow the soldiers of Scoubar to enter our territory. In fact, it is because of them I come to you today. Othius wishes to form an alliance, adding your magical might to our forces to resist the invaders.”
“And what do we gain out of such a thing?” the mayor kept a stern face as he rested in his position up above. “From what we know of this Scoubar… it is extremely powerful. A force that can’t be resisted. Why would we help you?”
Emerich took a deep breath. He wasn’t a diplomat. Maybe there were better words he could say, but he had to say something. “For a chance. For both of us. Scoubar has shown their willingness and ability to find and destroy your villages. They are sending soldiers to begin an invasion of Othius as a whole. You won’t survive without Othius… and Othius also needs your support. There are many mages in Scoubar, and we have few… almost none.”
“And what of your ancient conflicts with our people? How will you repay us for that?”
Emerich wanted to strangle the little man. However, while he might theoretically be able to snap the man’s neck… that would result in both his own death and the failure of his mission. “It is not my place to say what we can do for you. But… if you are interested in the deaths of those who harmed the fey in the past… it is done. Time itself has avenged you. I believe the same is likely true about the fey who killed the humans of Othius.” Emerich shook his head, “My knowledge of fey is limited, but I do not believe you to live much longer than us. Perhaps you have a personal grudge of some sort, but it would do you no good to seek petty vengeance at the loss of your village.”
“Is that a threat, young man?”
Emerich shook his head, “Not really. I’d rather prefer to live as well. If you don’t want to help, we can leave you in peace for the Scoubarrans to deal with when they reach here. Or you can flee and leave your homes behind. We won’t stop you. But you would not have remained hidden in the lands of Othius for so many generations if you did not consider it your home. So help us defend our home.”
Mayor Rakthorn straightened his back as much as he could. “You make many assumptions, young man. You speak rudely. I recall hearing tales of the atrocities of humans in my youth…” his expression softened. “Much the same as the stories told about the fey that I have heard. An ancient war so long ago nobody remembers it rightly. Perhaps it would be best to put it behind us. We can provide some magical support… but we will not give up our autonomy. I think the answer will likely be no different for other villages. But if you are serious about this… we should contact them as well.”
Emerich nodded, “Of course. It would be… much quicker if you were to do so. We won’t force anyone to join us, but we need all the support we can get.”
Overall, the negotiations went well. Now all Emerich had to do was convince command to agree to the terms he’d already agreed to, though at least they were vague enough. Some people wouldn’t be happy about involving the fey, but he’d been sent on a mission… and he had fulfilled it to the best of his ability. At the very least the generals would see the wisdom in recruiting as many willing fey as possible. Forcing them along wouldn’t result in much benefit to Othius, and getting into another war with unknown quantities of magic users wasn’t exactly a good idea with Scoubar looming on the horizon.
Others would be sceptical, superstitious, and otherwise worried about magic. Maybe they should be, but not because of magic. It was people that would make magic dangerous. People like Scoubar… and fighting dangerous people without that power would be a foolish endeavor.
Emerich had forgotten to request training in magic for himself… but it was best to do that unofficially anyway. Once the war was over the fey could go back to their villages where Othius could pretend they only existed in stories and they would fade from the public mind… whereas he would still be in Othius, and distrust of mages wouldn’t disappear in a single war. That said, he had to survive the war to worry about what came after. Anything he could do to help himself or Othius be more effective would be worthwhile, even if afterwards he might need to relocate himself. He wanted to remain in the country of his birth, but if it was that or die… he would choose to live. However, he at least wanted to do his best to ensure Othius continued existing… and not as another pawn in the grasp of Scoubar.
Lucy found herself on the way to a meeting with Countess Irieby. It wasn’t a scheduled or formal meeting, but instead she found herself called over to Countess Irieby’s office. That almost certainly meant something was wrong. Something Countess Irieby couldn’t handle herself, which was troublesome. That meant trouble, and while Lucy didn’t mind providing assistance… there was already enough to deal with. The library still had many things that needed handling.
Lucy knocked twice on Countess Irieby’s door before stepping inside her office. Countess Irieby looked up from her papers as Lucy entered. “Good, you’re here. I thought the news ought to reach you as quickly as possible.” She held out a paper, towards Lucy. “Vospia has… expressed strong displeasure at the activities of the Bryrian mages.”
The paper she was handed was clearly a copy of some other document. As she read it over, she frowned. “They condemn us for setting up a magical library? Why would they even…” Lucy closed her eyes, cursing inwardly. Dammit Douglas. They probably thought they’d sectioned off the part of the Endless Library that might actually be in Bryria. Not that Vospia had the right to it regardless.
“It’s likely just an excuse,” Countess Irieby noted. “Vospia has been considering expansion for some time, and the mages being upset about something gives them another reason.” Countess Irieby read Lucy’s face, “But you appear to know something.”
“I might. It’s related to…” Lucy pursed her lips.
“I see. How troublesome. I do believe there are many secrets that should not be shared… but our magical forces are lacking compared to Vospia.”
“They might be… but it may not be worth it to them to risk their more powerful wizards. Or if we can convince them that they are wrong about what they think they know…” Lucy shook her head.
Countess Irieby smiled fakely, “I imagine that a declaration of war is already on the way. They will at least be more reasonable than Scoubar in that regard. The other nobles won’t know why the war is occurring in this manner… so it will be best to keep it as if none of us knew anything.”
“Did you…?” Lucy frowned, “I had wondered why I was sent to fortify the border keeps.”
“The council merely thought that being too trusting of our neighbors was inadvisable. They also liked to have something to show for all these wizards we seem to have popping up.”
“We barely have any,” Lucy shook her head.
“Yet one or two in every court, to the average person’s eye, is an abundance of wizards. And some sorcerers, at that. I hesitate to consider how many we might have if we’d previously managed the country better… and stood firm against Scoubar. But the past can’t be changed.”
Lucy nodded. Even with magic, the past was set in stone. Then she smiled slightly at the thought that Douglas would probably try to figure out some way to make her assumption wrong. Whether or not he had any success… he’d probably come up with something exciting. Like severing the connection of a powerful magical library. He had to have known there would be repercussions for that. If they could help in the war effort… but no, that would give up their relatively incognito state. Then again, Bryria would need the help. Maybe she would ask for them to get involved less directly, so she could respect Douglas’ efforts. Besides, she also wanted the little Endless Library he’d set up to be a success.