Errold finished explaining the situation as he knew it to Second, Third, and Sixth- Simon, Kevin, and Maynard if he weren’t worried about being secretive. “Perhaps we should abandon the mission. The others should be able to get out on their own. It’s too dangerous to leave through the Library, but I have several exits available.”
“You said it’s even worse?” Third asked. “So if we don’t do this today… the whole thing might come apart.”
“It might,” Errold confirmed.
“How dangerous is that to Kheles? People around here… and people around our secret entrance?”
“I don’t… know. I think I could safely decouple our secret entrance.”
Third frowned, “But the rest might be an issue. And either way, the Library would be gone. I’m not sure about having it in the hands of its current owners, but I don’t think any of us want it gone.”
“Right,” Sixth agreed. “I don’t think anyone wants the Library gone. It’s too late to negotiate, I imagine. They’d not be in the mood right now, if it were ever an option. So I think… we should try the plan. I don’t want to just sit by and watch things happen. I wouldn’t have even considered learning magic if I just wanted to watch the world go by.”
“It’s dangerous, though. Even more now…” Errold frowned.
“So’s working with horses and cattle and new magic,” Second commented. “I think I like magic more. I’d like to give others a chance, too.”
Errold looked around at all of them. “Fine. But this was our chance to back out. Any further and we may have to flee if we’re noticed.” He closed his eyes for a second. “Getting to the vault isn’t hard, but getting it open without the two who were studying for it…”
“It’s just a big door, right?” Sixth shrugged. “We can go through it. Or through the wall.”
“Or through another door?” Third questioned. “There’s one across the hall, right? How hard would it be for you to use your space magic there?”
Errold shook his head. “I’d need time. That means taking out the guards first… what spells do you have ready, Second?”
“Air removal. That also works as a silence spell. Invisibility. Shields.” Second shook his head, “I can’t remember that many different types of things at once. I also have a force spell to shove people or restrain them. And that’s it.”
“Right. But you should at least be able to deal with any guards, which was the whole point.” Errold looked at the others.
“I have mostly dispels and shields,” Third said. “Firebolt and light, if I need them. One invisibility spell.”
“Much the same here,” Sixth confirmed. “We should at least be able to bring down the wards on the door by force, with several of us.”
“Okay.” Errold said. “Anything we need to do now? Before we just… throw ourselves at this?”
“I think we have to go now, if we’re going,” Third said.
The four of them moved through the corridors. Despite being on lockdown, it was mostly the outside wall that was being watched. After all, they were concerned about Bryrian invaders. They weren’t exactly on the horizon, but the barracks were filled with guards. There shouldn’t be too many people moving about unless they were changing shifts with those on the walls… but that didn’t mean there would be none. Especially Librarians, even more so if they noticed what was happening below.
The map in Errold’s head brought them through several corridors to the vault. No doubt more guards would move there if there was an actual attack, but for the moment there were just the standard two. Errold checked that with a little spell to peek around the corner. Once they finished confirming the guards’ position, it was Second’s turn.
Neither of the guards at the vault were mages. Perhaps it was thought to be too tempting for those who knew the value of the materials in the room… or perhaps nobody expected actual trouble there and hiring regular men was cheaper. Either way, Simon’s spell pulled the air away from around both of them, not something they would notice immediately except perhaps by a strange sensation. Second remained in concentration as he held the air away. By the time the guards noticed a problem with their breathing and lightheadedness, they were already unable to think how they should react. Errold was certain the plan worked when there were two thuds on the floor in sequence.
“Quick!” Errold scurried around the corner. One of the two had taken several steps from his position before he fell, but his legs had clearly given out. “They’ll wake up in a moment.” Errold started reaching into his bag, wishing it was easier to grab something specific. It took a few moments to find some rope and strips of cloth they had prepared. They didn’t want to kill anyone… and neither of the guards had seen their faces. It was better not to make life too much worse for those just trying to do their job… though failing might be bad enough for them anyway. Though the noble wizards would be the ones to truly blame, if it came to that.
If they actually managed to get the vault open. Errold looked at the door. He’d walked past it once, but it was not something he’d had the chance to study firsthand. Just the details Fourth and Seventh had managed to share from longer periods of time looking at it, the best they could do for a proper inspection. It was quite complex… but it shouldn’t ward against spatial magic. Though it could take easily fifteen minutes, probably more, before he could prepare a spell that would do what he wanted to modify coordinates and other details of a spell he’d already created. If he had access to the inside of the room he could do better… but that was the whole goal, wasn’t it?
They took the guards into a room across the hall. There were quite a few empty rooms in the complex. Errold wondered if there had been more wizards in the previous generation, or if they had thought they would expand more rapidly. Most of the facilities weren’t nearly as ancient as the upper library… and of course the walls were new.
“I’ll stay on lookout,” Sixth said. “I won’t be much good with opening the door.”
“Great.” Errold nodded. “I’ll… try to get us through the door.”
The first thing he needed to figure out was whether he needed to be able to get back out through his dimensional spell. If he didn’t, it wouldn’t have to last long at all. But if they got inside the vault and the door didn’t open from the inside- or if it would kill them for trying- it would be a serious problem. He might be able to rememorize the spell from inside, but the environment wouldn’t good for it. As it was he had to have someone standing over his shoulder with a light spell, since they didn’t want to have a full torch in a supposedly empty room, in case anyone passed by.
Then there was a knock at the door. Errold almost turned to blow it off its hinges- but in addition to not having that sort of power behind his spells, Sixth whispered through the door, “I found Fifth!”
The door opened, and both of them stepped inside. “Fifth!” Errold slapped his hand down on the floor next to his laid out spellbook. “Where were you?”
“Kitchens. I thought to grab us a bit of food. Hard to do magic on an empty stomach.”
“It’s also hard to do magic when you don’t show up for the part you’re needed for!” Errold tried not to raise his voice too much… but he thought Fifth had maybe disappeared for a good reason.
Fifth shook his head, “When did you last eat?” Instead of waiting for an answer, he walked towards Errold, sticking a hand in the bag at his side. When Errold opened his mouth to say something, he shoved a pastry into it. “Spells are hard work. Look at how skinny I’ve gotten,” he patted his stomach, which could be described as portly on the thin side. “Someone noticed me standing around anyway, so I took the opportunity to get something useful instead of being suspicious in the library.”
Errold Filby grumbled quietly as he chewed on the food in his mouth. He hadn’t realized he’d skipped dinner for those stupid errands until he was eating. Fifth pulled out food for everyone else, and they scarfed it down. The guards were already awake and mutely protesting their state of restrainment, but they shouldn’t be able to see or hear much either.
“So, can you do it?” Errold asked.
“I practiced for it, didn’t I? Got it all here in my head.”
With that, the group stepped out into the hall. They had no idea how long it would be until someone walked past by coincidence or to change shifts in particular, but at least they had their planned way through. Fifth moved forward towards the vault door. He only used a small spell with little power and effect. It was like nudging at the wards. “They’re set to trigger easily… and also if dispelled forcefully they’ll alert someone. We have to make it seem like we’re allowed to be here.” He pulled out some lockpicks. “Gotta use a bit of magic with these fellows. They’re not designed for locks this size or weight. But it’s better than doing it purely with magic.”
Errold wasn’t sure if Fifth was explaining things for them… or because he was trying to build his own confidence. Either way, he was busy at the lock. Hopefully it wouldn’t take too long. What else could go wrong, at this point? Errold really didn’t want to find out.