The internal security of Testror was quite limited because of how long Scoubar had control over the country. Unlike Dalgare, the area had been taken over quite thoroughly. Scoubarran troops patrolled the roads more for the sake of keeping internal order than picking out spies- especially those who looked more typically Scoubarran. With Cletus and Faron prominently placed, Sarah and Douglas were mostly ignored. It was actually somewhat advantageous for Sarah to only speak faulty Scoubarran.
The only thing they had to be cautious about was letting their magic be visible. It wasn’t as if non-prince mages were rare in Scoubar. They didn’t exist. Since they were attempting to travel incognito, they even preferred that Cletus not be discovered. If he was, he could certainly make excuses but any of the rest of them having the ability to use magic would be a big problem.
Occasionally that meant they had to completely cease all forms of magic including shields, but Faron was able to provide her experience finding mages. She knew what people would be looking for and how they typically found mages. Inside of Scoubar’s controlled territory, it was mostly large sweeps every few years to pick up young children who had magical ability. Princes rarely worked with the mage-hunters who travelled outside of Scoubar proper, since the armor generally completely stopped their ability to perform magic. Traveling with a troop of soldiers equipped to fight mages made them understandably nervous. Faron wasn’t the only one, but inside of Scoubar they would be mostly looking for younger mages who hadn’t been turned in by family and neighbors.
The group of four arrived in Letu with only minor difficulty. However, that didn’t mean things would continue smoothly. “I’ve been missing for months now,” Faron said. “The Sisters knew I was going to Othius, and with how things went…” Faron shook her head, “They might not trust me. Especially considering our current arrangement of people.”
“You could not tell them about me,” Cletus mentioned.
“No. That wouldn’t be wise. If I try to keep secrets I’ll lose all of our trust. I don’t plan to spill all the details immediately, of course, but we can’t hide your existence. If nothing else, the Sisters have an excellent information network.”
“Did you normally visit them as you are now?” Sarah asked.
“If you mean did I visit in armor,” Faron shook her head, “no, I did not. That would have been disastrous for new meetings, and far too obvious. I merely snuck out at night, wearing clothes that wouldn’t be suspicious for me to have in my pack. Speaking of which, I’ll need some pants.”
“I see,” Cletus nodded seriously, “So that’s what this all comes down to.” He grinned. “But I suppose we can humor you.”
“I may be willing to put up with a skirt for public appearance,” Faron said, “But I won’t compromise here.”
“I understand,” Cletus said. “I’m not fond of wearing skirts either.” Faron gave him a look. “I was practicing disguise magic. Turns out I’m not that amazing at it, especially while distracted.”
“We have to hear more about that later,” Sarah said. Cletus just rolled his eyes.
In the end, Faron obtained pants and went off into the night alone. She knew nobody fully trusted her, but they also knew that following her would ruin everything. Faron was glad that Cletus would be watched by the other two, because he would have the biggest motivation to betray them. He seemed genuine, but so did all of the most successful princes until they stabbed you in the back. Sarah was the only one Faron was completely comfortable around, however. Douglas was hard to understand and certainly had motive to want her dead, though if he really wanted that it would have been more convenient to do in Secure Vantage. But paranoia was an asset that had kept Faron alive so far.
Testror had a curfew specifically meant to stop people from sneaking around at night in a conspiratory fashion. However, occasional guards might be able to catch people who weren’t trained in magic, but with access to even the beginnings of the vast libraries Scoubar had sneaking past the notice of those without magic was trivial. There was probably more research done into avoiding the notice of other magic users, but that knowledge wasn’t shared. Douglas had some good insights though, apparently based on his mentor’s teachings and his own experience. Faron wished she had the opportunity, but beyond basic levels of instruction given to every ‘prince’ there weren’t really many she could trust to teach her. The Sisters had some special training for her but they couldn’t remain in constant contact for risk of being discovered.
Faron walked down dark alleys that she had only been down once or twice. This was the furthest west location she was aware of, after all, and she had little reason to remain in Letu specifically. It wasn’t too long before she came to her destination. She knocked on a door. It was a good minute of waiting before she heard feet approaching.
“Who is it?”
“Family is in town. I was hoping to borrow some flour to feed them.” The Sisters code phrases avoided using the word directly. They aimed for innocuous phrases for the most part, and though a curfew was meant to keep people inside they might still visit a neighbor or the like. It wasn’t possible to keep a strict curfew up for more than a decade without expending significant resources.
There were a few moments of silence. Faron could sense a small amount of magic passing over her, then the door clicked open. “Come in,” a somewhat plump, middle aged woman smiled gently as she opened the door. Theda, if she remembered correctly.
Faron was aware whoever she had been was officially ‘dead’. Most of the Sisters were smuggled away in various fashions and only a few of them lived as princes like Faron. The door closed behind them as Faron marveled at how well disguised the wards were once more. They merely stopped anyone from detecting any magic that might be performed in the area, but doing that without the wards themselves being discovered was the hard part. Faron followed Theda by the light of a small candle- a practical light source if she had to speak to anyone else.
Eventually they arrived in a small sitting room where a larger lamp was lit. Theda looked over Faron with her eyes, “You’re Faron. We assumed you were dead or compromised.”
“Nearly,” Faron said. “I managed to get out of Othius unscathed by fleeing south into the mountains. It was there that I ran into some local mages that took exception to my armor.”
Theda clicked her tongue, “You were the mage-hunter. But you’re also not dead.”
“I was fortunate enough that they chose to capture me instead of killing me. Once they saw I was a woman, it was clear I wasn’t the typical prince. I didn’t give away any information on the locations of the Sisters, but I had to mention your existence.” Faron tensed up at that admission. While she was fairly certain Theda wasn’t much of a fighter, the older woman could just be hiding her abilities. “There is no love for Scoubar or the mage-king in foreign lands, so I thought it would be worthwhile to make the attempt.” Faron paused, “If you do not agree, I can delay my traveling companions while you relocate. They don’t know your exact location, but I could not come to Letu alone.”
Theda folded her hands which were just beginning to develop small wrinkles. “I don’t know if I can make a choice for the Sisters. You believe these travelling companions of yours are not dangerous?”
Faron took a deep breath. “Not to us. But they are skilled wizards. Though I must mention I was not alone when I was captured. I was traveling with another prince I had taken as an ally. I was not really able to communicate with this group on my own. His presence also made our travels simpler.” Faron watched Theda’s reaction. Her posture stiffened and her face hardened, but she remained calm. “I understand the manipulations of princes, but the man and woman I brought with me would likely be displeased if he was killed. And, though he had no benefit to gain, he cooperated with them in captivity to make me more comfortable.”
“Was he aware of your true nature?” Theda asked.
“No. But he reacted in a positive manner upon finding out. For what it’s worth, I trust him more than I would any other prince.”
Theda nodded slowly. “A complicated situation indeed. You mentioned a woman among them?”
“That’s right. Sarah is Vospian in origin. The man, Douglas, was one of the leaders in the reclusive group that captured us, and his father and sister have ended up in influential positions among the mages in Dalgare and Bryria.”
“We haven’t heard of this group. Are they not part of Dalgare or Bryria?”
Faron shook her head, “They seem to value their independence, and while I wasn’t able to roam about as I pleased they seem quite powerful. Douglas seems to be a practitioner of exotic and sometimes quite dangerous magic. Did I mention he was mute from birth?”
“But without the ability to speak-”
Faron cut Theda off by producing a simple light spell without a word. “There are different methods of silent magic. He seems to have invented his own. But that does not matter to us at the moment. There is still an important discovery that we must report to the Sisters even if they choose to cut ties with me. Princes have a strong bloodline magic placed on them that is capable of some truly concerning effects, even though we’ve barely scratched the surface with studying it.”
Theda nodded. “I can send a message ahead of you. It won’t be able to have many details, but I certainly can’t make a decision on my own.”
“A gathering of sisters, then.” Faron had participated in several, including one focused on herself when she was given the opportunity to become a mage-hunter. The deliberation there had been intense. The sisters wanted a better world for themselves, but that didn’t mean they wanted to sacrifice others- especially women- to do so.
“I think that will be necessary. I will coordinate it. Letu is too far, so moving closer to Aysgarth will be necessary. Of course, the meeting will not be inside the capital. We will arrange for you to keep in touch with someone closer. Expect to be watched.”
“Of course. Just be aware that there will be some unconventional defenses involved. We still have to remain hidden from the Princes, and I do not plan to bear that burden alone. Any probing should be done… cautiously.”