As it turned out, the most difficult part of the plan was not related to the ability to do magic but instead upper body strength. The majority of mages didn’t have much cause for exercise, and Julie was significantly less used to anything of the sort. Her entire upbringing had been to keep her pampered and basically useless.
They had one member with actual experience scrambling up on things and actual fitness. Simon had lived and worked on a farm all of his life until Errold had found him and learned he could do magic. While he wasn’t specifically trained for climbing buildings in cities, he had the capabilities.
The locations they could attempt to climb were limited by direction. Julie knew where her cousin’s rooms were from previous visits, and if they were around she would be able to spot them there.
It was decided that Simon would go along to help her climb. Before night time they quickly scoped out the options as they walked past once more. It was possible people might note a particular woman passing by three or four times in the day, or they might not.
Houses and buildings varied widely. One worryingly common factor was how many windows were everywhere- but that was counteracted by the fact that most had wooden shutters that would be closed. Some were short and squat, not good enough to see over the wall into the Vance family’s manor. The wall was intended for privacy, so even being on the roof of one of the shorter buildings would be insufficient for a good view. Some had two stories, even with outside stairs that would make it much easier to reach the roof. Convenient, but obvious.
Some of the houses had jetties, which made the second floor stick out. That was extremely inconvenient for climbing despite the availability of the overhanging boards they provided. Smaller walls made little courtyards attached to some of the buildings, the contents of which were usually hidden. Without snooping too closely they could only make some guesses.
It was the variability of the buildings that allowed them to find a proper path. They could climb one of the short walls or similarly short houses and use those as a vector to reach a higher location. Simon had several ideas, but they couldn’t stop for too long to help minimize suspicions.
For the sake of safety, everyone would be remaining awake even though only two of their members were going out. If things went extremely wrong they would all have to flee, and the time to wake and prepare wasn’t something they wanted to risk.
As they would be going out after curfew explicitly for the sake of skulking about, they prepared spells for invisibility- or as close as they would need in the dark. In addition to that they needed silencing spells. While people might not be looking out their windows as they passed, they certainly would if they heard them grunting and stomping around on the roof. Wizards weren’t fond of using silence spells even for sneaking for one good reason- they couldn’t use any more magic after that. Errold did inform everyone it was possible to use spells silently, but none of them were proficient in the practice.
If everything went well they wouldn’t need more magic, and though they could cancel their own silence spells at any time it was preferable to keep things as subtle as possible. They returned to the familiar streets, looping around behind the first row of houses to see if they could spot something better from a different angle.
The two of them clasped each other’s wrists to keep silent contact, Simon leading the way. Eventually, he stopped. “I think this is it,” he whispered. He looked around for people watching, presuming that Julie did the same. They weren’t exactly in an alley, but it was a small side street. “Were going to climb that crate, to that wall and over to the right, up that roof, to the bottom of the sloped roof the next building over, and finally to the top there.”
Julie gave a nod, before remembering she had to speak. “Understood.”
“Time for silence, and end the invisibility,” Simon reminded, “We’ll need to be able to see each other and our feet.”
It was technically possible for either of them to concentrate on both of those spells at once, but it would be difficult. Besides, they had sufficient reasons to be visible. A person didn’t realize how much they relied on seeing their own body to balance until they first turned invisible. They could generally walk normally, but uneven surfaces were quite dangerous.
The two of them chanted the silence spell that covered themselves and a small area around them, sufficient to quiet everything around them unless they dropped something to the ground. It would be preferable that they didn’t knock off any roof tiles even if they would be silent.
Stepping up onto the crate was easy enough, but Simon gave Julie a hand anyway. Her legs were a bit shorter, and the crate wasn’t designed for easy climbing. It was conveniently placed right next to the wall they wanted to climb on- convenient for them, and whoever wanted it out of the way of the rest of the street. Probably someone who had emptied it out and planned to have it removed soon.
The wall was barely wider than a hand, which didn’t make for good balancing. However, it wasn’t too much higher than the crate. Slightly too much to step up, but Simon crouched down to help Julie up. Previously she would have had no chance to get up, but she had much more practical clothing now. Boots meant for a long journey weren’t the best for rooftops, but they were many times better than the sorts of things she had been wearing at home.
It took a second for Julie to balance, then the two of them slowly stepped along the wall, staying low to keep their balance. They were not in a rush, the only danger being someone deciding to look out their window while they should otherwise be asleep. The wall was barely lower than the first floor roof next to them, and they stepped onto it one at a time. They had to lean into it to keep their balance, but they climbed to the top and along the spine.
Simon spotted a nice portico next to a chimney. That was just perfect, and they stepped onto the portico roof overhanging the courtyard below. Getting up to the second floor roof was the hardest part of what they had done so far, but Simon used the corner of the chimney to help pull himself up, then to brace himself. Most of Julie’s weight ended up being held by him as she tried to find purchase. Her foot slipped, her knee slamming into the roof. Silently, but painfully.
Eventually she was behind the chimney, and the two of them made their way to the spine of the second floor. From there, no more buildings were in the way and they could look towards the manor. The two of them crouched low, trying not to be obviously silhouetted against the rooftop in case patrolling guards from either the city or the manor were passing by.
Then they waited. Simon didn’t know what for, but he could see Julie was checking out the windows on the manor. Julie knew very well what they were waiting for… and that was for her to figure out how to get something out of their current actions.
It was completely logical to go sneaking after everyone had gone to bed. At the same time, that also meant that spotting either of her cousins was much less likely. If they were even there, they were asleep in bed. The curtains were drawn, preventing her from seeing into either room. Kristine’s room was more visible from her angle compared to Nichole’s, but that didn’t help much.
She sort of gestured to Simon. He didn’t quite get it for a moment, but she pointed to herself and along the roof closer to the manor, then to him and away. He understood enough to back up, and she stepped forward. Then she let her silence fall. Should have prepared a second one, but magic was all about learning from mistakes. Maybe everything, but magic especially.
Julie made sure that the guards patrolling the manor had passed under the window when she cast a light spell. She did her best for it to appear as far as possible from her before sending it even further. It flew towards Kristine’s window. Julie got the desired effect… and much more.
The light brightened the window, even through the curtains. However, as the light touched the window directly, it sputtered out. She could immediately sense that other magic had triggered, an alarm or ward of some sort. Nothing seemed to have reacted to her location, but she knew people would be coming to look. She felt Simon’s hand on her shoulder, but she motioned for him to wait. She just needed a moment. There! Kristine’s face poked through the blinds, just visible in the moonlight. That was all she needed to see. Since she’d already caused the trouble, Julie needed to get something out of it. She thought about waving her arms, but Kristine was just as likely to not see her or not recognize her as someone they really didn’t want to notice would be to find them.
They scrabbled down the roof, sliding to the chimney and then stepping down to the next layer. Julie was occasionally far enough from Simon to make sound, but they dropped to the first floor roof, the wall, and then were hanging down from the wall. Suddenly, an old man stepped out of a door in front of them, holding a candle.
The two of them froze, watching as he waggled a finger at them, saying something, then nearly slammed the door. They quickly hurried off into the night, taking a route that led them away from the manor in a roundabout path toward the destination of the inn they were staying at.