The border between Vospia and Bryria was naturally more secure than the border between Bryria and Dalgare, but no border was perfect. It was impossible to stop small numbers of people from traveling back and forth if they knew where they were going. Even in a heightened state of alertness Bryria couldn’t make certain nobody passed, but they could stop any groups of significant size. More importantly, they could intercept soldiers and the like without being concerned about other details.
With Vospia still mainly in control of its own area, it might have seemed early to be concerned about Scoubarran soldiers slipping their way into Bryria, but the memories of the previous war had not yet faded. Lucy in particular recalled how quickly the war in Dalgare had come and gone, with Scoubarran mage-hunters coming into Pendle before they could even react. If anyone from Scoubar attempted to cross the border, it would be for similar reasons as before. Refugees fleeing into Bryria might be of concern to some, but those crossing unofficially would be limited. The only concerns were if Vospian mages wished to illegally cross the border, and if they were fleeing from Scoubar they wouldn’t be immediately concerned with causing trouble for Bryria.
Perhaps it was too early to consider such details, but there were other details to manage as well. While Scoubarran mage-hunters and their armies were indeed responsible for devastation to people and their families, to mages in particular there had been other troubles. Mercenaries working for Scoubar to capture them in secret. Isabel was a victim of such people, and was now involved with future prevention.
The practice of magic now being more prominent was both a benefit and detriment for the mages. It would be easier for mages to be found, but it would also be noticed if something happened to them. However, there was always a price people were willing to accept for any danger. Scoubar was not short on resources with their vast area, and since they wouldn’t likely have to pay without any success they could expect some trouble again. Isabel was prepared to lead appropriate actions should the situation arise again.
But for the moment only preparations and speculation could be made. Vospia had not made a request for aid to Byria, so they had not had to decline. They had, however, petitioned the other surrounding countries. Only Eshela had sent any force of note, but for the time being not much progress was made in either removing Scoubar, but neither was Vospia losing ground.
Moving to another country would doubtless result in some cultural differences and the need to readjust. Having to flee to another country while leaving behind almost everything people owned was much more jarring. The formerly Vospian mages also had to worry about family they had left behind to various extents, as there was now a war happening.
Priscia cared very little for the family she had separated from, but Julie and Kristine still had Nichole to worry about if nobody else. The rest weren’t from established mage families but they still had parents and siblings that could be killed in a war. Scoubar didn’t generally slaughter common folk, but they could still be drafted as soldiers, and war was bound to cause trouble for everyone.
Yet being quickly accepted into Byria and being able to openly study and practice magic was a great joy for most of them. Even the twin sorceresses Rina and Mattea were able to study and improve themselves- though Bryria couldn’t guarantee them the same results as a wizard, they had developed some methods to train sorcerers. Once they advanced to a certain point in their study of the language of magic they could even go study with fey directly- either in Secure Vantage or in Othius, which was somewhat reluctantly embracing its magical citizens.
Everyone was eager to get involved with doing things, but while they had certain practical skills, their actual abilities were a bit unrefined in some areas. They had focused strongly on studying wards as it was a necessity for how they were involved with the Endless Library, but their self-taught skills didn’t necessarily work well with the style more prominent in Bryria. Priscia and Harry were particularly adept at dismantling wards, which would be useful in other contexts but Bryria didn’t have immediate need of that. But everyone was given proper instruction and opportunities to work with magic. As apprentices, technically, but they were receiving actual income instead of having to steal and scrounge.
It was likely that their particular opportunities were a result of having encountered Lucy Lynwood at the border. If things had gone differently, they might have encountered much more suspicion while trying to enter Bryria and subsequently even if they were allowed in their opportunities wouldn’t be as great. But Bryria would have still been better for them regardless. The country was putting great effort into promoting magical growth, and that meant they couldn’t afford to turn down a group with the ability to do practical magic, as long as they could be shown to not intend harm.
The information they’d brought with them had long ago been confirmed in its legitimacy, though Lucy had seemingly never doubted the information. When her brother officially appeared along with Secure Vantage some of the reasons became more clear. He’d been able to confirm information about Errold, at least- and support the probability of their statements about the library being true.
Bryria was by no means perfect. Though they had many opportunities, they were still pressured to join themselves to one noble or another’s faction. In a way, that pressure stood against the internal unity of the Bryrian mages. Still, with only a handful of years to establish their foothold it wasn’t strange that older forces still maintained control of the country’s power as much as they could. Yet they were still in better positions by far than they could have hoped to have remaining in Vospia- ignoring the war happening there.
“I cannot begin to explain to you how insane your plan is,” Hagen Reed said to Douglas as they both looked down the mountain. “Yet I can’t say that it can’t be done, or even that it shouldn’t be.” Hagen frowned as he looked at the slopes below them, “But I would suggest detailed surveying… and perhaps more conservative effects.”
Douglas rolled his eyes as Hagen looked over, then signed his response. “I obviously don’t intend to drop the whole mountain on anyone. We live here. But we don’t need all of these slopes.”
“If we weren’t such a small group facing armies of potentially vast size, I’d immediately condemn the idea.” Hagen shook his head, “But with the threat of Scoubar, it might be justified.”
Douglas responded with some more signed words, “It might not be them either. If we get past this.”
“How pessimistic,” Hagen said. “But counting solely on defenses placed around Secure Vantage itself is indeed insufficient. I might suggest checking out other less extreme options first.”
Douglas nodded, looking vaguely in the direction of Kheles. Hagen could tell his thoughts likely weren’t on things he would consider less extreme, but whatever they were about might be necessary. Though it could also be one of the ridiculous ideas that just got thrown out. Douglas was quite willing to give up on ideas where they proved impractical, it was just that his talents made far more options practical than most people would think.
From atop a not-too-distant hill, Emerich looked down towards an encampment of Scoubarran soldiers. It was unlikely they would notice him even if they looked in his direction, hidden among the trees and quite far away. Spyglasses were one of his favorite things, and he was quite glad to be less worried about damaging the one he had. They were delicate instruments, but when one could use magic to repair them it wasn’t quite so troublesome. Spells had to be customized for use with any particular spyglass, since they couldn’t afford any warping of the glass or tube upon repair. He hadn’t yet needed to do it, but it made him feel much better to know that he couldn’t accidentally throw away years’ worth of pay in an accident.
Though he was now somehow one of the higher ranking mages in Othius- partly for being the first human recognized as one, and partly because they simply had so few in practice- he was acting as a scout again. With the ability to openly use magic, he could be more effective as a scout. Yet he also had to keep in mind where not to use magic. Like where he was, overlooking a camp that could have a dozen or more mages in it. They probably wouldn’t notice him using magic, but relying on mundane skills where there was that sort of risk seemed better.
His squad was much the same as it had been before- he was able to request many of his former squad to accompany him. He also had several members of the fey as magical backup, since the abilities of a wizard weren’t inherently flexible. Even with a couple years of open practice of magic, Emerich was limited in how many spells he could memorize. He had very little in the way of fireballs and the like- though he fondly kept some of the trap spells he’d made use of before. His purpose wasn’t to engage in combat, but simply to observe enemy movements.
He found himself quite far from home, since Testror was on the opposite side of Dalgare the long way. Ironically, he was at more risk from Scoubar now that he was a better mage- but that also kept him motivated to continue the fight. They had been cast out of Dalgare, but their armies were indeed still growing in Testror. War was inevitable. What he needed to do was provide accurate information to the alliance, so that the commanders could make proper strategic decisions.
Emerich put away his spyglass, still gingerly but without such paranoia as usual. It was time to move on. What he’d seen already wasn’t outside their estimations, but the numbers were certainly worrying. Perhaps he could come up with a scheme to determine how many princes were present in each area. Some made themselves obvious, but others were more conservative. Personally, Emerich thought the latter were smarter- being a target was foolish, even if it gave you something in return like ‘status’.