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An official meeting of the Mage’s Alliance was called. This was separate from the authority of the alliance involving Othius, Dalgare, and Bryria for several important factors. Though the countries were content enough to work together for mutual defense, putting in the resources to push harder in the war was unappealing. If they conquered Testror, it could only reasonably be under Dalgare’s control. Likewise with moving into Vospia- but there was as of yet no real danger on that front.
Janette Allegri was the spokesperson for the gathering involving several dozen mages and fey. That was the most they could afford to pull away from other duties, especially considering many of their most powerful members were being pulled aside for this very meeting. If the war had been at a critical point, they might have had to communicate via letter or other less secure methods, either of which could result in long delays due to limited ability to communicate.
“You all know why we are here,” Jeanette began, “The last several months, we have maintained our positions relative to the Scoubarran Empire. In a way this is a significant achievement, but ultimately insufficient. Once they finish the conquest of Vospia- all but an inevitability at this point- we will be surrounded and forced to fight on multiple fronts. With our forces split, we will not last.” Jeanette looked at the gathered mages- wizards and sorcerers, men and women, humans and fey. “Our respective countries and their people don’t want to be conquered. They are willing to fight… but it doesn’t mean the same to them as it does to us. To them, if they fight they might die. If they don’t, Scoubar takes over and they have to bend the knee. More taxes, more supervision, less freedom. But they will live. As for us, we will die or face fates similarly dreadful. Ultimately it comes down to the number of people who are willing to die to remain free- or who the nobility can coerce into doing so- compared to the small number of us who are able to use magic, and would be the worst harmed.”
“But what can we do?” Claude asked. “Should we flee, abandoning our homelands and loved ones? The libraries we’ve constructed, and the knowledge we’ve obtained?”
She shook her head. “That would be a temporary solution, at best. Scoubar would be strongly motivated to pursue us and continue their expansion. More easily, in fact, without the assistance of magic to resist them.” Jeanette once more scanned the room. “I’m sure you all know that it is impossible for any of us to broker a deal with Scoubar. It would be much better to simply flee, to hide and never reveal ourselves to have magic. Everyone here is sensible enough, but what we discuss should still remain behind these walls. If the wrong person hears what we do today, it will ruin any chances we have.”
“Chances for what?” one of the Othian mages asked. “It sounds as if there is little we can do.”
“Chances of… stopping Scoubar. For more than just a few years or a decade.” Jeanette closed her eyes and nodded. “Chances of killing the Mage-King.”
“Is that even possible?” Emerich asked. “Getting an army into Scoubar’s territory is… impossible.”
“Is it?” Jeanette asked. “Because they brought an army into Vospia.”
“… oh. But, if I understand correctly, we don’t have access to an entrance. Unless Secure Vantage has something? If not, we have to fight through their armies in Vospia, which is likely well fortified.” Emerich shook his head, “I don’t know if we could spare such an army, even if it would be given to us.”
“Emerich Welter, correct? What is an army?” she asked.
“A group of fighting men. Horses, scouts, supplies…” Emerich trailed off, unsure what she really wanted.
Jeanette nodded, “It can be that. But the important part is military might. How would mages factor into an army?”
“They’re the equivalent of a few soldiers,” Emerich said, “Strong ones maybe a dozen or more. It’s difficult to compare. They can be easily overwhelmed if they don’t have a line of men to protect them.”
“That’s more or less correct. Military might concentrated in individuals. So an army can consist of many men and supporting mages, or simply enough experienced mages.”
Emerich nodded, “And it would be easier to conceal a smaller number. A proper strike force might make it… if they could get into Kheles and the endless library there. Scoubar must have upgraded the defenses there, though.”
“We can presume that,” Jeanette admitted, “Though in a way it might actually be easier now. Errold, if you would.”
Errold nervously made his way up to the front. He had a big pile of notes he set on the table in front of him. “H-hello. I’m originally from Vospia. I spent much time in the Endless Library, even shortly before everything happened.” He looked at some of the papers, shuffling them about on the table. “The defenses they had set up were difficult to pass, even in the deep Library. The surface probably has some, but that… might not matter.” People waited for him to continue his explanation. “We had another entrance into the library. A backdoor. The inner parts should still be there, hidden and inactive. Recreating the outer portion should be possible as well. And the defenses should be… easier to bypass now. Because of the invasion.”
“What he means,” Jeanette explained, “Is that there has to be a way for all of the soldiers to bypass the wards in place. Even if it requires activation, that means the wards inherently have a way to be bypassed by arbitrary people instead of just keyed individuals.”
“Right,” Errold said. “So we could sneak into Kheles, then the Endless Library, then out in the middle of Scoubar. Near the royal palace… probably.”
Jeanette helpfully provided more details, “Our spies in Scoubar informed us that the armies indeed gathered in Aysgarth, and that there continues to be traffic through the library there.”
“Assuming this succeeds,” Claude pondered, “Will this really stop Scoubar?”
“It will at least throw them into chaos,” Jeanette said. “If the Mage-King dies… who controls Scoubar? The answer is… nobody. There are no princes in such a powerful position to take over, no succession laws to follow even if everyone was willing to do so.”
“Does the Mage-King think he can live forever?” Claude asked, “Or does he not care about the empire lasting beyond himself…?”
“It’s difficult to say about the latter. Clearly, he cares a great deal about his bloodline continuing through the princes. As for the former… at the very least, he can live for a long time.” Jeanette shook her head, “Though there are no reliable ways to extend lifespan, I’m sure all of us have heard of things. Sacrificing the lives of others, expensive rituals… and with the wealth and resources of Scoubar, the Mage-King can try something until it works. Likely, he already has. His current age is estimated to be sixty at the minimum, but he could live another half century or more. Not something we could wait out, if we want anyone in the world to have magic not of his bloodline.” That might be a slight exaggeration, but not by that much.
Claude nodded, “I understand. Forgive me, I am not particularly familiar with dimensional magic. Would it not be easier to recreate a connection from Secure Vantage rather than entering Vospia?”
“It is my understanding that it would be just as difficult to create an entrance from Secure Vantage as creating a whole new entrance from anywhere else. Is that right?” Jeanette looked to Douglas, who nodded. He gave a few more details in sign. “He does say considering forming an entirely new entrance could be considered, but Secure Vantage has no actual connection to the rest of the Library. Creating a new entrance from just the outside without careful scrutiny of the inside would likely be extremely difficult- and failure could tip off Scoubar of our actions.”
“Damn,” Claude said. “I thought I had something good. Any chance we can find other proper entrances to the Endless Library, then?” He shook his head and answered his own question, “I suppose that would take too long. It’s not like they’re publicly known.”
Jeanette nodded, “At best, we might find one in Testror or beyond the mountains, but getting to any of those places would be just as dangerous as the location we’re certain of. Now then, we need some volunteers. We’ve already received the cooperation of many, but we need more than a dozen good mages. As many as we can move stealthily.”
Details weren’t settled yet, but all of the Lynwoods had been involved with the formation of the plan- and were going to be participating. It was possible Scoubar would see through the planned ‘transfers’ and realize powerful mages had gone missing, but they shouldn’t be able to receive word until it was too late. Either they would have succeeded or failed in the mission.
Errold was a necessity for purposes of linking back to the door in the Library, knowing where to find the warehouse that would be the easiest place to recreate the portal and being the most familiar with the specifics of that particular portal. Emerich quickly volunteered, knowing his skills as a scout would be useful on a stealth mission- even if his magical skills weren’t quite as developed as the others. Cletus and Faron would be going- though their presence was still kept secret for the moment. Getting additional brave volunteers was actually easier than expected- but they also required people to stay to keep things running and Scoubar distracted.
The timetable for the mission was still being worked on. Leaving within a week wouldn’t be difficult, but they would certainly be lacking preparations. More than a month or two, however, and Vospia would be under full control of Scoubar. At the current point, they’d already spread well beyond Kheles, and Vospia was clearly unable to hold out forever. While such an attack seemed reckless- for those who would perish anyway, it was their only chance for themselves and those like them.
Fey especially were eager to join- they would all be killed if Scoubar took over, and that was likely the best case scenario. It wasn’t possible for them to flee to another country, not with any certainty they would be accepted. It was impractical to move the entire population of fey regardless- a few villages, perhaps, but there were many more that were still firmly rooted in Othius.
Thus began the workings of a plan, simple on the surface but extremely difficult to pull off- even with magic, since they would have to fight against magic as well. But none of them thought they could afford not to try.