People weren’t so different between Bryria and Vospia that it was necessary to give them different names… but Douglas supposed the distinction wasn’t for the common people anyway. It was for the people in control of things who made life more difficult with taxes. He hadn’t really paid any taxes in Bryria but his father had… for all the good it did. The soldiers it paid for hadn’t responded to wizards being killed or even a few towns effectively being taken over by soldiers from Scoubar. Douglas supposed he did get use of the roads- though the ones near Pendle had been marginal at best, dirt roads which were mostly mud. He supposed the taxes also built castles, but those weren’t doing anyone much good at the moment except those who lived in them.
It only took a few more weeks of travel to arrive in Kheles, and Douglas was looking forward to finally entering the Endless Library. He walked along a nice cobblestone road and could see it rising up from its surroundings, great walls and towers which for most purposes made it more like a castle than a library. Douglas didn’t realize the problem he had until he approached the gates. There were guards there, and he held up his slate. “I would like to study at the Endless Library.”
It was clear the guards could read, but the response wasn’t the best. “Hah. You and many other people. Come back at the beginning of summer for enrollment. Though… they only accept wizards. Can you speak kid, or are you too shy or…?”
The slate in his hand dropped onto the stones before, some of it chipping off. Douglas didn’t even realize for a few moments. How had he not considered this before? They wouldn’t just let anyone join… and though he knew he was a wizard, they wouldn’t. He picked up what was left of his slate and left.
He had a few options. He wasn’t willing to give up just yet, anyway. He could sneak in… no, that was a stupid idea. There was no way he could climb the walls and there were guards. It was possible to prove that he could do magic… and maybe that would be fine. All he had to do was wait… a couple of seasons. Then he could enroll. How much would that cost? He couldn’t afford to stay in an inn for that long, though if he found work he might manage it. That was possible… except that studying at the library might also cost him. He hadn’t thought about that, but of course it would. A large compound like that didn’t just spring up from nowhere- there was magic, and then there was wishful thinking. Even his father charged for teaching Theo, while that had lasted… surely the Endless Library would be more expensive for access to its knowledge and then there was the thought of how much learning from more experienced wizards would be… if they were even available. He realized he didn’t know that much.
He could just go back to Irieby. Even if he wasn’t needed that much he could live comfortably and study magic on his own, maybe pick up books as they came through the city and he could afford them. That would be better than nothing… and not studying magic wasn’t an option.
However, after just seeing the outside of the Endless Library he couldn’t give up. It was huge, though he wasn’t sure how much of that was the library itself… the name wasn’t for nothing. He knew that it was at least the largest collection of books- and especially books about magic- in the whole world. Well, maybe that wasn’t true. The world was probably pretty big, and with how long it had taken him to travel… he doubted anyone had seen the whole world. He didn’t like thinking about it… but the soldiers from Scoubar had carted off his father’s library and they likely did that with every wizard they met. At the very least they had all of Scoubar and Dalgare… if there were even one wizard per city that would be an extremely large number of books. Countess Irieby’s library had been rather large but not to the extent he would have called it endless.
The first thing Douglas needed to do was find out more about the Endless Library. They couldn’t just admit people once per year, could they? Well, maybe that was the second thing. First he needed to find some place to stay.
Dalgare was now controlled by Scoubar… the remaining pockets of resistance had been wiped out. There was only one small issue. Commander Barends had received several reports of groups of soldiers being killed as they stayed at an inn. Only a few dozen over several incidents, nothing serious, but the fact that it could happen at all was worrying. Even worse were the rumors that came of it. The soldiers talked like there was a grim reaper coming to steal their souls, unstoppable and terrifying. Commander Barends knew it was just the work of a man… but releasing specific information on that wasn’t the best idea either. By putting together the reports of who was staying from the various innkeepers a description of a man had been formed and a bounty was put up… but then one more incident had happened without that man being seen. Even so, it was clearly the same person.
All the soldiers had their throats slit, then their tongues cut out… usually after they were dead, it seemed. That meant it was symbolic rather than practical. None of them had seemed to struggle much, and nobody had heard them scream or anything at all. In fact, it seemed like there may have even been unnatural silence throughout the inn during the incidents. One inn patron reported waking up and hearing… nothing. Not even the slightest sound of wind outside or even the rustling of their own sheets.
No incidents had happened recently… not since the institution of the policy that soldiers had to be on watch even when staying at an inn. It shouldn’t have been necessary in a country controlled by them, but it was. Commander Barends wondered if he should have waited for another incident or two to try to track the progress of this grim reaper. However, he’d also hoped that the soldiers on guard would catch him. It would have been easy if it was an armed group of people… he had plenty of soldiers… but catching an individual was difficult. He also didn’t want to cause a panic, because although they were peaceful for the most part… the citizens of Dalgare were still seething with unrest. It would take more than a month or two for them to really get used to occupation. For now, with no further incidents having happened since the new policy, Commander Barends was happy enough having the soldiers or anyone interested in the bounty watching passively. It wouldn’t hurt to have people stay used to being on watch anyway.