Wizard! Chapter 529
Very little information came out of Eclea. They kept tight enough border security that even smugglers and spies were few in numbers. Cruonia kept a few spies aided by phones- instantaneous communication that couldn’t be intercepted was useful, but still somewhat limited. They couldn’t transmit documents except by reading line by line. Anything visual such as blueprints just wasn’t possible. They could attempt to smuggle such things across the border, but it wasn’t easy. That was another reason there were very few spies- they couldn’t easily be paid.
The spies couldn’t be loyalists from other countries either, willing to spy for the benefit of their country and not profit. For gevai, this was obvious- just crossing the border into Eclea would give them away. For other humans, there were other barriers. The general skin tone of Eclea was much darker, though that wasn’t enough by itself. There were many darker skinned humans, and there were citizens of Eclea who were descended from humans from all of the other nations, even if they made up the smaller part of the population. However, there was also the problem of accent. Everyone in Eclea was a native, thus any spies would have to speak the language like a native. Unfortunately, it was nearly impossible to find anyone who could speak fluently outside of Eclea, since they had cut off contact for so long. The language changed ever so slightly over the years, and while there were enough speakers in other countries they just weren’t quite good enough.
Because so little information came out of the country itself, it was carefully watched from the outside. Cruonia attempted to track the number of ships sailing from Eclea to their territories. The numbers were imprecise, because they couldn’t just leave someone on a nearby island with a spyglass. They would be too easy to notice… and only one ship had to spot them for there to be trouble. Instead, they had snuck in a device that attempted to detect ships passing over it. It would merely send back a single piece of information, but it was enough to give a good approximation. If it detected ships passing, it would send a signal and someone would add to the tally mark. That was it. If there were multiple ships close together, it wouldn’t detect that. It didn’t detect what direction they were going in. It was possible that there were even times it missed ships altogether… but it at least gave an approximate. Combined with other methods, there was at least some approximation of what Eclea was doing.
As years passed, things remained much the same… Eclea remained cut off from the world as much as it could manage, shunning all outsiders. Its politics were relatively stable, but couldn’t be completely without change. They were governed by a council of wizards, but members would gradually die off an be replaced. This happened one at a time, but it was inevitable.
Then the news came. There had been a disagreement between the members of the council in Eclea itself and those running the colonies. It wasn’t clear exactly what it was, but it resulted in a sudden rise of tariffs in Eclean ports. Then another half-dozen years passed without anything of interest from Eclea.
Hanna’s job was to sit in a room watching and listening for the machine to activate briefly. That wasn’t her only job. She also had to do paperwork and other boring stuff like that, but she was always supposed to be in the room with the machine. When she went on break, someone had to take over before she left. When her shift was over, she couldn’t leave until her replacement showed up. During the day shift there were several people working in the room, but Hanna worked in the middle of the night, alone. It paid better… and nobody actually noticed if she was reading puzzle books the whole night.
It wasn’t a very exciting job, so keeping her mind engaged was the only way to stay awake. If she’d tried to do paperwork like she was supposed to… she wouldn’t be doing her real job. That was her excuse.
The machine literally only existed to say “hey, the thing happened!” and it would buzz and light up… and then Hanna had to keep track of it by writing down the time. It was using entangled magic, so they couldn’t upgrade the machine on this end without changing out the other end as well… which was why instead of doing that they just had someone watch it all the time… even if it didn’t even necessarily have anything happen during the night.
That night was special. The machine went off, marking another ship and the most exciting point during the night… anything at all happening. Hanna wrote down the time and went back to her puzzle. Then the machine went off again. Then again.
Hanna wondered if it was broken. A handful of ships traveling together would set it off, but then there was a minimum time before it would send another signal. The fourth time made her even more sure it was broken. Five minutes was the minimum time, and it had gone off exactly moment every time. Hanna just watched a clock’s second hand to be sure. Normally logging the minute was good enough, but they did have seconds. Frankly, even minutes were usually overkill. Hours would have done just as well, but they wrote down the time to the minute.
By the eighth time, Hanna was starting to get annoyed at the buzzing sound. Usually it was a nice break in the monotony, but with it going off every five minutes she had no chance to get back in the groove of puzzle solving. Fortunately her shift was almost over, so she could go report that it was broken and maybe someone would do something about it. But then… it stopped after an hour, a total of a dozen and one times. That still meant it was broken, but it might have just died. Hanna looked at it and didn’t see anything wrong, but maybe it wasn’t the receiving end that was broken. Then again, she wasn’t really an expert on magical technology, so she probably wouldn’t have been able to tell it was broken. Either way, she brought it up with the people who came for the next shift, and her supervisor who had just come in for the morning… then clocked out and went home.