Wizard! Chapter 545
William was glad they circled around each island when they found a fleet hiding on the back side of one. It was a more significantly fortified island, with something approximating a real fort and a harbor… but the ships weren’t docked at the harbor. That meant they suspected something. There was no practical reason for the ships not to be properly docked otherwise.
William wondered what they had missed. He couldn’t immediately come up with anything… but if he could have, then they probably wouldn’t have missed it in the first place. There shouldn’t have been any trouble with the reporting in. He’d searched the memories of those who did, and everything should have checked out. Perhaps there had been some sort of sensors they didn’t notice or something secret that not everyone knew about. He supposed it was possible. If the person who appeared to be in the position of reporting in- and was even told that was his duty- wasn’t the one responsible, then that could be the case. It could even have been the specific people’s voices, though nobody had seemed to be aware of that possibility.
They submarine approached closer to the ships- but not too close. While William doubted they had sensors or weapons that could reach far underwater, he couldn’t be sure. They remained a few hundred yards away as he swept his senses over the ships.
They were currently idling, but the crew was on board and the ships could likely be brought to readiness at any time. That spoke even more to what was going on. Troops certainly wouldn’t appreciate having to stay on their ships when there was perfectly good land nearby where they could stretch their legs.
Unless there was actually something about the fort… William had the submarine approach, but sensed nothing immediately wrong there. Troops walked around the fort on patrol. Everything seemed fine, until he looked past the outer walls. That required extending his senses carefully through the wards. Inside the fort, the soldiers were more relaxed… yet not relaxed. They certainly didn’t walk with straight backs in a practiced march, but instead slouched and strode as they pleased. That by itself wasn’t necessarily strange. With no commanding officers around, soldiers might relax. However, those moving around inside weren’t on patrol, they were just wandering… perhaps for want of something to do.
It was the barracks that tipped William off. Many men lazed about in there… but besides their uniforms they had nothing else. No personal clothes, no dice or cards or much of anything of the sort. William checked the armory. Or at least, checked for an armory… but found only an empty room that could have been an armory. William pulled his senses back to the outer wall. The men patrolling there had guns, but their clips were empty. William sensed more details on the closest one… and found a distinct lack of musculature. He wasn’t a soldier- at least not one who had gone through any sort of basic training. Without ammo or anything more than a backup sword at his side, he wasn’t much of anything.
That told William two things. First, the island fort itself was a trap… and second, they weren’t expecting him. At least, they weren’t expecting someone who could actually do what he did. William was a good hundred yards under the water, stretching his senses a further hundred yards to reach the edge of the fort. At that distance, even most of the better ki cultivators would only get the figure of a person patrolling around. Even if they’d passed the fourth or fifth major breakthrough in whatever cultivation method the had, that would probably be their limit. Of course, even doing that required them to have a submarine… which wasn’t necessarily even considered. Likewise, someone looking with a telescope would only see soldiers patrolling the walls… unless they came close enough to cause the alarm to be spotted- and they might already be spotted as soon as they crossed the horizon.
What, then, was the point of having more than the handful of men patrolling? Maybe several times their numbers to get proper shifts in place would do, but there was a full complement of non-soldiers. William looked carefully at the wards… and found they only had the basic one on the outer edge. There was nothing else. William wasn’t sure what to make of it, except that the fort had never been finished… or was never meant to be functional.
William shook his head, “I don’t get it.” Obviously it was a trap- but beyond those patrolling the walls, the others were unnecessary. An assault on the fort would make the fleet aware and able to come in for an attack. “Any ideas?” William explained the situation to the crew of the submarine.
“Hmm…” the dwarf who had welcomed William onto the submarine for the first time scratched his beard, “Maybe… they’re just holding them here for now, to populate further such traps later? They could just pick them up and move them onward. Maybe they have some other islands nearby, or had plans to go further…”
“It could be…” William shrugged, “But according to the maps we found this should be the only one in the area. Unless they just left that to make us want to come here. I didn’t notice any more materials… though they could be on the fleet.” William concentrated, “If so, they’re not obvious.”
“What if…” started a female elf who was responsible for maintaining the health of the coral shell of the ship, “what if there’s nothing wrong with the fort?”
“Why have all the extra people then? They could have had dozens more soldiers… or saves rations for dozens of people.” William raised an eyebrow, “What am I not seeing?”
“I don’t know,” she shrugged, “We can’t see anything from here… but maybe there’s something with the island itself?”
William concentrated again, “It’s just an island. Rocks and dirt and… far too much dirt and too little plant growth.”
His perception sunk into the ground, searching around for anything unnatural… which he quickly found. The smooth edges of carefully placed magical formations stuck out like a torch in the dark, once he looked deep enough. It took some time to start piecing it together, but it felt familiar somehow. He pondered on where he had seen it. Then he realized. It was just something similar, a different method to do something he’d seen only on paper… shown to him by Lorelei before she burned the freshly drawn up plans.
William returned his senses completely to his body, clenching his teeth. “Those monsters. When I find out who did this I’m going to slaughter them personally. No…” William shook his head, “That wouldn’t be appropriate. I’ll destroy them.” His grip tightened on Chris as he turned to the nearby fleet. “I wonder how much they know…”