It was difficult to measure the dimensions of the Endless Library without being able to traverse the whole thing. Just the Vospian section was already quite large, and Errold and the other students only had limited access to the area. It didn’t help that its dimensions weren’t exactly stable, changing and warping along the way which distorted any measurements they made. The Library was in a worrying state… and there wasn’t anything that could be done. Every piece of salvaged material had been used to shore up the state of the Library, but there simply wasn’t enough. The purchasing power of a handful of young adults was very little, and there were limits on what they could buy without being suspicious regardless.
“This is the state we and the library are in,” Errold repeated the information for the benefit of the rest of the Students. “Did I miss anything?”
“I don’t think so,” Second shook his head.
“I can try to get more money…” Seventh offered.
Douglas shook his head. “Not the best idea at the moment. Though we can leave it on the table. We risk suspicion with any further purchases, especially of some of the rarer materials. Then again, what else can we do? I really mean it. We should at least consider everything.”
Third grimaced. “We could salvage everything we can reach, like the official group. Just get everything we can before it falls apart.”
“A grim option, but reasonable enough,” Errold responded. “So much will still be lost. What else?” Julie Vance held up her hand, “Yes, Fourth?”
“We could…” she sighed, “Work together with the members of the Library. With their resources and power, and your knowledge… we could certainly stop the collapse of the Library.”
Errold nodded, “I understand what it means to offer that. Perhaps just me and a couple others… but there’s no guarantee they wouldn’t just kill me and take the books. Before or after dealing with the problem.” If he was confident in the current leadership handling things in the right way, he wouldn’t have formed a secret society. They did have some common goals, though. “Anything else?” Harry, a somewhat portly fellow, indicated he wanted to speak. “Fifth?”
Fifth shrugged, “I’m not saying this is a good idea… but if we’re listing every option we can just… do nothing. Get to a safe distance while the Library falls apart.” He looked at everyone’s faces, “I know it’s an unpleasant idea, but if we hang around salvaging things and then it collapses while we’re inside… or it spills over to have effects out here…” he shook his head. “Maybe we won’t save the books or our lives.”
“It shouldn’t…” Errold frowned. The possibility of the collapse affecting the world around hadn’t occurred to him. “It shouldn’t happen like that, but it’s hard to say there won’t be any problems, especially near the entrance. Entrances…”
Maynard- Sixth- spoke up. He was the oldest of the group, but one of the newest to magic. “We could contact another group. Fotharia, Bryria… maybe they would be interested in doing something.”
“I’d love to,” Errold said. “Unfortunately, I don’t know if any of us have a way to get a message securely across borders. Especially to Bryria. Fotharia and the rest… are harder to communicate with, and I don’t know if we have any contacts.”
Sixth shook his head, “Nobody ‘cept other cobblers.”
“If we can’t buy or salvage what we need, or work with anyone who has it…” Kevin- Third- spoke up, “We should steal it. I know you already stole some materials.”
Errold grimaced. “This is… a different level. More secure, especially right now. There’s no way I could do it. Might as well hand myself over to them on a silver platter.”
“They don’t know to look for you,” Priscia said. “Or any of us. You don’t have to do it alone.”
“But still,” Errold said. “Most of you can’t even get into the area. Just third, fifth, and first,” he pointed to himself. “We’d look mighty suspicious together.”
“That’s what we have to come up with a plan for,” Fourth commented. “I know P- Seventh and I could find some excuse to get onto the grounds. With the three of you able to come and go, that just leaves two… and we have a convenient way past the new walls.”
“… if we’re to even think about trying this,” Errold said, “The plan will need no flaws. And I’d expect things to go wrong even if it’s perfect. But… maybe we can start on it.”
With the distance between the squads of soldiers and the patrolling guards on the road, Lucy didn’t need to hold her breath. She did anyway, unconsciously. But the guards just passed without incident, hardly even glancing to the sides of the roads- and more out of boredom than actual caution.
The squads continue to ride off-road around a small town nearby, moving slowly for their wagons, then up the road towards the manor that was their target. They rode next to a small stream that was the extension of a moat around the manor. According to their information the moat was mostly decorative… but mostly decorative things were still partly practical. If they had unlimited time traversing a moat wouldn’t be a major hurdle, but their numbers were limited and a prolonged engagement wouldn’t suit them.
The scout reported back, “Can just make out the gates on that rise there. The drawbridge is down.” He paused for a second, “The flag indicates the lord of the manor is not present.”
“Thank you,” Lucy said. “Everyone wait out of sight. I’ll be working my magic up ahead, to keep the bridge down.” Lucy couldn’t explain the exact details of what she was doing, but giving the soldiers some idea of what would happen would make them more pleased to work with her.
She rode ahead, not concerned about being spotted by guards on the wall. She was just a lone rider… looking at the manor from afar. Using magic to look closely at the chains far away. Anyone watching might see strange light cast on her, but hopefully they wouldn’t suspect anything. She didn’t plan to take long.
She could see the chains for the drawbridge as if they were right in front of her. She found that it was much easier to make use of dimensional magic if she could see her target properly. She hadn’t known exactly how things would be, so she was already prepared to improvise a spell. It stretched over the distance to her target, gently twisting and heating a link. Only when she actually saw it distort and thin was she satisfied. She did the same with another link at the bottom of the other chain. The guards on the wall might notice something, a slight trembling like wind… but hopefully the effects would only become obvious later. If not… she could attempt excessive force. She re-angled the spell to see further in, where the portcullis would come out. A little bit of magic to reshape the stone seemed to work, since it wasn’t expected for a mage to target that part. The portcullis itself was likely enchanted. While she had the chance, she refocused her magic to see at an angle into the courtyard. It was clearly set up for archers to shoot down from above. She’d have to warn Captain Larsson, though he likely assumed a setup like that.
She rode back to the group, “There, it’s done. They shouldn’t be able to raise the drawbridge. Only a small number of guards on duty. I didn’t spot any wizards, but be prepared just in case.”
The wagons brought up the rear as they moved forward. There was nothing of value in them besides food supplies, but they needed to be close enough to bring them in and load them, before a response could be made from elsewhere. It wasn’t possible to be certain no one else had spotted them, or that nobody would escape the estate. Not that they planned to slaughter everyone, but they’d keep them from leaving until they could make their retreat. It might be safer to kill anyone, but Lucy drew the line well before killing innocent servants and the like.
Their approach wasn’t subtle- and while the location of the manor had mostly been picked for the view there was still a long open road in front of it. Lucy heard the guards yell, and as they were readying their bows Captain Larsson ordered the charge. At least he trusted her word about the drawbridge.
As the cranks began to turn Lucy wondered if she herself trusted it. The chains tightened… and then one of the links snapped. The other held, more slowly pulling the drawbridge up. Lucy was just readying a spell to push down on the bridge when the second chain snapped as the angle changed. The drawbridge crashed down with a thud.
The riders at the front held their shields high to block against the arrows, and Lucy was close behind. One of the archers on the wall seemed to realize she was a mage- likely from her lack of armor- and quite accurately shot her in the chest. It was nervewracking to be hit regardless of the fact that she knew her shields would hold, and she staggered back in her seat slightly. Before the archer could release another arrow she was riding across the bridge and in the gatehouse, where the portcullis was stuck from her earlier work.
Fighting had already broken out in the courtyard, but the number of defenders were far fewer than the squads she’d brought. However, a firebolt struck one of the men in the chest- absorbed enough by his armor to merely cause him to retreat, but letting Lucy know her skills were needed. From that one spell, she presumed that it wouldn’t be so difficult to defeat the enemy mage… but that assumed there was just one. She kept her defenses tight and was prepared to react to anything as she edged closer to the courtyard.