Chapter 30

“You were right Paige.” Zenith strode into the now cleared house, coughing at the dust flying in the air. Waving her hand idly, a slight wind blew the dust outside.

“I know I’m usually right. But what exactly am I right about this time?” Paige idly said as she dusted the room with an old rag she had found.

“It is about the formation. Some of the runes were scorched on the trees around where you found the baby.” Zenith animatedly responded. “Stop dusting Paige, it’s not good for the baby.”

“The baby is outside in the shade. I lowered the waterwheel down so that it would move and it’s creating a nice breeze outback. Although you could just conjure up a breeze again.”

Zenith stopped and looked at her hand. “Huh, old habit I guess. I know I’m still proficient at wind magic at the very least. Can you get Tyler? We’ll meet outside and I’ll tell you what I’ve learned.” Paige watched as Zenith strolled out of the house, yelling for Nick to meet by the waterwheel.

“Tyler, get down here. Evidently, Zenith and Nick found something.” Paige shouted up the stairs. A coughing sound soon sounded out in response.

“Ugh, stupid dust. I’ll head down in a minute. I’m trying to reset this roof beam before it totally collapses.”

“We’ll wait for you outside then,” Paige called back as she went outside to meet up with Nick and Zenith. She was surprised to see Nick waiting outside for her. “Nick.” Paige curtly acknowledged.

“I know you are upset at me Paige. I wanted to say I’m sorry for my behavior.” Nick bowed his head slightly to her, his eyes locking on her own. “I was upset and took it out on both you and the baby. I should’ve been a better man than that.”

Paige was taken aback by his behavior. “What prompted that?”

“I talked with Tyler last night and thought things through. It wasn’t anyone’s fault but mine. I just didn’t want to take responsibility for it. Instead of laying the blame on the baby, I should focus more on the people who did the deed instead.”

“That’s still not the healthiest viewpoint to have,” Paige said worriedly.

“It is not. But it is better than being mad at your friends,” Nick said calmly. “And despite all we’ve been through Paige, I do see you as a friend of sorts.”

Tyler walked out of the house after that, brushing the dust off from his clothes. “So what did Zenith find?”

Paige shrugged her shoulders. “Dunno. Zenith, mind telling us what you found?”

“We found remnants of the magic circle, and they are still glowing with power. The fog won’t disperse for a few years, so we will be stuck here awhile. But the more important bit is that I found some of the conditions that apply to us in particular.” Zenith said, her eyes shining. “I’ve never seen anything like it at the Mage Guild.”

“Go on, tell us already Zenith. What were you able to find?”

“Well, only the trees on the perimeter of the circle was had symbols on it, so I do not know what rules apply to the baby. But we ourselves have a few rules that the formation is actively applying.” Holding Markus in her arms, she moved and showed them a few sketches she had drawn earlier on the ground, apparently the symbols she had seen. “This one I have seen before. It is a modified version of a Trap Rune that is powering the dispersion fog. Until that one runs out of power, we’re stuck here. From what I can tell, it should break apart naturally within five or six years.”

“But I am able to leave Zenith? Why is that?” Tyler asked, knowing he wasn’t restricted by the fog.

“That’s the thing! It has some conditional runes attached to it. See, that rune was the inspiration for the symbol of the Merchant Class, a pair of interlocking coins. I think that was intentionally built into the formation, as we would most likely die of starvation if everyone were unable to leave. That being said, be careful on the road from now on, as you are literally our only lifeline outside of the forest for the next few years.”

“That’s interesting and disturbing at the same time. Were our classes chosen for us then?” Tyler asked.

“I don’t know about that, but we should probably assume that is an accurate assumption. A Teacher, Farmer, Blacksmith, and Merchant. That’s basically the bare minimum a settlement needs in order to function. Assuming that everything is meant to provide a safe haven for Markus.”

“I guess I can do blacksmithing, though most Bower work solely with wood. No battle classes though. ” Nick said from the side, his first time learning about this information as well.

“Is that really a problem for us though? We all still remember our training and skills though. I’m sure that we can take care of anything that at least an Apprentice Warrior could.”

“Anything else? Anything that might explain our current predicament?”

Zenith hesitated to say. “I’d say Isabella’s Skill may have done something, but Paige said mana was absorbed by the formation as well. There were a few runes that I have no idea what they could represent. I’d have to research it heavily. Normally I’d be able to go straight to the Mage Guild’s library, but being a Teacher…” She trailed off, shrugging her shoulders. “Tyler? Paige? Do you know of any way we could research runes in Alcudia?”

Tyler and Paige glanced at each other, weighing their options. “Alcudia libraries are open to the public. I’d say the royal library would be our best bet to find ancient runes…” Paige started to say, “But those books would most likely be restricted. Or at least watched heavily.” Tyler finished her statement.

They sat in the clearing and thought about what Zenith had said. They were stuck here for at least a few years. Paige realized that they needed a plan for the future.

“Okay. Let’s get a long term plan ironed out. We know that only Tyler can leave right now, so he’ll have to do a majority of the researching and intelligence gathering.”

“I’ll need money in order to fund my activities. Right now I’m working off of a short term loan. The only reason I even have the wagon is that I told the Merchant Association that my goods were stuck out here in the woods. I have a few days before they get suspicious and send mercenaries after me,” Tyler said dejectedly. He was secretly thankful that Paige and Rebecca had snuck out so many times, as he was definitely out of his comfort zone as a merchant.

“I can make some pretty good bows with the woods here. That can be your merchandise. I’ll do a few today so that you can prove you have an inventory.” Nick said after a moment of thought.

“How about this. While Nick is making bows, we’ll make the houses liveable. If you can get me some seeds to plant, I’ll start clearing the fields in the morning.”

“I’ll take care of Markus then, and I’ll make a list of runes for Tyler to research, as well as taking inventory of what supplies we’ll need while he is gone.”

“These are pretty good bows, Nick. Do you have a Class Skill already?” Paige tested the bows while Tyler appraised them, nodding his head in agreement.

“No. Basic longbows like this are easy to make. You just need to have a good eye for wood. For the more complex bows, I’ll have to learn a Class Skill. It won’t be easy to gain a Class Skill without a Mentor though.”

“Don’t say that to Paige. She learned how to use [Trail Finder] just by hearing a verbal description of the skill.” Zenith said by their side. She was feeding Markus some mashed up leftover soup from lunch. “But I do agree with you Nick. We’ll need to figure out some Bower skills, or maybe some spells that may be useful for a Bower.”

“The town should have a local library at the very least. I’ll look around for some reference books, but don’t get your hopes up.” Tyler said with a shrug.

“Zenith is a Teacher. Just look for an Apprentice book for low classes, and Zenith can parse through it and figure out some other spells.” Paige said offhandedly. “I’m sure Nick and Zenith can work out the inner workings of the skills or spells between the two of them.”

Paige thought of another problem that they might potentially have. “Let the town know we are creating a settlement here as well. The mayor will probably want to collect taxes from us, and it’ll be helpful for other merchants to come this way as well.”

“If you’re sure about that Paige. You don’t want to stay hidden for now? At least until we have some more information?”

Paige bit her lip; thinking hard about what they should do. “Yes. I think we should go ahead and register. Just say you have a local supplier out in the woods and they should send someone out to investigate. Assuming the war is still happening, it would not be hard to say we are refugees who fled to the area recently. We’ll need some news on the frontlines as well for our cover to work.”

“I’ll gather what news I can. See you all later then.” Tyler said as he pulled the handcart out of the forest. Hopefully Tyler would be able to bring back good news.

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