53 Chapter 53 Leaving on a...caravan
It was the morning of their departure, and Joseph was sitting in a chair in his room, looking at the two advisors from the treasury squirm. They were acting just like he had some kind of power, like a king.
"We do apologize, but the king has made up his mind. He does not foresee any reason for us to accompany you on your travels north." David really did look unhappy.
"It's only annoying because we put off our departure specifically because you two needed to tie up your loose ends to be free to leave." He wore a frown that made Timothy squirm all the more.
"We are aware of that, and have tried to make it up by trying to think of something that we could do in return for this inconvenience."
"Why don't you ensure that my supplies don't run late?" asked Joseph, sitting up and eyeing them both. They all knew how important that was.
"Nobleman Horton is rather difficult to deal with, but we will certainly try our best."
They both looked like they had bobble heads as they left the room.
"I regret to inform you that I will also not be accompanying you," said Peter.
Joseph turned to look at him, and nodded. He had assumed as such. Because it had become so obvious to everyone the duke was using him, he had not been being used at all. The duke had all but dropped him. He would remain here at the castle for the rest of his days, comfortable for as long as the king remained in power.
He turned to look at Daniel and Walter. They both quickly assured him that they had no intentions of leaving his side. In fact, Walter was going specifically so he could be the go between with his family to the north.
Joseph had gotten up extra early to finish the last 2 hours he had needed for FIRE. It was amazing! He had felt a deeper connection to Selena when he finished comprehending it. He was looking forward to the mage notes.
They were sitting at the table in his room, discussing last minute arrangements over breakfast. Everything was ready to go, but as old men often did, they had to discuss it all one last time to make sure nothing was forgotten. Joseph was greatly enjoying listening to them talk. If he pretended hard enough, he could almost pretend they were his grandpa's talking about a trip.
Stella had told him the night before that the Duke and his niece were still being dealt with. Joseph had made enough of a fuss that the king shouldn't lose any face, and would certainly take their punishment seriously. It was obvious that they were trying to frame him, and it backfired spectacularly.
When his father's slaves had arrived, they had numbered over 2500. He had an exact count done to ensure that none went missing, and the total came to 2784, counting the two hundred that were already in the castle. One of the towns his dad ran, had been completely emptied for this and several select individuals from several others had joined up as well.
They had enough supplies lined up to follow them, that they would hopefully finish a new town before winter hit. It was Joseph's hope that they could have a town the people could live in, finished, so they would want to protect it even more from the barbarians.
Joseph had looked over his father's plans, and knew that he intended to send at least two more towns worth of slaves, plus he was going to slave mark another couple thousand older people. He had a fine line to walk when they reached the north. He wasn't sure that there was anything started on the wall that was supposed to be being built. And if they didn't get enough preparations completed before the barbarians attacked, they would be overrun. He had to just hope that he could get enough done in the next five years to be ready when it was handed over to him.
All the previous recorded raids, the barbarians had waited until after harvest to loot and plunder, when the store houses were full and there was a lot that could be taken. Joseph hoped they stuck with that scenario, but the fact that so many were being seen at the borders so early in the year, had him worried that something else was going on.
By this winter, the main town would need to hold 5,000 – 6,000 people and 2 smaller nearby towns would hold 2,000 – 3,000 each. Joseph was itching to get up north and start looking for suitable sites. There were enough hands they could always modify things as required. By noon, Joseph was finally able to switch over to the notes left by the mages, given as he predicted, as he was getting into the carriage.
"What is this shavist?" shouted Joseph beside himself in shock.
Stella jumped and immediately started looking around to make sure that they weren't under attack, then noticed that he was reading the notes and rolled her eyes in frustration, as she went back to reading her book. Joseph was too preoccupied to notice.
"System, are they deliberately lying to me about this? This is just… Start immediately learning the first spell to determine if the person has mage potential. They can't be serious. Trying to learn a modified without understanding the base rune first is insane or asinine!"
(THE NOTES WERE NOT WRITTEN FALSELY. THEY HONESTLY BELIEVE WHAT THEY WROTE.)
Joseph couldn't believe it. This just floored him.
"With modified runes only counting as 10% of the base rune, that would mean you would have to practice 10 different modified runes before you even became proficient in the basic rune comprehension!
"There aren't any notes about externalizing mana as a practice at all. It goes straight to inscribing runes and even describes it as a high art. Students are normally dependent on their mentors for years as they develop a feel for inscribing mana from powering the papers. It's almost as ridiculous as using a light switch until you figure out how to make a generator!"
He continued reading in horror and was muttering in anger under his breath. Stella kept glancing up at him in concern. He had never acted this way before.
"But I mean, this is just…wrong. No wonder it takes years. How could it ever get this bad?"
(I ASSIGNED YOUR TRAINING REGIMEN TO MAXIMIZE EFFICIENCY. THESE NOTES SEEM TO BE TYPICAL FOR MOST MENTORS IN THIS REALM. LOWER NOBLES ARE NOT NECESSARILY AS EFFICIENT AS THESE NOTES.)
"But Stu and Selena…wait. Stu thought I had no talent. He was merely following dad's orders so he may have shown me the base rune instead of spells because of that."
Joseph started start pouring through Stu's notes in his memory. He focused on FOOD because he was more chef than mage. Selena had such a high comprehension of FIRE, she was probably at advanced or master level.
"She can invoke any spell with intent after she inscribes the base FIRE, can't she system?"
(SELENA IS A SPECIAL, THOUGH NOT UNIQUE, CASE IN THIS REALM. HISTORICAL RECORDS DO SHOW OTHERS HAVE HAD HER LEVEL OF THE GIFT.)
"So, her affinity makes her a bad case study?"
(HER LEVEL OF AFFINITY FOR A SINGLE RUNE IS WORTH 25 LIFE POINTS. FOR ALL SCHOOLS, IT WOULD COST 50 LIFE POINTS AFTER ACQUIRING THE SPECIAL BLOODLINE FOR IT TO BE POSSIBLE.)
"Um, Joseph, you need to come back to me. You haven't been this far away for a long time."
'Stella was talking. Shavist, she has been talking for about a minute.'
She jumped when he turned to look at her.
"Joseph, you really need to stop the eye glowing thing."
'Wow, her aura has gotten prettier and stronger.'
Joseph stopped the active mage sight. He had to get better control of his emotions. Since gaze became intermediate, it had started to become reflexive. It wasn't a problem with control, but inner chaos. He really hoped he hadn't done it at the ball, but nobody mentioned it, so hopefully not. Since breath was constantly active, recharging and absorbing mana, keeping other techniques from activating sometimes slipped.
"Shavist. Looking at these notes, it's a good thing we kept my magic a secret from everyone. I would have been completely…wait. If I train others correctly, I could make mages ridiculously easy and quickly."
Stella sighed and shook her head. He was a lost cause today. She sat back down and went back to her book.
(ERROR. JOSEPH YOUR WILLPOWER AND FOCUS POSSIBLY OBSESSION WILL NOT BE IN OTHER STUDENTS. COMMON 7 YEAR OLDS WILL NOT BE ABLE TO FOCUS ON COMPREHENDING A RUNE WITHOUT THEIR MIND DRIFTING FOR HOURS AT A TIME.)
"But I could cut the standard mage training down for others to a few years from a decade, couldn't I?"
With that in mind, he turned back to the notes more seriously. About a third of the notes were utter trash. About 5% was immediately useful, about 20% would be useful with effort, and the rest he wasn't sure of. It might be useful as reference? This is disgusting. None of them had Selena's master level of a base rune which he had been expecting. He wasn't expecting none of them to have advanced in any rune. Only the Archmage had WATER and FIRE at intermediate, apparently to help deal with droughts and fight invaders or assassins. He hadn't raised another mage high enough to have an intermediate rune, but 3 showed promise.
They were all over 40 already. Joseph was feeling a mix of disgust, horror, and elation at their level compared to his own. It would take a while to get the base runes from all of their modified runes. Only a few hours each though. He got FOOD from Stu and an incredible FIRE from Selena, HEAL from watching the mages cure everyone of poison after the feast, LAW which was a composite of COMMUNICATION and MIND CONTROL from the contract, so he could take runes apart to get each base rune as well as a good start on how to combine runes.
From the mage's documents Joseph could reverse design WATER, EARTH, AIR, PLANT, and WEATHER. NECROMANCY was outlawed, so no notes on it. The noble houses may have some others or maybe the other kingdoms. That should be all the base runes he needed to start restoring the wastelands though, so he was pretty happy. After puzzling over it for a few hours, he started focusing on ignite fire. They were about a week out from the northern plains. He would cast the spells there, after he was sure none of the king's or nobles' spies were around.