He would be quick, Thalion decided, and walked towards what seemed like a fence. It went up to his shoulder, and beyond it he could see a mage lobbing spells at soldiers in a formation. For a moment, the aspiring Duskblade forgot himself, observing the session. The spells were low intensity, more spectacle than substance. Each time the mage lobbed a fireball, the soldiers would form up, their tower shields forming a wall. Each time, the fireball would shatter into sparks against the shields. Afterward, another mage would busily snuff out the embers before they became full on fires.
"Can I help you?"
Thalion blinked back to himself, looking a soldier in the eyes. "Oh, er. I was wondering where the archive was? I figured I'd do a bit of reading before bed?"
The soldier was a tall elf, helmet off as he bore purple eyes and short blonde hair. "The archive?" The soldier spoke with a strange accent most likely that of an Amber Grove tribe. "No archive here. But there are scholars and informants to the north, surrounding the main gates of the general's camp. Are you looking for anything specific?"
Thalion's response caught in his throat. Exactly what he did not need right now! Still, would not answering him be suspicious? Maybe it would b- "Oh, just thought I'd read up a little on what we're up against!" Came out of him without a second thought. "Know your enemy, right?" He added, then immediately kicked himself. He shouldn't be talking so much, lingering so long!
"Ah... " The elven soldier nodded, a thumb coming to his chin as he thought for a moment. "A debriefing is due for tomorrow morning. Your best bet is to only wait-- but I stress, not even the magi or spies from each of the encampment knows what is going on. But if you follow that path... " The elven man points to a crossing path, aimed northward. "You'll find knowledgeable magi with theories. " He smiles, nodding his head to you as he puts his iron helmet back on continuing his patrol around the training area.
At this, Thalion nodded and thanked the elf. He turned and began up the path directed. Okay, so that didn't go badly. Soldier didn't ask any questions, no signs of- A thought occured; should he have asked after Master Elashor? No, that might raise too many questions. The authorities already knew Thalion tried to implicate him when arrested. He remembered how they laughed in his face, called him a liar. How they shamed and berated him for trying to frame an innocent man, as if the one they'd bloody and beaten later one wasn't the innocent party! It didn't matter. If Master Elashor, or any of the others were here, Thalion would encounter them in time. At least, he hoped.
He followed the dirt road as instructed, passing the many rows of tents as he sees a collection of elves, dwarves, humans, and even orcs preparing for the coming battle. As he progressed down the road, he could feel an intense amount of magical pressure, a telltale sign of a collection of magic already being used. More than halfway down the dirt path he could see a camp atop a hill surrounded by wooden walls but if Thalion looked closer, he could see tiny wisps of mana surrounding the wall like a shield of some sort. Guards and robed figures trailing the wall, most likely on patrol.
His gaze shifts back to down the hill and the path divides again from the left, he clearly see an opening surrounded by tents. But the tents here looked fancier, draped in blue-cloth, and were even larger than those near the entrance of the encampment. Robed figures and adventurers bearing staffs walked about in this area and he could easily tell that this was the place the elven guard had mentioned. Although most likely of no interest to Thalion, the pathway to the right was simply another dirt road trailed by tents and even more guards.
For a while, Thalion marveled at the place. He'd read about the use of barriers in military operations, even in some mage towers. But, to see it in person was... No, can't linger. The sun was getting low. He went down the hill, trying to keep gravity's pull from making him rush down the mountain. Steady steps, blend in, be a body in the crowd. He looked around for a bit, then turned to one mage. "Er, excuse me, is there anywhere I might get to look up something?" He inquired.
The mage turned to him, wearing colors of a black coat, lined with red stitching signifying their allegiance to the Kogani. They opened their eyes revealing amber orbs. "The informant's tent is unavailable to lower-ranked adventurers and soldiers. " The mage spoke in a deep voice their Kogani accent showing. "What were you looking for... hafling?" The mage said, a suspicious tinge rolling off their tongue.
Damnit! Was he that obvious? He should run. He wanted to. He should never have come to this place. He should have fled elsewhere! He should... He should answer the question, at least. "Just looking to do a bit of reading before bed is all?" That insecure tinge at the end sounded like a did give away. He wished he could see his own face. Were his ears that obvious, despite this ridiculous hairdo? "Had an urge to look up magical phenomenon. You see, I haven't had much time to pack before I left home, so I'd nothing to read during the journey"
"Hmm... " The mage hummed ignoring your odd mannerisms and looked at Thalion with an observational gaze. His eyes met yours for a moment before they crossed around your body as if they were looking through him. "Describe this... phenomenon to me hafling. " The mage said again, this time with a higher tone, interest tying in with their words
He hesitated. How... Was this person reading his mind? Strange, he was sure he didn't sense the ebb and flow of mana to cast it. Or, was Thalion simply not paying attention? "Er, what do you mean?" Slipped out of him. He hoped he'd done a better job of composing himself this time
The mage chuckled, eyes cold and calculated- squinting as they stared. "The phenomenon. Tell me. " They said clearly, their gaze shifting into a critical one as the mage stared. As they waited for Thalion's reply, his fears were confirmed, lines of mana moved around their eyes but unlike most mages, the mana that pervaded their orbs was almost one to one. Only experts could cast magic with no inclination of magical aura-- perhaps this guard was the same.
Well, this was bad. If this mage could see that he had an encounter of the magical kind, then it would only be a matter of time before they discovered why he was here in the first place! They'd see that he'd escaped, and that he was brought to that factory under false pretenses, and that... That Thalion could be innocent. But, another question remained, would they look that far? Would they care if they did?
Best to try to cut this short. "I'm not sure if I recall. I... I was approached by something glowing. A sprite, or perhaps a will'o wisp, perhaps?"
The mage burst out in a deep laugh. Going into a daze as his head was whipped back, "Ah... Forgive me. " The mage said, their kogani accent more pronounced this time. They returned their gaze, standing straight as their eyes shifted into a calm stare. "I only jest, soldier. I can tell you are a criminal of sorts, but worry not-- there are many working through their debt in the encampment. " The mage's statement was broad, you could tell that they didn't know the specifics of your history.
"Ah... but let's see a sprite? Will'o wisp? Frankly impossible. Due to the intense magic energy gathering at Gabaras each encampment is installed with an anti-magic barrier of sorts. Even I don't know the specifics but that barrier is strong enough to ward out... even the strongest of spirits-- adding onto that we are in Kogani soil, spirits are more likely to become more apparent in the Amber Forests. " A chuckle followed again, the mage coming to pat his shoulder as they wiped a loose tear from their eye.
He nodded slowly. "Right, well, where might I find something to read?" Thalion grunted, gently brush the hand from his shoulder. That was enough socializing for tonight. He just needed to be on his way, and away from this invasive lout!
"No books I'm afraid, hafling. Anything related to the event is on lockdown unless authorized so- you'll have to resort to meek fairy tales or oral lore... but the night is young. You should rest, the day will be long tomorrow. " The mage nodded, winking, looking satisfied with their answer. "Now if that is all... return to your row. "
Thalion nodded, lest another word reveal something else, or at least prolong this awkwardness. He left, hands empty, and his head full with new worries. Somebody here knows something, and that's good enough reason to flee. But, that would be more unwanted attention. When he arrived at his tent, not even noticing which number he occupied, he collapse. Exhaustion? It didn't matter. Tomorrow, he'd only need to worry about surviving.