At the top of the central library building was a tower. Earlier Taru had used this place to shoot Lutz. Now, Ally stood there using the spyglasses arrayed at the cardinal directions to observe the oncoming armies. The elven mage used these to extend how far she could see, and thus how far her spells could reach.

A clockwork woman stood with her as Ally saw Lutz's body hit the ground and then the head detatch and attack. Only when the head was destroyed did she see the body dissolve.

There was a slow exhale of breath as her spyglass pivoted to the gathering troops at the Toymaker's border. "Naoko. Are you sure they aren't just going to pound the next guy over's territory?"

"Judging by known variables? If he cannot halt their progress they will simply bypass." Naoko's eyes brightened. "Given how we have been taking in refugees from the Toymaker's holdings it is not entirely stupid."

"But that leaves any supply lines exposed," Ally countered as her view swiveled to watch Stone Soup's group progress. "Even with an infinitely resurrecting pool of troops, that's still time from the rear to the front and they'll be harassed the whole way through."

"Reckless, yes." Naoko's voice was calm as she handed Ally a series of pouches and vials. "However it is not entirely stupid, not if they feel that they must attack quickly enough to disrupt and focus an enemy."

"Thank you," Ally stepped away from the spyglass and knelt on the ground she had stood to begin drawing a circle in red. Then a series of arcane symbols at the cardinal points in blue, another series of symbols between these in gold.

Then as she drew geometric symbols and lines connecting these, she spoke. "Bonehead tried snatching Lutz away."

Naoko watched, ignoring the arcane symbols and instead focused on Ally's body language. the shudder of a hand being stilled, slump of shoulder, those little things that show through even when someone is trying to hide what is going on.

"Whatever took him," Ally paused in her work. "He tried to stop it and-"

There was a pause before the rest came out all at once, as if she were handed a set of heavy boxes she wanted to be rid of. "Bonehead's infected now. They're pressing on, likely to try getting as far as they can before he turns on them."

"He will not turn," Naoko's voice held a calm certainty to it.

"How the bloody hell do you know?" Ally snapped as she glowered at the automaton, daring her to argue. "Lutz wasn't weak of will or spirit. He's fought charmers and blood magicians and it still got him. You think a man that can walk through someone using his blood to make a marionette of him to save me is somehow not as strong as that bag of bones that got flesh magicked on him?"

Naoko touched Ally's shoulder. Artificial eyes meeting elven. "Any answer I give will both not be enough, and you are hurting. I have faith both that I am right about my friend, and that in this life or the next, Lutz's thread will rejoin yours."

Ally was set to speak, to argue that Naoko was too calm and acted as if she knew too much about reincarnation and how the Great Weave worked. Any such argument was cut off by a suit of armor walking up the stairs and saluting the pair by banging its right fist against its chest. "Librarian," Then a look to Ally, "Magus. We have a messenger from the Confederation. They are asking to see you directly."

"Send them up," Naoko's voice calm as she turned from the armor to Ally's pattern. "Some of those I recognize. Time and Force. The Geomatracies between, I do not."

For her question Naoko received an exasperated look from Ally, "Is now Really the time?"

A nod from the librarian, "Always a time to learn. Plus it helps refocus you onto something you can do something about."

"Fair," Ally conceeded as she pointed to the lines between the glyphs. "Most of my magic takes time to cast. This circle here should essentially cheat and speed up the processes and-"

"You don't get something for nothing, even and especially with magic." Naoko cut her off. "Where's the extra energy coming from, and please tell me you're not shunting waste energy into my Library."

Ally's eyes rolled, "Librarian Please, I'm not some wide eye'd novice fresh into her robes."

She gestured to the gold symbols connected to the red outer circle. "Even if it cant' be directly used to fuel spellwork, I'm going to slave this ring to the larger one I'd asked your men to trench around the primary cluster of buildings."

Naoko's head tilted as her back straightened, "Impressive, but it won't provide enough power for an active screen so."

She paused, eyes flashing bright. "Oooooh that's brilliant! I love it."

"Love what?" Jen's voice sounded small as she was escorted by an armored golem into view.

Naoko turned, but it was Ally that spoke. "Talk to us kid."

"Tom's bailed." Jen looked to the elven Dungeoneer. "Only took one wagon. Left most of his men. Just him, his healer, and Finnal is riding to try drumming up help."

Naoko's shoulders sagged as she looked to Ally.

The elf frowned as she looked to the teenage goblin, "And you're here... because?"

"Well," Jen shifted about, unable to meet the elf's gaze as she spoke. "Shinji's sending men right now. Nyx and Erebus are being held back in case they plan on going underground to try striking through the caves."

Ally's frown, if anything, grew deeper. "That doesn't answer my question. Why are you Here?"

Naoko stepped toward's Jen. "Whatever reason, you're here now. Follow me."

Ally looked as if she were going to say something. Yet when Naoko looked to her she went back to finishing the circle she had been working on.

Jen looked as if she were going to speak, but the look Naoko gave her caused the goblin thief to shrink back and quietly fall in step behind the head librarian.

As the pair walked, Naoko spoke. "If you are here it is against Finnal's wishes. If that is the case you have defied your teacher and the man you were apprenticed to."

"H-how do you know these things?" Jen's voice was small as the pair continued walking.

"Ishida, Stone Soup, and Bonehead are all very old and dear friends." Naoko's voice was tight as the pair entered a large round room on the second floor.

At the room's center was a large table covered wit ha mosaic of maps and little wooden and metal pieces that were being moved about by the long delicate fingers of spindly automita that as a group stood at attention as Naoko entered.

"He... said all of you were my age when you got called to serve." Jen began to try explaining.

Naoko turned away from her and instead looked to the map. "Give me some good news."

A golem, either the one from the main entryway or one very much like it, stepped forward as the other automita resumed moving pieces about and updated the maps. "Midori's forces have been makinga straight line for us. No deviations that aren't caused by following the roads. The enclaves flanking us have sheltered on our grounds. The Trader Tom has abandoned the field and much of his supplies."

Naoko looked down at the map as the golem talked. "Zed, I asked for good news. This isn't good news at all."

Zed straightened slightly. "Ma'am. Judging by reports from fliers Midori seems intent on letting Bonehead's group pass uncontested. However they are nearing the edge of the parkland dungeon's known domain."

"I, uh. That's good, right?" Jen asked.

Naoko nodded to Zed, "So Noted."

Then a glance down at Jen. "As of right now you have shown an unwillingness to listen. Which puts you as more a liability than asset if I let you go."

Jen started to speak, then stopped when she saw the squared stance Naoko had, and the glow of her eye as the automaton glowered down at her.

"None of us appreciated it when Bonehead did it in his prior life, and he had the excuse of having a hunch that had both been right, and he had been skilled enough to almost follow through on his stunt." Naoko's tone was hard as she addressed the goblin thief.

"You threw your life away for an adventure." Naoko stated. "I don't have time or inclination to play babysitter. Follow Zed. You are faster than he is and can be of greatest use assisting him."

Again, Jen tried to speak. Again she was cut off by the head librarian.

"Show me you can trust that I have good reason for the orders I will give, and I will consider what you have to offer." Naoko's voice was hard as she stared Jen down. "I got drafted and I hated what it meant when I understood what I'd been drop kicked into. You're choosing this. I'm going to make sure you stay alive long enough to understand what that means before I feel you're ready to take more on."

Jen swallowed, suddenly feeling very small in front of a now imposing woman. Nothing of Naoko changed, not physically or magically. yet to Jen in that moment she was twice her size and was even more threatening.

Only when Jen stood unable to speak did Naoko look to Zed. "You are dismissed."

Zed moved towards Jen, putting a hand on the goblin thief's shoulder and started towards the stares.

"Zed." Naoko's voice caused the golem to stop.

A curt nod caused Jen to go down the stairs, leaving what Naoko had to say for his ears alone.

"Show her the kindness I can't afford."

They were gone, and Naoko suddenly had to dive headfirst into the logistics of several evacuations into her territories, reinforcements moving from allies, and four if not more companies of troops headed towards her library.


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