The Sanctum’s transfer zone was also known as the wartime transfer zone. Though it sounded majestic, it was just an old warehouse. No one knew which Magister had coined the name. The warehouse had a ceiling height of twenty metres and a width of two hundred metres; larger than the training fields of Princeton Academy.
Metal cages were stacked high and arranged in neat rows. Behind its heavy layers of enchantments and sturdy bars were a diverse variety of imprisoned major monsters and lifeforms from alien planes.
“Harris! Where’s the three-headed wolf that's stated in the records?” questioned a female Lehrling with long, raven-black hair. Her eyes never once left the crystal ball in her palm. The wall of text reflected on the crystal’s surface appeared to be the aforementioned records.
“Let me take a look.” The tall caster beside her lifted his magic crystal ball and studied the same information. Harris scrolled through the record with a few casual swipes. “Ah, found it!” He grinned at the discovery but it quickly turned as he read on. “It says that the three-headed wolf had been brought away by Relick, a level-one Magister yesterday afternoon.”
“Huh?” The female Lehrling raised a brow. “Did Magister Relick submit an application for that? Or did he buy it directly from the Sanctum?”
“Of course not,” answered Harris with a bitter smile.
“This is the sixth time this month. Once the higher-ups catch wind of this, we’ll be the ones punished!” Her anger was livid.
“But what can we even do about it? We’re just Lehrlings! How are we supposed to stop Magisters?” Harris sighed heavily.
“You know what, jot that down and I’ll report this to our mentor!” The female caster insisted.
“Okay.” Harris recorded the three-headed wolf’s whereabouts in his crystal ball.
Most of the slave army sent over by the magic organizations of the west coast were transported directly to the spatial fortress outside the plane. Meanwhile, the Sanctum acted as a transit point for some before they were sent to the spatial fortress with the next batch. Their overwhelming numbers had made them easy targets for the Magisters’ meddling. Often, the creatures would be missing a horn or spotting a new limp; the most severe cases were similar to what happened with level-one Magister Relick and the three-headed wolf.
“Here it is, Locke!” A Lehrling with his protruding tummy led a fully-armoured Knecht into the transfer zone.
“Merlin, can you please slow down?” Locke was in disbelief. Merlin was a hefty fellow so how was his pace so fast?
“I have an experiment with my mentor scheduled for this afternoon. I can’t afford to slow down!” Merlin glared at Locke and went straight into the warehouse. “Plus, I’m not done reading my copy of Ten Laws of Alchemy. I would’ve ignored you completely if you weren’t a fellow Missian.” Merlin’s limbs were extremely agile and he still had breath left to nag. Unfortunately, his nagging fell on deaf ears.
The grey-cloaked Magister was nowhere to be found since he assigned Locke the job yesterday. If Locke hadn’t met Merlin right after he was done helping Angelina and Daenie settle down, he would still be lost.
Merlin’s eyelids seemed heavy, presumably the aftermath of constant all-nighters. His usual gaze could only be described as unnerving. Despite that, Locke found that he wasn’t all that bad after a few exchanges. While Merlin was an honest person, it only made him an easy target to take advantage of. The Lehrling had spent his years here at the bottom of the hierarchy; it was obvious from the way the orientation leader casually handed off the toughest job to Merlin. While everyone else enjoyed the Sanctum’s payment of five energy crystals, Merlin could only consider himself lucky enough to receive a single crystal.
'Goods' came and went from the warehouse often. The warehouse doors were wide open as the casters regarded slaves as nothing more than merchandise. In fact, they were just another resource for an upcoming war.
The countless stacked cages in the spacious transfer zone contained one or several creatures of the same kind. The despair in their dull eyes was apparent. At least 20,000 slaves were held here; the capacity of the floating ship’s basement was nowhere comparable to this. Despite the huge number, the eerie silence was a major surprise. Not one made a sound. They rarely showed hostile behaviour.
“You better not touch those cages,” Merlin, who was leading the way, reminded. “If you remove the silencing or restraint enchantments by accident, we’ll all be in trouble!” Though his words were unfiltered and sharp, Locke found warmth in ‘we’; the Lehrling had regarded him as one of them.
They weaved through rows of stacked containers and Locke studied the diverse array of enslaved creatures inside in awe. They had been walking for a while now.
“Wow, there are a lot of casters in here!” exclaimed Locke. They had come across at least eighty casters along their way and even found two teams of a dozen members running their tasks.
“Nonsense. Can’t you see the number of major monsters and aliens in here?” Merlin huffed in irritation. While he was cowardly in front of the other seniors, he was very direct with Locke, who he had only known for less than two days. Locke’s Knecht status didn’t amount to much in the caster’s eyes and Merlin could sense that he had nothing against him.
“Ah, over there!” Merlin pointed at a huge isolated pile of containers where two casters with crystal balls could be seen. He led Locke over and introduced, “Hey, I’m Merlin and I’m showing this guy around.”
The female caster Merlin greeted had long and straight raven locks. While Locke found her face to be average looking, her silky hair greatly boosted her elegance.
“Nice to meet you, I’m Molly!” The female caster was caught by surprise at their sudden appearance. The Sanctum wasn’t a small place with a tight-knit community hence it was only natural for Merlin and Molly to be strangers. Unless they had come during the same batch, the high-rank Lehrling Molly wouldn’t come to know the beginner-rank Merlin.