When the sun had set, and the birdfolk returned, Zynis and the others began to move. They would split into four groups and search the area around the lake.
While it was night, there were boats floating on the water, and torches that used magic stones reflected brightly on the surface.
On the side of the lake that was opposite to the villa, there were steep cliffs. And just like the mirror lake in the dwarf lands, there were caves where the water seemed to be pouring from. However, the cliffs were not too high, so you would be able to climb them from the other side and get a good view of the surrounding area, including the town and villa.
Zynis was currently standing on top of the cliff. The air that blew from the lake moved his ash-colored fur.
“My first form feels the best for this place. I see. It’s important to know which skin to inhabit.”
He said as he pointed his nose windward. If Dilon were there, he would have muttered, ‘That’s not what I was trying to say…also, you may think that you sound cool when you say that, but you really don’t.’
“However, this side of the lake is clearly thicker with miasma. I didn’t notice it during the day. But we’re much farther from the Shadow World now that we’re inland. So it should be thinner than it was in Midland.”
Zynis sniffed in different directions.
“Hmm. This way.”
He headed to the north side of the cliffs where the lake ended. There were several small caves here as well. There was one cave that you would be able to enter from the ground, and there were four soldiers guarding the entrance. Two soldiers blocked the cave. And two guarded it from a short distance away. He could feel the miasma coming from the rocks of the cliff.
“It’s strange that there are guards here at all. Why are they protecting this cave? Hmm.”
Then the guards turned and seemed to be looking inside. At the same time, a small group of people approached them. They were dwarves who were escorted by soldiers. As Zynis continued to watch, a group of dwarves and soldiers went inside the cave as another group came out.
Dilon approached him quietly.
“There’s a dwarf settlement over there.”
“It’s a short distance away from the town. There are only about ten houses, maybe. It doesn’t seem like they are being forced to stay there, but isn’t it strange that there are enough dwarves here to create a settlement?”
Zynis indicated towards the cave.
“Ah! I see. They are being made to work then. But I’ve never heard of ore being mined inland.”
What Dilon was saying was true. It wasn’t that the human territories had no natural resources at all. But they had no problem leaving the mining and smithing to the dwarves, since they were so skilled at it.
“They seem really exhausted. Dilon. Go and follow them.”
Dilon disappeared quietly.
Zynis stayed up and watched the cave for the whole night. But aside from the dwarves and soldiers leaving after a few hours, nothing else changed. However, even when the cave should have been empty, there were still four soldiers guarding the entrance.
When he returned to the first spot in the morning, the others were all gathered there and had returned to their first form. Zynis also transformed and asked them to make their reports.
“I tried walking through the town once everyone was asleep. I didn’t notice anything strange. If I had to point out one thing, it would be that I barely smelled any grilled fish, in spite of being so close to the lake.”
Zynis said as he nodded at the brisk report.
“I mainly watched the lake. There were so many lights on the boats. I knew there had to be something.”
Zynis urged him to continue.
“Half the time they watched the water, the other half they watched the sky.”
“And what was there to watch?”
“I don’t know why they were watching the sky. However, I found out why they were watching the water.”
Corete looked serious.
“Zynis. I don’t know what you are thinking, but I’m sure you’re wrong. They were looking for the merfolk.”
It wasn’t unthinkable. After all, the lake was supposed to be connected to the sea. There were always rumors about people seeing merfolk.
“And how did you know there were merfolk?”
“Because I saw them.”
“Their heads came out of the water. But the humans didn’t notice them.”
“What? They are so stupid.”