Rakel was not surprised to see Knut Knutssen at the table—the abjurer had made quite a name for himself among the city’s magically-inclined denizens in recent years. She was not surprised to see a seat open next to him, either. She took the seat and gave him a nod. The gruff grunt she got back was about the best she could have hoped for; Knut Knutssen was not known for his people skills.
Henrik took his place at the head of the table, and all eyes turned to him. He spoke with great solemnity. “It should go without saying that what passes here does not leave the room.” There was a chorus of assent. “Good. All of you have proven yourselves to the Magehunters in the past, and have shown that you can be trusted implicitly. You are the first outside of the diviners and the Twelve to hear of this; it is critical for the stability of the city that what I am about to say does not reach the Guilds or the Chieftains, or Twelve forbid the population at large. Am I clear?”
There was another general agreement. Henrik continued. “We have foreseen that, in just over a year, the city will cease to be.”
“Fallen to the hiisi?” someone asked.
“Gone,” Henrik said. “Wiped from existence.”
Rakel took a moment to digest that. It had been common knowledge that the use of magic was risky since the beginning, and that it had very serious consequences ever since those consequences had started a war with the dwarves, but existence failure of such cataclysmic magnitude was a matter of conjecture at best.
“The whole city?” someone had asked. It seemed to Rakel that the whole room was waiting tensely for the answer.
Henrik gave it with a nod. “We have diviners assessing the extent of the damage. More importantly we’re looking for a cause. We’ve had no luck on that front.”
He’d had to raise his voice to be heard over the growing chatter, and when he finished, the room exploded in questions and accusations. Rakel watched for a few moments, and, when it was clear that the storm wouldn’t blow itself out, she sighed and stood. “What,” she shouted, “are we going to do about it?” Her voice had cut through the noise, and as the room calmed down she spoke more quietly, until her last word or two were at normal volume.
“Find out why this is going to happen and stop it before it does,” Henrik replied, giving Rakel a brief, silent look of thanks. “We do have one lead to follow. According to the guild rolls, there are three hundred forty-one sanctioned mages working for various criminal organizations in the city. The nature of such work keeps them out of regular contact, but it’s been brought to our attention that, over the last year, a growing number have been out of contact completely. Something is certainly going on, and it’s the only place we have to start.
“None of you have formal ties to the Magehunters, and your faces aren’t well-known. We would therefore like you to go undercover with some of the city’s criminals and try to locate our missing mages. We have areas in the city where we would like each of you to be, but beyond that you’ll be given a degree of latitude.”
The room had stayed quiet through the speech’s end. It was comforting to know that the diviner had a plan, Rakel thought, even though she knew better than most just how unreliable their foresight could be, and how often they made it up as they went along like everyone else.
“I’m sure you have questions, but we don’t have any more answers right now. Make arrangements to be away from your usual engagements indefinitely, and ideally out of contact as well. When we have your assignments we’ll be in touch in the usual way.”