The Continuing Adventures of Sif No. 32

Ansgar Leifsson circled the Akademi’s courtyard, walking in the shadow of its outer wall. The fog had nearly gone. Off to the south, he could see Yngvar’s, perched atop its distinctive tower.

His students were beginning to gather for the afternoon lesson. He had a special challenge in mind for the beginners, one he ordinarily held back for a few months more. The war weighed heavily on the Norrmannrike’s elite, though. The latest news was that the ontr had pushed past the Syderskogflod and were on the march across the southern Plains. The Thanes’ Moot had sent word north from the capital that perhaps the Akademier should, in view of mounting losses, prepare their students for battle a little more quickly.

Leifsson knew that to be a fool’s errand. Too many magiker in one place led to wild, unpredictable magic, and after that, to other, more terrible consequences. If the few dozen already in the far south hadn’t stemmed the tide, another few hundred would make no difference. The war would be won with steel or not at all, Leifsson thought.

Still, the Thanes held great sway in the Norrmannrike, and Leifsson could hardly say they weren’t pulling their weight. Their armies were, after all, bearing most of the fighting. And so he honored their request, and pushed his students along faster than he would have liked.

He came to the Akademi’s south gate, where he paused. From outside the wall came a snippet of conversation.

“… does listening mean, though?”

“We just pay attention. You don’t have to go looking for trouble.”

“I think that’s what Falthejn—”

Three of Leifsson’s students caught sight of him as they came through the gate. Hrothgarsdottir and Orrisdottir, and Goransson behind them. They failed miserably at looking innocent, each offering a meek, “Herre Leifsson,” as they passed.

He nodded an acknowledgement and resumed his walk. It was good that Sif Hrothgarsdottir had settled in. Her friendship with Lilja Orrisdottir was good for both of them. Lilja needed some of Sif’s readiness to turn to her talent with the weave to solve problems, and Sif needed some of Lilja’s restraint. They could both learn from Einar Goransson, who had a year of training over them and was near the top of his class besides. Leifsson would have been hard-pressed to pick a winner if Einar and Sif got into a fight with free access to their skills, but Einar was a more efficient weave-worker and a quicker thinker. In a real scrap, he would be the odds-on favorite.


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Commentary, The Continuing Adventures of Sif No. 32

Scheduling posts for mid-June already? Where has the year gone? Then again, May 15 feels like about a year ago already, so I guess it’s not so bad.

Magiska Akademier: the schools of magic, sometimes the Guilds. Most terms of interest to magiker in the Norrmannrike come in two versions: a Norrmanssprak term used officially and more formally, and an ælfish term used casually by magiker. The magical community is already effectively bilingual, since ælfish is much more suited to technical discussions of magic; this is just one more example. A luftsmagiker is the same as an aeromancer, weave-working is the same as magic.

Some exceptions include magiker, which is borrowed from the ælfish magic, and compounds with native Norrmanssprak affixes like luft- and so on (to form, for instance, luftsmagiker, a practitioner of luftsmagik). The official, native Norrmanssprak alternatives to magik and magiker are vridning and vridnare, twisting and twister, in reference to the action taken upon the weave. A luftsvridnare is an air-twister, which is a fun word, but difficult to use in the flow of the story without a lot of explanation. Which you get here.

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The Continuing Adventures of Sif No. 31

She placed the quill into Tyrssen’s outstretched hand with bad grace, and stared at Falthejn’s letter. One moment, there was nothing. The next, there were two new postscripts. A moment after that, there had always been three postscripts.

 

P.P.S. In general, no. You may trust your friends. (Hello. I look forward to meeting you.)
P.P.P.S. Sorry about the letter to Tyrssen, but this is hard enough without you turning it into a conversation.

 

She stared at them, willing herself to remember that she had watched them appear a mere few heartbeats ago. It made her head hurt.

“That was weird,” Lilja said.

Passing by on his way back from the storeroom, Tyrssen said, “He told me to tell you it serves you right, fiddling with time like that.”

Sif glared, but he had already moved on. She sighed.

“So, what do we do now?” said Einar. There was a determined set to his face.

Sif studied him, then Lilja. Both of them watched her, waiting for an answer. She didn’t think of herself as a leader. It wasn’t in her nature. Besides, although she didn’t like thinking of herself in such terms, she was getting used to being a child. She had been responsible for herself for all her life. She had hoped to enjoy it being someone else’s job for a few years.

But here were her friends, looking to her. She didn’t think of herself as a leader, but it wasn’t in her nature to let people down, either. It always seemed to happen this way. People expected her to take charge, and so she did. She tapped the letter. “I guess we do what Falthejn Arnarsson says. I trust him. I’ll talk to Herre Leifsson this evening. We should go visit Falthejn’s conjurer soon.”

Lilja and Einar nodded along.

“After that…” Sif looked past her friends. The sun was burning off the fog. She could see some of the city now. In the distance was the tower of the Akademi, the tallest building in the city by far, surrounded at its peak by swirling clouds. “After that, I don’t know. We keep our ears to the ground, and see what we hear about the Shining Hand. What do you think?”

Her friends exchanged a look. Einar cocked his head to the side and lifted his shoulder. Lilja said, “We agree.”

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The Continuing Adventures of Sif No. 30

Lilja and Einar crowded around, reading over her shoulder.

“How did he—” Lilja began.

Sif held up a finger. “I’m not done yet.” A few moments passed while she read through the last paragraph. “I guess he just looked into the future where I wrote him a letter, and wrote an answer then.”

“He comes in once every month or two to catch up on his letters,” Tyrssen put in. “Or get ahead on them.” He frowned.

Einar tapped the sheet of paper. “Do either of you know any conjurers?” Lilja shook her head.

“Well, there’s Herre Knutssen at the Arkiv,” said Sif. “He doesn’t do practical work anymore, though.” Silence descended for a few moments, then her face lit up. “I just had an idea. Does anyone have a pen? Something to write with?”

“Arnarsson keeps his writing things downstairs,” said Tyrssen. He disappeared again, and returned a moment later with an inkwell and a quill.

“Can I see my letter again?” said Sif.

Tyrssen shrugged and set it on the bar, then circled the stove to greet a newcomer.

Sif spun her letter around, dipped the pen in the ink. She looked toward the ceiling for a moment, then put her pen to the paper.

 

P.S. We don’t know any conjurers.

 

She finished the sentence with a flourish.

“Will that work?” Einar wondered.

Sif lifted a shoulder. “I don’t see why not.” A moment passed. Nothing seemed to happen. Looking less certain, she glanced at Falthejn’s letter. Her expression brightened immediately. “It worked!”


 

P.S. You make a good point. I have enclosed a letter of introduction to a trollersmagiker of my acquaintance. Who’s we?

 

Sif looked up. “Georg Tyrssen?”

The lodgekeeper poked his head around the stove.

“Is there more downstairs for me? Another letter?”

Tyrssen’s forehead wrinkled. “Has he been here since I looked last?”

“It says here there should be a letter of introduction, too.” Sif held up Falthejn’s letter and indicated the new postscript.

“Good thing for you it’s not busy yet,” the lodgekeeper grumbled, heading down to the storeroom once more. Returning, he set a second sealed letter in front of Sif.

She set it aside, then took up the quill again. Einar and Lilja crowded her elbows, watching her write.

She set the pen back in the inkwell and looked up at Tyrssen, who hadn’t moved. “Yes?” she said.

“Nothing yet,” Tyrssen replied, “only I’m supposed to take the pen away after you write your next postscript.”

Sif raised her eyebrows.

“I found this beneath the one for you.” Tyrssen showed her still another letter.

 

Georg Tyrssen,

Please take the pen from Sif Hrothgarsdottir after she writes her next postscript.

Yours,
Falthejn Arnarsson

 

Sif sniffed. “Well, someone’s enjoying himself. Was enjoying himself.” She shook her head. “You know what I mean.”

The corner of Tyrssen’s mouth quirked up. “I remember him writing you, come to think of it. ‘Too clever by half,’ he called you.”

Einar snickered. Sif pretended not to hear him. Beneath her first postscript, she wrote:

 

P.P.S. Can I trust the other luftsenmagiker?
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The Continuing Adventures of Sif No. 29

Sif approached the bar, Lilja and Einar following in her wake. The lodgekeeper circled the stove to meet her. “Get something for you?”

Sif produced her letter from the sleeve of her robe. “I have something for the föraningsmagiker Falthejn Arnarsson.”

“Right,” said the lodgekeeper. “I’ll just be a moment.” He wiped his hands on his apron, ducked behind the bar, and disappeared.

Sif blinked, then hopped up onto a stool and looked over the bar. A trapdoor stood open over a stairway down. “He went down to the— I guess it wouldn’t be a cellar, would it?”

“Storeroom?” Lilja suggested.

“That’s what I call it,” the lodgekeeper said, grunting as he swung the trapdoor closed with his foot. “You’d be Sif Hrothgarsdottir?”

“That’s me,” Sif said guardedly. “How did you know?”

The lodgekeeper set a folded sheet of paper on the bar and slid it to her. On it was written, “Sif Hrothgarsdottir: luftsmagiker student, first visit”.

Sif read it and looked up to the lodgekeeper.

“He doesn’t wait for you to write before he answers,” the lodgekeeper explained. “Says it saves him having to bother some other magiker to zap his letters back here. You a friend of his, then?”

“I am,” Sif said. “Are you?”

The lodgekeeper chuckled. “As much as he’s friends with anyone. Name’s Georg Tyrssen.”

“Who’s Yngvar, then?” said Einar.

“My brother,” Tyrssen replied. “He died in the war with the dweorgr. I named the place after him.”

“It says ‘first visit’,” Sif said, looking down at the letter. “Are there others? Can I read those, too?”

Tyrssen looked aghast. “You’d tear the whole world right apart,” he said.

It was Sif’s turn to look uneasy. “Is this one safe?”

“You’d better give me your letter for him, just in case,” Tyrssen said.

Sif passed it to him. Tyrssen tucked it into his belt and set a knife on the bar next to her. She turned the letter over, slipped the knife under the seal, and unfolded the paper.


 

 

Sif Hrothgarsdottir,

 

At the time you receive this letter, I will be inescapably detained in the far south. I looked into the matter you described and elected to lodge this sealed letter with Georg Tyrssen for delivery to you.

Unfortunately, my efforts reveal a deeply unsettled situation. I do not believe I am able to provide you detailed guidance. The only direction I can give is that you must not sit on your heels. Cautious action is the safest course. That said, I can offer you three pieces of general advice without putting you in any further danger.

First, remain anonymous. You face a foe with wide reach, and very likely with my particular talents near at hand. If you are able, find a conjurer you trust and purchase tokens against divination. Whether or not you do, avoid writing down your plans, holding to them when the situation changes, or discussing them in specific terms. In doing so, you will make it difficult for förangenmagiker opposing you to track your actions to their source.

Second, be careful with your trust. Your foe is larger than you realize. Tell no magiker unless you are comfortable placing your life in his hands. (You may tell your parents according to your own judgment. Ansgar Leifsson can be trusted. I foresee he may attempt to mislead you. If so, I believe he does so only with your best interests in mind. Be forewarned that it would not be wise to involve the mundane authorities until you know the extent of your foe.)

Third, remember that it is impossible to attain great power in the weave without great cost. Your adversaries will pay. Do not repeat their mistakes.

I wish I could be of more help, but conspiracies cannot be easily untangled at a distance. Watch for my return to den Holm. We will speak then.

 

Be cautious, and be safe!
Falthejn Arnarsson

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The Continuing Adventures of Sif No. 28

Sif forced herself to relax as a pair of city guardsmen passed them. Even though she was on the right side of the law for the first time in her life, they still made her nervous.

They came to a corner. She looked up, got her bearings, and turned down a side street.

“Are we nearly there?” Lilja wondered.

Sif nodded. “We should be. Right around here…”

They turned another corner and found themselves back on a major avenue. Kvarnstrasse, Mill Street, if Sif was remembering her city geography. They crossed it, running between a pair of wagons, and found themselves before a singular building.

Unlike most of the structures in the Riverfronts, it was not wholly made from wood. The first three floors, about ten yards on a side, were built of stone blocks. Slit windows flanked a heavy wooden door facing Kvarnstrasse, set deep into the wall. Once, it had been a guard house.

The top three floors were log-built, obviously a later addition, and jutted out over the lower floors by a yard. A covered wooden staircase spiraled around the lower floors, worn smooth over the years by heavy use.

“It looks taller from this close,” Lilja observed.

Sif shrugged. “It’s only twenty yards. My window is higher up.”

“You don’t have to climb the outside of the tower to get to your window, though,” said Einar.

Sif tilted her head and nodded, conceding the point.

The three magiker wound their way up the stairs to the fifth floor. Over the door was a sign, swinging from a chain. The runes carved into it read, “Yngvar’s,” above an engraved picture of a bed and a cauldron.

Sif opened the door and went inside.

The room she stepped into filled the whole twelve-yard square of the tower. Enormous, many-paned windows centered in each wall gave an unparalleled view of the Riverfronts, at least on clear days. Today, Sif saw nothing but gray through them. Surrounding the windows was a collection of trophies from wars past. A large club, Sif suspected, had once belonged to one of the jötnar, in the golden age of the Norrmannrike. Scaled-down shields bearing an insignia of crossed, double-headed hammers featured around the room, the standard of the dweorgr kings. There were even a few of the white-on-red tribal banners of the ontr, which she still found unsettling.

Tables were scattered around the outside of the room, largely unoccupied at this time of day. A square bar, four yards on a side, took up the middle. In turn, in the center of the bar was an enormous brick chimney, rising through the roof. Kettles bubbled on flat surfaces at its base, and iron doors covered ovens built into its sides. Warmth rolled off it in waves.


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