The Continuing Adventures of Sif No. 45

“The Shining Hand failed,” Leifsson replied. “Before they even began, really. A loyalist to the throne learned of their plan, and the Akademier put a stop to it. The mundane authorities never knew; the Akademier never told them. It was thought to be a bad bargain. The conspirators were executed, the loyalty of the magiker assured. There was nothing, the thinking went, that the throne could do that had not already been done.

“That is what the Shining Hand means to magiker: rebellion against the Rike, usurpation of power which is not ours to take, and death for treason against the throne. To most of us, at least. If there are magiker out there showing the palm and making the sign…”

Sif sat back, head spinning. That was just about the worst case scenario, in her mind. The Shining Hand was a conspiracy after all, almost certainly. “If there are enough of them that they can meet in the open, then they must be pretty far along. Do they want the same thing as last time?” she wondered.

Leifsson lifted a shoulder and went back to the informal register. “I don’t know. There are people I can talk to about this.” He tapped the table. “I haven’t known you for very long, Sif Hrothgarsdottir, but I know you want to dig deeper. Don’t. Leave this alone. If you happen to cross paths with the Shining Hand again, bring the evidence to me.”

Lilja half-raised her hand, then blushed and lowered it quickly. “Why not just tell the mundane authorities this time?”

Leifsson shook his head. “The Thanes’ Moot would take it as evidence that the Akademier foster disloyalty and push to bring us fully under their control.”

“Aren’t we fostering disloyalty, if we’ve had two conspiracies, now, to overthrow them?” Einar asked.

“I suppose,” Leifsson allowed, at length. “They have no real understanding of what we do, though. They would send us all to the front, and we would either fall to the ontr or tear the world apart. If we magiker don’t stand apart from the thanes, we’ll all fall. Not just us; the Rike altogether.”

“That’s good enough for me,” Sif said. Einar and Lilja turned in unison to look at her. She endeavored to put on an honest expression. The other two exchanged a glance, then nodded to Leifsson.

“I guess it’s good enough for all of us,” Einar said.


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The Continuing Adventures of Sif No. 44

Leifsson closed his eyes. Sif watched the poster. It remained resolutely ordinary. She looked up at Leifsson searchingly. “Is it broken?”

“No,” Leifsson replied, removing his hand and rolling the paper. “I saw it.”

Quickly, Sif glanced down at the poster. “It didn’t—”

“Twelve, no. If anyone were to see it…” Leifsson shook his head and rubbed his temple. “I should burn it.”

Sif looked to her friends. They watched Leifsson, wide-eyed. “Not over your candle,” she said, facing Leifsson again. “Here.” She held out her hand. Leifsson hesitated, then passed her the scroll.

She slipped it into her sleeve and stood. Across the hall was a cask of the Akademi’s small beer. She headed in that direction. As she passed the hearth, she twitched her hand toward the embers and scratched her wrist. The fire flared for a moment as paper lit and burned.

She paid it no mind, pulled four mugs’ worth of beer from the tap at the cask’s base, and returned to the table. She passed the mugs around, and raised her eyebrows at Leifsson.

He half-smiled, then addressed Einar and Lilja with considerably less cheer. He spoke in the formal register again. “Be that careful. You have uncovered something terrible.” He took a deep breath. “In the days of the jötnar wars, magiker were not so tightly bound to the Rike. We took den Holm back from the jötnar. We built its walls. We were deeply convinced of our own power, and our power independent of the mundane authorities. It was these conditions which bred the Shining Hand.”

“But—” Einar said.

“The original Shining Hand.” Leifsson held a finger up. “Let me speak. The magiker watched the wars from their citadels in den Holm. Joar King did not go to them for help. He chose steel and grit.”

“And death,” Sif put in.

“And death,” Leifsson echoed, giving her a look. “Joar King died fighting. Halfdan II took the throne. He would shun the Akademier, too. That was the last straw. The Shining Hand was a conspiracy of magiker, highly placed in each of the guilds, who aimed to usurp the mundane authorities and conduct the war according to their own designs. Weave-working would bring the jötnar to their knees, and the Norrman people would not have to buy their end with blood.”

Sif frowned. “I’ve been reading Geirsson’s history,” she said. “He doesn’t say anything about that.”

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Empty week update

You may have noticed there was no story post yesterday. I’m not planning on a Friday update at this time, either, for two reasons:

  1. I’m at a key point on my Libra Cervisiae homebrew-tracking open-source project. I plan to run some tests this weekend, and I need to be sure I’m far enough along to do so.
  2. I’m cranking out a lot of RPJ stuff, and should have beta versions of both RPJ Core and RPJ Police Cops posted this weekend, and a prerelease version of RPJ Sci-Fi sometime in the next few weeks.

Given that both of those projects reflect on Many Words to some degree or another, I’m going to take the week off to get them as squared away as I’m able. We’ll be back next Tuesday.

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The Continuing Adventures of Sif No. 43

She descended the staircase to the great hall. As usual, it was nearly empty at this hour, and the fire on the hearth had burned down to a man-sized pile of glowing embers.

Einar and Lilja sat near the fire, engaged in conversation which struck Sif as a bit too innocent. Nobody talked so eagerly about studying.

Leifsson had a table to himself on the far side of the hearth, away from the tafl boards and the late-night readers. He had a candle and a book of his own, which he flipped through at a pace Sif thought was incompatible with paying the words any attention.

She approached him. He waved her to a seat, closing the book without marking his place. “Sif Hrothgarsdottir.”

“Herre Leifsson.”

“Do you have the poster?”

Sif paused. “No,” she said. Leifsson’s raised eyebrow demanded an explanation. “I wasn’t alone last night,” she said.

“Goransson and Orrisdottir?” Leifsson guessed.

Sif nodded. “Is it that obvious?”

“It isn’t that it’s obvious,” said the elder magiker. “It’s only that I can’t think of anyone else you’d get into trouble with.”

Sif inclined her head, allowing that this made sense. “Einar has the poster. He and Lilja wanted to be included. I don’t think it’s a good idea, but they insisted.”

Leifsson gave her a level look. She didn’t know what to make of it. Eventually, he said, “I can call them over, demand the poster, and send them away. Do you want that?”

“I was hoping you would decide for me,” Sif said. Leifsson snorted, but said nothing, waiting for her answer. “That’s what I want, but I promised I would talk you into bringing them in.”

Leifsson’s eyebrow rose again. Sif wondered if he practiced, or if anyone else got the same number of searching looks.

“That was an odd promise to make,” he said. She shrugged. “I’ll tell them you were very convincing.”

Sif wasn’t sure if she appreciated that or not. She turned in her chair, caught Einar’s eye, and waved. Nonchalantly, Einar and Lilja joined them. Einar took a brace of chairs from the next table over and set them down to Sif’s right.

“Well?” said Leifsson.

Einar blinked.

“The poster,” Leifsson said.

“Right.” Einar withdrew the rolled paper from his sleeve and passed it to Leifsson.

Leifsson unrolled it. It was blank. He weighed down the top edge with his book and the bottom edge with his candle, then placed his hand on the center of the page.


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The Continuing Adventures of Sif No. 42

Einar raised his eyebrows, but silently led them to the stairs up. As they left the great hall, he prompted, “Ansgar Leifsson said…?”

Sif shook her head. “Someone’s watching,” she said, now convinced of it. “Magic, probably. Herre Leifsson was concerned that… that the jötnar were back.”

She hoped that was clear: an old threat, thought vanquished, now returning.

“The jötnar? But nobody’s seen a jötun in—” Einar began.

Lilja elbowed him in the ribs. “Exactly. Think about it.”

As the wheels turned in Einar’s head, Sif gave Lilja an approving nod.

“I see,” said Einar, eventually. They came to his door. “I didn’t realize they had been here before.”

“He didn’t tell me much,” Sif admitted. “He said he would tell me more tonight.”

“When?” said Lilja, as Einar disappeared into his room. “Should we come with you?”

Sif shook her head. “I didn’t tell him you were with me. It seemed safer for you that way.”

Einar poked his head out the door. “Safer for who?”

“For you,” Sif replied. “I don’t want—”

“We’ll decide for ourselves how safe we want to be,” said Einar. “I’m going with you. Lilja?”

“Me too.”

“You’re sure?” said Sif.

“We are,” said Einar, emerging from his room with a rolled piece of paper in hand. “When do we meet him?”

“I guess I can’t stop you,” Sif said reluctantly. “In the great hall, at the tenth bell.”

“Great,” Einar replied. “We’ll meet you there at half-ten, then.”

Sif nodded, then held up a hand. “Wait. You two go on ahead, and I’ll come in right on time. I’ll tell Herre Leifsson that you were there and wave you over.”

“Why?” Lilja wondered.

“I don’t think he wants to talk about this any more widely than he has to. If we’re all there, I don’t know if he’ll open up. If it’s just me at first, I’m sure I can talk him into it.”

Einar exchanged a look with Lilja. “Do you promise not to talk him out of it?”

Notwithstanding that this had been her plan, Sif nodded. “Promise.”

“Okay. We’ll see you later.”


 

They had a few hours before the Rikesarkiv’s tenth bell. Sif returned to her room, gave Geirsson’s history a longing look, and instead took a textbook from her trunk, along with her ælfish dictionary. She sat cross-legged on her bed, and immersed herself in a dry treatment of the few dozen cumulations and forms Herre Leifsson would expect her to know in the classroom tomorrow.

The ninth bell sounded, and some time later, mercifully, came the three-quarters bell. Sif closed the book, set it aside with a good deal less reverence than Geirsson’s history deserved, and headed for the door.

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The Continuing Adventures of Sif No. 41

Lilja stood. Sif stacked their dishes—she saw no reason to make the servants’ lives harder—and followed suit.

Einar was playing the besieging side, the one which started at the outside of the board and had to keep the king from escaping. Sif considered it the harder task, although she was the wrong person to ask. She aspired to be merely bad someday.

Einar lifted his hand, shifting a piece backward while leaving another to be captured. It made no sense to Sif, which was, in her experience, the sign of a good move. Einar rested his chin on his hand and studied the board intently. His opponent looked between him and the board, frowned, and said, “If I am not mistaken, Einar Goransson, that is that.”

“I believe it is. Thank you for the game, Herre Rolfsson.”

“You play it well.”

Einar inclined his head and stood, yielding the table to another player, and finally caught sight of Sif and Lilja. A smile broke out across his face. “Hello.”

“Hi,” said Lilja. “Was it a good game?”

Einar nodded. “It was neck and neck most of the way,” he said. “Herre Rolfsson made a little mistake toward the end—moved his king too far from the rest of his pieces. If it wasn’t for that, he probably would have won in another ten or fifteen moves.”

Sif glanced at the board. Rolfsson and his new opponent were busily returning the pieces to their starting spaces. “Someday, you’ll have to show me how to play,” she said.

“The rules are pretty easy…”

“Someday, you’ll have to show me how to win,” Sif clarified, looking back up and grinning.

Einar laughed. “My father always told me that your first hundred games are your hundred most instructive losses.”

Sif thought that through. “So I have to lose a hundred games before I start to get better?”

“You might pick up a win here and there,” said Einar, lifting a shoulder. “It’s hard to play well, though. If it were easy, would it be as satisfying?”

“Maybe not,” Sif admitted. “Do you still have the poster from yesterday?”

Einar took a moment to register the change in subject. “It’s in my room. Why?”

“Ansgar Leifsson wants to see it. He said there used to be a—” Sif stopped. She could feel someone watching her. She looked over her shoulder. Nobody was looking in their direction. “Let’s go get it.”

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