The speaker for the Septumvirate was, momentarily, speechless. One of his colleagues tapped him on the shoulder, and the Septumvirate conversed in quiet, rapid-fire Elvish.
Hans glanced at Mikel and whispered out of the corner of his mouth. “Is it going well?”
“Better, now,” Mikel judged. Further comment was precluded by the return of the Septumvirate to their places.
The speaker addressed Hans. “Hans Georgsson. You can provide is with an account of the circumstances surrounding one Anja Grevdarsdottir’s alleged confrontation with and victory over a draug?” The mage sitting next to him whispered something, and the speaker corrected himself, “A firsthand account?” At Hans’ nod, the speaker raised his eyebrows at Mikel. “You might have told us.”
“There was hardly time,” said Mikel, a trace of smugness evident in his voice.
The speaker’s eyes narrowed almost imperceptibly, and he returned his attention to Hans. “Please, tell us your story.” The Septumvirate looked a little less hostile than before, and Hans began to tell his story. At first he spoke slowly and haltingly, but he gained momentum as he went on.
“Well, masters, it began eight months ago, or about that. Not more than a tenday away, at least.” He gathered himself and pressed on. “A draug came to Jötunberg, and before we had any idea it had taken more than a hundred of us. It got worse fast, and by the time the tenday was out I wondered if the town would survive.
“I tend the gardens at Anja’s father’s estate, and I’d gotten stuck there when the draug arrived. I was half out of my mind with worry about my family, and I made a fuss about it. Anja caught wind of it, and she told the guards they’d show me home if she had to go along with me. They didn’t believe her ’til we’d walked out the gate. We weren’t a dozen yards away, and with the guards running after us, when out of the dark there was a sound, or something. I don’t know—”
“If I may,” one of the Septumvirate said, and as he closed his eyes a sensation filled the room that chilled the blood, leaving an uncomfortable silence where a howl or a scream ought to have gone.
Hans, face turned ashen, nodded. “Like that.” He took a deep breath before he was able to say more. “I don’t remember too much of what happened next. We went off into the wilderness, very fast, it felt like, and the next I knew we were up in the mountains. I saw Anja and the draug—they were standing, facing each other. With my own eyes I watched the draug vanish into thin air, and after it did Anja fell. She seemed alright when I ran over to help, and we went back down toward the village.”
The Septumvirate were, to a man, leaning forward over the table and listening with rapt attention. As Hans’ brief narrative came to an end, the speaker said, “Remarkable. You are prepared to swear that things occurred exactly as you describe?”
“Masters, if it weren’t for Anja I’d not be here today to tell you about it. I’ll swear by whatever you want.”
“How did you come to correspond with Mikel Skräskyddsling?”
“It was Anja’s idea that we get her to the city and trained. She still doesn’t know exactly what she did, or how she did it, and as I understand it she’s not exactly comfortable that way. I chose a few of the Guilds that she wouldn’t mind, and the only letter I got back was his.”
“I expect we’ll have more to ask on that topic in time. Meanwhile, the Septumvirate would very much like to meet this Anja Grevdarsdottir. Bring her before us.”