Rakel changed into a shirt and trousers as a concession to practicality, and buckled on a sword belt and a leather cuirass as a concession to safety. That done, she went through the front of the house and the attached shop, where Kajsa was preparing for the day’s business, and out into the narrow streets of Vrimderheimdalskaagerholmegvorrighrimdalholm’s Riverfronts district. Wisps of fog drifted around the tall wooden buildings on either side, and interposed themselves between the rising sun and street so that Rakel was bathed in a uniform gray light. So also were the others out and about in the early morning, mainly craftsmen and servants. Had it not been for the sword belt and the armor, Rakel might have blended in with the other women among them. With them, though, she was obviously a mage, which earned her a measure of deference from the common folk.
She walked for twenty minutes along the labyrinthine roads of the Riverfronts and ten minutes more on the sidewalks of the main highway running out of the city to the west. Rakel was going east, however, to the High Quarter, and ahead she saw the stone wall which surrounded it, and behind that the spire of the Guild of Aeromancers looming out of the fog. The Lion’s Gate stood open, and the soldiers standing guard waved her through when she showed her conjurer’s medallion.
She walked into what might as well have been a different city. The High Quarter was all low, stately stone buildings on wide and airy boulevards, punctuated by the occasional more impressive landmark, the Guild halls and the Palace of the Five being the most notable among them.
Rakel’s destination was the compound held by the Magehunters. The guards there were somewhat more attentive, examining Henrik Gunnarssen’s summons with a critical eye and sending a runner to be sure everything was in order.
It seemed to be. When the runner returned, he led Rakel into the compound while the guards resumed their vigil. Rakel and the runner wove through the confined spaces between the buildings, coming to one of the central ones. The runner ushered Rakel in, saying, “Master Gunnarssen is waiting.”
Rakel did not say that she could’ve told him that, although she certainly wanted to, instead nodding an acknowledgement and going inside. She picked a hallway at random, and as she expected she heard Henrik Gunnarssen’s voice behind her.
“You didn’t actually send the letter,” he said.
She turned to see the familiar nondescript face, brown hair, and medium build—he was neither notably short or tall, at a few inches over six feet standing a handspan taller than she was. “Why waste the paper?” she replied.
He smiled, waved for her to follow him, and turned back down the passage he had emerged from. “I’m glad you had a safe journey back, but it seems I’ll be asking you to dive back into danger again. I’m sorry it’s so soon.”
Rakel chose not to correct him about the journey. “Nothing I’m not used to,” she said. “What’s going on?”
“It’s worse,” he said, before she could voice a theory. “Worse than anything else I’ve seen.”
That got Rakel’s attention. The things Henrik had told her about were sobering enough, and they were almost certainly the less serious ones. She was willing to take his word on it. “Are we going to win?”
“It’s cloudy,” Henrik said. “None of us can see that far ahead.”
They came to a larger room, where about ten others sat around a table. Rakel and Henrik paused at the threshold, exchanging a glance.
“Well,” said Rakel, “we make our own luck.”