On the far side of the bridge, the stone buildings gave way to wooden ones as Rakel returned to the Riverfronts. The buildings here were old growth compared to the area around Rakel’s house, where a fire too big for even an army of heliomancers and hydromancers to control had reduced quite a large area to cinders and ash. They weren’t any smaller, though: where the architects elsewhere had planned for tall buildings, the buildings here had simply grown upward. They had a bit of a slapdash look, the only common element from building to building and even from story to story being the steeply-peaked roof.
Rakel turned to the west, passing Yngvar’s Tavern on her right and, after a few more turns onto progressively narrower streets, reached her destination. On seeing it, she smiled—Henrik had known exactly the sort of place she was looking for. The building was four stories tall, the top two having been added to the original ones much later. A stone chimney ran up one side.
It was far from unique—taverns and inns were an absolute necessity in a city Vrimderheimdalskaagerholmegvorrighrimdalholm’s size—and Rakel figured it probably had a low-rent but cozy feel, a small group of dedicated regulars, all of them tradesmen of one sort or another, and a name with two nouns separated by “and” and prefixed with “the”.
The sign over the door featured a hammer and anvil. One of three, she thought, grinning and going inside. One and a half, she thought. Cozy the cushioned chairs in groups of twos and threes were, but at the center of the room was a lordly tafl board, which added a hint of wealth and sophistication she hadn’t been expecting.
A young woman of about Kajsa’s age—about half a dozen years younger than Rakel—stood behind the bar, and from her Rakel engaged a room for the night and bought a piece of paper. She dashed off a letter to Kajsa, flagged down a messenger in the street to deliver it, and went back inside.
It was a long day, and Rakel spent most of it relaxing at the inn, reflecting how nice it was that there was, for the moment, nobody actively trying to kill her. At lunch, smiths, smelters, and merchants flooded through the doors. Rakel played a few games of tafl and lost a few chieftains betting on others. The flood receded an hour or two later, and Rakel spent the time grilling the innkeepers for useful information under the guise of a pleasant conversation. She was largely unsuccessful.
As afternoon wore on toward evening, two letters arrived for her. The first was from Henrik, which piqued her interest, but all it said was to expect another letter tomorrow. She rolled her eyes at it, figuring he’d had a laugh at the reaction he would’ve known he’d get, and set it aside.
The next was from Kajsa, and much more interesting. Rakel skimmed it briefly, and was delighted at the head for subterfuge the girl apparently had. “Hidden depths,” she mused. She refolded the letter neatly and tucked it into a pocket.
Travelers were beginning to arrive for the night, and presently the tavern was filled with men and the occasional woman, all eating, talking, and laughing. One pulled out a deck of cards, and Rakel’s eyes lit up. She had been a mediocre student at the School of Conjurers, but a fearsome gambler. With a light heart she stood and went to win her money back.