The sun rose over Vrimderheimdalskaagerholmegvorrighrimdalholm. Its light, diffused to gray by the fog hanging over the city, spilled into the after cabin of the ship Wandering Spirit and fell upon a man of eighteen or twenty, with a tall, slight build and brownish hair, asleep in bed. Eirik Eskilsson stirred, blinked, and covered his eyes as the gentle rocking of the boat brought them, the sun, and an inconvenient gap in the curtains into line. He grumbled and blinked until the spots went away.
He stood and went over to the table where his papers, still disorganized, lay. He made a half-hearted effort to get them into some sort of order, sighed at the magnitude of the task, and settled for stuffing the papers haphazardly in between the cover and first page of a book, which he returned to the chest beneath the table.
From the same chest he took a set of robes, in a style and color that marked him—to those who took the time to learn about such things, anyway—as an aendemancer. It was, unfortunately, Guild business that brought him to the city, and although he would have much rather been relaxing at his father’s estate in Mikelsfjord, the Guild’s bylaws demanded that he and every other aendemancer lacking a matter-of-life-and-death excuse be present for a General Assembly. The last one had been called years before Eirik had joined the Guild, but more alarming than that was the letter Eirik had received from one of his old mentors. It seemed to suggest that there had been a foul-up, the Guild was looking for a scapegoat, and Eirik was on top of the list.
He had some idea why, too. There had been the dead girl out in the west, and the bumps in the road there always were when he’d brought her back. He had collected the fee, given the speech, and done everything else protocol required, but it was out of the ordinary to bring back someone who wasn’t on the lists, and it wasn’t as if Eirik was free of rivals. The fact that he’d been able to perform a resurrection at his age almost certainly had some of his guildmates jealous and others fearing for their own positions. He had always found it funny how quickly people abandoned meritocracy when faced with someone more meritorious.
Of course, it was possible that it was all in his head. The letter had been quite vague, and Eirik would be the first to admit that the conclusions he’d jumped to were based more on hints and implications than any actual facts. On the other hand—
He stopped himself, closing his eyes and rubbing at his temple. He was thinking like an aendemancer again, letting his talent to see past the masks most people wore—past the letter and to the spirit—run wild while he guessed at motivations and relationships and constructed elaborate scenarios which all turned out to be completely wrong.
He smiled ruefully, changed into his robes, and packed and closed his chest. Leave worrying about the future to the diviners, he told himself, and dragged the chest to the middle of the room. Straightening, he stepped out of the cabin to the ship’s lower deck.