Eirik would have found it very difficult to explain the way the world looked to him right then, particularly to someone who had never consciously used magic, and even more particularly to someone without a solid technical idea of what a spirit was. It was something he hadn’t yet had to do—his circle of associates included little more than mages, who didn’t need the explanation, and his family, who had always seen his talent as something to be sheepish about in polite company and who had therefore not asked any questions they didn’t need to—but Captain Eriksson was a curious man, and Eirik had little doubt that he would want to hear more about the practice of magic. For his part, Eirik had enjoyed listening to tales of the Wandering Spirit‘s exploits, and certainly wouldn’t mind hearing more.
And so, as the coach rolled on, Eirik turned his thoughts back toward trying to describe the sight before him. It was possible to begin with coarse detail. He saw a world of brilliant scintillating lights—not entirely unlike looking up from underwater on a calm day, he thought, realizing that although he’d never put it in those terms before the description was apt enough, and certainly one the sailors could relate to.
He did not see the physical world, or even anything more than the merest of suggestions of it, but as an aendemancer he was able to form a picture of it anyway. Nearby—though distance was an ill-defined concept here—some of the lights moved in unison, and if Eirik looked closer he felt strength and a plodding sort of determination, and there and gone in an instant a start as the driver cracked his whip. He felt, in short, the essence of the horses, saw the brief flare of joyous energy that was the whip in motion, heard the driver’s petty greed, rising irritation, and simple boredom.
He could shift his focus outward and see a field of thousands of lights, and look at any one to find a thousand more, flickering in and out of existence as the reality which shaped them slid forward through time. He could look still further outward, see the city as a single unified entity, huge and vital, and feel its pulse as its residents lived their lives.
Something like that would do, Eirik decided, even if it failed to capture every little nuance. It was very much like trying to describe color to a blind man—there was only so much he could do.
The world shifted around him, and he felt the carriage pass the confluence of the Hrimdal and Heimdal. They’d be coming to the Bridge of the Twelve soon, and the guards would want to see his papers. Reluctantly, he let his spirit sight fade away, staring out the window for a few minutes to let himself get used to the bleakness of the city again.
They came to the bridge, and Eirik waved his sanction papers out the window. The coach took a right after they’d crossed to continue along the road running just inside the High Quarter’s north wall. Eventually they turned southward—the High Quarter was a triangle with its point to the east, bordered on the north and south by the rivers, and the Aendemancers’ Guild hall was in the southwest corner—and about halfway there, Eirik spotted a woman walking alone. He thought he recognized her. She was short, with hair he would have called brown, but, he remembered, she insisted was dark red. Either way it was cut short, which seemed as much a concession to practicality as the sword and the armor. They had met once or twice when he’d ended up doing a favor for the Magehunters; she had enjoyed the work rather more than he had. He couldn’t remember her name, though, and didn’t think it worth the effort to dig around in his memory for it, so he let the coachman pass her without stopping to say hello.
They came to the Guild of Aendemancers, and the coachman brought his vehicle to a stop, helping Eirik get his trunk down before clambering back to the driver’s box, cracking his whip above his team, and driving off.
Eirik sighed. Here he was again, at the closest thing he had to a home in the city. Funny, he thought to himself, how in spite of that he was not at all happy to be here. There was nothing for it, though, and he let the knocker fall against the heavy oak door.