The Hall of the Guild of Aendemancers was not as blatantly ostentatious as many of its counterparts. It was a walled compound, a couple of smallish outbuildings surrounding the main hall. The latter was the most impressive of the buildings by far—even if it would have looked a little drab next to the massive edifices of the heliomancers or the aeromancers—dozens of skylights arranged in rows along its steep-sided roof.
As the boom of the knocker bouncing off the gate echoed across the street, a head poked out over the parapet. There was a shout, and a few moments later the gate rumbled open. A pair of servants emerged, taking Eirik’s luggage before he could say a thing. One of them filled the remaining space in which he might have protested with a pleasant, “Welcome back, Master Eskilsson.”
“Thank you,” said Eirik automatically, watching as the servants bore his load away toward one of the smaller outbuildings. He went through the gate, which closed behind him, and set off for the main hall.
It was quiet, which Eirik regarded as a small mercy. He guessed that the Assembly had thoroughly interrupted the Guild’s regular routine. A pair of aspirants in formal robes heading for the main hall confirmed it: the aendemancers weren’t particularly hard on their students compared to the other guilds, but they weren’t so soft as to let their students waste perfectly good daylight on something other than training.
He followed the aspirants into the main hall. There was an atrium separating the outside from the Assembly Hall itself. It was a relatively small room by floor area, but it reached all the way to the peak of the roof, and standing in the center of it Eirik could almost convince himself it was taller than it was wide. Chairs and couches were scattered around low tables in groups around the room, which Eirik had always regarded as more than a little optimistic. Aendemancers were not by nature particularly social.
He was, therefore, shocked to see the atrium bustling, mages gathered into small knots, standing where the seating had run out. A babble of conversation ran around the conversation, carrying an undertone of nervous energy. Eirik saw a number of familiar faces all trying to avoid being recognized by anyone outside their immediate vicinity, and one familiar face approaching him.
“Baltasar Hrafnssen,” Eirik said. He smiled. “It’s good to see you again.”
Baltasar was an old man, hair gone white long before Eirik had met him for the first time. He wasn’t any less imposing now than he’d been forty years ago, if the stories were to be believed, still as tall as Eirik and almost twice as broad across the shoulders. More impressively he had kept a solid grip on his faculties in a line of magical study which did its level best to wreck them. “I would have preferred happier circumstances,” he said, “but here we are, Master Eskilsson.”
“The Assembly,” said Baltasar, waving a hand irritably. “Everyone all worked up, the aspirants running wild, and nobody getting anything done. It’s trouble enough keeping this place running as it is, and now this business—”
“What business?” Eirik managed to put in.
“Twelve’s ears, you haven’t heard yet?” Baltasar was incredulous.
“I’ve just arrived.”
“Yes, I know,” Baltasar said, tilting his head toward the assembled mages. “They’ve been gabbling like a flock of geese for a pair of tendays now. I’m surprised you didn’t hear on your way in. Walk with me, and I’ll tell you all about it.”