They continued upward. Sif had been on her feet all day, and now she felt a burning in her legs. Rasmussen continued indomitably. Finally, they came to the end of the passageway, stepping into a large, circular room with a high ceiling. The hair on the back of Sif’s neck stood up as Rasmussen ushered her past a pair of attendants into a circle of light in front of a curved table at which six men sat. Rasmussen pulled his hood over his head, then took his seat at the center of the table.
“Identify yourself,” he said.
“Sif,” Sif replied. She remembered something, and with a smile added, “Hrothgarsdottir.”
“Well, then, Sif Hrothgarsdottir,” Rasmussen said, “do you petition us for admission to the Akademi der Luftsmagiker?”
“Yes, I do.”
“On what grounds?”
Sif blinked. A murmur ran around the table.
Gesturing for her to elaborate, Rasmussen said, “Why do you come before us?”
Sif took a deep breath. “I have magic,” she said. “I lived in the far south, in Syderskogholm. We escaped the city—”
“We?” the hooded figure seated to Rasmussen’s right asked. Sif was surprised to hear a woman’s voice.
“Me, my parents, and my friend Falthejn Arnarsson.”
Now it was the woman’s turn to be surprised. “The diviner?”
“Yes,” Sif said. The luftsmagiker spoke quietly among themselves, but the woman motioned for Sif to continue. “We escaped the city, and ran north. On the way, I had to use magic—”
“Work magic,” another hooded man corrected her.
“Work magic to protect my family. I know how it feels now, and I don’t think I can leave it behind. I want to help people.”
Rasmussen rapped on the table with his knuckles to quiet his compatriots. “Would you honor us with a demonstration?”
Sif frowned. “Falthejn Arnarsson told me that magic is dangerous, and that I shouldn’t use it unless I had to, until I’ve been trained.”
Rasmussen started to speak, but the woman next to him put her hand on his arm. “Arnarsson gave you good counsel,” she said, “and your caution does you great credit, young one. It is safe to work magic here. I pledge it.”