The trio ascended the stairs up to the entrance, then entered through massive wooden double doors which swung smoothly and silently on their hinges. The outer face of each door bore carvings, ælfish symbols and runes alike. To a magiker, they hummed with power.
Lilja looked around the lobby with poorly-contained awe. Sif recognized the expression. She wore the same one the first time she stepped through the Rikesarkiv’s doors, and into the three-floor atrium behind them. Staircases to either side switchbacked upward, lit by enormous candles atop ornate candlesticks. The smell of old paper was thick in the air.
Further into the building, a man sat reading at a long wooden table, surrounded by safety lanterns rather than naked candles. Their light, shining through a layer of water contained in glass which would serve to douse the flame if the lantern were dropped, swirled in dancing patterns.
Sif approached the desk. “Good evening, Agust Knutssen. I didn’t expect you to be here so late.”
The man peered over the top of his book. “Sif Hrothgarsdottir! How nice to see you.” His gaze flicked between Lilja and Einar. “Who’s this?”
“My friends,” Sif said. “Lilja Orrisdottir and Einar Goransson. Aspirants at the Akademi. Lilja, Einar, this is Agust Knutssen. He’s the senior keeper of the Arkiv, and a skilled trollersmagiker too.”
“Your friend has the heart of a scholar,” Knutssen informed Sif’s companions. “What do you have for me?”
“Returns,” Sif said, placing her pair of books on the table. “Magnus Trollkarl’s Principles and Illusions.”
Knutssen glanced over the cover of each book with an approving look. “Excellent.” He turned in his chair and took a hefty ledger from a shelf behind him, flipping through its pages, dipping a pen in an inkwell, and making a note. “Would you like to take anything with you?”
“No, thank you,” Sif said. “I have enough to practice for now.”
“As you like it,” Knutssen replied. “Good night.” He returned to his book before Sif could say anything else.
Sif motioned to the others, then led them outside.
“What a strange man,” Lilja said.
Sif frowned at her. “He’s nice,” she protested.
Lilja held up her hands defensively. “I never said he wasn’t.”
Einar patted Lilja on the shoulder. Sif could have spotted Lilja’s blush at a hundred paces, but somehow, Einar seemed not to notice. “You get used to him,” he said. “He’s helpful.”
Sif heaved on one of the doors, and it swung ponderously open. The three luftsenmagiker returned to the cold of the night.