The Nighttime Visitor No. 3 – The Good Part

Rakel irritably refolded Henrik’s letter and stuffed it back into the envelope. The man had a finely-tuned ability to get under her skin, and it seemed to Rakel that he never missed a chance to use it. She reflected that prescience was quite the advantage when it came to being deliberately inflammatory, and then felt guilty for the thought. Henrik would have been quite rightfully offended if he’d heard her voice it; it was a sure thing he had less petty things to focus his talent on.

He was being deliberately inflammatory, though. Rakel had a theory that something about divining inspired a measure of miscreancy in its practitioners, and if Henrik’s measure was an infuriating capacity for writing annoying letters, Rakel could handle it. It was certainly better than going around robbing banks, wrecking families, or dreaming up inventive new ways to murder people, just to name a few of the instances of which she had heard.

She put those particular unpleasant memories back in their box. The Hammer and Anvil’s tavern was still empty but for Rakel, a yawning innkeeper, and the smell of frying ham. Rakel sipped at her tea. Even with the early start, it was going to be a long day.

Twenty minutes later, Rakel hit the road with a breakfast under her belt and the second part of Kajsa’s plan ahead. Kajsa had been busy after Rakel left, reasoning quite correctly that a bolt hole was an asset when working undercover. She had also reasoned that anonymity was a good quality for such a place, and had sent the constructs out to find one.

Find one they had. It was a boarding house owned by a man who skirted the boundary between legitimate and shady, if willingness to take a large, upfront payment from an anonymous source was any indication. Kajsa had paid for a pair of rooms opening onto a back alley, about an hour’s walk south of the Hammer and Anvil.

That had been a bit of luck. It was only a mile or two from Rakel’s assigned area, and while she didn’t mind a long walk, a shorter one was almost always better, provided it went to the same place.

Rakel gave the landlord a signed letter from Kajsa and got her key, and then went around to her door. The lock was new and, as far as Rakel could tell, quite a formidable one. As she swung the door open she saw it had a heavy bar as well. She looked at it speculatively, an idea forming, and grinned, heading inside.

The rooms were as Kajsa had described—each about fifteen feet on the sides, windowless, unfurnished, and dusty. Spacious, compared to most city lodgings, but otherwise, Rakel thought, a thoroughly unpleasant place to live. Fortunately that wasn’t the plan. She let the door stand open and looked over the neatly-arranged things covering the floor.

There were quite a number of them: two extra swords, a mail coat, and a box of talismans, to start, but Kajsa hadn’t stopped there. Rakel saw a box of candles, two lamps, a flint and steel, a bedroll, boots, snowshoes, and a parka, writing paper, and a wardrobe’s worth of clothing among the rest of it. Two must have had to make a few trips, she mused, and Kajsa had thought of everything.

Speaking of Two— but, when Rakel looked out the door, it hadn’t arrived yet. She had some other things to do to pass the time, and set about them. She lit the lamps, hanging one in each room, and began to move her things into the back. When she finished, she locked the door behind her and set out toward the last market square she’d passed on her way to the boarding house. A few purchases later, she had a coil of good strong rope over one shoulder, a hammer and a bag of nails in her hands, and a boy following her with a wheelbarrow full of arm-length planks.

She had him empty the barrow at the mouth of her alley, and shrugged expressively when he asked about the construct standing a few yards away with a cartload of crates. She tipped the boy a handful of chieftains, and with an impish look and a half bow he was off. Rakel waited until he turned a corner and approached the construct. It wasn’t one of hers or one of Kajsa’s, but it held out a note as she drew near.

“Excellent,” said Rakel, reading over it. It was what she had been expecting; Kajsa must have borrowed the construct for the day. “Are you able to help me move all this inside?”

The construct responded by effortlessly lifting one of the man-sized crates, and a few minutes later they were all inside. The construct had helped with the lumber while Rakel had signed the note “Rakel Andersdottir”, and added, “Received. Regards to Kajsa Asgeirsdottir” below her name.

That done, she gave the note back to the construct and sent it away. She fetched a prybar from the back and levered the top off of one of the crates. From it she lifted Two’s head, smiling at it and saying, “Hello again.”

She set it aside and got to work.

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