Sif approached the bar, Lilja and Einar following in her wake. The lodgekeeper circled the stove to meet her. “Get something for you?”
Sif produced her letter from the sleeve of her robe. “I have something for the föraningsmagiker Falthejn Arnarsson.”
“Right,” said the lodgekeeper. “I’ll just be a moment.” He wiped his hands on his apron, ducked behind the bar, and disappeared.
Sif blinked, then hopped up onto a stool and looked over the bar. A trapdoor stood open over a stairway down. “He went down to the— I guess it wouldn’t be a cellar, would it?”
“Storeroom?” Lilja suggested.
“That’s what I call it,” the lodgekeeper said, grunting as he swung the trapdoor closed with his foot. “You’d be Sif Hrothgarsdottir?”
“That’s me,” Sif said guardedly. “How did you know?”
The lodgekeeper set a folded sheet of paper on the bar and slid it to her. On it was written, “Sif Hrothgarsdottir: luftsmagiker student, first visit”.
Sif read it and looked up to the lodgekeeper.
“He doesn’t wait for you to write before he answers,” the lodgekeeper explained. “Says it saves him having to bother some other magiker to zap his letters back here. You a friend of his, then?”
“I am,” Sif said. “Are you?”
The lodgekeeper chuckled. “As much as he’s friends with anyone. Name’s Georg Tyrssen.”
“Who’s Yngvar, then?” said Einar.
“My brother,” Tyrssen replied. “He died in the war with the dweorgr. I named the place after him.”
“It says ‘first visit’,” Sif said, looking down at the letter. “Are there others? Can I read those, too?”
Tyrssen looked aghast. “You’d tear the whole world right apart,” he said.
It was Sif’s turn to look uneasy. “Is this one safe?”
“You’d better give me your letter for him, just in case,” Tyrssen said.
Sif passed it to him. Tyrssen tucked it into his belt and set a knife on the bar next to her. She turned the letter over, slipped the knife under the seal, and unfolded the paper.
At the time you receive this letter, I will be inescapably detained in the far south. I looked into the matter you described and elected to lodge this sealed letter with Georg Tyrssen for delivery to you.
Unfortunately, my efforts reveal a deeply unsettled situation. I do not believe I am able to provide you detailed guidance. The only direction I can give is that you must not sit on your heels. Cautious action is the safest course. That said, I can offer you three pieces of general advice without putting you in any further danger.
First, remain anonymous. You face a foe with wide reach, and very likely with my particular talents near at hand. If you are able, find a conjurer you trust and purchase tokens against divination. Whether or not you do, avoid writing down your plans, holding to them when the situation changes, or discussing them in specific terms. In doing so, you will make it difficult for förangenmagiker opposing you to track your actions to their source.
Second, be careful with your trust. Your foe is larger than you realize. Tell no magiker unless you are comfortable placing your life in his hands. (You may tell your parents according to your own judgment. Ansgar Leifsson can be trusted. I foresee he may attempt to mislead you. If so, I believe he does so only with your best interests in mind. Be forewarned that it would not be wise to involve the mundane authorities until you know the extent of your foe.)
Third, remember that it is impossible to attain great power in the weave without great cost. Your adversaries will pay. Do not repeat their mistakes.
I wish I could be of more help, but conspiracies cannot be easily untangled at a distance. Watch for my return to den Holm. We will speak then.
Be cautious, and be safe!