She descended the staircase to the great hall. As usual, it was nearly empty at this hour, and the fire on the hearth had burned down to a man-sized pile of glowing embers.
Einar and Lilja sat near the fire, engaged in conversation which struck Sif as a bit too innocent. Nobody talked so eagerly about studying.
Leifsson had a table to himself on the far side of the hearth, away from the tafl boards and the late-night readers. He had a candle and a book of his own, which he flipped through at a pace Sif thought was incompatible with paying the words any attention.
She approached him. He waved her to a seat, closing the book without marking his place. “Sif Hrothgarsdottir.”
“Do you have the poster?”
Sif paused. “No,” she said. Leifsson’s raised eyebrow demanded an explanation. “I wasn’t alone last night,” she said.
“Goransson and Orrisdottir?” Leifsson guessed.
Sif nodded. “Is it that obvious?”
“It isn’t that it’s obvious,” said the elder magiker. “It’s only that I can’t think of anyone else you’d get into trouble with.”
Sif inclined her head, allowing that this made sense. “Einar has the poster. He and Lilja wanted to be included. I don’t think it’s a good idea, but they insisted.”
Leifsson gave her a level look. She didn’t know what to make of it. Eventually, he said, “I can call them over, demand the poster, and send them away. Do you want that?”
“I was hoping you would decide for me,” Sif said. Leifsson snorted, but said nothing, waiting for her answer. “That’s what I want, but I promised I would talk you into bringing them in.”
Leifsson’s eyebrow rose again. Sif wondered if he practiced, or if anyone else got the same number of searching looks.
“That was an odd promise to make,” he said. She shrugged. “I’ll tell them you were very convincing.”
Sif wasn’t sure if she appreciated that or not. She turned in her chair, caught Einar’s eye, and waved. Nonchalantly, Einar and Lilja joined them. Einar took a brace of chairs from the next table over and set them down to Sif’s right.
“Well?” said Leifsson.
“The poster,” Leifsson said.
“Right.” Einar withdrew the rolled paper from his sleeve and passed it to Leifsson.
Leifsson unrolled it. It was blank. He weighed down the top edge with his book and the bottom edge with his candle, then placed his hand on the center of the page.