The Continuing Adventures of Sif No. 44

Leifsson closed his eyes. Sif watched the poster. It remained resolutely ordinary. She looked up at Leifsson searchingly. “Is it broken?”

“No,” Leifsson replied, removing his hand and rolling the paper. “I saw it.”

Quickly, Sif glanced down at the poster. “It didn’t—”

“Twelve, no. If anyone were to see it…” Leifsson shook his head and rubbed his temple. “I should burn it.”

Sif looked to her friends. They watched Leifsson, wide-eyed. “Not over your candle,” she said, facing Leifsson again. “Here.” She held out her hand. Leifsson hesitated, then passed her the scroll.

She slipped it into her sleeve and stood. Across the hall was a cask of the Akademi’s small beer. She headed in that direction. As she passed the hearth, she twitched her hand toward the embers and scratched her wrist. The fire flared for a moment as paper lit and burned.

She paid it no mind, pulled four mugs’ worth of beer from the tap at the cask’s base, and returned to the table. She passed the mugs around, and raised her eyebrows at Leifsson.

He half-smiled, then addressed Einar and Lilja with considerably less cheer. He spoke in the formal register again. “Be that careful. You have uncovered something terrible.” He took a deep breath. “In the days of the jötnar wars, magiker were not so tightly bound to the Rike. We took den Holm back from the jötnar. We built its walls. We were deeply convinced of our own power, and our power independent of the mundane authorities. It was these conditions which bred the Shining Hand.”

“But—” Einar said.

“The original Shining Hand.” Leifsson held a finger up. “Let me speak. The magiker watched the wars from their citadels in den Holm. Joar King did not go to them for help. He chose steel and grit.”

“And death,” Sif put in.

“And death,” Leifsson echoed, giving her a look. “Joar King died fighting. Halfdan II took the throne. He would shun the Akademier, too. That was the last straw. The Shining Hand was a conspiracy of magiker, highly placed in each of the guilds, who aimed to usurp the mundane authorities and conduct the war according to their own designs. Weave-working would bring the jötnar to their knees, and the Norrman people would not have to buy their end with blood.”

Sif frowned. “I’ve been reading Geirsson’s history,” she said. “He doesn’t say anything about that.”

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