The sun rose over Vrimderheimdalskaagerholmegvorrighrimdalholm, burning away the fog which hung over the city as a reminder of the last night’s storm.
A storm of another sort was brewing in the halls of the Guild of Aeromancers. The man who had arrived the night before stood at the center of the room, facing a raised semicircular table whose wings reached around him. Seven mages sat behind it, and an eighth stood by his side.
“Mikel Skräskyddsling, you stand before the Septumvirate accused of illegally communicating with an unsanctioned mage, aiding and abetting an unsanctioned mage, bringing an unsanctioned mage onto Guild property, bringing a non-mage onto Guild property without express permission, offering admission to a potential aspirant without the consent of the Septumvirate, promising admission to a prospective aspirate without the consent of the Septumvirate, admitting an aspirant without the consent of the Septumvirate, admitting an unsanctioned mage to the Guild without the consent of the Council, delaying the Septumvirate’s deliberations on important guild business—”
Mikel Skräskyddsling had, to this point, held himself in check, his expression showing boredom, irritation, and finally outright anger. At last he exploded, interrupting the litany: “This is a farce. Move on.”
Levelly, the speaker for the Septumvirate continued. “You are accused of fifteen other violations. Do you waive your right to hear them?”
“Hans Georgsson,” the speaker said, addressing the last night’s arrival. “You stand before the Septumvirate as a witness to some of Master Skräskyddsling’s crimes.”
“Where’s Anja?” Hans demanded. “Is she safe?”
“They haven’t told you?” Mikel blurted out. “This is outrageous.”
The speaker began to speak at the same time, his voice gaining in volume to drown Mikel out. “She is safe, and will be well taken care of until we have reached a final decision on the matter. We do not, Hans Georgsson, mistreat our guests—even those we do not expect.” His last three words carried a note of rebuke, and as he said them he cast a look at Mikel. Mikel fumed, and the speaker said, “Master Skräskyddsling. Have you anything—excuse me, anything constructive to say in your defense before we begin in earnest?”
Mikel took a deep breath. “Each and every one of you is mad.” He raised his voice to cut through the Septumvirate’s protests. “Yes, mad! This girl sought out a showdown with a draug, and more than that she—untrained!—won. She is a prospect we cannot afford to pass—”
“Your views on Anja Grevdarsdottir are known to us,” the speaker finally interjected. “We persist in our opinion that, even if the claims made about her can in fact be substantiated, you were well outside your authority in bringing her here without notifying the Septumvirate or the Council.”
“I have no answer for your second charge—”
“The first reasonable thing—”
“—but,” Mikel continued, “that I feel I am acting with the Guild’s best interests in mind. Regarding your doubt about the truth of the rumors about Anja Grevdarsdottir, I present to you a witness to the events in question: Hans Georgsson.”