It began on a summer night like many others. Thick dark clouds, pouring rain down upon the city, hid the moons from view. The occasional flash of lightning cast sharp-edged shadows onto the streets, and the rolling bassy crescendo of thunder underscored the patter of the rain on the roofs.
Lightning struck the spires of the Guild of Electromancers rather more often, blanketing the High Quarter in a continuous rumble of thunder. Two streets over, the lightning, in a curious stop-start sort of way, illuminated two cloaked figures trudging along in the wet. They reached their goal, a gate in the wall surrounding a tall tower which vanished into the clouds. They stood before the heavy wooden doors. On the lintel above them, the words “Akademi der luftsmagiker” were engraved.
The taller of the two figures shifted his heavy load. “We seem to have arrived, milady.”
“Yes,” said the other. Her voice was a child’s, but it carried an authority and a wisdom well beyond the years of its owner.
The gates swung open, and the two figures walked inside.
A short distance to the east, a ship rose and fell in time with the storm-tossed surface of the river Heimdal. A lamp burned in the cabin at the stern, and inside, a young man, bathed in the lamplight, was organizing large stacks of paper, each covered in dense handwriting in the elvish script.
On the weather deck stood two miserable-looking sailors, rain rolling off their oilskins in sheets.
“It’s good luck we made it in before the storm,” one ventured.
“And bad luck we got ourselves stuck on the midnight watch,” the other replied. “Why did his lordship have to take a ship? I heard they got the south roads in order after the thaw, finally.”
“He’s got a thing about wagons.”
“You’re right at that. And he hasn’t gotten any better lately.”
One leaned over the stern rail. “He’s still got a lamp lit.”
The other joined him. “I wonder what he’s doing.”
The first gave him a look. “I wouldn’t, if I was you.”
The second grunted, and silence descended over the deck.
In the cabin, the boy sighed and ran a hand through his hair. A moment later he was no longer alone.
A few miles to the west, an odd procession made its way through the maze of streets. The rain plinked off of four eight-foot metal figures, which escorted a much shorter woman. They came to a door, below a sign which declared that herein a conjurer for hire could be found. One of the constructs stepped forward as if to knock. The woman raised a hand to forestall it and pounded on the door herself. It was a few minutes before it opened.
Standing in the door was a bleary-eyed woman, but the sight of her nighttime visitor shocked her fully awake. “Rakel? What—”
“I’ll explain later. Take these around to the back and see that I’m awake by dawn,” the visitor cut in. The other woman stepped back to let her by, and the first went into the building. She half-turned, adding, “It’s good to see you again, Kajsa.”
Kajsa simply nodded, stepping out into the rain and leading the constructs away.
Some time later all three—the girl with a voice beyond her years, the boy who was not alone, and the nighttime visitor—slept. The storm went on.