The square was perhaps one hundred and fifty yards across, divided into rings by broad avenues by lines of trees. The bank stood alone in the middle. A few of the paths ran straight from the outside edge of the square to the bank. Guards patrolled the whole of the park, and others were posted along the spoke paths to stop those without legitimate business from getting too close. Rakel suspected that some of the citizens wandering around in the square were actually the Shadow Brotherhood’s men, but she hadn’t been able to prove it. It was a good thing, she thought, starting down one of the spoke paths, that she wasn’t planning on leaving by the front doors.
The pain from the casino incident had become manageable, and so she had left her armor at the inn. That freed her to wear something which made her look a bit more well-off; although she hadn’t gone so far as to put on a dress, her shirt and trousers were of a fine cloth and a fine cut, which made the pendant she wore look less out of place than it would have otherwise.
It was, of course, not simply an ornament, and it hadn’t always looked like one either. Rakel could recall instances when it had been a fork, a coin, and in one particularly memorable incident, the key to a set of manacles. What it was was a tool: an abjurer and a conjurer, working together, could create a few varieties of talismans which prevented the use of magic in their areas of effect, and Rakel had decided that a tool to defeat those was a nice thing to have. To her knowledge, there weren’t any other ones in the world. As she neared the checkpoint midway along the path, she felt the pendant stop its gentle buzzing against her neck. She reached up and touched it idly. She was inside the bank’s wards now.
One of the guards hailed her. “Might I ask your business?”
Rakel stopped and answered amiably. “I’m here to open an account.”
“With what funds?”
Rakel waved vaguely at Two, which opened one of its hands to reveal a coin pouch. “Three hundred crowns,” she said.
The guard eyed the construct. “I’m not sure,” he said, picking his words with obvious care, “that he’ll be allowed inside.”
“Nonsense,” Rakel replied shortly. “It’s no different than a porter, and I saw you let one of them past on my way here. If there’s nothing else…?”
The guard looked to his fellows for support and found none. Rakel walked past him, and he offered no further challenge. She let out a deep breath once she’d made it a few steps. She reached the steps to the bank, and went up them and through the front doors. Nobody tried to stop her or Two, and just inside she touched her pendant again.
The bank’s wards would of course be talismans, trinkets to which a conjurer had bound a spirit, to which another mage had in turn given directions. It was a significantly less expensive way to protect a place from magic than hiring an abjurer full-time, and no less effective; if the ward broke, it would take some time for a new talisman to be put in place, but any mage working magic powerful enough to bring down the ward would certainly be noticeable enough before he finished to meet his end as a repository for crossbow bolts.
Of course, minor magic in sufficient quantities was also perfectly capable of breaking a ward, and so one quiet afternoon Rakel had asked herself what would happen if she made a talisman that didn’t actually do anything, but did so with great energy. It sufficed to say that she had nearly torn a hole in the world itself, and that, after a very stern lecture from Henrik Gunnarssen, she had spent several weeks fixing the damage to both the real world and the Weave.
Her pendant was a refinement of that first design. Even now the spirit bound to it was vigorously doing nothing, and very shortly—
The pendant buzzed again, and there was a piercing whine. Rakel frowned. An alarm on the ward was an innovation she had not foreseen, but she was committed now. She took two more talismans from her pocket, dropped one, and tightened her fist around the second. The first hit the floor, and Rakel felt her muscles lock in place. The second fired a moment later, and she could move again. Everyone else remained frozen, but the guards outside had probably heard the alarm, and so she didn’t take the time to admire her work.
She hurried to the vault door, placed a third talisman against it, and glanced at the entrance. The first two guards to rush in had been paralyzed as soon as they got within her talisman’s range, but the others, keeping back, were aiming crossbows—
Rakel dove behind a heavy wooden desk, and bolts clattered off the wall behind her. She looked back over at the vault door; it was already starting to soften and sag. “Go!” she shouted at Two.
The construct pushed through the door, dragging taffy-like strands behind it, and Rakel began to count the seconds. More than thirty, she figured, and things might get a bit hairier as the bank’s security brought its own stock of talismans into play. A count of twenty-seven later, Two emerged from the vault, bags of coinage hanging off it, and ran to her side.
Rakel stood and ducked behind the construct as the crossbow bolts flew again. She pulled the last talisman from her pocket, said a few words at it in Elvish, and grinned.
There was a sound like thunder, and before the guards’ eyes, the mage and construct vanished.