The next day did not go as Tipper had expected. In fact, as she was heading to Long Hall to pick up some breakfast, after having sung the dawn, she became aware that there was much ado about something. She spotted a pair of fully armed and armoured Arcanium Warders, escorting a half dozen red robed Archivists in the direction of the Arcanium. Then there was a notice posted by the doors to the dining hall, stating that all classes had been cancelled for the day and the students should carry on with independent studies.
Inside the hall there were more students than was typical for this time of day, some seemed fairly subdued with worried expressions while others seemed to be excited and she could overhear them talking about the things they planned to do with an extra day off. As she selected some food for breakfast she asked one of the nearby staff what was going on.
He chuckled and stepped closer and in low, confiding tones said, “There was a raid in the Grey District early last night. Arcanium Warders and mages were involved. Seems likely there was a powerful renegade mage. They must have found some important artifacts as well, all the Archivists were gathered up, classes cancelled. Never seen the like of it.”
“Is that not part of what the Arcanium does? Surely things like this have happened before.”
“Not like this. The town guard was involved and from what I heard Councillor Bane was somehow implicated.”
“That’s the man who runs the East Dock District?”
“The same. Councillor Corvern Bane.”
Tipper pursed her lips then frowned, “Anything else?”
“Not that I’ve heard, but when I’m done work I’m heading over to The Tavern to see what else I might be able to find out.” He gave her a tentative look then continued, “I know you’re one of the new students. Are you a mage?”
“No, but I am really curious about this.”
“Well, I’m done here after lunch. If you want we can go over to The Tavern together, I know a number of people who work there.”
“Ah, sure. That would be alright.” Her tone was a bit hesitant.
“Great, my name’s Gaily, by the way.”
She smiled, though it was bit forced, “I’m Tipper.”
“Where did you want to meet?”
“How about in front of the library’s main entrance?”
“Sure, that’s pretty handy to The Tavern. I should be there before the fourteenth hour.”
“Yeah, okay. See you then.” She grabbed a bit more food and then headed out from Long Hall.
At first Tipper was at a bit of a loss about what to do. Her curiosity was leading her to head in the direction of the Arcanium, as was the thought that with all the heightened activity it might be her best chance to sneak into the Arcanium. However, she had not even gathered any intelligence as to what the insides of the building looked liked or where things were situated within. Likely such a gambit would not succeed at this point.
Instead, she headed to North Hall and had breakfast at her usual bench. Part way through breakfast it started snowing. When custodial staff open the doors at the usual time she headed into class. Not surprisingly, there was no one else there until class was nearly due to start. Then the usual stragglers, including Lord Parli, rushed into class looking sleepy headed or as in the case of Parli, hungover from the previous nights activities. A couple of them were discussing the fact there were so few people around and one of them was speculating that perhaps classes had been cancelled for the day.
Clearly none of them knew what was going on. Not surprisingly, Professor Vrith did not show up for class. After waiting a while longer, Tipper gathered her books and headed for the door. One of the students asked her if she knew what was going on.
“There are no classes today. Notices were posted at Long Hall with the suggestion we do independent studies. I’m not really sure why.”
Parli sighed and slouched down in his seat, “Oh, thank the gods.” He smelled strongly of alcohol.
Tipper left without further delay and headed to the GreensBridge Library. Along the way she swung by the training grounds near the Arcanium. As she walked by she noted guards up on the top of the tower, something she had not seen before. As well, a half dozen, red-clad guards at the main gate and a heavy wagon en route to the Red Tower with a mounted escort. No one was using the training grounds.
She entered the library by the main entrance and made her way to the east wing. She noted that there were fewer staff around today and saw none of the red robed librarians. All of the Arcanium members had been called to the tower. She found a window alcove with a southeast facing that had a clear view of the Arcanium and gathered the books she had been reading yesterday. She worked a bit, but much of her attention was on the view outside. Near mid-morning she saw another heavy wagon, under escort, go through the gates. By morning’s end she had only managed to get through one volume and had made only a partial page of notes. She would have to review the book again, when she was not so distracted. Through the window she noted people leaving the Arcanium, usually in twos and threes, mostly heading in the direction of The Tavern, which was out of sight from her vantage. The trickle of people leaving continued for the next hour and in that time a few red robed or armoured Arcanium members filed back through the gate.
After a quick review of her notes she sighed and stretched and then returned the books. After gathering her papers she headed out the main door and found a nearby bench to sit on. She had to dust the snow from the seat. Sitting with an arm over the back of the bench, she gazed over her shoulder at the ongoing activity. A while later Gaily strolled up.
Tipper commented, “Very busy all morning. I saw at least two heavy wagons go in, under armed escort.”
“The rumours are flying thick and wild at Long Hall. My favourite one was that a drake had been slain and the Arcanium had seized its horde.”
“That seems unlikely.”
“A lot of them,” She nodded her head towards the red robed people walking to or from The Tavern, “Have been going for lunch.”
“Want to head over?”
“Any other news?”
“Not really, no. I’ve been in the library all morning. They appeared to be understaffed today.”
“Makes sense. Many of the librarians are also Archivists.”
“Are they all mages?”
“I think so, yeah.”
“Seems like a lot.”
“Well, not everyone who has the talent is an amazing mage. I’ve heard it said that for every hundred mages only one will ever amount to much. A lot of the city’s mages are Lamp Lighters.”
“Yeah, you know the light orbs that are all around the city?”
“A mage has to go around and activate them at night.”
“Really? I’d not known that.”
“Yup. The Lamp Lighters also deal with lots of other mundane things, certain streets are cleaned by them, water purity is a big thing for them, drinking water. Pest control. You’d be surprised.”
They were approaching The Tavern, it did not appear as if they were keeping non-mages out, but there was not too many people around who were not wearing red. Conversation dropped in volume when they passed close to a table full of red robed women and Tipper noticed at least one of the Warders was checking the two of them out as they moved across the room.
“Gaily. Over here.” A woman at the back of the room stood up and waved them over.
“Saffi, this is Tipper. Tipper, Saffi.”
They sat with their back to the room. Tipper nodded to the woman who was regarding her with some interest. Saffi was tall and thin with compact muscles, short cropped brown hair, a long nose and big eyes, she wore a stained apron over common clothing. Beside her on the bench was another staff member, similarly attired who stood and drained his mug, nodded to the others and left.
“Quite the day.” Gaily offered.
Saffi kept looking at Tipper but nodded, “We’ve been pretty busy all morning, then the lunch rush hit and we’re still trying to feed everyone. Hope you guys ate at Long Hall.”
“I did. Tipper?”
“No, but I have some extras in my bag from breakfast, I’ll be fine.”
Saffi stood up, “You two stay put, I’ll get us some drinks.”
Tipper watched her go, “Your friend seems intense.”
“They’re always tightly wound.”
“I mean about me.”
“Ah, yeah, that’s my fault.”
Tipper was a bit confused, “What do you mean?”
“Well… I’ve been talking about you a lot over the past few eight-days.”
“You seem interesting.”
“Oh. In what way?”
Gaily seemed a bit uncomfortable, and his face was flushed, “You are not like the other students. And, well… that is… She, er, I, we like strong women.”
Tipper just looked at him. His flush went to a blush. Then Saffi returned with mugs of ale and a plate of hot meat, fresh bread and some cheese. She set the plate in the centre of the table and passed the mugs over, “Here’s to Tipper.”
Mugs clunked together and Tipper drank, eyeing Saffi as she sat down. They ate the food and drank in silence for a while. Saffi’s gaze shifted from Tipper to Gaily and back again, after a while she asked, “Did you tell her?”
“Oh, sorry, I had assumed you’d already spoken to her.”
“No, no. It was kind of a coincidence of the day that brought us together.”
Tipper added, “He used my curiosity regarding the Arcanium business to convince me to come here with him.”
Saffi looked a bit sad, “Ah, so…”
Gaily interrupted, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to trick you or anything. I just thought if you two met.”
Tipper raise her hands, “Look its alright. I’m not offended. No apology required.”
Saffi perked up, “Does that mean you’re interested?”
“Ah, maybe, but not now.”
Saffi affected a pout and Gaily sighed in relief. Then Saffi looked past them and as loud voice said, “Are you Tipper, of Darner’s Hold?”
Tipper turned in her chair, mug in hand. A tall, powerfully built man, wearing the red armour of the Arcanium, looked down at her. “Come with me please.”
“Might I finish my lunch? Can you tell me what this is about?”
The stern looking man paused a moment then said, “Yes and no.”
He remained standing over her, Tipper managed a smile, “Alright then, I’m going to finish my meal with my companions.”
Very seriously he gave a nod and said, “Alright then. I’ll be waiting outside. Don’t keep me waiting too long.”
Tipper turned back to the table, a bit confused and could not miss the look that passed between the other two. Tipper ate some food and drank her ale. A few moments of silence passed between them.
Saffi asked, “Are you in trouble?”
“I don’t think so. I haven’t done anything.”
“Why would the Warders want you?”
Tipper shrugged, “Your guess is as good as mine.”
“Well, maybe you know something about what happened?”
“I doubt it, I don’t even know what happened.” She ate a bit more and then drained her mug.
“Good luck.” They said in unison as she picked up her satchel and turned towards the door.
“Thanks. Hopefully I’ll see you guys soon.”
The Warder was waiting outside, without preamble he started towards the Arcanium, “Follow me.”
Tipper did so, though she could not help but feel a bit nervous. What was going on? She knew certain types of magic could foretell future events, though other than her intent to get into the Arcanium she had not actually made much progress to that end. Maybe it had something to do with the artifacts she had brought from Kaymere? Possibly Mokha had come to the attention of the Arcanium, that could be problematic. Whatever this was about she guessed she would find out soon enough. Her escort lead he through the gate onto the Arcanium grounds.