Serebryany Teavane Veidrodis got off the train at a quiet cluster of buildings of weathered log and neat white-washed clapboard that shone in that clear grey Northern sun that seems always to carry a memory of snow in it.
He’d passed through a sea of trees on his way into this forest country, trees like the columns of an endless balustrade blurred into a corridor out the cold warped glass of the train window as they passed. Rivers wound between the orchards and the evergreens, quicksilver in the distance, dark as tea when it snapped by beneath the carriage. He’d sat at the front of the carriage and watched the Thaumaturges sweat out the silent sway and shush of the caravan cars. The navigator, a short, stolid woman woman of middle age, was his study for the last leg of the trip.
He watched the proprietary way her fingertips rested on the runners, and tried to work out some sense of their secret, of how the pressure of her hands could sound the pitch and roll of the land and shift the car through them— if there was some clairvoyance to it, he couldn’t work it out, couldn’t catch the language that wound beneath the verdant green velvet of her tunic where it gathered in gentle folds over a lambskin belt. The knuckles of her hands showed more wear than they should have.
Messages sent through the infinitesimally small cracks of joint bones seemed fantastic and impossible to copy, so he gave it up for a bad job and stretched out his legs. Every navigator did it differently, they said. Maybe that was part of the secret too, or maybe it wasn’t a secret at all, just another magic he couldn’t see the roots of. Something bothersome wriggled at the back of his mind, and he let it, let his knees sway with the carriage, but not enough to bump the portly old man the next seat over, or roust him awake.
He felt the tug of a spring breeze along the tails of his traveling coat as he stepped down, felt the silver around his wrist grow cold with the last yawn of winter in the air. He followed the runners, a couple of broad shouldered boys with close cropped dark hair and sweat drenched backs, the thew of them showing where their brightly dyed shirts clung, toward a squat building near the station.
It was warm and well lit, and nobody was friendly. There was a pointed contempt in the deliberateness of how they ignored him. He didn’t mind them ignoring him, except for the woman behind the bar, her fox-red hair cut at daring angles along the planes of her broad cheekbones, set off by elaborately worked copper hoops that hung nearly to her shoulders, and almost touched her elaborately embroidered cerulean dress.