For Stefan, the killer for hire, this is just another routine assignment. Every year he travels north to Brend, at the very edge of Sogen Valley, to a cabin way up in the mountains. Here, he waits. Then, during the annual winter party, a note comes. Carefully pushed underneath the door to his hidden chambers, containing the name of one unlucky guest who won’t come down from the mountains again.
For Enra Vadir, everything is about to change. He’ll soon be leaving his life of drinking and gallivanting in the far west behind, hoping to pursue a vastly different career path. An invitation to attend a party far north could open all the doors for him. There’s just one problem: His name is on Stefan’s note.
Anders took a swig of his own ale and slapped his hand down on the table. “The letter!”“Alright, fine!” He sighed. “I was invited to the annual winter feast up in Sogen Valley.”
“And I’ve accepted.”
Even more silence, if such a thing was even possible. It was the most quiet Enra had ever heard these people.
“Do you even know where that is?” Robert finally asked.
“No . . .”
Anders started snickering. “When is this?”
“In two weeks.”
That was all it took. Knud’sen was the next to burst. “Sogen Valley is in Brend, north of Steadwic. North of Old Steadwic.” He roared in laughter.
“I figured it was just outside Friport.” Enra said, smiling at his own misfortune.
“Why the hell would you even go there?” Robert asked.
“The letter says I’ve been invited because of an extraordinary innovation. It’s a fancy dinner with lots of high-ranking people. Could be fun . . .”
“People who are nothing like you, in other words.”
“Hey!” Enra raised his arms, but promptly lowered them again. “That’s . . . true, I suppose.”
“You’ve never even been to the central continents before, Enra. How the hell will you get there?”
“Yeah, no shit by boat! But what boat? And when, and how?”
Enra shrugged, and the trio laughed heartily. They’re absolutely right, though. But I need to be there . . . I can feel it!
“It’s good to know you’ve thought this through, at least!” Robert slapped Enra’s shoulder and vanished around the corner. Headed for the privy, no doubt.
But he had thought it through! Not how to get there, of course, or when. Just the rest of it. Extraordinary innovation . . . he thought to himself. He’d submitted and resubmitted those papers over and over. Finally it might be paying off! Here was a chance to mingle with other innovators, rich people and possibly even royalty. This might be his only chance to get out of the west and make a fortune for himself.
Knud’sen was laughing to himself, and Anders was staring intensely at Enra.
“There’s something you’re not telling us.”
Knud’sen nodded in agreement. “You’ve always been full of surprises. What is it this time?”
“Extraordinary innovation, is that what you called it?” Anders leaned closer.
Suddenly, Enra felt paranoid. Why are you interested now all of a sudden. This innovation could revolutionize travel . . . he didn’t want anyone else knowing about it. Anders and Knud’sen weren’t stupid; if they had the schematics, they might be able to work it out themselves.