Standing on the tram platform where the newer bulk of Silberung meets the denser sprawl of Old Tun, I taste the crackle of magic in the air. The original city thrums with it, every street and crooked alley forming the structure of a massive ward to keep the old gods at bay. The magic is quiet, the days of the Tiefen Kalten nearly forgotten, but it is not gone.
“You gon’ ta stand there all day, girl?” An old woman balancing a basket of dry and pungent fish on her head, nudges me none too soft with her elbow as she edges down the steps. “Staring like a dem Welk.”
She’s not the only one giving me the hairy eye and I shrug an apology and hurry down the copper staircase to the street.
In the days of the Kalten, the city was magnificent. Now the winding streets and maze-like buildings are shabby and the old Weise families have moved into Silberung proper, leaving Old Tun to the gypsies and mechanics, the washerwomen and cobblers.
There’s a handful of soldiers standing near the corner, eying the passers-by, casual-like. The courier’s crest strapped to my left wrist says I can go anywhere in Silberung I damn well please, but it takes a lot of effort not to turn up my collar and shove my hands deep in my pockets so they can’t see the ink on my knuckles. Or the brand on my palm.
I take a deep breath and move through the crush and ebb of the streets. One of the soldiers whistles as I stride past, but no one makes a move to stop me as I push through the crowded market.
I’ve been here a few times already, but always on business. Today I’m here for my own reasons and headed into a part of the city I’ve seen only from the tram and briefly too.
Despite the abstract quality to the streets, the glyphs at every intersection give me clear direction in toward the heart of the sector. The streets are less crowded here. The noise of vendors begging for attention and promising the best price slowly fades in the distance.
I glance up at the street corner. Left.
Finding artists who do true, charmed ink is difficult. The practice of tattoo is legal, but still considered taboo by the elite. The good ones have learned to be discreet to the point of being nearly unknown. There are rumored to be five artists in Silberung who are the quality I seek. I’ve found four of them and none were familiar with the ruined Hand of Anwa on the back of my neck. But the fourth, a tiny little man with ink that covered his face and hands like lace, told me to look in Old Tun. A man named Reyneaux works there. He may recognize it.
Another glyph on the corner and a right turn. This street is narrower, the buildings on either side dull with age.