Artyom looked to his father, to his mother, and back to his father. Neither of them had shown any surprise when, four weeks ago, Artyom had woken in the middle of the night to find himself a cubit taller and four hand-spans wider. “Aren’t you a great bear,” Artyom’s father had said, but he’d been smiling. Artyom’s mother had just said “I’ll write to Magnus.”
Magnus, it appeared, was a Norseman a hand-span again taller than Artyom and quite a bit broader. He had bowed deeply to Artyom’s mother and called her Star-Catcher, a name Artyom had never heard before. His bow to Artyom’s father had been polite but much less deep, and he’d called him Gospodin Ivanov.
Artyom’s mother was not a gentle person, but she was using her soft voice now, the one she used for hard things. “Artyom, this is Magnus, called the Winter Hound, and he will be your Mentor. He fought by my side, in the days when we were warriors.”
There was a story there, Artyom knew it. But there was also no room for argument in his mother’s voice. “Gospodin Winter Hound,” he said, instead of arguing, and bowed deeply. He’d always known he might have a Mentor, if things turned out one way or another. It seemed gaining a cubit in height was one way for things to turn out.
“It will be a long voyage, young warrior. Say goodbye to your parents now, and, should all be well, you will be saying hello to them in some years as a new person.”
Artyom nodded again. There was no point, he could tell, in saying that he didn’t want to leave, that he had no wish to be a new person. Things had been decided. He bowed to his mother and to his father. “Good-bye,” he said. His voice cracked, but he ignored it and, politely, so did they. “I will return.”
His mother’s hand landed hard on his shoulder. “You will return to us, my son. Go now into the hands of your Mentor, and may the gods guide your steps.”
Artyom turned to the gigantic Magnus. “Sir. I am yours to teach.”
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