He dismisses her again. He goes back to Maika's house. Maika gives him a box to keep his stuff in and respects his privacy enough not to ask what the book is about or what the weird little bottle is for. He sits by her loom and talks while she works, learning weaving and Eivarne simultaneously.
At the end of a week, he has a solid conversational grasp of the language and he's starting to suspect there might be some trouble around here that deserves him. He asks Maika to teach him to read and write. The printing press seems to be a recent invention; three of the ten books in the house are handwritten on vellum. But she's perfectly literate and happy to teach him. After another week he has read all ten books. His vocabulary expands accordingly.
There's something about the way Maika talks about the Emperor...
It's not that she says anything bad about him. It's that she very carefully avoids saying anything bad about him, and this seems to leave her with very little to say. She doesn't want to talk about it, so he doesn't press. He does chores around the house and helps double-check her accounting and learns a lot of fascinating things about textiles.
The local calendar is 360 days long, divided neatly into twelve thirty-day months, with a thirty-day lunar cycle to match; fifteen days is a half-moon, seven days colloquially a quarter. The first, eighth, and fifteenth days of every half-moon are weekend-like rest days. He tries to explain the Terran calendar and Maika says it sounds horribly complicated, although she admits the seven-day weeks with their two-day weekends have something going for them. He refrains from saying that the tidy precision of the local version makes her planet look artificial.
He's not surprised to hear of gods; he is surprised to hear that they're all dead. Maika clarifies that a god is a fairly well-understood phenomenon, accounting for the part where it's been sixteen hundred years since anybody saw one. She goes on to explain about magic.
Sindri wonders what has gone horribly wrong with his approach here that it took him half a month to learn what local magic was like. But apparently it's rare enough that Maika doesn't personally know any mages or own any artifacts, so at least he has that for an excuse.
Magic, she says, comes in three basic kinds. Earth mages can shape the earth and do magic focused on the self. Air mages can shape the air and do magic focused on inanimate objects. Light mages can shape light and do magic focused on other people. Those are already pretty rare; rarer still are the combination mages: Earth and Air make Water, Air and Light make Fire, Light and Earth make Wood, each with its own elemental shaping power - Wood has lifeshaping, which sounds like biokinesis; the others are straightforward - and access to everything the parent magics can do except their basic elemental shaping, plus its own set of combined powers, like Wood's communicative telepathy or Water's memory enhancements. Any given mage cannot access all possible powers of their own element, but they all get the appropriate elemental shaping power plus a few more things from the rest.
And then, if three mages of the basic kinds combine themselves into a single being, you get a god. Someone who can use all six kinds of elemental shaping, and draw powers from any of the six specialties, and on top of that can also shape magic itself. Only a combination of the three basic elements will result in a god; there's stories about an Earth mage and a Fire mage, or a Wood mage and an Air mage, or a Water mage and a Light mage, who tried it and failed. The question of whether Wood, Fire, and Water would do it is somewhat more ambiguous, but it's not a very safe experiment: gods are difficult or impossible to disentangle, and frequently mentally unstable after jamming themselves together like that, and failed gods don't seem like they'd come off any better. Gods are the reason why the Godscrest Mountains are so bizarrely beautiful, and also the reason why the entire southern end of the continent is a barren wasteland inhabited primarily by horrifying monsters.
Sindri kind of wants to be a god. He does not disclose this ambition to Maika. Apparently magic is something you're born with, anyway, and he wasn't. Something to put on the backburner.
But as his command of the language gains depth and nuance, he becomes more and more certain that something needs to be done about the Emperor of Eianvar. It's all in what people don't say. They don't say what happens to people arrested for sedition or lèse-majesté, and they don't say what the Emperor's favourite hobbies are, and they refrain from saying these things in a way that puts Sindri in mind of contemporary accounts of Caligula. He could probably get more details if he spent a couple of months here and got to know some people well enough for them to let their guard down, or if he asked Maika some hard questions; but Maika's been nice enough to him that he doesn't want to put her in that position, and if things are as bad as they sound, he doesn't want to wait two months to carefully cautiously creep up on the rumours when there are faster methods of verification available.
He's been waiting to turn eighteen and qualify for an EU summoning license. Well, this sure as hell isn't the EU, and he's a thane of Thule and there is a problem in need of solving. He reads his summoning textbook, reads it again, reads it a third time, spends a couple of days writing out possible bindings and then thinking of how he would get around them and revising them to close the relevant loopholes, and finally he takes his notes and finds a secluded spot a few hours' walk outside of town and draws the safest ungagged random demon circle he could come up with.