Kolduna Bazar was always busier in the early morning than Highmaster van Durmstrang thought it should be. The smells of incense, wood fires, and potion ingredients were so strong they were nearly intoxicating. The bright, clashing colors of banners and awnings hanging from every stand and storefront seemed to cast a kind of Confounding Charm on the place.
Even so soon after daybreak, the narrow, winding street was full of merchants hawking their wares in a dozen languages to potential customers. Most spoke Russian, but Highmaster van Durmstrang thought he recognized several other local dialects. As usual, there were a fair number of German-speakers—not only Germans but Lithuanians, Estonians, and others who found it easier to do business in that language. A Latvian witch and a merchant Durmstrang knew to be English had even resorted to haggling in Latin over the price of a copper cauldron. Others, apparently Slavs from further south, seemed to be getting along in Church Slavonic.
A couple of swarthy Mongol wizards had set up a table where they sold fabric made from some sort of ape from the Far East. The hair of this beast, they claimed, could be spun into the finest Invisibility Cloak material in the world.
Goblin money-changers converted every kind of wizard and Muggle money into the wizarding currency of Novgorod. Bat-eared elves, some dressed only in tattered loincloths, crisscrossed the wizards' marketplace on errands for their masters.
Near the center of this storm of commerce stood the premises of Ewald van Lübeck. It was here that the Highmaster headed. The old wooden building was Koduna Bazar in microcosm. A jumble of trunks and crates of various sizes lined the walls. There were stacks of cauldrons, scales, mortars, and pestles on one of two huge oaken tables. On the other were a collection of smaller boxes. Four or five broomsticks were mounted on the walls along with a small collection of goblin-wrought swords and battle axes. A fire was blazing in the fireplace. The Highmaster doffed his blood-red cloak and slung it over his arm.
"Ewald!" he called.
"Come in, Hoogmester van Durmstrang," came the answer from a back room concealed by an ornate tapestry suspended across the doorframe. Out popped a short balding man with a button nose and an oversized black moustache. "I take it you heard we'd finally arrived?"
"Bad weather kept us at Visby a week longer than I had hoped," he smiled, "but we've finally made it. Your students are helping me unload my cargo. I'll need them another day at least."
"Of course, Ewald," the Highmaster said. "I hope they didn't cause you any trouble."
"Not at all, Ghert. And there's a new one: a boy named Detleff. Ilse's younger brother."
The Highmaster frowned. "I didn't realize a new Novice would be starting. How is his Russian?"
"Fair, I suppose," Ewald shrugged.
"It had better be more than 'fair.' I won't have him slowing down the rest of the class if he can't keep up."
"Ilse and the others have been working with him. I don't think he'll have any problems."
"Let's hope not. Now, were you able to procure the things I asked about on your last trip?"
"I've got them all right here," the merchant smiled, ushering the Highmaster to one of the larger trunks on the floor near the back room. He pulled a wand from inside his tunic and used it to magic the lock and lift up the lid.
"The books were the hardest. But I know a wizard in Hamburg who has connections from London to Krakow. He had to send to Italy for The Life of Kalonymus."
Highmaster van Durmstrang considered a small wood-bound codex. "And the others?" he asked. Ewald van Lübeck shuddered.
"Yes, Highmaster, the bookseller you mentioned in London was, erm, quite helpful." He pulled two more volumes from the trunk. There was a leather-bound first edition of Godelot's De magia pravissima as well as De artium atrissimorum arcanis,another wooden book with shiny bronze hinges. The Highmaster leafed through this second book with great interest.
"I should tell you, Hoogmester," Ewald said, "that the tariffs on these two were ridiculous. Practically an insult."
"You will be duly compensated," the Highmaster drawled.
"If you ask me, the Warlocks' Duma is being completely unreasonable. Even on my more…harmless goods, the taxes are steeper every year than the year before."
"Prince Andrei's foolishness four years ago has only made it worse," the Highmaster said with a contemptuous sneer. "As if the Mongols wouldn't take notice of his plotting! If Prince Aleksandr hadn't already bowed before the Great Khan, Nevruy's armies wouldn't have left two stones stacked together in the entire land. Since then, the Warlocks' Duma has demanded a greater slice of the pie—but so have the basqaqs."
The Highmaster returned the three books to the crate where he found them and spent several minutes inspecting the rest of his goods. He was glad to see such a large quantity of scurvy grass and crocodile heart—items hard to come by so far north. The dragon's blood seemed fresh enough, and properly sealed for a change. He disputed the quality of the cockatrice feathers, however, and found several of the finished potions lacking ("Master Gridebor could do better in his sleep!" he scoffed).
"I will expect my students no later than Sunday," the Highmaster said. "I'll take the books now and send elves for the rest this afternoon. Good day, Herr Ewald."
"Good day, Hoogmester."
The Highmaster marched back the way he came. "Tariffs!" he cursed under his breath. He had taught in Novgorod for twenty-five years, and it galled him to no end to get such little support from the Warlocks' Duma.
Wait until the basqaqs edge them out completely, he thought. They're fools if they think it won't happen. Aleksandr Iaroslavich knows full well he had better give them whatever they ask for. They'll take whatever they can get—and I'd like to see the Warlocks' Duma stop them.
He slipped out of the Kalduna Bazar and wound through the twisting alleyways of Muggle Novogorod, finally crossing over into Carpenter's End. Unlike Novgorod's other five boroughs, Wizard's End comprised a string of disconnected nodes along the Merchant Side of the city. Furthest south were the offices of the Warlocks' Duma near Iaroslav's Court and the Great Bridge, then Kolduna Bazar near Market Square, and finally Mastera Volost, a wizarding neighborhood hidden away just across the bridge into Carpenter's End.
The Highmaster's destination was an unassuming compound near the north end of Mastera. No Muggle had ever set foot inside Durmstranga Dvor—and precious few wizards who were not the Highmaster's handpicked teacher or students. The iron gates that separated Durmstranga Dvor from the outside world dissipated like smoke as the Highmaster passed through them, then quickly re-formed themselves.
He strode across the courtyard to main house, then up the narrow stairway to his private office. A gray-haired woman was waiting for him in his anteroom.
"Out early, Ghert?" she said.
"I received an owl from van Lübeck first thing this morning," he shrugged. "He's finally arrived. Be sure to send a couple of elves later to collect our crates."
"Did you know Ilse has a brother? He's expecting to begin training this year."
"I believe she has mentioned him."
He opened the door to his office and stood in the doorway. "I take it you wanted to see me, Nadezhda?"
The older woman followed the Highmaster inside his Spartan office.
"You received another owl after you left," she said. "A snowy."
"From the north?" the Highmaster's interest was suddenly piqued.
"The Cyclopes want to know when they're going to get paid."
The Highmaster uttered a Low German curse that Nadezhda couldn't understand, but of which she had no trouble guessing the general import. "Everybody thinks I'm made of money!"
He sat down at his writing desk and examined the letter, unopened, that Nadezhda offered him.
"I thought you had read it," he said. Nadezhda tapped her temple and grinned slyly.
"I don't suppose I want to ask if there have been any changes in your visions."
"Then we'll have to find a way to pay them," the Highmaster sighed. "We're almost out of time."
• J. K. Rowling most likely intended the name Durmstrang as a play on "Sturm und Drang," the name of an eighteenth-century German literary movement. Phonologically, the word is clearly meant to be German, but no plausible etymologies come to mind. For purposes of this story, I suggest you squint, hold your head at the proper angle, and imagine it to be the name of the Highmaster's ancestral village back in Saxony.
• German cities such as Lübeck dominated trade in the Baltic region throughout the thirteenth century. A few generations later, Novgorod became the easternmost trading post of the Hanseatic League (14th-17th cent.). (The westernmost was London.) Merchants would travel through the Gulf of Finland to Saint Petersburg, up the Neva River to Lake Ladoga, then up the Volkhov River to Novgorod to conduct business.
• Old Church Slavonic was a prestige language in medieval Russia, much as Latin was in the medieval West. Medieval speakers of its daughter languages (Old Russian, Bulgarian, Serbian, etc.) had an advantage over their western counterparts, however, in that their native languages had not yet drifted as far from Slavonic as French or Spanish, for example, had from Latin.
• Novgorod came under Mongol control in 1237. In 1252 a Mongol horde devastated the regions of Pereslavl-Zalessky and Suzdal in retaliation for the anti-Mongol activities of Aleksandr Nevskiy's younger brother, Andrei, and his co-conspirator, Danylo of Halych.
• Basqaqs were Mongol tribute-collectors.
• Medieval Novgorod was divided into five boroughs or "ends," of which Carpenter's End (Plotnitskii konets) was located in the northeast quadrant. The east bank of the Volkhov was known as the "Merchant's Side"; the west bank the "Sophia Side" after Saint Sophia Cathedral.