Book 5 – Chapter Eighteen

The days passed before Kel’ori was seen again. She’d finally vacated Alisbeth’s room, tired of the death knight moping over her missing demon hunter—who’d vanished without a trace and had yet to reappear. In an attempt to distract herself, Kel’ori began working to adjust her blue robes to fit the other mage’s much, much smaller bustline.

The elf frowns at the mask she is making—pure white, for now, but she intended to dye the cloth in shades of blue in a pattern similar to Anarchaia’s. She sets it on the table and stands, then stride into the hallway with determination. It was the first step she’d taken from her room in days and she takes in a deep breath as a few apprentices and students stop to wave. She waves back and goes through the halls until she is absolutely lost. She teleports herself to Khadgar’s office and knocks gently on the door.

A quiet sigh sounds from the other side of the door before footfalls approach it. It opens and an exhausted archmage lifts his eyebrows in the slightest of ways. “Oh. Miss Nightheart. Good afternoon.”

Kel’ori straightens and smiles. “Hello, Archmage Khadgar. I was wondering if you, um… Well, can you tell me where Anarchaia’s room is? I got a little lost.”

He runs a hand over his hair and back over his neck. “Down one floor. Room number eight.” He furrows his brow. “She’s not there, however.”

“Oh! That’s okay. I can slip a note under her door.” She turns and hesitates, her smile wavering. “Do you know where she is?”

“Home,” he simply says, wear in his voice.

Kel’ori frowns entirely as her eyes round. “For how long? She can’t leave me! I mean, we’re…a team, right? Study buddies. She…still isn’t doing her homework, though, is she? But, no!” Khadgar’s eyes widen and his silver brows knit. “No, she isn’t doing her homework, actually.”

The mage backs slowly down the hall, running her fingers through her hair. “She’s coming back? Right?”

He lifts his hands to calm her, face softening. “She’d decided she needed a break, so she left to refurbish her house. I’m unsure of when she’ll return. I…can send a letter if you’d like.”

Kel’ori fidgets and averts her eyes. “If you could. It’s nothing urgent I just…need her for a project?”

Khadgar smiles a faint, reassuring smile. “I’ll let her know. Is there anything else you needed?”

Kel’ori forces her smile back. “Me? No. Um, no. That’s everything. Thank you!” She teleports away before he can say anything else, appearing in front of the appointed door for the other mage. The hallway is empty and Kel’ori notes that it seems a rather abandoned section. Slowly she weaves her fingers over the door. “Clever girl.” She works on the wards over Anarchaia’s door, her brow furrowed in concentration.

“Strange place to run into you,” a familiar voice says behind her.

The elf jumps and spins, her eyes wide. She presses to the door as Kalec smiles patiently down at her. “Master Kalec. What brings you to…” She waves her hand around the area. “Here.”

“Well, I just got a note from Khadgar that my apprentice is acting strangely in the Halls, rather than on Antorus helping the efforts against the Burning Legion.” His smile widens at her. “And now I find you breaking into another apprentice’s room?”

Kel’ori’s eyes widen. “This? What? No. No, I’m— She left a thing— I’m getting a—”

“Slow down,” he says, chuckling. “You’re not in trouble. You’re here on Miss Starling’s request?”

“Mm-hmm.” The mage doesn’t move, her hands behind her back and lips pursed.

“She told you about her wards?”

“Mm… Mm-hmm.”

“She didn’t tell you how to take them down, did she?” He smiles wide, a sparkle in his eye.

“She…may have skipped that part.” She chews on her bottom lip.

“Go on then. Let’s see you crack it.” He steps closer into her personal space and turns her around by her shoulders. He slides his hands up her arms to lift her hands to the door.

Kel’ori holds her breath at his touch, normally it would send a chill up her spine, but this time it makes her heart clench. She squeaks and jumps to the side as his hands find her waist, reminding her of the demon’s claws pulling her closer. “Sorry, Kale— Master. I…” She clears her throat. “I need to concentrate. Please.”

The blue haired man steps back, his brow furrowed in concern. “That’s fine, Kel. Go on, take your time.”

She nods and spreads her hands long her navy robes, smoothing them as she calms herself. She raises her hands to the door and works slowly, concentrating on the wards she’s unfamiliar with.

“Good,” Kalec mutters. He steps forward again as his apprentice falters on the final, much more complicated ward. He sets his hands on hers and guides her through the motions to take the ward down and unlock the door.

Kel’ori’s back stiffens and her breath catches in her lungs. “Thank you.” She gasps, stepping into the room. “My homework will be on your desk in the morning.” She slams the door and takes several deep breaths. Tears well in her eyes. It’s not fair! He shouldn’t terrify me like that! An idea springs into her mind and she rushes back to the door. “Kalec!” she shouts.

The man stumbles back as she runs into him. “Kel, what’s wrong? You seem…disturbed. And you’re crying.”

Kel’ori shoves the heel of her palms into her eyes to wipe them, then frowns up at the man. “Don’t send me back to Argus. Please, Kalec. I can’t go back.”

He smiles his patient smile and gently takes her hands. “Give me your argument, then. Sway me.”

“I-it’s horrible. There’s blood everywhere and so much killing and—”

“Kel, you wanted to be an Archmage, and that requires getting into the mess, getting your hands dirty. If you can’t do that, then I can’t graduate you.” He studies her for a long time. “You have a better reason?”

The elf chews on her lip, her chin threatening a quiver as she finds she can’t meet his eye, nor can she say out loud why she can’t return to the other world. “No,” she whispers.

“Then you stay with Anarchaia. You work together. Okay?”

Kel’ori nods. Kalec takes her into an embrace and she breathes in, thankful that at least his smell gives her comfort. As he turns to leave, he hesitates. “Miss Nightheart, if Anarchaia doesn’t start turning in her homework, I’ll have to start deducting points from yours. It’s a team effort. Understood?”

The elf resists the urge to scream about her grades, instead balling her fists until her nails dig into her palms. “Yes, Master Kalec. Be well.”

“And you.”

Once behind the door again, Kel’ori resists the urge to send arcane explosions at the nearest wall, especially after noticing all four are covered in floor-to-ceiling book cases filled with tomes. The rest of the room is a small disaster. To clear her mind, the mage begins picking up the mess. Books mark their places and drift back to their designated spaces on the shelves. The bedsheets and blanket lift to prove their cleanliness, then slip around the bed and tuck in smoothly. Kel’ori giggles at the negligee that looks to have been worn once, then stuffed into the piano as though to be hidden from existence. Instead of putting it away, she lays it out on the bed as a hint for the other mage to actually wear it for the death knight. Sheet music organizes itself, and finally, the torn robes fly to her and fold, then set into her hands. The rest of the clothing surrounding the bed as though cast off in a hurry and forgotten to the floor, floats up and into the small hamper in the corner. She sighs and exits the room, the hamper lifting and following a few feet behind, then sets up as many wards as she knows, hoping Anarchaia doesn’t get angry that her strongest was neglected.

With a small pop, Kel’ori reappears in her room, thinking nothing of the giant mess she’s been forming over the day—fabrics and threads, beads and frog clasps, and her dye kit waiting in the corner away from everything else. She sits at her sewing table and sets to work meticulously repairing the stiches along the side of the crimson robes.

~ * ~

The blond elf appears in the portal room in the tall tower of Stormwind. He smiles at the woman tending the portal to the Outlands, then strides from the room. Taveth makes his way across the city, stopping once to go home and say hello to his father, making an excuse for why his sister didn’t return with him. He spends an hour with his little sister—his cousin, he reminds himself. Then he says goodbye to Diori and goes to the scribe hut.

“Ah, Mr. Nightheart. Five more books and five more linked, as promised. The colors correspond to each pair, of course. And I’ve numbered them this time.” The plumping man pushes the two stacks forward.

“As for payment—”

The man waves his hand in the air. “No. No. A city guard came to pay the fee this morning. Friend of yours? You’d think they have better things to do than run errands. Ha.”

With a nervous smile, Taveth shoves the books into his satchel until it is bursting. “Y-yes. Friend of mine. Heh. Th-thank you.” He stands awkwardly for a moment as though he still feels he should pay. The elf finally waves and exits the shop.

It takes the scholar a good amount of time to reach the castle, where the guards permit him with a small nod of recognition. He stops in the throne room and waits as Genn Greymane whispers in the boy king’s ear. Taveth bows low. “Your Majesties.”

King Anduin Wrynn looks up from the parchment he’d been pouring over and smiles. Rolling up the letter, he hands it to his advisor and stands. “My friend,” he says, patting Taveth gently on the shoulder. “How goes? I’ve been enthralled by what you’ve given so far. The librarians and record keepers are ecstatic.”

Genn Greymane shifts and folds his arms, parchment still in a hand.

Taveth blushes slightly, but keeps wary eyes on the worgen. “It goes…well. I must apologize for my last entry. But, I, eh, I’m here to borrow a book from the library. For my sister. A Study of Mages, I’m sure you know of it by now?”

Anduin scratches at his cheek then seemingly remembers he’s wearing gloves and drops his arm back to his side. “No apologies necessary. And, you know, the title sounds familiar. Come, let’s see for ourselves, no?” He ushers Taveth toward the great library of the palace.

Taveth accompanies the young king to the library. In among the shelves he looks over his shoulder at the worgen advisor following them. “I see you remain…well looked over. Heh.”

“Can you blame them?” He leads the high elf to the section where he believes the tome to be and leans close. “This doesn’t leave the space between us, but hostilities between the Horde and Alliance are again growing. No risks are being taken.” He purses his lips. “And no, I don’t enjoy it.”

Taveth forces a smile at Genn. “I can’t imagine so.” He frowns, then, his gaze wandering to his own feet. “Is there cause for me to worry?”

Genn narrows his eyes at the elf but remains silent.

Anduin straightens again and browses the shelves. He waves a hand dismissively. “Only if you have little faith in our ranks.” His fingertips find an empty space on the shelf. “Oh, that’s right.” He looks over his shoulder to give his advisor a humble grin. “I’ve been reading our only copy.” He heads for the large oaken doors at the opposite end of the library. “It’s in the solar.”

Taveth follows closely as the worgen falls just the littlest bit behind. “A word in private, my king?” he hisses quickly.

Anduin chuckles as though he’d just been told a joke and opens the door to the solar to usher Taveth inside. He holds up a hand to Genn and smiles. “No need to worry. We won’t be but a moment. Stay watch right here, would you?”

The worgen man blinks. “But Your Grace—”

“My thanks.” The king closes the heavy door and turns to Taveth, his smile gone and replaced with a look of exasperation. “What is it?” he inquires quietly over the burning fireplace.

Taveth swallows and frowns. “I’ve never had friends before, your grace, and now that I do…they’re all enemies of the kingdom. Do I run risk of being tried as a traitor? Or m-my sister, who was recently assigned by Kalec to join us? Does his majesty have sights on my friends and cousin? I’d rather not be the bait that sees them murdered.” His hands grip the strap of his satchel so tight that his knuckles are white and his palms grow redder by the second. He realizes with silent embarrassment that he is shaking the smallest bit, but gives no hint that he’s aware of it. “S-sorry…for being so frank.”

Anduin crosses the room to set a calming hand over Taveth’s quivering one. “Taveth, trust me I know who your friends are. Did you think the guards I’d sent were just for show?” He pats him on the shoulder. “The only ones at risk are the death knight man and the Illidari. The women are all under Kirin Tor affiliation. You need not worry.”

Taveth blushes at the contact, but forces himself to look his king in the eye. “I’d appreciate it if G-Grimory—and Koltira, of course, I don’t wish to—” He clears his throat. “They are also my friends, and I can assure you neither of them are actually enemies, so, if that can be…written somewhere.” He clears his throat again, then shifts his heavy pack. “Oh! I nearly forgot. Your new books. Um…” He shuffles through to find the double numbers and hand the second copies to Anduin.

The king takes the copies and frowns down at them. “I…can try. It may rouse suspicion if I pardon two seemingly random individuals of the opposing faction.” He inspects the spines idly and crooks his lips while he thinks, then sets them aside. “I can promise nothing. But I’ll see what’s available to me. And thank you. For the tomes.”

Taveth nods. “I trust my king with my friends’ lives. No need to raise any suspicions. Heh. Thank you. And, um…I’m not sure if I’ll fill in those last pages. It’s rather…personal.” Taveth stares at his feet. Knowingly impeding the advancement of scholarly research by omitting everything to do with Spinewing… I hope I’m doing the right thing.

Anduin raises his blond eyebrows while flipping through the blank pages. “I’m…sure you have a good reason. I won’t pressure you. As long as the information isn’t detrimental.” He sighs and closes the book with a paff! before setting it aside. “I’ll have the archivists make copies once you’ve finished. You can be credited if you wish.”

Taveth blushes lightly. “Heh. Well, all the greats are credited. Not that I’m anywhere near that level, I’m just a simple scholar, but I wouldn’t mind my name on the— Unless that’s inappropriate, of course. Heh.”

Anduin cannot help smiling at the man’s nervous demeanor and stacks the other tomes neatly atop the first. “Then be credited you shall. Your name right on the jacket. What do you think, gold ink?”

Taveth laughs nervously. “Maybe something pale and easily lost in the background.” He pauses, realizing how the request may sound. “I mean, it doesn’t have to be gaudy. Whatever your majesty feels is appropriate.” A growl outside the door reaches Taveth’s long, twitching ear. “Genn is growing restless. I’m truly sorry for taking up so much of your precious time.”

Anduin purses his lips at the door, then rolls his cerulean his eyes. “He’s a grumpy old dog,” he whispers on a laugh, “but I love him all the same.” He rests a casual arm across Taveth’s shoulders and steers him toward the door. “It was nice seeing you again, friend.”

Taveth gives a relaxed, crooked grin. “It is always good to see you, Anduin. A shame you’re so busy, but, such is life as king, hmm?”

Anduin hesitates with his fingers on the doorknob. “I’ll let you know as soon as I feel like one.” He gives a wary smile and opens the door to usher the elf through. “I trust you know your way back. Or shall we escort you?”

Taveth bows to the boy. “I’ve the utmost faith in you, my king. You’ll bring honor to the Wrynn name—more honor, of course. Heh.” He turns and bends slightly at the waist. “Greymane.” He backs away as though turning his back might set the worgen on his trail.

“Nightheart,” Genn grunts and watches him go. “Worm of a man, that one,” he says when Taveth is out of earshot.

Anduin chuckles and elbows the worgen. “A bookworm, perhaps?”

Genn smirks and follows the young king back to the throne room. “It is a gift to the world that you are king and not a comedian.”

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