Book 5 – Chapter Nineteen

Anarchaia sighs as she makes her way up the stairs to the fourth floor. It had taken her a while to pry herself away from the enjoyment of restoring her home with the man she loves, but now she knows she has to return to the reality of what happened. She steels herself and cringes before knocking tentatively on Kel’ori’s door.

The door creaks open just an inch and a bright, blue eye appears. It widens, then the door opens to a room literally crawling with fabric—dresses mending and sewing themselves, floating idly around the room and bumping each other. Kel’ori smiles, her shoulders relaxing. “You’re back! Just in time, too. I need you.” She pulls Anarchaia into the room and immediately begins trying to undress her.

Anarchaia eep!s, then blinks at the beautiful flowing silks and linens. Her eyes widen and she goes rigid with panic, then grabs Kel’ori’s wrists before she can successfully remove anything. “U-Uhm! Heh. I’m happy to help…with my clothes on.”

Kel’ori pauses and stares at her incredulously. “But I need to put clothes on you. I can’t do that when you’re dressed.” She waves her hand and the blue robes and mask, fully died and hemmed, fly to her. She presses them to Anarchaia’s chest. “Please? I need to take it in, but I can’t take it in if you’re not wearing them. Please. I can, um, turn my back? If you’re really that modest?” She turns around and chews on her lower lip. “Oh! Inside out, please. For pinning. Did you need anything to go underneath? Matching trousers, like you usually have? Gloves? Shirt? Boots! Oh, my, your black ones won’t do at all. I need to find—” She spins to go to her closet, then stops and turns back around. “Oh! Sorry. You’re changing. I forgot.” She spins back around, her eyes wide. “Silly me! Over there.” She extends a hand and a wooden room separator with parchment panels unfolds from the wall by the corner of her room. “You go there, and I’ll find boots!”

Anarchaia pauses, waiting for the elf to stop speaking while at the same time fidgeting apprehensively. When given the opportunity to speak, she’s again cut off by more blathering. She sighs and goes to the partition. “I, uh…just wear whatever’s available underneath.” She begins to unbutton her collar and gloves, then tosses them over the railing attached to the folding wall. “The collar and shirt are just convenient for my gloves. Heh.” It takes her a long moment before she’s able to actually untie the laces on her shirt and it, too, joins the rest. “I…don’t wear undergarments,” she finally mumbles.

Kel’ori barely pays attention, shrugging for no one. “I don’t care what you wear under your clothes. That’s your business. And Koltira’s, right?” She laughs into her fingertips. “I don’t know if my shoes will fit you…”

The undead girl flushes and purses her lips before pulling off her mask and readjusting her hair. “I wear a size eight and a half.” She bends to slip off her boots then unlaces her trousers; she steps out of them. She sets to work turning the pieces she’d been given inside out before slipping them on. “I, uh…am ready?” She steps out from behind the partition.

Kel’ori hums in thought and picks up a pair of brown leather boots. “We’ll try these ones.” She turns and laughs a little. “That is…a tent on you. You poor thing!” Pins fly from a nearby cushion and wait, pointed at the undead mage. “Step up on this stool, please.” She sets a stool in front of Anarchaia and barely waits for the woman to climb on before she begins pinching and pulling and pinning the fabric, holding it in place with her fingertips as the pins slip in. The rest of the floating creations pause as though holding their breath at each pin that goes in, daring not to move, lest Kel’ori prick the other mage. “The mask seems a right fit. How do you like it? Too tight? Too loose? Bunching anywhere? I honestly had no idea where to even start, so I just made it up as I went.”

Anarchaia stiffens and furrows her brow, suddenly feeling as though she’s the center of attention despite being one of only two people in the room. She lifts her arms when prompted and eyes each pin as it nears. She swallows. This must be what she’s been filling her time with. Poor Kel’ori… “I-it’s a bit loose around the neck, but that’s not a big deal… heh. You did a good job.”

Kel’ori waves off the compliment. “No, no. I’ll fix it.” She adjusts and makes note of the neck size, this time with fabric chalk. “Don’t want to stick pins too close to your neck!” She giggles and flicks the collar up as best she can beneath the hood, furrowing her brow. “I’ll need to sew new interfacing into the collar. It’s supposed to be sort of up like that. Strange with the hood, but it looks great once all done up.” She gauges the shirt, which settles around the stool top. “Do you mind if it’s an inch longer than I should be? I mean, heels would completely negate the inch of extra fabric so it doesn’t drag on the ground. Try these on!” She shoves the boots at Anarchaia, then turns away to search for something else.

Anarchaia again blinks. “Heels…?” She lowers to sit on the stool and slide off the other boots before pulling on the new ones. She stands again and takes a moment to stabilize herself. “I haven’t worn anything this nice since…heh. I don’t even remember.” She turns to look at herself in the mirror while Kel’ori is busy. “No one will mistake me for a man anymore.”

“Mm-hmm! You should really consider a push-up brassiere. Just because you don’t have much doesn’t mean you can’t flaunt it, right?” She smiles nervously as the thought occurs to her that maybe it was a step too far in the other mage’s personal business. “Do you mind if I…” She holds up a small roll, then pulls out one end, revealing a measuring tape. “I…had some ideas and I’m sure you don’t want to play doll every time. If that’s okay, of course? Can I make you clothes? Just…for practice? Docra says I practice too much, but, one can never really practice too much, can they? It makes perfect!”

Anarchaia studies the woman for a moment and cannot stop the scenes from two weeks prior playing through her mind. Her face softens and she steps back onto the stool—not without wobbling—and nods. “Yeah, sure. I don’t mind.” She chuckles. “And I think I’m beyond the help of some magical brassiere. That and I’m told they leave one sore. Heh.”

Kel’ori laughs as her tape follows the flick of her finger and a quill takes notes on parchment. “Whoever told you that doesn’t know how to pick out a proper one. I’ve a few that do hurt, but, mostly I just can’t live without one. I feel…naked without it.” She laughs and ushers the woman down. “Then again I’ve got these things.” She motions at her chest and reads over her measurements. “You can change now. Thank you.”

Anarchaia gives an inward sigh, relieved she wasn’t put on the spot about removing her mask, and returns to the partition. She slips out of the robes, boots, and mask and gets to work redressing. “S-so…how are you? I-I mean. How’ve you been?”

Kel’ori pauses and frowns. She takes several deep breaths and chases the tears from her eyes. “Do you like coffee? I just had a shipment of beans delivered from Booty Bay. It’s my favorite kind, but I hadn’t had it in ages until that charming goblin made some for me. Gildwynn. Yes. He’s so sweet.” She doesn’t wait for an answer in the affirmative and begins brewing coffee with freshly ground beans. “I’ve got little cakes, too, if you’ve a sweet tooth?”

Anarchaia clenches her eyes shut and cringes through every word of the woman’s response. She takes a moment behind the partition to rub a palm over her mouth. She throws her mask back on and steps out and over to her. With a gentle hand on Kel’ori’s shoulder, she smiles. “Yeah, I do. That’s kind.” She chuckles. “No thank you on the cakes. Have you seen more of Gil since?” She takes a seat on the plush loveseat near the vanity and sets a knee over the other.

Kel’ori smiles charmingly as she brings her silver tea set over and pours a cup for each of them, the coffee pot trembling even though she’s using magic. “No. I…I want to, but… I really have so much to do here…in my room… I haven’t actually left in a few days. What is today?” She eyes the calendar. “Oh. It’s been…nearly two weeks. And I’m still not done. I’ll need to talk to Kalec again. Can’t go to A-Argus…if I’m so busy. Right?”

Anarchaia sobers as she lifts her mask to bring the cup to her lips. The steam dissipates as it cools before she drinks. “Yeah. Yeah, I suppose you’re right.” She smiles. “I have to go back, however. Or, rather Kolt does. I’ll…send you a postcard. Heh.”

Kel’ori sets her cup down and takes a large bite of little cake. “I don’t want one. Thank you, though.” As she pops the other half into her mouth, her eyes widen. “He’ll say no again. I have to go back. You— You! I got a C on my last assignment because of you going home. I can’t get more grades like that, Ana. I can’t. He’s docking points for your work not being turned in.” She drops her forehead to the heels of her palms and shakes her head. “I…have to go back…”

Anarchaia’s shoulders raise at the news and her eyes widen as well. “D-docking? Surely he can’t… That’s not fair. I wasn’t told our grades were contingent on one another’s.” She pauses, then scowls, sets her cup down, and stands. “I’ll speak with him. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll speak with my master since they appear to be partners in crime on this.”

Kel’ori stands, all activity in the room coming to a halt. “You will? You’ll— I won’t have to go back?” She grabs Anarchaia in a tight hug. “Thank you. Thank you so much.”

Anarchaia stiffens uncomfortably. “I…can’t promise anything but I’ll sure as hell try.” She pats Kel’ori on the back and offers a reassuring smile. “Thank you for the beautiful robes. I’ll let you know what they say. Stay well, okay?”

Kel’ori smiles genuinely for the first time in weeks. “You’re a great friend. You know that?” She gestures at the robes on the divider. “When those are done I’ll take you to Docra for that enchant. Oh! I nearly forgot!” Anarchaia’s hamper and folded robes float in from the closet. “I fixed your robes and did your laundry. It’s all folded and everything.” She motions inside the hamper. “I may have tidied your room. Your walls would make Tav piss himself.”

“O-oh! Thank you so much. You didn’t have to…” Color fills the undead girl’s face at the thought of someone infiltrating her room. She pulls her newly mended robes over her head then sets the hamper on a bony hip with a nervous chuckle. “You…didn’t see anything, did you? Heh.”

“Nothing embarrassing.” She shakes her head. “Though, word to the wise, when you stuff sexy lingerie into a grand piano, you run the risk of fraying the sheer. And, I imagine, throwing the piano out of tune.” She escorts the woman to the door and winks as she opens it.

The corners of Anarchaia’s lips tighten and she pulls her mask over her face. She clears her throat and practically rushes into the hallway. “Th-thanks again, Kel. I’ll talk to you later.” After sending the hamper away in a flurry of sparkles, she makes her way to the upper levels where she knows Kalecgos’ room to be, all while dodging eye contact with her peers. Once there, she reaches a hand up to rap on the ornate wooden door with the golden studs over her knuckles.

It takes some time for the door to open and Kalecgos makes his way across the room. He smiles gently down at Anarchaia. “Good afternoon, Miss Starling. Welcome back to Dalaran. What brings you to my humble abode?”

Anarchaia straightens and rests her hands at the small of her back, suddenly very aware of how little interaction she’d ever had with the man before her. She smiles. “Good afternoon, Archmage. I was…wondering if I could have a word about your apprentice? On behalf of myself, that is…”

The question seems to leave the man completely unbothered. “Of course you may. Would you like to come in?”

She glances down the particularly secluded hallway before nodding and stepping inside. Her eyes immediately scan the foreign walls of tomes, fossils, artifacts, bottles, and samples. She turns and is startled by the massive skeletal head of a dimetrodon jutting from the wall above the door. She collects herself and clears her throat. “U-uhm. I was told that Kel’ori’s grades were dependent upon my own as of the present.”

His head dips in a slow nod. “I’m afraid so. The partnership is currently working in a singular manner, you getting her out into the world to learn practical magical applications. But it is a partnership. If she cannot help in some way to get your assignments turned in, then she is failing you and the partnership.” He leans a hip against his large, heavy desk and hooks his thumbs into his belt. “But this bothers you.”

The girl resists the urge to fold her arms but keeps her hands behind her back and shifts her weight to a heel. “Yessir. I…have never been prompt at turning in my projects and notes, that is true, but I don’t think Kel’ori should be punished for that. Especially since the failures are my own. It isn’t fair.”

Kalecgos remains unmoved by the mage’s words. “I, respectfully, disagree. This is how a partnership works. You help her, she helps you. If one of you is at risk of failure, such as on an assignment, it is the other’s job to step up and prevent the fall.” He reaches back and pulls a rolled parchment from his desk. “While you were away, I received her assignment, which was…a far cry longer than I requested. She has always been decent, I suppose, in her studies. Not a grand scholar, but her reports are very passionate and persuasive. This one I wanted to grant her extra points. Khadgar informed me that you are months behind on your own work, and so I acted accordingly.” He holds out the scroll for her to take. “You really should read it.”

The scroll flows from Kalecgos’ hand and unfurls on its way to the girl in front of him. Anarchaia rests her fingers over her lips and curls the other arm around herself as she reads in a slouched form as though suddenly forgetting her company. Her eyes flick through the well-flowing words recanting the monumental achievements of even the least notable mages through history. “I-…I know I haven’t been doing my work,” she says while her eyes continue to scan the paragraphs and the scroll lifts accordingly. “But, with all due respect, I wasn’t told this was any sort of graded assignment. I’d have put forth more effort had I known someone else would pay for my mistakes…”

“Kel’ori is paying for her own failures in not getting you to complete your assignments. That was half the bargain. She didn’t and now…she has incentive to do so. Either she persuades you to complete your work, or you complete it as a kindness to her.” His eyes scan over the mage, reading her posture and body language like one would a book.

Heat crawls into her cheeks as she comes to a passage about herself and the small accomplishments of her own. Her fingers shift from her mouth to a cheek at the words of admiration. Frustration then knots in her throat as she finishes the document and it furls up again. “This is…extremely well done. No matter how…inaccurate that bit toward the end is.” She rubs her hands over her face and resists a sigh as the scroll returns to the Archmage. “Please, her work deserves more than an average grade. I kindly request that you disregard the score on anything she’s written up until this point and grade it accordingly as though she and I hadn’t been together. And I’ll finish my work and take the deductions as my own.”

Kalecgos sighs and returns the scroll carefully to the desk, placing it deliberately and delicately in place. “My own instinct leads me to decline your request, as you have given no indication in the past that you can be held to your word on this. It is an empty promise you present to me, Miss Starling. Though, your own master may feel differently. At present, my decision stands until you prove yourself capable of adhering to your word and your work, or if you can persuade Khadgar to convince me.” He sets his soothing smile on her as a final note to solidify his resolution.

Anarchaia inhales to interrupt him, then, remembering her place, holds her breath until he’s finished. She knits her brow at the gentle grin he gives her and exhales, faltering. She again resists the urge to fold her arms but does not straighten. “At the very least, don’t make her go back to Argus with me…” she says quietly, her respectful tone gone and replaced with one of pleading.

He cocks his head, slowly tilting it in thought. “I asked Kel’ori for a good argument to remove her from Argus. She gave me none. Do you have a good argument on her behalf? Or am I to believe you two simply aren’t getting along and wish to disobey direct orders rather than finding a way to work together?”

Anarchaia tightens her fists at the small of her back. “Would she have written what she did about me if we weren’t getting along?” she asks. Maybe if I can best him in his logic while skirting around the actual answer, he’ll have no choice but to agree.

He smiles, stoic and agreeable. “So you see my point? I cannot pardon my student for no reason. Would you expect Khadgar to do such a thing?”

She purses her lips and narrows her eyes beneath her mask but her voice remains bright and respectful. “N-…No. However, if I were to request not going to a place I don’t feel comfortable going, he’d surely show me some grace…”

“Then surely you can give me a better reason than it’s dirty and I don’t like getting messy, as she gave me. A mess is not a good argument. Messes are meant to be cleaned up, not ignored. Wouldn’t you agree?” His eyes flicker with a sort of enjoyment, though he remains physically apathetic to the situation at hand.

“Yes,” she admits. “And perhaps she was sparing you the more…uncouth details,” she continues, pausing every so often to gather the correct words as her debate skills are tested. “The things we’ve seen, sir. I…am weathered when it comes to the matter of combat and killing, but Kel’ori…” She finally sighs. “It’s not her terrain.”

Kalecgos grins and folds his arms casually, leaning back as he observes this new sort of pupil who argues back instead of acquiescing to his every word. “Tell me, Miss Starling, when you teach a bird to fly, do you tell it about flying, or do you help to spread its wings and simply let it figure out how to fly on its own?”

Anarchaia takes note of his change in posture and straightens some, her brow knit. “As I am Master’s apprentice you know I appreciate your making a pun of my name, but frankly I find the maturation habits of birds to be very uncivilized and…wild, as it were. The analogy is understood but it is a false one. We are not birds. We have understanding of compassion and reason.”

Amusement tugs at the corner of Kalecgos’ lips. “Right you are, young one. So tell me, so I may have compassion for my rather unworldly apprentice, for what reason should I hold her back from learning how to care for herself in that cruel world you’re so versed in? Did you go out of your own volition? Or were you persuaded? Were you granted a companion to help you learn how to defend yourself?” His eye sparkles, knowing she must understand his meaning, for her adventures with the demon hunter are no secret.

She parts her lips to speak but pauses, seeing the correlation between Kel’ori’s situation now and the one she’d been assigned months ago. The urge to just shout the truth plays at her tongue but she chews on her lip instead. “That…is true,” she says the words through a thick air of defeat, then finally brings her arms around to fold over her chest. “I showed no resistance to my orders, however. And had I, Master would have obliged. In fact he’d forbade me to accompany him to Argus specifically. It begs the question why you wouldn’t do the same.”

He studies her posture, her arms folded over her chest—a sign that she’s closed herself off from being persuaded. He maintains his smile, anyway. “Perhaps I saw that a more-than-capable mage was already lending aid, while in a well-prepared group, and I decided the safest way to get her into the world was in the hands of Khadgar’s apprentice herself. Or was I misinformed of the deeds you and your group have accomplished? Are you not a safe and powerful party, which would keep my Kel—my apprentice safe from harm?” He gives no indication that his minor slip bothers him in the least.

The smaller mage catches the slip, however and pauses. So it is true. A small smile plays at her lips and she tilts her head and relaxes her shoulders some. “Naturally those with a student-mentor bond as strong as yours care deeply for one another. I imagine you consider yourselves good friends—perhaps even best friends, yes? Closer, even? Surely you wouldn’t want her to get hurt…”

Outwardly unbothered, Kalecgos straightens some, pushing away from the desk. “This is thrilling; you running me in circles. Really. I had hoped you would come up with a good argument instead of deflecting and now presenting accusations which would result in the expulsion of one apprentice if found true—which they are not—or the expulsion of you, for dishonorable conduct. Is it your wish to see either of you bright mages removed from the Hall and denied Archmageship? Choose your words wisely, young mage.”

Anarchaia’s eyes widen slightly and she stiffens once again. She hesitates. “I-I merely said you were close. I implied nothing.” Though with all this protesting… “Surely that isn’t cause for alarm, Archmage. Every teacher here is close with their students, both new and old. Almost like family. Would you see your family to the battlefields of a foreign planet?”

“If you think you’re not capable enough to teach another pupil the ways of battle and self-defense, then I’ll reassign Kel’ori to someone more up for the task, magically.” A parchment raises behind him and a quill scribbles a quick message. He reads it over, then it rolls up and disappears. “I’ve sent word to Archmage Khadgar of your lack of qualifications. I’m sure he can come up with a fitting solution.” His door opens as he turns back to a skeleton being carefully excavated from stone. “You may see yourself out. Be well, Miss Starling.”

Anarchaia visibly flinches as the parchment disappears. She fumbles over words in her mouth but finds her tongue can’t muster any of them. Unable to contain a grunt of frustrated annoyance, she clenches her fists and exits, robes swirling. “You as well, Archmage,” she hisses as the door closes. “What an insufferable man,” she grumbles as she trudges down the hall and up the staircase. “I’d have rather dealt with Meryl. At least he doesn’t see red when he’s emotional.” Her boots find their way to Khadgar’s door and she stops. The muscles in her arm tense as she lifts it to knock, screaming at her not to do so. Her teacher’s face, flushed with anger, fills her mind and she frowns. She inhales, preparing herself, but before her knuckles meet he wood, the door swings open and an unseen force pulls her inside by the front of her robes. Her boots stumble as the door closes gently behind her.

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