The Last Guardian | Chapter 5 of 7

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Prologue

The Lonely Tower

The larger of the two moons had risen first this evening, and now hung pregnant and silver-white against a clear, star-dappled sky. Beneath the lambent moon the peaks of the Redridge Mountains strained for the sky. In the daylight the sun picked out hues of magenta and rust among the great granite peaks, but in the moonlight they were reduced to tall, proud ghosts. To the west lay the Forest of Elwynn, its heavy canopy of greatoaks and satinwoods running from the foothills to the sea. To the east, the bleak swamp of the Black Morass spread out, a land of marshes and low hills, bayous and backwaters, failed settlements and lurking danger. A shadow passed briefly across the moon, a raven-sized shadow, bearing for a hole in the heart of the mountain.

Here a chunk had been pulled from the fastness of the Redridge Range, leaving behind a circular vale.

Once it might have been the site of some primeval celestial impact or the memory of an earth-shaking explosion, but the aeons had worn the bowl-shaped crater into a series of steep-edged, rounded hillocks which were now cradled by the steeped mountains surrounding them. None of the ancient trees of

Elwynn could reach its altitude, and the interior of the ringed hills was barren save for weeds and tangled vines.

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At the center of the ringed hills lay a bare tor, as bald as the pate of a Kul Tiras merchant lord.

Indeed the very way the hillock rose steeply, than gentled to a near-level slope at its apex, was similar in shape to a human skull. Many had noted it over the years, though only a few had been sufficiently brave, or powerful, or tactless to mention it to the property’s owner.

At the flattened peak of the tor rose an ancient tower, a thick, massive protrusion of white stone and dark mortar, a man-made eruption that shot effortlessly into the sky, scaling higher than the surrounding hills, lit like a beacon by the moonlight. There was a low wall at the base of the tower surrounding a bailey, and within those walls the tumbledown remains of a stable and a smithy, but the tower itself dominated all within the ringed hills.

Once this place was called Karazhan. Once it was home of the last of the mysterious and secretive

Guardians of Tirisfal. Once it was a living place. Now it was simply abandoned and timelost.

There was silence upon the tower but not a stillness. In the night’s embrace quiet shapes flitted from window to window, and phantoms danced along the balconies and parapets. Less than ghosts, but more

than memories, these were nothing less than pieces of the past that had become unstuck from the flow of time. These shadows of the past had been pried loose by the madness of the tower’s owner, and were now condemned to play out their histories again and again, in the silence of the abandoned tower.

Condemned to play but denied of any audience to appreciate them.

Then in the silence, there was the soft scrape of a booted foot against stone, then another. A flash of movement beneath the lambent moon, a shadow against the white stone, a flutter of a tattered, red-hued cloak in the cool night air. A figure walked along the topmost parapet, on the crenellated uppermost spire that years before had served as an observatory.

The parapet door into the observatory screeched open on ancient hinges, then stopped, frozen by rust and the passage of time. The cloaked figure paused a moment, then placed a finger on the hinge, and muttered a few choice words. The door swung open silently, the hinges made as if new. The trespasser allowed himself a smile.

The observatory was empty now, what tools that remained smashed and abandoned. The trespassing figure, almost as silent as a ghost himself, picked up a crushed astrolabe, its scale twisted in some now-forgotten rage. Now it is merely a heavy piece of gold, inert and useless in his hands.

There was other movement in the observatory, and the trespasser looked up. Now a ghostly figure stood nearby, near one of the many windows. The ghost/non-ghost was an broad-shouldered man, hair and beard once dark but now going to a premature gray at the edges. The figure was one of the shards of the past, unglued and now repeating its task, regardless of whether it had observers or not. For the moment, the dark-haired man held the astrolabe, the unbroken twin to the one in the trespasser’s hands, and fiddled with a small knob along one side. A moment, a check, and a twitch of the knob. His dark brows furrowed over ghostly green eyes. A second moment, another check, and another twitch. Finally, the tall, imposing figure sighed deeply and placed the astrolabe on a table that was no longer there, and vanished.

The trespasser nodded. Such hauntings were common even in the days when Karazhan was inhabited, though now, stripped of the control (and the madness) of their master, they had become more brazen.

Yet these shards of the past belonged here, while he did not. He was the interloper, not they.

The trespasser crossed the room to its staircase leading down, while behind him the older man flickered back into the view and repeated his action, sighting his astrolabe on a planet that had long since moved to other parts of the sky.

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The trespasser moved down through the tower, crossing levels to reach other stairs and other hallways.

No door was shut to him, even those locked and bolted, or sealed by rust and age. A few words, a touch, a gesture and the fetters flew loose, the rust dissolved into ruddy piles, the hinges restored. In one or two places ancient wards still glowed, potent despite their age. He paused before them for a moment, considering, reflecting, searching his memory for the correct counter-sign. He spoke the correct word, made the correct motion with his hands, shattered the weak magic that remained, and passed on.

As he moved through the tower, the phantoms of the past grew more agitated and more active.

Now with a potential audience, it seemed that these pieces of the past wished to play themselves out, if only to be made free of this place. Any sound they once possessed had long-since eroded away, leaving only their images moving through the halls.

The interloper passed an ancient butler in dark livery, the frail old man shuffling slowly down the empty hallway, carrying a silver tray and wearing a set of horse-blinders. The interloper passed through the

library, where a green-fleshed young woman stood with her back to him, pouring over an ancient tome.

He passed through a banquet hall, at one end a group of musicians playing soundlessly, dancers twirling in a gavotte. At the other end a great city burned, its flames beating ineffectively against the stone walls and rotting tapestries. The trespasser moved through the silent flames, but his face grew drawn and tense as he witnessed once more the mighty city of Stormwind burn around him.

In one room three young men sat around a table and told now-unknown lies. Metal mugs were scattered on the table’s surface as well as beneath it. The trespasser stood watching this image for a long time, until a phantom taverness brought another round. Then he shook his head and pressed on.

He reached nearly the ground level, and stepped out on a low balcony that hung precariously to the wall, like a wasps’ nest over the main entrance. There, in the wide space before the tower, between the main entrance and a now-collapsed stables across the bailey, stood a single ghostly image, lonely and separated. It did not move like the others, but rather stood there, waiting, tentative. A piece of the past that had not been released. A piece that was waiting for him.

The immobile image was of a young man with a skunk stripe of white running through his dark, untidy head of hair. The straggling fragments of a beard, newly grown, clung to his face. A battered rucksack lay at the youth’s feet, and he held a red-sealed letter with a deathlike grip.

This was well and truly no ghost, the trespasser knew, though the owner of this image may yet be dead, fallen in combat beneath a foreign sun. This was a memory, a shard of the past, trapped like an insect in amber, waiting for its release. Waiting for his arrival.

The trespasser sat on the stonework ledge of the balcony and looked out, beyond the bailey, beyond the hillock, and beyond the ringed hills. There was silence in the moonlight, as the mountains themselves seemed to be holding their breath, waiting for him.

The trespasser lifted a hand and intoned a series of chanted words. Softly came the rhymes and rhythms the first time, then louder, and finally louder still, shattering the calm. In the distance wolves picked up his chant and cast it back in howling counterpoint.

And the image of the ghostly youth, its feet seemingly trapped in mud, took a deep breath, hoisted his rucksack of secrets to his shoulder, and slogged his way toward the main entrance of Medivh’s Tower.

One

Karazhan

Khadgar clutched the crimson-sealed letter of introduction and desperately tried to remember Page 4

his own name. He had ridden for days, accompanying various caravans, and finally making the journey alone to

Karazhan through the vast, overgrown, woods of Elwynn. Then the long climb into the heights of the mountains, to this serene, empty, lonely place. Even the air felt cold and apart. Now, sore and tired, the scruffy-bearded young man stood in the gathering dusk of the courtyard, petrified of what he now must do.

Introduce himself to the most powerful mage of Azeroth.

An honor, the scholars of the Kirin Tor had said. An opportunity, they insisted, that was not to be

missed. Khadgar’s sage mentors, a conclave of influential scholars and sorcerers, told him they had been trying to insinuate a sympathetic ear in the tower of Karazhan for years. The Kirin Tor wanted to learn what knowledge the most powerful wizard in the land had hidden away in his library. They wanted to know what research he favored. And most of all they wanted this maverick mage to start planning for his legacy, wanted to know when the great and powerful Medivh planned to train an heir.

The Great Medivh and the Kirin Tor had been at loggerheads on these and other matters for years, apparently, and only now did he relent to some of their entreaties. Only now would he take on an apprentice. Whether it was from a softening of the wizard’s reportedly hard heart, or mere diplomatic concession, or a feeling of the mage’s own creeping mortality, it did not matter to Khadgar’s masters.

The simple truth was that this powerful independent (and to Khadgar, mysterious) wizard had asked for an assistant, and the Kirin Tor, which ruled over the magical kingdom of Dalaran, were more than happy to comply.

So the youth Khadgar was selected and shuttled off with a list of directions, orders, counter-orders, requests, suggestions, advice, and other demands from his sorcerous masters.

Ask Medivh about his mother’s battles with demons, asked Guzbah, his first instructor. Find out all you can about elven history from his library, requested Lady Delth. Check his volumes for any bestiaries, commanded Alonda, who was convinced that there was a fifth species of troll as yet un-recorded in her own volumes. Be direct, forthright, and honest, advised Norlan the Chief Artificer—the Great Magus Medivh seemed to value those traits. Be diligent and do what you’re told. Don’t slouch. Always seem interested. Stand up straight. And above all, keep your ears and eyes open.

The ambitions of the Kirin Tor did not bother Khadgar horribly—his upbringing in Dalaran and his early apprenticeship to the conclave made it clear to him that his mentors were insatiably curious about magic in all its forms. Their continual accumulation, cataloging, and definition of magic were imprinted on young students at an early age, and Khadgar was no different than most.

Indeed, he realized, his own curiosity may have accounted for his current plight. His own nocturnal wanderings through the halls of the Violet Citadel of Dalaran had uncovered more than a few secrets that the conclave would rather not have noised about. The Chief Artificer’s fondness for flamewine, for example, or Lady Delth’s preference for young cavaliers a slender fraction of her age, or Korrigan the

Librarian’s secret collection of pamphlets describing (in lurid fashion) the practices of historical demon-worshipers.

And there was something about one of the great sages of Dalaran, venerable Arrexis, one of the gray eminences that even the others respected. He had disappeared, or died, or something horrible had happened, and the others chose to make no mention of it, even to the point of excising Arrexis’s name from the volumes and not speaking of him again. But Khadgar had found out, nonetheless. Khadgar had a way of finding the necessary reference, making the Page 5

needed connection, or talking to the right person at the right time. It was a gift and may yet prove to be a curse.

Any one of these discoveries could have resulted in his drawing this prestigious (and for all the planning and warnings, potentially fatal) assignment. Perhaps they thought young Khadgar was a littletoo good at ferreting out secrets—easier for the conclave to send him somewhere where his curiosity would do some good for the Kirin Tor. Or at least put him far enough away so he wasn’t finding things out about the other natives of the Violet Citadel.

And Khadgar, through his relentless eavesdropping, had heardthat theory as well.

So Khadgar set out with a rucksack filled with notes, a heart filled with secrets, and a head filled with

strong demands and useless advice. In the final week before leaving Dalaran, he had heard from nearly every member of the conclave, each of whom was interested in something about Medivh.

For a wizard living on the butt-end of nowhere, surrounded by trees and ominous peaks, the members of the Kirin Tor were extremely curious about him. Urgent, even.

Taking a deep breath (and in doing so reminding himself that he still was too close to the stables), Khadgar strode forward toward the tower itself, his feet feeling like he was pulling his pack-pony along by his ankles.

The main entrance yawned like a cavern’s mouth, without gate or portcullis. That made sense, for what army would fight its way through the Forest of Elwynn to top the rounded walls of the crater, all to fight the Magus Medivh himself? There was no record of anyone or anything even attempting to besiege

Karazhan.

The shadowed entrance was tall enough to let an elephant in full livery pass beneath.

Overhanging it slightly was a wide balcony with a balustrade of white stone. From that perch one would be level with the surrounding hills and gain a view of the mountains beyond. There was a flicker of motion along the balustrade, a bit of movement that Khadgarfelt more than actually witnessed. A robed figure, perhaps, moving back along the balcony into the tower itself.

Was he being watched even now? Was there no one to greet him, or was he expected to brave the tower on his own?

“You are the New Young Man?” said a soft, almost sepulchral voice, and Khadgar, his head still craned upward, nearly jumped out of his skin. He wheeled to see a stooped, thin figure emerge out of the shadows of the entranceway.

The stooped thing looked marginally human, and for a moment Khadgar wondered if Medivh was mutating forest animals to work as his servants. This one looked like a hairless weasel, its long face was framed by what looked like a pair of black rectangles.

Khadgar didn’t remember making any response, but the weasel person stepped farther from the shadows, and repeated itself.

“You are the New Young Man?” it said. Each word was enunciated with its own breath, encapsulated in its own little box, capitalized and separate from the others. It stepped from the shadows fully and revealed itself as nothing more or less threatening than a whip-slender elderly man in dark worsted livery.

A servant—human, but a servant. It, or rather he, was still wearing black rectangles on the sides of his head, like a set of earmuffs, that extended forward to his most prominent nose.

The youth realized that he was staring at the old man, “Khadgar,” he said, then after a moment presented the tightly held letter of introduction. “Of Dalaran. Khadgar of Dalaran, in the kingdom of Lordaeron. I

was sent by the Kirin Tor. From the Violet Citadel. I am Khadgar of the Kirin Tor. From the Violet

Citadel. Of Dalaran. In Lordaeron.” He felt like he was casting conversational stones into a Page 6

great, empty well, hoping that the old man would respond to any of them.

“Of course you are, Khadgar,” said the old man. “Of the Kirin Tor. Of the Violet Citadel. Of Dalaran.

Of Lordaeron.” The servant took the proffered letter as if the document were a live reptile and, after smoothing out its crumpled edges, tucked it inside his livery vest without opening it. After carrying and protecting it for so many miles, Khadgar felt a pain of loss. The letter of introduction represented his future, and he was loath to see it disappear, even for a moment.

“The Kirin Tor sent me to assist Medivh. Lord Medivh. The Wizard Medivh. Medivh of Karazhan,”

Khadgar realized he was but a half-step from collapsing into a full-fledged babble, and with a definitive effort tightly clamped his mouth shut.

“I’m sure they did,” said the servant. “Send you, that is.” He appraised the seal on the letter, and a thin hand dipped into his waistcoat, pulling out a set of black rectangles bound by a thin band of metal.

“Blinders?”

Khadgar blinked. “No. I mean, no thank you.”

“Moroes,” said the servant.

Khadgar shook his head.

“I am Moroes,” the servant said. “Steward of the Tower. Castellan to Medivh. Blinders?” Again he raised the black rectangles, twins to those that framed his narrow face.

“No thank you…Moroes,” said Khadgar, his face twisted in curiosity.

The servant turned and motioned that Khadgar follow with a weak wave of the arm.

Khadgar picked up his rucksack and had to lope forward to catch up with the servant. For all his supposed fragility the steward moved at a good clip.

“Are you alone in the tower?” Khadgar ventured as they started climbing a curved set of wide, low stairs. The stone dipped in the center, worn by myriad feet of passing servants and guests.

“Eh?” responded the servant.

“Are you alone?” repeated Khadgar, wondering if he would be reduced to speaking as Moroes spoke in order to be understood. “Do you live here by yourself?”

“The Magus is here,” responded Moroes in a wheezing voice that sounded as faint and as fatal as grave dust.

“Yes, of course,” said Khadgar.

“Wouldn’t be much point for you to be here if he wasn’t,” continued the steward. “Here, that is.”

Khadgar wondered if the old man’s voice sounded that way because it was not used that often.

“Of course,” agreed Khadgar. “Anyone else?”

“You, now,” continued Moroes. “More work to take care of two than one. Not that I was consulted.”

“So just you and the Wizard, then, normally?” said Khadgar, wondering if the steward had been hired

(or created) for his taciturn nature.

“And Cook,” said Moroes, “Though Cook doesn’t talk much. Thank you for asking, though.”

Khadgar tried to restrain himself from rolling his eyes, but failed. He hoped that the blinders on either side of the steward’s face kept the servant from seeing his response.

They reached a level spot, a cross-hallway lit by torches. Moroes crossed immediately to another set of saddle-worn, curving stairs opposite them. Khadgar paused for a moment to examine the torches. He raised a hand mere inches from the flickering flame, but felt no heat. Khadgar Page 7

wondered if the cold flame was common throughout the tower. In Dalaran they used phosphorescent crystals, which beamed with a steady, constant glow, though his research spoke of reflective mirrors, elemental spirits bound within lanterns, and in one case, huge captive fireflies. Yet these flames seemed to be frozen in place.

Moroes, half-mounted up the next staircase, slowly turned and let out a gasping cough. Khadgar hurried to catch up. Apparently the blinders did not limit the old steward that much.

“Why the blinders?” Khadgar asked.

“Eh?” replied Moroes.

Khadgar touched the side of his head. “The blinders. Why?”

Moroes twisted his face in what Khadgar could only assume was a smile. “Magic’s strong here.

Strong, and wrong, sometimes. You see…things…around here. Unless you’re careful. I’m careful. Other visitors, the ones before you, they were less careful. They’re gone now.”

Khadgar thought of the phantom he may or may not have seen on the overhanging balcony, and nodded.

“Cook has a set of rose-quartz lenses,” added Moroes. “Swears by them.” He paused for a moment, then added, “Cook is a bit foolish that way.”

Khadgar hoped that Moroes would be more chatty once he was warmed up. “So, you’ve been in the

Magus’s household for long?”

“Eh?” said Moroes again.

“You’ve been with Medivh long?” Khadgar said, hoping to keep the impatience out of his voice.

“Ayep,” said the steward. “Long enough. Too long. Seems like years. Time’s like that here.” The weathered steward let his voice trail off and the two climbed in silence.

“What do you know about him?” ventured Khadgar, finally. “The Magus, I mean.”

“Question is,” said Moroes, pulling open yet another door to reveal yet another staircase up.

“What do you know?”

Khadgar’s own research in the matter was surprisingly unproductive, and his results were frustratingly sparse. Despite access to the Violet Citadel’s Grand Library (and surreptitious access to a few private libraries and secret collections), there was precious little on this great and powerful Medivh. This was doubly odd, since every elder mage in Dalaran seemed to hold Medivh in awe, and wanted one thing or another from him. Some favor, some boon, some bit of information.

Medivh was apparently a young man, as wizards went. He was merely in his forties, and for a grand bulk of that time seemed to have made no impact whatsoever on his surroundings. This was a surprise to

Khadgar. Most of the tales he had heard and read described independent wizards as being extremely

showy, fearless in dabbling in secrets man was not meant to know, and usually dead, crippled, or damned from messing with powers and energies beyond their ken. Most of the lessons he had learned as a child about non-Dalaran mages always ended in the same fashion—without restraint, control, and thought, the wild, untrained, and self-taught wizards always came to a bad end (sometimes, though not often, destroying a large amount of the surrounding countryside with them).

The fact that Medivh had failed to bring a castle down on top of himself, or disperse his atoms across the Twisting Nether, or summon a dragon without knowing how to control that dragon, indicated either great restraint or great power. From the fuss that the scholars had made about his appointment, and the list of instructions he had received, Khadgar decided on the latter.

Yet for all his research, he could not figure out why. Nothing indicated any great research of this Page 8

Medivh’s, any major discovery, nor any ground-shaking achievement, that would account for obvious awe in which the Kirin Tor held this independent mage. No huge wars, great conquests, or known mighty battles. The bards were noticeably sketchy when it came to the matters involving Medivh, and otherwise diligent heralds nodded when it came time to discuss his accomplishments.

And yet, realized Khadgar, there was something important here, something that created in the scholars a mixture of fear, respect, and envy. The Kirin Tor held no other spellcasters as their equals for magical knowledge, indeed often sought to hinder those wizards who did not hold allegiance to the Violet Citadel.

And yet they kowtowed to Medivh. Why?

Khadgar had only the smallest bits—a bit on his parentage (Guzbah was particularly interested in

Medivh’s mother), some margin notes in a grimoire invoking his name, and mention of the occasional visit to Dalaran. All these visits were within the past five years, and apparently Medivh met only with elder mages, such as the now-missing Arrexis.

To sum up, Khadgar knew previous little of this supposedly great mage he was assigned to work for.

And as he considered knowledge to be his armor and sword, he felt woefully underequipped for the coming encounter.

Aloud, he said, “Not much.”

“Eh?” responded Moroes, half-turning on the staircase.

“I said I don’t know much,” said Khadgar, louder than he meant to. His voice bounced off the bare walls of the stairway. It was curved now, and Khadgar was wondering if the tower was truly as high as it seemed. Already his thighs were aching from the climb.

“Of course you don’t,” said Moroes. “Know, that is. Young people never know much. That’s what makes them young, I suppose.”

“I mean,” said Khadgar, irritated. He paused and took a deep breath. “I mean, I don’t know much about Medivh. You asked.”

Moroes held for a moment, his foot poised on the next step, “I suppose I did,” he said at last.

“Whatis he like?” asked Khadgar, his voice almost pleading.

“Like everyone else, I suppose,” said Moroes. “Has his druthers. Has his moods. Good days and bad.

Like everybody else.”

“Puts his pants on one leg at a time,” said Khadgar, sighing.

“No. He levitates into them,” said Moroes. The old servant looked at Khadgar, and the youth caught the slightest tug of a smile along the old man’s face. “One more set of stairs.”

The final set of stairs curled tightly, and Khadgar guessed that they had to be near the tower’s highest spire. The old servant led the way.

The stairway opened up on a small circular room, surrounded by a wide parapet. As Khadgar had surmised, they were at the topmost tip of the tower, with a large observatory. The walls and ceilings were pierced by crystalline windows, clear and unfogged. In the time of their climb, night had fallen fully, and the sky was dark and strewn with stars.

The observatory itself was dim, lit by a few torches of the same, unwavering light as found elsewhere.

Yet these were hooded, their lamps banked for observing the night sky. An unlit brazier sat in the middle of the room in preparation for later, as the temperature would drop toward morning.

Several large curved tables spread around the outer wall of the observatory, decked with all Page 9

manner of devices. Silver levels and golden astrolabes acted as paperweights for foolscap, or as bookmarks keeping ancient texts open to certain pages. A half-disassembled model, showing planetary movement through the celestial vault, sat on one table, fine wires and additional beads laid out among the delicate tools next to it. Notebooks lay stacked against one wall, and others were in crates jammed beneath the tables. A map of the continent was stretched on a frame, showing the southern lands of Azeroth and

Khadgar’s own Lordaeron, as well as the reclusive dwarven and elven kingdoms of Khaz Modan and

Quel’Thalas. Numerous small pins bedecked the map, constellations that only Medivh could decipher.

And Medivh was there, for to Khadgar it could be no other. He was a man of middling years, his hair long and bound in a ponytail in the back. In his youth his hair had likely been ebon black, but now it was already turning gray at the temples and along the beard. Khadgar knew that this happened to many mages, from the stress of the magical energies they wielded.

Medivh was dressed in robes simple for a mage—well cut and fitted to his large frame. A short tabard, unadorned by decoration, hung to his waist, over trousers tucked into oversize boots. A heavy maroon cloak hung from his broad shoulders, the hood pulled back.

As Khadgar’s eyes adjusted to the darkness, he realized that he was wrong about the wizard’s clothing being unadorned. Instead, it was laced with silver filigree, of such a delicate nature that it was invisible at first blush. Looking at the mage’s back, Khadgar realized he was looking at the stylized face of some ancient demon-legend. He blinked, and in that time the tracery transformed itself into a coiled dragon, and then into a night sky.

Medivh had his back to the old servant and the young man, ignoring them entirely. He was standing at one of the tables, a golden astrolabe in one hand, a notebook in the other. He seemed lost in thought, and

Khadgar wondered if this was one of the “things” that Moroes had warned him about.

Khadgar cleared his throat and took a step forward, but Moroes raised a hand. Khadgar froze in place, as surely as if transfixed with a magical spell.

Instead the old servant walked quietly to one side of the master mage, waiting for Medivh to recognize his presence. A minute passed. A second minute. Then a period that Khadgar swore was an eternity.

Finally, the robed figure set down his astrolabe, and made three quick jots in the notebook. He closed the book with sharp snap, and looked over at Moroes.

Seeing his face for the first time, Khadgar thought that Medivh was much older than his supposed forty-plus years. The face was deeply lined and worn. Khadgar wondered what magics Medivh wielded that wrote such a deep history on his face.

Moroes dipped into his vest and brought out the crumpled letter of introduction, the crimson seal now bloodred in the steady, unflickering torchlight. Medivh turned and regarded the youth.

The mage’s eyes were deeply set beneath his dark, heavy brows, but Khadgar was aware at once of the power within. Something danced and flickered within those deep green eyes, something powerful, and perhaps uncontrolled. Something dangerous. The master mage glanced at him, and in a moment Khadgar felt that the wizard had taken in his sum total of existence and found it no more intriguing than that of a beetle or flea.

Medivh looked away from Khadgar and at the still-sealed letter of introduction. Khadgar felt himself relax almost immediately, as if a large and hungry predator had stalked past him without giving him a second look.

His relief was short-lived. Medivh did not open the letter. Instead his brows furrowed only slightly, and the parchment burst into flames with an explosive rush of air. The flames clustered at the far end of the document from where Medivh held it, and flickered with an intense, blue Page 10

flame.

When Medivh spoke his voice was both deep and amused.

“So,” said Medivh, oblivious to the fact he was holding Khadgar’s future burning in his hand. “It seems our young spy has arrived at last.”

Two

Interview with the Magus

Is something wrong?” asked Medivh, and Khadgar suddenly felt himself under the master mage’s gaze again. He felt like a beetle again, but this time one that had inadvertently crawled across a bug-collector’s work desk. The flames had already consumed half the letter of introduction, and the wax seal was already melting, dripping onto the observatory’s flagstones.

Khadgar was aware that his eyes were wide, his face bloodless and pale, and his mouth hanging open.

He tried to force the air out of his body, but all his managed was a strangled, hissing sound.

The dark, heavy brows pursed in a bemused glance. “Are you ill? Moroes, is this lad ill?”

“Winded, perhaps,” said Moroes in a level tone. “Was a long climb up.”

Finally Khadgar managed to gather his senses about him sufficiently to say, “The letter!”

“Ah,” said Medivh. “Yes. Thank you, I had almost forgotten.” He walked over to the brazier and dropped the burning parchment on top of the coals. The blue ball of flame rose spectacularly to about shoulder height, and them diminished into a normal-looking flame, filling the room with a warm, reddish glow. Of the letter of introduction, with its parchment and crimson seal inscribed with the symbol of the

Kirin Tor, there was no sign.

“But you didn’t read it!” said Khadgar, then caught himself, “I mean, sir, with respect…”

The master mage chuckled and settled himself into a large chair made of canvas and dark carved wood.

The brazier lit his face, pulling out the deep lines formed into a smile. Despite this, Khadgar could not relax.

Medivh leaned forward in his chair and said, “‘Oh Great and Respected Magus Medivh, Master Mage of Karazhan, I bring you the greetings of the Kirin Tor, most learned and puissant of the magical academies, guilds, and societies, advisors to the kings, teachers of the learned, revealers of secrets.’

They continue on in that fashion for some ways, puffing themselves up more with every sentence.

How am I doing so far?”

“I couldn’t say,” said Khadgar, “I was instructed—”

“Not to open the letter,” finished Medivh. “But you did, anyway.”

The master mage raised his eyes to regard the young man, and Khadgar’s breath caught in his throat.

Something flickered in Medivh’s eyes, and Khadgar wondered if the master mage had the power to cast spells without anyone noticing.

Khadgar slowly nodded, steeling himself for the response.

Medivh chuckled loudly, “When?”

“On the…on the voyage from Lordaeron to Kul Tiras,” said Khadgar, unsure if what he said would amuse or irritate his potential mentor. “We were becalmed for two days and…”

“Curiosity got the better of you,” finished Medivh again. He smiled, and it was a clean white smile beneath the graying beard. “I probably would have opened it the moment I got out of sight of Dalaran’s

Violet Citadel.”

Khadgar took a deep breath and said, “I considered that, but I believed they had divination spells in operation, at least at that range.”

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“And you wanted to be far from any spell or message recalling you for opening the letter. And you patched it back together well enough to fool a cursory examination, sure that I would likely break the seal straightaway and not notice your tampering.” Medivh allowed himself a chuckle, but drew his face into a tight, focused knot. “How did I do that?” he asked.

Khadgar blinked. “Do what, sir?”

“Know what was in the letter?” said Medivh, the sides of his mouth tugging down. “The letter I just burned says that I will find the young man Khadgar most impressive in his deduction and intelligence.

Impress me.”

Khadgar looked at Medivh, and the jovial smile of a few seconds before had evaporated. The smiling face was now that of some primitive stone god, judgmental and unforgiving. The eyes that had been tinged with mirth earlier now seemed to be barely concealing some hidden fury.

The brows knitted together like the rising thunderhead of a storm.

Khadgar stammered for a moment, then said, “You read my mind.”

“Possible,” said Medivh. “But incorrect. You’re a stew of nerves right now, and that gets in the way of mind reading. One wrong.”

“You’ve gotten this sort of letter before,” said Khadgar. “From the Kirin Tor. You know what kind of letters are written.”

“Also possible,” said the master mage. “As Ihave received such letters and theydo tend to be overweening in their self-congratulatory tone. But you know the exact wording as well as I do. A good try, and the most obvious, but also incorrect. Two wrong.”

Khadgar’s mouth formed into a tight line. His mind raised and his heart thundered in his chest.

“Sympathy,” he said at last.

Medivh’s eyes remained unreadable, and his voice level. “Explain.”

Khadgar took a deep breath. “One of the magical laws. When someone handles an item, they leave a part of their own magical aura or vibration attached to the item. As auras vary with individuals, it is possible to connect to one by affecting the other. In this way a lock of hair may be used in a love charm, or a coin may be tracked back to its original owner.”

Medivh’s eyes narrowed slightly, and he dragged a finger across his bearded chin. “Continue.”

Khadgar stopped for a moment, feeling the weight of Medivh’s eyes pressing in on him. That was what he knew from lectures. He was halfway there. But how did Medivh use it to figure out….

“The more someone uses an item, the stronger the resonance,” said Khadgar quickly. “So therefore an item that experiences a lot of handling or attention will have a stronger sympathy.”

The words were coming together tighter and more rapidly now. “So a document which someone had written has more aura to it than a blank piece of parchment, and the person is concentrating on what they are writing, so…” Khadgar let his thoughts catch up for a moment.

“You were mind reading, but not my mind—the mind of the scribe who wrote the letter at the time he was writing it—you picked up his thoughts reinforcing the words.”

“Without having to physically open the document,” said Medivh, and the light danced within his eyes again. “So how would this trick be useful to a scholar?”

Khadgar blinked for a moment, and looked away from the master mage, seeking to avoid his piercing glance. “You could read books without having to read books.”

“Very valuable for a researcher,” said Medivh. “You belong to a community of scholars. Why don’t you do that?”

“Because…because…” Khadgar thought of old Korrigan, who could find anything in the library, even

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the smallest marginal notation. “I think we do, but for older members of the conclave.”

Medivh nodded. “And that is because…”

Khadgar thought for a moment, then shook his head.

“Who would write if all the knowledge could be sucked out with a mental twist and a burst of magic?”

suggested Medivh. He smiled, and Khadgar realized he had been holding his breath. “You’re not bad.

Not bad at all. You know your counterspells?”

“To the fifth roster,” said Khadgar.

“Can you power a mystic bolt?” asked Medivh, quickly.

“One or two, but it’s draining,” answered the younger man, suddenly feeling that the conversation had taken a serious turn once more.

“And your primary elementals?”

“Strongest in flame, but I know them all.”

“Nature magic?” asked Medivh. “Ripening, culling, harvesting? Can you take a seed and pull the youth from it until it becomes a flower?”

“No, sir. I was trained in a city.”

“Can you make a homunculus?”

“Doctrine frowns on it, but I understand the principles involved,” said Khadgar, “If you’re curious…”

Medivh’s eyes lit up for a moment, and he said, “You sailed here from Lordaeron? What type of boat?”

Khadgar felt thrown for a moment by the sudden change of discussion. “Yes. Um…A Tirassian wind-runner, theGracious Breeze,” he replied.

“Out of Kul Tiras,” concluded Medivh. “Human crew?”

“Yes.”

“You spoke with the crew at all?” Again, Khadgar felt himself sliding once more from conversation to interrogation.

“A little,” said Khadgar. “I think I amused them with my accent.”

“The crews of the Kul Tiras ships are easily amused,” said Medivh. “Any nonhumans in the crew?”

“No, sir,” said Khadgar. “The Tirassians told stories of fish men. They called them Murlocs.

Are they real?”

“They are,” said the Magus. “What other races have you encountered? Other than variations of humans.”

“Some gnomes were at Dalaran once,” said Khadgar. “And I’ve met dwarven artificers at the Violet

Citadel. I know dragons from the legends; I saw the dragon’s skull in one of the academies once.”

“What about trolls, or goblins?” said Medivh.

“Trolls,” said Khadgar. “Four known varieties of trolls. There may be a fifth.”

“That would be the bushwah Alonda teaches,” muttered Medivh, but motioned for Khadgar to continue.

“Trolls are savage, larger than humans. Very tall and wiry, with elongated features. Um…” He thought for a moment. “Tribal organization. Almost completely removed from civilized lands, almost extinct in

Lordaeron.”

“Goblins?”

“Much smaller, more the size of dwarves. Just as inventive, but in a destructive fashion. Fearless.

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I have read that as a race they are insane.”

“Only the smart ones,” said Medivh. “You know about demons?”

“Of course, sir,” said Khadgar quickly. “I mean from the legends, sir. And I know the proper abjurations and protections. All mages of Dalaran are taught so from our first day of training.”

“But you’ve never summoned one,” said Medivh. “Or been present when someone else did so.”

Khadgar blinked, wondering if this was a trick question. “No sir. I wouldn’t even think of it.”

“I do not doubt that you wouldn’t,” said the Magus, and there was the faintest edge in his voice.

“Think of it, that is. Do you know what a Guardian is?”

“A Guardian?” Khadgar suddenly felt the conversation take yet another left-hand turn. “A watchman? A

guard? Perhaps another race? Is it a type of monster? Perhaps a protector against monsters?”

Medivh smiled, now, and shook his head. “Don’t worry. You’re notsupposed to know. It’s part of the trick.” Then he looked up and said, “So. What do you know aboutme?”

Khadgar shot a glance toward Moroes the Castellan, and suddenly realized that the servant has vanished, fading back into the shadows. The young man stammered for a moment. “The mages of the

Kirin Tor hold you in high regard,” he managed at last, diplomatically.

“Obviously,” said Medivh brusquely.

“You are a powerful independent mage, supposedly an advisor to King Llane of Azeroth.”

“We go back,” said Medivh, nodding at the youth.

“Beyond that…” Khadgar hesitated, wondering if the mage truly could read his mind.

“Yes?”

“Nothing specific to justify the high esteem…” said Khadgar.

“And fear,” put in Medivh.

“Andenvy,” finished Khadgar, feeling suddenly put upon by the questions, unsure about how to answer.

He quickly added, “Nothing specific to explain directly the highrespect the Kirin Tor holds you in.”

“It’s supposed to be that way,” snapped Medivh peevishly, rubbing his hands over the brazier.

“It’s supposed to be that way.” Khadgar could not believe how the master mage could possibly be cold. He himself felt nervous sweat drip down his back.

At length, Medivh looked up, and the brewing storm was in his eyes again. “But what do you know aboutme?”

“Nothing, sir,” said Khadgar.

“Nothing?” Medivh’s voice raised and seemed to reverberate across the observatory. “Nothing?

You came all this way for nothing? You didn’t even bother to check? Perhaps I was just an excuse for your masters to get you out of their hair, hoping you’d die en route. It wouldn’t be the first time someone tried that.”

“There wasn’t that much to check. You haven’t done that much,” responded Khadgar hotly, then took a deep breath, realizing whom he was speaking with, and what he was saying. “I mean, not much that I

could find out, I mean…”

He expected an outburst from the older mage, but Medivh just chuckled. “And whatdid you find out?”

he asked.

Khadgar sighed, and said, “You come from a spellcaster heritage. Your father was a mage of Azeroth, one Nielas Aran. You mother was Aegwynn, which may be a title as opposed to a name, one that goes back at least eight hundred years. You grew up in Azeroth and know King Llane and Lord Lothar from your childhood. Beyond that…” Khadgar let his voice trail off.

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“Nothing.”

Medivh looked into the brazier and nodded, “Well, thatis something. More than most people can find out.”

“And your name means ‘Keeper of Secrets’,” Khadgar added. “In High Elven. I found that out as well.”

“All too true,” said Medivh, looking suddenly tired. He stared into the brazier for a while.

“Aegwynn is not a title,” he said at length. “It is merely my mother’s name.”

“Then there were several Aegwynns, probably a family name,” suggested Khadgar.

“Only one,” said Medivh, somberly.

Khadgar gave a nervous laugh. “But that would make her…”

“Over seven hundred fifty years old when I was born,” said Medivh, with a surprising snort.

“She is much older than that. I was a late child in her life. Which may be one reason the Kirin Tor is interested in what I keep in my library. Which is why they sent you to find out.”

“Sir,” said Khadgar, as sternly as he could manage. “To be honest, every mage save the highest in the

Kirin Tor wants me to find outsomething from you. I will accommodate them as best as I am able, but if there is material that you want to keep restricted or hidden, I will fully understand….”

“If I thought that, you would not have gotten through the forest to reach here,” said Medivh, suddenly serious. “I need someone to sort and organize the library, for starters, then we work on the alchemical laboratories. Yes, you’ll do nicely. You see, I know the meaning of your name just as you know mine.

Moroes!”

“Here, sir,” said the servant, suddenly manifesting out of the shadows. Despite himself, Khadgar jumped.

“Take the lad down to his quarters and make sure he eats something. It’s been a long day for him.”

“Of course, sir,” said Moroes.

“One question, Master,” said Khadgar, catching himself. “I mean, Lord Magus, sir.”

“Call me Medivh for now. I also answer to Keeper of Secrets and a few other names, not all of them known.”

“What do you mean when you say you know my name?” asked Khadgar.

Medivh smiled, and the rooms suddenly seemed warm and cozy again. “You don’t speak dwarven,” he observed.

Khadgar shook his head.

“My name means ‘Keeper of Secrets’ in High Elven. Your name means ‘Trust’ in the old dwarven language. So I will hold you to your name, young Khadgar. Young Trust.”

Moroes saw the young man to his quarters halfway down the tower, explaining in that ghostly, definitive voice as he shuffled down the stairs. Meals in Medivh’s Tower were simple fare—porridge and sausages for breakfast, a cold lunch, and a large, hearty dinner, usually a stew or a roast served with vegetables.

Cook would retire after the evening meals, but there were always leftovers in the cold room.

Medivh kept hours that could be charitably described as “erratic” and Moroes and Cook had long since learned how to accommodate him with a minimal amount of hardship on their parts.

Moroes informed young Khadgar that, as an assistant instead of a servant, he would not have that luxury. He would be expected to be available to help the master mage whenever he deemed necessary.

“I’d expect that, as an apprentice,” said Khadgar.

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Moroes turned in midstep (they were walking along an upper gallery overlooking what seemed to be a reception hall or ballroom). “Not an apprentice yet, Lad,” wheezed Moroes. “Not by half.”

“But Medivh said…”

“You could sort out the library,” said Moroes. “Assistant work, not apprentice’s. Others have been assistants. None became apprentices.”

Khadgar’s brow furrowed, and he felt the warmth of a blush on his face. He had not expected there to be a levelbefore apprentice in the mage’s hierarchy. “How long before…”

“Couldn’t say, really,” gasped the servant. “None have ever made it that far.”

Khadgar thought of two questions at once, hesitated, then asked, “How many other ‘assistants’

have there been?”

Moroes looked out over the gallery railing, and his eyes grew unfocused. Khadgar wondered if the servant was thinking or had been derailed by the question. The gallery below was sparsely furnished with a heavy central table and chairs. It was surprisingly uncluttered, and Khadgar surmised that Medivh did not hold many banquets.

“Dozens,” said Moroes at last. “At least. Most of them from Azeroth. An elfling. No, two elflings.

You’re the first from the Kirin Tor.”

“Dozens,” repeated Khadgar, his heart sinking as he wondered how many times Medivh had welcomed a young would-be mage into his service.

He asked the other question. “How long did they last?”

Moroes snorted this time, and said, “Days. Sometimes hours. One elf didn’t even make it up the tower stairs.” He tapped the blinders at the side of his wizened head. “Theysee things, you know.”

Khadgar thought of the figure at the main gate and just nodded.

At last they arrived at Khadgar’s quarters, in a side passage not far from the banquet hall. “Tidy yourself up,” said Moroes, handing Khadgar the lantern. “The jakes is at the end of the hall.

There’s a pot beneath the bed. Come down to the kitchen. Cook will have something warm for you.”

Khadgar’s room was a narrow wedge of the tower, more suitable to the contemplations of a cloistered monk than a mage. A narrow bed along one wall, and an equally narrow desk along the other with a bare shelf above. A standing closet for clothes. Khadgar tossed his rucksack into the closet without opening it, and walked over to the thin window.

The window was a slim slice of leaded glass, mounted vertically on a pivot in the center.

Khadgar pushed on one half and it slowly pushed open, the solidifying oil in the bottom mount oozing as the window rotated.

The view was from still high up the tower’s side, and the rounded hills that surrounded the tower were gray and bare in the light of the twin moons. From this height it was obvious to Khadgar that the hills had once been a crater, worn and weathered by the passage of the years. Had some mountain been pulled from this spot, like a rotted tooth? Or maybe the ring of hills had not risen at all, but rather the rest of the surrounding mountains had risen faster, leaving only this place of power rooted in its spot.

Khadgar wondered if Medivh’s mother was here when the land rose, or sank, or was struck by a piece of the sky. Eight hundred years was long even by the standards of a wizard. After two hundred years, most of the old object lessons taught, most human mages were deathly thin and frail. To be seven hundred fifty years old and bear a child! Khadgar shook his head, and wondered if Medivh was having him on.

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Khadgar shed his traveling cloak and visited the facilities at the hall’s end. They were spartan, but included a pitcher of cold water and a washbasin and a good, untarnished mirror. Khadgar thought of using a minor spell to heat the water, then decided merely to tough it out.

The water was bracing, and Khadgar felt better as he changed into less-dusty togs—a comfortable shirt that reached nearly to his knees and a set of sturdy pants. His working gear.

He pulled a narrow eating knife from his sack and, after a moment’s thought, slid it into the inside sleeve of one boot.

He stepped back out into the hallway, and realized that he had no clear idea where the kitchen was.

There had been no cooking shed out by the stables, so whatever arrangements were likely within the tower. Probably on or near the ground level, with a pump from the well. With a clear path to the banquet hall, whether or not the hall was commonly used.

Khadgar found the gallery above the banquet hall easily enough, but had to search to find the staircase, narrow and twisting in on itself, leading to it. From the banquet hall itself he had a choice of exits.

Khadgar chose the most likely one and ended up in dead-end hallway with empty rooms on all sides, similar to his own. A second choice brought a similar result.

The third led the young man into the heart of a battle.

He did not expect it. One moment he was striding down a set of low flagstone steps, wondering if he needed a map or a bell or a hunting horn to navigate the tower. The next moment the roof above him opened up into a brilliant sky the color of fresh blood, and he was surrounded by men in armor, armed for battle.

Khadgar stepped back, but the hallway had vanished behind him, only leaving an uneven, barren landscape unlike any he was familiar with. The men were shouting and pointing, but their voices, despite the fact that they were right next to Khadgar, were indistinct and muddied, like they were talking to him from underwater.

A dream? thought Khadgar. Perhaps he had laid down for a moment and fallen asleep, and all this was some night terror brought on by his own concerns. But no, he could almost feel the heat of the dying, corpulent sun on his flesh, and the breeze and shouting men moved around him.

It was as if he had become unstuck from the rest of the world, occupied his own small island, with only the most tenuous of connections to the reality around him. As if he had become a ghost.

Indeed, the soldiers ignored him as if he were a spirit. Khadgar reached out to grab one on the shoulder, and to his own relief his hand did not pass through the battered shoulder plate. There was resistance, but only of the most amorphous sort—he could feel the solidity of the armor, and if he concentrated, feel the rough ridges of the dimpled metal.

These men had fought, Khadgar realized, both hard and recently. Only one man in three was without some form of rude bandage, bloodstained badges of war sticking out from beneath dirty armor and damaged helms. Their weapons were notched as well, and spattered with dried crimson. He had fallen into a battlefield.

Khadgar examined their position. They were atop a small hillock, a mere fold in the undulating plains that seemed to surround them. What vegetation existed had been chopped down and formed into crude battlements, now guarded by grim-faced men. This was no safe redoubt, no castle or fort. They had

chosen this spot to fight only because there was no other available to them.

The soldiers parted as their apparent leader, a great, white-bearded man with broad shoulders, pushed his way through. His armor was a battered as any, but consisted of a breastplate bolted over a crimson set of scholar’s robes, of the type that would not have been out of place in the halls of the Kirin Tor. The hem, sleeves, and vest of these crimson robes were inscribed with Page 17

runes of power—some of which

Khadgar recognized, but others which seemed alien to him. The leader’s snowy beard reached almost to his waist, obscuring the armor beneath, and he wore a red skullcap with a single golden gem on the brow. He held a gem-tipped staff in one hand, and a dark red sword in the other.

The leader was bellowing at the soldiers, in a voice that sounded to Khadgar like the raging sea itself.

The warriors seemed to know what he was saying, though, for they formed themselves up neatly along the barricades, others filling gaps along the line.

The snow-bearded commander brushed past Khadgar, and despite himself the youth stumbled back, out of the way. The commander should not have noticed him, no more than any of the blood-spattered warriors had.

Yet the commander did. His voice dropped for a moment, he stammered, his foot landed badly on the uneven soil of the rocky hilltop and he almost stumbled. Yet instead he turned and regarded Khadgar.

Yes, he looked at Khadgar, and it was clear to the would-be apprentice that the ancient mage-warrior saw him and saw him clearly. The commander’s eyes looked deeply into Khadgar’s own, and for a moment Khadgar felt as he had under Medivh’s own withering glare earlier. Yet, if anything, this was more intense. Khadgar looked into the eyes of the commander.

And what he saw there made him gasp. Despite himself, he turned away, breaking the locked gaze with the mage-warrior.

When Khadgar looked up again, the commander was nodding at him. It was a brief, almost dismissive nod, and the old man’s mouth was a tight frown. Then the snow-bearded leader was off again, bellowing at the warriors, entreating them to defend themselves.

Khadgar wanted to go after him, to chase him down and find out how he could see him when others did not, and what he could tell him, but there was a cry around him, a muddy cry of tired men called into duty one last time. Swords and spears were raised to a sky the shade of curdled blood, and arms pointed toward the nearby ridges, where flooding had stripped out patterns of purple against the rust-colored soil.

Khadgar looked where the men were pointing, and a wave of green and black topped the nearest ridge.

Khadgar thought it was some river, or an arcane and colorful mudflow, but he realized that the wave was an advancing army. Black was the color of their armor, and green was the color of their flesh.

They were nightmare creatures, mockeries of human form. Their jade-fleshed faces were dominated by heavy underslung jaws lined with fanged teeth, their noses flat and snuffling like a dog’s, and their eyes small, bloody, and filled with hate. Their ebon weapons and ornate armor shone in the eternally dying sun of this world, and as they topped the rise they let out a bellow that rocked the ground beneath them.

The soldiers around him let out a cry of their own, and as the green creatures closed the distance between the hill they let out volley after volley of red-fletched arrows. The front line of the monstrous creatures stumbled and fell, and were immediately trampled by those who came behind. Another volley

and another rank of the inhuman monsters toppled, yet their failing was subsumed by the advancing tide of the mass that followed.

To Khadgar’s right there were flashes as lightning danced along the surface of the earth, and the monstrosities screamed as the flesh was boiled from their bones. Khadgar thought of the warrior-mage commander, but also realized that these bolts only thinned the charging hordes by the merest fraction.

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And then the green-fleshed monstrosities were on top of them, the wave of ebon and jade smashing against the rude palisade. The felled timbers were no more than twigs in the path of this storm, and

Khadgar could feel the line buckle. One of the soldiers nearest him toppled, impaled by a great dark spear. In the warrior’s place there was a nightmare of green flesh and black armor, howling as it swept down upon him.

Despite himself, Khadgar backed two steps, then turned to run.

And almost slammed into Moroes, who was standing in the archway.

“You,” wheezed Moroes calmly, “were late. Might have gotten lost.”

Khadgar wheeled again in place, and saw that behind him was not a world of crimson skies and green monstrosities, but an abandoned sitting room, its fireplace empty and its chairs covered with drop cloths.

The air smelled of dust only recently disturbed.

“I was…” gasped Khadgar. “I saw…I was…”

“Misplaced?” suggested Moroes.

Khadgar gulped, looked about, then nodded mutely.

“Late supper is ready,” groaned Moroes. “Don’t get misplaced, again, now.”

And the dark-clad servant turned and glided quietly out of the room.

Khadgar took one last look at the dead-end passage he had stumbled into. There were no mystic archways or magical doorways. The vision (if vision it was) had ended with a suddenness only to be equaled by its beginning.

There were no soldiers. No creatures with green flesh. No army about to collapse. There was only a memory that scared Khadgar to his core. It was real. It had felt real. It had felt true.

It was not the monsters or the bloodshed that had frightened him. It was the mage-warrior, the snow-haired commander that seemed to be able to see him. That seemed to have looked into the heart of him, and found him wanting.

And worst of all, the white-bearded figure in armor and robes had Khadgar’s eyes. The face was aged, the hair snow-white, the manner powerful, yet the commander had the same eyes that Khadgar had seen in the untarnished mirror just moments (lifetimes?) before.

Khadgar left the sitting room, and wondered if it would not be too late to get a set of blinders.

Three

Settling In

We’ll start you off slow,” said the elder wizard from across the table. “Take stock of the library.

Figure out how you are going to organize it.”

Khadgar nodded over the porridge and sausages. The bulk of the breakfast conversation was about

Dalaran in general. What was popular in Dalaran and what were the fashions in Lordaeron. What they were arguing about in the halls of the Kirin Tor. Khadgar mentioned that the current philosophical question when he left was whether when you created a flame by magic, you called it into being or summoned it from some parallel existence.

Medivh huffed over his breakfast. “Fools. They wouldn’t know an alternate dimension if it came up and bit them on the….So what do you think?”

“I think…” And Khadgar, suddenly realizing he was once again on the spot. “I think that it may be something else entirely.”

“Excellent,” said Medivh, smiling. “When given a choice between two, choose the third. Of course you meant to say that when you create fire, all you are doing is concentrating the inherent nature of fire contained in the surrounding area into one location, calling it into being?”

“Oh yes,” said Khadgar, then adding, “had I thought about it. For a while. Like a few years.”

“Good,” said Medivh, dabbing at his beard with a napkin. “You’ve a quick mind and an honest Page 19

appraisal of yourself. Let’s see how you do with the library. Moroes will show you the way.”

The library occupied two levels, and was situated about a third of the way up the tower itself.

The staircase along this part of the tower hugged the outside edge of the citadel, leaving a large chamber two floors high. A wrought iron platform created an upper gallery on the second level.

The room’s narrow windows were covered with interwoven rods of iron, reducing what natural light the room had to little more than that of a hooded torch. On the great oak tables of the first level, crystalline globes covered with a thick patina of dust glowed with a blue-gray luster.

The room itself was a disaster area. Books were scattered opened to random pages, scrolls were unspooled over chairs, and a thin layer of dusty foolscap covered everything like the leaves on the forest floor. The more ancient tomes, still chained to the bookshelves, had been unshelved, and hung from their links like prisoners in some dungeon cell.

Khadgar surveyed the damage and let out a deep sigh. “Start me off slow,” he said.

“I could have your gear packed in a hour,” said Moroes from the hallway. The servant would not enter the library proper.

Khadgar picked up a piece of parchment at his feet. One side was a demand from the Kirin Tor for the master mage to respond to their most recent missive. The other side was marked with a dark crimson smear that Khadgar assumed at first was blood but realized was nothing more than the melted wax seal.

“No,” said Khadgar, patting his small pouch of scribe tools. “It’s just more of a challenge than I first anticipated.”

“Heard that before,” said Moroes.

Khadgar turned to ask about his comment, but the servant was already gone from the doorway.

With the care of a burglar, Khadgar picked his way through the debris. It was as if a battle had erupted in the library. Spines were broken, covers were half-torn, pages were folded over upon themselves, signatures had been pulled from the bindings entirely. And this was for those books that were still mostly whole. More portfolios had been pulled from their covers, and the dust on the tables covered a layer of papers and correspondences. Some of these were open, but some were noticeably still unread, their knowledge contained beneath their wax seals.

“The Magus does not need an assistant,” muttered Khadgar, clearing a space at the end of one table and pulling out a chair. “He needs a housekeeper.” He shot a glance at the doorway to make sure that the castellan was well and truly gone.

Khadgar sat down and the chair rocked severely. He stood up again, and saw that the uneven legs had shifted off a thick tome with a metallic cover. The front cover was ornate, and the page edges clad in silver.

Khadgar opened the text, and as he did so he felt something shift within the book, like a slider moving down a metal rod or a drop of mercury moving through a glass pipe. Something metallic unwound within the spine of the tome.

The book began to tick.

Quickly Khadgar closed the cover, and the book silenced itself with a sharp whirr and a snap, its mechanism resetting. The young man delicately set the volume back on the table.

That was when he noticed the scorch marks on the chair he was using, and the floor beneath it.

“I can see why you go through so many assistants,” said Khadgar, slowly wandering through the room.

The situation did not improve. Books were hanging open over the arms of chairs and metal railings. The correspondence grew deeper as he moved farther into the room. Something had made a nest in one corner of the bookshelf, and as Khadgar pulled it from the shelf, a small shrew’s skull toppled out, crumbling when it struck the floor. The upper level was little more than storage, books not even reaching the shelves, just piled in higher stacks, foothills leading to mountains leading to unattainable peaks.

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And there was one bare spot, but this one looked like someone had started a fire in a desperate attempt to reduce the amount of paper present. Khadgar examined the area and shook his head—something else burned here as well, for there were bits of fabric, probably from a scholar’s robe.

Khadgar shook his head and went back to where he had left his scribe’s tools. He spilled out a thin wooden pen with a handful of metal nibs, a stone for sharpening and shaping the nibs, a knife with a flexible blade for scraping parchment, a block of octopus ink, a small dish in which to melt the ink, a collection of thin, flat keys, a magnifying lens, and what looked at first glance like a metallic cricket.

He picked up the cricket, turned it on its back, and using a specially-fashioned pen nib, wound it up. A

gift from Guzbah upon Khadgar completing his first training as a scribe, it had proved invaluable in the youth’s perambulations among the halls of the Kirin Tor. Within was contained a simple but effective spell that warned when a trap was in the offing.

As soon as he had wound it one revolution, the metallic cricket let out a high-pitched squeal.

Khadgar, surprised, almost dropped the detecting insect. Then he realized that the device was merely warning about the intensity of the potential danger.

Khadgar looked at the piled volumes around him, and muttered a low curse. He retreated to the doorway, and finished winding the cricket. Then he brought the first book he had picked up, the ticking one, over to the doorway.

The cricket warbled slightly. Khadgar set the trapped book to one side of the doorway. He picked up another volume and brought it over. The cricket was silent.

Khadgar held his breath, hoped that the cricket was enchanted to handle all forms of traps, magical and otherwise, and opened the book. It was a treatise written in a soft feminine hand on the politics of the elves from three hundred years back.

Khadgar set the handwritten volume to the other side of the doorway, and went back for another book.

“I know you,” said Medivh, the next morning, over sausage and porridge.

“Khadgar, sir,” said the youth.

“The new assistant,” said the older mage. “Of course. Forgive, but the memory is not everything it once was. Too much going on, I’m afraid.”

“Anything you need aid with, sir?” asked Khadgar.

The elder man seemed to think about it for a moment, then said, “The library, Young Trust.

How are things in the library?”

“Good,” said Khadgar. “Very good. I’m busy sorting the books and papers.”

“Ah, by subject? Author?” asked the master mage.

Fatal and non-fatal,thought Khadgar. “I’m thinking by subject. Many are anonymous.”

“Hmmmfph,” said Medivh. “Never trust anything that a man will not set his reputation and name upon.

Carry on, then. Tell me, what is opinion of the Kirin Tor mages about King Llane? Do they ever mention him?”

The work proceeded with glacial slowness, but Medivh did not seem to be aware of the time involved.

Indeed, he seemed to start each morning with being mildly and pleasantly surprised that Khadgar was still with them, and after a short summary of the progress the conversation would switch into a new direction.

“Speaking of libraries,” he would say. “What is the Kirin Tor’s librarian, Korrigan, up to?”

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“How do people in Lordaeron feel about elves? Have any ever been seen there, in living memory?”

“Are there any legends of bull-headed men in the halls of the Violet Citadel?”

And one morning, about week into Khadgar’s stay, Medivh was not present at all.

“Gone,” said Moroes simply when asked.

“Gone where?” asked Khadgar.

The old castellan shrugged, and Khadgar could almost hear the bones clatter within his form.

“He’s not one to say.”

“What’s he doing?” pressed Khadgar.

“Not one to say.”

“When will he be back?”

“Not one to say.”

“He would leave me alone in his tower?” asked Khadgar. “Unsupervised, with all his mystic texts?”

“Could come stand guard over you,” volunteered Moroes. “If that’s what you want.”

Khadgar shook his head, but said, “Moroes?”

“Ayep, young sir?”

“These visions…” started the younger man.

“Blinders?” suggested the servant.

Khadgar shook his head again. “Do they show the future or the past?”

“Both, when I’ve noticed, but I usually don’t,” said Moroes. “Notice, that is.”

“And the ones of the future, do they come true?” said the young man.

Moroes let out what Khadgar could only assume was a deep sigh, a bone-rattling exhalation. “In my experience, yes, young sir. In one vision Cook saw me break a piece of crystal, so she hid them away.

Months passed, and finally the Master asked for that piece of crystal. She removed it from its hiding place, and within two minutes I had broken it. Completely unintentionally.” He sighed again. “She got her rose quartz lenses the next day. Will there be anything else?”

Khadgar said no, but was troubled as he climbed the staircase to the library level. He had gone as far as he had dared so far in his organization, and Medivh’s sudden disappearance left him high and dry, without further direction.

The young would-be apprentice entered the library. On one side of the room were those volumes (and remains of volumes) that the cricket had determined were “safe,” while the other half of the room was

filled with the (generally more complete) volumes that were noted as being trapped.

The great tables were covered with loose pages and unopened correspondence, laid out in two semiregular heaps. The shelves were entirely bare, the chains hanging empty of their prisoners.

Khadgar could sort through the papers, but better to restock the shelves with the books. But most of the volumes were untitled, or if titled, their covers so barely worn, scuffed, and torn as to be illegible. The only way to determine contents would be to open the books.

Which would set off the trapped ones. Khadgar looked at the scorched mark on the floor and shook his head.

Then he started looking, first among the trapped volumes, then among the untrapped ones, until he found what he was looking for. A book marked with the symbol of the key.

It was locked, a thick metal band holding it closed, secured by a lock. Nowhere in his searches had

Khadgar come across a real key, though that did not surprise him, given the organization of the room.

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The binding was strong, and the cover itself was a metal plate bound in red leather.

Khadgar pulled the flat pieces of keys from his pouch, but they were all insufficient for the large lock.

Finally, using the tip of his scraping knife, Khadgar managed to thread the sliver of metal through the lock, and it gave a satisfying “click” as he drove it home.

Khadgar looked at the cricket he kept on the table, and it was still silent.

Holding his breath, the young mage opened the heavy volume. The sour smell of decayed paper rose to his nostrils.

“Of Trapes and Lockes,” he said aloud, wrapping his mouth around the archaic script and over-vowelled words. “Beeing a Treateese on the Nature of Securing Devicees.”

Khadgar pulled up a chair (slightly lower as he had sawed off the three long legs to balance it) and began to read.

Medivh was gone a full two weeks, and by that time, Khadgar had claimed the library as his own.

Each morning he rose for breakfast, gave Moroes a perfunctory update as to his progress (which the castellan, as well as Cook never gave any indication of curiosity about), then buried himself away within the vault.

Lunch and supper were brought to him, and he often worked into the night by the soft bluish light from the glowing balls.

He adjusted to the nature of the tower as well. There were often images that hung at the corner of his eye, just a twinkling of a figure in a tattered cloak that would evaporate when he turned to look at it. A

half-finished word that drifted on the air. A sudden coldness as if a door or window had been left open, or a sudden change of pressure, as if a hidden entrance had suddenly appeared.

Sometimes the tower groaned in the wind, the ancient stones shifting on each other after centuries of construction.

Slowly, he learned the nature, if not the exact contents, of the books that were within the library, foiling the traps that were placed around the most valuable tomes. His research served him well in the last case.

He soon became as expert at foiling spell mechanisms and weighted traps as he had been with locked

doors and hidden secrets in Dalaran. The trick for most of them was to convince the locking mechanism

(whether magical or mechanical in nature) that the lock had not been foiled when in reality it had been.

Determining what set the particular trap off, whether it was weight, or a shifting bit of metal or even exposure to the sun or fresh air, was half the battle to defeating it.

There were books that were beyond him, whose locks foiled even his modified picks and dexterous knife. Those went to the highest level, toward the back, and Khadgar resolved to find out what was within them, either on his own or by threading the knowledge out of Medivh.

He doubted the latter, and wondered if the master mage had used the library as anything else than a dumping ground for inherited texts and old letters. Most mages of the Kirin Tor had at least some semblance of order to their archives, with their most valuable tomes hidden away.

But Medivh had everything in a hodgepodge, as if he didn’t really need it.

Except as a test,thought Khadgar. A test to keep would-be apprentices at bay.

Now the books were on the shelves, the most valuable (and unreadable) ones secured with chains on the upper level, while the more common military histories, almanacs, and diaries were on the lower floor.

Here were the scrolls as well, ranging from mundane listing of items bought and sold in Page 23

Stormwind to recordings of epic poems. The last were particularly interesting since a few of them were about

Aegwynn, Medivh’s claimed mother.

If she lived over eight hundred years, she must have been a powerful mage indeed,thought Khadgar.

More information about her would likely be in the protected books in the back. So far these tomes had resisted every common entreaty and physical attempt to sidestep their locks and traps, and the detecting cricket practically mewled in horror whenever he attempted to unlock them.

Still, there was more than enough to do, with categorizing the loose pieces, reassembling those volumes which age had almost destroyed, and sorting (or at least reading) most of the correspondence. Some of the later was in elven script, and even more of it, from a variety of sources, was in some sort of cipher.

The latter type came with a variety of seals upon it, from both Azeroth, Khaz Modan, and Lordaeron, as well as places that Khadgar could not locate in the atlas. A large group communicated in cipher with each other, and with Medivh himself.

There were several ancient grimoires on codes, most of them dealing with letter replacement and cant.

Nothing compared to the code used in these ciphers. Perhaps they used a combination of methods to create their own.

As a result, Khadgar had the grimoires on codes, along with primers in elven and dwarven languages, open on the table the evening that Medivh suddenly returned to the tower.

Khadgar didn’t hear him as much as felt his sudden presence, the way the air changes as a storm front bears across the farmland. The young mage turned in his chair and there was Medivh, his broad shoulders filling the doorway, his robes billowing behind him of their own volition.

“Sir, I…” started Khadgar, smiling and half-rising from his chair. Then he saw that the master mage’s hair was in disarray, and his lambent green eyes were wide and angry.

“Thief!” shouted Medivh, pointing at Khadgar. “Interloper!” The elder mage pointed at the younger and began to intone a string of alien syllables, words not crafted for the human throat.

Despite himself, Khadgar raised a hand and wove a symbol of protection in the air in front of him, but he might as well have been making a rude hand gesture for all the effect it had on Medivh’s spell. A wall of solidified air slammed into the younger man, bowling over both him and the chair he sat in. The grimoires and primers went skating along the surface of the table like boats caught in a sudden squall, and the notes danced away, spinning.

Surprised, Khadgar was driven back, slammed into one of the bookshelves behind him. The shelf itself rocked from the force of the blow, and the youth was afraid it would topple, spoiling his hard work. The bookcase held its position, though the pressure on Khadgar’s chest from the force of the attack intensified.

“Who are you?” thundered Medivh. “What are you doing here?”

The young mage struggled against the weight on his chest and managed to speak, “Khadgar,” he gasped.

“Assistant. Cleaning library. Your orders.” Part of his mind wondered if this was why Moroes spoke in such a shorthand fashion.

Medivh blinked at Khadgar’s words, and straightened like a man who had just been woken from a deep sleep. He twisted his hand slightly, and at once the wave of solidified air evaporated.

Khadgar dropped to his knees, gasping for air.

Medivh crossed to him and helped him to his feet. “I am sorry, lad,” he began. “I had forgotten you were still here. I assumed you were a thief.”

“A thief that insisted on leaving a room neater than he found it,” said Khadgar. It hurt a little Page 24

when he breathed.

“Yes,” said Medivh, looking around the room, and nodding, despite the disruption his own attack had caused. “Yes. I don’t believe anyone else had ever gotten this far before.”

“I’ve sorted by type,” said Khadgar, still bent over and grasping his knees. “Histories, including epic poems, to your right. Natural sciences on your left. Legendary material in the center, with languages and reference books. The more powerful material—alchemic notes, spell descriptions, and theory go on the balcony, along with some books I could not identify that seem fairly powerful. You’re going to have to look at those yourself.”

“Yes,” said Medivh, now ignoring the youth and scanning the room. “Excellent. An excellent job. Very good.” He looked around, seeming like a man just getting his bearings again. “Very good indeed. You’ve done well. Now come along.”

The master mage bolted for the door, pulled himself up short, then turned. “Are you coming?”

Khadgar felt as if he had been hit by another mystic bolt. “Coming? Where are we going?”

“To the top,” said Medivh curtly. “Come now or we’ll be too late. Time is of the essence!”

For an older man Medivh moved swiftly up the stairs, covering them two at a time at a brisk pace.

“What’s at the top?” gasped Khadgar, finally catching up at a landing near the top.

“Transport,” snapped Medivh, then hesitated for a moment. He turned in place and his shoulders

dropped. For a moment it looked like the fire had burned out of his eyes. “I must apologize.

For back there.”

“Sir?” said Khadgar, his mind now spinning with this new transformation.

“My memory is not what it once was, Young Trust,” said the Magus. “I should have remembered you were in the tower. With everything, I assumed you must have been a…”

“Sir?” interrupted Khadgar. “Time is of the essence?”

“Time,” said Medivh, then he nodded, and the intensity returned to his face. “Yes, it is. Come on, don’t lollygag!” And with that the older man was up on his feet and taking the steps two at a time.

Khadgar realized that the haunted tower and the disorganized library were not the only reason people left Medivh’s employ, and hastened after him.

The aged castellan was waiting for them in the tower observatory.

“Moroes,” thundered Medivh as he arrived at the top of the tower. “The golden whistle, if you please.”

“Ayep,” said the servant, producing a thin cylinder. Dwarven runes were carved along the cylinder’s side, reflecting in the lamplight of the room. “Already took the liberty, sir. They’re here.”

“They?” started Khadgar. There was the rustle of great wings overhead. Medivh headed for the ramparts, and Khadgar looked up.

Great birds descended from the sky, their wings luminescent in the moonlight. No, not birds, Khadgar realized—gryphons. They had the bodies of great cats, but their heads and front claws were those of sea eagles, and their wings were golden.

Medivh held out a bit and bridle. “Hitch yours up, and we’ll go.”

Khadgar eyed the great beast. The nearest gryphon let out a shrieking cry and pawed the flagstones with its clawed forelegs.

“I’ve never…” started the young man. “I don’t know…”

Medivh frowned. “Don’t they teach anything among the Kirin Tor? I don’t have time for this.”

He raised a finger and muttered a few words, touching Khadgar’s forehead.

Khadgar stumbled back, shouting in surprise. The elder mage’s touch felt as if he were driving a hot iron into his brain.

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Medivh said, “Now youdo know. Set the bit and bridle, now.”

Khadgar touched his forehead, and let out a surprised gasp. Hedid know now, how to properly harness a gryphon, and to ride one as well, both with saddle and, in the dwarven style, without.

He knew how to bank, how to force a hover, and most of all, how to prepare for a sudden landing.

Khadgar harnessed his gryphon, aware that his head throbbed slightly, as if the knowledge now within had to jostle that already within his skull to make room.

“Ready? Follow!” said Medivh, not asking for a response.

The pair launched themselves into the air, the great beasts straining and beating the air to allow them to rise. The great creatures could take armored dwarves aloft, but a human in robes approached their limits.

Khadgar expertly banked his swooping gryphon and followed Medivh as the elder mage swooped down over the dark treetops. The pain in his head spread from the point where Medivh had touched him, and now his forehead felt heavy and his thoughts muzzy. Still, he concentrated and matched the master mage’s motions exactly, as if he had been flying gryphons all his life.

The younger mage tried to catch up with Medivh, to ask where they were going, and what their goal was, but he could not overtake him. Even if he had, Khadgar realized, the rushing wind would drown out all but the greatest shouts. So he followed as the mountains loomed above them, as they winged eastward.

How long they flew Khadgar could not say, He may have dozed fitfully on gryphon-back, but hands held the reins firm, and the gryphon kept pace with its brother-creature. Only when Medivh suddenly jinked his gryphon to the right did Khadgar shake himself out of his slumber (if slumber it was) and followed the master mage as his course turned south. Khadgar’s headache, the likely product of the spell, had almost completely dissipated, leaving only a ragged ache as a reminder.

They had cleared the mountain range and Khadgar now realized they were flying over open land.

Beneath them the moonlight was shattered and reflected in myriad pools. A large marsh or swamp, Khadgar thought. It had to be early in the morning now, the horizon on their right just starting to lighten with the eventual promise of day.

Medivh dropped low and raised both hands over his head. Incanting from gryphon-back, Khadgar realized, and though his mind assured him that he knew how to do this, steering the great beast with his knees, he felt in his heart that he could never be comfortable in such a maneuver.

The creatures dropped farther, and Medivh was suddenly bathed in a ball of light, both limning him clearly and catching Khadgar’s gryphon as a trailing shadow. Beneath them, the young mage saw an armed encampment on a low rise that jutted from the surrounding swamp. They passed low over the camp, and beneath him Khadgar could hear shouts and the clatter of armor and weapons being hastily grabbed. What was Medivh doing?

They passed over the encampment, and Medivh pulled into a high, banking turn, Khadgar following him move for move. They returned over the camp, and it was brighter now—the campfires that had previously been banked were now fed fresh fuel, and blazed in the night.

Khadgar saw it was a large patrol, perhaps even a company. The commander’s tent was large and ornate, and Khadgar recognized the banner of Azeroth flapping overhead.

Allies, then, for Medivh was supposedly closely connected to both King Llane of Azeroth and Lothar, the kingdom’s Knight Champion. Khadgar expected Medivh to land, but instead the mage kicked the sides of his mount, pulling the gryphon’s head up. The beast’s great wings beat the dark air and they climbed again, this time rocketing north. Khadgar had no choice but to follow, as Medivh’s light dimmed and the master mage took the reins again.

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Over the marshlands again, and Khadgar saw a thin ribbon beneath, too straight for a river, too wide for an irrigation ditch. A road, then, plowed through the swamp, connecting bits of dry land that rose out of

the fen.

Then the land rose to another ridge, another dry spot, and another encampment. There were also flames in this encampment, but they were not the bright, contained ones of the army’s forces. These were scattered throughout the clearing, and as they neared, Khadgar realized they were wagons set alight, their contents strewn out among the dark human forms that were tossed like children’s dolls on the sandy ground of the campsite.

As before, Medivh passed over the campsite, then wheeled high in the air, banking to make a return pass. Khadgar followed, the young mage himself leaning over the side of his mount to get a better look. It looked like a caravan that had been looted and set ablaze, but the goods themselves were scattered on the ground. Wouldn’t bandits take the booty and the wagons?

Were there any survivors?

The answer to the last question came with a shout and a volley of arrows that arched up from the brush surrounding the site.

The lead gryphon let out a shriek as Medivh effortlessly pulled back on the reins, banking the creature clear of the flight of arrows. Khadgar attempted the same maneuver, the warm, false, comforting memory in his head telling him that this was the correct way to turn. But unlike Medivh, Khadgar was riding too far forward on his mount, and he had insufficient pull on his reins.

The gryphon banked, but not enough to avoid all the arrows. A barbed arrow pierced the feathers of the right wing, and the great beast let out a bleating scream, jerking in flight and desperately attempting to beat its wings to get above the arrows.

Khadgar was off-balance, and was unable to compensate. In a heartbeat his hands slipped loose of the reins, and his knees slipped up from the sides of the gryphon. No longer under tight control, the gryphon bucked, throwing Khadgar entirely free of its back.

Khadgar lashed out to grab the reins. The leather lines whipped at his fingertips and then were gone into the night, along with his mount.

And Khadgar plummeted toward the armed darkness below.

Four

Battle and Aftermath

The air rushed out of Khadgar’s lungs as he struck the ground. The earth was gritty beneath his fingers, and he realized he must have landed on a low dune of sandy debris collected along one side of the ridge.

Uneasily the young mage rose to his feet. From the air the ridge looked like a forest fire. From the ground it looked like an opening to hell itself.

The wagons were almost completely consumed by fire now, their contents scattered and blazing along the ridge. Bolts of cloth had been unwound in the dirt, barrels staved and leaking, and food despoiled and mashed into the earth. Around him were bodies as well, human forms dressed in light armor. There was an occasional gleam of a helmet or a sword. Those would be the caravan guards, who failed their task.

Khadgar shrugged a painful shoulder, but it felt bruised as opposed to broken. Even given the sand, he should have landed harder. He shook his head, hard. Whatever ache was left from Medivh’s spell was outweighed by greater aches elsewhere.

There was movement among the wreckage, and Khadgar crouched. Voices barked back and forth in an unfamiliar tongue, a language to Khadgar’s ears both guttural and blasphemous. They Page 27

were searching for him. They had seen him topple from his mount and now they were searching for him. As he watched, stooped figures shambled through the wreckage, forming hunched silhouettes where they passed before the flames.

Something tickled the back of Khadgar’s brain, but he could not place it. Instead he started to back out of the clearing, hoping the darkness would keep him hidden from the creatures.

Such was not to be. Behind him, a branch snapped or a booted foot found a chuckhole covered by leaves, or leather armor was tangled briefly in some brush. In any event, Khadgar knew he was not alone, and he turned at once to see…

A monstrosity from his vision. A mockery of humanity in green and black.

It was not as large as the creature of his vision, nor as wide, but it was still a nightmare creature.

Its heavy jaw was dominated by fangs that jutted upward, its other features small and sinister.

For the first time Khadgar realized it had large, upright ears. It probably heard him before it saw him.

Its armor was dark, but it was leather and not the metal of his dream. The creature bore a torch in one hand that caught the deep features of its face, making it all the more monstrous. In its other hand the creature carried a spear decorated with a string of small white objects. With a start Khadgar realized the objects were human ears, trophies of the massacre around them.

All this came to Khadgar in an instant, in the moment’s meeting of man and monster. The beast pointed the grisly-decorated spear at the youth and let out a bellowing challenge.

The challenge was cut short as the young mage muttered a word of power, raised a hand, and unleashed a small bolt of power through the creature’s midsection. The beast slumped in on itself, its bellow cut short.

One part of his mind was stunned by what he had just done, the other knew that he had seen what these creatures could do, in the vision in Karazhan.

The creature had warned the other members of its unit, and now there were war-howls in return around the encampment. Two, four, a dozen such travesties, all converging on his location.

Worse yet, there were other howls from the swamp itself.

Khadgar knew he did not have the power to repulse all of them. Summoning the mystic bolt was enough to weaken him. Another would put him in dire danger of fainting. Perhaps he should try to flee?

But these monsters probably knew the dark fen that surrounded them better than he did. If he kept to the sandy ridge, they would find him. If he fled into the swamp, not even Medivh would be able to locate him.

Khadgar looked up into the sky, but there was no sign of either the Magus or the gryphons. Had Medivh landed somewhere, and was sneaking up on the monsters? Or had he returned to the human force to the south, to bring them here?

Or, thought Khadgar grimly, had Medivh’s quicksilver mood changed once again and he had forgotten he had someone with him on this flight?

Khadgar looked quickly out into the darkness, then back toward the site of the ambush itself.

There were more shadows moving around the fire, and more howling.

Khadgar picked up the grisly trophy-spear, and strode purposely toward the fire. He might not be able to fire off more than a mystic bolt or two, but the monsters didn’t know that.

Perhaps they were as dumb as they looked. And as inexperienced with wizards as he was with them.

He did surprise them, for what it was worth. The last thing they expected was their prey, the victim they had unseated from its flying mount, suddenly to manifest at the edge of the campfire’s light, bearing the trophy-spear of one of their guards.

Khadgar tossed the spear sideways on the fire, and it sent up a shower of sparks as it landed.

The young mage summoned a bit of flame, a small ball, and held it in his hand. He hoped that it Page 28

limned his features as seriously as the torch had lit the guard’s. It had better.

“Leave this place,” Khadgar bellowed, praying that his strained voice would not crack. “Leave this place or die.”

One of the larger brutes took two steps forward and Khadgar muttered a word of power. The mystic energies congealed around his flaming hand and blasted the green nonhuman full in the face. The brute had enough time to raise a clawed hand to its ruined features before it toppled.

“Flee,” shouted Khadgar, trying to pitch his voice as deeply as he could, “Flee or face the same fate.”

His stomach felt like ice, and he tried not to stare at the burning creature.

A spear launched out of the darkness, and with the last of his energy Khadgar summoned a bit of air, just enough to push it clearly aside. As he did he felt faint. That was the last he could do.

He was well and truly tapped out. It would be a good time for his bluff to work.

The surrounding creatures, about a dozen visible, took a step back, then another. One more shout, Khadgar reckoned, and they would flee back into the swamp, and give him enough time to flee himself.

He had already decided he would flee south, toward the army encampment.

Instead there was a high, cackling laugh that froze Khadgar’s blood. The ranks of the green warriors parted and another figure shambled forward. It was thinner and more hunched than the others, and wore a robe the color of curdled blood. The color of the sky of Khadgar’s vision. Its features were as green and misshapened as the others, but this one has a gleam of feral intelligence in its eyes.

It held out its hand, palm upward, and took a dagger and pierced its palm with the tip. Reddish blood pooled in the clawed palm.

The robed beast spoke a word that Khadgar had never heard, a word that hurt the ears, and the blood burst into flame.

“Human wants to play?” said the robed monster, roughly matching the human language. “Wants to play at spells? Nothgrin can play!”

“Leave now,” tried Khadgar. “Leave now or die!”

But the young mage’s voice wavered now, and the robed mockery merely laughed. Khadgar scanned the area around him, looking for the best place to run, wondering if he could grab one of the guard’s swords laying on ground. He wondered if this Nothgrin was bluffing as much as Khadgar had been.

Nothgrin took a step toward Khadgar, and two of the brutes to the spellcaster’s right suddenly screamed and burst into flame. It happened with a suddenness that shocked everyone, including Khadgar. Nothgrin wheeled toward the immolated creatures, to see two more join them, bursting into flame like dry sticks. They screamed as well, their knees buckling, and they toppled to the ground.

In the place where the creatures had been now stood Medivh. He seemed to glow of his own volition, diminishing the main fire, the burning wagons, and the burning corpses on the ground, sucking their light into himself. He seemed radiant and relaxed. He smiled at the collected creatures, and it was a savage, brutal smile.

“My apprentice told you to leave,” said Medivh, “You should have followed his orders.”

One of the beasts let out a bellow, and the rogue magus silenced it with a wave of his hand.

Something hard and invisible struck the beast square in the face, and there was a shattering crack as its head came loose of its body and rolled backward, striking the ground only moments before the creature’s body struck the sand.

The rest of the creatures staggered backward a step, then fled entirely into the night. Only the leader, the robed Nothgrin, held its ground, and its overwide jaw flapped open in surprise.

“Nothgrin knows you, human,” he hissed. “You are the one….”

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Anything else the creature said disappeared in a scream as Medivh waved a hand and the creature was pulled off its feet by a burst of air and fire. It was swept upward, screaming, until at last its lungs collapsed from the stress and remains of its burned body drifted down like black snowflakes.

Khadgar looked at Medivh, and the wizard had a toothy, self-satisfied smile. The smile faded when he looked at Khadgar’s ashen face.

“Are you all right, lad?” he asked.

“Fine,” said Khadgar, feeling the weight of his exhaustion sweeping over him. He tried to sit but ended up just collapsing to his knees, his mind worn and empty.

Medivh was at his side in a moment, passing a palm over the lad’s forehead. Khadgar tried to move the hand away, but found that he lacked the energy.

“Rest,” said Medivh. “Recover your strength. The worst is over.”

Khadgar nodded, blinking. He looked at the bodies around the fire. Medivh could have slain him as easily, in the library. What stayed his hand, then? Some recognition of Khadgar? Some bit of memory or

of humanity?

The young mage managed, “Those things.” His voice sounded slurred, “What were…”

“Orcs,” said the Magus. “Those were orcs. Now no more questions for the moment.”

To the east, the sky was lightening. To the south, there was the sound of bright horns and powerful hooves.

“The cavalry at last,” said Medivh with a sigh. “Too loud and too late, but don’t tell them that.

They can pick up the stragglers. Now rest.”

The patrol swept through the camp, half of them dismounting, the remainder pressing up along the road.

The horsemen began checking the bodies. A detail was assigned to bury the members of the caravan.

The few dead orcs that Medivh had not set on fire were gathered and put on the main fire, their bodies charring as their flesh turned to ash.

Khadgar didn’t remember Medivh leaving him, but he did return with the patrol’s commander.

The commander was a stocky, older man, his face weathered by combat and campaign. His beard was already more salt than pepper, and his hairline had receded to the back of his head.

He was a huge man, made all the more imposing by his plate armor and greatcape. Over one shoulder Khadgar could see the hilt of a huge sword, the crosspiece huge and jeweled.

“Khadgar, this is Lord Anduin Lothar,” said Medivh, “Lothar, this is my apprentice, Khadgar of the

Kirin Tor.”

Khadgar’s mind spun and caught first on the name. Lord Lothar. The King’s Champion, boyhood companion of both King Llane and Medivh. The blade on his back had to be the Great Royal Sword, pledged to defend Azeroth, and…

Did Medivh just say Khadgar was hisapprentice?

Lothar dropped to one knee to bring himself level with the young man, and looked at him, smiling. “So you finally got an apprentice. Had to go to the Violet Citadel to find one, eh, Med?”

“Find one of suitable merit, yes,” said Medivh.

“And if it ties the local hedge wizards’ undies in a bundle, so much the better, eh? Oh, don’t look at me like that, Medivh. What has this one done to impress you?”

“Oh, the usual,” said Medivh, showing his teeth in a feral grin in response. “Organized my library. Tamed a gryphon on the first try. Took on these orcs single-handed, including a Page 30

warlock.”

Lothar let out a low whistle, “He organizedyour library? Iam impressed.” A smile flashed beneath his graying moustache.

“Lord Lothar,” managed Khadgar finally. “Your skill is known even in Dalaran.”

“You rest, lad,” said Lothar, putting a heavy gauntlet on the young mage’s shoulder. “We’ll get the rest

of those creatures.”

Khadgar shook his head. “You won’t. Not if you stay on the road.”

The King’s Champion blinked in surprise, and Khadgar was not sure if it was because of his presumption or his words.

“The lad’s right, I’m afraid,” said Medivh. “The orcs have taken to the swamp. They seem to know the

Black Morass better than we do, and that’s what makes them so effective here. We stay on the roads, and they can run circles around us.”

Lothar rubbed the back of his head with his gauntlet. “Maybe we could borrow some of those gryphons of yours to scout.”

“The dwarves that trained them may have their opinions about loaning out their gryphons,” said Medivh.

“But you might want to talk to them, and to the gnomes as well. They have a few whirligigs and sky-engines that might be more suitable for scouting.”

Lothar nodded, and rubbed his chin. “How did you know they were here?”

“I encountered one of their advance scouts near my domain,” said Medivh, as calmly as if he was discussing the weather. “I managed to squeeze out of him that there was a large party looking to raid along the Morass Road. I had hoped to arrive in time to warn them.” He looked at the devastation around them.

The sunlight did little to help the appearance of the area. The smaller fires had burned out, and the air smelled of burning orcflesh. A pallid cloud hung over the site of the ambush.

A young soldier, little more than Khadgar’s age, ran up to them. They had found a survivor, one that was pretty badly chewed up, but alive. Could the Magus come at once?

“Stay with the lad,” said Medivh, “He’s still a little woozy from everything.” And with that the master mage strode across the scorched and bloody ground, his long robes trailing him like a banner.

Khadgar tried to rise and follow him, but the King’s Champion put his heavy gauntlet on his shoulder and held him down. Khadgar struggled only for a moment, then returned to a seated position.

Lothar regarded Khadgar with a smile. “So the old coot finally took on an assistant.”

“Apprentice,” said Khadgar weakly, though he felt the pride rising in his chest. The feeling brought a new strength to his mind and limbs. “He’s had many assistants. They didn’t last. Or so I heard.”

“Uh-huh,” said Lothar. “I recommended a few of those assistants, and they came back with tales of a haunted tower and a crazy, demanding mage. What do you think of him?”

Khadgar blinked for moment. In the past twelve hours, Medivh had attacked him, shoved knowledge into his head, dragged him across the country on gryphon-back, and let him face off a handful of orcs before swooping in for the rescue. On the other hand, he had made Khadgar his apprentice. His student.

Khadgar coughed and said, “He is more than I expected.”

Lothar smiled again and there was genuine warmth in the smile. “He is more than anyone Page 31

expected.

That’s one of his good points.” Lothar thought for a moment and said, “That is a very politic and polite response.”

Khadgar managed a weak smile. “Lordaeron is a very politic and polite land.”

“So I’ve noticed in the King’s Council. ‘Dalaran ambassadors can say both yes and no at the same time, and say nothing as well.’ No insult intended.”

“None taken, my lord,” said Khadgar.

Lothar looked at the lad. “How old are you, lad?”

Khadgar looked at the older man. “Seventeen. Why?”

Lothar shook his head and grunted, “That might make sense.”

“Make sense how?”

“Med, I mean Lord Magus Medivh, was a young man, several years younger than yourself, when he fell ill. As a result, he never dealt much with someone of your age.”

“Ill?” said Khadgar. “The Magus was ill?”

“Seriously,” said Lothar. “He fell into a deep sleep, a coma they called it. Llane and I kept him at

Northshire Abbey, and the holy brothers there fed him broth to keep him from wasting away.

For years he was like that, then, snap, he woke up, right as rain. Or almost.”

“Almost?” asked Khadgar.

“Well, he missed a large piece of his teenage years, and a few additional decades as well. He fell asleep a teenager and woke up a grown man. I always worry that it affected him.”

Khadgar thought about the master mage’s mercurial temperament, his sudden mood swings, and the childlike delight with which he approached battling the orcs. Were Medivh a younger man, would his actions make more sense?

“His coma,” said Lothar, and shook his head at the memory. “It was unnatural. Med calls it a

‘nap,’ like it was perfectly reasonable. But we never found out why it happened. The Magus might have puzzled it out, but he’s shown no interest in the matter, even when I’ve asked.”

“I am Medivh’s apprentice,” said Khadgar simply. “Why are you telling me this?”

Lothar sighed deeply and looked out over the battle-scarred ridge. Khadgar realized that the King’s

Champion was a basically honest individual, who would not last a day and a half in Dalaran. His emotions were plain on his weathered, open face.

Lothar sucked on his teeth, and said, “To be honest, I worry about him. He’s all alone in his tower….”

“He has a castellan. And there’s Cook,” put in Khadgar.

“…with all of his magic,” continued Lothar. “He just seems alone. Tucked up there in the mountains. I

worry about him.”

Khadgar nodded, and added to himself,and that is why you tried to get apprentices from Azeroth in there. To spy on your friend. You worry about him, but you worry about his power as well. Aloud, Khadgar said, “You worry if he’s all right.”

Lothar gave a shrug, revealing both how much he did worry and how much he was willing to pretend otherwise.

“What can I do to help?” asked Khadgar. “Help him. Help you.”

“Keep an eye on him,” said Lothar. “If you’re an apprentice, he should spend more time with you. I

don’t want him to…”

“Fall into another coma?” suggested Khadgar.At a time when these orcs are suddenly everywhere. For his part, Lothar rewarded him with another shrug.

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Khadgar gave the best smile he could manage, “I would be honored to help you both, Lord Lothar.

Know that my loyalty must be to the master mage first, but if there is anything afriend would need to know, I will pass it along.”

Another heavy pat of the gauntlet. Khadgar marveled at how badly Lothar concealed his concerns.

Were all the natives of Azeroth this open and guileless? Even now, Khadgar could see there was something else Lothar wanted to speak of.

“There’s something else,” said Lothar. Khadgar just nodded politely.

“Has the Lord Magus spoken of the Guardian to you?” he asked.

Khadgar thought of pretending to know more than he did, to draw out more from this older, honest man.

But as the thought passed through his head, he discarded it. Best to hold to the truth.

“I have heard the name from Medivh’s lips,” said Khadgar. “But I know nothing of the details.”

“Ah,” said Lothar. “Then let it be as if I said nothing to you.”

“I’m sure we will talk of it in due course,” added Khadgar.

“Undoubtedly,” said Lothar. “You seem like a trustworthy sort.”

“After all, I’ve only been his apprentice for a few days,” said Khadgar lazily.

Lothar’s eyebrows raised, “A few days? Exactly how long have you been Medivh’s apprentice?”

“Counting until dawn tomorrow?” said Khadgar, and allowed himself a smile. “That would be one.”

Medivh chose that moment to return, looking more haggard than before. Lothar raised his eyebrows in a hopeful question, but the Magus merely shook his head. Lothar frowned deeply, and after exchanging a few pleasantries, left to oversee the rest of salvage and clean-up. The half of the patrol that had moved ahead along the road had returned, but had found nothing.

“Are you up for travel?” asked Medivh.

Khadgar pulled himself to his feet, and the sandy ridge in the middle of the Black Morass seemed like a ship pitching on a rough sea.

“Well enough,” he said. “I don’t know if I can handle a gryphon, though, even with…” he let his voice trail off, but touched his forehead.

“It’s just as well,” said Medivh. “Your mount got spooked by the arrows, and headed for the high country. We’ll have to double up.” He raised the rune-carved whistle to his lips and let out a series of short, sharp blasts. Far above, there was the shriek of a gryphon on the wing, circling high above them.

Khadgar looked up and said, “So, I’m your apprentice.”

“Yes,” said Medivh, his face a calm mask.

“I passed your tests,” said the youth.

“Yes,” said Medivh.

“I’m honored, sir,” said Khadgar.

“I’m glad you are,” said Medivh, and a ghost of a smile crossed his face. “Because now starts the hard part.”

Five

Sands in an Hourglass

I’ve seen them before,” said Khadgar.

It was seven days after the battle in the swamp. With their return to the tower (and a day of recovery on

Khadgar’s part), the young mage’s apprenticeship had begun in earnest. The first hour of the day, before breakfast, Khadgar practiced his spells under Medivh’s tutelage. From breakfast until lunch and through lunch until supper, Khadgar would assist the master mage with various Page 33

tasks. These consisted of making notes as Medivh read off numbers, running down to the library to recover this book or that, or merely holding a collection of tools as the Magus worked.

Which was what he was doing at this particular moment, when he finally felt comfortable enough with the older mage to tell him what he knew about the ambush.

“Seen who before?” replied his mentor, peering through a great lens at his current experiment.

On his fingers the master mage wore small pointed thimbles ending in infinitely-thin needles. He was tuning something that looked like a mechanical bumblebee, which flexed its heavy wings as his needles probed it.

“The orcs,” said Khadgar. “I’ve seen the orcs we fought before.”

“You didn’t mention them when you first arrived,” said Medivh absentmindedly, his fingers dancing in odd precision, lancing the needles into and out of the device. “I remember asking you about other races.

There was no mention. Where have you seen them?”

“In a vision. Soon after I arrived here,” Khadgar said.

“Ah. You had a vision. Well, many get them here, you know. Moroes probably told you. He’s a bit of a blabbermouth, you know.”

“I’ve had one, maybe two. The one I am sure about was on a battlefield, and these creature, these orcs, were there. Attacking us. I mean, attacking the humans I was with.”

“Hmmm,” said Medivh, the tip of his tongue appearing beneath his moustache as he moved the needles delicately along the bumblebee’s copper thorax.

“And I wasn’t here,” continued Khadgar. “Not in Azeroth, or Lordaeron. Wherever I was, the sky was red as blood.”

Medivh bristled as if struck by an electric shock. The intricate device beneath his tools flashed brightly as the wrong parts were touched, then screamed, and then died.

“Red skies?” he said, turning away form the workbench and looking sharply at Khadgar.

Energy, intense and uncaring, seemed to dance along the older man’s dark brows, and the Magus’s eyes were the green of a storm-tossed sea.

“Red. Like blood,” said Khadgar. The young man had thought he was becoming used to Medivh’s sudden and mercurial moods, but this struck him with the force of a blow.

The older mage let out a hiss. “Tell me about it. The world, the orcs, the skies,” commanded Medivh, his voice like stone. “Tell meeverything.”

Khadgar recounted the vision of his first night there, mentioning everything he could remember.

Medivh interrupted constantly—what were the orcs wearing, what was the world like. What was in the sky, on the horizon. Were there any banners among the orcs. Khadgar felt his thoughts were being dissected and examined. Medivh pulled the information from Khadgar effortlessly.

Khadgar told him everything.

Everything except the strange, familiar eyes of the warrior-mage commander. He did not feel right mentioning that, and Medivh’s questions seemed to concentrate more on the red-skied world and the orcs than the human defenders. As he described the vision, the older mage seemed to calm down, but the choppy sea still remained beneath his bushy brows. Khadgar saw no need to upset the Magus further.

“Curious,” said Medivh, slowly and thoughtfully, after Khadgar had finished. The master mage leaned back in his chair and tapped a needle-tipped finger to his lips. There was a silence that hung over the room like a shroud. At last he said, “That is a new one. A very new one indeed.”

“Sir,” began Khadgar.

“Medivh,” reminded the master mage.

“Medivh, sir,” began Khadgar again. “Where do these visions come from? Are they hauntings of some past or portents of the future?”

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“Both,” said Medivh, leaning back in his chair. “And neither. Go fetch an ewer of wine from the kitchen.

My work is done for the day, I’m afraid, its nearly time for supper, and this may take some explaining.”

When Khadgar returned, Medivh had started a fire in the hearth and was already settling into one of the larger chairs. He held out a pair of mugs. Khadgar poured, the sweet smell of the red wine mixing with the cedar smoke.

“You do drink?” asked Medivh as an afterthought.

“A bit,” said Khadgar. “It is customary to serve wine with dinner in the Violet Citadel.”

“Yes,” said Medivh. “You wouldn’t need to if you just got rid of the lead lining for your aqueduct. Now, you were asking about visions.”

“Yes, I saw what I described to you, and Moroes…” Khadgar hesitated for a moment, hoping not to further blacken the castellan’s reputation for gossip, then decided to press on. “Moroes said that I was not alone. That people saw things like that all the time.”

“Moroes is right,” said Medivh, taking a long pull from the wine and smacking his lips. “A late harvest vintage, not bad at all. That this tower is a place of power should not surprise you.

Mages gravitate toward such places. Such places are often where the universe wears thin, allowing it to double back on itself, or perhaps even allowing entry to the Twisting Nether and to other worlds entirely.”

“Was that what I saw, then,” interrupted Khadgar, “another world?”

Medivh held up a hand to hush the younger man. “I am just saying that there are places of power, which for one reason or another, become the seats of great power. One such location is here, in the Redridge

Mountains. Once long ago something powerful exploded here, carving out the valley and weakening the reality around it.”

“And that’s why you sought it out,” prompted Khadgar.

Medivh shook his head, but instead said, “That’s one theory.”

“You said there was an explosion long ago that created this place, and it made it a place of magical power. You then came….”

“Yes,” said Medivh. “That’s all true, if you look at it in a linear fashion. But what happens if the explosion occurred because I would eventually come here and the place needed to be ready for me?”

Khadgar’s face knitted. “But things don’t happen like that.”

“In the normal world, no, they do not,” said Medivh. “But magic is the art of circumventing the normal.

That’s why the philosophical debates in the halls of the Kirin Tor are so much buffle and blow.

They seek to place rationality upon the world, and regulate its motions. The stars march in order across the sky, the seasons fall one after the other with lockstepped regularity, and men and women live and die. If that does not happen, it’s magic, the first warping of the universe, a few floorboards that are bent out of shape, waiting for industrious hands to pry them up.”

“But for that to happen to the area to be prepared for you…” started Khadgar.

“The world would have to be very different than it seems,” answered Medivh, “which it truly is, after all.

How does time work?”

Khadgar was not thrown as much by Medivh’s apparent change of topic. “Time?”

“We use it, trust it, measure by it, but whatis it?” Medivh was smiling over the top of his cup.

“Time is a regular progression of instants. Like sands through an hourglass,” said Khadgar.

“Excellent analogy,” said Medivh. “One I was going to use myself, and then compare the Page 35

hourglass with the mechanical clock. You see the difference between the two?”

Khadgar shook his head slowly as Medivh sipped on his wine.

Eventually, the mage spoke, “No, you’re not daft, boy. It’s a hard concept to wrap your brain around.

The clock is a mechanical simulation of time, each beat controlled by a turning of the gears. You can look at a clock and know that everything advances by one tic of the wheel, one slip of the gears. You know what is coming next, because the original clockmaker built it that way.”

“All right,” said Khadgar. “Time is a clock.”

“Ah, but time is also an hourglass,” said the older Mage, reaching for one planted on the mantel and flipping it over. Khadgar looked at the timepiece, and tried to remember if it was there before he had brought up the wine, or even before Medivh reached for it.

“The hourglass also measures time, true?” said Medivh. “Yet here you never know which particle of sand will move from the upper half to the lower half at any instant. Were you to number the sands, the order would be slightly different each time. But the end result is always the same—all the sand has moved from the top to the bottom. What order it happens in does not matter.” The old man’s eyes brightened for a moment. “So?” he asked.

“So,” said Khadgar. “You’re saying that it may not matter if you set up your tower here because an explosion created this valley and warped the nature of reality around it, or that the explosion occurred because you would eventually be come here, and the nature of the universe needed to give you the tools you wanted to stay.”

“Close enough,” said Medivh.

“So what these visions are, then, are bits of sand?” said Khadgar. Medivh frowned slightly but the youth pressed on. “If the tower is an hourglass, and not a clock, then there are bits of sand, of time itself, that are moving though it at any time. These are unstuck, or overlap each other, so that we can see them, but not clearly. Some of it is parts of the past. Some of it is parts of the future. Could some of it be of other worlds as well?”

Medivh now was thinking deeply himself. “It is possible. Full marks. Well thought out. The big thing to remember is that these visions are just that. Visions. They waft in and out. Were the tower a clock, they would move regularly and be easily explained. But since the tower is an hourglass, then they don’t. They move at their own speed, and defy us to explain their chaotic nature.” Medivh leaned back in his chair.

“Which I, for one, am quite comfortable with. I could never really favor an orderly, well-planned universe.”

Khadgar added, “But have you ever sought out a particular vision? Wouldn’t there be a way to discover a certain future, and then make sure it happened?”

Medivh’s mood darkened. “Or make sure it never comes to pass,” he said. “No, there are some things that even a master mage respects and stays clear of. This is one of them.”

“But…”

“No buts,” said Medivh, rising and setting his empty mug on the mantelpiece. “Now that you’ve had a bit of wine—let’s see how that affects your magical control. Levitate my mug.”

Khadgar furrowed his brow, and realized that his voice had been slightly slurred. “But we’ve been drinking.”

“Exactly,” said the master mage. “You will never know what sands the universe will throw in your face.

You can either plan to be eternally vigilant and ready, eschewing life as we know it, or be willing to enjoy life and pay the price. Now try to levitate the mug.”

Khadgar didn’t realize until this moment how much he had drunk, and tried to clear the mushiness from his mind and lift the heavy ceramic mug from the mantel.

A few moments later, he was heading for the kitchen, looking for a broom and a pan.

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In the evenings, Khadgar’s time was his own, to practice and research, as Medivh dealt with other matters. Khadgar wondered what the other matters were, but assumed they included correspondence, for twice a week a dwarf on gryphon-back arrived at the topmost tower with a satchel, and left with a larger satchel.

Medivh gave the young man free license in the library to research as he saw fit, including the myriad questions that his former masters in the Violet Citadel had requested.

“My only demand,” said Medivh with a smile, “is that you show me what you write before you send it to them.” Khadgar must have shown his embarrassment, because Medivh added, “Not because I fear you’ll keep something from me, Young Trust, but because I’d hate for them to know something that I had forgotten about.”

So Khadgar plunged into the books. For Guzbah he found an ancient, well-read scroll with an epic poem, its numbered stanzas precisely detailing a battle between Medivh’s mother Aegwynn and an unnamed demon. For Lady Delth he made a listing of the moldering elven tomes in the library. And for

Alonda he plunged through those bestiaries he could read, but could not push the number of troll species past four.

Khadgar also spent his free time with his lock picks and his personal opening spells. He still sought to master those books that foiled his earlier attempts to crack them open. These tomes had strong magics on them, and he could spend an evening among his divinations before getting even the first hint what style of spell protected its contents.

Lastly, there was the subject of the Guardian. Medivh had mentioned it, and Lord Lothar had assumed

that the Magus had confided in it to the young man, and backed off quickly when the King’s Champion had found it not to be the case.

The Guardian, it seemed, was a phantom, no more or no less real than the time-skewed visions that seemed to move through the tower. There was a mention in passing of a Guardian (always capitalized) in this elven tome, a reference in the Azeroth’s royal histories of a Guardian attending this wedding or that funeral, or being in the vanguard of some attack. Always present, but never identified. Was this Guardian a position, or, like Medivh’s supposed near-immortal mother, a single being?

There were other phantoms that orbited this Guardian as well. An order of some sort, an organization—was the Guardian a holy knight? And the word “Tirisfal” was written in the margins of one grimoire, and then erased, such that only Khadgar’s skill at examination told him what was once written there by the carving the pen had done in the parchment. A name of a particular Guardian, or the organization, or something else entirely?

It was the evening that Khadgar found this word, four days after the incident with the mug, that the young man fell into a new vision. Or rather, a vision snuck up on him and surrounded him, swallowing him whole.

It was the smell that came to him first, a soft vegetable warmth among the moldering texts, a fragrance that slowly rose into the room. The heat rose in the room, not uncomfortably, but as a warm damp blanket. The walls darkened and turned green, and vines trellised up the sides of the bookcases, passing through and replacing the volumes that were there and spreading wide, flat leaves. Large pale moonflowers and crimson star orchids sprouted among the stacked scrolls.

Khadgar took a deep breath, but more from anticipation than fear. This was not the world of harsh land and orc armies that he had seen before. This was something different. This was a jungle, but it was a jungle on this world. The thought comforted him.

And the table disappeared, and the book, and Khadgar was left sitting at a campfire with three other young men. They seemed to be about his age, and were on some sort of expedition.

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Sleeping rolls had been laid out, and the stewpot, empty and already cleaned, was drying by the fire. All three were dressed for riding, but their clothes were well tailored and of good quality.

The three men were laughing and joking, though, as before, Khadgar could not make out the exact words. The blond one in the middle was in the midst of telling a story, and from his hand motions, one involving a nicely apportioned young woman.

The one on his right laughed and slapped a knee as the blond one continued his tale. This one ran his fingers through his hair, and Khadgar noticed that his dark hair was already receding.

That was when he realized he was looking at Lord Lothar. The eyes and nose were his, and the smile just the same, but the flesh was not yet weathered and his beard was not graying. But it was him.

Khadgar looked at the third man, and knew at once it had to be Medivh. This one was dressed in a dark green hunter’s garb, his hood pulled back to reveal a young, mirthful face. His eyes were burnished jade in the light of the campfire, and he favored the blond one’s story with an embarrassed smile.

The blond one in the center made a point and motioned to the young Medivh, who shrugged, clearly embarrassed. The blond one’s story apparently involved the future Magus as well.

The blond one had to be Llane, now King Llane of Azeroth. Yes, the early stories of the three of them

had found their way even into the Violet Citadel’s archives. The three of them often wandered through the borders of the kingdom, exploring and putting down all manner of raiders and monsters.

Llane concluded his story and Lothar nearly fell back over the log he was sitting upon, roaring with laughter. Medivh suppressed a laugh himself into his curled hand, looking like he was merely clearing his throat.

Lothar’s laughter subsided, and Medivh said something, opening his palms upward to make a point.

Lothardid pitch backward now, and Llane himself put his face in his hand, his body heaving in amusement. Apparently whatever Medivh said topped Llane’s story entirely.

Then something moved in the surrounding jungle. The three stopped their revelry at once—they must have heard it. Khadgar, the ghost at this gathering, more felt it instead; something malevolent lurking at the borders of the campfire.

Lothar rose slowly and reached for a great, wide-bladed sword laying in its sheath at his feet.

Llane stood up, reaching behind his log to pull out a double-headed ax, and motioned for Lothar to go one way, Medivh to go the other. Medivh had risen as well by this point, and though his hands were empty he, even at this age, was the most powerful of the three.

Llane with his broadax loped forward to one side of the campsite. He might have imagined himself as stealthy, but Khadgar saw him move with firm-footed deliberation. He wanted whatever was there at the edge to reveal itself.

The thing obliged, bursting from its place of concealment. It was half again as tall as any of the young men, and for one instant he thought it was some gigantic orc.

Then he recognized it from bestiaries that Alonda had him peruse. It was a troll, one of the jungle breed, its blue-hued skin pale in the moonlight, its long gray hair lacquered upright into a crest that ran from its forehead back to the nape of the neck. Like the orcs, it had fangs jutting from its lower jaw, but these were rounded, peglike tusks, thicker than the sharp teeth of the orcs. Its ears and nose were elongated, parodies of human flesh. It was dressed in skins, and chains made of human finger bones danced on its bare chest.

The troll let out a battle roar, baring its teeth and its chest in rage, and feinted with its spear.

Llane swung at the outthrust weapon, but his blow went wide. Lothar charged from one side, and Medivh came up as well, eldritch energy dancing off his fingertips.

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The troll sidestepped Lothar’s greatsword, and danced back another step when Llane shredded the air with his huge ax. Each step covered more than a yard, and the two warriors pressed the troll each time it retreated. It used the spear more as a shield than a weapon, holding the haft two-handed and knocking aside the blow.

Khadgar realized the creature wasn’t fighting to kill the humans, not yet. It was trying to pull them into position.

In the vision, the young Medivh must have realized the same thing, because he shouted something to the others.

But by this time it was too late, for two other trolls chose that moment to leap from their hiding places on either side of the combat.

Llane, for all his planning, was the one caught by surprise, and the spear skewered his right arm.

The broadax’s blade bit into the earth as the future king screamed a curse.

The other two concentrated on Lothar, and now the warrior was being forced back, using his broad blade with consummate dexterity, foiling first one thrust, then the other. Still, the jungle trolls showed their strategy—they were driving the two warriors apart, separating Llane from Lothar, forcing Medivh to choose.

Medivh chose Llane. From his phantom viewpoint Khadgar guessed it was because Llane was already wounded. Medivh charged, his hands flaming….

And caught the butt end of the troll’s spear in the face, as the troll slammed the heavy haft against

Medivh’s jaw, then turned and with one elegant motion pummeled the wounded Llane. Medivh went down, and so did Llane, and the ax, spun out of the future sovereign’s hand.

The troll hesitated a moment, trying to determine who to kill first. It chose Medivh, sprawled on the ground at its feet, the closer of the two. The troll raised the spear and the obsidian point glowed evil in the moonlight.

The young Medivh choked off a series of syllables. A small tornado of dust rose from the ground and flung itself into the troll’s face, blinding it. The troll hesitated for a moment, and clawed at its dusty orbs with one hand.

The hesitation was all Medivh needed, for he lunged forward, not with a spell, but with a simple knife, plunging it into the back of the troll’s thigh. The troll gave a scream in the night, stabbing blindly. The spear dug into where Medivh had been, for the young mage had rolled to one side and was now rising, his fingertips crackling.

He muttered a word and lightning gathered in a ball between his fingers and lanced forward. The troll jolted from the shock and hung for a moment, caught in a blue-limned seizure. The creature fell to its knees, and even then was not done, for it tried to rise, its rheumy red eyes burning with hatred for the wizard.

The troll never got its chance, for a shadow rose behind it, and Llane’s recovered ax gleamed briefly in the moonlight before coming down on the troll’s head, bisecting it at the neck. The creature sprawled forward, and the two young men, as well as Khadgar, turned to the trolls battling with Lothar.

The future champion was holding his own, but just barely, and had backed almost across the entire campsite. The trolls had heard the death scream of their brother, and one continued to press his attack as the other charged back to deal with the two humans. It let out an inarticulate bellow as it crossed the campsite, its spear before it like a knight on horseback.

Llane charged in return, but at the last moment veered to one side, dancing aside the spear’s point. The troll took two more steps forward, which brought him up to the campfire itself, and where Medivh was waiting.

Now the mage seemed to be full of energy and, limned by the coals before him, looked demonic in his demeanor. He had his arms wide, and he was chanting something harsh and rhythmic.

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And the fire itself leaped up, taking a brief animated form of a giant lion, and leaped on the attacking

troll. The jungle troll screamed as the coals, logs, and ash wrapped itself around him like a cloak, and would not be shrugged off. The troll flung itself on the ground and rolled first one way and then the other, trying to dampen the flame, but it did no good. Finally the troll stopped moving entirely, and the hungry flames consumed it.

For his part, Llane continued his charge and buried his ax in the side of the surviving troll. The beast let out a howl, but its moment’s hesitation was all that Lothar needed. The champion batted away the outthrust spear with a backhanded blow, then with a level, precise swing cut the troll’s head cleanly from its shoulders. The head bounced into the brush, and was lost.

Llane, though bleeding from his own wound, slapped Lothar on the back, apparently taunting him for taking so long with his troll. Then Lothar put a hand to Llane’s chest to quiet him, and pointed at Medivh.

The young mage was still standing over the fire, his hands held open, but fingers hooked like claws. His eyes were glassy in the surviving firelight, and his jaw was tightly clenched. As the two men (and the phantom Khadgar) ran over to him, the young man pitched backward.

By the time the pair reached Medivh, he was breathing heavily, and his pupils were wide in the moonlight. Warriors and vision visitor leaned over him, as the young mage strained to push the words out of his mouth.

“Watch out for me,” he said, looking at neither Llane nor Lothar, but at Khadgar. Then the young

Medivh’s eyes rolled up in his head and he lay very still.

Lothar and Llane were trying to revive their friend, but Khadgar just stepped back. Had Medivh truly seen him, as the other mage, the one with his eyes on the war-swept plains, had? And he had heard him, clear words spoken almost to the depth of his soul.

Khadgar turned and the vision dropped away as quickly as a magician’s curtain. He was back in the library again, and he almost stumbled into Medivh himself.

“Young Trust,” said Medivh, the version much older than the one laying on the ground in the vanished vision. “Are you all right? I called out, but you did not answer.”

“Sorry Med…sir,” said Khadgar, taking a deep breath. “It was a vision. I was lost in it, I’m afraid.”

Medivh’s dark brows drew together. “Not more orcs and red skies?” he asked seriously, and Khadgar saw a touch of the storm in those green eyes.

Khadgar shook his head and chose his words carefully. “Trolls. Blue trolls, and it was a jungle. I think it was this world. The sky was the same.”

Medivh’s concern deflated and he just said, “Jungle trolls. I met some once, down south, in the Strangle-thorn Vale….” The mage’s features softened as he himself seemed to become lost in a vision of his own. Then he shook his head, “But no orcs this time, right? You are sure.”

“No, sir,” said Khadgar. He did not want to mention that it was that battle he was witnessing.

Was it a bad memory for Medivh? Was this the time when he slipped into the coma?

Looking at the older mage, Khadgar could see much of the young man from the vision. He was taller, but slightly stooped from his years and researches, yet there was the young man wrapped within the older

form.

Medivh for his part said, “Do you have ‘Song of Aegwynn’?”

Khadgar shook himself out of his thoughts. “The song?”

“Of my mother,” said Medivh. “It would be an old scroll. I swear I can’t find anything here since Page 40

you’ve cleaned!”

“It is with the other epic poetry, sir,” said Khadgar.He should tell him about the vision, he thought. Was this a random event, or was it brought on by his meeting of Lothar? Was finding out about things triggering visions?

Medivh crossed to the shelf, and running a finger along the scrolls, pulled the needed version, old, and well worn. He unwound it partway, checked it against a scrap of paper in his pocket, then rewound and replaced it.

“I have to go,” he said suddenly. “Tonight, I’m afraid.”

“Where are we going?” asked Khadgar.

“I go alone, this time,” said the elder mage, already striding toward the door. “I will leave instructions for your studies with Moroes.”

“When will you return?” shouted Khadgar after his retreating form.

“When I am back!” bellowed Medivh, taking the stairs up two at a time already. Khadgar imagined the castellan already at the top of the tower, with his runic whistle and tame gryphon at the ready.

“Fine,” said Khadgar, looking at the books. “I’ll just sit here and figure out how to tame an hourglass.”

Six

Aegwynn and Sargeras

Medivh was gone a week, all told, and it was a week well spent for Khadgar. He installed himself in the library, and had Moroes bring his meals there. On more than one occasion he did not even reach his quarters in the evening, rather spending the time sleeping on the great library tables themselves.

Ultimately, he was searching for visions.

His own correspondence went unanswered as he plumbed the ancient tomes and grimoires on questions about time, light, and magic. His early reports had drawn quick responses from the mages of the Violet

Citadel. Guzbah wanted a transcription of the epic poem of Aegwynn. Lady Delth declared that she recognized none of the titles he sent her—could he send them again, this time with the first paragraph of each, so she knew what they were? And Alonda was adamant that there had to be a fifth breed of troll, and that Khadgar had obviously not found the proper bestiaries. The young mage was delighted to leave their demands unanswered as he sought out a way of taming the visions.

The key to his incantation, it seemed, would be a simple spell of farseeing, a divination that granted sight

of distant objects and far-off locations. A book of priestly magic had described it as an incantation of holy vision, yet it worked as well for Khadgar as it did for their clerics. While that priestly spell functioned over space, perhaps with modification it could function over time.

Khadgar reasoned that this would normally be impossible given the flow of time in a determinant, clockwork universe.

But it seemed that within the walls of Karazhan, at least, time was an hourglass, and identifying bits of disjointed time was more likely. And once one hooked into one grain of time, it would be easier to move that grain to another.

If others had attempted this within the walls of Medivh’s Tower, there was no clue within the library, unless it was within the most heavily guarded or unreadable of the tomes located on the iron balcony.

Curiously, the notes in Medivh’s own hand were uninterested in the visions, which seemed to dominate other notes from other visitors. Did Medivh keep that information in another location, or was he truly more interested in matters beyond the walls of the citadel than the Page 41

activities within it?

Refitting a spell for a new activity was not as simple as changing an incantation here, altering a motion there. It required a deep and precise understanding of how divination worked, of what it revealed and how. When a hand-motion changes, or the type of incense used is deleted, the result is most likely complete failure, where the energies are dissipated harmlessly. Occasionally the energies may go wild and out of control, but usually the only result of a failed spell is a frustrated spellcaster.

In his studies, Khadgar discovered that if a spell fails in a spectacular fashion, it indicates that the failed spell is very close to the final intended spell. The magics are trying to close the gap, to make things happen, though not always with the results intended by the caster. Of course, sometimes these failed magic-users did not survive the experience.

During the process, Khadgar was afraid that Medivh would return at any time, wafting back into the library, looking for the well-read epic poem or some other bit of trivia. Would he tell his master what he was trying? And if he did, would Medivh encourage him, or forbid him from trying to find out?

After five days, Khadgar felt he had the spellmaking complete. The framework remained that of the farseeing, but it was now empowered with a random factor to allow it to reach through and search out the discontinuities that seemed to exist within the tower. These bits of misplaced time would be a little brighter, a little hotter, or simply a little odder than the immediate surroundings, and as such attract the full force of the spell itself.

The spell, if it functioned, should in addition tune in the vision better. This would collect the sounds at the other end and remove the distortion, concentrating them in the same fashion as an elderly person cupping a hand to the ear to hear better. It would not work for sounds beyond the central location as well, but should clarify what individuals were saying in addition to what the caster was seeing.

The evening of the fifth day, Khadgar had completed his calculations, the neat rows and orders of power and casting laid out in a simple script. Should something go horribly wrong, at least Medivh would figure out what had happened.

Medivh, of course, kept a fully equipped pantry of spell components, including a larder of aromatic and thaumaturgic herbs, and a lapidarium of crushed semi-precious stones. Of these Khadgar chose amethyst to lay out his magical circle, in the library itself, crisscrossing it with runes of powered rose quartz. He reviewed the words of power (most of them known to the young mage before he left Dalaran) and worked through the motions (almost all of them original). Dressed in conjuration robes (more for luck than effect), he stepped within the casting circle.

Khadgar let his mind settle and become calm. This was no quickly-cast battle spell, or some offhand cantrip. Rather this was a deep and powerful spell, one that, if within the Violet Citadel, would set off the warning abjurations of other mages and bring them flying to him.

He took a deep breath, and began to cast.

Within his mind, the spell began to form, a warm, hot ball of energy. He could feel it congeal within him, as rainbow ripples moved across the surface. This was the core of the spell, usually quickly dispatched to alter the real world as its caster saw fit.

Khadgar fitted the sphere with the attributes he desired, to seek out the bits of time that seemed to haunt the tower, sort through them, and bring together a single vision, one that he could witness spread before him. The ideas seemed to sink with the imaginary sphere in his mind, and in return the sphere seemed to hum at a higher pitch, awaiting only release and direction.

“Bring me a vision,” said the young mage. “Bring me a vision of the young Medivh.”

With the sound of an egg imploding the magic was gone from his mind, seeping into the real world to carry out his bidding. There was a rush of air, and as Khadgar looked around, the Page 42

library began to transform, as it had before, the vision moving slowly into his space and time.

Only when it suddenly got colder did Khadgar realize he had called up the wrong vision.

It moved through the library suddenly, a cold draft as if someone had left a window open. The breeze went from a draft to a chill to an arctic blast, and despite his own knowledge that it was merely illusion, Khadgar shivered to his core.

The walls of the library fell away as the vision took hold with an expanse of white. The chill wind curled around the books and manuscripts and left a blanket of snow as it passed, thick and hard.

Tables, shelves, and chairs were obscured and then eliminated with the swirls of thick heavy flakes.

And Khadgar was on a hillside, his feet disappearing at his knees into a bank of snow, but leaving no mark. He was a ghost within this vision.

Still, his breath frosted and curled upward as he looked around him. To his right was a copse of trees, dark evergreens loaded down by the passing snowstorm. Far to his left was a great white cliff. Khadgar thought it some chalky substance, and then realized that it was ice, as if someone had taken a frozen river and uprooted it. The ice river was as tall as some of the mountains on Dalaran, and small dark shapes moved above it. Hawks or eagles, though they would have to be of immense size if they were truly near the icy cliffs.

Ahead of him was a vale, and moving up the vale was an army.

The army melted the snow as it passed, leaving a smudged mark of black behind it like a slug’s trail. The members of the army were dressed in red, wearing great horned helms and long, high-backed black cloaks. They were hunters, for they wore all manner of weapons.

At the head of the army, its leader bore a standard, and atop the standard rode a dripping, decapitated head. Khadgar thought it some great green-scaled beast, but stopped himself when he realized it was a dragon’s head.

He had seen a skull of such a creature in the Violet Citadel, but never thought that he would see one that had recently been alive. How far back had his vision truly thrown him?

The army of giant-things were bellowing what could have been a marching song, though it could just as easily have been a string of curses or a challenging cry. The voices were muddled, as if they were at the bottom of a great well, but at least Khadgar could hear them.

As they grew closer, Khadgar realized what they were. Their ornate helmets were not helms, but rather horns that jutted from their own flesh. Their cloaks were not garments but great batlike wings that jutted from their backs. Their red-tinged armor was their own thick flesh, glowing from within and melting the snow.

They were demons, creatures from Guzbah’s lectures and Korrigan’s hidden pamphlets.

Monstrous beings that exceeded even the orcs in their blood-thirst and sadism. The great, broad-bladed swords were clearly bathed in crimson, and now Khadgar could see that their bodies were spattered with gore as well.

They were here, wherever and whenever here was, and they were hunting dragons.

There was a soft, distorted sound behind him, no more than a footfall on a soft carpet. Khadgar turned, and he realized that he was not alone on the hillock overlooking the demon hunting party.

She had come up from behind him unawares, and if she saw him, she paid him no mind. Just as the demons seemed a blight incarnate on the land, so, too, did she radiate her own sense of power. This was a brilliant power that seemed to fold and intensify as she glided along atop the surface of the snow itself.

She was real, but her white leather boots left only the faintest marks in the snow.

She was tall and powerful and unafraid of the abomination in the valley below. Her garb was as white and unspoiled as the snow around them, and she wore a vest made of small silver scales. A great white hooded fur cape with a lining of green silk billowed behind her, held at her throat by Page 43

a large green stone which matched her eyes. She wore her blond hair simply, held in place by a silver diadem, and seemed less affected by the cold than the ghostly Khadgar.

Yet it was her eyes that held his attention—green as summer forest, green as polished jade, green as the ocean after a storm. Khadgar recognized those eyes, for he had felt the penetrating gaze of similar eyes, but from her son.

This was Aegwynn. Medivh’s mother, the powerful near-immortal mage that was so old as to become a legend.

Khadgar also realized where he must be, and this was Aegwynn’s battle against the demon hordes, a legend saved only in fragments, in the cantos of an epic poem on the library shelf.

With a pang Khadgar realized where his spell had gone wrong. Medivh had asked for that scroll before leaving, the last time Khadgar had seen him. Had the spell misfired, passing through a vision of Medivh himself most recently into the very legend that he was checking?

Aegwynn frowned as she looked down on the demonic hunting party, the single line dividing her eyebrows showing her displeasure. Her jade eyes flashed, and Khadgar could guess that a storm of power was brewing within her.

It did not take long for that anger to be released. She raised an arm, chanted a short, clipped phrase, and lightning danced from her fingertips.

This was no mere conjurer’s bolt, nor even the harshest strike of a summer thunderstorm. This was a shard of elemental lightning, arcing through the cold air and finding its ground in the surprised demonic armor. The air split down to its most basic elements as the bolt cleaved through it, and the air smelled sharp and bitter in its passing, the air thundering in to replace the space the bolt had briefly filled. Despite himself, despite knowing that he was phantom, despite knowing that this was a vision, despite all this and the fact that the noise was muted by his ghostly state, Khadgar grimaced and recoiled at the flash and metallic tolling of the mystic bolt.

The bolt struck the standard bearer, the one bearing the severed head of the great green dragon.

It immolated the demon where he stood, and those around it were blasted from their feet, falling like hot coals in the snow. Some did not rise again.

But the majority of the hunting party were outside the spell’s effect, whether by accident or design. The demons, each one larger than ten men, recoiled in shock, but that lasted only a moment. The largest of them bellowed something in a language that sounded like broken metal bells, and half of the demons took wing, charging Aegwynn’s (and Khadgar’s) position. The other half pulled out heavy bows of black oak and iron arrows. As they fired the arrows, they ignited, and a rain of fire descended upon them.

Aegwynn did not flinch, but merely raised a hand in a sweeping motion. The entire sky between her and the fiery rain erupted in a wall of bluish flame, which swallowed the orange-red bolts as if they had simply fallen into a river.

Yet the bolts were merely to provide cover for the attackers, who burst through the blue wall of fire as it dissipated and dropped on Aegwynn from above. There had to be at least twenty of them, each a giant, darkening the skies with their huge wings.

Khadgar looked at Aegwynn and saw that she was smiling. It was a knowing, self-confident smile, and one that the young mage had seen on Medivh’s face, when they had fought the orcs.

She was more than confident.

Khadgar looked down the valley to where the archers had been. They had abandoned their useless missiles but now were gathered together, chanting in a low, buzzing tone. The air warped around them, and a hole appeared in reality, a dark malignancy against the pristine white. And from that hole dropped more demons—creatures of every description, with the heads of animals, with flaming eyes, with wings of bats and insects and great scavenging birds. These demons joined the choir and the rift opened farther, sucking more and more of the spawn of the Twisting Nether into the cold northern air.

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Aegwynn paid the chanters and reinforcements no mind, but rather coolly concentrated on those dropping on her from above.

She passed her hand, palm up. Half of those that flew were turned to glass, and all of them were knocked from the sky. Those that had been turned to crystal shattered where they struck with discordant chords. Those that were still living landed with a heavy thump, and rose again, their ichor-splattered weapons drawn. There were ten left.

Aegwynn placed her left fist against her upright right palm, and four of the survivors melted, their ruddy flesh melting off the bones as they slumped into the snow banks. They screamed until their decaying

throats filled with their own desiccated flesh. There were six left.

Aegwynn clutched at the air and three more demons exploded as their interiors turned into insects and ripped them from the inside out. They didn’t even have time to scream as their forms were replaced by swarms of gnats, bees, and wasps, which boiled out toward the forests. There were three left.

Aegwynn pulled her hands apart and a demon had its arms and legs ripped from its torso by invisible hands. Two left. Aegwynn raised two fingers and a demon turned to sand, its dying curse lost on the chill breeze.

One left. It was the largest, the leader, the bellower of orders. At close range Khadgar could see that its bare chest was a pattern of scars, and one eye socket was empty. The other burned with hate.

It did not attack. Neither did Aegwynn. Instead they stopped, frozen for a moment, while the valley beneath them filled with demons.

Finally the great behemoth of a demon snarled. His voice was clear but distant to Khadgar’s ears.

“You are a fool, Guardian of Tirisfal,” it said, wrapping its lips around the uncomfortable human language.

Aegwynn let out a laugh, as sharp and as thin as a glass dagger. “Am I, foulspawn? I came here to spoil your dragon hunt. It seems that I have succeeded.”

“You are an overconfident fool,” slurred the demon. “While you have been fighting only a few, my brothers in sorcery have brought in others. A legion of others. Every incubus and petty demon, every nightmare and shadow-hound, every dark lord and captain of the Burning Legion.

All have come here while you have fought these few.”

“I know,” said Aegwynn, calmly.

“Youknow?” bellowed the demon with a throaty laugh. “You know that you are alone in the wilderness, with every demon raised against you. Youknow?”

“I know,” said Aegwynn, and there was smile in the voice. “I know you would bring as many of your allies as possible. A Guardian would be too great a target for you to resist.”

“You know?”shouted the demon again. “And you came anyway, alone, to this forsaken place?”

“I know,” said Aegwynn. “But I never said I was alone.”

Aegwynn snapped her fingers and the sky suddenly darkened, as if a great flock of birds had been disturbed, and blocked the sun.

Except they were not birds. They were dragons. More dragons than Khadgar even imagined existing.

They hovered in place on their great wings, waiting for the Guardian’s signal.

“Foulspawn of the Burning Legion,” said Aegwynn. “It is you that are the fool.”

The demonic leader let out a cry and raised its blood-spattered sword. Aegwynn was too quick for it, and raised a hand, three fingers outstretched. The foulspawn’s scar-ridden chest evaporated, leaving only

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a cloud of bloody motes. His brawny arms fell away to each side, its abandoned legs folded and it collapsed, and its head, registering nothing so much as a look of shocked surprise, fell into the melting snow and was lost.

That was the signal for the dragons, for as one they turned on the collected horde of summoned demons.

The great flying creatures swooped down from all sides, and flame sprung from their open maws. The front rows of demons were immolated, reduced to no more than ash in an instant, while others struggled to pull out their weapons, to ready their own spells, to flee the field.

In the center of the army, a chant went up, this one an intense pleading, and a passionate cry.

These were the most powerful of the demonic spellcasters, who concentrated their energies as those at the borders fought off the dragons at deadly cost.

The demons regrouped and retaliated, and dragons now began to fall from the sky, their bodies riddled by iron arrows and flaming bolt, by sorcerous poisons and by maddening visions. Still, the circle around the center of the demons shrank as more and more of the dragons took their revenge against the demons for the hunt, and the cries in the center became more desperate and indistinct.

Khadgar looked at Aegwynn, and she was standing stock-still in the snow, her fists clenched, her green eyes blazing with power, her teeth locked in a hideous grin. She was chanting, too, something dark and inhuman and beyond even Khadgar’s ability to recognize. She was fighting the spell the demons had constructed, but she was pulling energy from it as well, bending mystic force contained within back on itself, like layers of steel in a sword’s blade are folded back on themselves to make the blade stronger and more potent.

The cries of the demons in the center reached a fever pitch, and now Aegwynn was shouting herself, a nimbus of energy coalesced around her. Her hair was loose and flying now, and she raised both arms and unleashed the last words of her conjuration.

And there was a flash at the center of the demonic horde, at the center where the casters chanted and screamed and prayed. It was a rip in the universe, this time a bright rip, as if a doorway into the sun itself had been opened. The energy spiraled outward, and the demons did not even have time to scream as it overtook them, burning them out and leaving the shadows of their afterimage as their only testament.

All of the demons were caught, and a few of the dragons as well who strayed too close to the center of the demonic horde. They were caught like moths in a flame and snuffed out just as surely.

Aegwynn let out a ragged breath and smiled. It was the smile of the wolf, of the predator, of the victor.

Where the demonic horde had been there was now a pillar of smoke, rising to the heavens in a great cloud.

But as Khadgar watched, the cloud flattened and gathered in on itself, growing darker and more intense, like the anvil of a thunderhead. Yet in redoubling itself, it grew stronger, and its heart grew blacker, verging on shades of purple and ebony.

And from out of the darkened cloud Khadgar saw a god emerge.

It was a titanic figure, larger than any giant of myth, greater than any dragon. Its skin looked like it was cast in bronze, and it wore black armor made of molten obsidian. Its great beard and wild hair were made of living flames, and huge horns jutted from above its dark brow. Its eyes were the color of the

Infinite Abyss. It strode out of the dark cloud, and the earth shook where its feet fell. It carried a huge

spear engraved with runes that dripped burning blood, and it had a long tail ending in a fireball.

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What dragons were left fled the field, heading for the dark forest and the distant cliffs. Khadgar could not blame them. As much power as Medivh held within him, as much great power that his mother now showed, it was like two small candles compared to the raw power of this lord of the demons.

“Sargeras,” hissed Aegwynn.

“Guardian,” thundered the great demon, in a voice as deep as the ocean itself. In the distance, the ice cliffs collapsed rather than echo this hellish voice.

The Guardian pulled herself up to her full height, brushed back a stray blond hair, and said, “I have broken your toys. You are finished here. Flee while you still have your life.”

Khadgar looked at the Guardian as if she had lost her mind. Even to his eyes she was exhausted from her experience, almost as empty as Khadgar had been against the orcs. Surely this titanic demon could see through the ruse. The epic poem spoke of Aegwynn’s victory. Was he about to witness her death, instead?

Sargeras did not laugh, but his voice rolled across the land, pressing down on Khadgar nonetheless.

“The time of Tirisfal is about to end,” said the demon. “This world will soon bow before the onslaught of the Legion.”

“Not as long as there is a Guardian,” said Aegwynn. “Not as long as I live, or those who come after me.” Her fingers curled slightly, and Khadgar could see that she was summoning power within herself, gathering her wits, her will, and her energy into one great assault. Despite himself, Khadgar took a step back, then another, then a third. If his elder self could see him in the vision, if young Medivh could see him, could not these two great powers, mage and monster, see him as well?

Or was he too small to notice, perhaps?

“Surrender now,” said Sargeras. “I have use of your power.”

“No,” said Aegwynn, her hands in tight balls.

“Then die, Guardian, and let your world die with you,” said the titanic demon, and raised his bleeding rune-spear.

Aegwynn raised both hands, and unleashed a shout, half-curse and half-prayer. A flaming rainbow of colors unseen on this world erupted from her palms, snaking upward like a sentient strike of lightning. It struck like a dagger thrust in the center of Sargeras’s chest.

It seemed to Khadgar like a bow-shot fired against a boat, as small and as ineffective. Yet Sargeras staggered under the blow, taking a half-step backward and dropping his huge spear. It struck the ground like a meteorite hitting the earth, and the snow rippled beneath Khadgar’s feet. He fell to one knee, but looked up at the demon lord.

When Aegwynn’s spell had struck, there was a darkness spreading. No, not a darkness, but rather a coolness, the heated bronze flesh of the titan-demon dying and being replaced with a cold, inert mass. It radiated from the center of its chest like a wildfire, leaving consumed flesh behind it.

Sargeras regarded the growing devastation with surprise, then alarm, then fear. He raised a hand to touch it, and it spread to that limb as well, leaving an inert mass of rough, black metal behind.

Now

Sargeras starting chanting himself, pulling together what energies he possessed to reverse the process, to staunch the flow, to put out the consuming fire. His words grew hotter and more passionate, and his unaffected skin flicked with renewed intensity. He was glowing like a sun, shouting curses as the dark coolness reached where his heart should have been.

And then there was another flash, this one as intense as the one that consumed the demon horde, centered on Sargeras himself. Khadgar looked away, looked at Aegwynn, who watched as the fire and darkness consumed her foe. The brightness of the light dimmed the day itself, and long Page 47

shadows stretched out behind the mage.

And then it was over. Khadgar blinked as his eyes regained their sight. He turned back to the vale and there was the titanic Sargeras, inert as a thing made of wrought iron, the power burned out of him.

Beneath his weight, the heated arctic ground started to give way, and slowly his dead form fell forward, remaining whole as it mashed into the ground. The air around them was still.

Aegwynn laughed. Khadgar looked at her, and she looked drained, both by exhaustion and by madness.

She rubbed her hands and chuckled and started to walk down toward the toppled titan.

Khadgar noticed that she no longer rested delicately atop the drifts, but now had to slog her way down the hill.

As she left him, the library began to return. The snow began to sublimate in thick clouds of steam, and the shadowy forms of the shelves, the upper gallery, and the chairs slowly made themselves visible.

Khadgar turned slightly, back toward where the table should have been, and everything was back to normal. The library reasserted its reality with a firm suddenness.

Khadgar let out a chill breath and rubbed his skin. Cool, but not cold. The spell had worked well enough, in generalities if not particulars. It had called the vision, but not the desired one.

The question was what went wrong, and what was the best way to fix it.

The young mage reached for his scribe’s pouch, pulling from it a blank sheet of parchment and tools. He fitted a metal nub to the end of his stylus, melted some of the octopus ink in a bowl, and quickly began to note everything that happened, how he cast the initial spell, to Aegwynn sinking deeper in the snow as she walked away.

He was still working an hour later when there was a cadaverous cough at the doorway. Khadgar was so wrapped up in thought that he did not notice until Moroes coughed a second time.

Khadgar looked up, mildly irritated. There was something important he was about to write, but it was eluding him. Something that was just at the corner of his mind’s eye.

“The Magus is back,” said Moroes. “Wants you up at the observatory level.”

Khadgar looked at Moroes blankly for a moment, before the words gained purchase in his mind.

“Medivh’s back?” he managed at last.

“That’s what I said,” groaned Moroes, each word given grudgingly. “You’re to fly to Stormwind with him.”

“Stormwind? Me? Why?” managed the younger mage.

“You’re the apprentice, that’s why,” scowled Moroes. “Observatory, top level. I’ve summoned the gryphons.”

Khadgar looked at his work—line upon line of neat handwriting, delving into every detail. There was something else that he was thinking about. Instead he said, “Yes. Yes. Let me gather my things up. Finish this.”

“Take your time,” said the castellan. “It’s only the Magus that wants you to fly with him to Stormwind

Castle. Nothing important.” And Moroes faded back into the hallway. “Top level,” came his disembodied voice, almost as an afterthought.

Stormwind!thought Khadgar,King Llane’s castle . What would be important enough for him to have to go there? Perhaps a report of the orcs?

Khadgar looked at his writing. With the news that Medivh was back, and that they would leave soon, his thoughts were disrupted, and now his mind was on the new task. He looked at the last words he wrote on the parchment.

Aegwynn has two shadows,it said.

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Khadgar shook his head. Whatever course his mind was following was gone now. He carefully blotted the excess ink to make sure it did not smear, and set the pages aside. Then he gathered his tools, and quickly headed for his quarters. He would have to change into traveling clothes if he was going gryphon-back, and would need to pack his good conjuring cloak if he was going to meet royalty.

Seven

Stormwind

Up until then, the greatest buildings that Khadgar had ever seen had been the Violet Citadel itself, on

Cross Island outside the city of Dalaran. The majestic spires and great halls of the Kirin Tor, roofed by thick slate the color of lapis lazuli, which gave the citadel its name, had been a point of pride for Khadgar.

In all his travels through Lordaeron and into Azeroth, nothing, not even Medivh’s Tower, came close to the ancient grandeur of the citadel of the Kirin Tor.

Until he came to Stormwind.

They had flown through the night, as before, and this time the young mage was convinced he had slept while guiding the gryphon through the chill night air. Whatever knowledge Medivh had placed in his mind was still operating, for he was sure with his ability to guide the winged predator with his knees, and felt quite at home. The part of his brain where the knowledge resided felt no pain this time, but rather a slight thrumming, like the mental tissue had healed over, leaving scar tissue, taking the knowledge within but still recognizing it as a separate part of him.

He woke as the sun crested the horizon behind him, and panicked momentarily, causing the great flier to bank slightly, dragging it away from following in Medivh’s wake. Ahead of him, sudden and brilliant in the morning sun, was Stormwind.

It was a citadel of gold and silver. The walls in the morning light seemed to glow with their own radiance, burnished like a chalice under a castellan’s cleaning. The roofs glittered as if crafted from silver, and for a moment Khadgar thought they were set with innumerable small gems.

The young mage blinked and shook his head. The golden walls became mere stone, though polished to a fine luster in some places, intricately carved in others. The roofs of silver were merely dark slate, and what he thought were gemstones merely collected dew rainbowing back the dawn.

And yet Khadgar was still astounded by the city’s size. As great if not greater than anything in Lordaeron, and seen from this great height, it spread out before him. He counted three full sets of walls ribboned around the central keep, and lesser barriers separating different wards.

Everywhere he looked, there was more city beneath him.

Even now, in the dawn hours, there was activity. Smoke rose from morning fires, and already people were clotting in the open marketplaces and commons. Great wains were lumbered out of the main gates, loaded with farmers heading for the neat, ordered fields that spread out from the city’s walls like skirts, stretching almost to the horizon.

Khadgar could not identify half the buildings. Great towers could have been universities or granaries, as far as he could tell. A surging river cascade had been harnessed by massive waterwheels, but to what purpose he could not guess. There was a sudden flame far to his right, though whether from a foundry, a captive dragon, or some great accident was a mystery.

It was the greatest city he had ever seen, and at its heart was Llane’s castle.

It could be no other. Here the walls seemed to be truly made of gold, set with silver around the windows. The royal roof was shod with blue slate, as deep and luxurious as a sapphire’s, and from its myriad towers Khadgar could see pennants with the lion’s head of Azeroth, the sigil of King Llane’s household and symbol of the land.

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The castle complex seemed to be a small city in itself, with innumerable side buildings, towers, and halls.

Arching galleries spanned between buildings, at lengths that Khadgar thought impossible without magical aide.

Perhaps such a structure could only be crafted with magic, thought Khadgar, and realized that perhaps this was one reason Medivh was so valued here.

The older mage raised a hand and circled over one particular tower, its topmost floor a level parapet.

Medivh pointed down—once, twice, a third time. He wanted Khadgar to land first.

Pulling from the scabbed-over memories, Khadgar brought the great gryphon down neatly. The great eagle-headed beast churned its wings backward like a great sail, slowing to a delicate landing.

There was a delegation already waiting for him. A group of retainers in blue livery surged forward to take the reins and fit the gryphon’s head with a heavy hood. The alien memories told Khadgar that this was similar to a falconer’s snood, restricting the raptor’s vision. Another had a bucket of warm cow guts, which were carefully presented before the gryphon’s snapping beak.

Khadgar slid from the gryphon’s back and was greeted warmly by Lord Lothar himself. The huge man seemed even larger in an ornate robe and cape, topped with a inscribed breastplate and filigreed mantle hanging on his shoulder.

“Apprentice!” said Lothar, swallowing Khadgar’s hand in his huge meaty paw. “Good to see you’re still employed!”

“My lord,” said Khadgar, trying not to wince from the pressure of the larger man’s grip. “We flew through the night to get here. I don’t…”

The rest of Khadgar’s statement was swept away in a flurry of wings and the panicked squawk of a gryphon. Medivh’s mount tumbled out of the sky, and the Magus was less graceful in his landing. The huge flier slid across the width of the turret and almost fell off the other side, and Medivh pulled hard on the reins. As it was, the gryphon’s great foreclaws clutched at the crenellated wall, and almost tipped the older mage over the side.

Khadgar did not wait for comment from Lord Lothar, but bolted forward, followed by the host of blue-clad retainers, and Lothar lumbering up behind them.

Medivh had already dismounted by the time they had reached him, and handed the reigns to the first of the retainers. “Blasted crosswind!” said the older mage irritably. “I told you this was the precisely wrong spot for an aviary, but no one listens to the mage around here. Good landing, lad,” he added as an afterthought, as the servants swarmed over his gryphon, trying to calm it down.

“Med,” said Lothar, holding out a hand in greeting. “It is good you could come.”

Medivh just scowled. “I came as soon as I could,” the wizard snapped, responding to some affront that passed Khadgar by entirely. “You have to get along without me sometimes, you know.”

If Lothar was surprised by Medivh’s attitude, he said nothing of it. “Good to see you anyway.

His

Majesty…”

“Will have to wait,” finished Medivh. “Take me to the chamber in question, now. No, I know the way myself. You said it was Huglar and Hugarin. This way, then.” And with that the Magus was off, toward the side stairs that spiraled into the tower proper. “Five levels down, then a cross bridge, then three levels up! Horrible place for an aviary!”

Khadgar looked at Lothar. The larger man rubbed his beefy hand up over his balding pate, and shook his head. Then he started after the man, Khadgar in tow.

Medivh was gone by the time they reached the bottom of the spiral, though a litany of Page 50

complaints and the occasional curse could be heard up ahead, diminishing fast.

“He’s in a fine mood,” said Lothar, “Let me walk you to the mage-chambers. We’ll find him there.”

“He was very agitated last night,” said Khadgar, by way of apology. “He had been gone, and apparently your summons reached Karazhan shortly after he had returned.”

“Has he told you what all this is about, Apprentice?” asked Lothar. Khadgar had to shake his head.

Champion Anduin Lothar frowned deeply. “Two of the great sorcerers of Azeroth are dead, their bodies burned almost beyond recognition, their heart pulled from their very chests. Dead in their chambers. And there is evidence—” Lord Lothar hesitated for a moment, as if trying to choose the right words. “There is evidence of demonic activity. Which is why I sent the fastest messenger to fetch the

Magus. Perhaps he can tell us what happened.”

“Where are the bodies?” shouted Medivh, as Lothar and Khadgar finally caught up with him.

They were near the top of another of the spires of the castle, the city spread out before them in a great open bay window opposite the door.

The room was a shambles, and looked like it had been searched by orcs, and sloppy orcs at that.

Every book had been pulled from the shelves, and every scroll unrolled, and in many cases shredded. Alchemic devices were smashed, powders and poultices scattered about in a fine dusting, and even the furniture broken.

In the center of the room was a ring of power, an inscription carved into the floor itself. The ring was two concentric circles, incised with words of power between them. The incisions in the floor were deep and filled with a sticky dark liquid. There were two scorch marks on the floor, each man-sized, situated between the circle and the window.

Such incised rings had only one purpose to them, as far as Khadgar knew. The librarian in the Violet

Citadel was always warning about them.

“Whereare the bodies?” repeated Medivh, and Khadgar was glad that he was not expected to provide the answers. “Where are the remains of Huglar and Hugarin?”

“They were removed soon after they were found,” said Lothar calmly. “It was unseemly to leave them here. We didn’t know when you would arrive.”

“You didn’t knowif I would arrive, you mean,” snapped Medivh. “All right. All right. We can still salvage something. Who has come into this room?”

“The Conjurer-Lords Huglar and Hugarin,” began Lothar.

“Well, ofcourse,” said Medivh sharply. “They had to be here if they died here. Who else?”

“One of their servants found them,” continued Lothar. “And I was called. And I brought several guardsmen to move the bodies. They have not been interred yet, if you wish to examine them.”

Medivh was already deeply in thought. “Hmmm? The bodies, or the guardsmen? No matter, we can take care of that later. So that’s a servant, yourself, and about four guards, would you say?

And now myself and my apprentice. No one else?”

“No one I can think of,” said Lothar.

The Magus closed his eyes and muttered a few words under his breath. It might have been either a curse or a spell. His eyes flew open. “Interesting. Young Trust!”

Khadgar took a deep breath. “Lord Magus.”

“I need your youth and inexperience. My jaded eyes may see what I’m expecting to see. I need fresh eyes. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, now. Come here and stand in the center of the room. No, don’t cross the circle itself. We don’t know if it has any lingering enchantments on it.

Stand here. Now. What

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do you sense?”

“I see the wrecked room,” started Khadgar.

“I didn’t say see,” said Medivh sharply. “I said sense.”

Khadgar took a deep breath and cast a minor spell, one that sharpened the senses and helped find lost articles. It was a simple divination, one he had used hundreds of times in the Violet Citadel. It was particularly good for finding things that others wanted to keep hidden.

But even upon the first intoned words, Khadgar could feel it was different. There was a sluggishness to the magic in this room. Often magic had a feel of lightness and energy, but this felt more viscous, almost liquid in nature. Khadgar had never felt it before, and wondered if it was because of the circles of power, or powers and cantrips of the late mages themselves.

It was a thick feeling, like stale air in a room that had been shuttered for years. Khadgar tried to pull the energies together, but they seemed to resist, to follow his desires with only the greatest reluctance.

Khadgar’s face grew stern as he tried to pull more of the power of the room, of the magical energies, into himself. This was a simple spell. If anything, it should be easier in a place where such castings would be commonplace.

And suddenly the young mage was inundated with the thick fetid feel of the magic. It was suddenly upon him and surrounding him, as if he had pulled the bottom-most stone out and brought down a wall upon himself. The force of the dark, heavy magic fell upon him in a thick blanket, crushing the spell beneath him and driving him physically to his knees. Despite himself, he cried out.

Medivh was at his side at once, helping the young mage to his feet. “There, there,” said the Magus, “I

didn’t expect you to succeed even that well. Good try. Excellent work.”

“What is it?” managed Khadgar, suddenly able to breath again. “It was like nothing I’ve felt before.

Heavy. Resistant. Smothering.”

“That’s good news for you, then,” said Medivh. “Good that you sensed it. Good that you carried through. The magic has been particularly twisted here, a remnant of what occurred earlier.”

“You mean like a haunting?” said Khadgar. “Even in Karazhan, I never…”

“No, not like that,” said Medivh. “Something much worse. The two dead mages here were summoning demons. It’s that taint that you feel here, that heaviness of magic. A demon was here. That is what killed

Huglar and Hugarin, the poor, powerful idiots.”

There was a silence of a moment, then Lothar said, “Demons? In the king’s towers? I cannot believe…”

“Oh, believe,” said Medivh. “No matter how learned and knowledgeable, how wise and wonderful, how powerful and puissant, there is always one more sliver of power, one more bit of knowledge, one more secret to be learned by any mage. I think these two fell into that trap, and called upon forces from beyond the Great Dark Beyond, and paid the price for it. Idiots.

They were friends and colleagues, and they were idiots.”

“But how?” said Lothar. “Surely there were to be protections. Wards. This is a mystic circle of power.”

“Easily breached, easy broken,” said Medivh, leaning over the ring the glimmered with the dried blood of the two mages. He reached down and produced a thin straw that had laid over the Page 52

cooling stones.

“A-hah! A simple broom straw. If this was here when they began their summonings, all the adjurations and phylacteries in the world would not protect them. The demon would consider the circle to be no more than an arch, a gateway into this world. He would come out, hellfire blazing, and attack the poor fools who brought him into this world. I’ve seen it before.”

Khadgar shook his head. The thick darkness that seemed to press in on all sides of him seemed to lift somewhat, and he gathered his wits about him. He looked around the room. It was already a disaster area—the demon had torn everything apart in its assault. If there was a broom straw breaking the circle, then it surely should have been moved elsewhere during the battle.

“How were the bodies found?” asked Khadgar.

“What?” said Medivh, with a sharpness that almost made Khadgar jump.

“I’m sorry,” Khadgar responded quickly. “You said I should ask questions.”

“Yes, yes, of course,” said Medivh, cooling his harsh tone only a notch. To the King’s Champion he said, “Well, Anduin Lothar, how were the bodies found?”

“When I came in, they were on the ground. The servant had not moved them,” said Lothar.

“Faceup or facedown, sir?” said Khadgar, as calmly as he could. He could feel the icy stare of the elder mage. “Heads toward the circle or toward the window?”

Lothar’s face clouded in memory. “Toward the circle. And facedown. Yes, definitely. They were badly scorched all over, and we had to turn them over to make sure it was Huglar and Hugarin.”

“What are you driving at, Young Trust?” said the Magus, now seated by the open window, stroking his beard.

Khadgar looked at the two scorch marks between the malfunctioned protective circle and the window, and tried to think of them both as bodies and not think of them as once-living mages.

“If you hit someone from the front, they fall backward. If you hit someone from the back, they fall forward. Was the window open when you arrived?”

Lothar looked at the open bay window, the great city beyond forgotten for the moment. “Yes.

No. Yes, I think it was. But it could have been opened by the servant. There was a horrible stench—that’s what brought attention to it in the first place. I can ask.”

“No need,” said Medivh. “The window was likely open when your servant entered.” The Magus rose and walked to where the scorch marks were. “So you think, Young Trust,” he said, “that Huglar and

Hugarin were standing here, watching the magic circle, and something came in the window and hit them from the back.” For effect he smacked himself against the back of the head with an open palm. “They fell forward, and were burned in that position.”

“Yes, sir,” said Khadgar. “I mean, it’s a theory.”

“A good one,” said Medivh. “But wrong, I’m afraid. In the first place, the two mages would be standing there, facing nothing at all,unless they were looking at the magic circle. Therefore they were summoning a demon. Such a circle would not be used otherwise.”

“But…” started Khadgar, and the Magus froze his words in his throat with a harsh glance.

“And,”continued Medivh, “while that would work with a single attacker with a sap or a club, it does not function as well for the dark energies of demons. Had the beast breathed fire, it could have caught both men standing, killed them, and only after being set alight, the bodies fell forward. You said the bodies were burned front and back?” He put that question to Lothar.

“Yes,” said the King’s Champion.

Medivh held a palm up in front of him. “Demon breathes fire. Burns the front. Huglar (or Hugarin) falls forward, flames spread to the back. Unless the demon hit Hugarin (or Huglar) in the back, then turned them over to make sure the front was burned, then turned them over again. Hardly likely—demons are not that methodical.”

Khadgar felt his face warm from embarrassment. “I’m sorry. It was just a theory.”

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“And a good one,” said Medivh quickly. “Just in error, that’s all. You’re right, the window would be open, because that was how the demon left the tower. It is at large in the city right now.”

Lothar cut short a curse, and said, “Are you sure?”

Medivh nodded. “Completely. But it will probably be laying low for the moment. Even killing two fools like Huglar and Hugarin by surprise would tax any but the most powerful creature’s abilities.”

“I can organize search parties within the hour,” said Lothar.

“No,” said Medivh. “I want to do this myself. No use throwing away good lives after bad. I’ll want to see the remains, of course. That will tell me what we’re dealing with here.”

“We moved them to a cool room in the wine cellar,” said Lothar. “I can take you there.”

“In a moment,” said Medivh. “I want to look about here for a moment. Will you grant me and my apprentice a moment or ten alone?”

Lothar hesitated for a moment, then said, “Of course. I will be right outside.” As he said the last he looked at Khadgar sharply, then left.

The door’s latch clicked shut and there was silence in the room. Medivh moved from table to table, pawing through the shredded tomes and torn papers. He held up a piece of correspondence with a purple seal, and shook his head. Slowly, he crumbled the piece of paper in his hand.

“Incivilized countries,” he said, his voice slightly strained, “apprentices don’t disagree with their masters.

At least in public.” He turned toward Khadgar and the youth saw the older man’s face was a mass of storm clouds.

“I am sorry,” said Khadgar. “You said I should ask questions, and the position of the bodies did not

seem right at the time, but now that you mention how the bodies were burned…”

Medivh held up a hand and Khadgar silenced himself. He paused a moment, then let out a slow exhalation. “Enough. You did the right thing, no more or less than asked by me. And if you hadn’t spoken up, I wouldn’t have realized the demon probably skittered down the tower itself, and wasted more time searching the castle complex. But, you asked questions because you don’t know much about demons, and that is ignorance. And ignorance I willnot tolerate.”

The elder Magus looked at Khadgar, but there was a smile at the corner of his lips. Khadgar, sure that the storm had passed, lowered himself onto a stool. Despite himself, he still said,

“Lothar…”

“Will wait,” said Medivh, nodding. “He waits well, that Anduin Lothar. Now, what did you learn of demons in your time at the Violet Citadel?”

“I’ve heard the legends,” said Khadgar. “In the First Days, there were demons in the land, and great heroes arose to drive them out.” He thought of the image of Medivh’s mother blasting the demons to bits, and facing down their Lord, but said nothing. No need to make Medivh angry again now that he’d calmed down.

“That’s the basics,” said Medivh. “What we tell the hoi polloi. What do you know in addition?”

Khadgar took a deep breath. “The official teachings in the Violet Citadel, in Kirin Tor, is that demonology is to be eschewed, avoided, and abjured. Any attempt to summon demons are to be found out and stopped at once, and those involved are to be expelled. Or worse. There were stories, among the young students, when I was growing up.”

“Stories grounded in fact,” said Medivh. “But you’re a curious lad, you know more, I assume?”

Khadgar tilted his head in thought, choosing words carefully. “Korrigan, our academic librarian, had an extensive collection of…material at his disposal.”

“And needed someone to help organize it,” said Medivh dryly. Khadgar must have jumped, Page 54

because

Medivh added, “That was a guess, only, Young Trust.”

“The material is mostly folk legends and the reports of the local authorities involving demon worshipers.

Most of it was along the lines of individuals committing foul acts in the name of some old demon from the legends or another. Nothing about the actions of truly summoning a demon.

No spells, no arcane writings.” Khadgar motioned toward the protective circle. “No ceremonies.”

“Of course,” said Medivh. “Even Korrigan would not inflict that on a student. If he has such things, he would keep them separate.”

“From that, the general belief is that when the demons were defeated, they were driven out of this world entirely. They were pushed out of the world of light and living, and into their own domain.”

“The Great Dark Beyond,” said Medivh, intoning the phrase like a prayer.

“They are still out there, or so the legend goes,” said Khadgar, “and they want to come back in.

Some say they come to the weak-willed in their sleep and urge them to find old spells and make sacrifices.

Sometimes it is to open the way for them to come back fully. Others say they want worshipers and sacrifices to make this world like it once was, bloody and violent, and only then would they return.”

Medivh was quiet for a moment, stroking his beard, then said, “Anything else?”

“There’s more. Details and individual stories. I’ve seen carvings of demons, pictures, diagrams.”

Again

Khadgar felt a rising need to tell Medivh about the vision, about the demon army. Instead he said, “And there is that old epic poem, the one about Aegwynn, fighting a horde of demons in a far-off land.”

The mention of that brought a gentle, knowing smile to Medivh’s face, “Ah yes, “The Song of Aegwynn.” You’ll find that poem in a lot of powerful mages’ quarters, you know.”

“My teacher, Lord Guzbah was interested in it,” said Khadgar.

“Is he, now?” said Medivh, smiling. “With all due respect, I don’t know if Guzbah is quite ready for that poem. At least not in its true form.” He peaked his eyebrows. “What you have is basically true. A lot of people couch it in the form of legends and fairy stories, but I think you know as well as I do that demons are real, and are out there, and yes, form a threat to those of us who walk this sunlit world, as well as other worlds. I think, now, I definitelythink, that your red-sunned world was another place, a different world, on the far side of the Great Dark Beyond. The Beyond is a prison for these demons, a place without light or succor, and they are very, very jealous and very, very anxious to get back in.”

Khadgar nodded, and Medivh continued, “But your assumption that their victims are weak-willed is in error, though again an error that is well-intended. There are more than enough venal farmhands who invoke a demonic force for revenge against a former lover, or stupid merchants who burn an invoice from a debtor with a black candle, badly mangling the ancient name of some once-great demonic power. But just as often there are those who walk willingly to the abyss, who feel themselves safe and sure and knowledgeable that they are beyond any blandishment or threat, that they are powerful enough to harness the demonic energies that surge beyond the walls of the world. They are in many ways even more dangerous than the common rabble, for as you know, a near-failure in spellcasting is more deadly than a complete failure.”

Khadgar could only nod, and wondered if Medivh had the power of the mind, “But these were powerful mages—Huglar and Hugarin, I mean.”

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“The most powerful in Azeroth,” said Medivh. “The wisest and finest wizards, magical advisors to King

Llane himself. Safe, sage, and sinecured!”

“Surely they would know better?” asked Khadgar.

“You would think so,” said Medivh. “Yet, here we stand in the wreckage of their chambers, and their demon-burned bodies lay in the wine cellar.”

“Why would they do it, then?” Khadgar knitted his brows, trying not to offend. “If they knew so much, why did they try to summon a demon?”

“Many reasons,” said Medivh with a sigh. “Hubris, that false pride that goes before the fall.

Overconfidence, both in each individually and doubled it for working in tandem. And fear, I suppose, most of all.”

“Fear?” Khadgar looked at Medivh quizzically.

“Fear of the unknown,” said Medivh. “Fear of the known. Fear of things more powerful than they.”

Khadgar shook his head. “What could be more powerful than two of the most advanced and learned wizards in Azeroth?”

“Ah,” said Medivh, and a small smile blossomed beneath his beard. “That would be me. They killed themselves summoning a demon, playing with forces best left alone, because they fearedme.”

“You?” said Khadgar, the surprise in his voice greater than he had intended. For a moment he feared offending the older mage once more.

But Medivh just took a deep breath and blew the air out slowly. Then he said, “Me. They were fools, but I blame myself as well. Come, lad, Lothar can wait. It’s time I told you the story of the Guardians and of the Order of Tirisfal, which is all that stands between us and the Darkness.”

Eight

Lessons

To understand the Order,” said Medivh, “you must understand demons. You must also understand magic.” He lowered himself comfortably on one of the still-undamaged chairs. The chair also had one of the few unripped pillows upon it.

“Lord Medivh…Magus,” said Khadgar. “If there is a demon abroad in Stormwind, we should concentrate on that, and not on history lessons that could wait until later.”

Medivh looked down at his chest, and Khadgar feared that he risked another outburst from the elder mage. But the master mage merely shook his head, and smiled as he said, “Your concerns would be valid if the demon in question was a threat to those around it. Take my word for it, it is not. The demon, even were it one of the more powerful officers within the Burning Legion, would have expended almost all its personal power in dealing with the two powerful mages that summoned it. It is of little matter, at least for the moment. What is important, is that you understand what the Order is, what I am, and why others are so deeply interested in it.”

“But Magus…” started Khadgar.

“And the sooner I finish the sooner I will know that I can trust you with the information, and the sooner I

will go out to deal with this petty demon, so if you truly want me to go you should let me finish, eh?”

Medivh gave the younger mage a hard, knowing smile.

Khadgar opened his mouth to protest, but thought better of it. He slouched down against the wide ledge by the open window. Despite the efforts of the servants to remove the bodies from the tower, the stench of their death, a corrosive pallor, was still heavy in the air.

“So. What is magic?” asked Medivh, in the manner of a schoolmage.

“An ambient field of energy that pervades the world,” said Khadgar, almost without thinking. It Page 56

was catechism, a simple answer for a simple question. “It is stronger in some locations than others, but it is ever-present.”

“Yes it is,” said the older mage, “at leastnow. But imagine a time when it was not.”

“Magic is universal,” said Khadgar, knowing as soon as he said it that it was soon to prove not to be.

“Like air or water.”

“Yes, like water,” said Medivh. “Now imagine a time at the very start of things, when all the water in the world was in one location. All the rain and rivers and seas and streams, all the showers and creeks and tears, all in one location, in one well.”

Khadgar nodded, slowly.

“Now, instead of water, it is magic we’re talking about,” said Khadgar. “A well of magic, the source, an opening into other dimensions, a shimmering doorway into the lands beyond the Great Dark, beyond the walls of the world. The first peoples to cast spells encamped around the well and distilled its raw power into magic. They were called the Kaldorei then. What they are called now, I cannot say.” Medivh looked at Khadgar, but the younger mage kept his silence now.

Medivh resumed. “The Kaldorei grew powerful from their use of magic, but they did not understand its nature. They did not understand that there were other, powerful forces in the Great Dark Beyond, moving in the space between worlds, that hungered after magic and were very interested in any who tamed it and refined it to their own ends. These malign forces were abomination and juggernauts and nightmares from hundreds of worlds, but we call them simply demons. They sought to invade any world where magic was mastered and grown, and destroy it, keeping the energies for themselves alone. And the greatest of them, the master of the Burning Legion, was a demon named Sargeras.”

Khadgar thought of the vision with Aegwynn and suppressed a shudder.

If Medivh noticed the young mage’s reaction he did not say anything. “The Lord of the Burning Legion was both powerful and subtle, and worked to corrupt the early magic-users, the Kaldorei. He succeeded, for a dark shadow fell upon their hearts, and they enslaved other races, the nascent humans as well as others, in order to build their empire.”

Medivh sighed, “Now in this time of the enslaving Kaldorei, there were those with greater vision than their brethren, who were willing both to speak out against the Kaldorei and to pay the price for their vision. These brave individuals, both Kaldorei and other races as well, saw the hearts of the ruling

Kaldorei grow cold and dark, and the demonic power grow.”

“So it came to pass that the Kaldorei were corrupted by Sargeras such that they nearly damned this world at its birth. The Kaldorei ignored those who spoke out against them, and opened the way for the most powerful of demons, Sargeras and his lot, to invade. Only by the heroic actions of a few was the shimmering doorway through the Great Dark shut, exiling Sargeras and his followers. But the victory was at great cost. The Well of Eternity exploded when the doorway was shut down, and the resulting explosion ripped the heart out of this world, destroying the Kaldorei lands and the very continent it rested upon. Those that shut the door were never seen again by living eyes.”

“Kalimdor!” said Khadgar, interrupting despite himself.

Medivh looked at him, and Khadgar continued, “Its an old legend in Lordaeron! Once there was an evil race who meddled foolishly with great power. As punishment for their sins, their lands were broken and set beneath the waves. It was called the Sundering of the World. Their lands were called Kalimdor.”

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“Kalimdor,” repeated Medivh. “Though you have the child’s version of the tale, the bit we tell would-be mages to stress the dangers of what they are playing with. The Kaldorei were foolish, and destroyed themselves and nearly our world. And when the Well of Eternity exploded, the magical energies within scattered to the four corners of the earth, in an eternal rain of magic.

Andthat’s why magic is universal—it’s the power of the well’s death.”

“But Magus,” said Khadgar, “that was thousands of years ago.”

“Ten thousand years,” said Medivh, “give or take a score.”

“How is it that the legend comes down to us? Dalaran itself has histories only going back twenty centuries, and the earliest of those are wrapped in legends.”

Medivh nodded and took up the story again. “Many were lost in the sinking of Kalimdor, but some survived, and took their knowledge with them. Some of these surviving Kaldorei would found the Order of Tirisfal. Whether Tirisfal was a person, or a place, or a thing, or a concept, even I cannot say. They took the knowledge, of what had happened, and swore to keep it from ever happening again, and that is the bedrock of the Order.

“Now, the race of humans survived those dark days as well, and thrived, and soon, with magical energy worked into the fabric of the world itself, they too were scratching at the doors of reality, beginning to summon creatures from the Great Dark, prying at the shut gates of Sargaras’s prison. That was when those Kaldorei who had survived and changed themselves came forward with the story of how their ancestors had almost destroyed the world.

“The first human mages considered what the surviving Kaldorei had said, and realized that even were they to lay down their wands and grimoires and ciphers, that others would seek, innocently or less so, ways to allow the demons access once more to our green lands. And so they continued the Order, now as a secret society among the most powerful of their mages. This Order of Tirisfal would choose one of its number, who would serve as theGuardian of theTirisfalen. This guardian would be given the greatest of powers, and would be the gatekeeper of reality. But now the gate was not a single great well of power, but rather an infinite rain that continues to fall even today. It is nothing less than the heaviest responsibility in the world.”

Medivh fell silent, and his eyes lost their focus briefly, as if he were suddenly swept into the past himself.

Then he shook his head, returning to himself, but still did not speak.

“You are the Guardian,” said Khadgar, simply.

“Aye,” said Medivh, “I am the child of the greatest Guardian of all time, and was given her power soon after my birth. It was…too much for me, and I paid for it with a good piece of my youth.”

“But you said the mages chose among themselves,” said Khadgar. “Couldn’t Magna Aegwynn have chosen an older candidate? Why chose a child, especially her own child?”

Medivh took a deep breath. “The first Guardians, for the first millennium, were chosen among the select group. The very existence of the Order was kept hidden, as was the wishes of the original founders.

However, over time, politics and personal interests came into play, such that the Guardian soon became little more than a servant, a magical dogsbody. Some of the more powerful mages felt it was the

Guardian’s job to keepeveryone else from enjoying the power that they themselves commanded.

Like the Kaldorei before us, a shadow of corrupting power was moving through the members of the Order.

More demons were getting through, and even Sargeras himself had manifested the smallest bits of himself. A mere fraction of his power, but enough to slay armies and destroy nations.”

Khadgar thought of the image of Sargeras that fought Aegwynn in the vision. Could this have been a mere fraction of the great demon’s power?

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“Magna Aegwynn,” Medivh said the words, then stopped. It was as if he was not used to speaking those words. “She who bore me was herself born nearly a thousand years ago. She was greatly gifted, and chosen by other members of the Order to become the Guardian. I believe the grayest of the graybeards of that time thought they could control her, and in doing so continue to use the Guardian as a pawn of their own political games.

“She surprised them.”—and at this Medivh smiled. “She refused to be manipulated, and indeed fought against some of the greatest mages of her age when they themselves fell into demonic lore. Some thought that her independence was a passing thing, that when her time came, she would have to pass the mantle on to a more malleable candidate. Again, she surprised them, using the magics within her to live for a thousand years, unchanging, and to wield her power with wisdom and grace. So the Order and the

Guardian split. The former can advise the latter, but the latter must be free to challenge the former, to avoid what happened to the Kaldorei.

“For a thousand years she fought the Great Dark, even challenging the physical aspect of Sargeras himself, who had instilled himself into this plane and sought to destroy the mythical dragons, adding their power to his own. Magna Aegwynn met him and defeated him, locking his body away in a place where none knows, keeping him forever from the Great Dark that is his power. That’s in that epic poem, ‘The

Song of Aegwynn,’ the one Guzbah wants. But she could not do it forever, and there must always be a

Guardian.

“And then…” And again Medivh’s voice faltered. “She had one more trick up her sleeve.

Powerful she was, but she was still of mortal flesh. She was expected to pass on her power.

Instead she fathered an heir on a conjurer from the Court of Azeroth itself, and she chose that child as her successor. She threatened the Order, saying that if her choice was not honored, she would not step down, and would rather take the power of the Guardian into death than allow another to have it. They felt theymight be able to manipulate the child…me…better, and so they allowed it.

“The power was too much,” said Medivh. “When I was a young man, younger than you, it awoke within me, and I slept for over twenty years. Magna Aegwynn had so much of a life, and I seem to have lost most of it.” His voice faltered again. “Magna Aegwynn…my mother…” he began, but found he had nothing more to say.

Khadgar just sat there for a moment. Then Medivh rose, shook back his mane and said, “And while I

slept, evil crept back into the world. There are more demons, and more of these orcs as well.

And now members of my own Order are once more playing the dark road. Yes, Huglar and Hugarin were members of the Order, as have been others, like ancient Arrexis among the Kirin Tor. Yes, something similar happened to him, and while they covered it up neatly, you probably heardsomething about it. They feared my mother’s power, and they fear me, and I have to keep their fear from destroying them. Such is the charge laid upon the Guardian of Tirisfal.”

The older man launched himself to his feet. “I must be off!” he said.

“Off?” said Khadgar, suddenly surprised by the energy within the lanky frame.

“As you have so rightly noted, there is a demon abroad,” said Medivh with a renewed smile.

“Sound the hunter’s horn, I must find it before it regains its wits and strength and kills others!”

Khadgar pulled himself upright. “Where do we start?”

Medivh pulled himself up short, and turned, looking slightly sheepishly at the younger man.

“Ah.We are not starting anywhere. I am going to go. You’re talented, but you’re not up to demons quite yet. This battle is my own, Young Apprentice Trust.”

“Magus, I am sure I can…”

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But Medivh raised a hand to silence him.

“I also need you here to keep your own ears open,” said Medivh, in a quieter voice. “I have no doubt that Old Lothar has spent the past ten minutes with his ear to the door, such that there will be a keyhole-shaped impression on the side of his face.” Medivh grinned. “He knows a lot, but not all. That’s why I had to tell you, so he doesn’t pry too much out of you. I need someone to guard the Guardian, as it were.”

Khadgar looked at Medivh and the older mage winked. Then the Magus strode to the door and pulled it open with a quick motion.

Lothar did not stumble into the room, but he was there, right on the other side. He could have been listening, or just standing watch.

“Med,” said Lothar with a game smile. “His Majesty…”

“His Majesty will understand perfectly,” said Medivh, breezing right past the larger man. “That I would rather meet with a rampaging demon than the leader of a nation. Priorities and all that. In the mean time will you look after my apprentice?”

He said it all in a single breath, and then he was gone, out into the hall and down the stairs, leaving

Lothar in mid-sentence.

The old warrior rubbed a great hand up over his balding pate, letting out an exaggerated sigh.

Then he looked at Khadgar and let out another, deeper sigh.

“He’s always been like this, you know,” said Lothar, as if Khadgar truly did know. “I suppose you’re hungry, at least. Let’s see if we can find some lunch.”

Lunch consisted of a cold game fowl looted from the cold room and tucked under Lothar’s arm, and two mugs of ale the size of ewers, one in each meaty hand. The King’s Champion was surprisingly at ease, despite the situation, and guided Khadgar out to a high balcony overlooking the city.

“My lord,” said Khadgar. “Despite the Magus’s request, I realize you have other work.”

“Aye,” said Lothar, “and most of it was taken care of while you were talking to Medivh. His majesty

King Llane is in his quarters, as are most of the courtiers, under guard, in case that demon decided to hide in the castle. Also I have agents already spreading through the city, with orders to both report

anything suspicious but not to make themselves suspicious. The last thing we need is a demon-panic. I’ve cast all my lines, and now there is nothing to do but wait.” He looked at the younger man. “And my lieutenants know that I’ll be on this balcony, as I always have a late lunch anyway.”

Khadgar considered Lothar’s words, and thought that the King’s Champion was very much like Medivh—not only planning ahead a few moves, but delighting in telling others how he’s planned things out. The apprentice picked at the sliced breast meat while Lothar tore into a drumstick.

The pair ate in silence for a long time. The fowl was anything but foul, for it was treated with a concoction of rosemary, bacon, and sheep’s butter placed beneath the skin before roasting.

Even cold it fell apart in the mouth. The ale for its part was pungent, rich with bottomland hops.

Beneath them the city unfolded. The citadel itself was atop a rocky outcropping that already separated the King from his subjects, and from the tower’s additional height, the citizens of Stormwind looked like naught but small dolls busying themselves along crowded streets. Some sort of market day was playing out beneath them, brightly-tarped storefronts occupied with vendors bellowing (very quietly, it seemed to

Khadgar at this altitude) the virtues of their wares.

For a moment Khadgar forgot where he was, and what he had seen, and why he was there in the Page 60

first place. It was a beautiful city. Only Lothar’s deep grumble brought him back to this world.

“So,” said the King’s Champion in his way of introspection. “How is he?”

Khadgar thought for a moment, and replied, “He is in good health. You have seen that yourself, milord.”

“Bah,” spat Lothar, and for a moment Khadgar thought the knight was choking on a large piece of meat.

“I can see, and I know Med can dance and bluff his way past just about anyone. What I mean to say is, Howis he?”

Khadgar looked out at the city again, wondering if he had Medivh’s talent to bluster his way past the older man, to deny answers without causing affront.

No, he decided, Medivh played on loyalties and friendships older than he was. He had to find another way to respond. He let out a sigh and said, “Demanding. He’s very demanding. And intelligent. And surprising. I feel I have apprenticed myself to a whirlwind, sometimes.” He looked at Lothar, his eyebrows raised, hoping that this would be sufficient.

Lothar nodded, “A whirlwind, aye. And a thunderstorm, too, I suspect.”

Khadgar shrugged awkwardly. “He has his moods, like anyone.”

Comments

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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