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The Lion, The Raven and the Trust Between Them

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I. Enter the Raven

Medivh sighed as the pounding on his door became insistent. Throwing his blankets aside, he winced as the chill hit him. He had been comfortable. Dreaming. Quiet. For once, he actually was getting decent sleep instead of waking to nightmares that his father only laughed at and told him to stop being such a child.

“I’m up!” he called, and the pounding on his door stopped.

Medivh sighed as the quiet replaced the incessant noise, and he pried himself up from his bed, pushing the curtains aside, and stepping into a pair of slippers. His long nightshirt fell as he stood, brushing against his calves as he shuffled towards the bathing room. He was thankful, as he mentally thanked whatever deities, the Light, or whatever, that he had a private bathroom. It was awkward enough moving around in the morning lately, and gods forbid his father start asking questions about his state when he finally got out of bed.

He couldn’t help but grumble a little as he tried to get himself settled. The cold water on his face felt more refreshing than it did biting, and after a sketchy wash with said cold water, he felt a little better, and more able to complete his morning routine.

Medivh left the bathroom feeling relieved and revitalized – at least in part – and was able to dig through his wardrobe to pull out a set of working robes. He knew what his day would be spent in: Practice.

Day in. Day out. Morning, noon and night. Flow control, incantation, runic work, until his head spun and he could recite runes in his sleep, trace the mnemonic gestures without thinking, center himself and fling a part of himself into the earth below him to root himself from being moved mentally and metaphysically, magically and in some cases, physically.

He had no idea how much willow bark tea he had been through in the past months, but it was starting to become habit to just reach for that jar instead of soothing peacebloom in the evenings, even before he thought about it. His headaches had been getting worse the harder his father pushed him, and it was becoming to a point where willow bark, even long-boiled and bitter, could do little.

He made a note to ask if there was something else he could take; he suspected his body had grown accustomed to it, and therefore its effectiveness was dwindling. Taking something else for a time would allow that to return to normal – yet another thing he had learned. Herbalism and alchemy both were a part of his education, as was enchantments – be it on weaponry, armor, people, things, animals…

He felt ill as he reached for the door-handle to his room. He didn’t really want to leave it. He had gotten hold of a book on engineering, and was looking forward to some free time to read it. That and he had managed to find two more of the novels he was certain he wasn’t supposed to have – part of the Steamy Romance series that was gaining popularity, written by an author not much older than he himself was, so they said.

Medivh squared his shoulders, tossed his hair back behind him, and drew a slow breath, then turned the handle to step outside his sanctuary.

He went through the little sitting room that connected his bedroom suite with his father’s, and into the ‘public’ sitting room beyond it. His father paced a little, waiting. The windows were still dark, with only the barest hint of dawn on the horizon in the distance.

Nielas Aran was not a completely impatient man, but he was much less a father to Medivh the moment the boy had shown a hint of the powers that lay within him, and from then on was a mentor and master, teacher and taskmaster in one. He nodded to Medivh, and without a single hint of his impatience, demanded that Medivh recite his runes.

With a sigh, Medivh began. His father paced to the cadence of Medivh’s recital, only pausing when Medivh himself did as he went from one set to the next, like a litany that almost had a melody of its own as he recited them. Once he was finished, Nielas nodded, then inclined his head to the table where breakfast had been laid.

With another sigh, this time of relief, Medivh took his place and reached for his tea first. Once his first cup had been drained, he dared the question that had been on his mind. “Is there something other than willow bark I can take for my headaches?”

The older mage raised an eyebrow at him. “Why?” he asked. The word was not quite sharp, but it had an edge of suspicion in it.

“The willow bark is losing its effectiveness,” Medivh replied succinctly. “As with any drug, the body can grow used to it, and its effectiveness is decreased.” He sighed. “Willow bark only takes the bare edge off anymore – and I have been losing sleep.” There. It was out. And it was in plain affect and effect language that his father would understand more than ‘my headaches are growing worse and I don’t know if it’s that I’m too used to willow bark or that the headaches are too potent for willow bark to stop.’

Frowning, Nielas looked his son over. “How long has this been going on?”

Medivh looked up from reaching for the butter knife. “The headaches, or the lack of effect?”

“Both.”

Medivh buttered his toast, then reached for jam, frowning a little. “At least the past two months, in regards to the headaches, and the past two weeks in regard to the lack of effect,” he said slowly, letting jam slide from spoon to his toast so he could spread it. “Beyond the past two months, I may have had the headaches, but I do not remember if they went away on their own or if I took something for them before bed, and let sleep take care of it. Last night even a very strong willow bark potion could not take the ache out, and it had an effect on my sleep – hence why I had overslept.”

Nielas frowned again, reaching to slide a pair of fried eggs to his son’s plate, then his own. “That is a little concerning. Do you know why?”

Medivh furrowed his brows as he spread the jam on his toast. “Why I have headaches, or why it is concerning?”

With a chuckle, Nielas softened just a touch. “The headaches, son.”

Medivh shook his head. “I figured it was because of the amount of stress working magic through lessons has been putting on my body.” He was careful not to say ‘putting on me’, for that would have little effect and gain no sympathy. “Each day we add something more, and the more we add, the more stress it puts on my body.”

Aran nodded, slowly. “If that is the case, then we may be able to get something stronger for a time, and I will back off a bit – we can concentrate on practicing what you know, and still not lose time.”

Lose time. What was it they were racing against anyway? Why was it so damned important to do so much so quickly? He was barely twelve, and already he was treated as a young adult – mostly because he could grasp political circles and dances faster than some of the other posturing nobles, and he also was good friends with both the King’s son and the Captain of the Guard’s son. Thinking about them hurt, however.

He bit into his toast, reveling in the sweet berry jam, even as his mood soured just a little. He had not had the time to enjoy his friends’ company in at least a week, and it was chafing him. He missed Anduin’s humor, and Llane’s quiet smiles. He missed their games, and longed to go swimming in the lake behind Goldshire. He longed to be outdoors, not shut up in this suite where all he did was cram knowledge into his mind. He wanted to learn sword work with Anduin and Llane, to move about in the air, to listen to birdsong in the trees in the parks, to –

“Medivh!” The word was sharp, and he looked up, noticing that Aran’s face was clouded. “I asked you if you had taken any willow bark this morning, or last night?”

Medivh blushed, setting his toast down. At this rate, he might not get to enjoy a warm breakfast. “Last night,” he said once he had swallowed. “I let it boil for a count of one hundred before I let it cool and strained it off.” His eyes dropped to his plate. “It did little, and it was well past midnight when I fell asleep; I remember distinctly the tower chiming midnight, and the midnight calls.”

Nielas frowned, then nodded. “And now?”

That was unexpected. Medivh looked up at his father and mentor, looking confused. “It…” he trailed off, assessing himself. The headache was there, insistent pressure behind both of his eyes and a throb in the left one. He described it to his father as just that, and got another sigh.

“In that case, once you are through with breakfast, take a walk.”

Medivh looked up again, looking incredulous. “What?”

“Take a walk, after breakfast. Get some air. I will see about something for your headache. Be back by mid-morning. If you run into young Llane and Anduin, give them my regards.”

Medivh couldn’t believe his ears. He was able to finish his toast, managed his eggs, and even managed a slice of bacon with his second cup of tea before he practically fled the suite, just in case his father changed his mind, and decided to continue with lessoning despite his headache.

The cool air outside felt incredible. It was turning autumn, and the air was sweet with ripening hay drifting from the fields, the scent of ripe apples in the air from the orchards. His robe of rich emerald green – just a shade darker than his eyes – was warm enough for the morning air, and cool enough that it would not be too hot when the sun was up properly.

He stood in the courtyard and inhaled the scents on the air – the apples, the hay, and the sweet decay of falling leaves, the warm dust of yellowing grass, the sweetness of dew on it all, the tang of damp, sunbaked stone.

“Med?” Medivh turned, and his face broke into a smile, lighting his eyes. It felt like the first time he had smiled in weeks. He stepped across the courtyard to greet his friend properly.

Anduin Lothar was dressed in worn riding leathers, and his hair was still damp – either from a bath or a workout. Judging by the fact that his clothing was not scuffed or dusty, he guessed the former. By that token, Medivh judged that he was safe enough to embrace, and did so.

Anduin clapped him on the back before he let go, and looked the mage over. “Finally let you out of that stuffy suite I see.” At Medivh’s nod, he chuckled. “How are you? I feel like I haven’t seen you in ages!”

“You haven’t,” Medivh confirmed, sadly. “It’s been nightmarish. He’s riding me harder than you do any of your favorite mounts,” he complained. “You have no idea how good it feels to be out here.” He smiled then rolled his eyes. “Speaking of, my father sends his regards.”

“Of course he does,” Anduin replied with a slight growl. “Llane and I were beginning to think we’d never see you again.”

“Where is Llane?” Medivh asked, looking around. “He’s not with you?”

“Diplomatic meeting,” Anduin said shortly. “Or so he claimed, else he’d be here. I don’t have to be at the practice grounds for another hour or so. You have time for a walk?”

Medivh nodded. “One of the reasons I was so glad to get away. My headaches are getting worse, the longer I’ve been cooped up doing nothing but studying and practicing. Willow bark does nothing now. It’s… It’s not something I like, Anduin. Father said he’s going to see about something different, or stronger, since I’m losing sleep, and it’s affecting my control. He ordered me to go ‘get some air’ – I don’t have to be back until mid-morning.”

“Damn. I’m glad you’re out, but… if you have a headache…” Anduin trailed off. He nodded his head to one side to indicate one of the garden paths, and Medivh fell into step beside him. “Is this wise?”

“I think so,” Medivh said cautiously. “Fresh air and the coolness of the morning has already done me a world of good. I think it’s stress – or rather, I hope it is.” He sighed, shaking his head slightly.

“Willow does nothing you say? What starts them?” Anduin frowned, looking Medivh over. The young mage was pale, as though the sun had not touched his skin in a long time. His eyes were sunken and the dark circles below them told him that Medivh had not been sleeping.

Medivh shrugged. “We’re not sure – I think it is stress, as I said. He’s on me every hour, reciting runes, or tracing them, or working on controlling power flows and arcane matrices…” He trailed off, realizing that Anduin would understand nothing of this. “Let’s put it this way. Put you in the training ring in heavy winter-weight clothing, and have you run a tournament of twenty bouts without rest, and then have a rampaging gang of murlocs charge you, and they have either mages or oracles or shaman with them.”

Anduin winced. “I’m sorry, Med. No wonder you have headaches.”

“After all of the practical practices, I get to bury myself in books for another several hours. I don’t see my bed until well after sundown, and just lately, I have been listening to the clock tower chime midnight, hear the calls, and sometime between then and the following hour – or two – I manage to get to sleep, and he has me up just before dawn.” Medivh bit his lip. He was whining. Damn it all, he was old enough not to whine.

Anduin didn’t seem to care. “I know he said something about you being extraordinary in your powers but… isn’t that a little… I don’t know. Much?”

Medivh shrugged. He knew what the reason for all the pain and suffering was for. His father had told him more times than he cared to count. He was inheriting a Great Responsibility, from his mother – who he had seen all of five times in his life. He sighed, causing Anduin to stare at him.

“I wish I could tell you all that…” Medivh trailed off. Why couldn’t he? He shifted his steps and headed toward one of the benches that was in the sun, but out of the way of any other ‘usual’ traffic. “Here,” he said. “If I can’t tell you, who can I tell?”

Anduin stayed in step with Medivh, and his expression was not only astonished, but confused. What was so big a secret then? As Medivh sat on the bench, Anduin settled next to him, pulling one of his feet up under his other leg. “I suppose no one. You know anything you tell me will go no further unless you say it’s all right to tell someone else.”

Medivh smiled at him, pulling both his feet up and wrapping his arms around them. Anduin noticed that he was thinner than the last time he had seen him – and that was a little concerning. Medivh was slight as it was.

“Have… have you ever heard of a Guardian?” Medivh spoke the word with a capital, so Anduin figured it was some kind of title. He shook his head. “I’m not surprised. There aren’t many who know of the Guardian’s existence. They are supposed to be kind of isolated and secretive other than to others of their kind, or the Order they come from.” He bit his lip. “I… My mother was one. Is one. Something of that sort. Apparently she has passed that on to me. While she’s out saving the world, as Guardians do, she left me with Father so he could begin my lessons. When I come of age – what age, I don’t know, they’ve just said ‘of age’, then apparently my power will manifest and be stronger than most children know. Hence all of the practice I have been doing regarding power flow. To tell you the truth, Anduin, I’m terrified. I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t even ask to be a mage!”

Anduin frowned. “What do you mean by all of this, Med?”

“I’m going to be a Guardian. The lone guard at the gate, so to speak. A mage of incredible power, and the entire weight of the world – not just Stormwind, not just Azeroth, but the whole of the world, on my shoulders.” Medivh hugged his knees against his chest, looking, for a moment, both miserable and apprehensive. “I don’t know what this is going to do to me. Father either doesn’t know or won’t tell me. Mother has only mentioned that I will be her heir, and that I will be the finest Guardian, without the ‘Order’s help’, she said.” Medivh shook his head. “I’m afraid, Anduin. After a lot of research – I have found out a little. Apparently I… the Guardians – they guard the world against threats. All threats. And they do it alone, mostly.”

Anduin shook his head, though not in negation, but in shock. “Med… they want you to be the only one to—“

“No! No, no, not the only one… just…” Medivh huffed a sigh. How could he explain this to Anduin in a way he would… ah. Of course! “You know how you have a watchman on a tower?” Anduin nodded. “I’m kind of that watchman. Only instead of just watching, I do something about what I see. I’m the first line of defense, kind of. If I need help, I can contact others to either help or that can get the help I need. But for the most part, I’m expected to take care of it all on my own.”

Anduin looked at him for a long moment. “Med… that’s… that’s insane. One person can’t do everything!”

Medivh let his legs slide from the bench, his eyes meeting Anduin’s. “I… I know. I-I don’t know if… I’m afraid, Anduin.”

Anduin shook his head, slowly, then reached out and laid a hand on Medivh’s shoulder. “Listen to me, Medivh. It sounds like you, Llane and I all have something in common – maybe that’s why we all get along so well. All of us have things waiting for us that are bigger than we feel we are able to fill. I am the least of those, but…” His blue eyes lowered for a moment, then rose to meet Medivh’s emerald ones again, and held them fast. “I pledge you – if there is anything I can do – ever. You can come to me. I’ll give you all I have.”

To Medivh’s horror he felt his eyes stinging. He raised a hand and laid it on Anduin’s. “If you swear to me that if you need me, you will come to me. I may have to pay most of my attention to the world, but the world has not been there for me for the nearly thirteen years I have been alive. You have. Llane has. I will not ignore the world, but I will be there for you.”

Chapter Text

II. Enter the Lion

Anduin raced through the corridors, feeling awkward as his armor shifted around him. He had been training – in full armor for a change – and with live steel when he heard the unmistakable screams. He had reacted without thinking, and he could hear others of the guard on his heels as they followed him.

Llane had reached the door to the Aran’s suite first, and was standing at it, whiter than new-fallen snow, his dark eyes wide with shock. His father was rushing toward him, followed by several healers. Anduin skidded to a halt at Llane’s side, and looked in on… chaos.

The outer sitting room was torn to shreds, the rugs shredded, the furniture little more than unrecognizable splinters, ornaments and dishes shards scattered across the wreckage. The walls were blackened.

And blood – there was blood oozing across the floor. Anduin followed it, and moaned softly as he saw that it led to Medivh’s father. He was face-down, his body had been blasted. His eyes slid across the room to find Medivh lying face down as well, one arm outstretched, the other crushed beneath him.

“Light’s mercy… what happened?” Anduin murmured.

“I – I don’t know. I just know I heard the sound of an argument – and then some kind of explosion, Medivh screaming… and … and I found … this.” Llane’s voice was dull with shock.

A hand gently tugged Lane from the door, and the healers moved in. Another hand tugged at Anduin’s shoulder, and he looked up to see King Barathen’s eyes looking at him, a grim expression on his face. He nudged Anduin in Llane’s direction, nodding.

Without another word, Anduin pulled Llane the rest of the way out of the door to let the king pass. There was silence for a moment, punctuated only with the sound of hissing from the scorched walls.

“He’s dead,” one of the healers announced. Anduin swayed a little, and felt Llane put an arm around him. “It was a magical backlash.”

“And the boy?” Barathen asked, sharply.

“Alive, but unconscious and unresponsive.” The reply was softer – a female voice. “Only another mage could tell us for certain what happened here. We need to tend to him quickly before we lose him as well.”

Several guards moved in, one of them carrying a sheet. Llane and Anduin watched numbly as they took Nielas Aran’s body from the room, and the healer who had pronounced him dead emerged carrying Medivh.

Llane bit back a cry. Anduin made a choked sound. Medivh’s features were sunken, his face purpling where he had fallen. And the healer carried him as though he weighed nothing, which wasn’t far from the truth. One arm slid from the healer’s embrace, and Anduin could see how thin his fingers were, and could see the bones protruding in his wrist where the sleeve of his robes had been pulled back.

Barathen shook his head, slowly. “Damn.” He shooed the guard back to where they had been, then turned to the two adolescents. “I want you two to go somewhere else. I don’t much care where – but somewhere that isn’t here. Both of you. I will make sure someone finds you when we know more.”

Llane nodded, his eyes still shocked. Anduin nodded, swallowed, and was able to answer with a soft ‘Yes, sir,’ before taking Llane’s arm and pulling him down the corridor.

Neither of them said anything. Anduin had no idea where they were heading, and had no destination in mind – just ‘elsewhere’, as they had been told. Somehow, he wasn’t all too surprised to find them in the same courtyard where he and Medivh had spoken only a few weeks before. Without thinking about what he was doing, he led Llane to the same bench, and pushed him down on it. Without ceremony, he began stripping his armor off, leaving it in an untidy pile by the bench. He sat down next to Llane, and finally, the prince showed some signs of life.

“I heard… He… he sounded terrified.” Llane managed, sounding strained and as though he would very much like to scream as well.

Anduin sighed, closed his eyes, and shook his head. “He was,” he said softly, his own voice strained and a little hoarse. “He had good reason to be. I… Damn it.” He stared down at his armor, and kicked at it with one foot. “I don’t want to betray his confidences, Llane, but he … I think he knew this was coming. I think they both did.”

Llane looked up at him sharply. “What do you mean by that?” he asked, his eyes wide with shock, and a little anger. “What did he tell you? What do you know?!”

Anduin quickly held a hand out and gestured to Llane to keep his voice down. “He – you know he was having headaches?” Llane nodded, slowly. “A couple of weeks ago I found him out here. It was the first time I’d seen him in ages – and you were wrapped up in that diplomatic meeting with your father that morning.” Llane nodded again, his eyes finally starting to lose their wild, shocked look. “He told me what was in store for him when he ‘came of age’. He told me that his father nor his mother told him when that would be. He just knew that… that he would come into some kind of major power.” Llane shook his head, his eyes closing. Anduin took that as a cue to go on, so he did. “Have… have you ever heard of a Guardian?” Anduin placed the same inflection on the title as Medivh had.

Llane’s eyes opened and he looked at Anduin for a long moment. “The Guardian of the world – of Azeroth?”

“You know of it then,” Anduin began. Llane shook his head.

“I know of the title – it was the title his mother, Magna Aegwynn held. When she left Medivh here, Father told me that he would one day be her heir. Nothing more than that.” Llane shrugged. “I had no idea what that meant. I still don’t.”

“I don’t know the entire story,” Anduin sighed. “He told me that he was going to be a Guardian – that his mother had done something to make him the heir,” he frowned for a moment, “and that it would be ‘without the Order’s help’, whatever that means.”

“That … wait.” Llane looked up at Anduin for a moment, his eyes narrowed, his lips pursed. “The Order of the Tirisfalen. Some mage order or council or something that chooses the Guardian of Tirisfal.” His eyes closed, and Anduin got the feeling he was trying to find a page in a book from his memories. Medivh had often gotten the same look. “The Guardian is just that – the person who guards the world against outside threats, whatever that means.”

“He explained it to me, that he was the lone watchman over the world, but instead of just watching, he was also supposed to take care of those threats. Alone, mostly, but he could call for help.” Anduin mumbled, dropping his eyes to stare at his hands in his lap. “He thought the headaches were stress. He said that they were getting worse. That willow bark wasn’t helping. That he needed something stronger.”

“Think dandelion leaf and Liferoot is strong enough?” Llane asked, sardonically.

Anduin’s head and eyes shot up and he stared at Llane. “You’re kidding.”

Llane shook his head. “Morning and night. I remember overhearing one of the healers saying that no one his age should be on such a heavy narcotic.”

They stared at each other for a long moment. Anduin sighed, heavily, shaking his head. “It wasn’t stress, then,” he said, dully. “It was whatever that… whatever it was that…”

“My guess,” Llane said softly, “is that he ‘came of age’, and it was too much for him. You haven’t seen him practicing before, have you?” Anduin shook his head. “I have. By the time he was done, most days, he was shaking with exhaustion, and then would be sent to the library. I’ve found him there, surrounded by books. I know he was always happiest when he was, but… not when he looked ready to drop.”

“And his father pushed him so hard so that this … today… would not happen.”

“And it still did.”

They went quiet again, and remained that way for a long time. Long enough that they only came out of their thoughts when footsteps – heavy footsteps of a man in armor – shook them out of those thoughts. The Captain of the Guard stood there, and automatically, Anduin got to his feet to salute.

The older man smiled at his son, a little sadly, and returned it before pushing his son back down on the bench. “Medivh is in what the healers are calling a ‘coma’. He may never wake up – or he may wake up in a day or two when his body has slept off the stresses that were put on it.”

“What does that mean?” Llane asked, his voice quiet and a little afraid.

“It means… well. His body responds, and is working fine, but his mind… They explained it to me as the lights are on, the furnace lit, but there is no one ‘home’ to do the smithing.” The man looked a little chagrined.

“Thank you, for letting us know,” Llane said softly, just as Anduin asked, “When can we see him?”

“If you really want to, you can see him now. They’ve taken him to Northshire.” Llane paled, and Anduin gasped. The Captain nodded, knowing they knew just how severe Medivh’s condition would have to be to be taken anywhere other than the Cathedral of Light in the center of the city.

Anduin got to his feet and began collecting his armor. Llane slid off the bench and leaned to help him. “Would you be kind enough to tell my father that we’re going out there at once? We should be back by sunset.”

The Captain nodded, saluted Llane, patted his son on the shoulder, and took himself off. Llane and Anduin followed, though much more slowly. They took only the time for Anduin to put his armor away and for Llane to change into something suitable for riding rather than a court robe before they took themselves to the stables.

Anduin kept his mount’s pace to a fast walk, though half of him longed to send the gelding into a full gallop. He could hear Llane shifting beside him in his saddle, likely thinking the same thing. They looked at each other, then behind them. They were out of sight of the main gates of Stormwind, and far enough away that no one would notice if they did. Anduin gently kicked his horse into a canter, and heard Llane’s mare match pace.

Instead of the ride being a tiring and painful event, they managed to make a game of it, even when their ‘mission’ was so grim. When they arrived at Northshire Abbey, however, they had returned to a fast walk, and had paused to make sure they were presentable, and didn’t look as though they had been cantering through Elwynn forest instead of taking the road.

They were led through a maze of hallways beyond the monastic chambers where hymns were sung at nearly all hours. The soft song followed them as they moved, and Anduin shivered. He was not as religious as some, but this place gave him chills that he could not explain. There was Something here, something that Moved.

The priest that escorted them opened a door to a small room. It was cell-like, almost, with scarcely enough furniture to call it more than a cell. The bed Medivh occupied was narrow, but comfortable; the sheets were crisp, the blankets warm. The window was open to let in the cooler Autumn air, and to keep the room from becoming stagnant. Beside the bed was a stool, and a chair that stood by a table.

The chair was occupied by another priest, who was very carefully spooning something into Medivh’s mouth, then brushing his fingers over the mage’s throat to get him to swallow rather than inhaling it.

Anduin felt sick. He also felt Llane turn his head into his shoulder. He lifted an arm to rest across Llane’s shoulders, trying to offer some kind of comfort.

Medivh did not look anything like Medivh. One side of his face was bruised, badly. His hands were bandaged. He looked worse in the clear light of this room than he had as the healer had taken him away. Instead of a fourteen-year-old boy, he looked like an old man. The only thing that gave him any semblance of youth was his raven-black hair, and even that was dull.

The priest brushed his fingers along Medivh’s throat again, then stood up, looked at the two, then nodded to them. “Perhaps, if you speak to him, he may come out of it by nightfall. I have given him something to strengthen him – so perhaps…”

Both priests left, closing the door behind them. Llane dropped onto the stool, staring at Medivh with a forlorn expression. Anduin took the chair, and then took one of Medivh’s bandaged hands gingerly in his own. Neither could speak for a long moment.

“I wish I knew what to say,” Anduin finally said into the silence.

“What can we say? We can beg him to wake up like in all those silly romantic plays, songs, stories… but…” Llane shrugged. “This is no tale.”

“We could find someone to kiss him,” Anduin said, with a hint of humor.

“Was he in love? It would have to be True Love’s Kiss, remember?” Llane grinned back.

“He wasn’t – but I don’t remember those tales saying that he had to love whoever kisses him, just that whoever kisses him has to love him,” Anduin shot back.

Both of them chuckled, then looked at Medivh again.

“Finally, the three of us have a chance to spend some time together, and … you’re not really here, Med. It’s not right. It doesn’t feel right without you.” Anduin sighed.

“He’s right, Medivh. I don’t know if you can hear us. But if you can – we just want you back with us.” Llane reached up and laid his hand over Medivh’s. “We’re a trio. You can’t break a tripod, it falls over.”

Anduin stared at Medivh without saying anything for a very long time. He took in the slackened features, but the tight lines around his eyes that told him Medivh was either in pain or dreaming. Without thinking, he reached up and brushed some of his hair out of his face and over his ear. “Come on, Med. Come back to us.”

 

Anduin ran a hand through his hair – a habit that he suspected was at least part of the cause of his already receding hairline. He gently pulled the flowers he had brought the last time he had visited from their vase – a gift from his late wife – and replaced them with new ones.

He settled in the chair beside the bed, and stared down at a face that was, if possible, paler and more sunken than when this had begun. The mage who had looked him over at Barathen’s request had told them that Medivh had suffered from what he called ‘severe overload’. He might wake. He might not. He may sleep for the rest of the time he remained alive. So far, there had been no change. The priests had gotten very little response from him – though when Anduin or Llane got the chance, he gained some color. Just a little… but it was enough for them to continue his care.

Anduin reached out, brushing Medivh’s hair from his face. It was getting long – and it was still as raven black as it always was, and was still healthy. Perhaps not as healthy as it could have been, given that the priests had fed him broths to keep him from wasting away to nothing at all.

“I wish we knew what was going on in there, Medivh,” he said softly. “Llane and I – we miss you terribly. I know I say that every time I come here, but I can’t help it. We do. We can wish for your dreams to be pleasant ones, but… You always look afraid – or upset when we come.”

He slid his hand under and into Medivh’s, carefully avoiding the long nails. Nine years had been somewhat kind to him, considering his position. “Callan’s almost five now – if you can believe that. Light, Med… you wouldn’t know me anymore. A father by the time I turned twenty-two… Me. Never imagined it. Not that I mind it too much. Other than. Well. The obvious.” He shook his head. “Somehow I never saw myself falling in love with anyone else. I… Damn it. I… I should have said something, a long time ago. I know I have said it since, but. I always thought I would say something when we were older – but this…”

He shook his head, leaning forward to rest his head on his arm, his other hand curling over Medivh’s hand. “Sometimes I wonder if that’s why things happened as they did. Llane actually made the joke that you reached out from your sleep and got jealous – but I know better. You were never like that to anyone. Even if you knew what was going on with… all that. Somehow there just wasn’t time to go over more than the basics, and even then, it was only to avoid awkward questions later.”

Anduin went quiet for a long moment. “I wish I –“ He snapped his mouth shut as a light rose across the bed from where he sat. There was nothing over there, other than a clothing chest that held Medivh’s once-bloodied robes and a few sets of night-clothing. Except now – there was something there.

Anduin narrowed his eyes. The entity looked like a man. Other than the glow, at any rate; he was tall – about as tall as Medivh was now. There was a ‘flaming’ quality about his facial hair and his eyes, and he stared at Anduin as much as Anduin stared at him. The man smiled, then nodded, then was … gone. Between one blink and the next, before Anduin could get another detail from whatever – whoever – it was, he was gone. A trick of the light perhaps? Or his own exhaustion...

When Anduin looked down, there was more color in Medivh’s face, and his eyelashes fluttered, as though his eyes moved. “Are you dreaming now?” he asked quietly. “Or are you remembering?”

Medivh’s hand twitched in Anduin’s, and it caused Anduin to sit up completely. “Med?” He held his breath, waiting for an answer. None came. He sighed and leaned back down again.

“I wish I had you talk to. I wish I had said something long before I … Damn it, Med. I knew what I felt, even then. And I know what I feel now. I loved Cally – I know I did. I… I don’t love Callan any less, but… I’d always wondered, years ago, when you learned what you were attracted to. I should have told you then. Perhaps it would have been enough for you to remember that you had someone to wake up for. If you are waiting on that, then consider it said. You have me to wake up for, Med. Maybe Llane and I were right, all those years ago.”

He sat in silence for a long time, his eyes focused on Medivh’s face, watching for any signs of life. Finally he lowered his head, and pressed a hand to his eyes.

Outside of this place, he was now officially Second to the Captain of the Guard, and the Prince’s Champion. Here, he was nothing more than Anduin Lothar, a man coming to realize that what he had once thought the love of his life was not. Finally, he rose, lifted Medivh’s hand to his lips, brushing a kiss to the knuckles. He looked back at Medivh’s face, hoping for some sign – but there was nothing other than the recognition his voice brought when he came in.

Anduin leaned over, straightened, shook his head, took a breath, then leaned over again. “I don’t know if this will change anything, Medivh Aran – but I have to try.” He freed his hand from Medivh’s and brushed his fingertips along the sleeper’s cheek, leaned the rest of the way over and touched his lips to Medivh’s. “Wake up. Please wake up. Come back to us.”

His voice lowered to a whisper. “Come back to me.”

Chapter Text

III. The Trio of Trouble

“The gnolls are finally settling back where they were – and have stopped harassing caravans. The murlocs however, seem to think that this was a sign of weakness, and have decided to leave them alone and go after the caravans and traders who the gnolls have been leaving alone.”

Llane stifled a yawn, wishing this had not being going on for an hour as it was. So far, every report from the garrisons stationed in Elwynn and beyond – Westfall, Brightwood, Redridge – was the same thing. Some shift in the minor politics, or some shift in the mess that was left from tiny incursions. He was listening to the reports with an expression of dead-neutrality. He wanted to look bored and even fall asleep. But he could not do any such thing.

Barathen sent most of those reporting to find Anduin Lothar or one of his lieutenants, and request advice – or in some cases, orders for aid to be sent to the various outposts. It wasn’t until someone from Westfall came forward that Llane’s attention was captured. This report was of … well. Nothing good.

First of all, the young man was accompanied by Captain Lothar himself, which was odd. Second, the report was not about murlocs or gnolls or other such smaller races – but included a report about an incursion of trolls.

An incursion that was cut short, but one that had managed to get by in the dead of night, leaving nothing but four dead sentry guards.

Llane listened to the report, and as his father advised that the guard be doubled along the borders, and that no sentry would be alone. There were some other details, but Llane’s attention had been claimed.

He didn’t realize what the feeling in his gut was until almost a month later – when another incursion occurred… and three towns vanished off the maps, overnight, without an alarm being raised. A full Council was called, and while Barathen spoke about the fact that Stormwind would respond, they would not, nor could not, reach beyond the borders. They would defend, but they would not go after the trolls that sent those war-parties to cross into human-held lands.

It was the first time Llane opened his mouth in one of these long meetings without first being asked a question or for advice on a current situation. He was outraged. Incensed beyond what he could handle, he stood up. “You can’t just let this go!” he told his father, his face a mask of anger and incredulity. The others around the table shifted uncomfortably. “They took not just a trader or two from the road – not just a farm. They razed three towns! They need to learn not to come up here.”

“I will send reinforcements –“

“Because that worked last time,” Llane muttered.

The King and the Prince stared at one another. Someone coughed softly, uncomfortably. Another voice rose to back Llane’s ideas up. A second. A third. The council was a clamor of voices, demanding that the Gurubashi be put down at once.

“My answer is no, and that will be that. We will not chase them beyond our borders. We will not provoke them further – we will stand strong in our defense, and the border guards must increase their vigilance! That is my final word on the matter.”

The meeting closed on several angry voices. Once they were out of the council chamber and in a more private setting – behind closed doors – Barathen turned on his son.

“Llane – this is not up for debate. You have no idea what kind of force those trolls would send. You have no idea of what kind of warriors or troops or even magics they have. There is no way for us to counter an attack if it came, and I will not provoke one!” Though his voice was quiet, the king’s words held steel.

“You don’t think they’re just going to keep coming back? Again and again, picking off the sentries and the guards along the outposts and they’re just going to keep coming until they’ve taken back Westfall – and all those who live there are dead!”

The argument lasted for hours, and when Llane left his father’s study, he was still hot with anger. He could do nothing, and felt as though he was watching a fool lead Stormwind and the surrounding areas into complacent destruction.

He ran into Anduin on the way outside, intending to walk off his frustration – or to beat a set of pells into dust. He felt a hand on his shoulder as they collided, and looked up into Anduin’s face, surprised.

“Llane, what the hell happened? You look like a storm cloud about to unleash.”

Llane didn’t speak for a long moment, then shook his head, grabbed Anduin’s arm and dragged him outside. The gardens were lit only by decorative lamps in strategic places, offering privacy for those wishing it. They did not stop until they were at a far corner, where Llane knew no one else bothered to go. Only then did he tell Anduin all that had happened, keeping his voice low, though his anger was no less potent than it had been. He was still angry, and he could not hide the sharpness of his voice, even when he hissed half of his words.

Anduin looked taken aback by the entire mess. His face was clouded and his eyes were unreadable. He knew Llane could have a hotter temper than most, but this time, he could not help but agree, and not just because he was Llane’s chosen Champion. Not this time. He shook his head, and sighed. “I know that you want to do something about it, but what can we do? What can just two of us do?”

Llane sank down onto the bench beside them, his eyes closing. “I don’t know,” he said, defeated, the anger draining from him. “I know I was backed up by others on the Council but seriously. The nobles don’t have any more power than we do. We can argue until we’re blue in the face and Father still won’t change his mind.”

Anduin settled himself next to Llane, staring out at one of the lanterns that was near enough to light the path, but left them mostly in shadow. “Medivh would know,” he said softly. “At least… I think he would.”

“And there lies another problem,” Llane said, quietly. “He’s not… here. Anduin, it’s been almost ten years. I –“ He bit off the rest of his words, then changed his mind. “I don’t think he’s going to wake up. It would probably be kinder if—“

“No!” Anduin cried, then lowered his voice. “No – no, Llane, he’s in there. I know he is. He responds when we go, doesn’t he? He responded when I last went. He’s in there, and he’ll wake up.”

Llane looked at Anduin, though he could see little of his friend’s face. “Anduin – I know you care greatly for him. I do too. And I miss him terribly. But… he’s changed so little. And we so much. Do we even know each other any longer?”

Anduin’s eyes closed. He opened his mouth, then closed it, lowering his head. He didn’t have an answer for that question. What answer would he give, when he himself, just weeks ago, had mentioned to Medivh’s sleeping form that he wouldn’t know Anduin now, a father, and a terrible one at that. Callan was being raised far more by his sister and Llane – while his father spent more time trying to convince Medivh to open his eyes.

“I don’t know,” he finally answered. “But I – we can’t just give up on him. He’s not only important to us, he’s important to the entire world.”

“Is he?” Llane snapped. Anduin looked up in shock. “If he is, why hasn’t his mother visited him?”

Anduin shook his head. “I don’t know that either. But if he hadn’t shown some signs of someone being in there, the priests would not keep him alive.”

Llane sighed. “It’s times like this that I wonder. What are we, Anduin? In the long run, I mean.”

Anduin rested a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “We are what we have to be. You and I can’t just give up because Medivh isn’t here. We’ve been doing just that for over nine years.”

Llane leaned into Anduin’s touch and sighed, shaking his head. His head spun. His father, he knew in his heart, was wrong. He was allowing his people to be killed while just improving guards and reinforcements. His closest friend was in no better shape to act. And both of them were crippled by the lack of the friend who had been there – but not there for nearly a decade.

“Go talk to Taria,” Anduin suggested softly. “She’s got a good head for this kind of thing. Perhaps she’ll have better insight than I do.”

“She can’t replace Medivh,” Llane said heavily.

“No, but she can at least offer advice and take your mind off things. I know my sister well enough for that.” Anduin smiled. “Go on. If she is going to be your queen one day, she needs to start learning all this anyway.”

Llane chuckled. “I suppose you’re right.”

“I know I am. In the meantime, I should probably try to spend a couple of hours with Callan before he forgets who I am.”

 

The morning brought a thunderstorm. Anduin woke to the sound of thunder – but that was not what had awakened him. The pounding on his door… did.

Before he could get up to answer it, the door banged open. Llane practically threw himself at Anduin as he tried to sit up.

“He’s awake! Anduin he’s awake!!”

Well of course he was awake, how could he not after having his door flung open and being practically flattened? “I’m awake, yeah, what the hell are you –“

“Not you, stupid! Medivh!”

Whatever sleep-fog remained vanished at once. Anduin’s eyes widened and he stared at Llane incredulously. “What?”

“He’s awake! We just got word!” Llane could have been the sixteen-year-old he had been when Medivh had gone into that long sleep. Not that Anduin was much better, shoving Llane off his bed and flinging his blankets back so he could get up.

He snatched the first clothing that came to hand and started dressing as Llane finally backed towards the door, then started lighting the lamps in Anduin’s room. He realized that Llane was dressed for the weather – and also in riding leathers. He looked at what he was pulling on and was glad that he normally wore his by habit. He ran his hands through his sleep-tousled hair, then pulled his boots on. “I assume you’re—“

“We’re going out there, storm or no storm.” Llane’s tone brooked no argument, and Anduin had to laugh. Something in him found relief, and part of him was afraid. He had been pouring his heart out to the unconscious mage for just over ten years now. The last six months had been no different, though he had included the mess in Westfall as he had talked.

So far, a few small bands had been captured, or destroyed, but nothing like what that first report had held came in. Though, Anduin had found himself with another loss – the loss of his father. The Captain had gone out to Westfall – and had not returned. Anduin had been out there himself – and was responsible for at least two of those war bands’ demise. His ‘heroics’ had earned him a knighting, and the titles he had been groomed for since he was young. He would have preferred to have his father back, truth be told. As much as he would prefer to have his wife back and for his son, who looked so like her, to be raised by both his parents… and not just himself – with his sister’s and Llane’s aid.

Well. At least it gave them practice.

As soon as he had pulled the last buckle on his boots tight, Llane was pulling at his arm. Anduin had to laugh as he finally let himself be dragged out of his rooms – with barely enough pause to grab his rain gear – and down half a corridor before he freed himself, walking beside Llane as they headed for the stables.

To their shock, word of what they were doing had already reached the stablehands – likely the doing of the man who stood with one of the grooms, with a rare, and for once, unshadowed smile. King Barathen stood beside a gryphon, scratching her crest. “She’ll get you there twice as fast, so you won’t have to be out in this rain for long. The storm’s moving off, but the rain’ll be around for a while. Give him my regards – and Llane, make it known that he is welcome in Stormwind; he has a home here.”

Llane nodded, still shocked as Anduin moved to look the gryphon over. He was no stranger to them, but it was rather rare for them to be used for something like this. He recognized this female, and she seemed to recognize him, at least enough to nudge his chest with her beak. He reached up and patted her beak, then scratched her crest until her eyes rolled back and closed.

“I will,” Llane was saying. “Should we try to bring him home with us?”

“If you can. Though – he may need to stay there for some time yet to recover.” Barathen stepped back as Llane swung himself up onto the gryphon, then held his hand out to Anduin.

Anduin took it, and pulled himself up behind Llane. The gryphon seemed to know exactly where she was going, for the moment they were settled, she moved up the ramp and launched from the aviary, into the storm, banking northward and then eastward as soon as she had height.

 

The same storm had awakened Medivh, hours earlier. The sound of the wind through the sheltered valley seemed to howl at the window by his bed, and whistled through the glass beyond the shutters with some ferocity. The flash of lightning was bright to his closed eyes, and the thunder that followed it caused them to snap open. The sound of the thunderclap echoed around the valley, and Medivh blinked.

Another flash of lightning gave him just enough light through the shutters to know that he wasn’t somewhere familiar. He felt panic rise in his chest, and he tried to sit up. Tried, because he was so very weak, as though he was little more than a newborn kitten.

Like a newborn kitten, afraid, unable to move, unable to do more than know his surroundings were wrong, he cried out, trying to call ‘hello’, but it came out as just a wordless, frightened cry.

In answer to that cry, the door opened, and light from a lantern poured into the room. Medivh looked up at the stranger holding it, blinked, blinked again, then had to turn his head from the brightness as it moved closer.

“Light bless,” the stranger murmured, looking into Medivh’s face. “We weren’t sure you were going to wake up…”

Medivh blinked at him, his eyes finally responding to the light and allowing him to see. “Weren’t… sure…?” he asked slowly, his confusion real.

The priest nodded slowly. “You have been asleep for ten years, my friend.”

Medivh stared at him, shook his head, his eyes wide. He shifted his arms a little and tried again to sit up. A gentle, but firm hand on his chest kept him where he was. “Don’t – you are in need of some recovery before you can do very much. Your body is not what it was.”

Medivh was confused, more than ever. And he looked down at his hands, at the nails that had grown out, but were kept neat. He turned them over, staring at the backs of them, and their skeletal nature. He made a frightened noise, then asked “What’s happened? I – I –“ And then his hands fell to his sides. He remembered.

He had awakened with a headache, worse than he had ever felt. He had dressed, stumbled into the sitting room, to where his father had waited. He had asked his father to make him something for the pain – and his father had instead told him to lock it down.

Lock what down? He felt sick. He couldn’t see. The room began to spin, and he felt something stir, making his head hurt worse. He shivered. Wrapped his arms around himself, then moved one hand to his aching head.

It was as though he was drowning. The sudden rush was like a wave crashing into the shore, and all of his wards, his protections were crushed by the impact, and like sand caught in an undertow, his control went with it.

He could hear his father shouting at him, heard the anger – and the panic. But he could not hear words. All he could hear was the roar of blood in his ears, the song of power as it sang, drowning everything out. It was rising, that power, faster than he could adjust for.

And the lessons came back to him, flow control, warding, shielding, redirection, centering, grounding. It was all a tumbled mess in his mind.

His throat hurt – he was screaming. He couldn’t stop it – he couldn’t even grasp what was happening to him. Fear trapped him in his own mind, and he tried to clear it before… before…

The explosion knocked him to his knees, and he shuddered as he felt… normal again. He blinked, his head still pounding as though it, too, wanted to explode. His eyes took in the wreck of the room, and the body of his father face down on the ground, blood pooling beneath him.

He hauled himself to his feet, stumbled a step. Two. He tried to speak – but could not get the words out of his mouth. And then the floor rose to meet him.

The tears came, then. His father was gone. Ten years had passed – and he was alone. Where had his mother been? Why had no one been here? Why was he asleep so long? He could not ask the questions, for every time he tried, he could only sob.

He felt the bed dip a little as the priest settled on the edge, and one hand began stroking his forehead soothingly. Medivh let his eyes close, and cried himself out. Only after did the priest aid him to sit up, helped him to visit the facilities and to bathe, and to get something more solid than broth into him.

When they returned to his little room, it had been lit with lanterns, and a more comfortable pair of chairs had been moved into one side, across from the bed where the chair and stool had been.

“There is much for you to sort out – and we must send word to Stormwind that you are awake and aware. My guess is that it won’t be more than an hour or two before you have visitors.” The priest had smiled, then left him to sort himself out.

Visitors? Who would even remember him after ten years?

 

Medivh had his answer less than an hour after dawn had risen, and the storm had begun to let up, moving off to the west and out to sea.

Llane and Anduin stared at him for a long moment before Llane finally sank onto the bed. Anduin didn’t bother with the empty chair, and instead moved to embrace Medivh.

If Anduin was shocked at how thin and fragile Medivh felt, he didn’t seem to notice. He compensated by not squeezing him too hard, but that was his only concession. The embrace he got in return was firm, and that alone gave him hope.

“We were … Light. Medivh… we were about to give up,” Llane stammered as Anduin finally let him go, stepping aside so that Llane could take his place.

“I would have,” Medivh replied softly. “But I know you didn’t. Either of you. They told me you visited as often as you could get away.” He closed his eyes as he held Llane. “I… Don’t know why…”

“Why we would?” Anduin asked as he sank into the chair and Llane returned to the bed. “Med – did you really think that we would just act as though you were gone when we knew you were here? That would be insane.”

“And cruel, crass and absolutely not something any good friend would do,” Llane added.

Medivh sighed as he carefully sank back into the chair he had stood from when they came in. “But … I … I was dead…”

“The hell you were,” Anduin snapped. “I… Whenever either of us were here, you would gain color. Your eyes would flicker. You shifted enough for us to know that you knew we were here and talking to you. You would squeeze our hands, almost as though you tried to tell us you were still in there.”

Medivh was quiet for a moment, and little bits of memory came back to him. Words. Touches. He looked at Llane for a moment, his eyes narrowing a little in thought, or confusion. Then he transferred his gaze to Anduin, and his eyes shifted slightly, widening.

“Something,” he said slowly, “in my memories tells me that both of you were here… both together and alone… often. From the day I was brought here.”

Llane nodded. “I wasn’t able to get away as much as Anduin did, but.. yes. Whenever we had the time to spare.”

Medivh’s eyes misted over, and he blinked. “I – I’m not sure what to say. I never expected…”

Anduin snorted softly, and Medivh looked at him, noting how his hair was a little longer, his hairline starting to recede a little, though his hair was still dark. He had grown a beard, and … looked older. Worn. There was something in those dark blue eyes that spoke of seeing a horror – or horrors – that he would give anything to unsee. “What kind of friends would we be if we abandoned you, Med?”

Medivh looked at Llane, noted that he also was growing a beard, and his hair was a little more well-kept than Anduin’s, his brown eyes wiser than they had once been, and were likely completely unreadable to most. The hope and joy in them now was clear to him, however. The way they both looked at him told him much – they could not seem to comprehend that he was sitting up. That his own facial hair had been cared for, his hair, so much longer than he had expected it to be when he awoke, had been pulled into a tail at the nape of his neck, but was laying over one shoulder, trailing down to his stomach. His nails were trimmed to a more normal length, though he did leave them a bit longer than most would; he was a mage after all, not a swordsman.

As hungry as their gazes were for him, so his was for them. Anduin’s words brought threatened tears to the surface again, and before he could open his mouth, both of them were at his side, and all three of them wept openly.

Something in Medivh’s heart sighed with relief. His fears melted away, leaving him in his tears.

The three of them were reunited at last.

Chapter Text

IV. Interlude – Memory of Dreams

The world was a wash of violet and blue, spotted in a green color that was very much like the color of his eyes on a warm summer day, when he had a moment to laugh and smile with his friends.

Friends?

You have no friends. They all want to use you. All of them. None of them care for you. Why should you care for them?

They do. Llane and Anduin – they keep coming here, don’t they? They wouldn’t come here if they didn’t miss me.

They miss what you do.

What I do?

Your power. The power that you used to kill your father.

No – no… I.. I didn’t want…

You did. You wished him dead so often…

I didn’t mean it like that! I didn’t!

You will kill them too, in the end.

Never – Never do you hear me? Whatever you are – I won’t listen to you!

I am you. You have no choice. No choice…

The world shifted, and a lonely tower in the middle of a valley filled his vision. He was laboring to build a cellar – no… no it was a reversal of the tower, beneath, within the stone of the valley floor.

It shifted again, so he stood with another figure, older and clearly a servant of some sort.

And then the figure changed to a younger man, one with dark hair with a sharply contrasting skunk-stripe of white, with intelligent blue eyes that pulled something in his heart.

There was a hiss.

That one is dangerous. Dangerous. Very dangerous. He will ferret out all of your secrets, Keeper of Secrets. He will tell your secrets to all who ask. He will be your undoing.

Medivh latched onto that image, noting that he looked older, seemed to be teaching the younger. It slipped through his ‘fingers’ like water.

Another replaced it, of Anduin, this time, talking to him. And then he felt something – he couldn’t be… there was no way. Lips on his. A plea. A –

He woke with a start, his little room flooded with sunlight, the kind that seems more beautiful and intense as it follows a storm. He heard voices. Cheerful voices. He sat up, carefully, growling a little at his arms as they shook with weakness.

He ignored the priest and the tray that held breakfast, his arms held out to the two who had followed. He would kill himself before he ever let his friends fall.

As he looked at Anduin, their eyes met, and he smiled, a little shyly, and nodded very, very carefully, very slightly.

They would talk later.

Chapter Text

V. The Demands

Medivh moved back to Stormwind after a month. The priests were not all that pleased with his weight, but he had demonstrated that his slight build was how he ‘usually was’. He was broad in the shoulders, and he had managed to gain enough weight that he no longer looked like a storm’s wind would carry him off, and his robes no longer quite hung on him as though they had been made for someone else entirely.

He had strict orders to continue to gain weight, and also to not overdo – he was to get rest the moment he felt even slightly weak. Medivh chafed at those instructions, but the look Anduin had given him as the priest gave the conditions on which he was to be released to the Commander’s custody had made him roll his eyes and agree.

Not that Llane or Anduin would allow him to forget those orders. Medivh was practically sat on to rest and glared at to eat by whichever of the two of them was free at the moment the need arose.

Typically, it was Anduin, who had a bit more free time than Llane did. Llane was beginning to take more of the responsibilities of ruling up, and much more of the background tasks. His father had told them all that it was so he could be doing those tasks in the back of his mind without having to think about them by the time he took the throne. It made for less free time now, but it would not be long before the tasks and thought process was so ingrained that he would not have such a burden on his time. Especially, he had added, with Llane having so lovely a lady to court.

Medivh often had his nose in a book, which had become typical from the hour he had been returned to Stormwind to a suite of his own, not far from Anduin’s. He was thankful to not be returned to his former home, where the memories and visible reminders of what had happened would haunt him. It took him an hour to install his personal belongings, décor and clothing, and then he was in the library, curled up in an armchair between the fireplace and the window, his eyes devouring words of histories he had not had the time to study, and trying to catch up on ten years of being away from the world.

Several days after he had returned to Stormwind, a large crate had arrived addressed to him, with no information on where it had come from. The traders who had brought it shrugged, said that someone in a dark cloak had paid for its transport somewhere on the road in Brightwood, and had paid handsomely to be sure it arrived.

The crate proved to be full of books. Most of them were on advanced magical theory and spellwork. Medivh was stunned, as he lifted them out, placing them on his desk. It was enough to fill the two bookshelves he had, and enough to displace his old primers and initiate’s spell books – the ones he had mastered before he was ten.

The topmost book was one of the several that was hand-written; a copy of a copy of some ancient Guardian’s personal journal. Or…

“There’s a letter in here,” Medivh murmured, sliding the folded paper from between the pages. Frowning, he read it, and his eyebrows rose slowly, and his eyes darkened with indignation. He put the letter back into the book, and put the book on the shelf.

“What was it?” Anduin asked, carefully placing Medivh’s old books into the now empty crate.

“From my mother,” Medivh said shortly. “Telling me to study these while I recover before I journey to Karazhan.”

“Where?”

“Karazhan – her tower.”

“Which is… where?”

Medivh sighed, sliding more books into place. “In the south,” he said softly. “Somewhere south of Brightwood.

“In Stranglethorn?!” Anduin nearly dropped one of the books, staring at Medivh.

“No – no not in Stranglethorn… maybe closer to Redridge..? I’ve not been there, so I couldn’t tell you for certain.” Medivh snorted softly. “I was never ‘old enough’. Like I am now.”

“I… I didn’t realize that your position as ‘watchman on the tower’ would be literal… Why would she want to isolate you from us? I... I know you said that Guardians were isolated –“

“And they are,” Medivh said. “Clearly, she seems to think that once I have recovered my full strength, I need to go to her tower to learn the rest – and also to begin my vigil. Which means my isolation from others so I do not become biased.” He shook his head, sliding the last of the books into place. “I’m not going. If she wants to teach me, she can come here. I am not nearly ready to cut myself off from others.” He looked at Anduin. “I … I can’t.”

Anduin closed the crate, then looked at Medivh. And blinked. The man standing there was not the twenty-four-year-old he had expected, but the frightened fourteen-year-old he had been before the … the disaster that he put him into the coma, and taken his father.

Anduin sighed, stood, and moved to pull Medivh into an embrace. “You’re not ready. You’re not well, yet. You aren’t up to very much more than just concentrating on making yourself well and catching up on ten years of history. Perhaps you’ll be able to go then.”

“I don’t want to go at all!” Medivh said sharply. “My home is here, Anduin. I can’t just leave.” He began shaking, and Anduin gently guided him to a chair and pushed him down into it.

For a moment, Anduin had to remind himself that though Medivh looked older, he was still coming to terms with being ten years older. Inside he was still a frightened fourteen-year-old, whose power had struck his father dead, destroyed a room, and knocked him unconscious for far too long.

Medivh’s eyes were open and vulnerable still, and Anduin knelt next to him. “It’s not something you need to think about right now,” he said softly. “There is far better stuff to put your mind on, hm?”

“Like?” Medivh’s eyebrow rose.

“What do you remember, from while you were asleep?”

Medivh glared at him, then laughed. “Nothing, you beast. And you know it!”

Anduin grinned. “That’s good, since I’m sure some of it would probably mortify you.”

“Oh, shoo. And … thanks.” Medivh smiled.

“An hour until dinner – and don’t even think about skipping it or I’ll come in here and sit on you,” Anduin warned, moving over to the desk and bending down to take the crate to storage.

 

A few days later, a small stack of letters arrived, all sealed in violet. Medivh stared at them when he got out of the bath, his hands still toweling the ends of his hair. He shook his head, then went to dress, pulling a sleeveless robe of dark sapphire on over black trousers and a paler sapphire shirt. He tossed his damp hair to hang down his back as he hung the towels on his wardrobe door, then slid into the chair at his desk, then carefully slit the letters with the dagger he used as a letter opener.

He frowned as he scanned the first one – a thinly veiled demand for advice on how to cure some disease he’d never heard of. The second one was a plea for help in getting rid of murlocs that had somehow managed to immerse themselves in a leypool and were now more powerful mages than those in the area. The third just said “Knight to WK5” and nothing else.

He stared at the other three, and left them as they were. He replaced the three he had read, and put them on his desk in a spot where he would remember they had been read, gave the unread three another look, then looked at the other two notes – one Llane, one from Anduin. Llane wanted a game of chess after evening court the following evening, Anduin’s was a reminder that food was a thing and he was going to make sure Medivh didn’t forget. He gave the violet sealed letters one last look of confusion, then got up to go downstairs for lunch.

Anduin was waiting for him in the corridor. He saw the look on Medivh’s face and raised an eyebrow. “Do I want to know?”

“I’m… not sure,” Medivh answered quietly. “I got several notes – sealed in violet. Not a seal I know either. One of them was asking for advice on how to cure a disease don’t even know of. Another was asking for help in getting rid of murlocs – but didn’t say where. Just that they got into a leypool and were hopped up on magic. Another was coordinates for a chess game!”

Anduin lifted his other eyebrow and gave Medivh a sideways look. “That… What?”

“I have no idea! None of them were signed. None of them were addressed to me, really – but to “G.T.” whatever the hell that means…”

“Guardian of Tirisfal,” Anduin murmured after a moment. “That’s… interesting.”

“I… didn’t think of that,” Medivh admitted. “But I’m not – not yet. I’m not trained. I’m not even a month out of my bed. And why would they not be going to my mother in her tower? Why here?”

“I have no idea, Med. I really don’t.” Anduin sighed. “Was there any indication of where they’d come from? Who delivered them?”

“Nothing,” Medivh shrugged. “I came back from the library where I’d been working – and there they were on the center of my desk with a note from Llane, asking me for a game of chess tomorrow night, and the one from you telling me you’d be up to get me for lunch in case I forgot that I need to be eating.” He lifted his hands in a helpless gesture. “I haven’t a clue.”

Anduin snorted. “Well, if they are meant for your mother…” He shrugged.

“I can always send them on, I suppose.”

They took the back staircase to the main living areas and into the smaller dining room away from the main court areas. They weren’t the first, nor were they the last to arrive. Over cold sliced meats, cheese, bread and fruit, there was a discussion regarding the troll incursion on Westfall, which surprised not only Medivh, but Anduin and Llane. Llane once again insisted on a retaliatory strike, backed by Anduin. Medivh did not say anything, but listened intently to the arguments, as well as the reports that another group had gotten by – causing Anduin to growl, though he held his tongue.

The argument died down long enough for Medivh to recapture Llane’s attention and tell him that he would make himself available for that chess game. After that, conversation was once again tolerable – and no longer a disaster. Medivh sighed in silence, finally able to eat something substantial without his stomach knotting in anxiety over being asked his opinion on the whole matter, considering most of it had gone on while he still slept.

He did answer some questions about his recovery, and about his studies, but that nothing was really changed from his youth, other than the lack of headaches and lack of fear of Something Major happening when he hit a certain age.

He managed to escape afterward without much fuss, returned to his rooms and found that the three unread messages had spawned seven more – all with that damned violet seal.

 

Anduin looked up when he realized Medivh had slipped out, nudged Llane, and gave him a look. Llane looked back at him and gave him a significant look. Anduin slipped out and followed Medivh – wondering if he had gone back to the library or to his –

The sound of a door slamming told Anduin where Medivh was, and he rushed up the last of the stairs to find Medivh in the corridor, shaking. He didn’t think, he just acted, sprinting the rest of the way to where Medivh was and putting an arm out to steady the mage.

“Med? What happened?”

Medivh held out one of the letters he’d gotten; sealed with violet that had been broken – but this one had his name, clearly, on the outside. Anduin pulled it open, then read it, his eyes widening. He refolded it, slid it back into its original shape, then handed it back. “You can’t do that.”

“Can’t I?” Medivh said softly. He looked at Anduin for a long moment. “What am I supposed to do? They’re all like it, Anduin. They all want things I can’t do – all things I don’t know or have no idea how or even who to respond to! But this was addressed to me personally – and I don’t know where it came from – and now I wonder if this is why all of the mess in Westfall was brought up. I can’t just… blast a part of the countryside down, and I can’t go around poisoning half of Stranglethorn, Anduin. First of all I have no idea how to do something like that, and I may know a bunch of alchemy but I can’t do something like this – it’s insane!”

“Come on. I think you need an afternoon off.”

“I can’t do that!”

“Come on. No arguments. My rooms. Go. I’ll join you in a moment.”

He turned and headed back down the hall before Medivh could argue again, then went to talk to Llane and his father. Considering that Barathen certainly knew who Medivh was – and what he was – just as much as Llane and Anduin did, he was starting to wonder if that message had been the surreptitious way of dealing with the issue in Westfall without involving Stormwind directly. If that was the case…

Llane should know. And Anduin planned to put a stop to it. At least, the idea that because Medivh grew up here, that he owed allegiance to Stormwind before all else. Medivh had made him a promise that he would be here for him and Llane, but not that he would be exclusive.

He found Llane first, and told him what he had seen, that he sent Medivh to his own rooms, and that he needed some time to calm him.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, he… Damn it Llane, if you’d seen how the damn thing was worded, it was as if someone was asking him to remove part of Westfall, blasting it from existence – and then to poison half of Stranglethorn so they’d have to kill themselves to get back up to Westfall. It’s insane! It would spread into Brightwood – and it would just get worse, don’t you get it?”

Llane shook his head, but not in a negative. “Why…? Why would someone send that to Medivh directly? And you say the rest had been coming to ‘The Guardian’ or something near to?” At Anduin’s nod Llane sighed. “Go. Have him play with Callan for a while; perhaps that will put him in better spirits.” He paused as Anduin bowed to leave.

“Anduin.” Llane looked at him for a moment when the warrior had stopped, giving him an inquisitive look. “Tell him the truth. That may also help.” He lifted an eyebrow when Anduin stared at him for a moment, then turned to head back upstairs.

Chapter Text

VI. Interlude – Dreaming of a Memory of a Dream

He could hear Anduin’s voice. It was troubled, pained – but he couldn’t make out the words. He wanted to reach out, but he could not. He wanted to take that trouble, that pain – was it over him? – away. Trouble and pain were not things that Anduin needed, nor did they suit him. Was it something else?

He heard the distinct sound of a child – no. No, younger than ‘child’. Infant? Light… what had been going on while he was drifting in this place of …

Where was he?

What was he?

Who was he?

A name drifted to him. Medivh. He was Medivh. He didn’t feel like Medivh. There was a darkness – there – no there! Anduin’s words were fading in and out as the darkness rose and fell away from his awareness.

“She died, Medivh. I… no one could save her. It happened so fast…”

Who? Who was dead? Who had died? What was happening?

The cry of the child again.

“Perhaps one day I can make him understand. Right now Callan is all I have with you gone and Llane so wrapped up in…”

The darkness rose again. He tried to will it away, but it would not go.

Chapter Text

VII. The Truth

Anduin sighed, reached up, lowered his hand, raised it again, then lowered it again. He was one of the ‘bravest’ souls in Stormwind, but this was something he – apparently – could not do. It had been a week since Medivh had wrecked his outer sitting room – for the sixth time.

The demands had continued to multiply, all of them sealed with violet wax. Anduin and Llane both had advised him to stop opening them – to just send them to Karazhan and let it go. His answer had been that if this was what his life was going to be, then why should he even do it? They never stopped – and worse, it was often found that they had not been delivered to the Keep. They had just… appeared. Medivh had witnessed this at least twice. Only a rustle of paper had alerted him to it, but when he looked up from his book, the messages had multiplied.

This had prompted the first destruction of the room – as he tried and failed to stop them by warding the room. Unfortunately, this had only resulted in them appearing in other rooms of his suite – and two of them hung in midair as he attempted to head to the library. In his panic, he had blasted the room to shreds.

Anduin had not left him that night, standing – or rather sitting – guard over him as he slept.

No more messages had come.

Anger had prompted the others. The demands continued to show up, and though Medivh had sent a box of them to Karazhan already, along with a note asking why they were sent to him, he had not gotten an answer.

He raised his hand again, and something within shattered, and it was followed by a snarl of rage. Anduin winced, lowered his hand, took a step back, then shook his head.

Not this time.

He raised his hand and knocked. Something else shattered, and this time it sounded large. He knocked a second time. Something heavy was thrown at the door.

Anduin backed up, and his face twisted into a look of both determination and what many of his troops had taken to calling his ‘no arguments’ face. It was a useful look, particularly if someone was stupid enough to question his orders.

He curled his hand into a fist and pounded on the door this time. “Med? It’s Anduin. I know you’re in there. I can hear you trashing your sitting room again.”

Whatever had been in front of the door scraped as it was moved. He felt the hair on the back of his neck rise as Something moved in the air. The door opened, but Medivh had not answered it. He was on the couch, lying face down with his head half buried in one of the cushions – and the room was back in order.

Anduin sighed, slipped inside and shut the door behind him. “Medivh?”

“I got an answer.” The words were short, and Medivh’s tone was angry.

Anduin sighed. “What happened?” he asked softly.

“She told me that if I wanted the damned ‘Order Business’ to go to Karazhan, then that’s where I should be.” Medivh answered, his words just as short.

“She can’t expect you to handle all of that!” Anduin exclaimed, then looked at Medivh again.

The mage was … unsettling. His robes were disheveled, his hair was tangled and it looked as though he had just crawled out of bed, in the middle of a nightmare. Anduin would know; he’d tried to soothe Medivh through enough of them.

“I don’t know anymore,” Medivh answered, his voice muffled. “She has insisted that I need to finish my training. That there are severe holes in my education – but she has not come here once since… when? I was seven? Eight?”

He hauled himself upright, and Anduin noticed that he was only halfway dressed; his robe was hanging from his shoulders and he was shirtless, his trousers were wound awkwardly around his legs as though he had slept in them – and badly at that. The eyes that looked at him did so from a mask of shadows, and the dark circles under his eyes hinted that though it was early evening…

“You haven’t been sleeping, have you?” Anduin asked, bluntly, taking another step into the room. Medivh shook his head. “Have you at least been eating?” Medivh shook his head again. “Med…”

“Don’t,” This time, it was a plea, and the burnished jade eyes looked up at Anduin from a face that…

Light, he could be fifteen… Anduin sighed. “Can I at least bring you anything?”

Medivh opened his mouth, his eyes narrowing in anger, but it drained away quickly. He looked thoughtful for a moment. “If… If you are willing…” His lips trembled, and the eyes closed.

Before he could say more, Anduin crossed the room and laid a hand on Medivh’s shoulder. “Go get yourself a hot bath, Med. It will do you wonders. I’ll go and see what I can find, hm?”

The look Medivh turned to him reminded him of the looks he had given both Llane and Anduin when they were able to get him away from his studies. Anduin patted his shoulder. “Go on. I’ll be back by the time you’re out I’m sure.”

Medivh nodded. Anduin slipped back out the way he had come. There was so little that made Medivh happy anymore. Not since those damned violet-sealed things had started to show up. The nightmares were worse, and he began to wonder if they shouldn’t start drugging the poor mage so he could actually recover from the coma he had been in.

He ran a hand over his face and headed toward the pantries. He kept odd hours often enough that he was no stranger there, anyway. Not like the three of them hadn’t been when they were younger, not wanting to bother anyone for a midnight snack. They may have been trouble sometimes, but they were considerate for all of that.

He was in luck, however, and when one of the cooks had realized just what he was there for, handed him not a platter, but a layered basket, one of the types that they usually sent out when the Wrynns decided that they needed to be out of the Keep and out in Elwynn. Picnics were not rare, and so they made sure that there were always baskets ready. Anduin had to smile a little. He and Medivh were no stranger to those outings, often treated like one of the family.

He sighed. Anduin did miss those days now, rather badly. Of course, he had had ten years to slowly get used to things. Medivh, on the other hand…

He did not ask what was in the basket, just thanked the cook, who winked at him, and took himself and his burden back to Medivh’s suite. On the way, he did find a page and requested said page to take a message to Llane, to tell him that he would be with Medivh if he was needed. The page repeated his message back, then nodded, heading off to dispatch his duty.

Anduin slipped inside and closed and bolted the door. He didn’t intend to leave tonight, if he could help things. He ignored the outer sitting room and went farther into the suite.

Medivh’s suite was situated much like the one he had shared with his father years ago. He had a ‘reception’ sitting room which led into a smaller one. From there, there were two exits. One led to Medivh’s bedroom, the other to his study. Between the two rooms was a bathing room.

The outer sitting room was equipped with a fireplace that shared a wall with the one beside it, which was currently unoccupied. A couch, a couple of armchairs and a low table in the center gave a semi-private place for Medivh to hold meetings, or gatherings. The parlor he was in now was much more intimate and personal. The fireplace here was situated on the outer wall, between two windows. Arranged around it were two chairs and a chaise-styled couch opposite the wall, with a low table in front of the couch. A table rested against the wall between the two doors, and flanking it were two narrow bookshelves, though they only held a few books, and small trinkets that had once been on the shelves in Medivh’s old room.

Anduin put the basket down and carefully unloaded it, setting a plate of sliced meats and cheese out, one of bread and fruit, and … Ah. Aha! So this was why the cook was so adamant… Anduin left the last platter in the basket for the time being.

There was a kettle on the hob – always – for Medivh nearly always had a cup of tea at hand. Anduin looked over the canisters on the mantel shelf, each neatly labeled – and not all of them ‘just’ tea. He still took painkillers for the headaches, as well as medicines for stress and to calm him. He found the one labeled simply “Peacebloom” and carefully made a pot, setting the teapot and two mugs out. Magic kept cream in a little pitcher, set in a niche in the wall, cold, and he put that and sugar out as well.

Just as he checked the pot of tea, Medivh emerged from his room, looking much better. His robe was black, which he seemed to wear more and more of lately, though the crimson sash holding it shut around his waist was an interesting contrast. He remained shirtless, and the trousers he wore now were similar to the ones he had changed from – black and apparently of some silken material that matched the robe.

He looked down at the table, blinked, looked at Anduin, and gave his friend a look of gratitude that bordered on worship. “You have no idea –“

“How grateful you are? I do. It’s written all over your face. Come on. Seems one of the cooks knows you well, came in when I was looking around and asked how I could be hungry an hour after dinner. I explained. Was sent back with all this.” Anduin smiled, then poured them both tea, added a touch of cream to his, then settled in one of the chairs.

Medivh began picking a little at the fruit, pulling a couple of grapes into one hand as the other added sugar and cream to his tea. He stirred the tea as he popped a grape into his mouth, closing his eyes as he settled himself on the couch.

“Med…” Anduin began hesitantly. He sighed. “Medivh, how long has it been since you last ate? Slept?”

Medivh looked up at him, then looked back down at his tea as he set the spoon into the saucer. “When did I last wreck my sitting room, before tonight?”

“I last saw you do it a week ago.”

Medivh winced. “Two days after that, for sleep. Perhaps three for the… the rest.”

“The rest?” Anduin lifted an eyebrow.

Medivh sighed. Instead of answering, he finished the grapes, then took a slice of bread, laid it with some of the meat and cheese and ate that. And then reached for his tea. He reconsidered, looking over the plate of meat and cheese again. “I... haven’t eaten, slept, bathed, spoken to anyone, left my room, studied or even checked my messages.”

Anduin grimaced, his eyes sad, not angry. “Med –“

“No. I know. I already know so –“

“Med. Stop. I’m just worried. Perhaps your mother is concerned with your studies and ignoring that you are trying to recover, but I am not. I knew you’d been skipping meals here and there, but… I’ve been so busy that I hadn’t realized it was like this. If I’d known I’d have come to check on you before now, I assure you.” Anduin cradled his cup in his hands and sipped, made a face, added sugar and stirred it. “That got a little strong…”

Medivh looked up from preparing another slice of bread, and laughed. Anduin drank in the sound. How long had it been since he heard Medivh laugh like that? Too long. Years. A decade.

“You never could make a proper cup of tea,” Medivh said, putting down the second bread-meal he’d made, and taking a sip of his. He gave Anduin a look, then added more sugar. “I’d hoped someone would teach you by now. Barbarian.” He set his cup back down, picked up his plate and sat back a little with the plate balanced on his knees. “Honestly, it’s not bad, just a little strong. Nothing wrong with strong tea.”

“Other than the way I make it might shave the hair off your tongue,” Anduin muttered, trying his again, thinking about it, then nodding in satisfaction. He reached over and stole a couple of grapes. “Feeling better?”

Medivh looked up at him, looked down at the last bite of his bread, meat and cheese, finished it, then nodded. “Much. Much better, yes. Thank you.” He sighed softly, set his plate down and picked up his teacup, cradling it in his hands. “Anduin… I… I don’t know what to do.”

“First of all, don’t bottle. You know Llane and I will find the time to come in here and talk to you if you need us. Second of all, don’t open the damned things, Med! Just drop them into a box, and let them be sent off. In the meantime, I’ll have a note sent to Karazhan from the healers to tell her to knock it the hell off and to leave you alone until you stop weighing as much as a feather.” Anduin sat forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “Third of all, stop trying so hard. Recovery first. Then you can start back where you left off. You can read, you can study, but don’t push yourself to be perfect right now, all right?”

Medivh looked down at his tea, drained half the cup, set it down again, and nodded, looking miserable again. Anduin scowled. More drastic measures would have to be taken then. He reached down for the basket, and Medivh looked up, lifting an eyebrow.

“I wanted to make sure you had real food in you before I pulled this out,” Anduin explained, but set out another plate, this one of small finger-sweets that usually would be served with tea. Most of them of were chocolate, some of them filled with fruit, others were tartlets or miniature versions of pies. Medivh was notorious for adoring sweets, and especially chocolate.

Medivh’s eyes went wide, and Anduin saw the child-like glee in his eyes. On one hand, he was glad to see that. On the other, it reminded him that Medivh was still technically a young boy of fourteen, trapped within a much older body. He didn’t need responsibilities heaped on him like he was a man grown. He needed to be eased into it a little at a time. They couldn’t take all ten of his missing years at once, but… at least give him the time to come to terms with it all.

He smiled as Medivh reached, predictably, for a fluffy chocolate tartlet topped with a glazed cherry. He nearly laughed as the mage savored it, little by little. That was not something the younger Medivh would have done. Then again, to his memory, he hadn’t had anything like this since he had turned fourteen a few weeks before the disaster had occurred.

“You,” Medivh said softly, “are my hero. You, and the cook that sent this up with you. I’m not sure worship is good enough. Slavery? I can do magic you know.”

Anduin snorted softly. “And if I don’t want a slave?”

Medivh looked at him for a moment. “I could still be one.”

“I would rather have a partner at my back. One I could trust to have my back just as much as they would trust me to have theirs.” Anduin pointed out. And then he saw the look Medivh was giving him. “What?”

“Anduin, I have a question I need to ask you,” Medivh said, slowly, looking over the plate of sweets and picking up another one, this one a little chocolate cake square glazed in ganache. He toyed with it in his fingers for a moment, then bit his lip. “Did you kiss me, while I was asleep?”

Anduin went pale, then flushed hotly. He leaned over and set his cup down. “I-I…” He exhaled in a long, slow sigh. “Yes, Med. I did.” He looked up. “It was stupid. It was something Llane and I joked about back when you first were hurt. He and I were sitting with you, watching you and wondering how many days you’d be out. I mean. They told us you might never wake up – so one of us suggested we find some fairy tale ending to the whole thing. One of us suggested that we should find someone to kiss you – like in the stories. But you weren’t in love with anyone, so we figured it wouldn’t work, but well. I never really remember the sleeper necessarily being in love with whoever kissed them, so it would just have to be someone who loved you, right?” He ran a hand through his hair. “So… I… last year… I… I’m still not over losing Cally, Med. I don’t know what to do with Callan half the time. And you were the only one I told some of the things that I had going on. But if I have to be honest with you – and myself…”

Medivh had not moved, staring at Anduin, the little cake still in his fingers, his green eyes wide.

“I had wondered if you thought you wouldn’t have anyone when you woke, after being asleep for so long. If you were afraid we’d have forgotten you. I just… I wanted you to know that we were still here. That I was still here. Damn it… Medivh I’ve…” Anduin sighed. “I loved you before you went into that coma, Med. I just never had the balls to tell you.”

Medivh didn’t move. He didn’t speak. He just continued to stare at Anduin, his expression closed.

Anduin shook his head. “I- I’m sorry, Medivh. I should have kept my mouth shut. You don’t need my problems on top of the ones you’re already dealing with.” He stood up. “At least you’re feeling better,” he said, lamely. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

“Anduin. Stay. Please.” Medivh hadn’t moved, but his eyes were wider when Anduin looked back at him. “Sit.”

Anduin slowly lowered himself back into the chair he had vacated. Medivh, meanwhile, had bitten into the little cake, and his eyes were closed as he chewed. Anduin knew this tactic as well. He was buying time to think.

Medivh finished the cake, and licked the traces of ganache from his fingers. “Anduin, listen to me. You tell me not to bottle things. And then you say something like that, and you wonder why I do, when you do the same thing?”

Anduin blinked. The fourteen-year-old was gone, replaced by a man much older. “Med, I didn’t—“

“No, shut up for a minute.” Medivh picked up his teacup. “I knew some of what was going on,” he said quietly. “I know about Cally. I know about Callan. And I know you love me, and Llane. It’s no secret. So what are you on about?”

“Medivh that’s not what I—“ Anduin ran a hand through his hair. “Llane is practically my brother. In truth as much as he was back when we were younger, now. But that’s not what I mean.”

“What do you mean, then?”

“Med – you’re my best friend. I… That comes first and foremost. But,” Anduin sighed, closing his eyes. “I think of you as more than that. Or rather, I want to. I did when we were younger. I just… I never said anything. You were dealing with those headaches and you looked so miserable every time we saw you, I couldn’t put more strain on you with something like that. I shouldn’t be doing so now.”

Medivh was quiet again. He sipped his tea, staring at the fireplace for a long moment. “You realize I… I can’t give you an answer right away. Particularly likely not the answer you’d want.”

Anduin nodded, slowly. “I… that’s why I didn’t—“

Medivh held up his hand. “I don’t know who I am, Anduin. It terrifies me. It terrifies me to wonder whether I am Medivh or just The Guardian to anyone.” He closed his eyes, and put down his teacup by feel. “At least I know that there is someone who remembers me from ten years ago, cared for me then, and clearly has done so as I lay unconscious, and having it be unknown whether I would wake up.” He opened his eyes and looked at Anduin for a long moment in silence. “But I … I won’t say it’s not what I want. I don’t know if it is or if it isn’t. I won’t say that it’s what I want – for the same reason. I don’t know if it is, or if it isn’t. What I can and will say, is that at least I know now, why you kissed me. And I know that it was not on a dare, or because of a joke. I just… I need time, Anduin.”

“You have it,” Anduin said at once. “I preferred to tell you all this when you’d had a chance to recover, to – to let your head settle and make an attempt to wrap around all that’s changed in the past ten years. That doesn’t happen overnight.” He sighed. “Llane has been on me to tell you how I feel. It’s what I actually originally came here for. Instead, you were in no fit state to do anything more than perhaps enjoy my company while you actually took care of yourself. All I ask is that you don’t lie to me, Med. If you find you do not want my attentions, tell me so. If you are not willing to see if things work, tell me so. If we do agree and things start to not work – talk to me. That’s all I ask. Don’t lie to me to preserve my feelings – and don’t lie to yourself for any reason at all.”

Medivh smiled, a ghost of a smile really, and held out a hand to Anduin, who immediately took it. “I promise. I… I don’t suppose you’d be willing to stay with me a while tonight? I don’t think I want to be alone.”

“I told Llane I would be here if he needed me. I am at your disposal.” Anduin smiled.

“Good,” Medivh said, relief evident in his voice. “Chess?”

“Will you let me win?”

“Ha! No.”

“… I can dream, can’t I? At least we have good snacks! I’ll move some of this aside if you get the board.”

Medivh beamed, the first smile to light his eyes since Anduin had come in. “You can dream. And you’re right. Let’s see how many times I can wipe the board with your pride before midnight!”

Chapter Text

VIII. Covert Operations

Medivh knew there was something wrong long before he heard a single word from either of his friends. There was a tension hovering about the Keep that was ominous. It felt much like a thunderstorm about to break, if he had to think about it.

In fact, as soon as he did think about it, the wind outside began to pick up. He sighed, set his book on Arcane Matrices and Constructs down on the table beside him, and got up to close the windows. He narrowed his eyes a little as a gust of wind whipped into the room, completely tangling his hair as he looked out towards the harbor.

What he saw there did not improve his mood. The low black clouds that flickered on occasion were not something he really wanted to see. He closed his eyes, sighed, then took a deep breath of the lightning-charged air before closing the shutters as well as the windows, latching them carefully against the possibility of whipping everything in his little sitting room into a mess as tangled as his hair.

Without even thinking about it, he ran a hand through his hair in an attempt to straighten it out as he selected one of the containers of tea from his mantel shelf, one that was a pain killing tea that wouldn’t leave his stomach in knots after.

He anticipated the joint aches and the headache to come from the storm. He could handle headaches – he’d had those since he was barely seven. But the joint aches…

Oh how he hated those. Sadly, they were an artifact of his lying so still for so long as he was still growing. The priests at Northshire could only do so much for him as he lay there. They moved his joints, kept him from losing mobility – when they didn’t really have to do anything at all other than to check that he was still breathing. But they hadn’t. They cared for him very well during his ten-year nap.

He stretched as he spooned a bit of the mixture into his teapot, already starting to feel the aches. Well, with any luck, the mood that he felt around the Keep would break when the storm did. Perhaps that was what it was.

He waited for the tea to steep and began pacing to keep his knees and hips limber and so his legs wouldn’t ache later, slowly counting to one hundred. Once he had finished, he stirred the pot of tea to be sure that it wasn’t just settled in one spot and that it had steeped evenly, then poured a cup and added cream to cool it.

He had just finished draining the first cup and had poured a second when he heard voices – loud voices. Angry voices. He blinked, frowned, then heard the knock on his door. He shrugged, then went out to answer it.

Llane and Anduin both stood there, both of them looking as though each of them were ready to kill. Taken a little aback, Medivh backed away from the door before speaking. “Are you two all right? What happened? What is happening?”

The Prince and the Captain stepped inside, and Anduin closed the door and bolted it. Llane sighed, shaking his head. Medivh noticed that his hands were shaking as well. He looked from one to the other, confused – and wondering what in the name of the Old Gods he could possibly have done wrong to make them this angry.

“Do you remember,” Llane said softly, “the troll incursion that happened some time ago? In Westfall?” Medivh nodded, slowly. “Well, they returned. The border guard is half gone. Another war band got in, and got damn near to Sentinel Hill before they were stopped.”

Medivh frowned, dropping his eyes, clearly thinking. Sentinel Hill was a ‘newer’ settlement, of only the past eight years or so, and so when he woke up he had not been familiar with it. “That’s… That’s really far north! What happened?” He looked up again, alarmed. Nothing should have gotten as far as that considering where the border to Stranglethorn actually was.

“Brightwood’s just a …” Llane sighed. “In all honesty, I was a little surprised they didn’t go up to Grand Hamlet and then across, but they didn’t. They edged along the river, according to the retreat they took when they were caught.”

Anduin shook his head. “That’s what we assume, since that’s the only place there were any signs, so we really don’t even know.”

Medivh looked between the two as they spoke. “What’s being done?” he asked, feeling sick. Anduin had grown up in Grand Hamlet. They had met in Goldshire by accident – when his father got his Commission to the Guard and started training his son to follow him. He did have to wonder why they didn’t take the town, but if they had just skirted the river…

“And that’s what’s making us angry. Nothing. Nothing is being done. Father and I have argued this for … well. You were still asleep. It’s been long enough that something should have been done by now but, nothing. Just promises to reinforce the border guards. To reinforce the garrisons. To send in reinforcements to the places that got hit, if anyone or anything is still standing, or to make sure those who fell were not taken by the trolls for their unholy rituals.” Llane began pacing the sitting room from the fireplace to the door. “It’s something he just won’t budge on. He says that he doesn’t want to stir them… but they don’t need stirring and never did. They’re getting bolder with every move!”

“Not only that, but it’s putting a strain on the Guard and the Brotherhood. We’re not doing so great right now. And now we’re all spread out all over Brightwood, Westfall and Elwynn, what if they decide to just come up here en masse? If the Guard is all over the place how in the name of all the Gods are we supposed to defend Stormwind?” Anduin sighed. “Med… Med, we need your help.”

Medivh paled. “What…? Why me?”

“Because you have a very good mind, a fresh look at this where we’ve been embroiled in it for months, and you do have a decent head for tactics, what with all the chess you play.” Llane grinned at him.

Medivh laughed, relieved. “All right then. You might want to send for dinner to be brought up then, we’ll be at this a while. Did you bring maps with you? Reports?”

Both Llane and Anduin gave him a look of hero-worship as Llane went to have dinner sent up, Anduin went to get the maps and reports from his office.

Medivh returned to his parlor and frowned at it. He rearranged it slightly so that they could all be comfortable in looking over maps, reaching for food, and he pulled down his spare teapot to make a pot of peacebloom tea since he didn’t think the others would much like the pain medicine he was drinking. He also lit more lamps so the room was a little brighter. It was no war room, but for their purposes it would do.

Thunder rattled the windows, and he chanced pulling back the heavy drapery to listen to the storm. The wind had picked up and the shutters rattled a little as thunder shook the walls again. He dropped the drapes back into place and sighed, reaching for his cooling tea and warming it with a spell before sipping at it.

An hour later, the storm raged harder outside, but it did not deter the three young men within the sitting room. Llane was watching as Anduin pointed out, from the reports, the lines the border guards had taken, the progress of the trolls in the first incursion, then the second, then the third, and how they were tracked and stopped in each.

Medivh watched from his chair, his mind working. Llane pointed out a flaw in the guard positioning, and Anduin noted it. Medivh had remained quiet as the two worked their way through up until the present, and his eyes went to the towns and settlements that had been destroyed, damaged or removed from the map entirely, razed to the ground, the people there killed to the last child.

Something in him stirred – something he had not expected. It wasn’t comfortable at all, and he wasn’t sure he liked it. At the same time…

He couldn’t let this go on. He didn’t want to let this go on. But he didn’t know what to do. He wasn’t sure how he could help.

Finally, Anduin leaned back on the couch beside Llane and sighed. “And that brings us up to date,” he said with a sigh, reaching for a wedge of cheese.

Medivh had not yet eaten anything, his entire attention on the map and Anduin and Llane’s input. He studied things as though it were nothing but a game of chess, and tried to keep it as abstract as he could. Finally, he reached for a slice of bread and laid sliced meat on it, still silent, still staring at the map.

Llane glanced at him, clearly wondering if he would speak at all. Anduin knew better and leaned in to say something to him, to which Llane nodded slightly. Medivh figured he told the prince to be patient. Finally, after Medivh had eaten something, he leaned over to study the map.

“What have you got left, Anduin?” he asked quietly. The answer was ‘not much’. Medivh looked over the map, pointing out strategic points that had been left unguarded or under guarded through the reports. He pointed out where more trolls could get in.

Anduin ran his hands through his hair. “That’s just the problem, Med. We don’t have enough to cover that anymore. Everyone from here,” he pointed to a spot just at the river separating Brightwood and Elwynn, “to here,” he pointed at a spot up the river in Westfall, “is now gone.”

Medivh swore softly. Llane looked at him for a long moment. “There is of course,” he said carefully, “the idea of sending a small force to deal with them for good.” Anduin went pale, and Medivh looked at him. “We could take out the leaders ordering these incursions. Inform them in no uncertain terms that we do not appreciate, and will not tolerate this.”

“Llane –“ Anduin began, but Llane cut him off.

“We’ve been talking about it for days, Anduin. And we have someone now who is key to that.” Llane looked up at Medivh, who looked back with wide and frightened eyes. The look in Llane’s eyes was as steely and unmoving as the armor he wore when he went out with Anduin’s riders. Brothers, he corrected himself.

“What are you talking about?” Medivh managed, his face heating, and the rest of him going cold. He reached for his tea – peacebloom, this time – and cradled his cup.

“We could go and take out those leaders, Med. Just the three of us. You’re a mage. You can work from a distance. We can get you in, and then –“ Anduin started, but stopped as he watched the fear on Medivh’s face rise.

Medivh’s eyes were wide as he shook his head. “I.. I can’t. I can’t do that. I have no idea what I should do, what I should be doing. I don’t know the right kinds of magic to do any of that.”

“You do, Medivh,” Anduin said softly. “Not only that, but… well. Look at who you are.” Medivh gave him a blank look.

“You’re the Guardian, Medivh,” Llane pointed out with cold logic. “Isn’t this something you’re meant to do? Protect the people from mindless, meaningless slaughter?”

Medivh looked down at the map. And then closed his eyes. Was he? Was this part of what his duties would entail?

A promise came back to him, from some twelve years prior – that no matter who it was he was guarding against, or what he was doing, he would be there if Anduin or Llane needed him. Wasn’t this one of the times they needed him specifically? Was this an ethical use of what power he held? Or was this just an excuse to manipulate him because he had all the power he had and never wanted?

He swallowed, audibly. “I…” He looked up, first at Anduin, then at Llane. “I cannot make this decision tonight. I need time.”

“You have time, so long as you don’t take ten more years,” Llane smiled. “Until then, we can point these flaws and suggestions out to my father and get the orders to get some of the protective lines in place that you suggested.”

“And it will give me the time to get greens up into readiness and also place them in a spot where they may see action, but not action that would instantly mean their deaths. Green mixed with seasoned is always best anyway.” Anduin smiled, matching Llane’s.

Medivh wasn’t certain he liked those smiles, but then, what could he do? “Fair enough,” he said quietly.

Anduin looked at him for a moment, elbowed Llane, then reached for the counters, the maps and anything else war related and folded, rolled or otherwise put it away, moving the food into prominent position. “Enough, then. We have what we need. Now we can put our minds elsewhere. I think you’ve been short on court gossip, Medivh. Did you hear that this idiot finally got around to proposing to my sister?”

Medivh’s head lifted, and he gave Llane a look of incredulity. “Just.. now? I thought you’d gotten at least that far while I was asleep, considering that this numbskull was married and had a child while I was having my nap!”

Llane laughed. “No, it was a long and complicated thing. I am not the Captain of the Guard, or the Leader of the Brotherhood, Twit-monger of the Calvary, or Barbarian Supreme – I had to jump through hoops so that first of all my father would like her, that she would be accepted as noble enough as Nitwit here was, and that she was Suitable for the Heir to the Throne.” Llane rolled his eyes, pronouncing each capital letter with precision.

Anduin punched his arm. “That’s Commander Nitwit to you, Mister Heir To The Throne,” he shot back, grinning. “That’s my sister you’re slandering.”

“That’s my future wife I’m looking out for, you mean,” Llane shot back, then turned to Medivh again, noticing that one dark eyebrow was raised at the two of them. “Yes. I proposed. She accepted. I’m stuck with this idiot as my future brother-in-law.”

Medivh grinned, setting his cup down and reaching for more bread, meat, cheese and fruit. “I’m not sure whether I should tender compliments, sympathy or congratulations. I mean, I know Taria is a lovely woman, and has a brain to match, but goodness. Anduin a part of the Royal Family by marriage? We’re doomed!”

Anduin leveled a Look at Medivh. “Did becoming the Guardian change who you are? You’re still the snarky, quick-witted bookworm we’ve always known, the quiet one with the sharp tongue and the pinpointed words to take down any idiot.”

“That was… unexpectedly eloquent, Anduin,” Medivh replied, looking surprised. “I think hanging around Court has rubbed off on you.” He blushed a little. “Though you are right. I was a Guardian from birth – but it is not all that I am. But, Anduin, my friend, you’re still just a barbarian with a silver tongue.” He tried to look stern, but as Llane doubled over laughing, and Anduin stared at Medivh with his mouth open, he couldn’t stop himself, setting his plate down before he lost his meal as well as his composure.

 

Llane had gathered up the maps and departed to talk to his father. Medivh and Anduin sat over the chess table, tea at one hand and the remainder of the fruit at the other.

Anduin stared at the board, his fingers caressing the pale wood of one of his pawns, then shifted it forward. Medivh looked at the move, scanned the board, then reached with a decisive motion to whip a bishop in front of it, effectively blocking its path.

Anduin sighed, staring down at the board, frowning. He had been almost cornered twice, thrown off by just how quickly Medivh could move. Well, let him. He would study the situation, study the moves… Now Anduin be fair. You know damn well that’s what he’s doing, just a lot faster. He’s a mage, and thus can handle calculations it would take you days to work through in heartbeats. Magic requires that kind of thing. He reached out, his fingers hovering over his right-side knight, which had been ready to take the place of the pawn in question before he moved it. But… wait. If he…

The knight could move a space to the side and wind up on the bad side of the bishop, but if he moved it two to the side, he might be able to get around the bishop entirely and get behind his enemy’s lines. Perhaps. His eyes roved the board, and discovered the rook that was seemingly abandoned halfway up the board. There was nothing around it, and it was in the perfect line to be captured by a pawn. How had he missed that? When did that happen? Ah – Ah ha! The bishop had been a threat before. Now it was not.

Anduin smirked, then captured the rook with the pawn, leaving its path clear to the end of the board – for now anyway.

Medivh actually looked startled, looking over the board and wondering just how he had managed to leave that rook in the – ah. Damn it all. Well, that was fine. It wasn’t much of a concern. He moved one of his knights behind the pawn.

Anduin frowned. That move had made little sense to him, but sure, that would do. He moved his own rook back over to the end of the board, threatening the knight, then looked up at Medivh with a lifted eyebrow.

Medivh laughed, moved the knight into a position that the rook couldn’t reach, then looked up at Anduin. “Check.”

“What?!” Anduin stared at the board in disbelief, looking over the pieces, and realized that he had left his king wide open. He muttered something that was rather unflattering to Medivh’s parents and involved something that would probably not be anatomically possible involving a dragon, a pack-mule and a mountain. He then moved his king to the side, looked at the board again, and nodded. Anything else that could reach that section would be easily taken care of.

Medivh laughed. “Barbaric, and I assure you that there was nothing equine involved, unless you insist that my mother could not use teleportation as easily as breathing.” He moved his bishop and took one of Anduin’s knights. “Check.”

Anduin blinked. Looked. Blinked again. “How did you even -?” He shook his head, leaned back a little and plucked a couple of grapes from their vine. As he ate them, he stared hard at the board, and sent his queen to take the bishop. He needed to get on the offensive before Medivh could corner him. “Hold,” he said, quietly.

Medivh looked up as Anduin stood. “The tea,” the warrior explained, heading for Medivh’s bedroom. Medivh chuckled, then leaned back, absently reaching for an apple and a knife. He peeled it, sugared the peel and ate that as he waited for Anduin’s return. And then slipped his rook back onto the board in a position that made no sense, and would likely not be noticed until it was too late. He began slicing the apple into wedges so he could eat them with some of the cheese.

Anduin returned, and settled himself down, reaching for one of the pears left, the other knife, and some cheese, carefully slicing the pear, having the same idea as Medivh. “Did you move?”

Medivh shook his head. “Not while you couldn’t see the move,” he said, grinning. “Wouldn’t be fair.”

“Ah,” Anduin said, taking a bite of a pear slice and soft white cheese at the same time.

Medivh reached out and moved his own queen into a more defensive position. “Nothing major for me to do just yet. Not until you get out of that mess in the corner. Though I think you’ve got yourself a good defense for the moment.” He eyed the board, nodded once and grinned. “For the moment,” he repeated softly.

Anduin looked the board over, frowning at the queen as he finished his pear slice and cheese wedge together. “Hmm,” he intoned as he chewed, swallowed, then reached out to move his remaining knight to take one of the two rooks. He blinked. Frowned. Then picked the rook up from the board, his knight forgotten. “Medivh. Didn’t I capture this like five moves ago? From over there?” He pointed at the other end of the board where his pawn sat, right where he had captured said rook.

Medivh frowned, looked over the board as he bit into another slice of apple. He raised a finger, tracing patterns in the air over the board, then shook his head. “No? Not that I can recall. You took a pawn there, that I’d forgotten about, but no, both my rooks have been over here by my king the whole time.”

Anduin looked at Medivh for a long time. Medivh looked back, his eyes steady. Almost. No. There. There it was. “I did capture that rook,” Anduin said at last. “And you put it back on the board while I was occupied. I had a feeling…”

Medivh continued to look guileless for another moment before he smiled. Anduin broke down into laughter, and Medivh followed. “It only took you two moves. You’re getting better,” Medivh said quietly. “Now. Can you get around it?”

“I’d be a poor tactician if I couldn’t.” Anduin put the rook decisively down on the side of the board. “All right, cheater,” he said as he picked up another slice of his pear. “Let’s see if I can push you back.”

Two hours later, he had. Barely. But he had. Even though Medivh cheated twice more.

 

“We need a vacation before one of us destroys something,” Llane muttered over breakfast a few days later.

“Then perhaps to get away from this whole thing, you three should go off like you did years ago. It has been some time since the three of you have had that chance, and I think it would do Medivh some good,” Barathen said with a note of steel in his voice. “The three of you have been upset enough with the goings on around here, so perhaps it’s time you got out of here. Just because you are older does not mean you do not need time away. And just because you are older does not mean that you are not entitled to it.”

Medivh looked up, his eyes wide as he carefully set his tea mug down. “But… Sir. My studies.”

“My troops,” Anduin added.

“We can’t just leave!” Llane finished for all of them.

“Your studies will be right where you left them,” Barathen said to Medivh. “Your troops can listen to one of your lieutenants for a few days – you have already done more than fine with the orders to get everyone reshuffled in Westfall and in Brightwood. Your orders can be carried out without your nose in it. And you,” he turned from Anduin to Llane, “have been like a powder keg in a forge! One spark from the forge in the wrong direction…”

Llane had the grace to blush. “I…”

Barathen cut him off. “Enough. I want the three of you packed and somewhere out in Elwynn by sundown. Don’t come back for a few days, is that understood?”

He got a subdued “Yes, Sir,” from all three, and the rest of breakfast went smoothly, talking about Court gossip and assessing Medivh’s studies, and Callan’s well-being and when Llane was finally going to marry.

After breakfast, however, Anduin and Medivh found themselves grabbed by an arm and dragged into Llane’s rooms, where he started talking so fast that neither of the other two could understand him. Finally, Anduin managed to catch what Llane was saying, and his eyes widened.

“And he said days. This is our chance!”

Medivh frowned, licked his lips, and sighed. “I… I don’t know about this. I don’t know if it’s a good idea. I mean –“

“Med, we’ll be on vacation. No one has to know that it was us. We were just camping in Brightwood, or took a night in Stranglethorn just over the border. We can bring home something to prove it.”

Anduin frowned. “It…” He licked his lips, and began pacing, his military mind at work. “It gives us an excuse to be armed; we’d have to hunt, after all. It gives an excuse to be gone. What if we’re tailed?”

“Then we throw them off,” Llane said excitedly.

“And if we don’t come back? It’s not like the three of us can just disappear, Llane. You’re the damned prince. My son’s not going to appreciate that he would have to take over for his father at the age of what? Seven? And Med can’t exactly disappear without someone noticing and I’m not sure you really want the Guardian’s Wrath brought down on Stormwind for losing her son!” Anduin glared Llane for a moment.

“If we discover that we are unable to take on what we find,” Medivh said quietly, almost reluctantly, “I can teleport us home. They would never know where we were from, who we were.” It seemed he had reluctantly resigned himself to the expedition.

“Either way, we’re being told to get out of here. So. I suggest we do. Couple of hours, at the stables?” Llane asked after no one else spoke for a long moment.

“Two hours. By the stables,” Anduin confirmed.

“We’ll be there.” Medivh smiled. “It’ll be nice to see something other than walls, buildings, books…”

“We do need the time,” Anduin confirmed. “All right then. Let’s get going.”

They fell right back into their old patterns, without more than a look at one another.

Llane would pack changes of clothing, his travel kit that included a repair kit, his bedroll, and a tent, then go in search of maps and navigational equipment, make sure they were armed and armored, and get their horses tacked.

Anduin would pack his clothing, his repair kit, his bedroll, a tent, and cooking and camp, bathing and other supplies that would generally make a camp an easier place to ‘live’.

Medivh knew his job was to pack his clothing, a bedroll, his repair kit, and to hunt for provisions.

He tied his clothing pack shut, frowning a little as he wondered if he’d missed anything. Within it was not only his clothing, but some spell components – he would not leave without at least a small, but complete, kit. There were not many spells he knew that required much preparation, but one never knew. Once he’d finished he headed for the pantries.

The same cook who had sent Anduin with so much when he learned that it was Medivh he was taking it to, met Medivh there as the mage was browsing. When he discovered the three were going on a camping trip, he grinned with glee.

“You can take some of my kits then!” he exclaimed. Medivh stared at him. “Oh don’t look at me like that. I know you’ll be huntin’ most of the time, but sometimes game just don’ wanna be found, hey? So ye take some of these, and no problem on that meal or three. Now just stay ‘ere.” He bustled off and returned with several wrapped packages, each of them tied in string, bearing a tag labeled neatly. “Here – dried meat and vegetables, in case ye find nothing. Just empty one o’ these into yer stewpot and let it cook a whiles. Here – separate in case y’ don’t find one or th’ other. And here,” he handed Medivh a small bag. “Spices! Put a couple o’ pinches o’ this into your pot with whatever ye found or in these,” he said, indicating the other packages, “an’ you’ll be right at home.”

Medivh’s eyebrows rose as each package was presented, and he packed them carefully. “Bless you,” he said simply, but sincerely. “This will make life much easier while we’re out there.”

“Nothing I don’ send with a traveling garrison. Here also – bread that will keep a few days, and mix this,” he set a last bag on top of what Medivh had already packed, “with water and you’ll have new. I already know you have a pot you c’n bury in embers.” The cook beamed as Medivh thanked him again, and was very surprised at the weight – or rather, lack of it – when he lifted the pack of provisions.

“It’s all so light,” he mused.

“’S why the army is so well provisioned!” The cook smiled. “Off with you now, while hunting is still good!”

 

Medivh met the others at the stables, where Llane and Anduin had already had their horses rigged, and were loading their packs, both dressed in light armor. Anduin handed Medivh a bow and a quiver, which he slung over the front of his saddle.

He had changed into what looked little like armor, considering it was only a heavier version of the robes he dressed in normally. The surcoat he wore was just that, fine silk. Underneath, however, he was wearing a heavier robe with a leather cuirass, and his belt was slung with a long dagger and a light rapier, his staff harnessed to his back. The robes were stiffer than he was used to, but he knew that even with magic, if someone got to him, the armor would be enough for him to gain a moment or two to break away and cast.

He felt Anduin’s eyes on him, and looked up. “Those are new,” was the warrior’s only comment.

“And stiff for it,” Medivh complained, slinging his saddlebags over the back of the saddle blanket and buckling them in place. “It’ll take me a bit to get used to, but I promise they won’t hinder me.”

“Not sure how you’re going to ride if—“ Llane began, but Medivh swung himself up, revealing the split in the skirting, and offering a flash of the heavy trousers beneath. “Never mind.” He grinned up at Medivh as he moved to mount as well. “We have a couple of hours until sundown, and we need to hunt down dinner. Let’s get going.”

Anduin tugged the cinch of his saddle once more, then swung himself up on his own mount. “Agreed. Let’s go.”

Chapter Text

IX. Raven’s Flight

Sunset through the trees of Elwynn was spectacular. Medivh couldn’t help but look up and admire it once he had gotten the tents up. He sighed in content as a breeze picked up and made the branches and their dying leaves above rustle. It was almost like wind-chimes, and it had been a very long time since Medivh had heard it – and the songs of frogs, insects and sleepy birds settling for sleep.

They had chosen to camp on the bank of Crystal Lake for the night before turning to the south and Brightwood.  Rather than taking roads, they were taking game trails or completely ignoring roads and paths altogether so they could enjoy themselves and the wilderness.

Llane returned to camp with firewood, Anduin with water. They looked at Medivh, who stood with the stake mallet still in one hand, looking up, entranced. They followed his gaze and Llane made a soft sound.

“If that’s not a good omen,” Anduin said quietly, “I don’t know what is.”

The sky was turning a rich ruby red, streaked with orange and yellow, and glowed oddly where the sun was below the line of trees. All three of them knew the saying “Red sky at night, sailors delight, red sky in the morning, sailors take warning”, and judging from the red now slowly turning to purple as the oranges and yellows faded to grey, they would have nothing but perfect weather for this trip.

Just before the sun dipped below the horizon, the sky burst into one last splash of color, turning the sky into a blood red hue, streaked with violet. And then the sky faded into pinks and soft purples surrounded by grey.

Medivh finally tore his eyes from the sky, and blushed. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to –“

“It was worth it,” Llane assured him. “The tents are up, you’ve already set up a fire and cooking things are laid out.”

“And now we hunt,” Anduin said, grinning. He pulled out his bow and quiver and slung both over his back. “Do you want to finish setting up here, or come hunt?” he asked Medivh.

Medivh chuckled. “I’m not really great at hunting, so I’ll sit this one out and get us comfortable here.”

Llane took his own bow and quiver. “Then we’ll be back, hopefully with something tasty.” He waved, and he and Anduin vanished into the growing darkness of the tree line.

Medivh turned his attention back to their campsite. With a gesture, he started a fire in the pit he had carefully cut and lined with stones, set up a folding tripod and set the stew pot on it. He poured in most of the water so it could be boiled and safer to drink. While the water heated, he settled their bedrolls – Llane’s in one tent, his and Anduin’s in the other. He felt a little nervous about sharing a tent with Anduin after so long, and especially after they’d talked.

He sat down by the fire and began whittling and peeling sticks from the woodpile so they could spear various things on them, or he could use them as impromptu weapons at need. Once that was done, he moved off a bit, keeping the fire within sight with the addition of a mage light bobbing above his shoulder, so he could do some foraging.

Luck seemed to be with Medivh, as he found a patch of wild greens, onions and white tubers. He made sure they weren’t infested, and were still edible, and went to wash them. Once the dirt had been scrubbed away as best as he could at the lake, he returned to cut them over the pot. He frowned, wishing he could have found some root vegetables like carrots or even turnips to add, but this would work just as well. He added a generous pinch of the spices the cook had given him, and within moments the savory scent rose into the air. He measured out grain from another of his saddlebags and fed their mounts, which had been tethered close enough to the water that they could drink, and had plenty of lead to graze.

That done, he looked around. Full dark had fallen, and the camp was as comfortable as he could make it. It wasn’t long before Anduin and Llane returned, bearing two rabbits and a fat squirrel. “Good hunting?” Medivh asked as the other two pulled off armor and weapons and settled to gut, clean and skin their kills.

“Wasn’t bad. Probably could have had three of these bunnies, but I missed,” Anduin shrugged.

Medivh shrugged back. “Either way, they’ll be good.”

“Speaking of,” Llane said as he ran his knife between a rabbit’s skin and flesh, “what is that delightful smell? What did you find?”

“Nothing much, some white potatoes, field greens and onions, all wild, over that way,” he pointed in the direction he’d gone foraging. “And one of the cooks gave me some spices and herbs to add to our stews and soups.”

“Ah ha!” Llane exclaimed, grinning. “That explains that. I know the one you’re talking about too – did he give you also packages of preserved meats and vegetables?”

“He did, yes.” Medivh looked a little surprised. “Said he usually sent the same packages out with any soldiers who are traveling, in case hunting doesn’t go well.”

“And the man’s a genius,” Anduin put in as he tugged the skin off his rabbit and began cutting the meat into more or less cube-shaped bits, dropping them into the pot as he worked. “He somehow manages to make those packages not so salty that it feels like we’re using sea water to make our food, and the spices make it even less pronounced.” He wrapped the offal into the rabbit skin and set it aside as he went to work on the squirrel.

Llane added his rabbit to the pot, also in rough cubes, likewise wrapped the offal in the skin of his rabbit, and waited until Anduin had finished with the squirrel before taking all three pelts and burying them at the very edge of the firelight, near the trees.

Medivh gave the pot a stir with a long wooden spoon, and nodded in satisfaction. He put the spoon back down on the cloth he’d set aside for it to keep it off the grass, then stood and stretched. Llane did the same, giving Medivh a look, then nodded towards the trees with a questioning lift of his eyebrow. Medivh patted Anduin, told him to keep an eye out, and went to accompany Llane.

One of their unspoken rules was that none of them went away from the camp after dark alone, for any reason. Medivh, being a mage, tended to be the one who volunteered, since he could produce a light source. He followed Llane into the trees for a way before Llane stopped. Pointedly, Medivh moved off a little, leaving his little mage light to hover between where they were taking care of their needs. Before they went anywhere else, however, Llane caught his shoulder.

“Has Anduin talked to you?” Medivh tilted his head a little in reply, so he went on. “About how he feels about you,” Llane clarified.

“Ah. We have discussed it in brief, yes.” Medivh lowered his eyes and shifted a little in discomfort. He wasn’t sure he wanted to discuss this.

“Better than nothing I suppose.” Llane nodded in the direction of the lake, and Medivh followed. “I take it you two haven’t decided one way or the other?”

Medivh sighed as Llane began to strip down, and followed his example. “Not really. I asked for time. I’m not entirely certain just how I feel. I do love him, as I do you, but… After being asleep for ten years, I wasn’t entirely sure how to handle something like this. I don’t feel any older yet than when I went into that coma.”

“That may change,” Llane said as he moved into the shallows and began to wash up. Medivh joined him, shivering a little in the chill water. “Are you doing better at least?”

“I am,” Medivh replied once he had ducked his head and washed it. “I am not as disoriented, and my body no longer feels… like it’s not mine.”

Llane chuckled, finishing up his wash and stepping out into the cooler night air. “That’s something. For your sake I hope the rest of it proceeds just as well, and just as quickly.” Medivh’s reply was to submerge himself in the water to rinse himself off.

Once he had gotten out again, he shrugged one shoulder. “It will be what it will be,” he said softly.

Llane squeezed out his hair, then began pulling his clothing on again. “I have a feeling something will happen on this trip. I’m not sure what, or whether it will be good or bad. I only ask one thing.” Medivh paused in pulling his robe on, looking at Llane with one eyebrow lifted. “If you two get amorous, put up a silence spell or something, hm?”

Medivh laughed. “I promise. Though I seriously doubt anything is going to happen out here.”

Llane snorted. “It might, you never know.”

“What do you know that I don’t?” Medivh demanded as they started back to the campsite.

“Nothing, Medivh, I swear. I just know that out here, there is nothing to stop you two from actually having that talk, and deciding what you might want to do. I just don’t want to be privy to that or to any aftermath.” Llane grinned. “I mean. I hear tell that Anduin can be loud.”

Medivh turned a brilliant shade of scarlet, and was glad that the light was so dim as to hide it. “I’ll keep that in mind,” was all the answer he would give.

When they got back to camp, Medivh accompanied Anduin out for the same purposes. He also shared what Llane had said.

Anduin snorted as he stripped by the lake when Medivh had completed his recount. “Does he think I’ll try to seduce you out here?”

“Worse things have been implied,” Medivh shot back. “I mean we are sharing a tent.”

“That’s because we always did. I didn’t think changing that would.. oh, never mind.” Anduin ducked under the water then began to scrub himself off. “At least we’ll be warmer. The temperature isn’t exactly the warmest. We’re not yet at the point where there will be frost on the ground come morning, but we are going to be chilled at night if we are not careful.”

“Hmm. Is that why Llane brought extra blankets for us all?” Medivh asked, leaning back on his hands on the grassy bank of the lake.

“Likely. I didn’t bother, since I knew I was going to be sharing. I seem to remember that you were able to keep warm up against my back.” Anduin grinned, his teeth flashing whitely in the glow of the mage light.

“I can’t help it if I gravitate towards warmth,” Medivh pouted, giving Anduin a long-suffering look. Anduin laughed, and he went on, “besides – I never heard you complaining about the extra warmth I provided!”

“No, and you won’t hear me complain about it now.” Anduin got out and squeezed his hair, shivering a little. The temperature was lowering now that the sun had completely set, and full dark had come. The stars overhead were pinpricks of light on the black velvet of the sky, and neither moon was up yet.

They returned to huddle by the fire as Medivh checked on the stew, which they had been able to smell before they got back to camp. It was such a good scent that both their stomachs growled at it, making them both laugh at the other.

Not long later, Medivh was ladling stew into bowls and passing them to the others, and also passed out bread to go with it. They ate in silence, and once finished, Anduin and Llane took their dishes to the lake, accompanied by one of Medivh’s mage lights. Medivh covered the pot, and carefully took it from the tripod and set it at the edge of the fire pit so it would stay warm until morning, when they could reheat it fully for breakfast. He poured them all mugs of wine from one of the bottles he’d brought, and when the other two set their bowls and utensils on the cloth to dry, took the mugs with thanks. A quick spell warmed them, and they all sighed in contentment as the warmed spiced wine spread its heat through them all.

The last time they had been out, they had not been allowed wine, but they did have cider. Right now, none of them cared past that it was warm, and in turn warming their insides.

“It’s so strange,” Llane said softly as he looked up at the sky. “I feel much younger.”

“Probably because the three of us have not had this opportunity in a little more than ten years,” Anduin replied. “We used to do this all the time.”

“A night of camping, midnight swims in the lake, without a care in the world, for just one night.” Medivh sighed. “It feels wonderful. Sure I wish I’d brought a book, but… The sky is beautiful. The stars bright. The air crisp. The fire warm. The company good. We needed this.”

“We did, didn’t we?” Anduin murmured, looking up like the others.

“And we’ve been ordered not to return for days.” Llane smiled. “All of us needed this break.”

Medivh drank the last of his wine and set his cup down, then filled the little kettle they had with water and put it by the fire to heat water for morning. Anduin took Medivh’s cup and he and Llane went to rinse them and set them with the rest.

Llane gave the other two an odd, significant look before bidding them a good night and slipping into his tent.

An awkward silence fell. Medivh sighed, staring into the flames of the fire. Anduin began to pick at a twig in his hands, breaking it into tiny bits and tossing them into the fire. It was several moments before either of them spoke.

“This seemed like a good idea this morning. Should I have packed an extra tent?” Anduin asked.

“No. I think we’d have been fine if Llane hadn’t given us that look. But I’m not going to let it ruin my evening,” Medivh replied quietly enough that Llane wouldn’t hear him. He looked up at Anduin. “Are you?”

Anduin chuckled and shook his head. “No, I suppose I shouldn’t. This is far too similar to what it was years ago, other than it’s the middle of autumn and not the height of summer.” He leaned back on his hands, stretching his legs out to one side of the fire, and looked up at the sky. One of the moons’ light was starting to show on the trees, though until it rose further, he could not tell which it was. “You once tried to teach me constellations,” he said quietly. “Though I admit I’m not sure I remember all of them.”

Medivh stretched out similarly, and looked up. “I remember that. You told me you had no head for it. But you remember.”

They sat as they were in silence for a while, letting the fire crackling be the only sound. Finally, Anduin sighed. “We should get some sleep. Knowing Llane, he’ll have us up at dawn to keep moving.” He hauled himself to his feet and held out a hand to Medivh.

Medivh looked up, then took his hand. “Likely. At least nothing will interrupt our sleep. Unless we get attacked by wolves.”

Anduin nudged his shoulder. “Hush, you’ll jinx us.”

Medivh laughed, and gestured at the fire, which banked itself. “Never. I’m a mage, not a witch doctor.”

Anduin snorted as he slipped into the tent and pulled his light armor and boots off. Medivh looked around a little with the last of the firelight, a mage light and what was showing of the White Lady over the trees. All was quiet. Medivh waited until Anduin had settled before slipping into the tent himself, and pulling off his outer robes and boots, leaving them beside Anduin’s things.

 He slid down into his blankets with a sigh, wondering how long it would take him to get to sleep. He didn’t remember closing his eyes.

He woke with a start, his eyes snapping open. It was still dark. He could hear Llane snoring faintly not far away. He could not hear Anduin’s snores, however, and he tried to sit up to look around – but he was unable to. There was an unexpected weight across his chest, and his left side was warmer than his right. Only then did he catch Anduin’s slow breathing, mostly because it was brushing against his skin. He bit back the urge to laugh.

Anduin had cuddled close, one arm draped over Medivh’s chest, one leg half draped over his hip, his head on Medivh’s shoulder. With a mental shrug, Medivh shifted to return that favor, liking the warmth.

The moment Medivh had moved, Anduin’s eyes opened, glowing dimly in the light from the moon outside reflecting through the canvas. Medivh froze, and almost immediately, Anduin began to pull away.

“Don’t,” Medivh whispered. “You’re warm.” When Anduin didn’t relax, he sighed. “Go back to sleep,” he urged softly.

Anduin didn’t move for a moment, even after Medivh told him to go back sleep. “You don’t mind?”

“If I minded, you’d have been dropped in the lake,” Medivh chuckled, keeping his voice to a low whisper.

Anduin made a soft noise, then shifted as Medivh did so they were both more comfortable. He reached down and tugged their blankets into more or less a better position for them both. When he lifted his head, he caught Medivh staring at him. “What?”

Medivh shifted again, and suddenly Anduin felt lips against his. His eyes closed as he melted into it. When Medivh drew back, they stared at one other in the darkness, then Medivh shifted again, laying his head back down on his arm and his cloak, which he had used as a pillow. He tugged a little, pulling Anduin to curl up against him. “That’s what,” he said softly.

“Med—“

“We can talk about it tomorrow. When I am certain I won’t say or do something stupid. For now – just … just keep me warm?” There was something more Medivh was asking, and Anduin smiled a little as he lowered his head. “I’m not going anywhere.”

 

The next morning did have them up as soon as the sun had risen, though not at dawn or before. The only one who complained at the hour was Medivh, predictably. They fed their horses, ate the leftover stew with more bread, then cleaned and packed up to move on.

They skirted around a territory near the river where the murlocs had laid claim to the land, and left the things well alone, since they didn’t seem to notice the three riders or their mounts as they forded the river down into Brightwood.

“You think this is where they headed toward Westfall?” Llane asked.

Anduin shook his head. “They didn’t come up this far.” He turned to the west to follow the river. “They followed the river south of here, and didn’t bother with Brightwood at all.” He looked at Llane. “I think we should follow the way they came up, but on this side of the river, and see if we can’t find where they’re coming from.”

Medivh urged his mount so he could talk to the two of them. “If they left tracks. The jungle trolls tend to move through the trees, much like the forest variety.”

“Stay on guard then. They may be up this far.” Llane leaned down and loosened the straps holding his axe to the saddle.

Medivh shook his head a little; he was having misgivings about this trip. Something in his gut would not be still, and the skin on the back of his neck crawled. The other two were determined, however, so he said nothing.

They saw nothing as they followed the river, then turned south along it. By the time dusk began to fall, they had reached the road that lead either across a bridge to Westfall, or back east toward Sunnyglade. They continued south along the river a way until they found a good place to set up camp.

This time, none of them remained at camp; they all guarded one another – just in case. By the time they had hunted and set up dinner, all three began to feel a little stupid. When true dark fell, they were laughing at themselves.

“So should we just take the road east and then go south directly into Stranglethorn, or should we keep following the river?” Llane finally asked, sipping a cup of tea.

“That’s… a good question,” Anduin replied, leaning back against the trunk of a fallen tree that marked one side of their campsite. “I’m inclined to go down the way they came up to see exactly how they managed it, but at this rate, I’m not so certain that we’ll find anything at all. Backtracking will take up another day.”

“Especially since we’re going to have to avoid not only them, but our own guards. It’s going to look awfully funny if you are spotted down here, Anduin, especially traveling with just the two of us.” Medivh sipped at his tea. “Besides, I’m not sure they’d believe the whole ‘I just wanted to see for myself’ story. Word’ll get back up to Stormwind.”

Anduin swore softly. “Damn, you’re right. No, we’ll start east. There’s a track that leads all the way down into Stranglethorn, and that’s where we ultimately will need to be.”

They went to bed with that on their minds, all of them trying to come up with some easier way to avoid the roads, avoid the guard, and find a way farther south without running into anything.

At least it was on Anduin’s mind as he settled himself. He and Medivh had not had a chance to talk about last night, and that was weighing on his mind as well. They had given up pretenses and combined their bedding so they would remain warmer tonight at least, though the temperature wasn’t nearly as cold as it was to the north. It wasn’t as warm as the jungle could get but none of them had to worry about frost, this far to the south.

As Medivh settled in beside him, he started to wonder if they might have over packed for their destination. Better over than under, truth be told, he thought to himself as the mage light over them winked out.

“Well?” he asked once he felt Medivh had settled.

“Yes.” Medivh’s reply seemed to make no sense.

“What?” If Anduin had anything else to say, Medivh silenced it with another kiss, this time with them both awake and fully aware.

“Just what I said,” Medivh said as he drew away. “I’m still not entirely sorted out, but I think… I think this will help, knowing I’m not alone.”

Anduin blinked, still somewhat confused. And then last night came back to him. And the night they had talked at length about… them. “Are you sure you want to risk it, if you’ve not sorted everything out?”

“You wouldn’t hurt me,” Medivh said softly. “You won’t leave me for no good reason. And I’m not sure I want to keep dealing with fighting off personal feelings and the supposed duties I’m meant to take on. Maybe I’m just being selfish, but… There’s definitely something there. We may as well explore it.”

For a moment Anduin didn’t move. Then, he leaned over enough to kiss Medivh, letting it linger for several moments. As he did, guilt seemed to flood his insides. He had sworn he wouldn’t let this happen, before Llane had interfered. But this felt too right for him to just let it go. He wasn’t sure what he was going to tell his son, if he and Medivh did wind up pairing off.

Medivh slid a hand along Anduin’s side, and any misgivings seemed to melt away. Anduin gave himself up to the kiss and all it implied as he shifted just enough so that Medivh could explore him. It occurred to him that it was very likely that Medivh had never had a chance to get any practical experience. Then again, he did read those novels even when he was younger.

What were the implications of that he wondered, as Medivh’s fingertips brushed the side of his neck. It was not as though he hadn’t had experience, he had bedded several people before Cally, and after, all in the name of trying to forget. To separate the experience from the emotion. But now, that wasn’t about to happen. For the first time in ten years, curiosity welled up inside him, and though he couldn’t see more than a darker shape in the darkness around them, he began to let his own hands wander.

“Wait.” Medivh’s voice was nothing more than a soft hiss, and Anduin snatched his hands back as though he’d been burned. There was a soft, muffled swear, and then the canvas around them glowed briefly violet. “Promised Llane I’d… Anduin?”

“I-I’m sorry. I thought that you…” Anduin trailed off lamely. He sighed. “What did you say about Llane?”

Medivh suddenly laughed, his voice louder. “I’d promised Llane I’d put up a silencing ward so he didn’t have to hear us chattering through the night – or… other things. Told me that he’d heard you got loud.”

Anduin spluttered in response for a moment, then managed enough composure to actually reply. “He did WHAT? How would he know?!”

Medivh shrugged. “Either way… I figured it… I mean last night it didn’t… but if…”

Anduin silenced him with a soft kiss. It didn’t sound like Medivh when he sounded so uncertain – not like that anyway. “Have you ever…” he trailed off, trying to find words.

“Some. I know there’s things I’ve not done. Much of it was – ah – self-taught.” Medivh’s voice was only slightly subdued. “I have done a few things with… with others. When I… before I fell asleep.” He shifted a little, reaching up to run his hand along Anduin’s shoulder. “I haven’t had much chance since I woke up.”

Anduin bit his lip. He was starting to have second thoughts about this. He couldn’t deny how he felt, but he wasn’t sure here was the right place to start something like this. Was it? Then again, there was no one else out here. No one would hear them through a silencing spell.

Finally, he sighed, softly. “I’d imagine you haven’t. I suppose then, we’ll have to see what you remember.” Before Medivh could reply, Anduin leaned to kiss him again, moving the mage’s hand to his side.

Medivh responded by curling his hand into Anduin’s shirt, grateful then that neither of them slept in their armor. It would have made doing any of this very awkward. He leaned up into the kiss, using the hand in Anduin’s shirt to pull at the other man, trying to draw him closer.

It took several tugs for Anduin to realize what he wanted and lifted himself to cover Medivh’s form, without breaking the kiss. At once, Medivh’s other hand reached up to curl into the other side, and he tried to pull Anduin down.

Anduin broke the kiss gently. “What are you trying to do? Talk to me, Med.”

Medivh made a soft noise. “I’m not sure,” he said softly. “I know what… I mean I think I…”

Anduin laughed softly. “Then here.” He offered Medivh his hand, and gently pulled them both to sit up. “Why don’t we start like this, and maybe things will be a little less awkward?”

Medivh ran a hand through his hair, then huffed as he pulled the ribbon from it, and began braiding it so it wouldn’t tangle so much. If nothing else, it gave him a moment to think. He frowned a little then slid his arms around Anduin’s shoulders, his nose finding Anduin’s beard, then his lips, then his nose as he lifted his head. He tilted his head to kiss Anduin properly, this time letting his feelings show. The kiss was hesitant at first, but grew in confidence and strength as time ticked by.

Anduin’s hand lifted, his fingertips brushing the side of Medivh’s face, along the still slightly hollowed cheek, and down along the neat beard that spoke more of his physical age than his actual age. He wasn’t certain this was a good idea. Especially if Medivh didn’t think like the adult he was now. Or it could be this was a very good thing, even if he didn’t think like the adult he looked like. Medivh had said he had some experiences, before he’d been blasted into a coma. Just what did that mean?

Medivh tilted his head, deepening the kiss between them, then parted his lips, and nudged Anduin to do the same. Well, that was something Anduin had not anticipated. He responded in kind, taking his lead from Medivh’s insistence.

Anduin was hardly aware when Medivh started to push him back, and he responded without even thinking about it – at least until his head hit his cloak, which he had folded as Medivh had folded his own so he could use it as a pillow. Medivh’s hand was sliding down his stomach, then before he realized it, there was a cool touch on Anduin’s skin beneath the shirt.

Medivh pulled back from the kiss a little, his eyes bright in the darkness. Bright? Anduin blinked, feeling his jaw go slack. Medivh’s eyes were glowing. And they were glowing a pale violet, not the green he might have expected. “M-Med? Are your… I mean, should your eyes be…”

Medivh blinked at him, then frowned. “Should my eyes be what?”

“They’re glowing.”

Medivh was quiet for a moment, then lifted a hand to his nose and saw the glow reflecting on the palm of his hand. “That explains a few things,” he muttered. “Apparently it’s um… a thing. For some mages.”

“That your eyes glow?”

“That our eyes glow when we… ah. Are um. Interested.”

Anduin lifted a hand and gently slid it down Medivh’s chest, along his abdomen and then trailed a little lower. “Ah,” he said softly. “Then it’s nothing I should be concerned with?”

Medivh shook his head a little, which made his eyes trail eerily. “No. The only concern is that sometimes mages can lose control of their magic when they. Um.” The eyes closed. “Finish.”

Anduin couldn’t help but laugh. “And you?”

“I’ve so far never had that problem. In fact I…” Medivh looked down at Anduin again. “I tend to be calmer. After. I tried several nights in a row to calm… before. The accident. It didn’t work.”

“Well maybe it will put us both in a calmer state of mind after?” Anduin grinned.

Medivh snorted softly, then his other hand joined the first under Anduin’s shirt, moving up along his chest. “We can hope. I’m… I’m nervous,” he admitted, quietly. “I know some, but I – I’m – I know you must have more experience with this than I do.”

“I have some,” Anduin corrected. “Just explore for now. Don’t worry so much about whether I’m enjoying it – I assure you I am. If you do something that hurts or I am not comfortable with, I will stop you. It’s that simple.”

Medivh blinked, and Anduin watched in fascination as Medivh’s pupils contracted, then widened again. “That’s fair,” he said softly. “The same goes for me – I… I don’t know myself as well as you know yourself, I suppose.”

“Maybe, maybe not. Only one way to find out.” Anduin reached up and brushed his fingers along Medivh’s neck. “So keep going.”

With that encouragement, Medivh turned his attention back to where his hands were. He gently ran his nails down Anduin’s skin, which earned him a gasp. He slid his hands back up and pinched one nipple, his eyes closing a little in his concentration. That earned him another gasp, though this one was a little sharper. He took that as further encouragement, particularly when he did it on the other side and drew a soft moan from Anduin.

Medivh dragged the nails of one hand down Anduin’s belly again, earning him a slight arch and another gasp. He could get used to that. He slid the other hand down to trace a pattern of nonsense that might have been runes if they were completed from one to the next as the first slid lower, and hesitantly over the ridge that had formed against the seam of the trousers Anduin still wore.

So. It was clear he was interested. After a moment of thought, Medivh traced his fingertips along that ridge, and not only got another soft sound that sounded encouraging, but the ridge grew firmer. He drew his fingertips back upwards, and both his hands met to fumble at Anduin’s belt, before finding what was where by touch and managing to get it undone. He paused, looking up at Anduin, almost as if requesting permission.

Anduin could only see the glow in Medivh’s eyes – the rest of him was still just a darker shape in the darkness around them. “Go on,” he breathed in response to those eyes. He could not say he wasn’t enjoying this, though he started to wonder if maybe Medivh shouldn’t put up a light of some kind so they could at least see what they were doing. Even as Anduin thought this, he felt the laces of his trousers being tugged, and then he groaned softly in relief as they loosened.

There was a moment then, where neither of them moved, and the only sound was of their breathing. The fabric was moved away, and Anduin’s cock was freed from its confines. The cooler air against it made him hiss, though it turned into a moan as he felt Medivh’s hand against it, cupping it in his palm and fingers, which were blessedly hot in comparison.

Medivh didn’t move at first, allowing time for Anduin to get used to the temperature – he could feel the coolness of his skin, even when mingled with the heat of his arousal that he could feel pulsing along the shaft with every beat of the warrior’s heart. He began to move his hand, slowly at first, his palm and fingers exploring every millimeter of skin from base to tip.

The hand turned, then closed around him, and Anduin fought himself not to arch. He could not remember when someone else had explored him in this way – slowly and completely. Not even Cally had done so like this when she had been new to it. Anduin almost laughed. He remembered well her reaction when she was a little less gentle, and he nearly had to be coaxed down from the rafters. He looked up, watching the glow that was his only indication of where Medivh was.

Medivh was fascinated. He had not expected Anduin’s skin to be half as soft as it was, considering he was a warrior. He knew he was a vain creature in comparison, and though he did long to learn how to use the blades and staff he carried far better than he did, he would always be a mage; he would never have the rough skin a warrior did. His spells were his weapons, his spells were his armor. He would never wear the armor that chafed Anduin’s skin, nor develop the callus marks along his hands and fingers from weapons.

Of course, where his hand was wasn’t likely to be altered by those things. Even still, he had expected the skin to be rougher to the touch, perhaps more leathery, as the pouch below was. He hadn’t expected it to be as soft as it was, like velvet stretched over steel. Medivh felt his cheeks heat at that thought.

Anduin sighed somewhere above, and his hips lifted a little as  Medivh’s hand stroked, slowly and more gently that he’d like, but there was still time to learn. It was sending pleasant tingling along his spine, and he wasn’t sure if it was the touch – or the person who was touching him. “You don’t have to be quite that gentle,” he finally said, his voice amused.

Medivh jumped a little at the sound of the voice, so engrossed in what he was doing that he had nearly forgotten that he was exploring someone else. He felt the blush, and was grateful for the darkness that hid it. In response to it though, he did tighten his grip a little, but did not speed up his motion at all, continuing to stroke with long slow movements of hand and wrist.

Anduin reached up and curled his hand into Medivh’s tunic, the other curling into the blanket beneath him. “Yes,” he hissed softly, his eyes closing – not that he could see much before he closed them, other than the glow of Medivh’s eyes in the darkness above him. “Like that,” he encouraged. “Just like that.”

The words emboldened Medivh, and he leaned down to capture Anduin’s lips in another kiss without pausing or slowing his hand. Their tongues met, and Medivh shivered. They were both far more relaxed now than they had been just moments ago, and as such, Medivh felt more confident in what he was doing. He drew back from the kiss long enough to ask a question. “D-do you want me to keep going or… could I try something else?”

Anduin blinked, opening his eyes. He was a little startled to see Medivh’s so close, but he could see the uncertainty behind the faint glow. “What did you have in mind?”

Again, Medivh was grateful that it was dark, as he could feel his cheeks heating. He was quiet for a moment as he tried to find a way to phrase his answer, though his hand did not slow or stop. Finally, he smiled a little. “I want to taste you.”

Well, that was new. “Are you sure?” Anduin asked, quickly. “Have you tried that before?”

Medivh nodded, then remembered that Anduin probably couldn’t see that, since his eyes didn’t shift much. “I have. I – We… It didn’t go far. I’m not sure if it was because it wasn’t his preference of if I was just that bad at it, but…”

Anduin snorted softly. “So far you haven’t been expert but you have not…” He flushed, feeling his own cheeks burning in the darkness. “I’m sure that you feel how I feel about it.” Oh that sounded highly intelligent. “You know what I mean,” he added, quickly.

Medivh was startled into a laugh. “Yes, I understand. Would you object?”

“No,” Anduin breathed. In truth, it was not something he was very familiar with. Only one on other of his partners had offered it, and said partner had been male. “It’s not something I… I’ve only had it done once.”

“Did you like it?” Medivh breathed back.

“I did. Though I wasn’t – it was very odd and I didn’t get past the oddity before my partner at that time did everything just right to finish me before I could really get a feel for whether it was good or not.” Anduin chuckled. “It wasn’t a moment where there was much time at hand, and it was a moment where adrenaline was high and tension was worse.”

Medivh nodded, slowly, and this time Anduin did see the nod. “A moment taken for release rather than pleasure then.” Anduin blinked up at him, startled. Medivh could feel his gaze. “I am not unfamiliar with some of the things that go on, Anduin. Waking in the middle of the night out of a very, very intense dream and being on the edge surely is a close enough situation to that.”

That got a laugh from Anduin. “Yes, I think that falls into the same category. Relief takes precedence over a pleasured release.”

“I won’t … I mean I’ll try not to be so quick about it.” Medivh promised, then his eyes disappeared again. Anduin followed their glow as it traveled down his body, felt heated kisses against the skin of his chest, his stomach, and his abdomen as Medivh shifted the shirt aside and trailed his way down.

Anduin did notice that Medivh kept a hand on him at all times, and it seemed to indicate where he would go next, and also kept them touching rather than letting the darkness shroud them both in mystery.

One of Medivh’s hands slid into Anduin’s lowered trousers, cupping his balls in one hand, massaging them with his fingers, as the other traced a line down his hip, then across between his legs. There was a moment’s hesitation, and then Anduin felt damp heat as Medivh’s tongue brushed the tip of his cock, not lightly, but a little hesitantly. He waited a heartbeat, then repeated it.

Anduin arched a little, and felt Medivh’s ‘free’ hand press down against one hip to keep him still. He had to marvel at that – Medivh never exhibited much in the way of brute strength, but it seemed that he had been recovering well – there was definitely muscle beneath his pale skin. Perhaps the workouts in the practice yard had been doing Medivh some good – other than getting him bruised with the flat of a blade when Anduin scored on him, and knocking his pride down a little. With a bit of work, he would be very good with a staff, and if he could help it, the rapier and long dagger he carried would not be just emergency back up plans but actual weapons to accompany his magics.

Medivh pressed his hand into Anduin’s hips a little more firmly and carefully took the head of Anduin’s cock into his mouth, letting his tongue run upward along the underside of the shaft as he slowly took him in, little by little. He could feel Anduin fighting to keep still, knowing that one wrong move could seriously hurt him.

Anduin was not small by any means, though Medivh had seen larger – not that he would have dared do this with something that size, but his hands were more than capable. It took him a moment to adjust to it, and when he did, he lowered his head a little farther, only stopping when he wasn’t sure he could breathe properly if he didn’t.

Anduin closed his eyes, and tried to control his breathing. He had forgotten what this felt like, and he couldn’t stop the little noises of impatience that escaped him. He didn’t dare lift his hips; the last thing he wanted to do was to hurt Medivh. The moment he felt he was in control of himself again, he tried to force himself to relax a little.

Medivh waited until he felt Anduin relax before he began to do anything more. His tongue pressed upwards as the hand he had positioned on Anduin’s hip moved to encircle the base below where he could reach, the other resumed gently and carefully rolling his balls against fingers and palm. His thumb rubbed gently against the base and underside of Anduin’s shaft in time with his tongue. His eyes flickered upwards, though he could not see anything, so he lowered them again.

He would have liked to have seen whether Anduin enjoyed this, though he would have to get his cues from body language alone, unless the warrior spoke.

Which he did. “Gods. Med. I…” His hips lifted just a little, and Medivh moved with it this time, lifting his head and hands to compensate for the adjustment.

Medivh wasn’t sure he could handle bringing Anduin to completion like this. As he worked, he tried to feel with not only his hands but his tongue to give him an idea of how close Anduin was. He felt a hand brush his cheek, and his eyes closed. The touch seemed so out of place with what he was doing. And yet…

And yet it felt entirely right. Medivh began to move, slowly, lifting his head as he applied suction, though not much – just enough that there was added pressure to the motion. He lowered again, relaxing his lips, though his tongue still worked. It took him a few moments to find a rhythm he could keep, and did so.

Anduin felt almost like he was in shock. He was able to keep himself still, so long as he could feel Medivh’s cheek against his fingers, and the other was still clutching a section of blanket tightly. He felt as though he was on fire – this was not something he was entirely used to.

Oh certainly Cally had been similar; she could get this response from him with ease just by submitting to his whims, but this… this was entirely different. He gave himself up to Medivh in a way he had with no other. As he tried to figure out why, Medivh changed tactics on him.

Medivh had drawn back so only the head was in his mouth now, and he was suckling at it with sharp, short draws, the pad of his thumb pressing against the underside of the shaft and stroking languidly in no set rhythm.

It threw Anduin off a little, and he squirmed at it, and could not stop the low moan from escaping him.

Medivh took this as encouragement and continued, his other hand tugging a little, and keeping Anduin from getting too far too quickly. Anduin gasped sharply the first time he did this, and wondered where the mage had learned that trick. On himself perhaps?

Medivh hummed a little with amusement at Anduin’s moan, letting his hand speed up just a trifle.

Anduin licked lips gone dry with his breathing, and he bit his lower lip to pull himself back under control – when had he started to lose it? When had this happened? How long had he ignored the heat that was undeniable? When had the pressure begun to reach a need for release rather than desire? He opened his mouth to say something, when Medivh’s thumb pressed something that did cause Anduin to arch a little, his thighs tensing. He cried something out, though he wasn’t sure what.

Medivh took the cry as a warning and quickly pulled away, replacing his mouth with his hand, and this time there was nothing hesitant about his movements, nothing too gentle about his grip. Instinct told him to look up, though he could not see Anduin’s face in the darkness. Instead he moved so he could kiss Anduin again, by feel.

Anduin moaned into the kiss, and turned his head enough to break it, hissed something Medivh didn’t catch, and gasped sharply. Before Medivh could ask him to repeat it, Anduin managed to speak again, his voice breathless. “Close – very close. Don’t stop. Please don’t stop, Med.”

“No intention,” Medivh murmured back, keeping his hands steady at work. He drew the lower hand back so he could lean over Anduin and kiss him again, muffling the moan that followed, swallowing the cry that followed that.

The instant Medivh drew back from the kiss, Anduin’s hand lifted to his shoulder, and squeezed it almost hard enough to bruise. He was arching, and his shape shifted a little in the darkness, one knee bending so he could plant the foot farther from Medivh against the ground. The glow in Medivh’s eyes intensified just a little as he watched, or rather felt, Anduin’s body move.

Anduin couldn’t keep still. He needed, more than he could have expressed in words, and by the time he could form words, all he could do was gasp out a warning, and he wasn’t even certain it was intelligible.

Medivh’s eyes widened, and he shifted his own weight, well aware that his own arousal had sharpened as he had worked, and he wasn’t sure if he was even ready to know the result of this.

Anduin’s strangled cry was unmistakably of pleasure, however, as well as relief, and Medivh blushed hotly as he felt warm, wet heat spilling across his fingers and through them. He couldn’t quite keep his own moan bitten back, and he slowed his hand, still stroking slowly as Anduin trembled, then finally collapsed back, his breathing harsh in the sudden quiet.

Blindly, Medivh reached for his pack and pulled out one of the washcloths he had packed – one could never have too many out in the wilderness after all, especially if your evening bath in a river stole one. That had happened once, before Medivh learned to always pack extras. With a murmured word, it was dampened with warm water, and a very dim mage light burst into being above Anduin. Medivh went to work, very gently cleaning the traces of Anduin’s release from skin and chuckled a little, commenting quietly that Anduin would have to change his shirt in the morning.

Anduin snorted softly. “That’s not a hardship,” he managed between his ragged breaths. He waited until Medivh had finished with him, and heard another rustle of cloth and another murmured word before he opened his eyes, blinking a little in the low light. “Where … How did you learn to do that?” he asked, his voice still a little breathless.

Medivh smiled, carefully tucked Anduin’s cock back into his trousers, retied them and refastened the belt. He then settled himself down beside Anduin, who instantly cuddled against him. Medivh chuckled softly. “Books mostly. But I – like I said, I did have a little experience before I fell asleep.”

Anduin shook his head. “Well, you’re certainly a quick learner and you retain what you’ve learned far better than most.”

“It wasn’t bad then?” Medivh asked, quietly.

“Light – no. I… I’m not even sure how I can describe that in words.” Anduin answered almost instantly. He could feel Medivh smile against his shoulder. “And if you’ll give me a moment to catch my breath,” he purred, “I’ll return the favor. Unless you object.”

Medivh shook his head quickly. “I don’t. I have to admit that – ah – that did more than I would care to admit.”

Curiously, Anduin slid a hand down between Medivh’s thighs, and laughed. “So it did,” he said softly, letting his palm stroke what he found there just a little, which drew a low moan from the mage. “Seems like your work on me has caused my work to be halved.”

“I wouldn’t count on that just yet,” Medivh laughed. “I may have a little less experience with others but I—“ He shut his mouth, blushing hotly enough that Anduin could feel it against his neck.

“You’ve done plenty of things to yourself, huh? Well. Let’s see if it’s given you a sense of endurance, considering it didn’t take you long to turn me into a melted mess.” Without giving Medivh a chance to answer, his hand slid under Medivh’s tunic and tugged it upwards.

For once, Anduin didn’t have a complaint about the clothing Medivh wore. It was far easier to shift the tunic than it was five layers of robe, shirt, tunic, surcoat, cloak and whatever else he watched the mage put on in the mornings. He was tugging the lacings of his trousers before long, his lips nipping along the skin of newly exposed middle, and reveling in the little gasps he could hear.

The catches in Medivh’s breathing told him more than words could in how he was handling things. He teased, once he had pulled the laces lose, and ignored what lay beneath. Instead, he concentrated on the softer skin of Medivh’s belly and chest, a little surprised to find unmarred skin there. He did have a scar or two from some of the scuffles they’d gotten into with murlocs while out camping, and the mark he remembered fondly as being from Llane’s own axe only perhaps a week or two ago. He traced his tongue along that scar, which earned him a soft yip and a hand tangled in his hair.

“That still sensitive?” he asked as Medivh huffed at him, impatiently.

“In interesting ways,” Medivh finally said as Anduin left it alone.

“Well, it had an interesting effect at any rate. Didn’t know you liked a little pain.” Anduin almost laughed as he could hear Medivh’s blush this time. He took pity on the mage, and began to tug the laces of his trousers looser, drawing a sigh of relief from the mage.

Anduin paused to contemplate what he was doing in the dim light that Medivh had left glowing above them, carefully tugged fabric aside and down and without any further warning, ran his tongue along the head of Medivh’s cock the instant it had been freed from its confines.

Medivh arched a little, unable to help himself. He would later blame it on anticipation, but he knew that it was from the direct action – and lack of coy teasing. His hand tightened in Anduin’s hair a little before he made a frustrated noise and forced his fingers to let go, and he moved his hand to his side, where his fingers curled into a part of his tunic and the blanket together.

Anduin was hard put to keep from chuckling at the reaction, even as he moved the rest of his body so he could straddle one of Medivh’s legs, his knees keeping Medivh’s parted. He put both hands on Medivh’s hips to keep him still as he used lips, tongue and teeth (which Medivh cried out at, not willing to believe that teeth were a thing to be used in so sensitive a place) to incense him further.

The warrior didn’t let up, either – he kept working until Medivh was making tiny noises that he could only guess were desperate whines.

“Anduin – please, please.”

And then he pulled away, and the soft cry of pleading was almost heartbreaking to hear. Instead, Anduin looked up, noting the glow in Medivh’s eyes was much brighter, and the violet completely changed the eye color. It was eerie to see, but Anduin could feel himself growing hard again at that sight. He would try to figure out why later.

He replaced his mouth with a hand, though the strokes were slow, languid and lazy; enough to keep Medivh interested but not nearly enough to let him come to completion – not yet.

Anduin waited until he could hear Medivh’s breathing slow just a little, then took the mage into his mouth again, this time a little farther than the last time. One of his hands slid to the root and stroked the underside of the shaft with a thumb, slightly amused at the rapid pulse he could feel under the pad of the digit, and against his tongue as he dragged it along the underside of the head.

Medivh made another attempt at pleading, but this time he could not get intelligible words out of his mouth, only a throaty moan. His hand moved back to Anduin’s hair, tugging just a little as his hips lifted a little.

“If – if you don’t st-stop now –“ Medivh hissed in warning. Anduin ignored it. “Anduin –“ Medivh tried again. “I’m – Gods I’m—“

Anduin drew back, but did not stop. He felt the warning signs, and almost smiled at them. Medivh tried once more to warn him to stop, his hand tugging a little more sharply at Anduin’s hair, but the warrior had made up his mind.

There was a flash of light as the mage light above them burst into motes and Medivh cried out. The glow in his eyes abruptly vanished. And Anduin felt his release as he drew back enough to give him the space to swallow, continuing to suckle until he was sure Medivh had nothing left. Only then did he pull away, looking up at where he thought the glow had last been.

Medivh’s harsh panting was the only thing that broke the silence around them, and his hand fell from Anduin’s hair with a soft ‘thump’ against the ground beneath him, muffled only by the blankets.

Anduin tucked him away with as much care as Medivh had shown him, tugging laces back, but loosely. Then he stretched himself upwards to curl an arm around Medivh’s middle, pulling the mage closer.

Medivh felt his senses come back to him one by one, registering his own breathing and the rush of blood in his ears, the arm draped over him. He turned a little, sliding one of his legs between Anduin’s, and one of his arms reaching to stretch across him and to his back.

Without a second thought, Medivh lifted his other hand to brush Anduin’s cheek by feel, then leaned to kiss him, blushing again as he could taste traces of his release in the kiss.

They were quiet for a long moment before Medivh finally broke the silence. “Thank you,” he whispered.

Anduin chuckled. “Believe me, the pleasure was all mine.”

“What is this going to mean now?” Medivh murmured.

“It could mean a multitude of things. First of all, that we’ll be much warmer out here at night. Second that you don’t have to sleep alone if you don’t want to. Third… How do you feel?” Anduin murmured back, his voice only a little uncertain.

Medivh shifted so he could gesture with the hand around Anduin’s side. The blankets rose over them, chilly for having been abandoned. He shivered a little and inched closer to Anduin’s warmth. “Calm,” he said at last. “Contented.” And then, a moment later, “Less alone, and far less lonely.”

“As it should be,” Anduin chuckled.

“How is Callan going to take this?” Medivh asked, his voice shaking just a little.

“In stride I think. I have a feeling he knows that I’ve been… He’s known I’ve pined for his mother. He’s known that there was something more I was pining for but I never explained it to him. I’m hoping that he can understand that I did – and do – love his mother, but that you… That I’ve loved you for far longer. I often wish I’d said something before all that happened.”

“Before I fell asleep you mean?” At Anduin’s nod, Medivh shrugged, and turned over, curling his back into Anduin’s chest, pulling Anduin’s arm around him and twining their fingers together. He closed his eyes as he felt Anduin’s breath against the back of his neck. “It may have been worse. You would have pined all the harder for knowing how we might have been through that time. I think, perhaps, it is better this way. You found love while I napped, and …” he trailed off. “Anduin?”

“Hm?”

“I know you told me everything while I slept. I… I remember tiny shreds of things you’d said. Has it been long enough that you can tell me what happened?” Medivh turned his head a little, making sure he was able to hear.

Anduin was quiet for a very long moment, then sighed, deeply and heavily. “If you are here, then I may be able to, yes.” He was quiet again for a moment, then finally spoke again. “The healers said that her pregnancy might be difficult. She was so very careful, and the healers’ predictions became false, and even they said that she may be just fine. It wasn’t until she told me, one night, that she felt odd, and I went to get a healer. She started to feel pain – and well, I knew that was normal, labor pains are something they all go through. But it was when she started losing color that… that we began to worry. They told me to leave, but I wouldn’t go. I stayed at her side, holding her hand as they tried to encourage her. I was encouraging her, telling her that everything was fine. I lied to her so she wouldn’t worry.” He closed his eyes, tightly, feeling tears well in them. “There was blood. I knew that was normal too – but there was… there was so much. That couldn’t be normal. The healers would tell me nothing, other than to keep doing what I was.

“His first cry was strong, and the healers were relieved. He was cleaned up, and I told Cally that she’d done it, and that we had a little boy. She smiled at me, Med. And she told me that she chose a name. Callan, she’d said. So I could remember her through him.”

Medivh blinked, then turned over to pull Anduin against his shoulder. “She knew,” he breathed.

“She knew. She offered him to me, and asked me to hold him. I took my eyes off her to look at him, so tiny in my arms. When I looked back up, Callan started to cry. And I remember little after that. The midwife called the healers back. The healers could do nothing. They took Callan – since I could not care for him the way he needed right then. They kept saying it wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my fault and that sometimes this just… happened.” He pulled Medivh closer, and buried his head against the mage’s neck and shoulder. “I blamed Callan. I blamed myself for his creation. Blamed him for tearing her apart that way. I couldn’t bear to look at him, not when her last words were so prophetic – to remember her through him. I couldn’t face it. I was hardly older than twenty. I had duties. I couldn’t raise a child on my own.”

Medivh lifted a hand and began stroking Anduin’s hair. “So you resent your son. And let Taria and Llane—“

Anduin shook his head. “Taria took over. But… yes. I resent my son. He’s everything to me, Med. It isn’t that I don’t care for him. I’m afraid. I’m afraid of all he represents. I’m afraid that because of what happened to Cally, I’ll never see him as anything but an extension of her. And every time I look at him, he looks more and more like her, only with my eyes, my nose, and my temper.” His voice rose in pitch and volume as he spoke, and Medivh quickly tried to soothe him.

“Does he know?”

“He knows his mother died bringing him to life. I could not tell him more than that. I do everything I can for him.” Anduin sighed. “He’s told me he wants to be part of the guard, Medivh. He wants to follow in my footsteps, as I followed in my father’s.”

Medivh went quiet, sighing. “And that’s why you have been trying to get him interested in anything else.”

“I suppose he talked to you?” Anduin snorted.

“No, but I could see the other ‘hobbies’ he has. And he doesn’t seem to enjoy them like he does sword work.” Medivh shrugged a little. “I’m just observant.”

Anduin sighed, shaking his head, then pulled Medivh as he lay on his back so the mage covered him, blankets and all. “I understand that he wants to take after me, but I’m not sure I’m ready to face that.”

“It’s not an easy thing to face,” Medivh said quietly. “I remember trying so hard when I was young, hoping that maybe – just maybe, I could please my father, just once.” He shook his head. “Not only did I fail him, I killed him. All because I didn’t pay as much attention as I should have. And now look at me, I’m part of some covert insanity going to Stranglethorn in an attempt to stop the incursions and I have no idea what I’m doing.” He paused for a moment. “If only I’d listened.”

“Med, it’s not your fault – he was harder on you because he was afraid. And I know you were.”

“It’s not the same, Anduin.” Medivh sighed, sharply. “Listen, the only thing I can say to you is that… that Callan is going to do what his heart leads him to, in the end. He loves you. Looks up to you. Talk to him. Now. Before too much time passes and it’s too late.”

Anduin didn’t answer for a long time. Finally he sighed. “I suppose I should, when we get back…”

“If things go to hell, I’ll be waiting to lavish you with comfort,” Medivh promised, grinning.

“Oh shut up and go to sleep,” Anduin laughed.

“You first.”

“No way. You’ll prank me.”

“How? You can feel exactly where my hands are.”

The sound of laughter broke the silence, and Medivh lifted a hand, murmured a word, and the canvas lit up a soft violet for the blink of an eye. He shifted a little, and Anduin did the same.

Medivh closed his eyes, and fell asleep listening to Anduin’s breathing, one of his hands resting against the warrior’s shoulder, the other’s fingers entwined with Anduin’s hand – at least the one that wasn’t slowly stroking his hair.

 

They woke suddenly and completely as the sun touched the tent. Llane had already packed, and was prodding at their breakfast when they emerged, armored, from the tent.

“About time. I take it your evening was… enjoyable?” Llane grinned at them.

Medivh had the grace to blush. Anduin simply snorted and accepted the bowl of stew Llane offered him. “You could say that,” he mumbled.

“Well good. It’s about time. The two of you have been dancing around it for at least fifteen years, counting the time Medivh was in that coma.” Llane raised an eyebrow at them both.

“To be fair,” Medivh sighed, “we did a lot more talking than we did anything else.”

“Still, that was just as needed as whatever else you did,” Llane lifted a hand. “I don’t want to know what was discussed or what you did. I just know that both of you seem a lot calmer and more comfortable with the other.”

“Even when part of the discussion involved you?” Anduin asked, grinning.

Llane looked up at that, and looked between them. Medivh was smiling a deceptively serene smile, and Anduin had a look that gave him away at once. “All right. What? I’ll take the bait this time.”

“We discussed Callan.”

Llane’s face fell. “Ah.” He looked up again, and his dark eyes bore into Anduin’s. “Are you all right?”

Anduin nodded. “He wasn’t here, Llane. It was only fair that he hear all that had happened.”

Llane sighed, passing a bowl to Medivh. “That’s true.”

“And you sort of became his foster parents, you and my sister.” Anduin pointed out, prodding his stew.

“That is also true. You were in no shape to care for an infant. Not that anyone blamed you. Not a bit,” Llane pointed out quietly. “No one would be in fit shape to do much of anything after something like that.”

Anduin nodded, a little numbly. “Though what must Callan think of me now? I mean I’m barely around and I don’t have that excuse any longer.”

Llane sighed. “Anduin, the sooner you stop blaming yourself for what happened –“

“That’s part of the problem. I don’t just blame myself, I blame him.” Anduin shook his head, set his bowl down and stalked off towards the river.

Medivh stood up, but Llane put a hand on his arm, then shook his head. “Let him go, Medivh. This isn’t something you can mend. It’s something he needs to work out for himself.”

Medivh sighed and shifted the bowl Anduin had left behind nearer to the fire to stay warm, then finished his own. He stood up and slipped back into the tent he and Anduin shared and began packing their things, wishing that the topic hadn’t come up.

When he came out and began folding the tent down, he realized that Llane had made tea. “It seems we’ll be here a little while,” he said, once Medivh had finished. Medivh took the cup that he offered with a nod of thanks.

“This is normal then?”

“It has been for quite a few years. I’m afraid some of his regrets are along the lines of how he’s felt about you all this time.” Llane sighed, looking toward the river. “He’s made comments to the effect of that if you hadn’t gone into your coma, she would still be alive.”

“And she may have been run down by a runaway horse cart by now. He can’t possibly think that what happened was his fault, or Callan’s.” Medivh frowned.

“Yet he does. It cut him deeper than he will allow anyone to know. The only reason I know is that I had been there. The only word I can use to describe him was ‘hysterical’. What was worse, he buried it after only a few days, threw himself into his work, and tried to pretend that none of it ever happened. The problem was, Callan was there as proof. He did his best to hide how he felt from the boy, but the trauma was too much. Callan doesn’t know that his father blames himself, and his child, for all that happened. Callan doesn’t know that his father hides all of what he feels and tries to be a proper father. Anduin went to his father for advice. And then… not long before you woke up, he was killed in the troll incursions.”

Medivh looked up, sharply. “So that’s why he wants this.” Llane nodded. “Light what a mess,” Medivh sighed, shaking his head. “And now I come along and complicate things with –“

“No,” Llane interrupted. “You are not part of the complication for this. He had feelings for you more than ten years ago, but never said anything.” The prince shifted a little closer to rest his hand on Medivh’s shoulder. “He was the one who kept fighting. There were times I wondered if it wouldn’t have been best to let you go. To tell the priests to let you go, or to – to end you, so you would not feel the pain. It was Anduin who fought for you. He kept reminding me that you were there, that you showed signs of recognition when we went to see you, alone or together. It was he who told me we couldn’t just give up on you – that you would wake up one day.”

Llane sighed again, slowly, deeply. “He tried to keep his feelings for you buried. Fought against them for longer than I would ever have been able to. And in the end, left it in your hands. Trust me when I tell you that you are doing him a world of good.”

Medivh gestured in the direction of the river with a hand before cradling his cup again. “This is ‘a world of good’?”

“He didn’t stab something, scream, hit something, and he’s not trying to drink himself stupid,” Llane shot back.

Medivh stopped, stunned, staring at Llane. “Gods…” He shook his head. “So now I’m sleeping with a walking time-bomb.”

Llane shrugged, sipping his tea. “That remains to be seen. Be patient with him. Pull the wounds to the surface so they can be cleaned, but be patient with him.” Llane looked up and out toward the river again. “He needs you more than you can possibly know.”

Medivh snorted a chuckle. “That doesn’t seem like a good idea. I barely know who I am.”

“Yet,” Llane added. “You will, and when you do, I know that you’re going to be exactly what he needs, and what you need, and what the world needs.”

“I wish I was as certain as you, Llane. I really do. Something in my memories tells me that it’s going to be a very long and painful journey, unless those memories were just dreams and nothing more.” Medivh sipped his tea, leaning back against the trunk of the tree they had used last night. “And I’m not sure I’m ready to take it.”

 

Anduin didn’t return until the sun was much higher. His hair was still damp, and he looked far less upset than when he left. Once he had eaten, they set out toward the south and east, cutting across the forests rather than trying to back track through Sunnyglade.

The horses managed to find a game trail that lead in generally the right direction, and they followed it for most of the day. An hour or two before sunset, they finally stopped, hunting for a water source. They found a pond fed by a trickle of a brook, and camped right in the crook between a hill, the brook and the pond.

Game was scarce here, so close to Stranglethorn, and they found traces of camp sites and grounds that held more than just one or two. They looked at each other as they found these signs. This was how the trolls had started north – avoiding any settlements and camping at night or during the day in places they would not easily be come across unless someone was hunting for them.

Luck, however, was with them. Llane managed a one-shot kill on a buck that was in its first autumn, and likely had no offspring. The time until sunset saw all three of them working on skinning, gutting and quartering it. This time, they did not discard the skin with the offal, but wrapped it around the meat they could not use so that Medivh could freeze it with magic.

If his guess was right, they would not need to hunt again until they were on their way back home, meaning they could travel a little longer before stopping for mid-day and at night.

Anduin had been quiet most of the day, only speaking when something was necessary to communicate. Llane and Medivh chatted a little, keeping the subject to his and Taria’s wedding plans as they had ridden and as they field dressed the deer.

Llane and Anduin went off, followed by one of Medivh’s mage lights to take care of personal needs and their baths, leaving Medivh to see to dinner. He had been foraging a little as they rode, and so had plenty of mushrooms, tubers and even a few odd root vegetables that he recognized but could not put name to, as well as a patch of wild onion grass and a few herbs. If nothing else, they would eat well this night and the following morning.

Llane took over minding the stew while Anduin went with Medivh. Though just as Medivh started to strip his robes off, Anduin put a hand on his shoulder, stopping him. Medivh looked up, his head tilting a little in confusion.

“I need to apologize,” Anduin said softly. “I know what happened this morning hurt you.”

Medivh shook his head. “Anduin, it was something that was festering. It needed to be let out, and you just… You don’t. You’ve let it bother you all this time.”

“I know. And that’s not fair to you, or to Llane, or to Callan.” Anduin shrugged helplessly. “I can’t talk about it with very many, and I guess when I let it out last night it just kept eating at me.”

“Anduin, it’s not fair to yourself to let it eat at you like this. You may think that you feel you are punishing us and Callan for what happened, but you’re only tormenting yourself. I don’t pretend to understand what you’ve gone through. I won’t even try to say that I do. What has happened has happened, and there is nothing you can do to go back and change it. All I can do is be here for you.” Medivh reached up and cupped Anduin’s cheek, letting his fingers slide down his face and into his beard. “I wish I could go back and change things. I wish I could go back and warn myself of what was really happening the morning I killed my father. But I can’t. What I can do is take comfort in the people I know who still care for me, even after ten years has passed me by.”

Anduin was quiet for a moment, and his eyes closed. Medivh pretended he didn’t see the tears that streaked down the warrior’s face, but pulled him into a somewhat awkward embrace. They remained there for a long moment before Anduin pulled away. “Go get washed up,” he said thickly.

Medivh leaned forward to touch a kiss to Anduin’s temple before stripping the rest of his clothing off and heading for the pond.

By the time they returned, Llane had built the fire up a little further than usual, and he looked up. “There’s something out there,” he said, rather than welcoming them back. “I can hear something moving in the trees.”

Anduin shivered, and moved a little closer to the fire. Medivh did the same, though his eyes were out beyond the brooklet that fed the pond. Llane was sitting on a log, still tending the stew. He had not fully stripped his armor off – or rather, had put some of it back on, and his axe was leaning against the log beside him.

Medivh noticed that he had put the kettle beside the fire to warm, and the pot was slightly to one side so the stew would not scorch to the bottom of it. He closed his eyes and listened. He heard the sound of a wolf in the distance, but nothing more.

Anduin disappeared into the tent he and Medivh shared, and returned with some of his armor on, and he held out Medivh’s heavier outer robe to him, complete with cuirass, and his long dagger. His broadsword was in his other hand, and he had also brought their bows and one of the quivers. “I don’t much care for the idea that there’s something out here. Better safe than sorry.”

Medivh said nothing as he pulled on his robe and the cuirass, then belted it with the dagger in easy draw position.

They ate in silence, all three of them starting a little every time they heard something. Medivh could feel the hair on the back of his neck rise. Llane had been right – there was something out there. Considering the signs of trolls they had found before they decided to camp here, it was likely that they would be spotted.

Once Medivh had finished his stew, he set his bowl down and got to his feet, retreated into the tent again, and returned with his staff.

“What are you doing?” Llane hissed, just loudly enough for Medivh to hear him over the fire.

“I am going to ward the area. If something gets in near us, I want to be alerted. If any perimeter has been crossed, I want to know – and this way we’ll know what it is out there. The wards will tell me that much.” Without another word, he walked to the very edge of the firelight and slowly walked the edge, speaking softly as he moved, the crystal formation at the head of his staff glowing faintly.

As he moved, a very faint line began to glow several paces outside the firelight. When he moved behind where the horses were tethered, they shied from him, though when they caught his scent, calmed and returned to their grazing. The line moved up the hill and along what must be the top of it that they could no longer see, and extended out into the pond as well. Once he had moved in a full circle, the glow vanished. He made a second round, walking more slowly, and this time, there was a glowing line just outside the firelight’s flickering reach. As before, when he returned to where he started, the glow vanished.

“There,” he said, sounding a little tired. “Nothing will get within bowshot of us without being caught, held, and easily seen. That was a little more complicated to do than to study the theory of, that much I can tell you.” He set his staff beside Anduin’s sword and dropped back down to the ground. Llane gathered their empty bowls and went to clean them at the pond, which was just within the firelight now.

Anduin dug in the pack that held the ‘camp’ supplies, and pulled out a bottle. He poured a generous measure into one of their cups and handed it to Medivh. “Here. This should take the edges off our nerves,” he said.

Llane returned just in time to catch the words. “You sure that’s wise?” He did not, however, decline the cup offered to him as he settled down on the log again.

Anduin replaced the stopper in the bottle and put it back in with the rest. “It’s not strong. But we can’t just keep jumping at shadows and birds settling for the night.”

Llane looked at him for a long moment, then nodded. “I can’t argue with you there.”

Medivh tentatively sipped the drink, and found that it went down smoothly, and left a warmth in his belly that spread through the rest of him slowly. “Where did you find this?” he asked softly.

Anduin grinned. “Let’s just say it’s been passed down a few generations.” He sipped his own, and sighed as he could feel it blunting his own nerves.

Llane took a cautious sip, then blinked. “Oh.” His shoulders relaxed, but other than that, he could still feel his wits. A bird called behind where he sat, and though he turned to look, it was not with the air of panic or alarm. “That’s not what I expected.”

Anduin chuckled. “Honestly, the stuff’s supposed to be medicinal. I felt it prudent to use it as such.” This startled all three into a laugh.

They went quiet again, taking lazy sips of what was obviously excellent whiskey and listening to the night sounds.

Medivh drained the last of his, and waited until the other two had done the same before taking the cups to rinse at the pond’s edge. He set them to dry, then took another look around them, checking that his wards would hold. “If anything hostile tries to pass those, we’ll have enough time to counter it,” he assured them. “I’m going to try to get some sleep. I… I’m more tired than I thought I’d be.”

Llane yawned, ran his hands through his hair and nodded. “Good idea. Tomorrow is going to be longer than I want to think about.” He got to his feet and offered a hand to Anduin, who took it to pull himself to his feet.

“And we’re going to need every advantage.” Anduin looked around once more himself, then followed Medivh into their tent.

 

Morning arrived obscenely quickly. Their campsite was in enough of a clearing that the rising sun was visible through the trees around them, and reflected off the canvas of the tents easily. None of them spoke as they fed themselves and their mounts, who seemed perfectly calm. Anduin pointed out that if there had been anything sinister out there, the horses would know first, even with Medivh’s wards.

“Better safe than sorry,” Medivh shrugged as he carefully took the wards down, drawing the energies back into himself rather than dispersing them. He had a feeling he’d need every scrap of energy he could keep.

He swung up onto his mount, pulling his cloak around him in the misty morning air. Anduin took point for this leg of the trip, and Llane took rear, keeping Medivh between them.

The sun was nearing zenith when they crossed into Stranglethorn Vale, and the temperature began to warm around them. All three bundled their cloaks behind them, and it wasn’t long before Medivh began to wish his outer robe was a little lighter. He pulled his hair back and tied it in a tail at the nape of his neck to let the breeze cool the back of his neck, though it didn’t do much.

Llane had pulled his hair up as well, though Anduin hadn’t bothered. He was far too intent on watching the sides of the road.

Not long after noon, Anduin put a hand up and they all stopped. He pointed off to one side of the road, where there was a clear encampment of trolls, barely visible through the thick vines and undergrowth. They dismounted and inched closer, keeping themselves well hidden.

It became clear that this was at least one of the staging points for the previous incursions, though it was not, apparently, the heart of where they came from. Medivh signaled that the other two should stay where they were, and a moment later, winked out of sight.

Anduin bit his lip, but stayed where he was. Llane moved to join him.

“What’s he doing?” Llane breathed in his ear.

Anduin shook his head. “Getting a closer look is my guess,” he breathed back.

It was several long uncomfortable moments before Medivh returned, looking grim. He nodded his head toward the road, where they had left their horses tethered to some brush just off the track’s surface. He gestured in silence, though his lips moved, and then led them back to their mounts.

Once they were back by the road, he finally spoke. “This is just a send-off point,” he confirmed. “The orders come from farther south. I have the name of the one issuing those orders. I think that should be our target.”

“You can understand them?” Anduin asked in shock.

Medivh dropped his eyes and mounted his horse. “I was not the only patient in Northshire. And not all the patients there were human.”

Llane and Anduin exchanged a look, but no matter how much they pressed, Medivh would reveal nothing more on the subject.

They moved on, heading deeper into the jungle. The westering sun saw them debating on whether to camp early or to keep going. They decided, mostly due to Medivh’s insistence, that they camp early. They would need to be fresh if they were going to mount any kind of attack.

They found the river and decided to set up camp there. Medivh moved around the perimeter and set up wards once again, though this time stronger ones that would not only capture and ensure the visibility of any intruder, but also to keep them hidden from sight – including scrying.

Llane and Anduin took care of setting everything else up as he worked, and none of them discarded armor this time. Nor did they move far from their fire once they had settled for the night. They didn’t bother with tents, this deeply in, either. Instead, they set up their bedding within touching distance of one another around the fire.

Medivh found he couldn’t sleep. There was something in the back of his mind constantly nagging him that there was something wrong about all this. He lay awake listening to the others’ soft snores or deep breathing, staring up at the sky. He wondered if he should have gone along with this idea, wondered if they were really doing the right thing.

He turned over, stretching an arm above his head, the other pulling his blankets to his chest. It should be a simple matter to get in, kill the one issuing the orders, and get back out. As his eyes finally slid closed, he knew that nothing was ever that ‘simple’.

He was the last to wake, and only did so because his body demanded it. The scent of venison stew, and more insistently, his bladder, forced him to get up. He took care of the latter first, then returned to take care of the former. Llane and Anduin were already discussing how they would work this entire thing, and Medivh listened in silence.

Finally, he spoke up. “Something doesn’t feel right,” he said quietly. “I have a sense of foreboding that won’t let up. I’ve had it since last night.”

“Nerves, probably. When have you seen a lot of combat, other than some murlocs and a few gnolls?” Anduin asked him.

Medivh ran a hand along his side, where the scar from Llane’s battle axe still twinged a little. “I haven’t. But still, this doesn’t feel right.”

Llane patted his shoulder. “It’ll be all right. We’ll get in, we’ll take care of their leader, and we’ll get out. With you to cloak us, it’ll take maybe an hour at most, and then we can get ourselves back home before these few days we’re supposed to be taking stretches too long, and they send a search party out for us thinking we’ve deserted or something worse.”

Medivh mulled that over as he sipped tea. “I… All right. I can’t argue that.” He dearly wanted to, though.

They packed up and headed south again, and found what they were looking for before the sun had cleared the tops of the trees. They tied their horses off the side of the road as they had when they had scouted the encampment, leaving them access to water and grazing so they would not be so quick to try to wander off with their gear.

They carried only their weapons, wore only their armor, and Medivh concealed the horses with a deflection ward before they crossed the road itself and headed for the settlement, or what appeared to be a settlement, of trolls.

Instead of setting a single ward for the three of them, Medivh made sure each of them had a ward, just in case they were separated. They could see each other, but the trolls would not, unless they walked into one, or did something too obvious. It was dangerous, and to Medivh’s mind, flimsy protection, but it was all they could do on the time they had.

They were searching for a troll named Jok’non. If they could stop him from giving orders, they could stop this stupid conflict.

They found him, though what they found also made them rather sick. Medivh had, one evening shortly after returning to Stormwind, told them about the different forms and sources of power and what spells or abilities could be used with those sources. It had come about on an evening when Anduin was nursing a cut he had gotten in training, and he’d asked why Medivh couldn’t magic it closed or heal it.

It led to a long discussion, and the more wine they shared, the darker it became. He could heal it, but it would be inexpertly done, because healing magics were more in the purview of those who could call on the Light, rather than those who dealt in the Arcane. Even Shadow magics could heal wounds, but there was a price. He had gone on into the realms of fabled Fel and what demons it could call, and he had mentioned those who followed Blood-path.

Blood magic was often done via sacrifice. Most of it unwilling. There were some Shamanistic magics that involved sacrifice, but it was always willing and seldom claimed the life of the sacrifice.

“There are blood magics an arcane mage can do, but it’s highly dangerous, and very easy to fall into darker ways,” he’d said to them. “If the mage lives,” he’d added.

The more wine he’d had the more gruesome his descriptions had become.

And now some of those descriptions were before their eyes, and they could not deny the scent of death, dying and fear that went along with it. For all they had doubted that Medivh could have been speaking of reality, it was here for them to see.

Medivh had been skeptical of his father’s descriptions, and the images he’d produced at the time, but now he was grateful for it. He still felt sickened, but he wasn’t in as bad a shape as either of his companions. He cautiously moved forward, the others staying with him.

He had begun feeling strange once they had crossed into the settlement, and the sense of wrongness was now palpable as a tingling somewhere along his spine. Something in him itched to do something about it, that because of this wrongness, it needed to be stopped.

Medivh fought the impulse; they were here for a specific purpose, and that purpose was all he intended to resolve.

Fate had other plans.

Anduin hissed something, behind him. He turned to find out what, but it became obvious before he could ask. Anduin was staring at what could only be described as a pyramid. The temple was in the center of the settlement, and there was something happening near, or at, the top of it.

Before any of them could move, something rose from what they presumed was the center of the top, and Medivh took an involuntary step back. He could feel the blood magic from this far away, and it made him feel as though he’d rolled in a stable muck pit. He managed to shake the feeling off, and started toward the temple, ignoring the hisses of both Llane and Anduin behind him.

Whatever he had been feeling earlier, the need to do something about the atrocity around them, had won, and was now taking him up the stairs. He heard the other two follow, still cloaked under Medivh’s spells.

When he reached the top, however, all three of them recoiled and Medivh very nearly lost the contents of his stomach. There was a troll there, surrounded by more, and on an altar that was coated in blood, both fresh and old, was a human child. Or rather, what was left of one.

It was a small girl, no older than ten perhaps, and she had been gutted, cut from crotch to throat, and the troll that stood at the altar reached into the body and pulled out her heart.

Medivh didn’t think, he just acted, without worry or care for what he was doing. The bolt of pure arcane power struck the troll’s hand, forcing him to drop  his ‘prize’, and also shook off the spell concealing him. He struck again, this time aiming for the troll’s heart, but the troll gestured, knocking the spell aside with a blood-red shield of what he could only guess was pure power.

He shouted something none of them could catch, and one of the others answered, making the mistake of speaking his name – and Medivh’s eyes narrowed. This was who they had come here for.

He heard Anduin and Llane draw their weapons, and found himself between them as they moved to flank him. The moment one of the others had gone for Medivh, he had found his hand removed by Llane’s axe, and the next found Anduin’s sword in his chest.

They were outnumbered – severely outnumbered, and for a moment, Medivh was paralyzed by fear before that instinct, or itch, or need or whatever it was he had no name for directed him to even the odds.

With a sharp order to “Duck!”, he sent an arc of fire to settle and entrap two more, another gesture sent ice to lance through them where they stood burning. By now, though, he had gotten Jok’non’s attention.

Word was spreading, and Llane and Anduin found a place they could keep others from coming up the sides. Medivh thought he heard Anduin shout something to him, but he was busy avoiding a bolt of what looked like blood as it was shot toward him. As it splattered harmlessly where he had just been standing, he realized that it bubbled ominously. Again, he felt sickened, but his instinct drowned that sickness and cleared his mind.

With a silent prayer that the other two could hold their own, he went after Jok’non directly, avoiding more spells that made him very glad for all of the lessons in dodging and avoiding getting hit that Anduin had drilled into him. He pulled his staff from his back and used it to counter everything thrown at him until he had a chance to counter the attacks, barraging the troll with ice, fire, water, wind, earth and when none of those could connect, tried pure arcane again.

He was getting nowhere. A glance told him that Anduin and Llane had been cornered, but were still holding their own. He needed to finish this.

While his attention was on the others, Jok’non flung something that looked like dark fire at him. Medivh’s instinct told him it was there, but as he turned he found it closer than he could counter. Whatever it was struck him squarely in the chest, and spread something that felt cold and numbing out from where it had hit him. He closed his eyes and shook his head to clear it, heard voices behind him – worried voices.

They don’t have the time to worry about me, he thought as he braced his staff on the stones and used it to pull himself to his feet. He saw another spell coming towards him, this one something that looked like black and poisonous spears of the same darkened fire – blood fire? ­– and aimed lower on his body. He managed to arc his staff in a sweep that threw them off course. As Medivh raised his hands to counter the spears, a cloud of something that made it hard to breathe surrounded him.

The sound of weapons striking and the shouts of Llane and Anduin faded away from him, and he stood in a place he recognized, but did not want to. It was the violet and blue “place” he had been when he had slept for ten years. He heard laughter, laughter that was harsh and cruel, and sounded horribly like himself. He felt pain – his left arm, his right foot, the middle of his back, his chest, his right shoulder. It felt like a series of needles was pricking him, first up from his back, then down it.

Medivh felt weakened and tired, as though something in him just wanted to lie down and sleep.

Lie down? Here? In the middle of a battle?

He shook his head again, blinked rapidly, and realized those points of pain had a reason for hurting, and it wasn’t his imagination. As his vision cleared, he reached his left hand up and snapped the shaft of the arrow in his right shoulder, knowing it would be stupid to try to pull it out now, and the shaft would get in his way.

There was a pain behind his eyes, a pain he recognized and despised as much as that blue and violet ‘place’ he had just been floating in. The last time he had felt this pain, his father had died before Medivh could lock it down.

But what if he didn’t?

Rather than trying, he closed his eyes and let it use him.

You have no friends. They only want to use you.

He felt his empty hand lift, almost claw-like as something began to form within his palm. He felt the same thing in his other hand, but the staff he carried amplified its effect. He felt his mouth moving in an incantation he did not immediately recognize, and wondered if it was even one he knew.

Dimly, he heard Anduin calling his name. His voice was joined by Llane’s. They sounded frightened. There was an odd feeling in the pit of his stomach, a sense of pressure that only made his head hurt worse.

Medivh finally opened his eyes, and his gaze found Jok’non, watching him with something akin to awe. Fear? It was – it was fear. The troll turned to run, but realized he had no way of escaping; Medivh was on one side of him, Llane and Anduin had flanked him on the other.

Some small part of him had enough presence of mind or instinct or something to fling one hand toward both of them, and a shield of pure and pulsing violet encased them.

The headache broke. The pressure found its outlet.

The storm of power was like nothing any of them had ever seen. It seemed to begin as any other storm; the silence was deafening as low black clouds converged where Medivh stood. A single bolt of lightning struck a few feet in front of him, and from that spot a firestorm sprang up, engulfing Jok’non. The troll threw himself to the stone atop the temple, tried to dampen the flames by rolling, and when that didn’t work, tried to put them out by rolling into a puddle of blood that lay beside the altar. Even that didn’t work.

As the firestorm spread down the sides of the temple, it began to hail. At first the hailstones were no different from any other hailstorm, but as it progressed, the hailstones became lances, razor sharp and everywhere. Though they did not put out the flames, it had a similar effect as the first spells Medivh had cast to give Anduin and Llane breathing room, lancing through whatever was in its path, be it living or non. As they struck the surfaces of the temple, they seemed to sink into the stone, though could not get through it.

As though the inextinguishable flames and the daggers of ice that cascaded from the sky were not bad enough, an arcane wind sprang up that began to shred everything living in its path. It grew into a fierce whirlwind that Medivh was the epicenter of, yet apparently was also the eye of. Worse, the wind seemed to be visible as what looked like scythe blades of pure violet power shimmered where it struck something in its path.

Anduin and Llane were both frozen by shock, staring out of their violet prisons unable and unwilling to grasp what they were seeing their friend do. They turned to look at Medivh, who appeared entirely oblivious to what was going on around him, his arms raised, his robes and hair whipping around him in the winds, but he seemed to be completely unharmed by all that was happening.

Over the storm, and far worse than anything it could produce, were the screams. Both Llane and Anduin had dropped their weapons and held their hands over their ears, wincing at the sound.

The storm, as abruptly as it had begun, suddenly ceased. The fires lowered and died. The last few shards of ice fell with the sound of shattering glass as they struck. The howling wind and the blades that made it shimmered and died. The silence that followed was as deafening as the storm and its results. The spheres of violet light that had encased Anduin and Llane flickered, then faded, slowly, into nothing. The sound of metal on stone was loud as they retrieved their weapons, and turned as one to look at Medivh.

The mage’s arms were still outstretched and raised, his back to them. Slowly, his arms lowered, and there was a soft clunk as the base of his staff touched the ground. Medivh turned to face Anduin and Llane, his robes stained with blood, the tears in it telling all of them clearly where he had been struck. His eyes were wide and round and more frightened than they had ever seen them. Medivh looked down at his free hand, and then at his staff, slowly, as though he were moving under water. He then looked down at himself, and reached his hand up to brush the broken shaft of the arrow in his shoulder, hissing with pain as he did so.

He looked at Anduin, then at Llane. “I don’t think Jok’non will be issuing any further orders,” he said quietly. Before either of the others could react, Medivh dropped his staff, then fell to his knees, and then fell flat on his face.

Chapter Text

X. The Guardian’s Rise

They began the long trip back to Stormwind much subdued. Llane and Anduin were, other than a few superficial cuts and bruises, unharmed. Medivh had not been so lucky. They were able to get the arrow out of his shoulder with a minimum of fuss, and thanks to the supplies they carried and Medivh’s herbal knowledge, they were able to get it stitched closed and treat the rest of the cuts he had sustained under Jok’non’s magics. There were some wounds that they could do nothing about, since they seemed to be ethereal in nature. Or they were in Medivh’s own mind.

Their horses, thankfully were unharmed and didn’t seem to notice what was going on. They had been peacefully grazing when Llane and Anduin hauled Medivh back to the road. They hadn’t bothered to go far, setting up a camp a short distance from where the massacre had occurred.

It was there that Anduin and Llane tended to Medivh’s wounds, and refrained from bombarding the mage with questions. Medivh had been stunned, and though he was lucid and able to direct them in gathering the right plants to tend to him – apart from what he had carried – and even directed them in brewing something for him to kill the pain as they worked.

Other than that, Medivh did not speak for most of the rest of the day. In truth, he was as much in shock as they were at what he had done.

In fact, it wasn’t until night had fallen that he spoke again, and only when Anduin had joined him in their tent, deciding to sleep early, and leaving Llane to take watch since they did not have the benefit of Medivh’s wards.

“Are you all right?” was the first thing he asked, looking up at Anduin from where he lay.

“We’re fine. We only got a few scrapes and bruises. Nothing major. It’s you we’re worried about, Med,” Anduin responded quietly. “You didn’t seem to come out of that confrontation as luckily as we did ours.”

Medivh stared up at the sloped roof of the tent, his expression blank. “I don’t know what happened,” he confessed, his voice shaking a little. “I… I felt like I did on the morning my f-father died. My head started to hurt, badly. And I felt like there was something that I needed to do, and it hurt. It was like my chest and head were in vices and someone was turning the closure even as I tried to figure it out. And then I did… Something. And all of Hell broke loose and there was nothing I could do to direct it, or stop it or pull it back or…” he trailed off, closing his eyes.

“Med, whatever happened, you seemed to be in some kind of trance. Almost as if you were directing the storm from reaction.” Anduin settled next to him, curling his legs under him and reaching to take one of the mage’s hands in his. “We were afraid that you’d gone into another coma when you hit the ground.”

Medivh shook his head. “I almost wish I had,” he said, his voice very small.

“Don’t talk like that. What makes you say that?”

“We only needed to kill… him. But all of them, right down to the children…” Medivh turned his head and looked up at Anduin, and the twenty-four year old young man was gone, replaced with a child much younger looking up at him.

Anduin shook his head, then reached down and slowly began to stroke his forehead and the top of his head with his free hand. “You acted on instinct, it sounds like. You were hurt. You were afraid, and—“

“And no one should ever have that much power at one time! What if I unleashed that kind of storm at home, if something frightened me like that? I can’t do that again. I can’t let myself do that again. Ever.” Medivh closed his eyes. “No one should have that much power that they cannot control.”

“Med,” Anduin began, then stopped and sighed. “Medivh, listen to me. If anyone is to blame, it is Llane and myself for goading you into this. We could have just taken Llane’s father’s word at face value and just enjoyed ourselves on this trip, and yet we… we dragged you into something we probably should never have even tried to take on ourselves.”

Medivh opened his eyes again, and they were unreadable as he looked at Anduin. “I slaughtered an entire settlement.” His eyes closed again, and he turned his head away. “Though. It may be that they don’t bother us again. There aren’t any left, once the ones that are in that staging encampment are gone.”

Anduin’s hand paused, then slowly withdrew. Medivh tucked his legs up against his chest and freed his hand from Anduin’s to wrap around his knees. There was a soft noise, followed by a shuddering breath.

Anduin sighed, then stretched himself out against Medivh’s back, his arm curling around the mage. “Med, you can’t blame this on yourself.”

He only got a sniffle in return. With a sharp huff, he lifted his leg and draped it over Medivh and gently nudged his foot against Medivh’s knees until he got the mage to uncurl. He wriggled backwards, upsetting the blankets a bit, and didn’t seem to care. He kept working with one arm and one leg and foot until he was able to get Medivh straightened out, then tried to get him to turn over so they were face to face.

Once he got Medivh facing him again, he managed to pull the mage, who was now shaking, against him. The hardness of the ground softened only by a couple of blankets made it awkward for a moment, but Anduin managed to get his arms around Medivh, who immediately moved to cling to the warrior.

Anduin stroked Medivh’s hair and his back, murmuring soothing sounds at him. Medivh was openly weeping now, silently, having learned to do so when he was young, afraid and in pain most of the time. With a sigh, Anduin turned over on his back, pulling Medivh with him, and found it much easier – as well as more comfortable – to hold him as he cried himself out.

Eventually, Medivh stopped shaking with sobs, and shivered in cold instead. Anduin had expected this, considering the wounds and how much of his body’s energies were going to heal those wounds rather than keeping him warm. He knew that the mage could have just done what he had their first few nights and cast warming spells on the tents, but Anduin had a feeling that it would be some time before the mage felt comfortable casting another spell. He pulled the blankets up and around Medivh without letting him go entirely, and Medivh snuggled into the blankets and let his head rest on Anduin’s shoulder.

“I don’t want this,” he murmured softly. “If this is what kind of thing my power can do, I want nothing to do with it, Anduin.” Medivh sounded miserable, and beneath the misery, was fear.

“It won’t always be like this, Med,” Anduin soothed. “You’re new to it, and it’s going to take time before you learn how to wield it with as much mastery as you do the smaller spells you can do as easy as breathing now. Remember what you told me? How the Guardian is usually chosen as an adult and then given this power? You were born with it, and instead of growing with you –“

“I know,” Medivh half moaned, half wailed. “I know and I can’t control it and I don’t want to. I wish I had never been born.” Once the words were out of his mouth, the tears started anew.

Anduin sighed, staring up at the roof of the tent, continuing to make soothing sounds, his hand steadily stroking Medivh’s back.

It took a long time for Medivh to fall asleep, and shortly after he did, Llane poked his head in. “How is he?”

Anduin sighed, shaking his head a little. “He’s asleep, finally. This hit him hard, Llane. I wish we hadn’t done this, now.”

“I know,” Llane sighed. “I feel the same. Are you up for taking watch? I can take over here, if you want.”

Anduin looked down at the sleeping mage, his hair tangled, one hand curled into his shirt, loosely, the other under Anduin’s shoulder. “If you can worm your way into this position… he needs this,” he nodded his head in the general direction of how they lay. “He needs to be held, I think. And badly.”

Llane nodded, and slipped inside, pulling his armor off and laying it aside. “Wake me for the third watch. That way, he won’t be confused if he wakes snuggling me.”

Anduin had to chuckle a little, and together, he and Llane carefully, slowly managed to swap places. Medivh snorted a little, reached to rub his nose, but didn’t wake.

Anduin picked up his sword and left the tent.

His watch was all quiet, and he stared into the dying fire as he listened for anything that might be out in the jungle. Insects called, a nocturnal bird called softly in the distance, and once, he heard the snarl of a hunting cat and a loud squeal that signaled that whatever the cat had been hunting would soon be the cat’s dinner.

Llane, meanwhile, had resumed the slow stroking of Medivh’s hair and back, and the mage slept on, exhaustion and the drain his wounds and his working of magic keeping him deeply asleep. Medivh’s breathing was slow and even, and the sound soon had Llane’s breathing matching it, and the prince, though guilt filled him, and regret made his chest ache, finally fell asleep.

 

Medivh woke up as sunlight brushed the top of the tent, his head still pillowed on something that moved, slowly. And snored.

Anduin doesn’t snore… does he? He opened his eyes, blinked, and found himself staring at a tumble of blond hair, not the dark hair he had expected. He lifted his head, and found that he was curled up on Llane, not Anduin. He blushed, darkly, then carefully extricated himself from the arms around him.

He left the tent to find Anduin dozing by the remains of the now nearly completely dead fire and shook his head. He prodded at the fire to uncover the coals and carefully fed it leaves and twigs, then a small branch or two before finally setting another split log into it so it would rise enough to heat their breakfast and water for tea.

Only then did he kneel beside Anduin and rest a hand on his shoulder. “Anduin,” he called, softly.

Anduin’s eyes snapped open the instant Medivh’s hand touched his shoulder, and he immediately groped for his sword. He realized the hand on his shoulder was friendly, and it took a moment before the blue irises came back into proper focus, and he stared at Medivh in shock. “Med? Wh- Where’s Llane?”

“Asleep. What happened last night?” As he spoke, he settled himself beside Anduin, pressing up against the warrior’s side.

“He came to get me for second watch, told me to wake him for third. I… I fell asleep. Gods. Damn it I could have gotten us all killed…” He looked at Medivh, shaking his head. “I’m sorry. Oh damn I’m so sorry.”

Medivh shook his head. “You were exhausted. We all were. If I’d had the strength I’d have put up wards but…” He shrugged a shoulder. “I barely had the strength to light a candle let alone set wards.”

“It’s all right.” Anduin looked toward their tent. “Let Llane sleep. I have a feeling none of us are going to be in much shape to do more than pack up and maybe get back into Brightwood.” He looked at Medivh for a long moment. “How would you feel about staying in a town tonight? I think Sunnyglade has a decent inn. I’m not sure I’m up to going all the way up to Grand Hamlet.”

Medivh shrugged. “Will it be safe? I mean…” he spread his hands, looking pointedly down at the state of his robes. “I can change the under-robe, but I can’t change how the armor has been abused.”

“If all of us change, we can make it look as though we’ve just been out camping and decided a night at an inn on the way home was a better idea than a night in the wilderness?” Anduin suggested.

“It… It would be nice. I’m not sure I’d really want to camp again until we’re in Elwynn,” Medivh said wistfully.

“It’s a good thing I don’t travel without a purse, just in case,” Llane said from the tent flap. “What happened, Anduin?”

“I fell asleep. I’m sorry.” Anduin turned his head, unable to look at Llane.

“We were exhausted. If anything had come up anywhere near you, and wasn’t someone you knew, you’d have woken up and we’d have been out here in a blink. Don’t sweat it, all right?” Llane emerged from the tent. “I don’t know about you, but I’m about ready to put this place behind me.” As he spoke, he headed off into the trees.

Anduin sighed, running a hand through his dark hair. “I don’t know how either of you can take this so calmly…”

Medivh glanced in the direction Llane had gone, determined that he was far enough away, then turned back to Anduin, leaning to kiss him. “He’s right. You woke instantly when I touched you. If anything hostile had come up on us, you’d have been awake and calling an alarm. Come, help me get breakfast together so we can get out of this damned place.”

Once they were back on the road they didn’t speak very much. Both Anduin and Llane kept throwing concerned looks at Medivh, who seemed to just stare straight ahead of him, lost in his thoughts. The few times they attempted to break him out of those thoughts were met with blank looks and requests to repeat what they had just said.

They all seemed to brighten a little when they reached Brightwood, however, and followed the track north, then turned to the west toward Sunnyglade.

They made it to the small town just after sunset, and as luck would have it, the inn was not too busy, and there were rooms free. All three were grateful when there had been no comment on the request of two rooms, though the innkeeper did at least recognize Llane, and rather than two rooms, they were offered a suite of rooms, which included a little sitting room, a private bathing room, and two well-furnished bedrooms. It allowed them to have dinner in peace, rather than in the common room below.

Dinner proved to be roasted chicken, vegetables baked with cheese, bread, and fruit and cream for dessert. They were well supplied with a pot of mulled apple cider and a pitcher of light ale, and once they had eaten, they found themselves unwilling to move.

The sitting room was tiny, but still had the space for a small dining table on one side of the room, and on the other around a small fireplace were a couple of comfortable chairs and a low couch with a low table set in the center of the arrangement. Anduin and Medivh took over the couch with their mugs of warm cider, and Llane shifted one of the chairs closer so they didn’t need to speak too loudly. The inn seemed sturdily built, and they could hear nothing from the next room, but none of them were ready to bet that they weren’t overheard.

“Did we do the right thing?” Anduin asked, his hands cradling his mug.

Medivh, who was leaning against Anduin, his feet up on the arm of the couch, shrugged. “We did, but we didn’t, I think,” he said softly, lifting his mug to sip from it. “I… I just…”

Llane sighed, shaking his head. “We did what was necessary. Do you have any idea what happened to you, Medivh?”

Medivh shook his head. “I’ve been thinking about it all day. All I can remember is that my head hurt badly enough I swear it was going to split, and I felt as though I was being crushed in a vice. And then… that storm. I…” He trailed off, staring at the fire, and shivered.

Anduin sighed, then nudged him gently. “Go take a hot soak. You’ll feel better.”

Llane grinned at him. “A hot soak will do wonders. And it’s far better than the wash you had in that cold stream this morning.”

Medivh snorted softly, drained his mug and set it down on the table in front of the couch. “It’s going to sting,” he lamented as he swung his legs off the arm of the couch so he could get up. “At least I know some of the cuts will heal in a mineral bath,” he sighed as he got to his feet.

“Just be careful of that shoulder,” Anduin warned him. “If you run into trouble, let me know, all right?”

Medivh looked at him for a long moment, and opened his mouth as if to protest, then shut it again and smiled. “I think I will,” he said. As he turned, he winked at Llane before taking himself off to the bathing room.

Llane laughed as soon as Medivh was gone. “I’m not sure how he has the energy to flirt after what happened.”

“Pft,” Anduin replied, sipping from his mug. “Stress reaction, Llane. Think about that for a moment.”

Llane stared at him for a moment, then turned red. “As long as he sets a silence ward…”

Anduin grinned. “Maybe I’ll have him set it on the outer walls and make you listen. You would have laughed yourself stupid at the first time we tried anything.”

That got Llane’s attention. “Why? You two seemed quite relaxed and comfortable the morning after.”

“Did you know that some mages’ eyes glow when they’re aroused, Llane?” Anduin asked, the corners of his mouth twitching.

Llane shook his head. “I’ve never bedded a mage, Anduin, how would I kn—“ He stopped speaking, then looked at Anduin for a long moment. “They what?”

“They glow. It was kind of eerie. Worse, since we didn’t bother with a light for most of it, there was a lot of fumbling, awkward questions… It was like a bad farce of a romance novel that isn’t nearly as well written as the ones Medivh favors.” Anduin shrugged. “It didn’t deter our enjoyment of what happened, it just would probably have been very funny to anyone not directly involved in the proceedings.”

Llane shook his head, stood up and went to refill his mug, offering the same to Anduin. After a moment of thought, Anduin held out his mug in acceptance of the offer.

As Llane took his seat again, Anduin sighed. “I wish I knew what happened. I’ve never seen any mage do what he did.”

“I’m not sure any other mage could do what he did, Anduin. He’s –“ Llane lowered his voice. “He’s in line to be a Guardian of Tirisfal, or whatever. He has more power than ten normally powerful mages combined.” He sipped from his mug, then added, “I’m not sure how he’s not terrified.”

“He is,” Anduin said quickly. “Before he fell asleep last night he said quite a few things, and one of them was that he was afraid – not just of his power, but of himself because he has that power and doesn’t know how to control it.”

Llane shook his head. “And he still hasn’t heard anything from his mother on the subject?”

Anduin shrugged, taking a long drink from his mug and wincing a little when he realized he probably just burned the back of his throat. “Only demands veiled as requests to go to Karazhan.”

Llane sighed. “Thus effectively cutting us out of his life.”

“He would never let that happen, even if he does go, Llane. You know that.” Llane noticed that Anduin did not meet his eyes as he spoke, and didn’t sound very sure of it himself. “He promised, quite some time before he fell into that coma, that no matter what his other duties included, he would come to us if we needed him, and said he didn’t care if it showed bias.”

“I… I remember saying something about that promise when we were making plans to go down to Stranglethorn Vale and take care of those trolls, Anduin.” Llane sighed. “We took advantage of that promise with something that was more of a personal vengeance quest for the both of us.”

“And for all of those who have died just for living in Westfall. People are reluctant to go back out there, Llane. I’m quite sure that the only town currently being rebuilt is Moonbrook – and only then for the mining operations there.” Anduin sighed, draining his mug and setting it beside Medivh’s. “I have a sinking feeling that Westfall is going to wind up like its name – and falling entirely.”

Llane growled softly, but could not find anything to say that would counter the fact that people were reluctant to go back out to the southwest. In fact, the last report he had seen had reported that quite a few people from the north and the eastern side of Westfall were coming back to Elwynn to settle in Goldshire or even to the growing towns of Sunnyglade and Grand Hamlet. This inn was a testament to that. “Perhaps, now that the trolls shouldn’t be coming back, that will change,” the prince said quietly, draining the last of his mug and setting it down.

They were quiet for a moment. Anduin finally stood up. “I’m going to go check on Medivh and make sure he hasn’t drowned.”

Lane chuckled. “I claim the next bath,” he said. “Since I want to go sleep a little early, and take full advantage of that soft featherbed rather than the bedroll I’ve been used to these past few days.”

Anduin grinned. “Fair enough. It will give Medivh and me a little time to sort ourselves out while you’re bathing, and decide what we’re going to do with our lovely featherbed.”

Llane blushed, then waved a hand at him. “Shoo. You’re awful.”

“As if I don’t know what you and Taria get up to when you think I’m not looking.” Anduin grinned. “You just remember that she’s my sister.”

“As if I could forget! Go on, before I throw something at you!” Llane laughed, got to his feet and vanished into the room he had claimed.

Anduin headed for the other door, and into the bathing room that lay between the two bedrooms.

Medivh’s arms were draped over the rim of the generous tub, and judging from the steam rising from the water, might have been in danger of boiling himself like a lobster before drowning.

There was a stool beside the tub, and Anduin hooked a foot into one of the legs and tugged it closer to the tub so he could be within conversational distance of Medivh.

As soon as the stool scraped against the tiled floor, Medivh’s eyes opened and he looked up, just in time to see Anduin drop onto the seat and look him over. The soak had done some good in easing some of the minor scrapes and cuts, though the arrow wound in his shoulder was rather nasty looking still. Anduin frowned at it, wondering if the puffiness around the edges was from irritation of the stitching or from impending infection.

“How are you feeling?” he asked.

“Better,” Medivh replied, reaching a hand up. Anduin caught it in his. “A little more human, and less abused.”

Anduin noticed that there was a damp washcloth over the edge of the tub near Medivh’s feet, and that his hair was wet. So. This was the soak after a good wash. Well that meant that the redness of some of those cuts was likely from irritation. He sighed mentally in relief at that. He wasn’t sure he could stand trying to get Medivh to see a healer. The last time had been a nightmare.

“Absolutely not. They’ve poked, prodded, questioned and observed me quite enough thank you very much. It’s just a scrape and it will heal fine on its own.”

“A scrape? Med, you landed on Llane’s axe! You need to be seen by a healer.”

“Fine. But you are not leaving my side. I don’t want them to have an excuse to poke and prod at me and try to determine how much weight I’ve gained or whether my mind is functioning properly.”

Anduin couldn’t help himself. He laughed at the look on Medivh’s face that could only be described as a sulking pout.

Anduin smiled at the memory. “Good.” He lifted his head and indicated with his bearded chin at the arrow wound. “That looks like it might be trying to get itself infected,” he commented lightly.

“Might be,” Medivh sighed. “I thought I tore it when I was washing it, and it’s been like that since. Might be the heat, though. I have an antiseptic salve in my things – we can see if we can’t stave off any infection at least until I can be seen by an expert.”

Anduin blinked. That was not like Medivh at all to even half agree to… well. Perhaps there was a good reason for it. “Am I to assume that you are exhausted? You agreed to actually see a healer.”

Medivh grinned. “No, I agreed to see an expert. There is a difference.” The mage slid his hand from Anduin’s and carefully leaned to pull the drain plug on the tub and wobbled to his feet.

Anduin got up and reached out to help Medivh steady himself before giving him something solid to lean on as he stepped out. Anduin reached for a towel and handed it to Medivh so he could dry off. “Did you leave a change in here or…” he trailed off, one eyebrow raised slightly.

“Why bother? No, I left all my things in the bedroom. All I’m going to want is one of the loose wrap-robes that I’d brought in case we managed to find a warm spot to swim.” Medivh toweled his hair and then the rest of him. “Are you next or did Llane claim next?”

“Even if he didn’t I’d have Llane take the next; I think he’s more shaken by all that happened than he wants to admit.” Anduin sighed. “I’m the most used to combat, so I don’t mind going last.”

Medivh nodded, and left his towels draped over a bar that appeared to be set for that purpose near one wall. As Anduin passed that wall he noted it was warm, frowned for a moment, and Medivh laughed at him from the door as Anduin put his hand out toward the wall in confusion. “It shares the fireplace on the other side of the wall. Indirect heat so bathers don’t get a chill.”

Anduin shrugged. “Not an architect,” he grinned, then knocked on the door from the bathing room that led to Llane’s room. “Bath’s free, Llane,” he called through it, then followed Medivh through the other door leading to their room, closing it behind him.

Medivh was busy digging in his pack and finally pulled out a deep green robe and wrapped it around himself, tied the pale jade sash that went with it, and dug out a comb. Before Medivh could do more than pull it out, Anduin snatched it from his hand. “No you don’t. You’re not about to get an excuse to pull that wound open. Sit.”

Medivh sat obediently with a huffed sigh. A moment later though, he practically purred as Anduin combed out his hair, gently, and properly from the ends to the roots so as not to break it. Once he’d gotten all the tangles out, he carefully braided it, tying the end off with the scrap of ribbon Medivh held out to him. “Where did you learn to do that?”

“Taria,” Anduin answered. “Don’t ask why or when or how, because that I don’t remember. Something to do with some injury she got falling out of a tree, I think.”

Medivh turned his head a little. “She fell out of a tree?”

“You don’t think she was always the distinguished Lady did you? You honestly didn’t think Llane chose her just for her looks, do you?” Anduin grinned.

“Well, no, she’s a very intelligent and outspoken young woman,” Medivh hazarded. “She doesn’t … no, no, that’s not quite right. She speaks her mind, when it’s needed. She doesn’t just smile and act stupid like so many girls do.”

Anduin laughed. “Now you understand what I see in you.”

Medivh stared at him for a moment, opened his mouth, closed it, then blushed. Before either of them could recover from the revelation, however, Llane knocked on their door, with a call of “I’m out!”

Medivh nudged him with a shoulder. “Go get a bath. Then we can discuss that remark, hm?”

Anduin hesitated, then kissed Medivh’s forehead. “Fair enough,” he said with a sigh, then headed for the bathing room.

Medivh stretched out on the bed, reveling in the knowledge that they would sleep well tonight. It wasn’t as though they’d necessarily been sleeping badly, but a soft featherbed was far preferable to the hard ground or the way one side of him was always cold when he woke up.

The room was warm, he was well fed, and he couldn’t deny he was tired. He had been tired since he had taken on that troll – and then unleashed the mage storm that had slaughtered an entire tribe. He closed his eyes and turned over on his side, feeling the robe shift along his legs. That storm had drained him, far more than he wanted to admit. The others expressed their worry that he was, or had been, dragged down into another coma. He could barely remember what had actually happened, other than that damned headache and something more that insisted he do something more.

He sighed and turned to lay on his back, staring up at the ceiling. What would have happened if he’d fought it? Would the same thing that had happened to him when he was fourteen repeat itself? Should he have let it? Should he have let whatever it was happen back then? The results would have been the same. His father would have died. But how much destruction would he have caused, if he hadn’t tried to fight it?

The door opened again, and Anduin returned, toweling his hair. Medivh glanced toward him, realized he was wearing nothing at all, blushed, and turned his eyes back to the ceiling.

Anduin chuckled. “I saw that,” he said quietly. The bed sank a little as Anduin sat down. “You’re thinking about what happened. Aren’t you.” The words weren’t a question.

Medivh looked at him again, and sighed heavily. “I can’t help wondering if I shouldn’t have fought against whatever caused it. It was so much like what happened when I was younger – when I did fight it. But I’m also wondering what would have happened if I hadn’t fought it when I was younger – would that have happened? I mean, it wouldn’t have changed much…”

Anduin sighed and reached out to rest a hand on Medivh’s shoulder. “I wish I had answers for you. If that is what you’d stopped yourself from doing when you were younger, though… That storm. In the Keep…” he trailed off.

Medivh shuddered. “I would never have forgiven myself. I can’t forgive myself for what did happen. I can’t… I’m… I’m a danger to others – and myself. I don’t know if I should go back with you and Llane. I don’t know if I can trust myself not to do something else if I lose control again.” He closed his eyes, trying to stop them from stinging. Things were bad enough without adding his emotional weakness into this entire problem.

Anduin sighed, and tossed the towel onto the chair by the bed. “Med, I know things seem like that but I know you. Since you’ve been awake, you’ve been studying. Practicing. You’ve been pushing yourself to make up for the ten years you were away from the world. I’m not so sure what happened back there was a ‘loss of control’, but you said you felt something insisting that you do something. It may be something that was in you, like all that power, some kind of prompting, and…” he trailed off, unable to find the words to express what it was he thought it was. “It sounds to me like what I do when I am attacked. My body acts, even if my mind doesn’t. Reflex. Instinct. Whatever you want to call it. You did what you needed to do to stop your head from hurting and followed whatever was prompting you. There is nothing wrong with following an instinct to live.”

Medivh looked up at him, sighed and shook his head. “I don’t know what it was. But so… so many died. That wasn’t self-defense. It was close to genocide, Anduin. I don’t… I can’t… I never want to do anything like that ever again.”

Anduin nodded, slowly. “I… I understand. And I don’t blame you. And I… I’m sorry we dragged you into this.”

Medivh shook his head again, then turned his head away. “If I didn’t want to help, I wouldn’t have come with you.”

“You felt obligated because of that promise you’d made me over a decade ago,” Anduin shot back. “And as much as keeping a promise is important, I don’t like what it’s done to you.”

Medivh turned to look at Anduin again, sitting up and bracing one hand behind him. “What do you mean?”

“It’s made you afraid of what you are, and the power you have. You can’t be afraid of that. Look, I know you want nothing to do with being a Guardian, but it’s who you are, what you are, and there’s no way to get out of it. What’s done is done, and I regret asking this of you.”

Medivh stared at Anduin in confusion, trying to sort out the words. “Anduin, this – or something like it – would have happened sooner or later. Maybe it’s better that it happened now, before I’m forced to isolate myself. If this happened years from now and I felt like this, you wouldn’t necessarily be able to be here trying to make me feel better about genocide.”

“It wasn’t genocide, Medivh.” Anduin began.

“What do you call it then?” Medivh’s voice didn’t rise, but the anger in his eyes told Anduin he was treading on dangerous ground.

Anduin sighed, lifted a hand as though to touch Medivh’s shoulder, then lowered it. “Self-defense,” he said, softly. “Whatever instinct or power it was that forced you to act was hurting you. You were wounded. Anything more and you might have been killed. So you let that instinct or whatever act. And it may have been gross overkill but if you didn’t do what you did, none of us would have gotten out of there alive.” He raised his hand again, though this time, put a finger under Medivh’s chin, and lifted it, his thumb stroking the beard that looked now like it needed trimming. “Medivh, no matter what happened out there or what you think was unnecessary, you saved our lives.”

Medivh couldn’t look away from Anduin, though he did lower his gaze for a moment. “Perhaps you’re right. And in that, I suppose our people are safer as well. There are none left to retaliate – none of the ones who are still there will have any way of knowing exactly what happened. It’s not like any of them have marks to tell them who did it all. Other than … well. My signature is everywhere. That’s not something I can avoid. But it wouldn’t be recognizable. I’ve never done anything. Right?”

It was obvious the mage was begging reassurance that he hadn’t just killed them all anyway. Anduin hesitated, then leaned forward to kiss his forehead. “Maybe they’ll just think someone’s magic backfired. Didn’t you say that blood magics can fail easily if one isn’t careful?”

Medivh nodded slightly. “Usually.”

“Then my suggestion is to stop fretting.”

Medivh smiled, and looked up. “I could think of other things that we could be using this time better on.”

Anduin lifted an eyebrow at him, and Medivh raised his hand, and made a gesture. All but the lamp on the bedside table went out, and the walls took on a momentary violet glow. Before that sank in fully, Medivh had lifted his head from Anduin’s grasp and was kissing him.

Well, if nothing else, it’s a distraction… Anduin returned the kiss with fervor, but after a moment broke it long enough to speak. “Your injuries –“

“I’ll be fine as long as I don’t tear my shoulder. The rest are superficial. I don’t think this would be enough to pull my shoulder that much, do you?” Medivh replied, looking almost smug in the dimmer light.

Anduin laughed, then slid his hands down to the sash of Medivh’s robe. “Well, if nothing else, nothing will be in the way this time, and we’ll be able to see what we’re doing.”

Medivh grinned, running a hand down Anduin’s chest, his fingertips exploring the skin. “I have no complaints about that. I must admit I have been enjoying the view.”

Anduin shivered, then took Medivh’s hand. “Let me go lock—“ The sound of the bolts on both of the doors to their room clicking into place broke the silence.

“No need,” Medivh breathed.

Anduin laughed. “I could get used to having a mage in my bed.”

Medivh pouted a little. “Just your bed?”

“Or the floor, the wall, the pond, the garden…”

Medivh grabbed a handful of Anduin’s still-wet hair and pulled him down, kissing him. “Shut up, you barbarian.”

Anduin managed to get the sash undone and tugged at it as Medivh let him go. He eyed it speculatively, then looked at Medivh. “This would look lovely around your wrists, you know.”

Medivh laughed. “Maybe later. I like having my hands on you.”

Anduin let the sash slither to the floor. “Fair. I like your hands on me.” He slid both his hands up to gently push the robe from Medivh’s shoulders. His blue eyes glittered a little in the lamplight as they took Medivh’s body in. It wasn’t as though he had not seen it before, in various stages of undress. Their midnight swims in Crystal Lake with Llane had made all of them lose any sense of body-shyness they might have had.

Medivh took the opportunity to do the same, his green eyes already starting to glow faintly violet. For all that they had seen one another before, it almost felt new. There were the familiar scars, Anduin’s from training and actual combat, Medivh’s from mishaps or the few times he had been in combat, now littered with scrapes and cuts that would heal without them, and the one in his shoulder which would likely become a scar as prominent as the one from Llane’s axe was now.

Medivh was grateful that Anduin and Llane had nothing but a few superficial injuries, especially knowing that one wrong move – and he could have gotten all three of them killed. Perhaps that was one of the reasons he was so aroused now. He knew part of it was stress-reaction.

He also knew Anduin was in no better shape. There had been a tension between them since they arrived, even as they had been talking with Llane.

“Lie back,” Anduin breathed against his ear. “Let me do most of the work so your shoulder doesn’t get any worse.”

While Medivh had been lost in thought, Anduin had managed to divest him of the robe, and Medivh shifted enough to pry it from beneath him and let it fall where the sash had. His heart starting to race in anticipation, he settled himself back into the pillows, his eyes never leaving Anduin’s as he moved.

Almost before Medivh had settled, Anduin’s hand had slid down his side, and he was moving. Anduin nudged Medivh’s legs a little so he had the space to straddle the mage, hovering over him as he leaned to kiss him again.

Medivh lifted his arms to wrap them around Anduin’s shoulders as the kiss lingered, and turned into a series of them. They didn’t remain there, however, as one lifted a little to tangle in Anduin’s hair, and the other slid down his back, pressing on it so Anduin would settle against him.

Slowly, Anduin finally gave in to that prompting, and where their skin touched felt electrified. Anduin slid a hand between them, his fingers teasing against Medivh’s abdomen in little circles, leading downward. Medivh squirmed a little, making a soft sound into the kiss, and Anduin had to suppress the chuckle at the mage’s impatience.

Anduin responded to the sound by sliding his hand lower, fingertips brushing against the head of Medivh’s cock, slowly following that touch with his palm. His hand closed around the firm flesh, gently, and he began to run his palm against the underside in slow, lazy strokes.

Medivh broke the kiss and gasped, then moaned quietly in surprise. His hips lifted into the touch, though Anduin moved with him, keeping the touch light, but firm enough to keep Medivh wanting more.

Medivh could feel that Anduin was not unaffected, considering that he could feel the head of Anduin’s cock against his skin, brushing against his abdomen as his fingers had a moment ago. He wanted more than this, but he wasn’t sure what it was he wanted or even how to ask for it.

Anduin seemed to know, however, as he lifted his hand away, and as Medivh’s hips lifted to chase the touch, brought his own down to meet them. The contact was like an electric shock, and neither of them were prepared for it.

Anduin felt his breath leave him all at once in surprise, Medivh arched upwards with a cry of shock. Medivh’s hands slid down Anduin’s back and his hands both pressed against his rear, keeping him in place. Anduin blinked, then leaned to murmur against Medivh’s ear. “I take it that was a good thing?”

Medivh actually managed a soft laugh. “Yes,” he breathed back. “That’s… definitely a good thing.”

Instead of answering, Anduin rolled his hips experimentally, and felt Medivh arch again. He lowered himself a little, letting more of his weight rest on Medivh’s hips so he wouldn’t have to arch to keep the contact between them. He rolled his hips a second time, and though Medivh arched a little, it wasn’t to keep the contact. Anduin frowned slightly and managed to get his hand between them again.

Medivh seemed about to protest, but anything he had been about to say fell out of his head as it dropped back into the pillows beneath it and he moaned, low and unrestrained. Anduin’s hand had found, adjusted and then wrapped around their cocks in a loose, but steady, grip. The friction as Anduin rolled his hips again was beyond delicious, and Medivh was more than happy to just give himself up to it.

It was so much better than anything he had done to himself or any of his experimental (or experimenting) partners had done. He could feel Anduin’s pulse beginning to race, could feel the heat of his skin, and as they moved, only needing subtle shifts of their weight now, he could feel just how aroused the warrior was.

Anduin shifted his grip just a little as they moved, blushing as his hand encountered the damp evidence of their arousal, sliding down Medivh’s cock – he knew it wasn’t just his, and couldn’t possibly be just Medivh’s. It did make it easier for them both, and much easier for his hand to stroke them both as they moved.

Medivh made a soft noise of impatience and tried to lift his hips a little in the hopes that Anduin would speed up or press down against him, something – anything – to stop the torment. Anduin just chuckled softly, keeping his own hips moving in slow rolling motions. He did lean to kiss Medivh again, softly. “Patience.”

Medivh huffed at him, the effect of his glare ruined by the glow in his eyes that steadily brightened. “Easy for you to say,” he gasped out as Anduin squeezed his hand a touch.

“The longer I torment,” Anduin murmured, touching a kiss to Medivh’s neck, “the better it will be in the end.”

Medivh’s soft moan was the only reply.

Anduin shifted his weight, lifting himself up a little so he could run his free hand along Medivh’s chest, tracing a nail down the middle, reaching up to pinch a nipple. Medivh yelped a little, though it was obvious he rather liked it. Anduin repeated it on the other, and got a similar reaction.

Anduin settled his weight so that each roll of his hips was firmer, and his hand released them both, moving to match its twin as he leaned forward again, his hands against the bed on either side of Medivh’s shoulders. As soon as he was settled, he sped up a little, watching Medivh’s reaction.

Medivh arched his back, his hips lifting slightly, trying to match Anduin’s motions. It took him a few moments, but he finally managed to find the rhythm of it.

“That’s it,” Anduin murmured encouragingly, then chuckled a little as Medivh moaned again in impatience.

Medivh freed a hand from where it had been clutching at the bedding, and reached between them. He managed to entrap them both with it, and his moan this time was deeper, and sounded almost satisfied. “Better,” he breathed.

Anduin didn’t laugh, but his sigh had sound to it that sounded amused. He was now free to move, and did, though he never kept the pace steady. It wasn’t erratic, but calculated to draw things out as Medivh stroked them, trying to urge him to speed up.

Anduin leaned down and nipped the mage’s ear. “You can’t possibly be that impatient,” he purred softly.

Medivh tilted his head to look up at him with a look of entreaty that was clear even through the glow of his eyes. “You can’t possibly be that patient,” he replied, his voice breathless.

Anduin did laugh this time, softly, his breath warm against Medivh’s ear. “I promise you I am, and I promise you it’ll be better if we draw this out.”

Medivh whined at him, making Anduin laugh a little harder at it. “I’m so c-close,” he persisted, and his hand tightened a little. To his horror Anduin slowed the rock of his hips. “Anduin don’t – please don’t…”

“Breathe, Med. I’m not stopping. I’m – not in much better shape.” Anduin murmured, and this time sounded it.

The slow rock of Anduin’s hips was far less fluid now, and Medivh realized his arms were shaking a little. He slid his legs apart enough that they touched Anduin’s and he realized that they, too, were trembling. It only made his own condition worse. He tried to speed his hand up a little, and found that his arm and wrist wouldn’t respond. For a heartbeat, he panicked, then realized that Anduin had shifted so his own hand curled around his, and around their cocks and was starting to move.

Anduin hissed as he managed to increase the friction a little, moaning through his exhale. He had hidden his own need for as long as he could, but it was starting to become unbearable. “Don’t stop,” he moaned softly. He adjusted his legs a little, and each roll of his hips felt sharper for it.

Medivh’s other hand reached up to curl around the back of Anduin’s neck and pulled him down. Anduin responded, startled, only to find himself being kissed again. It was the kind of kiss that is brief and breathless, and as he drew back from it to breathe, he realized just how close to the edge he actually was.

Medivh was arching under him, his thighs tense, the hand around his neck tense, and the one between them trembling. His eyes were narrowed, and there was a look of concentration on his face that almost looked painful. “Medivh,” he breathed. “Med, look at me.” Anduin’s voice was low and breathless, and the look he got as he spoke was startled. “Don’t think. Don’t fight. Don’t try so hard.”

Medivh blinked, the glow of his eyes making it look almost absurd. “I’m –“

“Close, I – I know. You put up a silence ward, didn’t you?” Medivh nodded. “Then just relax. There’s no one to hide from.” Anduin leaned down and nipped his ear again. “You’ve stayed quiet all this time – you don’t have to.”

“But –“ Medivh cut himself off, then a moment later, his body did relax just a little. He made a startled noise, and his eyes were wide when Anduin lifted to look down at him again. “Oh, gods,” he murmured, his voice surprised.

Before Anduin could question why, it became obvious. Medivh’s hand had loosened a little and was moving easier with Anduin’s guidance. His arch was more pronounced, and he was murmuring something, his eyes brightening.

The warrior did the first thing that instinct dictated and kissed him, hard enough to silence whatever it was, remembering that Medivh had mentioned that some mages lost control of their power in this state.

It was apparently the right thing to do. He felt, rather than heard, Medivh moan against the kiss, then turn his head to break it. Medivh gasped, finding it harder to breathe for a moment. He couldn’t see anything through the spots that were in front of his eyes, and couldn’t feel anything but a need he could do nothing about.

Anduin hissed softly; his own need had caught up to him. “Medivh,” he hissed. “Medivh I can’t hold on much longer – you were right there… come on…”

Medivh’s mind cleared – that need was familiar, not the same one he had felt before – when he had called the storm. It was one he could do something about. Was doing something about. He could feel it sparking along his spine, coiling somewhere in his middle like a flame spell he was about to cast. He could hear the rush of blood – not magic – in his ears. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest, feel the tingling of something he couldn’t name. It was nothing like the first time Anduin had brought him to completion when he had no other thoughts. He could feel Anduin moving above him, feel the way his hand trembled, heard the quiet desperation in his voice.

Medivh arched, sharply, his hand tightening around them. “A-Anduin I – I’m – I-I’m –“ He trailed into a cry that was both desperate and relieved as his release splashed up against his chest, startling Anduin a little at the violence of it.

Anduin bit his lip, and it was barely enough to keep himself from following instantly in Medivh’s wake, managing to slow himself just enough to keep him on the edge until Medivh’s trembling had stopped. He let them both go, but before he could take himself in hand, Medivh had done so for him.

It didn’t take much, or long.

Especially when Medivh was murmuring, this time words Anduin could understand, encouragements and pleas for him to let go.

He moved his hand back to the bedding, curling both his hands into it as he gave in, thrusting into Medivh’s hand, his body screaming that it had had enough of his teasing it. His entire body tensed, and he managed to arch enough to not make more of a mess than they already had. His moan of relief was low and dark, and it shivered before his next breath.

He couldn’t move for a moment, and he felt Medivh’s hand working him through it, slowing, stopping, and drawing away. He felt Medivh’s hands reach up to his shoulders, tugging a little, but he didn’t respond to them – not yet.

When he felt like he had at least a few of his wits back, he lifted himself to sit back on his heels (and Medivh’s legs). When he felt like his legs wouldn’t drop him, he leaned over to grab the towel he’d put down earlier, and got them both cleaned up. Then, and only then, did he lay down and collapse into Medivh’s arms.

“Are you all right?” Both of them spoke at the same time.

Anduin lifted his head to look at Medivh, and they both laughed. Medivh nodded. “I – I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened.”

Anduin shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. As long as you’re all right. To answer you, I’m fine. More than fine. It’s you I’m worried for. Is that another mage thing, or…” he trailed off, lifting an eyebrow in question.

Medivh shook his head. “I don’t think so. I – I was fighting something. It …” he sighed, sharply. “It was like what happened… before the storm.” He squirmed a little. “There was this sense of pressure, and I remember that’s how it felt before I let that storm loose and I … I was fighting it.” He looked up at Anduin, visibly upset by this. “Does this mean I … I’m not going to be able to do this right?”

Anduin turned a little, tugging Medivh to lay on him instead, mindful of his shoulder. “I don’t think so. I think that it’s two different things, and that you fought because it wasn’t immediately recognizable. When I talked to you it seemed to snap you out of it, and by then—“

“When you snapped me out of it I was already so close I couldn’t stop. I … It wasn’t…” Medivh trailed off, shaking his head.

“It wasn’t what?”

Medivh shook his head again. “It’s nothing,” he said, but Anduin gave him a look, clearly not believing that for a single moment. Medivh closed his eyes – and Anduin realized then that they were still glowing – and turned his head away. “It didn’t feel right,” he said, finally, so quietly Anduin barely heard him.

“What do you mean?” Anduin pressed.

“It wasn’t… It didn’t…” Medivh shook his head again.

“Med, look at me.” When Medivh didn’t move, Anduin lifted his hand and gently turned the mage’s head to look at him. “Your eyes are still glowing,” he said softly. “Do you want me to try again?”

Medivh’s eyes widened a little and he shook his head. “It’s not that,” he said quickly. “It had nothing to do with you.” He tried to turn his head again, but could not break Anduin’s grip on him.

“That’s not what I asked you. I’m not going to be happy until you are.”

That drew a reaction. Medivh looked at him with something like surprise or shock or disbelief. “But that’s not how it works,” he blurted out.

Anduin blinked, clearly taken aback. “What do you mean ‘that’s not how it works’? That’s not how what works?”

“I mean I… it… I can’t just…” Medivh sighed, then shook his head.

Anduin gently tugged Medivh’s head down and kissed him, softly. “Give it a few moments. Don’t think negatively. I don’t know what it is you’ve read or been told, but I assure you that just because your body found release once, that you’re broken for the next week or something. I also assure you that I’m not the type to leave a partner unsatisfied. That’s just rude. And crass.”

Medivh’s look of incredulity made Anduin wonder just who it was that the mage had been experimenting with when he had been younger. “B-but…”

“Medivh, I swear to you, anyone who ignores the needs of his – or her – partner is just rude.”

“But you didn’t ignore me – you got me to—“

Anduin gave him a sharp look. “Do you feel better than you did? Are you ready to settle in a haze of pleasured afterglow?” Medivh shook his head. “Did you the other night?” Medivh nodded, confusion clear in his expression. “Do you see the difference?”

Medivh settled himself against Anduin’s shoulder, stretching out an arm over him. “I think so. But the… when I’d been experimenting – I never felt like that either. It was just something my body needed and that was it.”

Anduin sighed, softly. “Then I seem to have some work ahead of me.” He kissed Medivh’s forehead. “Give me a few moments to get us a drink – and then we’ll try this again.” He slid out from under Medivh, who sat up, watching him with clear confusion as he unlocked the outer door and left.

Anduin returned with a pitcher and two mugs, and poured some of the cooled cider in each, then handed Medivh a mug. “All right. Let’s start from the beginning. First of all, was there anything I did that you didn’t like?”

Medivh accepted the mug with a nod of thanks, and sipped from it as he thought about the question. “No,” he said slowly. “It felt quite good, actually.”

“When did things start to go wrong?” Anduin asked, sipping from his own, and closing his eyes. Even cooled, the cider felt good on the back of his throat, and had lost none of its flavor.

Medivh was quiet for several long moments, taking sips of his cider. “When you told me to stop being quiet. Something… something started to nag me. Words…”

Anduin lowered his mug. “You started speaking words I didn’t understand, and your eyes were glowing,” he said, slowly.

Medivh winced. “I was casting,” he said flatly. “Damn it, I’d hoped that…” He lowered his mug, running a hand through his hair and wincing as he pulled at his shoulder. “I’d hoped I wasn’t going to be one of those. I hoped that my age would have taken care of that. Apparently not.”

Anduin reached out to rub gently at Medivh’s arm. “Age does not equal experience, Med. It may be that with experience you have a better hold on things – you did not have that trouble a few days ago. But you were also not stressed and plagued with what has happened, either. Could it have been stress?”

Medivh sipped his cider again, then set the mug aside on the table beside the bed. “It could have been. In fact, it may have been triggered by that feeling of pressure – especially since I was so afraid. I shut everything down,” he said slowly.

Anduin frowned a little. He opened his mouth, closed it, then sighed. “I hate to ask you this, Med, but… When you were younger. Before you … before you went into your coma, you had mentioned you were being taught how to suppress things. Can you talk me through some of that?”

Medivh dropped his eyes. “It wasn’t suppression, really, but how…” he trailed off, trying to find ways to explain it that a warrior would understand. He looked up. “What happens when you dam a powerful river?” he asked, instead.

Anduin was used to this. He knew that it was part of the way Medivh had been taught – a question to make him see the answers in a way that made sense to him and to link it to the question originally asked. “It forms a kind of artificial lake,” he said slowly. “But the river still flows, and the lake can only handle so much.”

Medivh nodded. “I was being taught how to keep that dam in place, but allow the river to flow at a pace I wanted. So, a floodgate in the dam. The headaches made it hard for me to concentrate. And then, when things went to … went to hell, the floodgate… broke. It wouldn’t function.”

“And the river burst the dam,” Anduin said quietly.

“And the river burst the dam,” Medivh confirmed. “And that happened yesterday. The floodgates would not respond, and the river just … kept rising. I was afraid that if I didn’t just… take the dam down myself I would be destroyed with it or be drowned trying to get the gates to work.” He looked away again. “So I just let it all loose.”

And it ravaged you along with everything else while that river returned to its natural flow. Anduin thought. He pursed his lips, drained the last of his mug and set it with Medivh’s. “And tonight?”

“Similar,” Medivh said in a subdued voice. “Though it… I’m not sure if it was power that was rising or… or…”

“So because of what happened yesterday, you tried to shut it down, adjust the floodgates and when it didn’t respond got lost?” Anduin hazarded.

Medivh looked up again, his eyes wide and a little surprised. He thought about it for a moment, then nodded. “Which is why your voice broke me out of whatever trance I had put myself in, waiting for… for disaster. When it wasn’t a disaster at all just… just… me.”

“I know nothing about magic,” Anduin sighed. “Apart from what you’ve managed to drill into my skull. But to me, this seems like something that just needs to be practiced. You have been under a lot of stress. You were frightened out of your wits. Your magic-insides are all raw. And you don’t have much experience in bed, particularly after such a stress and scare. Time, patience and practice, I think. Perhaps you can consult one of the local mages to-“

Medivh frantically shook his head. “I can’t! I can’t go to them. They wouldn’t understand half of what I am, and if they knew or found out they might decide that a knife in the dark would give them ascendency to what I am. No, no I can’t.”

Anduin looked at him in shock, then closed his eyes with a sigh. “Then we work on it on our own.”

“What?”

“Llane and I know what you are. Let us help you. There must be a way.”

Medivh stared at him for a few heartbeats, then leaned up and kissed Anduin with such fervor that it shocked the warrior into silence.

Though the silence didn’t last long, they did not speak in words for the rest of the night.