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"Neither of you have a subtle bone in your bodies."

The sun was beginning its slow descent toward the horizon as Llane Wrynn approached the figures confabbing at the keep's fountain. It made tracery of the fountain's water and rainbows of its misting spray, and doused the courtyard's stubborn occupants in a late bloom of golden light. Llane had ignored them as stridently as he could during the day's politicking, and told himself repeatedly that it was an eminently sensible choice on his part. A newly-crowned king should be conscientious of his duties, and not off gallivanting around the realm with whatever mischief his childhood friends might drag to his door.

Yet they'd loitered persistently for a reason, and if it was reason enough to distract the Guardian Novitiate from his books—well. Llane suspected something was afoot, and both curiosity and responsibility demanded he discover what it was. If it were Lothar alone it would no doubt involve a tavern at some point, but Medivh was an unexpected wild card.

"It's about time." Lothar had left his soldier's livery in the barracks and was instead clad in leather hunting garb. Next to him, Medivh flashed a wicked smile from the depths of his ostentatious cowl. Llane's suspicion became a certainty.

"We were wondering if we should gather a ransom for your release," said Medivh.

"Diplomacy takes time and care, and when it comes to mediating between Stromgarde and Alterac, doubly so." Llane drew his friend into a brief tight hug. "It's good to see you, Medivh. How go your studies?"

"They're rigorous."

Llane could believe it. Despite being in good temper, he looked tired and drawn, moreso that the cowl's dramatic shadows would account for. Llane had never known a mage look younger than his years, and for all his aptitude, Medivh was no exception.

"Walk with us," Lothar said, steering Llane toward old town, and invariably the Pig and Whistle, with a nudge of his shoulder. Medivh fell into step on his other side, and Llane found himself deftly flanked.

"To the canal, and no further," he told them firmly.

"Then walk slowly," Medivh said. "I felt a ripple of magic in the Redridge foothills. A moderate expulsion of energy from a mage tower there. It's likely no more than a spell gone awry, but it would be wise to investigate."

"And why are you here telling me about it, instead of doing just that?"

"You should come with us," Lothar said. "You've had nothing but Perenolde's mewling for weeks now." And his company had been missed as a consequence, although Lothar wouldn't make that as plain as he would his political opinion, apparently.

"Lothar thinks you need to blow off some steam," Medivh said. Lothar made a disgruntled noise at this disclosure.

"Does he, now." Llane brought them to a standstill and raised his eyebrows at Lothar, who folded his arms and shifted his weight on his feet.

"For old times' sake," Lothar said. "What do you say?"

"I say that I have had quite enough of being cajoled lately." He sounded sharper than he had intended. Damn them, they were right—he was tense enough to snap. Better at these two lunkheads than at a table of diplomats, but ideally not at all.

"As you wish, Your Grace," Medivh said smoothly.

"At your word, my Lord." Lothar swept into an exaggerated bow.

"Don't take that tone with me," Llane said, grinning, "or so help me I will throw you both in the Stockade."

Lothar sniffed dismissively, while Medivh seemed to be contemplating the amusement value of such a predicament.

"All right." Llane sighed, and let some of his worries out with it. Negotiations had ceased for the evening and the diplomats were safely ensconced in their guest chambers—and he had missed this. His friends, and the scent of adventure on the air. "For old times' sake, then. Get saddled up. I'll meet you at the gates."

*

Dusk was fading into night as they approached the edge of Elwynn Forest. The Redridge Mountains loomed high and close, their warm shadows cutting into the star-scattered sky. It was a still night, and mild, only the chirp of insects and the hollow clop of their horses hooves carrying in the air. Lakeridge Highway lay before them, beyond a garrison of Stormwind's troops; the soldier on duty clattered into a salute, returning to ease with a gesture from Lothar.

Medivh took point, as only he knew the way to the tower. His shadow danced and split as they trotted past the garrison's torches, and became crisp and full as he summoned an orb of light to guide the way.

"Do you know the mage?" Llane asked him.

"Not personally." Medivh turned slightly in his saddle, and was silhouetted by his magelight. "I only know that he's studying the gnolls in the area."

"Gnolls." Lothar's muttering carried from the rear, a familiar thread in the tapestry of their travels together. "Mangy, flea-bitten sneak thieves. What use does anyone have for gnolls."

Medivh took an abrupt turn into the foothills, leading them up a narrow wind and then onto a rocky plateau. A stone-brick building with lancet windows and a slate roof had been constructed here, of a like with every other Kirin Tor mage tower Llane had seen. They were nothing if not traditionalists.

Its door stood ajar.

Medivh reined in his mount and approached the tower at a walk. Lothar dismounted and loped past him, a hand on the hilt of his sword. He would probably have barrelled right inside if Medivh had not barked, "Lothar, hold!"

Lothar turned on his heel and fixed him with a withering look. "I'm not a hound, Medivh."

"Hold, please," Medivh repeated, less brusque this time. He pushed back his cowl, his hair falling messily over his shoulders, and raised a hand. "Let me check for wards first." He closed his eyes and was briefly limned by a glyph of blue light. His mount pranced in agitation.

"Anything?" Llane asked, as the light dissipated in a profusion of glowing motes.

Medivh climbed down from his horse and shook his robes to order with a birdlike gesture. "Either there were none to begin with, or they were dispelled by the energy surge."

"Is that usual?"

It seemed prudent to ask, even if the answer was likely to be unhelpful. Sure enough, Medivh merely shrugged. He seemed unconcerned, but that was never a reliable indication of whether something catastrophically dangerous was in the offing. "Or they're very carefully hidden," he added, after a moment.

"I'd roll the bones on those odds," Lothar said, and kicked the door wide open.

*

Nothing immediately exploded, which was as fortuitous as Llane could hope for. Inside, the tower was dim though well-kept, save for a predictable surfeit of books. The tile floor was swept and polished, a pair of boots sat tidily near the door, and the staircase that coiled against the inside of the wall had yet to be repurposed as shelving.

Medivh immediately lifted a tome from one of the many precarious stacks.

"Another for your collection?" said Lothar. He tilted his head back, staring up into the well of the tower. "How many books does one man need?"

"Soon I will have a tower of my own. It has a lot of bookshelves," Medivh said. He turned a page, frowning. "Hmph. Well, this is all bushwah." He clapped the book shut and returned it to its stack, then raised his voice in an echoing halloo that was magnified by the tower's acoustics, give or take a lick of magic. "Magus Morganth. Present yourself!"

Behind Medivh's back, Lothar spread his arms in a dramatic imitation.

Llane grinned. "You know he can see your reflection in the—" he said, but was cut short as the door creaked and groaned, and then heaved itself shut with a tremendous, ominous slam.

Into the dead silence that followed, Medivh said, "Hmm."

"Don't tell me. Now you sense the wards," Llane said. Lothar immediately fell into position at his side, sword drawn. His free hand rested against Llane's back, a tension thrumming through him that only subsided when there was no laugh-bark of a gnoll or thunder of an angry mage. No ambush sprung.

"It's not a ward," Medivh said peevishly. "It's something else." He frowned as though pondering a conundrum. "I've not seen this before. Curious."

"Well, save the study for when we're out." Lothar tried the handle, and when that was unsuccessful, butted his shoulder to the thick wood of the door and gave it a shove.

"Lothar," Medivh said. He was gathering skeins of magic to himself. "That won't work."

Lothar ignored him, instead backing up to take a running kick at the door. When that also didn't yield results, he began an attempt to lever it open with the blade of his sword instead.

"Lothar," Llane said.

"Break the windows," Lothar said to him. There was a feralness to his grin. "They're too narrow for us, but we can chuck Medivh through and send him to fetch help." He cast about as if looking for something to throw. Llane watched as his eyes fell on the mage's boots.

"Anduin," Llane said. Lothar was a problem-solver, but Gods knew he could be pigheaded when he'd set himself to a task. "Enough."

Meantime, Medivh had constructed a spell around Llane and himself: a glimmering circle, its circumference marked with runes that reminded Llane of the points of a compass. He kept the magic in thrall with a tight fist, held a little way from his body. Rivulets of energy streamed from between his fingers. "Step into the circle," he said.

Lothar tossed a boot aside, and tentatively did as he was bidden. Medivh muttered words under his breath, strange and sleek as though not made for human ears, and opened his hand. Llane felt a pressure on his chest, a hollowness in the air that his body struggled to compensate for. It grew in intensity, a steadily discomfiting sensation—and then the spell collapsed with a great crack. His ears popped. A smell reminiscent of burnt hair filled the room.

"New trick?" Lothar asked as Medivh whirled about in a flurry of robes and feathers and cursed up a storm.

"Not that new," Medivh said, throwing his hands up in frustration. "I've cast it a dozen times with success. The cussed enchantment on this tower interfered."

"Well, gentlemen," Llane said. "If neither might nor magic will get us out of here, perhaps we should explore our other options."

*

By which he meant climb up the tower's spiralling staircase and discover the fate of its owner. Since their pandemonium downstairs hadn't attracted the attention of this Magus Morganth, Llane feared the worst. There was no trace of him in the living quarters set out on the mid-level floor, however, nor were there ominous signs such as a half-eaten dinner, or dagger gouges in the furniture. Llane couldn't imagine why anyone would want to assassinate a gnoll specialist, but one couldn't be too cautious.

Things began to smell a little strange as they ascended to the topmost floor. Llane heard Lothar snort and could picture the wrinkle of his nose. Still, as unpleasant as it was, it was not the odour of decay that drifted down to greet them.

"Well," Lothar said, only slightly breathless. "That explains that."

This part of the tower had been outfitted with a laboratory, and a magical flame burned determinedly beneath a flask that had long since boiled dry. Medivh pinched it out, and then began shuffling through the unwound scrolls that poured from the workbenches and onto the floor, weighing some under a brass astrolabe or a pair of calipers and tossing others aside.

He paused and frowned, then rubbed finger and thumb together.

Lothar sat himself on the edge of a workbench, leaning on one hand look over a scroll that Medivh had discarded. When he lifted it again, it made a sticky peeling sound. He rubbed his palms together with a grimace.

"Yes," Medivh said absently, glancing between two somewhat singed pieces of vellum. "This does explain rather a lot."

Llane touched a hand to the rough brick wall. There was an odd, soapy residue to it, presumably the same that Medivh and Lothar had discovered. "So, where is our mage?" he said, though he was beginning to get the picture.

"From what I can tell—" With a straight face, Medivh touched his thumb to the tip of his tongue, appeared to taste it, then spat genteelly. "He's covering most of the surfaces."

Lothar abruptly got to his feet and wiped his hands on his thighs.

"The poor idiot tripped over his own shoddy spellwork." Medivh laid his two pieces of vellum next to a scroll, and then froze. "Hmm," he said again.

"I don't like it when you make that noise." Llane glanced at the papers; they were scrawled with handwriting that would have been illegible even if it had been in the common tongue.

"You'll like what I'm about to say even less. This is a spell of some... notoriety."

"Notorious in what way, exactly," Lothar asked.

"Proscribed by the Kirin Tor, but as with most things of a prurient nature, rumours abound."

Lothar looked to Llane, his eyebrows arched. Llane raised his right back.

"In its strictest form, it's a powerful privacy ward, but the particular nature of its construction makes it easy to adapt for salacious means. You see, it's actually two interlinking spells with clearly specified domains." Medivh cupped his hands together as a child who had caught a butterfly might, as though it would help either Llane or Lothar to visualise the magics at work. "They interact in a unique fashion, and when the energies are coaxed into an improper resolution of the incantation, it can heighten and intensify…" His hands flew apart. "Well, that's beside the point."

"Thank you for sparing us the details," Llane said, grateful that Medivh was not about to head off on one of his erudite digressions, where there would be nothing to be done but wait for him to loop back around. "The point?"

"The point is, it has complicated residual effects. Ideally, one should—" Medivh gestured once more, vaguely yet suggestively, "with at least one other bed partner in order to safely release its enchantments. Since Morganth was researching here alone, he must have found himself in a sticky situation."

"So to speak."

"So to speak. And not one he found his way out of."

"Sex magic? Really?" Lothar groaned. "I liked him better when he was studying gnolls."

"Perhaps he got bored," Llane said. He supposed he should be the one to ask the question, even though the answer was embarrassingly plain to them all. "So, what do we do about this?"

*

The mages Llane had encountered rarely skimped on two things: their books, and their beds. Magus Morganth, Light rest his soul, was no exception. Llane pulled the blankets back and found the sheets creased but unobjectionable. Lothar was already taking off his boots.

Medivh waved a hand at them both. "Get started while I prepare."

"Get started?" Lothar said, down to his shirt and breeches, broad-shouldered even without his layers of armour. He pulled his shirt up over his head, baring his scarred chest. On the whole, he seemed to be taking things in stride. "Lucky you took those chastity vows, Med. You'll never tumble anyone talking like that."

Medivh paused mid-gesture, his brow in a perplexed furrow. "I'm a mage, not a priest. I took no such vow."

"Really? Then what's your excuse?"

The answer to that was for Medivh to put Lothar flat to his back on the bed with a hand spread over his sternum. This set Lothar laughing raucously and grabbing for the trailing folds of Medivh's robes. Medivh curved over him, one knee on the bed between Lothar's thighs.

Lothar's laughter faded. Llane heard his breath catch, and his mouth dried as though it were he that Medivh were about to kiss. He found himself unable to look away as Medivh touched his fingertips to Lothar's cheek, angled his head and brought their mouths together, as assured as if he'd kissed him a hundred times. Or had thought about it as many.

Lothar made an approving sound in his throat—as though he, too, had thought about it, and had discovered that the reality outshone any such contemplations. He arched up into the kiss, agitating for something deeper.

"If I don't attempt to bed every maiden that crosses my path," Medivh said, breaking free with a pat to Lothar's cheek, "it's not because I have no appetite, Anduin Lothar. Enough of your palaver. I'm trying to focus."

Llane cleared his throat. "Good. For a moment I thought you'd be so distracted I'd have to cast this spell of yours myself."

"Alas, you're about as magical as a turnip," Medivh said, then almost as an afterthought, added, "my King."

"My King," Lothar echoed, though he bothered to sound marginally more reverential about it. Medivh had left his lips wet and his cheekbones sharp with colour, and it was well that he was busy getting his knees under him, because Llane had no doubt the expression on his own face would have him ribbed from here to Lordaeron. Light, but he would cut a path through hell for these men.

"Old friend," he said as Lothar knelt before him on the bed, the sentiment struck from him like sparks from an anvil.

Lothar lifted the diadem from Llane's head and set it aside. Llane could read a book's worth into that, but it was just as likely that Lothar intended to put his hair in a state. He let his eyes fall shut, and breathed a gentle laugh when Lothar took his hand and kissed his knuckles, the back of his hand. His swordsman's calluses were rough against Llane's wrist.

Another pair of hands unfastened his tunic: Medivh, whispering those fluid quicksilver words at his ear and draping his ensorcellment over them like gossamer, settling magic into each span of his skin as it was bared. Medivh leaned against his back and rested his chin on his shoulder, his beard bristling against Llane's neck. He must have shed his robes; the hot contour of him along Llane's spine made him suck in a breath.

Magic trickled like syrup down his throat, and the glittering warmth of it inspired him to an unlikely hardness. His head swam.

"Medivh," he said, "is this supposed to—"

"Don't fight it," Medivh said in gentle admonishment. "Let it do its work."

"You heard the man," Lothar said. He pulled Llane close, and finally there was the rough pressure of Lothar's mouth on his, those sure hands twisting into his hair. Gods—somehow he'd been waiting half his life for this and had barely known it. His blood thundered and he felt Lothar's heart beat against his chest, Medivh's against his back. The air developed an opalescence that shimmered on the verge of Llane's perception.

"Good," Medivh said briskly. "Keep doing that."

Lothar, who had not a subtle bone in his body but plenty of contrary ones, stopped doing that. Medivh made a noise of reproach, but Lothar turned Llane by the chin so he could kiss it from Medivh's lips. Llane decided he would wait another lifetime for this: Medivh sighing against his mouth even if it was to call Lothar an incorrigible boor.

The magic teemed about them like sunlight glinting off water. Medivh wound his arms around Llane and insinuated his hands between his body and Lothar's, drawing his nails over Llane's stomach as he did. Lothar grunted and his hips jerked, and Llane imagined the back of Medivh's hand had brushed his cock. In fairness, the lightest touch might elicit such a reaction from him, too. Like a prophecy fulfilled the instant it was conceived, Medivh chose that moment to sweep his fingers up the underside of him, and over the head. It pulled a sound from Llane's throat that made Lothar grin widely and surge against him, trapping Medivh's hand there.

A sigh gusted against Llane's shoulder. "Please try to concentrate," Medivh said, long-suffering, though Llane could hear the smile in it.

"Hell with that," Lothar declared, and against all sense and reason, flung his arm around Llane's shoulders, pitched himself backwards and pulled the three of them down onto the bed in a tangle of knees and elbows. Medivh extracted himself immediately, of course, with a chiding click of his tongue and hot liquid words, recapturing the threads of his spell.

Llane felt it wash over him, manifesting in the giddy joy of his hands on Lothar's rear and in the warm press of Lothar's cock as it slid against his own, in the shivers that scintillated over his skin with each pass it made. Lothar's breath was a rough pant against his shoulder, in time with the slow rocking of his hips. He hiked Llane's thigh up for leverage, his fingers digging into the back of his knee. Llane was familiar with Lothar's manoeuvres both in the tavern and in the field; in his estimation this was restrained of him, so he swatted him on the side of the head as motivation.

"Hey," Lothar said, breathy but indignant, and in the next moment rolled Llane onto his back and got astride him, bracing his hands either side of Llane's head. He could feel Lothar's pulse in his groin, or maybe that was his own.

"Better." Llane grinned up at him. A part of him clamoured, insistent that they should be taking the situation more seriously, but the rest of him felt assured to be in Medivh's hands, and Lothar's. "Put your back into it, commander."

"Who do you think you are," said Lothar, flashing a cocksure smile back at him.

Whatever riposte Llane had for that was lost when Medivh, no doubt growing impatient, slunk a hand between them to get them back on task. He encircled them both and gave them a careless squeeze, hard enough to have Llane's back arching from the sheets, straddling the brink of what was pleasurable. Lothar grunted, and Llane felt the tension that ran through him from crown to toe reach its bounds.

"Don't," Lothar said, bitten off from between his clenched teeth, "say a damned thing." Threat thus issued, he spent himself in a long, gasping shudder. Medivh stroked them both through it with a marked lack of finesse, his mind evidently more on the magic that was swiftly unravelling around them. Lothar fell to the side, breathing hard. "You weren't kidding about this," he said to Medivh, who only yanked at some filament of his spell that made Lothar curse and arch and dig his heel against the sheets.

"Hmm," said Medivh, to which Llane had long since developed a reflexively paranoid response. But he only cast Lothar's heavy thigh from where it was idling over Llane's hip, and took its place astride him. He leant over, his hair tickling Llane's shoulders. "While this is pleasant, there are a thousand more useful things I could have been doing with my time," he said.

"This wasn't my idea," Llane reminded him, and brushed a lock of hair back from his face. "Come to the worst, there are less ignominious ways for a king to meet his end."

"The Wrynns aren't known for dying in their beds," Medivh said. An unreadable expression snapped across his face, there and then gone in an instant, replaced with a wild grin. He kissed Llane deeply as a parched man drinks from a spring, and Llane felt the magic tug at him, loose and tight and then loose in a tidal rhythm, as cool and sweet as spring-water in itself. Medivh bore down on him in methodical counterpoint and sent light flaring behind his eyes in incomprehensible patterns.

Lothar reached over to thumb at his mouth, then hefted himself up onto an elbow so he could kiss it, his fingers tugging through Llane's hair, twisting, pulling, dragging his head back and his neck into an arch, biting at his throat. Llane soared to a dizzying climax, his blood rushing and the magic streaming through him, jolting through his veins and sharpening it. He could hear Medivh murmur in wordless approval with every hot pulse that sank into his spine, as visceral and sure as a dagger thrust.

While he was concerned with gasping helplessly, Medivh slid two fingers through the wetness on his stomach, lifting an iridescent glow from it, and drew a swift series of runes along Llane's ribcage. An arcane blue shone from his eyes and the air pressure became oppressive, like a storm front bearing down on all three of them. Llane panted with it, transfixed by the matrices of shimmering light.

"An karanir thanagor," Medivh intoned fiercely, and Llane's heart clenched like a fist. Medivh's hand fluttered over Llane's throat and jaw; Llane caught it and kissed his fingertips, his wrist, the searing brand of the Kirin Tor on the inside of his arm, inhaling its heat. Lothar ran his hand along the slim line of Medivh's thigh, and up the inside of it, his strong fingers working until Medivh finally shook bodily, his teeth gritted as he succumbed to the demands upon him.

He threw back his head, and the magic rushed up around him.

The air whited out and flurried around them, humming like a flight of arrows. It whipped at Llane's skin in sweet stinging bursts, and in the midst of its riot he could hear the tower complain: windows rattling, floorboards creaking, the walls themselves groaning as though under great stress. With a wracking gasp from Medivh and a final incandescent burst that seared bright afterimages into Llane's eyes, the magic burned itself out. The room fell dark and silent but for their ragged breathing.

A noise echoed its way up through the tower: the bang of a door flying open.

*

"Sun will be up in an hour," Lothar said from the window. He pushed at it, and it swung open on its pivots with an irascible squeak. Through it swirled a cool breeze, and the impatient whickering of their horses. "We should return to Stormwind before anyone marks your absence."

"Mm," Llane said, doing his best to not get a mouthful of Medivh's hair. He was sprawled at Llane's side with an elbow jammed into his ribs; even asleep, he managed to be an uncomfortable person. Even so, Llane couldn't remember the last time he felt so perfectly languid. "My sudden and unexplained disappearance would be a diplomatic catastrophe. Not to mention rude."

"You should come down in Trollbane's favour," Lothar said. He gathered up his leathers and came to sit on the bed, pausing to give Medivh's shoulder a nudge.

"I can't decide that just because you mistrust Perenolde's face."

"He is a weasel, and a cowardly one," Lothar said hotly, pulling on his breeches. "He's only out for himself, and he'd stick a knife in Stormwind's back to get it without a second thought."

"This is why you're my soldier and not my adviser," Llane said, reaching out to run a hand down Lothar's arm while it was still bare, following the lines of muscle and scars. "Politics is a game, Anduin, but it's a delicate one. I don't disagree with you, but Perenolde requires a light hand."

"To say nothing of the pandering to his vanity lest he feel snubbed," Medivh said, muffled against Llane's shoulder. "An unenviable task. Now, what are you going to do about Greymane?"

"What about Greymane?" Lothar said, at the same time as Llane said, "Awake enough to stick your oar in, Medivh?"

"I've been awake the entire time," Medivh said in the prim manner of someone who was certain he wouldn't be called on a lie. "Who could sleep through your incessant rabbiting?"

"Yet your snores suggest that you're rested enough to travel." Llane rolled over onto Medivh with the intention of kissing him, but instead he found himself buffeted out of bed by a solid wall of air, scrambling to get his feet under himself before he careened nakedly into the late Magus Morganth's rather angular-looking dresser.

Lothar handed him his clothing, making a valiant, if not entirely successful, attempt at suppressing a snicker. "That was disrespectful," he said to Medivh.

With a flick of his wrist and a spark of light, Medivh whirled his robes from the floor and about himself, feathers settling sleek over his shoulders. "Forgive me, your Grace," he said, dry as he ever was. "I was momentarily overcome."

"The Stockade for you," Llane reminded him, with as much authority as he could muster whilst hopping one-legged into his smallclothes.

Medivh went to a knee briefly; when he rose he had Llane's diadem. He gestured for Llane to incline his head, finger-combed his hair to some semblance of order, and placed it on his brow. "There is not a prison you could build, Llane." He smiled, and it was like a moon coming out of an eclipse.

Here was where he'd usually sweep dramatically from the room, or if he were in an impish mood, make himself a raven and flit away, but he lingered still, arranging his robes with a frown. Llane understood his reluctance; he wasn't eager to return to the world at large himself—not after the strange predicament they'd spent the night in. The thought of the three of them parting ways again so soon left him forlorn.

Lothar, Light bless him, spoke his mind. "You should come back to Stormwind more often. Or we could travel to Dalaran. Can't think of anything worse than an entire city of spell-chuckers, but for you—"

And Lothar snapped his mouth shut, as though he hadn't worked his way through the implications before he'd reached the end of his thought, and now that he was approaching it, it was more earnest a sentiment than he'd like. Medivh only stared at him, unwavering, uncomprehending almost, and for a moment Llane wondered if this had all been a nuisance for him, a problem to be solved and he and Lothar merely parts to be manoeuvred to reach its resolution—but then he stepped forward and took Lothar's face in both hands, and leant in to rest their foreheads together.

"It's just that," Lothar said, his hand caught in the crook of Medivh's elbow. "If this is what happens to mages who are left too much on their own—"

"Your concern is touching," Medivh said with affected insincerity, and kissed Lothar's cheek. "But perhaps a conversation to have once we've broken fast. Only a fool makes promises on an empty stomach."

"Gods, yes. I'm starving." Lothar sounded surprised, as though he'd only just noticed. Llane's stomach had been gnawing at him for a while. If this was what magic took from a man only in passing, then he couldn't imagine what Medivh contended with daily.

"Of course, I will have to return to the Violet Citadel and inform the council of what became of Morganth," Medivh said as he set to the tower's stairs.

"Another task for after breakfast." Llane followed in his wake, Lothar behind him, his hand warm on Llane's shoulder. "You'll sit with us a while first."

"Next you'll decree I must stay for lunch." Medivh turned slightly so that Llane could see the half-smile that played across his face. "Or for the night."

"Such tyranny. Who among you will stop me," Llane said, just to hear Medivh's soft laugh and Lothar's artless guffaw, to keep the memory of them warm and close to his heart. They reached the tower's vestibule and found the door open and awaiting them, a square of dawn light in the dimness of the tower, glowing like a portal to a new world.

***