Serene had never been to Elendia’s Magic Guild before. She’d never been to any place where magic was studied before, really; there hadn’t been any big schools or facilities on Rosalina, and anyway that had never been something she was interested in.
Still, she’d heard of Elendia’s Magic Guild before—heard about it endlessly as a pinnacle of research, a place that was at the forefront of revolutionizing magic, the place where Things Were Happening, blah blah—and so when she finally ducked into the place for a look, she couldn’t hold her tongue.
“This is a state-of-the-art research facility?”
Claude shuffled his papers and stared at her over the tops of them. “Elendia is a small village, after all. I’m not quite sure what you were expecting.”
“I dunno either, but it wasn’t really this.” A two-room building inside a cave, faintly lit from glowing moss and the daylight that seeped through the high-up windows, crammed with stuffy books and manned by two Sprites and a fairy, was certainly not what she expected this Big Deal Place to look like. If Tehse had actually managed to make it here, he probably would’ve been disappointed.
…Well, she couldn’t really speak for him anyway. Maybe this was enough of a step up from Rosalina that he wouldn’t have cared.
“Did you have anything you needed, then?” Claude asked, raising his voice slightly. Serene shook her head. She really had to hand it to the guy; he was still completely polite even after her show of disappointment.
“Not really, I just had some stuff that I figured I should drop off.”
She handed him the staff of curved shell, then dug through her pack until she came up with the stack of scrapbooks bound in twine.
“And these are…?”
The dryad was already looking over the staff with an interested expression, his fingers tracing over the whorls of its haft with care. There was a brief stabbing sensation in Serene’s chest, but she let it pass without saying anything.
“I had a friend who was planning to come study here. He would’ve left the same day Rosalina was first attacked. His things really aren’t doing him too much good right now, so I figured I might as well bring them here so that somebody’s using ‘em. And if we can fix everybody, then it’ll already be here waiting for him.”
Claude set the staff down immediately. “Serene, I can’t take these.”
She shrugged, her wings twitching awkwardly. “I’ve already got mementoes of my friends in the worst case, okay?” Which was true; Tehse’s glasses were tucked away for safekeeping at Fia and Lina’s house, where they were in the least danger, and Polly’s pendant was hidden under her shirt as always. “He really really wanted to come here. It was, like, his life’s dream. So even if he never makes it here, at least his stuff ought to.”
Claude’s eyes seemed to bore into her for hours, but they dropped back to the stack of scrapbooks as soon as Serene started to fidget.
“I suppose we’ll accept this donation, then. It’s not quite as good as having another worker, but for now this should suffice. What’s your friend’s name?”
Is, she noticed, not was. “Tehse.” Her throat felt very dry.
“From the looks of these supplies, he specializes in white magic?”
“That’s good. People who truly devote themselves to these things tend to be rather few; even Fia has never given her full attention to the craft. We appreciate this very much.”
“It’s no problem.” She smiled, waved, and ducked out of the building as quickly as she could without it feeling like a retreat.
He’d have liked to have heard that. It just irritated her that she had to be the one to receive those words in his stead.