The arcane wave erupted from beneath the foliage like a geyser and stroke right into the Fel's core. Khadgar just stood there, his jaw slightly dropped, horrified by the sight of bloodthirsty beasts dropping down the ground one by one, screaming, writhing in agony. In all this cacophony he almost missed the sound that was far more terrifying.
The Guardian yanked his hand away from the ground with a quiet moan and faltered.
"Guardian!" finally startled out of his trance-like state, Khadgar dove at Medivh's side catching him carefully before the magus fell. His dark cloak trimmed with raven feathers was spotless, hair combed neatly, but Medivh himself looked like the very life was drained out of him. Too pale, too fragile – almost a ghost of himself, barely resembling the person Khadgar first met in the library. But how could he know what the Guardian was like at all?
The barrier around them, ruffling, shimmering, began to fade slowly, weakened by the enormous arcane blast. It wouldn't shield them from the direct attack anymore. Medivh scattered it with a simple wave of his hand, trembling slightly.
"What did you do?" Khadgar asked but Medivh ignored him utterly and jerked away, releasing himself from the young man's arms. He then grabbed the staff from Khadgar's hand, visibly keeping himself standing by sheer will and stubbornness, and spun around to swiftly draw another circle in the dirt. The pale blue light trailed after the end of his staff and Khadgar recognized one of the sigils.
"Where are you going?"
How could he just leave like that, in the middle of a battle? Khadgar looked around nervously and noticed that the monsters that had survived the Guardian's attack had already fled. Still...
"I must return to Karazhan."
"Get these soldiers safely back to Stormwind." Medivh cut him off quietly. The arcane magic flowed from his hand to the runes in the earth sparking them to glowing light, making the air around crackle low. Discouraged, Khadgar bit his lip and hung his head desperately. What did he expect anyway...
"You did well today" Medivh added softly and a ghost of a smile crossed his face. Khadgar froze, not even breathing, too afraid to frighten the precious moment away. Medivh waved his hand letting the luminous spark of energy finally slip from delicate fingers, and Khadgar stepped into the circle, slightly surprised of himself. The world around shook violently and the flash of darkness blinded him for a second. When he opened his eyes, Kharazhan's familiar walls were around him.
The Guardian was lying still at his feet.
When Medivh woke up, the sun was already setting. The evening light was shining upon his face, streaming softly through the stained-glass windows. Khadgar did not hear but felt the Guardian's awakening - the room suddenly was filled with magic, like a bowl brimming with fresh water. The young man's whole body was aching because of sitting in the uncomfortable position for hours, but at the first quiet moan from the Guardian he jumped off the couch under the stairs and rushed to the older mage.
"Guardian? What a relief, you're awake..." he muttered breathlessly. Medivh just stared through him blankly, his eyes wandered over the room, apparently seeing nothing, and for a brief moment Khadgar was paralyzed with dread.
"Who are you?" Medivh asked slowly, as if every word physically hurt him. His lips cracked, dry with thirst, and a small drop of blood was forming at the corner of his mouth.
Khadgar blinked owlishly. And immediately felt ashamed of himself. The Guardian wasn't probably able to even recall his own name in such a state, after that much stress. Combat magic was draining. Khadgar himself could power a mystic bolt or two, but that was all. It was perfectly normal for a mage of his age. Medivh, on the other hand, invoked powers Khadgar has never even heard about – so what could he know about any possible side effects of all that?
"I am Khadgar, sir," he introduced himself awkwardly, shifting slightly so that Medivh could see him if he wanted to. "From the Kirin Tor. I mean, from Dalaran. Well not anymore, but..."
He felt like he was casting conversational stones into the water, hoping for a response to any of them. Medivh's unfocused gaze rested on the young man's face for a moment, not giving up any thought. He then closed his eyes, slipping slowly into the font until the bright blue mana reached his jaw.
"Of course. How could I forget... Khadgar from the Kirin Tor. Our renounced one," he fell silent sucking the air through gritted teeth. "I told you to head back to Stormwind, so what are you doing here?"
Khadgar stared at the floor, feeling his face getting hotter. He was expecting some scolding for his disobedience, sure, but he really hoped for it to be postponed or maybe even condoned. The young mage had no wish to become an errand boy for Lothar or Medivh. It was his vigilance that had saved the kingdom a great deal of trouble after all, and though he lacked any self-conceit, Khadgar felt almost wounded. He just wanted to help and still every single person treated him like he was a nuisance. And now this. When he almost believed he had succeeded in earning the Guardian's trust and respect, Medivh brought him down to earth in a moment. The fall wasn't painful – he hadn't ascended that high, – but upsetting none the less. It was not fair.
"With all due respect, Guardian," he blurted out passionately, "I am neither your apprentice nor a servant. And you have no right to order me around."
He bit his tongue, immediately regretting the harsh words. The Archmage Antonidas would have never tolerated such a tone – not even from a graduated student. And Khadgar was just a dropout, a fugitive. To his surprise, though, the Guardian did not react to his outburst at all.
"I thought you might need help... More than Lord Lothar." he added awkwardly, quieter, still feeling his heart slamming against his chest.
Medivh hummed lightly and it took Khadgar a moment to realize that the great mage was trying to keep himself from laughing out loud. "It must be a good thing, right?" Khadgar thought to himself, almost panicking, desperate to keep track on the Guardian's mood swings.
"Well, it is too late to teleport you back anyway. Perhaps I'll make some use of you here."
Khadgar nearly thought he misheard it. Did the Magus just allowed him to stay in Karazhan? To assist him?
"Where is Moroes, by the way?" asked the Guardian, carefully placing himself on the side of the font. Hesitantly, Khadgar reached out to him to help and almost fell into the shining pool, when Medivh moved away from the touch, frowning.
"He... he's downstairs..." the boy muttered, "He told me to stay with you and left to serve the dinner."
He spoke the truth. Moroes appeared seconds later after their return, suddenly manifesting out of the shadows, and helped Khadgar to carry his master to the font. Unlike Medivh, Moroes was extremely friendly, maybe a bit of odd, though. He didn't ask any questions and smiled when Khadgar folded his cloak under Medivh's head. Seeing that the Guardian was in good hands - which flattered Khadgar pretty much - he left with a promise to come back with dinner.
Hours had passed. Khadgar dozed off once or twice, but didn't feel rested at all: his head was hurting awfully and whole body aching after the insane day. He could have had a hot tub, a dinner and a healthy, comfortable sleep in King Llane's palace, had he followed Medivh's orders.
"Well," he thought to himself, getting to his feet shakily, "It could have been much worse." Lord Lothar could have thrown him into the dungeons for breaking into the barracks.
Suddenly Moroes appeared by the entrance, almost out of thin air, holding a giant tray.
"How does he do that?" Khadgar wondered silently, starting to doubt that Moroes was even human.
"Ah, you're awake, master," the castellan said, making his way to the two mages. "I am glad. Are you feeling better now?"
Medivh nodded and got up slowly. His boots were sitting by the wall, along with the Guardian's staff - Atiesh, - but he ignored them completely, remaining barefoot.
This time Khadgar didn't try to help, recalling the previous failure. He moved uncertainly and looked around, nervously wiping his palms on his pants. The only table in the room was fully occupied with some lumps of clay and working tools, the broad box beside the coach - with Khadgar's satchel. He picked it up and clutched it in his arms, not sure what to do with himself.
"Such a pleasant young man" Moroes nodded thankfully, placing the tray on the top of the box, "Very helpful. What a pity he won't be around for long."
Khadgar stole a glance at the older mage. His ribs were still aching after the incident in the library and he had no wish to somehow anger the Guardian once again. He still couldn't figure out why his appearance in the tower has infuriated Medivh so much earlier. Did he hate the Kirin Tor to that extent? Or did he abhor the very thought of letting someone take his place, his powers? Well, he didn't have to worry about it now. Until the Kirin Tor find themselves a new student to train, that is...
Whatever the reason, it didn't matter anymore. Karazhan could have been Khadgar's home had he not ran away from Dalaran. And Moroes would have probably served him with the same eagerness and loyalty. Thousands of doors were opened before the young mage but the one leading to this tower has been closed forever. Khadgar didn't regret his decision - mostly. His heart was heavy with some strange longing, with a guilt of some sort. Was he feeling guilty about failing to match the expectations of his mentors? Making things so complicated for everyone? Or maybe just about upsetting a nice old man?
"Who knows..." Medivh murmured thoughtfully, his voice, soft and soothing, giving Khadgar goosebumps. The boy stumbled and stared at the Guardian, stunned.
Medivh looked much better now: little wrinkles around his eyes, but no dark circles, his mouth relaxed and his shoulders straightened. He looked almost estranged and Khadgar couldn't decide if the great mage was serious or not. Keeping up with the changes in Medivh's mood was no easier than riding a whirlwind - literally.
"Excuse me, magus?"
"Make yourself useful, since you're here," Medivh surprised him once again and turned around dramatically nearly whipping Khadgar's face with a sleeve. "I could use a spare pair of hands. Go clean up downstairs."
"The... the library?.."
"You are free to start from the stables if you wish, but yes. The library. It's a mess down there, all because of you, so - would you kindly?"
Khadgar almost snapped at the unkind remark but decided it would be wiser to just gracefully ignore it. His fault, right. As if he asked to throw him against the bookshelves... He couldn't even imagine the scale of chaos in the library after their "acquaintance". The young man straightened up, took a deep breath - inhailing the tempting scent of hot food and herbal tea, - and breathed out slowly. If the Guardian wanted an excuse to throw him out of the tower he would have to wait a little longer.
He just couldn't miss an opportunity to properly examine Karazhan's great library.
"Khadgar," Medivh's voice caught him on the stairs and the boy turned around sheepishly. Medivh was standing in the doorway with his back to the light, his shadow streaming down the steps.
"Be careful. This tower is full of dangers." Medivh fell silent for a moment, then shook his head. "Just clean up the library. Don't look for trouble - whatever you might see or hear."
Confused, Khadgar nodded. Medivh's warning was clearly not a threat, but what dangers could be possibly contained in Karazhan? The dark ghostly figure made of smoke came to his mind immediately and Khadgar chose to take the Guardian's advice.
If the rumors were true, Karazhan was no mere tower, but a place of tremendous power - the mana flows from all the Azeroth channeled here. Nobody knew how and when Karazhan has been built, but there was an old legend telling that thousands of years before a meteor hit the ground here. The enormous blast had teared the very fabric of reality and infused the valley around with a unique energy, and a white-stone tower had grown in its heart on its own. Ages had passed since then and the burnt lanscape had healed its wounds, covered itself with thick forests. All the intelligent races had been avoiding Karazhan for years, until the first Guardian arrived.
Khadgar himself didn't know the truth and suspected that Medivh could tell him a completely different version of the story - if he wanted to, of course. One way or another, this tower kept secrets the mages of the Kirin Tor were ready to kill for, without a second thought. Khadgar had no doubt that some of Karazhan's secrets could kill them in return.
Some strange, disturbing feeling was bothering him all the way down. Like he was missing something. He had reached the bottom of the stairs when he finally realized what it was.
Medivh - despite any laws of nature - had two shadows. One of them was creeping down the steps, directly opposite to the sun. Another was reaching somewhere to the side.