Seven: Sacred Simplicity
(Author's Note: The next story in this series is "Fearful Symmetries", which you can get to from my profile. Thanks to everyone who's read and reviewed!)
(four months later)
"The First Enchanter wishes to see you," the Templar told her.
Kathil straightened and rolled her aching shoulders, putting her quill aside. "Does he, then?" She peered at the Templar. He was one of the new ones, freshly sworn in. Mathias, she thought his name was. "Did he say why?"
"No, Enchanter." Mathias looked around; they were alone in this library niche. He lowered his voice. "I heard that the boat just came across Lake Calenhad."
So it was news, probably. "Thank you, Templar." She shoved herself to her feet and closed the book she'd been studying. The knight fell in behind her, unobtrusively accompanying her up the stairs.
She was getting used to being home, finally. Greagoir had not yet forgiven her for the trouble she had brought in her wake, but even he was starting to admit that Zevran was proving himself useful. The Templars had always been straightforward types, and the elf was teaching them to think a bit more creatively, like the sorts of blackguards they might have to defend the Circle from. The attack by the assassins had been useful in one respect—it had reminded the Templars that their duty was twofold.
The breaking of the Circle had focused all of their attention on protecting the world from mages. The trouble she'd brought back with her had been a forceful reminder that they also had a duty to protect the mages from the world.
Irving was standing by the fire in his office, a slight, tow-headed boy at his side. "I have another apprentice for you, Kathil. Connor, this is Senior Enchanter Kathil. She will be your teacher."
Kathil's heart stopped briefly. Finally. It took reminding, but she remembered her promise. "Hello, Connor," she said quietly. "It is good to see you again."
A frown creased the boy's face; too late, she saw Irving shake his head. "We have met, Enchanter? I don't—"
"Ah, no, I was thinking of someone else," she said hastily, realizing that the apprentice ritual had already been performed. Just another baby mage to teach, to try to keep alive long enough to reach the Harrowing. "Come along, we'll get you settled into the apprentice quarters."
"Olasia is on her way for him," Irving said. "Ah, there she is. Kathil, I have a few things for you, stay a moment." Olasia smiled at Kathil and gathered up the newest mageling, escorting him toward the stairs.
"You had news?" Kathil asked.
The First Enchanter smiled slightly, and waved her towards an empty chair. He sat down as well. Irving had been aging rapidly, and day by day they could see his strength ebbing. "Messages, yes. One from the Grey Wardens, one with the royal seal. I did want to ask, though, before I give you those messages—how are you finding your stay here?"
"My stay? Irving, you sound like I'm going to leave at any moment."
He raised an eyebrow, in that way he had when he thought she'd asked a stupid question. "Aren't you?"
She opened her mouth to protest, of course not, and then realized what the question Irving had not asked was. "The Grey Wardens and the crown are getting along perfectly well without me. This is my home. I might leave, if circumstances demand, but…I will always come back."
"Good, good. Well, here are those messages." He handed her folded parchment. "The messenger from the crown is waiting in the entrance hall. You might want to write a reply before the man perishes of hunger."
"Oh, Andraste's little apples. All right, I'm going." She jumped up and strode toward the door, the hem of her robes whispering against her ankles.
"Kathil?" came Irving's voice from behind her. She paused, and turned. He still had that slight smile on his face. "Just so you're prepared. The next time the Circle meets, I plan on naming you Second Enchanter."
She gaped at him for a moment. Irving was going to name her his successor? "I, ah—"
"Get on with you, girl," he said, and his kind tone recalled Wynne to her. "Go read your messages. You and I can talk later."
When she got to her room, she discovered that Lorn was asleep on the bed, on his back, snoring like the Maker's own thunderstorm. She poked his belly. "Aren't you meant to be patrolling your territory, puppy?"
Lorn woke with a snort. His tongue came out, and Kathil was just a little too slow in dodging. A moment later, her face had a generous coating of Mabari slobber. Of course he was supposed to be patrolling, said the wildly wagging tail-stub and the grin. He rolled over and tried to lick Kathil's face again. But a nap had ambushed him. Naps were sneaky.
"They are that," she said, laughing. "Go, Lorn. If you see Zevran, fetch him here. I think he and I need to have a little talk."
Lorn gave a happy whuff and trotted out of the room. Kathil closed the door after him. She opened the message from the Wardens first and scanned it; it was nothing she didn't expect, just news from the ranks. They kept her informed as a courtesy, and likely out of hope she would change her mind and come join them once more. Maybe some day, but I doubt it.
The only surprise was at the end, just after the list of the new recruits who had survived the Joining. Cullen survived his Joining easily.. He sends his regards.
"I'm still sorry," she murmured to no one in particular. "But I think you'll be all right, Cullen. I hope, at least."
Then she turned to the other message, sliding the point of her dagger under the wax seal. It was, as she had expected, from Alistair.
You cannot imagine how many times I've written and burned this letter. You're probably finding them in the Fade already, which means I probably don't actually have to send it, but I'm going to try anyway.
I'm going to visit Waking Sea in the spring. If you'd like to join me, I could use the company. Maybe we can talk some sense into the Arlessa. If that doesn't work, I can shout at her. I've been told I've developed a very good shouting voice in the last few years.
Let me know.
"Typical." She stared at the letter, willing the words to change somehow.
There was a familiar voice in her ear. "What is typical, little one?"
She jumped and turned, hitting hard him on the shoulder. Zevran gave her an insouciant grin. "Don't do that, Zevran. Or I'll tie you up and beat you."
He smiled. "Promises, promises. That appears to be the handwriting of the good King Alistair, yes?"
"He wants me to come to Waking Sea with him. I need to send a reply with the messenger who's waiting downstairs." Her hands were shaking, and she put the letter down on her desk. "I think he plans on forcing them to acknowledge me."
"Well, there is no question, is there?" Zevran grinned at her. "Write and tell him we are both coming. Three of us, if you count Lorn."
Her breath caught in her throat. "Are you sure?"
"I would not miss the look on Alistair's face when he sees us for the world," he said, and chuckled.
She hit him on the shoulder again. "You are a very bad man, Zevran. I can't imagine what I see in you. All right, I'll write him back. Stay for a bit, there's some other news from the Wardens."
"I wait upon my Grey Warden's pleasure," he said, and in his eyes she saw everything between them that was never spoken.
It was enough, more than enough.
Would always be so much more than enough.
My liege, Alistair,
I will join you on the road to Waking Sea in the spring. Lorn will be coming as well, and so will Zevran, who seems to have found himself at home in the Tower.
I look forward to being a representative of the Circle of Magi on your travels. We have much news to discuss.
Senior Enchanter of the Circle of Magi