in need of friends - oldestenemy (2024)

“Shut up, Fitzhume.”

The wizard is so startled by the words out of Ione’s mouth that they almost laugh—despite everything. They look at her, wide eyed, mouth slightly agape. Fitzhume does not look much different. Ione turns her attention back to them, waving a hand towards the spiral door.

“Wizard, go see Bartleby, rest as needed, we will be in touch.”

A blink.

A nod.

The Eye of History clutched in one hand, the wizard steps back out into Ravenwood. It feels like it’s been longer than a couple days. It feels so much longer. But they’d been here earlier in the week. They’d faced Gretta, they’d brought Duncan back with them, they—


The scholars will locate Old Cob, and Mellori with him. And Raven, they suppose. They are trying to think about everything as little as possible. They feel barely awake, barely alive, a shadow shifting under the canopy of leaves stretching out into the street.

The Eye seems to pull itself from their grip as they look up at Bartleby, slotting itself with a dull thunk back into his empty socket. They think about Ozzy for a moment, glad that this sound is more earthen, less like bone—because well, it’s not bone.

“Thank you, Wizard. But I must beg your pardon now, I need time to myself as the past returns to me. I need time to remember everything.” They smile up at Bartleby weakly, gaze roaming his still autumn hued leaves. Perhaps it would take time, the green returning. They wouldn’t complain, it was still easier to pass through him with the different colors, ill an omen as everyone believed them to be.

…Now what?

The wizard loathes down time.

They despise being told to rest.

They hadn’t even stopped to see Baba Yaga.

Someone else is going to tell her Mellori is gone.

Someone else is going to tell her it’s the wizard’s fault.

They didn’t stop her. They were too slow. They didn’t—

—their footsteps pause just before the door to the Myth tower.

Had Baba Yaga known? She must have known. Could she have told them? Was the knowledge tucked away? Were the words out of reach just like their name?

Did any of that even matter now?

They ascend the spiraling steps into the tower proper, warm afternoon sun streams through the yellow and blue glass making up the windows. It throws triangular patterns into the floor, shimmering and shifting as though the light itself is trying to form magic. The wizard pulls a book from one of Cyrus Drake’s shelves, settling down on the floor in a sun spot, eyes glazed over, no words really getting through. They aren’t entirely sure why they chose here to wait, aside from the fact that they were not ready to talk to anyone else but Cyrus, knowing he wouldn’t return to the tower for some hours still. And yet

The gentle sensation of touch, just over their shoulder, a faint breath drawing ozone and rain. The telltale flash of incoming teleportation—


Worlds away, in a shining city of barrows and coiling pathways rebuilt from crumbling stone, a necromancer is looking for a mouse. A mouse he has met all of once, only briefly, and is now—perhaps foolishly—trying to pick out from the dozens of armored rodent inhabitants of Bastion.

He is on the brink of frustration, a moments rest taken before a waterfall. A handful of orbs shimmer within the spray, dancing lights filled with deserts, forests, twisting mines, a palace dark and imposing. This world is a vast expanse, open and endless unlike anywhere else he’s ever been. Even the towering ruins of Dragonspyre shrink in his mind at the scale of this place. He feels small here, insignificant as a grain of sand.

It’s awful.

“You sent them away?” He is still new, he tries to keep the open incredulity from his voice but doesn’t quite manage it. “Alone?”

Ione Virga regards him with an intensity that almost makes him want to shrink away. It reminds him he is here on the word and mercy of other people. Maybe that’s her goal. “The wizard was sent to return the Eye of History, beyond that their orders are to rest. Whether they do so alone, or with company does not matter.”

Despite the way she is looking at him, the words don’t…feel hostile? Statement of fact. Little else.

On a ledge beside a waterfall, Duncan Grimwater sits and contemplates his next move. Wonders if coming here was pointless after all. Wonders what he was even trying to achieve.

He knows—

—that doesn’t mean he’s going to admit to it.

Even to himself.

“Hail, Spellbinder.”

He turns his head to see one of the mice striding towards him. Not just one of the mice. The one he’s here for, the one the wizard had spoken to so freely, who they had wanted a chance to say goodbye to, who had made them laugh.

Dyvim Whitehart stands near as tall as Duncan, sword sheathed at his side, a curious smile on his face. “We met in Sardonyx,” Statement, not question. “I see the armor forged as a result is still serving you well.”

Duncan is almost surprised. So used to those around him interacting with an edge of distaste. None of that exists here. “It is.” he agrees, swallowing the urge to silence his next words. He came here for a reason. He is repaying a debt. Even if he’s the only one who feels it needs doing. “I need your help with something.”


—the wizard is expecting one of the necromancers. Penny or Malorn most likely. Or maybe Suzie if the sharp tang of Storm magic present in the effect is anything to judge by—

—what they do not expect is for Dyvim Whitehart to materialize in a whirlwind of Death magic, looking as though the action itself has thrown him a touch off balance. They scrabble forward to help steady him, sitting back on their heels when all calms.

“Dyvim?” their voice comes quiet, muted and muffled by confusion.

“Someone told me you might be in need of a friend.”

A startled laugh forces itself sharp and ragged from their throat.

Dyvim has heard the sound before.

“It seems ill advised—sending one soldier to fight a war alone—a young one at that.”

The wizard laughs, a sharp and angry sound. Working its way past their lips before it can be stopped. “I’ve never known anything else.” Even before everything felt like a loss, like a pointless raging against inevitability. “Almost a decade of fighting and fighting and fighting.”

They watch Dyvim’s expression sour as he tries to place that range of years. They’d discussed their discrepancies in timing and maturity before, they are near the same sort of “age”, they can see he’s trying to figure out if he’s misunderstood, if all those years were still “adulthood”.

“You have allies who cannot reach this world, who direct you, who aid you—”

“—aid is a strong word.” the wizard replies, “I’m good at working alone. I’m used to it. You—” they stop for a moment, unsure how to admit that he is the first person to truly stick by them, to help them in a real tangible way. Eventually, voice dropping near a whisper. As though admitting it will make the truth of the words hurt. “You’re the first person who hasn’t left the moment I’ve saved them.”

It is not exactly easy to tell Dyvim what had transpired since they’d left him last. But it is easier than it has ever been to tell anyone else. They settle back to the floor, the sunlight almost warmer with Dyvim beside them. And all of it spills out.

“The waiting again is the worst—after Xiabalba, after—” Breathe, they live on, different but surviving. The wizard swallows. The pain recedes. “—there was a long stretch of nothing, there is always something in the way, now with Mellori it’s the same, I have to wait, I have to rest, I don’t—I lost her and I should have known better, I should never have let her come to Mirage with me—but I was too distracted by the Schism and I just—” Their words fall apart, disjointed and trailing off into nothing. “Old Cob tricked me again. Because I was desperate and reckless and stupid. It was the Moon Cliffs again. It was a danger I should have seen coming.”

They should have seen the signs.

Should have recognized Mellori for what and who she was born of.

Shaking. Only just. An unnatural chill to the dampness of their eyes. Swallow it. Keep it tamped down. Nothing good will come of that outpouring here.


It is nice.

Not being the Wizard.

It’s not their name.

But it is a name born of only one place.

A minute difference.

A hand on their shoulder.

More closeness than most are permitted.

A friend in arms.

Just enough.

Not fully their own—but not an empty shell—closer to who they are instead of what they are.

“You’re fighting another war alone.”

“Two under my belt since ours—if you count a revolution as a war, and a turf war as another.” Disconnect from it, set it apart and it won’t feel as bad. “There has been some help.” Ivan. Ozzy. Mellori—dammit. “I’m sorry.”

“For what?” There is a glint of understanding in his eyes, a slight challenge in the words themselves. As though he is asking not what they are trying to apologize for—but rather asking they find the strength not to.

They know better, they know he doesn’t blame them. It doesn’t stop the words. “I never apologized—I was too slow then—and I was too slow now—and I can’t ever save anyone when it matters—”

“—stop.” Dyvim’s voice is just sharp enough to cut them off, it softens out as he continues “You brought life back to the husk of a world that Khrysalis became under the Shadow Queen. It sounds as though you have saved all of us from ruin again. You will find your friend, even if it takes time. And I’ll not hear you decrying the hero I’ve grown so fond of.”



Never corrected, the weight still carried. Heroes don’t ask to watch as their enemies die. Heroes do not seek vengeance. Do not strike back at people who are meant to be on the same side. Do not sling spells before asking simple questions. Do not raise horrors beyond knowing from ancient pits. Or drag their friends into danger. Heroes do not lose themselves to Shadow magic and rip foes apart bare handed.

They haven’t felt like a hero in years.

The wizard doesn’t say it.

They lean into Dyvim. Head resting against his shoulder.

“Thank you.”

It can be enough.

It has to be.

in need of friends - oldestenemy (2024)


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