Two men moved briskly through the streets of Arhals, robed in dark clothing, the early morning sun beating down upon the two figures. In any other city, their movements would have drawn attention. However, in Arhals, one did not think beyond their own interests. Neighborly friendship was a foreign concept to the commonfolk of the capital city.
The pair entered a small house, opening and closing the door without hurry. The room they entered was bare, without furniture of any sort. Once inside, the shorter of the two pulled back his hood. “Now, will you tell me what this is about?” Archmage Velsyph asked, his tone sharp.
The taller of the two removed his own hood, revealing pointed ears and silver hair. His eyes brimmed with worry. “How is your former apprentice?” Veladion asked.
Velsyph blinked. “Lindin? He’s fine, just fine. Why do you ask?”
“Have you told him to leave the city yet?”
Velsyph laughed. “Why would I do such a thing?”
Veladion eyed him carefully. “You know exactly why he should leave,” Veladion said quietly. “I have heard what the Arcanum is doing, Velsyph.”
Velsyph’s face dropped at the words, any fight in the old man deflating in an instant. “You know,” he repeated.
The elf nodded. “When this project was first proposed, I felt it too great a risk, both to the city as well as the Empire. Our nation is built upon a strong foundation, Velsyph. To tear that foundation apart in the hope of finding even greater power beneath it is far too great a risk.”
“We aren’t tearing anything down,” Velsyph countered. “The spellweave that powers Arhals is the greatest achievement of the Empire in the past century. If we could expand that success, spread its power across the entire Empire at once…”
“But at what cost?” Veladion interrupted. “I realize that humans don’t feel the World’s essence as we do, but never in our history has such harm been threatened against the World. And attempting to conceal this from those who dissent is beyond understanding. You must see that, my friend.”
“Veladion,” Velsyph began, attempting to rally his strength, “it was not my decision to conceal this action from you or the others. That order came directly from Amolieth herself. Had it been my choice…”
“And how, exactly, was it not your choice?” Veladion asked, bemused for a moment. A small smile crept over his face. “Were you not given a vote? Did you not say, on the floor of the Arcanum, that this action would secure our victory against both Tha’Haral as well as any future enemies? Or were you merely caught up in the passion of Lyanna and the others?”
“Perhaps I was a bit overzealous,” Velsyph admitted, his brow furrowing. “But I meant for my voice to be a moderate one. Had I not spoken in favor of the motion, the experiments may have proceeded too fast. I needed to be on the inside of this to ensure that no harm came to our people.”
“Our people?” Veladion asked. “I have known you for a long time, Velsyph, but you must know that this will harm the elves whether the project is a success or a failure. Have you even considered what this will do to the relations with my people? Before I was cut off, I told Teralon what the Arcanum was planning. I cannot express how horrified he was at the prospect.”
“The high lord’s opinion does not dictate policy, Veladion. You know that, better than anyone else. The elves swore to serve the Empire, Teralon included.” Velsyph folded his arms.
“It does not change what must be done.” Veladion said. “When I leave tomorrow, all elvish mages associated with this project will return with me to Ilanel.”
Velsyph started. “What? No, you can’t! They’re essential to our research.”
“I will govern our people as I see fit, according to the terms of our arrangement with the Empire. I’m sorry, Velsyph, but you leave me no choice. I will not endanger our people in this way any further, and I cannot support this act against our World.”
“What will you tell Amolieth?” Velsyph’s gaze held firm.
“I will tell her that they are needed elsewhere,” Veladion responded, pulling his hood back over his head. “But you know as well as I that it is not your concern what I say to her.” He moved for the door, opening it slightly. Without turning back, he added, “Please let me know when this foolishness is over, Velsyph. I always look forward to my visits to Arhals. And do warn Lindin before it’s too late.” He slipped back into the street, leaving the archmage alone.