Croatius dourly examined his eyes in the mirror. The once blue orbs had turned a vivid green, result of his resorting to fel energy to feed his racial addiction to magic. He didn’t like to admit it, but their appearance still startled him whenever he chanced upon a wayward reflection. It reminded him too much of the demon who had taunted him for not being able to resist the fel’s draw.
Croatius closed his lids over the strange eyes and turned, opening them again to look over his desk at the other elf sitting across from him. Evelos worried at the hem of his travel robes, the brown cloth still stained faintly with mud from the road. His eyes were still blue, Croatius noted, if just barely; the glow had dimmed, the once vibrant color now washed out and gray. The elf hadn’t yet turned to siphoning magic off of either old artifacts or the fel. It would lead to his becoming Wretched if he didn’t correct that soon, Croatius thought idly.
For his part, Evelos recoiled under Croatius’ gaze. It was the demon-tainted eyes, Croatius knew, though this couldn’t have been the first time Evelos had seen them. Most of the elves still in Silvermoon bore such a mark now.
“You must be hungry,” said Croatius, and he didn’t just mean for food. He picked up his staff from where it had been leaning against the wall, running his fingers along the crystal. He allowed a little of the staff’s magic to filter into his skin and sighed softly, as the now ever-present ache inside him relented, just a little.
“It’s not too bad, if I don’t think about it,” Evelos lied. “I’ll find my own way around it. Croatius, I came to you because I’m looking for my family. The southern lands, where my home was–it’s all been blighted. Have you heard anything? Seen anyone?”
Croatius eyed Evelos impassively. He knew it had to sting, this loss, but he also knew most of Silvermoon had suffered the same. Grief swirled around the city like a miasma, igniting into anger in some and depression and Wretchedness in others. The Lich King had taken many things from the blood elf race; that’s why they were now called what they were.
Croatius maintained a careful wall against it. Though his own father numbered among the dead, he couldn’t feel too bad for that loss. In all other ways, it was just better not to think of it.
“I haven’t seen them,” Croatius said, and he was sure to entone it gently. He wasn’t interested in any more emotional storms. There had been quite enough of that around already! “Evelos, as much as it must pain you, you have to lay those feelings aside.”
Evelos blinked several times, face twisting in pain. Croatius felt a sudden impatience for his old friend. Had everyone lost their minds to their grief but him?
“Turn your thoughts to those who still live,” Croatius advised, more firmly. “Focus on what can be done in the present, not on the past.”
Evelos looked up. He blinked again and swallowed. A hardening. “What is left of our order?”
“The priests?” Croatius couldn’t help a careless shrug, as old anger tightened in his gut. “Not much. Most lost their powers. When the Sunwell was destroyed–”
“But I haven’t,” said Evelos with a frown. “It’s not as easy as it used to be, but I can still call on the Light. Its loss can’t be due to the Sunwell.”
Croatius frowned, irritated. “Yours is an…unusual case, then. Have you thought to turn those powers to the good of the city? The battles with the Scourge leave us with many not as fortunate as you.”
Evelos’ brows furrowed at the hidden barbs in Croatius’ words, but then they smoothed as he chose to forgive his friend. That was an oddity about the elf, a kind of softheartedness he had possessed since the first day they had met. Croatius had thought it would lead to his downfall eventually. He still thought so, almost jealously, now.
“I have,” Evelos said quietly. “That’s not exactly the point.”
“Then…? You have something more important to do than help rebuild? Were you planning to run off again to those human friends of yours in the south, maybe?” Croatius’ lip curled.
“They might be able to help us,” Evelos said carefully.
“Help? It was one of their kind who did all this!” Croatius flung his arm towards the window overlooking the city. The glass in it was broken; the drafts coming from it irritated him, but there was no spare glass or glassworkers left to be found in Silvermoon. The streets outside reflected the window’s disrepair. Not all of the Scourge banners had even been torn down yet. Wagons of corpses were set to burn, and once-proud lords sat next to piles of their belongings, trying to hawk them off for a bit of food or a taste of magic.
Evelos refused to look. “The humans were also hurt by the Lich King. Lordaeron is in ruins. They didn’t want to let me leave Stromgarde, as it’s still under siege.” He met Croatius’ eyes, begging understanding. “I am trying to help. I came back for the sake of my people. To help keep them from falling further.”
Croatius closed his eyes, willing patience with a sigh. “Then you would do well to accept your people’s new ways, Evelos.”
“And drink from–from demon’s blood?” Evelos spluttered. “Haven’t you heard the theories? That’s what happened to the orcs! Are we to become no better than those savages now?”
“Not demon’s blood: demon’s magic,” Croatius corrected with a tone of infinite patience. “Magic is just magic, Evelos; you know that. The Light that you so revere is just magic. No better and no worse than the fel is.”
“You don’t truly believe that.”
Croatius opened his eyes, staring at Evelos, knowing the green in them would be–should be–answer enough.
Evelos stood up. “I see you don’t have the answers I seek,” he said coolly. “I’ll look somewhere else for my kin.” My true kin, said his tone, but he didn’t say it outloud.
“Perhaps you should try the Blood Knight Enclave,” Croatius suggested, forcing his tone to be cordial. “Most wielders of the Light now study there.”
“Most? What about you?”
Croatius scowled softly. “I still work with them, yes.”
Evelos nodded, as if reassured about something, and then looked down. It took him a few deep breaths, but he softened again. Another forgiveness. Croatius tried not to let his scorn show.
“I am glad you made it through the war alive, my old friend,” Evelos said gently.
Croatius swallowed instead of answering.
“Even if my family didn’t,” Evelos added. His voice was steady, but Croatius could still detect the quiver of emotions behind it.
“I am truly sorry for your loss,” Croatius replied carefully.
“Well, we can only do what we can and hope the Light fills in the gaps. Yes?”
“That is one way of putting it.”
Evelos looked up. “I haven’t lost my faith, Croatius. And I won’t, no matter how ill-tempered you may get.” He smiled a little.
Croatius didn’t take the bait, eying Evelos flatly. “And that is why you still serve the Light.”
Evelos frowned, but then he bowed and retreated from the study. He didn’t seem to know whether to take Croatius’ words as a compliment or if it had been meant as an insult. Croatius gave his back a small, mocking smile.
In truth, it had been a little of both.