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Ghosts of Times Past [Vel/Lirath]

#1
“It's alphabetized. New arrivals should be appended to the bottom of the appropriate letter page. Likely easiest way to find them if updated forms aren't made, which I doubt there's time for. Same for those who are missing. I’m sure someone will be able to catch anyone coming in from Dalaran. There’s only one port.”

Velameestra pointed at each section of the pristinely scribed registry that she had been working on throughout the week as she explained the format to the Guardian of Eternal Spring that had been her collaborator in the organization. Several names were already crossed out on the pages that were dubbed “Missing,” the date of reunion scratched beside each name with initials beneath. Even so, the stacks of parchment still seemed to be dauntingly large.

“I made a preliminary copy to take to Dalaran with me. It won’t be as updated, but from what I understand, most should be getting directed to Capital City. Ideally we can keep the port as the central checkpoint.”

The guardian, a dark-haired elf with his long hair pulled back into a tight braid, nodded along as he followed where the mage was pointing. “It’s something to start with, at least,” he sighed.

“And should help keep people from falling through the cracks. Ideally,” Velameestra agreed with a slight nod. She pushed the stacks of paperwork over to the other elf, and he began to neatly stack them into a more easily managed pile. However, the mage’s brow furrowed slightly, the sensation of being watched pricking at the back of her neck, and she instinctively glanced over her shoulder.

Her icy eyes happened to catch the pair belonging to her father, and Lirath offered her a small smile as he noted his daughter returning his look before he looked away and began to busy himself again. Even so, the smile didn’t manage to hide the worried look flickering behind his eyes.

...that’s the third time I caught him...

Velameestra frowned slightly, and then looked back to the guardian. “If I can do anything else, let me know. I have a day or two before I’m planning on leaving,” she offered, and he once again nodded before she left him to instead weave her way around the other elves occupying the courtyard as she made her way to the other side.

Ann’da,” the elf greeted simply. She cocked her head slightly, her brow once again faintly furrowed, and she paused before continuing in a quieter tone, giving her father time to register her approach. “...Doral ana'diel?*

(*How fare you?/Are you okay?)
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#2
Lirath spun his head back towards his daughter and placed the leather chord down.  He had been doing what he could to make some extra waterskins from spare leather scraps that were too small to become clothing or sheets.  He was hardly an expert, but he could accomplish this, at the very least.  The high elves would need many things in the coming months, but fresh, clean drinking water was perhaps the most important.  If he could make sure that even a few of his people were better prepared for the uncertainty ahead, he would.

"I should be asking you that, Vel," Lirath said, his voice like a quiet, sad song.  "You've been busy as a mana wyrm during arcanist exam season.  You've remembered to eat and stay hydrated, yes?"

As he offered another smile, he couldn't stop his heart from pounding.  Since her encounter at the Sunwell, everyone could tell that the magic she had immersed herself in had affected her physically.  Esara had said it was likely the ambient corruption from overdosing on magic - from being drawn directly into the font of magic that had been twisted into an invasion point by the orcish Horde.  The most obvious side effect was her hair, which had taken on a hauntingly beautiful white sheen, instead of the pale gold she had shared with his own sister.  Pure white, like freshly fallen snow.

Just like Nirenn.

But during their last stand in Silvermoon... the vortex of polar winds that had swirled around her, blood leaking from her eyes...

The image had disarmed him long enough for him to lower his guard, which had almost cost him his life.  But now, in the safety of the human kingdom, the worry was heavy on his shoulders, like icicles on a gutter.

"Make sure you don't overwork yourself, okay?"
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#3
"I've done better than usual," Velameestra replied. The statement was, for once, truthful, though her adherence to self-care was primarily fueled by her insistence on blowing through her magical stores each morning in her attempts to fling as many castings of the sending spell at the ban'dinoriel as she feasibly could--an insistence that required her to be rested enough to have mana stores to utilize.

The mage glanced back in the direction of the guardian she had been speaking with. "...and I can't say that what I've been doing is particularly straining."

She fell to silence, unsure of how to proceed as she subconsciously rubbed her arm. In her observations of Gil, he normally casually waltzed into such things, countering any concerns with a careless brush of his hand and a poorly timed (from her perspective) joke. However, imitation of such behavior--particularly coming from her--would have likely been disastrous at best.

Though so could her normal approach to such matters, a notion that she had been more keenly aware of as of late.

Her eyes flickered down to the pile of leather scraps and cords at her father's feet. "...do you want help? You... hurt your arm, didn't you?"
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#4
"Ahh," he said, as if remembering the bandages on his arm for the first time today.  "Yes, I suppose I did.  Nothing a bit of rest won't handle... but you're more than welcome to pitch in.  Though..." he smiled, his head tilting to the side a bit as he considered how little he actually knew about his own daughter.  "I... have you done leather work before, Vel?  The repetition can be cathartic, like fletching arrows and the like.  It's okay if you haven't done it before.  I can show you."
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#5
"I... um... not explicitly, no..." the mage trailed off as she continued looking down at the pile of supplies.

The tips of her ears were steadily tinted a soft shade of pink, the color standing out even more prominently against her pale skin than it had previously now that it was wreathed by stark white.

"But I get the theory well enough..."

She perched herself on the low, decorative wall next to her father, and leaned down to pluck one of the scraps from the pile which she promptly folded into a shape reminiscent of a pouch. She clapped the two ends together softly a few times, turning it around in her hands as she stole a quick glance at the the pile of finished waterskins at Lirath's side and rapidly compared the shapes.

"You make a pouch and... secure it."
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#6
Lirath covered his mouth, unable to hold back a quiet chuckle.  "You're on the right track, Vel... but there's one thing you missed."  He tapped the smaller of the pieces of leather.  "That piece isn't treated right.  It will serve fine for the outside, but not for the bladder.  Otherwise..."  Lirath took his own, half-full water skin and dumped a few drops of water onto the piece in question, which eagerly soaked up the liquid and dumped the rest through itself onto the ground.

Lirath chuckled again.  "But it's okay, it's okay.  Here," he said, retrieving the proper pieces and handing them over to his daughter.  "If you use these ones, it should work out better for you."

The farstrider walked her carefully through the steps, and in that moment, he couldn't have been happier.  Thinking back, he had never actually had the opportunity to teach his daughter anything - She had always gone to Nirenn first with any questions she had.  And Nirenn, being the perfect woman that she was, had all the answers.  After she was gone, she spent more time with Rhonin than with him.

I suppose I didn't realize how much I wanted this, he thought.  As he showed Vel what to do next, he couldn't help but realize just how precious his children were - and how rapidly they were running into things he couldn't ever help prepare them for.

By the end of her tutorial, Vel had managed to construct a serviceable waterskin.  It was far from perfect, but it didn't leak, and it didn't soak through.  Lirath smiled.  "You know, Vel, I didn't think there was anything I would have been able to teach you.  You and Gil... you're both so special, so talented.  It's only a matter of time before your ann'da has nothing but fake wisdom, happy memories, and a repertoire of music for around the campfire to offer either of you!"
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#7
To say there weren't moments that the young mage was getting frustrated would be an outright lie. She understood the merit of practice. That nothing was ever perfect on the first attempt (Uther's hammer was evidence enough of that, despite the confidence she held in the theory of enchanting). But the idea of leatherworking, and truthfully, most of the arts practiced by artisans, were enough steps away from what was familiar that she found a degree of struggle in imitating what her father was showing. Magic required little physical exertion beyond the channeling of mana, and even that ultimately tapped into sheer willpower and, in her case, a carefully honed and learned understanding more than physical ability. However, the leather cords resisted her push at every turn, refusing to easily tug through the holes pierced in the leather, or twisting and laying crooked whenever she finally managed to force them through.

The result was workable but... far from adequate according to her insurmountably high personal standards. Yet, where her talents did shine was in how she wordlessly started another waterskin, showing she had effortlessly memorized the steps that needed to be taken even as she started to struggle through the execution of the second attempt.

"Us learning everything on our own is unrealistic," Velameestra replied, her eyes focused on trying to wriggle the cord through a newly pierced hole. "Mages wouldn't bother dealing with other mages otherwise. Innovation is birthed upon the idea of building upon the findings of others, improving, and then transferring that onward to--"

She cut herself off, realizing that the beginnings of her tangent ultimately didn't apply to the compliment that her father had offered. The tips of her ears turned pink again. "...What I meant is I'm sure you'll always have something to teach."

She fell silent for a moment, distinctly grateful for something to do with her hands as she continued to work the cord in and out. Her eyes flickered over to the other elf, and she watched Lirath's hands as she tried to piece together the motions he was using to maneuver the cord so easily. Her mind went back to the look she had caught earlier, and her lips tightened.

"...I actually wanted to..."

She trailed off, her brow furrowing and her hands ceasing their motion as she tried to sort out the best words to use. She opened her mouth and closed it again, her eyes falling to the ground in thought before she finally sighed.

"I caught your look. I did a few days ago too. You're not scared of me, are you?"
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#8
Lirath's heart sank, and he gasped quietly in shock.  "What?  No, no.  That's not it at all.  I'm sorry, Vel.  I didn't mean to be rude.  It's just that, well, with everything that's happened, and with..."

He trailed off.  His shoulders sank and his gaze fell to the floor between them.

"...You look so much like her."

He shook his head slowly and deliberately.  He drew a lock of hair from his face and glanced back up at his daughter, the quiet fear she had seen in his eyes now plain across his face.

"And these last few months... they've shown me that I won't be able to protect you or Gil from everything.  I'm... afraid for you.  For what happened with the Sunwell, and... your eyes.  That storm you created...  A father's supposed to have the strength to shield his kids from suffering, but there was nothing I could do to stop any of this from happening to you."

Lirath sighed and shrugged his shoulders.  "I guess I just wish there was more I could do.  Something I could do to help you and your brother.  I feel so powerless, and... and I don't want to lose you..

...Like I lost your mother."
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#9
She swallowed. Ordinarily, the mage was confident that her heart would be racing, beating quickly enough that she could feel the blood rushing in her ears, but she didn’t feel the expected sensation.

Her heart didn’t beat that fast anymore.

Once again at a loss for words, her project came to rest on her lap, and she chewed on her bottom lip. The elf was looking straight ahead, watching others move through the courtyard, though no one paid the pair of them any heed.

“...I don't either,” she said finally. “I’ve been scared too. You almost died. Uther did die... despite everything I've done... how far I've...”

Gone.

She fell silent again, and subconsciously began to twist the elegant silver ring on her right hand. Her lips tightened, and she swallowed the lump in her throat before she finally brought herself to look at her father out of the corner of her eye.

“...Maybe I should have told you last time we talked about it. When I...explained the hex. Before we went back to Silvermoon. I didn’t want you to…”

She trailed off into a shaky sigh. Kilnar had been much easier to speak on the matter to, but in that moment, it had been as much of a strategic play as a genuine wish to inform her.

Her father, meanwhile, was a perfect mirror of the hurt she tried so hard to bury, but was instead now laid bare in the fear in Lirath's eyes.

“She’s not gone, ann’da. Not permanently."
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#10
Lirath froze.  He heard his daughter's word, processed what he thought she meant.  His cocked his head curiously in a familiar way.

"What... do you mean, Vel?  The hex... it drained her of her strength.  There was nothing that magic could do to stop it, and not for lack of trying."

He blinked.

"...Right?"
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