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  1. Wow
  2. It seemed like a normal sort of day, before life suddenly changed for Mitzi. Well, normal as a day could be during these trying times. After doing some quick recon work in Azsuna, which had been made a little more complicated than necessary by the unexpected appearance of some Naga, she had retired to the Legerdemain Lodge with a group of fellow mages. After a round of drinks everyone at the table had finally started to unwind, slowly breaking off into pairs to chat. Mitzi sighed gratefully as she finished off her drink, placing the empty mug onto the table.
  3.  
  4. "Well, you're enthusiastic today" said her friend Biyu playfully, giving Mitzi a light shove on the shoulder with her paw before downing the rest of her drink in one go. “It’s pretty rare you finish before me. What put you in such a good mood, shorty?"
  5.  
  6. Mitzi just smiled and shrugged. “Just glad the day’s over. I’ve got a day off tomorrow so I’m looking forward to doing some reading.” She was a bit irked by the short comment, but reacting to it was just what Biyu wanted. Plus as a gnome being told that sort of thing wasn’t exactly uncommon.
  7.  
  8. Biyu pouted and put her head into her crossed arms. “So you’re not gonna stay and have another drink or two? Not even for me?” she asked, slowly turning her big pleading eyes to Mitzi.
  9.  
  10. Try as she might, Mitzi couldn’t look away as she tried her best not to smile. Biyu was a Pandaren, and when she acted cute like that Mitzi couldn’t resist. “I… guess I could stay for a couple more drinks, sure. If you insist.”
  11.  
  12. “Great, I do insist! Actually, it just so happens that the next round of drinks is yours, speaking of. What a coincidence!” Biyu beamed, a bit too widely for Mitzi’s liking.
  13.  
  14. “Oh… fine, fine. That’s the only reason you want me to stay, isn’t it?” Mitzi mumbled as she got up, feeling a bit annoyed.
  15.  
  16. Biyu scooped Mitzi up in a hug before she could protest. “Oh, you know that’s not the only reason! You’re so cute when you pout!”
  17.  
  18. “Let me go, you smell terrible!” After a moment of struggling Mitzi finally released herself, taking some deep breaths.
  19.  
  20. “Yeah, it has been a long day!” Biyu laughed, completely unconcerned with her body odor. “Anyhow, why not get two drinks apiece? I’ll get the next round, we should have some fun.”
  21.  
  22. “Yeah, sure” Mitzi replied, finally just giving up. With a wave she left her friend behind and made her way to the bar, weaving around the various larger patrons.
  23.  
  24. It was right after she had ordered her drinks that it happened. The bar, which wasn't very crowded to begin with, went quiet as the doors opened and five figures entered the bar. They were all different races, and all clad in various shades of dark leather armor. The one in the front, a tall and imposing human male whose face was almost totally obscured by a leather hood, made his way to the bar only a few seats down from Mitzi as most of rest of his group took up seats around him.
  25.  
  26. It took her a moment to realize that the only one that did not sit was a Troll, who stood right next to her seat and was looking down at her coldly. "You're in my seat."
  27.  
  28. For a moment Mitzi nearly did as he said without even thinking. He was nearly three times as tall as her, with tusks that were almost as long as her arm. Of course she was intimidated. But she also didn't like the idea of being pushed around by some angry Troll just because he was bigger. "I'm only sitting here until I get my drinks." She patted the stool next to her. "You can sit there until I'm done."
  29.  
  30. The Troll narrowed his eyes dangerously. "Listen 'ere, gnome. You don't wanna be makin' enemies wit' me. Move.” The Troll moved his hands casually down to the axes at his hips, and out of the corner of her eye Mitzi saw Biyu get up with a stern expression on her face and began making her way to the bar. Mitzi hesitated, already knowing that this was going to get more intense in a moment but she refused to back down just because some troll told her so.
  31.  
  32. A metallic clinking suddenly drew Mitzi’s attention to the human, who had dropped a few gold coins on the counter and motioned to the bartender for one of the bottles displayed on the back wall. He turned almost lazily to look at Mitzi, and even though she could only see his eyes she was annoyed to see that he looked bored. “Sorry ma’am, you might just want to give him your seat. He gets upset when he doesn’t…” The human trailed off as the two made eye contact. He just stared at her for a minute, his eyes changing slowly from boredom to disbelief. “Mitzi?” he asked, like he dared not believe it.
  33.  
  34. The change in his demeanor was so sudden it made her pause. Even the Troll stopped and looked at his companion in confusion. Though she was taken aback, after a moment of consideration she nodded her head. “Yes, that’s me. How exactly do you know my name?” There was something familiar about those eyes that made her comfortable with at least this.
  35.  
  36. The human stood up, so suddenly it made her jump. There was a strange moment where Mitzi was sure that he was just going to attack. She found herself reaching for her wand, but her reaction time was too slow. The human was on her in an instant, wrapping his arms around her and lifting her up in the air. Before she even had a moment to process what was happening, she realized the human was laughing out loud. “I can’t believe it! It IS you! Oh, thank the Light! I thought you were dead! This has got to be some kind of miracle, right?”
  37.  
  38. “Wh… wha?” Mitzi managed to blurt out, not knowing what was going on. “Who… who are you?”
  39.  
  40. “Hey! Put her down, you creeper!” Biyu called out, as Mitzi felt someone grabbing her and freeing her from this human’s grasp. “What the hell is the matter with you?!” she asked as she placed Mitzi gently back on her feet.
  41.  
  42. “Oh, sorry about that” he responded, his tone cheerful as his eyes practically danced with excitement. “I got kind of carried away.” Reaching up, he pulled the hood off his head and wrenched the leather mask down to reveal his entire face. His short golden-blonde hair brought to mind a certain nostalgic memory, a friend she thought gone from her childhood. “I couldn’t help it. I haven’t seen her for so long. But look Mitzi, It’s me, Edwin!”
  43.  
  44. Her hands flew to her mouth. “Edwin? But… that’s impossible…” Mitzi looked over the man in front of her, hardly able to believe the words she had just heard. It had been over ten years since they had last met, and even after being told his identity it still took her a moment to see the boy she had once known in the face of this man. However when she met eyes with him again and saw the slightly awkward smile there, she knew it was true. “I thought you were dead."
  45.  
  46. Edwin grinned like an idiot. "Well, just presumed dead. My parents were glad when I showed up on their-" his sentence was cut off suddenly when Mitzi stepped forward and hugged his waist tightly, burying her face into his stomach. "Hey... wha..." he stammered, his face faltering for a moment.
  47.  
  48. “I thought… I thought you were gone forever…” Mitzi mumbled as she pressed her face hard into his stomach. She felt tears in her eyes as she hugged him tighter. “Is it really you?”
  49.  
  50. “Yeah, it’s me. I’m back.” Edwin’s voice was slow and calm as he knelt down and hugged her back. “I’m so glad to see you again, Mitzi.”
  51.  
  52. The quiet moment between the two ended when Mitzi felt a finger tapping her on the shoulder. Turning to the source she saw one of Edwin’s group, a Goblin girl dressed in faded red leather armor, who was scowling in her face. “Excuse me. Sorry to interrupt this moment but who exactly are you?”
  53.  
  54. “Oh, right!” Edwin got to his feet and grinned at his team, who all seemed a bit unnerved by all this sudden positivity. “Sorry I forgot to introduce you! Everyone, this is Mitzi Sprocketwrench, a very good childhood friend of mine.” Mitzi wasn’t surprised that none of them offered a word of salutation, but he turned to her like everything had turned out fine. “Mitzi, this is Reni,” he motioned to the Goblin girl who was still quite clearly glaring at her, “Jenus,” he motioned this time to an elf, who nodded once at Mitzi in acknowledgement, “Groma,” this time he pointed to an orc, who somehow managed to glare more than the goblin was, “and finally Qiju, who I believe you’ve already met” he finished, jerking a thumb towards the troll, who didn’t even seem to be paying attention. "These are my partners, we've all been together for a while now." Edwin kept that same grin on his face as he pointed at Biyu. "Who's your friend?"
  55.  
  56. Biyu stepped forward and shook Edwin's hand with a pleasant smile. "Very nice to meet you, Edwin. I'm Biyu, Mitzi's apprentice." Her smile became a bit mischievous as she glanced at Mitzi. "Do you mind if we join you all for a couple of drinks?"
  57.  
  58. "Of course! It'll be my treat." Edwin walked over and plopped into the seat next to Mitzi and motioned to his old seat. "Qiju, you can take my place. I have some catching up to do. Hey, Bartender!" he offered, turning away to order a round of drinks. The Troll scowled at Mitzi and took Edwin's old seat without a word.
  59.  
  60. "Well it wouldn't be right to refuse such a generous offer, would it?" Biyu asked with a smirk as she took a seat at the bar in the other side of Edwin.
  61.  
  62. Mitzi took a seat herself and noticed the rest of Edwin's group all whispering together. As she watched, Reni the goblin poked her head from the group and the two made brief eye contact. Once again she saw that piercing, fierce glare, and briefly Mitzi wondered what she had done to make this goblin hate her so much.
  63.  
  64. "So, you two work for the Kirin Tor?" Edwin asked Biyu and Mitzi as the bartender brought the first round of drinks.
  65.  
  66. "Yes, well not just the Kirin Tor, mages from all over the world have come together... in fact Biyu only became my apprentice recently. She's quite talented but still inexperienced." Realizing she now had three drinks in front of her, Mitzi took her first ale and took a long gulp before speaking. While she drank she just stared at Edwin, almost as if she looked away he would just disappear. It was rather surreal, like being back to her childhood. The more she looked at his face the more she felt like things were back to how they used to be.
  67.  
  68. "I'm quite grateful too!" Biyu replied cheerfully before downing her first drink. "I couldn't ask for a better teacher."
  69.  
  70. Nodding, Edwin picked up his own drink and took a swig. "Of course not. She's the one who taught me to read after all, I always thought she'd be good at that sort of stuff. I mean I was an idiot as a kid and she still did a good job!" Mitzi found herself a bit embarrassed at how proud Edwin looked, and how much Biyu was laughing.
  71.  
  72. "Well, what have you been doing Edwin? How... I was told by Stormwind that you were presumed dead.  What exactly happened to you?" Mitzi has originally meant to ask about something a little less serious, but had ended up blurting out the one question she truly wanted to know the answer to.
  73.  
  74. Edwin took another long drink, finishing up his mug and slamming it down gratefully on the counter. He turned to Mitzi with that same grin, though she noticed that it seemed a bit forced this time. "Sorry, but why don't we talk about unpleasant things later, ok? I'd much rather hear about you guys for a while." He motioned for the bartender again before turning back to Mitzi eagerly. "So, tell me what sorts of stuff you've been doing. Have you guys fought the Legion yet?"
  75.  
  76. The next hour or so went by with pleasant, idle conversation. Mitzi and Biyu told Edwin what they had been doing in their own efforts against the Legion invasion while Edwin sat in rapt attention, asking questions every now and then. If it hadn't been for the four dark figures all in whispered conversation next to them it would have been extremely pleasant.
  77.  
  78. Right around the time Mitzi was feeling a bit lightheaded and wondering how many drinks she had, Reni suddenly appeared between her and Edwin, poking his arm and completely ignoring her. "Edwin, we have somewhere to be."
  79.  
  80. "Oh, right!" Downing the rest of his drink in one go, Edwin turned and left a small stack of gold coins on the counter. "Sorry Mitzi, I have to go for now. Some important stuff to take care of. Nothing too serious, don't worry." He smiled reassuringly at her before standing up and replacing his hood and mask. "Are you free tomorrow? Maybe we could meet up for lunch and catch up some more."
  81.  
  82. "Oh, well..." Mitzi hesitated. Reni was nearly boring a hole through her with her intense glare, it was really throwing her off. "I don't know..."
  83.  
  84. "Of course she can make it! I'll be sure of it." Biyu declared proudly with a brig smile.
  85.  
  86. "Great! I'll see you here around noon. Oh, it was great meeting you too Biyu." Edwin shook hands with the Pandaren as the two beamed widely. He let go and followed after the rest of his group, who were all filing slowly out of the building. "See ya tomorrow!"
  87.  
  88. The two were quiet until all five had left the bar, then Mitzi turned to Biyu angrily. "What was that all about? Why did you answer for me?"
  89.  
  90. Biyu looked taken aback. "What? Were you really not going to meet up with him? But he was so excited! It would be like kicking a puppy telling him no. Plus you seem pretty happy to see him too." Biyu leaned down, her eyes narrowed suggestively. "So... when he says you guys were 'childhood friends' does he actually mean-"
  91.  
  92. Mitzi put an hand over her mouth, stopping any further words. She felt her cheeks redden. "He means that we were friends when we were children. That's all." She let Biyu's mouth go after a moment, and the Pandaren nodded in understanding.
  93.  
  94. "Well if you say so then sure. So, I guess the rest of our group has left... Do you want to continue this in my room? I have a keg of ale from back home, good stuff." Biyu was smiling brightly, which made Mitzi suspicious.
  95.  
  96. "You don't open those kegs unless you have a reason... What are you up to?"
  97.  
  98. "Mitzi, I'm offended. I'm not up to anything at all." Biyu started to walk away as she continued in an innocent tone of voice, "Of course if you were to tell me how you met that boy and why you cried when you saw him... Well some people might just see that as fair trade for getting to taste the best ale in Pandaria, am I right?"
  99.  
  100. Mitzi sighed and followed behind. She considered for a moment just not telling Biyu, but if she didn't then that's all she would hear about for the next few weeks was her apprentice begging for the story. "Fine... but we're getting something to eat before drinking more."
  101.  
  102. --
  103.  
  104. An hour later, stomachs full of chicken and each with a drink in hand, Mitzi and Biyu both settled down into a couple of comfy chairs that Biyu had set up in the corner of her room. The place was far more furnished with personal items than Mitzi's own room, with red and gold silk curtains, a number of lamps that let off differently colored glows of light, and a plush red rug that felt great under her feet.
  105.  
  106. As Mitzi admired the feel of the rug Biyu took a sip from her mug and sighed in appreciation. "Father DOES brew a great ale. It almost makes up for the fact that he's a lazy drunk." She took another slow sip as she eyed Mitzi curiously. "Now, I believe you were going to tell me a story?"
  107.  
  108. "Fine... just give me a second." Mitzi took a long draw at her own mug as she thought. She had never actually told anyone this story before. As much as she wanted to just say 'never mind' and leave, a part of her did admit that getting it off her chest might be nice. "It's kind of a long story. Did I ever tell you of my childhood?"
  109.  
  110. Biyu shook her head. "No, you mentioned that your parents died when you were young but that's about it."
  111.  
  112. "My parents were traveling merchants. They invented all sorts of small knick knacks, and they'd travel around in a wagon selling them." Mitzi smiled faintly, as blurry memories of her past rose up. "I don't remember much about them to be honest. My mother would sing me to sleep, and my father had a big bushy beard. The only other thing I remember is that I have the same pink hair as my mother. She would make up song about it to make me laugh." The thought made her smile sadly, she couldn't even remember any of those songs.
  113.  
  114. "What happened to them?" Biyu asked quietly. It was rare to see her friend so serious, but when the situation called for it Biyu was surprisingly reliable.
  115.  
  116. "The last time we were together we were traveling down to Ratchet. We never usually went that far, normally we just stayed around Loch Modan but my father had this big deal he wanted to make. So, he and my mother packed up everything we had and we went on a trip. One night... we were camping out in Westfall, right near Darkshire." Mitzi stopped, the next part was always hard to even think about. "We... were sitting by the fire. We had just finished dinner and my dad was going to check on the equipment. Then, a man came up behind him and slit his throat." Biyu's eyes widened in disbelief as Mitzi looked down in shame. "It happened so fast. I remember not even knowing what happened until mom started screaming at me to run. She pushed me towards the woods, and then tried to grab her gun..." tears were falling down her face now. "I just ran. I heard her scream, and I heard someone running after me. But I just ran and kept running until I couldn't move anymore. I remember being so tired I couldn't even cry."
  117.  
  118. There was a moment of silence as Mitzi wiped her eyes with her sleeve. She felt warm arms surrounding her as Biyu pulled her into a tight hug. "Oh, I'm so sorry Mitzi. I had no idea. Nobody should have to go through that." The two stayed like that for a moment while Mitzi calmed herself down, and finally got her tears under control.
  119.  
  120. Mitzi finally pulled away from the hug and smiled briefly, knowing she must look like a mess. "Thank you Biyu." Brushing her eyes one more time, she composed herself and continued. "Well, it took me a while to get back to the wagon. I was terrified those guys were looking for me, but honestly I never saw them again. I never even got a good look at any faces. By the time I made it back to where the wagon was... both of my parents were dead. They took the wagon, our horse... they took everything except their bodies. I remember not knowing what else to do, so I took a piece of wood and dug them a grave. After that, I didn't have anything else to do, so I just wandered into a barn and slept for the night."
  121.  
  122. The two were quiet as they finished their ale and Biyu refilled the mugs. As she sat back down and placed them gently on the table, she broke the silence. "I'm surprised you managed to keep it together at all. I can't even imagine what that must have been like. So what did you do after all that? Is that when you met Edwin?"
  123.  
  124. A smile managed to cross Mitzi's face. "Well, not right away no. For the next couple of years I mostly just stayed around Westfall, stealing food when I could and sleeping in barns when I could. I remember thinking that I was going to be like that for the rest of my life, stealing to survive. That was until one night I snuck into a particularly small barn..." She could remember the night in question clearly, even now it was one of the sharpest memories she had.
  125.  
  126. --
  127.  
  128. A young, ten year-old Mitzi opened the barn door as quietly as she could and slipped inside, shutting it behind her as softly as possible. For a moment she just stood there in the fading light of  day steaming in through the high barn windows, listening for anyone who may hhave heard her. After ten minutes of silence she was at least convinced that nobody was coming for the moment and she let out a long sigh of relief.
  129.  
  130. Scanning the room, Mitzi was glad to see two cows calmly standing there chewing on their cud. Scooping up a bucket from nearby and checking to see if it was dirty, she made her way to the first cow. Petting it gently and whispering some calming words to the beast, she placed the bucket under the udders and filled it with a bit of warm fresh milk. Patting the creature, she said a quiet "thank you" before making her way to the corner where a nice pile of hay seemed quite inviting. She settled down, pulled the bucket of milk closer to her and started pulling out some vegetables she had taken from some of the surrounding farms. Just for a moment Mitzi felt a sense of relaxation, she was in a nice warm place, had enough food and drink, and nobody knew she was here. She could eat this meal in peace.
  131.  
  132. "Hey, whatcha eatin'?" called out a voice from the hayloft that made her freeze. Very slowly Mitzi looked up and saw a human boy staring back at her. He looked curious, and had a little bit of a smile on his face. His shaggy blond hair almost blended in with the straw all around him. "Looks good."
  133.  
  134. "Um..." Mitzi didn't know what to say. She thought about just running, but she was sure she wouldn't be able to grab all the food in time. Her eyes darted to the door and back to the boy, only to realize he was already climbing down to the ground. Panicking, she began grabbing all she could and shoving it into the sack she carried.
  135.  
  136. "Hey, woah!" the boy said, waving his hands at her. "I'm not going to hurt you, I swear! I won't tell anyone you're here either. I was just asking if that was your dinner, that's all."
  137.  
  138. Mitzi hesitated for a long moment, and then finally nodded. "Yes, it's my dinner. It's all I have."
  139.  
  140. "Well, it looked like it was just vegetables. You're not going to get full on that. Why don't I get you some food from inside?" he gave her a toothy grin. "I'm actually hungry too, so it works for me as well."
  141.  
  142. Frowning, Mitzi inched her way to the door again. "I don't think so. I know what you're planning. You're going to call the guards, aren't you?"
  143.  
  144. The boy frowned at her for a moment, then suddenly reached down to his feet and began fiddling with his shoelaces. Mitzi watched him curiously, unsure what he was doing as he took off both his shoes and then threw them to her, both landing near her feet. "There, those are my shoes. You can hold onto those until I get back. Those are proof I'm telling the truth! If I do lie you have my permission to take those!"
  145.  
  146. The moment was so strange Mitzi was actually speechless. She looked from the boy to the shoes and back again. He had a serious expression on his face, like he was daring her to call him a liar. Finally, not knowing what else to do, she bent over and picked up the shoes. "Uh, ok then."
  147.  
  148. "Great! I'll be right back." The boy was once again cheery as he walked casually past her and out the door, closing it behind him and leaving her inside. After only a moment it suddenly opened back up, causing her to jump. "Oh right, I meant to say. I'm Edwin. Edwin Ogden. What's your name?"
  149.  
  150. Before she could even think she found herself responding, "Mitzi Sprocketrench." She cursed herself internally, if he was lying then now he knew her name.
  151.  
  152. Edwin grinned. "Great to meet you, Mitzi!" he called as he closed the door once more.
  153.  
  154. It was about fifteen minutes before the Edwin came back. The whole time Mitzi kept thinking about simply leaving, but there was something about the earnest look on Edwin's face when he left that made her stay. When he did return he came carrying a satchel and a pitcher of tea, which he carefully set on the ground before spreading a small blanket. Then, with a triumphant look on his face, he began to pull out a veritable feast. Ham, bread, cheese, bacon, a jar of pickles, another jar of nuts and a couple of apples were all laid out on the blanket. Finally he pulled out two mugs, filled both with water and passed her one. "Well, let's eat!" Without any preamble, he tore the bread in half and passed one to her.
  155.  
  156. Reaching out to grab it, Mitzi hesitated. She didn't know why, but this just seemed too good to be true. Then she put down her hand and stared Edwin the face. "Why are you doing this?"
  157.  
  158. The outstretched hand with the bread drooped a bit, and Edwin looked a bit embarrassed. For the first time since Mitzi met him he looked uncomfortable. "Well to be honest, I don't have a lot of people to talk to around here. You looked like you were lonely too so I was thinking that maybe... we could just be friends?"
  159.  
  160. His face and toner voice were so serious that it made Mitzi snort with laughter. Then, before she could stop herself, she was laughing. Edwin's face went from serious to a little annoyed, and Mitzi realized that he had been completely honest. With a little effort she stopped laughing, took a deep breath and smiled at him. "Sorry, I just wasn't expecting that at all. Is that all you wanted?" Mitzi held out her hand to him, palm outstretched. "Alright then, I'll be your friend."
  161.  
  162. Edwin's face only stayed annoyed for a brief moment. He smiled wider than she had ever seen as he grabbed her hand and gave it an energetic shake. After a moment he let go and offered half of the bread. "Now will you eat?"
  163.  
  164. Nodding, Mitzi couldn't help but but feel cheerful as she took the bread and started eating, starting with the ham. For the next few minutes the two hardly said a word as they ate, with Mitzi wolfing down her food once she started as Edwin mostly just ate slowly and watched her. She hadn't meant to eat so quickly but once she got started she had realized how long it had been since she had eaten meat.
  165.  
  166. It was near the end of the meal when she finally slowed down, feeling full and satisfied as the two of them each ate an apple. She had just finished another bite and washed it down with some tea when she finally took a deep breath and spoke again. "Thank you. It's been a long time since I had a meal like that. I'm sorry I came in here to steal some milk."
  167.  
  168. Shrugging, Edwin didn't seem bothered at all. "You didn't do anything bad, don't worry. Let's just forget about it." He laid down on the blanket, taking another bite of his apple as he stared at the ceiling. “Hey, can I ask you a personal question?”
  169.  
  170. “Well you’re already doing it, aren’t you?” She couldn’t help but smile as she took a bite from her apple as well, savoring the sweetness. Edwin was already acting so relaxed around her that she was finding it easily to let her guard down just a bit.
  171.  
  172. “Yeah, I guess so. What do you want to be when you grow up?” Edwin kept staring at the ceiling as he chewed another mouthful of fruit.
  173.  
  174. The question was rather unexpected, and made her hesitate for a moment before responding. “Well, to be honest, I always wanted to be a mage. But I know that’s not going to be possible.”
  175.  
  176. Sitting up, Edwin frowned at her. “What? Why not?”
  177.  
  178. Feeling an embarrassed blush fill her cheeks, Mitzi looked down and mumbled, “Well, it’s not like anyone will want me as an apprentice. I’m a beggar.”
  179.  
  180. “That’s not true! Heck, I’ll bet anyone would kill to have an apprentice as cute as you!” Edwin reached out and grabbed her hand, making her jump a bit. “Look, I know you can be a mage if you try! I believe in you!”
  181.  
  182. That feeling of embarrassment only intensified as Mitzi considered whether or not she should pull her hand out of Edwin’s. “Y-you only met me a little while ago. How do you believe in me already?”
  183.  
  184. “I just do. I dunno.” He smiled disarmingly at her and just shrugged. “I guess you just have a trustworthy face.”
  185.  
  186. Not knowing what to say and wanting to hide her red face, Mitzi turned to her apple and focused on finishing it off. As she swallowed her final bite and feeling like her blush had gone away now, she turned to Edwin again. “So, what do you want to do when you grow up?”
  187.  
  188. Puffing out his chest, Edwin looked rather proud of himself as he proclaimed, “I’m going to join the Stormwind Army! Ever since this new Horde is on the rise they’ve been recruiting a lot more. I know my parents are against the idea, but I don’t really want to live on a farm for the rest of my life.”
  189.  
  190. Somehow it was easy for Mitzi to imagine Edwin as a soldier, clad in the silver and blue armor of Stormwind. However the thought of the young Edwin clad in an adult-sized set of armor, barely able to move made her suddenly burst out into a fit of giggles, which clearly made Edwin a bit upset. “Oh, I’m sorry. I’m not laughing at you becoming a soldier. To be honest I think you would do good in the army, you certainly seem energetic enough.”
  191.  
  192. The frown on Edwin’s face disappeared almost immediately. “You think so? Thanks! You’re the first person to tell me that.” Finishing his apple with a couple of huge bites, Edwin swallowed hastily before throwing their cores to the cow. “Hey Mitzi, do you have anyplace to stay? Like, for the night?”
  193.  
  194. "No, not really. I was going to ask if I could stay in your barn tonight, actually. If I can't I..." Mitzi began, feeling more than a little self-conscious.
  195.  
  196. "No, you can't stay in the barn." Edwin's answer was flat and sudden. Mitzi looked to his face, feeling a bit hurt by his response, and saw that he was grinning at her again. "We have a spare bedroom. You can stay in there."
  197.  
  198. Feeling her cheeks flushing red, Mitzi shook her head. "W-wait, that's not such a good idea, right? You hardly know me. Plus, I haven't really taken a bath in a long time, and..."
  199.  
  200. "Mitzi." Edwin's voice was calm and friendly as his hand took hers and gave it a gentle squeeze. "You're not staying in the barn. You're staying in the house, because you're my friend. If you're not comfortable in the guest bed you can sleep in my bed, ok?"
  201.  
  202. After a brief hesitation Mitzi nodded. She couldn't help but smile a bit, no matter how much she tried to stop it. "Fine, if you insist. I'll sleep in the guest bed." She couldn't help but feel a bit guilty as she began making plans for later on that night.
  203.  
  204. It took only a few minutes to clean up the mess once the lights in the house went out. Edwin made his way to the barn door, placed his hand on it and turned to Mitzi. "Now look, just follow me and be quiet. I'll bring you to your room, and then we can decide more what to do in the morning." Edwin was quiet for a moment as he watched her, obviously thinking hard about something. "Mitzi, you said you don't have anywhere to go, right? Are you all alone?"
  205.  
  206. A pang of sorrow ran through her as she remembered the bodies of her parents. She looked away from Edwin. "I'm all alone, yes."
  207.  
  208. "Well, I was thinking, why don't you stay here? Not just tonight, come live with us." he asked bluntly. He met her gaze as she looked back at him. "I can't guarantee that my parents will allow it, but they both believe in the Light and helping others. I think if I explain the situation they'll let you live here too."
  209.  
  210. "Well..." Mitzi didn't know what to say, so she decided to go with honesty. "I don't know. I'll have to think about it for a while. Why are you so sure they'll let me stay here anyway?" she asked suspiciously.
  211.  
  212. "You seem smart. You can read, right? And you can do math and stuff?" Edwin asked, as if the answer was obvious.
  213.  
  214. "Well yes but what does that have to do with anything?" she asked, feeling annoyed.
  215.  
  216. "Just worry about that later, for now let's go off to bed. I need to wake up early to convince the folks!" Edwin said cheerily, opening the door and heading off towards the back door of the house.
  217.  
  218. Mitzi followed behind silently. Once again that feeling of guilt was welling up. Little did Edwin know that she wasn't planning to be in bed the following morning.
  219.  
  220. --
  221.  
  222. It was late that night when Mitzi finally slipped out of her room and closed the door behind her as slowly and noiselessly as possible. Just minutes before she hd crawled out of bed and gathered her things as quietly as she could. She had waited hours in bed after Edwin had snuck her inside, by now he was sure to be asleep. It seemed like all of the bedrooms were on the second floor, which meant she should have the first floor all to herself for a while.
  223.  
  224. Though a gnawing sense of guilt was still eating at her, Mitzi ignored it as she walked slowly down the stairs. What Edwin had proposed DID sound nice. A part of her wanted to believe it was even possible. However the rational side of her mind told her that his parents wouldn't be so understanding. That was why, no matter how much it made her uncomfortable, she determined that the best thing to do was to steal a few valuables while she could and run before he realized what had happened.
  225.  
  226. Leaving her bag near the back door, Mitzi took out a spare cloth sack and made her way silently around the shadowy floor, looking for anything of particular value. It was obvious that the Ogdens weren’t overly wealthy, in fact walking around she was struck at how relatively bare the first floor was. However a quick search of the place finally led her to a cupboard, and opening one of the drawers she finally saw what she was looking for. A selection of silverware gleamed in the nearly nonexistent moonlight. Reaching into the drawer with a determined expression, she began grabbing handfuls of the utensils and started placing them in the sack as carefully as she could as to not make any noise.
  227.  
  228. “Hey… you really shouldn’t steal those.” The voice made her freeze in place. Hey eyes widened in shock and almost at once Mitzi could feel a cold sweat break out. She turned around slowly, just as Edwin stepped out of a pool of shadows. He was wearing the same clothes as earlier, and it dawned on her too late that he had been patiently waiting for her down here for hours. His expression was calm and neutral, just like his voice as he closed the distance between them. “My mom really likes that set… she uses it when guests come over. I mean they’re just silver plated, they’re not even that valuable, but still she really likes them, so…” Edwin reached out and calmly took the sack from Mitzi’s nonresisting hand.
  229.  
  230. Thoughts of running were racing through Mitzi’s head, but try as she might she couldn’t quite get herself to flee. There was something about Edwin’s expression, something about the way he was looking her directly in the eye without any trace of anger that was making her hesitate. “I… I’m sorry. When you asked to be friends I… thought I could use that opportunity to make some money. I didn’t mean to lie to you, but…” she stammered, feeling more nervous by the moment.
  231.  
  232. Reaching into his pocket, Edwin took out a small pouch and held it out to her. “Here. Take this.” Hesitating for a moment Mitzi reached out and took it, feeling something metal clinking around inside. Curiously she opened it up, untying the strings holding it closed deftly with one hand. She was shocked at the contents, as a number of silver and coins gleamed in the faint light. “It’s the money I made doing odd jobs for the neighbors. It’s not really that much but it’s way more than you’d get selling the silverware. Plus it’s not as heavy!” He grinned at her, obviously proud of himself, before turning back to the drawer as he began placing the silverware in their rightful areas.
  233.  
  234. Mitzi just looked from the coins to Edwin in complete confusion. “Wh… why are you giving this to me? I was trying to steal from your family. This doesn’t make any sense.”
  235.  
  236. As he replaced the last of the silverware Edwin turned around and passed her the now empty cloth sack. “Well I don’t like the fact that you did this, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t think anyone steals because they WANT to. You don’t have anyone to rely on, of course you want to make sure you can eat tomorrow.” Edwin smiled and patted her on the shoulder. “Plus we’re friends aren’t we?” The smile faded from his face as he noticed that Mitzi suddenly had tears flowing down her face. “Uh, you ok?”
  237.  
  238. “Why are you being so nice to me?” she asked, trying not to choke up. “Y-you just met me today. M-maybe I’m just waiting to steal more stuff from you. Maybe-“
  239.  
  240. Edwin knelt down in front of her, and before she could do anything he pulled her in for a hug. The two stayed like that for a few minutes as Mitzi buried her face into his shoulder and cried. Finally once she had calmed down he finally spoke. “I’m being nice to you because I want to. When you first entered the barn you looked so serious even though you’ve got that pink hair. I just wanted to make you smile.”
  241.  
  242. Pushing away from Edwin, Mitzi suddenly glared at him. “What’s wrong with my hair exactly?”
  243.  
  244. “Nothing, nothing at all” he told her soothingly, looking a bit nervous. “It’s just that it looks kinda goofy right? I’ve never seen pink hair before.”
  245.  
  246. “I got this hair color from my mom, you jerk” Mitzi said as she punched him in the shoulder and scowled.
  247.  
  248. Smiling widely, Edwin chuckled at her response. “Sorry, sorry. I was just messing with you, I promise. Are you feeling a little better?”
  249.  
  250. Thinking about it for a moment, Mitzi nodded with a faint smile on her face. “Yes I’m feeling better. Thank you Edwin.”
  251.  
  252. He waved away the compliment like it wasn’t necessary at all. “Don’t mention it. I’m glad to help.” His expression got more serious as he pointed at the coin pouch her had given Mitzi. “Now look, think of that money like my shoes from earlier, ok? Keep that on you and if you ever feel like you need to run away you’ll have some spending money. But I meant what I said earlier today. I’d still like for you to come and live with us. So, will you stay until the morning? I promise I’ll do my best to convince my parents to let you stay.”
  253.  
  254. Mitzi looked into Edwin’s eyes. Even now there was a part of her telling her to run with the money. To just wait until he goes to sleep for real this time and simply leave. Staying longer really wouldn’t do any good. However the longer she stared into his eyes, the more that she was unsure about running away. Finally she made her decision. “Ok, I’ll stay until the morning. But I still don’t think your parents are going to ok this.”
  255.  
  256. “Leave that to me” he responded with utmost confidence. Reaching down, Edwin took her hand in his own. “Well, why don’t we head up to bed?"
  257.  
  258. Nodding, Mitzi followed as the two made their way to the second floor. She considered asking Edwin to let go of her hand, after all she knew where her room was perfectly fine, but she couldn’t quite get the words out. So she followed instead, trying not to blush too much.
  259.  
  260. -
  261.  
  262. It was the next morning, and Mitzi could faintly hear the sounds of someone preparing breakfast down below. Edwin was waiting patiently while she put on her shoes and looked into the mirror, wishing that her hair didn’t look quite so dirty. “Are you sure I look ok? I really wish I could take a bath or something…”
  263.  
  264. Smiling reassuringly, Edwin stood next to her and took her hand. “You look fine. I promise, you can take a bath after we talk with them. Plus I want to introduce you so you can join in on breakfast!”
  265.  
  266. “I just don’t know if this is such a good idea. I mean will your parents really take in someone who’s not human?” Once again she felt that urge to just run. She couldn’t help shaking the thought that when Edwin’s parents met her they would tell her to leave, or worse call the local guards to deal with her.
  267.  
  268. Squeezing her hand one last time, Edwin just grinned. “Trust me, ok?” he asked as he walked with her, out the door and down the stairs.
  269.  
  270. The first floor looked much different here in the light. Much of the furniture frankly seemed worn or second-hand, but the place was decorated with paintings and pictures on nearly every surface. Mitzi had hardly noticed the night before, being as set on finding valuables as she was. The other thing she noticed was the smell, a delicious mix of baking bread and sizzling bacon that made her stomach rumble.
  271.  
  272. Edwin didn’t even hesitate as he walked boldly into the kitchen. At a small stovetop Mitzi saw a human who must’ve been Edwin’s mother, a tall and rather handsome woman with her blonde hair in a ponytail who was currently arranging bacon on a plate. She didn’t even turn around as she laid some more fresh bacon slices onto the pan. “Good morning young man, have you washed your hands yet? You won’t be getting anything to eat if you don’t.”
  273.  
  274. “Uh yeah I’ll do it in a second. Mom? Can I talk to you about something? It’s important.”
  275.  
  276. Letting out a sigh, Edwin’s mother grabbed a hand towel and wiped her hands as she turned around. “What is it? Can’t it wait until…” she paused as she noticed Mitzi. “Well, who is this?”
  277.  
  278. Wasting no time, Edwin charged directly in with no preamble. “Mom, this is Mitzi. She’s a friend of mine I met last night. I wanted to talk to you about maybe letting her stay here. She doesn’t have anywhere else to go.”
  279.  
  280. The expression on the woman’s face changed, from confused to slightly annoyed. “What? Edwin, I can’t just make a decision like that so quickly. I just met this girl a few seconds ago.” Sighing, she moved the pan off the heat so as not to burn the bacon before turning back to look at Mitzi and kneeling down to her level. “Is this true? do you not have anywhere to go? Where are your parents?”
  281.  
  282. The thought of her parents lying dead on the ground made her squeeze Edwin’s hand harder than she had anticipated. “They… they’re dead. They were killed by bandits.”
  283.  
  284. Edwin’s mother sighed again and looked bak and forth from Edwin to Mitzi. “Look, it’s not that I don’t want to help… but I’m just not sure if we can really afford feeding another mouth…”
  285.  
  286. “Good morning!” bellowed a voice from the doorway, and before Mitzi knew what was happening a large and tanned man was striding into the kitchen. He stopped and looked down at Mitzi with some surprise as he began stroking his blonde beard. “Well now, who is this? A friend of yours, Edwin?”
  287.  
  288. Nodding quickly, Edwin turned his attention to his father to continue the attack. “Dad, this is Mitzi. She’s a friend I met last night. I was just asking mom if she could live with us since she doesn’t have anywhere else to go.”
  289.  
  290. The look of pity on Edwin’s mother’s face was quickly replaced with annoyance again. “Edwin. I told you, we don’t exactly have the money to spare for another mouth, and I don’t like you asking your father like that.”
  291.  
  292. “She wouldn’t be a bother, I promise! Anyhow, I figured that she could earn her keep. She could teach me how to read and do math!” he called, excitedly.
  293.  
  294. The mood on both Edwin’s parents seemed to suddenly change. Both of them gave a look to each other before turning to Mitzi with renewed interest. “Is this true? Could you teach Edwin how to read?” his father asked.
  295.  
  296. Mitzi considered for a minute, then nodded. “Well I am rather good at reading, at I do know something about math… I’ll do my best to teach him, certainly.”
  297.  
  298. “Hmm…” Edwin’s father stopped and thought for a minute, stroking his beard absentmindedly, then without a word he turned and left the room. He was back again in just a few seconds, carrying a large book which he handed to Mitzi. “Here, can you do me a favor and read some of this out loud? Any part will do.” Flipping the book open to a random page, Mitzi chose the paragraph at the top and started reading aloud. The book seemed to be about various farming techniques, with this particular section being about potatoes. She had nearly reached the end of the page when Edwin’s father nodded and took back the book. “That’s enough, thank you. I’m quite satisfied. Very well, I’m willing to let you stay here. But there will be some conditions.”
  299.  
  300. The shock of actually being accepted made Mitzi practically speechless. She worked her mouth for a minute before finally asking, “what conditions?” in a small voice, sure that there was some terrible catch.
  301.  
  302. “It’s simple. I just want you to teach my idiot son here how to read, write and other such things. We’ve hired tutors for him but he never seems to listen or learn. So here’s the deal, I want a monthly progress report from you, Edwin. If I’m not satisfied that you’re learning enough then I’m sorry but Mitzi here will have to leave. But, as long as you’re actually trying then I don’t see why we can’t make this work.” Edwin’s father grinned in a way that reminded Mitzi of his son. “Sound fair to everyone?”
  303.  
  304. “Yes! That’s fair! Thank you dad!” Edwin cried, letting go of Mitzi’s hand for the first time as he hugged his father.
  305.  
  306. Edwin’s mother looked less than convinced, but she also nodded. “Well, as long as you’re actually learning things then it should be fine. You’d better not skip out on lessons like you did with the last tutor.”
  307.  
  308. “I won’t, I already said” Edwin mumbled as he let go of his father.
  309.  
  310. “Well then everyone else agrees, how about you Mitzi?” Edwin’s father asked her with a smile.
  311.  
  312. Feeling a bit choked up with emotion, Mitzi nodded happily. “Yes, that sounds ok to me. I promise he’ll learn a lot.”
  313.  
  314. Sitting down at the table with a satisfied sigh, Edwin’s father grinned all around. “Alright then it’s settled. After breakfast we’ll show you your room and we’ll get you in a nice bath too, how about that? For now why don’t you two wash up a bit before we eat?"
  315.  
  316. “Ok!” Edwin called, motioning for Mitzi to follow. “C’mon, follow me. I’ll show you where the pump is.”
  317.  
  318. Trying not to smile too much, Mitzi followed behind. As she watched Edwin’s back she felt a strange stirring in her heart. She wanted to tell him how much she appreciated this, how grateful she was to have found a friend like him. However she couldn’t quite find the words, and after a moment of trying she finally gave up, reached out and took his hand again as the two made their way to get cleaned up.
  319.  
  320. -
  321.  
  322. “So, that was pretty much the next few years of my life. I lived with Edwin’s family, teaching him how to read and write and helping him with the chores.” Mitzi smiled as she remembered those years fondly. “He was my best friend, we went everywhere together. It was really the first time I ever felt like a real kid, staying up late with him or running around outside for no reason. Sometimes I thought he was annoying or just kind of an idiot, but I treasured every moment I spent with him.”
  323.  
  324. Biyu smiled at Mitzi’s words and finished off her ale. “I can see why. He obviously means a lot to you. But I don’t get it, if you were such good friends then why did you two even separate to begin with?”
  325.  
  326. Those thoughts drove the smile away from Mitzi’s face. That’s right, she couldn’t ever forget that part of the story. “Well… all good things have to end sometime. I lived there with Edwin six years, I was sixteen and he was fifteen. He was thinking about joining the Stormwind army since they were recruiting, and at the time I was thinking about joining the priesthood so I would be able to heal him if he ended up going into battle. That was pretty much the plan the two of us had, that is until the summer I turned 16...”
  327.  
  328. -
  329.  
  330. It was a lazy afternoon, and Mitzi was simply enjoying the breeze in the back yard as she munched on a carrot. A stump near the tree line provided her a place to sit and at this time of day it was covered in the shade as well. She had just completed her chores, and now she was just waiting for Edwin to get back from town while she took it easy. She had just been considering whether or not she should take a nap when Edwin came strolling around the corner of the house. She grinned and waved, and was dismayed to see him scowl in return. Without saying a word, he plopped down on the stump next to her and sat staring off into the distance.
  331.  
  332. “Um… are you ok, Edwin?” Mitzi asked uncertainly. It was rather rare to see Edwin in a bad mood, but when he was she found it best to just be patient and he’d work it out.
  333.  
  334. “Fine. I’m just fine” he shot back, still frowning and not making eye contact.
  335.  
  336. “Alright then.” Not knowing what else to say, Mitzi just finished her carrot in silence as Edwin fumed. Now that she was looking at him she noticed that he had a red mark on his left cheek, which he rubbed absentmindedly while he brooded.
  337.  
  338. After five minutes or so Edwin finally spoke, his face losing a bit of that anger. “It was just… that girl Abigail. You know her? Her parents own the general store.”
  339.  
  340. Mitzi nodded, the face of the girl coming to mind at once. She was a rather pretty red haired girl a year or so older than Edwin and was often working the counter at the store when her parents were busy. “Yes, what about her?” Mitzi narrowed her eyes as she got a sneaking suspicion. “You said something rude to her and she smacked you, huh?”
  341.  
  342. “No, I didn’t!” Edwin snapped back, his face going red with embarrassment. As Mitzi involuntarily flinched away, he looked down at the ground and frowned. “Well.. maybe. I don’t know. I don’t think I did anything wrong at least.”
  343.  
  344. Sighing, Mitzi picked up a battered canteen and took a drink of water. “Just tell me what happened already, ok?”
  345.  
  346. Edwin didn’t look up as he took a deep breath and spoke evenly. “I went to the store to pick up some stuff for mom. The last thing I needed was a sack of beans, but it looked like they were out. I went up to the counter and asked Abigail if there was maybe one behind the counter I could buy. She was acting kind of weird, asking me what I would do for them and stuff. Finally she told me that I could have the beans for free, but only if I gave her a kiss.”
  347.  
  348. The bottom seemed to drop out of Mitzi’s stomach. She nearly choked on her water, coughing up a storm and making Edwin thump her furiously on the back. Finally, when she regained her composure she finally sputtered out, “S-sorry. So… what did you do? Did you kiss her?”
  349.  
  350. Edwin looked embarrassed. “Well, no” he finally said, reluctantly. “I told her that I’d rather pay for the beans if it was all the same. Then she got really pissed and slapped me. ...It was really awkward paying for everything after that.”
  351.  
  352. For some reason, hearing that Edwin and Abigail did not kiss made Mitzi sigh with relief. “Well, why didn’t you kiss her ahyhow? She’s a pretty girl, right?” she asked, trying to mask her relief.
  353.  
  354. “Well, sure. Of course she is.” Edwin sat up straight and scratched his head, taking a moment to think before continuing. “It’s just that… I mean, I guess I’m friends with her… I’m not NOT friends with her at least. If you get what I mean.”
  355.  
  356. “Kind of?” Mitzi asked, unsure.
  357.  
  358. Sighing, Edwin tried again. “I’ve never even talked to get for more than five minutes at a time. The two of us are friendly, sure. But I don’t even know anything much about her besides the fact that she has red hair, and works at the general store.” Frowning, he picked idly at his shoes. “I dunno, I guess the first time I kiss a girl I want it to be with someone I actually know and like.”
  359.  
  360. “Well, that makes sense” she replied with a nod. “Don’t feel too bad about it. What you did was better than kissing her when you didn’t even like her, right? You should just wait and kiss a girl you feel comfortable with.”
  361.  
  362. “Right, yeah.” Edwin’s response was given in a vague, faraway voice. He looked like he was thinking hard about something. After a minute he said in a slow and thoughtful voice, “Hey, Mitzi. I was just thinking. Why don’t we kiss?”
  363.  
  364. The question made her jump, and almost without thinking she quickly scooted away from Edwin’s reach, falling off the stump in the process. “Wh-what? What do you mean?” she stammered, her heart beating furiously.
  365.  
  366. Holding his hands up in a calming gesture, Edwin looked a bit panicked as he quickly tried to explain. “Look, it was just an idea! I only said that because I figured that I’m more comfortable with you than any other girl I know, ok?” His face was almost completely red now as he stood up. “Oh, nevermind ok? I’m going to go wash up.”
  367.  
  368. Edwin hadn’t even gone a step when he was stopped. He turned and looked down at Mitzi, who was grabbing the cuff of his left pant leg. She was avoiding eye contact with him, her face crimson. “I never said I w-wasn’t ok with it” she managed to say in a small voice.
  369.  
  370. The mood became very awkward as the two of them both made their way back to the stump and sat down next to each other. Both were silent for what seemed like hours, but was probably just minutes, until Edwin got up and sat on the ground right in front of Mitzi. “There. Now we’re both at the same level” he said with that same grin he always had.
  371.  
  372. “Oh… shut up” Mitzi said, avoiding eye contact as she scowled in annoyance. She almost jumped once again when she felt Edwin’s hand gently touch her face and move it back towards him.
  373.  
  374. “I’m gonna kiss you now” was all the warning Edwin gave before his face moved in towards hers and the two were kissing.
  375.  
  376. In truth, the kiss was brief. Maybe ten, twenty seconds at the longest. However for Mitzi it seemed like time stopped for a moment. She closed her eyes, and she had to resist the urge to reach up and wrap her arms around Edwin’s neck. Then, as quick as it began Edwin pulled back and the kiss was over.
  377.  
  378. The two were once again silent as they stared at each other, neither one breaking eye contact or blinking. Then Edwin once again spoke up. “Well? How was it?”
  379.  
  380. Mitzi opened her mouth, then closed it as she frantically considered her response. Part of her reasoned that she should just be honest and say that she enjoyed it, yet another part of her was sure that if she said that Edwin would think it was weird. She studied Edwin’s face, and was annoyed that he didn’t look nearly as flustered as she felt. Finally, in a panic, she responded. “Well it wasn’t bad or weird, no. It was kind of like kissing a brother, you know?”
  381.  
  382. As soon as the words left her mouth she regretted them. Mitzi’s brain tried to think of something else to say, something else that would explain herself better, but Edwin laughed awkwardly before she could say anything. “Yeah, I guess it was kind of like that, huh? Haha! Well, at least we got got our first kiss out of the way, huh?”
  383.  
  384. “Yeah, I guess you’re right” Mitzi said, trying her best to smile back. Maybe it was just her imagination, but Mitzi got the impression that Edwin was avoiding eye contact with her. “I guess we should get ready for dinner soon, huh?”
  385.  
  386. “Yeah, mom’s making a blueberry pie tonight!” Edwin cheered as he started towards the house. Once again it might have been her imagination, but Mitzi got the feeling his smile was a bit forced.
  387.  
  388. -
  389.  
  390. It was late the next evening, not long after dinner when Mitzi’s reading was interrupted by a knock at the door. Placing a bookmark carefully in her spot she got up off the bed and opened the door to find Mary standing there with two mugs of steaming tea. “Excuse me Mitzi, but I was hoping we could have a talk. Do you mind?”
  391.  
  392. “No, not at all” she replied cheerily, moving her way to the table and clearing some of the papers and books away. “Please, sit down. Sorry this is all such a mess.”
  393.  
  394. “It’s not a problem. Don’t worry.” Mary’s tone was dull and obviously troubled. As the two of them sat down, Mary seemed like she had difficulty getting her next words out. “Well. I heard from Edwin that you’re thinking of becoming a priest.”
  395.  
  396. Smiling, Mitzi nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, I’ve been considering it at least. I’ve been reading some books about it, and while I don’t know how strong my faith is, I think that-“
  397.  
  398. Mary suddenly cut her off, the words spilling out like she couldn’t keep them in any longer. “Aren’t you only doing that so you can keep being close to Edwin?”
  399.  
  400. The silence in the room was intense. Mitzi didn’t know how to respond right away. “Well… it’s true I do want to make sure he’s safe… but…”
  401.  
  402. “I thought you wanted to be a mage. You used to talk about that back when you first came here. You know, right now in Westfall there’s a representative from Dalaran. They’re testing local children for magical talent, and offering them apprenticeships if they qualify. Why don’t you go and try that?” Mary’s eyes were stern as she unflinchingly met Mitzi’s gaze.
  403.  
  404. “Well…” Mitzi felt sweat on her forehead. This was all happening so suddenly. She hadn’t expected to be confronted like this, and she had no clue what to say. “But… Edwin and I promised…”
  405.  
  406. “What kind of future do you see yourself having with Edwin?” Mary asked, her face even and measured. “Have you ever thought about that?”
  407.  
  408. “Future?” Mitzi didn’t even know how to reply. What should she say? What DID she see in her future with him? “He’s my best friend. I just want to protect him if I can. I…”
  409.  
  410. “And what happens when he finds a girl, and falls in love?” Mary’s question shocked Mitzi, who for the first time realized she had never even considered such a possibility. Edwin was… well, Edwin. She didn’t really think of him like that. Before she could think further, Mary continued with that same neutral tone of voice. “More to the point, do you think he’s ever going to find a girl to fall in love with if he stays around you all the time?”
  411.  
  412. Mitzi slowly looked up and into Mary’s eyes. A sense of dread came over Mitzi as her words sunk in. “Wh… what are you saying?”
  413.  
  414. “I saw the two of you kissing the other day. Before dinner.” Mary looked away from Mitzi and out the window. “I don’t think you two are just friends. Even if you really don’t see him like that in the end, he sees you that way.”
  415.  
  416. The silence seemed to stretch out between the two as Mitzi struggled with what to say. Finally, not knowing what else to do, she asked, “Why are you telling me this? What do you want me to do?”
  417.  
  418. Sighing, Mary took a moment to reply. She looked like she didn’t enjoy saying these next words. “I think that it would be best if you and Edwin stopped seeing each other. In the end it will be better for both of you, even if it doesn’t seem like that at first.” While Mitzi was still struggling for something to say, Mary got up and picked up her mug of tea. “I can’t force you to do it of course. That’s your choice. But please ask yourself, are you making his life better by staying with him? Or are you just a burden?” She looked like she wanted to say more, but after a moment Mary turned and left the room without looking back.
  419.  
  420. As the next hour slipped by, Mitzi watched as the steaming tea slowly became lukewarm and then cold. She didn’t move from her chair for a long time.
  421.  
  422. -
  423.  
  424. It was a week later, and Edwin was humming happily to himself as he flipped casually through the pages of the book he was reading. Though Mitzi was technically still giving him lessons, at this point Edwin was almost as good at reading and writing as she was. It made her sad when she realized that even if she wasn’t planning to leave their time as student and teacher was almost done.
  425.  
  426. Finally, after some silence, Edwin shut the book with a satisfied sigh. “Done!” he grinned at Mitzi, an eager look in his eye. “C’mon, let’s go! We can still go catch some fireflies if we hurry.”
  427.  
  428. As Edwin scrambled to his feet and started getting ready, he turned and frowned at Mitzi, who hadn’t moved a bit. “Hey, what’s the matter? Are you feeling sick? You’ve barely talked today.”
  429.  
  430. Avoiding his eye contact, Mitzi slowly turned to meet Edwin. “I… have something I need to talk to you about. It’s important.”
  431.  
  432. “Ok, sure.” Pulling a chair closer, he sat down and crossed his legs. “What’s up?”
  433.  
  434. She had rehearsed the lines over and over again in her mind but they were stuck in her throat now  that she actually had to say them. There was a long silence before she finally spoke. “I’m going to be going away soon. In a couple of days, actually.”
  435.  
  436. The silence continued as Edwin’s face went from blank to confused. “Huh? Why? Where are you going?”
  437.  
  438. “I met with a mage from Dalaran in Westfall. She’s agreed to take me on as an apprentice. She said I might have some talent, but it’s probably going to be a bit before she teaches me any actual magic.” She was still avoiding his gaze as she muttered, “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you this sooner.”
  439.  
  440. For a moment she thought Edwin was going to get upset, or complain or even just get angry. However his face broke into a huge smile and he reached out and hugged her tightly. “That’s fantastic! Congratulations! Imagine, one day you’re going to be a real life mage! That’s gonna be awesome! I’ll be cheering you on every day, ok?”
  441.  
  442. A part of her wanted to be happy with this, to hug him back and thank him, but those words that Mary had told her still echoed in Mitzi’s mind. She suddenly pushed Edwin away, a little more forceful than she intended. His face went from happy to confused again, and Mitzi could already feel her heart breaking. this wasn’t going to get any easier. “Thank you, but… I’ve been thinking. I’m going to be moving on with my life. And so are you. So I’ve been thinking… maybe we should say goodbye here...” She took a deep breath and concluded, “...for good."
  443.  
  444. Edwin’s face seemed frozen in confusion. His mouth opened and closed a couple of times, like he wasn’t sure what to say or do. “What do you mean?” he finally croaked, his voice coming out low and pathetic.
  445.  
  446. “I’ve really cherished our time together Edwin. But I think we need to face reality. We’re two very different people. We need to both move on with our lives. So… when I leave, I think it’s probably best if we don’t talk to each other anymore.” Mitzi was surprised at how easily the words came out now. Her voice was even steady, which was strange because she felt like her heart was breaking.
  447.  
  448. It took a few moments for Edwin to respond. He looked away, and at first Mitzi thought he was getting angry. His face was screwed up and he looked ready to shout. Then, to her horror, tears began to roll down Edwin’s face as his lips began quivering. It occurred to Mitzi that this was the first time she had ever seen him cry. “That’s… not a very funny joke Mitzi. Why would you say that?”
  449.  
  450. “It’s not a joke. I’m sorry if this hurts you but… this is for the best.” Mitzi felt tears sting the corners of her own eyes but she kept them in with a mighty effort. “Even if it doesn’t seem like it now.”
  451.  
  452. “D-did I do something t-to make you angry?” he asked, his voice getting choked up with sobs. He looked like he was about to break down completely. “I’m sorry, whatever I did I’m sorry! Please, just tell me what I did! Was it the kiss? I’m sorry if that made you uncomfortable, please I’ll do anything to make up for it!”
  453.  
  454. “You didn’t do anything wrong, Edwin” Mitzi was finding it much harder to keep the tears in now. She was shocked at how normal her voice sounded. “I think we just both need to grow up. And this friendship is…” she hesitated before finishing the sentence. Even if this was for their own good this felt wrong. However there was no turning back now. “This friendship is troublesome for me in the end.”
  455.  
  456. Those words seemed to hit him like a punch to the stomach. They even stopped his sobs, and after a moment he turned to her with a horrible expression on his face. A bitter, angry expression she had never seen before. “Fine. I’m sorry I’ve troubled you.” He made his way towards the door, not looking back as he threw it open and ran out, not bothering to shut the door. “We’re not friends anymore, happy?!”
  457.  
  458. -
  459.  
  460. That was the last time she saw Edwin until the day that she left. It was as she was getting ready, packing up her few remaining items in her room. Edwin had obviously been avoiding her ever since their last talk. In fact it looked like he hadn’t even been sleeping in his bed. She had finally given in to the fact that she probably wouldn’t see him again when a sudden knock on her door brought her back to reality. Before she could answer, the door opened and Edwin stepped inside. His normal grin was nowhere to be seen as the two stared at each other, neither one knowing what to say.
  461.  
  462. “So, you leave today right?” Edwin finally asked, scratching the back of his neck awkwardly.
  463.  
  464. “Yes. I believe my teacher is coming to pick me up within the hour.” Mitzi avoided making eye contact as she looked over her items again, pretending to check that she had everything.
  465.  
  466. “Ah” was all Edwin had in response.
  467.  
  468. The two once again fell into silence. Mitzi hated this. There used to be a time where the two would just talk about any old thing and now she couldn’t think of a single thing to bring up. What WAS there to bring up?
  469.  
  470. As she checked her bags one last time, Mitzi suddenly found something she’d forgotten about years ago. A small coin pouch, with a meager amount of money inside. She smiled as she saw it, and turned to Edwin. “Look what I just found. I guess I can give this back to you now right? Guess you really don’t need me to hold onto it anymore.”
  471.  
  472. Edwin looked at the offered coin purse with a strange, unreadable expression. His hand raised up for a moment as if to grab it, then he lowered it again. “No. You should keep it.” He looked her in the eyes, and for the first time since their argument, smiled at her. “You can give it to me the next time I see you.”
  473.  
  474. Not knowing what to say, Mitzi looked into Edwin’s eyes. She nearly forced the purse on him, but after some consideration she put it back in her bag. “Alright, if you insist.”
  475.  
  476. “Mitzi!” came the voice of William, Edwin’s father. “They’re almost here!”
  477.  
  478. Smiling sadly, Mitzi turned back to her things and started gathering them up. “Well, I suppose I’d better get ready to go.” She looked to Edwin, and a thousand things she wanted to say swirled through her head. All she could manage however was a simple, “Goodbye, Edwin.”
  479.  
  480. She was out the bedroom door and had almost got to the stairs when she was stopped in her tracks by Edwin grabbing her arm and turning her around. He looked her right in the eye as he spoke, a serious look on his face. “Mitzi. I just want to say… even if you don’t consider me a friend, even if you think I’m a bother, I will always be there for you.” He gave her a sad smile. “I’m sorry if that annoys you. But the truth is I’ll always think of you as my best friend, So, if you ever need someone to talk to in the future you can always come and find me, ok?”
  481.  
  482. Conflicting feelings welled up inside of her as Mitzi stared into Edwin’s face. She could see there were fresh tears at the corners of his eyes, and his smile was faltering quickly. She had been determined to cut this relationship off completely, but she wasn’t some soulless robot who could just ignore her own feelings entirely. She hugged Edwin one last time, briefly and fiercely. “Thank you, Edwin… you will always be my dearest friend."
  483.  
  484. Before he could respond, Mitzi had let go of him and turned away, quickly walking down the stairs with her luggage. She didn’t want Edwin to see her crying. Judging by the sounds she heard as she went down to the first floor, Edwin didn’t do so well at keeping in his tears.
  485.  
  486. -
  487.  
  488. “…and until we met him here today, that was the last time I ever saw Edwin again” Mitzi finished with a sigh of relief. That story had been longer than she expected, it was probably well past midnight by now.
  489.  
  490. Biyu sat back and drank idly at her ale as she seemed to digest the story. “Well, no wonder you were a bit wary about meeting up with him tomorrow. I can imagine it’s going to get a little awkward when you’re one on one with him.”
  491.  
  492. Nodding, Mitzi finished her own ale, which she had hardly touched since the story began. “I can’t say I’m really looking forward to it, no.”
  493.  
  494. “Still, I don’t understand something. You said he was going to join the Stormwind Army right? Then why is he running around with that gang of cutthroats? And why did you think he was dead anyhow?” Biyu leaned in excitedly, ready and raring for more of this story.
  495.  
  496. “I don’t really know why he’s running around with those. That was pretty surprising. I don’t really like the look of them.” She remembered the goblin girl glaring at her and felt a little angry herself for some reason. “As for him being dead…” she hesitated. For one, she was already quite tired of talking. This whole ordeal also left her feeling a bit emotionally exhausted, right now she really didn’t feel like reliving the day she found out he was was gone. “I’m sorry but can I tell you that story tomorrow? I’m pretty tired already.”
  497.  
  498. Pouting, Biyu slumped down in her chair dramatically. “Poo. Fine. If you really have to sleep then go ahead.” She grinned mischievously and leaned in. “After all, you have to get ready for your date tomorrow, right?”
  499.  
  500. “Oh, be quiet!” Mitzi barked angrily, feeling her cheeks flush red.
  501.  
  502. -
  503.  
  504. It was late that night deep in the sewers of Dalaran, well after Mitzi and Biyu had gone to sleep, when Reni showed up to the meeting place at a seemingly random dead end. At first she thought she was going to be kept waiting for a while, until she saw a hint of movement out the corner of her eye. Jenus stepped out of the shadows, his posture relaxed as he sauntered over and sat on a discarded barrel. His blue eyes seemed to shine in the darkness as he met Reni’s gaze. “Alright, I’m here. Now, what exactly is this about?”
  505.  
  506. “Don’t play dumb with me” Reni shot back, not in the mood. “What do you think we should do?”
  507.  
  508. Sighing, Jenus sat back and stretched his arms lazily. “Do we have to do anything? I mean maybe it’s all true. Maybe they are just childhood friends.”
  509.  
  510. Shaking her head, Reni quickly retorted, “I don’t think so. He changed so suddenly. We can’t ignore the possibility that she has some kind of dirt on him. And if that’s the case we need to find out exactly what.”
  511.  
  512. Jenus looked thoughtful, yet unconvinced. “It’s certainly a possibility, sure. I just don’t see any need to take drastic action-”
  513.  
  514. “He told me he’s thinking about leaving!” Reni finally exploded. She slapped a hand over her mouth, immediately regretting her the volume of her voice. After a moment calming herself down, she finally continued, “he told me that he never considered leaving the group until today. Then he said he wasn’t serious but… I know the truth. It’s all because of that…” Reni made a fist, and the next word came out through clenched teeth “gnome.”
  515.  
  516. “Hmm…” Jenus was deep in thought now, brow furrowed in concentration. He idly twirled a strand of his platinum hair around his finger until he seemed to come to a decision. “Well, I’m a bit torn. I still don’t think there’s any truth to it, but if that gnome is blackmailing him with some sort of information that could be very bad. What do you suggest?”
  517.  
  518. “I think we should ask her directly” Reni responded simply. “That seems the fastest way.”
  519.  
  520. “You know that Edwin will not like that. One bit.”
  521.  
  522. Hesitating for a moment, Reni’s face became set in a determined scowl. “We’re doing this for him. We just have to take that risk.”
  523.  
  524. -
  525.  
  526. It was the next day, and Mitzi was now sitting nervously at the Legerdemain Lodge’s bar as she waited for Edwin. She had got there an hour before the lunch rush, and now she was wondering why she had showed up so early. She couldn’t help but glance down at what she was wearing again with a hint of embarrassment. At Biyu’s goading she hadn’t worn her Kirin Tor robes but instead a small yellow dress that her friend insisted made her look cute. It was just a bit more revealing than she had anticipated, and now that she was sitting here with nothing but that on she felt a bit silly. Every glance that someone would send her way made her want to just curl up into a ball and die. To calm her nerves, she ended up ordering a shot of whiskey. It did not help.
  527.  
  528. She had been there for around ten minutes when the bartender suddenly walked up and put down a drink she hadn’t ordered. “Compliments of the house” he said simply as he turned to help another customer. Not thinking too much about it, Mitzi downed the beer in a couple of gulps. The whiskey hadn’t helped but maybe something a little lighter would settle her stomach.
  529.  
  530. Another five minutes passed and Mitzi was feeling very relaxed. Incredibly relaxed, in fact. That beer had really done the trick. Folding her arms in front of her, she yawned and closed her eyes. Maybe she would take a quick nap before Edwin got here.
  531.  
  532. By the time she was asleep, she didn’t even feel it when the black cloaked figure picked her up, left a note on the bar and walked out without another word.
  533.  
  534. -
  535.  
  536. The feeling of someone lightly tapping her on the face slowly brought Mitzi back to reality. Her vision took a moment to come into focus, and when it did she realized she was face to face with Reni, the goblin from Edwin’s group. “Good, she’s awake.”
  537.  
  538. As Reni sat back onto a chair, Mitzi finally got a moment to take in her surroundings. They were in a damp-smelling room made of stone with no windows. A single lamp burned on a small table in the corner of the room, illuminating the four figures all staring at her and casting the rest of the place into dark shadows. Panicking, Mitzi tried to move but she felt her hands bound tightly to the chair she was sitting in. “What’s going on? Where’s Edwin?”
  539.  
  540. The elf, who Mitzi remembered was named Jenus, stepped forward and spread his arms in a non-threatening sort of manner. “Edwin’s not here I’m afraid. We just wanted to ask you a few questions, in private. It won’t take much of your time.”
  541.  
  542. Looking away from him and towards the orc and troll, who were both staring back at her, she didn’t feel very reassured. “Does it take four of you to ask me things? Did you have to tie up my hands too?”
  543.  
  544. “We just didn’t want you casting any magic, that’s all. And I promise, we’re not going to hurt you. Edwin would probably kill us if we did anyhow.” The elf gave her a reassuring smile, but all Mitzi could think is that he was the ‘good cop’ in this situation.
  545.  
  546. “Well then. What sort of questions do you have for me?” Mitzi tried to sound calm while she thought desperately of some way out of this situation. However nothing in particular was coming to mind, even if she did get free there was still 4 people between her and the door. She glanced to the door and was dismayed to see it firmly shut.
  547.  
  548. Reni spoke up almost at once, barking out her question almost like an accusation. “For starters, what exactly is your relationship with Edwin? Why has he gone all goofy because of you?”
  549.  
  550. “Gone goofy? What are you talking about?” Mitzi felt completely confused. “He’s the same as he’s always been. It’s almost like he never grew up or something.”
  551.  
  552. “I’ve known him since the Cataclysm.” Both Mitzi and Jenus both turned to the orc, who Mizi vaguely remembered as Groma. “He’s never acted like that. Not even a bit. I’ve barely seen him smile.”
  553.  
  554. Finding that hard to believe, Mitzi let out a snort of laughter. “You have to be joking. I’ve hardly even seen him get mad!”
  555.  
  556. “He’s NOT joking, gnome.” Reni looked quite upset, and Mitzi once again found herself wondering what she’d done to this goblin. “It’s like you flipped a switch in his brain or something. So listen, just tell us. What exactly are your plans for him?” She marched closer to Mitzi, until their faces were almost touching. “I know it’s not ‘coincidence’ that his dead childhood friend just shows up out of nowhere. I know you, or maybe the Kirin Tor, have some kind of plan for him right?” Reni pulled her face back a bit from Mitzi’s. “Maybe you just want the Kingslayers working for you, is that it?”
  557.  
  558. “Reni” Jenus suddenly barked in a dangerous tone. The goblin actually flinched a bit, but still turned back to him defiantly. “That’s enough” he said simply, before turning to Mitzi again. “Please, could you just answer the question? What are your plans now that you know Edwin is alive? I only ask because, to be quite frank, our organization is quite nervous. We fear that if you were to ask him to work for you, he wouldn’t turn the offer down.”
  559.  
  560. Letting out a growl of frustration, Mitzi glared back at Jenus. “Are you serious?!” She glared at the orc and troll too before glaring at Reni this time. “You have got to be kidding me. This is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.” Jenus looked a bit taken aback by her anger, but before he could speak again Mitzi continued. “What are my ‘plans’ for him? I don’t care about him leaving any organization or any of that crap, and nobody told me to go meet him! I just wanted to catch up with him because I was worried about him and I hadn’t seen him in a decade you… you…” she searched for the words before finally screaming out in frustration “FUCKING ASSHOLES!”
  561.  
  562. As Mitzi breathed heavily, seething in fury, the room was nearly silent. Finally, once she had gotten her breathing under control, Mitzi took a deep breath and asked a few questions of her own. “Why do you all care anyhow? How do you know Edwin? Why are you kidnapping me just because he acts weird around me?”
  563.  
  564. “Hey, we’re asking the questions here!” Reni barked back, but Jenus quietly laid a hand on her shoulder, stalling any further words.
  565.  
  566. “That sounds fair. You answer some questions, we answer some questions.” Jenus smiled as he pulled up a chair and sat down, nimbly crossing his legs. “As for myself, I care because I have known Edwin for quite a while now. Ever since he joined the army, in fact.”
  567.  
  568. “Really? I didn’t think there were many elves in the Stormwind Army” Mitzi asked, intrigued.
  569.  
  570. Jenus grinned and threw his arms wide, showing off his dark leather armor and belt with numerous daggers. “I wasn’t exactly in the army, my dear. Have you heard of SI:7 by any chance?”
  571.  
  572. Hey eyes widening, Mitzi nodded. She’d be more surprised if there was someone who hadn’t heard of it, they were a well-known secret organization in Stormwind, made up of some of the best spies and assassins in the Alliance. “Of course I have… so you were a member when he joined the army?”
  573.  
  574. Nodding casually, Jenus smiled brightly. “Yes indeed. The truth is, we usually look through new young recruits in the army for individuals that might serve better in other roles. I’m actually the one who recommended him to Master Mathias Shaw back in the day. At first he seemed like a bit of a country bumpkin, but he surprised me by being relatively well-read. Plenty of soldiers get far in the army because of their strength or dexterity, but I quite admire a person with a wide variety of skills.” Mitzi felt a moment of pride as she realized that she likely had a hand in helping Edwin get promoted to SI:7
  575.  
  576. “After that I’m the one who took him under my wing, and honestly there isn’t much to say until the whole Outlands business happened.” Jenus sighed like he was remembering something mildly inconvenient as he continued on. “I don’t want to bore you with the details, but we ended up doing some missions to disrupt the Naga down in Serpentshrine Cavern. Things were going well for a while, until they didn’t. The two of us ended up getting captured, and unfortunately for us they realized pretty quickly that we knew some valuable information. Instead of keeping us there in Outland, they decided it would be more prudent to move us. And so, the two of us were sent through a portal to Vash’jir.”
  577.  
  578. Mitzi’s head was already spinning from all of this explanation. “Wait, wait… captured by Naga? How long ago was this exactly?”
  579.  
  580. “About six years ago.” Jenus studied her face for a moment before continuing. “You said that you thought he was dead when you first saw him, correct? I assume that was what you meant. When we returned to civilization eventually we had been considered long dead, it was a bit of a process becoming legally alive again. Anyhow, I’m going off topic. Have you ever heard of Nespirah by any chance?” Seeing Mitzi’s lack of reaction to the name, he shrugged. “I’m not surprised, it was rather out of the way. Anyhow, we were among the first slaves brought to the creature. We were made to mine pearls from the interior of the beast, even to this day I’m not completely sure why we were doing so. We ended up there for over two years. Truthfully, I think they forgot why they we were being kept in the first place because nobody ever bothered interrogating us at all. Of course, that’s where we met everyone else.”
  581.  
  582. Turning her attention to Reni now, Mitzi was eager to hear more of the story. “So, were you three sent in to take care of the Naga or something?”
  583.  
  584. For the first time, Reni did not look pissed at Mitzi. Instead she sighed as she remembered the past, an angry scowl on her face. “No, nothing so cool as that. The three of us actually didn’t even meet before Nespirah. We were from three separate ships that all got raided by Naga, in fact my vessel wasn’t even affiliated with the Horde. Not that it stopped them from sending the kraken after us anyhow. Jenus and Edwin just happened to be the slaves we were all shackled to. To make a long story short, these two had been hard at work making some weapons we could use to escape. We waited for our chance, and one day when some adventurers attacked we made our move. We killed some guards, met up with the adventurers, and by chance one of them was a shaman who helped us get back to dry land again.”
  585.  
  586. “So what did you all do next?” There was a part of Mitzi’s mind that thought she maybe shouldn’t be so interested in the words of people who literally kidnapped her, but she was quite curious about what Edwin had been doing. “That was four years ago that you escaped from Nespirah right?”
  587.  
  588. “We killed Naga.” The voice came from Qiju, who had been completely silent up until this point. He smiled savagely and pulled out a necklace of sharp teeth from around his neck. “Lots.”
  589.  
  590. Jenus nodded in agreement, his face a good deal more serious. “Well, basically yes. We were all a bit angry with the Naga, so the five of us decided to join forces and bring the fight to them. It wasn’t easy, and in the end we couldn’t completely drive them out. It IS the ocean after all. But we did disrupt their operations quite a lot over the next couple of years, I must admit. When all that was finally over, we all really didn’t have anywhere to go. SI:7 took us back of course, but ever since that situation we’ve pretty much been designated as free agents. So, Edwin and I just decided to continue travelling with these fine fellows here.” While Mitzi was still digesting this information, Jenus leaned forward as his face grew a bit more serious. “Alright, my turn to ask a question to you then. How exactly did you meet Edwin?”
  591.  
  592. Mitzi groaned in annoyance. She had literally just told that story the other night. “Do you really need to hear that story?”
  593.  
  594. The smile Jenus gave was friendly but unyielding. “Yes, I’m afraid so. I’d like to get a better idea of the relationship between you two, same as Reni here.”
  595.  
  596. Reni punched the elf in the side hard enough to make him yelp. “Shut the hell up!” She turned angrily to Mitzi, clearly annoyed. “Just tell us already. The longer you stall the more time this will take.”
  597.  
  598. With a sigh, Mitzi nodded and began to tell the group the story she had just told Biyu the previous night. She skipped some details here and there, like the kiss and some of the terrible things she told Edwin, but soon she finished her story with her going off to Dalaran to become a mage.
  599.  
  600. Jenus nodded as Mitzi finished her story, “I see. That fills in some of the blanks for me, thank you.” He sat back and crossed his arms expectantly. “Alright, your question?”
  601.  
  602. “Oh, right.” Mitzi thought for a moment, not having an answer prepared. While she stared at the four figures in front of her thinking of something to ask, her eyes gravitated to Grosh, who had begun sharpening a sword absentmindedly. Something he had said earlier came up in her mind, and she finally asked, “Earlier you said that Edwin is much different around me… what exactly do you mean by that?”
  603.  
  604. Grosh looked up curiously when he realized he was being addressed. He looked back down to his blade and kept sharpening as he spoke. “Just what I said. He’s never acted like that. I’m not sure if you want to hear this, but that man has left thousands of bodies in his wake. If I didn’t see him acting the way he did, I would never have believed it.”
  605.  
  606. A snort of laughter came from Mitzi. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” she said, smiling uncontrollably as Grosh glared at her. “I just… have such a hard time believing that. He’s always been so nice.”
  607.  
  608. “Hmm… tell me Mitzi. During the Pandaria campaign, you were stationed at the Isle of Thunder, correct?” Jenus asked suddenly.
  609.  
  610. The complete change of topic completely threw Mitzi off. “Um… well, yes.”
  611.  
  612. “And while stationed there, you were part of a scouting mission that went wrong?” Jenus asked curiously. “One you barely survived?”
  613.  
  614. Nodding faintly, Mitzi felt quite confused. “Yes. I went on a mission with 4 other mages. We were supposed to scout out an area we thought would be good for teleportation. While we were making some readings we were attacked by Mogu, and they captured three of us.” The thought of that dark day made her shudder.
  615.  
  616. “How were you able to escape?” Jenus looked rapt with attention as he leaned in.
  617.  
  618. “Well, for an exciting setup like that there’s not much payoff. We only ended up being captured for a few days, when they were moving us to a new cage the bonds around my hands came just loose enough that I could get out. Then before they knew what happened I opened a portal back to Dalaran. I was able to get my two fellow mages back too, even though I just pulled them through the portal with their restrains on. We stayed there in Dalaran for a few more days to recover, and then before we could get sent back to Pandaria there ended up being that incident where the Sunreavers stole that bell. Since Dalaran needed as much help as possible after all that I never even got a chance to go back to the Isle of Thunder again. Honestly it was just luck that we made it out alive.” As she finished her story, Mitzi realized they had never actually answered her question about Edwin. “Hey wait, it’s still my question right?”
  619.  
  620. Waving impatiently at Mitzi, Jenus responded quickly. “This relates to your question. Give it a moment. Now let me ask you something, when you two met earlier, you thought he was dead, right? Didn’t you wonder why he thought YOU were dead?”
  621.  
  622. The question made her pause. Now that she thought about it, that question hadn’t even crossed her mind at all. “Well go on, why did he think that then?” she demanded. “I’m assuming it has to do with that incident?”
  623.  
  624. “Indeed it does. Please, permit me to tell you the whole story from our end. Maybe you’ll understand Edwin from our point of view a little better. You see, after the Cataclysm and our mission against the Naga, by the time we got back to civilization the Pandaria business was underway. Those of us with family took a bit of time going to assure them we were alive, and then we all went to Pandaria to undertake some personal missions. Edwin had gone to his parents, and then to Dalaran up in Northrend before meeting up with us. There, he had learned that you were deployed to the Isle of Thunder along with Lady Proudmoore and the rest of her entourage. So, when we finally got there that’s the first place we went.” Jenus looked Mitzi in the eyes, his face a bit troubled. “I’ll never forget that day. We had finally reached the Isle and made it to the Kirin Tor’s base camp. Grosh and Qiju had to wait outside, but we were able to bring Reni with some persuasion.”
  625.  
  626. -
  627.  
  628. It was just turning dusk as Jenus, Edwin and Reni entered the campsite. One of the Kirin Tor’s guards, a human clad in dark armor with their purple and gold tabard displayed proudly, was leading them through the ruins that the mages had sent up camp in.
  629.  
  630. As Edwin turned to look at every person they passed, obviously looking for someone, Jenus tried not to smirk. Edwin had been rather patient these last few weeks, but now that they were nearly here Jenus had actually caught the boy with a faint smile every now and then. Deciding to tease the young man a bit, Jenus walked closer and nudged Edwin in the arm. “Hey, calm down. It doesn’t matter how quickly you see her, right?”
  631.  
  632. Frowning as his face turned a bit red, Edwin grunted and marched ahead without responding.
  633.  
  634. “Leave him alone” Reni said wearily, moving between the two of them as she scowled at Jenus. “He’s not in the mood.”
  635.  
  636. The guard stopped before a purple tent, adorned with the golden eye of the Kirin Tor. The guard turned and nodded at the three of them. “I’m afraid Lady Proudmoore is quite busy at the moment, but in here you’ll find Archmage Lan’dalok, he just returned from some field work today and should be able to assist you with whatever you require.” Nodding briskly to the three of them, the guard took his leave.
  637.  
  638. Taking a deep breath, Edwin wasted no time in pulling aside one of the tent flaps. A high elf with black hair and piercing blue eyes looked up at them from a table full of documents as the three of them filed into the tent. Two guards eyed them from either side of the table, but they made no move as everyone got comfortable. “Excuse me, sir” Edwin pulled out a sealed envelope and passed it across the table with no further explanation.
  639.  
  640. The archmage took the letter and broke the wax seal casually with a small knife. Withdrawing the letter he scanned it briefly before nodding and placing the note on top of a small pile of papers. “Very good. I’m glad SI:7 has come to grant us some assistance. I know that there were some…” he glanced briefly at Reni before continuing, “...reservations with us hiring your team, but from what I hear you get the job done. Now, I believe that as far as orders go-”
  641.  
  642. “Just a moment, sir.” Edwin looked anxious, almost vibrating in place. “I was hoping to speak to one of the mages that you had stationed here. Her name is Mitzi Sprocketwrench.”
  643.  
  644. Lan’dalok looked mildly curious as he nodded. “Yes, I know of her. Rather capable girl, I do say. Do you have business with her?”
  645.  
  646. Pausing a moment before speaking, Edwin smiled wistfully. “No, she’s just… a friend.”
  647.  
  648. One of the guards, who has a rather uncomfortable expression on his face, leaned in and whispered something into the archmage’s ear. “What? Are you sure?” he asked out loud, alarmed.
  649.  
  650. “Excuse me, is everything alright?” Edwin asked, his expression becoming serious at once.
  651.  
  652. The look that Lan’dalok gave Edwin told Jenus all he needed to know, the words only confirmed it. “I’m very sorry. I myself just got back to base camp after an extended stay out in the field, I wasn’t aware of certain developments around here. I’m afraid to inform you that your friend Mitzi was part of a scouting group that was ambushed over a week ago. At the moment she isn’t confirmed dead, however… we did find two bodies, so we presume the worst.” As Edwin’s face seemed to drain of color, the archmage bowed his head low. “I offer my deepest apologies. I knew the gnome, she was a kind soul. She will be greatly missed.”
  653.  
  654. Edwin’s seemed frozen for a long moment as he just stood completely still. Then, slowly, he began to shake. His hands balled up into fists as his whole body started to tremble. “Your deepest apologies?” Before anyone could react Edwin lunged forward, grabbing the elf by the scruff of his robe and pulling him across the desk. Papers scattered everywhere as Edwin smashed the top of his skull into Lan’dalok’s nose, letting out a sickening crack. Edwin’s face was monstrous, teeth bared and eyes wilder than Jenus had ever seen as the elf’s blood ran down from his forehead. “You fucking piece of shit! You… you…” Edwin seemed absolutely lost for words as he just grabbed the elf by the shoulders and shook him angrily, gritting his teeth in fury.
  655.  
  656. The guards, who had been just as stunned as anyone else, both seemed to snap out of it at once as they moved in to help. Edwin didn’t waste a moment, taking a small pouch of blinding powder from his pocket and throwing it in the first guard’s face before turning and kicking the second in the knee as hard as he could. The second guard buckled, and a sudden vicious punch to the face drove him to the ground. As the first guard dropped to the ground clutching his face he turned to Lan’dalok again, eyes blazing. “I left her with your organization because I thought you would PROTECT her! I would never have fucking let her go if I knew the truth! Give her BACK to me!” After halfheartedly shaking him a few more times Edwin dropped to his knees, hands still clutching the front of the archmage’s robes as he put his head against the desk. “Give her back” he muttered, much quieter. His hand finally let go of the robe and he slumped completely to the ground.
  657.  
  658. In the moment of silence Jenus and Reni merely looked at each other, completely dumbstruck. Neither knew what to say or do.
  659.  
  660. “Alright, get up!” The first guard was on his feet again, rubbing his jaw and limping a bit as he made his way to Edwin. “You’re coming with us, you psycho.” The second guard was also getting up, washing the powder out of his eyes with a canteen. Neither one looked happy in the slightest, and Jenus was pretty sure Edwin was going to get kicked rather hard by these two for his troubles.
  661.  
  662. “Wait.” Archmage Lan’dalok was settling back into his chair, holding a handkerchief up to his bloody nose. “We will overlook this particular transgression.” Ignoring the stunned looks of his guards, he turned to Jenus and Reni. “Please, take your friend and let him get some rest.”
  663.  
  664. “Sir, he struck you! And assaulted us! Are you quite sure?” the second guard asked, who looked like he really wanted to kick Edwin a bit.
  665.  
  666. “Yes, I’m quite sure.” With a serious expression he looked down at Edwin, who was still crumpled on the floor. “We have some minor injuries that a priest can heal. I don’t think he’s quite so lucky.”
  667.  
  668. It was only now that the whole tent fell into silence when Jenus realized that Edwin was crying, low and quiet. After a long moment, Reni stepped forward and put an arm around Edwin’s shoulders. “Hey, let’s go find somewhere to sit down, ok?” she asked gently. “Come on.”
  669.  
  670. “Thank you very much for your patience. I’m quite sorry about all this” Jenus said, thankful beyond words that the mage didn’t want to make this a personal issue. The archmage nodded, still clutching the red-soaked handkerchief to his face.
  671.  
  672. Edwin got up slowly, tears and snot streaming down his face. He wiped the whole mess onto his sleeve, and then made his way towards the door without a word. Before he left, he stopped and stood there for a moment. His hands slowly clenched into fists. “Archmage. Who did this? Who killed her?”
  673.  
  674. “Who?” the elf looked confused as one of the guards whispered to him again. “Well, it looked like she was ambushed by a mogu raiding party. Why do you ask?”
  675.  
  676. “Why do you think?” Edwin’s face as he turned around was calm, but his eyes were full of that unmistakable killing intent. “I’m going to avenge her death.”
  677.  
  678. As Edwin began walking briskly towards the edge of the Kirin Tor outpost, Reni and Jenus had to run to keep up. “Edwin! Stop! What do you think you’re doing? This isn’t going to solve anything!” Jenus yelled at him, ignoring the looks of the various people they passed. Growling in frustration as Edwin completely ignored him, Jenus leapt out in front, blocking the path ahead with both arms. “You’re just going to get yourself killed! Don’t be an idiot!”
  679.  
  680. “Jenus.” Edwin’s voice was barely calm, and he spoke through gritted teeth. “Get out of my way or I’ll MAKE you. Do you really expect me to sit here and do nothing?!”
  681.  
  682. The was a twinge of uncertainty as Jenus stared down the younger rogue. While he was pretty sure he could beat Edwin if they got into a real fight, the truth is he was by no means certain. Deciding to go with reason, he looked to Reni with a pleading look. Though Jenus hated to admit it, the goblin was the best bet to calm him down right now. “Reni, please. Talk some sense into him.”
  683.  
  684. Turning from Jenus to Reni, Edwin locked eyes with her. “Well? Are you going to get in my way too?”
  685.  
  686. The two stared at each other for a long moment, Reni’s lips pursed in thought. “No. I’m going with you” she finally stated, her face set.
  687.  
  688. “Reni!” Jenus yelled, anger creeping into his voice.
  689.  
  690. Reni moved to Edwin’s side and gave Jenus a look of apology. “I’m sorry. I think this is wrong too, honestly. But if he’s going to go out there I’m going to make sure he doesn’t get stabbed in the back.”
  691.  
  692. Turning to her, Edwin seemed to lose a bit of that anger for a moment. “...Thank you, Reni,”
  693.  
  694. “You two…” Jenus found himself speechless as he tried to look for the words. Finally, he gave up. It would be practically impossible to stop them both now. “Fine. But don’t think you’re getting any help from me. I don’t participate in suicide missions.”
  695.  
  696. “Do what you think is right, Jenus. If we’re not back in two days assume we’ve died.” With those rather anticlimactic last words the two turned and left to where they had tethered their mounts.
  697.  
  698. Sighing, Jenus stood there for a moment before retrieving his hawkstrider and riding off inland. In the small clearing they had found a ways from the base, Grosh and Qiju looked up at the elf from the campfire, neither saying a word as he dismounted. “Edwin and Reni won’t be joining us for a bit. They said they’d be two days, but I wonder if they’ll come back at all.”
  699.  
  700. “Whatcha sayin’?” Qiju asked, pulling a stick out of the fire. A large lizard sat skewered and roasted at the end, and the troll happily munched on it much to Jenus’ disgust.
  701.  
  702. “Didn’t he find stupid friend of his already?” Grosh asked, pulling two more sticks out of the fire and offering one to Jenus. To the elf’s relief, there was a fish at the end of this particular stick.
  703.  
  704. Shaking his head, Jenus sat down on a log. “No. That’s the problem really. They think she’s dead. She’s been missing for a while now. So Edwin went wild, headbutted the archmage in the face and then ran off with Reni. He says he’s going to kill all the mogu he can now.”
  705.  
  706. “Hmm…” Qiju smiled slyly as he reached down and took out a handaxe. The edge gleamed in the firelight. “Mogu ‘unting, eh? Sounds fun.” Jenus felt that irritation coming back as Qiju pulled out a vial and began carefully applying it to the edge of his blade.
  707.  
  708. “Might as well” Grosh said with a sigh as he finished off his fish and tossed the remains in the fire and turned to Qiju. “I’m bored. Let’s go find the others.”
  709.  
  710. For a moment Jenus thought about trying to stop them, but just sighed and stood up again. “So, what, you just plan to go along with that? Kill mogu forever?”
  711.  
  712. “Not forever. Two days” Grosh responded, checking his weapons. “You coming?”
  713.  
  714. Nodding wearily, Jenus stood up and stretched his legs. “Fine. Let’s just get this over with.”
  715.  
  716. -
  717.  
  718. The long silence made Mitzi anxious as she waited for more. “Well? What happened? What did you guys do?” she asked Reni, who didn’t seem to be meeting her gaze.
  719.  
  720. “What do you think we did? We went out there and killed mogu. For two days.” The memory didn’t seem to be particularly pleasant, and Reni shifted uncomfortably before continuing. “I’m not gonna bore you with the details. Plus I really don’t want to talk about them. But what’s important is this: by the time we were done, I think we killed around 700 mogu. Give or take a few dozen.”
  721.  
  722. Mitzi stared back at Reni, shaking her head. “What? That’s crazy. So you’re telling me you each killed around 150 mogu?”
  723.  
  724. Leaning back in her chair and crossing her arms, Reni finally looking Mitzi in the eye again. “No, I was mostly just watching his back. I probably killed 50 or so mogu, maybe 55 at most. Edwin killed far more than me, I lost count around 300. He fought like a man possessed. Though in the end 700 isn’t even all that much since the Thunder King could just make more, it DID make them take notice.
  725.  
  726. Jenus nodded as he began to recall those events. “We hunted down the random scouting packs first, and then when we all met up we started moving closer and closer to the main palace. It was right around that two day mark that he finally stopped. Not because he wanted to, just out of pure exhaustion.”
  727.  
  728. “He was a lot different after that day.” Reni sighed and shook her head. “Well, not that he was a perfect saint before that or anything. He killed a lot of Naga too. But after that it was like he just stopped caring as much. After the whole Pandaria business ended we got hired by the Horde to sabotage the Iron Horde’s operations in Draenor, and he was ruthless. He almost always had the highest kill count on any mission we performed.”
  729.  
  730. “I… I had no idea about any of this.” Mitzi felt strange as she thought about Edwin and this whole situation. A part of her thought that maybe she should be freaked out that he was a killer. Yet, truthfully Mitzi had taken lives as well during her time with the Kirin Tor. Not nearly thousands or even hundreds, but more than a couple of living creatures had died at her hands. That and, despite whatever else she may have been thinking, right now Mitzi had the sudden urge to talk with Edwin. To tell him it would be ok.
  731.  
  732. “Well now that you do know about all this it should make our job easier.” Jenus stood up now and took a couple of steps closer to Mitzi. “Consider this my next question as well if you’d like. Will you please stay away from Edwin?”
  733.  
  734. A cold silence fell between everyone in the room. Nobody spoke as Mitzi got flashbacks to that fateful day with Mary. “Why exactly should I do that?” Mitzi asked, trying to stay calm.
  735.  
  736. “At first I thought there was at least a possibility that you were blackmailing him, or maybe that you were a demon in disguise or something. Your timing was just too perfect. However I believe you have no ill intentions towards him. But that doesn’t change the fact that you seem to be extremely important to him. So much so that he would kill for you, and I think die for you as well.” Jenus maintained eye contact, his eyes unflinching. “Normally I wouldn’t care, but this isn’t any normal circumstance. The Legion is invading. I don’t think that you should be there, confusing his mind at this crucial period. I’m not cruel though, once this whole business ends I have nothing against the two of you fraternizing, but please just go about your business and let us do the same.”
  737.  
  738. Trying her best to stay calm as her heart beat wild in her chest, Mitzi shook her head. “I want to talk to Edwin. One more time at least.”
  739.  
  740. “Look I am trying to be civil here. This is bigger than you or me, ok?” Jenus spoke calmly though a look of frustration flashed across his face. “Like I said, just focus on the Legion for now. Nothing’s to be gained by confusing-”
  741.  
  742. “Edwin is my friend. I’m going to go and see him again. I feel like I have to talk to him. If he wants me to stay away after that then fine, but I’m not going to do what you ask no matter how nice you are about it.” Mitzi glared at the elf, feeling completely fed up with all this.
  743.  
  744. As Jenus scowled back, his temper finally seeming to get the better of him, Grosh pushed past him with a grunt. “Out of my way. I’m done with this.” Reaching down, Grosh grabbed the back of Mitzi’s chair and lifted her up completely, raising her to his own eye level. “You listen to me. I’m through playing games with you. Leave him alone, or I’ll do something about it.” From his belt the orc pulled out a knife, which he held lazily in his left hand.
  745.  
  746. Reni turned to Grosh, an alarmed expression on her face. “Wha? Put her down, you big idiot!” she screamed at the orc, who ignored her.
  747.  
  748. Her heart was thumping furiously now as Mitzi felt her body tremble. It was all she could do to keep eye contact with the orc in front of her as sweat started to bead all over her body. “I-if you hurt me the K-Kirin Tor will find out a-and…”
  749.  
  750. “Will they? Will they find out if you just vanish today? Maybe you just had a nasty little accident.” Grosh moved the knife in his hand, almost savoring the feel of the handle. “So why don’t you-”
  751.  
  752. “Why is the door open?” Reni’s question froze Grosh mid-speech, and everyone turned to see the door indeed standing slightly ajar.
  753.  
  754. The silence lasted only a moment as Jenus turned quickly to Qiju. “Check the door, now!” The troll did not move or speak, and now that Mitzi actually paid attention she noticed that his head was drooped a bit, as if he was taking a nap. “Shit” Jenus cried, pivoting back towards Grosh and Mitzi.
  755.  
  756. A figure moved quickly from the shadows, bringing a knife swiftly up to Grosh’s neck. The other hand moved another knife to rest against his side, between a small gap in the orc’s leather armor. It took Mitzi a second to recognize this figure as Edwin, whose eyes were blazing with anger. “What the hell is going on here?” he asked, his voice surprisingly calm.
  757.  
  758. “Edwin. How long have you been here? What did you do to Qiju?” Jenus asked, and though he sounded calm as well Mitzi couldn’t help but notice that his hands were shaking a bit as they casually moved towards his sheathed sword. “Please believe me, this isn’t what it looks like. We meant your friend no harm.”
  759.  
  760. “If you touch your sword I will kill him” Edwin said bluntly, and Mitzi saw him press the blade a bit further against the orc’s throat. Grosh groaned with unease as a small trickle of blood appeared from where the knife’s tip barely punctured the skin. “As for Qiju, I just knocked him out. He’ll be fine. As for how long I’ve been here, it’s long enough. Now,” Edwin looked Grosh in the eye and said his next words through gritted teeth, “Put her down right now.”
  761.  
  762. Taking a deep breath, Grosh spoke slowly and carefully. “Edwin. I know this is hard to accept but we were thinking of the greater good, it might be best if-”
  763.  
  764. Mitzi saw the orc wince as Edwin moved the dagger against his side slightly. “Grosh. You don’t seem to understand. I am not having a discussion about this. I am not asking you as a friend, or anything like that. I am TELLING you to put her the fuck down. Right. Now!” Reluctantly, Grosh lowered her back to the ground without a word. “Good. Now, cut her loose.”
  765.  
  766. As Grosh leaned in to begin untying Mitz, Edwin followed, still keeping the two blades trained on the whole time. ”This is a mistake, Edwin. Do you intend to break the oath we all took together?”
  767.  
  768. “I made the mistake? ME?!” Edwin laughed, though there was no humor in his voice. “Shut up. You think this isn’t breaking your oath? How about I go and kidnap your sister, huh? I heard she works at one of the weapon shops in Orgrimmar. It shouldn’t be that hard to sneak in and grab her while she sleeps.” He smiled savagely, baring his teeth to the orc. “What was her name again? Seris?”
  769.  
  770. “You piece of shit” Grosh fumed, turning his attention away from Mitzi for the first time. “How did-”
  771.  
  772. “He’s trying to mess with your head, Grosh. Stay calm.” Reni quickly looked from Grosh to Edwin, a frantic look on her face. “Listen, she’s free ok? So why don’t you just put down the weapons, and we’ll all have a nice talk.”
  773.  
  774. “Reni” Edwin said, his voice severe. The goblin flinched as he looked to her, meeting her gaze. “To be honest I’m surprised to see you here. I didn’t think you would do this to me.”
  775.  
  776. “Edwin… I…” Reni looked like she was going to cry.
  777.  
  778. “Put down the knives, Edwin. She’s right, we’ll just talk. Things got a little out of hand there at the end, that’s all.” Jenus’ voice was calm and measured, though Mitzi noticed that he was slowly moving closer and closer.
  779.  
  780. “Yeah… alright. Fine. I guess we all got a little crazy there for a minute.” Edwin pulled the blade back from Grosh’s side, and after another moment of hesitation he lowered the other from the orc’s throat.
  781.  
  782. Everything seemed to happen at once. Jenus lunged forward, hand flying down to his belt as his eyes narrowed dangerously. Meanwhile Edwin lashed out with a foot, kicking Grosh in the stomach and driving him backwards. Grosh and Jenus collided and fell into a heap on the ground, and before Reni could do do anything Edwin pulled something from his pocket and smashed it on the ground. The room seemed to explode into smoke, a grey fog filling up the enclosed space in a matter of seconds. Mitzi began to cough and choke as her lungs filled with the stuff, and before she knew what was happening someone was lifting her up and running.
  783.  
  784. Bursting out into the relatively clear hallway, Mitzi felt relief flooding through her as she saw Edwin holding her and taking a few grateful breaths. He turned and slammed the door shut with his shoulder before running off towards the right. “Are you alright?” he asked as he turned a corner and stopped for a moment. “Did they hurt you?”
  785.  
  786. “N-no. I’m fine” she said, looking away from his gaze. She was feeling nervous now, with his face so close to hers.
  787.  
  788. “Good. Thank the Light” Edwin’s relief relaxed his whole body notably, and he smiled at her. Before he could say any more, the sound of a door banging open sounded from the direction they had come. Edwin readjusted Mitzi, moving her to his back and putting her arms around his neck. “Crap. Don’t let go!”
  789.  
  790. Holding on tight, Mitzi pressed her face into the nape of Edwin’s neck as he ran. As they turned another corner Mitzi was quite surprised to see a three people standing there, all clad in various deadly-looking armors. The one nearest to them, a worgen, perked up as he saw them approaching. “Ah, Edwin. What’s the rush?”
  791.  
  792. “No time, sorry!” he yelled back, dodging around them as he flew down the hall.
  793.  
  794. “Stop them!” came Grosh’s voice from behind them, a bit faint but still clearly audible.
  795.  
  796. Looking behind them, Mitzi was dismayed to see the three figures all follow behind them almost in sync, dashing after them without even a word of question.
  797.  
  798. “Shit, shit, shit…” Edwin muttered as he hit another intersection and went left without a moment’s hesitation. Mitzi tried not to think about the fact that the footsteps behind them were getting closer. “There!” he finally cried, as he came across a narrow flight of stairs. Taking them two or three at a time, Edwin made his way up for a moment until coming across a stone wall with a curious knocker. Before Mitzi even had time to be bitterly disappointed at this apparent dead end, Edwin grabbed the knocker and slammed it once, causing the wall to swing outwards and into another room.
  799.  
  800. Quickly moving through the door, Edwin slammed it behind himself. Mitzi had only a moment to take in the room, which she realized was the second floor of some sort of armor shop, before Edwin moved and started pushing a large chest to block the door. Without ceremony he began throwing pieces of armor and anything else heavy he could find in a pile around the secret doorway. “Can you make portals?” he asked, his voice steady but urgent.
  801.  
  802. Taken aback by the question, she nodded. “Yes, but it’s going to take a few seconds to cast.”
  803.  
  804. “Don’t worry, I can give you that much” he said confidently, grinning at her. His grin faltered as the door opened a crack, straining against the makeshift barrier.
  805.  
  806. “Hey, what the hell is going on up here?” asked a voice, as footsteps started coming up the stairs.
  807.  
  808. Letting out a loud sigh, Edwin rushed towards the stairs and leapt down them without even looking. Mitzi could see a dwarf staring up at them in awe as they sailed over his head, Edwin landing at the bottom with only a brief grunt. Mitzi could see that this place was the Dalaran blacksmith, though judging by the fact that the fact that the furnace was off and the doors shut it was probably closed to the public. Instead of running outside like she had expected, Edwin instead rushed into the building, choosing a room and slamming the door behind him. Pulling out a small metal tool, Edwin inserted it into the lock and after a moment Mitzi heard the it click into place.
  809.  
  810. Edwin finally put her down and nodded at her. “Ok, go ahead and cast it.” Without waiting for a reply, he moved across the room to a large wooden desk and with a heave started moving it towards the door.
  811.  
  812. “Here?” Mitzi asked, a bit unsure. She could already hear the voice of the Dwarf yelling as he banged on the door.
  813.  
  814. “Yes, here! Come on! Make a portal to Stormwind!” he yelled back as he pushed the desk into place.
  815.  
  816. Taking a few deep breaths to calm herself, Mitzi tried to block out the increasing noise building in the hall. It sounded like more people had showed up. After a moment she began to chant, and as the words came naturally to her she felt her pulse slowing down and her shaking subsiding a bit. Raising her hand, Mitzi concentrated on a point in space in front of her and pointed. At the spot her finger indicated a small hole seemed to form in the air, gradually widening as Mitzi kept chanting. The edges of the portal were unstable at first, fluctuating wildly as it formed. As it reached the complete size however, it began to become more stable until finally the hole stopped moving entirely, a large oval window hanging in midair.
  817.  
  818. “It’s done!” Mitzi called to Edwin, who was bracing himself against the door.
  819.  
  820. “Ok! Then let’s go!” With no preamble, Edwin leapt towards Mitzi and scooped her up in one movement as he sprinted for the portal. The door crashed open almost at once, hitting the desk as a man clad in dark leather tried to squeeze himself inside.
  821.  
  822. As Edwin jumped through the portal Mitzi could see the door finally get forced open entirely. To her shock she worgen they saw earlier push past the others and lunge towards them, fangs bared.  With a gesture, Mitzi closed the portal right before he was about to reach it. She let out a long sigh of relief as Edwin just stood there, catching his breath. They could finally relax, if even for a second.
  823.  
  824. “Excuse me.” Both Mitzi and Edwin turned to see a hunched old man with a short grey beard and a large pointed hat. He adjusted his reading glasses as he looked at them thoughtfully. “Are you ok? You seem rather distressed.”
  825.  
  826. “Um, we’re fine.” Mitzi looked at Edwin and motioned towards the floor. It took him a second to realize he was still holding her, and he quickly put her down again as his face flushed red. Mitzi composed herself and bowed to the old man. “Thank you for your concern.”
  827.  
  828. The old man nodded and returned to his book as Edwin started towards the exit, motioning for Mitzi to follow. “Come on. I know a place we can lay low for a bit.”
  829.  
  830. As the two left the tower and began walking through the bustling streets of Stormwind, Mitzi began to realize that she had absolutely no idea what to say to Edwin. Her mind felt like it was overflowing with the things she had just heard not long ago, but she had no clue how to go about bringing it up. Where would she even begin?
  831.  
  832. It was while she was lost in thought that she was suddenly brought back to reality by Edwin, who reached down and tousled her hair. “Hey, are you listening to me? I said ‘do you want me to buy you a new dress?’ Your current one isn’t doing so hot.”
  833.  
  834. Looking down at her dress, Mitzi was shocked to see that he was right. The yellow dress she had worn was now wrinkled, and a few small rips and tears stood out quite notably. One large rip ran up the left leg, and Mitzi blushed as she realized it went all the way to her thigh. “Yes, please” she managed, now feeling self-conscious.
  835.  
  836. -
  837.  
  838. It was less than an hour later, not long after the two left Stormwind and started towards Goldshire. Mitzi was now wearing a blue robe, which was a bit big on her, but nothing she couldn’t get used to. As she watched the town slowly appearing in the distance, she finally asked, “So, where is this place we can hide out at?”
  839.  
  840. “Oh, it’s just a house owned by some old friends of mine.” He looked pleased with his cryptic clue and gave her a grin.
  841.  
  842. “Just tell me who it is” Mitzi said with a deadpan look, not in the mood.
  843.  
  844. Sighing, Edwin pointed at a two story house not far from the outskirts of town. It looked nice, two stories with a human waist-sized stone fence around the property. “There’s the house. And since you don’t like surprises at all, this is where my parents live now.”
  845.  
  846. Stopping in the middle of the path, Mitzi just stood there as Edwin stopped and turned around to look curiously at her. ”Your parents? I thought they lived in Westfall?”
  847.  
  848. “Yeah, of course they did. But when we got back from dealing with the Naga we had a lot of gold. Mostly from raiding some of their supply caches. So I put some of it in the bank and bought my parents a nice place near Stormwind. I figure that it’s safer if something happens.” Edwin smiled reassuringly at Mitzi as he took her hand and continued along the road. “I know they want to see you as well. Mom’s gonna be so glad you’re safe!”
  849.  
  850. Mitzi stayed quiet as she followed alongside Edwin. Her mind began to wander again, to the last time she had seen Mary. It was the same day that she had been told Edwin was dead…
  851.  
  852. -
  853.  
  854. It was with some difficulty that Mitzi made her way through the crowded streets of Stormwind. She checked the note she had gotten one more time before making her way towards the newly constructed harbor, where even now there were people gathered everywhere as members of the army were unloading ships. Soldiers were seen left and right reuniting with their families, some reacting with tears or laughter or just with an embrace and a long silence. Mitzi looked at her note again and then made her way slowly down the row of piers, looking for where Edwin’s group was supposed to arrive. According to the note she had received, the portal from Outland would open in less than half an hour and then Edwin would be back. With a feeling of apprehension, she found a group of people waiting for loved ones and sat herself nearby, taking a deep breath to steady her nerves.
  855.  
  856. “Mitzi?” came a familiar voice not far away. With a slight sense of dread she turned and saw Mary waving as she approached. William, Edwin’s father, followed not far behind as he flashed her that toothy grin of his. “I thought that was you. I’m glad you came.”
  857.  
  858. Mitzi couldn’t help but go red with embarrassment as she avoided Mary’s eye contact.  “I-I just wanted to make sure Edwin is ok. Since I was passing through anyhow.” She looked towards the ground and mumbled, “I won’t stay long. I just wanted to say hello.”
  859.  
  860. Mary also looked a bit flustered as she shook her head. “That isn’t necessary. You can stay as long as you like. I’m sure Edwin would be quite happy to see you. I was planning on cooking dinner, we’ll have plenty of food if you want to stay.” The two stood there for a moment in silence until Mary smiled, though it seemed forced. “Excuse me. I’m going to ask them when Edwin’s group will be arriving.” Mary slipped away into the crowd, leaving Mitzi standing there with William.
  861.  
  862. The two looked at each other awkwardly as Mitzi searched for something to say. Nothing seemed appropriate, but thankfully before she had to think much harder William finally spoke. “She has a hard time expressing herself sometimes, my wife.”
  863.  
  864. Snorting, Mitzi found that very hard to believe. “She seems like she does it well enough.”
  865.  
  866. Letting out a laugh, William nodded. “Yes well some stuff she’s very upfront about. Others, well it just takes her some time to get there.” He looked at her out of the corner of his eye. “Like you know she was looking forward to seeing you right?”
  867.  
  868. That seemed even harder to believe than the last fact. “I’m sorry, but are you sure? I just can’t imagine her wanting to see me.”
  869.  
  870. “Oh, I’m very sure.” William motioned to the letter that Mitzi kept clutched in her right hand. “Who do you think sent the letter?”
  871.  
  872. Before Mitzi could respond, people all around them began talking excitedly as the entire crowd of fifty or so shifted in one direction. Mary came out of the crowd, looking excited as she glanced between the two. “The portal just opened. They’re coming through in just a moment!”
  873.  
  874. All three moved together to find a better vantage point, finally finding one near the edge of the crowd. From here they could see a human mage spreading his arms wide, the gem at the end of his staff glowing bright as a large shimmering portal came into focus. Once it did, snapping into place like a telescope coming into focus, they could see what Mitzi recognized as Zangarmarsh. The giant mushrooms in the background were a very obvious giveaway. A number of troops started filing through, some human and some Draenei. Mitzi tried to scan for Edwin, but very quickly things got quite chaotic. A wagon full of supplies was going both in and out of the gate, and besides that various families were being reunited, adding to the noise and chaos.
  875.  
  876. “Why don’t we take a seat” William suggested, pointing to a bench that was now vacant. “We’re not going to get anywhere like this.”
  877.  
  878. The three all sat down and watched mostly in silent anticipation as the people slowly began to trickle away. The portal finally closed after about ten minutes of being open, the mage’s brow covered in sweat as he sat down on a barrell.
  879.  
  880. It was then that Mitzi felt like something was wrong. For one, this group was mostly Draenei and not many humans, and it seemed like most of the humans had found their families and left. She tried telling herself that he was probably in the caravan, helping to unload the gear when a bald man came striding up to them with a grim expression on his face. “Excuse me. Are you Edwin’s parents? Mr. and Mrs. Ogden?” He was dressed in an officer’s uniform, and now for Mitzi that sense of unease had turned into full dread.
  881.  
  882. Both of Edwin’s parents exchanged a glance before looking back at the officer. “That’s us. Can we help you?” William asked, his expression trying to look positive but unfortunately failing.
  883.  
  884. Glancing at Mitzi, the officer nodded apologetically. “Ma’am. This is a private matter. If you’ll excuse us.”
  885.  
  886. As Mitzi started getting up, Mary placed a hand on her shoulder, stopping her. “Please, she’s a friend of the family. If it concerns my son then I don’t mind if she hears as well.”
  887.  
  888. “Very well.” The man composed himself for a moment, standing up straight as he looked Mary straight in the eye. “I am Arthur Huwe, one of Edwin’s… commanding officers. I’m afraid this is never easy. It is my greatest regret to inform you that Edwin was killed in action. His group met some unexpected Naga resistance, and unfortunately there were no survivors.” The silence was complete as the officer reached into his pocket and removed both a letter and a medal. He passed them both to Mary, who took them with trembling hands.  “I truly am sorry. He was a good and kind young man.”
  889.  
  890. As Mitzi’s mind seemed to freeze Mary moaned “No…” as she fell to her knees. She sat there for a minute, pressing her palms into her eyes before she burst into tears. “No! Not m-my baby!”
  891.  
  892. William knelt down and put his shaking arms around his wife. He looked up to Huwe, his face a mask of confusion. “But he just sent us a letter a month ago… he said he was coming home…” came William’s faint voice. He looked dazed, like he had just been punched in the face. “I don’t understand…”
  893.  
  894. Arthur lowered his head to the two of them. “I’m sorry, once again. Trust me, death is not fair or logical. Please, you have to know that we are doing our best to avenge him. Even now we’re clearing out some of the last of the Naga in Outlands, we will make sure they pay for wha-”
  895.  
  896. “This is all some big lie, right?” Mitzi asked suddenly. Her brain seemed to have finally caught up, and given the choice of acceptance or denial it had gone with the latter. “Did Edwin put you up to this?”
  897.  
  898. Everyone was silent as Arthur just stared back before responding. “What? No, of course not. This is no joke I’m afraid. Edwin-”
  899.  
  900. “This is complete nonsense. He is NOT dead.” Mitzi stood up, her hands balled into fists as her breathing for more labored by the minute. She was trying to stay calm, but that… liar was just telling lies about Edwin. “There’s no way he’s dead. How could he just die? Stop lying.”
  901.  
  902. The expression on Arthur’s face showed a twinge of annoyance now. “I am NOT lying. What would I have to gain from lying? I’m sorry but this is hard, but-”
  903.  
  904. “LIAR!” she screamed, her whole body shaking with rage as she advanced on him. The bald man actually retreated a bit from her, a look of confusion on his face. “Tell me the truth! Edwin can’t be dead!” She reached out and shoved him in the gut as hard as she could. “Tell me the TRUTH!”
  905.  
  906. A pair of hands grabbed Mitzi’s shoulders, and she looked up to see William kneeling down next to her. He reached out and pulled her into a hug. “I’m so sorry my girl. I can’t imagine how much pain you’re in.” He squeezed a bit tighter. “...I wish you could have met Edwin again. I think that just seeing you again would have made him very happy.”
  907.  
  908. Those words seemed to hit home to Mitzi more than all the others. Edwin probably DID just want to see her again. But he had died thinking that she didn’t really value their friendship. For some reason in over four years she had never once sent him a letter, or stopped to see him, or anything. And now he was gone. Forever beyond her reach. “Let go of me!” she yelled as she tried to hold in the tears, suddenly not wanting to be near William and Mary. Their kindness was horrible to sit through, it did nothing to dismiss this guilt. Before William could say anything Mitzi had got up and started running. Not running in any particular direction, just running. Someone called out her name as she rushed out of sight, but she just ignored it as she fled.
  909.  
  910. It was nearly ten minutes later when an exhausted Mitzi finally slowed down. She took a few deep breaths as she fell down to her knees, clutching the stitch in her side. As she sat there feeling the dull pain in her side, it all seemed to hit her at once. Tears finally started falling from her eyes as she took out her hearthstone, and activated it with some difficulty. Her room in Dalaran materialized all around her, and Mitzi collapsed onto the floor as she sobbed uncontrollably.
  911.  
  912. -
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