Zedwig’s life had become very pleasantly normal over the past two years. He’d never before realized how much he appreciated the basic simplicity of his life, which was spent in research, instruction, and pursuing the subject he loved more than anything else: magic.
Of course, after feeling he had learned the hard way, he never went near destructive magic again and resolved to keep away from it for the rest of his life. No one ever knew what he had done, and he was inclined to let it die a quiet death.
In the meantime, he continued to radiate the promise and talent he’d always had, in greater and greater proportion to what had come before. He began writing his own books of theory on various subjects within magic and force, and overall lived a humble life.
Fangline had changed something within him, though, which was not there before. He was now far more outgoing than he had been before and waxed stronger in his confidence when dealing with others. He had even begun to grow attached to a young maid who was in charge of cleaning his library. Whether he was attached to her before his experience with Fangline or not isn’t really important; what became important was that he was no longer too timid to talk to her.
They had developed a gradual repertoire of conversation, and eventually it became fairly normal for her to arrange her schedule to be about her duties when he was present. They were still both shy, regardless of Zedwig’s change, and progress was painfully slow. However, for the life of an elf, progress can be torturously slow and it doesn’t matter.
On this particular day, Zedwig was attempting to look as if he was working on one of his books, and she was taking a very long time to meticulously dust the volumes nearby. He gave up, eventually, and merely watched her for a while, she being entirely unaware he was doing so.
“I wonder, Miss Fairsienne,” he said, breaking the silence. “If I could enchant your duster to do the work for you.”
She turned with a blink, looking surprised. Then, she laughed.
“Mage Zedwig, I can’t imagine it would be very effective.”
“Are you questioning my ability to enchant a feather duster?”
She laughed again. “How could a feather duster truly know where there is dust to be dusted, however enchanted it may be?”
Zedwig stood, considering himself challenged.
“Why don’t we find out?” he asked her.
Fairsienne gave him a sidelong glance and handed her duster to the mage. He took it, gave her a clandestine smile that she found very amusing, and then began gazing at it ponderously.
“Such deep thought for a feather duster,” she said bemusedly, although he knew she was secretly admiring the use of his skill, which he also knew she could hardly begin to understand.
His thought fell deeper and he drew life from all around himself, and, noting her gentle, delicate force nearby, he only drew modestly from her out of respect, although he was certain she wouldn’t discern it. He wielded the force he gathered in ways it was willing to go, sculpting it into beauty in a way that was almost like asking it if it would like to animate a feather duster, today. It was like a dance, requiring two to create, himself, and the overlying force that ruled the universe and gave it life. The motes he wielded settled into the duster, and it glowed briefly, then the handle rose of its own accord.
Fairsienne clapped her hands delightedly.
“Oh, look!” she cried. “You did it!”
“Did I?” he wondered, pondering the duster as it levitated itself, hovering between them without being held. He addressed it. “Dust the shelves, would you?”
It left them and began dusting the shelves in a more or less mechanical way, and with not nearly the care or delicacy that Miss Fairsienne put into the task.
“It certainly works faster than you,” said Zedwig slyly. Fairsienne laughed and pushed him out of false spite, but as they both knew why she lingered, this became present in their minds and time slowed. The duster continued dusting like a metronome just out of sight as he looked at her and she was blushing. He moved, and at that moment, a book fell off of the shelf beside them due to the intense dusting of the enchanted feather duster.
Both of them were surprised by the sudden bang of a book hitting the floor, followed by a moment’s giddiness over having been surprised by anything in the first place. Zedwig asked the duster to stop, and it did, immediately growing docile and at rest like a tame animal.
“I think it lacks a certain gentleness you possess,” he said to Fairsienne while holding the feather duster. Then, with a sigh, he relented, “Alas, I have failed you.”
He gave her the duster as a knight offers a sword to a queen, and she was endeared to him. She touched his hand as she took it, lingering meaningfully but with uncertainty until he took her hand and moved towards her.
At this time, when their attention was focused with such intensity in the space between them, the library, the palace, and the world faded and whole universes passed around them with the possibilities the next moment held. He was very close to her; close enough that he could kiss her. It was an idea that sent light coursing through his limbs, and he knew he must. Then Geeves came in.
They broke apart with much embarrassment.
“Chief Mage Zedwig, Prince Fangline has returned,” said the butler.
A powerful jolt traveled entirely throughout Zedwig. It was one of thrill, excitement, nausea, and dread.
“Prince Fangline? After all this time?” said Zedwig, for lack of anything useful to say. Nausea seemed to be winning out among the feelings he was wracked with at the moment and he tried very hard to maintain an unaffected outward appearance.
“Yes,” said Geeves simply, not offering another word of explanation. Even for Geeves, this reply was strangely clipped. Then, the butler went on.
“His Majesty-,” and Geeves’ voice seemed to catch. “Has requested that you be a part of the party which will welcome him outside the palace.”
Zedwig knew why. It was called a “welcoming party”, but it was actually a precaution. He assumed there would be quite a few guards, as well. It brought him a small bit of melancholy that the king showed even this much distrust in his own son’s intentions, but decided he must have reason for it. However, Geeves was behaving very oddly.
“Are you well, Geeves?” asked Zedwig.
“I’m fine, thank you,” he replied, and he quit the room.
Zedwig took only a brief moment to bid Fairsienne good-bye, with an unspoken assurance they would continue later where they had left off, and made his way with nervous haste to the outside courtyard of the palace. There were guards already, followed by the king, his sister, and Geeves. Zedwig took his place at the front of them all, like a slender guard dog, well trained and docile, but watching.
Everyone fell silent.
 Page #293 for intermittent events between these two chapters.