It was always so cold. A swirling expanse of thick black darted around the elf as she crossed over. They flickered around her vision, always there but being always too difficult to directly focus on as if they were malevolent fairies.
“They always speak in half-truths or outright lies.” The statement was one drilled into every ren’dorei, and Angrin questioned it more than she ever did as her left foot finally touched the bleak, darkened stone of Telogrus Rift. She had passed her initial tests and was judged to be of sane mind before she was allowed to enter Stormwind for the first time, but there was no guarantee that she would remain as such.
This was her kin for better or worse. And what better way to seek advisement apart from those who empathize? She began to walk purposefully through the void-touched world. Fledglings took to guided meditations and journeys with their masters, seeking to master their power to finally be allowed to journey outside. Others who were not so lucky, the ones deemed too weak in will, blood seeped out from their ears. Stained daggers and needles lay still in their twitching hands.
Angrin shook her head and winced. She never could bear to teach in the Rift for this reason. The elf flickered into a darkened, inky splotch of a streak and made her way to the edge of one of the world’s fragments. There, she peered over the edge. A sense of vertigo overcame her, regardless of her previous experience dealing with the Great Dark Beyond. Even so, the sight was mesmerizing and filled with the stuff from Angrin’s dreams: Bright stars, titanic bodies, alien worlds, and a sense of infinity. She sat at the edge, kicking her legs over the galactic abyss.
“I wouldn’t jump if I were you,” a wispy and shifting male voice echoed in the hazy darkened air. Angrin turned over her shoulder and away from the edge of the planet’s fragment. She eyed the voice’s source: A fully bandaged humanoid standing roughly six feet tall. The only body part that was not covered was a blackened orb of an eyeball. The pupil was indiscernible. Bits of hair peeked out of the bandages lining the man’s head.
“Who are you?” Angrin canted her head. “And for the record, I was not going to jump.”
“Pffft. Hope not,” the bandaged man playfully scoffed. The bandages covering his mouth shifted upward, likely showing off a smile behind them. “Call me Gauze. I’d shake your hand, but you know, don’t want you to jump backward and go…” Gauze drew his finger down into his other palm. “Splat. Well, you won’t go splat. You’ll probably just float until you freeze. Then maybe some space rock’ll hit you a few hundred years later, y’know?”
“Gauze,” Angrin chuckled to herself, finding the name somewhat ridiculous but fitting regardless. “Your eye--”
“Void. Oh, wait. You probably could have deduced that.” He winked. “I’d show you the other one, but it’s gone.”
“And your--ahem. Coverings?”
He smiled and began to spin in place, fluttering his loose bandages like a ballerina’s flowing dress. “Oh no. This was probably a bad burn in my past life or just a REALLY bad case of the Burning Region that spread outward from my groin.” The man cackled and waved a dismissive hand. A ribbon from his dressing trailed behind the limb. “Long story short: No idea. No memories of what happened before. I remember bits and pieces but not enough to put the entire puzzle together. Who knows?”
Angrin fell silent. She raised a finger as if about to speak. The man dispersed into a streak of darkened particles, appearing before the woman. She barely flinched.
“May only have one eye, but I can see emotion better than most here. You’re troubled.” He set both hands on the female’s shoulders before circling around her. “Granted, you may just think I’m a crazy man who likes spinning and has a fetish for covering myself in dressing. Don’t blame you, but only one of those things is incorrect. Buuuuuut! I am an expert when it comes to telling people how to NOT fuck things up.”
“I hope it’s the fetish thing.” Angrin rolled her eyes, keeping her gaze on the male with equal amounts suspicion and curiosity. “You will forgive me for being blunt, but I do not feel entirely comfortable with the proposal. What qualifies you to be someone I can confide in?”
“Ding-ding! It is. I mean, I could take these off. But, eh. Nah. Feels safer in here, y’know? Feel like Locus-Walker himself!” He stopped at her back. “And as far as qualified…” Gauze smiled behind his wrappings and dispersed. He seemed to shift through Angrin to her front and reformed before her eyes. “Ta-da! I’m a natural at Void magic and the shitty side-effects: Whispering voices from all angles telling me to strangle you? Been there! Err--Not that I’d ever listen to them, of course.”
The man tightened his wrappings at his wrists before eyeing Angrin over with the lone, darkened eye. “It’s a weird power, I’ve found. I can tell people exactly what they need to do. They may not like it. It might not be the most CONVENIENT option, but more often than not, it works out swimmingly in the end. Try me.”
“You’re an advisor th--”
Gauze gasped as if he were gravely insulted. “‘ADVISOR?’ ME? No, no, no, my dear. I’m more of a uh… doctor for people’s problems.”
“You’re a bloody advisor.” Angrin shook her head. “Why not venture out of the Rift? Surely, more people can benefit from your words than a lone soul standing at the edge of space.”
Gauze gave a nonchalant shrug. “Don’t wanna.”
“Well, why not? Give me a reason other than, ‘I don’t want to.’” Angrin thinned her eyes at the man, but she found herself smiling.
“I don’t like the Sun. That and Stormwind is kind of... ech. Gray stone? Really. Such a BORING color. The sky doesn’t feel like it should be blue either. I like it more of as the…” He pointed upward, where numerous celestial bodies in the clear, blackened expanse of the Great Dark Beyond hovered.
“The lack of the atmosphere scattering the blue light,” Angrin nodded promptly.
“Yeah! That! So there’s your answer. Plus, I haven’t found a SINGLE bakery in town that serves mana-infused bagels. You believe that? They don’t have MIBs. One of the things I do remember from my past life was this bitchin’ bakery out in the Bazaar District.”
The woman raised an eyebrow. “By chance, was it named, ‘Hearts and Flours?’”
Gauze vigorously pointed to Angrin with both hands. “YES! THAT’S IT! Cute little place situated by one of the open-air auction houses. The sign was a giant heart with an arrow made of breadsticks piercing through it.”
Angrin smirked as she tilted her head. “I knew the couple. They had a young child, and she cried the first time she got flour in her eyes and had to get them washed out. Her favorite item was the dragonhawk egg pie served with a side of chocolate pudding.”
“Wh-” The bandaged man squinted and swiveled on his heels to face her. “You’re fucking with me.”
“The mana-infused bagel you speak of is the ‘Gems of Kael’thas’ Bagel. The sesame seeds are infused by the batch with the father’s hand and are left to soak in pure arcane energy for a day.”
Gauze widened his gaze at the woman. “You mean--”
“Okayokayokayokay--A deal for you: I’ll help you out with whatever’s going on. Void knows I can see that you’re getting shit on by the whispers. They’re screaming to take over. In return, you will be my personal supplier of bagels.”
Angrin blinked. “You realize I have not made the Gems of Kael’thas in roughly a few decades?”
“I hAvE nOt mAdE tHe GeMs of kAeL’tHaS iN rOuGhLy a fEw DeCaDeS,” Gauze’s voice took on a mocking, but still playful, one. “Kid--You were that kid, right?”
“Yes. Yes, I was.” The female smirked.
“Right. Kid, you’ve been doing it for how long? How hard can it be to knead some dough, bake it, and do some arcane mumbo jumbo on those sesame seeds and sprinkle them on?”
“Very, and I hope your advisement will be up to par. The prince himself, before he went traitor, once visited our shop. I’m sure that speaks for itself when it comes to my training.”
“Nah. Nah. Nah. Don’t you worry, frienderino. My advice’ll make you stronger, stronger than you ever imagined. You’ll make the void your bit--er… You’ll make the Void obey your will wholly--at the cost of those bagels of course.” Gauze presented a wrapped hand forward for a shake. “Deal?”
Angrin looked down at the hand then back to the man. She slapped her hand forward, gripping his forearm.
“Ow! It’s called a handshake, not an ARM shake!”
“This gesture carries more meaning. It is one of trust in our platoon. You will understand.” Angrin smirked, and Gauze mimicked the gesture, gripping the veteran’s plated forearm in turn.
“Right. Right. So! Shall we get started, oh Bagel Master?”
“Angrin. Just--Call me Angrin please.”
“Bagel Master Angrin.” Gauze released the woman’s arm and took a knee as if addressing a queen. The female only sighed.
“Let’s just get started and finish before the entire University dies of old age.”
TO BE CONTINUED.