42 - Archmage

We found most of the mages from the College waiting on the bridge, near a magical barrier that seemed to encircle the entire building.

"Ancano's using the Eye," Tolfdir explained. "We don't know exactly how, or what he's trying to do, but we can't get in to stop him. Do you have the Staff?"

Brelyna confirmed that she did and stepped forward to use it on the barrier, hoping it would drain its power as it had done with ours. The barrier disappeared, and we all rushed in.

I handed her a couple of grand soul gems. "Make sure that thing's fully charged. I think we'll be needing it again."

We entered the Hall of the Elements, to find Ancano playing a shock spell over the Eye. "I have the power to unmake the world at my fingertips, and you cannot stop me."

Tolfdir flung a firebolt at Ancano, which did absolutely nothing. The Altmer nochalently returned a spell of his own, and all of us found ourselves paralyzed. All but Brelyna, who was apparently protected by the Staff she was carrying.

Ancano decided to up the stakes, and changed the spell he was casting on the Eye. It began to come apart, revealing a brilliant light inside it, which meant I was unable to seewhat happened next.

When I could see again, Brelyna was using the Staff to close the Eye again, and Ancano was busy defending himself from some wisp-like creatures that had apparently been spawned by whatever he did to the Eye. I could feel the paralysis fading, too, and I was soon able to add to his woes. Zahra and Tolfdir were busy defending themselves from more of the wisps, and I couldn't see where Ranyu had gone. Somewhere near the door, I think, as arrows were coming from that direction.

Ancano had apparently run out of magicka, and was trying desperately to fight off the wisp-things with his fists. I stood back and let them finish him off, then made sure the wisps wouldn't bother anyone else.

"What do we do now?" Brelyna asked Tolfdir. The old Master had no clue. "The Eye may be shut down for now, but I have no idea what Ancano did to it."

"Nor do we," replied a voice from behind me. Another Altmer, presumably a Psijic monk, as his robes resembled those that Brelyna was wearing. "It has become unstable, and must be removed from here before it does further damage, to this College, or the world.

"We will safeguard it, until such time that it can be stabilised again. The world is not ready for this kind of power."

He turned to Brelyna and addressed her directly. "You now have the opportunity to rebuild your College, Archmage. I'm sure that's what you wish to do."

And with that, the monk, his two companions, and the Eye, all faded away.

"Why did he call me Archmage?" Brelyna asked.

"I'm unsure," Tolfdir answered, "but I can't think of anyone better suited for the job." He handed her a key. "This will open the Archmages quarters. They're yours now. And you'll find the robes of office there, if you want to use them."

Brelyna was still stunned at this turn of events. She wasn't at all sure she wanted the position, but we persuaded her to at least go and take a look around the quarters before she decided.

Now I'm not saying that the only double bed in the College in any way influenced her choice, or the fact that she could lock the door and get as much privacy as she wanted. But the four of us did have a bit of a celebration of our victory, and the bed did survive the onslaught.

Being able to just walk across the room and make another restoring potion when it was needed may have swayed the choice, too. It certainly influenced my recommendation.

Brelyna was still resisting the idea of becoming Archmage, however. She didn't think that she was ready for it. And shouldn't one of the Masters take it?

Zahra wasn't a lot of help there, as she still had the traditional dremora attitude that women should control from behind. "Like Mirabelle probably did with Savos Aren. He was the Archmage, but she ran the College."

"Which meant that she was tied to the place," I replied. "Savos got to travel anywhere he wanted, and perhaps Brelyna would like that freedom."

"There are several other candidates to replace Mirabelle as chief administrator," Brelyna agreed. "And Collete Marence has just about convinced me that if any of the Masters became Archmage, then the other schools of magic would not get their proper respect."

"Doesn't that rule them out for the adminstrator job as well?" I asked.

"Yes, but I'm actually thinking of giving that to Enthir."

Several eyebrows went up at that.

"It's not as crazy as it seems," I added in support. "We know about him and the Thieves Guild, but nothing straightens a crook out better than giving him responsibility that's in everyone's gaze. He won't have any choice but to play this role straight."

"If he doesn't turn it down," Ranyu reminded me.

"He'll probably grab the opportunity before he sees what he got himself into," Brelyna remarked. "It's just the right trap for someone like him."

"And he'll already know how to juggle the conflicts that will arise. They just won't be the same ones that he's used to," I added.

Brelyna turned to me. "I think you've convinced me. The College needs someone who'll encourage scholarship and research, but be neutral as to school of magic. I'm not tied to any one in particular yet. I started out along the Conjuration path, but I already got my Dremora, so I can branch out a bit.

"I've heard about Master Neloth moving to Solstheim, so I might go over there and see what he's up to. My being Archmage might even persuade him to give me some of his precious time, and teach me some enchanting. Telvanni wizards don't share much with each other at the best of times, but since I'd technically be an outsider as Archmage of Winterhold, at the same time as being a Telvanni myself, things could be different."

Tolfdir brought the other mages together in the Hall of the Elements for the announcements. Enthir seemed to be just figuring out what he'd let himself in for, and Faralda and Nirya were taunting each other for their lack of advancement in this shuffle. I'm sure each of them though she should have had the Archmage's job herself. An Altmer thing, if I'm any judge.

Sergius Turrianus and Phinis Gestor were wondering if they'd get promotion to Master, or if Brelyna would be bringing in Masters to replace them. Savos Aren had been content to wait for them to reach that level on their own.

"When I heard you mention going to Solstheim, I was concerned that you were thinking of recruiting Talvas Fathryon as head of Conjuration," Phinis explained. "Of course, I doubt that Neloth would let him go, and I don't know if he'd want to come here."

Sergius didn't seem quite as concerned. We all knew that the Master of Enchantment here on the mainland was quite content as Priestess of Dibella in the Markarth temple, and Neloth was Neloth, going his own way and having no need of the College. Sergius wouldn't mind being allowed to study with Hamal, but it wasn't just Brelyna who 'd make that decision.

"Rank doesn't matter as much as the quality of your research," she told everyone. "Teaching is only part of your jobs. Another part is advancing the knowledge of magic, researching new effects, creating new spells, and testing them safely." She seemed to be looking at Arniel Gane when she said that last part. He looked a little embarrassed, but the rest of us didn't know why.

When Brelyna saw how Zahra was looking at her , she might have blushed a little herself.