Anarchaia inhales as she closes the door with her back. “So,” she says in a hushed tone, “when we got here a while ago, I ran home to grab some things.” She brings her hands to her front to tent her fingers. “I met briefly with Master to update him on our progress and…I mentioned you in passing.”
Koltira stays silent, tapping the pad of his thumb on his chin. “I imagine you heard some very…displeasing information?”
“Well,” the mage continues, “yes and no.” She waves her hands about as she speaks, clearly choosing her words with much care. “He said that your…companion?…has been known around Dalaran to be very, uhm…” Her voice suddenly changes – a masculine tone hinted with age escaping her throat instead of her own. “Volatile.”
Koltira folds his arms over his chest. “Yes…that…” He also speaks slow, choosing his words with care. “She…has her moments. But we’re working on that. It’s best if she doesn’t drink, and I can calm her…unusual moods.”
Anarchaia hesitates, her mouth hanging open and words at the tip of her tongue, but she closes it and swallows. “He said some other things as well,” she continues in her own voice. Her eyes gaze cautiously into his face from behind her mask. Shadows cast by the single candle in the room flicker about. “I know I asked you earlier, but…are you absolutely sure we won’t have any problems with you two? Will she listen to you should something happen?”
Koltira crosses his arms over his wide chest and paces while he thinks. “You will have no problems with me, I can assure you that. But so long as I am around to keep her in check, then…hopefully we can avoid any incidents.” He smirks at the mage. “I’m sure you’re adept at incapacitating an individual, should the need arise?”
“That puts me at ease a bit, at least.” Anarchaia narrows her eyes at his smirk and shifts a hand to her hip. “You sound doubtful that I could.”
“Not doubtful,” he says. “Just making sure. I mean, what student of your talents wouldn’t know how to defend themselves?”
Anarchaia tilts her head at his tone. “You say that as though you know of me.” She strides across the room to settle in the single armchair. The leather groans beneath her. “But yes, I can. I’d prefer not to, however.”
Koltira leans against the wall, crossing his ankles. “No, I don’t know of you. But you are highly skilled and you pulled your punches against Alisbeth. You were barely trying. Just trying to scare her, I presume.”
“Oh, heh. You’re too kind.” Anarchaia waves a dismissive hand. She crosses a leg over the other. “But yeah,” she continues, clearing her throat, “thanks for being honest with me. I don’t think we should have any issues.” As long as I keep my face hidden, she thinks to herself nervously and fidgets with her thumbs.
“While we’re on the subject…should I have heard of you?” Koltira straightens but keeps his arms crossed casually.
“I don’t think so,” Anarchaia replies thoughtfully. “I’m not very famous. I haven’t left the Hall much, ever. I’ve never done anything of significance.” She shrugs. “I’m sure you’ve heard of my Master, though. He’s obviously heard of you.”
“And who is your master?” Koltira asks.
The mage gives a wide, endearing smile despite it being hidden. “Archmage Khadgar, of course.”
Koltira’s eyes go wide as he doesn’t even try to hide his astonishment. “The Guardian himself?” He whistles low. “How does one fall into such a man’s tutelage?”
Anarchaia waves another hand and chortles, embarrassed. “Well he’s not the Guardian…yet. And I guess you could say it cost me an arm and a leg. Heh.”
Koltira clears his throat. “Right, sorry. I’m still catching up on the news of the world… You had to pay to become his student? Never would have taken Khadgar for a miser.” He crosses the room slowly, then settles himself on the bed, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. “What is he training you for?”
“Oh, no! I didn’t pay. He asked me to study under him personally, actually.” Anarchaia stops at his question and blinks slowly. Her shoulders finally rise in a shrug. “You know, after twenty years I’ve never actually thought to ask.”
“Twenty years,” he muses. He shakes off the thoughts he has of her voice being too young for twenty years as an apprentice. “Maybe you should ask him. It is good to ask questions, you know.”
Anarchaia gives another shrug. “I’ve never held back from asking questions. I just never thought to ask that particular one.” Her smile broadens yet again and her voice lowers to a tone of dreamy contentment. “I guess I never cared.”
Koltira sighs and nods. “I suppose I should leave you to your thoughts, then.” He stands to leave.
Anarchaia blinks again, sobering. “O-Oh! Uhm…all right.” She lowers her voice after a moment. “I don’t recommend going back downstairs, however. Unless you want to vomit.” A sigh escapes her and she pouts. “I’m starting to wish I’d had a drink, too.”
“Well,” Koltira says, “if you still want a drink I will accompany you back to the tavern. Unless you have… other means of procuring a stiff drink?”
“Actually…” Anarchaia pauses, then holds out a hand, palm up. A large, dark bottle appears an inch or so above it and falls. The weight of it sinks into her hand. The girl brings a finger to her lips. “Don’t tell the barkeep back home.”
Koltira smirks at the mage. “Ana, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Anarchaia pushes her mask back up to give him a wide, crooked grin. “Well! Shouldn’t be a problem then, no?” The cork flies off the bottle suddenly, bouncing off the ceiling and onto the floor where it rolls beneath the bed. “Unfortunately I don’t know where he keeps the glasses so we’ll have to share the bottle.”
Koltira gives a short laugh. “Really, that’s the best way to do it! So, tell me more about being apprentice to Khadgar.”
Anarchaia hums thoughtfully and moves to the bed, the feathers inside poofing beneath her weight. She drinks. “It’s…tedious. He has high hopes for me so he pushes extra hard. He’s really too nice, though. Very intelligent.” She holds out the bottle for him. “You have a teacher? Do death knights have teachers?”
Koltira accepts the bottle with a grateful nod and thinks as he rolls the liquor through his mouth. “We don’t really have…teachers, per se. Mograine was always my superior and he always told me what to do. Thassarian and I trained together in Icecrown and still spar every so often. But really it’s all just… instinct, I suppose.” He holds the bottle out for Anarchaia and smiles kindly.
Anarchaia nods and stares up at Koltira at he speaks, genuinely interested. She accepts the bottle back and takes the smallest of sips. “I see. So you just somehow know all your spells and abilities? Do you use mana? Is your skin as cold as it looks?” Her eyes light up behind her mask as she eagerly awaits his answers and leans forward. She again offers the booze.
Koltira thinks on her questions. “It’s sort of fuzzy, really. I do know that I had to be taught how to control what I can do. But it was never one single teacher, rather whoever was available and had mastered it.” He sips from the bottle and smiles at her enthusiasm. “I use the runes on my blade,” he motions at his back, then remembers he’d left it with Bloodmist. “Ah, I can show you later. They’re a sort of magic and I draw on their power to aid me in battle.” He purses his lips at the final question. “I don’t feel cold to me.” He smirks slyly.
Anarchaia nods at each of his answers. A long piece of parchment and quill materialize at her side, floating in purple light. The quill scribbles furiously. “Mmhm. I see. Fascinating.” Her dark lips scrunch into a pout at his last response. “Well I wasn’t asking what it felt like to you.” She holds her hand out, implying she’d like a drink.
Koltira hands the bottle over and laughs. “Well, Alisbeth didn’t quite enjoy the first time after I’d died. She pulled a blanket between us and cringed more than enough to bruise my ego.” He laughs again at his memory. “Hot baths, though. That’s the secret.”
The mage nods again and the quill continues. She takes a long pull. “I’ll keep that in mind.” Rubbing at her mouth with the back of a glove, she clears her burning throat. “The portals you make. Are they like ours? A Warlock’s?” Her cheeks had already begun to flush as her body greedily soaks up anything that’s put into it. She pauses and steels herself. “Do…” She bites her lip and glances at the door. Her voice lowers. “Do you sometimes hear whispers?”
Koltira stands, visibly disturbed by Anarchaia’s questions. “The-the portals a-are…I don’t know. I’m sorry.” He paces the room. “I’m not the first death knight you’ve interviewed, I presume?”
Anarchaia laughs suddenly, nervously. She takes another long drink. “Y-Yeah. That’s…the reason.” She clears her throat again and scrambles to change the subject, not expecting his reaction. “I hear some of you can control the undead. Is that true?”
Koltira stops pacing and leans in close to her face. “Who told you about the whispers?” he hisses. “Did they also tell you about the shadows? What do you know of them?”
She swallows and leans away, frightened. Breathing heavily through her nose, she holds the bottle to her chest. In a moment of lost common sense, Anarchaia parts her lips. “Because I hear them, too,” she whispers.
Koltira straightens and takes a step back. “Can you…understand them?” he asks tentatively. “I’ve been seeing the shadows for years, ever since parting from the Lich King. But I don’t know what they’re saying or what they want.” He sighs and sits on the bed beside her. He whispers, “I’m afraid I was right about you.”
The mage downs another good amount and holds the bottle out, her fingers twitching. “I only make out words and phrases. A lot of it is in Orcish but too quiet. They say to obey. Return. Succumb.” She glances at the Blood Elf as he sits then looks away, seemingly ashamed. “Yeah…”
Koltira takes a long drink and hands it back. “Keep your mask on.” He presses his forehead into his hands. “This may have been a foolish idea. If you want us to leave, then I’ll take her home in the morning and we’ll be out of your hair.”
“It’s fine,” she says pointedly and sloshes the liquid around inside. The parchment floating at her side disappears in a puff of lavender smoke, followed by the quill. “Like I said, I can defend myself.” Anarchaia turns her head back slightly, giving Koltira a sideways glance. “Please…don’t tell Grim”
“He doesn’t know?” Koltira casts sympathetic eyes on the mage. “My lips are sealed, Ana. May I call you Ana?”
“No, he doesn’t.” Her jaw tightens. “Nor will he.” She turns her head completely towards the death knight and smiles, albeit painfully. “Only if I can call you Kolt.” She offers the rest of the alcohol, her grin widening only slightly.
Koltira chuckles as he takes the bottle. “Only one letter off from what Ali calls me, so I don’t see the harm.” He finishes off the little alcohol left and sets the container on the small table beside the bed. “Why do you keep secrets like this one from your friend?”
Her smile turns somber again and she presses a palm to her cheek, feeling the warmth. “I…” She swallows hard and bites her lip. “My face… If he saw it…” Her hand falls into her lap and she shakes her head. “If you saw it you’d understand.”
The tips of his ears grow warm with the alcohol and his demeanor shifts to one of great calm. He chews on the inside of his lip. “I’ll show you mine if you eventually show me yours. When you’re more comfortable, of course.”
Anarchaia furrows her brow and gives the man a once over, confused and suspicious. “Show me your…?”
He smiles slyly and removes the armor of his upper torso, then pulls his shirt over his head. On his sternum, between two glowing bright blue runic tattoos, is a jagged, ugly scar an inch wide and six inches long. “It went all the way through,” he says, turning around to show her the scar’s twin along his spine.
The girl physically recoils. “Oh Gods that’s terrible. What happened? Did it hurt? Was it quick?” She’s compelled to reach out and touch the marred flesh but knows her fingers will feel nothing. “You didn’t suffer, did you?”
“It was my closest friend, Thassarian. I remember that it hurt, but I don’t remember how it felt. I only remember Alisbeth’s face being the last thing I saw. The next thing I know I’m alive again. I found her sword, assumed the worst, and took it as my own. The Lich King gifted me the steed of a paladin to ride to the Sunwell on. She doesn’t know it was her horse, too.” He smiles. “Everything I hold most dear is directly connected to Ali. Now you know the secret I keep from her. I’m not sure she could handle Bloodmane having been resurrected alongside me.” He sits back on the bed and eyes Anarchaia. “You want to prod me like a specimen, don’t you?”
She listens intently, then glances down at her own outstretched hand when addressed. Startled by her own behavior, Anarchaia flushes and shoves the hand between her thighs. “S-Sorry! I’m a tactile person. I just…forget I don’t have fingers anymore. Heh.” A long silence passes during which she considers her options. Eventually she comes to a decision. “I suppose it’s only fair. I’ll never tell if you don’t.” Her hands creep to the hem of her mask.
“No fingers?” His eyebrows raise with interest. “You can hardly tell with those gloves. And it’s fine, Alisbeth prodded it, too.” He notices the tentative creep of her hands and sets his own on hers. “If you’re not comfortable, you don’t have to show me. We’ve only just met, after all.” He looks down at his bare chest and snorts. “Sort of.”
She flushes at the sudden contact, the image of how they must look right now flashing through her head. Again she hesitates, his words sparking second thoughts. She groans, feeling obligated after what he’d shared. “It’s okay. It’s just my face. For me to show you everything I’d have to get nearly nude. Heh.”
He laughs, his head light. “I’m already halfway there. But, no, it’s probably best for one of us to remain dressed.”
The mask’s fabric crumples up as it releases her head. Her snowy hair cascades into her pale face. Anarchaia avoids eye contact, her red pupils cast downward. Two rows of thick stitches stretch from her good, light blue eye. She hesitantly brushes her hair away to reveal the other eye—an empty socket lined with dry blood and old sinew; a dim red light glows within, mimicking the actions of the opposite pupil. “I was murdered by a group of bandits.”
Koltira says nothing for a long time, the air remains quiet and still as he doesn’t breathe. But his anger radiates from him. “The senseless killing of a beautiful maiden is never forgivable. Tell me you got your revenge, and if you haven’t, I’ve got a good sword and a dangerous wife.” He pauses, then brushes his hair back as though playing off that he hadn’t said what he did. “I meant dangerous friends. We would be honored to exact retribution on your behalf.” Without another thought he brushes his fingertips along her skin to tuck her hair behind her ear.
“Oh, y-you’re really too kind.” Anarchaia flinches as his fingers come towards her face, then blushes more at his touch. “Master Khadgar and his caravan took care of them.” Her white eyelashes flutter. She continues to stare down at her hands in her lap and smiles reassuringly. “That’s really noble of you, though. You have my thanks.”
Koltira lets out a sigh as she seems to have not noticed his slip. “That’s good of him. I see now why you never asked why he trains you. It’s not about the training, it’s about his company.”
The mage bites her lip. “He’s the only one—up until today—who hasn’t cringed or spat at the sight of me.” She fiddles with her mask, wringing it idly. “So I imagine you’re right.” Her smile widens. “He’s my best friend.”
He cocks an eyebrow. “Why would anyone do that? You’re beautiful!” His cheeks flush and he stares at his palms. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t…” Koltira stands and pulls his shirt back over his head then crosses his arms over his torso. He stands in front of her, but looks past her out the window at the moonlit night.
Anarchaia’s heart pounds behind her sternum and she buries her face in her crumpled mask. She mumbles something that’s lost in the fabric. The newly awkward air creeps into her muscles and makes her stiffen.
Koltira narrows his eyes in curiosity. “Come again?”
Anarchaia glances up at him, the fabric still covering her nose and mouth. “I said ‘stop being so charming’.”
He straightens and stares down at her. “I’m not trying to be, I’m sorry. I’m just telling the truth. I can stop. I can be an asshole like your friend down in the tavern.”
She closes her eyes as she chuckles, bringing the mask away from her face again. “Grim is definitely an asshole, but he’s a nice guy at heart.” She tilts her head and shoots a crooked smile. “But I somehow don’t trust that you have the capability of being a jerk.”
He bristles at the challenge. “Oh? You don’t think so? Well, you know, you’re—” He stops. “I can’t do this when I can see your face. Honestly now that I’ve seen it I don’t know that I can be an asshole to you. I could be an asshole to him, if you’d like. But not you. You’re too—” He catches himself and purses his lips.
Her brow furrows upward and she chortles again. “See? You have to literally stop yourself from being nice.” Her grin turns triumphant and she rests her chin on her knuckles. “Care to try again? At being an asshole, I mean.”
“Put your mask on and stop giving me googly-eyes,” he demands quickly.
Anarchaia blinks, taken aback. She laughs airily and does as she’s told. “Much better.” Her hair flutters up in an invisible vortex and she throws the mask over the top and down over her face in one swift motion.
“Right…asshole.” He shakes out his hands as though it will help in his performance. “Your perfume is strong enough to choke any living being.” He fights off his smirk. “Your robes fit you like a circus tent.” He bites his lips together, unable to take himself seriously. “You’re a s-seco…You’re a second rate m-mage,” he says, fighting back his laughter and losing at the end. “You’re right. I can’t be a genuine asshole to you. Grimory would be an easy target.”
She spreads a palm over her breast and feigns a sob. “How can you be so cruel?” she laments. Her laughter joins his and she pushes her mask against her good eye to soak up a tear. “Perhaps. I warn you, though, he looks like a brute but he’s fairly well-spoken.”
“Ah,” Koltira grunts. “If his wit is as sharp as his claws, then it’ll be a thrilling conversation. Otherwise I may die of boredom. May I escort you? Or shall we wait until morning so the poor mortal can sleep.” He gives a devilish grin.
She chuckles and stands. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world.” After adjusting her belt she motions toward the door dramatically. “Charming gentlemen first.”
Koltira opens the door, fighting with it again. “I swear this thing is rusted.” Once open he motions into the hall. “M’lady.”
Anarchaia curtseys with her robes and makes her way toward the staircase, opting to leave the door unlocked as not to cause trouble later. “It’s gotten pretty quiet down there.”
Koltira leads her to the tavern, but once inside realizes the only two inhabitants are the barkeep scrubbing down the counter and a scruffy Night Elf falling asleep in his mead. Koltira’s ears pull back in fear, his frantic eyes lock onto Anarchaia’s mask. “Does he have his own room?”
The mage also gives the tavern a quick scan. Concern creeps into her chest, making her itch. She looks up at Koltira and frowns, scared of where this is going. “Of course he does,” she admits. “We don’t share rooms.”
He rubs his palms down his face. “Would he kill a woman if she was going to kill him?”
Anarchaia taps her chin in thought. “Probably.”
Koltira’s chest tightens with panic. “We might be a party member short. Take me to his room.”
The concern amplifies and Anarchaia turns to bolt back up the staircase, even blinking over a few steps at a time. “It’s on the left here.” The handle doesn’t give, however and she fidgets. “I don’t have a key…”
Rage and panic bubble in Koltira’s chest, his limbs buzz with sudden adrenaline as he follows Anarchaia at a run. He tests the knob, but the door has been locked. He raises his foot and kicks it open. Then he stops, relief, anger, betrayal, and regret all slam into him as he looks at the blood-soaked bed.
Alisbeth lies sideways against Grimory’s motionless figure, her head on his stomach as she twirls a bloodied dagger in her fingers. She sits up and turns to meet Koltira’s gaze. Her own eyes widen as she begins to slowly bring the sheets up to cover her naked body. Alisbeth’s face contorts, betraying her shame at what she’s done as tears spring to her eyes.
“Kolty, This isn’t what it looks like.”
Anarchaia’s chest tightens at the crimson mess and she pushes past Koltira with urgency. “Grim!!” She rushes to his side, breathing ragged and erratic. Leaning over the bed to his bound and immobile figure, she shakes him. Amidst her trying to rouse him she glances at Alisbeth. Tears sting her eyes. “What did you do?!”