Anarchaia kicks off her boots. She pulls off her mask and lets the cool night air from the open window wash over her face. She slides to the floor from her bed and digs around in her knapsack for a bit before pulling out a small crystal. Red light ekes out from the gem and spirals about as it floats lazily in her palm. She clears her throat. “Master? Are you awake still?”
“Always these days,” a voice filters through into the room accompanied with a laugh. “Has something happened between when we spoke earlier and now?”
“N-No,” she lies. “I just wanted someone to talk to. Maybe some advice.”
“I assume this has to do with the new friends you’ve acquired.”
Anarchaia grimaces. “Yes and no.”
Anarchaia curls her knees into her chest and wraps her free arm around them. “I just feel a bit…alone. Lately.” A silence follows that leads her to think he may have cut communications.
“You’re always free to come back. You know that.”
She puts her chin between her knees. “Yeah. I do. But I said I’d do this for you. You’re so busy, now.”
“I am, yes, but there are others available for the position.”
“No. I always keep my word.” She smiles to someone who can’t see her. “I just wanted to hear your voice. Makes me less…anxious.”
“You’ve never been one to give up.” She can hear the smile in his voice and it makes her own widen. Another silence passes where her grin fades and she swallows again.
“I…miss the Hall. I miss my piano, my books.” Anarchaia sighs. “I-” She lets the words fall into nothingness before she can say them. Instead she says “I’ll recover. How are you?”
“Tired.” Khadgar laughs sadly. “There aren’t enough hours in the day. Even if I knew Chronomancy I don’t think it’d help me much. The Burning Legion has been busy.”
“The Pub Crawl is coming up in a couple weeks, yeah? Perhaps Gri-” She catches herself, her lips pursing. “Perhaps I can come back and we can spend the week together.”
“Sounds like a plan.” The sound of papers fluttering is heard. “Speaking of alcohol, Cranston in the tavern says he’s missing an entire bottle of brandy.”
“Well Cranston’s a liar. And a tattle-tale.”
Khadgar gives another sleepy chuckle. “Well, if you ever find out who took it, make sure you let them know they still need to pay for it.”
“I’m kidding. I’ll throw him some coin when I get back. With interest.”
“You said ‘yes and no’ to my question earlier. I’ve yet to hear the ‘yes’ part.” More papers shuffle.
“They’re nice. I guess.” She draws circles on the wooden floorboards with her index finger. “You were right about the one. She’s very unstable.”
“Hm. Just remember what I said. I know you’re more than capable of getting yourself out of a difficult situation, but I’d rather you be safe. What about Koltira?”
Anarchaia stops drawing and glances at the door. “He’s very kind. Too much so for his own good. Reminiscent of you, really. They may not join us for this assignment, though.”
“Why? What’s happened?”
“Nothing I…feel comfortable speaking about. I wasn’t involved, but it was very stressful regardless. I think they think I don’t want them around so they said they were leaving in the morning.”
“I’m sure you two will do fine on your own.” The thought of spending another few months alone with Grimory—especially feeling how she does about him at this particular moment—makes the corner of her mouth pull up. “Yeah.”
“I’ll leave you back to your studies. Sorry, Master.” Anarchaia pushes her forehead back into her knees.
“Needn’t be sorry. Always good to hear from you. Let me know what happens.”
“Always do. Get some sleep, please.”
“Only if you do.” The two share a laugh.
“You love him,” Alisbeth says from the open window of Anarchaia’s room. Her axe is gripped in one hand, dried blood along the blade and spikes. The death knight stays still as a statue, framed by the moonlight outside.
Anarchaia gasps loudly, fumbling with the crystal as it dims back to darkness. Her red pupils dilate as they transfix on the girl in her window. Eyes wide, she remains as still as the other. “A-Alisbeth,” the Forsaken whispers. Her throat becomes dry as parchment. “I-I don’t… Who?” She flounders, trying to make conversation in some pathetic hope of distracting the death knight from her exposed face.
Alisbeth’s gaze focuses on nothing as she sighs wistfully. “Both.” Her grip tightens on her axe handle. “It’s not smart to keep that hidden. You never know which night will be your last.”
The mage remains as motionless as possible. Noticing that Alisbeth is seemingly distracted, she brings her mask back over her head cautiously and pushes her feet under the bed at a snail’s pace. “You must be mistaken,” she says quietly. “But I agree with the notion all the same.”
Alisbeth drops her axe to the floor, a sigh gurgling through her throat. She flops onto the bed and stares out the window. “The moon is so beautiful. And your lies are so ugly.”
Anarchaia chews on her lower lip and tucks her hair back into her mask. “They’re not lies. Love is a very complex thing. Also very vague.” She subconsciously moves her feet further into the shadows beneath the bed.
She curls up, her head on the pillow and her knees tucked to her chest. “I love him, you know. I really do. You should know that.”
“I never claimed you didn’t.”
“You can always hear it…” Alisbeth says, her voice far away as she keeps her back to the mage, “…in the voice. The way they cry when they lose someone they love.” She pauses for a long time, taking a slow, deep breath. “Love is a complex thing. And yet you deny it in a romantic capacity when there are other forms of it.” She hums some nameless tune softly in the darkness.
Flustered by her prying words, Anarchaia leans back, supporting herself with locked elbows. “While you’re correct, I fail to see the relevancy. Why do you care? What does it matter?” she presses, impressed by how suddenly well-spoken the other girl is.
Alisbeth stays quiet for a long time. “I’m staying with you.”
The mage tilts her head curiously. “Like…right now? Here in this room?”
“Yes.” She moves only the smallest amount to remove her pauldrons and drops them to the floor, then grabs the blanket and rolls it around herself.
Anarchaia can’t help but smile some. “That’s fine. I don’t mind.” She looks away, flashbacks to earlier filling her head. “You…enjoy your time with Grim?”
She curls tighter into the blanket. “Koltira says we’re leaving.”
Anarchaia suddenly feels ashamed for asking, pity filling her heart when looking upon the huddled girl on her bed. “You don’t have to, you know.”
“But I always do what he says. He keeps me safe.” She sniffs. “I don’t want to go back to my room.”
She hesitates and rubs at her cheek. “He loves you a lot. I’m sure if you told him how you feel he’d be eager to take it into account—”
“I’m staying with you,” she says defiantly. Alisbeth cranes her head around to look at Anarchaia. Her lips spread in a smile. “When are we starting?”
Anarchaia returns the smile and chuckles. “Whenever Grim gets his lazy, drama-inducing ass up. Or sunrise. Whichever comes first.”
Alisbeth’s smile drops instantly as though it had never been there. “Sorry about Grim.”
The Forsaken girl snerks. “There’s no reason to apologize.”
Alisbeth releases the blanket and crawls across the bed to get closer to Anarchaia. “You’re lying again.”
She bristles and scrunches her face, frustrated. “I’m not. I was upset when I thought he was dead. You can lie with him all you want.”
“No I can’t.” She smirks. “Do you want to?”
Anarchaia scowls. “No.”
Alisbeth reaches out a hand to poke the mage’s nose. “Hmm? Not even a little?” Her smile goes wider and her eyes brighten.
Anarchaia allows the poking of her nose, still staring unenthused at the woman on the bed. “No,” she repeats.
Alisbeth’s smile dims. Then her eyes go wide. “Oh… OH!” She lifts the blanket to cover her nose and mouth as her smile widens to crinkle the corners of her eyes.
Anarchaia straightens and places her hands in her lap. “Oh oh?” she parrots, observing Alisbeth’s unpredictable behavior and taking note. A raven rawks outside with the symphony of crickets.
Alisbeth lowers the blanket to reveal her teeth biting into her bottom lip. “You don’t love them.” She inches closer, tilting her head coyly. “Special girl in your life?”
The mage blinks and leans away, not expecting the conversation to take such a turn. “No. I don’t have anyone special in my life.” She entangles her fingers beneath her knees and avoids eye contact. “I mean, I’ve had a couple boyfriends, but no one now.” Her eyes narrow. “Why are you so interested?”
Alisbeth cocoons herself in the blanket again. “Oh, boyfriends. So that means you are attracted to fire-eyes and not, oh, Tyrande?” She flicks her eyebrows emphatically.
“He’s attractive in a physical sense, yes.” She again can’t help but smile at the girl’s behavior and brings a hand to her mouth. “Whisperwind? I suppose she’s very pretty. Tall, slim. I like that.” Anarchaia chuckles.
“But you also like Blood Elves.” She lowers her chin to the bed and smiles wider like she’s never had so much fun before. “Is that why you hide your face? So no one knows you’re traveling with enemies?”
She furrows her brow but continues to smile. “You’re exactly right. You’re very observant, you know. That must be what Koltira likes about you.”
Alisbeth wrinkles her nose. “I don’t know why he likes me. The first time I met him I hit him. Just a stun. Knocked him for a loop. I wanted to hit him with something that really hurt, but Tirion wouldn’t have liked that.” She rolls onto her back, turning her head up to keep her eyes on Anarchaia. “I don’t think he likes me anymore. Just…keeps me like a pet.”
Her smile fades when the death knight closes her story. “I don’t think that,” she responds gently, lifting a knee to place an elbow on it. “I think he loves you very much. He was terrified about you being hurt. He lets you do as you please.”
She rolls over, tangling herself further into the blanket. Her eyes search the room with wild anticipation, then she sets her finger to her lips. “He won’t touch me. Sometimes I can’t stop myself.” Her entire face crumples as she begins to cry. “And the more I do it the more he hates me. And I’m supposed to okay it with him so he can make sure nothing happens because of the Troll.” She shoves her face into the bed and continues her rant, but it is too muffled to understand.
The sound of sudden sobbing sends a jolt through Anarchaia and she lurches forward, unable to keep herself from setting a comforting hand on the girl’s head. “I-It’s okay! That doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you!” Anarchaia pets her hair gently. “Maybe he feels like you’ll reject him? Perhaps death has lessened his sexual appetite? It’s not uncommon, you know.” She bites her lip and inhales as her cheeks fill with heat. “Have you asked him to…you know.” She motions to her mouth with a finger and sticks out her tongue beneath her mask.
Alisbeth peeks one eye out, eyebrow cocked. She mumbles something into the gathered blankets then suddenly pops her head up, her face set in excitement, the only hint at her meltdown being a few clumped eyelashes and some moisture still under one eye. “Is that how you like it?” Her eyes go wide. “I should’ve had Grim do that with those teeth… Or you could and then tell me what it’s like.” She slips Anarchaia a sly smile.
Anarchaia retracts her hand and narrows her eyes again. “Yeah I’ll pass on that.” Her blush betrays her words and she clears her throat, uncomfortable. “You ask a lot of personal questions.”
Alisbeth sits up straight, indignation squaring her shoulders. “I’ve told you personal stuff. I told you lots of stuff. I thought that’s what friends do…they share…stuff. I’ve never really had— That’s a personal stuff. Nope. I’m done telling you personals.” She plops onto her rear, sitting cross-legged with her arms folded. She turns her head away from the mage and sticks her nose in the air. “Done.”
Anarchaia hesitates and purses her lips, the same guilt from her conversation with Koltira seeping into her. “Ugh, all right.” She fiddles with her thumbs nervously. “Grim and I have done things,” she admits after a long moment, turning her head away. “A few times, actually.”
Alisbeth glances at her from the corner of her eye. She inches forward, but doesn’t turn her head. “Go on.”
Anarchaia’s flush deepens and she puts a hand on her cheek. “We were drunk,” she continues, “almost every time. Not sure if that means anything. There was really no romance. Just passion.” Her face softens and she sighs, her hand falling back into her lap. “He’s a good lover, if I had to give him any sort of accolade.”
Alisbeth shrugs and turns to face Anarchaia. “He’s adventurous. Wasn’t too crazy about having his horns tied up. Nothing a little dagger couldn’t persuade him into. Completely fine with his hands being bound.” She smiles. “You should remember that next time. Write it down or something.”
She sneers beneath her mask and gives a tentative groan. “I don’t think I’ll be needing that information anytime soon. He’s made it pretty clear it didn’t mean anything.” A black feather flutters in from the night and settles on the window sill. “Besides,” the mage glances out the open window and pushes her cheek into her knuckles, a playful grin across her lips. “A raven is far more romantic, don’t you think?”
Alisbeth wiggles backward out of the blanket roll and goes to the window. She picks up the feather, then leans out to look for said raven. When she sees nothing she crawls back on the bed, then drops to her stomach, the mattress groaning beneath her. She holds the feather in front of Anarchaia’s mask and smiles. “Woulda got you the whole thing but it’s gone.”
The mage laughs and reaches for the feather. “How thoughtful,” she hums, rolling the shaft of it between her fingers. “They’re quite timid creatures, I’m not surprised it was.” Anarchaia thinks for a long moment as she admires the plumage in the moonlight. “What are you going to tell Koltira in the morning?”
Alisbeth’s ears droop as she looks away from Anarchaia. She says nothing for a long time. Then shrugs. “If I hide long enough he might think I’ve gone deeper into the wilderness. Probably head for the nearest Forsaken camp, thinking I’d have gone there.” She sneers in disgust. “But if he never finds me…then I don’t have to tell him anything, now, do I?”
Anarchaia tilts her head to rest her cheek against her shoulder, choosing not to react to the part about the camps. “You always seem to choose the most strenuous options with a high risk of either failure or negative outcomes. If you really don’t think he’ll listen to you, I can have a word with him in your stead.”
“He thinks I’ve lost my mind,” she says. “Because Thassarian must have told him. The others think I’m crazy. They kept me locked up. I didn’t know how long… There wasn’t a knob on my side of the door. But I counted the locks. Ten. Ten locks on the outside. And it’s dark and cold. Edwards, the janitor…brings me candles. He searches the trash for candy canes no one wanted.” She flinches and looks around the room. “I should have been more careful. If I hadn’t been caught, they wouldn’t have locked me up.” She smiles and bounces excitedly. “What’s your room like?”
Anarchaia’s face softens and she frowns. “That sounds terrible. I’m sorry that happened to you. And I suppose the old saying does go, ‘it’s not against the rules of you don’t get caught’.” She chuckles. “My room only has one lock on it. On the inside. Lots of books, trinkets, a piano…” She closes her eyes. “Definitely not a prison.”
Alisbeth laughs. “That’s a good saying. But it was the smell, you see? I couldn’t stop them from opening my trunk. I tried, but there were more of them.” She sets her elbow on her thigh and presses her fist into her cheek. “That really sounds wonderful. Where is the Hall? Do you like books? What are they about? All I have in my room is a cot, a big leather chair—like that one!—and a small table with a vase on it. I stopped putting flowers in the vase because it kept breaking and they kept dying.” She bounces back into her smile. “You play the piano?”
Again she ignores the heinous information presented, not wanting to know the details. “In Dalaran. It’s the tall, tall purple building.” She leans forward. “I love books more than anything. I have hundreds so it’s hard to say what they’re about. Memoirs, encyclopedias, novels.” Another chuckle escapes her. “I could enchant that vase of yours so that it never breaks. And I do play, yes. Do you?”
She shakes her head. “I was never musically inclined. My mother was.” She stares at the bed and smiles wide. Then it disappears, her face cast in sober reflection as she goes quiet.
“Tell me about her.” She presses the feather to her nose, watching the girl with great interest from behind her mask.
Alisbeth lays down and curls into a ball, arms wrapped around herself like a hug. The armor still on her crackles and scrapes against the other pieces. She waits a moment to reply, then says, “No.”
Anarchaia lifts her eyebrows but decides not press the issue for the sake of politeness. She glances out the window at the now fading stars. “Do you have any siblings?” Her finger returns to tracing symbols in the wood.
“No.” Alisbeth sits upright and stares down at the mage. “I’m sorry. I should let you sleep. Unless you’re a nocturnal Kaldorei?” She thinks, then waves the thought away. “Sleep. Please.” She scoots back, kneeling on the edge of the bed as she straightens out the blanket and smooths it over the mattress, then smiles at Anarchaia and pats the space.
Again the mage’s throat dries and she clears it into a fist. She pushes her feet further under the bed once more. “I don’t sleep much. It’s…part of being a mage.” She shrugs and breathes a nervous laugh. “I really appreciate your concern, though. I’ll be okay.”
Alisbeth frowns at the bed she’d taken the effort to make. “Are you sure?”
A knock comes from the door to the room. Alisbeth stiffens and stares at it with wide eyes. She crawls backward off the bed to kneel on the floor and peek over the top of the mattress, the whole time making as little noise as possible.
Taking the opportunity, Anarchaia swiftly pulls her boots back over her bare toes. “One moment!” She motions for Alisbeth to sink lower behind the bed and steps to the door. With much effort she eventually forces the lock free and pulls the door open.
Alisbeth sinks down, watching Anarchaia’s feet from under the bed.
Koltira gives an almost audible sigh of relief. “I’m sorry to disturb you, but, I can’t find Alisbeth. I’ve searched the surrounding area and a few camps to the north and east.” He stares at the floor, squaring his jaw with contained anger. “Have you seen her?”
She hesitates, not having expected to have her loyalties tested. Her eyes scan his face knowing that he cannot see her stare. The muscles in the back of her neck tense. “I haven’t, no.” She continues to twirl the feather between her fingers as though uninterested, thinking that will make her appear honest and innocent. “But if I happen to see her you’ll be the first to know.”
Koltira leans in close to whisper. “Don’t get left alone with her, whatever you do. Your life could be in danger.” He glances down the hall. “I’m sorry. This whole thing was a bad idea. She’s not ready for—”
“I’m going on the adventure!” Alisbeth screams, hurling one of her pauldrons at him. “A-Anni-fanny,” she stumbles, trying to remember the mage’s name, “is taking me and you’re not stopping me!”
The tendons in Anarchaia’s back tighten more when Alisbeth blows her cover. She flinches when the pauldron instead collides with her own shoulder blade and clatters to the floor. A long silence passes before she brings herself to look back into Koltira’s face. A wide grin passes over her lips. “Found her. Heh.”
“Do you have a death wish?” Koltira hisses, shoving past Anarchaia.
“I-” She bites her lip as she’s pushed past.
He picks up the thrown pauldron and strides over to Alisbeth. He takes her by the arm and pulls her to her feet. “We’re going. Come on.”
Alisbeth wriggles in his grip before kicking him in the stomach. His grip lessens enough for her to get away. She leaps over the bed and hides behind Anarchaia. “She’s taking me to Stormy-Helm and we’re going to…do things and stuff!”
Anarchaia makes to retort but the death knight is already using her as a shield. Turmoil rages through her mind. Side with the controlling-yet-level-headed Koltira, or volatile, unpredictable Alisbeth? Finally, she squares her shoulders and straightens. “We can reason through this. There’s no need for grabbing and kicking.”
Koltira holds up his hand like soothing a wild animal. “Alisbeth, I think she’s right. Would you like to come sit with me while Anarchaia helps us out?” He motions at the bed.
She peeks over the mage’s shoulder from her slight crouch used to fit behind the short girl. “I can talk just fine from here. Albi is just fine with it, right?” She smooths a palm over the side of Anarchaia’s mask.
Anarchaia hides her discomfort as best she can. “Y-Yes, Ali.”
Alisbeth points at Koltira, stopping him as he begins to speak. “Listen, Kolty, I don’t want to go home. I want to go on an adventure. I like Grimey and I like Abadnana and I want us to all be friends.” She straightens, daring to be bold. “Atrium was just telling me that I need to tell you that…you need to lick me.” She shifts her eyes sideways, still unsure what she just demanded but it’s too late to go back. Her eyes widen as she remembers the context of said licking.
Anarchaia nearly chokes on her own air when Alisbeth repeats what they’d been talking about, a hand flying to her mouth.
Koltira narrows his eyes, listening to everything and breathing in to respond, but she keeps going. At the end he’s at a complete loss for words as he stares at her. “You mean Anarchaia?”
“An archaic what?”
Koltira blinks at her. “We’ll pick this up later.” He turns to Anarchaia. “A little help, here?”
The Forsaken girl smiles and lifts her hands in a helpless shrug. “I don’t really mind, if I’m being honest. It’s harmless. She could call me Briarthorn for all I care.” She scoffs. “That’s certainly easier to remember.”
Koltira gapes at her. “Not with your name! Help me get her to come home!” He stares between the two, somehow feeling outnumbered, even though one is very likely to kill the other without a second thought.
Alisbeth shakes her head. “Nope. Nothing you can say will bring me back to the dark room. I’m helping Albus and Gallifrey. We’re friends now. You can either friend with us or go away and find your own friends.” She sticks her tongue out in emphasis.
“Anarchaia and Grimory!” he shouts in frustration.
The mage holds out both hands in a defensive manner between the two. The shouting, she’s decided, is the final straw. “That’s enough!” She points a gloved finger at Alisbeth, poking her in her outstretched tongue. “That is rude, unnecessary, and does nothing to help your cause here. And you—” she turns on Koltira “—you need to let her make decisions for herself. I understand that she’s…eccentric, but she’s still got feelings.” Her brow furrows and she glances between the two. “You both want the other to be happy…don’t you?”
Alisbeth frowns and her eyes shine. “I do have feelings,” she says meekly.
“So do the Forsaken,” Koltira counters. Alisbeth sneers. “But you don’t care about that, do you?” He scratches his ear and growls. “I tell you what, I’ll make you a deal. We go on this excursion and you have to promise not to kill any Forsaken.”
“Can I still spit on them?”
“I’d rather you didn’t.”
“Can’t stop me.” She grips Anarchaia by the shoulders. “You can help! You just spit as you ride by and they can’t do anything about it! The best is getting a running gallop, and you take your axe in both hands and—”
The cords in Anarchaia’s neck protrude as she does her best to remain still. Her eyes narrow and she scowls despite herself. “The less predicaments, the better,” she mumbles, allowing herself to be grabbed. “Hard to spit with a mask on.”
Koltira leans against the wall to think. After a while he looks at the two. “We’ll stay.”
Alisbeth jumps up and down, clapping. “Best behavior, I swear. Mostly. I’ll try…”
Anarchaia sighs and rubs at her face again with her palms, the feather still tucked between her third and pinky fingers, then throws them down to clasp her fingers in a ball against her chest. “Good! So it’s settled?” she chirps with a smile. “No more squabbling, then?”
Koltira raises an eyebrow at her as an implied question of if she really thinks that’ll be the only time.
Alisbeth runs to the window and pokes her head out to smile at the grey sunrise. “When are we leaving? Are we leaving now? Can I wake up Gringo?”
The mage sets the feather upon the end table beside the armchair. “Sure, go ahead.” She throws herself into said chair and pushes a palm into her forehead, sinking down so that her head rests near the center of the backrest. “So much for resting, I suppose.”
“You sleep!” Alisbeth insists. “I’ll go wake up Gravy and keep him occupied so you can sleep.” She runs from the room.
“Keep him occupied how?” Koltira asks. His eyes widen. “Uh, yeah, rest.” He points at Anarchaia, then runs from the room in pursuit of Alisbeth.
Anarchaia watches, unenthused, as the two flee the room and pulls her robes out from under her back. “I swear to Gods,” she mutters, threading her arms into the sleeves.