Chapter Eight

Koltira shifts in the awkward silence until deciding to speak. “I feel there is something…wrong? Do you have anything you need to say to me?”

Anarchaia tilts her head to look at him and lowers a brow. She turns to lie on her side and props her head up with a fist. The parchment again follows. “You kept her in a room?”

Koltira clenches his jaw. “No, I didn’t.”

Anarchaia lifts her free hand up in a defensive manner. “I wasn’t implying anything. It was just an assumption…that happens to be wrong.” She rolls back onto her back and laces her fingers over her diaphragm. “But it’s ultimately none of my business. I apologize.”

Koltira drops to sit by the roadside. “The all-knowing Khadgar didn’t tell you where I was, did he?”

Anarchaia purses her lips at what may have been a pass at her teacher but otherwise shows no signs of annoyance. “Undercity.”

“Then maybe you also know why they locked her up?” Koltira asks. He doesn’t wait for a reply. “Okay, yes, it’s my fault. The last time I saw her she was alive. When they came to rescue me and I saw her…”

Anarchaia again puts her hands up. “Like I said, I wasn’t making any accusations. Not sure how long ago this was but she seems really upset about it now. I…felt badly for her.” Her fingers again rest on her abdomen. “I’m sure you don’t want her in there, either.”

Koltira sighs. “I’ve only been out for a few months. I was gone for four years. I don’t want her in there, but compared to the alternative?” He shakes his head. “I’m glad Thassarian thought of such a compromise.” He runs his fingers through his long white hair and looks around, before his gaze settles back on Anarchaia. “What are you writing this time?”

Anarchaia frowns beneath her mask and decides to ignore his final inquiry. She hesitates and the quill stops. “I’m sorry you had to go through that. It must have been awful.” She swallows. “I’m surprised you…don’t hate us, too.” She knew she had no ties to any Forsaken in any other part of the world but the logic was still there.

Koltira says nothing as he pushes a pebble around with his fingertip. “You aren’t the ones that kept me prisoner.” He stands and collects Alisbeth’s armor, dusting it off and setting it in a saddle bag. “This topic is dreary. No need to keep on it.”

Anarchaia fidgets with her thumbs at the quill continues scribbling. She runs her tongue over her lips, frantically searching for a new subject. “I’m sorry if I came off as rude or upset last night.” The quill and parchment melt into nonexistence in swirls of purple smoke. “I’m not used to so much…action. It was overwhelming. I wasn’t angry.”

Koltira chuckles. “I think I remember warning you that Alisbeth can get excitable. Never a dull moment. I think the calmest I’ve ever seen her for the longest amount of time was last week when I caught her on the second-floor balcony…spitting on Grimwing’s head.” He laughs a little harder. “I know it’s probably awful to you, but, for her it was just the most simple, fun thing to do. I should’ve stopped her, but, eh, she has a beautiful smile.”

Anarchaia grins at the sound of Koltira’s laugh and sits back up. “You love her a lot. It’s really nice to see.” Her face softens and she glances down at a flower near her fingers. “You’re both very lucky.”

Koltira cringes. “I wouldn’t say lucky, but you’re right that I love her. To the moons and back. No matter how much her behavior can hurt.”

Every moment that someone had ever flinched at her appearance—every sneer, giggle, gasp, rejection—races through Anarchaia’s mind in a fraction of a moment. “I’d say you’re pretty lucky,” she responds, running a finger over the petals of the small flower.

“Nah,” he growls. “This subject is as bad as the last…for you.”

“Only I don’t mind being sad every now and again,” the mage says, giving Koltira a sideways glance.

He watches her play with the flower. “You like flowers?”

She looks at the flower and flips the little yellow petals upward, then watches them settle back into place. “I do. Most women do.”

“Alisbeth likes Mageroyals. I’ve been too busy to get her any. Soon, though, after all this is done. What’s your favorite?” Koltira checks to see if the other two are returning, then sits back on the ground.

“Roses,” Anarchaia responds with a snort. “Cliché, I know.” She turns to him and stands, again brushing off her backside. She trots to his side and leans over him with a grin. “No need to wait, you know,” she hums, her ams behind her back.

Koltira stares up at the mage grinning over him. “Wait? For what?”

Anarchaia brings her hands around to the front of her and makes a show of exposing the insides of the sleeves of her robes. She gives a wiggle of her fingers and reaches up one of them, then, with a dramatic Ha!, pulls out a fully prepared bouquet of Mageroyal, the pink petals fluttering about with the momentum. “Eh?” She offers the bundle, parchment, twine, and all.

Koltira laughs and takes the offered bouquet of herbs. “Thank you, I’ll be sure to let Ali know your part in this. Earn you some safety points.” He gives her a subtle wink.

Anarchaia waves a hand and settles across from him, making sure she can see the horse and that it’s at a safe distance. “No need to do that. Just tell her you gathered them while they were gone.” The thought of what the other two may be doing crosses her mind and she sobers. She runs her fingers through the grass. “At this rate we won’t make it to the bluff.”

Koltira shakes his head. “I can try, but she knows when I’m lying to her. She says I grin like an idiot.” He checks the sun in the sky. “If we keep walking, you’re right. But Bloodmist very fast and you’ve got that blink thing you do. Your friend can… Whatever. He’s on his own.” He waves his hand dismissively.

She casts a nervous glance at the mention of the horse again. “I’d run out of mana eventually, but I could probably do it. Heh.” Anarchaia turns her attention back to the woods and fidgets with her thumbs once more. “He flies.”

Koltira begins to notice the pattern of pausing and staring. He cocks an eyebrow at Anarchaia. “Is Bloodmist bothering you? I know deathchargers can be off-putting, but she’ll grow on you.” He gives her a kind smile.

Anarchaia shakes her head. “I’m sure she’s a lovely horse. I’m just…not a fan.” She makes to say more but is distracted by the rustling in the woods. “About time,” she mumbles.

Alisbeth stops to stand over Anarchaia and Koltira, water dripping from her as she holds her clothes to cover as much of her front as possible, as though somehow she’s gained a sense of modesty. “These are dirty,” she states.

Koltira glances up at her, an eyebrow cocked at her new attitude. He jumps up to get her a change of clothes. “Everything okay?”

Alisbeth ducks into a bush to put on her new clothes, then drops the dirty ones on the road to be abandoned. She turns to give Anarchaia a blank stare. “Your friend is weird.” She then spins on her heel and climbs onto Bloodmist to wait.

Grimory returns moments after, dry hair neatly styled. “Your turn, Ana,” he calls, fingers laced behind his skull.

Anarchaia gathers the clothes on the ground. “I can wash these, you know. I clean our laundry every night.” She folds them up and stuffs them in her bag, the thought of wasting them bothering her. Alisbeth shrugs indifferently. “And I’ll bathe at night.” When you’ve gone to sleep. Like I always do. She casts a glance at Alisbeth and her words then turns back to the path before them. “Let’s continue then.”

Koltira leans in close, a hand on Alisbeth’s knee. “Ali…” He decides to just hold up the bouquet.

Alisbeth glances down at him with only her eyes. Then does a double take. She throws herself from the horse and onto Koltira, knocking him to the ground as she wraps her arms around him and squeals excited words into his neck that not even he can understand.

“I’m glad you like them,” he laughs. He casts a thankful smile to Anarchaia.

Grimory scoffs at the sight and continues along the path, leaving the rest behind.

Anarchaia gives an endearing grin in return then lifts a thumb when she remembers he can’t see. She glances at Grimory down the road and jogs after him. “Grim, wait for the rest of us!”

“Come on, let’s go,” Koltira says.

Alisbeth jumps up and runs barefoot down the path to catch up with Anarchaia. “Lookit what Kolty gave me!” She presses the bundle into her own face to smell it, then holds it out for the mage to smell. The mage pretends to give the bouquet a sniff and nods. Alisbeth turns her head to grin at Koltira, then leans in to whisper at Anarchaia. “We’ll just let him think that I think that he got these on his own, okay?” She plucks a flower from the bouquet and holds it out for the other girl to take. “Thank you.”

Taken by surprise at the girl’s deductive abilities, Anarchaia gives a grin of defeat. She takes the flower and tucks it in her belt. “You’re welcome.”

Alisbeth wraps a quick squeeze around Anarchaia’s shoulders. “They all think I’m crazy, but could I have figured that out if I was?” She taps on her own temple. “My mind is sharp as ever.” She straightens and pulls another flower from the bouquet, shoving the bundle in Anarchaia’s grasp. “Hold this.” With a running leap, she jumps on Grimory’s back, wraps her arms around his shoulders, and holds on for dear life.

Crazy people don’t often know they’re crazy, Anarchaia thinks to herself, smiling in Alisbeth’s wake.

Grimory grunts at the sudden weight on his back. “The hell are you doing?” he growls, arms flailing to reach her. “Ana, help!”

“Hm? Sorry. I’m suddenly stricken with deafness.”

Koltira bites into his cheek, trying not to laugh at the flailing demon hunter.

Alisbeth slips the mageroyal into Grimory’s hair, tucking it behind his ear. “What were you saying about exceptions?”

Grimory stops resisting when it gets him nowhere, instead placing his large palms over her arm to hold Alisbeth steady, allowing the flower in his hair. “Nothing,” he grumbles low enough for only them to hear..

Alisbeth plants her shins at his waist and boosts up closer to his face. “Didn’t sound like nothing.” She pokes the corner of his lips to get him to open his mouth. “So, I had an interesting conversation last night. You got a thing for night elves, right? Is that what it is?”

Grimory stops walking and shrugs Alisbeth from his shoulders. He kneels and threads his arms through her thighs, pulling her up to sit across them instead, stands, and continues. “No, actually. I’m not into Night Elves. Too tall.”

Alisbeth squeals as he lifts her, gripping his horns to keep steady. “But, the short one said you fucked her. I think. She said you did stuff.” She leans her forearm casually over the top of his head and glances around at the scenery. After a moment she twists at the waste to wave excitedly at Koltira.

Koltira returns her smile, though less enthusiastic. When she spins back around his face falls into a glare. He picks up his pace to stand nearer to Anarchaia. “If you say I don’t need to worry about that, then I won’t. But if you say it’s a reason to hit him…”

Anarchaia turns to respond to Koltira, then skitters away a few paces at the sight of the horse. She gives a bit of a laugh, doing her best to act cool. “As far as I’m concerned, you don’t need a reason,” she replies, keeping her voice down despite the distance.

The demon hunter furrows his brow in confusion. “I have no clue who you’re talking about. I’ve never fucked a Night Elf in my life.”

Alisbeth hunches over his head to look upside-down into his eyes. “Adele? Your mage friend? … Wait, you don’t know she’s Kaldorei?”

Koltira clicks his tongue and motions across the road. Bloodmist saunters to the other side and Koltira moves closer to the mage again. “I don’t need a reason to hit him, either. But I need to know if he’s giving me one right now. She and I have an agreement, a fucked up one, I’m sure you’ve decided, but it works for her. I know right now she is being friendly, but is he…” He stops talking to seethe at how jealous he’s sounding. “I’m sorry.”

Anarchaia once again holds up her hands when he implies her feelings on the matter. “No, no, I’m not judging. I think anyone should be able to do what makes them happy. Heh.” She rubs idly at her arm. “There’s no need to be sorry. If it were me I’d be fairly jealous, too.” She shrugs. “But what do I know, right? Heh.”

Grimory pauses to think. “She is? I guess I’d never figured.” He shrugs. “Then yeah, I suppose. Short ones, anyway.” He narrows an eye suspiciously. “What did she tell you?”

Alisbeth spreads her fingers through his hair, letting the soft tufts tickle her skin. “She said you did stuff when you were drunk. You were also drunk last night. Do you only fuck when you’re drunk? Cause that’d be a shame. How much do you remember? Oh, oh! I also told her that you should use your teeth more.” She pinches his hair into clumps, trying to fix his style.

Grimory flushes. “She told you all that, huh?” He bites at the inside of his lip. “No, I don’t. The alcohol just makes it more fun. And I doubt I’ll be having any opportunities to ‘use my teeth’. She’s been pretty cold as of late.”

Koltira grumbles as he still has no idea what sort of man Grimory. “Ali!” She spins around to smile at him. “You got a good view from up there?”

“I do!” she calls back. “I don’t see anything, though. I was busy talking to our new friend!” Koltira nods absently and Alisbeth returns her attention to the blond hair in her fingers.

He turns his head slightly to listen to Koltira, then smirks. “You sure he’s okay with this?”

Alisbeth’s mouth migrates to one side as she thinks. “I don’t know. I don’t have any friends. I’m sure he’d like for me to have friends. Unless we’re not friends.” She hunches to stare in his eyes again. “Are we friends?”

He looks up at her with bright green eyes and grins. “Do you want to be?”

She gives him a scrunched-up grin. “I like having friends.” When she sits up she looks down at the hair she’d been fixing and glares at it, then starts fixing it all over again.

“Then we’re friends,” he responds, closing his eyes and grinning in satisfaction. “Should earn me less punches to the face, now, right?”

Alisbeth smirks and balls up a fist to punch him lightly in the cheek. “I can’t make promises on what you earn or don’t.” She runs her palms over the tops of his horns and smiles with satisfaction. “I like having friends.”

Anarchaia averts her gaze from the two and stretches. Her bones pop and she glances at the sun to gauge the time. Only a bit farther.

“Am I going to have to put you back together?” Koltira jokes on the lightest of whispers.

Grimory chuckles as he’s “punched” and pretends to recoil with the blow. “I suppose that’s fair.”

Anarchaia blinks before giving a laugh. “Maybe carry me to the bluffs, first.” She gives another glance ahead and, still smiling, mumbles “then throw me off them.”

“You aren’t ruining my hair up there, are you?”

Alisbeth bites her lips close and stares at the mess she’s trying to fix. “No, no, your hair looks great!”

“Why don’t I believe you?”

Alisbeth frantically does her best to fix what she’s done, realizing she has no idea how it had looked in the first place.

Koltira cocks his eyebrow at her, his gaze sliding to follow the raising of her head. “Ohhh…”

Anarchaia gives the death knight a sideways glance, pursing her lips beneath her mask. She hadn’t expected him to hear. “Ohhh?”

Koltira chuckles. “Yes, ‘Oh.’“ He shakes his head. “You seem like you have an appreciation of Ali’s mount. Why don’t you ask her for a turn?”

Anarchaia narrows her eyes at Koltira, her lips thinning more. “I’d rather ride your horse,” she spits bitterly.

Koltira shakes his head. “No you wouldn’t. You’ll actually stand near Grimory. Bloodmist…not so much.” He reaches down and wraps an arm around her waist to pick her up. “I can help get you up there, if you want.”

Anarchaia gasps quietly and pushes her hands against the man’s arm. “Th-That won’t be necessary!”

Grimory turns to glance at the commotion behind him then turns back around, an unamused glare in his eyes. “Just put it back the way you found it, yeah?” he calls up to Alisbeth.

“Are you sure?” Koltira asks. “You weigh almost nothing. Just go up, drag Ali down and pop you right up.” He gives her a charming grin. “Piece of cake.”

Alisbeth frowns. “I am. I totally am. I got this.” She bites her lower lip and concentrates like her life depends on fixing his hair.

Anarchaia stares down at him, scared of what he’s planning on doing. “I-I’m fine, truly. You can put me down.”

Koltira contemplates being an asshole and doing it anyway, a devious smirk crossing his lips—if for no other purpose than to get Alisbeth down from the other man’s shoulders. He looks up at Anarchaia, unable to see how she really feels about it due to her mask. But then he remembers the pretty girl so terrified of showing the world her face. He sighs and lowers her back down to the ground. “Only because you insist.”

Anarchaia takes a moment to place a hand over her pounding heart. “Thank you,” she breathes, suddenly feeling guilty for being a wet cloth.

Koltira shrugs. “I guess I just can’t be an asshole.”

She gives him a grin as if sorry for making a fuss. “I guess that makes two of us.”

“Seriously,” Grimory grumbles again, “what are you doing up there? If I find any braids…”

Alisbeth stops to think. “You know, I don’t think you have enough hair to braid. And if you didn’t want me up here then why am I up here?”

“Never said I didn’t want you up here.”

“Hey, uh, Gringott? I have a confession.” Alisbeth sneers down at the top of his head. “I may have ruined your ‘do. And I kind of can’t fix it.”

An irrational panic sets inside of him and Grimory tilts his head back to look at her. “You’re joking, right? Please say that you’re joking.”

Alisbeth smiles innocently. “It’s just hair, right?”

“All right, time to get down.” Grimory stops and kneels for her to get off. “You’ve lost hair touching privileges.”

“But I can fix it!” She wraps herself around his head and holds on.

“You had a chance to fix it!” He grabs her arms and tries too pry them from his eyes so he can see. “No more.”

Anarchaia snerks as she passes the two, not bothering to stop and assist.

“And how are you going to fix it? Huh? Do you have a mirror in your back pocket?”

Koltira bites his lips together to keep from laughing as he follows Anarchaia.

Alisbeth releases Grimory’s head and stumbles over him to catch the others. “Oh! My flowers!” She takes the bouquet and presses a kind shoulder snuggle into Anarchaia. She gives Koltira a passing kiss on the cheek, then hops onto Bloodmist, sitting cross-legged in the saddle to hunch over the flowers.

Grimory messes his hair with his hands and lags behind, grumbling incoherently.

Anarchaia turns around and addresses Grimory as she walks backwards. “Here,” she says, a large orb of water materializing in her hand.

“No, I can—” He flinches as he’s drenched, his hair falling down into his face. He scowls. “Thanks.”

Alisbeth and Koltira turn to watch the demon hunter get drenched. Koltira turns around with a satisfied smile. Alisbeth laughs outright and pauses in her unknown project with the flowers.

Grimory summons flames to engulf his hands and uses the heat to dry and style his hair one more.

“Do it again!” She shouts.

“Gladly.”

His eyes widen at the sight of another ball of water. “No, wait—!” He curses loudly when it collides with his head.

Anarchaia smiles, satisfied, and turns back around.

Alisbeth laughs until she falls forward over the saddle horn.

Koltira tries, and fails, to hide his grin. “I think I’m really going to like this adventure.” He pats Anarchaia’s shoulder and continues on.

Smoothing his hair from his face, Grimory grabs Anarchaia roughly by the hood and forces her to fall back in step with him. <<What the hell is your problem??>> he hisses in Darnassian.

Anarchaia scowls up at him and readjusts her clothes. <<Nothing. Just having a bit of fun at your expense. Can you not take it?>>

Alisbeth cocks an ear back, but gives no indication that she can catch a few hissed words between them. My Darnassian is rusty. She sneers at no one at her thought. She finishes her project and holds aloft a circlet of flowers. “A-ha!” She sets it on the saddle horn and turns to dig through a saddle bag. Once she finds what she wants she begins stripping, keeping her balance with one foot in a stirrup.

Koltira glances up, but only cocks an eyebrow.

<<No, you’ve been rude to me since we met these two. You—>> He stops and glances between Alisbeth and Anarchaia (ignoring the fact that the former is stripping), then narrows his eyes. <<Are you jealous?>>

Anarchaia’s scowl deepens and she turns her head away. <<Get over yourself.>> She shoves past him to catch up with the others, pulling her hood back up.

Alisbeth pulls a dress over her head, the fabric of which is a shining silk, yellow with age, though it was once a creamy ivory. Then she shoves the wreath around her head and hops down from the death charger. She allows Koltira to spin her around once before she drifts over to Anarchaia as though carried by clouds. A dreamy smile is painted on her face, eyes calm and a lazy smile. She taps the mage on the nose through her mask, then spins around her. She drifts ahead of the group, spinning and weaving—dancing to music in her own head.

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