Anarchaia stands outside Archmage Khadgar’s quarters for a long while, steeling herself and fidgeting with her fingers. When she’s built up enough confidence, she knocks on the door with the back of her knuckles. A moment passes before the lock clicks and the door opens. Anarchaia shrinks back and gives a timid smile at the much larger man. “Reporting in. Heh.” She flinches as Khadgar pulls her into a tight hug, but her arms reflexively return the embrace. “I…”
Khadgar pulls back, holding her at arm’s length and staring into her mask with stern eyes. “I thought I’d never see you again.”
“I know,” she whines, guilt flooding her heart. “I’m so sorry…” Anarchaia pauses. “Wait. If you were so worried I wouldn’t come back, why did you let me go in the first place?”
Khadgar furrows his brow down at her. “Would you not have gone if I’d told you not to?”
“Well no. I’d probably still have tried.”
“Then you see my dilemma.”
“Regardless, I’m really sorry. No more leaving you in the dark.” She smiles. “I promise.”
The two mages speak briefly about all that’s happened and what soon will. Anarchaia, however, avoids certain details of the events of Helheim. “We didn’t succeed,” she explains with a sad smile. “But…I requested that we not return.”
“Hm. Sounds like a wise decision. What did he say?” Khadgar leans against the foot of his bed, hands on the footboard. Multiple pieces of parchment and quills scribble away at his desk nearby.
Anarchaia closes the door behind her. “He gave us a different task, thank gods. He wants us to go through the Halls of Valor as some sort of trial. We’re back here looking for a healer to accompany us.”
“How goes this ordeal with the death knight woman? Redblade?” Khadgar’s azure eyes follow the small undead as she paces.
“She doesn’t know about…me.” Anarchaia swallows and continues to fidget with her fingers. Or what I did. “And I think, if I can keep it up, she won’t.” She sighs. “She’s really a nice girl. A very tragic figure. She means well most of the time, I feel. But it’s her unpredictable nature that scares me most.” She runs a finger along the seam of the lounge sofa before the cold fireplace. “I’ll be okay.”
Anarchaia perks at the sound of shouting outside the window. She covertly makes her way toward it while speaking. “But the other one is a really nice guy. Heh.” She glances outside without turning her head. “He does a good job of keeping her in line…for the most part.” She bites her lip and fidgets more. Oh no. They’ve lost her. “S-so yeah!” Her robes swirl as she turns back toward her teacher. “I just wanted to stop by and tell you I’m fine and that we’re onto the next step in our process.” She crosses the distance between them in only a couple steps and throws her arms around his torso again. “I miss you,” she says quietly, then disappears out the door in a rush.
Khadgar blinks down at her, confusion apparent in his aged face. He makes to return the hug but she’s already pulled away and left by the time he’s raised his arms. They fall back to his sides and he sighs as the door closes. “I miss you, too.”
Anarchaia’s robes flow against the immculate stone floor as she rushes down the hallway toward the exit to the Hall, doing her best not to look in a hurry. She steps out onto the staircase outside and glances around desperately as she makes her way down them. Ugh. This is bad.
“Well, well, well. Look who’s once again decided to grace Dalaran with her presence.”
The mage stiffens at the thickly accented voice and she turns to see a familiar face looking up at her from her hip’s height. A goblin, adorned in metal goggles, leather, and many feathers grins up at her. His blond hair is pulled back into a fluffy ponytail and the seafoam skin across his cheeks stretches as he grins. “Not now, Steamvolt,” she says with a polite hand wave and turns back toward where she’d last seen Grimory. She then pauses and turns back to him with a wide smile. “Steamvolt! You’re a shaman!”
The man shrinks back at her sudden outburst, his cyan eyes narrowing. “Yes…?”
“You heal, yes?”
“Good!” she says excitedly, completely forgetting about Alisbeth for the moment. “You love me, right?”
The goblin’s eyes narrow further. “What is it you’re looking for?”
“Me and a few friends are working on a task given to us by a god,” the mage says hurriedly. “Could you—”
“That demon hunter meat-head?”
Anarchaia stops and clenches her jaw. “Yes.”
“Mmhm. Go on.”
“We need someone to heal for us during our trial.” She bends at the waist and pushes up her mask to give him a flirty smile. “I’ll make it worth your while.”
Steamvolt lifts a hand to poke a hard finger into her forehead, pushing her back up. “Don’t do that. You know I don’t like it.” He gives a helpless shrug. “Sorry, girlie. As much as I’d love to, I got a shop to look after. Can’t just leave all willy-nilly.”
Anarchaia sighs, her shoulders slumping in defeat. “I guess you have a point. Thanks anyway, Gildwynn.” She pushes past him with a curt pat between his large ears.
“If you need anything else within the city, don’t hesitate to ask!” Steamvolt calls after. “You know where to find me!”
The mage gives a wave but doesn’t look back, making her way for the tavern on the other side of town and thinking it best to start there with her posting.
Anarchaia stops outside of the inn conjoined with the Chamber of the Guardian, noticing a flyer similar to the one she had planned on making. Her lips move silently as she reads it with narrowed eyes. “Oh,” she chirps. “Well. All right, then. Less work for me.” She makes her way down the ramp leading to The Filthy Animal, giving a curt wave to the Deathguard as she passes. Her eyes immediately flick to the corner of the dimly lit tavern where Koltira is speaking with a blood elf woman and what appears to be a troll. She slides in, arms behind her back. “Hey, guys. What’s goin’ on here?”
Oh, thank gods, Koltira thinks. “I’m just—”
“The position is filled, missy. Go bother someone else.” The monk pokes the troll in the stomach.
The troll’s eyes narrow. “I am also trained extensively in the ways of the Guardian. Do not make me show you what the children of Ursoc are capable of.”
Anarchaia blinks at the altercation before her, then steps between the two. “Hey now, ladies. Let’s be civil, here. Everyone will get a fair chance, all right?” The overwhelming smell of alcohol hits her in the face and she stops, blinking in amazement and turning to the monk. “I…can smell the alcohol on you. Are you intoxicated?”
Edrah snorts. “It’s my perfume.” She laughs and takes another drink.
The troll smiles at the small mage, her long tusks making it seem like a strange grimace. “A fair chance is all I be desiring. The poster said to speak to Koltira. I will speak to Koltira.”
The death knight sends Anarchaia a desperate plea of a look.
Anarchaia catches the death knight’s eyes and sighs, pinching the bridge of her nose. “Koltira is my friend. And I’m sort of…the leader? I guess? Of our party? So I’m just as capable of making this decision.” She turns to Edrah, hands together and all fingertips pointing to the monk. “If we were to take you with us, you cannot be drunk. This is all very important to me—to us—and I can’t have it botched.”
“Edrah? Sober?” a man barks behind her. The room bursts into laughter.
“Button it, Barton!” Edrah shouts over the din. She gives him a shove. “I already told your boyfriend it won’t be a problem.”
Koltira’s ear tips warm. “Sh-she’s not— We’re not—”
Anarchaia visibly flinches, her cheeks filling with color. She pulls her mask over the rest of her face to hide it. “We aren’t together,” she finishes for him, avoiding looking over. The laughter from the men behind her sends an irritation creeping through her chest and she narrows her eyes. “I’m sorry, but I don’t think bringing you along is a good idea. If any of us gets mortally wounded, I can’t risk what could happen…”
Edrah stands abruptly. She pokes the mage in the chest; Anarchaia flinches at the prod. “I have never let a teammate fall because of my drinking. This,” she wiggles the bottle in Anarchaia’s face, “is not and has never been a problem. Ask anyone. I demand fair consideration, like booger-head over there.”
The druid glares at Edrah. “You insult like a child. Why don’t you be finding a party looking to conquer Pandaria, again? I’m sure it would be more your skill level.”
Anarchaia flinches a second time as she’s prodded. Despite being shorter, she straightens her back and puffs up her chest. “I gave you fair consideration. You’re showing less competence than this other candidate with your drunkenness. You’re attempting to use intimidation to get what you want. I don’t like your attitude.” She grits her teeth. “But if you’re really so certain you can impress me with your skill, I’ll give you that opportunity.”
Edrah smiles warmly. “I am so sorry for my rudeness. I’m sure even you might dislike having your skill called into question. I won’t ever utter a hurtful word to you again.”
“A promise made with liquor be an empty one,” the troll mutters.
Anarchaia tilts her head in annoyance but doesn’t turn to look at the troll. “Great. Good. Awesome. We’ll—I don’t know—go down into the sewers where dueling is permitted. Whomever outheals the other can accompany us.”
“I accept this challenge,” the troll says. She sweeps past the shorter women, sticking out the tip of her staff to catch the monk’s foot.
Edrah spills forward onto Anarchaia, her bottle crashing to the floor as she screams out. Anarchaia yelps.
“That wasn’t bloody nice!” She helps to right the mage and dusts off the other’s robes. “Please don’t hold that against me, she tripped me.”
Koltira stands. “All right. Edrah versus…I’m sorry, you never said your name.”
The druid smiles. “I am Juliember. Friends call me Jules. You may not.”
He nods. “That’s fair as we’ve only just met.”
The rum on the floor seeps into the hem of Anarchaia’s robes. “It’s fine,” she responds, then puts both palms over her face when the two women make for the door. “Why is everyone always so difficult?” she groans quietly, then steels herself before following.
“I feel as though you’re directing that at me,” Koltira says, then adds under his breath. “Which is fair.”
Anarchaia follows and groans again. “No, not you. You’re…surprisingly one of the easier people to get along with.” Obviously.
Grimory sighs as he finishes his drink, finally deciding to give in and go looking for Alisbeth. He steps out into the busy streets and runs a hand through his hair again, glancing over the many heads.
The mage blinks as they round the corner onto the streets at the end of the ramp. “Oh. Grim.” She smiles. “Actually, perfect. You can come with us. Wait, where’s Ali?”
The demon hunter hesitates and gives a smile. “We were at the toy shop. She refused to leave so…here I am. Waiting for her.”
Koltira raises an eyebrow. “So you left her alone. In a toy shop. Do you have any idea… You know what? Not my problem today.” He holds his hands up in surrender.
The Illidari folds his arms over his chest and acts as though the information is unworthy of his time. “I’ve been keeping an eye on her. Trust me.” The vision of the undead man’s mangled body flashes through his head and he swallows. “She’ll be out any minute. Go on ahead and I’ll meet you…wherever it is you’re going.”
Alisbeth climbs up the rocks back onto Krasus Landing and heads for the flight master. “I would like to go somewhere,” she says to him.
“I don’t know. You pick.”
He chuckles. “How about Lorlathil. Beautiful at sunset. That’s five gold.”
Alisbeth frowns. “I don’t have any gold. Kolty has it.”
Aludane Whitecloud sighs. “Well, I’m sorry, but you either get that gold or you don’t fly.”
“The sewers,” Anarchaia responds, pulling her hood up. “You’re going to duel Koltira.”
Grimory’s brow furrows and he glances up at the death knight, then grins cockily. “Oh. All right. I’d ask why, but it’d be uncharacteristic of me to pass up a fight.”
Koltira rolls his eyes. “We’re testing out a few applicants for—”
“This!” The poster is shoved in his face by a frantic draenei in gleaming white armor. “I go. Yes?”
Koltira grabs the poster and gives her a painful smile. “I’m sorry, but, you are unfit for the job. I’d rather not deal with the pain.”
She stares at him for a long time. “I go. Yes?”
He purses his lips. “No.”
She stays still for a long time, her lips pursed at him. “I go.” She pushes a finger into the poster.
Koltira’s brow lowers as he grows unamused. “How did you even read this?”
She stares at him, a blank expression on her face, then points at the paper. “Heal. I heal. Koltira.” She points at him, then at a guard, indicating where she got the information. “I heal. I go. Yes?”
Koltira tears up the poster in frustration. “No. No room. All full. No.”
She purses her lips and stares at the group. “Full?” She smiles. “Okay. I heal big group.” She gives them all thumbs up, then shoulders her huge mace and walks back to the message board.
Anarchaia watches the interaction and giggles quietly into her fingertips. When the woman finally relents and walks away, she slinks up next to Koltira again. “We speak Draenei, you know.” She motions to Grimory and herself.
He visibly deflates. “Well, thank you for stepping in to help. Your assistance was appreciated.”
“Ha!” The troll barks a laugh. “I like this Koltira.”
“I liked him first!” Edrah shouts.
Juliember rolls her eyes. “That will not sway their votes, monk.”
Alisbeth shoves past the two healers, knocking Edrah to the ground while bouncing from the sturdy troll’s side. She dives at Koltira, her hand reaching into his gold pouch. “Ineedthisokay?Okaythanksbye!” She runs back between the healers toward the archway.
Koltira raises an eyebrow. “That’s not the direction of the toy shop. Wonder what she needs the gold for on Krasus Landing.” He gives an evil chuckle. “I think I’ll have a nice aged whiskey first. A really expensive one.” He laughs again and heads for the sewers entrance, the healers follow him
“But you looked like you were having so much fun,” Anarchaia responds with a grin. “I’d hate to deprive you of that.” She turns and leaps down the short ledge instead of walking the path.
Koltira leans against the pole and turns to the guard. “How long until your people take a break?”
The guard cocks an eyebrow. “Five minutes.” He looks around, then whispers, “Make it worth my while and I’ll call them back now.”
The death knight smiles. “That’s fine. We’re waiting for a friend.”
Anarchaia sizes up the two women, folding her arms. “The boys’ll duel—” she lolls her head toward Koltira “—as nicely as possible—” she turns back “and whomever can keep the other up the longest wins. Any questions?”
Juliember sniffs. “Who be healing who?”
Koltira shrugs. “You heal me and Edrah, you heal Grimory.”
“Is he that shirtless bloke we just saw?” She smiles. “Nice. I’d like to wrap my soothing mist around him, if you know what I mean.”
The troll rolls her eyes. “I hope your heals be better than your jokes, or he may die.”
~ * ~
Grimory catches sight of Alisbeth and scampers over to the sewer entrance. By the time he gets there, however, she’s already turned around and running back toward Krasus’ Landing, and the two collide. He stumbles but remains on his feet. “Ali! Wait, don’t go!” He holds his arms out as if wrangling an unruly horse. “I want to apologize…”
Alisbeth spins to face Grimory, a wide smile on her face. “I’m going to Lanladron! Wanna come?”
Grimory blinks, not expecting her to be cheerful, then scowls at himself and his ignorance. “You know what?” he responds with a smile. “I would love to. In fact, I’ll pay for the trip. Just you ‘n me. We can do whatever you want. But I got something I gotta do down in the sewers first. If you come with me and wait patiently for me to get done, we’ll do whatever you want for the rest of the day. How’s that sound?”
Alisbeth jumps in excitement. “Anything at all?” She wraps her arm in his and squishes the side of her face into the bicep. “Okay!”
Grimory gives a sigh of relief and leads her down to meet the others, a hand over Alisbeth’s as if to make sure she’s still there. “Okay, so…what’s the plan here?” he asks.
“You and Kolt will duel. The healer that heals best wins,” Anarchaia drones, tired of explaining. “But we have to wait for the guards to go off duty, first.” She turns to glare at the demon hunter. “And don’t be so rough. I’m so tired of telling you that.”
Grimory bites his tongue, clearly holding back words. “Fine,” he says, then gives Koltira a charming smile. “May the most healed win.”
Alisbeth purses her lips, still clinging to Grimory. “So…they’re fighting on purpose this time? We’re letting them do this?”
Koltira smiles at her. “Don’t worry. These two will make sure nothing terrible happens to your play thing.”
Alisbeth thinks on this. “Okay. No throwing the sword.”
The guard cups his hands around his mouth. “SEWER GUARDS! TIME TO TAKE A BREAK!”
“Kiss for luck?” Koltira says.
Alisbeth skips to him and presses a sloppy kiss on his lips as she giggles. “Stupidest tradition ever. You’re going to lose just for having me do that.”
Again, Anarchaia finds herself looking away, then grits her teeth at her own actions. Her gaze unintendedly finds Grimory’s, who grins down at her. “Kiss for luck?” he mocks, hands on his hips.
The mage purses her lips, unamused. “Win and I might.”
Grimory shrugs, his grin unwavering as he steps out into the foggy open room of the sewers. “I’ll take it.”
Koltira follows Grimory, then stands across from him. “Ladies first,” he says.
Grimory’s arms morph to twice their size and darken to a smoky black, the tips of his claws smoldering. “You heard the man,” he says back to the troll woman who’s positioned herself behind Koltira.
Juliember rolls her eyes and lifts a hand. Emerald energy swirls about Grimory’s body, eking from his skin.
The demon hunter chuckles, having not expected her to listen. “Thanks!” He lunges forward, claws splayed and coming across Koltira’s torso in a diagonal, upward motion.
Koltira dodges backward as the claws slash through his shirt and leave tiny red trails. Droplets of blood pool in the marks. He doesn’t wait for a heal to come and lunches at Grimory, Byfrost raised to sweep across the demon hunter’s chest.
Juliember lifts her hand again, throwing a Lifebloom onto Koltira, her expression one of concentration and unenthusiasm.
Grimory cries out as the blade tears through his skin and muscle. Blood pours from the wound and into the stone floor. Severely wounded, he recovers despite the pain and slashes again—this time aiming for the throat.
Edrah purses her lips and cocoons the demon hunter in a sphere of green. She throws a renewing mist out, surrounding him with a green aura, then hits him with an enveloping mist which triggers her soothing mist. She channels continuously while bouncing triumphantly behind him, sticking her tongue out at the druid.
Distracted by the bouncing monk, Koltira sees the attack too late. Demonic claws rip into his throat. His eyes go wide as he throws a hand over the wound and stumbles backward.
Alisbeth screams out. “Kolty, no!” She runs for the arena.
“Wait!” Anarchaia grabs Alisbeth by the back of her shirt, yet cringes and closes her eyes. “He’ll be fine! Grim! Not so rough!”
Juliember grits her teeth in annoyance and throws a quick swiftmend. Koltira’s wound seals shut and the bleeding immediately stops. She gives a satisfied grunt but doesn’t smile.
Grimory grits his teeth and scoffs, ignoring Anarchaia. “You’ll have to be faster, pretty boy.”
Koltira gives the druid a thankful nod, then smirks at Grimory. “Faster isn’t always better.” He lunges, swinging Byfrost to cut diagonally across the demon hunter’s torso.
Alisbeth throws her arms over Anarchaia’s shoulders and buries her head into the other’s shoulder. “I can’t watch! I don’t want either of them to get hurt again!”
Anarchaia grits her teeth. I don’t, either. She pats Alisbeth on the back and hugs her. “It’ll be okay. They’ll be healed every time they get hurt.”
The blade slices through muscle in nearly the exact fashion it had before and Grimory’s blood spills forth to join the rest on the ground. He takes a moment to recover, breathing heavily through grit fangs and trying to seem unaffected. He steps forward quickly, aiming more slashes at the man’s stomach.
Edrah stops wiggling around, her lips curve down in concentration. She throws more heals that will slowly bring seal his wounds, then resumes channeling the green mist to him.
“But you don’t like them like I do,” Alisbeth objects. She peeks over to see a torrent of blood spilling from a slowly healing wound in Grimory’s chest, them buries her face again.
Anarchaia scowls, but continues to hold the distraught woman. You have no idea.
“Hey, I know that guy…” a male voice says behind Anarchaia. “I fought him once. He’s really good.”
“Is he the one that ‘Nu chopped up?” a female voice asks on a laugh.
“She only disabled him a little.”
Grimory steps forward, aiming more slashes at the man’s stomach.
Koltira leaps backward and trips over the druid. “Sorry! Sorry.” He clambers to his feet and swings Byfrost up and around to hit Grimory in the collar bone.
The mage blinks when a familiar voice floats up from behind her, echoing off the close walls of the sewer. She turns her head to look for the source.
Juliember stumbles some but does not fall. The corner of her lip twitches. “Just watch where you’re going.” She moves out of the way as Grimory comes rushing through, a claw coming around to sweep at the death knight’s leg while the other pushes the sword away from him, the blade somewhat biting the morphed flesh.
The monk panics and uses a revival when she hears the slash of the blade. His wounds heal entirely and she curses for having used such a strong ability for a scratch.
Koltira’s pants tear open and deep claw marks gouge into his leg. He screams out, twisting at the waist to gain enough momentum for the swing he’s readied for Grimory’s middle.
Juliember lifts her staff and sends a spell of regrowth to the death knight, healing his wounds and encasing him with green magic.
Asheeda glances down, then does a double take. “Oh, hey! You’re still with that oaf? Did you finish early? Oh! Did you find any rare new herbs for me to look at?”
The paladin beside him clears her throat behind her blue-winged helm. “Introduce us?” She tugs on the arm her hand is wrapped in.
Alisbeth jumps up in excitement. “Crockalisk skin!” She runs over to smooth her hands along his arms and legs as she giggles.
“Oh! No, we’re just…onto the next phase in our journey. Testing out healers. And I’m sorry but… I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really looking. Heh. But how have you been?” Anarchaia smiles beneath her mask, too distracted to watch the fight.
Grimory attempts to leap back out of the way but it’s too late. The end of the sword slices straight through his stomach. Another wave of red spatters the stone and he falls to his knees with an arm wrapped over the wound. After a brief moment of vomiting blood, he spits and stands shakily as one of his arms twists back to its original state. He takes a step but falls back to a knee, growling in pain.
Edrah screams out in shock. “Dodge the bloody attacks, you wanker!” She pops the cork of a clay bottle, lightning zaps from the opening. The monk swallows back a quick shot, becoming enveloped in lightning, then burps out a stream of green mist that washes over Grimory. After throwing out an instant heal over time, she hits him with heal after heal until he’s well enough that she can resume the steady stream of mist to bring him back up. “Get up, you twat!”
Grimory gives a deep sigh of relief as the pain quickly subsides. The blood loss, however, causes his head to swim. He jerks his head back to look at the monk. “Would you just do your job and I’ll do mine?” He spits some residual blood from his mouth, then lunges for Koltira again, slashing at his stomach as if out of spite.
“That’s okay,” Asheeda says. “I’m just glad to see you back in one piece.” He glances at the fighting pair and winces. “Mostly.”
The paladin pulls off her helmet and yanks on his arm again.
“Oh! Ana…I’m sorry, I forgot your full name. Been busy studying dreamleaf from Val’sharah. Did you know that the—”
“Right. This is Xrla. I joined her group, which wasn’t doing too much dangerous stuff and allowed me to come along.”
The paladin’s smile is small and calm. “Nice to meet you.”
“Anarchaia,” the mage says with a curt nod and a grin that can’t be seen. “A pleasure. So are you two…dating?” She, as always, cringes at her attempt at small talk, then grasps Alisbeth gently by the arm to pull her away and cease her unsolicited touching.
As if by karma, Koltira’s stomach is slashed open, blood spilling out onto the floor. He coughs blood into the demon hunter’s face, but remains standing, though he leans on his sword.
“Look at that!” Edrah calls. “I yelled at you and it worked! Now finish his arse off!”
“Hmm,” a disembodied voice muses. “I think not.”
The monk hunches over, completely unable to move. A blind hits Grimory, then a quick shot to the kidneys to keep him from moving. A female blood elf appears behind him and tears a slice across his back, then stands back to watch him bleed.