Chapter Forty

Anarchaia sighs into her mug of spiked coffee, desperately searching for something to clear the awkward air. “So…a farstrider, right? It shows. You…shoot darts petty well.” Ugh. Shut up, Ana.

Koltira smirks. “Arrows are different from darts, I’ll admit. Have you ever shot a bow?” Why are we talking about this when those lips could be—no.

The mage shakes her head. “N— Well…once. It didn’t end well. Heh.” She flushes and hides her face in her mug again. “I…don’t have very strong arms. Which is why I’m better suit—hic!—suited for darts.”

“It’s not about strength. You need a proper bow with the proper weight distribution for you.” She doesn’t care about that shit. He clears his throat. “I can show you…”

Anarchaia perks and smiles, setting her mug down. “You can? I-I would like that. There’s a range behind the citadel, actually.”

“As long as they have rentals,” Koltira laughs. “I lost my bow in Silvermoon. Haven’t picked one up since.” He doesn’t wait for an invitation and picks Anarchaia up by the hand, then wraps the same hand through his elbow. Working his hardest to stay upright, he leads the mage from the tavern.

Anarchaia flushes and smiles, doing her best to support him despite being just as drunk. “I can take pretty much anything I want here. Unless I intend to keep it. Then I have to pay. Heh,” she chuckles. “Oh, do you still have my token?” She leads him through the quiet streets outside, periodically glancing up at him without turning her head.

“I do.” He pulls the token from his pocket and stares at it. “What on Azeroth is it?”

The mage smiles and takes it from him. “My I.D.” A spark of energy flies from the coin and from the eye in the center emerges an image of Anarchaia from the waist up, hands raised in victory signs and tongue sticking through smiling lips. “You didn’t use it? Hm. Shame.” The hologram dissipates and she pockets the token. “Regardless, there’re always cheap bows just sit—hic!—sitting around back there.”

“Flattering image,” he laughs. “Careful,” he says, helping her down the rubble of a destroyed wall. “Next time you hand me a fancy token, tell me what it is before you disappear on me.”

“Yeah. Sorry about tha—at!” She misses a step she intended to take, her drunken state causing a lack of coordination, and falls against him. She flushes and jumps away, brushing herself off. “Sorry! Sorry…”

Koltira clears his throat, thankful she leapt away before he could hold onto her a little longer. “It’s fine, just…watch your footing.” He pauses and smirks. “Or don’t. Whatever you want.” He retrieves a bow from a hook and sets it in the mage’s hands. “Pull the string.”

Anarchaia swallows and takes up the weapon. “Uh, yeah. Okay.” She lifts the bow and pulls on the string. Her thin, frail arms shake as she does so, but she manages to draw it as far as it will allow. “Like…this…?” she says, straining to hold on.

Koltira sets his hands over hers and forces the string back into original position. “You’re struggling too much with it. Don’t force it back, it should be hard, but also easy.” He takes the bow from her hands and finds a smaller one. He pulls the string to test its tautness. “Try this one.”

The mage narrows her eyes. “Hard but easy.” She takes the new bow and draws it back with less effort, but still enough to make her eke out a noise of strain. “Better,” she says with a smile.

He takes the bow from her again and pulls the loop from one end, shows her another loop, which he runs through the other, then restrings the bow, giving it an extra inch. “This is a beginner’s bow. The pull is adjustable.” He hands it back to her, then takes a compact hunter’s bow from the rack and tests it. “Arrows?” He asks the man watching the weapons.

“Five silver per arrow, up front, no refunds for unshot arrows.”

Koltira turns to Anarchaia. “You’re up.”

Anarchaia holds out the token and gives a smile that matches the one in the hologram. “Yeah, I know who you are, Anarchaia,” the man grunts. “I also know how you handle a bow. Five silver per arrow.”

The mage deflates and pulls a gold piece from her front pocket, drunkenly tossing it in his direction and taking a bundle of twenty. She sticks her tongue out at the man and shoves each arrow in the ground beside her. She takes one and nocks it, looking down the shaft at the battered target on the other end of the range. When loosed, the arrow sails over the target and off the edge of the floating island altogether. She gives a groan of disappointment.

Koltira drops his own gold down and borrows two quivers. He shoves her arrows into one and reaches around the mage to secure it at her hip. “First of all, don’t leave your arrows in the dirt. They’ll rust, depending on the material used for the heads. Second, your form is absolutely awful.” He secures his own quiver and withdraws an arrow. “Watch my form.” Koltira nocks the arrow and pulls back on the string, pausing for a moment to gauge the wind tangling gently through his hair. He adjusts his angle, breathes out, and looses it. The arrow hits just shy of the bullseye and he frowns. “I might be a little drunk. We’ll call it a bullseye.”

Anarchaia gazes at the man before her for a long while, taking in his strength and prowess with the bow, his hair, his glowing blue eyes. The sound of the arrow striking the target snaps her back and she shakes her head. Oh no! I wasn’t paying attention! “Auhm…” She gives a sheepish smile. “I-I’ll try.” She hesitates before reaching into the quiver and nocking another arrow. She pulls it back to her ear and stops. “Like this?”

Koltira slips the bow over his shoulder and stands behind Anarchaia, her back pressed to his chest. He takes a moment to steel himself as her perfume wafts up to him. His hands smooth over her arms, adjusting her positioning. He rests his hands over hers to make sure they are gripping correctly. Next he runs his hands down her sides, making small adjustments. “Move your feet like this.” He taps her feet with his toes. “Plant your feet. Center your weight.” He sets a hand on her hip and the other back up on her ribs under her bust, making minor adjustments.

The undead girl cannot help but stiffen as his hands run over her. Her jaw clenches and she holds her breath when his hair flutters against her cheek as it had done that night. A shaky breath escapes her nostrils. “O-okay.” Oh gods. I could stand like this forever. It’d be so easy to just turn and… What? No! What is wrong with you?! Her fingers stay with the arrow and again she hesitates.

Koltira places his hands back onto hers, gritting his jaw against the proximity. He leans to place his cheek on hers to look down the arrow’s shaft. “Feel the wind? It’ll pull the arrow, so you adjust.” He inches her angle a little left. “Breathe in.” He breathes in as well, her perfume surrounds him and stirs his memories yet again. “Now breathe out as you let go.” He loosens his grasp on her hand on the arrow to let her release it.

Following the instructions she’s given closely, Anarchaia inhales. She holds it for a moment before exhaling and releasing the arrow simultaneously. The force of the string sends a shockwave against her cheek and she flinches at the sound of the thwok!. The arrow lands near Koltira’s, but still a distance from the center. She smiles and turns to look up at him, excitement clear in what little can be seen of her face. “Good?”

“Fantastic!” He hugs her excitedly, then releases her swiftly when the urge to kiss her as congratulations rises. “Would you like to try again?”

The mage flushes and chortles, then clears her throat into a fist, glancing down the range at the arrows. “Well. I didn’t get a bullseye. So yes.” She chuckles and nocks another, pulling it back and doing her best to remember the stance he’d shown her. “Feet apart, back straight…?”

Koltira rests his hands on hers and fixes that position, then runs his hands up her arms and down her sides, leaving one to rest on her hip as he returns the other to her ribs and adjusts her posture the littlest bit. “Good…”

Anarchaia inhales slowly. She swallows and turns her head ever so slightly. Just do it. You know you want to. She bites her lip and turns more toward Koltira at her shoulder.

“Having fun?” Grimory leans against a broken pillar above the range, arms folded and eyes glowing in the lamplight above.

Anarchaia jumps at his voice, loosing the arrow on accident. It sails over the edge again. “G-Grim!” she chirps.

Koltira steps back and drops his hands, doing his best to remain calm. “How’s the whole staying up to watch Ali thing going?” He strains to see behind the demon hunter. “Where is she?”

The mage lowers her bow and fidgets, saying nothing.

“I’ve decided to let her do whatever she wants,” he responds, not moving from his spot. “She’s somewhere in the shopping district, I think.”

Koltira purses his lips in frustration. “You just let her run amok? Are you serious?”

He shrugs carelessly. “She’s a grown woman. She’ll be fine.”

The death knight growls. “Why would you just leave her? She’s not allowed in the city without someone there! She’s dangerous, don’t you get that?” He removes the bow and sets it on the counter with the quiver.

“She’s fine,” he assures with a smile. “Occupied.” His smile fades. “Like you two.”

“He was showing me how to loose,” Anarchaia says, setting her bow aside as well, swallowing nervously. “Nothing more.”

“Right,” the demon hunter responds, turning to walk down the dimly lit street, back toward the tavern.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Koltira snaps, storming after the other man. “I was correcting her posture.” The death knight stumbles up the rubble, trying to look more sober than he is.

“Nothing,” Grimory replies pointedly, not turning around. He places his thumbs behind his belt. “I’m certain you were. Not sure what you’re so upset about. In fact, one would dare say you’re protesting too much.”

Koltira scoffs. “I think I protest just about enough, given what you’re insinuating.” He grabs Grimory by the shoulder. “You have no right to project your own inappropriate actions onto me.” Shutting up might actually be a good idea.

Grimory’s eyes light in annoyance. The flames narrow. “At least I admit to my inappropriate actions. And I’m not married.”

“Ana and I are only friends,” Koltira insists. “I know that’s a strange concept to grasp, but it’s true. I have no interest in…” He finds he can’t say it out loud, and so rubs a hand over his mouth. He sighs and presses his palm to his forehead. “I’m too drunk for this nonsense.”

Grimory straightens his back and gives a hmph! of triumph. “Yeah. Thought so.” He whirls back around and continues on his trek to the inn. “Enjoy your drunken night archery, Deathweaver.”

Koltira scoffs and stomps back to the range.

Anarchaia sits idly on the worn wooden bench against the stone wall of the citadel. She fidgets with her fingers and glances up, then scrambles to her feet. “Is everything okay?” she asks in a small voice.

Frustration knots at Koltira until he can take no more. He grabs Anarchaia by the waist and pulls her up into and angry but passionate kiss.

A brief sound of surprise exits her throat and Anarchaia’s eyes widen. Her hands come up to his shoulders, meaning to push away but instead lingering. She sighs into his lips, then pulls away, gazing up into his face from behind her mask. Confusion and a desire for more fill her head. “…Is that a no?”

Koltira blinks and sets her down. “I’m…so sorry. Uh… We should…get our money’s worth out of those arrows.”

A smile creeps across her lips again, no longer trying to contain herself. “I think I’d like that.”

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