The birds flying high enough to soar through the spires of Dalaran give quiet cries in the noonday sun. Anarchaia fusses over a checklist as she sits outside Violet Hold, legs dangling over the bridge and quill in hand. “Ugh. I can’t believe I’ve accumulated so many chores in just a couple of months,” she mutters.
“Finally done with tavern duty?”
The mage jumps and turns. “Oh! Grim. You scared me. Uh, yeah. Heh. Finally paid back all the money I owe. What are you up to?”
The demon hunter places his weight on a hip. “Was on my way to the bank and saw you here. Thought I’d stop and say ‘hi’ since I haven’t seen you for a week.”
“Well, get ready to not see me for another week.” Anarchaia sighs. “Now that I’m free of tavern duty, I have this list of things to do. Just plotting them out in the order most efficient.”
“Ah. Shame.” He chuckles and pats her on the head as though ruffling her hair. “I guess I’ll see you around, then. Hit me up when you have some free time.” He turns to leave.
Anarchaia smiles and gives a wave. “Can do.” She returns to poring over her list. Not long after, shadow falls over her and she furrows her brow, moving the paper to better see it. “Did you forget something, Grim?” When she gets no response, she turns, but before she’s able to see the cause of the shadow, a burlap sack is thrown over her head and she’s swiftly pulled from her spot on the bridge.
~ * ~
“You were the last one to see her in person.” Khadgar scowls down at the demon hunter, his brow furrowed in frustration and anger. “And you mean to tell me you have no idea where she’s gone? Not even an inkling?”
“Of course not,” Grimory hisses. “Are you implying that I kidnapped her or something? What motive would I have for that?”
“I imply nothing.” Khadgar sighs and folds his arms, pacing twice and turning away. “Find her for me.”
Grimory blinks. “What? Why?” He narrows his eyes. “And if you care that much—and are convinced she’s in some sort of danger—why don’t you look for her?”
The Archmage turns, blue eyes filled with irritation. “I’m extremely busy here with very important things.”
“More important than Ana?”
Grimory grits his fangs. “Yes, Archmage,” he growls, turning and taking his leave, then brooding all the way down the stairs to the citadel.
~ * ~
“Thank you for your help,” Koltira says.
The pink haired shopkeep nods and goes back to fixing the toy train. With a sigh, the death knight steps outside and leans back on the wall, closing his eyes against the sun and his frustrations.
Koltira opens his eyes and catches sight of a familiar pair of horns surrounding a blond mane of hair.
“Grimory!” He strolls over to walk beside him. “It’s been a while. How is…everything?”
Grimory narrows his eyes suspiciously at the death knight. “Deathweaver.” He stops to run a hand over his hair. “It’s…not good. Ana’s gone missing and the old man is taking it rough. He’s making me look for her. You…haven’t heard from her recently?”
A stone drops in Koltira’s stomach. “M-missing? Uh…” He rubs a palm over his mouth. “No. I…haven’t seen her since the Halls.” He pauses for a moment, digesting the information.
“Yeah. It’s been three days, I guess. Last I saw her was outside Violet Hold. He seems to think I have something to do with it.” He scoffs in disgust. “If I know Ana, I’m sure she’s fine.” He sighs, not letting his concern show. “What about you? Anything new? How’s Ali?”
Koltira purses his lips and nods absently, trying to hide the pieces falling into place. He almost doesn’t realize he’s being asked about Alisbeth. “Oh, she’s, um… Would you like help finding Ana?”
Grimory blinks, studying Koltira’s face for a moment. “Yeah, actually. Sure.” He pauses. “You…seem to know something.”
The death knight pauses. “Don’t let this pass farther than us, but, I’m in the city looking for Ali. She’s…missing too.”
Realization glimmers in Grimory’s eyes. “They’re probably together, then! Oh, this is good.” He turns back to the citadel. “Khadgar’ll be off my ass, then.”
“Don’t…tell him,” Koltira says. “Let’s just think of places they might be?”
Grimory turns abruptly. “Why…?” He shakes his head. “Sure, though I don’t know where I’d even begin.” A moment passes in which he takes the time to think. “Though, when given the chance, Ali went to Lorlathil. Not sure if that means anything.”
“I, uh, I just don’t think Khadgar needs to know. We can update him if we find anything.” Koltira says. “Lorlathil is a good start.”
Grimory rolls his eyes, having had enough of the suspicious behavior and no longer bothering to address it. “Right. I’ll meet you there.” He spreads his wings and crouches before leaping into the sky.
He’s not buying it, you fucking idiot. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck… “Fuck.” Koltira runs his fingers through his hair, then takes off for the flight master, hoping to all the gods that exist or once did that Alisbeth hadn’t actually kidnapped Anarchaia. Or if she had, she hadn’t found out the girl was forsaken.
~ * ~
Grimory’s boot taps lightly against the dirt path leading through the Val’sharah village. He gives a glance around just in case he spots one of the girls. Seeing nothing, he flags down a patrolling venture keeper. “Excuse me…deer…person. I’m looking for a girl. Short. Very thin. Wears a mask over her face. Red and black robes.”
The man narrows his glowing golden eyes in thought before shaking his head. “Not that I’ve seen. I’ve only just begun my shift for the day, however.” He gives an apologetic shrug.
“Thanks anyway,” Grimory groans.
Koltira lands and easily picks Grimory out. “Okay, so, any ideas where we start? Where did she go last time?”
He turns to the stream at the edge of town and points in the direction of the gazebo. “Down near the river. We should probably split up, though. Might be faster.”
“Good idea. You take that half of the road and I’ll take this half.” Koltira turns without waiting and goes to the inn to ask the innkeeper if he’d seen either of the girls.
Grimory does a thorough search of the half of the town he’s assigned, asking anyone and everyone if they’d caught sight of the women, but gains no leads and returns to the flight master to wait for Koltira. He folds his arms and huffs. “They could be anywhere.”
Koltira finds Grimory. “Find anything?”
“No,” he mutters, then growls in frustration. “That was my only idea. Where the hell would they go?”
“Alisbeth would go find things to kill. Could Ana be convinced to kill for fun? Don’t answer that. It was a ridiculous question. Let’s see…what do they even like in common?”
The question runs through Grimory’s head. After a moment he frowns, realizing just how little he knows about the woman he’s spent months with. “I…don’t know. Drinking? Flowers? Typical girl things?”
Koltira sighs. “Alisbeth likes Mageroyals, Anarchaia likes roses.”
Ugh, they’re closer than I thought. I didn’t even know that.
He thinks. “Anarchaia may like drinking, but I’m sure she’d be more agreeable to remain sober with Alisbeth.” He rubs down his face. “You.” A realization strikes him.
Grimory blinks and narrows an eye. “Me?”
“Yeah. You slept with both. So…I don’t know where I was going with that. Unless you can make any sort of correlation?”
Grimory jerks his head back and scowls, heat filling his cheeks. “Then you may as well add yourself to that list, yeah?”
Koltira’s ears pull back. “Still going with that nonsense?” He shakes his head and turns away to hide anything that might give him away. “This isn’t helping find them.”
“You started it,” the Illidari snaps. “And you’re right. It’s not. Maybe we should return to Dalaran and ask around.” He crinkles his nose. “Maybe Steamvolt knows something.”
“Who is Steamvolt? And I just…I’m not keen on any of this getting back to Khadgar.”
“A goblin who owns an engineering shop up there.” He motions in the direction of the floating city with his chin. “He always seems to know where she is. Borderline creepy, really. But I guess they see one another often, so…” The curiosity overtakes him. “What do you have against Khadgar finding out? You have some sort of standing you need to maintain with him or something?”
Koltira rolls his eyes skyward as a plea for patience. “Fine. Alisbeth has a bad rep, okay? I don’t want Khadgar thinking she’s done something to Ana. Good enough for you?”
“I guess,” says Grimory as he spreads his wings again. “Meet you there…unless you can think of a place to search alone.”
“Meet me at the north bank when you’re done. I do have something to check. And no, you can’t come.” He opens a death gate and waves the demon hunter off.
Grimory scowls, offended. “Wasn’t gonna ask.” He jumps back into the air and heads back to Dalaran.
“I just meant Acherus!” Koltira shouts. He shakes his head and goes through the gate, then heads straight for Alisbeth’s room.
Once back in the city, Grimory makes his way to Steamvolt’s shop. When he arrives, the goblin man is just locking up his front doors. He turns to the blood elf and scowls when he recognizes him. “Grimory,” he says with little joy in his voice. “What do you want?”
“Ana’s missing,” the Illidari says through clenched teeth.
“I’ve noticed. I don’t know where she is if that’s what you’re here for.” Gildwynn twirls his keys around a finger. “I hear tell she was kidnapped, though.”
“No, she’s with a friend,” Grimory corrects, running a hand over his hair. “We’re looking for either of them. Have you seen a blood elf woman with long, white hair around? A death knight. Real pretty face.”
“I don’t think you realize how many women that description fits.”
Grimory growls and does his best to remain cool. “All right. Never mind. Thanks.” He turns and heads toward the bank on the north side of town.
The goblin shakes his head in his wake and turns to go home, still twirling his keys. “Meathead.”
~ * ~
After realizing there is no light source in Alisbeth’s room, Koltira grabs a candle sconce from a table outside. The first thing he sees are the holes, which he knew were there, then he sees drawings in brown paint. He narrows his eyes and looks closer, licking a finger and bringing it to the paint; it turns red under the moisture. He purses his lips. The same thing is drawn over and over along most of the wall, a curling spiral that narrows to a point.
On another wall he finds a stick figure with the same curls around the head. There’s an X through the figure. Beside it is a roughly drawn image of what he figures must be Anarchaia’s robes. This drawing is circled. Well that solves that. Beside the figures is a pair of triangles with the points at the top, below that is a circle with squiggly lines.
“What the fuck does any of this even mean?” Koltira rubs his eyes and leaves the room, unable to take in any more. He takes the portal to Dalaran and runs to meet Grimory at the bank.
“Find anything?” Grimory asks tiredly, arms folded and leaning against a pillar at the base of the stairs. “Steamvolt was no help…as usual.”
The death knight grits his teeth and mentally decides what the demon hunter even deserves to know. “Yes. She definitely took Ana. There were drawings, in blood, of the two of you. You were crossed out, Ana circled. There were weird squiggles next to it but I can’t think of what it means.”
Grimory tilts his head, then waves a hand for him to follow. “Come, show me.” He leads Koltira into a relatively empty tavern and asks for a piece of parchment and quill. The bartender sets the items down on the bar.
Koltira picks up the quill and draws the triangles, then growls. “Playing some kind of picture game isn’t going to help! We have to find Ana, now.”
Grimory’s eyes slide from the picture to Koltira’s face at the sound of Anarchaia’s name. “You seem more worried about Ana than Ali. Wonder why that is.”
Koltira buries his face in his hands and speaks in a near whisper. “Ali might be trying to kill Ana… Or may have already.”
Grimory furrows his brow, then gives a quiet chuckle. When the other man doesn’t return the laugh, his smile turns to one of incredulity. “…You’re joking.”
“I wish I was. We need to find them, and Khadgar can’t know anything about Alisbeth’s involvement.” He finishes drawing the meaningless squiggles, hoping somehow they might make more sense.
“Why would she want to kill Ana?” he presses, not looking down at the drawing his smile fading.
Because she’s undead. Because I… “Does it really matter?” Koltira demands.
Grimory blinks. “Of course it does! You really don’t think something like that is important? Ali seemed to like Ana. Why would she kill her? It doesn’t make any sense.”
Koltira jumps in anger and frustration. “Because you were right,” he hisses. “Is that what you want to hear? You were right. That night with the darts…” He shakes his head and rests it in his palms.
Grimory’s eyes widen at the outburst. A moment passes where he processes the information, then he scowls. He clears his throat. “So you’re worried about her…because you like her?” A jealousy spreads through his chest but he pushes it down when Alisbeth’s image comes to mind. “Whatever,” he says with a forced air of uncaring. “Hope you had fun.”
Koltira sneers in disgust. “Ana could be in pieces right now because of me, and all you can say is ‘hope you had fun’? Do you even care?”
“I’m confident she’s fine,” Grimory responds with an attitude. “I know you’re married to Ali but I seem to understand her a bit more than you do. I doubt she’d hurt Ana given the chance.”
Koltira bristles. “You don’t know anything about her. She won’t hesitate to kill Ana.” Don’t say it… “Just trust me.”
Grimory narrows his eyes. “Whatever. You’re just gonna look like a fool when we find them and she’s fine.” He scoffs. “Though I’ll sure you’ll be more relieved than anything.” His eyes flick to the paper and he tilts his head as he examines it. He points a weathered finger at the squiggles. “This is the symbol for hot springs.”
Koltira purses his lips. “Someone needs to care. I know that’s not something you’re good at, but maybe you should try.” He glares down at the paper. That narrows things down, but…what are these? He traces over the triangles.
Grimory bites back a growl. “I do care! I’m sick of people telling me I don’t. I—” He scoffs again. “If you ask me, you care too much.” He suddenly narrows his eyes. “Wait. You don’t care about Ana. You care about Ana telling Ali of your little walk.”
Koltira shakes his head, astounded. “I think she already found out. But please, keep mocking me.”
Grimory rolls his eyes, unconvinced. “Whatever. Let’s just find them, yeah?” He glances at the paper again. “The triangles could mean anything. Shrines, tents, mountains… Not sure how we’re going to figure it out.”
“A hot spring? How quaint. Lovely place to go and look at the sulfur deposits, walk along the warm water, boil the bones from a corpse. I’m sure Ali is having an absolute blast.” He pushes to his feet so fat the stool knocks over, but he doesn’t right it. Trying his best to smile and not seem so panicked, he approaches the innkeeper with the paper. “Hi there, I need some help. I need to know where every hot spring is on the Broken Isles.”
The human woman looks at the paper and laughs. “Oh, I know that symbol. It’s painted on all the spas in Highmountain.”
His eyes narrow. “Spas?”
She nods. “Yep! There’s five. Just ask in Thunder Totem for a map with the locations and they’ll set you up.”
“Thank you.” His brow lowers over his eyes as he returns to Grimory. “Highmountain spas. I guess Ana probably is fine. Let’s go.”
Grimory places his hands on his hips and gives a cocky grin. “I’m not gonna say I told you so…” He pauses and turns to the exit. “But I told you so.”
“Maybe so, but your lack of concern for your friend is disconcerting.” He shrugs it off and heads for the flightmaster.
“I’m more worried about Alisbeth, to be honest,” Grimory responds. “You really think Ana would just let someone kill her?”
“It’s easier to kill someone that trusts you,” Koltira counters.
Memories of war suddenly strike him and the demon hunter sobers. “That’s true.” He sighs. “I guess we should hurry, then.”