Book 2 – Chapter Two

Koltira buys a flight to Thunder Totem. Upon landing, he finds a nearby provisioner and acquires a map, having her mark all the spa locations in the area.

Grimory glances over Koltira’s shoulder once they’re together again. “I guess we have some ground to cover. Might be best we stick together for this since they’re all so far apart and neither of us have telepathic powers.” He points to one of the locations near the coastline. “Start here? Go clockwise?”

The death knight shrugs and puts the map away. “I guess any starting place is good.”

“Right. See you there.” Grimory spreads his wings, nearly knocking over a Thunder Totem patron, and flies off toward the coast. Once there, he makes his way for the wooden building he remembers from the map.

“Oh, yes, I’ll meet you there. We should stick together because we have no way to communicate. Excuse me while I fly off and leave you behind, even though it makes me a giant cockhead,” Koltira mocks as he gets on an eagle and flies to the nearest stop, which is still a good walking distance from where he lands. “I swear to gods if I get there and he’s already taken off for the next one I’ll kill him. I don’t care. I will cut off his stupid wings and shove them up his stupid ass.” He finds a wooden building and confirms on the map that it’s the right location.

“They aren’t here,” Grimory says with a pointed tone, then gives a reserved smile. “I…didn’t think it’d take you that long. Sorry.” He pauses, then gives a shrug and a cocky grin. “I’d carry you myself, but all that armor…”

Koltira spins on his heel to head for the next location, not bothering to let Grimory see the map.

The demon hunter straightens as if to follow, then waves a hand and turns back into the building. “Fuck ‘im.” He acquires a new, marked map from the tourist info woman and heads out to the next hot springs.

By the time Koltira gets back to where he can get another flight, he’s sure the demon hunter has already made it to the next place. “Fuck you, Grim.” He instead buys a ride to the one that would be last, thankful to find it so close to the flight master.

“Yeah, I know your death knight,” the tauren inside says. “She stayed one day, then took off.”

Koltira sighs. “Thank you.” He leaves a gold piece on the counter and goes back to the tauren with his waiting eagles.

Upon reaching the quainter spa at the base of the mountains, Grimory questions the kind woman at the front desk. He gives a sigh when she gives him no helpful information. The lack of results finally gets to him and he gives a growl of frustration. “Maybe something did happen to them,” he mutters, smoothing his hair back as he pours over the map. “Ugh. This is exhausting.” He stretches a wing and brings it around to knead the flesh at the bend. I hope we find them soon. He pockets the map, rolls a shoulder, and takes off for the mountain’s peak.

At the next location on the map, Koltira receives no information. His eyebrows lower in annoyance as he realizes that they’re probably at the second or third spots, which he would have known if he’d stuck with Grimory. He flies to the third spot on the map, expecting to find the demon hunter already leaving. When he doesn’t, he goes inside to ask.

“Oh, yes, that death knight. Stayed for a day and then left.”

Koltira presses frustrated palms into his face. “And the mage? What about the mage?”

“I didn’t see any mage. The elf was alone, far as I could tell.”

“Thank you.”

Koltira leaves and a few steps back onto the trail he shouts in anger and begins punching a tree over and over.

Grimory lands gingerly at the next stop, his feet crunching in the snow. He shivers as he steps into the building and gives a look around. A tauren quickly comes up from behind and wraps him in a fur cloak. “Welcome,” she greets in a dreamy tone. “We don’t get many of you Illidari up here. How can I help you?”

Grimory nods a thanks to the woman and pulls his ears back. “Actually, I’m looking for two women. A blood elf death knight and a…mage. Red and black robes. Have you seen anyone around here like that?”

The woman gives a warm smile. “We actually have two young ladies here that fit that description now.”

Grimory’s eyes light up and he nearly grabs the woman by the arms, but restrains himself. “You do? Where?”

The tauren woman disappears down a hallway. After a few minutes she returns with a blood elf woman and a Gnome woman, both of whom wear impatient frowns and towels. Grimory’s expression falls and he runs a palm over his face. “Those aren’t them,” he grumbles. The women give offended scowls before turning and returning to their room. “Thanks anyway,” Grimory says, the panic in his chest rising. He leaves, placing the fur cloak on a hook beside the exit.

Upon arriving at what he thought to be the last spa, Grimory stops on his way to the building as he notices a familiar face near a battered tree trunk. “No luck?” he inquiries as he approaches, still doing his best to remain calm and collected. He glances at the tree, then the splinters on Koltira’s knuckles. “You all right?”

“Just a lot of stayed one day then left.” He growls and hits the tree again.

A tauren woman bustles from the spa. “Stop! You are ruining the harmony of this place!”

In a frustrated rage, Koltira spins on her. “I have been to every spa in Highmountain and gotten nothing. I don’t care about your damned harmony!”

She raises her eyebrows. “What is it that brought you to the spas?”

Koltira unfolds the drawing and tosses it at her. “We’ve been to every spa on the map and found nothing!”

The tauren laughs. “Silly elf. This is your map! Come!” She ushers him to stand beside her and turns to point at two tall peaks. “See how this is different than the symbols of the spa? It’s close, but the spring is in the wrong place. The spring you seek is between those mountains. There is no spa there, but a few people know about it.”

Koltira purses his lips, wanting to punch something else. “Thank you.”

“Good luck.” She laughs and returns to the building.

Without a word Koltira stomps off the trail, heading straight for the area between the mountains.

Grimory blinks multiple times, then smiles excitedly and follows. “Woah, wait up! This is good! Aren’t you happy? They’re probably there.”

Koltira ignores the demon hunter for a long time, then spins on him, getting right in his face. “I’ve had about enough of you. No, I am not happy. I’m anxious. But you’re not because you don’t care about either of them. Follow orders; that’s all you’re good at. You don’t care about anyone but yourself. Use once and destroy, that’s how you see them, isn’t it? Just go back to your little space ship and stop pretending to have any sort of interest in this.” He doesn’t wait for any kind of retort as he turns around and continues in a straight line for the spring.

Grimory stops, leaning back as he’s reprimanded. His wide eyes slowly narrow into a scowl as the death knight speaks. He clenches his teeth when Koltira turns and takes a step forward to pull the other’s shoulder as hard as he can without bringing him to the dirt. “Listen here, motherfucker.” Flames billow from his eyes. “I do care, all right?! This isn’t more than just some assignment to me! When I heard Ana had gone missing, I was worried—and still am! The weird, sudden fact that Ali wants to kill her and now they’re alone together makes me sick to my stomach, okay? Just because I don’t wear my heart on my fucking sleeve like you doesn’t mean I don’t give a shit!

The death knight shoves him back a step. “Bull. Shit.” He turns to walk away again. “I have this handled. Go be an asshole somewhere else.”

Grimory gives another growl and takes off into the air, flying ahead. “Like hell you do.”

Koltira punches another tree, leaving a smear of his blood on the bark. He stares at the ground ahead, seeing his invisible trail to follow, but doesn’t move. His feet refuse. Instead he returns to punching the tree until the bones of his knuckles meet the bark, no flesh left as cushion. Still he continues to beat on it.

Grimory reaches the valley between the two peaks to find a strip of lush grass and pine trees. In the basin of the valley sits a steaming hot spring. Further up the hill, surrounded by chiseled stone and pillars, is a therapeutic mud bath—and a head full of white hair beside a fiery mask. Grimory gives a loud sigh of relief and makes his way up the hillside to the pool of mud. “Ana! Ali!”

Koltira purses his lips, remembering Darion’s words to him, then turns back to make his way to the spring.

Anarchaia turns her head and smiles, lifting a mud-covered arm to wave. “Grim! Hi. Uh…I’m pretty sure I know why you’re here.” She cups her mouth with a hand. <<She wouldn’t let me leave,>> she whispers in Darnassian.

Alisbeth lifts her head and looks the wrong direction, her eyes covered by a black blindfold. “Hi! You guys took forever! It’s almost like you didn’t even look in my room! I drew such pretty pictures.”

Grimory furrows his brow and comes to crouch next to the pool. “Why are you blindfolded?”

Alisbeth jumps and turns to look at where his voice came from. “It’s a game! Annie’s Mud Spa. We do it blindfolded.” Then she whispers, “I know it’s only because she’s self-conscious about her flat boobs.”

The mage bristles and covers herself defensively. “It is not!

Grimory gives a quiet chuckle, his relief making him giddy. “We’ve been all over Highmountain looking for you two. Khadgar threw a fit, you know. Raised his voice at me and everything.”

Anarchaia blinks and she shrinks back into the wall behind her. “He yelled at you?” She resists rubbing her face with her dirty hands. “Oh gods, I feel so terrible. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal…” She then blinks. “Wait, we?”

Koltira stops again, knowing Grimory is already there. Just turn around. You couldn’t find her. He turns and stares back the way he’d come. No need to keep searching.

Alisbeth frowns and hooks her thumbs under her blindfold. “I’m breaking the rules!” She yanks the cloth to her forehead. “Kolty?” She gives a sad sigh and stares at the deep brown mud.

Grimory notices the falter in Alisbeth’s smile and turns to look behind him. He straightens to his feet. “They’re up here,” he says loud enough for the other to hear. “Alive…in a loose sense of the word at least.”

The death knight contemplates both paths after hearing the confirmation they’re there. But he doesn’t move. Not for a long time. Until his feet turn and lead him up the path to the clearing. He doesn’t look at any of them as he comes to stand by the mud hole.

“Kolty!” She spreads her arms wide, flinging mud everywhere.

“Alisbeth, get out of there. We have to go.”

Grimory gives a grunt of disgust at Koltira’s behavior. “Would you calm down? They’re safe and having fun. Leave her be, for once.”

Anarchaia sinks further into the mud until it touches her chin, discomfort spreading through her with the tension in the air.

“But you just got here. I haven’t seen you or Adamantium or Gryphon in…I don’t even know how long it was.” Alisbeth’s frown deepens as her throat tightens.

“A month.”

“So let’s just have some fun before—”

Koltira growls. “It’s not my choice. Come, now.”

Tears shine in her eyes. “But I was good.”

The demon hunter fully turns to Koltira, his annoyance reaching a peak. “No, it is your choice. You’re choosing what I’m assuming is a command from a superior over the happiness of someone you claim to love. She hasn’t seen Ana in a month! What is your deal?”

“I haven’t seen anything in a month,” she corrects quietly.

He frowns. “If I don’t take her back, Darion said he’d come for her himself.”

Alisbeth’s mouth drops open before she covers it with a muddy hand. “No.” She shakes her head. Tears break free to wet her cheeks.

Grimory glances down at Alisbeth from the corner of his eye and his scowl deepens. He straightens again. “I don’t know what kind of torture chamber you’re running up there, but I’ve had enough of it. You need to man the fuck up and tell this Darion asshole he’s hurting her.” Her points down to the sobbing Alisbeth. “This is getting ridiculous.”

Anarchaia wades through the mud to comfort the girl. “It’ll be okay, Ali.” She rests a comforting hand on her back.

Koltira fights with his own voice. “He doesn’t mean to put her back in the room.”

Alisbeth shakes her head. “No. No, it’ll never be okay.” She turns and climbs out of the pit. “I just need to…to wash off.” She looks to Koltira. “I w-want to wear m-my dress, okay?”

Koltira only swallows and nods, his eyes on the ground as she passes him for the steaming water of the hot spring.

Grimory gives another scoff of disgust. “I bet you told her she wouldn’t go to her room a month ago, too. You freaks have her so brainwashed it’s honestly heinous. You just—”

“Grim, that’s enough,” Anarchaia interjects from ankle-height. “You’re intruding into business that’s not your own. I’m sure their reasons are sincere.”

He turns an incredulous eye to the mage. “Are you brainwashed, too? Am I the only sane one here?”

Koltira gnashes his teeth together and finally glares at the demon hunter. “You’re the only one that brainwashed her. We were going to leave. But once she walked through that gate she started attacking everyone. And it’s because of you. They wouldn’t even let me see her. We had to talk to each other through the door and I could only touch her if I reached through the slot at the bottom. And then she broke out to see you.” His own eyes shine with his torture as he looks down at Anarchaia. “The death penalty is never sincere.” He turns away from them unable to contain the anger and the pain welling within him. “Oh, gods, what am I going to do?” He vaguely takes note of the still clear water of the spring, but is too distraught to register the strangeness of it.

Death penalty?” the two say in unison.

“For what?!” Grimory barks, the information he was given prior to that fact being overshadowed. “Leaving a room?!”

Anarchaia steps forward to place her hands on the edge of the pool. “I’m sure there’s something we can do.” The corners of her mouth twitch into a frown. “I-I’ll return to Master. Tell him that she rescued me from my kidnapper. Surely that would stand for something? I’ve been with her this entire time. She’s done nothing wrong—she’s harmed no one.”

“Final straw.” He glances at Grimory over his shoulder. “What did you say to her?”

Grimory jerks his head back and narrows his eyes. “What do you mean? When?”

Koltira grits his teeth, then turns back to them. “Ali didn’t want Ana. She drew the figures of you, but crossed you out and circled Ana. You can’t be kidnapped. Ana can. Then there’s the drawings. Just one thing over and over…your horns. Why is she obsessing over getting to you? What did you say to her at the Halls of Valor?”

Anarchaia narrows her eyes and whispers “Why can I be kidnapped but he can’t?”

Grimory’s features soften—if only somewhat. “I…just told her I wouldn’t let anyone hurt her. That if I had to stay around to prove I was real, and not a dream, I would. But you swept that right out from under me. She probably hates me now for not keeping my promise. But I bet you’re happy about that.”

Koltira narrows his eyes the littlest bit. “Why does it matter to you how she feels about you?”

The Illidari scowls. He’s trying to get you to say it. In front of Ana no less. Bastard. “Because she’s my friend. I’d prefer if all my friends were safe…happy…not brainwashed or manipulated.”

“I didn’t…!” He takes a calming breath. “I don’t know why she took you, Ana. Maybe because you’re small?” He sighs out his frustration and forces himself to remain composed. “I suppose one more day can’t hurt. Mograine doesn’t have to know. Maybe we’re still searching.” He shoves his toe in the dirt. “Maybe you can pull some strings, Ana? See what can be done?” He turns to Grimory and nods. “I’m glad she had a friend like you. She needed someone to make those kinds of promises, whether they were broken or not.”

Grimory sobers, but says nothing—only nods out of respect.

Anarchaia gives a smile and nods. “Yes, absolutely. I’ll see what I can do.” Something catches her eye and she tilts her head to see the source of the drop of blood. “You’re hurt,” she says, eyes on his bloodied knuckles.

Koltira hides his knuckles. “I have some stress I needed to work out. I’m more concerned with how you plan on cleaning off if you’re naked and…” He eyes Grimory, then turns to the hot spring. It finally clicks. The water is clear and undisturbed, a black cloth on the ground beside it. The death knight begins to laugh. “For once I’m glad she’s so sneaky.” He turns to Grimory. “However, I’d still rather she wasn’t running naked in the woods. Could you…” He points upward.

Grimory gives a curt salute and grin, spreads his wings, and takes off over the trees to search for Alisbeth.

“Well I’m still in here for a reason. Heh.” Anarchaia sinks further into the mud as if everyone can see her body despite being completely submerged.

Koltira smirks down at the mage. “Too bad, since now both of them are conveniently gone and you can trust me to turn my back.” He turns away from her and stares off into the trees.

Anarchaia gives a sheepish grin. “I suppose you have a point.” She lifts herself out of the mud pool, casting him a quick glance to ensure he’s keeping his word, and makes her way down to the springs, leaving dirty footprints behind her.

Koltira resist peeking, his mind preoccupied with his own troubles with Alisbeth—until a single memory flashes into his mind. He glances from the corner of his eye. Even under the mud she’s beautiful. He turns away. Stop it. Another memory. Stop. He clenches his fist and growls at himself.

Anarchaia makes short work of cleaning herself off, figuring that the quicker she does so, the less time she spends naked in public. After drying of with a vortex of fire, she conjures her clothes—buttoning her gloves and shirt, tying the ties in back, lacing her pants—then throws her robes over her head. She sighs as she returns to the hill. “I hope you guys weren’t searching long,” she says with an embarrassed grin, her eyes still flicking to his wounded hands. I’d hate to be more of a bother to you than I already am— No. Don’t say that out loud.

He shakes his head. “Just a day, give or take a few hours.” He sighs. “I’m sorry. I let my duty get to my head and didn’t think of other possibilities. But, to be fair, who is there to advocate for the life of a forsaken serial killer with little to no self-control, violent mood swings, and a penchant for killing first and never asking questions?”

Anarchaia gives a shrug. “Her friends, one would assume.”

Koltira searches the sky. “How long does it usually take for him to track someone down?”

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