Book 2 – Chapter Four

Anarchaia follows Koltira’s gaze and fidgets. “It doesn’t take him long. A few minutes.” She glances back at his hands and hesitates. “You should find a better way to relieve your stress. Heh.” She conjures a roll of bandages. “May I?”

Koltira grits his teeth and moves his hands behind his back. “I’m fine. And I meant friends with power. Anyone who could make an actual difference in Darion’s decision.”

Anarchaia deflates, suddenly feeling as though she’s imposing. She sends the roll away. “I can speak with Master. I can’t promise anything, however.” She fidgets again. So awkward. Even after a month.

Koltira softens. “I’m sorry. For everything. All of it. I’ve been nothing but a fool.” He stares down at his hands, at the bone surrounded by red flesh. “I deserve worse than a few scraps on my hands.”

Anarchaia furrows her brow. “I-I don’t understand. You have nothing to be sorry for.”

Koltira rolls his eyes at Anarchaia. “Oh, come on. You can’t say you actually like this nonsense!”

Anarchaia blinks. “O-Oh. Heh. To be honest I was kind of having fun. It’s no big deal, really. The only person hurt here is Master… That and you get used to it.”

He purses his lis and sits to wait. “I meant all of it. Don’t you just wish you could go back and erase it sometimes?” He realizes after the fact how the question sounds, but doesn’t correct himself. Maybe she does regret it.

Anarchaia’s eyes widen slightly and she bites her lip, looking away. “I…” She clears her throat and lowers her voice. “No. I don’t.”

The death knight keeps his eyes on the ground. That makes two of us. “Well, then I’m sorry for right now.” He looks to the sky. “Where the hell is he?”

Anarchaia takes his lack of agreement as a dissonance in opinion and shakes her head. “Stop apologizing. And…” She sighs. “You want me to lie or be truthful?”

“About what?” he asks.

The mage turns back to him. “About where he is.”

“The truth would be nice?” Koltira ventures, finally glancing up to look at her. I missed this view. He snaps his head back to the ground in front of him. Stop thinking like that.

“They’ve probably run somewhere to be alone,” she says down to him with a sympathetic smile. She flushes and turns when she catches his eye. “I’m not sure why you trust them so.”

Koltira’s brow lowers with annoyance. “This isn’t the time to fuck. And how else would we have gotten her back?”

Anarchaia flinches at his crass language, but her smile remains. “You told me to be honest. I’m obviously prone to error, though. Perhaps she’s gone far.”

“I guess.” He sighs. “I just thought he could take at least one thing seriously.”

Anarchaia chuckles. “We’re still talking about Grim, right?” She sits across from him in the dirt. “Seriousness isn’t his forté.”

“Oh, so I just sent him off to get her more lost. Great. This is why I prefer being with you.” His eyes widen on the dirt below him as he scrabbles for a way to make that sound better, but nothing comes to mind.

Anarchaia flushes once more and turns away, a hand on her cheek. “That’s…very misguided, but very sweet. I…” She inhales to say more, but different words come out than she intends. “If they get lost he can fly them out.” She clenches her teeth. I can’t say it.

“Yeah,” Koltira nods absently. “Sure.” What do I even say now?

Anarchaia takes in another breath and hesitates. She swallows and fidgets with her thumbs, not looking up. “Koltira, I…” She sighs, deciding she lacks the confidence to say what she wants, but desires to have the tension lifted more. “I’ve…missed you.” She clenches her eyes shut, not bearing to look at him.

She doesn’t mean it that way, the death knight reminds himself after a small flutter of hope flies through him. “I missed you guys, too.” He pats her on the shoulder, then retracts his hand and directs a disgusted look for himself into the dirt. Wow. Just…

Anarchaia inwardly cringes at her decision, but is relieved that he’s given her a way out. She bites back a sigh and gives him a sad smile. “So what have you been up to since I saw you last?”

Koltira shrugs. “Nothing of interest, actually. What about you?”

“I had a lot of tavern duty for all the liquor I took. Heh.” She sobers and sighs again. “And chores. To be honest this hot spring business was kind of what I needed. I’ve been…pretty stressed.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. I wish there was some way I could help.” He leans back on his palms.

I can think of a way. Anarchaia narrows her eyes at her own thoughts and shakes her head. “Stop apologizing,” she says in his voice, smiling.

Koltira frowns. “That’s creepy.” He furrows his brow at her. “Do I really sound that pompous or did you add that just because?”

Anarchaia gives a laugh at his reaction. “I added nothing! I would never purposely offended you.”

“Well, then I guess I just offended myself.” He makes a face.

Anarchaia gives a coy smile and sticks out her tongue playfully. “How would you rather I make you sound, then?”

“Rugged and handsome, like I am.” He laughs. “Oh, gods, that was pompous.”

Anarchaia gives another, heartier laugh, covering her mouth with her fingertips. “I’d say you do a good enough job of that without any fancy aural tricks.”

Koltira scoffs dramatically. “I’m offended, Ana. You offended me. Do you see the offence on my face?”

Anarchaia fakes a pout as though she’s been heavily reprimanded. “Oh no! Please accept my apologies! Whatever can I do to make it up to you, O Rugged and Handsome Koltira?”

Let me see that beautiful face I missed, he thinks. “Solve this shit?” He gives a halfhearted chuckle.

Anarchaia tilts her head and sighs. “There are things even I can’t fix with magic. Those two are, sadly, on that list.” She stands and rubs at the crook of her neck. “We can search if you’d like. Or follow survival one-oh-one and stay put.”

“Well, is there a point to staying here except the hot spring? If you don’t think they’re coming back, I mean.”

Anarchaia gives a shrug. “Knowing them they’ll return eventually. I guess…it all depends on how much of my company you can handle in one sitting. Heh.”

Koltira flops backward onto the ground and puts his hands behind his head. “I guess we’ll see.” He smirks. How about forever?

Anarchaia lowers to sit on her knees, the joints popping in protest. I’m sure you’re already bored of me. She thinks for a long moment and looks around, taking in the sights and sounds. “This place is so pretty,” she hums with a smile. “There are worse places to wait.”

“There really are.” He glances over at her. “Ana, I… Never mind.”

Anarchaia looks over and gives a grin. “Oh no, no, no. You can’t dangle a worm before a bird and expect him not to snap at it. What were you going to say?”

He purses his lips and looks away. “I was wrong…suggesting we go our separate ways.”

Anarchaia blinks, her smile fading. She gives a hum of a laugh—quiet and polite—and looks down at her hands in her lap. “So…you missed me, as well?”

I missed your laugh, your smile, the way your cheeks flush when you’ve drunk too much. I missed your wit and intellect and haughty determination. I missed your perfume and the way the moonlight shone from your skin… “A little bit, I guess.”

The mage crawls over to him, smiling down from behind her mask. “More than Grim?”

Koltira laughs. “Oh, no. I think I missed him so much more. Couldn’t wait to get back to dealing with a complete fuckboy. Being around him is good for my stress levels. Keeps them nice and high.” He smiles up at her, then without thinking he pulls up her mask to see her smile.

While normally she’d pull away, Anarchaia titters down at him, grabbing his hand before he can pull it away. “Is that why you punch things? Because you miss Grim so much?”

Koltira sobers. “That was Grim and Mograine. I just needed an outlet. I was worried she’d killed you…” He wraps his fingers around her hand.

Anarchaia’s heart shudders beneath her breastbone and she swallows. “I’m not that easy to kill,” she says with a reassuring smile, “…after the first time, at least.” She begins wrapping his knuckles in conjured gauze before he can protest. “You should find a different outlet.”

Like you? “Perhaps.” He grits his teeth and hisses as the gauze rubs the sore wounds. “Let’s not go through this whole song and dance again where you think that I think that you can’t take care of yourself. But I do admit that the possibility frightened me.” He avoids looking at her.

Anarchaia motions for him to give her his other hand. “I…have thought about what you said and have come to realize I was wrong. I’m sorry.” He cares more about Alisbeth getting in trouble, you idiot. She smiles. “It’s sweet that you worry about me, though. Thank you.”

Koltira shrugs. “Thank you for…this.”

The mage waves her hands and sends the roll of bandages away. “Please, thank me by not doing it again.”

Koltira purses his lips. “No promises. But I’ll try.” He wants to say more, to talk candidly about everything racing through his mind. But he doesn’t. He just smiles at her.

Anarchaia sits back on her knees and runs her tongue once over her lips. She opens her mouth to say something else—anything—but finds that nothing that wouldn’t come out awkwardly comes to mind. She sighs and falls back to her hind end. This is so awkward. Say something sincere. Romantic. Tell him how you feel. “…”

Koltira stares at her lips for a moment, then looks away. This is so awkward. Say something. This is the most romantic time of day and… No. But at least say something! “Nice sunset.” That was pathetic.

Anarchaia looks over the tree line to the periwinkle, orange, and magenta sky and smiles. “It is.” After a long moment she sighs. “I don’t think they’re coming back,” she says without turning around.

Koltira growls. “You don’t say.” He rubs his palms over his face. “This is my fault for telling her. Of course she wouldn’t come back. Maybe she found a way to evade Grim?” He rolls his eyes. “No, that idiot is definitely in on this, isn’t he?”

Anarchaia gives a shrug, turning back to him with another sympathetic smile. “I don’t know. To be honest, ever since he met Alisbeth, he doesn’t tell me much anymore…but my educated guess would be yes.”

Koltira’s eyes narrow of their own accord. “Ever since? I thought you two were friends.”

“We are,” the mage corrects. “He’s just been distant, is all. It’s been a lonely month.”

“Shame to hear.” I could’ve kept you company.

She sighs and rises to her feet to stretch. “Well, we have a few options. We can look. We can wait. We can leave. I’m a patient person, so I’m fine with all of the above.”

Koltira stands and gives a heavy sigh. “We could start by talking to Khadgar. It might make her more willing to return if we can reverse Mograine’s order.”

The sound of her teacher’s name sends a ring of panic and guilt through her chest; Anarchaia sobers. “Master,” she groans and opens a portal to Dalaran. “That’s a good start. I’ll find Archmage Khadgar and see what I can do. I’m sure he’ll oblige.”

“I’ll help! Please.” He adds the last bit to avoid sounding so desperate.

The mage smiles. “Sure. You aren’t allowed in the Hall so I’ll tell him to meet us downstairs in the citadel.”

“Sounds like a plan.” He grabs her hand and jumps through the portal, yanking her behind him.

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