Anarchaia stumbles to a stop behind Koltira as they appear at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the Violet Citadel. She allows her hand to linger for a moment before suddenly feeling as though those around her are looking and she lets go. She clears her throat as she approaches one of the guards. “Uh, hi—” she looks up into his helm “—Dellon. Could you perhaps alert Master that I’ve returned?”
The man gives a curt nod but does not smile, and, in a flash of light, disappears.
Anarchaia’s sudden release of his hand catches him off guard. He clasps his hands together to occupy them and seem casual.
Nearly a minute after the guard’s departure, another flash of light fills the room. Anarchaia gives a cry of surprise as she’s swiftly swept into a tight hug. “Where were you?! What happened?!”
“Can’t…speak…if I can’t…breathe,” Anarchaia croaks, then inhales deeply as her feet hit the floor again. “Some thieves recognized me and kidnapped me in hopes of ransom,” she explains once she’s regained her bearings. “They couldn’t decide amongst themselves what to do, so I guess they never contacted you? Heh.” She fidgets with her thumbs. “B-but Alisbeth actually rescued me earlier this evening. Chopped them all to bits. All dead.”
Khadgar narrows his eyes down at her. “The Redblade woman?” He gives Koltira a glance as if just realizing he was there, then back to Anarchaia. “That’s…interesting.”
Koltira smiles as innocently as he can, but it more resembles a look of pain. “Yes. I guess she found them after she escaped Acherus. She’s rather fond of Ana. She calls her her ‘shoulder cannon’.” He chuckles at the last part. Oh my gods why is it suddenly awkward to look him in the eyes? But it would be rude to look away. Damn everything.
Khadgar gives a short laugh through his nose. “An apt name.”
“So Alisbeth is no doubt in trouble with her commander,” Anarchaia explains through her embarrassment. “I was hoping you could speak to…Mograine? Was it? Perhaps see to it that she receives a pardon?”
Khadgar gives a sort of wince. “Darion is…a stubborn man.”
Koltira frowns. “He means to have her executed. I’d hoped you of all people could help.” Crash and burn, I suppose. Please stay missing, Ali.
Anarchaia pulls off her mask and looks up at her mentor with pleading eyes. “Please try? I never ask for anything. It would mean so much…”
Khadgar looks down at her somberly, then sighs and places a gloved hand on her head. “I’ll do what I can. I can promise nothing.”
Anarchaia smiles and wraps her arms around his torso, burying her face in the scales of his cloak. “Thank you, Master.”
Koltira shifts in awkwardness, his mind wanting her to be less grabby with her master, but also reminding himself that he has no claim over Anarchaia. So he swallows his opinion and waits.
Khadgar gives one final sigh and a curt nod to Koltira. “I suppose I’ll go take care of that now, while I have a free moment.” He brushes Anarchaia’s hair from her face. “Stay out of trouble.”
“No promises,” she says with a grin. She turns when his figure disappears. “Let’s hope for the best.” She throws her mask back over her head.
Koltira nods, his stomach tight. “Yeah.”
Anarchaia swallows and forces herself to perk, giving a painful smile. “Well. Drinks while we wait?”
Koltira smiles. “Oh that’s right, you’ve been bar tending. Come on and show me what you learned.” He gives her a playful wink.
Anarchaia gives a small chuckle and makes her way down the steps. “Serving. It’s mostly just beer and wine down below the Hall, anyway. No one here really likes hard liquor, sadly.” She turns on her heel. “But I can conjure up anything you’d like…though I’d prefer to avoid more chores so buying drinks may be best.”
Koltira throws a casual arm over her shoulder—or at least he hopes it seems casual. “I’d rather not force you into more chores. I’ll pay.”
The mage takes a step closer so that his elbow rests more comfortably on her shoulder. “That’s not necessary. You’re a guest in the mage city and I’m a mage. I should buy.”
Koltira clears his throat as she moves closer. “How about we split it?”
Anarchaia turns into the nearest tavern and chuckles. “I guess that’s fair.”
“Well, look who decided she didn’t want to be kidnapped anymore.” Steamvolt, accompanied by two of his employees, lifts his mug of ale in the two’s direction. “And who’s this? New boyfriend?” He narrows a blue eye up at the death knight.
Koltira fidgets, then drops his arm. “I’m just a friend.”
Anarchaia clears her throat, glad her mask covers her blush. “This is Koltira Deathweaver, a good friend of mine. We trialed the Halls of Valor together…with Grim and Ali of course.” She turns to Koltira and gestures to the goblin. “This is—”
“Gildwynn Steamvolt. Dalaran Engineer.” Steamvolt holds out a weathered, oil-stained hand.
Koltira shakes the goblin’s hand. “I’ve heard about you. Well, sort of. Grimory mentioned you in passing. It’s nice to put a face to the name.”
The goblin narrows his eyes and makes a face as though he’d just witnessed two Murlocs sharing a rather sloppy kiss. “Goat boy mentioned me, did he? My name could pass through worthier lips.”
Anarchaia gives a nervous laugh and points to the bar. “III’m just gonna grab some drinks. You like whiskey, yes?” She slides away before Koltira can respond.
Koltira blinks after the mage, then returns his attention to the goblin. “Yes, um, yesterday when we were trying to find Ana.”
Steamvolt finishes his ale and wipes his face with the back of a leather sleeve. “Please tell me that idiot isn’t getting credit for finding her.”
“Actually it was Alisbeth Redblade, a fellow death knight. She joined in the mission in Stormheim.” He decides to stick with the story Ana was telling. Hurry up.
Anarchaia steps back in, holding out a glass of whiskey and smiling down at Steamvolt. “Nice seeing you again Gildwynn.” She turns toward the rear exit of the tavern, pulling Koltira with her by the elbow.
Steamvolt narrows his eyes after her. “We see each other nearly every day,” he mutters, but she’s already gone.
Koltira takes the whiskey and sighs. “Thank you. I hate being left to make small talk with someone else’s friends. Speaking of friends, are all of them so…” He decides not to say it.
Anarchaia turns, the wine in her ivory cup sloshing. “Ah, ah, ah,” she says. “Worm. Bird.” She clicks her teeth together and smiles.
He grumbles. “Seedy. Your friends are all…seedy. Save for Khadgar, of course.” He takes a quick sip of whiskey. “Please don’t hit me.”
Feigning offense, Anarchaia reels her fist back as if to strike him, then punches him as gently as possible on the chest. “Yeah, they kind of are. I guess I just attract those types. Heh.” She takes a drink of wine and savors it. “Steamvolt is okay, though. I’ve known him since he moved here.” She looks out over the ocean over Dalaran’s edge. “You’re my friend. You think yourself seedy?”
Koltira shrugs. “I don’t know. Maybe I am and I just didn’t know it until I was attracted to you—I mean…you know what I mean.” Just take a drink and act cool. “I did say I’m an asshole.”
Anarchaia chuckles into her cup. “I don’t think you’re seedy or an asshole,” she says after swallowing. “Quite the opposite, really.”
Koltira’s gaze falls and his smile fades. “But I am an asshole.”
Anarchaia gives a sad smile. “You’re really not. Why do you keep saying so?”
You of all people should know why. “So, tell me how you met Steamvolt.” He tries changing the subject.
Anarchaia ignores his subject change, her sad smile growing sadder. “If anyone’s an asshole in this it’s me, Koltira.” She looks down into her cup. “It was my fault. Still is. And do you want to know the worst part?” She looks back up at him, her smile gone. “I don’t feel badly about it. At all.”
Koltira’s eyes snap to her mask. “Neither do I,” he says before he can think up a more tactful response. “I did but then… Now I just don’t.” He looks away, realizing he can’t bear to have her look in his eyes right then.
Anarchaia looks away to hide her smile. We can’t be together, though. “That…makes me happy. I-I was so worried that I…was just a mistake. That you never wanted to see me again.” Tears well in her good eye. “After…our assignment….”
“I never wanted to stop seeing you. That’s why I said we should go our separate ways.” He swallows what’s in his glass and clears his throat, not having expected to ever admit these things to her.
Anarchaia bites her lip. “I didn’t want that, either, but…I felt like it wasn’t my place to ask you not to go.” She sighs. “I know we…can’t…” She stops, unable to bring herself to say the words out loud.
Koltira sighs. “Hey, c’mere.” He grabs her and pulls her into a hug. “It’s okay to tell me you want to stay friends.” Even if what you want is more.
The mage pauses for a long moment, then sobers and brings her hands to his chest. “But that’s not what I want.” Her forehead thunks against his chestplate.
Koltira removes his arm. “Oh.” She’s harder to read than a book in Dwarvish.
Anarchaia gives a small noise of frustration and looks up into his face. “What do you want? To be just friends? Acquaintances? Strangers? To pretend like nothing happened? Just say it and it’ll be done.”
Koltira grits his teeth. “I…can’t.”
Anarchaia steps away, her somber smile returning. “Friends, then. I understand. Okay. Sorry. Didn’t mean to…put you on the spot.”
With a growl, Koltira reaches forward, grabbing Anarchaia up into his arms. Once he has her to his level, though, he stops. His mind races through everything he wants to say and everything he wants to do and all the reasons he can’t.
The undead girl gasps in surprise and drops her cup, then holds her breath when the two come face-to-face. She sees the turmoil in Koltira’s eyes and bites her lip. “I-It’s okay. You don’t have to.” After a moment she leans forward. “I’ll do it. It’ll be my fault, then.” She plants a gentle kiss on his lips, fingers cradling his jaw on either side.
Koltira leans into her kiss and pulls her closer. After a moment he leans his forehead on hers. “That’s not how it works. So I guess it’s both our faults.”
Anarchaia furrows her brow upward and smiles. “But it does. If it’s my fault, you won’t feel badly. And if you don’t feel badly…” She closes her eyes. “I won’t feel badly.”
Koltira leans in to kiss her again. “It’s not working. Maybe you should try harder.”
Anarchaia kisses him once more, pressing her lips to his with more fervor and flicking her tongue against his lower lip. “Like that?” she says in a hushed tone.
Koltira groans. “Careful. Might get yourself into another situation to feel badly about.”
The mage titters and kisses his forehead instead. “Or not feel badly about, as it were.”
Koltira shrugs. “Either way, you’re walking on thin ice.”
Anarchaia gives a laugh and narrows her eyes. “Don’t threaten me with a good time.”
Koltira smirks. “I thought I was threatening you with a bad time. Probably bored you to death.” He stops. “That joke was funny until I said it.” With a sigh, he lowers her back to her feet, but doesn’t straighten. “Ana, I… I don’t know what to do.”
Anarchaia places a palm on his cheek and tilts her head, the slightest of frowns on her lips. “About this?”
“And everything else,” he admits. He sets his own hand against hers, pressing her palm into his cheek.
The mage sighs, her eyes flicking between both of his. “I don’t have answers. I’m sorry.”
Koltira wraps his hand around her cheek, his thumb runs along the edge of her lower lip. “Do you want to stop?”
Anarchaia shakes her head without much thought. “I don’t want you to get in trouble, though.”
Koltira smiles, then laughs. “Who am I getting in trouble with?” He frowns. “Not Khadgar, right?” He straightens and leans back against the wall. “Why’s everything gotta be so messy?”
The cords in Anarchaia’s throat tighten at the mention of her teacher’s name. “No. I just…” She picks up her now empty cup and looks inside for a long moment. “I suppose secrets are kind of exciting, though.” She smiles up at him. “And not all types of ‘messy’ are bad.” She sticks out her tongue.
Koltira smiles down at her. “We should probably be careful.” He glances around the yard. “If you’re going to continue doing things that don’t make you feel bad.” He takes her by the hand. “I owe you a drink, I suppose.”
She allows him to lead her where he may, chuckling and furrowing her brow. “Hey, I feel badly about things!” She pauses. “Most things, really. And I’ll never pass up a free drink.”
The death knight laughs. “Well, then, drinks it is. And we’ll see where it goes from there?” He stops before heading inside and frowns. “I hope you don’t think I’m trying to get you drunk with any particular plots in mind.”
Anarchaia returns the laugh. “I don’t need particular plots to get drunk. Or much of any reason, really.” She drags him back inside. “But regardless: likewise.”
“Well, good, because I wouldn’t need to be drunk to—” He stops as they near other patrons.
Anarchaia turns her head to him and smiles. “To go for a walk?” She sets herself down at a table near the back and sets her chin on her knuckles. “Something cheap, please.”
Koltira chuckles as he spins the chair and lowers himself into it, his chest leaning against the backrest. “Yes, walks.” He whispers to the barmaid their order, then smiles at Anarchaia. He folds his arms over the chair. “What is ‘cheap’? And why?”
Anarchaia narrows an eye at his behavior, smile unwavering. “Weak ale. One month wine. If you’re buying I’d prefer something cheap.”
The death knight’s eyes narrow. “I’m offended that you would even ask me to lower my standards for you over something so petty as gold. I’m not sure I can make it through the night without sincere apologies.” When the maid returns with their drinks he sets Anarchaia’s in front of her. “Drink it and shut up about costs.” He smirks at her and takes a swallow of his whiskey.
Anarchaia lifts the artisan glass into the dim torchlight and purses her lips. “Koltira, this looks expensive.” She takes a small drink. “Koltira, this tastes expensive.” She purses her lips at him.
He snatches the glass and looks at it. “Huh, that’s strange. I asked her to bring a wine worthy to meet your lips.” He passes the wine back. “Not even the best they’ve got. She obviously has no idea what you’re worth.” He takes a drink of whiskey and stares at the amber liquid still in the glass.
Anarchaia blushes a deep scarlet and turns away, a hand on her cheek. “You know I can’t accept compliments.” She chuckles quietly. “And you’ve already won me over, you don’t need to keep being so charming.”
“I’m not trying to win you over. I’m treating you the way you deserve.” He furrows his brow. “Is that really so strange to you?”
Anarchaia continues to avoid his gaze. A nervous laugh escapes her and she sips her wine. “I-I don’t know. Kind of? I mean… That’s… Heh. You’re really too kind.”
He rolls his eyes. “I’m really not. You should probably stop saying that before you get some preconceived notions about me.”
The mage turns back to give him a sideways glance. “It seems like you’re the one who isn’t accustomed to being treated the way you deserve.”
He shakes his head. “No, no I’m very accustomed to being treated how I deserve. You’re the only one who thinks otherwise.”
Anarchaia frowns. “I treat you the way you deserve. Anyone who does otherwise is an ignorant fool.” She sips her wine again. “They seem to have forced you to believe them as well.”
“I had rotten food thrown at me as I rode through the streets of Orgrimmar for the first time. The people screamed at me, called me a murderer and shouted for my head. That, Ana, is how I deserve to be treated.” Koltira finishes his drink and keeps his eyes on the empty glass in his hand.
The mage completely turns to look at him, lips parted slightly as she searches for words. “No,” she says, shaking her head and scowling. “No it isn’t. You’re a strong, sweet, patient, and smart man, Koltira. And I don’t care the reasoning the citizens of Orgrimmar had, you don’t deserve that. Ever.”
Koltira reaches across the table to wrap his hand over hers. “I’m not going to correct you, but don’t think that means you’ve won this argument.” He winks.
Anarchaia blinks, then smirks and tilts her head. “Because you don’t have a correction to make. So, technically…” She sticks a pale tongue through her grinning lips.
He cocks an eyebrow at the mage. “Keep sticking that tongue out at me and I might be forced to do something about it.”
“Ahm tho thcared,” Anarchaia retorts, tongue still between her teeth.
He points at her. “Don’t make me take you to your room.”
Anarchaia raises her eyebrows and laughs. “You couldn’t get to my room if you tried.”
Koltira makes a face. “Well, way to be a kill-joy. No room for you, then.” He contemplates flagging down the barmaid, but decides he doesn’t feel like getting drunk tonight.
Anarchaia blinks. “O-oh! You were… flirting with me. Heh.” She takes a long drink of her wine. You’re an idiot.
The death knight laughs. “Trying. But maybe I should stop.”
“No! No.” The mage gives another embarrassed chuckle. “Don’t let my stupidity discourage you. I’m just not used to being hit on, is all.” She stops. “Or hitting on others, for that matter. Am I awkward?”
Koltira blinks at her, but remains silent. How do I even begin to respond to that?
Anarchaia turns away and stiffens. “Yep. I am.” She drinks the rest of her wine and pulls her mask down. She clears her throat. “Did you want to see it?”
Koltira blinks again. “See what? Your awkwardness? I thought I already had front-row seats.”
“Nonono.” Anarchaia waves her hands and smiles. “My room. You snuck me into Acherus. I could sneak you into the Hall.”
Koltira gives an awkward smile. Don’t point out your sarcasm. It’ll only make her feel worse. “Oh, yeah. Right. How would you, uh, sneak me in?”
Anarchaia takes note of his awkward grin and grits her teeth. “N-not unless you want to, obviously. It was a dumb idea. There’s probably nothing in there that would interest you, anyway. Forget I said anything.”
Koltira slaps a palm to his forehead. “Oh, gods, Ana… Do you want to show me your room or not? I’m curious enough to go if you want. Stop thinking you’re awkward, because you’re making this awkward. Now, are you sneaking some asshole into the Hall, or are you going to sit there until that asshole buys you more wine?”
Anarchaia stands. “No, don’t buy me more wine.” She fidgets with her fingers and smiles. “And I would bring some asshole to my room but I don’t see any around.” She grabs him by the hand and urges him to stand. “So you’ll have to do.”
“Are you sure?” Koltira asks. “I mean, there are so many other patrons in this tavern. Are you really sure you want to take me?”
Anarchaia giggles. “I could take Gildwynn. I’m sure he’d be ecstatic.” She takes both of Koltira’s hands in her own. “But seriously, shut up and don’t let go.” The two disappear in a flash of light and sparkles. When they materialize once again, they are standing in the middle of a large square room lined with shelves full of books and knickknacks. A four-poster bed floats near the back wall, lace drapes over the sides, and beneath it sits a well-used beanbag chair and a number of stuffed animals. A piano sits in the corner, the stand messy with sheet music, and candles lit with violet flames float lazily about. “Home sweet home.”
Koltira tries to say nothing of the mess, but notes that while Alisbeth is chaotic, her room is always in as collected a state as possible—some level of control when she has none, otherwise. But Anarchaia’s room is a stark contrast. Nothing is in any sort of order, contrary to the always-collected state of her mind. “Cleaning lady out?” he asks with extra snark in his tone to make sure she knows he’s joking. He prepares for the backlash anyway. This is how you get yourself teleported back to the tavern, alone.
Anarchaia crosses the room to throw herself into her oversized beanbag chair and laughs nervously. “I’m not here very often. And…to be honest, even if I were, it’d still be pretty messy. Heh. I’m rather disorganized, you see.” He thinks you’re messy. This was a bad idea.
Koltira shrugs. “As long as you know where everything is, it doesn’t matter. My dad called it organized chaos.” He lowers his voice even more, trying to mock a voice of an older man. “Don’t touch my things. It might look like a mess to you, but I know where everything is.” He laughs. He thinks about joining her, but flashes of trying to fit both of them on the chair, plus his armor trying to impale her, pass through his mind. Instead, he goes to the bookshelf nearest him and peruses the titles.
Anarchaia rolls over to sit upside down in her seat, pulling her robes off and tossing them aside. “Exactly! Master’s room is quite immaculate, though. Not a page out of place. Bed’s always made.” She pulls off her mask and tosses it with her robes.
“I was always the meticulous type as well. Then again I had arrowheads in my room and it wouldn’t do well to lose any of those. Ali is meticulous, too. But it’s always been easy for her because she’s never owned much of anything. Of the few things she took to Silvermoon, she only cared about two. Her mother’s dress, and her father’s sword.” He gives the mage a small smile, then turns his attention back to the books, his smile falling away entirely.
Anarchaia bites her lip, the subject of Alisbeth making her feel somewhat guilty about earlier. “Take your armor off. Make yourself at home. Can I get you anything? Any particular tome catch your eye?” He’s regretting it. This was definitely a mistake. May as well ride the wave.
Koltira doesn’t move, his eyes fixed on the spine of a book, though that’s not what he’s looking at. “Ana, have you thought…” Don’t say it. She doesn’t need to know what kind of piece of shit you are. “…about how different this day would be if we hadn’t gone our separate ways?” I guess that works.
Anarchaia sobers and, as usual, fidgets with her fingers. Her red pupils glance upward at the underside of her bed, and she decides on holding nothing back. “Yeah. Nearly every day, in all honesty. A-among other things.”
He purses his lips. Don’t say it. She’ll think I’m a monster. “Other things such as…?”
Anarchaia swallows and looks back at him. “I don’t want to offend you…”
He clenches his jaw. “Can’t be any worse than the thought I keep getting. Tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine?”
Anarchaia rights herself in her chair, crossing her legs and looking down into the space between them. “A-about…” He’s not going to agree with you. Don’t do it. “About being with you again. About…what my life would be like if you were with me instead of…of…” Her face twists into one of conflict. “I’m sorry.”
“Please don’t think any less of me…” Koltira groans and prepares for her disgust. “I keep thinking… What if I just let Mograine carry out his sentence… Because then I wouldn’t have to pretend I don’t want…you.” He turns away, not wanting to see the exact moment she decides to hate him.
The undead’s eyes widen and she pushes her hair out of her face. “R-…Really? You…missed me that much? You…” She looks back down at her hands, flustered and unsure how to feel. “That’s…” Terrible and romantic.
Koltira keeps his back to her. “I’ll leave if you want me to. I wouldn’t blame you. But just know that it’s not just that…” He takes a deep breath, preparing himself. “You asked me to tell you something I’ve never told anyone. I fell in love with Alisbeth Redblade. I married Alisbeth Redblade. She died four years ago. I don’t even know the woman who bears her name now. She’s… That’s not my wife,” he ends on a whisper, his eyes hazy with remorse and sorrow.
Anarchaia gets to her feet and crosses the distance between them to wrap her arms around him from behind. “I…know. I see the wear in your eyes. The sadness. If I’d be so bold, you give so much and get so little in return. You…” Don’t say that. Don’t. It’s completely inappropriate. She hugs him tighter. DON’T. “…deserve better.”
Koltira sets his hands on hers, closing his eyes to enjoy her embrace. “I suppose you know exactly what I deserve.” He turns to set his hand on her cheek. “Care to demonstrate?”
Anarchaia looks up into his eyes and feels her cheeks grow warm. Self-conscious thoughts creep into her mind and she looks down and away, a small smile on her lips. “You…really don’t care how I look, though?”
Koltira stares down at her. “Is there something wrong with how you look?” He doesn’t wait for a reply, but grabs her up into his arms. He kisses her once. Twice. Then long and passionate, unable to hold back.
Anarchaia closes her eyes and sighs against his lips, her hands running up to either of his shoulders, then around his neck to run fingers through his hair.
The death knight tries to move them, but slips on something underfoot and crashes backward against the bookshelf. Several tomes come tumbling down at them. He rolls over to shield Anarchaia from the small avalanche and gives a sheepish smile.