Anarchaia traces the scar over Koltira’s torn heart for the hundredth time, cheek pressed tightly to his shoulder as they lie peacefully beneath her quilt. She closes her eyes. “I would not be disappointed if this became a regular occurrence.”
Koltira chuckles. “Well, your room is impossible to get to, and plenty of books for insulation.” He squeezes her closer. “Who knows? It could work.” I tilts her chin up to plant a tender kiss on her lips.
The mage hums against his lips and smiles. “You could stay in the piano. It looks like there’s enough room in there.” She titters, but her smile quickly fades and she sits up. “Master! I forgot about Master!” She runs her hands through her hair and blinks from the bed to the floor to begin dressing. “Ugh, I’m so stupid!”
Koltira sits up to watch the mage scramble around. “In the piano?” He laughs. “Why would I have to stay in the piano?” He hops from the bed and takes her by the shoulders. “Calm down. I saw the way he looked at you; I’m sure it’s no imposition. Slow down. Let’s get dressed and I can come with you. Right?”
Anarchaia stops and takes an unnecessary, deep breath, leaning her forehead on his chest. “No, he’ll be disappointed, but he never tells me outright that he is. And that somehow makes it worse. I’d rather he just yell at me.” She nods, fixing the button to her glove. “And I’d like if you came with. I’d like if you came with me everywhere, to be honest.” She smiles up at him.
Koltira adjusts the mage’s shirt and spins her around to tie the back. “Well, I’ll go everywhere I can until you tell me to leave.” His fingers work through the tangled hair at the back of her head. “Now, if you would kindly point me in the direction of the clothes you so violently pulled off me, I’ll get dressed, too.”
Without looking, Anarchaia points a finger to the shadows beneath her bed. “If I was violent it was probably revenge for your being so pushy back at Acherus.” She smirks over her shoulder. “Not that I didn’t like it.”
He kisses her shoulder through the cloth of her glove. “If I didn’t like it, I would have stopped you.” He searches out his articles and pulls on his trousers as he winks over at her.
Anarchaia adjusts her robes as she pulls them over her head. “You think you could have stopped me.” She snorts and strides over to him, pulling her mask down over her face. “How incorrect.”
Koltira pulls his shirt over his head and bends to kiss her nose. “Sounds like a challenge.”
Anarchaia smiles and lifts a hand to wave his armor to them. “A challenge for another time.” She pulls up her hood.
“I look forward to it,” Koltira says, buckling on his armor.
~ * ~
“This going missing business is getting out of hand,” Khadgar says with a furrowed brow when the two finally arrive back downstairs.
“I know! I’m sorry!” Anarchaia whines. “We…had some business to tend to.”
The Archmage waves an exasperated hand. “It doesn’t matter. What matters is what Darion said. The only stipulation he would agree to is that Redblade be put under my jurisdiction.”
Anarchaia perks. “And?”
“I agreed.” He sighs, then straightens. “However, in my power, I’m placing her under your jurisdiction.”
Anarchaia’s smile falls. “O-oh. Um…okay. Yessir.”
Koltira literally bites his tongue to keep from saying anything until they get away from Khadgar. “Well… Yay and…shit?”
Anarchaia gives her teacher a halfhearted wave as he departs and sighs when she turns to Koltira. “That’s…stressful.” She swallows. “But good.”
Koltira nods his agreement. “So, what now?”
Anarchaia takes a seat on the bottom step of the stairs leading to the citadel. “I guess we find her before she does something that gets me in trouble…”
Koltira sits beside her. “Okay, so, finding Ali is…probably something akin to looking for a needle in the wrong haystack and the needle keeps moving around. But if she’s with Grim…where would he be?”
Anarchaia places her head in her hands and groans. “I don’t know. I don’t know as much about him as everyone thinks I do. If I had to give a deductive guess, I’d say they’re still back in Highmountain.”
Koltira sets a hand on her shoulder. “If it’s any consolation, I don’t know as much about Ali as everyone thinks I do. Except, you know, she’s unpredictable. Don’t trust her with Forsaken. Don’t trust her with cabbages…or Worgen… Or just about anything.” He stands and holds out his hand for her. “Come on. Get up. We’re not going to find them sitting around in Dalaran.”
Anarchaia doesn’t question any of the items in the list and instead takes his hand to stand. “Very true.” She sighs again, exhaustion weighing on her. “To Highmountain, then?”
“To Highmountain.” Koltira purses his lips as he thinks. “I should probably get Ali’s things out of Acherus at some point.”
“I guess we’ll have to find a place for them.” Anarchaia nods and takes his hand. “I’ll bring us back to the hot springs. Hold on tight.” In a flash of bright light, the two disappear. The air back at the hidden spa is thick with steam and early morning humidity. The mage gives a glance around and deflates. “Let’s hope they haven’t gone far…”
Koltira smirks at the hot spring. “Too bad we’re on a time limit.” He chuckles and throws an arm over her shoulder to guide her away. “Okay, you’re one of two unstable characters and you’ve run off. Where do you go?”
Anarchaia places her fingers on her temples and hums while thinking. “A tavern to drink as much as possible with my newfound freedom.”
“That’s…actually probably the most accurate prediction of their behavior ever. If we hurry, we might catch Grim still hungover.” He takes her hand and follows the direction Grimory had flown off the day before.
Anarchaia allows herself to be led, keeping up the best she can despite their height difference. Or naked…again. “I honestly just hope they’re in one piece.”
Koltira clears his throat. “In one piece and…decent this time.” After walking in silence for a minute he turns to her. “Do you have, maybe, a map with nearby inns? Rather than searching blindly…”
Anarchaia perks. “Oh! Yes!” She holds out her hands and the space between them in instantly filled with an open parchment depicting a map of Highmountain. “Hm. There’s actually quite a few.”
Koltira peers over her shoulder at the map. “Which ones are closest to our location? And in the general direction he went yesterday.”
Anarchaia points to a small square deep in the woods. “Well there’s this, but it’s a tavern, not an inn. Maybe we should start there anyway.”
Koltira nods. “Well, we did say drinking would be high on their priorities. Finding somewhere to pass out is not something either would worry about. Alisbeth wouldn’t pass out and I’m sure anywhere is fine for him. Even a ditch.” He sighs and mutters under his breath, “Hopefully drowned.”
Anarchaia clicks her tongue and gently pushes Koltira. “Now, now. Let’s be civil.” She’s rolls up the map and places it under her belt. She begins walking in the direction she’d pointed out. “Besides, it’s not that easy to kill him…unfortunately for you.” She pauses. “And I’d say he handles Ali fairly well.”
Koltira smiles devilishly. “That last bit could come in handy…”
Anarchaia lowers a brow in his direction. “Elaborate?” She glances over the tree line, noticing a cloud of black smoke billowing upward, but thinks nothing of it.
Koltira chuckles, watching his feet so as not to trip over the rough terrain. “Oh. I was just thinking that if she’s distracted, then, uh, no one will bother us. Just in case we wanted to, what was it you said? Oh, right, go for a walk.”
Anarchaia flushes and gently pushes him, tittering. “Or practice archery?”
Koltira shrugs. “Whichever you like. How far away was that tavern?”
“Just down this hill,” Anarchaia responds, pushing past a shrub and avoiding a low hanging branch. “There.” She points to the bottom of the gentle slope to a small building with smoke pouring from the chimney.
“Well, that was easy. Let’s get in there and ask around, I suppose.” Koltira holds out an arm for Anarchaia to hold onto.
Anarchaia steps inside the tavern beside Koltira and stops abruptly. The entirety of the room is in disarray. Blood stains the wood below. Shattered glass is everywhere. Tables and chairs are overturned. She blinks a few times and inhales slowly. “This appears to be all the answer we need.”
“Shit,” Koltira hisses. He goes to the bartender, scowling from behind the counter as though eyeing a mess he doesn’t want to clean up. “Excuse me. We’re looking for a demon hunter named Grimory and a death knight named Alisbeth. Might you have seen them? Perhaps last night?”
The bartender scoffs and narrows an eye up at the Blood Elf. “Not sure how many nameless drunkards you think I see every night, but I gotta tell you, it’s a lot, lot more.”
“So…no?” Anarchaia says with a reserved grin beneath her mask, righting a few of the tables with magic.
Koltira purses his lips at Anarchaia. “What now? Think they stayed the night outside somewhere?”
Anarchaia rights the last table and sighs. “Most likely. It’s been less than a day. They couldn’t have gone far.” She frowns. “Unless they’ve flown somewhere.”
Koltira growls in his throat. “Ever wish there was a device you could attach to someone to know where they are at all times? Cause I do. A lot.” He kicks at a pile of shattered glass, bringing remnants into it.
“I mean…I’m the one who’s going to be in trouble if we don’t find them.” She sighs and exits the tavern, nodding to the bartender as she does so. “If I weren’t terrified of flying, we could rent a mount. Heh.”
Koltira takes her hand to stop her. “The fault is mine from the start. Would you like me to get a mount and fly around the area?”
Anarchaia wraps her fingers around his hand and shakes her head. “I’d hate for you to do all the work. Besides,” she says while rubbing a shoulder, “the longer it takes the more time we get to spend without them.”
Koltira smiles and pulls Anarahcaia closer under an arm. “You make a convincing argument. So, follow the road or into the forest?”
“Considering their unpredictable natures, they’d obviously refuse to take a path laid out for them…especially if they’re the ones who caused the chaos in the tavern.” She leans her head against him.
Koltira stops, his brow furrowed. “Do you—no. Stupid question.” He peers around the area, then cocks an eyebrow. “This way.” He takes her by the hand and urges her to come with him into the forest.
Anarchaia blinks as she’s pulled along. “No question is a stupid question,” she says with a smile. “And what is it? What do you see?”
“It’s more of a smell. Something was burned that didn’t agree with being burned. That’s why it was a stupid question.” He smirks at her. “Right now I’m following…this.” He shifts and points out a darker puff of smoke, still barely visible against the trees in the forest.
Anarchaia squints, then uses a thumb to lift her mask so that just one eye can see, the dim red light beneath glowing through the shadow. “Oh! That’s probably from the smoke I saw earlier. Do you think it’s from them?”
Koltira blinks slowly at Anarchaia. “You saw smoke and didn’t say anything?” He sighs and continues following the faint trail.
The mage shrugs and pulls her mask back down. “I assumed there are many travelers and thus many fires. I’m sorry…” She follows, her eye watering as the smoke wafts into her face.
Koltira finds the small area, taking note that it bears resemblance to all their previous camp sites. A small fire pit, a log for Grimory to lean against. The pit, though buried, still smolders. He stabs a stick into it and stirs up the contents. “Looks like some metals; pewter melted together with others.”
Anarchaia kneels to rummage through the hot coals with unfeeling fingers. “These items don’t look familiar.” She sighs and straightens again, looking around for more clues. She picks up a stick with residual bits of meat on it, then tosses it aside. “This could be anyone’s camp.”
Koltira chuckles. “Who would be burning…what is this, a ring? At least three necklaces. A tooth. And either belts or buckles for bags. This is more belongings than just… two people.” He points out two sets of footprints. “The smaller ones are a bit larger than Ali’s, but…she was naked. Maybe she found boots?” He rubs his face. “Oh, that sounded more ridiculous out loud than in my head. But…can we please just hope this leads to them? It’s the only trail we’ve got to follow.”
Anarchaia smiles and places a hand on his forearm. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. We can go with any lead we come across. The sooner we find them, the better, obviously, but it’ll be fine.” She notices the prints he mentioned and trots off in the direction they lead.
“Don’t trample the trail,” Koltira urges, running up to take Anarchaia’s arm. “See? She walks lighter, there’s barely any footprint at all. Grimory—if it is him—walks heavily. Keep your eyes on his tracks. They might turn off at any moment.”
Anarchaia scrunches her face and steps away from the trail. “Sorry. I’m…obviously not very good at this. I’ll just follow you. Heh.”
Koltira softens and pulls her back under his shoulder. “It’s okay. You’ve probably never tracked anything before.”
Anarchaia lowers her head some and gives a crooked smile. “While true, I have read many books on the subject. Though nothing seems to have stuck.”
Koltira chuckles. “Learning is not just in books, but also in experience.” He furrows his brow at the sound of a roaring waterfall. Sure enough, the footprints head that way.
Anarchaia leans over the ledge to look down, then covers her face and turns away, not expecting the height to be so vast. “You…do you think…?”
Koltira peers at the footprints. “She took a running leap. “His feet scramble, then leap off. So yes, I do think. And honestly it’s very like her to just jump off into water, no matter the distance. How do you think she escaped Acherus?”
Anarchaia picks up a torn, green tunic and examines the damage. “So, how do we get down? Go around?” She swallows. “I-I mean…I can slow our falls…but…”
Koltira weighs the options then sighs. “We’ll find a path down. Come on.” He heads along the cliff’s edge to find any sort of way down.
Anarchaia fidgets, suddenly feeling like a burden. She trots over to him, glancing down the cliff. She steps off the ledge.
“Wait!” Koltira reaches out to grab her.
Anarchaia holds up a hand and, as she nears the fast approaching ground below, her speed is reduced to a fraction of the previous. Robes fluttering, she lands gently in the grass and gives a small noise of surprise as if her eyes had been closed the entire time. She turns and waves up at him. “Your turn!”
“Oh…” Koltira mumbles. “Of all the times to prove her bravery.” He clears his throat and shakes out his hands. “It’s just a quick drop. No problem. She won’t let you die, she likes you…I think? Shit.” He rubs his palms down his face and peers over the side. “You will catch me, right?” he shouts.
Anarchaia tilts her head. “Do you not think I would without your asking?”
Koltira grumbles. “Okay. If I die I’m haunting you.” With that he closes his eyes and leaps from the cliff.
Anarchaia lifts her hands and enchants the falling death knight as he nears, allowing him to land safely and without injury. She places her hands on her hips and cocks her head again with a smile. “See? Safe and sound.”
Koltira clears his throat, embarrassed. “In all honesty, I do trust you…but I don’t want to do that again.”
Anarchaia shifts her weight to a hip and lifts an eyebrow. “And you judge me.” She gives a glance around. She stops when she notices a patch of flattened wet grass near the water’s edge. “Hm.”
Koltira lowers his brow at her. “Falling is a completely different thing from flying.” He notices where her attention is pulled, then spots a faint path where the grass had been flattened. “I think the trail leads into there.” He points at the waterfall after noticing the cave. He spins to take in the area. “I see no other signs of a trail, so…”
Anarchaia lifts a hand and the waterfall freezes into a wall of ice. Ana archway in the middle thaws and the water flows into the lake. She blinks to the cave’s entrance and narrows her eyes at a green light in the back. “Ali? Grim?”