Grimory smiles down at Alisbeth. “She’s trying pretty hard to win you over. I’m sure she’d agree to letting you borrow that token of hers.”
Alisbeth gives an impish grin. “Token?”
Grimory nods. “Though, she won’t give it to you unless you convince her. Most shops will give you free things with it.”
Alisbeth’s grin widens, then disappears entirely and is replaced by sad eyes and a little pout. She climbs down from the Illidari’s arms and goes to walk beside Anarchaia as they head to the room. “So…this is like a new home for me?”
Anarchaia jumps some, not expecting Alisbeth to actually speak to her. “Yeah, I suppose you could call it that. Do you not like it?”
She shrugs and stares at the floor. “The only home I ever knew had nice things. But inns don’t have nice things, just beds. I only had a chair in my dark room. I suppose that’ll make it easy to acclimate, right?”
“This inn has nice things,” Anarchaia corrects. “Dressers, bookshelves, four-poster beds, big windows, and I’m pretty sure this one has a balcony. Plus, you can always acquire more nice things while you’re here. And Grim and I will always be around.”
The death knight raises a shoulder, then drops it sadly. “I guess. But none of it is mine, is it?” She gives a sad sigh. “It’ll have to do, I guess.”
Anarchaia’s throat tightens with all the things she wants to say, but she instead scowls beneath her mask. She unlocks the door to Alisbeth’s new room and throws it open. “Yes. Yes it will,” she says through her teeth.
Alisbeth balls up her fists and scowls. She knows what you’re trying to do, Redblade. She’s smarter than you.
Koltira sets a palm at the small of her back and ushers her into the room. “This isn’t so bad at all! Actually quite nice.”
“The bed is too small,” she hisses through her teeth.
Anarchaia runs a hand over where her hair would normally be. “I’ll get you a bigger bed. And anything else you desire. But only if you do something for me.” Since I’m already doing so much for you.
Alisbeth folds her arms over her chest and clenches her jaw.
Koltira sighs in exasperation and takes her chin. “Ali, please.”
She jerks her head away from him to look the other way. “Fine. What?”
“You cannot, under nearly any circumstance, harm anyone within city limits.” Oh gods, please tell me she’s just being bratty. Please tell me she doesn’t know. Anarchaia folds her own arms across her chest while hesitantly awaiting a response.
The death knight shrugs. “What’s in it for me?”
Anarchaia clenches her fists and her scowl turns to a manic smile. “I said I’d get you anything you wanted.”
Alisbeth smiles amicably. “I hear mages have a free pass. Can I use that to get anything I want?”
Anarchaia’s eyes widen and she pauses. “Uh…I-I suppose…” She swallows and gives a nervous chuckle, hesitantly reaching into the pocket behind her belt. “It doesn’t get you anything. Just commodities like clothes, furniture, food, drink, repairs…”
Alisbeth narrows her eyes. “Weapons?”
“No, it won’t get you weapons,” Koltira blurts. “Besides, what do you need one for?”
Alisbeth shrugs and turns away. “Things. And stuff.”
Grimory chuckles from the doorway and Anarchaia shoots him a glance, her fingers tensing around the token in her hand. “No weapons. Only the things I’ve listed. Is that not enough?” She holds it out despite her mind screaming at her not to do so.
Alisbeth snatches the token before the mage can change her mind and grips it in a fist. “How does it work?”
Anarchaia cringes. “Just present it before you’ve decided what you want to get. The vendors here know how to use it.”
“Go away. I want to be alone.” She squares her jaw at all of them, then catches Grimory’s eye, flicking hers to the balcony as a hint.
Koltira sighs and gives her forehead a quick kiss. “I’ll come back when you’re not so angry.”
She shrugs after him as he leaves.
Anarchaia turns away before his lips meet Alisbeth’s forehead and makes her way down the stairs, happy to be free of her presence. Grimory, however, gives the faintest of nods and turns to follow the mage downstairs.
Once the door is closed, Alisbeth opens her palm to smile at the little token, her eyes glittering in excitement. She runs to the balcony and unlocks the double doors, her smile widening with each second as she impatiently waits for the demon hunter. She sits on the edge of the bed, then adjusts, fidgets, adjusts. She paces back and forth, flipping the token up and catching it in her palm.
~ * ~
“A waterfall, hm?” Anarchaia chirps with forced interest as he nears. “Romantic.”
“She wanted a cave. We found one.” He runs a finger along the wall as they descend.
“Why did she want a cave?” Koltira asks from behind.
Grimory gives a careless shrug. “Doesn’t matter to me. It’s a harmless request so I helped fulfill it.” He turns to the exit and waves a hand without looking at the two of them. “I have shit to do, now that I’m back. Later.”
Anarchaia shakes her head after the Illidari and inhales, then exhales slowly through her nose. “This is exactly as stressful as I’d imagined it would be.” She sets herself in a lounge chair and sinks into it.
Koltira sits across from her. “I know what you mean. Drinks on me? Since you lost your little token.”
The mage smiles beneath her mask and sighs. “Only if you promise not to buy me anymore expensive wine.”
Koltira chuckles and nods. “Okay, but none of that cheap shit you insisted upon last time.”
Laughing quietly, Anarchaia gives a shrug and nods. “Life is one big compromise.” She lifts a finger for the only barmaid available and orders something herself so he doesn’t have the opportunity to get something more expensive. The gravity of everything weighs on her chest and she places her palms over her face, groaning.
Koltira orders his own drink and sighs. “I agree. With the groan of utter despair, I mean.”
Anarchaia pulls her hands away from her face and shakes her head rapidly. “That’s it. I can never leave the city ever again. And if I do, she has to be there. And if she kills anyone, I’ll be—” She stops and takes in a shuddering breath, the thought not occurring to her until that moment. “I-I’ll be dismissed as a student. Banished.” She holds back her tears. “I’m going to go mad.”
Koltira lurches forward, reaching for the mage’s hands, then stops just short, realizing they’re in public. “Ana, stop. You’re overthinking everything. Just try to relax. Is there anything I can do…besides kill myself for getting you into this situation—oh, gods, Ana, I am so sorry.” He slumps back into his own chair and covers his face.
The mage leans forward as he had, resting a palm on his knee. “No no no, Koltira.” She bites her lip. “Literally none of this is your fault. Please don’t beat yourself up. You’ve done nothing wrong.”
Koltira clenches his jaw at her. “Ana, she was my responsibility and I failed. Now you have to deal with all this shit. I’m sorry.”
Anarchaia shakes her head, still leaning forward to speak in a low tone. “She’s crafty. It’s not your fault she escaped. Please don’t be sorry.” She sits back again and thanks the barmaid as her wine is set down, then runs the fingers of a hand over her lips. “Everything’ll be fine.”
Koltira shakes his head. “Still… With all that’s been going on, you know… You don’t need this shit. I’ll keep her in line for you. You don’t worry about anything, okay?”
Anarchaia lifts her mask to take a long sip and, after a moment’s thought, shakes her head as well. “You deserve a break. I can take care of it.” She sobers, her lips turning into a slight frown. We won’t be alone as often, either. Maybe I deserve this.
Koltira takes a swallow of his own drink. “Can’t stop me.” He turns his gaze to a nearby bookshelf. Neither of them should even want me around. They don’t deserve this.
The mage lifts a brow and tilts her head. “A challenge?”
Koltira purses his lips. “No. Ana…” Say it. Tell her. You’re no good for her. “Ana, I just want to help.”
Anarchaia shakes her head after another sip of wine. “I understand, and that’s really sweet of you, but you won’t always be in the city…sadly.” She swallows and stares down into her wine glass. She parts her lips to say something more, but closes them again and looks away.
The death knight growls low in his throat. “Ana, just let me help you. It’s the least I can do.”
After another long moment, Anarchaia shrugs, defeated. “All right. Fine. You win. You can help.” She looks up at him with a tired smile.
Why does it feel like I’ve won and lost at the same time. Koltira smiles at Anarchaia. “Good. And hey…maybe we can get Grimory to distract her sometimes.” Gods help me, I just said that.
Anarchaia’s eyes flick up to his face before she takes another sip. Flushing some, she bites her lip and turns away to hide her smile. “Maybe.”
Koltira nods, clearing his throat. “I mean, he didn’t have a problem ‘entertaining’ her yesterday.”
Anarchaia drinks the last of her wine and sets the empty glass aside. “You seem…less bothered by that than usual.” Her eyes study his face and she swallows when they reach his lips.
He sighs. “I have to admit that I enjoy our time alone together. Even now just being here, having a drink. I feel less stressed already. Knowing she’s upstairs and out of trouble.” He finishes his drink in one go. “Did you lock the door or are you keeping our word about letting her go at her own wish?”
Anarchaia smiles at his words, then blinks and straightens. “Oh. Well, I do intend to keep my word, but I’m sure she’d like a key. Heh.” She pulls one of the keys from her belt and stands. “Hopefully she’s enjoying it so far.” She makes her way toward the staircase.
“Do you want me to go instead?” Koltira calls after the mage.
Anarchaia stops, contemplates, then turns around. She holds out the key and nods, a tentative frown on her face.
Koltira chuckles and goes to her. “Afraid of going up there alone?”
Anarchaia nods and narrows her eyes. “I may hurt someone if I have to deal with one more drop of attitude.”
He takes the key. “Honestly it didn’t seem like genuine complaining. She doesn’t care about things. She never has. Even now, I doubt that’s changed. You saw how much she burned in Highmountain.” He shrugs and heads up the stairs. “I think she was trying to grift you using guilt as a weapon. She knows how kind you are. And trust me…she’s done it to me.”
Anarchaia clenches her fists and jaw but says nothing for a long moment. “If there’s anything I don’t like, it’s being taken advantage of.” She stops at the door and contemplates just sliding the key underneath.
Koltira nods. “I’m sorry. Again. Maybe we can go practice archery after this? Take your mind off everything.” He pauses. “And I mean actual archery with arrows flying off the side of Dalaran and everything.” He knocks on the door. “Ali, can I come in?”
Anarchaia nods. “Yeah. I’d like that.” She holds her breath, half of her mind not expecting to get a response at the door. After a long moment, she pushes inside. Once in, her heart sinks and she deflates, her hands on her face. “Wonderful.”
Koltira sighs. “Gods damn it all. The balcony. I bet she met Grim…Wait. She didn’t know about your token before. You think they planned this?” He opens the balcony door to look out, though he knows he won’t glean any new information from it. “I’m going to kill him, Ana. I swear to gods.”
Anarchaia shakes her head and sets herself in the armchair. “I’m sure they did. But the token isn’t too big a deal. A lot of places won’t accept it.” She places her elbows on her knees and cradles her head in her hands. “At least we know she’s safe if Grim is with her.”
“Ana, it’s the principle of the matter. She abused your trust to take something valuable.” He turns back to look out at the city, glaring at the buildings.