Koltira hurries through Acherus, hoping to avoid anyone stopping him. After a quick shower, he goes into Alisbeth’s room and bundles up her shattered vase and her overflowing wicker basket of candy canes, shoving everything into a large bag. As he gets the sack closed a shadow falls over the doorway.
“Deathweaver, a word.”
Koltira tenses. “Of course, Mograine.”
Darion leads Koltira to a secluded area, where he hopes no prying ears may overhear, then sighs. “I need you to do something for me. It won’t be pleasant—”
“Is it as pleasant as being asked to bring Alisbeth in for execution?”
Darion cocks an eyebrow. “You really care about that nutjob, don’t you?”
Koltira clenches his jaw, biting back a slew of vile names to sling at the Horseman. “What is this new mission?”
~ * ~
After the sun has risen and the diurnal animals have awoken, Anarchaia makes her way back to the Legerdemain Lounge. She knocks on the second story door hesitantly, to-do list in the other fist. “Ali?”
Alisbeth blinks the dryness from her itching eyes. “Yeah?” she responds through her hoarse voice.
Anarchaia taps a finger against her thigh as she smiles. “Just checking up on you. Are you okay? Do you need anything? Do—?” She pauses. “Were you sleeping?”
Alisbeth rubs at her face and runs a hand down one side of her disheveled hair. “No.” She looks over at the mage but keeps her head down. Her eyes meet the knees of the burgundy and black robes. “I’m…fine.”
Anarchaia furrows her brow upward and leans down to look into Alisbeth’s face. “Are…you sure?” she asks quietly. “Did something happen?”
Alisbeth shakes her head. Slowly she begins nodding instead. “Yes.” Her face pinches, but no tears come. “But it’s okay, okay? It’s for the best…okay?”
Anarchaia’s faces softens to a somber frown. She reaches out a hand to place it on Alisbeth’s shoulder. “What happened? Do you need to talk about it?”
Alisbeth shakes her head again. “If I talk about it, it’ll be harder. It needs to be gone.” She rubs her palms down her face with a sigh. When her face reappears her eyes are wide with interest on Anarchaia. “So what are you doing?” She tries to smile, but doesn’t feel right about it, so it ends up looking fake and only for the mage’s benefit.
Anarchaia winces and nods at the girl’s forced enthusiasm. She retracts her hand. “Just some chores. Nothing exciting. Collecting census forms. Picking up deliveries. Fun. Heh.”
“C-c’n I come…with you?” She wipes her nose on the back of her hand and climbs out of the bed, tripping over the tangle of blankets around her. After a quick adjustment of her dress she gives a tentative smile. “I can help, right?”
Anarchaia smiles gently and nods, happy to be presented with an opportunity to gain good footing with the death knight. “Yeah, sure. I don’t see why not. I have to pick up a repaired sword from the smith. Sound exciting?”
The blood elf gives a tentative smile. “I like swords.” She hooks her arm through Anarchaia’s and waits for the mage to lead the way.
Anarchaia leads Alisbeth from the inn, ensuring the door is locked beforehand. “So…how was dancing?” she asks obviously when they step outdoors.
Alisbeth smiles wide, her eyes looking off into a distant scene only she can see. “I didn’t want to dance in front of the other squires. I thought they’d tease me. When I was assigned to go to Southshore there was music playing one night and Tirion caught me dancing in my room upstairs. I admitted my fear and he started reserving a dance just for me, every time there was music. It was only us and it was so wonderful.” She smiles and bites her bottom lip. “Have you met Tirion?”
Anarchaia ignores the obvious misunderstanding of her question and shakes her head. “I’m afraid not. I’ve heard of his accomplishments though. Seemed like a valiant man. He was your teacher?” She pushes her list back into her belt.
“He was my mentor, yes. Before he took me to Silvermoon. I can take you to meet him! He’s just up that way at the Argent Crusade grounds.” She points northward and sets her bright eyes on the mage. “I think he’d love to meet you. Probably say you’re a good influence on me. ‘A level head to cool your temper, that’s what you need,’” she says in a deep voice, then laughs. “He approves of Koltira.”
Anarchaia frowns, pity tearing through her chest. She forces herself to smile again. “Perhaps another day. I’m sure he’s busy,” she says, not having the heart to tell her. They turn into the hot blacksmithing shop and the mage states her business. The night elf behind the counter nods and disappears into the back.
Alisbeth nods. “He’s very busy, what with the Lich King still terrorizing this land. But he has a plan. Tirion will stop him, I know he will.” She releases the mage’s arm and wanders over to a weapon rack to inspect the blades displayed.
Anarchaia lifts her eyebrows, wanting desperately to correct her, but again decides against it. When the blade is brought out, she takes it from the cloth and inspects it, then sends it away in a puff of smoke and sparks. She joins Alisbeth. “See anything you— Eh. Maybe we should go to the bakery next.”
The death knight replaces the sword and grins, taking the mage’s arm once more. “Oh! That would be wonderful. I’m absolutely dying for a slice of chocolate cake. I know, I know, I shouldn’t. But I’m perfectly willing to train for an extra hour to make up for it.” She sighs in contentment. “Today is going to be wonderful.”
Anarchaia gives a nervous titter and leads her from the shop toward the bakery. “Uh, so, are you liking your room?” she asks cautiously, thinking a question based in the present will bring her back from the stupor she’s clearly in. “Anything you want in it?”
Alisbeth cocks an eyebrow at the mage. “I like my room fine, thank you. It’s much nicer since Koltira asked for real windows. When it was his room, the cold creeping in didn’t matter. But now it’s home to the living. I was getting tired of sleeping on the fireplace stones and waking every morning covered in ash.” She gives a hearty laugh, then says through the laughter, “You know, I actually lit my blanket on fire last month.”
Anarchaia gives a small, genuine chuckle as they enter the bakery. “You don’t say? How did you put it out?” She places a slip of paper on the counter and the woman behind wipes her flour-covered fingers on her apron before picking it up and glossing it over.
“The heat woke me up and I managed to kick it out. But the blanket was ruined. Huge hole in the middle.” She rounds her arms.
Koltira chuckles from the doorway. “Is this the blanket fire story?”
Alisbeth gasps and turns to blush at him. “Deathweaver. How are you doing? Any news from Orgrim’s Hammer?”
He gives Anarchaia a strange look, then studies Alisbeth.
<<She’s having a moment,>> the mage says in her racial tongue and gives a shrug. She turns to the woman behind the counter again. “Uh, yes, that number is correct. Three weeks? All right but I doubt that’ll be acceptable. I’ll be back with word. Thank you.” She crosses the task off her list and turns back to Koltira. “Things retrieved?”
Koltira smiles, adjusting his demeanor. He nods at the mage, then heads for Alisbeth. “The fight in Icecrown goes well, dear maiden. I’m sure your aid in the battles has helped turn the tide.” He takes her hand and kisses the top.
Alisbeth’s blush deepens and she pulls her hand away, eyes scanning for anyone watching what she believes to be a scandalous exchange. “You are too kind, death knight.”
He nods. “Right. Sorry. I forget myself sometimes. Would you come with me a moment? I’ve something you need to see.” He motions out the door.
Alisbeth gives a quick curtsey and leads the way.
Koltira’s smile falls and he widens his eyes at Anarchaia. <<How long has she been like this?>> he hisses in Gutterspeak.
The mage busies herself with her list as the two talk, then stows it away again. Anarchaia then leans away from Koltira, concerned by his reaction. <<I’m not sure. Fifteen minutes? Why?>>
<<We need to get her somewhere before—>>
Alisbeth screams outside and runs back into the bakery. “There’s a wild beast out there!”
Koltira holds up his hands. “It’s fine, don’t worry about them. Just come with me.”
“Where’s your sword? Dalaran is no place for a wolf.”
“It’s nothing to worry about,” he insists.
“They’re visitors from outside the city,” Anarchaia explains calmly, setting a hand on Alisbeth’s shoulder to gage her subtle reactions. “Nothing to worry about.” She hesitates, watching the woman’s face.
Alisbeth jumps and furrows her brow at the mage, a sudden panic in her eyes. “Wait… Who are you? I’ve seen you before…”
Koltira raises his hands again, like calming an animal. “You know her, that’s Anarchaia. Now let’s just go see what I came here to show you.”
“I don’t know any Anarchaia! Who are you? Are you following me? It’s been years.” She takes the mage by the shoulders and gives her a firm shake. “What do you want from me?”
Anarchaia blinks and goes rigid, stumbling over her words. “N-Nothing! I’m just a mage—a citizen of Dalaran. Your friend. Ali, no one’s here to harm you.”
Koltira purses his lips as his patience visibly fails. “Squire!”
Alisbeth jumps and spins to stare at him. “I’m sorry.”
“I need a word with you in private.” He points at the door and she rushes over to wait. He sighs at Anarchaia. <<We need to get her to the inn.>>
<<I can polymorph her?>> Anarchaia says with a smile and a helpless shrug.
<<I was thinking a blindfold.>> He borrows a clean cloth napkin from the bakery and goes outside to tie it over her eyes.
She titters into her fingertips and whispers, “Koltira, what are you doing?”
He takes her hand to lead her through the city. “I have a surprise for you. Just trust me.”
She smiles wide. “Okay.”
Anarchaia rubs at her shoulder where she’d been grabbed and follows, disappointed by the stolen chance to use magic. <<What will this accomplish?>>
“What are you two going on about?” Alisbeth turns to face their voices.
Anarchaia gives another helpless shrug and follows them up the stairs. Once at the top, she unlocks the door again and holds it open, ushering the two inside.
Inside the room, on the bed, sits the giant bag of her belongings. Koltira ignores it and takes her to stand with her back to the small mirror over the dresser and removes her blindfold. “Okay, are you ready?”
Alisbeth smiles eagerly. “Yes.”
He turns her so she can see her reflection in the mirror. Her smile drops and she pulls at her tangled hair with her fingertips. Koltira holds his breath and readies himself for anything. Anarchaia does the same, closing the door then holding clenched fists to her chest. She remains near the exit should she become a target.
Alisbeth frowns and she steps forward to punch the mirror. It shatters and she screams out in anger as furious tears stream down her cheeks. She turns on the mage. “You let me think… You didn’t tell me…” She grabs the mage up by her shoulders and slams her back against the door. “Why didn’t you tell me?” she screams.
“Ali!” Koltira rushes forward to stop her.
Anarchaia gives a sharp cry of pain as the back of her head collides with the wood and tries desperately to pry Alisbeth’s hands from her arms. “Because I was afraid this was how you’d react!”
Alisbeth pulls back and slams her against the door again. Koltira grabs at the other death knight. She spins to throw the mage at him like a weapon.
Anarchaia grits her teeth at the additional agony and stumbles as she’s tossed. Helpless against the woman’s strength, she falls into Koltira with as much force as a seven-stone person can.
Koltira catches Anarchaia as one might catch a pillow, then spins her behind him to shield her. Then he realizes Alisbeth now has full access to the door.
She catches his gaze and leaps for the knob.
“No!” The mage reflexively reaches around Koltira with an outstretched arm and Alisbeth is transformed into a spiky-shelled tortoise in a plume of purple smoke.
Koltira raises an eyebrow at the wandering tortoise, then goes over and picks it up to move it across the room. “Nice catch. Can you lock the door for when she returns to normal?”
“Yeah,” Anarchaia sighs, lifting a hand to hold the back of her head and placing the other upon the door. The wood flashes a bright shade of pink, then fades back. She does the same to the balcony. “This is going to be the death of me.”
Koltira casts a sad gaze at the mage, wanting to say so much but knowing he can’t. “I’m sorry,” he says instead.
“It’s not your—”
Alisbeth poofs back to herself and growls up at the mage from her seat on the floor. “You little bitch!” She charges across the room.
Anarchaia takes a step back.
Koltira grabs her around the middle and pins her to the floor. “Stop, now!”
Alisbeth purses her lips and breathes rapidly through her nose. “I want to go back,” she whispers meekly.
The mage winces and furrows her brow at her words. “To Acherus?” she asks cautiously.
Alisbeth whimpers. “To being alive. To Northrend. To Tirion.”
Koltira frowns and pulls her up into his embrace. “I’m so sorry, Ali. I wish you could.”
Don’t we all. Anarchaia gives a sad sigh. “You know, if the Warchief is successful, you may be able to be alive again…as little portability of that happening as there is.”
Alisbeth sneers and Koltira holds up a hand to Anarchaia. “Don’t talk about that individual, please.” Maybe I should make a list of all the topics one should not bring up around Alisbeth. As though that would actually help. He gives the mage an apologetic look.
Anarchaia resists the urge to sigh again, the rules she needs to follow growing tedious. “Right. Sorry.” She rubs at the back of her head again. “Are you calm now, or would you prefer being a tortoise again?”
Alisbeth shoves away from Koltira and presses herself into a corner. “Just leave me alone.”
Koltira brushes her hair behind her ear. “Your things are in that sack on the bed. Can I trust you to stay here? I don’t want to have to lock you in. You’re not a prisoner anymore.”
Alisbeth doesn’t respond.
Anarchaia bites back yet another sigh and removes the enchantments from the doors. “That’s right. You have a key to your own room, now. You can lock anyone in or out as you please. Well. Except me, naturally.”
Alisbeth continues to ignore them.
“I’m going to help Anarchaia finish her chores so we can talk to Khadgar about going on another adventure. Would you like that?” he says.
Alisbeth rubs her eyes and nods. “A fun one?”
Koltira purses his lips, then fakes a smile. “Yes, very fun.”
“I’ll wait here.”
Koltira stands and goes to the mage. “Let’s finish quickly. I could really use your help with this.”
Anarchaia pulls out her list and gives an equally fake smile before stowing it away again. “You know what? I think I’ll just put these off for later. I’m sure Master won’t mind…”
Koltira looks down at Alisbeth. “Would you like some time to collect yourself? Or do you want to go now?”
Alisbeth rubs her eyes. “I’d like to be alone…just for a while. Then I’d like to change my clothes?” She wraps her arms around her legs. “Do you have my axe? It wasn’t in my vault.” The death knight frowns. “I hope they’re done changing my vault. I’d like to get into it.”
“Upgraded to premium. More room. I kept tripping over the gold piles. You know, I think the goblins fix those when you leave? They’re always stacked so neatly when I get back in…” She stares off at nothing, lost in her own thoughts about the bank’s inner workings.
“Well, how about I help Ana with the most important items on her list, then we can go to the bank together.”
Alisbeth nods. “Okay.” She frowns at the mage. “I’m sorry I hurt you.”
Anarchaia gives a tired smile and waves a hand. “Don’t be. It’s okay. No damage done. I think.” She turns to leave, eager to be outside and away from the stress.
“We’ll be back as soon as possible,” Koltira says, then meets the mage at the door. “Just pick the most urgent,” he tells her.
Anarchaia nods and steps outside, making her way down the stairs. “I’ve only got a couple paramount items. You really don’t have to assist me, you know…”
“Please, I insist.” He smiles down at her. More time together.
Anarchaia returns the smile and nods. “Well, if you insist, I can’t rightfully deny you.”