“We have to make a stop at Gildwynn’s shop. He’s working on something important for us.” She leads him through the busy streets. “So, what’s this adventure?”
Koltira leans close to speak with as much privacy as possible. “Crisis in Val’sharah. Ysera’s been attacked. We need to help her, but I’m not sure how we can. So, it may take a while.” He considers the last mission they’d all joined on and glares at nothing. “The three of us should be adequate.”
Anarchaia stops outside the engineering shop and looks up at him, then chuckles with a hand over her mouth. “You thought I’d invite Grim?” She shakes her head and enters the store. “I’d be more worried of Ali inviting him.” She sobers. “And who would want to hurt Ysera?”
Koltira takes a breath. “Xavius.” His eyes scan over the items of the shop and he gives the goblin an obligatory wave in greeting.
Anarchaia’s head jerks to face Koltira. “The Satyr Lord?” She purses her lips. “I wonder if Master knows.”
“It’s not finished,” Gildwynn says after returning the wave. He pushes up his metal goggles with oily fingers. “Maybe another week.”
Anarchaia sighs. “They’re not going to like that.”
“Well they can not like it all they want. Felwick’s been sick and without her I can’t test it.”
“So get a different warlock.”
“And add someone else to my payroll? No thanks.”
Anarchaia rolls her eyes and turns around, groaning the word okay.
Koltira gives the mage a sympathetic look. “On to the next one, then?”
“Yes. A package for Master from the archaeologist.” She sighs and turns the corner back out into the streets, then pauses in realization. “You…want me to come with you?”
Koltira stares down at the mage, his expression a mixture of confusion and incredulity. “Of course I want you to come with. I thought we all had…mostly fun in Stormheim. The other two a little more than us, I might say. But besides that, you’re a powerful mage and would be an asset on any mission. Especially this one.”
Anarchaia blushes and waves a hand, looking away. “I thought we had fun. And that’s really very sweet of you. Not sure how this mission calls for my skills specifically but still very sweet all the same.”
He shrugs. “Diplomatic assistance. Your magic tongue will come in handy.” In more ways than one. He smiles down at her as though he hadn’t intended the double entendre. “You really do have a way with words that charms locals.”
Her blush deepens. “I think it’s more of a trick. I know big words so I must be smart, right? And if I’m smart I’m trustworthy, even if that’s not necessarily the case.” She steps into the archaeology parlor and glances around for the woman who normally sits near the back at her desk, then frowns when she doesn’t see her.
“Most interactions are a performance. It’s really about how well you play the part, no matter your intentions.” He leans around her to look up a staircase. “Upstairs, maybe?”
“True, I suppose.” She trots over to the staircase. “Hello? I’m here to pick up a package for the Archmage?”
A blood elf woman pokes her head out of a curtain covering a doorway in the back of the room. “Oh! Anarchaia, isn’t it? Yes, one moment!” She disappears. The sounds of shuffling parchment, wood moving across stone, and something shattering on the floor emanates from behind the curtain followed by a quiet obscenity. “Here!” she says when she returns, holding out an ornate lockbox with curious runes carved about the molding. The archaeologist snatches the box away when Anarchaia attempts to open it. “Ah ah ah, the Archmage said to let no one see inside once complete.”
Anarchaia squares her shoulders. “But I’m his apprentice! What if what’s inside isn’t what he requested?”
“His instructions were very clear.” Her green eyes narrow.
Anarchaia scoffs and flashes her token in exchange for the box, which she tucks neatly beneath her arm. “Thank you.”
Koltira follows the mage out the door. “Where to next?”
“To deliver this to Master. Then the rest is just menial work that can wait.” She drums her fingers on the box, pushing down the urge to open it. “Do you think Xavius is working for the Legion?”
Koltira purses his lips. “I don’t think much of anything on that. Though it does seem suspicious that the nightmare lord would spring up at the same time as the Burning Legion. Do you think he is?”
“I’ve heard tell that he was the cause for the Legion’s very first invasion of Azeroth. So it’s possible. Not much is coincidental.” She stops at the stairs to the Violet Citadel. “I’ll be right back. Just gonna drop this off and tell him where I’m going. Shouldn’t take but a moment.”
Koltira leans against a pillar. “You know where to find me, then.” He folds his arms over his chest and makes himself comfortable.
Anarchaia nods, smiles, and disappears in a flash of light. Some minutes later, she returns. She sets her hands on her hips and sighs. “Well, he said it’d be a good idea for me to come with but…if Alisbeth is coming he wants me to check back in more often than last time we were out.” She shrugs. “And hey, none of us will need to sleep so it should be a breeze.”
Koltira nods his approval of her news. “Good. Let’s get going. Mograine told me that time was of the essence.” He rushes back to the inn—trusting that the mage will keep up—to find Alisbeth with her face washed and her hair brushed, sitting with one knee crossed over the other thigh beneath her purple dress.
She smiles when she sees him. “Are we going on our adventure?”
She smiles and grabs a pillow case full of candy canes, then rushes out the door to go to the bank. She enters her new vault alone and frowns at the amount of space. No longer does she run the risk of knocking things over. Her clothing is sorted by colors and types—as are her weapons. Mostly she frowns at the tall item draped under a white linen sheet. She drops her sack in the middle of the room and walks to it.
“In my old vault, I couldn’t see you. It was nice. This hurts, you know.” She presses a tear from her eye before it can fall. “But this is nice too.” She hugs the sheet; metal crackles beneath it, but she cannot bear to lift the cloth.
With a sigh she turns her back on it and runs to where her plate armor had been relocated, selecting that of the Blood Knight order and their tabard. She frowns, then removes it all and leaves it in a pile, deciding it’s been far too long for her to claim any right to wearing it. After some minutes she emerges in a matching purple armor set—including the same leggings she’d worn beneath her skirt during their excursion into the Halls of Valor—with a black leather shirt and black leather pants beneath the otherwise revealing pieces. As a finishing touch she adds a pair of purple-lensed goggles over her eyes.
She smiles at Koltira and slings her axe over her shoulder. “I’m ready.”
“Took you long enough.” He stands from the bench and falls into step beside her.
“I was saying hi.”
Tapping her thumb against each tip of her fingers, in one direction and then the other, Anarchaia sighs and presses her cheek against the pillar bordering the bank staircase. She’s turns to narrow her eyes up at the death knight woman, curious of her odd attire but, as usual, decides not to mention it. She instead follows quietly behind.
“Alright,” Koltira says. “Let’s try to be quick. Ali, we’re on a deadline. Sort of. Just, as fast as possible.”
“What are we doing?”
“I’ll tell you more when we’re in a more private venue.” He ushers her onto a gryphon as he pays the flight master. “Lorlathil, please.”
Alisbeth frowns and balls her fists in her lap, but otherwise says nothing as the gryphon takes flight with her sitting alone atop it.
“Oh, Lorlathil? I’ve been there, you know,” Anarchaia says with a smile and tilt of her head. “Needn’t waste money on a flight…”
Koltira blinks at her, then at the fading image of Alisbeth. “You know, questioning these things could really help expedite travel.” He looks at Alisbeth again. “Let’s beat her there, just…in case something comes up on the flight. No good leaving her with a head start.”
Hopefully that’s not too suspicious. Anarchaia gives a small laugh and takes his hands in hers. “Agreed.”
The world around them blurs into a mass of white and black, and in the next second they’re standing in the busy center of the village of Lorlathil. A passing gnome nearly stumbles into Anarchaia’s hip when they appear suddenly and they mage apologizes, holding back another laugh.
The hippogriffs lying in their troughs of hay, preening in the warming sunlight, catch Koltira’s attention. He takes Anarchaia by the hand and goes to wait. He absently pets one of the creatures while simultaneously having forgotten he was still holding the mage’s hand.
Anarchaia follows, smiling softly beneath her mask. She remains on the other side of Koltira, however, using him as a shield against the beasts as if they’ll suddenly decide to whisk her off into the sky. It isn’t until she sees Alisbeth’s gryphon that she realizes she’s still holding Koltira’s hand and she quickly releases it, folding her arms and trying—and failing—to look natural. When Alisbeth lands, Koltira steps forward to take her hand and assist her from the animal’s back.
She blinks at him. “How did you beat me?”
Koltira chuckles. “Ana failed to mention she had a short cut. Thought we’d save some gold.”
Alisbeth smiles. “That was a good idea! Good thinking Atkins!” She reaches over to pat the top of the mage’s hood.
“You failed to ask,” Anarchaia responds with a crooked grin that immediately disappears as she’s pat on the head. “Thank you.” She readjusts her hood. “First order of business?”
“We need to gather intel. Ask the locals about a place called The Temple of the Moon. We’re heading there next and I’d rather know what we’re heading into. No offense, but we went blindly through Stormheim. This time, we can’t be so careless.” Koltira finds the inn—a hollowed trunk for a doorway, which leads down into the earth—and shrugs. “What better place to start than an inn?”
Alisbeth frowns at the tree. “But there’ll be fun after the talking, right?”
“Of course.” He mentally prays he’s not lying, not eager for a mission full of only talking, himself.
“No, I actually agree with you,” Anarchaia says as she follows. “In all honesty that was the first time I’d ever been tasked with coordinating something like that. I’m…surprised we succeeded at all, if I’m being honest. Heh.”
Koltira sets himself in a stool at the bar, making sure to have two empty seats on either side of him. Alisbeth takes a seat on his right and weaves her fingers through his. When he catches the bartender’s eye, the man comes over.
“I’d like three fingers of whiskey and some information, please.” He sets some gold on the counter.
“I want a gin!” Alisbeth says, then frowns. “No I don’t. Can I have a glass of white wine, please?” She sets her sights on Koltira.
“Just one glass.”
“Oh, I’m fine for now,” Anarchaia says with a smile when the man’s eyes pan to her. “Thank you, though.”
The night elf behind the counter nods, scoops up the gold, and pours their drinks. Alisbeth sips hers and furrows a brow, then stares at it and takes another sip.
“Something wrong?” Koltira asks.
“I can taste it. But it’s not spicy or minty.”
The Kaldorei smiles. “We grow some of the best fruits around. Lots of flavor in them. I’ve had a lot of customers like you two since the Burning Legion came, thought you’d prefer the strong stuff.” He gives her a friendly wink.
“Fank you,” Alisbeth says with her lips poised for another drink.
“Now, what information are you looking for?”
Koltira takes a drink and leans forward. “I was told to meet someone at the Temple of the Moon. Of course, I’ve never been to this area. I was hoping for general information about the land, the peoples, the threats.”
The bartender thinks as he cleans a glass. “Temple of the Moon. I’m not sure how they’d like individuals such as yourself going there. It is, after all, a temple for Elune. The people around here are good people. A lot of druids. The Emerald Nightmare’s corruption is seeping into this land, affecting everything it touches and awaking evils we cannot fight off forever. The very forest turns against us in the north. Satyrs have taken up harassment of travelers. If you help Val’sharah’s people, you’ll be more likely to be accepted into the temple.”
“Sounds like we’ll be here a while,” Anarchaia says, taking up the other spot beside Koltira and placing her cheek on her fist. “Hopefully by the time we get to the temple it isn’t too late.”
Koltira purses his lips. “The temple is merely a stop along the way. Sorry…”
Anarchaia blinks. “I-I wasn’t complaining or anything. You really think I’d rather be back home with that list? No thank you.”
He shrugs. “Just covering my bases.”
Anarchaia clenches her jaw at the thought invading her mind—a perversion of his words.
The bartender cocks an eyebrow as he returns from helping some orcs to a pitcher of mead. “You might try talking to Malfurion. His wife is a priestess of Elune, if I’m not mistaken. Good place to start.” He gives Alisbeth a wink as she finishes her drink and sighs in contentment. “Another?”
“He said just one. Sorry! But…” She reaches into her purple satchel then places several gold and a candy cane on the bar. “A good tip for good wine!”
He eyes the candy cane, then her, but takes it anyway.
The mage glances up at the bartender and her eyes light up. “We get to speak to Malfurion Stormrage? I’ve never met him, but he’s on my bucket list…which I guess is really just more of a list at this point. Ugh, I have so many questions.”
“He should be stopping by within the hour. You can usually find him outside. There’s a dryad he’s friends with, Aranelle. They’ve been working to slow the corruption.” The bartender gives Anarchaia a kind smile. “He’d be happy to meet an admirer.”
Alisbeth hops to her feet. “Outside it is!”
The mage also slides off her seat and onto her feet. “Yes, bring your drinks with. It’s a day best for being outdoors anyway.”
Koltira downs his in one gulp. “No need.”
The bartender extends a tall glass of chilled juice to Alisbeth. “Tastes a lot like the wine. Non-alcoholic.”
Alisbeth smiles wide and takes it, putting the straw to her lips and humming in approval. “Thank you!” she says over the slush in her mouth.
Koltira sets his hand on the small of her back and guides her to the exit. “So, off to meet Malfurion, then.”
Anarchaia claps her hands together and presses them to her chest. “Exciting.” She trots her way outside and plants herself on a log bench outside the inn. “I bet he’s super nice. Most druids are, anyway. Don’t think I’ve met a rude one.”
“I liked Jewelry,” Alisbeth says, taking up a seat so close to Anarchaia that their thighs touch. “She was nice.”
Koltira chuckles and stands beside the two, his arms crossed over his chest. “Well, here’s hoping.”
Anarchaia gives Alisbeth a smile and doesn’t budge despite the closeness. “I suppose she wasn’t necessarily rude, but yes. She was helpful.”
Alisbeth cocks her head. “I didn’t say she was rude.” The death knight giggles. “Everything looks so funny with these on.” She lifts her goggles to her forehead and grins at the mage. “Hi Applenana!”
Koltira chuckles. “What do I look like with them on?”
“Purple,” she replies.
“I’m shocked. I really am. That’s amazing.”
Alisbeth scrunches her face at him and he makes a face back.
“Oh, there’s Malfurion. I hope you weren’t worried about missing him… Have to be blind not to see him.” Koltira motions at the tall druid, standing head and chest taller than anyone there. “Well, Ana, go on. Accost him.”
Anarchaia jumps to her feet and adjusts her robes. “Oh. Consider him accosted.” She makes her way over, meekly sliding up and waving a hand. “Hello. Malfurion Stormrage? My name’s Anarchaia, apprentice to Archmage Khadgar and a big, big fan of your accomplishments. Would you mind if I asked you a few questions?” Her quill and parchment appear beside her.
The Archdruid blinks down at the mage—tiny in his presence—and gives a gentle smile through his great green beard. “Khadgar, hm? Have not heard that name in a while.” With golden eyes, he glances at Aranelle beside him and runs a tentative hand through his beard, then gives Anarchaia a hesitant smile. “If it would please you to ask—”
“What was the Sundering like? And the Emerald Dream? Oh! How difficult was it to destroy the Well and the portal it harbored? Wait, is that offensive to ask? I’m sorry if—”
Malfurion holds up a massive hand adorned in claws of steel and a genuine chuckle. “The eagerness is well-received, small friend. It really is. Perhaps an extensive interview is best scheduled, no?”
“Unfortunately we haven’t the time right now. We’ve been sent to help you and Ysera with the corruption. I’m sure you’re aware of the most recent threats,” Koltira says from behind Anarchaia.
Malfurion nods solemnly. “I pray your aid has not come too late. I will help in any way I can. Aranelle has a few important locations that if you help, word will spread and the people will give you aid without question. For now, most are wary. So many new faces, plus the nightmare.”
Koltira nods as well. “Yes. Whatever works. We need to get to the Temple of the Moon.”
“Ahh, yes. Unfortunately, as I said, folks around here are leery of newcomers.”
Alisbeth squints up at the druid. “How do I get wings on my arms like yours?”
Malfurion laughs, but doesn’t take it as a serious question.
Anarchaia narrows her eyes over at Alisbeth as though offended by the question herself, then turns back to the large night elf. “Perhaps after we’ve helped out a bit around the region we’ll have time to chat.” She smiles when Malfurion gives the faintest of nods, then turns her attention to Aranelle. “Where are these locations?” Her parchment is replaced with a map and she grabs it and the quill, holding them out. “Would you mind marking them for us? For the sake of logistics and efficiency. Heh.”
“Eager to get going!” Aranelle chirps. She marks the locations and hands the map back. “I’ve included the names of those who you should speak with first.”
Koltira smiles at the dryad. “I don’t know about eager, but time is of the essence.” He and Malfurion lock eyes, both pursing their lips and giving a faint nod of understanding.
Alisbeth scoffs, never taking the straw from her mouth. “If I hear you say ‘time is of the essence’ one more time I’m going to cut my own head off.” She stomps away, to stand on the bridge and stare at the water cascading down a short waterfall to form the stream where Grimory had sat with her for an uncountable amount of time. She sighs and frowns at her own reflection. What a fucking mess. “I know.”
Anarchaia grins as Alisbeth trudges away. “Time is of the essence!” she calls playfully, a hand to her mouth. She places the edited map into her belt and turns back to the druids. “Thanks so much. We won’t let you down.”
Malfurion gives another genuine, seemingly tired smile. “I am certain you won’t.” He gives a curt wave and he and his Keeper companion turn to leave and talk.
Koltira waits until the Archdruid is out of earshot, then gives Anarchaia a sly smile. “How badly do you want to scream in excitement right now?”
Anarchaia straightens and places a hand over her chest in a haughty manner. “I’m not some sort of crazed fangirl, Kolt. I have restraint.” She deflates some and looks away, muttering, “But quite badly.”
Koltira raises an incredulous eyebrow at the mage, then goes to stand beside Alisbeth on the bridge. “Everything alright over here?”
She finishes her drink and lets the straw fall out of her mouth, then belches. “No.”
“And you don’t want to talk about it and nobody can fix it?”
She crooks her mouth to the side. “It’s like you know me!” She laughs and goes up on the balls of her feet to kiss him. Without a word, she returns to the inn.
~ * ~
Anarchaia busies herself with the map, going over the most efficient path to reach each stop, eventually ending at the temple. She chews on her lower lip as she thinks, then glances up and offers Alisbeth a warm smile as she approaches. “All good?”
Alisbeth passes the mage, but doesn’t acknowledge that she was spoken to as she disappears into the darkness of the inn.
Koltira stops beside the mage, his lips pursed. “Something is off about Ali.”
“As in more than usual?” Anarchaia drones, then immediately feels guilty for her cattiness. “I’m sorry. That was mean.”
Koltira bites his tongue against the harsh words that want to come out. Oh, yes, Deathweaver, let’s go on an adventure with your wife and your mistress. This’ll be so much fun!
Alisbeth returns with a fresh drink and a big smile on her face. “He gave me a free one!”
“You gave him ten gold for nothing. It wasn’t free.”
“But, I didn’t pay for it!”
Koltira pinches the bridge of his nose. “Where are we headed first?”
Anarchaia holds out the map for him to look at. “All our stops circumvent the temple. Where we start is rather irrelevant. So…up to you, party leader? Heh.”
“Let’s do that one!” Alisbeth pokes at the map.
“Smolderhide Thicket? Why?” Koltira asks.
The other death knight shrugs. “Sounds like a cool name. I’m hoping things are on fire.”
“Fair enough reason,” Anarchaia says with a smile. “Sounds good to me. When do we go?”
“Now,” Koltira says. “Sun is up. It’s nowhere near dark. Sound good to all involved?”
Alisbeth pushes between the two and heads out of town, sipping her drink.
“I think that’s a yes,” Koltira says to the mage. “I could be wrong.”
Anarchaia nods and stows the map. The trio come upon a gazebo set near the creek at the edge Lorlathil. In the shadow inside sits a large blood elf man with a mane of blond hair and curling horns framing his face.
“Grim?” Anarchaia says cautiously, stepping over to the banister. “What are you doing here?”
Grimory nearly chokes on the liquor he’s drinking from a dark bottle. “Ana!” He coughs the greeting and sets his unrolled scroll on the seat beside him. “I’m here on an assignment. What’re you…?” His green eyes glance behind her to catch Alisbeth and Koltira and his face falls. “Oh.”
Alisbeth ignores the disturbance at the gazebo, giving no indication if she’d seen the demon hunter or not.
Koltira acknowledges Grimory, opening his mouth to say something, but instead goes running after Alisbeth as she sprints down the path after a frightened fawn.
Anarchaia watches them go and shakes her head, turning back to her friend. “We’re on an assignment, too. Koltira’s. What’s yours?” She makes a grabbing motion for his scroll but Grimory does not give it to her.
“The Dreamer is in danger. I’m here to find why and how to stop anything from happening,” he explains, eyes fixed up at her as if through effort.
Anarchaia smiles. “Us, as well! Why not come with? More efficient that way—”
“N-…No. I think I’m gonna run this one on my own.” Grimory looks away and takes another drink. “You three have fun.”
The mage frowns. “Are you sure? I just thought…” She removes her hands from the banister. “Okay, then. See you around, I guess.”
“Yeah. Same.” Grimory nods and gives her a sideways glance as she leaves, then sighs when she’s safely out of earshot.
Alisbeth waves the mage faster. “Quit stopping to look at scenery! Time is of the essence, you know.”
“What’s he doing here?” Koltira asks as the mage nears.
Anarchaia scrunches her face at Alisbeth, then falls into step with them. “The same thing we are.”
Koltira thinks on this, then shrugs. “I suppose sending for more than just us makes sense. Maybe we’ll cross paths again and you two can catch up.”
“Who are talking about?” Alisbeth asks as she bounces down the path as though following an invisible hopscotch grid.
Alisbeth gives him a look as though she doesn’t know the name. Then returns to jumping around.
“Something’s off between them,” Anarchaia says in a low tone after witnessing Alisbeth’s reaction. “Perhaps they had a falling out.”
“Did he say something?” Koltira asks, keeping half his attention on the blood elf skipping along ahead of them.
Alisbeth suddenly stops. “I’m out of juice again.”
“We’re not going back for more.”
She makes a rude face, then sets the glass on a stump. “We’re coming back for you, okay?” Alisbeth pats the top of the glass like a child’s head, then returns to skipping ahead of the other two.
“Not particularly,” Anarchaia responds, pulling her hood up when a drop of water falls on her head from the leaves above. “Just said he’d rather be alone. Which is obviously strange.”
Koltira gives her a look. “Oh, yes, Grim being moody. Very strange.”
Anarchaia returns the look and scoops up the glass as they pass, sending it back to the inn in a puff of smoke. “But…” She stops, deciding against what she was going to say, knowing it would upset him. “Just an observation.”
Koltira clears his throat in an obvious manner. “You opened a thought and didn’t finish. Don’t I get yelled at when I do that?”
The mage smiles some. “I don’t yell at you.” She sighs and turns to look at the road as they walk, again lowering her voice. “Those two really like each other, obviously. They run off alone all the time. It’s strange that neither wants to see the other.” I’m sure you’re happy about that, though.
The death knight purses his lips, unsure how to feel about it. On the one hand, she shouldn’t be frolicking around with another man. On the other, he isn’t in the most faithful place in their relationship, either. He rubs his palms down his face in frustration. “I don’t know. You know how her moods are. As for Grim, maybe he’s just…bored of her? Can’t handle her, just like I’d said he couldn’t? The two of them are too volatile to get along forever.”
Anarchaia shrugs. “Mayhaps.”
He looks up the path and stops. “Where’d she go?”
She glances up, then gives a tired sigh and glances around through the many trees. “I don’t know. I wasn’t watching.”
Alisbeth gives an excited squeal from an unknown area to the left, then pops out from a well-concealed cave under an out-cropping. “I found a box of stuff!” She hands the other two each an item, which happen to be junk. “Isn’t it great?”
Koltira smiles endearingly. “It is. Thank you.” He slips the broken comb into his bag and takes her hand to get her attention. “Please stop running off without telling us? Stay in sight.”
She gives a serious nod. “Got it. Yep. Can do.”
Anarchaia upends the weathered steel chalice and shrugs after examining it some. “This could actually be refurbished.” She sends it off in the usual flutter of smoke.
Alisbeth grins as her gifts are accepted. She squeezes between the two and wraps an arm around each. “I’m so glad we’re all together again.”
Koltira wraps his arm around her. “Me too, Ali.”
Anarchaia gives a nervous smile beneath her mask and leans her shoulder on Alisbeth’s instead of returning the hug. “Well. Not all of us. But same.”
Alisbeth frowns and slows until the others walk away from her, then continues to follow, her eyes on the ground. “We are all together,” she mumbles. Just because he’s gone, doesn’t mean he never existed. “I know,” she whispers. Hurts, doesn’t it, Redblade? She chooses not to respond, but instead pulls her goggles down to try hiding the sadness in her eyes.
Koltira cocks his head at Anarchaia and shrugs at the other death knight’s behavior. “So, how much farther?”
Anarchaia returns the shrug, then rolls her head back in place of a sigh. “You know,” she says, “I’m certain that question has given me a mild form of PTSD.” She pulls out the map. “A few miles. If we’re uninterrupted.”
Koltira gives her a look, half apologetic and half trying to convey his impatience. “Well, then, let’s hope we’re not.”