Anarchaia pushes her hood back as she ascends the stairs of the Legerdemain Lounge. She sighs and knocks on the familiar door when she reaches it. An equally familiar voice growls through it and she pauses. “Meryl?!”
The undead man gives Alisbeth a cold smile. “It’s your lucky day.”
The door unlocks and Anarchaia stomps in.
“There’s no way Master appointed you her watchman,” she hisses.
“So there are things he doesn’t tell you,” Meryl responds coolly. He pushes up from the armchair and sets his book aside.
“Whatever. I’m relieving you.”
“The sight of you has never relieved me,” he grumbles. He shoots Alisbeth a malicious look before stepping out. “Good luck, apprentice.”
Alisbeth cowers one last time under Meryl’s glare. Once the door is closed, she crawls out from under the bed. Her hair is disheveled and tangled, her skin is dirty, her armor removed and her linen under-clothing torn in places. Her lips curve to a frown and she starts to cry. “I’ve n-never been s-so happy to s-see you, Apricot.” She wraps her arms around the mage and cries into her collar bone. “You’re really real. You’re really real.” She hugs her tighter and cries harder. “Thank you. Thank you.”
Anarchaia furrows her brow in horror and returns the embrace. “What the hell did he do to you?”
Alisbeth shakes her head. “No. No. I don’t want to. Don’t make me.”
The mage shakes her head in astonishment. “Okay! Okay. I won’t. Let’s…get you cleaned up, okay?” She gestures toward the door, an arm still around the other’s shoulders. “Go take a shower, and I’ll fix your clothes.”
Alisbeth nods rapidly and goes to the door. She stops at the threshold as though there is a line drawn across the floor. She sniffs and looks at Anarchaia. “I can go? Right? I can leave and you won’t stop me?” She wrings her hands nervously.
Anarchaia sighs and nods. “Yes, Ali. You’re allowed.” Dear gods, he’s ruined everything I’ve worked for.
Alisbeth nods again. “Okay. Shower. I get to take a shower.” She smiles and hops out of the room, then pauses as though she might explode. When nothing happens, she runs down the hall to the showers and dives inside an empty one, cutting in front of a disgruntled dwarf.
Anarchaia walks to the wardrobe and pulls out a spare set of linen clothes that she’d bought for the death knight, laying them out on the bed for when she returns.
When Alisbeth returns from her shower, smiling as she walks, it’s as though she’s already forgotten the ordeal. She spots Anarchaia still in her room, then sees the clothes laid out. “For me?” She doesn’t wait for the affirmative and drops her towel to pull them on.
The mage turns away as not to catch Alisbeth’s nudity. “Yes. You need more than one set of clothes, so I bought more for you. Do they fit?”
Alisbeth wiggles as though testing the clothes out. She smiles. “They fit. Arms are a bit loose, but…” She holds out her arms to show the sleeves dangling from her bony arms.
~ * ~
Grimory sits at an outdoor table near one of the many taverns in the city, poring over a parchment and sipping an ale. He turns his shoulders slightly and lifts the important document into its light when the sun catches his eye.
Koltira stops on his way to visit Alisbeth, wondering if today she’d be less erratic under the watch of Meryl. He glances over, then stops and looks again at the demon hunter sitting at a table. Koltira sighs and decides now is as good a time as any to have the talk he’s been building since Alisbeth had admitted to trying to love him. It was the first time in three days he’d even seen Grimory and he had to wonder if the other man had even stopped in to see her. He walks right over and stops, blocking the sun on Grimory’s paper.
“Hi, Grim. How’s it going?”
Grimory cranes his head backward to look up, unamused, at the death knight. “It’s going,” he grunts and turns back to his parchment. “You?”
Koltira pauses and lets out a breath. “Okay. I’m just going to come right out with it. It’s time you and I just…get it all out, lay our cards on the table. So, if you please, I’d like for you to take a walk with me. In public, so neither can draw weapon on the other.” He jerks his thumb at Byfrost strapped to his back. “Buy you a drink, after?”
Grimory inhales a long breath, then holds it for a moment. Sighing, he rolls up his parchment and stows it before standing. “Sure.” He downs the rest of his ale and saunters off down the alley back toward the somewhat busy street.
“I wanted to be your friend, Grim. No matter what I’ve said, you’re really an okay guy. Great drinking partner. But, um, one thing keeps coming around and I think it needs to be addressed. Alisbeth. I mean at first it was just that one event, but… She cares about you. You’re a good friend to her. But apparently I’m a jealous man. I never thought I would be. So, how do we solve it?” He observes the demon hunter from the corner of his eye.
Grimory narrows his eyes but doesn’t look at the man beside him. “Are you being serious right now? You’re jealous of my relationship with her when you’ve made it pretty clear you care more about a different woman.” He shakes his head as though collecting his thoughts. “You two aren’t good for each other. And I think you know that.”
Koltira shrugs. “Can’t choose what you’re jealous over, it seems. I’m not sure that I care more…” He doesn’t finish the thought, realizing Grimory is right. “Alisbeth admitted to me that she has to try to love me. What do I even do with that?” He holds out a hand. “Not your problem, I know… I just want her to be happy.”
“If you have to try to love someone, it means you don’t really love them.” Grimory sighs, his irritation subsiding some. “You have Ana to consider, too, you know. I warned you this would happen.” He clenches his jaw. “I want to help you, Kolt, I really do…”
Koltira pinches the bridge of his nose. This was a stupid idea. “But you can’t. I get it. It’s my mess, I’ll clean it up. I’ll keep my thoughts to myself about you two, as well. Maybe one day she’ll forgive me.” When I can forgive myself. “Would be a shame to throw away ten years together.” He holds out his hand. “Truce, though? Again?”
Grimory turns to glance at Koltira’s hand then back to his face. He hesitates, then takes it and shakes it. “Yeah, truce.” He returns to walking and stretches his neck. “So what do you plan to do? You’re not honestly considering just keeping both of them…?”
“Well, there are tauren that practice that sort of thing…” He laughs, but half considers the idea.
Grimory furrows his brow as though insulted. “You need to saddle up and make a decision, or you’re going to end up with neither.” He looks ahead, again. “But I’m sure you know my opinion. And that’s not just because I care about Ali. I want her to be happy, too.” He sobers. “And Ana.”
“And I suppose you want both, too.” He shakes his head. “I wish it was as simple as pointing at one and saying ‘I choose you.’”
“Ana doesn’t care about me, so that decision would be easy.” He leans away from a worgen as they nearly collide. “Do you want my honest opinion?”
“Am I getting it whether or not I say yes?”
Grimory rolls his eyes. “You and Ali obviously don’t make each other happy anymore. You’re together because of what you had and not what you have. That’s probably what attracted you to Ana to begin with, yeah? You’re calculating, logical, don’t like to not have control. Ali is unpredictable, loud, likes to have fun. It’s bad. I think…” He inhales. “I think you should separate, regardless of whether or not you choose to be with Ana.”
Koltira stops and stares at Grimory as though he’d physically struck him. “Separate? I…I don’t even…” Well, it’s not a bad idea…
“You monster!” A wiry Quel’dorei man, with hair the color of straw and bright lavender eyes, holding the hand of a young girl with honey blonde hair stomp right up to Koltira.
Koltira turns, remaining calm as he’s used to the word.
The death knight narrows his eyes. “Keep going, and not even the guards will save you from my response.”
The man swallows, his resolve seeming to waver.
Grimory bristles at the two younger elves. “Hey,” he says with a cool sternness. “That was years ago, kid. The death knights have done a lot to earn our trust.”
The young lady shrinks away from the two, not saying anything but brow still furrowed in suspicious anger.
“S-stay out of this!” he says to Grimory.
Koltira’s eyes narrow. “Look, I don’t know what I did—”
“You m-murdered our cousin.”
Koltira looks to the sky for patience. “I’ve killed many cousins. You have no proof that I, personally, killed yours.”
“But I do! You killed her in Silvermoon and took her sword. As what? A-a trophy?”
“That one!” the girl cries, pointing to the handle over Koltira’s shoulder. “That’s cousin Ali’s sword!”
Grimory lifts his eyebrows and looks between the girl and the boy. “You’re Alisbeth’s cousins?”
“Yes,” the man says.
“Woah, woah, woah.” Koltira closes his eyes to think, holding his hands out as a plea for calm. “You’ve got this all wrong.”
“No, we don’t. Ali died in Silvermoon. And I’m assuming you are the one that did it. And then you stole the Redblade from her! That is her family sword.” He straightens with renewed courage. “And as her family, I-I demand you h-hand it over.” He holds out a hand trembling with the fear he’s otherwise doing well to hide.
“Yeah, give it back!” the girl says in an equally bold tone, holding out her thin little arm as tough he could just drop the heavy weapon into her palm.
Suddenly finding this amusing, a grin spreads across Grimory’s lips and he glances at Koltira. “Better do as they say, Kolt. They mean business.”
Koltira’s brow lowers at the demon hunter. He sighs, his whole demeanor deflating. “Alisbeth didn’t die in Silvermoon. I fought alongside her. She was my captain. I did die in Silvermoon. She survived long after. In fact…if you’ll come with me…”
“You expect me to believe our cousin is still alive?”
Koltira thinks on it. “No.” He takes Byfrost from his back and holds it out to the man. “As a sign of good faith that you will follow me, I’ll let you take the Redblade. For now.”
The man eyes him suspiciously and gives equal scrutiny to Grimory. After a moment, he takes the sword, the handle shifts to copper and he grunts under the weight. He grips it in both hands and tucks it carefully at his side. “Fine, then. Lead the way.”
Grimory chuckles and shakes his head. His eyes linger on the girl for a moment before turning to lead them through the streets toward the inn Alisbeth is residing in.
The girl whispers up to her brother. “We should just take it. It belongs to us.”
The man pats her shoulder and whispers back, “It belonged to the Redblades, not to us. If cousin Ali is still alive…” He clears his throat. “So, who exactly are you?” He motions at the two leading his sister and him to what could be a trap, for all they know.
The girl pouts but does not retort.
Koltira smirks over his shoulder. “I’m Koltira. Deathweaver. You may have heard of me.”
The man furrows his brow. “I have. A lot, actually. Thassarian frequented our father’s tavern in Stormwind. Talkative drunk.” He stares at the Illidari. “And you? Who are you?”
Grimory gives the two a charming, fang-filled smile. “Nobody.” He motions for the group to enter the Legerdemain Lounge. “Just up the stairs. First door on the—” He pauses at the sound of shattering coming from said staircase. “Right.”
Koltira jogs up the stairs and opens the door. A vase flies past his head to shatter against the wall. He pauses, blinking at the sight. The bed is turned on its side to split the room in half diagonally. Anarchaia huddles in front of it with a vase in her hands. Shards of broken porcelain and ceramic litter the floor and several more intact vases are gathered around the mage.
The high elf narrows his eyes as he looks inside. “What on Azeroth is going on?”
“That’s what I’d like to know,” Koltira says.
Anarchaia stands abruptly, dropping the vase she’s holding. “O-oh! And who’s this?” she asks in an innocent tone. She throws her hands behind her back and smiles.
“Some kids who wanted to meet Ali,” Grimory responds, looking at the chaos around him.
The top of Alisbeth’s head pops over the wooden railing of the bed, her eyes narrow and scheming. She holds a fragile-looking vase over Anarchaia’s head, then pauses as her eyes flick to the man standing just behind Koltira. She shoves the vase onto the mage’s head as her eyes widen; Anarchaia gives a cry of surprise, then yanks the vase off her head. Rather than going around the blockade, the death knight scrambles over the top, a manic excitement painting her face with a smile.
“Tabbef!” She leaps at him, curling all of her limbs around the elf.
His eyes go wide as he drops the Redblade and teeters forward. “Arribet?” He returns the hug, laughing in excitement. “It is you! Where have you been? Why did you stop writing?”
She climbs down from him and ushers them all inside, closing the door behind them. She paces excitedly, wringing her hands as she looks around at the mess. She smooths her hair as though trying to look presentable.
“What brings you to Dalaran?”
Anarchaia gently sets the vase down and joins the group. “So who are these—” She notices the little girl and smiles, kneeling to her level. “Oh my, aren’t you a cutie! What’s your name, sweetie?”
The girl backs away to hide behind her brother’s leg. “Diori,” she mumbles cautiously. “Diori Nightheart. This is my brother Taveth.”
Grimory flicks an ear and jerks his head to look down at the girl. Diori… Memories of some fifty years ago flood his mind and his eyes widen slightly. He rubs at his mouth with a palm, unable to take his eyes off the honey-haired child.
Alisbeth bites into her lip and stares at the girl. “Oh… Oh, my…” She goes over, pushing Taveth aside to look at Diori. “Hi,” she coos. She brushes the girl’s hair back and holds her face in her hands to look at her. “Hi, Diori.”
Taveth smiles. “I see father told you about my little sister.”
Alisbeth gives a small laugh, her face filling with pure joy as she continues to stare at the child. “Your sister. Yes… You’re so beautiful! Oh, just look at you.” Her smile drops just a little. “Wait. Wait right there. I have something for you.” Alisbeth rushes to her dresser and pulls a drawer open so fast that it crashes to the floor. She ignores it and digs through the bag inside. She returns to Diori with a candy cane. “Do you like candy canes? I love candy canes.” She shoves it into the girl’s hand.
Diori looks between Alisbeth and the candy cane, then gives a shy smile as she takes it. “Are you really cousin Alisbeth?”
Anarchaia suddenly worries over the state of the room and sets to repairing all the vases and resetting the bed.
Grimory swallows hard, still unable to look away from Diori. A mixture of rage and joy fills his heart and he clenches his jaw before turning and leaving abruptly, closing the door behind him and going to sit in the lounge downstairs.
“I am!” Alisbeth chirps. “I wrote you letters. Did you get them?”
Taveth clears his throat. “We did…until Silvermoon fell.”
She frowns. “Oh. Oh, I’m so sorry, I… There were so many wounded in Dalaran and they needed my help. I didn’t have time. And then we were attacked and…so many died.” She frowns. “Then I went to Outland and there was no way to send letters to you. I guess after that I just forgot…I was so busy. Searching for Thassarian. Revenge. So busy.” She gives Diori a bright smile. “Want to see a trick?”
Diori takes a tentative step forward and nods. She smiles and sticks the end of the cane between her cheek and gums.
“What did Uncle Falren tell you about the Redblade?” She motions at the sword in Taveth’s fists.
“That only those the blade deems worthy can wield its power,” Diori recites with the candy still in her mouth and excitement in her eyes. “Can you show us?”
Alisbeth claps her hands excitedly. “Of course! See, the handle is copper when Taveth wields it. If he were to try using it, he would struggle. If someone with Redblade blood picks it up,” She takes the sword from Taveth and the handle shifts to crimson, the green of the blade glows brighter, “it turns red. Because we are the true owners of the blade.”
Taveth smiles. “Yep, you’re a Redblade. Gods, I’ve missed you.”
She laughs and holds the sword out to Koltira. “If someone deemed worthy takes the blade, the handle will shift to another color representative of them.”
Koltira takes the handle and blue crawls up to consume the red. “I call it Byfrost when I wield it.”
“And…who are you?” Taveth asks.
“That’s my husband, Koltira.”
Koltira smiles and scrutinizes Anarchaia. “I’ve always wondered how it would react to someone who isn’t physically strong enough to wield it…” He holds out the sword. “Come on, Ana, let’s see if you’re worthy.”
The mage stops tidying the room and gives a nervous chuckle as she approaches. “I’m not much of a swordsman,” she says, but reaches for the blade regardless. Once near enough, her fingers seem to coil around the hilt of their own volition and refuse to let go. The blue of the blade brightens to an intense violet and a swirl of energy circles her feet, causing her robes to flutter. A light of similar color shines forth from her eyes, through her mask. After a brief moment she forces herself to push the hilt into Diori’s hands. “Youtakethis,” she gasps, heart pounding.
Alisbeth’s eyes widen on the mage. “Aggie, what—No!” She reaches out to stop the exchange of the sword between the two, but is too late.
Diori’s eyes widen as the blade strobes from violet to crimson. Her mouth falls open and the candy cane clatters to the floor.