The group enter the tavern nearest the bank— which is surprisingly busy for early afternoon. Overwhelmed with a feeling of relief, Grimory doesn’t let Alisbeth down as he goes to the counter and orders a round of whiskey for each person. Anarchaia waves to a few familiar faces as she passes and pulls herself onto a stool near the bar, then glances over at the demon hunter when a glass is set before her.
Thassarian drops onto a stool as Koltira snags an empty chair to turn around and lower himself into, resting his arms on the back. The former scrutinizes the demon hunter.
“So, a farm boy. I take it this all happened in Stormind, just before little miss attitude came to Lordaeron—much to the chagrin of us boys.” He shakes his head and gives Alisbeth a wink.
She sticks her tongue out at the human, then smiles.
“Hillsbrad, actually,” Grimory corrects. “She was passing through and her horse slipped a shoe. I fixed it for her and…well, so on and so forth.” He grins at the memory and downs his whiskey in one swallow. “She was elusive after.”
Anarchaia picks up her glass and, with a smile, offers it to Koltira instead. He returns the mage’s smile and takes the drink from her, his hand lingering a little longer.
Thassarian cocks his eyebrow at the lingering touch, but turns back to Grimory. “Ah. I never asked questions about her whereabouts. All I knew is that I was never so thankful I didn’t live in the barracks. Tacks under the mattresses. Horse dung in pillow cases. I think the worst was uh, what was that poor bastard’s name, uh…”
Alisbeth’s eyes round. “Are you talking about the snake?”
“Poor bastard wakes up one morning and there’s a damned snake in his boot. Pissed himself screaming.” Thassarian slaps his knee.
“He shouldn’t have made fun of my ears.”
Grimory lifts his eyebrows and laughs. “Poisonous snake or…? Go big or go home, I say.”
Anarchaia narrows her eyes when a second glass is set before her, then sighs and lifts her mask, unable to resist.
“I…didn’t know it was poisonous…”
Thassarian laughs outright. “That’s not what I heard!” He shakes his head. “Gods, she was a terror. But quietly. I only know the others were her because she told me while we were in Northrend.” He takes a swallow of his drink winks at her. “So did you know the whole time or…?” he asks both of them.
Grimory shakes his head and orders a second whiskey. “She gave me a fake name, then. I didn’t know until…well, yesterday, actually. When I met Diori.” He swallows a drink and thinks for a moment. “I spent months asking for her.”
Alisbeth frowns. “I said I was sorry.”
Grimory pokes Alisbeth playfully in the ribs and smiles. “I know you did. I’m not mad.”
The human nods at the demon hunter. “Honestly, I didn’t even realize she was the same elf from Lordaeron. She changed a lot after Silvermoon.”
She scrunches her face. “Stop talking about me. You know who’s really interesting? Arcadia. She’s the apprentice of Kattleguard. That’s cool, right? So much cooler than talking about me.” She finally drops from Grimory’s shoulders and hops onto the bar, taking her glass in her hand and sipping on it.
Anarchaia visibly flinches when she realizes Alisbeth is referring to her. “Yeah, no,” she says nervously. “Not interesting at all. Just a student. Pay me no mind. Heh.” She sips her drink.
Thassarian rolls his eyes at Anarchaia. “And I’m just a death knight. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a history.”
Koltira smirks. “Anarchaia isn’t just anything. She’s quite the spectacular mage, actually. And a budding archer.” He gives her a wink.
The mage blushes and makes a few noises of embarrassment. “I’m a terrible marksman. And if I were that spectacular of a mage, Master Khadgar would have made me an archmage after twenty years of study. Heh.”
Alisbeth smiles endearingly. “Unless he just really wants to keep you around.”
Thassarian shrugs off the mage’s attempt at humility. “I’m inclined to believe Koltira.”
“I’m sure it’s just because he’s busy,” she mumbles, fidgeting with her fingers.
Grimory rolls his eyes and lifts his glass. “To new beginnings with old friends.”
Alisbeth lifts her glass. “Here, here!”
Thassarian and Koltira lift their glasses as well.
A couple hours pass and the alcohol continues to flow. The group busies themselves with idle chat, war stories, and cards. Anarchaia throws her poker hand into the burn pile for the umpteenth time and leans back to sip at her wine in defeat.
Grimory sways with the alcohol and rests his hand on Alisbeth’s thigh as he hides his cards from the rest. “So, aren’t you happy, Kolt? You and Thassarian can get married, now, instead.”
Koltira’s brow lowers and he chooses not to respond to the demon hunter.
Thassarian grins, dopey with liquor he’d drunk too much of too fast. He leans to Koltira. “I want a winter wedding in An’owyn, where we first met.” He holds his cards like a wedding bouquet and makes pouty faces at the high elf.
“I will throw you from Acherus,” Koltira says blandly.
Anarchaia gives a giggle and raises her hand. “I want to be Maid of Honor!”
Grimory gives a smirk. “Already squabbling as though it’s happened.”
“I call best man!” Alisbeth squeals. “Bet I’d rock a tux. Oh! I should go get a tux anyway just to prove I can, in fact, look amazing.”
Koltira’s brow lowers further. “I don’t even want to imagine Thass in a dress…”
Thassarian smiles like a devil. “Who said I’d be the one in the dress, elf?”
Koltira’s nose wrinkles and he leans away from the other death knight.
Grimory scrunches his face at the thought of Alisbeth in a tuxedo, then scrunches it further at the thought of Koltira in a lacy, white dress.
“You can both wear a dress,” Anarchaia suggests with a grin, bringing her wine to her lips.
“Oh, but it wouldn’t suit me nearly as—”
“Why are we still talking about this?” Koltira demands.
Alisbeth giggles into her fingertips. “Because you two make such a cute couple! I mean, you’re totally adorable.”
Koltira clenches his jaw to avoid snapping nasty remarks at her that would ruin the good mood everyone is in.
Anarchaia taps Koltira’s shin reassuringly with her boot and smiles across the table. She clears her throat. “So what is your rank among the death knights, Thassarian?” she asks in a nonchalant tone, chin on a palm.
Thassarian shrugs. “Well, I’m no Deathlord, that’s for sure!” He pauses and holds still as a statue to stare at Alisbeth as she leans closer to the demon hunter, one slow inch at a time. When she nears his head, she opens her mouth and bites down on one of the curved horns, holding it in her teeth for a moment before releasing it and sitting back up as though the action hadn’t taken place. He shakes it off and looks back at the mage. “What was the question?”
Anarchaia waves a hand, the purpose of the question being fulfilled. “Oh! Nothing. I’ve gotten my answer.”
Grimory slowly turns his head to look at the death knight, confusion and amusement on his face. He leans over to bite her ear in revenge, cheeks pink with alcohol.
Alisbeth bites her lower lip and turns to whisper in Grimory’s ear. “Don’t start battles unless you intend to finish them.” She sets her fingers scandalously high up his thigh.
Grimory narrows his eyes down at her and cocks his head. “I started this a long time ago back at the inn.” He reaches around to place his hand behind her on the seat, thumb against her rear.
Thassarian takes a queue from the unfazed Koltira and ignores the two across the table. “So, Ana, are you going to be an apprentice forever? Or do you have bigger plans?”
Anarchaia sobers some. “Uhh…heh. That’s really up to Master. Though in all honesty I’ve never really pressed the issue. He’s just so busy I’d feel badly bothering him about it.” She shrugs. “It’d be nice to have my own apprentice. Heh.”
Koltira smiles across the table at her. “You never know until you ask. I think you’d make a great master.”
The mage smiles and shakes her head. “I don’t know. I’m obviously not suited for any sort of authority position.”
Alisbeth squeezes the demon hunter’s thigh. “That’s right, you did. But do you intend to finish? Or have you had too much to drink?”
Grimory scoffs. “Too much? Me? Never.”
Thassarian cocks an eyebrow and jerks a thumb at Alisbeth and Grimory. “Thought it was just a thing fifty years ago…”
He glances over at Thassarian. “Pretty sure I said it was more.”
Thassarian waves a dismissive hand at Grimory. “Searching. Fifty years ago. Whatever. Didn’t realize it’d stuck. Is this why you let her talk you into this separation nonsense?” He turns to Koltira.
“He wanted it, too,” Alisbeth says. “So he doesn’t feel guilty when he and Asdfwas get freaky.” She shrugs and smiles. “I just didn’t like being married. I don’t think it was for me.”
Thassarian eyes Anarchaia and Koltira, then bursts out laughing. “Oh, gods, Deathweaver, what kind of tangled-up mess have you gotten yourself into?”
Anarchaia blushes and shrinks, not wanting to have been called out in such a manner. “There’s more to it than just that…” she mumbles, pulling her mask back over her chin.
Grimory gives an airy chuckle and gestures to the human with a thumb. “This guy. I like him. He should stick around,” he slurs.
Thassarian laughs. “Sounds like a lot of fun, but I’m a busy man. Unlike this wallflower.” He pats Koltira in the back so hard the elf chokes on his drink.
Koltira shakes the whiskey from his hands and glares over at Thassarian. “I’m starting to remember why I don’t introduce you to people.”
Thassarian laughs outright and slams a fist on the table. “There’s no one for you to introduce me to! You never leave that damned corner of yours unless you’re on some assignment.”
Koltira scowls. “Are we still playing cards or have we abandoned that in order to gossip like seamstresses?”
Alisbeth kicks his leg under the table. “Quit being a spoil-sport!”
Grimory chuckles. “I guess you two are good for each other, then, eh?” he says, jerking his head in Anarchaia’s direction. “A bookworm and an antisocial.” He looks down at Alisbeth and lowers his voice to the best of his drunken abilities, his filter long gone. “It’s a wonder you two were ever married at all.”
Anarchaia scowls at the demon hunter, cheek against knuckles and fingers tapping on the table. “Stop instigating, Grim.”
“Who’s instigating? I’m just thinking out loud is all.”
Koltira grits his teeth, but cannot contain the snide remarks. “Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that a libertine would enjoy the company of—” Koltira jerks as Thassarian kicks his leg under the table.
The other death knight shrugs. “I slipped.”
Koltira straightens, realizing what Thassarian saved him from saying. “I fold.” He throws his pocket aces on the table and leans back in his chair. His eyes lock on the mage across the table and one corner of his mouth curves upward.
Alisbeth jerks upright, as though the conversation had barely reached her ears. “He may be a libertine, but at least he knows how to have fun!”
“I’d rather be a libertine than an—” He pauses, glancing at Alisbeth from the corner of his eye, then clenching his jaw. “A blubbering sack of jealousy.”
Anarchaia sends a wave of energy that throws Grimory’s drink over the table and into his lap. “That’s enough, Grim! I told you to stop!”
Grimory narrows his eyes at Anarchaia, scrambling to wipe off his leg armor. “You shouldn’t be talking, either. You’re as guilty as I.”
Thassarian chuckles as though watching the funniest thing he’s seen in a long time.
“What’s going on here?” a familiar voice asks.
Alisbeth throws her cards in the air. “Tabbef!” She jumps up to hug him. “Hi. We’re having a sepat—shepartition…” She smacks her lips and scowls.
“Yep! Se-pa-ra-tion reception.” She claps once in triumph. “Where’s Diori?” She looks behind him.
“Studying. Just because she followed me to Dalaran, doesn’t mean she can abandon her schooling.”
“That…is very responsible of you.” She forces him into her chair and sits on Grimory’s lap, even though it’s wet. “Come drink with us!”
“We’re all drunk,” Grimory mutters, pulling Alisbeth closer. “Come be drunk with us.” He pauses. “And don’t tell Diori.”
Taveth gives a chuckle. “I must decline, respectfully. She wanted to see the isles later today and I need a clear head. Before you ask, no, I’m not taking her to the dangerous parts.”
Alisbeth cocks an eyebrow. “Why not? Those are the fun parts! Can I go?”
He cringes, his eyes shifting between her and Grimory. “Ehh…”
Grimory furrows his brow at Alisbeth. “She’s fifty, Ali. She’s too young for that. Hasn’t even trained with a sword yet.”
“But if I go, I can keep her safe.” She taps his nose.
Taveth grimaces as though in some sort of pain. “Ali…you’re…drunk…”
Alisbeth furrows her brow. “You think I’m going to hurt her? The Redblade can’t harm her! Not even a scratch!”
Grimory places a hand over Alisbeth’s mouth. “No, Ali.”
Anarchaia stands and takes up her empty glass. “Refill,” she says with a fake smile no one can see, and makes her way to the bar.
Thassarian squishes his fist into his cheek. “Taveth is right. A battlefield is no place for a child.”
Alisbeth frowns. “I was out killing things at that age. I don’t see the problem.”
“You were training for something,” Grimory slurs. “She hasn’t anything to fight for. Not yet, anyway.”
Alisbeth purses her lips. “I don’t want her to fight for anything. I mean…look at all of us. Look what we became fighting for something. Thassarian was betrayed by our prince. Koltira died defending a city that was going to fall anyway. You went through all these changes,” she strokes his horns, “fighting for…something.” She shakes her head. “I don’t want her joining our wars.”
Taveth nods. “Good, because she wants to be a priestess like her aunt…grandmother. Sorry.”
Alisbeth smiles, then frowns, then smiles. She stares at Grimory, then at Taveth. “But…that’s boring.”
“Boring is safe. If that’s what she wants, then I’m okay with it.” Grimory pauses, then sobers. “Not that I have any say in…in the matter.” He drinks again, draining the cup and reflecting on the lost time.
“But…how will she wield the Redblade? Okay, safe is good, but…” Alisbeth bites her fingernails in frustration.
Koltira ignores the implication that she’ll be taking Byfrost back, reminding himself that it is her sword.
Thassarian rolls his eyes. “Not like you’re going anywhere. You could just keep the damned sword.” He holds his mug out to Taveth. “Another.”
Taveth chuckles. “Good friend, I don’t work here. Try asking at the bar.”
Thassarian grumbles and gets up to get a refill. He scooches in close to Anarchaia. “Fancy meeting you here.”
Anarchaia jumps at the sound of the man’s voice, not expecting the person beside her to be someone she’s met. “Oh,” she laughs. “I come here often.”
“A staff can be just as deadly as a blade,” Grimory says. “Plus, she wants to help people. That’s very honorable.” He smiles. And cute.
Alisbeth folds her arms and pouts.
“I’d be honored if I had a daughter that wanted to be a priestess,” Koltira says to the little mouthful of whiskey left in his glass.
Alisbeth stands abruptly and stomps to the bar, squishing against the other side of the mage. “Whatcha doin’ over here? Bet it’s fun.”
“N-nothing,” Anarchaia says with a smile, not wanting to reveal her true reason for leaving the table. “Just waiting on a wine.” That I didn’t order yet. “What’s up with you?”
Alisbeth shrugs. “I dunno.”
Anarchaia purses her lips. “You just miss me, then?” She pats Alisbeth on the shoulder. “How sweet.”
Taveth opens his mouth to speak, but closes it and looks at Koltira. “I’m missing some huge details, I feel.”
“Yep.” Koltira finishes his drink and sets the glass on the table, upside-down.
Grimory glances from the three at the bar to the two before him and sighs. “I’m sorry she didn’t tell you,” he finally says in a moment of sympathy.
Koltira purses his lips. “Yeah, well, she didn’t tell you, either. Makes you…rethink, y’know? Go over everything from the beginning. I mean…how much of it was bullshit? Just that? All of it?” He blows out the air in his lungs. “Much drunker. That’s what I need to be.”
Grimory opens his mouth to speak, then closes it. He furrows his brow and thinks for a long moment. “You’re right,” he growls. “What if that’s not even my child? What if she fucked someone else fifty years ago?”
Taveth’s ears pull back. “Excuse me, but, no matter what she’s like now, she was never like that. She was always disciplined. The few boys at Academy that did show interest, she chased off…violently. I was there for one of them and it wasn’t pretty.”
Koltira scoffs. “I have to question if her new behavior is even new. Maybe she’s always been promiscuous…” He says the word as though somehow it makes him dirty. He scoffs into his empty glass then scowls when nothing sloshes into his mouth. “It’s easy to play innocent when you look like that. Hell, she played innocent with me. Jokes on me.”
Grimory glances again over at the three taking at the bar. “I suppose it doesn’t really matter to me. Diori will never look at me as her father, anyway, so it’s not important.” He spins his cup around with his thumbs as he thinks, then looks up at Taveth. “How do we know you aren’t lying as well? You have vested interest in making her look good.”
Taveth scowls. “My cousin died in Silvermoon and now she’s back from the dead and completely crazy—which none of you will say out loud—and you think I have some interest in making her look good? She didn’t even bother to tell us she was okay. It’s been twenty years!” He lowers his voice and glances at Alisbeth, then back at them. “And I’ve been playing brother to that amazing little girl for fifty years. You two… I don’t know what your deal is, but I want no part of it. I should’ve just left you alone when I saw her sword, because I want no part of this mess you four have going. I’ll be sending Diori back to Stormwind this afternoon. She doesn’t need to be around this…whatever this is.” He stands and storms from the tavern.
Grimory’s eyes widen at the notion of Diori leaving and, despite his voiced doubts, he stands to follow as well. “Hold on!” he says when he finds his footing well enough to catch up. “Please don’t,” he says with a sudden sobriety.
Alisbeth gasps and runs after him. “Taveth wait!”
Koltira blinks. “Well that seems a bit rash…” He shrugs and goes back to staring at his empty glass.
Alisbeth smiles. “Don’t what?”
Taveth purses his lips. “I’ve already made up my mind.”
“He wants to take Diori back to Stormwind today,” Grimory says. “Just one more day. I want…I want to get to know her more.”
Alisbeth loses all joy she’d had before and frowns at her cousin. “But why?”
Taveth blinks down at her. “It’s not because of you.” He shakes his head at the demon hunter. “‘Get to know her’? You mean the girl that is probably not even yours because you think my cousin is a whore?”
Alisbeth steps back as though she’s been physically struck. “I’m what?” She stares at Grimory, her mouth wide in disbelief.
The Illidari bristles, glaring at Taveth. He gives Alisbeth a pleading look. “I didn’t say that! I just…wasn’t sure if—” He growls, his eyes igniting with this frustration. “You didn’t even remember if it was me until I proved it to you. What if Diori isn’t mine?” He runs a hand over his hair. “I didn’t mean it the way he said it. Koltira’s the one who called you promiscuous, not me.”
Tears immediately spill from Alisbeth’s eyes and her chin quivers, though she purses her lips to stop it. “Taveth, take Diori back to Stormwind. Right now. Don’t ever bring her back here.” She runs for the Legerdemain Lounge to lock herself in her room.
Taveth straightens. “I guess that settles that.” He turns his back on Grimory and walks away.
“Wait!” Grimory calls after either of them, face filled with regret and concern. He quickly decides on following Taveth, knowing he’ll get nowhere with Alisbeth. “At least ask her what she wants!”
Taveth doesn’t stop walking. “You seem much too invested in a family you’re not part of. Go back to your drinks and forget about it. We’ve proven she’s a Redblade. Beyond that, I guess it doesn’t matter.”
With a surge of rage, Grimory positions himself in front of the elf, claws drawn and glowing, eyes crackling in fury. “Listen here,” he growls down at him, “I couldn’t give two fucks what you think does or doesn’t matter. If you try to take that child away from me without first asking what she wants, things are going to get violent.”
Taveth takes a step back and blinks up at Grimory. His eyes shift to the nearby guard, then back to the fel fires glaring down at him. He takes a breath, attempting to look braver than he is. “Which child is that? Your’s? Or some other guy’s?”
The guard in the nearby doorway draws his staff, readying to intervene, should any violence break out. “Weapons away!” he shouts from beneath his hood.
The demon hunter ignores the command, continuing to glower down and grit his fangs. “Mine.”
Taveth purses his lips. “Yeah, well…we’ll see.” He moves to go around Grimory.
He steps in front of him again, blocking his path. “If I find out that you told her nothing—and I will find out, I promise you that—I’ll find you.”
Taveth’s breath catches. “Y-you know what? F-fine. Do what you’re going to do. I will not be bullied around by some hot-heated demon hunter I’ve only barely met.” He puffs out his chest as a dare. “Come on. Slash me open. I decided long ago I’d die to keep Diori safe. Just take a moment to think about how much she’ll love you after you gut her big brother.” He swallows and doesn’t try to hide the shaking of his limbs as the fear courses through his veins.
Grimory breathes heavily in his adrenaline-fueled state. He clenches his fists, then, before he’s able to do anything, the guard lifts his staff and the demon hunter is pulled away from the man, heels skidding on the cobblestone. He growls and shakes off the magic, claws dissipating. He points at Taveth, eyes still smoldering. “I meant what I said.” He turns and storms off in the direction of the Legerdemain Lounge.
Taveth nods to the guard and shakes off his terror at being threatened. He goes into the Silver Enclave to find Diori and her instructor. “Diori, I’m going back to Stormwind for a little bit. Will you please stay here and keep up with your lessons?”
The high elf girl turns her gaze up to her brother from her parchment; she smiles and nods. “Okay. But, why? When will you be back?”
Taveth looks over her writing and smiles. “Just an hour or two to speak with father. I’ll have Kel’ori teleport me back as fast as possible, okay?” He kisses the top of her head.
Diori nods. Her smile widens as her head is kissed. “Are we going to see cous—Ali and the shirtless guy again today?”
Taveth smiles as best he can. “We’ll see. Get back to your lesson in…” he looks over her paper. “Is that how to break bones, or how to fix them?”
Diori scoops up the paper and hugs it to her chest, giving a wide, cheesy grin. “Both?”
Taveth laughs and ruffles her hair. “I guess it helps to know how they’re broken in order to fix them correctly. I’ll be back soon.” He jogs down the steps and takes the portal to Stormwind.