Sometime later, as the sun is rising, Anarchaia saunters into the lounge. She takes a seat at Koltira’s table and smiles. “I’m back.”
Koltira cocks an eyebrow and takes a sip of his drink. “That…took a while. Anything dire I should know about?”
Anarchaia shifts her lips to the right and shakes her head after a moment’s thought. “No. Everything’s fine. Ready to get going?”
He downs his drink in one go. “I’ve been ready for hours.” He stands, then stops. “Knock before going into Ali’s room, by the way.”
The mage bites her lip, raises her brows, and chuckles. “You interrupted something, I take it?” She stands. “Not sure why they don’t lock the door.”
“It could be any reason, with those two.” He rubs his palms down his face as they head for the portal to Silvermoon. “I know it’s not my problem anymore, but…” He sighs. “It bothers me. But I’m also just…relieved that she’s distracted. I really don’t understand how he keeps her in check so well.”
Anarchaia swallows her jealousy and smiles, shrugging. “Perhaps their personalities just mesh well.” She tilts her head. “You seem to miss her. Why not go back?”
Koltira thinks on it. “I don’t think it’s her that I miss. It was…something familiar. Our relationship… If I hadn’t met you I think we’d still be together, but only because it’s what we knew. It was something constant, almost comforting…that I had her. Even though I don’t particularly like her now. She changed. I changed.” He smiles down at the mage. “I just needed someone to give me the courage to let go.”
The jealousy she’d swallowed churns into guilt in her stomach. “I’d hoped you’d left her because you weren’t happy. Not because of…me.” She frowns and turns to look ahead.
He takes her hand. “Ana, I wasn’t happy. I just…couldn’t leave.”
The mage smiles and inhales. After a moment she exhales and shakes her head. “I believe you.” They stop before the portal in the alcove within Windrunner’s Sanctuary. “After you.”
Koltira smiles. “I wasn’t trying to convince you, only tell you the truth.” He goes through the portal and moves to the side to wait for Anarchaia’s appearance.
She emerges through the portal and instantly cranes her neck to look around the room she’s entered. Red silk curtains line the doorway and walls. Plush decorative pillows lie on a lavish carpet and knickknacks sit on shelves.
“Is this…some kind of solar?” she says, gesturing to a stick of burning incense.
Koltira cocks his eyebrow at two mages by the door. One continuously polymorphs the other, as the latter yells for them to stop.
“I…have no idea. I’ve actually never been in this room before. Shall we?” He takes her by the hand and urges her out the door, not entirely keen on staying.
Anarchaia giggles at the two as they pass, yearning to get involved in their feud. “I like this place already,” she muses with a smile as they step out onto a long, red carpet leading outdoors.
As they descend the ramp, Koltira eyes the wall to the left. “Hmm.”
He leads Anarchaia through Murder Row, keeping watch on the warlocks and rogues milling about in doorways or playing cards on the sidewalk. The mage waves cheerily at the delinquents as they pass. They sneer at her but otherwise pay no mind.
In The Bazaar, Koltira stops again. “Hmm.” He turns in a circle as though lost.
She looks up at her companion as he glances about. “Need directions?” she says with a smile.
Koltira purses his lips and points across the area to a vine-covered wooden wall set into the stone. “That used to be a doorway. They must have sealed it. We may have to find another way there.”
“We could make a doorway,” Anarchaia responds, holding up a hand, her grin widening playfully.
Koltira narrows his eyes suspiciously. “You’re not planning on lighting it on fire, are you?”
“Wood we get in trouble?” she asks, biting her lip as she smiles.
Koltira purses his lips to keep back a laugh. “I’m pretty sure we would. I’m sure the guards would bark at us.”
Anarchaia laughs. “Perhaps going around is an option.”
“Maybe they haven’t fixed the front gates, either. Worth a try.” He takes Anarchaia’s hand and leads her to the front of the city, taking his time as he lets the mage take in the splendor of his home. He smiles to himself, realizing how much he’d missed the city.
Anarchaia beams as she cranes her neck to see all the expertly crafted pillars, vendors selling fabrics of the highest quality, and trees along the buildings that seem to glow in the sunlight. “Elves have it so good…”
The death knight chuckles and moves out of the way of an enchanted broom working its way down the street. “It is a beautiful city. I’m sure no one would mind you getting your own place here, if you wanted. A home away from home.”
Anarchaia reaches out to touch the broom as it passes, then sobers. “Unless I’m a student for the rest of my unlife.”
“Don’t you get vacations?” he asks.
Anarchaia shakes her head. “I went to Pandaria for two years but…that was more of a field trip than a vacation. And that was only because Master was needed in Draenor. I have more free time these days because he’s so busy. But…I should really be studying regardless.”
He frowns. “I’m sorry I’m keeping you from your studies. Speaking of…what did Khadgar want?”
“To tell me to stop leaving the city without telling him.” She sighs and smiles at a guard as they pass. “I told him we’d be coming here today, though.”
Koltira smirks. “Sure took a long time for him to tell you that.”
Anarchaia hesitates. “You were mentioned, obviously. Nothing negative…mostly.”
Koltira stops and frowns at her. “You can’t expect me to be okay with such scant details.”
“He doesn’t like how much time I spend with you,” she admits. “He has nothing against you personally, though.”
Koltira’s eyebrows drop to a slight scowl as he continues walking. “Oh. Gods forbid you have friends.” He shakes his head. “I don’t understand it. I really don’t.”
Anarchaia bites her lip again. “He doesn’t mind my having friends. He says that with his being so busy, I need to study extra hard.”
Koltira makes a face. “Sounds like a load of shit to me. But who am I to say that it’s not the absolute truth.”
Anarchaia’s frown deepens, not enjoying the tension. “Are you jealous?” she asks with a careful tone.
Koltira forces a light chuckle. “I’m not jealous, Ana. I just…I don’t think he’s telling us the whole story. And that’s not fair to you.”
Anarchaia furrows her brow upward. “I’m sure he has a good reason for doing so…if that is the case.”
Koltira shrugs. “I’m sure if it was something important, he’d actually tell you.” He leads Anarchaia out through the front gate to a walkway blossoming with all sorts of flowers in long planters and floating jars.
“I don’t know,” the mage says as she reaches to touch one of the flowers, though she’s unable to feel the delicate petals. “He’s never lied to me.”
The death knight plucks out a flower and holds it out for Anarchaia. “Some don’t consider omission to be lying.” He gestures with a tilt of his head. “Come. The main gate is this way. Was.”
Anarchaia takes the flower and smiles, bringing it to her lips as if smelling it. She follows close behind. “So, surprises are lies?”
“You didn’t even ask if I believe omissions to be lies, first.” He smirks down at her. “I think it’s the intent. A surprise doesn’t harm. Lying by omission does. For example, are you being honest about the extent of our relationship with Khadgar? Or are you lying by omission? Or is it a surprise?” He crosses into the grass along the path to scratch under the chin of a wandering dragonhawk. It trills in surprise, then flits away in a slight panic.
Anarchaia watches the animal flutter away and swallows. “Do you consider withholding information the same as lying?”
Koltira shrugs as they continue on. “I just told you, I think it’s the intent. Is the omission harmful if it’s made known? Or is it something that will please someone when it’s revealed? Harmful omissions are lies, yes.”
Anarchaia shoos a dragonfly away when it lands on her robes. “What if the intent is not to hurt someone’s feelings? Or perhaps the information is irrelevant?”
He thinks on it. “If the intent of keeping the secret is to avoid causing harm, then it is still a lie by omission. If the information is irrelevant, then it really doesn’t matter either way.”
Then it’s irrelevant, the mage thinks.
Koltira stops on the road and stares down at the dead ground that cuts through the path from as far left as he can see, right up through Silvermoon. Undead creatures still wander within it. He lets out a heavy sigh and ushers Anarchaia off the path and into the grass. They make their way to the broken gate, where nothing but rubble remains in the destroyed gap.
“Well, I was right about them not sealing it up.”
Anarchaia looks around at the rubble and the dead, tainted soil. It sends a shiver up her spine. “So, this is the work of the Scourge?”
“Yes,” he says simply.
As they approach the rubble, a blood elf runs to them.
“Hey! You can’t go in there! It’s not safe.”
Koltira turns, cocking an eyebrow at the woman. “Jaela?”
She eyes him. “Deathweaver?”
He laughs. “You survived!” He hugs her briefly.
“As did you…” She looks him over again.
“In a sense, I suppose.” He steps to the mage and sets a hand at her back. “This is my friend, Anarchaia. Ana, this is Jaela.”
Anarchaia inwardly flinches at the word friend but lifts her mask to show a crooked smile. She waves. “It’s a pleasure, Jaela.”
Koltira clasps his hands together. “So, we just want to go into the ruins. Visit the… Well…”
Jaela smiles and holds out a hand to Anarchaia.
The mage grasps Jaela’s hand and gives it a firm shake. “I’m a student of Dalaran. Seeing the damage done to the city would be a great advancement in my studies.”
Jaela forces a smile. “Ehh…”
“I’m not supposed to.”
Koltira smiles slyly. “But maybe you were just so busy keeping the undead out that you didn’t see two people climb over the rubble into the ruins.”
She folds her arms over her chest and smirks at him. “You know, I am pretty busy. And if you’re any bit as spry as you used to be…there’s no way I could’ve known someone was accessing the ruins.” She nods to Anarchaia. “Keep an eye on this one.” She motions at Koltira with her eyes.
Anarchaia gives a thumbs up and smiles. “We owe you one, friend.” She cringes at her own behavior and steps toward the rubble of the destroyed wall.
“Enjoy your studies. Al diel shala.” She turns on her heel and races back to her band of elves. One by one the others also turn their backs to the two at the opening to the ruins.
Koltira hops up the boulders with dexterity unfitting to a death knight, then crouches to hold out his hand for the mage. “Not as fun sneaking in when you have permission,” he laughs.
Anarchaia chortles and takes his hand, hoisting herself up to his level. “You prefer to be sneaky?”
He gives her a wicked smile. “I think it’s thrilling; the looming threat of getting caught.”
Anarchaia returns the smile, eyes half lidded beneath her mask. “Didn’t know you were such a risk taker.”
Koltira laughs and jumps into the ruins. “Well, I guess there are still things you’ll have to learn about me.”
Anarchaia blinks to the space beside him and gives him a playful shove. “Or you could stop being so mysterious.” She steps to climb a large piece of rubble in hopes of getting a better view.
Koltira smirks. “Did I miss the moment when I was supposed to have shared that?”
Anarchaia shrugs and lifts a hand to touch a hanging jewel as she leaps down from the rock. “Mayhaps. Mayhaps not.”
Koltira chuckles. “Come on. Let’s look at this disaster, then.”
“I thought we were here to see the ruins, not me.” Anarchaia smiles as she kicks a small pebble from her path. She bends at the waist to view a shattered piece of pottery.
Koltira raises an eyebrow and purses his lips at the mage. “That kind of talk isn’t going to be tolerated.” He kicks a blackened weed trying to grow in the dead soil. “Besides, I already won the title of worst person at their job.”
Anarchaia shrugs. “Perhaps at your job, yes.” She turns to walk backward as she talks to him. “But I meant physically. You have to admit that, of the two of us, you got the long end of the attractive scourge stick.”
Koltira makes a face. “I think you’re not seeing things clearly from behind that mask of yours.” He goes to her and slips his thumbs under the bottom of her mask, a look of challenge on his face. “Maybe you should take it off.”
Anarchaia stiffens, eyes glancing about in case others also happen to have wanted a secret tour of the ruins. She huffs and places her hands on her hips, accepting the challenge. “I know what I said.”
“I wasn’t challenging your communications skills.” He inches the mask up. “I was challenging your ability to see clearly.” He pulls it up a little more.
Anarchaia’s fingers twitch on her hips as she resists the urge to stop him. “Really? Because it seems more like you’re challenging my self-confidence.”
Koltira smiles. “Oh, that, too. I don’t think you see what is actually there. You’re looking for a monster, so you see one. I’m looking for Anarchaia,” he pulls the mask above her eyes and looks into her red pupil, “so I see her.”
Anarchaia pauses, cheeks turning a bright scarlet. She clears her throat and reaches up to again yank down her mask. “F-false dilemma.”
Koltira stops her from pulling down the mask and leans in as though about to kiss her. He stops just short and grins. “Admit I’m right.”
Anarchaia swallows and hesitates. “Make me.”
Koltira moves close enough that the very tips of their lips touch, but he doesn’t kiss her. “Don’t think I won’t.” He pushes up on the mask to yank it off her head entirely.
The mage flinches as her hair falls into her face. She narrows her eyes up into his with defiance and smiles to hide her discomfort. “I’m counting on it.”
Koltira holds the mask behind his back. He pushes his other hand against the small of Anarchaia’s back to hold her against him. “Are you, now?” he whispers.
She snakes her hands around his waist to sneakily reach for her mask. “You’re not doing a very good job of getting me to admit that you’re right.”
Koltira chuckles at her fingers at his side. “Trying to get that mask of yours? Too bad I already stowed it.” He gives her lips a quick peck, then takes off running deeper into the ruins.
“Uh!” The mage clenches her fists and follows, pulling up her hood. “You’re the worst! What if someone sees me?!”
Koltira laughs and shouts over his shoulder, “Then they’ll be stunned into silence by your beauty!”
Anarchaia glares as she blinks a few yards ahead to catch up. “Not everyone is as nice and accepting as you, you know!” she hisses.
“Maybe you should give them a chance!” He stops to watch her run after him.
The mage blinks forward again, reaching for his belt where she suspects he’s hiding her mask. “I’ve given them many!”
Koltira’s eyes widen and snap to the door raising right beside them. “Uh, shit. Hide!” He shoves Anarchaia toward a crumbling doorway on the opposite side of the dead scar from the gate.
The mage quickly turns the corner through the doorway and presses her back against the wall, heart pounding for both rational and irrational reasons. “But they’ll miss my beauty,” she hisses in a hushed tone and sticks out her tongue.
Koltira flattens against the wall beside Anarchaia. “I’m more concerned with the charge of trespassing.” He grabs her mask and shoves it onto her head—backward.
Anarchaia jerks then scowls beneath her reversed mask. She scrambles to right it, tucking her hair into the sides. “I could teleport us out. But we didn’t see what we came to see, yet,” she whispers.
Koltira purses his lips. “I might be okay with that.” He stops to listen. “Oh, fuck me sideways. What are they doing here?”
Anarchaia grins beneath her mask. “Right here? Right now?” She peeks around the corner then jerks back. “Oh.”
“Oh. Yeah, oh. Gods. One day, just one day.” Koltira grabs her hand. “I’m okay with leaving if you are.”
Anarchaia gives him an understanding smile and nods. “If it’s really what you want.” She takes his other hand with her own. “Want to walk through the forest instead?”
Koltira thinks on it. “I’m sorry. We came all this way and we had a deal… It’s your choice.”
Anarchaia tilts her head at the approaching footsteps and hesitates. “I-I don’t care. I honestly just came here to be with you. And to see the city of course, but…”
“Oh, gods. Screw it. I won’t let them ruin our trip.”