Anarchaia gives a longing glance at the little girl then sighs, turning to look at the sky instead. “Plenty of time for that walk,” she says with a grin no one can see.
Koltira nods. “Right. It’ll take some time to get there on foot.”
Anarchaia steps down the rubble to stand beside Koltira, offering a sympathetic smile. “Sorry you had to relive that. This was a bad idea.”
Koltira sighs, holding back the desire to kiss her while in the presence of the others. “No. It’s fine, really. It kind of…felt good…to finally get it all off my chest. Thank you.”
Anarchaia tilts her head and makes a face beneath her mask. “As long as you’re happy.” She picks up a broken hilt as they pass and examines the dirty steel. “Where to first?”
“You wanted me to show you where I spent the decades before the war. That’s An’owyn. It’s a temple in the southern forest for Quel’Thalas.” He thinks a moment. “Though, don’t they call it the Ghostlands now?”
Anarchaia nods. “I believe so. Sounds haunting.” She wiggles her fingers menacingly.
Koltira gives her a painful smile. “Wow, Ana. Just wow.”
The mage chuckles and skips ahead to turn and talk while waking backward. “You find my puns ghastly?”
Koltira slaps a hand over his sternum. “Oh gods, no. Please. Stop. It hurts.”
Anarchaia pokes at her own cheeks as she grins. “Am I boring you to undeath? Should I decease and desist?” She titters and turns back around. “Okay I’m done. Sorry.”
“Good, you should be sorry. That was bad. Those were all bad. I can’t believe you even said any of that.” He shakes his head. “Just awful.”
“Hm. Maybe I’m not that sorry. I’d need some convincing.” She clasps her hands behind her back and grins.
Koltira shoves Anarchaia into another doorway and stands near her so her back is pinned against the wall. “How much convincing do you need?”
The mage gives a short chirp of surprise then titters up at him. “We’ve both already found out you’re bad at convincing me to do things.”
“Oh, am I?” Koltira asks. He leans closer to her and sets a hand at her waist. “How do you know I was even trying?”
Anarchaia smirks and bites her lip, bringing a hand up to rest on his forearm. “Because it seemed like you were. Perhaps I was mistaken…or perhaps I wasn’t.”
Koltira leans down and hooks a finger under her mask, pulling it up to reveal her blue lips. “Perhaps we’ll never know.” He sets his lips to hers.
Anarchaia hums into the kiss, arms weaving under his to grab onto his torso. She smiles up at him. “Okay, you win.”
Koltira laughs. “That easy? Really?” He gives her one quick kiss then sighs. “Would you like to get going or do some desecrating of old ruins?” He gives her a sly wink.
Anarchaia covers her mouth as she laughs. “As much as I’d love to give you some happier memories of this place, I’m almost certain we’d be caught.” She takes his hand. “Ghostlands?”
Koltira smirks. “You only get caught if you’re too loud. But if you insist, let’s go to the Ghostlands.”
“I’m no good at that,” Anarchaia says with a smile, then skips through the rubble toward the entrance.
“I’m aware,” Koltira says on a quiet breath. He follows after her.
Anarchaia stops to pick up a brightly colored butterfly then sets it on her shoulder. “This place, even in ruins, is still more beautiful than most places I’ve been.”
~ * ~
Grimory turns to Taveth. “Get all that?”
Taveth looks up at Grimory, his spectacles pushed to his nose again. “Hmm? Oh, yes. Thank you.” He returns to his notebook, where he is sketching the ruins across two clean pages.
Grimory glances between Taveth and Anarchaia and grins. “You book types like other book types, yeah?”
Taveth turns and cocks an eyebrow at the demon hunter. “Hmm? What do you mean?”
Grimory smirks. “That’s the girl I mentioned earlier. Very smart. I bet you two would get along famously. You don’t got a girlfriend, do you?”
Taveth cranes his neck to look at Anarchaia, pushing his glasses to the tip of his nose to look over the lenses. “I’m sure reading her research would be fascinating. Do you know what she studies?” He returns to his drawing, then says offhandedly. “No. I haven’t got a girlfriend. I’m honestly not sure what my relationship status has got to do with anything.” He purses his lips at his sketch.
Grimory narrows his eyes at Anarchaia’s slowly minimizing form. “She’s a scholar like you. She studies everything. She knows almost every language, you know. You should, ah… hang out with her sometime.”
Taveth hums as he turns his page to draw another section of the ruins. “Fascinating… Hmm? Oh, uh. I don’t know. I’m sure she’s a busy woman. But I’m sure if she found the time we could have an intriguing conversation. Though, I do know every language. Fluently.”
<<Every language, you say?>> the Illidari hisses in Eredun as he brushes some dirt off a half-buried tapestry.
<<I didn’t stutter,>> Taveth replies in Eredun, his accent perfect. “Little bit of a scholar in you, then?”
Grimory lifts his brows and shakes his head. “Nope. Just half demon.” He picks up the tapestry and examines it. “I’m more of a do-er than a reader.”
Taveth leans in close to Grimory to examine the tapestry as well. “Fine elven craftsmanship. And I understand about the doing part. While I prefer to research in the quiet of a library, I do love a good hands-on investigation.”
Grimory drapes the tapestry over Taveth’s face. “Can’t get any more hands-on than this, yeah?”
Taveth pulls the tapestry from his head and lays it down respectfully. He then goes about tidying himself up. “Had me going there for a minute.” He blows the grime from his glasses, then uses a clean handkerchief to wipe the lenses. “If you’ll excuse me, I have ruins to investigate. Go…pick on your little friend or something.”
“Thought I was already doing that,” the Illidari says with a laugh and tucks his thumbs into his belt to walk in Alisbeth and Diori’s direction.
“Since when was I your friend?” Taveth mutters. He finishes dusting himself off, then returns to his notes.
“Guess you’ll have to find out what the Twisting Nether is like from some other demon, then.” He waves a hand as he trots away.
Taveth cocks an eyebrow behind him to watch the demon hunter go, then sighs. “Me and my stupid mouth.”
~ * ~
Stepping up to the girls, he smiles. “Whadya find?”
Alisbeth smiles at the ring. She tucks Koltira’s bow under an arm as she cleans the ring on her shirt. “Diori found a ring. Would you like me to hold onto it until your fingers grow into it? Or we can put it on a chain and you can wear it around your neck!”
Diori scrunches her face as she thinks. “I want you to have it. I already have the doll. It wouldn’t be fair if you didn’t have anything.” She points a finger up into Grimory’s face. “We have to find something for you, too!”
The demon hunter chuckles. “That’s real kind of you, girlie, but I’d have nowhere to put it.” He tousles her hair.
“Why don’t we give the ring to Grim?” she asks, grinning up at him. “You’ve got fingers! That’s a place to put something.”
The Illidari grimaces. “I’m not really a jewelry per—okay, sure,” he grunts, giving up when Diori grabs his hand to shove the ring onto his pinky mid-sentence.
Diori smiles. “It matches your belt!”
Alisbeth giggles at the two, then returns to searching for a matching button.
Taveth pauses in the middle of a sketch to frown at the three. He closes his book and takes a step toward them, but changes his mind and returns to his drawing.
Diori glances back at Taveth and hops over to him. “We can find you something too, brother!” She leans over his paper to look at his drawings.
“Looking for something in particular?” Grimory says down to the death knight.
“A button,” Alisbeth replies simply.
Taveth smiles. “I would like that. Why don’t you find me something grand? A relic to put on the mantle at home.”
Diori bounces excitedly. “Something grand…” she mumbles, looking around frantically. She lifts up a chipped piece of pottery, then sets it back down, sticking her tongue out.
Grimory frowns at her shortness. “Everything okay?”
Alisbeth blinks at Grimory. “Everything’s fine! Why?” She catches sight of the retreating pair. “Oh!” She pulls out the broken bow. “Hang on, be right back.” She grins and takes off running for the two, taking care not to run into Diori as she passes. “Kolty!”
Koltira turns and cocks an eyebrow at the approaching death knight. “Something wrong?”
“Nope!” She skids to a stop in front of him. “Look what I found! Now you can finish it!” She holds the bow out on her palms and smiles.
He purses his lips at it, then takes the two halves. He shakes his head as he runs his fingers along the unfinished end. “No. I think it should remain this way. Thank you, Ali.”
She smiles wider. “Told you I’d be a good friend!” She takes off running back to Grimory.
“No, you di—” He sighs down at Anarchaia. “No, she didn’t.”
~ * ~
Grimory smiles at Alisbeth. “Returning a useless weapon? You’re so kind, Ali.”
Alisbeth cocks an eyebrow at Grimory. “It’s not useless! It’s something important to him! He made that bow and carved at it over time to give it those patterns. Wouldn’t you want something so personal returned to you?”
Grimory scoffs and looks back at Taveth and Diori. “Of course. Especially if it’s by the woman I still have obvious feelings for.”
Alisbeth’s eyebrows pull up in confusion. “Oh, you still have feelings for someone?” She gasps. “Appletini? Oh. I’m sorry.” She picks at dirt beneath her fingernails. “You should tell her before it’s too late.”
Grimory can’t help but laugh at her ignorance and wraps an arm around her shoulders. “No, Ali. Not that.”
She cocks her eyebrow up at him. “Then what?”
Grimory shakes his head. “Don’t worry about it. We should head back soon. If we can peel Taveth from all this junk, that is.”
Alisbeth furrows her brow. “Why do we need to go back? Can’t we stay longer? I mean, look at her! She’s having so much fun!”
Grimory crooks his mouth to the left and sighs. “All right. For her.” He sets himself on a large rock.
~ * ~
Diori notices something out the corner of her eye and picks it up through the dust and dirt. She turns the gilded hairpin over in her hands and waves it at Taveth. “Is this grand?”
Taveth polishes the pin with is thumb. “Oh, that is grand. But I don’t think it belongs on the mantle. I think it belongs…” He twists up one side of her hair and secures it in the pin, “here. Simply beautiful.”
Diori blushes and giggles, then takes his glasses and puts them on. “I bet it’d look just as pretty on you.”
Taveth laughs. “Oh, you think so? Put it on me, then.”
Diori grins and pulls out the pin, reaching up to push back his feathery bangs and secure them with it. “Pretty!”
Taveth laughs and looks into her magnified blue eyes, the width of the lenses making her eyes appear as though they go farther out the sides of her face. “Well then I guess we’ll just have to fight over who gets it! I challenge you, Miss Nightheart, to a thumb war.” He holds out his hand.
Diori gasps and grabs his hand, puffing up her chest. “You dare challenge the reigning champion? Your insolence will not go unpunished!”
Taveth, as usual, lets Diori win all three rounds. “Okay! Okay! I yield!” He laughs and untangles the pin from his hair. “I believe this belongs to you.”
Diori sets her palms on her hips in triumph. “Place it in my hair, knave,” she says haughtily.
“Knave?” Taveth demands. “Knave?” He grabs her into his arms. “I’ll show you a knave, little princess.” He starts to tickle her sides.
Diori giggles and kicks wildly, slapping at Taveth’s arms. “How dare you?!” she laughs. “I’ll have your head for this!”
Taveth releases her and laughs. “At least put the pin back in my hair so that it looks pretty on your shelf.”
Diori smiles wide and clips the pin back in his hair. “Okay. Do you like it? It’s real pretty. Do you think it’s worth anything?”
Taveth laughs and pinches her nose. “Well, aren’t you the little entrepreneur?” He thinks on it. “You know, I bet it is worth quite a bit, actually. It’s in great condition, its make is extraordinary, and it’s from the ruins of Silvermoon. You really want to sell it?”
Diori scrunches her face and grabs his hand. “What do you want?”
“I want you to do what you want to do with your new hair pin.” He smiles and swings her arm back and forth.
Alisbeth curls onto a nearby rock. She glances at the demon hunter’s hand. “So, you like your new bling? Going to wear it forever?” She laughs lightly and casts her eyes to her daughter and cousin.
He inspects the ring on his pinky and chortles airily. “Since it’s for her…” he repeats. Grimory smiles up at Alisbeth. “Do you think we’ll ever be close?” he says blatantly.
“To each other? Or to Diori?” She sighs. “Either way, I don’t know. What do you think?” She doesn’t look at him, but keeps her eyes on the other two.
Grimory frowns and looks down at his feet, hesitating. “Both, I guess. What do you think?”
Alisbeth scrunches her face at him. “I just said I don’t know.”
Grimory scrunches his own face, mocking her. “It’s pretty obvious I’m skeptical, so why don’t you tell me what you think for a change?”
Alisbeth stares at the ground. “I don’t think she’ll ever be comfortable with me. You, maybe. I mean, you’re both living.”
Grimory frowns and shakes his head. “I think she likes you better.”
Alisbeth shakes her head. “You have horns and wings and a heartbeat. What’s not to l-…like?”
Grimory catches her slip and can’t help but blush a little. He examines the ring. “You’re doing a fine job, Ali. You don’t have to have a heartbeat to love someone, you know. Especially your own child.”
Alisbeth smiles and pulls her knees to her chest. “I think she adores you. I really do.” She’s not the only one, is she? She looks away from him, the tips of her ears going a darker shade.
Grimory glances over at the two. He swallows and lowers his head to run a hand through his hair. “I hope so.”
Diori hums in thought, then pokes Taveth in the nose. “I want you to decide. I don’t need money. Would you be happy with it?”
Taveth wiggles his nose and smiles. “I think we should keep it. Because it really does look beautiful on you. The other ladies will be so jealous when you get older and walk about Stormwind with it on.”
Diori smiles and reaches up to pinch his nose playfully. “You really think the other girls will be jealous? You think I’ll find a man and we’ll marry?”
Taveth sighs and shakes his head. “I think you need to wait several more decades before worrying about boys. They’ll still be there when you’re older.”
Diori pouts and folds her arms. “But what if it’s the man of my dreams?”
Taveth laughs. “Then you be his friend until you’re old enough.”
Diori gasps again. “What if he’s a prince? Then I’d be a real princess!” She kicks her feet excitedly. “Or a cool paladin like c—like Ali was.” She reaches up to poke his forehead but misses entirely with the warped depth perception.
Taveth cries out and slaps a hand over his eye. “Okay, no more of these.” He takes his spectacles back from her, one eye squinted closed and tearing up after the poke. “A prince? Are you still on about Anduin? You know he’s king now.” He wipes his stinging eye. “Why don’t you,” he untangles the pin from his hair, “go show this to Ali and Grim?”
“Sorry!” Diori says quickly, then squints and blinks rapidly when the glasses are off. She pouts and blushes. “No! And I know he is. Pri—King Anduin is too old for me,” she says with a sadness in her voice as she takes the pin and looks it over again. “But he is very handsome,” she mumbles and trots over to Alisbeth, pin held up. “Ali, look!”
“You’re older than him,” he mumbles as she walks away. Taveth opens his leather journal and replaces his glasses on his nose. He frowns, his one eye still stinging and squinted closed. Something catches his eye just past a doorway and he heads for it, bumping the crumbling wall as he passes, slightly disoriented from lack of depth perception. He continues forward, unaware of the cracks forming in the ceiling and along the walls of the room he’s in.
Alisbeth gasps at the pin. “Oh, it’s beautiful! And for the record, I think it looks better on you than on Taveth.” She winks at Diori.
Diori laughs and skips to Grimory. “Your turn!”
The demon hunter leans away and the corners of his lips twitch. “All right, a line needs to be drawn somewhere, missy. No one touches my hair.”
The little elf narrows her eyes and leaps at him, pin brandished. “But it’s your turn!”
He grabs her from the air and holds her tightly, laughing and messing her hair. “You heard me, you little brat.”
Diori kicks and pouts. “No fair!”
A piece of ceiling falls, narrowly missing Taveth as he crosses the room. He turns to look at the door. “Hello?” When he gets no response, he shrugs and stoops to investigate ornately crafted pieces of a broken vase.
Alisbeth laughs quietly behind her hand. “He’s very serious about his hair.”
Grimory glances around upon realizing they’re minus a body. “Where’d Taveth go?”
“He probably found something,” Diori grunts, still trying to reach his hair with the pin, tongue over her upper lip in concentration.
“He always did like to wander,” Alisbeth says, scanning the area for signs of him.
Grimory grabs Diori’s wrist to stop her and shrugs. “As long as he can find his way back. It’s not like we have a map of this place.”
“He could always just shout,” Alisbeth says on a chuckle. “You could just fly in and—”
Alisbeth flinches as part of a building caves in not far from where Taveth had been. “Oh, gods.”