Book 3 – Chapter Twenty-Four

Grimory wakes up the next morning beside Alisbeth. He winces and puts a hand to his head, then leans over to kiss her despite then pain. “Morning. Sleep well?” he jokes.

She smiles wide. “Oh, it was the best sleep ever!” She snuggles into him. “How about you? Sleep well?”

Grimory furrows his brow. “I think so.” He wraps an arm around her and squeezes, then pauses as a realization hits him. “He kissed me.”

Alisbeth furrows her brow. “Who? When?”

“Taveth. Last night.” He throws the blankets off himself and swings his legs over to rest on the floor.

Alisbeth giggles. “I think you drank too much and had a weird dream.”

“Maybe. Seemed pretty real to me.” He grabs a towel from the wardrobe and throws it around himself. “Shower time. Coming?”

“Of course I am!” She jumps up after him after grabbing her own towel and soaps bag.

~ * ~

Taveth wakes with sickening regret for the amount he’d drunk. He finds a note on his side table:

Took Diori for breakfast. Drink this.

Beside the note is a mug of some sort of tea. He sips it as he sits up, trying to remember past throwing his glass at Koltira’s head.

~ * ~

“Still not ready,” Steamvolt drones the second Anarchaia pokes her head into his shop. “I told you how long it’d take.”

The mage sticks out her lower lip. “Yes, but what if you finish early?”

“Then I’d obviously tell you.” His cyan eyes lift from the device he’s bent over to narrow at her.

“No, you won’t. You get paid by the day, not the project.”

The goblin can’t help but smirk. “I’ll tell you, Ana.”

“You’d better!” she sings from outside as she checks the item off her list.

Koltira can’t help the giant smile on his face as he enters the Legerdemain Lounge, hoping Anarchaia might stop in. I’ll wait all day, if I have to.

After a number of stops, Anarchaia finally returns to the Legerdemain Lounge, making her way to the staircase while continuing to pour over her list.

Koltira runs forward and grabs Anarchaia by the elbow. “Ana!”

The mage jumps, a noise of surprise in her throat. “Oh! Kolt. Good morning.” She smiles. “Something happen?”

He laughs lightly. “Oh, not much. I just saw Thassarian last night…” He gives her a wicked smile.

Anarchaia perks and chuckles. “Oh yeah? I bet he had some things to say.”

“Oh, I had to weasel it out of him. He wouldn’t even spare any details! So, we need to get Juliember here to tell us.”

Taveth steps into the Legerdemain Lounge, rubbing his face against the pain of squinting at the sun. He notices the two in his path to Alisbeth’s room and stops. “Oh. Hi. How are things?”

“I wouldn’t know where to start—” Anarchaia glances at Taveth and smiles. “Better than yours, it would seem.”

Taveth smiles painfully. “My things all hurt. Things being brains. And everything from the neck up. I think my hair even hurts.”

Koltira chuckles at him. “I’ve been there. I don’t miss it.” He turns back to the mage. “Well, until we can get to her… He basically accused the “disgusting troll” of casting a spell on him. I asked what she said, but… This is kind of the best part. He doesn’t speak troll. And I’m guessing she doesn’t speak Common. Says he shooed her out the door like the animal she is, then returned to Acherus.” He purses his lips to think on it. “I’m not even sure if that’s the full story.”

Anarchaia conjures a mug of briarthorn tea, already steaming as the leaves drop in, and holds it out to Taveth as she listens to Koltira. She laughs. “Oh no, not by a long shot. She wouldn’t just leave because he shooed her. Ugh, we have to find her.”

Taveth furrows his brow. “Oh, is this that troll lady you were rushing into a room the other night?”

Koltira smiles. “The very same.”

“Oh, then I definitely want to be around to know what happened.” He sips the tea and grunts, setting cool fingertips to his lips. “Still hot. Good, but hot.”

“Hey guys!” Alisbeth shouts down at them from the top of the stairs, wearing only a towel and dripping wet. “Come on up!”

Anarchaia looks up the stairs and grimaces. “Good morning! I was just checking up on you, actually. I have more errands to run. Good to see you’re still here. Heh.”

Grimory glances down the stairs, pulls his ears back at the sight of Taveth and returns to Alisbeth’s room to dress.

Alisbeth bounces on the balls of her feet. “Oh, can I help with the errands? We had so much fun last time!”

“Actually, Ali, I wanted to talk to you,” Taveth interjects, vaguely remembering the tension between the two.

“Oh. Okay. Come on up!”

Taveth smiles at the other two and takes a few steps up. “Please let me know when you get your troll friend around. I really am interested in the full story.” He chuckles. “Thank you for the tea.”

“Anytime,” Anarchaia says with a smile, secretly grateful for his stepping in.

Grimory quickly dresses when he hears Alisbeth’s invite through the door. Maybe it was just a dream.

Taveth follows his cousin into her room, then quickly spins around when she unabashedly drops her towel to dress. “Morning, Grim. How’s your head?” He chuckles and sips at the tea.

Grimory chuckles. “I’ve been better, that’s for sure.” He rubs his still damp towel against his belt to shine the buckle some. “Judging by the smell of briarthorn, you’ll say the same.”

Alisbeth giggles as she trips into a pair of red leather pants. “The one real blessing of being dead… No hangovers.”

Taveth smirks at the wall. “I have a confession to make. I don’t drink hard alcohol. Maybe a nice wine with studies or dinner, Kungaloosh on hot days to cool off. My brother makes a mean Kungaloosh—claims he learned straight from Nessingwary—”

“He’s so full of it!” Alisbeth laughs. “I know he can’t have met him. He can’t!”

“Well, the vodka and whiskey caught me off guard.”

Grimory laughs. “You did turn out to be quite a party person. You should drink more often.”

“You can turn around,” Alisbeth says as she finishes buckling a scarlet breastplate over her black shirt.

Taveth turns and cocks an eyebrow at Grimory. “Was I?”

Alisbeth gives him a sly grin. “Did you black out?”

He frowns. “I think so…”

Grimory chuckles and tosses the towel onto the bed. “You seemed to have fun.”

Taveth raises an eyebrow. “Oh gods, did I make a complete fool of myself? The last thing I remember was throwing my glass at Koltira and…I don’t even remember why I did that.”

Alisbeth grabs him in a hug. “Because you were standing up for me. You’re my hero, Tabbef!”

Grimory smirks at the memory. “Pretty valiant, yeah.” He folds his arms and leans against the footboard of the bed. “So, what brings you over? Aren’t you a busy scholar?”

Taveth finishes the tea and sets the cup on Alisbeth’s new dresser. “Well, a couple reasons. I was hoping for insight into the night—I do hate an incomplete story—and because I…need a bodyguard. I was hoping one of you might volunteer before he assigns some idiot who’ll compromise my work and just be awful to be around.”

Grimory chuckles, remembering last night and not being too eager to volunteer. “I’ll leave that up to Ali.”

Taveth sighs. “Well, then, Ali?”

“I ran away for a long time and you stayed in the tavern with them. And apparently there was lots of kissing while I was gone? And you dared Grim to kiss Mister Grr-Face.” She motions at the giant stuffed furbolg in the corner.

“Who the… Mister Grr-Face? Y-you have a giant furbolg teddy bear, and you named it Mister Grr-Face…”

“Mm-hmm! And you threw your glass at Koltira because he was being a jerk to me. Oh! Then I dared Almond to walk you home and spend the night, but Catart—you know that grey-haired mage guy—showed up and—”

“Archmage Khadgar was there?” Taveth’s eyes widen and his mouth gapes open. “Please tell me I didn’t make a fool of myself.”

Alisbeth blinks at him. “You didn’t!” She jumps and claps excitedly for him. “In fact, you were very flattering. I think he appreciated it. Though, he did give you a funny look when you kissed mage-face’s hand.”

Taveth stands frozen for a good minute as he takes it all in. “I met Archmage Khadgar…and I don’t remember a single second of it. This might be the worst thing that could’ve happened all night.”

Grimory gives another laugh. “We’ll take a photograph next time for you. As for this bodyguard business, I suppose I have an opening in my schedule…” He picks at a nail. “Where we going?”

“Oh, Azsuna! Again. This time, though, I’m headed to the academy to interview the spirits and hopefully be granted access to their tomes. However, the academy is crawling with naga. That’s where you would come in. We scholars aren’t much for fighting, as you know.” He finishes, his eyes on the cup on the dresser as he twists it, not realizing he’s been twisting it side to side the whole time.

Alisbeth slaps her hands over his one on the mug. She glares at it, then smiles at him. “I’d love to go!”

Grimory scoffs as though the information bores him. “Naga? Big deal. Shouldn’t be too difficult. How long is this field trip of yours planned to be?”

“Well, I asked for as short as possible. It’s too dangerous to bring Diori. Looking at one, maybe two days depending on the spirits’ dispositions,” Taveth says, crossing his arms over his chest.

Alisbeth purses her lips. “So…does one of us have to stay?”

Grimory shrugs. “I could stay behind.”

Alisbeth frowns. “But you’d miss out on a fun adventure!”

Taveth thinks on it, tapping his chin with his thumb. “Well… I could ask someone to watch her. She knows her schedule for school, so that’s easy.”

Grimory thinks for a moment. “I think the only person I’d trust is Ana. She’s pretty good with kids. At least from what I’ve seen during Children’s Week.”

Alisbeth purses her lips. “Are you sure she won’t be mean to her because of me?”

Taveth grimaces at the demon hunter. “I’m inclined to agree with Ali. Ana did some pretty rude things last night, if I remember correctly.”

Grimory furrows his brow. “As far as I’m concerned, she was just playing the game. She had to do some humiliating things, too,” he says, recalling her face. “And she would never hurt a kid.”

Taveth sighs. “Well… Diori is as hot headed as Ali, so if anything fishy happens, she can fend for herself.”

Alisbeth giggles as she pulls on a pair of black boots. “I’d actually like to see that. If you think she’ll be fine, then I trust you.”

Grimory nods. “I’d know. If anything happens you can hold me responsible. Though, she may still be downstairs, so if we’re gonna ask we should do it now.”

“You know her better than I do, so maybe you should go ask?” Taveth says, tapping his fingertips together.

“You seemed to know her pretty well last night,” Grimory says, patting Taveth on the shoulder as he passes and heads downstairs.

~ * ~

Anarchaia turns to Koltira and huffs. “You didn’t kiss me goodnight last night. I couldn’t get a wink if sleep because of it.”

Koltira chuckles and wraps his arm around her. “Oh, I’m so sorry about that. You must be exhausted.” He lifts her mask to her nose and sets a kiss to her lips. “Plus, with the way that old man looks at me…I think he would have obliterated me on the spot.”

Anarchaia blushes, grins, and wraps her arms about his waist. “He’s not old. And you seem to have this notion that he’s a jealous lover or something.”

Koltira blinks at her. “J-jealous lover? Wait. You and he…?”

Anarchaia’s eyes widen. “N-no! You’re just making it seem that way is all. Why else would he—” she quotes with her fingers. “—not like you?”

Koltira sighs internally, then shrugs. “Maybe he thinks I’m disrupting your studies, or a bad influence… Or he knew about Ali and I but doesn’t know the new arrangement? I honestly don’t know. I’ve barely said two sentences to the guy.”

“Well you are a distraction. Heh.” She pauses. “B-but in a good way! He doesn’t control me. I deserve friends.”

Koltira chuckles again. “Well, now you’ve got a very eager study partner, who can probably really help. I mean, he’s a lot older and lives in Stormwind. He may have gotten his hands on books you’ve yet to hear of…if there is such a thing.” He looks around the sparsely populated tavern—the inhabitants groggy and sipping specialty coffees. “So, what are you up to today?”

Anarchaia sighs and looks at her list, then holds it up. “Heh. Fun. Wanna have a coffee with me instead?”

Koltira gives her a charming smile. “I’ll pay, as apology for a kissless night.”

“It’ll take more than coin to make up for that, mister.” She takes up a seat at a lounge table.

He frowns dramatically. “I feel like I’m in the dog house.”

“Quite the contrary, actually,” Anarchaia says with a crooked smile. “Unless you find sex with me to be a punishment. Then yes.” She orders the lightest coffee they have with no milk or sugar.

Koltira blinks at her. “Tact. It’s a thing.” He winks at her.

“So is being straight forward,” she shrugs with a smile. “So, you came all the way here just to tell me what Thassarian said?”

Koltira gives a fake stricken expression. “Did I need an excuse at all?”

Anarchaia smiles and places a hand over her chest. “Well you can’t expect me to believe you came to see me.”

Koltira smirks. “All right, you caught me. I only came for the coffee.”

The mage chuckles. “It is good coffee,” she says as hers is set before her. She conjures an ice cube to place inside. “I suppose we could just ask around town for a druid.”

“Well, that or we could work through your list of fun. Which I’m willing to help with, anyway.” Koltira gives her a sly wink.

Anarchaia unfurls her list again. “That’s probably a good idea, actually. I’ve been avoiding all this for too long. Should probably just get it done.” She sighs and sips her coffee, then winces when it’s still too hot.

“Where shall we start?” he asks.

“I have to drop off a pendant to be repaired, then the scroll I translated this morning needs to be given to the archaeologist, then I need another order of pastries for a small party Master is throwing… Are you sure you don’t mind? This is all…very exciting stuff. I’d hate for you to die of overstimulation.”

Koltira nods as he listens to her list, then smirks. “Oh, this sounds like the most thrilling adventure ever. Much better than the Stormheim thing. That was such a yawn in comparison.”

“Oh, good. You’re still here.”

The mage blinks up at the demon hunter, rolling the parchment back up. The awkward tension from the previous night resurfaces. “Morning, Grim. Sleep well? Heh.”

“Yeah,” he clears his throat. “So, Ali and I are going to help Taveth with this research mission and we were wondering if you wouldn’t mind watching after Diori for a day? Maybe two?”

Anarchaia purses her lips in thought. “I-I dunno. I’d have to ask Master if I can be unavailable. Plus, I’m not convinced she likes me much. Heh.”

Alisbeth and Taveth descend the stairs slowly, conspicuously eaves dropping.

Taveth purses his lips. “I can just see if the—”

“Idea!” Alisbeth hisses. She hops down the stairs and grins at Koltira, her entire face scrunched up. “So, uh, you wanna help watch Diori? Say yes, because I know how you can help!”

Koltira blinks, a strange excitement churning in him, though he hides it. “I…suppose?”

“No, you say ‘yes’.”

“Yes?”

“She wants to meet Bloodmist. She loves the undead horses. So…do that.” She grins again.

Taveth laughs behind her. “That’s absolutely true. Let her pet the horse and she’ll adore you both.”

Anarchaia slides Koltira a nervous look. “I-I don’t do horses. You can do that without me.” She clears her throat. “I assume she’s in class right now? When will she be released?”

Koltira smiles kindly at Anarchaia. “Don’t worry, you can stand on the other side of the street.”

“So that’s a yes?” Alisbeth squeals before Taveth can answer Anarchaia.

“Yes.”

Taveth clears his throat to stop his cousin from saying more. “She’ll be out in…” He looks at the clock. “Goodness, is that the time? Noon? I have to get going. Oh! Two. She finishes at two. I’ll go collect my things and let her know to expect you outside the Enclave. Thank you!” He runs out the door to collect his things.

The mage nods despite her apprehension. “Sure. I’ll be there at two.”

“Thanks guys, I owe you one,” Grimory says with a smile and a wave before following Taveth out the door.

Alisbeth races close behind Grimory after a quick grin to the other two.

Anarchaia purses her lips after him. “Responsibility…”

Koltira taps his fingertips on the table. “You okay with watching a kid for one or two days?”

Anarchaia sips her coffee again. “It’s their kid. I don’t know. I feel like potential consequences are…heavier.” The corner of her mouth tightens. “But whatever. I’ve already said yes. What could possibly go wrong? Heh.”

“Well, knowing how Ali is—was… She’s probably pretty stubborn and a bit on the sneaky side. Ali used to hide these jerky strips all over the place because she’d been denied meals as punishment, so hiding jerky became a habit of hers. I found some in the case of a pillow. Expect that kind of cunning, I’d assume. Testing of our limits, like any child would.” Koltira reaches across the table and smiles, trying to reassure the mage while resisting voicing the thought on his mind.

Anarchaia fidgets before placing a hand over his. “You seem to know what to expect. Should be easier with you by my side.” She smiles. “Like everything else.”

Koltira chuckles. “I just work well under pressure.”

The mage can’t help but laugh. “One of us has got to, I suppose. Should we plan to take her somewhere or literally just watch her?”

Koltira shrugs. “Could take her somewhere, if you want.”

Anarchaia hums in thought. “But where that isn’t dangerous? Mayhaps it’s best we stay in the city…”

 

~ * ~

Taveth rushes from Greyfang Enclave to meet Alisbeth and Grimory; frazzled and stuffing papers into his satchel. “Sorry. I stopped to get my satchel enchanted. It’s waterproof now.” He stares behind him. “Diori had to finish one thing, but she wanted to come say goodbye to you two.”

Diori huffs as she runs as fast as her little legs can carry her. “Don’t leave yet!” She throws herself at Alisbeth, arms outstretched.

Alisbeth catches Diori and grips her tight. “I’m going to miss you so much. You know that?”

Diori pouts and hugs tightly, craning her neck back to look at Grimory. “I’ll miss you too.” Her upside-down eyes flick to Taveth. “When will you be back? Who’s coming to get me after school?”

Taveth smiles lightly. “We’ll be back either late tonight or sometime tomorrow. I promise. Koltira and Ana will be watching you.”

Diori blinks. “Mask lady and Koltira? Okay.” She releases Alisbeth and stirs at the dizziness from the lack of blood flow to her head. She hugs Grimory as well, then Taveth. “Please come back safe.”

The demon hunter laughs. “We’ll be fine. Ali and I know our way around a fight.”

“I won’t let anything happen to Taveth. I promise.” Alisbeth grins.

“All right,” Taveth untangles Diori from him, “time to get back to your lessons.”

The small elf pouts again and nods. “Okay. I want a souvenir!” She pokes Grimory in his exposed navel and giggles when he jerks away. “Bye! Love you!”

The demon hunter purses his lips. “We’ll bring you something back.” He hesitates then waves. “See you when we get back.”

Alisbeth spins on Grimory, a grin plastered across her face. “We should bring her a Naga tail!”

Taveth blinks and frowns. “We…shouldn’t.”

“Head? Yes! Head is much better.”

Taveth looks to Grimory for help.

The Illidari notes the pleading glance and grins. “Head is much better.”

Taveth lowers his brow at Grimory. “We’ll get her a nice shell or something.” He turns and heads for Krasus’ Landing.

Alisbeth laughs as she runs up behind him and slings an arm over his shoulder.

Grimory laughs and follows. “Oh c’mon! A shell is so girly! Maybe we should get her a spear! Or a staff!”

Taveth lowers his brow, but ignores the demon hunter.

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