Koltira stares down at the stone. “Ana…what is that?”
Anarchaia jerks back out of Taveth’s way as he sits up. The crystal disappears and she gives Koltira an innocent smile. “Certainly nothing demonic. Heh.”
Khadgar narrows his eyes down at her from behind the death knight. “Certainly better not be.”
Taveth gives the other two a tired smile. “Would Ana ever do that? Now, library. Library!” He shoots up to standing as he sets his eyes on the huge room full of books, then has to lower himself down, one hand on his woozy head.
“Yes,” Koltira says, laughing, “the library. That’s where we are.”
Anarchaia frowns up at him, still knelt. “Do you need more?” she asks quietly as her teacher wanders off after giving a wary glance. “Or water?” She pauses. “Oh. I-I guess not. Heh.”
“Drinking water would be nice. And…yes, a bit more. I guess I took a harder hit than I’m used to…which is really any hit at all, heh.” He sets his hand on her shoulder as Koltira eyes the spines of the tomes on a nearby shelf. “I can do it this time. I know it’s…” He casts his ashamed gaze down. “It was an accident.”
Anarchaia nods and conjures the crystal again, holding it out. In her other hand appears a cup filled with water and ice. “It’s okay, Tav. Stop finding ways to blame yourself.” She smiles.
Taveth crushes the stone and inhales the vapors, then accepts the water. He takes a thoughtful sip. “I should’ve just…left well enough alone, heh. ‘Just a silly little dagger.’” He scoffs. “You’d think I’d have been smarter.”
Anarchaia rests a comforting hand on his knee and urges him to look at her by leaning down. “Hey, we’ve all done things we regret,” she says in nearly a whisper. “But regretting something doesn’t make it a mistake.” She stands. “Come on. Maybe you can find something useful in here. Master may not let you take it, but I can.” She gives him a wink.
Taveth smiles. “Oh, I couldn’t. Notes should be fine, though. I hope.”
“We’re not staying here all year,” Koltira says, patting the other on the shoulder.
Taveth flushes and finishes the water, then hands the cup back to the mage.
Anarchaia chuckles and sends the cup away. She shrugs. “The offer still stands.” She turns to investigate a pile of books stacked haphazardly on an end table.
Taveth chuckles and heads for the nearest shelf. “I’ll let you know.”
Koltira laughs and whispers, “Most likely to get banned from the Karazhan library for stealing.” He points at Taveth, who points at Anarchaia.
Anarchaia turns to Taveth to see the pointed finger. She straightens and bristles. “Hey! I offered to help you!” She pauses. “I mean…you’re right. But still!” She takes a book from the stack and it disappears. She turns to go find more.
Taveth chuckles after her and finds a tome that interests him.
Koltira joins the mage, slipping an arm around her waist. “Well, he’s not moving for a while.”
After a quick glance around Anarchaia blushes a light shade of pink and bites her lip as she leans into him. “Are you suggesting we do the same?”
Koltira smirks and pulls the mage closer into himself. “Well, I wasn’t… But since you brought it up…”
Anarchaia sinks into his embrace and closes her eyes, smiling. “Perhaps later you and I can return to the pond. Winter is coming and we won’t be able to go often.” She pauses, her smile fading. “Though I suppose that doesn’t matter much, does it?”
Koltira sets a series of gentle pecks on her lips. “I won’t feel a thing and you can just melt the snow anyway.” He spins her to hide behind a bookshelf to kiss her deeper.
Anarchaia sighs happily into the kisses then bites back an audible chuckle as he pushes her into privacy. She runs the backs of her skeletal fingers down his cheek. “Not sure what I did to deserve you,” she titters quietly and pushes her forehead to his.
Koltira smirks evilly. “A lot of very bad things, obviously.”
Taveth walks around the corner, his eyes on the book. He stops and his eyes widen at the two. Without a word, he shuffles away, ducking his head.
Anarchaia covers her lips with her fingertips and stifles another titter. “C’mon, I already feel guilty enough—” She catches Taveth out the corner of her eye. “Oh! The picture!” She grabs Koltira by the front of his shirt. “Is this fun enough?”
Koltira chuckles. “I suppose it’s as much fun as we’re going to get.” He slides his own cold fingers along her jaw.
Anarchaia bites her lip again and inhales through her nose, then exhales slowly through parted lips. “Okay, I wanna get out of here. Tav!” She reaches around Koltira’s belt to grab the camera and chase after the high elf while simultaneously fixing her hair.
Taveth jumps slightly and gives an automatic “Shh!” He flinches at himself. “Sorry. I-I’m here.”
The mage throws her arm around Taveth’s neck and pulls him close. “Having fun, yes?” She outstretches the camera quizzically.
Taveth gives a shy laugh and looks at the device. “Sure, yeah. You?”
Koltira presses in on Anarchaia’s other side to ruffle the man’s hair. “I think it’s safe to say we all are.”
The camera floats up from Anarchaia’s hand and angles at the trio. She pulls the two close and gives the most genuine smile she can muster. “Say reading is magic!” she laughs. The light flashes and camera clatters to the floor as she blinks multiple times. She rubs at her good eye. “I forgot about the flash. Heh.”
Taveth and Koltira rub their eyes.
The death knight kisses the top of her head. “Thank you for today, Ana.”
Taveth squirms uncomfortably, but gives Anarchaia a hug. “Yes, thank you.”
Anarchaia turns a bright shade of scarlet and smiles. “O-oh! Heh. Stop.” She picks up the camera and sends it away in a flurry of sparkles. After looking about for a moment she hums. “Did anyone see where Master Khadgar went?”
“He went that way,” Taveth says, jerking his thumb over his shoulder.
Anarchaia nods and smiles in thanks, then slinks off into the bookshelves where she’d been directed. She stops when she notices a familiar head of silver hair in the shadows beneath a spiral staircase. She hurries over to find Khadgar holding his calf in a pained manner while sitting in a lounge chair. Brow knit, she ducks under the staircase. “You’re hurt?”
“I’m fine,” he grumbles, kneading the muscle but gaining no relief. “Just a bit of a sprain…or something of the sort.”
“You should have said something.” She scowls and makes to bend and aid him, but he grabs her wrist to stop her.
“I’ll be fine,” he repeats and urges her to stand again.
“We should go, then. See you to a healer. An injury is an injury. No matter how minor.”
Taveth rushes forward on a knee-jerk reaction. “Are you okay Khadgar? Can I help? No, probably not, but Ana is right and—” He purses his lips and looks up at the man. “S-sorry.”
The corner of Khadgar’s lips jerks and he stands. “It’s quite all right. I’m fine. Just a strained leg.”
Anarchaia grabs his arm as though he may fall, though he gives no signs of doing so. “We’re leaving. You need a healer.”
The Archmage narrows his eyes down at her and her commands, jaw clenched. He looks at Taveth. “I’d hate to deny you of your thirst for knowledge…”
Taveth blushes and looks away. “It’s fine, really. Better to get you healed.”
Koltira smirks as he watches from a distance.
Khadgar gives Anarchaia a fleeting glance and sighs as he turns away. “I’m honestly fine. If your friend would prefer to stay—”
Anarchaia tightens her grip on his arm and glares.
“Right.” He glances over at Koltira. “I suppose we’re leaving. I presume Ana has your belongings safe and sound.”
“I do. They’re in my room.”
“Well and good,” he mumbles and motions the death knight over.
Koltira joins the others. “I’m sure he can find copies in other libraries?”
Taveth shrugs. “Heh. Probably not.”
Anarchaia releases her teacher as Koltira nears and sobers. She nudges Taveth and says in her best demonic. <<You and I will return. Yes?>>
Khadgar grabs Atiesh from the pillar he’d rested it against. Light emits from the effigy’s eyes and the group disappears. They reappear in the familiar circular hall at the base of the Violet Citadel. He braces himself against his staff as the pain increases.
Anarchaia again grabs him by the arm. “I’m going to see him to the infirmary. I’ll be right down with your clothes, okay?” she says with a nervous glance around as she brushes her hair over her uncovered eye.
Taveth gives the mage a subdued but grateful smile. “Go. I’m sure we’ll be fine.”
Koltira stretches a hand out to Khadgar. “Thank you for allowing us into your…tower of horrors?” He chuckles.
Khadgar gives Koltira’s hand a firm shake and a weary smile. “I promise it’s not normally like that. I’ll…” He sighs. “I’ll have to orchestrate a company to go clear it out.” He looks down at Anarchaia. “Then you and I are returning to do some actual cleaning.” He regards Taveth. “Sorry you fell. Heh.” He extends his hand to him.
Taveth blushes and takes the Archmage’s hand. “N-nothing to worry about. Heh. I g-got some great research done.”
Khadgar smiles and nods. “Then it wasn’t all for naught.” He gives his apprentice a sideways glance. “Until we meet again,” he says to the men and the two disappear.
“Okay, squirrely,” Koltira says to Taveth, who stares innocent, wide eyes back at him, “what’s going on with you?”
“I-I don’t know what you’re—”
Koltira grabs the elf’s bandaged hand. “How’d you burn yourself? There wasn’t anything going on and you got injured. And that mysterious yellow rock?”
Taveth pulls his hand back and shrinks away from Koltira.
After many minutes, Anarchaia returns in her normal garb with the men’s clothing in her arms. She holds out their outfits in turn. “That was…exhausting. Heh. I could use a drink. What’re we talking about?”
“We’re talking about Taveth being weird,” Koltira says, narrowing suspicious eyes at the other.
“I’m not being weird! I’m—I’m— I have to check on Diori.” He unwinds the bandage from his hand as he exits the citadel.
Anarchaia lifts a hand after him but does not follow. She instead shrugs and gives a crooked smile. “I guess we’ll never know.” She ushers him to follow her outside. “I’m sure you could use a shower.” She wipes at the crusted mana wyrm blood on his cheekbone.
Koltira nods, absently watching the high elf enter Greyfang Enclave. “A shower would be nice, yes,” he says, giving the mage his attention. “Why doesn’t his shiftiness absolutely bother you to death? What happened when you went to find him?”
Anarchaia hesitates. “He was attacked by spiders. I-I saved him.” She presses her shoulder to his as they walk. “And I guess I myself have lived in a secret for so long that it doesn’t bother me when others do the same. Heh.”
“I find that very hard to believe, miss gossip.” He wraps an arm around her. “Oh, look at that, now you’re dirty again. What should we do about that?”
Anarchaia feigns offense, a hand over her chest. “I don’t gossip!” She smiles and wraps her arm around his waist. “And I guess we could wash off in a body of water somewhere? Perhaps a stream or, say, a pond?” She pauses when she notices a couple of familiar faces. “Oh, it’s Ali and Grim.”
~ * ~
Grimory picks a random floating island to land on—overlooking the isles, rolling ocean, and sunset peeking through the oncoming rain clouds. “This is the Broken Isles,” he says as he sets her down. “What would have been the Legion’s stronghold. That over there is the tomb of Sargeras. We’ve held them off thus far. You’ve helped.”
Alisbeth falls to her knees, too scared to stand. She grips her skirt as the breeze grabs at it. “What did you do to me? What is this? Where am I? Where’s Tirion?”
Grimory sighs and scratches at the nape of his neck. “Tirion Fordring…fell. In the fight for the shore. He’ll always be remembered as the valiant hero he was.” He kneels beside her and holds out a comforting hand. “I’m sorry.”
A tear forces its way from Alisbeth’s eye. “I think it’s time to wake up. Take me back.”
Grimory retracts his hand and nods with another sigh. “Sure.” He lifts her again and spreads his wings. When they return to the lounge, he sets her down. “Ali, I know this is a lot to take in. I don’t know what happened to you, but you seem to have forgotten everything…”
“Goodbye, Mister Grimory, and thank you for a glimpse into what you think will be the future. Now, wake me up.” Alisbeth stands rigid in front of the Illidari, her face set and determined.
Grimory tilts his head away and narrows his eyes. “If you’re insinuating that I hit you, that’s far from happening.” He notices the other two out the corner of his eye. “Oh, thank gods. Maybe you two can convince—” He narrows his eyes further at Koltira’s apparel. “Did you lose a bet, too?”
Koltira looks Grimory in the eyes and just blinks. “No.”
As she had with the demon hunter, her eyes take in Koltira and her nose wrinkles into a sneer, her lips curving into a frown. “Another frosty-elf? Is this a thing in your reality?” she asks Grimory. Not waiting for an answer, she scoffs and turns to enter the Legerdemain Lounge, her fingertips pressed to her temples. After a moment, she pauses, then spins around. Eyes narrowed on the other death knight, she leaps at him. “That’s mine!” She yanks at the Redblade across his back. “That was my father’s, you filthy thief!”
Anarchaia jumps and presses herself between the two before anymore aggression can surface. “W-what’s going on here?! What happened?”
“I have no idea,” Grimory responds helplessly. “She’s got amnesia or something. She doesn’t remember me. She doesn’t even know Dalaran’s been moved…twice.” He runs a hand over his hair. “I’m lost at what to do at this point.”
Alisbeth gets the sword free as Koltira doesn’t resist, a bored look on his face. She kicks him in the stomach and holds her sword ready. “You’re lucky you don’t really exist.” She spins and stomps into the inn.
Anarchaia cries out at the violence and quickly follows, fuming. “Excuse me! That was highly unnecessary! Don’t ignore me!”
Koltira smacks his lips at Grimory. “Did you show her a mirror?”
Grimory gives the other an exhausted glance. “Of course I did. It did nothing. She still thinks she’s dreaming. Nothing I say matters.”
“How far back did she go?” Koltira asks, following the mage slowly to make sure she doesn’t get injured.
Alisbeth crosses her arms and turns, rolling her eyes at Anarchaia. “Look…you… If a small kick hurt your boyfriend then he’s just a pussy. Now you know. You’re welcome.” She turns to walk away from the mage again.
“‘Ay, doll, you forgot your towel!” The goblin runs up behind Anarchaia, stopping for the shortest moment to admire the mage’s skirt.
“Oh, thanks Aubyne.”
“No prob, sugar. You, what fabric is this? It’s fantastic! The color is so vibrant, even though it’s got to be at least a couple’a decades old.” She rubs the skirt between her thumb and forefinger.
“That’s not the point!” Anarchaia barks and lifts a hand to stop her but is interrupted by the goblin. “O-oh. Uh. Thank you. They were a gift, actually. Enchanted. And you’re right; they’re over fifty years old. Aren’t you Gildwynn’s friend?”
“Sure am, doll. Say, who enchanted these? I’d love to chat with ‘em.” Aubyne smiles up at the undead girl.
Alisbeth takes the woman’s distraction as an opportunity to slip away and return to her room.
Anarchaia gives a wry smile beneath her mask. “I’m not sure, in all honesty. I wouldn’t leave my room, so I suppose it was whomever was in charge of the Enchanting Shoppe at that time. Heh.”
“Well she doesn’t remember me at all. She mentioned something about Southshore and Lordaeron?” Grimory hails a barmaid for an ale. “I had to tell her Tirion was dead. That was fun.”
Koltira watches Alisbeth go and sighs. “She’s never gone back this far. It’s usually to Quel’Thalas.” He thinks for a moment. “Wasn’t she in Southshore when you uh…‘shoed her horse?’”
Grimory scoffs into his mug. “I did shoe her horse. But yeah, you’re right.” He narrows an eye at the death knight. “Are you suggesting I do it again?”
Koltira scrunches one slightly disgusted eye at Grimory. “No.” He passes by Anarchaia and the Goblin. “I’m going to use the showers here. Maybe see to Ali.” He cringes some, knowing how jealous the mage still gets.
Aubyne lets go of the skirt and sighs wistfully. “You ever find out who that was, you come tell me, capice? Steamy knows where to find me.”
Anarchaia snerks at the nickname and nods. “Will do.” Her wry smile turns wryer at Koltira’s words and virtual bailing on their plans. “Right. Okay. I’ll be here. Heh.”
Grimory motions for the mage to sit beside him at the bar. “How was the haunted castle?”
“Boring,” she admits and sighs. “Though I think Master wanted it to be a learning experience. But it kind of turned into a field trip.” She puts her forehead in her hands.
After his shower, Koltira goes to Alisbeth’s room. He knocks and takes a deep breath to calm his nerves.
“Who is it?”
She stays silent for a long time. “Who? Oh, whatever, just come in.” When he enters, she scowls. “Oh. You. There better be a good reason you had my sword, asshole.”
He folds his arms and stares at her for a long time. “I found it. It looked valuable, so I was keeping it safe. I used it a few times. Good sword, came in handy.”
She leans back against the pillows and purses her lips. “I’m not sure how you could have found it—or wielded it—but I’ll thank you for returning it.” Her eyes, narrow with distrust, sweep over his face. “What are you?”
“I was once a farstrider. After I died I was raised as a death knight.”
“I’ve never heard of a death knight.” She folds her arms over her chest and sighs. “Are you also going to convince me that my mentor is dead and we’re at war with demons?”
He smirks. “I’m not going to convince you of anything. Why don’t you just come with me to the tavern, have a few dr— Wait, you don’t drink, do you?”
He smiles triumphantly for remembering such a minor detail of her pious years. “Drink or don’t, that’s your choice, but I think you’ll be happy joining us downstairs.”
She eyes him warily. “Why?”
“Let’s call it a surprise.”