Book 4 – Chapter Eight

Taveth sits on a stool beside Anarchaia and smiles. “Thank you.” He sets the clothes from Karazhan on the bar and leans over to give her a small hug. “So, what are we drinking?”

Anarchaia gives a smile no one can see and returns the hug. The clothes disappear from the bar top. “No reason to thank me. And, uh…” She looks to Arille. “Wine? White.” The barkeep nods and pours her a glass before looking at Taveth expectantly.

Taveth shrugs. “Sure. That, I suppose.”

“I’ll have a whiskey, whole bottle with a glass,” Koltira says behind them. He runs his palm through the crook of Anarchaia’s waist and smiles at her. “Oh, and some Moonberry juice for our new friend over there.” He motions at Alisbeth, sitting alone and lost-looking on the couch at the back of the room.

Arille pours another glass of generic white wine and slides it to Taveth. He chews on the inside of his cheek at Koltira’s request and rummages through the numerous bottles behind the bar. “Ah,” he says quietly and pours an ivory cup of juice before setting it on the bar as well. “All on your tab I take it?” he says with a sly smirk to the mage.

Anarchaia runs a hand beneath the bar to rest over Koltira’s and she gives Arille a mocking grin. “May as well.” She pushes her mask up to drink her wine.

Grimory takes the glass of juice and delivers it to Alisbeth. “Still think you’re dreaming?” he asks as he holds it out for her.

Alisbeth tugs at the hem of her skirt, pulling it closer to her knees as an action of modesty. She eyes him and the cup. “If I’m not dreaming, then how did I skip so much?”

The demon hunter takes a cautious seat beside her and pushes the cup into her palm when she doesn’t take it. “I think something’s happened to your head. You’re different than you were yesterday.” He settles an arm over the backrest of the sofa. “Think of it this way: what’s more likely? We’re all playing an elaborate prank that none of us are willing to back down from, or you’re not remembering correctly?”

Koltira sets a hand on Taveth’s shoulder. “Come on, let’s give Ali a familiar face. I warn you, she’s, um…not exactly in the present. Thinks she’s being pranked.”

Taveth cranes his neck and watches her with interest. “That’s…odd.” He stands and heads to the others.

Koltira leans to Anarchaia. “Maybe she’ll stay this way and it won’t be such a pain for you,” he says.

Anarchaia gives another wry smile. “One can only hope. Heh.” She hops down from her barstool to stride across the lounge and set herself in an adjacent loveseat.

Taveth sits on the other side of Alisbeth, a shy smile on his face. “S-so… Koltira says there’s—”

“Tav!” Alisbeth turns and hugs him in a gentle manner.

His eyes widen. “Yes, yes. This is odd. You didn’t hit me.” He takes a sip of wine and makes a face at the quality, then clears his throat. “So, tell me, what is this supposed prank?”

Alisbeth details the facts Grimory was trying to tell her, along with what she knows is the truth. Taveth nods thoughtfully. “So, uhm… Southshore… How old are you?”

“Eighty-nine, of course.” She sips the juice nodding approval at the flavor.

Taveth leans around to Grimory. “I’m not sure how to help. I’m sorry.”

Grimory gives a shrug and takes a long drink of ale. “Oh well. Guess this is life, now.” He sets his mug aside and sighs. “So, nothing we say makes sense to you?” he asks in Alisbeth’s direction.

She takes a pensive drink and glances at him. “I think the kid part is the least believable. I don’t want to marry for at least another century… Maybe more.”

Koltira clears his throat awkwardly as he drops down beside Anarchaia.

Grimory does the same and looks away. “W-we’re not married. We just…have a child together.” His fingers twitch as he resists taking up his mug again and emptying the contents in one go.

Anarchaia purses her lips and does what Grimory has the restraint not to do.

Alisbeth casts an incredulous look at each person in turn. “I would never…”

“You did,” Taveth says. “Her name is Diori. You sent her to be raised by my father, so, she’s my little sister.” He gives her a comforting smile.

“But…she’s a bastard…”

Koltira straightens in his seat, his lips pressed in a thin line.

Grimory bristles but contains himself. “What does that have to do with anything? So, she’s less of a person because you and I aren’t together?”

Anarchaia leans over to Koltira while waving her empty glass at the bar. “This is uncomfortable, even though I’m not involved at all,” she whispers against his ear.

After a moment of fuming silence, Taveth reaches out and slaps Alisbeth across the face. “Don’t you dare ever insinuate that something is wrong with that girl. She’s wonderful and perfect and she is my world. Do you understand me?”

Grimory flinches at the sound and gives Taveth an incredulous look after processing what’d happened.

Alisbeth’s eyes remain wide as she rubs her cheek. “I-I suppose I can…ignore it.” She casts her gaze to the mage sitting across from her, finding a good way to change the subject. “And who are you? We haven’t properly met.”

Taveth seethes in the corner, nursing his wine until it’s gone.

Anarchaia blinks as she’s regarded and straightens again as the barmaid takes her empty cup. “Oh. No one important. I’m Anarchaia. I’m an apprentice to an Archmage here in Dalaran. Heh.” She pauses. “And I’d appreciate it if the violence were kept to a minimum?”

Taveth flushes and casts an apologetic look to Anarchaia. “Hands to myself, right.” He stands and goes to the bar, using the excuse of ordering a new drink to get away from his cousin.

Alisbeth straightens and scoots the littlest bit away from Grimory. “Didn’t think he had it in him to physically harm someone.”

Grimory’s eyes flick from the widening space between them to her face. He takes another drink of ale, an unamused look on his face.

Anarchaia clears her throat as another glass of wine is set before her. “So Lordaeron? What business do you have there?”

“I’m to be furthering my training and, hopefully soon, I’ll be promoted to lieutenant.” She glances at Grimory, then looks away, blushing.

Koltira gives a sigh and leans back, though for some reason, he can’t look away from the calm and collected Alisbeth—younger in her mind than when he knew her, but still so much the same woman he’d fallen in love with. She fidgets under his scrutiny.

Taveth returns with a more expensive red wine. He stares at the shrunken space where he’d been sitting, then sighs at the large space on the other side of Grimory. Instead of taking residence in either, he perches himself on the arm of the small sofa, where the mage sits. “So, this is fun,” he says, continuing under his breath, “I’d almost rather go back to the Tower of Terrors.”

Anarchaia snerks and tilts her head back to look at Taveth. “I said I’d bring you back, remember? Just didn’t realize you’d want to return so quickly.” She elbows him and winks though he cannot see it.

Grimory does his best to give her an understanding smile as he decides to play along. “Lieutenant at eighty-nine, eh? That’s pretty impressive. I bet you work hard.” He sends the waitress for more ale.

Alisbeth shifts and glances at him again. “It’s not really that impressive, I’m sure.” She takes a sip of the juice and furrows her brow at the lack of flavor.

Taveth sighs. “I’m not saying that breaking her Light’s oaths were okay, but I much prefer her as she usually is now.” He purses his lips at his cousin. “Tell us about your day. From when you woke up.”

“Why?” she asks cautiously.

“Call it dumb curiosity.”

She rolls her eyes. “I woke up in the shower in the wrong inn, a goblin took me to a tailor and I got a dress, then they brought in this guy and then he started trying to convince me all of this is real.”

“Definitely sounds like she hit her head,” the mage says quietly to the blond elf beside her. “But I agree, nonetheless. She’s not thrashing about our running away.”

Grimory narrows an eye. “Touch the back of your head,” he suggests, pointing at the back of his own to emphasize his meaning.

Nervous and confused, she touches her head and winces. “Why? What purpose did that serve?” She sets her juice down and leans her cheek on her fist. “Can we just stop talking about me? It’s boring and weird.”

“Hmm,” Taveth hums in thought. He turns to the mage and says quietly, “How do you suppose we cure amnesia caused by a bump on the head?”

Anarchaia shrugs and gives an awkward laugh. “Bumping her on the head again? Heh.”

Grimory casts a quick glance at Koltira then back to Alisbeth. “If someone wants a subject change it’s an unspoken rule that said person is responsible for proposing the new topic, yeah?”

Alisbeth flushes and turns away from Grimory. “Um, I… Why don’t you tell me… I don’t know.”

Grimory grins and leans back in his seat. “I guess we’ll just have to keep talking about you then.” He sips his ale. “You sure you don’t want a drink? There’s no one here to chastise you.”

Alisbeth scowls at him. “You think I abstain for fear of a chastising?”

Grimory’s grin widens some. “Oh? No reason to hold back, then, hm?”

“Maybe my sense of self pride doesn’t want me to. But please, by all means, enjoy looking foolish after getting slobbering drunk.” She eyes Taveth, choosing to ignore his choice in drink.

Koltira eyes the two beside him. “Now, I know you’re not plotting something loud enough for everyone to hear…”

Taveth clears his throat. “Of course not.” He gulps at his wine, his eyes on Alisbeth. <<So, how do we hit her hard enough to jog her back to the present—hopefully not farther back, we don’t need two adolescent elves on our hands. Ali was worse than Diori about getting into trouble,>> he says in Dwarvish.

Anarchaia sips at her own drink tentatively. <<Do we even want her back? I kind of like her this way. She’s…normal.>>

<<I’m just concerned with how she may treat Diori,>> Taveth replies.

“You two sound ridiculous,” Koltira growls.

“Do you feel left out?” Anarchaia smiles and sticks her tongue out at Koltira, then turns back to Taveth. <<Any self-respecting woman wouldn’t be rude to a child. Besides, she was hardly a mother before all this anyway, right? N-no offense.>>

Koltira returns the gesture, then wraps his arm around the mage’s shoulders, but says nothing.

<<If you insist on not bumping her back to reality…then I won’t pursue it.>> He watches for a while as the demon hunter chats with Alisbeth. He snorts. “He’s not going to get anywhere with her.”

Koltira chuckles. “Nope.”

Grimory lowers a brow but his smile remains. “I’m sure a smart girl like you realizes that there’s a level of drunkenness between sober and shitfaced. Besides, there are worse things in the world than looking foolish.”

Alisbeth moves down the couch, farther away from the demon hunter. “Pushiness isn’t charming, it’s annoying.”

Grimory gives her a judgmental look. “Pointing out the fault in your excuse is being pushy? You mistake me for caring. Drink what you want. Just saying your reasons are silly.” He shrugs and sets an ankle on a knee.

Alisbeth rolls her eyes dramatically, making sure the demon hunter can see the action. “You’re just so used to getting your way with, what…women? Yes, it has to be that, the way you preen and strut about like a peacock. Well, here’s some news for you, pretty boy, but I’m not that kind of girl. So you can put that smug little self-absorbed notion right out of that meaty head of yours.” She folds her arms curtly over her chest and sticks her nose in the air at him.

Grimory scoffs and pulls his ears back. “I’ve heard that one before,” he mumbles into his mug before draining it and setting it aside.

Anarchaia smiles and leans back into Koltira. She pushes a warm cheek to his cold one. “He did the first time.” She pauses. “And the second.”

Koltira sighs, “Maybe. But he wasn’t an Illidari the first time, and the second time she wasn’t exactly picky.”

Taveth lowers his brow and finishes his drink in several swallows. “Who wants to put money on it?” The pink at the tips of his ears gives away his slipping into a buzz.

The mage hums and taps her chin. “I’ll put one hundred gold on Grim. Twenty-four hours.” She sips her wine.

“One hundred on Ali. I’m sure fifty years from when she thinks it is and when I met her didn’t change that she’s a stubborn bitch,” Koltira says, emptying his glass, then refilling it.

Taveth purses his lips down at the death knight. “I wouldn’t say that, but she did have an attitude. One hundred on Ali.” He then says under his breath, “Regardless of my ulterior motives.” He goes to drink from his glass, but finds it empty. “Well, fiddlesticks.”

Anarchaia lifts her eyebrows and snorts a laugh into her cup. “A bet it is, then.” She waves over the busy maid again and motions at Taveth with a thumb. “More of what he had. Just bring a bottle. Yes, thank you.” She smiles up at Taveth. “Fiddlesticks,” she repeats. “I’ve not even heard Master say that.”

Taveth narrows his eyes over his crooked smile. “Are you judging me?” He pokes her in the nose.

Koltira chuckles into his own glass. “Lightweight.”

Anarchaia flinches then narrows her eyes and returns the favor. “And if I am? I doubt you’ll do anything about it.” She laughs.

Taveth casually grips the top of the mage’s mask. “Oh, I won’t?”

Alisbeth smiles smugly. “If more than one person says it, then it must be true.”

Grimory’s jaw flexes as he does his best to hold back his words. “No. I’m not that kind of girl. I’ve heard that before.” He avoids looking at her. “Was never a hindrance.”

Alisbeth sneers in disgust. “Wow. Do you even listen to yourself? Excuse me, I have to go wash this skeevy feeling off. Maybe you should try a cold shower.” She stands and goes to the stairs, cocking one eyebrow at Taveth holding the woman’s mask; he grins back at her.

Anarchaia’s hand reflexively grabs his wrist and her smile fades as quickly as it’d come. “Okay, I’m sorry. Just please don’t.”

Grimory furrows his brow as he realizes her meaning, then gives a scoff. “Not what I meant,” he says again and runs a hand over his hair. “I miss old Ali. She wasn’t a pompous prude.”

Alisbeth seethes in front of the door of her room for a moment before flopping onto the bed to stare at the ceiling.

Taveth releases the mask. “I would never. Oh, would you look at that. Didn’t even take twenty-four hours.” Taveth casts a wide, innocent smile at Grimory as the maid hands him a new glass of wine and sets the bottle on the table.

Koltira smirks triumphantly at Grimory. “Aww. Afraid of a little effort? Don’t like girls who don’t throw their undergarments at you as you pass?” He nudges Anarchaia. “You gonna pay up or do you think miracles really, truly do happen?”

“I said twenty-four hours!” she hisses at him and purses her lips. “That was the bet.”

Grimory notices Taveth’s grin and lifts his empty mug in cheers, face still telling of his irritation. He gives Koltira, however, the finger. “Trust me. It didn’t take so much effort the first time. Much like it didn’t take much effort for you to toss her aside.”

Koltira narrows his eyes. “You shouldn’t speak of things you know nothing about.” He casts his gaze to Taveth. “Two hundred.”

Taveth absently picks at an invisible string on his trouser leg. “You know, Grim, maybe you should just let her go… Explore other, less prudish options…” He shrugs and smirks into his cup.

Grimory hides his anger. “If you’re such an expert on the subject, perhaps you should go try,” he says to Koltira with a smirk. He regards Taveth. “And I’ve clearly no other option at this point, do I?”

Anarchaia busies herself with her wine glass and shrinks into her seat as though not listening.

Koltira puts his arm over the mage’s shoulders. “I would, but I made my choice.”

A blush colors Taveth’s cheeks and he looks away, trying to hide it.

Grimory resists another scoff and lifts his feet up onto the table. “Regardless, we should find a way to get her back. Thoughts?”

Anarchaia thinks for a long moment and shrugs. “I don’t think there is a way,” she says, downing her wine and folding her arms after setting down the glass. “I could go look in the library.” She looks up at Koltira and grins. “We could go to Acherus again.”

Koltira chuckles. “You just want to see Fester again.”

Anarchaia flushes and sips her wine. “He was cute. Can I take him home?”

Koltira chuckles at the mage. “I don’t think so.”

The mage pouts. “I just hope people are buying stuff from him. I still have the parchment he sold me.” She suddenly scowls. “If I ever hear anything happened to that precious ghoul I will raze Acherus.”

Koltira laughs harder. “I’m sure he’s fine. But if you insist on checking… How are we going to get you in this time?”

Anarchaia pulls off her mask to reveal Koltira’s face beneath, snow white hair spilling over her shoulders. “Do you think they’d notice?” she says with a laugh.

Koltira shakes his head. “I think they might grow suspicious when two of me walk in.”

Anarchaia hums as she throws her mask back over her face. “I think I’ll just peruse the Hall library instead,” she says with a shrug.

Koltira gives a small pout. “You mean I have to go back to that floating coffin alone?”

Anarchaia runs a finger up the length of the death knight’s arm and tilts her head. “Why do you have to go back? Will Mograine get jealous?”

Taveth ponders the question, slowly sipping the wine as a continuous flow into his mouth. He takes the glass away and swallows. “We could maybe ask Khadgar if he’s got a book in Karazhan that could help.”

Grimory laughs into his still empty mug. “Unless you’re Ana or he owes you something, he’s not gonna do a thing you say.”

Taveth frowns. “You never know.”

Grimory gives a curt shrug and shakes his foot in thought. “What are we going to tell Diori?”

Taveth ignores the two making plans of infiltrating the death knight ziggurat. He sighs and folds his arms. “If we can fix it, we don’t tell her anything. If not… I’m sure she’ll understand if we explain it right. She already knows how delicate Ali’s mind is.” Taveth moves to sit a distance from Grimory on the large couch. He clutches his wine in his hands and stares down into the crimson of it. “What about you? You seemed rather fond of her. If she doesn’t return to the present are you just going to…give up?”

Grimory interlaces his fingers behind his head and sighs. He thinks for a moment before shrugging. “I may as well, yeah? Clearly I’m not her type anymore.” He brings in the side of his lower lip to chew on. “I’m not the polite, helpful farm boy I was.”

Taveth sighs and rubs at his neck. He downs his wine and stares at his feet. “You know what? I just realized I don’t want to get involved.” He rubs the glass between his palms nervously. “I can’t look at this from an objective perspective.” The strange dream of the stolen kiss enters his mind and he jumps, the glass slipping from his hands.

“That sounds like a smart idea.” Grimory inhales to say more, but instead lurches across the couch with an outstretched arm to catch the glass before it can hit the hard-wood floor. He gives a sigh of relief and sets it on the table in front of Taveth before pushing himself back up. “I think you’ve had enough, friend.”

“Not nearly as much as I need. Heh.” He fidgets, then looks across the coffee table. “Ana,” he gets the mage’s attention. <<Save me.>>

She turns at the sound of her name. “U-uh. Grim!” She stands and pulls the demon hunter to his feet before he can answer. She pushes him toward the staircase. “Go get Ali to come back down here. And apologize for being an ass to her.”

Grimory scowls as he’s pushed, then does as he’s told anyway. “Yeah, yeah. Stop pushing. I’m going.” He climbs the stairs until he reaches the door and hesitates for a long minute before knocking lightly.

Koltira cocks an eyebrow up at the mage. “To find a book, I thought?”

Taveth sighs up at the mage. “Thank you…so much.” He stands and hugs the mage. “I need more to drink until nothing bothers me.”

Anarchaia chuckles at Koltira as she turns back. “Oh. I didn’t actually expect you to say yes to that idea.” She stiffens as she’s hugged, then brings up her hands to pat Taveth on his shoulder blades. “No problem, Tav. Though I imagine there isn’t enough alcohol in the world to help deal with him.” She strolls over to take up her seat again and pour more wine.

The high elf sighs as he drops back to the couch. “You know what? Forget it. You don’t want her changed back,” Taveth points at the mage, then at the death knight, “you don’t care either way—or at least you shouldn’t. You don’t, right? Because that would be awkward if you did care, I mean, Ana is right there, so I won’t ask, but—”

“Tav, Tav, stop,” Koltira says, holding out a hand. “Why are you so worked up about it? Just calm down. Here.” He holds out his glass with a swallow of whiskey inside.

Taveth takes the glass and chokes the contents down. “Th-thanks. Heh.”

Anarchaia stops drinking as a finger is pointed at her but keeps the cup to her lips as though pretending to drink exempts her from speaking. “Frankly, no,” she finally says after swallowing. “I don’t want her back.”

Koltira purses his lips and sighs out through his nose. He pours a new drink to swallow quickly.

Taveth smirks. “Kel’ori will be so mad.” He smooths his hair back. “Wonder how long it’ll take Grim to give up.”

Anarchaia gives a snort of a laugh. “Giving up isn’t something he’s very good at. I’ve never really seen him accept defeat if he feels there’s still a chance.”

Taveth frowns. “I suppose that’s a g-good…quality.”

Koltira snorts. “Trouble in paradise?”

Taveth eyes him. “I… What?”

Anarchaia bumps her knee against Koltira’s without looking at him. “Nothing. I—” She pauses and looks at Taveth with a grin. <<You don’t want them back together.>>

<<Is it really so stupid a dream?>> He refills his glass—a little too full—and begins drinking. His ears and cheeks darken every minute.

Koltira leans back in his seat. “Oh. We’re doing this again. Don’t mind me.”

Anarchaia gives Koltira a sympathetic glance and has a moment of turmoil before sighing. “Tav, Kolt knows.”

Taveth pales, then reddens. “Y-you told him?”

“No, you whisper loud when you’re drunk.”

Taveth’s mouth drops open. “D-does Grim— Did he—”

Anarchaia shakes her head. “If he does he’s made no implications of it.” She sips her wine and smiles. “And no, it’s not bad to dream. I just don’t want to see you get hurt.”

Taveth shakes his head. “But…it’s not like…” He takes a drink, flustered. “I-it’s hard to explain.”

Anarchaia blinks. “Is it like a…if I can’t have him, no one can type of thing?”

Taveth blinks rapidly at her. “No, no, nothing like that. I know it’s not even in a realm of possibilities.” He gives the mage a kind smile. “Most likely to remain alone forever.” He brings his arm up to point down at the top of his head. “At least I’ve got my books… and Thal… Gods help me.”

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