Taveth enters the jeweler’s shop in Stormwind, smiling as the draenei behind the counter leans forward in excitement.
“Tavy,” she beams, “what brings you to my shop so soon?”
He blushes. “I broke my last pair of glasses.”
She giggles. “You had five pairs, you clumsy elf.” She goes through her stash of frames and frowns. “I’m out of your usual frame. Put these on.” She shoves a pair of narrow rectangular frames on his nose, then squeals. “You look precious!” She takes the frames and begins cutting the lenses. “It will be just a moment. I’ll make extras, of course.” She winks over her shoulder.
Taveth folds his arms and leans against the wall to wait. An elven man enters, hair like straw and a goatee on his chin. He sighs down at Taveth and folds his own arms.
“Weren’t even going to come and say hello?”
Taveth frowns. “I-I was. Heh. After I got new glasses.”
“Can you afford new glasses?”
Taveth stares at his feet as the jeweler spins to smile at the man. “It’s okay, Mr. Nightheart, I can take payments.”
Falren sighs at his son. “Speaking of paying for things, since you’re in Dalaran for the foreseeable future, I’m putting you in the tavern I’ve just acquired in that floating city.”
Taveth’s jaw slacks in disbelief. “Father, my orders have me on Antorus now! I can’t man a tavern in Dalaran!”
Falren shrugs. “Four nights a week, minimum. Ervaen will be up there, too.”
Taveth purses his lips. “And if I don’t? Will you fire me?” he asks, almost hoping for a yes.
Falren laughs. “Of course not! Just dock your pay. Remember, big brother is watching.” He winks and ruffles Taveth’s hair. “Tell my niece I miss her.”
Taveth nods and his father leaves.
The jeweler grins and sets three new pairs of glasses on the counter. “As I said, I’ll accept payments.”
Taveth holds up a hand. “No need.” He withdraws a small stone with a lion’s head engraved on it, the lines painted in with gold.
The jeweler gasps and shoves the spectacles to him, her mouth gaping for words.
He scoops up the items, bows, and leaves to return to Dalaran. Once in the city, he tracks down the tavern and enters, pausing as he spots a familiar face—Thassarian hunched over a stein at the bar.
Taveth sits in the stool beside the death knight and smiles. “I see you’ve already heard the news?”
Thassarian grunts a short laugh. “When do you get back there to make me a real drink?”
Taveth cringes. “Not soon, I hope.”
A quiet chuckle rings throughout the small group as they step into the tavern. “Needless to say, he wouldn’t go near that cabbage patch ever again,” Grimory laughs with a shrug.
Anarchaia lowers a brow but smiles all the same. “If it’s needless to say, you don’t have to say it.” She perks. “Oh, it’s Taveth. And Thassarian.”
Alisbeth runs up to Taveth and grabs him in a hug. “Hi Tav!”
Thassarian turns and grabs Alisbeth in a hug, his arms encompassing both elves. “Well, fancy seeing you here, Ali.”
She giggles and puts an arm over his shoulders. “You better be buying me a drink if you’re using that line on me.”
Grimory folds his arms and ignores the flare of jealousy within him, keeping calm as though he doesn’t notice. “Nice seeing you again. How’re things?”
Koltira practically punches Thassarian on the back, making the human lurch forward. “You joining us for some drinks, then?”
Alisbeth pokes out her lower lips. “Oh, please do.”
Thassarian throws up his hands. “Everyone stop talking at once! I’m fine, thank you for asking. And I’ll join you if someone else is paying.”
Koltira barks a laugh. “Of course you’d say that.”
Anarchaia steps to the bar beside the group and gestures to a bottle of sweet red wine when asked what she’d like. She sets gold on the counter and smiles at Taveth. “Did you get your new glasses?”
Taveth gets himself untangled from the other two and nods. “Yes. Not the same frames, but…they’ll do.”
The cork pops from her bottle and Anarchaia pushes up her mask to give Taveth a wide grin. “Show me!”
Taveth smiles and takes out a pair of glasses. “Estelfir says they look good on me. She’s never been wrong before, so I’m inclined to believe her.”
Anarchaia snatches the glasses from the elf’s hand and shoves them onto his face. She grins and squishes his cheeks between her palms. “Ohmigods you look adorable.”
Taveth’s eyes shift side to side before settling on the mage. “Uh…fanks?”
Grimory chuckles and shakes his head as he lifts a finger for a glass of whiskey. “I don’t volunteer.” He takes a long drink, ignoring the burn. “Cards? Loser buys?”
Thassarian tries to untangle himself from the excited death knight, but to no avail. He deflates and nods to Grimory. “Cards sounds excellent. Get your woman off me, please.”
Koltira snerks. “I dunno, she seems quite comfortable there.”
The Illidari chuckles again and merely strides to sit at a long table. He digs through the basket of chips, chess pieces, and cribbage pegs and pulls out a deck of cards. “Ali. Come sit. I’ll get you a drink.”
Alisbeth squeals her way across the room and leaps onto Grimory’s lap. “Yay, drinks!”
Koltira takes a seat beside Thassarian after ordering a scotch. “Haven’t seen you since the separation party.” He looks back at the mage, trying to get her attention. “You were completely trashed.”
The demon hunter orders a bottle of whiskey along with fresh cinnamon sticks and cuts the cards. “I wasn’t there for the tail end. How did that go?”
Anarchaia catches the death knight’s eye and releases Taveth to grab her wine. “Come.” She sweeps over to settle beside Koltira and smirks at Thassarian. “So…”
Taveth takes the last open spot between Thassarian and Grimory.
The death knight looks to Anarchaia and cocks an eyebrow. “So… What?”
Koltira smirks. “How was your night?”
“The last night we were all together like this.” She beams. “How was your morning? Have a hangover or…any other lingering memories?”
Thassarian’s brow lowers as he looks between the two. “It was you two, wasn’t it?”
Koltira laughs and slaps his friend’s back. “Thought you’d enjoy the present.”
“You made me think I fucked a troll, how is that a present?”
Alisbeth squeals. “You pranked him with a troll? And didn’t invite me?”
Grimory glances at the man beside him. “Nice glasses.”
Taveth blushes and takes the glasses off his nose. “Heh. Right.”
“You two were busy with…drama,” Anarchaia says, motioning to Alisbeth and Grimory with her bottle and takes a sip. Over a child you aren’t even spending time with. She chuckles at Thassarian. “Juliember isn’t that bad. Surely you didn’t kick her out?”
Thassarian cocks an eyebrow. “Is that her name? All I heard was nonsense. Damned troll speak.”
Koltira grins. “Yes, but did you kick her out?”
Thassarian sets down his mug and angles his whole body leaning away from Koltira. “I’m not a complete heathen…I let her dress first.”
Anarchaia’s mouth slowly drops open and she laughs. “You slept with her!”
Thassarian bristles and purses his lips at the mage. “That woman would break my bones! She damn near tried!”
A hand sets itself on Taveth’s shoulder. “So, father roped you into this, then?” Ervaen gives a quiet laugh. “Didn’t take much convincing I imagine.”
Taveth leans back in his seat to look up at his eldest brother. “Actually, I said no.”
Ervaen’s smile widens. “Yet here you are.” He glances across the demon hunter at his cousin. His eyes widen some and his smile falters. “A-…Alisbeth?”
Alisbeth climbs over Grimory, a grin on her face as she leaps at her cousin. “Ervy!” She giggles and wraps herself around him. “I missed you!”
Taveth smirks and cocks an eyebrow. “Father didn’t tell you? I thought he would’ve when I went to get the letter proving Diori’s parentage.” He takes Anarchaia’s bottle and drinks from it, then hands it back with a smile, vaguely noting the conversation the others are having. “I’m here because I wasn’t given the option of quitting. Four nights a week. Will you fire me if I shirk my duties here while I’m on another world, saving ours?”
Anarchaia eyes Taveth as he hands the bottle back. “You’re lucky I like you,” she warns with a smile and takes a drink as well. She turns back to Thassarian. “So, I imagine Juliember will tell the same tale?”
Grimory throws cards before each of the occupants at the table.
Thassarian gives Anarchaia a stern look. “If she doesn’t, she’s lying.” He looks over his cards, rearranging them in his hand.
Anarchaia gives Thassarian a coy grin. “Hm. She doesn’t seem like one to lie. She clearly has no shame and thus nothing to hide.” She slides a card around, face down, with her finger and rests her chin on the back of a hand.
“He did,” Ervaen says, hugging Alisbeth tightly. “I didn’t believe it. But now I’ve seen. As for your work…” He sighs. “I…suppose what father doesn’t know won’t hurt him. But the fall goes on you if he finds out.” He pulls away to give Alisbeth a tired smile. “So, how are you? How’ve you been?”
Alisbeth grins wider, her eyes brightening. “I’ve been so great! But also not great. There were also really, really, really bad times, like when I was locked in my room, but I deserved it, they said. But I’ve been really great! And I got to meet Diori! She looks just like Grim and I’m kind of sad because I’m dead and they’re not so I don’t get to do alive things with them, like eating. But that’s okay, because we go to the archery range and avoid shooting asses. But how are you? You look so old! You have a beard! It makes you look like uncle.” She laughs and hugs him again. “I missed you! Am I too big to ride on your shoulders anymore?”
Taveth chuckles into his fist as he meets Koltira’s eye, who is laughing as well at Alisbeth’s assault of her cousin.
Ervaen smiles and waits patiently for her to finish. “I’ve missed you, too.” He sets her back down in her seat. “And I’d say you’re just a bit too big for my shoulders, now.” His smile fades some as his brain processes the mess of information. “Grim?”
The demon hunter looks up as though he hasn’t been paying attention. “Hm?”
Ervaen’s brow furrows slightly at the strangely familiar face looking up at him. He pulls his ears back. “You… She looks just like you.”
“Oh.” Grimory smiles some at the fond thought of his daughter. “Could be worse, yeah?”
Thassarian cocks an eyebrow at the mage. “You’re acting like I’ve something to hide.”
Koltira gives Anarchaia a pointed look. <<Is it just me or is his poker face totally shit?>> he asks in Gutterspeak.
Alisbeth giggles. “I’m not too big for Grim’s shoulders!” She jumps like something bit her and leans across to wave at the others. “Guys! Guys! This is my cousin Ervaen!”
Anarchaia titters. <<He’s definitely hiding something.>> The mage blinks and looks up. “O-oh! Hello! A pleasure. I’m Anarchaia.” She leans across the table with an arm outstretched.
Ervaen’s ears prick at the name. “Oh. Kel’ori’s mentioned you before.” He takes her hand and shakes, choosing to not say more. “Charmed.”
Taveth smirks. “All lies, I’m sure.”
The corner of Anarchaia’s mouth twitches and she sits back down.
Koltira gives an odd, forced, small smile. “Koltira. Deathweaver.” He goes back to his cards, trying not to appear as awkward as he feels meeting—and hearing about—his ex-wife’s cousin for the first time.
“I already know Ervaen. Pours a good tap, but can’t mix worth shit.” He barks a laugh and pats Taveth on the back. “Isn’t that right, boy?”
Taveth coughs and drops his cards, then scoops them up. “I’ve really no idea what you’re talking about.”
Ervaen gives a quiet, reserved chuckle. “We all have our strong suits. I’m an ale man while Taveth is a liqueur man.”
Grimory throws ten gold into the center of the table. “He’s really more of a juice man.”
Thassarian follows Grimory’s bet. “Call. Juice? Not from my experience. Kid’s practically an alchemist!”
“I’m older than you,” Taveth mutters. He reaches into his pack for his humble gold pouch. The back of his hand brushes against the spine dagger just long enough for a flicker of a flame to appear beside Ervaen’s head, then disappear.
<<Fold! Idiot!>> Thal’kiel yells in his brief appearance.
“Not what I meant,” Grimory mumbles and flips a card when the others call his bet.
Taveth’s face falls and he coughs, setting the pouch on the table, but turning his cards over and sliding them to the center of the table. “I fold.”
Alisbeth narrows her eyes and leaps at Ervaen, trying to catch the flames before they touch him. Her eyes narrow further as they disappear.
“So,” Koltira begins, taking a drink of his whiskey, “Thass, anyone new in your life?”
Thassarian narrows his eyes. “Not really?”
The bearded elf perks at the fluttering of flames behind him and turns to look, but stumbles as Alisbeth tackles him. He laughs. “I’ll leave you lot to your little card game.” He again sets Alisbeth in her spot. “And I’ll do my best to avoid mixing your drinks, Thass.” He regards the human with a grin.
The death knight laughs and reaches up to pat Ervaen on the shoulder. “Good man, good man.”
Taveth smiles up at his brother. “I’ll see you later. Of course.”
Alisbeth leans into Grimory, partly cuddling up to him and partly looking at his cards. She not-so-sneakily reaches to her cards and sets two down as the mage had done. “I don’t want those ones, kay?”
Thassarian cocks his eyebrow and his eyes widen on Grimory. “Oh. Oh.” He glances at Taveth, then back to the demon hunter. “You know from experience?” He winks at him.
Anarchaia takes a long drink from her bottle and ups the bet when it’s her turn. She leans close to Koltira and smiles. <<Maybe we should go get her.>>
Koltira leans closer to the mage. <<Are you trying to out them, or get them to hook up?>>
“That’s not how this game works, Ali,” Grimory says with a smile and puts the cards back into Alisbeth’s hand. “You either call or fold, yeah?” His ear flicks as he turns to Thassarian. His lids lower to a bemused stare. “From experience with being in his presence for more than five seconds.”
Anarchaia’s smile widens some and she leans even closer. <<Both?>>
Taveth shrinks in his chair and stares between the two men. “It’s rude to talk about someone when they’re sitting right there,” he mumbles.
Koltira finishes his drink and smiles. <<I like the way you think.>> He plants a quick kiss on her lips, then sits slightly straighter.
Thassarian groans. “If you two are going to start in on that romantic nonsense, I’m going to throw you out myself.”
Grimory looks down at Taveth and smiles, patting him on the shoulder. “I’d say it’s more rude to talk about someone when they aren’t sitting right there. No offense meant.”
Anarchaia tilts her head just enough to look at Thassarian from the corner of her eye. <<I think he’s jealous. Perhaps lonely. >> She chortles, bites her lip, and runs a palm across Koltira’s thigh, still looking at the human. “No need. It wouldn’t take much convincing.”
The tips of Taveth’s ears turn pink, but he continues to frown. “Still rude.”
Koltira laughs. “Are you jealous?” he asks the other death knight.
Thassarian glares between them, then grins. “Why, yes, I am.” He grabs Koltira into an uncomfortable hug, smashing the elf’s back to his chest. “I sure missed my Kolty-wolty.”
“Oh, gods. Get off me.” Koltira flails, but is unsuccessful in breaking free.
“But I thought you liked cuddles,” Thassarian says through puckered lips.
“No. No. This is not cuddles, this is assault.” He slaps at the other death knight’s head.
Anarchaia sips her wine, then giggles into the back of her hand while she swallows. “If you keep it up I’ll be forced to fight you for him.”
Thassarian frees Koltira and laughs. “That’s fine, you can have him. I’d rather have a book worm.” He grins down at Taveth, who shrinks further into his seat.
“Right now?” Taveth hisses, slightly annoyed.
Koltira narrows his eyes between the two. “Uhh…”
Grimory drums his fingers on the table as he waits for the others to take their turns. He downs his drink and grins at Alisbeth. “Be a doll?” he says, holding up the cup and gesturing to the bottle beside her.
Alisbeth takes the glass and sets it on the other side of her beside the bottle. “Doll?”
Grimory lifts his brows, slightly taken aback. “Yeah. Doll. Cute. Pretty. Porcelain skin.” He pokes her cheek. “What would you rather be called?”
Alisbeth drinks from the bottle and thinks on it. “Redblade the Destroyer!” she shouts, lifting the bottle over her head. She sloshes some from the bottle into his glass and slides it back with a grin. “There you go, doll.”
Anarchaia restrains a laugh and sets a knuckle to the wood to signify her check. She sets her temple against Koltira’s pauldron, avoiding the spikes. “Never mind. I guess he’s not lonely.” She drinks. “You want another?”
Koltira raises by five gold. “I would, thank you.” He wraps an arm around her shoulders.
Thassarian meets Koltira’s bet without taking his eyes off the cowering elf. “Please.”
Taveth scoffs and gets up, rolling up his sleeves. “Fine.” He goes to the bar and slips behind, giving a small nod to Ervaen before setting to work with several liquor bottles.
Anarchaia takes his empty glass and hikes up her robes to throw her legs over the bench and stand. She makes her way to the bar and sets it down. “Mind filing this with scotch?” she croons to Taveth, elbows on the counter.
Grimory chuckles and takes the messy glass all the same. “Thank you, Ms. Destroyer.” He drinks and flips the last card, then raises the ante by another ten gold.
Taveth finishes his gentle pouring of a creamy white liquor into a square glass, then takes the scotch glass. “Yeah. Any idea which year he got?”
Koltira calls the bet, his eyes on the mage across the room.
Thassarian also calls and shoves an elbow into the man. “Afraid she’s going to wander away?”
Koltira laughs. “I wouldn’t blame her.”
Grimory scoffs. “Are you kidding? That woman is always at your heels.” He smirks. “Though if you aren’t careful…”
Anarchaia fidgets and again hikes her robes up to tie them at her hip. She conjures a large handful of gold coins and sets them on the counter. “Since Ali paid off a lot of my debt, I’ve actually had some spending money. Heh. What’s the best you’ve got?”
Taveth grins and takes a portion of the gold. He hands it off to Ervaen, they spin around each other flawlessly in the small space, as though having worked together before. The younger elf takes a bottle from the shelf and they slide past each other again.
“This ought to do it.” He pours the drink with a small amount of flair, then catches himself and returns to just pouring it naturally. He sets the bottle where his brother can get it, smiles at the mage, then carefully returns to the square glass, this time pouring a red liquid inside.
Thassarian cocks an eyebrow. “Trouble in paradise?”
Koltira lowers his brow at Grimory. “No.”
Alisbeth bites her lower lip and sips at the bottle in her hands. He wants the mage. She shakes her head at the voice. We should probably get rid of her…just in case. I mean, she did react strangely to the Light. Alisbeth holds the whiskey in her mouth for a long time, letting the warmth of it cause her tongue to tingle.
Anarchaia watches, eyebrows raised in interest. She whistles and takes the glass. “Impressive. If I hadn’t ordered an entire bottle of wine I’d ask for a drink. How long have you both been doing this for?”
“A long time,” Ervaen says with a smile as he angles a stein while pouring from a tap.
Grimory shrugs. “I’m just saying. If you two do have some sort of…falling out, remember who’ll be there to pick up the pieces.” He swirls his whiskey.
Alisbeth swallows and squeezes the bottle tighter, until her knuckles are even whiter from the pressure.
Taveth chuckles. “Nothing wrong with a drink later, hmm? You can try my specialty.” He uses a small pair of tongs to fish a worm from a jar of liquor so potent it makes him cringe. He wraps it around a glass toothpick and carefully puts it in the glass, then holds it up for the mage to see the layered effect of two red liquids with the white in between. “I call it the bookworm, because, well…heh.” He slips out the side of the bar and holds out an elbow to her. “Walk you back?”
Anarchaia wrinkles her nose at the worm and laughs. “Hold the nightcrawler and perhaps I’ll try it.” She grabs the scotch and hooks her arm through his. “Such a gentleman.” She sets Koltira’s drink before him and takes up her seat again. “Oh? Is the round over?” She flips her cards and sips her wine.
Taveth sets the drink in front of Thassarian, who gives a gleeful Ha! and immediately lifts it to drink. “Quickest way to get drunk, right here.”
Grimory glances over at the woman beside him. He tilts his head. “Ali? Are you okay?”
Alisbeth purses her lips tight, then turns a wide-eyed Cheshire grin on the demon hunter. “I’m fine! Why do you ask?” A weak spot forms in the glass and it splinters up one side before exploding, sending shards of glass and splatters of whiskey all over her. She gives a small giggle, her hand still shaped like she’s clutching something. She doesn’t even hint that she’s aware of having glass and drink all over her.
Koltira’s eyes widen on Alisbeth and Grimory. “Everything okay, there?”
Thassarian chortles into his glass. “Trouble in paradise. See, the key is to not actually care about the other one. It also helps if you can’t talk to them. Keeps it simple.”
Anarchaia flinches at the sound of shattering glass and hums a long, hesitant note into her bottle.
Grimory shoots Thassarian a look as he quickly sets to picking up the shards of glass. “Okay, seriously,” he whispers to Alisbeth as he leans over to brush the glass from her glove. “What’s wrong?”
The mage sets her bottle down to lift a hand. The pieces assemble themselves together once again.
Alisbeth stares at the reformed bottle, then at Grimory. “Oh, look, she picked up the pieces by herself. Heh-heh. Ha!” She forces a laugh.
Koltira flips his cards, not paying attention to the game. He leans close to the mage. <<I wonder how long until Grim gets the Maw in his chest?>>
Anarchaia turns to Koltira with similar concern in her eyes. <<What? Why would she do that? What happened?>>
Grimory looks up into Alisbeth’s face, brow knit in confusion and concern. He stands. “Can we talk?” he asks in a hushed tone.
Still grinning maniacally, Alisbeth stands abruptly. “I think I need a new outfit.” She spins around and leaves the tavern without waiting for the demon hunter.
Taveth cringes. “Well, this is…”
Thassarian laughs. “She’s such a firecracker. It’s always the feisty ones that getcha, even if you don’t wanna be got.” He leans his cheek on a fist, his elbow on the table, already beginning to feel the effects of eating the nightcrawler.