Book 5 – Chapter Nine

Anarchaia’s grip on Koltira’s hand tightens at the sound and she slowly turns. Her lips twitch into a reflexive scowl. “Kel’ori.”

The blonde high elf gives Anarchaia a tight-lipped smile. “Anarchaia.”

“Oh, goodie, I have an entire entourage. What can I do to get you three to go away?” Taveth asks.

Koltira raises an eyebrow. “Three?”

“He means me. Sorry little bro, I’m not here for you. Didn’t even know you were part of this.” She leans against the wall and conjures a nail file, then sets to smoothing out her manicure.

The other mage furrows her brow, almost afraid to ask. “So…who are you here for, then?”

Kel’ori pops the gum in her mouth and doesn’t look up from her fingernails. “Isn’t it obvious? I’m your shadow.” She rolls her eyes.

Prophet Velen glides down the stairs with a grace fit for his title and stops before the group. An amused smile pulls at his lips. “Sent you extra protection, did he? Perhaps, after yesterday, it is a wise decision…”

Taveth frowns at Velen. “Hello Prophet. I understand his concern, but I have four—”

“Five!”

“—very adept adventurers with me. Yesterday was a fluke. I got separated from the others—my own fault, of course. But, um, Grimory is adamant he won’t take his eyes off me.” He sends a look to the demon hunter, hoping the man will agree to the claim.

Grimory perks at the sound of his name, then simply nods at the elderly Draenei man. “Nope.”

Anarchaia’s eyes widen. “W-What? Under whose orders?”

Velen furrows his brow, seemingly unconvinced, then turns a smile to the guards. “I think he can handle himself.”

The guards straighten and salute. “We’ll pass the message on.”

Kel’ori flicks her wrist and an unfurled scroll pops into Anarchaia’s face. “Apparently you need a babysitter? And I need real world experience.” She scoffs and pops her gum in quick succession. “This is going to suck.”

As the guards head through the portal to Dalaran, Taveth sighs. “You have my thanks, Velen.”

Alisbeth finally leaps at her cousin to hug him. “Hi Taveth! Good morning!”

Anarchaia snatches the parchment from the air and reads, her shoulders slowly raising with each line. “Supervision for the sake of academics?” she hisses, her fingers curling around the paper. She restrains herself from setting the letter ablaze, anger bubbling within her. “This— I— Ugh!” She crumples the paper and throws it at the ground, then turns on the Prophet. “Archmage Khadgar?”

Velen nods to Taveth, then perks and scratches at his beard. “Not aboard at the moment but I shall inform him you’re looking for him when he is.”

Koltira sets a hand on Anarchaia’s shoulder. “I’m sure it’s only for a few days.”

As Taveth straightens his clothes, he catches sight of the draenei from the day before. He stares for a moment before quickly looking away to make sure his books are all in order within his satchel.

Eophen catches Taveth’s gaze and gives a small grin which turns into a chuckle when the elf looks away. He shakes his head and turns for the stairs leading to the engine room.

Kel’ori pushes Koltira aside to stand by the other mage. She takes the gum out of her mouth between her thumb and forefinger and squishes it on a nearby purple crate. “So, like, this’ll only take a couple days, right? I have spa day with the other apprentices this weekend.”

Anarchaia takes a moment to calm herself. She reaches for Koltira’s hand at her shoulder but Kel’ori’s already pushed him aside. She clenches her fist at her side instead. I wasn’t invited, of course. She scowls at her own petty thought and shakes her head. “Yes. The less time, the better,” she says with a forced smile. With a lifted hand she opens a portal to their previous location on the surface.

Grimory watches the two women with amused eyes. “Oh, this should be fun.” He motions for the portal to Alisbeth. “After you.”

Alisbeth puts her hands together and dives into the portal as she would into a pool.

Grimory follows the death knight.

Kel’ori gives her brother a look. “Losers first.”

“Aren’t we a little old for that sort of nonsense?” he asks, not moving.

Anarchaia’s knuckles whiten. “Go on ahead, Koltira,” she chirps. <<I don’t want you to see this.>>

Koltira smirks. <<I think I need to. To make sure.>>

<<For science?>> Taveth offers, eyes darting between all of them, not wanting to go through the portal and be teased for it.

“For science,” the undead girl says and lifts a hand. With arcane energies she grabs Kel’ori’s being and throws her through the portal.

Taveth’s eyes widen. “That’s what you were— Oh, now we’ll never hear the end of it.”

Koltira laughs, an arm around the mage’s waist. “Worth it.”

Taveth smiles. “Maybe it was.” He glances around, but doesn’t see what he’s looking for, and so steps through the portal, unsure why he was looking in the first place.

Koltira grins. <<Oh, the things I’d like to do to you when I see you put people in their place…>> He takes her hand and drags her through the portal with himself.

Anarchaia flushes and lifts her eyebrows, opening her mouth but being pulled through the portal before she can speak. She sighs at the now familiar sight of brimstone, green, and orange, then looks about. “I imagine Turalyon is here already?”

“There. Tav has already found him. Where is Ali?” Koltira leads her around the other two to meet up with the high elf and the High Exarch.

Grimory grunts as a body is thrown into him. He stumbles backward, arms reflexively grabbing the figure. “Oh. Hey. Kel’ori, was it?” He chuckles and sets her back to her feet.

Kel’ori’s smile comes slowly; an almost intoxicated one as she looks up at Grimory through her eyelashes. “Oh, my. Aren’t you a strong one.”

“So I’m told,” Grimory responds with a smirk and turns to look for Alisbeth when prompted about her. “Oh, she saw some small critter and decided she wants to take it home with her. She’s here somewhere.”

After scoffing at Kel’ori’s behavior, Anarchaia regards the human with the slightest of bows, unsure of how else to address him. “Your…radiance…” She grimaces. “We’ve returned to aid the fight. Where would you have us?”

Turalyon can’t help but bark a laugh at the awkward girl before him. “I’m not of any royalty, young lady. Keep your pleasantries.” He sobers. “Xe’ra is being held in a crashed ship just north of here. Unfortunately, a barrier of rubble blocks our path, as well as a slew of demons. If you can recover the Vindicaar’s beam weapon, we can create a way in and recover Xe’ra from within.”

Taveth smiles at the mage, then at the human. “I’m sure my friends and I are up to the task.”

Alisbeth comes running up to the demon hunter with a large green and grey rodent of sorts. “Grim! Can I keep it? Look at how cute it is. Look at that little face! Can we keep him? Please, please, please?” She shoves the little creature nose-first into Grimory’s face, accidentally pushing its hind end to face Kel’ori.

Grimory leans back and away from the animal that chitters in his face, then smiles and pats it on the head. “I don’t think taking it out of its natural environment is a good idea, Ali.” He perks when he sees the other three heading down the path. “Come on. You can keep it while we’re here.”

Anarchaia sighs and stops to wait for the others. “Lagging already?” she grumbles.

Alisbeth takes a red ribbon from her pack and ties it around the rodent’s neck, then attaches a rope to it. “Come on Sniffer.” She tugs on the rope, but the rodent doesn’t move. She tugs harder. “Come on Sniffer!” The creature looks up at her, wiggles its nose, then ambles along beside her as she follows the others into the newly-cleared cave entrance.

Kel’ori jumps as she realizes that even the rodent was reminded it was time to go, but she’d been left behind with her hand mirror, fixing the gloss on her lips and adjusting her hair. She runs up the hill and blinks, landing just in front of the other mage. “Thought you could leave me behind, did you?”

Anarchaia in turn blinks past her. “Eager to get into lessons, hm?”

Kel’ori rolls her eyes and sneers. “Actually, I just don’t like being left behind. Because Kalec will know. And I’ll lose points. I can’t lose points, okay?

Taveth blinks at his sister. “You actually do your homework now?”

“Most of it.”

Grimory glances up the path where another blockade has been stationed. The ground shakes as small explosions and impacts boom through the air following flashes of light. “They seem to be doing a well enough job without us.”

“Then I suppose you’ve chosen the wrong apprentice to shadow,” Anarchaia mumbles. She opens her mouth to reprimand the woman further, but is cut off by the jarring rattling of the earth and scrambles backward.

A demon crashes to the ground on the other side of the stone bridge and leers at the group. Turalyon gallops up behind them on his elekk, then leaps to the ground. “You go, I’ve got this one.”

Turalyon ushers them forward as he lifts his sword, but before he can make contact, a beam of light pierces the demon’s skull and it falls back onto the bridge smoldering.

“Saving your hide as always,” comes a heavily accented female voice behind them. A gloriously clad draenei woman trots up, hammer shining.

“Fareeya!” Turalyon grins and follows her down the bridge. “You’re alive!”

“As ever,” Captain Fareeya responds, slamming a felguard out of their path and sending it sprawling into a pool of lava.

The blonde mage hops sideways as blood splashes out, threatening her sky-blue robes. “This is just horrid! And you do this willingly?”

Taveth shrugs. “Not me. But it has to be done.”

Koltira cocks an eyebrow at her. “Someone has to fight these battles.”

Kel’ori grunts at them. “It’s not the fighting, it’s the— Ick!” She lifts her skirt and shakes a bit of squishing something from her shoe.

Anarchaia titters beneath her mask and sets to following the two in front of them. “This may work out yet.”

“Not a good place to be squeamish,” Grimory mutters, stomping through the pool as though it were water.

When the party reaches the small base of operations, the ground shudders under the weight of small, light-fueled explosions and massive demonic axes and swords. Turalyon and Fareeya make easy work of clearing them a path. After some conversing with the other soldiers, the Exarch turns to the group. “We need to secure the weapon before it’s ready to use. They suspect it’s across the scar, up that ridge. If you see Y’mera, assist her in seeing her way back.”

“And she looks like…?” Grimory grunts as an elbow jabs into his ribs by the masked mage at his side.

“She’s a mage. You couldn’t miss her. Good luck, champions.”

Alisbeth grabs Grimory’s hand and drags him toward a group of demons crowding to enter the area. “I have no idea what’s going on, but I see things that need killing!”

Taveth does a double take, then blushes as Fareeya glances over his journal at his sketch of her. “Heh. Sorry.”

“Flattering drawing. It’s okay.” She turns away to converse with Turalyon.

Kel’ori eyes her brother. “Interesting…”

Grimory allows himself to be pulled, then shrugs and runs ahead of her to pull her instead. Once near enough, he easily slices through the nearest spellcaster and her imp familiars.

Anarchaia sighs and sets a hand on a hip. She turns to Kel’ori and gestures to a group of incoming felhounds. “A small group like that shouldn’t be too much of a bother. Let’s see what you can do, then.”

Kel’ori takes a step back. “They look like dogs,” she complains. “I don’t like dogs. Why don’t you take this one?”

Alisbeth tackles an eredari to the ground and slices through its neck. She looks up and sees a swirling green and black crystal in the distance, the ground around it warped and glowing. “What’s that?”

Sorvos glares across the field at them. “Soul coffers. They’re collecting the souls of our departed and storing them, using them as fuel for their attacks.”

“Looks like something we could take care of,” Koltira says, unsheathing Byfrost.

“If you’d be so kind. It will allow our comrades to join the Light.”

Taveth makes one final note. “Is there anything we need to know about the weapon?”

Fareeya smiles down at him. “Oh! Yes. It will require fuel. The crystals were scattered in the crash. A few should suffice.”

“The shiny things?” Alisbeth asks. “Shiny things!” She runs carelessly out into the field to grab at the glowing golden crystals.

Anarchaia narrows an eye suspiciously. “These enemies are particularly small.” She glances over her shoulder to see her party rushing out onto the field and grits her teeth. “Come on, Kel’ori, I can’t see what you need to work on if I don’t know what you can do.”

Grimory blinks after Alisbeth and follows. “Wait, Ali! They might be radiating with Light energy!” He flies forward to cut her off, then stumbles as she careens into him. He laughs. “Seriously, you shouldn’t just go grabbing things, yeah?”

Kel’ori scoffs and stomps after the other mage. “Excuse me? That’s not what this arrangement is, missy. You’re not my boss, or my mentor. I’m shadowing you. That means you do your thing and I watch.”

Taveth rolls his eyes behind his sister, then trots up to walk beside Anarchaia. <<Would be a real shame if we lost her somewhere, wouldn’t it?>>

Alisbeth presses closer to the demon hunter and grins mischievously. “I thought you liked when I grab things.” Her fingers slip into the top of his pants and she grips around his belt buckle.

“The letter said you required world experience and that I needed structure. Why else send you with me specifically if I wasn’t meant to teach you anything?” Anarchaia grits her teeth to Taveth. <<Not exactly a shame, no.>> An imp wanders into their path and squeaks an obscenity at them while casting a fire spell. Before it can throw it at them, however, it’s encased in a pillar of flames much larger than necessary to dispatch it. Anarchaia kicks its charred remains out of her way.

Alisbeth presses closer to the demon hunter and grins mischievously. “I thought you liked when I grab things.” Her fingers slip into the top of his pants and she grips around his belt buckle.

Grimory lifts his brows and smirks. “Well, I do, but not things that’ll hurt you.”

“Here? Honestly?” Anarchaia scoffs at the two as she passes to shatter a soul coffer with a spike of ice; light escapes from within and swirls up into the sky.

Alisbeth grins and wraps her arms around Grimory to hold him in place. “What’s wrong with here? Or there? Or everywhere?”

Koltira purses his lips. “Ali, stop being an exhibitionist. At least for now, please.”

“Jealous?” she asks.

He lowers his brow. “Hardly.” He stoops to pick up one of the glowing crystals. “This is what we need, ri— Fuck!” He drops the crystal to the ground and grabs his wrist to stare at his palm and make sure it isn’t actually burned.

Taveth gives the death knight a small grin as he slinks between all of them and picks up the crystal. He slips it into his bag and straightens. “Heh. Looks like a job for me.”

Kel’ori waits, her lips pursed as she pretends to listen to what’s going on. Finally, she turns to Anarchaia with a small sneer on her nose. “Actually, I’m here to keep you from doing stupid shit, apparently. It’s like a madhouse with you losers. Literally everything you do is dumb stupid shit that gets someone hurt or in trouble. You have no structure or leadership, and apparently, you don’t even do your homework. So, I won’t be taking orders from a half-rate apprentice, thank you very much.” She sticks her nose in the air and stomps past, then stoops to pick up another glowing crystal, suspending it in a purple aura over her head.

Anarchaia jumps at Koltira’s expletive and is quickly by his side to inspect the damage. His wrist still in her hands, she jerks her head in Kel’ori’s direction. “Half…rate…” Her fingers tighten, harder and harder, as she restrains herself from trudging after her.

“Ahh. Ana. Breaking my wrist.” Koltira pulls at her hand, trying not to hurt her in return.

Grimory lowers his voice. “He’s right though. Here’s not a good place, yeah?” He pats her on the head endearingly, then leans to whisper. “Though if you’re really so eager, we can find someplace later.” He smirks and pokes at her nose. “If you’re good.”

Alisbeth grins. “The goodest. I promise.” Her grin turns into a grimace as she looks at Kel’ori. “Does that mean I have to be nice to my cousin?”

Grimory gives a quiet laugh. “I’d say, for the sake of less drama, yeah. Let’s keep it civil.” He turns to pick up a crystal of light hiding behind a rock, then tosses it in his pack. “Kill anything that looks at us, yeah?”

Taveth purses his lips and slowly backs away from the squabbling mages, his fists wrapped around the strap of his bag. Literally any conversation with Thal’kiel would be less awful than this.

Anarchaia quickly releases Koltira. “Oh! I’m so sorry! Heh.” She sighs and rubs at the spot on his wrist with a thumb, then turns to destroy another coffer. “Let’s just get this done,” she mutters and pulls her hood up.

Taveth yipes and runs to Alisbeth as an eredari pair walk his way.

“Silly Tav,” she says, and unsheathes her axe. In one sweep she takes one’s head. The other dodges away.

Koltira sighs. “A little situational awareness can go a long way,” he mutters under his breath.

“Surely you don’t mean Taveth,” Anarchaia chuckles and lifts a crystal of light from its place in the dirt with magic. It flies over and nudges its way into Grimory’s pack.

The demon hunter jumps between Alisbeth and the remaining sorceress before the Eredari can finish casting. He groans as a ball of fire washes over his forearm, then rushes forward to run gashes into her stomach.

Kel’ori raises her hands and several Light crystals pop from the earth, shake themselves clean, then zoom to join the one over her head. “Is that one of those coffer things?” she asks, pointing over the next hill where demons guard a coffer.

Taveth smiles. “Good catch. Keen eyes are useful out here, you know.” He strides past her and she turns away from the others to smile at the compliment.

“Well, what are you waiting for?” Alisbeth yells to no one. “Blow it up!”

“So you can do magic.” The mage rolls her eyes beneath her mask. Anarchaia strides past Alisbeth and drives a spike of ice through the sorceress’s eye when Grimory spins her just right. “Yes, Kel’ori. Blow it up already.”

The demon hunter smiles and drops the corpse to the ground. “Good shot.” He shakes the blood from his claws.

“I suppose my two archery lessons are paying off.” She cranes her head at the sound of spells being cast. Upon seeing that it isn’t Kel’ori, she stands on her toes to look over the ridge. A Draenei woman sits near a far pool of lava, fending off hounds with arcane spells and ice. “I think I’ve found our mage.”

Kel’ori purses her lips and frowns, the small triumph gone. She turns to make a face at the other mage. By the time she opens her mouth, Anarchaia isn’t paying attention. Kel’ori mouths her anger and mutters obscenities. “Didn’t come here to be judged by little miss Khadgar pet.” She stomps closer to the soul coffer and throws out a weak arcane barrage. It hits the green crystal, causing cracks to form in the surface, but it doesn’t shatter.

Taveth purses his lips. “We need the last coffer.”

“Isn’t two enough—once Kel’ori gets that one taken care of…” Koltira says, following Anarchaia.

“But all those souls,” Taveth says.

“No, it’s not,” Grimory responds, furrowing his brow at Koltira’s coldness. He steps over and shatters the crystal Kel’ori had weakened. “I can’t help but empathize.”

Anarchaia makes her way through the scar, stepping over rubble and lifting any crystals that come in her path. A large demon clad in plate armor steps before her and smirks.

<<Going somewhere?>> He lifts his sword and swipes at the mage, but she leans away.

“I suppose I didn’t expect to get through this task easily,” she mutters and steps away from another slash. She retaliates with a spike of ice, but the demon lifts his weapon and it shatters against it.

Koltira runs after the mage and steps between her and the demon. “You should know better than to wander off alone,” he says to her over his shoulder.

Anarchaia purses her lips and sets a hand on her hip. “I was within sight.” She sends an arcane barrier over the death knight and the demon’s sword crashes against it, sending sparks flying. He growls and slashes at it again and again until it finally shatters, then sends a slice toward Koltira’s shoulder.

Koltira dodges, the sword screeching across the plate armor over his arm. He swings wide to take the demon’s sword arm off. “But not within my reach,” Koltira says. He winks at her.

Alisbeth squeals. “First person to find the last co—”

“Found it,” Kel’ori says.

Alisbeth deflates. “I wanted to find it!”

Grimory chuckles and sets a hand on Alisbeth’s shoulder as he passes. “What was the prize?” He steps over and blows emerald fire over the crystal until it breaks apart.

Alisbeth stops, a strange look on her face. “Um… I hadn’t gotten that far.”

Kel’ori rolls her eyes. “Why am I not surprised?” She turns in time to see the other two fighting the demon. “Do your friends need help?”

The demon growls as the blade cuts deep but not enough to take his arm. He stomps forward and lifts his sword again but is met with a torrent of fire to his plate-armored chest. Steam billows from his cuirass and he cries out. Enraged, he swings wide and low at the two of them.

Anarchaia blinks away from the first swing and only narrowly dodges the second. “Now’s not particularly a good time for your charms,” she says, hiding her smile behind her mask.

Grimory looks, then shrugs and heads in the direction of the Draenei in the distance. “I’m sure they’d prefer to be alone anyway. C’mon, Ali.”

Koltira jumps back and chuckles. “Charms? Please. I’m just getting started.” He slashes forward with Byfrost, aiming for the demon’s legs to cripple it.

Grimory looks, then shrugs and heads in the direction of the Draenei in the distance. “I’m sure they’d prefer to be alone anyway. C’mon, Ali.”

Kel’ori cringes nervously at the lone two, then tentatively follows the others.

Alisbeth hops onto Grimory’s back. “So, we’re getting the glowing things for a weapon, right? How big do you think the weapon is? Who gets to use it? Do you think it goes BOOM! or just kind of hums?”

The demon groans as the sword catches the soft, unarmored flesh on the side of his knee. He drops to kneel, then jerks as a spear of ice tears through his eye and into his head. The dirt unsettles around him as he falls to the ground, unmoving.

Anarchaia claps her hands against one another in a job well done. “There’s more to your charm than what I’ve seen? Exciting.” She smirks and turns to follow the others after seeing them go.

Koltira jogs after the mage and slips a casual hand around her waist. “Maybe you’ll never know.”

Anarchaia bites her lip while she grins. “Aw. Not even if we’re together forever?”

Grimory thinks for a moment. “Well it’s probably a weapon of Light, so…a humming boom? Maybe a crack. And it’s probably huge. Bigger than a cannon.” He runs forward to weave through the rocks, toward the draenei mage.

Kel’ori frowns indignantly. “Why don’t I get a ride across? I really deserve one more than Redblade.” She glances at Taveth.

Her brother looks sideways at her. “Don’t look at me! I’m not carrying you!”

Alisbeth sneers. “Then I don’t wanna touch it. You can touch it.” She plants a kiss in his blond hair.

Grimory smiles and slows as he nears their destination. “I doubt even I’ll be able to lift something that big. Maybe if I morphed…”

Archmage Y’mera finishes off the last of the ravenous felhounds and smiles as the group approaches. “Ah. Finally, some reputable-looking folk!” She pauses on Grimory and sneers. “Mostly.”

Alisbeth makes a face at the draenei, but says nothing as she slides from the demon hunter’s hips, keeping her arms wrapped around him.

Taveth smiles. “We were told to find you and collect these crystals for you?” Taveth says, opening his bag so she can see inside.

“We have some, too,” Kel’ori blurts, motioning between her own floating bundle and the demon hunter, as though desperate not to be left out.

Y’mera smiles and dusts herself off. “Yes! Excellent!” She motions up the path behind them. “They’re for the weapon. I was on my way to it when I was ambushed here. It’s just up the ridge.”

Grimory shrugs and turns toward the path, dragging Alisbeth along on her toes. “Awesome. Thanks.”

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