Anarchaia asks the nearest attendant for the direction to Archmage Khadgar’s quarters. She makes her way down, through a corridor, then back up to a hallway lined with doors made of Light. She stops before the number she’d been given and knocks on the wall beside it rather than risking touching the door. The door flickers and disappears.
“Hey,” she regards with a nod as she steps inside.
Both Khadgar and Aethas Sunreaver look up from their reading materials.
“Ana,” the human says with bitterness in his voice. “How is your excursion fairing?”
Anarchaia folds her arms as the door flickers back to life behind her. “I think you know just how well it’s going,” she mutters, “but that’s not what I’m here for.” She softens some and glances at the elf. “I don’t mean to be rude, Aethas, but would you…?”
Aethas gives a dramatic sigh and claps his book closed. “I guess,” he hisses and throws his helmet over his head before leaving the two alone.
Khadgar furrows his brow after the door shines back into its frame. “What’s this about? Perhaps you’ve come to ask me to open a channel to Modera so that you can apologize for leaving her with all that paperwork.”
Anarchaia flinches and shakes her head. “N-no. I was…looking for some information, as it were.”
Khadgar sets the text he’d been reading down on the table beside his humble bed. He sits up. “About?”
The smaller mage swallows and rubs at her upper arm. “Ehm,” she stammers, his attitude causing her courage to wane. “U-undead…childbearing.”
A flicker of irritation gleams in his blue eyes but his voice remains calm and collected. “I’ve told you, Ana, there’s only been one reported case and the details were very scarce.”
“I know. I was just wondering if there’d been any advancements or newfound evidence of—”
“Is this about yourself and Deathweaver?”
Anarchaia stops. She fidgets with her fingers. “Yes.”
He narrows his eyes. “You’ve known one another for, what, six months? And you’ve been discussing children?”
She purses her lips and her shoulders raise. “When you don’t sleep, six months feels like six years. And it doesn’t particularly matter whom it is I’m discussing this with.”
Khadgar runs a hand over his hair and he struggles to keep a level head. He throws his legs over the side of his bed but does not stand. “Ana, it’s impossible. It’ll never happen. You have to understand…”
“I-I know, but I thought—”
“No!” He stands, fists clenched. “You aren’t thinking!”
She shrinks away as though he’d struck her. “I—”
“Do you understand the implications of what you’re trying to do? The chances of the child dying—if you even are successful—would be nearly one hundred percent. The threat of yourself dying is also incredibly real.” He pauses, jaw tense. His voice lowers. “You’d have to abandon your studies.”
A tear soaks into Anarchaia’s mask and she swallows. “I-I could come back after…”
“After what, Ana? After the however many years it takes a half-elf to grow to maturity? After that death knight deems the task too heavy or not worth his time to stick around until the end and you have to raise it alone?”
She scowls. “Koltira would never.”
“I’m not helping you.” He glares. “If this is something you truly want, acquire the means to do it for yourself.”
Anarchaia rubs at her nose and swallows a sniffle. “Fine,” she chokes and turns. “Thank you.” The door dissipates upon her approach and she wraps her arms around herself as she swiftly walks down the corridor.
Khadgar sighs and lowers to sit again, head in his hands.
~ * ~
Once back in the correct end of the ship, Anarchaia finds Koltira where he’d said he’d be and swiftly sweeps up behind him to wrap her arms around his waist and push her wet face into the back of his cuirass.
Koltira weaves his fingers through hers, hugging her arms to his sides for a minute, before he turns to her. “So, how was Khadgar?”
Still holding back sobs, Anarchaia sniffles and buries her face in the front of his armor instead. “Bad.”
Koltira removes his glove and strokes the cheek of her mask with his thumb. “Did it rain in his quarters, or are you crying?”
Anarchaia sniffles again and tightens her grip so he can’t pry her off. “Raining.”
Koltira wraps his arms around the mage and slowly walks away from everyone else with her. “Tell me,” he urges.
Anarchaia inhales. “He…yelled at me.” Her brow furrows as she struggles not to cry at the mere memory fresh in her mind. “He’s never yelled at me like that.”
Koltira grips her tightly, his fingers tangling in the hair on the nape of her neck as he pulls her closer. “Any idea why he’d yell at you? Anything I can do to fix it?”
Anarchaia hesitates, not wanting to divulge. She eventually gives in and rubs at her good eye. “He doesn’t want us to try to conceive.”
Koltira purses his lips. “It’s because of me. Because we barely know each other, isn’t it? I’m sorry, Ana, this is all my fault. I’ll…talk to him or something.” He rests his lips on the top of her head and sighs.
Anarchaia shakes her head. “Please don’t. It won’t do us as any good.” She tilts her head back some to look up at him. “Nothing says I have to take what he says to heart. I want to try, and he can’t stop me.” She pauses. “Do you think we haven’t known one another long enough?”
Koltira sighs and takes the mage’s hands. “I feel like we’ve known each other much longer, Ana. Years, even. And I don’t think we’re in any way obligated to rely on some other person’s interpretation of time, when they’re not the ones in our shoes, living our lives.” He sets a curled index finger beneath her chin and looks where her eyes hide behind the mask. “I want to do this. With you. Fuck Khadgar and fuck the rest of the world.” He glances around and smirks. “Both worlds.”
Anarchaia can’t help smiling. “Watch your language,” she whispers and sets a hand on his wrist. “But yes, I agree.” She wipes the remaining tears from her cheek. “You always know just what you say. Thank you.”
Koltira chuckles. “Fine, I’ll watch my language.” He sets a soft kiss to her lips through the mask. “If I didn’t know what to say, would you still be with me? I mean, it’d get boring, or annoying. Downright aggravating, I’m sure.” He glances around. “Think there’s any vacant rooms around?”
Anarchaia titters behind her lips and shakes her head. “I’m attracted to more than just your way with words.” She blinks and tilts her head. “Oh? Why? Are you tired?”
Koltira laughs. “Oh, I am. I’m so absolutely tired that I may need you to accompany me. You see, I’m not supposed to sleep, and I’ll need someone to keep me awake. Know of any ways you could—” He stops as the bridge is suddenly in bustling motion. Draenei carry in huge chunks of glowing stone then arrange them on the floor. “Is that…X’era?”
Anarchaia nods and watches as the final pieces are placed. In flashes of bright light, Turalyon and Alleria appear beside them and promptly push past the couple. Hoofsteps fill the room as Illidan makes his way up the stairs to serve witness as well.
Together the others in the mess hall race for the stairs and go to the main chamber. Taveth gasps and immediately begins drawing the Naaru.
The High Exarch takes a knee as the pieces lift into the air and assemble to their rightful form. “We are truly blessed to be in your presence once more, X’era.”
“Turalyon,” the Naaru says in her calm, dreamy voice, “you have found the chosen one.”
Turalyon turns as he stands, then gestures for Illidan to come forward.
“From birth,” X’era continues as Illidan approaches, “the light in your eyes has held such promise.”
“I sacrificed that birthright long ago,” Illidan grumbles.
“Do you not wish to reclaim what was lost? To be whole again?”
Illidan pauses. “The Legion’s end is all I seek.”
“Child…” X’era’s voice takes a subtle note of pity. “You’ve given so much for so little.” A sparkle of light flits out from her being. “Your true potential—your redemption—lies before you. Let go of your shattered form…” The light swirls around the half demon and he takes a tentative step away. “…and embrace the Light’s power.”
“I’ve traded my freedom for power before,” Illidan growls through his fangs.
“The prophecy,” X’era continues, louder, “must be fulfilled.”
The glimmering light surrounding Illidan manifests into a tightly binding lasso. It grips him and lifts him from the floor. He kicks and struggles to free himself.
“Your old life has passed. The Light will forge you a new one.”
Grimory pulls his ears back at the sound of Lord Illidan’s voice booming from down the hall and up the stairs. The bench, if it weren’t for Eophen’s weight, nearly falls as he pushes to his feet. Hastily grabbing Alisbeth by the wrist, he runs up the stairs and skids to a halt just as Illidan is bound.
“No!” he barks, fists clenching at his sides as he watches.
Anarchaia grips Koltira’s arm tightly, unable to look away as the others look on with wide eyes.
“It is not yours to take!” Illidan yells, still trying to break his bonds.
Light creeps up over his verdant tattoos, shining brightly from his violet skin. “The Light will heal your scars.”
“I am my scars!”
“The Light is your destiny.”
“My destiny is…my own!”
Black and green swirl around the demon lord like smoke. His bonds fall away and a beam of vibrant fel energy bursts from his eyes. The beam buffets X’era in her center, harder and harder, until finally her form cracks and shatters. The group near the stairs shields their eyes from the resulting explosion, and when they are able to look again, Illidan sits, breathless on a knee, in a sea of golden shards.
A wave of relief washes over Grimory when the Naaru bursts into pieces. He sighs his held breath.
Turalyon stomps forward, unsheathing his sword. “You doomed us all!” He swings in an arc, meaning to take Illidan’s head. “Betrayer!”
Illidan lifts a hand and stops the blade with a palm. “Your faith has blinded you,” he pants. “There can be no chosen one.” He glares up at the human through his blindfold. “Only we…can save ourselves.”
Turalyon wrenches his blade away. Blinded by anger and anguish, he growls and turns for the stairs. His wife follows closely behind, offering calming words as they descend.
As the events unfold, Taveth pales, writing it all down with a heavy hand. Beside him, Kel’ori is crying, tears rolling down her cheeks.
“He killed her,” the mage gasps. “She was so beautiful…”
Anarchaia blinks, fresh tears in her eye. She suddenly scowls and slowly stomps forward. “That wasn’t necessary!” she growls as Illidan stands once again.
The demon lord scowls down at her, standing his ground. “Necessity is subjective. If I hadn’t—”
“There’s always another way!” she continues and lifts her hands, but is abruptly cut off by the hulking form of Grimory. She breathes heavily, fighting sobs. “Move, Grim!”
The demon hunter merely shakes his head. “Don’t, Ana.”
“Or what? You’ll hurt me?” She lowers her hands when she gets no response, hurt and anger welling in her chest. She gives a cry of frustration and turns for the stairs.
Kel’ori grabs Anarchaia by the wrist to stop her. “No, Grim. Ana’s right, and you know it. She wanted to help and you…you…obliterated her!” She wipes at her eyes and heads down the stairs with Anarchaia.
~ * ~
Alisbeth drops to her knees and scrambles to pick up the pieces, hissing as they burn her skin. “We can save her, right? We can put her back together? We-we can g-get her back. Right? Yeah? W-we can fix her and she can come back!”
Koltira goes to Grimory and sets a hand on his shoulder, then looks at Illidan. “We are our scars. It’s no one’s decision but our own to have them wiped away.” He knocks his knuckles against the center of his breast plate. “I don’t think I’d ever wipe this one away.”
“Everyone deserves a choice,” Grimory merely mumbles after the mages. He turns at a clawed hand on his shoulder and is met with Illidan’s smoldering gaze.
“You, of all people, should know the weakness of women. Let them go.” The demon lord regards Koltira with a slight nod of approval but does not smile. “Indeed, we are.” He turns, wings swaying, and makes his way through the broken pieces—crushing one under a hoof—to the other set of spiraling stairs.
Grimory sighs and regards Koltira with the faintest of smiles. “Thanks.” He goes to Alisbeth and drops to a knee to take her hands away from the pieces. “She’s been back before.” Not from something like this, though…
Ignoring for a moment that it’s not his place, Koltira eases the pieces of Naaru from the death knight’s other hand, then cringes at the black spots forming on her palm from exposure to such pure Light. “Why do you care so much?”
Alisbeth frowns and lets out a small sob. “Because if she can fix Illidan, then she can fix me. Right? She could fix me?”
Grimory’s face softens and he grabs Alisbeth by her upper arms. He pulls her into an embrace. “Ali, you can’t fix things that aren’t broken.”
Koltira stands, nodding at the demon hunter in respect. He stops and takes in the slightly ghostly Taveth, who’d stopped writing mid-sentence and now his pen is leaving an ugly blotch of ink spreading through the paper. Koltira lifts the pen and left the elf to his statuesque state.
Alisbeth grips the demon hunter tighter. “I don’t want to be dead anymore, Grim. I don’t want to have white hair or blue skin. I want to be alive and warm, like you.”
Grimory pets the back of her head. His heart breaks just the slightest bit and he sighs. “Maybe one day, Ali. But she was not the answer. You have to believe me.”
Alisbeth nods, but remains unconvinced. “If you say so.”
Grimory stands and pulls Alisbeth with him. He frowns at the sight of Taveth. “You okay, there, Tav?” he says with an air of lightheartedness, trying to break the mood.
Taveth glances at the demon hunter, but says nothing and otherwise doesn’t move.
Alisbeth sniffs and giggles, keeping herself tangled with Grimory. “Tav needs a drink, I think. Hey! That rhymed!”
Grimory inhales loudly and nods. “I think so, too. C’mon, Nightheart.” He hooks his arm beneath Taveth’s and drags them both down the stairs toward the portal. “We can get you some new armor while we’re out.”
Alisbeth bounces in excitement, no trace of her former upset on her face. “I want shiny armor, like a Paladin. Oh! I want that stuff!” She points at a lightforged draenei making his way up the stairs past them.
Taveth hums in minor acknowledgement of the other two, but keeps his grip on his book and pen.
Grimory chuckles and drags them to the portal. “I don’t think you’d want that armor. It’s lightforged.” He pauses and glances around, wondering which tavern to go to. He ultimately decides on familiar ground and heads for the Legerdemain Lounge.