Book 5 – Chapter Twelve

“This is why you’re Khadgar’s student. You’re so smart.” Kel’ori tries to hide her own sobs in her words and uses her sleeve to wipe away her tears.

Anarchaia pauses near the bottom of the stairs. “I’m his apprentice by circumstance,” she says quietly on a sigh and turns. She pulls Kel’ori into a hug at the sound of her weeping. “It’ll be okay.” Her embrace stiffens at the sound of approaching hoofsteps.

Illidan returns her glare from the corner of his eye as he passes and makes his way coolly down the corridor.

Kel’ori bristles and squares her jaw after the Illidari lord. She wipes her eyes and regards Anarchaia with a soft gaze. “I’m sorry. I’ve been being…a bitch. I know. I just… the other mages are so mean about you and I was just afraid…to…” She takes a breath and looks at her feet. “I was afraid to like you because of what others would say about me.”

Anarchaia, though still bitter, smiles. “That’s okay. I understand your need to be accepted even if it’s by means of someone else’s expense.” She gives the girl’s arm a pat and sighs. She doesn’t seem to know why the others hate you. That’s good. “I could definitely use a drink after that…” She turns for the portal to Dalaran at the back of the circular chamber.

Kel’ori stares at her feet and nods. “I have to agree. Drinks sound great. I mean, I’m not inviting my…self…” She stares after the other mage and fidgets.

Anarchaia stops and casts the woman an endearing smile over her shoulder. “Come.” She stops again when she sees Koltira rounding the bend in the stairs. “Drinks? Heh.”

Koltira sighs, holding back his desire to try and explain his own feelings and hope Anarchaia could see the reason behind what Illidan did. He nods and turns to follow. “Drinks are always a good choice.”

Anarchaia leads the two through the portal and heads straight for the nearest tavern, her shoulders and fists unintentionally tense at her sides. She wordlessly takes up a seat at the bar and requests their strongest drink.

Kel’ori and Koltira take up seats on either side of the mage, neither willing to speak first, except for ordering their drinks.

Finally, Koltira sets his hand at the small of the mage’s back. “I know you’re upset, but it can’t be changed, now.”

A wide, forced grin crawls across Anarchaia’s lips as she lifts her mask. “I’m not upset!” she chirps quickly and drinks the entirety of her cup in one go before requesting another.

“Ana,” Koltira begins, then sighs and relents, sipping his own whiskey.

Kel’ori eyes them but remains quiet as she makes slow work of her fruity mixed drink. After a while, she sets it down. “Tav makes it better.” She eyes the man behind the bar, hoping he didn’t hear.

Anarchaia pauses as she immediately brings her second drink to her lips. “I’m not upset,” she says in a quieter, more collected tone. “Just…disappointed. And sad.” She throws down the rest of the alcohol in her glass and promptly requests a third. She smiles to Kel’ori at her side. “He does.”

Kel’ori smiles back at the other mage, then takes a drink and frowns. “So…what now? We rescued X’era, risking our lives to do so, only for that to happen and…now what? Is this it? The end? Get drunk and kiss your ass goodbye?”

Anarchaia furrows her brow, not particularly wanting to talk about what just happened but clearing her throat all the same. “I-I don’t know.” She turns back to her drink and, instead of draining the glass, takes a tentative sip. “Maybe… Maybe Illidan was right. Maybe we just need to forge our own destinies. Maybe the prophecy was all bunk.” She swallows, ignoring the burning. “Not that I particularly believed in it to begin with…”

“I just don’t see how we can be okay with the destruction of something so…good. So holy.”

Koltira purses his lips over at her. “It doesn’t matter how good or righteous something is, Kel’ori. No one can tell us our own paths. After being held under the sway of the Lich King for nearly a decade, I can say, without a doubt, I would have fought anyone else deciding my fate, too. We’re not puppets. We’re people. With our own will and minds.”

The blonde woman purses her lips. “We’re all entitled to our opinions.”

Anarchaia grits her teeth at the tension and drinks the rest of her beverage. When asked for another, she requests he leave the bottle. “I-…” She pours her own glass of the pure grain alcohol as she struggles to find words. “I know that she…shouldn’t have done what she did…” She grimaces at the thought of Illidan’s face, had he heard her say that. “But there’s always another way that doesn’t involve death.” A scowl crosses her face as she drinks. “If Illidan were a smarter man he’d have known that.”

Koltira sets down his glass harder than he intended. “So, what should he have done instead? He was bound! She wasn’t listening! There was nothing he could do. What options did you see in that moment? I saw none.”

Kel’ori fidgets, her eyes wide on her drink. “I think we should just drop the subject.”

Anarchaia jumps at the sound of his glass and turns to him. Her grip tightens around her own and she struggles to hold her tongue. “He could have incapacitated her! Reasoned with her! I won’t deny that what he did he did in self-defense but in a situation such as this…”

“So, I hear they’re hosting dance parties in the auction houses next week,” Kel’ori blurts. “Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?” She takes a nervous drink.

“Ana, how do you incapacitate a god?”

The undead girl narrows her eyes. “I imagine it’s a lot easier than murdering one.”

Koltira growls. “You still haven’t given me any good examples of—”

And a fashion competition next week.” Kel’ori says loud enough to shut the death knight up. “I’m going to sign up. Would you guys like to go with me?”

Koltira narrows his eyes across the bar at the elf.

Anarchaia jerks her head to look at Kel’ori as though just remembering she was there, then relaxes some and drinks her drink. “Sure,” she finally says. “I’ll go with. I’m not very fashionable so I won’t join, but I’ll cheer for you.”

The blonde girl smiles. “I like your robes, though! Just wear them.”

Koltira sighs into his glass as he finishes the contents. He leans to put an arm around Anarchaia’s waist, then presses his lips near her ear. <<I’m sorry for losing my temper. I shouldn’t have done that.>>

Anarchaia forces a smile to the girl beside her. “Thanks. They’re not as nice as yours, though. More of a necessity than a fashion device.” An alcohol-fueled flush crosses her cheeks when she feels Koltira’s breath on her neck. A bubbling of thoughts rears its head: X’era, Khadgar, the agony of her body breaking against the cliffside, Diori, the dead magnolia tree. She swallows the urge to, in the heat of her emotions, turn and chastise him more, but sighs. <<It’s okay,>> she responds in Gutterspeak. <<I’m sorry, too.>>

He presses a kiss to her cheek. <<It’s not okay. I was supposed to help you feel better. I only made you feel worse.>>

Kel’ori smiles and looks down at her neat, pale blue robes. “Thank you. It’s my favorite color, actually.”

The emotions ripple away as he kisses her and she sets a hand on his thigh. <<It’s not necessarily your job to make me feel better.>> Anarchaia gives the girl a coy smile. “Oh? Is that so? Why is that?”

Koltira frowns. <<Maybe I think it should be my job.>> He signals for a refill of his drink.

Kel’ori shrugs. “I just really like it. Do you have a favorite color? Red, maybe?”

Anarchaia chuckles at the girl’s answer. Nothing to do with Kalec? “Blue is actually my favorite color, too.” She grabs Koltira’s face with a hand and turns it to face Kel’ori. She presses her cheek to his. “Like Kolt’s eyes.”

Kel’ori’s eyes go wide. “I actually have robes that color! I, um, I could tailor them for you? If you want. I never wear them, anyway.”

Koltira grunts, then pulls free of her grasp to go for his refilled drink.

Anarchaia titters when Koltira pulls away. “I would actually like that. Do you know of any good enchanters in the area? I haven’t checked since my go-to died.” She smiles to the death knight beside her. <<Taking care of my emotions is a job too big for you I’d think. You’d sooner slice my head off.>>

<<I rather like it attached, though.>> Koltira smirks, reaching over to rub his palm along the bare side of her neck.

Kel’ori fiddles. “I’m an apprentice enchanter, actually. Kalec suggested it. He said it goes well with the skill of restoration. But I apprentice under this priest. She’s kind of…different.”

Koltira blinks around Anarchaia. “Straight bangs, black hair, speaks in one tone and looks sad?”

Kel’ori jumps. “Yes! You know her?”

“Isn’t that the woman who healed Ali the other night? On a dare?” Anarchaia says with a lowered eyebrow.

“The very same,” Koltira says.

“Docra. She’s just…I think the best word for her is morbid? Yeah. Not a very priestly person at all.” She sips her drink and cringes. “Ugh, where’s Tav when you need him? I could seriously use a bookworm.”

Anarchaia lowers her voice and fidgets some. “Uhm, do you know if she knows…fire suppression charms?” She conjures a nightcrawler and drops it into Kel’ori’s glass with a grin as though a trade for the information.

Kel’ori sniffs the worm. “Did you just hijack this from behind the counter?” She sniffs again to confirm, then downs the alcohol-soaked nightcrawler after chewing quickly before the barkeep looks their way. “She does. She knows everything. Seriously. Like, she knows things that other enchanters are still just learning about.”

Koltira’s nose wrinkles. “Is that worm really so fantastic?”

Kel’ori’s eyes round in shock. “You’ve never eaten the worm?”

Anarchaia cringes at the idea as well. “I’ve not eaten it, either.” She drinks straight from the bottle she’d bought and stifles a cough, the alcohol content now much more noticeable without the cushion of her anger. “Do you want one?” She smirks over her shoulder at Koltira.

“Do it,” Kel’ori urges. “It won’t be so bad for you, I know because Thass’n-Thnash—” She giggles. “It hits super fast!” She teeters in her stool, then catches herself. “Oops! Uh, yes, death knight. Orders them all the time. Tav had to restrict his drinks, cause he got toasted off three.” She giggles again and sips her drink. “Hey!” She yells at the bartender. “HAY! Make this like Tav does!”

The bartender gives the girl a stern glare as he shakes a cocktail.

Koltira’s eyes widen at the other mage. “Maybe you shouldn’t eat the worm.”

Anarchaia lifts her eyebrows and laughs. She leans her back to his chest and turns to whisper. “She’s only had one drink. I think they do something to those worms here.” She grabs the side of the bar to steady herself and sip her own drink. “You sure you don’t want one?”

Koltira cocks an eyebrow. “I would, but someone has to stay upright to walk you ladies home.”

“Back already? I knew Argus couldn’t handle you.” Gildwynn casts a smile up at the three, stein in an oily hand. He blinks his bright cyan eyes. “Oh. Who’s the blonde?”

Kel’ori grins wide and reaches a hand out to shake his, but slides from the stool and lands to sit on the floor in front of him. She laughs and holds her hand up again. “Kel’ori Nightheart, good sir. It’s an absolute pleasure to meet you. Please tell me your name is ash cute ash you are.”

The death knight purses his lips at her behavior on the floor. “I’m almost insulted. I’m the only male she hasn’t flirted with.”

Gildwynn jumps as the woman falls in a heap before him. He wipes his hand on an equally oily leather sleeve and shakes hers with a blush. “Gildwynn. I think I’ve seen you around before. I own the engineering shop over on fifth…” He looks up at the other two. “How many had she had?

“One,” Anarchaia chuckles and leans back to smile at him, breath laden with vodka. “Perhaps because she knows you’re way out of her league,” she says quietly in his ear, the back of her head on his shoulder. “Or perhaps because she knows I’ll incinerate her.”

Koltira pulls the mage’s stool closer with the toe of his boot and wraps his arms around her. “I’m not sure about out of her league, but I am sure you’d incinerate her. This mage doesn’t share.”

Anarchaia sets a hand on her hip and straightens. “You’re damn straight I don’t.” She takes a long drink of her bottle and swallows it quickly. “And you certainly are. Don’t degrade yourself.” She turns to run a finger through one of his tresses.

Koltira chuckles. “You stop, first.”

Anarchaia uses the same finger to poke him hard in his cuirass. “Don’t tell me what to do.” She hiccups into the back of a hand.

Kel’ori grins and gives an excited chirp. “I bought rockets there for the New Year! Didn’t see you there, though.” She leans in close to him. “Try the worm. It’s fantastic.”

Gildwynn’s blush darkens and he gives a chuckle. “My apprentice handled the shop that night.” He lifts a pierced brow at the smell of her breath and holds out a hand to help her back to her feet. “If it does to me what it’s clearly done to you, girlie, I’ll pass. I have work in the morning.”

Kel’ori frowns with an exaggerated pout as she gets to her feet, clinging to his hand for support. “Oh, shame. Are you sure? You’re not leaving, are you?”

Gildwynn glances back at his table of friends with a nervous grin, then clears his throat. “I mean, I guess…that’s twelve hours from now, so…” He shrugs and takes up a seat on the other side of Kel’ori’s with little effort.

Kel’ori slips onto her seat, deceivingly gracefully. She leans toward him in a way that emphasizes her cleavage. “So, tell me about your shop.”

“What if I tell you to rescue your friend from Kel’ori?” Koltira chuckles and discreetly points at the two.

Anarchaia leans over just in time to catch Gildwynn glancing at the breasts near his face, then leans back with a laugh. “I don’t think he wants me to!” She gets closer to him with a smile, running her finger down the crease in his breastplate. “Plus, she can’t bother us, then.”

Koltira chuckles in the mage’s ear. “Are you sure? I thought you two were bonding. Becoming girlfriends and all that.” He slips the bottle from her hands and takes a drink, then cringes. “Oh, wow, you’re really getting trashed.”

Anarchaia takes the bottle back and presses it to her chest as though he’ll take it again. “I’m going to drink until I don’t remember the last three days.” She drinks to prove her point, then rips the bottle from her mouth to cover her lips as it threatens to come back up.

Koltira hums in disappointment. “Mmm. So drunk that I fear anything I try would simply be taking advantage of you.”

Anarchaia laughs after gathering herself. “Taking advantage? How are you so certain I wouldn’t enjoy that? In which case would it—hic!—truly be considered taking advantage of?”

Gildwynn swallows, a drop of sweat beading beneath his jaw. He chuckles. “M-my family’s owned it for thirty years. Survived both attacks. My father owned it before me but died in the second attack. So, it’s mine now. Heh.”

Kel’ori gasps loudly. “My dad owns a tavern in Stormwind and he’s had to rebuild something every time the city gets attacked. It’s so nice that you’ve kept it running.”

Gildwynn tilts his head slightly and his ears lazily sway. “A tavern, eh? I’ve been thinking about buyin’ one, but I can barely keep an apprentice and one employee in line let alone an entire staff.” He laughs. “How long have you been a mage? Don’t recall when I first started seeing you around…”

Kel’ori smiles down at the goblin and twirls a finger through her hair. “I’ve been around, though I haven’t been in Dalaran long. I began my studies, I think, eighty years ago?”

“Eighty years? Impressive. You must be a great mage.”

She leans forward to tap his nose. “What about you? Do you do anything besides…tinkering?”

Gildwynn blinks as his nose is poked. He gives a chuckle and sips from his stein. “I’m an inventor, really. It’s more my passion.”

She giggles slowly. “I bet you’re really good with your hands.”

He smooths back his feathered, sandy blond hair. “And I suppose you could say that…”

Kel’ori blushes. “I wouldn’t say I’m great, but I, too, know how to use my hands.” She bites into her bottom lip, eyeing the low level of his drink. “Can I buy your next round?”

Gildwynn’s eyes slide from his drink to the flushed face of the girl before him and a sharp smile spreads across his lips. “Sure, doll. Just skip on the worm, okay?”

Kel’ori laughs and hails the barkeep. “No worm, got it.”

Gildwynn downs the rest of his stein and surrenders it to be refilled when prompted. “So, I take it you’re a friend of Ana’s?”

The blonde girl crosses one leg over the other to lean an elbow against. “I like to think I am. Though, we’re really just together by request of our mentors.” She leans even closer to whisper, “I think she’s starting to like me.”

The lump in the goblin’s throat jerks when he swallows at the closeness. “She’s pretty easy to get along with. Heh. Who’s the big man over you? Milhouse? Modera?”

“Kalec, actually,” Kel’ori says. She sips on the drink she’d abandoned, then pinches her face, remembering why she’d abandoned it in the first place.

Gildwynn lifts his eyebrows. “Oh, the blue-haired guy. Nice fellow. I’ve actually made a few things for him. Ahh…” He snaps his clawed fingers as he thinks. “A vacuum box for preservation…and I’m pretty sure it was him that asked for the paperless journal?”

The blond elf nods. “That all sounds very familiar. Do you get many strange requests? The paperless journal, I mean.” She wets her lips. “It really is genius work.”

Gildwynn’s face turns a dark violet and he chuckles. “Eh. I suppose that depends on what you mean by strange?”

Koltira chuckles and holds the mage in her drunkenness. “M’lady, if you’re too drunk to stand, it is taking advantage.”

Anarchaia leans forward to press her cheek against the neck of his cuirass, nearly spilling her bottle. “I give you direct consent to take advantage of me, then,” she mumbles with a grin and a chuckle. Her smile then slowly fades and she draws figure eights on his chest. “It’s not fair, you know.”

“What’s not fair?”

Anarchaia chews on the inside of her cheek and squeezes her arm through the space between their chests to take a sip. “I don’t deserve such a nice guy, to be honest,” she says into the neck of the bottle. “You apologize, you care about my feelings, you like spending time with me, you don’t boss me around…”

Koltira slips the drink from the mage’s hand and sets it on the bar. “I think you’ve had too much of this, you’re starting to see things completely wrong.”

Anarchaia scowls into his armor and blindly gropes for the bottle without lifting her head to look. “No I’m not. It’s all true. You’re perfectly prettier than me.” She pauses to swallow a hiccup. “You’re talented, smart, funny, protective…” Her voice trails off into silence until finally she sighs. “And you haven’t been unfaithful.”

Koltira blinks. “Have you? Or is this something else?”

Anarchaia looks up at him and scowls. “O’ course not,” she says lazily and pouts. “Can’t you just let me fawn over you?”

Koltira chuckles and lifts the mage, then throws her over a shoulder. “Okay. You’re done. Let’s get a room at the Legerdemain.” He nods at the two and gives Gildwynn a sly wink. “Enjoy, you two.”

The goblin blinks as the two pass, then pulls his ears back and blushes an even darker shade. “U-uh. You too…”

Kel’ori bites her lower lip and giggles. “I would love to enjoy you a little more.” She brushes her fingers through his blond hair.

A dreamy look passes over the goblin’s face and, with pointed teeth, he bites his lips as well. “Perhaps it’s my turn to buy you a drink.” He eyes her half empty glass. “Something you’ll actually like.”

She gives him a sultry look. “I’m not sure a drink is what I’m interested in right now.”

Gildwynn’s ears pull back and he gives a sheepish grin. “R-really? I don’t usually get this far. Heh.” He scratches at the back of his neck. “I…have a place…”

“You can show it to me…if you want,” Kel’ori says, her eyes half-lidded as she looks at him through her eyelashes.

Gildwynn quickly downs the rest of his stein and throws the exact amount of gold on the table—including tip—and hops down from his seat. He lifts a hand and again eyes his friends in the corner staring at him with mouths open. “Sure thing, sweetheart.”

Kel’ori blushes as she follows his gaze to their audience. She bites her lip and takes his hand. “Friends won’t miss you?”

Gildwynn waves his other hand and leads her out into the dimly lit streets. “Fuck ‘em. I see ‘em every day.” Hiding his nervousness, he directs them to the district where his shop sits.

~ * ~

Anarchaia weakly grabs for her bottle as she’s hauled away, but her fingers brush against it and it topples over behind the bar. The bartender scowls but she makes no sign of noticing.

Nooo,” she whines and kicks her legs. “Not drunk enough!”

Koltira chuckles, not accidentally holding her still by her rear. “Any drunker and you’ll pass out before all that advantage-taking I was given permission to do.”

Anarchaia ceases struggling and decides instead to go limp, the world swirling around her. “I wouldn’t pass out…” she mumbles and folds her arms.

Koltira slips his hand dangerously high up her inner thigh and wiggles his fingers. “Still awake back there?” He laughs, carting her into the Legerdemain Lounge, stopping only to get a room for the night.

Anarchaia bites her lip and crosses her legs to lock his fingers there. “Sure am,” she says, then perks as she sees a couple of blonds nearing the staircase. She shoves up from Koltira’s shoulder and smiles, waving. “Taveth!” She reaches for the man’s hand. “Why’s Grim carrying you? Did you get—hic!—hurt again?”

“No,” the demon hunter responds. “He got trashed again.” He lowers a brow. “Like you.”

Taveth holds up a fist as though in victory and gives Anarchaia a tired, sick smile. “Woo-hoo! Ana, we’re trashed! And look! Escort service!” He jerks a thumb at Grimory, then flops his head down to giggle at the demon hunter’s back.

Anarchaia hisses and falls back to claw at Koltira’s armor like a trapped cat. “I didn’t request an escort, though.” She pouts again.

Koltira sticks his tongue in his cheek, resisting his comment. He is unsuccessful as he starts to laugh. “You two off to have the same kinda night as us?”

Grimory shoves past the death knight and rolls his eyes. “Only if your plan is to set her in bed and leave her there.”

Taveth reaches for the mage as they pass, grabbing at her hands. “I’ll save you!”

Koltira purses his lips down at the man’s hands.

Anarchaia clumsily grasps Taveth’s fingers for only a moment before Grimory carries him too far away. She pushes off Koltira’s shoulder again to call up to him. “Taaaav,” she groans. “I gotta ask you somethin’ later. Don’t…let me forget…” She lets herself fall back over the death knight’s shoulder.

Koltira opens the door and drops Anarchaia onto the bed. “Starting to think you’d rather spend the night with him!” He reaches up her robe to find the top of her boot. “At least I wouldn’t have to be jealous.”

Anarchaia grunts as she hits the down-filled mattress. She blinks at him and pouts again. “Not the…the night. I just wanted to ask him something…” Her head falls back into the pillow and she covers her face when the room spins. “Tomorrow…”

Koltira chuckles and lays beside her once her boots are off. “Do I get to know?”

Anarchaia curls up at his side and rests a hand on the front of his armor. “Was gonna ask…about a book.”

Koltira smirks and pulls her closer. “Must be an important book.”

“About babies,” Anarchaia mumbles and presses her face into his neck; his flesh feels icy against her burning cheeks. “And the like. You think he has some?”

Koltira looks the mage in the eyes. “You’re not backing down? Even after Khadgar?”

Anarchaia scowls and shakes her head. “Nn-nn. It’s been twenty years…if he’s not going to promote me I…I may as well just leave anyway.” The thought causes her right eye to sting with tears. “And do what I want…”

Koltira chuckles. “Well, I’ll support you no matter what. You’re a more than capable mage. There’s no reason to remain an apprentice.”

Anarchaia sniffles and pushes closer to him. “Sometimes I wonder.” She peels off her mask to rub at her eye. “What would you do…? If we were successful, I mean…?”

Koltira blinks. “The obvious answer is take care of you. So I’m going to go with the obvious answer.” He smiles and sets a kiss on her nose.

Anarchaia groans and brings her hands up to squish his cheeks with her fingers. “Stop being so perfect,” she whines. “Tell me I’m crazy. Disagree with me. Call me stupid.”

“Uh…” Koltira stares at her, eyes slightly widened. “You’re…crazy… I disagree with you… I’m not calling you stupid.”

Hurt fills Anarchaia’s eye and she pouts again, retracting her hands. “I’m crazy? And you disagree with me?” She covers her face to fake a sob. “So mean!”

Koltira’s eyelids lower. “Should I just say nothing?”

The mage spreads two of her fingers to look up at him and smiles. “I’m only playing with you.” She leans over to kiss his cheek. “But seriously, it’s okay to disagree with me sometimes.” She bites her lip and her grin widens. “Sometimes.

Koltira purses his lips. “Ana, I’m not going to disagree with you when I don’t. You’re asking me to lie to you. What’s so wrong with agreeing all the time? I thought women liked being right!”

Anarchaia taps her lower lip as she thinks. “I suppose there’s—hic!—nothing wrong with being agreeable…” She smiles. “And we do like being right. So you can’t argue with me when I tell you you’re perfect.”

Koltira makes a face and shakes his head. “No such thing as perfect.” He sighs and stares at the ceiling. “I was promised some advantage-taking.”

Anarchaia lifts her brows and leans up on an elbow. She runs a finger up his cuirass and smiles. “I always keep my promises.”

~ * ~

Grimory opens the door to Alisbeth’s room and closes it before Taveth has a chance to respond. He sets the man down and takes off Taveth’s shoes. “You’re gonna regret this tomorrow.”

Taveth flails weakly. “I had to tell Ana that I love her! Lemme go tell Ana I love her, mm-kay? And that I won’t forget she… She has to…smell something.”

Grimory pushes Taveth back down when the man tries to get up. He can’t help chuckling. “You love her, huh? I’m sure Kolt won’t like that.” He pulls the blankets out from beneath him and covers him with it. “And it’s tell. Not smell.”

“Right. Tell. She has to smell a tell, er, tell me a smell tell… Smell me a tell?” He stares up at the ceiling. “D’you think he likes me?”

Grimory lifts his brows at the question. “Koltira? Probably not after you played grabby-hands with the love of his unlife.”

Taveth blushes. “No. Never mind.” He stares at Grimory for a long beat. “Does Alisbeth know how lucky she is?”

Grimory blushes as well, then clears his throat as his brain scrambles to respond. “I-…I’m sure she’d beg to differ, yeah? I mean, she’s had a tough life…”

Taveth shakes his head. “She has you. So luck…y…” He pulls the blanket to his chin and closes his eyes. “Everybody needs a Grimory.”

Grimory furrows his brow down at Taveth’s sleeping figure. He runs a palm over his mouth and turns to leave him there. After locking the door behind him, he returns to Alisbeth on the couch downstairs. “Passed out. Heh.”

Alisbeth smiles and snuggles into the demon hunter, her nose a dark purple from drink. “He’s gonna hate himself tomorrow.”

Grimory chuckles. “That’s what I told him. He didn’t seem to care.” He sips at his drink, still unable to shake Taveth’s words. A sigh passes through his nose. “I miss Diori.”

The death knight frowns. “Me, too. We should ask Tav to bring her back for a day. Just…get away from duty and be a sort of family for a while.”

Grimory cringes at the thought of Illidan finding out of such a plan. “Eh…perhaps we should finish our duties first. Er, my duties…”

Alisbeth scowls. “Yes. Right.”

The demon hunter catches her expression and knits his brow. “I’m sorry. I know you don’t like it, but I have to…”

“Yes,” Alisbeth says simply. “You have to.” She takes a long drink of her cinnamon whiskey.

Grimory’s furrowed brow moves upward at the middle and he frowns. “You…don’t want me to.”

She pats the demon hunter’s cheek. “It’s okay. Diori will be there when we’re done. Right?”

Grimory grits his fangs behind pursed lips and resists another sigh. “Right.” He drinks the remainder of his ale. “We should have gotten Taveth a room. Now where will I sleep?”

Alisbeth gives him a silly grin. “My bed is pretty big.”

Grimory sneers at the thought of crawling into bed with Taveth. “Yeah, I’ll pass.” He traces the length of the handle on his stein with a thumb and looks at nothing in particular. “Do you wanna know what he said to me?”

Alisbeth cocks her head to the side. “Drunken nonsense?”

Grimory pauses as he contemplates divulging. “He said you’re lucky…for having me.”

Alisbeth smiles and sets her cheek to his shoulder. “Do you think I am?”

The demon hunter furrows his brow as she misses the implication. He chews on the question. “No,” he replies simply.

“Good thing your opinion doesn’t matter!” She leans up to kiss his cheek, then cuddle against him. “I don’t deserve you.”

An old voice rings through his head, saying the same four words. His brow knits further as he stares at the floorboards. “That’s not true.” He sets a hand on her knee. “But you’re sweet.” He gives her a halfhearted smile.

Alisbeth shakes her head so her nose goes back and forth on his cheek. “Nu-uh.” She stands abruptly. “Let’s get you a room. Are you tired? You can sleep. I’ll watch over you. Okay?” She digs into her pouch for gold.

Grimory’s eyes widen slightly at the suddenness. “Oh, uh…yeah, actually.” He stands with her and returns the empty cup to the bar. “You don’t have to pay for me…”

She drops her money on the counter. “Too late! One room please!”

Arille looks at her, an eyebrow raised. “Ali, you live here.”

“My cousin is drunk and asleep in my bed and Grim doesn’t want to share the bed with Taveth, even though I could just squish in between them like a divider so they don’t end up cuddling, and then I’d be an Alisbeth sandwich!”

Arille makes a face, then slowly takes the gold and swaps it with the only remaining room key.

Grimory resists a laugh but cannot help snerking as he turns. “I don’t think he’ll ever get used to you.”

Alisbeth frowns up at him. “What do you mean? What’s there to get used to?”

He ruffles her hair and leads her up the stairs. “Nothing negative, I assure you.” he says with a smile, then blushes some at the familiar noises coming from the other side of a door they pass.

Alisbeth bites her lip at the noises and looks up at him. “Giving you inspiration?”

He lifts his eyebrows down at her, then smirks as he unlocks the door to the room they’d rented. “Implying I’m ever uninspired?”

The death knight bites her lip harder and drags him inside by his belt buckle. “I think you’d better show me just how inspired you are, Mister Grim.”

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