Book 5 – Chapter Twenty-Two

Anarchaia sighs and shakes her hands out at her sides as she collects herself. She inhales and lifts a hand, then knocks.

A bright-eyed Kel’ori opens the door, toweling her hair dry. She gives the other mage a calm smile. “Good morning, Ana. What brings you here?”

The other girl returns the smile and tilts her head slightly. “I…was wondering if you were ready to go. Heh.”

Kel’ori purses her lips and frowns. “Oh. Right. That.” She glances into her room and indicates for Anarchaia to come inside. This time the air overhead is clear, and the space is immaculately cleaned as though the floating clothes extravaganza had never happened. She motions at the boots, gloves, and mask on the stool. “Give me a moment to grab a few things. Conjuring from here to there is so…taxing. And I am just exhausted after doing all that. Docra always knows what to do.” She collects several things into a bag that matches her multi-tonal purple robes. She sets it across her shoulders and throws a lavender cloak over herself. She does all this while pointedly not looking down at herself. Once she decides she’s ready—despite her hair remaining wet, unbrushed, and unstyled, and not a single swipe of makeup on her face—she nods. “Let’s get this over with.”

“Oh. I nearly forgot.” Anarchaia turns away to pull her current mask off her head and replace it with the one that matches her new robes. She sits to slide off her boots and replace those as well, followed by her gloves, then sends the old ones away. She stands, sways for a second as she adjusts to the heeled shoes, then sighs at the other’s appearance. “Sorry again about this…” She conjures a hearthstone but hesitates. “I honestly tried.”

Kel’ori shrugs as though she’s accepted her fate. “I’m sure Kalec means well. After all, I didn’t tell him what happened…” She purses her lips for a moment and sighs. “I just can’t tell him. I don’t want that…look.”

Anarchaia frowns. “Kel, he deserves to know…”

Kel’ori’s eyes flare and her lips pinch. “It doesn’t matter. He’ll just pity me and I don’t need pity, okay?” She shoves the other mage out the door and closes them out in the hall, then turns to put up her wards.

Anarchaia frowns and sighs’. She fidgets with her hearthstone. “If he truly cares about you, he won’t pity you. If someone I cared for was…well…I’d want to know. Wouldn’t you?”

Kel’ori spins on the mage, nostrils flaring and lips pursed to a thin, white line. A hundred things to say to Anarchaia zip through her head. Instead she lifts her hand and disappears in a swirl of purple sparkles.

Anarchaia blinks, then sighs when she’s left alone. With a sad shake of her head and a whirl of green glow, she disappears as well.

Kel’ori appears in a green puff and looks around the Vindicaar. She heads down to a lower deck and finds Taveth writing in his journal and eating a strange Argusian breakfast. The mage drops down beside him and plucks up what she assumes is bacon, and crunches down on it. “Mmm, this is the best bacon I’ve ever had.”

“Eh,” Taveth says, finishing a sentence in his book, “I find it to have an odd aftertaste. Take it all, if you like it.”

She smiles and works her starving way through every piece. “I’m going to get me a breakfast. With extra of that… Whatever it is.” She pats his head and goes to where the cook is setting out a fresh batch of the meat.

Alisbeth drops into the seat in front of Taveth, her face sad and her eyes on the table.

“You okay?” he asks.

She doesn’t move or acknowledge.

Grimory, reading an unfurled scroll filled with mission details—and a snarky statement about his unauthorized leave—wanders in after Alisbeth. He glances up from his paper for only a moment, but it’s enough to recognize the head of cascading blond hair near the cafeteria line. He quickly backs out of the room and presses his back to the wall beside the doorway, expression a mixture of apprehension and fear.

Anarchaia wanders the decks until she finds the demon hunter, then frowns as she approaches. “Hey Grim.” Her eyes flick to the familiar party inside and she purses her lips. “Oh. Uh. Have you perhaps seen Koltira? I told him to go ahead of me and I haven’t found where he’s gone.”

Grimory shakes his head and clears his throat. “I’ve only just got here myself, actually. Heh. Sorry.”

“That’s fine. Thank you anyway.” She sets a calming hand on his arm before sauntering into the mess hall as well and waving to the elves at the table. “Good morning.”

Kel’ori sets her tray beside Taveth’s with a little more noise than necessary. “Ana.” She drops down to start in on her questionable maybe-bacon and some oddly colored scrambled eggs.

Taveth smiles at Anarchaia, though gives Kel’ori a sideways glance. “Good morning, Ana. Thank you for the note, by the way. I’d have never made it back here without the warning.” He chuckles. “I was spending time in Stormwind. Oh, and, um, the library doesn’t seem to have the book you’re looking for, that I’ve seen so far. Once I’m done looking in the royal library I can move onto the citadel, if you’re okay with the wait?”

Anarchaia’s face warms and she waves a hand. “O-oh! Heh. Yeah, no hurry.” She wrings her hands and sets herself across from him. “You guys haven’t happened to have seen Kolt, no? Granted I haven’t looked very hard, but it’s easier with help…” She avoids Kel’ori’s eye and looks across at the forlorn Alisbeth but ’doesn’t address her demeanor.

Alisbeth sighs at the table. “Probably got caught talking to Thass. He does that, you know.”

Kel’ori makes a face. “What’s got you so mopey?”

The death knight blatantly turns her head away in a dramatic display as she looks at the mage beside her. “Did you have a good vacation? I didn’t. I’m sure you did, because…I’m sure.”

Kel’ori frowns and instead gives her meal her undivided attention.

Anarchaia’s brow furrows and she frowns beneath her mask. “What makes you so sure about that?”

“You got new robes. Special occasion?” Taveth asks the mage after Alisbeth shrugs and doesn’t respond.

Grimory sighs, clenching the mission statement in his fingers and finding he can’t bring himself to face the others. He runs a hand over his hair and trudges his way upstairs to wait near the teleportation platform.

Koltira finds Grimory on the upper deck and nods a hello. “You seen Ana around? You’d think her robes would stand out to me by now.”

Grimory returns the nod. “Oh, uh, yeah, actually. Mess hall with everyone else.” He pauses, the most recent interaction with her playing in his mind. “Recognizing her robes wouldn’t do you any good anyway. I think she’s wearing something else.”

Koltira cocks an eyebrow. “You think? I’m, uh, going to go get them. Get this shit over with, right? You coming?”

A pang of panic strikes Grimory in the chest and he looks away and merely shakes his head, saying nothing.

Anarchaia gives a quiet chuckle to Taveth and abandons trying to squeeze conversation from Alisbeth. “Kel’ori made them for me, as it happens. Aren’t they pretty? Enchanted and everything.”

“Enchanted for what? I didn’t know Kel could enchant.” Taveth regards his sister with a small smile.

“Docra did it after she drugged me.”

The elf blinks in rapid succession. “Who? Why? I… I’m missing a whole thing here, aren’t I?”

Anarchaia laughs again. “Just a friend. Nice lady. And, don’t tell the other apprentices, but I use fire dampening enchantments on my robes. It makes my spells less…volatile.”

Kel’ori laughs as though she hadn’t recently been upset with the other mage. “Do you realize how angry they’d be? I’ve never met anyone that has to hamper their own magic.” She holds out a piece of maybe-bacon to Anarchaia. “You should try this.”

Koltira nods at the demon hunter. “I understand.” He heads downstairs to meet with the others. He pauses to take in the new blue robes, then drops down beside Anarchaia. “This is an interesting change. I approve. However, I’m also here to see if you guys are ready to get going.”

“It’s not something to be proud of. Heh.” Anarchaia gives Alisbeth a nervous sideways glance as she shakes her head and waves a polite hand at the offering. “I had a big breakfast. Heh.” She perks at the sound of Koltira’s voice and turns to smile. “You approve, you say? That’s good, otherwise I’d be forced to use them as dishrags, instead.” She chuckles, then looks at Kel’ori. “I’m… joking of course.”

Koltira chuckles. “Are you guys ready to get going? Grim is waiting for us upstairs.”

Kel’ori pauses in her chewing and frowns, then sets down her fork, deciding she’s no longer hungry. “I… Sure. Why not.”

Alisbeth jerks to her feet and takes off up the stairs.

Anarchaia stands and stretches her arms above her head. “I suppose. Let’s go do our part.” She gives Kel’ori a sad smile. “You can always bring your strange meat with you.”

Kel’ori stands abruptly. “I’m done. You can stop telling me what to do, now.” In a swirl of purple, she disappears.

Taveth purses his lips. “She seems…moody. Have you actually been trying to tell her what to do?”

“I think the more important question is: do you think she went down to the hovel or back to Dalaran?” Koltira says.

Anarchaia blinks, taken aback. “I…suggested she do something earlier. Didn’t command.” She sighs. “I’d be impressed if she could teleport thousands of miles through space. And if she did return to Dalaran, she’s now Kalec’s problem.” She turns for the doorway, new boots tapping quietly on the metal floor.

Koltira catches up with the mage and pulls her into a sideways hug. “I wonder if maybe she should also be watched, but not forced into anything. I…can’t imagine what it must be like for her. And Kalec really said she had to return?”

Anarchaia nods to a large, grey Draenei man in the hall as they pass. “She…didn’t tell him. I told her she should because he deserves to know. She wasn’t thrilled about the notion. Or with me.” She snakes her arm around his waist as well, then scrunches her face at the memory of Kalecgos’ smug grin. “That man is impossible.”

“Oh, now you have to tell me everything,” Koltira says.

The mage scowls and clenches her fist at her side as they reach the corridor at the end of the hallway. “I tried my best to make him let Kel’ori stay behind—I gave him all my best logic without actually telling him what had happened. I tried to get him to give her a better grade on her work, but the second I said something offensive he shut down and sent a letter to Master.” She frowns. “Who almost expelled me.”

Koltira frowns. “You offended a superior and you’re surprised by his reaction? What did you even say?”

“I told him that a teacher who cares about his apprentice would take into account her feelings.” She stops at the staircase and decides to wait for Taveth. “And I’m right! I still am.” She folds her arms and scowls more. “No amount of forced groveling will change that.”

Taveth scrambles to put his things away, then picks up both trays to take to the rubbish bins. He keeps his eyes on the retreating pair as he goes.

Eophen gives a quiet noise of surprise as he turns into the mess hall only to bump into the rushing scholar. He quickly reacts, grabbing Taveth’s leather vest before he can fall. “Ah,” the Draenei says with a smile. “My apologies. I should really watch where I am going.”

Taveth’s hands automatically clamp onto the large one at his chest to help steady himself. A small blush colors his ears as his cheeks warm. “Oh. Heh. Eophen. H-hi. How are you?” He grows self-conscious and releases the man’s hand, then clears his throat.

Eophen releases Taveth at the same moment and folds his arms over his dirty leather apron, blushing some as well. “I am well. Glad to see you are still here, actually. How are your studies coming? Learning a lot, one imagines.”

Taveth shakes his head. “Actually, we just got back. We, um, took a small leave from Argus. My sister…had a…small accident. Well, not small.” Not an accident, either. “How have you been?”

Eophen genuinely frowns. “Oh. The pretty blond elf, yes. I am sorry to hear. Is she doing well, now?”

Taveth shrugs slowly. “She’s in one piece. Heh. I’m sorry you missed her. Maybe you can catch her next time she’s on board.” He fidgets and stares at the floor, feeling foolish.

Eophen blinks and knits his brow ever so slightly. “Eh. Yeah. I suppose.” He chews on the inside of his cheek, then gives Taveth an encouraging pat on the shoulder before walking around him and toward the cafeteria line. “Until next time, Taveth.”

Taveth’s ears droop and he turns. “She’s, eh, still single. Heh.” He turns his back to the draenei and cringes at himself.

Eophen gives a chuckle he cannot restrain. “I will keep that in mind, friend,” he says without turning. He waves. “Be well.”

Koltira chuckles at the mage. “Well, no wonder he shut down. You brought into question how much he cares about her. If someone did the same to me about you, I’d punch them in the mouth.” He leans against the wall and takes her hands with a sigh. “He has no reason to think she’s in danger or that something is wrong…unless she opens up to him. And bullying her into it probably won’t work. If I told you to do something you didn’t want to do, would you do it? I’ll answer that for you: no, you wouldn’t. You’d…probably do the opposite just to spite me,” he says on a laugh.

Anarchaia purses her lips. “I didn’t bully her. I simply said that if I were Kalec, I’d want to know. If he’d actually gotten to me, how would you feel if I never told you?” She frowns. “And if it were important, I’d most definitely do something I don’t want to do…for you.”

“And what if she’s not ready to talk about it? Does your opinion negate her feelings?” Koltira eyes the elf still in the mess hall and sighs impatiently.

Anarchaia sobers and deflates like a scolded child. “No…”

Koltira smiles kindly at the mage. “You can’t know how you’d react unless it happens to you. Just let her handle things at her own pace, right?” He scoffs at the immobile elf blushing and looking perturbed in the middle of the mess hall. “Taveth! We’re on the clock, let’s move!”

Taveth glances behind him at Eophen, then blushes harder and runs to the other two. “Sorry,” he mumbles.

“That’s fine,” Anarchaia says with a smile and opens a portal to the hovel. “He’s cute. New friend of yours?” She elbows the elf in the side and winks though he cannot see.

“Friend of Grim’s,” Taveth says, then steps through the portal.

Anarchaia blinks after him, then gives a shrug to Koltira before following the high elf through.

~ * ~

Alisbeth dives at the demon hunter.

Grimory chuckles and stumbles a little at the impact. “Hi again. All set?”

She smiles up at him. “I have everything I need right here.”

Grimory can’t help smiling. He pushes her hair from her face. “Me, too. Shall we go on without them?”

Alisbeth nods excitedly. “Just us. We don’t need the others, right? Less people for either of us to hurt, or to hurt us. They don’t want me around anyway. Come on!” She pulls him gently toward the beacon.

Grimory nods, follows her into the portal, and the two disappear in brilliant flashes of light.

Kel’ori notices the two come out of the portal and freezes, her hands clenched in panic. The demon hunter immediately notices her and spins on his heel to stride to the opposite end of the camp, pulling Alisbeth with him. He takes up a spot near the cliffside and sits to wait for the others.

Alisbeth looks out over the valley below through the opening in the side of the cliff. “So many things to kill. So little—” She gasps and scrambles over the boulders and down to the jagged, tiered cliffs overlooking the Xenedar’s crash site.

Grimory perks, then stands to follow. He slides down the rocky outcrop a few yards behind, kicking up arid dust and pebbles. “Ali, where are you going? Slow down.”

Alisbeth drops into the middle of an outcropping and stoops to pick up a dirty red ribbon tied to a rope caught on a rock. “Squeaker.” She frowns at Grimory. “We have to find him!” She looks around at all the little grey and green rodents and gives a cry of defeat as she throws herself to the ground. “I don’t know which one he is!” She covers her face and cries into her palms.

The demon hunter frowns and looks about, then kneels to grab her gently by the arms. “Hey, no no. Don’t cry, yeah? We’ll find him. Just…eh…” His slit pupils flick from creature to creature and he sighs. “Does it have to be that exact one?” He takes the ribbon from her.

Alisbeth peeks out at the demon hunter from between her fingers. “The others won’t like me!”

Grimory stuffs the ribbon into his pack. “Then wander around until you find the one that doesn’t run from you?”

Alisbeth stands and clenches her jaw at him. “You don’t care. Give me my ribbon.” She wipes at her eyes and nose, her gaze on her shaking palm.

Grimory pulls his ears back but does not scowl. A slight, forlorn frown on his lips, he silently hands over the ribbon.

Alisbeth spools the rope and rushes to the nearest pack of the critters. “Skitterbug!” As she reaches them, they scatter and run around in fear. She runs toward another. “Snuffleupagus?” She covers her face and holds back a sob as it runs away as well.

Grimory furrows his brow upward and sets himself on a flat rock to wait. He jerks as something brushes his hand, then chuckles at the marsuul doing its best to squirm beneath his arm and into the pocket of his pack where his rations are stored. He scruffs it gently and places it in his lap, then sits to watch Alisbeth search through the others.

In a fit of anger, Alisbeth throws the rope and drops to the ground. She buries her face in her hands and cries quietly.

Grimory sighs and stands, the loose skin around the animal’s neck still gently held in his fingers. He strides over to Alisbeth, then dangles the rodent before her covered face. “Hey.”

Alisbeth uncovers her eyes and looks at the marsuul. She sniffs and reaches up to puke a dot on its forehead that the others don’t have. “Snuggles! You found him!” She jumps up to grip the demon hunter tightly in her arms. “What would I do without you, Grim?”

Grimory gives a tentative smile and rubs her shoulder with a palm. “Not have pets, I guess. Let’s get going, yeah? The others are waiting.” He takes her in his arms and spreads his wings to fly them up the hillside and back into the hovel where he sets the two back down. “Don’t lose him this time, okay?”

~ * ~

Taveth finds Kel’ori stuffed behind an outcropping. “What are you doing there?”

“Hmm? Me? Nothing. I— Nothing. Are we ready to go?” She stands and dusts herself off, her eyes wildly scanning for the demon hunter. She relaxes when he’s nowhere to be found.

Anarchaia spins in her spot, looking around the camp. “We need to find either Turalyon or Illidan, one would assume. If only at least one of them would remain on the ship…”

Kel’ori shifts slightly. “Turalyon is in the cave, talking to the diamond dwarf.”

Taveth raises his eyebrows. “Magni? Oh. I— Excuse me.” He rushes to the cave digging for his book and pen.

Anarchaia perks as well and jogs after Taveth, nearly tripping when her heel catches in the dirt. Her parchment and quill follow. “Wait for me!”

Koltira rolls his eyes at Kel’ori and they both find comfortable-looking boulders to sit on.

“Magni! It’s been a while, hello,” Taveth says, smiling. “What brings you to Argus?”

Magni Bronzebeard glances up from his conversation with sparkling, prismatic eyes, then regards the elf with a grin. “Well if it ain’t the lad from the royal library. Afraid I didn’t catch yer name, boy.” He holds out a hand.

Anarchaia stumbles into Taveth’s back as he stops, then scrambles away and smiles embarrassedly. Her eyes light up. “You’ve met? And you didn’t tell me?!”

“Heh. Taveth…again…” He shifts, hoping the reminder isn’t rude. He gives Anarchaia a tentative smile. “I…needed a book from the Iron Forge royal library… Several times… Heh.”

Magni scratches at his beard and it makes a noise that causes Anarchaia to cringe. “Ye’ll have to forgive me, boy. Seen a lot o’ blond elves in my day. Hard to keep a name to a face.”

The mage clears her throat. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I’ve heard that you can speak or have spoken to Azeroth’s heart. Is that true? What does it sound like?” Her quill begins scribbling despite his lack of immediate answer.

Magni purses his lips. “Aye,” he merely says. “As much as I love divulging in my adventures and research, I’m inclined to think there’s more suitable settings.”

Anarchaia pauses. “O-oh! Of course. How…rude of me. Heh.”

Taveth nods absently as he draws out the dwarf, including little sparkles and notes about his diamond form. “It’s quite all right. Varian just grunted at me when I requested access. Never a word, just a nod and a grunt. Always busy. Heh. Great man.” He pauses, staring at a blank spot on the page. “Is it strange to miss someone you never actually knew?” he muses. He closes his one journal and trades it for another, where he begins scribbling about the late king.

Anarchaia sets a hand on his shoulder. “Of course not. When I listen to Master’s recounts of Medivh, I miss him too. And he’s been dead since before I moved to Dalaran. Heh. Maybe I just feel badly for Master.”

Turalyon smiles down at the mage with the now familiar voice. “Speaking of Khadgar, how’s he been this last week or so? He kind of disappeared.”

“Oh. He’s…fine.” Anarchaia swallows and frowns. “Busy. Uhm. Where do you intend to send us today?”

Turalyon lifts a brow at her short response but smiles all the same. “We’ve pushed our battalion to Destiny Point. You’ll travel there and aid the forces and footholds we’ve established there.”

Taveth changes books again and writes in their new assignment. “Thank you. We’ll head that way.” He heads out of the cave to deliver the orders to Alisbeth and Grimory, assuming Anarchaia will tell the other two. “Destiny Point.”

“What if I want to have pets?” Alisbeth asks quietly, her eyes trained on his.

Grimory smiles and messes her hair. “Then I suggest you keep track of them, yeah?” Kel’ori’s presence burns at his back and he shifts uncomfortably, muscles aching from the stiffness.

The death knight purses her lips. “But I want you to help me keep track of them.” She takes the marsuul into her arms and rubs her cheek along the coarse hair on its neck as she stares up at Grimory. “Spartan and I need you, okay?”

Grimory purses his lips. “Not really wanting more children…” He smiles and scratches the marsuul on the tummy; it kicks and nips at his fingers. “But okay.” He nods to Taveth but otherwise says nothing to the man.

Alisbeth’s beams happily up at the demon hunter. “Okay.”

Taveth cocks an eyebrow. I…missed something… “Looks like the others are heading out. Come on.” He turns to join the other three.

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