Book 5 – Chapter Twenty-Four

Anarchaia watches the two at the far end of their group and sips her water. She clears her throat. “Anyone have any plans after we’re done here? Heh.”

Kel’ori sighs. “Graduate.”

Taveth chuckles. “Go where I’m sent?”

Koltira smirks and leans close to the mage to whisper. “Take you home.”

Anarchaia bites her lip at the death knight beside her. “What a gentleman.” She casts a solemn glance to Kel’ori. “I’m sorry about the grades thing. I’ll do my best to catch up on my work so that can happen for you.” She frowns. “Though…I doubt the same could be said for me.”

Kel’ori nods. “It’s okay. I’m sure I can do some extra credit work.”

Taveth leans in on the mage’s other side. “If only you had someone with vast amounts of time and intellectual resources who could help you with that work.”

Anarchaia shakes her head. “No, I’ll finish. I mean I’ll not be the one graduating.” She looks at Taveth and lifts her eyebrows. “Are you insinuating that you’ll help me with research? Or possibly…” She lowers her voice. “…cheat?

Taveth sits upright and stares at her with forced indignance. “Cheating?” he hisses. “Well, I never! What sort of elf do you think I am?”

Anarchaia blinks then smirks. “A generous, kind, super intelligent one?”

Taveth sets a haughty palm to his chest. “It will take a lot more than compliments to win me over, madam.”

Koltira chuckles and leans to whisper in Anarchaia’s ear. “Naked Grimory illusions?”

Anarchaia places her fingertips over her lips in an attempt to stifle her laugh. She gives Taveth an inquisitive grin. “Oh? Like what? There’s very little I can’t get my hands on…”

Taveth chuckles. “Not much I can’t get, either,” he says quietly. “I’m sure you’re brilliant enough to think of something.”

Anarchaia scrunches her face. “Not sure I have enough to give that’s proportional to the amount of work I need to do.” She chuckles. “But I’ll draw up a list and you can help if you want. Heh.”

Taveth shrugs. “I trust you to make the right choices.”

Kel’ori huffs and throws the barely nibbled apple, then stands and dusts herself off. “I’m continuing, okay? You don’t have to come with me, but I’m getting to that place and I’m going to see if they have real food that wasn’t stolen from yesterday’s garbage.” She stomps off, her jaw locked in determination.

Anarchaia perks, then scowls and stands. “It was an apple. From a tree.” She waits for Taveth to stand and sends away both the chair and the table. “She’s so hot and cold,” she mutters, following.

Grimory notices the others leaving and takes Alisbeth’s hand to follow.

Alisbeth stands and stumbles to Grimory’s side, her hand gripped in his and her arm still wrapped around the marsuul. “He just eats cakes and meat, right? We have that on Azeroth.”

Grimory ponders for a second. “The environment is a tad different, yeah? But…worth a try. If you’re that set on bringing him with.”

Snuffles chews on Alisbeth’s armguard.

Alisbeth pulls on the crests on the marsuul’s neck. “No! That’s metal, that’ll hurt your teefies! Grim, do you have any meat rations? I bet he’s just hungry.”

Grimory nods and pulls a strip of dried meat from the pack at his hip. He tears it into smaller pieces and hands one over to the rodent. It happily accepts and the meat is gone in seconds. The demon hunter hands Alisbeth the remaining pieces to feed it herself.

Taveth nods. “She’s been very moody today… Though I can’t say I much blame her.”

“I’m not sure what’s worse. Her complaining and moodiness, or his complete lack of…anything Grim,” Koltira says.

Anarchaia frowns and pulls her mask back down. “I don’t particularly blame her, either.” She sighs and leans her shoulder on Koltira’s arm as they walk. <<I may be biased, but I’m starting to feel worse for Grim. At least Kel’ori gets all the coddling she needs. Grim gets…being called a monster and forced to hold your hand.>>

Koltira’s mouth drops open. “Excuse me, but did you just put holding my hand on the same level as being called a monster?”

Anarchaia flinches and looks up at him. “N-no! I’m saying that for him it may be!”

Kel’ori looks behind her, half afraid the others didn’t follow. She stops and her mouth drops open as she sees Alisbeth feeding the critter. “Perfectly good meat…to a smelly Argus rat.” Her mouth waters and her stomach groans, reminding her of her unsatisfying snacks. She turns back around and continues trudging forward through the canyon.

Taveth cringes. “I will feel bad about controlling him for pretty much the rest of my life, thank you. I shouldn’t have done it.”

Anarchaia throws her hands up and scoffs in frustration, then stomps on ahead to follow Kel’ori. “Guess I’m just a huge bitch, then,” she grumbles to herself.

~ * ~

After another hour or so the party comes to a barricade where demons stand at the base of the sharp incline, hitting walls of light with weapons and blasting them with spells. The group steps within the area to find bustling Draenei and adventurers procuring supplies and repairing barricades.

Grimory stops a well adorned paladin. “Hey. We’re here to assist—”

“Oh, thank Light,” the woman says. “We have yet to send a team to sanctify the fallen in the surrounding grounds and gather the missing parts to construct more warframes.” She grabs the demon hunter by the arm and directs him toward the path leading down the steep hill. “Go!”

Grimory purses his lips and knits his brow but allows her to push him. “Right.”

The paladin pushes a crystalline pendant into his palm before releasing him. “Just use this on any fallen soldiers you see! Good luck, you lot!”

Koltira blinks as the woman bustles away. “She seems…determined.”

Another Draenei beckons the group over. “Travelers!” he says. “I imagine you have all been aboard the Vindicaar, yes? You’ve spoken with Romuul?”

Anarchaia nods. “We have. Why?”

“Great! Would you mind helping us place a beacon here? None of our homing devices made the trip down here.”

Anarchaia looks at Grimory who tiredly steps forward and pulls a small device from his pack. He hands it over to the Draenei man who instructs the engineer of the coordinates. Not long after, a beam of light pierces the sky and a teleportation pad crashes into the earth at its base. It unfurls like a blooming flower and hums with energy.

Kel’ori rushes eagerly to the pad. “I’ll be right back. I’m just going to get some lunch.” She disappears in a flash of light.

The draenei smiles at those remaining. “Thank you, friends. Now High Exarch Turalyon, Prophet Velen, and Illidan may join us here. Eh, you wouldn’t mind relaying the message, would you?”

Taveth smiles kindly. “Actually, I would be happy to. I could use a small bite of food myself.” He looks to the other three. “I’ll try to be fast.” He steps into the beacon and is soon gone.

Koltira scowls. “Downsides to traveling with the living.”

Grimory purses his lips at the death knight and sighs. I’m pretty hungry as well…but I can’t bring myself to be in the same room as her. Even if Taveth is there.

Anarchaia opens two portals: one back to the hovel and another to the Vindicaar. “I’ll grab the High Exarch if someone else wants to get Illidan and Velen.” She frowns at Grimory. “Aren’t you hungry? I didn’t see you eat this morning…”

The demon hunter sighs. “No, Greatmother Ana, I’m fine. Thank you for your concern but I’m pretty capable of taking care of myself.”

Alisbeth frowns at the demon hunter. “Come on. Let’s go eat! I bet Spatula would love more food.” She puckers her lips and speaks incomprehensible phrases of praise to the marsuul as she scratches under its chin.

Taveth finds Illidan and Velen by the console and informs each that the beacon has been placed. The Prophet thanks the man with a familiar smile and a kind pat on the shoulder; Illidan merely grunts and turns to select his destination on the map before disappearing. The elf decides to stop in the cafeteria to get something for the road, but stops when he sees Kel’ori weeping over a steak as she halfheartedly tries to cut it. He stands over her and gives the meat an odd look. “Something wrong with your steak?”

“Yes,” she whines, “it’s not bacon.”

“Are they out?”

“It’s only served at breakfast. No exceptions.” She gets a piece free and slowly puts it in her mouth. She begins chewing, tears still streaming from her eyes. “This isn’t too bad.”

Taveth sighs. “I’ll be right back. I’m going to get myself something.”

Grimory fidgets. “I’m…sure we could find something for him while we’re out.”

The creature gives a purr of approval at the chin scratches, then scratches and bites playfully at Grimory’s finger when he tries to do the same.

The demon hunter flinches as the beacon hums to life and Velen gracefully steps off, followed by Illidan. Grimory immediately pulls his finger away from the marsuul and straightens. The demon lord regards him with a scoff and merely continues on down the incline to speak with the head of the head of the blockade.

A minute or so later both Anarchaia and Turalyon step through the portal she’d made. The High Exarch gives her a smile accompanied by a pat on the back and a word of gratitude. He sweeps his hair from an eye to notice Velen and goes to him.

The mage flushes and chuckles embarrassedly before sighing and resting on a heel. “Guess we wait for those two.”

Alisbeth scowls. “No, we don’t wait.” She shoves the marsuul at Grimory and stomps through the portal to the Vindicar just as it closes. She ignores her cousins and goes for the counter where all the meat is being displayed. “Give me one of each.”

The draenei laughs. “Never had the pleasure of serving one of your kind. Do you even eat?” He collects all the items onto a tray.

“We don’t. Because we’re dead. Can I get that in a…portable option?”

He wraps the items individually in napkins and places them in a small sack. Alisbeth pays and stomps past her cousins again.

Taveth eyes the death knight. “Well, now everyone’s moody. Are you nearly finished?” He eyes Kel’ori’s half steak.

She gives him an innocent look over her stuffed cheeks. When she speaks it comes out as muffled nonsense.

Taveth cringes. “Yeah, I thought so. I’m going to head back and chat with Velen a little.” He picks up his own sack of travel-worthy food. “I recommend you get something you can put in your pack. You’re awful when you’re hungry.”

She makes a rude gesture as he heads back up to the main deck.

Alisbeth reappears at Destiny Point, screaming and clutching the bag. After a moment to catch her breath, she stomps over to Grimory and shoves the bag at him while taking Snuffles back into her own arms. “Quit being a stubborn asshole,” she says through teeth grit in pain.

Grimory blinks as the sack is shoved into his arms, then scowls. “I said I was fine, yeah? That wasn’t necessary. This won’t all fit in my pack.” He pauses to reflect on his tone. “But I’m grateful nonetheless. Thank you, Ali.”

Anarchaia purses her lips at the confrontation in front of her and steps forward to rest a hand on Alisbeth’s shoulder. “Uh, Ali? Could I speak with you for a second? Alone? Heh.”

Alisbeth frowns, his thanks and Anarchaia’s request falling on deaf ears. “I just want you to be happy again.” A tear rolls from one eye as she sets the marsuul on the ground and runs to the other end of the camp.

Koltira cringes. “Uh, go ahead, Ana. I’ll wait here for the others.”

Taveth appears, nibbling on a strange vegetable. His brow furrows. “Aww, what now?”

“Nothing,” the undead mage sighs to Taveth and runs after Alisbeth, careful not to trip over divots in the soil. “Ali, wait!”

Grimory merely sighs and finds the nearest rock to sit on. He sets the pack of meat down and Snuffles honors its namesake by nosing the creases. The demon hunter hunches over to place his face in his hands. Me, too.

Koltira stands over the demon hunter and sighs. “Just let her take care of you. She likes it…and you seem to need it—the attention, I mean.”

Kel’ori appears a few moments later and sways. Her face falls and she closes her eyes as she teeters.

Taveth puts himself under her arm so she doesn’t stumble or fall. “You okay?”

“Oh, wow, you were right. That made me so dizzy. Probably ate a little too much.” She giggles a little.

Grimory shoots the death knight a glare. “I’ll be the judge of what I need and don’t, thanks.” He pushes his face back into his hands. “I can take care of myself,” he repeats quietly.

Alisbeth stops and lets the mage reach her. “What am I doing wrong?” she demands.

Anarchaia sighs and sets a hand on her shoulder again as she nears. “Nothing, Ali. He’s just…very stubborn.” She frowns. “And… Kolt and I—well…I am worried he may do…something…stupid. So, we just need to give him what he needs right now, okay? Whether it be space or compassion or just a hug.” She pauses. “And maybe lay off on the insults a tad…”

Alisbeth wipes at her cheeks and sets her jaw stubbornly. “He’s being an asshole. He wants space? Fine. I’ll stay on this side and he can stay over there, and I won’t talk to him ever again.” She folds her arms and turns her back to the mage.

Koltira glares right back. “Maybe it’s not actually about if you can take care of yourself or not.” He turns and strides away. Selfish bastard.

Kel’ori straightens. “Thanks for catching me, Tav.” She looks around and grimaces. “Why so much drama?

Taveth’s brow lowers. “Oh, please. You’re the worst with the drama.”

“Oh, so this is about Alisbeth,” Grimory snaps, looking back up. “Because she’s suffering so much from a bit of attitude. A bit of space.” He scowls and turns back away. “Right. I’m a monster.”

Anarchaia’s eyes widen slightly and she lifts her hands. “No! That’s the opposite of what he needs. He just…” She sighs. “Look, Ali. I’ve heard rumors that when demons die here, they die for good. You wouldn’t want Grim to…do something to himself, would you?”

Alisbeth scoffs. “It doesn’t matter what I want. I should just go back to Dalaran.” She turns around, a look on her face as though she’s just had an epiphany. “That’s what I’m going to do! Thanks, Ariba. You’re so helpful!” She hugs the mage and strides for the beacon with a wistful smile.

Anarchaia blinks, then chases after her frantically. “Ali, wait! That’s not going to help!” She stumbles on a heel and hisses. “He still needs your support!”

Alisbeth spins, her smile gone. “He doesn’t need it. He doesn’t want it. He doesn’t want me.” Her tears renew and she continues to the beacon.

Taveth looks around helplessly. “Guys, come on! An entire planet is in jeopardy and you’re squabbling over kindness!” He throws his hands up in the air. “You know what. I’ll continue. I care about the planet we happen to live on!”

Kel’ori scampers after him as he stomps past Alisbeth. “I-I care, too! I’ll help keep you safe.”

Koltira rolls his eyes skyward. “Gods help me, that tiny bastard is going to get himself killed.” He casts Grimory one last look of pity and strides away. “Wait for me. I’ll make sure you idiots don’t die.”

Anarchaia grits her teeth and glares after Taveth. “Ali, this isn’t about you. Or me. And I assure you he does. When has he ever been obvious about what he wants?” She narrows her eyes. “…outside the bedroom.”

Grimory sighs and stands to follow when the others are a considerable distance away, bag of meat in hand. Snuffles bounds after, leaping at the sack when it’s close enough to do so.

Alisbeth purses her lips. “I know when I’m not wanted. You think I don’t notice how you look at me? I don’t need to see your face to know you’re doing it. He has the same look in his eyes when I try to do something for him.” She turns away, then turns back. “He already asked me to…” She falls into hysterical sobbing and covers her face with her hands.

Anarchaia knits her brow and squares her shoulders. “Ali, I don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re my friend. You think I’d go through all the trouble it takes to keep you safe in Dalaran? To pay for a private room just for you?” She immediately grabs her by the shoulders when the death knight begins sobbing. “He asked you to what?” she asks quietly after a second, almost afraid of the answer.

“I won’t do it,” Alisbeth says, wiping her eyes. “I don’t care what Spinewing does to me, I won’t…” She throws herself on the mage to cry on her shoulder. “He’s strong enough to resist, right?”

Anarchaia bites her lip and furrows her brow. “He really asked that of you?” She scowls as she rubs Alisbeth’s back with a palm. “It’s okay. It won’t come to that with Taveth around. And if it does, Kolt or I will handle it. Okay?” She slowly steers her toward the path to follow the others.

Alisbeth nods and sniffs. “I’m sorry I tried to kill you.”

Anarchaia sobers and sighs. “It’s…fine. Let’s catch up with the others.”

Taveth smiles up at Koltira. “Thanks for joining us.”

“You’re my friends, I’m not going to let you do something stupid.”

Snuffles leaps at the bag again and Grimory, annoyed, plucks the critter from the air and sets it on his shoulder.

Taveth turns back to smile at the demon hunter, silently happy to see him joining them, even though his disposition hasn’t changed.

Grimory catches the smile but looks away to busy himself with an advancing felhound. It cries out as it’s set aflame and runs only a few feet before collapsing, burning.

Taveth stops and stares into a small area. Just inside is a piece of the machine—past a few eredari, two dogs, and a nathrazim banelord, leaving purple smoke in his wake as he paces, stretching his green wings. “Well…inconvenient.”

Koltira cracks his knuckles. “I got this.” He runs to the center of the area, shouting to draw attention. As the demons near, he sends out purple tendrils to drag them all to him and into the red ring he’s thrown onto the ground beneath himself.

Grimory follows, claws at the ready but less fervor in his tired eyes. He catches one of the spellcasters as she’s pulled through the air, lifting a clawed hand to disembowel her before she can reach Koltira’s ring of decay. He squints against the blood that sprays him in the face and the marsuul immediately sets to work cleaning his cheek with its tongue.

Tears still covering her face, Alisbeth runs into the group of demons and starts hitting them recklessly, swinging her axe through the air.

Taveth runs past and grabs the requested part. He grunts and carries it back. “We can’t carry these around. Too big and too heavy. Ana, could you send it back up to Destiny Point?”

Kel’ori scoffs. “I exist, too, you know.”

“Did you want to—”

“Nope. You already asked Ana.” She spreads her fingers to build an arcane blast between them, but a ball of orange sparks flickers in the air between them instead. She growls and shakes out her hands to try again, but the sparks return. She shakes her head and throws the ball anyway, but it pops and hisses, then fizzles out just before reaching the demons.

Koltira, distracted by the little orange ball, doesn’t see the flat of the Maw careening toward his face. He grunts loudly and falls to the ground, a hand on his cheek. Alisbeth pauses to stare at him, then returns to beating the demons as though they’d personally done her harm.

Grimory dodges a blast of fel fire from one of the demons and retaliates with a sigil of flame beneath the thick of the group. It explodes and the felhounds left over from Alisbeth’s attacks yelp and run off. He turns and a second ball of fel fire drills him in the side. He growls and throws up a shield of magic warding before the third can reach him.

Anarchaia nods to Taveth and sends the item back to camp, secretly rolling her eyes at Kel’ori. She steps toward the action just in time to see Koltira fall and jerks in surprise before running over, ducking beneath a ball of fire. “Are you all right?! Ali, watch where you’re swinging!”

Alisbeth kicks the nearest dog as hard as she can, caving in the ribs on one side as it cries out. She purses her lips at the mage. “It was an accident.”

“It’s fine,” Koltira says, looking at the destruction as the last demon falls. He releases his cheek to look at the blood on his glove. “Just a small scratch.”

Anarchaia helps him up the best her meager muscles can and scowls beneath her mask. “Accidents are caused by negligence. I’m sure she’d be distraught if it’d been Grim she hit.” She conjures a damp rag to push against his cheek.

Grimory kicks at the head of the final spellcaster as she weakly reaches for his boot and she falls limp. He sighs at the lack of satisfaction and wanders over to a fallen soldier. He pulls the crystal pendant from his pouch and light from it showers the corpse before a spectral visage lifts from the body and into the sky.

Koltira shakes his head as he holds the cloth over his cheek. “It’s fine. Really.”

Kel’ori stubbornly continues trying to get a spell to work, but only comes up with orange sparks. She frowns and drops her hands. “Ever hear of a mage being too sad to use magic?” she asks Anarchaia with a frown.

Anarchaia purses her lips up at him. “Shush and let me take care of you.” She turns to Kel’ori as though startled by her presence. She gives a comforting smile. “Yes, actually. Maybe just think of something that makes you really happy?” Her smile broadens. “Maybe Master Kalec? Or even Gil?”

Kel’ori blushes. “Oh, heh. I suppose I can try that.” She holds out her hands and keeps trying to get the sparks to ignite into an arcane blast.

Taveth sets his hand on her shoulder. “You can do it, Kel.”

The sparks grow the smallest bit, then explode. She squeaks as it stings her palms. “Practice, I guess.” She frowns at her hands.

Alisbeth frowns. “It really, really was an accident. I wouldn’t hit you back—hit you on purpose. I…am sorry.” She slowly gets quieter until she ends up staring at her feet.

Koltira nods. “I wasn’t looking. It’s okay.”

Anarchaia bristles. She purses her lips at the death knights. It’s not okay! What if she’d accidentally struck you with the edge?! You wouldn’t have a head! “Let’s just get a move on. Maybe you just need some rest, Kel’ori. Keep at it.” She sets a reassuring hand on the other mage’s shoulder and walks on ahead to catch up with Grimory, eager to keep him in sight.

The demon hunter finds another fallen soldier and releases her spirit as well. It swirls into the sky and Snuffles gives a quiet, apprehensive whine at the sight.

The group moves slowly as demons come at them from all directions. The next piece they find in a tall fel tower; Anarchaia sends it back to Destiny Point with the other. Kel’ori spots the final piece under an overhanging cliff, surrounded by broken carriages and other hints at a former civilization. As Koltira rushes in to collect the few demons in the area, Kel’ori steps forward.

She smiles at the arcane blast in her palm, ignoring the orange color of it. “My magic is back!” She smiles at the other mage. “I’ll get this piece.” She blinks forward, her body simmering out of existence.

Taveth purses his lips as the mage doesn’t appear yards ahead as she should have. “Kel? Kel!” He runs past the three fighting the demons to where the mage should have been, but being closer still proves her to be gone.

Anarchaia watches from the corner of her eye as this happens, then furrows her brow and follows Taveth with a rush in her step. “Wh-…what happened? Where’d she go?”

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