Book 5 – Chapter Twenty-Five

The other three make short work of the remaining demons until they’re nothing more than blood, pulp, and dismembered appendages on the soaked dirt floor. Grimory perks and looks over. “What’s going on?” he asks tiredly.

Taveth runs to the rock wall. “I’ve heard of mages…getting stuck. Can-can you check? Is there a way to check?” He steps back and sets his hands together to form a fel green eye, which he drops to the ground. The eye takes off up the hill, zipping side to side, searching for the high elf.

Anarchaia shakes her head. “That’s only a myth. Heh.”

Taveth’s ear twitches to acknowledge hearing her. He opens his eyes and drops his hands. “She’s just…gone.” He drops onto the flat surface of a destroyed crate. “I’m staying here. I’ll wait for her. You can all continue on, but I’m going to wait for her to return.” His brow furrows in worry. If she ever comes back…

Alisbeth frowns and sits beside him. She leans her head on his shoulder. “I’m waiting, too.”

Koltira purses his lips and looks to Anarchaia and Grimory for any indication of their choice to stay or go, unsure which he wants to do, himself.

Anarchaia sighs and lifts her robes to drop to her knees and place her hands in her lap. “I’ll wait as well.”

Grimory hesitates, then turns on the direction they’d been going to find more fallen soldiers to sanctify. He pauses when he hears Anarchaia’s voice calling for him to stay in sight, then grumbles and continues on. “Yes, mother.”

Alisbeth watches Grimory, hands twitching as she resists going to him. Instead she pulls a cloth from her pack and begins cleaning the spikes of the Maw.

Taveth fidgets, then pulls out his personal journal and begins scribbling frantically away.

Anarchaia fidgets as well with her fingers. “Perhaps she just teleported on accident instead.” She watches Grimory’s head of bright blond hair from the corner of her eye as he sanctifies another soldier. “It happens. Heh.”

Taveth purses his lips. “But why wouldn’t she come right back?”

“Maybe she accidentally teleported again? Heh. Maybe she doesn’t remember the terrain here…” She frowns apprehensively.

“Has this sort of thing happened before?” Koltira asks. “So we know what to expect or how long we’re going to be waiting until it’s sorted out…” He scratches at the dried blood over his injury from the Maw.

The mage shakes her head. “Not that I’m aware of, anyway.” She scrunches her face and reaches up to pull on his elbow. “Don’t pick at it.”

Koltira makes a face at the mage. “It itches.”

Anarchaia makes the same face back. “I don’t care. If I see you scratching it again, I’ll do…something.” She waves a hand to indicate she has no clue what the something may be.

Koltira narrows his eyes and leans away, then reaches up to scratch at the wound again.

Anarchaia scoffs at his indignance and grabs his elbow again, pulling it down so he cannot use the arm. “I’ll conjure cuffs if I have to, Deathweaver.”

Koltira chuckles. “Are you threatening me, or seducing me?”

Taveth blushes and clears his throat as he scribbles away in his book.

Anarchaia looks at Taveth as though just remembering his existence, then purses her lips up at the death knight and lowers her voice. “I won’t make it enjoyable.”

Koltira leans to her with a sly, daring grin. “Good luck with that.”

Anarchaia blushes, still painfully aware of Taveth’s presence. “I’m sure I could find something.” She holds onto his elbow nonetheless.

Koltira leans close to speak low enough for only her. “Like what?”

Alisbeth squirms as she watches the demon hunter drift farther and farther away. Finally, she jumps to her feet and runs after him, slamming into his back and wrapping her arms tightly around him. She presses her nose into his spine. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Please stop hating me.”

Grimory jerks as she grabs him and Snuffles crawls down onto Alisbeth’s head. The Illidari furrows his brow and lifts an arm to look back at her. “Hate you? Ali, I don’t hate you. I couldn’t…”

Alisbeth frowns as she looks at him. “But…why not?”

Grimory’s face softens. “Because I don’t.” He pries her arms away to turn and hug her. “I’m just…I don’t know. Tired.”

Alisbeth takes the demon hunter’s cheeks in her palms. “You need sleep, silly.” She slides her hands down his front, then reaches around to take his hands and pull him back toward the others. “Come. We’ll make a camp, with a fire and everything. And you can sleep.”

Grimory follows and sighs. “No, I mean I’m tired. Of everything. Of fighting. Nothing…” He pauses and decides to swallow the rest of the words. “Maybe rest is a good idea.”

Alisbeth swallows away the knot forming in her throat and forces herself to continue smiling at him. “It is a good idea. You’ll see. You’ll feel so much better after you sleep.”

Grimory follows quietly, then falls to sit near but away from the others. He brings his knees up to rest his elbows on them and remains silent.

Alisbeth forces her smile to remain as she drags wood into a pile near the demon hunter. She swallows the knot back down again and looks down at him. “Did you want one now, or later?”

Grimory smiles up at her, exhausted in all ways one can be. “Now is fine. It’s actually getting kind of chilly. Heh. Must be close to dusk.”

Anarchaia does the same with her tone and narrows her eyes. “Like tie you up in bed and leave you there.”

Koltira narrows his eyes. “Without even a little slap? Nothing? Bed of nails, maybe?”

Anarchaia smirks. “Nope. Nothing. Maybe I’ll just sit and watch you squirm. Nude, of course—”

Alisbeth nods and goes to tap the mage on the shoulder. “Arya, can you light a fire for Grim?” she asks, her forced grin still on her face, though her brow is slowly furrowing.

She jumps at the tap and looks, her face scarlet. “O-oh! Of course. Heh.” She lifts a hand and the tinder explodes into flames, then offers both Alisbeth and Grimory a smile.

“Thanks,” the demon hunter mutters and gives a wry smile in return.

Once the fire is lit and Alisbeth has retreated, Koltira pulls the mage’s attention back to him. “You really think you could just sit there and watch me?” He wraps a hand high on her ribs, but realizes there is no discreet way to touch her inappropriately.

Anarchaia inhales, face still warm with embarrassment. She bites her lip and hums a quiet laugh in her throat. “I bet I could,” she says and covers his hand with hers, slowly urging it up a centimeter or two. “I’m a very patient girl.”

Koltira gets slowly closer to her face. “I don’t think patience would be your problem,” he says. When his face reaches hers, he pauses, the sends his nose to the side of her neck to delicately trace all the way up to her jaw as he smells her perfume. Then, suddenly, he sobers, releases her, and stands. “I’m going to go keep watch. Tav, might as well rest while you can.”

The high elf gives a single nod, but returns to his writing.

Anarchaia closes her eyes, enjoying the closeness, then blinks when he pulls away. She scowls and folds her arms. “Oh, you insufferable…”

“I saw a nice hiding place on the way in here, so, if you need me, say something,” he looks right at the mage, “because you won’t be able to see inside.”

Anarchaia purses her lips and furrows her brow at him. She glances at the trio behind her and hesitates, then stretches and stands. “Perhaps I should accompany you. What if something were to happen to you? No one would know, then.” She trots after him with a smile.

Koltira smirks as he leads the mage to just below the hidden spot in the cliff’s face. He turns to look down at her. “I must warn you, it can get boring keeping watch. Are you sure you’re up for it?”

Anarchaia grins. “Bored? With you? I can’t think of anything I’d rather—” She pauses at the sound of Taveth’s yelling, head cocked in that direction. She then bites her lip and giggles. “Poor Tav.”

~~

Alisbeth sits a small way from Grimory and pulls off the armor from one thigh. She pats the leather of her pants. “Lay down?” She fights back the scream pushing the knot back up into her throat and holds her breath against the shallow breaths her lungs want to take.

The Illidari smiles and does as he’s offered, lying to rest his head on her thigh. Snuffles leans over Alisbeth’s shoulder to reach as far as its neck will allow, sniffing at the demon hunter’s face. Grimory presses a finger to the animal’s nose and pushes it back up and away.

She reaches up to scratch the top of Snuffles’s nose as she rests her other hand on Grimory’s chest, feeling his heartbeat and letting it calm her. “Do you need to sleep, too, Scuttles?”

Snuffles squeaks and bites at her ear in response and the demon hunter chuckles.

Alisbeth hisses and bats at the marsuul. “You naughty little rat! Stop biting!” She finds the sack of meats and pulls out a small steak for him, then tosses it a short distance from herself.

Snuffles cries out in excitement and leaps from Alisbeth’s shoulder before the meat even hits the dirt. It immediately digs into the soft steak.

Grimory rolls his eyes at the conversation between Anarchaia and Koltira above his head. “I hope something happens to both of you,” he grumbles and tilts his head to rest a horn on Alisbeth’s stomach.

Alisbeth purses her lips down at him the demon hunter as she runs her fingers through his hair. “Are you jealous of them? Would you like me to do something for you?”

“I am literally right here, you guys. All of you. No one is fooled!” Taveth finishes his minor fit and slams his journal closed.

Both Grimory and Snuffles blink at the angry elf. The latter resumes its meal and Grimory gives a quiet laugh. “Not like I was gonna say yes. Don’t get your panties in a bundle.”

“I was just offering,” Alisbeth says with a giggle.

Grimory smiles and reaches up to pat her on the cheek. “You’re kind for doing so,” he laughs.

Taveth grumbles but says nothing.

She continues threading her fingers through his hair, trying to soothe him. “Sleep, now. Okay? We’ll be quiet for you. Right, Tav?”

Taveth nods as he leans back against the side of a cracked barrel Alisbeth hadn’t grabbed for the fire.

Grimory inhales, long and slow, then closes his eyes and folds his hands over his stomach. “I’ll try.” He furrows his brow as Kel’ori’s face immediately fades into his mind’s eye, but he keeps his eyes closed. Not that I deserve to.

~~

Koltira chuckles. “He’ll live.” He hoists Anarchaia into the small alcove and climbs in after her. “Hmm, just enough space.”

Anarchaia smiles and dangles her legs over the edge. “Just big enough for what?” She picks up a pebble and throws it out and onto the path.

Koltira wraps his arm around the mage’s waist and drags her backward out of view. “Like you don’t know.”

Anarchaia chuckles into the backs of her fingers and looks up at him as she leans back. “So we’re not going to be bored together, hm?”

Koltira chuckles. “Unless you really had your heart set on that.”

“Mm. Not particularly.” She chuckles in return and pulls him closer.

~ * ~

The sky had darkened to a barely perceivable night and the air had grown colder. Taveth sits near the fire, curled tightly into himself to stay warm. Grimory, head still propped on Alisbeth’s thigh as he sleeps, doesn’t even shudder against the chill, with Snuffles curled up and sleeping on his broad chest. The death knight doesn’t take her eyes from him—watching as though he might disappear if she looks away.

The air pulses around them and with a crack and a rain of snow, Kel’ori bursts into the area, shaking so hard she can barely stand. She drops down beside the fire and holds her shaking hands out, her bluing lips shuddering with her shivers.

Kel!” Taveth screams, throwing himself over her in relief. He brushes the quickly melting snow from her shoulders and helps undo her soaked cloak.

Grimory jerks awake at the sound and sits up. Snuffles squeaks as it spills into his lap. He glances around frantically, then relaxes and runs a hand through his hair and sighs with relief but does not show his relief otherwise. “Good. She’s not dead,” he mumbles and groggily sets Snuffles aside.

Anarchaia, curled into Koltira’s side as they look out over the land from their alcove, perks at the familiar sound of teleportation followed by Taveth’s happy cry of relief. She smiles over at him. “Guess she found her way back.”

Koltira gives a light groan and holds the mage tighter for a moment. “I guess that means we have to get going.”

Anarchaia inhales slowly and pushes her face into his chest as she’s taken to doing. “I guess.” She then leans up to kiss him before sitting up to scoot out of the alcove.

Koltira leaps from the alcove and holds his hands out for the undead woman. “If only time could stop for us.”

Instead of taking his hands for assistance, Anarchaia pushes off the wall below to leap into his arms. She chuckles. “I’m not allowed to use time magic, or I’d try.”

“What happened?” Taveth asks.

Kel’ori swallows and clenches her jaw, trying to calm her shaking enough to speak. “I d-don’t know. I b-blinked f-f-f-forward and…then I was in R-Redridge.”

Alisbeth frowns. “It’s been hours.”

Grimory parts his lips to speak, then decides against it and lies back in Alisbeth’s lap.

The mage regards her cousin with a blank stare. “I c-couldn’t get back.”

“Why?” Taveth asks.

“I don’t know. I just…b-bounced around Azeroth for a while, then s-stopped to regain my s-strength a few times.” She winces and blows hot breath against her fingertip. “Then I ended up in Dun Morogh. I was s-stuck within the borders f-for…I don’t know.”

Snuffles makes its way to Kel’ori, seemingly interested by her sudden appearance. It licks at the frost on her elbow.

“I…don’t understand,” Taveth says. “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know,” she whimpers, too exhausted to cry. “I tried to conjure a heavier cloak and I got a pineapple… I don’t have pineapples in my room… But I was hungry, so I ate it.”

The other mage perks as they near, then runs forward. “Oh my gods, Kel’ori. What happened?” She conjures a thick fur to throw over the woman’s shoulders, causing the marsuul to chirp and skitter off before it can be covered as well. The fire grows in size. “Where did you go?”

“Everywhere,” she whines.

Alisbeth sits in silent contemplation for a long time, then furrows her brow. “But…where did the pineapple come from?”

The Nighthearts stare at her, dumbfounded.

Anarchaia joins in the staring before sighing and kneeling to rest a palm on Kel’ori’s back. “Maybe you should get yourself checked out. Clearly you aren’t feeling the best. Are you all right, though? Can I get you anything?”

Kel’ori shakes her head. “Thank you for the fur… Actually, I’m pretty hungry…and tired. I used a lot of energy.”

Taveth purses his lips. “I’m sure we can stay here a bit longer?”

Alisbeth furrows her brow when her question isn’t answered. “I’m serious. Where’d it come from?”

Koltira blinks at the scene and stares at the other death knight. “Sholazar Basin.”

She narrows her eyes. “Are you sure?”

Anarchaia nods at Alisbeth. “More than likely. Eighty percent of Azeroth’s pineapple crop comes from there. The rest from Booty Bay.” She motions for the sack of meat near Grimory. “Would you guys mind sharing any of that?”

Grimory looks up to the woman above him and shrugs a shoulder. “I don’t care, but you got it all. Up to you.”

Alisbeth scrunches her face at the man in her lap. “It’s yours. Your choice. I’m sure not going to— Hey, that’s Grim’s!” She flails her hands at Koltira as he takes the bag.

Kel’ori accepts the offering and opens it frantically. She pulls out a meat pie and stares at it, concentrating on heating it up. The pie zips from her palm and explodes in a ball of fire as it hits the side of the cliff. “What is happening to me?” She covers her face with her hands, this time tears spring from her eyes.

Taveth jumps and gently takes the bag. “I’m sure Ana wouldn’t mind warming this up for you…” He casts a frightened, questioning look to the other mage.

Anarchaia, not without a look of apprehension, nods and takes the bag from Taveth. She conjures a round grate. After gingerly placing a thin steak as well as a few strips of circular cuts of questionable origin upon it, she places it over the flames where it hovers just out of their reach. “Perhaps we should get you back to the ship soon. You seem rather…disoriented.”

Kel’ori stakes her head quickly. “No. I’m fine. I’ll be fine. I just have to concentrate, right?”

Again, Taveth casts his concerned look over his sister to Anarchaia. “I’m not sure…”

“I don’t think concentration is what you need, but I’m certainly no doctor.” The undead girl conjures a serving fork to flip the cuts. “Maybe you just need more rest. Not sleeping for as long as you did probably had some adverse effects.”

Grimory’s brows twitch at the information but he says nothing, instead closing his eyes again.

The high elf nods, licking her lips impatiently at the cooking meat. “Just rest. Yeah. I should be fine tomorrow.” Impatiently, she reaches for one of the smaller round pieces. Her finger catches on the grate, burning her. She drops the bit into the ash around the edge of the fire. Desperately she snaps her hand into the flames to grab it, then shoves it into her mouth—ash and all.

Taveth jumps and cringes. “Okay, calm down, I’m sure there’s plenty of food in the bag. No need eating… Gross.”

“Tastes fine. Five second rule.”

“That’s not how it works,” Taveth mumbles.

Alisbeth leans down to put her face near Grimory’s as she watches Koltira take a seat by the fire. “Do you think the pineapple really came from Sholazar?” She reaches out her hand to absently pet Snuffles’s head.

Anarchaia merely watches, eyes wide and brow furrowed beneath her mask. “Auhm…” She clears her throat and conjures a glass of ice water as well. “So you managed to teleport all the way back to Azeroth? That’s…very impressive.” She hands over the glass.

Grimory opens an eye and smirks. “I wouldn’t know. I’m not up to date on my botany and tropical agriculture. I could tell you where a tomato came from, but not a pineapple.” His smirk turns into a smile. “We could go there and find out, yeah?”

Kel’ori shakes her head as she drinks. “It takes too much mana. I nearly collapsed. I had to walk to find an inn for food and—” She reaches for another piece of meat but Taveth stops her.

“Let’s…use a fork, shall we?”

Anarchaia conjures a dining fork and extends it to Kel’ori. “Impressive all the same.”

Grimory opens an eye and smirks. “I wouldn’t know. I’m not up to date on my botany and tropical agriculture. I could tell you where a tomato came from, but not a pineapple.” His smirk turns into a smile. “We could go there and find out, yeah?”

Alisbeth smiles coyly. “Right now? Just go see if we can find where it came from? Get you a pineapple? Do you like pineapples?”

Grimory returns the grin and chuckles. “Doubt we’ll find any here.”

Alisbeth giggles. “Alien pineapples.”

Grimory snerks. “Alien pineapples that bite back. I’m sure the Eredar need their fruity cocktails, too.”

Kel’ori shrugs. “I hope I never do anything that impressive again. Thank you.” She takes the fork and stabs the next little slice, then blows on it.

Anarchaia gives a sigh and a smile and lowers to sit on her knees. “Normally only Archmages have that kind of power. I should really tell Kalec about this. He’d be ecstatic.”

Kel’ori frowns and glances sideways at the other mage. “Does he really need to know? I mean… I’d rather he not know that I can’t seem to control it.”

Taveth pulls out his personal journal and begins to take notes. “I don’t think there’s any reason not to tell him. He may have heard of such a thing? Really, you shouldn’t be afraid of telling your mentor things such as this.”

Anarchaia nods in agreement. “I’m sure he’d be just as fascinated as we. He may even be able to help. Master Khadgar is always the first person I go to if I need advice or assistance.”

Kel’ori smiles some. “You think so? I don’t want him to think I’ve grown incompetent.” She stabs the larger steak onto her fork and stares at it, contemplating how to go about eating it. “I mean, I’ve only been his apprentice for a year now…”

“Snapping Kungaloosh,” Alisbeth giggles. “Oh, oh! Jungle bite, instead of jungle punch.”

Grimory chuckles. “I’d still drink it.” He flinches as Snuffles, having given up trying to shmooze meat from Kel’ori, claws its way back onto his chest and curls up.

Alisbeth giggles and pats the marsuul on the head. “Oh, I know you would.” She threads her fingers through his hair again, gently running her fingernails along his scalp. “You should get more sleep.”

Grimory hums and nods. “As long as there’s no more loud mage noises.” He tilts his head some to get comfortable.

Anarchaia conjures a knife and hands that over as well. “I bet he’d set up your graduation tomorrow if he knew.” She gives a sad sort of laugh.

Kel’ori sets the steak back on the rack and, after testing for stability, cuts into it, then moans with the first bite. “No. Still not ‘worldly’ enough. That’s why I’m here, after all.”

Koltira shrugs and tosses a bug into the fire—the body pops open and hisses as the moisture meets the heat. “Personally, I think you’re plenty worldly, now.”

“We should go back and force him to graduate you,” Taveth says, laughing.

Anarchaia laughs. “If my last experience with him was any proof of his general disposition, I don’t think that man can be forced to do anything.”

Kel’ori laughs outright, then. “Master Kalec is obnoxiously patient. It’s like hitting a spring board—try as you might to sway him, he always just pops back. I’m so lucky to have known him, though.”

Anarchaia purses her lips but chuckles all the same. “Unfortunately for him, I’m patient, too.” She shrugs. “He seems pretty kind altogether, though. He cares about you a lot.” She smirks and raises her eyebrows.

The elf blushes and averts her eyes. “Well, yeah, he’s my mentor.” She gives the steak her undivided attention.

Koltira gives an implying smirk and bumps Anarchaia’s shoulder with his own. “So. Looks like one living down, two to go. I do assume you two would like to sleep?”

They both nod and Taveth immediately makes himself more comfortable. “Yes. I’m very tired, actually.”

Anarchaia cocks her head to the man beside her and forces a smile. “You mean three. Heh.” She rests her head on his shoulder. “Though I’m rather well rested.” She conjures another sleeping fur and tosses it to Taveth as well as two pillows for each of the high elves.

Koltira laughs lightly, though he cringes inwardly at his slip. Damn. I miss when it was just us. “Well, I already know you’re well rested after your little nap.”

Nap. Sure,” Taveth mumbles. He wraps himself in the fur and lays on the ground, the pillow under one side of his head.

Anarchaia shoots Taveth a look. “After I give you blankets and a pillow.” She scoffs dramatically and places a hand on her chest. “Rude.” Her gaze shifts across the fire to the other couple on the opposite side and her face softens. Poor Grim. And poor Ali, for that matter.

Taveth chuckles. “Thank you so much, Ana. You’re a life saver.” He closes his eyes and tries to fall asleep.

Kel’ori nods. “You really are.” She finishes the last bite of steak and sighs, satisfied. “Nothing like teleporting everywhere and shivering too hard to move to work up an appetite. Thank you so much.” She stretches out on the ground, the pillow under her head and the sleeping fur raised to let the heat hit the front of her so she can soak it all in before wrapping herself up.

Anarchaia flushes and waves a hand. “What kind of friend would I be? Heh.” After a moment of thought she stands and makes her way to Alisbeth and Grimory, on the way conjuring a third thick fur. She drapes it over the demon hunter and offers Alisbeth a comforting smile while Snuffles squeaks at the sudden darkness. Alisbeth smiles up at the mage, but it doesn’t reach her eyes.

Kel’ori yawns and rolls the warmth around herself. “The good kind.” She settles herself and almost immediately falls asleep.

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