Book 5 – Chapter Twenty-Six

The hours wear on as the three watch over the rest. Little is said over the crackling of fire, and with the two choke points on either side, lookout is made easy. Finally, when the air becomes warm again and the sun peers out from behind Azeroth, Anarchaia looks up and sighs. “At least we’ve made it this far without incident.” She pauses. “Detrimental incident.”

Koltira chuckles lightly. “I’m not so sure about the second one, either. How about: ‘none of us died on this trip’?” He pushes another piece of wood toward the fire.

Kel’ori sits up, her eyes wide and alert; the dark circles which had been gracing her complexion are gone. She smiles and stands, folding up the fur with a swiftness not common for one who’s just woken up. “Ah! What a nice morning! Smell the fresh air and the brimstone. I am ready for today. How about you two?”

Anarchaia furrows her brow up at the woman, seemingly appalled by her energy. “I…guess? Heh. Gotta wait for Grim and Tav.” She gestures to the high elf and the demon hunter.

Snuffles, still beneath the furs, lifts its head at the sound of commotion, then squirms to free itself as it slowly realizes it’s trapped beneath a blanket rather than blinded.

Kel’ori sighs and nods. “Okay. You’re right. Gives me time to eat, though! Think all this is still good?” She sits down and opens the bag. After peering inside to see what is left, she sniffs it and shrugs. “Smells fine.” She stabs at a piece that is a brown flesh with large scales with the fork from last night and holds it over the fire. “You think this might be fish? Have you even seen water here?”

Koltira laughs. “I bet its some sort of fel lizard.”

Anarchaia, still in a sort of stupor from Kel’ori’s energy, smiles tiredly. “I mean…if they’re serving it to their soldiers and engineers, surely it must be edible, right?” She stretches and inhales, then deflates with a sigh. “Though, frankly, anything is edible if you’re brave enough.”

Koltira laughs. “Lava serpent? Would that mean it’s already cooked when you eat it, or that it’s always raw?”

The mage looks at the meat, then at him, and wrinkles her nose. “Ew.” She bites into the flesh anyway.

Taveth moans lightly and covers his head, not wanting to wake up and fighting it.

Anarchaia laughs at the woman near her, then perks at Taveth’s voice. She goes and kneels beside him on her haunches, then grabs him by the shoulder and gently shakes. “Good morning, Starshine. The world says hello.”

Taveth whimpers and lifts the blanket to encompass the mage and drag her to the ground. “Hello,” he says, half whining, to the woman under the furs with him. He gives her a small hug, somehow feeling he needs one.

Koltira watches with an unamused expression and pursed lips. “That boy is lucky he…”

“He what?” Kel’ori asks over a bite of food.

Koltira clears his throat. “He’s lucky he’s my friend,” he says.

Anarchaia gives a quiet gasp of surprise then laughs. “We gotta get going soon.” She wraps her arms around him in return, sobering some. “Everything okay?”

Taveth hums in thought. “Yeah. I think so. Thank you for being such a great person.” He gives her one last squeeze and throws the fur to the side.

The undead mage blushes and sits up with a smile. “No, you.” She chuckles and stands, then holds out a hand to assist him.

Taveth accepts the hand up and groggily stoops to fold up the fur.

“Rough night?” Kel’ori asks, giggling.

Taveth looks at her and spreads his hands to gesture questioningly at her. “How?”

She shrugs. “I guess I’m just a morning person. I feel like I could run a marathon!” She gasps. “I bet I can use my magic again!” She bites her lower lip and conjures a small flame in her palm, but frowns at the odd green color. “Well, that’s not right.” The flame pops and explodes, then fizzles out.

Koltira raises an eyebrow. “At least it’s kind of working now?”

Anarchaia’s brow knits suddenly at the green flame. She pauses as she slowly takes the fur from Taveth, eyes locked on the small fire before it sputters out. She blinks and shakes her head, sending the blanket away, then silently does the same with Kel’ori’s.

Kel’ori smiles at the other mage and moves aside.

Alisbeth gently runs her fingertip down the demon hunter’s forehead to the tip of his nose, over and over. “I think it’s time to wake up,” she whispers.

Grimory scrunches his face at the tickles, then shakes his head. “I think it’s time to keep sleeping,” he grumbles, turning his head away as far as his horns let him.

Alisbeth runs her finger along his ear instead, before reaching around to gently set the pad of her index finger on his nose. “Boop. Wakey-wakey. It’s time to get up, sleepy-head.”

Grimory grumbles again and rolls onto his stomach to push his face into her leg, then mumbles something incoherent against it. Snuffles squeaks in protest as it’s dumped into the dirt, flailing its short legs.

Alisbeth whines. “Grii-iii-iim.” She wiggles him side to side. “They’re gonna leave us behind!”

“So let them,” Grimory grunts and threads an arm beneath her leg and the other over the top to lock her thigh against his cheek.

“It’s gonna be that way, then?” Alisbeth lays down, pulling the fur over her head. She reaches her hand into his waistband, straining to reach around to his front.

Grimory grabs her wrist and gives her a warning glance with a blush. He pulls her searching fingers back out. “Not here, Ali.”

“If you don’t get up, I’ll…” She grabs a nearby rock just smaller than her fist and pulls open the back of his trousers. “I’m gonna shove this rock up your ass.”

The demon hunter purses his lips, then sits up before she has the chance. “All right. I’m up.”

“Oh, good!” Anarchaia grabs the furs from them and they disappear as well. “We’re about to get going, anyway. As soon as Kel’ori is done with breakfast.”

Kel’ori looks up from her mirror in one hand as she spreads gloss over her thick lips—her eyelids already quickly colored a lilac to match her robes. She smiles and slips her things back into her bag. “Already finished! Thank you.” She frowns as she searches in her bag. “I forgot my hairbrush.” She absently waves her hand, which becomes encircled in a dark indigo cloud. When it clears, and ornate, completely black dagger is in her hand. “This…isn’t even mine.”

Alisbeth boggles at the mage. “It’s just like the pineapple! Can I have it?”

“How about I take it and…start a collection. Heh.” Taveth plucks the dagger from Kel’ori’s fist and slips it into the front pocket of his satchel with the spine. He purses his lips at the jarring zap it shoots through his arm, suddenly very aware of the dagger’s soul. “Curious…”

Anarchaia blinks at the dagger, then conjures her own hairbrush—ornate in brushed silver and encrusted with small cerulean stones. She holds it out for the elf. “I clean it after every use. Heh. Hate finding stray hairs on my clothes…”

Grimory stands and stretches, still somehow not feeling refreshed or energized. He sighs. “Could use some coffee. And I hate coffee.”

Kel’ori takes the brush, smiling shyly. “Thanks again. I really owe you big time.”

Taveth perks at the demon hunter. “What about tea? There’s this wonderful blend from Kun’lai summit that wakes you much better than coffee, but doesn’t taste nearly as bad.” He frowns. “Though, having Ana conjure more things is just going to wear her out so far away, I’m sure.”

“Let’s just get a move on, shall we?” Koltira urges.

“Oh, really. It’s nothing.” The undead mage titters, then tilts her head at Taveth as she sends the grill away as well as any utensils. “It’s not that draining, heh. Though I wouldn’t know where to get such a tea.” She holds a hand out for Koltira to stand.

Taveth shrugs innocently. “It’s from the Grummles. Like I said, it’s fine.”

“Steal these sleepy-heads some coffee and let’s go!” Kel’ori says, finishing brushing her hair.

“I agree with the chipper one,” Koltira says, turning to begin the trek back to Destiny Point with or without the others.

Anarchaia nods and conjures a couple mugs of steaming, black coffee. She holds one out to each of the blond men, then fidgets nervously when Koltira trudges off without her.

Grimory takes it and sneers at the smell, but sips it all the same and turns to follow the death knight. “Thank you.”

Snuffles bounds after him, determined to steal some of the bitter, foreign liquid for itself.

Koltira turns to look behind for the mage, then slows so she can catch up.

Alisbeth runs after Snuffles once her leg armor is secured and scoops him into her arms. “He’s not leaving you behind, Sparklekhan.”

Taveth smiles tiredly at the mage, though she isn’t looking, then takes up a spot at the end of the line beside his boisterous sister.

Anarchaia gives a nervous, sort of apologetic laugh to the others, motions for Kel’ori to hold on to the hairbrush, then runs ahead to catch up with Koltira, stumbling along the way.

Grimory gives the critter a sideways glance, pulling his coffee away. “I honestly don’t even remember that thing’s name.” He scowls at it when it paws at his arm from Alisbeth’s grasp.

Alisbeth giggles. “I just said it, pay attention, silly. It’s Snappy.”

Grimory lifts his eyebrows down at her and again sips his coffee. “You said Sparklekhan,” he responds, silently wondering if testing her will help her memory issues, even if only slightly.

She purses her lips up at him. “I’m really sure I didn’t. I know I said Slippers.”

Koltira smiles some with just one corner of his lips. “Losing battle, Grim.”

The demon hunter tilts his head at him then her, more curious than anything. “What name did you literally just say?” he presses cautiously. What’s the limit?

Alisbeth’s brow furrows with concern. She steps in front of the demon hunter and grabs him by the horns, pulling down to make him look into her eyes. “Are you feeling okay? Are you having trouble remembering things? What’s my name? What’s your name? Where are we?”

Grimory’s jaw tightens at the pain of having his horns pulled, no matter how gentle. He narrows his eyes and the corners of his mouth tighten. “Yes. Your name is Altaïr, I’m Griffin, and we’re on planet Fuck-This-Shit.”

Alisbeth gasps and covers her mouth. “Oh, no. You’re… Wait, are you joking? You’re joking with me.”

Grimory leans closer, places a short kiss on her nose, then turns to whisper in her ear. “Yes.” While gently pushing past her, he grabs her by the hand and pulls her to follow the others.

Alisbeth giggles and tucks herself under his arm to walk beside him. “Silly dork.”

“Dork? Me?” Grimory narrows an eye down at her then musses her hair. “You’re the biggest dork I know.”

She makes a face. “Am not!”

“Are, too.” The Illidari sticks a long tongue out at her.

Alisbeth reaches up to grab his tongue and makes a scrunched-up face. “Don’t make me bite it off.”

Grimory’s tongue slithers around Alisbeth’s wrist before she’s able to grab it and he smirks. “Like you could.”

Alisbeth squeals and pulls away. “I could. I really could.” She snaps her teeth at him.

“I don’t think you’d be very keen on having me around sans a tongue,” Grimory responds, snapping his fangs in return.

Alisbeth grins up at the demon hunter. “Mmmaybe?”

Koltira purses his lips. “Walking back without having everything to fight is…boring.” He chuckles. “It reminds me of the early days of Stormheim. So much walking.”

Anarchaia flashes the man beside her a smile. “I recall a lot of not walking as well. Thanks to Grim.” She chuckles. “Though, I agree. I don’t particularly enjoy fighting, but it’d be a preferable alternative at this point.”

Koltira sets an arm over the mage’s shoulder and lets out a long breath. “I mean…you could teleport us back, couldn’t you? Or do you suffer from some sort of gravitational misalignment or…something?”

“Gravitational whuh? O-oh! Heh. No. I can’t teleport this many people and I figured a portal here would be dangerous lest something follow us through. Though… Illidan, Turalyon, and Velen are waiting for us there so I doubt anything that’d follow us would make it very far…” Anarchaia’s voice trails off as she muses.

Koltira chuckles. “It’s good reasoning, actually.” He shrugs and looks around the seemingly deserted area. “Guess we’re walking.”

Taveth squints one eye at Kel’ori as she digs into the bag for the last meat pie. “That’s almost a day old.”

She pinches her face at him in annoyance. “It’s still food. What do you want me to do? Roast a demon and… Well, there are no demons, apparently. And you guys didn’t like my idea of the demon goat.” She jogs up to the other mage and holds the pie out. “I don’t want the last one exploding. Would you mind?” She smiles shyly.

Anarchaia gives Koltira a seemingly conforming pat on the arm. She blinks at Kel’ori as she approaches, then smiles. “Of course!” The pie rapidly heats to the point where steam wisps out of the poked holes in the top.

Kel’ori falls back to walk with Taveth as she blows on the pie to cool it enough to bite. “I don’t even know how you’re not starving.”

He makes a face. “I’m hungry, yes, but I’m not going to eat food poisoning in a crust.”

She stares at him, eyes wide and cheeks full. “Food poisoning?”

“You’re going to end up vomiting behind a boulder.”

The mage stares at him, then at the pie. Slowly she takes another bite, her eyes glued to her brother as he cringes.

Anarchaia looks over her shoulder at the siblings. “Perhaps she’s just grown a liking for the food here. Heh. You don’t like what you’ve eaten so far?”

“No, no,” Taveth says, “it’s not about the flavor of the food, it’s about freshness. The food tastes fine.”

“The cook isn’t here, no need to kiss ass,” Koltira says with a smirk.

Anarchaia laughs. “So the flavor is good but the freshness is questionable? Or are you just questioning the staying power of the meat pies in particular?”

Grimory perks his ears at the conversation ahead of hem then lowers his eyelids. “This is Stormheim all over again…”

Alisbeth takes the demon hunters hand and smiles. “I dunno. Bloodmist isn’t here. And it’s…greener. And I’m not married to Kolty. And we have two more people.”

Grimory smiles in return. “I meant the boring conversation.”

Taveth purses him lips impatiently. “I’m not eating meat that’s been in a sack for a day.”

Anarchaia chuckles again. “What’s wrong with meat from a sack?”

Taveth sighs and stares at his feet. “Never mind.”

The undead mage stops so that Taveth runs into her back, then gives him a smile. “Only messing with you. I wouldn’t eat day old meat pie, either.”

“Heh.” Taveth shifts nervously. After an awkward moment not sure what to say, he urges her back into walking.

Alisbeth looks around as though oblivious, her smile still wide. “I think our conversations are lovely. Nice, wonderful friendly conversation.”

Grimory lifts his eyebrows. “You do, eh? You like dull drivel about old meat pies and how much longer it’ll take to get where we’re going?”

Alisbeth’s smile stretches to a Cheshire grin. “If I ate, I’d eat meat pies. And only meat pies. No, and jerky. I miss jerky. Oh! And chocolate. I’d eat so much chocolate! I think if I came back to life for one day, that’s what I’d want to do is just eat all day. And sleep.”

Kel’ori moans. “Ooh. Now I want chocolate. Thanks, Redblade.

Ugh. Same. Anarchaia turns with a smile and slows to walk beside Kel’ori. “I can conjure some. I know where they keep the sweets in the kitchen. I used to raid it all the time.” She chuckles. Before finding out the hard way…

Kel’ori bites her lower lip as her eyes widen and light with excitement. “You do? I always tried but I never found it! Just one piece is enough. Please. Not enough for them to notice.”

Taveth rolls his eyes. “Be sure to get her some water, too. And me, actually, please.” He grins charmingly at the other mage.

Grimory gives Alisbeth a sideways glance. “Can you not already do that? What’s the worst that could happen if you just ate it for nostalgia’s sake? Granted you probably can’t taste it, but…”

Alisbeth gives Grimory a strange look. “Can I eat? Well, yeah. But what’s the point of food if I can’t taste it?” She kicks a rock hard enough to tumble forward into Koltira’s boot. “Kolty! What happens if we eat?”

He blinks slowly at her. “I never tried. Some say it festers, others say it…passes…or comes back.”

She purses her lips and stops. “Oh. That’s gross.”

Anarchaia gives a nod and holds up a palm. It fills with a single piece of chocolate and two cups of iced water. <<When I eat, it’s completely dissolved with ichor and absorbed into my blood as mana. Unless it doesn’t,>> she explains casually though only two of them can understand her. She hands the siblings their items.

Grimory shrugs. “There’s worse, I suppose. Could kill you…again.” He sneers. “Festering, though. Ew. Yeah. Maybe just avoid food, then.”

Anarchaia lifts a finger and turns. “Actually, most food items aren’t bad enough to kill you if they ferment or become moldy. Sure, you’ll get sick, but—”

“Yeah, thanks,” he interjects, eyelids lowered.

Are we almost there?” Alisbeth asks impatiently. She runs forward and scrabbles up Koltira to kneel on his shoulders as she uses the height to look ahead on the path.

The other death knight stumbles and waves his arms upward. “Would you— Get off me! What the— Ow!

The undead mage narrows her eyes and lifts Alisbeth up and off the other death knight with a raised hand. She sets her gingerly down. “Ask that again and I burn every hair off your head.”

Kel’ori laughs at the two and takes a bite of the chocolate. She rushes through chewing and swallowing, then takes another large bite. After a moment she stops and frowns, her eyelids fluttering as her lips purse. As fast as she can, she runs to the side of the road and props herself on a boulder to vomit.

Taveth pauses for just a second, then walks past, sipping his water. “Told you so.”

Anarchaia jumps as Kel’ori sprints away then grits her teeth and fidgets. “Uh…did it taste okay? Heh. Perhaps she’s just ill…?”

Grimory purses his lips at the scene and merely continues onward, keeping any comments he has to himself.

Taveth shrugs and turns to Anarchaia. “I told her not to eat day-old meat pie that’s been exposed to the elements. But, I mean, what do I know? I’m just one of the two smartest people here.”

Alisbeth throws her arm around the back of his neck. “Are you calling me smart? Aww.”

“I…um…sure? Heh.”

Kel’ori spits one last time and swallows, pausing to make sure she’s finished. “Yeah, yeah, gloat about it.” She meets the other mage and falls into step with the group. “To be honest, it did taste a little funny. Then again, I almost didn’t taste it at all.” She laughs and waves a hand. In an indigo puff, her hairbrush appears in her hand. She glares at it and purses her lips tighter. “I wanted water,” she growls through her teeth.

Anarchaia holds out the second cup of water and chuckles. “Well you got your brush, now…” She conjures another hunk of chocolate and holds it across Kel’ori to Taveth. “You eat this. Tell me if it’s good. Though it takes a long time for chocolate to become bad enough to make you sick…”

Taveth narrows his eyes. “You want me to intentionally ingest what you suspect might make me sick? Forgive me if I pass. Besides, it was the meat. Who even knows what animal it’s from?”

Kel’ori sips the water, her eyes narrowed. “Gee, Tav, I feel the love from here.” She reaches out her hand to take the chocolate, then stops herself, then tries again. “If I vomit again does it count?”

Anarchaia curls her fingers around the piece and pulls it away when Kel’ori reaches for it a second time. “No, this is for science, now. But who…?” She perks and runs ahead. “Grim! Grim eat this chocolate!”

The demon hunter gives her the slightest of scowls, but takes the piece all the same. He chews for a second, then shrugs. “I’m not into sweets, but it tastes fine to me.”

Anarchaia taps her chin. “Curious. If only I had a bigger sample size…”

Kel’ori frowns as the chocolate disappears into the demon hunter’s mouth. “Oh, but, I’m sure it was just that piece!” She whimpers shortly. “Now I’m hungry again.”

Taveth makes a face. “You’re hungry after that?”

“When you throw up your innards, you kind of need to fill it back up with food, silly!” Alisbeth fluffs the high elf’s pony tail, ignoring as he tries to wave her aside.

Anarchaia turns and purses her lips, though her voice remains somewhat bright and caring. “If I conjure you something will you eat it? Or should I just immediately throw it on the ground?”

Kel’ori’s brow furrows to a scowl. “No need,” she snaps. “I’ll just wait until I can get back to the Vindicaar.” She stomps forward to march ahead of the rest of them.

Taveth narrows his eyes after her. “Because that’s not an overreaction or anything.”

Anarchaia shrugs and chuckles. “I was only kidding. I’d have gladly grabbed something for her.”

The corners of Grimory’s lips tighten to an unenthused line. He does not look down at the mage at his side but instead keeps his eyes trained forward. “Can we just get along? Normally I’m not the one having to say this…”

Anarchaia knits her brow up at him. “I wasn’t trying to be rude!”

He sighs and rolls his eyes.

True to her word, the high elf stomps her way to Destiny Point, past everyone else, and through the beacon to the Vindicaar.

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