Koltira stops Anarchaia as she comes through her portal. “What happened? Are you two okay?”
Anarchaia jumps, still jittery from their interaction, then sighs and nods. “Yeah, just…” She for a moment thinks about not telling him. “Have you noticed anything strange about her lately?”
Koltira blinks as Taveth joins them. “Um…she’s been eating a lot? Well, hungry a lot. She seems obsessed with that bacon?”
“Who, Kel?” Taveth nods. “She’s…off.” He glances at Tryxora, who is grinning lovingly at an uncomfortable Turalyon. “Tryx is afraid of her… Nobody’s afraid of Kel’ori! Let alone thinks she’s going to eat them. But I mean, it’s Tryx. She’s…”
<<I’m what?>> she asks right behind him.
Taveth jumps. “Y-you’re, uh, s-special?”
<<Aww!>> Tryxora wraps herself around Taveth and he grimaces desperately.
Anarchaia’s eyelids lower at the scene. She shakes her head and turns back to Koltira while Taveth is somewhat occupied. <<I found her eating an imp,>> she whispers in Gutterspeak, voice low.
Koltira blinks rapidly. <<That doesn’t seem…normal… Probably not a great idea to have let her go through the beacon alone?>>
The undead girl perks and looks around. “She did?! I’ll be right back!” She disappears in a flurry of sparkles. Once back on the Vindicaar, she scrambles, asking each passing person, before finally running through the portal to Dalaran.
Koltira’s brow lowers. “Okay, everyone, time to go,” he shouts, waving the others to follow.
Taveth pries free of his demon. “Tryx, will you please go back to the Nether for now? Please? Just until we return to the surface.”
She thinks on it. <<Okay!>> She kisses his cheek and runs through a purple swirl.
Alisbeth stomps to the beacon and teleports before the others, clenching her jaw tightly to keep from screaming.
Grimory allows Alisbeth and Taveth through the beacon until only he and Koltira remain. He motions to the beacon. “After you.”
Koltira sighs and gives the demon hunter a sympathetic look. “She’ll get over it.”
Grimory lowers his gesturing arm and sighs then uses the hand to run over his hair instead. “I know she will. But until then…fuck me, I guess, yeah?”
Koltira shrugs. “You could just…apologize for snapping at her. I know it’s not your fault, but…what is logic to her, right?” He goes through the beacon and meets the others on the Vindicaar. “Okay, so, where did—”
“Dalaran,” Taveth says. “Already asked around.”
Grimory growls in frustration and follows. “All of them?” he asks Taveth with an unamused stare.
Taveth purses his lips. “No, Ali is bothering the gnome by the portal.”
“Thanks,” the demon hunter mutters, giving Taveth a quick pat on the shoulder as he passes and heads down the stairs for the portal.
Taveth’s eyebrows lower. “Why do I get the feeling that those two are having a fight of some kind?”
Koltira shrugs and steers the elf to the portal. “Alisbeth was being annoying, Grim got annoyed, now she’s mad at him. I’m way too familiar with that.” He chuckles.
Grimory catches sight of Alisbeth and sighs, steeling himself. “Ali,” he begins cautiously.
Alisbeth blinks at the demon hunter. “Grim,” she replies with the same tone.
Koltira purses his lips and drags Taveth through the portal to give the other two some privacy.
“I’m sorry I snapped at you,” the Illidari blurts, eyes more stern than sympathetic. “I shouldn’t have.”
Alisbeth sighs as she looks him over. “Have you learned your lesson?”
Grimory blinks, brow knit, then slowly nods.
Alisbeth grins wide. “Where do you think the others went? Let’s play hide and seek with them!” She drags him through the portal.
Grimory stumbles after her and into the afternoon streets of Dalaran. “My guess is a tavern. That’s where they always are, yeah?” He snorts a laugh. “And I’m sure Taveth is sloppy drunk again.”
Alisbeth laughs. “I bet you’re right! One-hundred gold to you if they’re in a tavern.”
Grimory follows loosely. “One hundred, eh? I bet two hundred they’re specifically at the Nighthearts’.”
“Family gets free drinks, so I bet you’re right.”
They find Koltira and Taveth at a table with Ervaen.
Alisbeth runs over and sits in her eldest cousin’s lap. “Buy me a whiskey!”
Ervaen blinks slowly down at his cousin, then chuckles quietly and messes her hair. “Whiskey, eh? Here, just take the rest of my brandy.”
Grimory takes a seat across from everyone, leaving as much space between as he can.
Alisbeth takes a gulp of his drink and makes a face. “It’s just not the same. So, what are you boys conspiring about in here?”
“We’re not conspiring,” Taveth blurts.
Ervaen gives a playful roll of his eyes and takes the empty glass from her. “They were just recanting to me your journeys on Argus thus far. Though, I recall there being more to your party. What’ve you done with Kel’ori?” He throws a patient smile to his little brother.
As though prompted by the mere mention of the name, Grimory stops a passing barmaid with a hand and orders a hard drink.
Taveth’s eyes flick to the demon hunter for a split second before he stares at his hands clasped on the table. “Eh-heh. The mages had a fight and she came back to Dalaran without us and then Ana followed her and…now we can’t find either of them.”
“Figured why not go somewhere they’ll think to come looking for us and get a drink at the same time,” Koltira says, then swallows his mouthful of gin.
Ervaen lifts a blond brow at both the high elf and death knight in turn. “I’d ask if I should be concerned, but that sounds exactly like Kel.”
Koltira chuckles. “She’s…quite the handful.”
Taveth makes a face and nods in agreement.
“An understatement.” Ervaen smiles and orders another glass of brandy as well as a small glass of whiskey for Alisbeth.
A couple of handfuls. Grimory sneers and mutters “Shut the fuck up,” into his glass.
Taveth eyes the demon hunter but says nothing.
~ * ~
As Kel’ori waits for her drink, she spots a familiar green face with oil smudges in the corner with some friends. She smiles reservedly and gives a small wave.
Gildwynn’s ears lift in the slightest of ways at the familiar face across the bar. He digs around in the leather bag slung across the back of his chair before making his way over. “Hey, doll!” he chirps with a grin, which falters at the sight of her tightened dress. “U-uh…how’ve you—…how’ve you been?”
Kel’ori forces a brighter smile. “I’ve been great!” she lies. “Just got back from Argus. Taking a…small break. How’ve you been?” She fiddles absently with the rocks glass on the table.
“All right, I suppose,” the goblin responds, picking at a nail nonchalantly. “Oh! Uh…Bilgecat found this.” He holds out his other hand, slightly cupped as to hide the object within—a contraceptive charm on a leather thong. “Thought you’d…be missing it. Heh.”
Without warning, Kel’ori bursts into tears and throws herself on the goblin to hug him close. “Thank gods! You have no idea how happy it makes me that I lost it before we…had our fun,” she says quietly, eyeing other patrons. “I lied. I’ve been going through hell. And I’m so tired of putting on a brave face.”
Gildwynn hesitates, not having expected the outburst, then comfortingly pats her on the back. “Woah, hey. It’s fine. Don’t cry. Want to…go somewhere to talk about it? Heh.”
Kel’ori eyes the patrons again. “Uh-um. Yeah? Probably a good idea, huh?”
Gildwynn lifts a hand to help her to her feet and pays the elf’s tab before pulling her from the tavern and into a quiet side street away from the main roads. “So, spill. What’s up? Anything I can do to help?”
Kel’ori takes a deep breath and looks skyward. “Ana thinks I’m…” She clears her throat and chews on her bottom lip. “Preg…nant…”
Gildwynn’s ears pull back and his smile grows pained. “Oh…oh yeah? A-and…?” He stops himself, realizing any question he asks would come off as offensive. “Are you…happy? About that?”
“No!” Kel’ori practically shouts. “I feel like crap! I thought this misery wasn’t supposed to even happen this early and I was wearing the talisman for a reason, you know, and why didn’t I stop to check.” She straightens and wipes her eyes, then smiles down at the goblin. “I guess I’m at least glad it’s you. That’s…a huge relief. You have no idea.”
Gildwynn’s ears fully pull back like that of a frightened cat. “Oh. Yeah. A relief. Heh.” He swallows. “I-is there—”
“There you are!” Anarchaia bustles down the alleyway toward the two. “You shouldn’t run off like that, Kel!” She stops and looks down at the pale goblin, her demeanor instantly changing. “Oh. Gildwynn. Hey.”
The high elf wipes her eyes again and regards the other mage. “Oh. Hi, Ana. Um… So, you seem to have been right.” She holds up the talisman on the broken leather cord. “It came off at Gildwynn’s place. Such a relief, right? So…um…everything’s all good.” She forces a small laugh, though her face suddenly washes over with new panic.
Gildwynn clears his throat before Anarchaia can respond, a mixture of hurt and confusion in his throat. “U-uh, actually, doll, you had it on when we…were…y’know. Heh.”
Anarchaia closes her mouth and her lips purse to an apprehensive line. <<You didn’t tell him,>> she says in Thalassian, on nearly a whisper.
Kel’ori stares between the two. <<Why the hell would I tell him?>> She frowns and wrings her hands. “No. But, you found it at your place. I-it could still be…” She slaps her palms over her face and shakes her head. “No. no. It has to be you, okay? It has to be. Please.”
Gildwynn furrows his blond brow, concerned. He glances between the two. “Who…else could it be?” he asks quietly and in as a non-accusatory tone as he can muster.
Anarchaia swallows and looks nervously between the two before her as well.
Kel’ori pouts once and disappears in a flurry of purple sparkles and yellow cinders.
Anarchaia and Gildwynn exchange looks. The goblin fidgets. “Ana, what’s going on?”
Anarchaia frowns. “I…don’t think I’m allowed to tell you.” She sighs once more and pats Gildwynn on the head, then turns. “I’ll keep you updated. I promise.”
The goblin swats at her hand in annoyance and scowls after her. The scowl, however, fades to a somber frown after a second. “Yeah. Please do.”
The undead mage stops just as she reaches the busy main road. She taps at her chin, brow knit in thought. A familiar voice catches her ear and she turns to see Alisbeth pulling Grimory along like a disobedient pet on a leash. She watches them go, then sets herself on a nearby bench to think alone.
~ * ~
Kel’ori’s left ear flicks as tuneless pipe music reaches it. Without uncovering her face, she sits on the couch.
“I’m pretty sure the bell still works,” Docra says across from the mage. She sets her teacup in the saucer and slides it onto the table, then pours Kel’ori a cup. “What is it this time?”
“I’m pregnant,” she mumbles.
“You’re still upset about that?”
The high elf’s hands lower to stare at the priestess. “What do you mean ‘still’? Did…did you know? Why didn’t you say something?”
“It’s an unfortunate side effect of the Light. I thought that’s what all the nonsense was about last time. Figured you’d tell me when you were ready.” She stands and withdraws a set of blue robes from a bin on the shelves. “These are a bit bigger. They’ll look less uncomfortable.”
Kel’ori stops and hiccups up at the blood elf, her eyes scanning over the black form-fitting silky dress with three-quarter sheer sleeves. “You’re wearing the dress I made you.”
“Do you like it?” she asks as Docra leads her to the bathroom by an elbow.
“It shows too much cleavage.”
“But…do you like it?”
The priestess blinks. “I do. Thank you.” She closes the very lost-looking Kel’ori in the bathroom.
~ * ~
Anarchaia chews on her lip before standing and disappearing in a swirl of sparkles. When she reappears she’s standing before Kel’ori’s door. She knocks tentatively. At the sound of silence, she presses a palm to the wood, easily unlocking any wards holding it shut. Finding no one inside, she replaces the locks and takes a moment to think in the hallway. A thought strikes her and she makes a face down the corridor, at the stairway leading to the upper floors. Reluctantly, she ascends and allows her feet to lead her to another familiar door. She hesitates—as is now second nature to her—then knocks.
Kalecgos opens the door and his eyelids lower for a split second before he recovers. “It’s not open for renegotiation, Miss Starling.”
Anarchaia erratically waves both her hands in a mixture of annoyance and dismissal. “Nono, I’m not here for that. I was just wondering if Kel’ori happened to be here?”
He blinks at the mage. “No. Are you saying you’ve misplaced my apprentice?”
Anarchaia swallows, for a second considering lying but knowing he won’t be fooled. “Yes. We had a…disagreement. She ran off and I can’t seem to find her.”
Kalecgos crosses an arm over his chest and reaches his other hand up to tap his chin. “Well, to find her, I’d figure one must know what mood she’s in. She might go one place when she’s looking for a good time, and another place when she’s upset. Have you tried her bedroom? She likes to throw tantrums in there when she’s angry.”
Anarchaia deflates, comforted by his lax posture. “I checked her room…sorry, heh. She wasn’t there.” She taps her chin as well. “I don’t…” A sigh escapes her. She then perks. “Wait, no. I might know where she is.” She turns, tailored robes swirling. “Thank you, Archmage!”
Kalecgos smiles. “Of course. Tell her I expect an update soon.” He says it as though it isn’t a request, though his voice gives the smallest hint of concern.
“Will do!” She disappears in a flash and reappears back near her bench. She pokes her head into a few taverns before finding the correct one and stepping inside as though unbothered. “Grim.”
The demon hunter jumps at the sound of his name right beside him and turns. “Oh. What’s up?”
“Something important’s come up. Come with me please?”
He hesitates, unease filling him, but he downs the rest of his drink and follows anyway. “What’s this abo—” He furrows his brow as she grabs him by the hand.
“Don’t let go,” she mutters as they disappear in a flurry of sparkles.
He scowls when they reappear outside a drab looking house. “Don’t you need some kind of consent to do that?”
“Not technically.” She knocks on the door, still holding his hand tightly, lest he try to escape.
A black cat weaves out of a small door on a hinge in one square windowpane. He mrows from his window box perch, then jumps down to rub at the mage’s ankles. A moment later the door opens. Docra’s eyes scan slowly over the demon hunter from head to toe. She nods. “He’ll do.”