Book 5 – Chapter Thirty-Six

Koltira stomps from the tavern, adjusting his cuirass indignantly. He stops himself at the entrance to the Legerdemain Lounge and lets out a breath. After a thought he turns and instead heads to the shooting range, since even now, nothing ever soothes his mind like the loosing of arrows into a target. He pays for a bow and quiver of arrows, nocks one, and lets it fly. The corner of his lips twitches up just slightly at the sound of the arrow screaming through the air, then finding the target with a thunk.

Diori jumps at the dull sound of an arrow finding its mark. She sniffles and leans around the tree she’d tucked herself away beneath, face red and wet. Noticing the familiar elf, she quickly ducks back and pulls her knees to her chest, embarrassed. I hope I wasn’t too loud. She rubs her raw nose against a knee and pushes her hair from her face.

Koltira’s brow lowers and, against better judgement, looses an arrow at the tree. It thunks into the trunk, shattering the bark. “Hiding behind a tree at a shooting range is a good way to get shot in the ass.” He looses another arrow at the target’s shield, hitting directly in the middle and causing the arms to spin rapidly around the body.

Diori flinches at the feeling of the arrow biting into the tree, vibrating against her back. She sits for a moment, then wipes her cheeks on her knees again and stands. “You’re really good,” she says meekly as she steps out. “Better than them…”

Koltira cocks an eyebrow and lifts his head from the nock. “So, you’re the one hiding back there.” He looses the arrow without looking and it lands in the white ring around the outside of the target. He makes a face at the arrow as though the bad shot was its fault. “I thought you were with Taveth.”

Diori shakes her head and looks over at the target. She wipes at a warm cheek. “No…I just…” she frowns and deflates, “wanted to hide and cry.” Tears sting her eyes again and she blinks them back.

Koltira frowns. “When you get to be my age, and go through as much shit, hiding and crying becomes sulking and drinking.” He loses another arrow, which lands two rings from the center. He stops to scrutinize the girl. “Get a bow.” He flips a gold coin toward her.

Diori realizes only seconds too late what he’d tossed to her and scrambles with the coin to catch it. She takes another second to think it over, then nods and retrieves a children’s bow and arrows from the stand near the range entrance. When she returns, she stands hesitantly behind the elf and watches. “You think I’m going to start sulking and drinking?” she asks as though it isn’t too bad an idea.

“No,” he lets an arrow fly, “I think you’re going to shoot this target until it doesn’t hurt anymore.” He pauses and looks down at her. “And please don’t drink. Taveth may be mild mannered, but I think he’d kill me.”

“Until it doesn’t hurt?” Diori furrows her brow upward and looks down at the bow in her hands. “We could be here forever.”

“Don’t I know it,” Koltira mumbles. He slings the bow over one shoulder and folds his arms. “Show me what you can do.”

She sullenly steps toward the target. Memories of her previous visit to the range fill her head and the image of the target blurs with tears. She sniffles and draws the arrow back to her ear, then looses. It embeds itself in the farthest side of the target and she lowers her arms to sigh quietly. “I guess it kind of helps…”

He purses his lips in thought, his eyes still on the arrow. “Your form is almost correct.” He kneels to adjust her and help her draw the bow. “Breathe in, aim, and release on the exhale.” He angles her aim to guarantee a bullseye, save any errors on her own part.

The smaller elf nods and does as she’s instructed. The arrow hits its mark with deceptive ease. She smiles and looks up at the man beside her, delight peeking through the sadness in her cerulean eyes. “You’re good at this. What did you do with your bow? The one Ali returned to you?”

Koltira frowns. “It’s…in a trunk in Acherus. It’s damaged beyond repair, now.” He stands and nocks another arrow.

“Couldn’t mask lady fix it for you? I saw her put a whole vase back together.” She does the same, but still only catches the outside of the target without his guidance. She nocks another. “Ali said you worked really hard on it. You should finish it.” She pauses and her aim falters. “Not just let it rot…” The arrow sails over the edge of the island.

Koltira sighs softly. “Maybe she could. But maybe she just shouldn’t.” His eyes remain on the spot where the arrow disappeared. “Sometimes you just have to accept when something is broken or gone.” He stares down at the girl, his lips pursed as though he, too, is swallowing a harsh reality. “We may not like it. But sometimes we just have to accept it.”

Diori frowns and remains quiet for a long time. She turns and looses another arrow. It sticks near the bullseye and she lowers her bow again, then slowly sinks to sit in the grass. “Maybe you should, though. Maybe sometimes if we don’t just accept it, it won’t stay that way.”

The death knight thinks on her words. He knocks an arrow and lets it fly into the bullseye. “You really think stubbornness will make things go the way you want? It takes action. We have to do things to get what we want.” He sends another arrow at the target. “Sometimes there is no action to take.” He rapidly fires several at the target, then turns to stare at her again. “Any thoughts?”

The young girl watches each arrow land neatly in it around the bullseye. She brings in her lower lip to chew on it, then sighs. “No…” she finally mumbles, defeated. She rips a handful of grass from the earth and lets the blades flutter off in the breeze. “Maybe the prophet can help. I bet he’s resurrected people before.” She blinks, then looks up at the pale man above her. “Or he could be one of you.”

Koltira makes a face. “I…don’t think it would work that way. I don’t know how demon hunters work.” He thinks on it, his fingers pulling along the feathers of an arrow. “It’d be something…new, that’s for sure… He’d hate me. More.”

The little elf’s brow knits upward. “He hated you? What for? And why would he hate you more for bringing him back? Don’t people want to live?” She digs a pebble from the tangled grass and tosses it as far as she can.

“Wanting to live and living as a death knight are two different things, girlie.” He thinks on the matter. “Fuck it. Wanna try?”

Diori’s eyes widen and she stares up at him for a long second. “…really?” she finally says, a smile playing at her lips.

The death knight gives a careless shrug. “If we fail, nothing changes. If we succeed, I get punched in the face. Why not?” He launches the last of his arrows. “How good are you at distracting someone?”

Diori gets to her feet, not bothering with the remainder of her arrows. She quickly returns the equipment and rushes back. “Depends on who. I’m really good at distracting Kel. And Yathen.” She makes a face. “Taveth always seems to catch me, though.”

The death knight returns the bow and quiver. “Let’s see how good you are against Ana.” He leads the girl back to the inn and knocks gently on the door.

“Mask lady,” she says as though the woman is a new adversary she’s just become aware of. She squares her shoulders. “I’m ready.”

The door opens and Anarchaia blinks at the two. “Ready?”

Diori falters. “R-ready to…see him. Again.” She lowers her head. “I’m sorry I ran off.”

The mage’s face softens and she looks between the two. “Of course.” She steps aside and smiles. “No need to be sorry, hon.” She turns her smile to Koltira. “Thanks.”

Koltira scowls around the room, then pauses and stares at the mage as though she’d only just appeared. “I found her behind a tree. Nearly shot her.” He sighs. “Why don’t you guys take her to get something to eat? I can…keep watch here.”

The undead woman blinks again, then looks at the other two hesitantly. “I…suppose.” She bends at the waist to regard Diori with a hidden smile. “Want some of those apples you like so much? The café on the west side is open until ten.”

The small elf looks up at Koltira as though asking for confirmation, then turns back and nods. “Yeah,” she says somberly. “On second thought that sounds a lot better…”

Anarchaia’s smile grows sympathetic and she takes the girl’s hand. “Coming, Taveth?”

Taveth shakes his head. “No, I—”

“Starving yourself won’t change anything,” Koltira says. “Go. Have a meal with your sister. I’ve got this handled.” He drops into the vacant seat and crosses an ankle on the other knee. “Too drunk to really do anything else, anyway.”

Taveth purses his lips at Diori, then at Koltira. “I suppose you’re right. Thank you.” He stands and reaches for the girl’s hand.

Diori gives Taveth a forcibly sad smile and takes his hand with her free one, then pulls the two from the room.

Anarchaia gives the death knight a fleeting wave before being dragged down the staircase. She chuckles tiredly. “Slow down, heh.”

“I’m hungry,” the girl responds curtly. “Crying makes me tired and hungry.”

The mage furrows her brow. “I suppose it would. Emotional stress can be just as tiresome as physical stress.”

Taveth nods. “Now that you mention it, I’m getting hungrier.”

Koltira waits a reasonable amount of time, then stands and locks the door. He places one of the chairs under the knob, as though that might stop someone from entering. “All right, buddy. Let’s get started… Don’t punch me.”

~ * ~

Diori follows the two to the café nestled near the Greymane Enclave, across from the monumental fountain. She sets herself with the two at an outside table in the humid summer air and runs her palms along the smooth glass of the tabletop.

“Is Ali gonna be okay?” she asks absently after their simple orders are taken. “She seemed…not good.”

Anarchaia glances at Taveth across the table from her and clears her throat. “I’m…certain she’ll be fine. She’s come through in worse.”

Taveth purses his lips. “I hope so. I already miss her.” He clears his throat. “So, how long do you wish to remain in Dalaran?”

 

Diori sighs while her food is placed before her. “I don’t know,” she admits. “I kinda miss my room.” She takes a bite, then whines and covers her mouth as it burns her tongue. “But I like it here,” she manages to choke.

Taveth nods absently, but says nothing as he pokes at his meal.

“Oh, hey guys.” Kel’ori stands over them, a nervous smile on her lips. “Mind if we join you?” She motions at Docra beside her.

Black hair twisted elegantly behind her ear, black robes fluttering in the gentle breeze, and a black parasol in her pale hand, the priest looks down at Diori. She says nothing, her purple-painted lips in their usual bland line.

Anarchaia blinks then smiles and makes room for the two. “Oh absolutely. The more the merrier. Heh…” She lifts her mask to sip at her tea to occupy her mouth.

Diori tilts her head up at the strange elf. “Who are you?” she asks outright, licking cinnamon from the corner of her lips.

The priestess blinks and takes a seat away from the girl. “Docra.”

Kel’ori giggles and sits beside Diori. She gives her a quick hug, disregarding any mess that may be on the girl’s face. “I’ve missed you so much! This is my friend Docra. She’s a shadow priest. She has a cool dagger and everything!”

Taveth blinks. “Wait… Was that…her dagger?”

“The one I got instead of my hairbrush? Yep. That’d be it.”

The priestess ignores the chatter and quietly orders for both women when the waiter comes by.

Diori looks at the priestess as Kel’ori explains, nodding. She then looks down and gasps. “Krori, what happened to you?” She lowers her voice and narrows her eyes suspiciously. “Do you have a boyfriend?”

Anarchaia nearly chokes on her tea, then recovers with a hand over her lips. “U-uhm, this weather sure was been…temperate. Heh. I thought it rained a lot on islands?” She wrings her hands anxiously beneath the table.

Kel’ori forces a grin. “I…don’t. Why do you ask?— Weather! Yes, it has been nice. Very nice. I rather like it. How are you faring under so much clothing?”

Taveth, unable to see past the tabletop, merely blinks quizzically at the others.

Docra rolls her eyes. “You merely postpone the inevitable, Kel’ori.”

Anarchaia gives a small titter. “Oh, I’m fine. Heh. Very accustomed to the elements at this point,” she says over the priest. “What about you?”

Diori purses her lips and lowers her eyelids, used to such behavior in the past. “It rained two days ago,” she drones.

Kel’ori’s smile slowly fades, though she clings to it, still. “Did it rain? I’ve been so preoccupied.”

Diori nods. “A lot. The plant outside our door in the enclave nearly drowned.”

Docra sighs into her tea. “So Taveth, it’s been a while. You look…awful.”

“Thanks,” he says with tight lips.

“You’re welcome. Ana, you look…blue.”

Anarchaia gives an equally tight-lipped “Thanks,” then clears her throat. “Always am. Heh. You look…” She pauses to think. “Bored.”

Docra sips her tea. “I don’t get out much. This is actually…thrilling might be the word, I suppose.” She eyes Kel’ori across from her. “So, Taveth, how do you feel about your sister’s big news?”

Anarchaia straightens in her seat and flicks wide eyes at Taveth. “U-uhmmm…”

Taveth’s brow furrows. “Big news?”

Kel’ori hisses at the priestess, who merely takes another sip of tea. “It’s nothing. Nothing at all. I’ll tell you later.”

Diori looks up at Kel’ori and smiles. “You do have a boyfriend!” She giggles. “Who is he? What’s his name? Is he handsome?”

Kel’ori cringes and waves her hands at the girl. “I don’t have a boyfriend! Why would you even think that?”

Diori blinks as though the answer is obvious. “Because of that.” She points at the woman’s growing belly.

Anarchaia scrambles for words, a multitude of noises erupting from her throat before finding one. “Taveth! Would you like to compare notes sometime? I’m sure you have some I…don’t…” Her voice trails off as she notes a few guards running toward the north side of the city.

Kel’ori’s smile becomes more strained. “That’s nothing! Don’t worry about it.”

“Kel,” Taveth says slowly, “is it really nothing?”

“I have to go. Sorry. No time for lunch.” The elf mage stands abruptly.

Kel!” Taveth stands and grabs her elbow, yanking her closer to speak quietly. “Please tell me that’s Kalec’s?”

“He’s my master,” she hisses.

“And?”

She purses her lips, then snaps her head to look up the street as civilians come running, screaming around the corner.

Docra sips her tea and nods absently. “I am glad you made me come out today. Very eventful.” Her expression, however, doesn’t change.

Anarchaia stands as well. “I-I’m going to go help with… Whatever’s going on on the other side of town. Heh.” She throws a couple gold on the glass tabletop then ties up her robes at the hip to sprint off.

Diori blinks at the commotion. “Who’s Kalec?”

Kel’ori makes a face at her brother and sister, then shakes free. “I’ll help!” she shouts and rushes after Anarchaia.

Taveth narrows his eyes after the women. “Hmm. Diori, let’s get you somewhere safe.” He takes her hand to urge her to Greymane’s Enclave.

Diori reaches longingly for her unfinished plate of apples as she’s dragged off. “Bye, pretty priest lady!”

Docra wiggles her fingers as a sort of lazy wave, but otherwise doesn’t look back at the girl. She turns in her seat to watch for anything that comes around the corner, her tea saucer in one hand. After a minute she stands, takes her parasol, and saunters down the street toward the commotion.

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