Book 5 – Chapter Thirty-Eight

Anarchaia appears on the main deck of the Vindicaar in a flurry of green sparkles. She makes her way to the mess hall, then sighs when she finds no one there waiting for her. A familiar face catches her eye, however, and she gives a small wave as she trots up.

“Good morning small mage,” Eophen greets with a tired smile. “How do you fare?”

“Well, thank you. You haven’t seen…?”

The draenei shakes his head. “Not for a while, actually. Many days. Did something happen?”

“O-oh. Uh. N-no. Not really. Heh.” She sits across from him to wait.

Taveth descends the stairs with a fidgeting Kel’ori, who is trying to look less pregnant.

She groans. “I look like it’s been four months or something! It’s only been, what, four weeks? Oh, gods, please tell me they have bacon.”

Koltira brushes past the two as he runs down the stairs. He finds the mage and strides to her. “You didn’t wait for me!”

Anarchaia’s head jerks in Koltira’s direction and she blinks. “You said you’d only be a moment…”

Eophen shifts uncomfortably. “It has been a while since last we spoke. How goes your excursions?” he says to Koltira in an attempt to ease the tension.

Koltira shifts and eyes Eophen. “I’m not sure yet.” He looks down at the mage again. “A moment is any amount of time. I just wanted to do one thing. It took longer than I expected.” He turns back to the draenei. “How have the engines been?”

Taveth sits beside Anarchaia and smiles. “Good morning.” He casts his gaze to Eophen and his smile grows shy. “And to you, as well.”

Kel’ori sets her tray and pre-filled doggy bag down and sits beside Taveth. “Mmm, when I find out what animal they take this from, I’m starting a farm of them.”

Anarchaia looks away, half guilty and half irritated. “I’m sorry. I’ll wait for you next time.” She returns Taveth’s smile as though not having just been reprimanded. “Morning.”

Eophen gives a nervous grin with one side of his mouth. “The engines are well. As functional as always.” He looks at Kel’ori’s plate and chuckles. “Marsuul.”

Koltira for a moment thinks about telling her what he was doing, but instead just finds an empty seat to wait in.

Kel’ori’s brow furrows. “What’s a marsuul?”

Taveth snerks. “It’s…a rodent.”

“Like a rat?”

Taveth nods and Kel’ori pauses in her chewing. She looks to the draenei for confirmation.

Eophen lifts his blond eyebrows at her and nods slowly.

She begins chewing again. “This is a good rat. Didn’t Ali have one as a pet? Where is that thing?”

“It ran off during the last fight,” Anarchaia says absently, running the tip of a finger on the table in circles. “After Grim…”

Eophen blinks at the mage. “The demon hunter? And the other elf woman. Where are they? Too tired to continue?” He chuckles.

The Nighthearts look down at the table in unison. Koltira turns his head away.

“We…lost Grim. About a week ago,” Koltira says slowly. “Ali is…out of her mind with grief.”

Eophen’s smile immediately fades. “I… I am sorry,” he says with regret. “I had no idea. My condolences.”

“Have you heard of the Illidari coming back after they die?” Anarchaia blurts.

The draenei swallows and gives a shrug. “Not the ones that have been rushed to our infirmary, no. I am sorry.”

Kel’ori continues to eat, but unenthusiastically.

Taveth forces a smile. “We’re trying to remain hopeful.”

Koltira clears his throat. “We should get going. Kel, if you could eat faster, please?”

She makes a dramatic display of shoving a whole wad of bacon into her mouth. “Berrer?” she asks over the mess.

Anarchaia speaks to Eophen though her eyes lock on Kel’ori. “There’s a position open. Heh. Could use…some help.”

The engineer perks. “I…could accompany you.” He smiles. “It would be nice to see something other than the engines for a change.” He stands. “Allow me to retrieve my armor and I will return.”

The mage watches him go. “Do you think the five of us will be enough?” she asks to no one in particular. “The six of us last time were barely adequate.”

Taveth frowns. “Someone who could keep one of us from dying again would be helpful… Diori is worried. She didn’t want to let me leave this morning and refuses to return to Stormwind.”

Kel’ori perks. “Docra can—”

“No.” Koltira makes a face. “I already turned her down back when we were headed to the Halls of Valor. And she already demonstrated what happens when she heals a death knight.”

Taveth’s brow furrows. “Oh, that was Docra? I honestly hadn’t met her yet. It hadn’t even occurred to me.”

“What happened?” Kel’ori asks, trying to eat quickly without stuffing her mouth too full.

“Ali was left screaming on the floor,” Koltira says.

“You vomit when you take the beacon,” Taveth says. “It would be the same if Docra were to use any of her holy magic on you.”

Kel’ori points a piece of bacon at her brother. “Let’s not get Docra.”

Koltira looks to Anarchaia. “Should I find someone for us?”

Anarchaia looks directly up at him for the first time since that morning. She brings up a thumb to idly chew on through both mask and glove. “No.” She stands. “I have a guy.” She sweeps from the room.

Eophen returns minutes later clad in gold and crystalline armor, a large hammer resting on a shoulder. He grins embarrassedly. “The armor I earned after the trials. It has honestly not seen any action since.” He blinks. “Where is little mage?”

Koltira blinks at Taveth as the high elf stares at the lightforged as though transfixed. He shakes his head. “She went to get another. A healer.”

“Shouldn’t take long. I think.” Kel’ori looks at her plate. “She can take a little longer. I’m not finished eating.”

Eophen looks through the lot, faint confusion in his knit brow. “I can heal.”

Koltira laughs lightly, vaguely reminded of the draenei paladin who only spoke broken orcish. “Holy power is not undead friendly. I don’t like painful healing. It’s nothing personal at all.”

“And I don’t want to vomit,” Kel’ori mumbles.

The draenei’s embarrassed grin returns and he sets his hammer down to lean on it. “I forget myself. I do not deal with your kind often.”

Stop pulling!” Gildwynn wrenches his mail-clad arm away from Anarchaia’s grasp. Instead of the usual engineering apron and tunic, his short body is garbed in boiled leather and feathers as well as a cowl covering his neck and shoulders. “I already agreed. You don’t have to drag me here like I’m going to change my mind.” He rolls his shoulder, then blinks at the group across the short distance from the doorway.

“I wouldn’t put it past you,” Anarchaia mutters, folding her arms. “All set,” she calls to the others.

Koltira waves a dismissive hand at the draenei. “It’s okay. You’re not the first, nor will you be the last.” He stands, smiling at Anarchaia. “Oh good, let’s get going.”

Taveth stands, hurriedly sketching out the draenei clad in his shining armor within his personal journal.

Kel’ori shoves what she can into her mouth and tilts the rest into her sack. Mouth stuffed as she forces the bag into her satchel, she stops, her cheeks turning a bright pink. The mage spins back around and chews the food in her mouth, the swallows then over-sized gob, cringing as it forces its way down. She turns again, pulling her silver cloak over as though to hide her belly. “Gildwynn! What a surprise. What brings you here? And dressed so snappy, too.” She fiddles with a feather as she grins down at him.

“Ana said she needed a healer,” the goblin responds with lightly tinted cheeks. “I figured it’d be a good opportunity to let the twins…” He cringes. “Watch the shop.”

“I’m paying him.” Anarchaia gently returns the smile to Koltira before turning to make her way to the upper deck.

Eophen lifts his hefty hammer back to his shoulder and gives the goblin a once over. “Have not seen many of your kind, either.” He smiles and extends a hand. “Eophen.”

Gildwynn stares at the massive hand for a moment, then shakes it. “You’re rather…pale. And golden. For a draenei. Gildwynn. Steamvolt.”

“A pleasure. It shall be a thrill to fight beside you.”

Gildwynn pulls his ears back as the gargantuan man clomps past. “Right. Fight.”

Kel’ori’s smile dims a little. “Right. Of course.” She clears he throat awkwardly and takes Taveth by the elbow to urge him after Anarchaia. “Better get going.”

Koltira holds out his hand, motioning up after the others. “After you. Please.”

“The prophet and High Exarch have made their way to Mac’aree,” Artificer Romuul explains as the group nears. “I have the beacon ready to send any parties willing to accompany them.”

Anarchaia frowns. “S-so…no portal.”

“Something wrong with that?” Gildwynn says, rapping a knuckle against the golden platform and listening to the sound it makes.

“N-… No.” Anarchaia sighs. “No.”

Kel’ori frowns. “Oh. Um, Tav. Tav….Taveth!”

“Hmm? What? What did I miss?”

She whispers in his ear.

“Oh. Hmm…”

“Aim away from us,” Koltira says. “Maybe our large friend, here, can catch you if you faint?” He pats Eophen’s arm, then goes to the undead mage. “Let’s get this over with.”

Gildwynn’s ears perk. “Am I missing someth——” He grunts as Anarchaia shoves him onto the beacon platform and is gone the next second. She sighs and nods, clenching her fists. She takes Koltira by the hand and follows the goblin.

Eophen chuckles at the remaining elves. “Does this means of travel not sit well with you? I will wait on the other side as suggested.” He gives a curt salute and is next to disappear in a bright flash.

“You can go first,” Kel’ori says. “And move out of the way, I guess.” Once Taveth disappears, the mage clenches her fists. “Please don’t puke. Please don’t puke. Please don’t puke.” Once on the other side, she groans, her breakfast rising in her stomach. Before she can vomit, though, she tips over in a faint.

With ease and having anticipated, Eophen outstretches an arm and catches the elf girl before she can fall too far. He gives the group an empathetic shrug. “A good thing I came, eh?”

Gildwynn pulls his ears back and rests on a hip. “Yeah. The best.” He scowls as the mage beside him nudges his shoulder.

“Let’s get going. Just…throw her over your shoulder, I guess.” Anarchaia rubs at her aching joints as she looks around the surrounding area. Golden grass flutters in an invisible, strangely warm breeze. Alien trees and ruins litter the land. In the distance, near a large stone archway, stands Velen.

Eophen opts to cradle Kel’ori in his arms instead, hammer fastened to his belt at his hip.

“Thank you,” Taveth says to the draenei, finally closing his book and stowing it.

Koltira catches up to Anarchaia and sets his palm against the small of her back. “Just the one time, right?” He gives her a comforting smile. “I’m…not mad at you. You know that, right?” He gives Velen the faintest of nods.

Perhaps I’m still angry with you. Anarchaia gives a tentative frown beneath her mask, but her voice flows through in its usual contented tone. “I know. Sorry for leaving you behind all the same.”

Velen regards them with sadness in his eyes. “So much pain here. So much…torment. This battle here rages on yet. Echoes of the brave who lost their lives to aid me in my escape.” He turns to gesture into the arena below a gentle slope. Ghostly images of Eredar and draenei flicker in and out of existence, fighting on as though they yet remained. “You are the first to come here.” He smiles gently behind his great white beard. “My first request is to task you with activating the ancient defense pylons so that those who remain here may battle no longer.”

Eophen nods dutifully as though he weren’t carrying an unconscious, pregnant elf in his arms. “At once, Prophet.”

Gildwynn folds his arms. “Pressing some buttons? I happen to be an expert.”

Velen nods. “It’s been a while. I’m willing to bet a few are missing some pieces, but they’ve likely not gone far. I’m going to do my best to purify the surrounding area to ease their suffering. Good luck.”

Kel’ori takes in a sharp breath and twitches awake. “Oh! Uh, hi Eophen.” She gives an embarrassed smile.

Eophen returns the grin and sets her down gingerly. “Are you well again?”

Taveth gives Velen a small smile. “Prophet.”

“Try not to get hurt,” he says, a smile threatening his lips.

“Heh. We have a healer this time. I won’t be incurring his…‘protection’ again.”

Koltira glares out at the images of the fighting draenei. “Maybe one of them has what we need. Let’s see if we can kill a ghost.” Without waiting, he strides to one and swings Byfrost out. It hits the spirit echo, who turns around to attack him as the other echo runs away to safety. The death knight easily dispatches the echo; it falls into a pile of ash, a purple crystal plopped on the top. He picks it up and blows it off. “Uhh…no buttons on this thing.”

Gildwynn snatches the crystal from Koltira and gives it a quick inspection. “Power core,” he says simply and strides past him toward the nearest conduit. A specter approaches, but he holds out a clawed hand and it’s lifted from the ground, suspended in a cyclone. More rush to meet him as he nears the pylon.

Anarchaia dispatches the two that lift their weapons with blasts of fire and smiles down at the goblin as he places the core atop the device. Without warning, the pylon hums to life and the crystal atop glows brightly in anticipation.

The high elf mage nods at the lightforged. “Thank you.” She looks out at the land. “So, what are we doing?”

“Getting the defenses running,” Taveth says, his attention on one of his research journals as he draws the scene.

“Oh. I suppose I should go help.” She smiles up at the draenei and sets a hand on his bicep. “Thank you, again.” She pokes her brother’s cheek. “Stay out of trouble.”

Taveth pauses. “Why does everyone think I’m going to get killed out here?”

Koltira clears the area of the next pylon to allow Gildwynn access to the device. He stops in the doorway to look at a towering Eredar spirit standing in an archway, laughing at the carnage that had happened so long ago. “He kind of looks like I want to kill him,” the death knight says to no one.

Anarchaia can’t help but chuckle. “I’ve got your back,” she says, hands filling with flame.

The banished sprit breaks free of its bindings and, after a shake of her head, runs for Gildwynn with rage in her eyes. “The prophet shall not escape!”

The goblin turns and pulls his ears back. He lifts a hand and a pointed shard of earth juts from the ground, sending the spirit sprawling. “A little late for that, ain’t it?”

She screams as lightning courses through her until her being bursts into a ghostly puff of smoke.

Gildwynn frowns when she leaves behind no crystal. “I guess only certain ones hold the power cores.”

Eophen smiles after Kel’ori, then perks at the screaming. He nods to the goblin and make easy work of another specter, its body disintegrating against the broad end of his hammer. He picks up the small crystal left behind and flips it in his hand. “Or perhaps your luck is just poor.” He grins.

Gildwynn’s eyelids lower and he turns away to dispatch more offending spirits.

Koltira smirks at the mage and runs forward, cutting down lesser souls in his path. He throws a red ring under the huge echo and swipes him with his sword.

Kel’ori’s nose wrinkles and she sets her wrist to her nostrils. “Um, anything I can do to help?” she asks, smiling down at the goblin.

Anarchaia freezes solid another spirit, then blasts it to pieces with a large ball of fire. She picks up the little crystal in the midst of the chunks. “Three more!” she calls over her shoulder.

Eophen swiftly destroys a pair of echoes attacking a visage of a draenei paladin. The two smile at one another and he sets the crystal in its place.

Gildwynn looks up at Kel’ori, blushes, then does a double take. “Uh…don’t get yourself into trouble? You all right?” With a pillar of lava, he vanquishes an echo that happens to be running past to engage a draenei.

Kel’ori brings her cloak over to cover her stomach and smiles nervously. “I’m fine. You? Eek!” She hops sideways and erupts into a series of translucent explosions, each one a different color. The spirit echo beside her weakens and crumbles to dust. She stares at the pile, then smiles. “I killed it!”

“It was already dead, Kel,” Taveth says absently from his book. He picks up the crystal and holds it out to Eophen, then Gildwynn, unsure who should receive the item.

“Can’t even let me have that one?” Her face pinches and she looks around at the others, bringing her wrist to her nose again.

The echo slams his massive hoof into Koltira’s chest, sending him flying across the courtyard.

Eophen plucks the small crystal from Taveth’s fingers, then flinches as Koltira crashes into the dirt a few yards away. “Uhm. On second thought,” he takes Taveth’s hand and pushes the crystal back into it with a smile and a faint flush, then pulls his hammer from his shoulder before running forward.

Kolt!” Next in his sights, Anarchaia’s eyes widen up as the demon swings a claw down. She braces herself with a shield of ice, but before it manifests, a spray of sparks showers her. She squints an eye open.

Eophen grits sharp teeth together against the strain of the demon’s strength pushing into the handle of his hammer. He grunts and swings forward, staggering the echo back a couple feet.

Gildwynn’s form shifts into that of a ghostly wolf as he dashes past Kel’ori and to the death knight. “You gonna live? Er…well…you know what I mean.” He shifts back to lift a hand, summoning a soothing stream of water that fusses over Koltira, healing bruises and relieving aches.

Taveth holds the crystal tight, the tips of his ears pink, as he doesn’t move from his spot. A purple swirl opens up beside him and Tryxora leaps out, her hands on her hips.

“What are you doing here?” he growls.

<<I felt a disturbance in the Nether!>>

“You…what?”

She grins and rubs the top of his head. <<You’re in trouble. Never fear, master, I’ll protect you.>> She runs off, attacking spirits locked in battle with each other and paying the li6ving no mind.

“She’s kind of an idiot,” Kel’ori says behind her hand.

Taveth ignores her turning his attention to Eophen. He does his best to catch some of the battle in quick drawings.

Koltira sits up. “Yeah. Just got the wind knocked out of me. And my skeleton.” He pats the goblin on the back, then stands. “Thanks.” He runs back at the giant spirit, teeth grit. “Hey, asshole! I’m not done with you!”

“No,” Eophen warns over his shoulder. His weapon glows with holy Light. “With all due—” he grunts as he throws a swing at the demon’s leg to gain his attention again, “—respect little elf, but you are…little. Heh.” He dodges a swipe of claws. “Please, focus your energies on his core. It is where echoes contain the bulk of their power.” He brings his hammer around toward the spot but is blocked and staggered. A shield of light appears to protect him from a counter.

Koltira’s brow lowers at the draenei. “I’m not as fragile as you think.” He runs forward, immediately gaining the spirit’s attention.

Anarchaia nods and sends a stream of nonstop fire toward the echo. The demon growls and turns to deflect the magic with a hardened spike protruding from his shoulder. He rakes his claws at Koltira, but the death knight parries. He runs to the others as sparks of magic fly at them from nearby echoes. A lavender shell bursts from around him to protect them in the transparent dome.

Anarchaia blinks and looks around her. “Oh. Heh. I honestly forget you can do that.” She summons a gargantuan spike of ice. It crashes against the back of the demon and he stumbles, leaving Eophen open to land a stunning blow to his head.

“I did not know death knights could do such things,” he muses, then grunts as he’s punched in the core, knocking him back.

The demon turns back to Koltira, nostrils flared with rage. He stomps toward him, the mage’s shards of ice exploding against his shoulders and back. Koltira reaches his hand up and pulls the life force from the demon. It weakens and falls to a knee.

He stares at his hand. “I didn’t actually expect that to work.” He quickly swings Byfrost around to sever the demon’s head. Khazaduum crumbles into a large pile of ash. The elf smirks at the draenei. “Not so bad for a little elf.” He saunters past to check on the Nighthearts.

Eophen gives the elf an apologetic smile. “I did say with all due respect.”

Anarchaia returns the grin. “He’s just sassy. Don’t be offended. Heh.” She takes a moment to look at the pile of spectral dust She jumps as an echo explodes beside her, its form crumbling to reveal a small crystal in the grass.

Gildwynn purses his lips up at her. “Not really a spot for daydreaming,” he chides, fingers still smoldering. He grins. “Though we both know nothing stops you from doing that anyway.” He snatches up the crystal and makes for the nearest pylon.

She blushes lightly. “Sorry. Oh! I have another!” She relinquishes the one she’d picked up earlier and the goblin dutifully takes it.

Eophen makes his way back to Taveth and Kel’ori, vanquishing a couple of the few remaining foes along the way. “You still have the crystal, yes?”

Taveth smiles and holds up the little purple crystal. “Right here. Heh.”

Eophen takes it and offers a smile. “Well done,” he says in a quieter tone than intended and turns to trot to the nearest pylon.

Kel’ori smirks and pats Taveth’s head. “Oh, good boy. Well done.”

He shies from her and scowls. “I’ll tell the Prophet the defenses are nearly in place.” He returns to where Velen looks out over the land.

Gildwynn dispatches a couple of Eredar that are vehemently attacking a pair of defenders. “We only need one more,” he says when they relinquish no crystals.

Anarchaia destroys one with a pillar of flame then frowns in dismay. “It’s always the last one that takes the longest.”

“Got it,” Koltira says, flipping the crystal in the air, then catching it in his hand. He tosses it at the goblin.

Having only turned a second too late, the goblin fumbles with the item. He gives the death knight a grateful nod, then makes his way to the remaining device. The three of them whir to life but little else happens. He purses his lips.

Anarchaia kneels as something catches her eye. Where the echo of Khazaduum had fallen sits a humming crystal, larger than the rest, swirling with energy.

“Arkonite.”

She jumps at the sound of Eophen’s voice. “O-oh. Heh.” She holds it up. “Made by Haataru, yes?”

The draenei lifts his eyebrows and takes the keystone. “Yes. You are well educated.”

“Twenty years under my belt.” The mage pauses, then releases a breathy, uncomfortable laugh.

Eophen chuckles and turns. “Now, the conduit.”

“It’d be at the center to even the flow of energy,” Gildwynn says, straightening his cowl.

Eophen nods. “For efficiency, yes. Since there is none here, I imagine it is underground.” He heads for the single set of stairs leading into the earth. “Though this hardly seems like the center,” he mumbles before disappearing down the steps.

Velen steps forward after setting a gentle hand on Taveth’s shoulder. A moment later a shell of protective light spreads around the area and the remaining spirits disappear in whorls of blue glow. “My comrades will no longer fight their endless battle for my sake. You have my utmost gratitude.”

Taveth nods and smiles, most of his attention on his journal. A beacon drifts down and embeds itself in the center of the area.

The prophet walks down the steps to stand beside the glowing, golden beacon. He eyes each one in turn and nods. “There is an item here, called the Crown of the Triumvirate. It will aid us in this battle. Meet Archmage Y’mera to the northeast. I believe she may have a lead at the ruins of the academy.”

Koltira nods and smirks at Anarchaia. “You hear that? A magic academy. How excited are you?”

Anarchaia’s shoulders raise and she curls her fingers against her cheeks, her wide smile hidden beneath her mask. She hurriedly lifts her dress-like robes and bounds off in the direction they’d been informed of, nearly stumbling in a heeled boot but easily recovering in her excitement.

Koltira races after the mage. “Ana, don’t get too far ahead.”

Eophen regards the prophet with a nod. “I have not seen Y’mera in some time. Always illusive. Be well, Prophet.” He follows the mage and shaman albeit at a more leisurely pace, hammer over a shoulder.

Taveth grins at the paladin, but casts a longing gaze after Anarchaia, doing his best to contain his excitement as it bubbles in his chest.

Gildwynn snerks at the back of the group, then follows as a small, ghostly wolf.

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