Book 5 – Chapter Forty-One

Once back into the streets of her home, Anarchaia smiles up at the darkening blue skies. “Better,” she sighs. She thinks for a moment. “Maybe we should check on him. …And her.”

Koltira nods. “We should, yes.” He leads her by the waist to the Legerdemain Lounge, where the innkeeper scowls at the two.

“She’s not stopped screaming for days,” Arille says. “I had to put a charm on the room.”

He nods and purses his lips. “Sorry about that.”

Anarchaia cringes and nods. “But she is still in the room, yes?”

Arille blinks at her slowly, then shrugs.

The mage hisses a quiet obscenity at the elf then turns to hurry up the stairs. Once at the correct door she hesitates while debating whether or not to release the charm. She knocks instead.

Koltira takes a deep breath. “Here’s hoping…”

No reply comes from within, so the death knight unlocks the door and twists the knob. After a minute, the white hair of Alisbeth pops up on the other side of the bed, followed by the rest of her. Her face and bare upper torso are covered in bloody scratches. She stares at them for a minute longer, then starts shrieking again. On reflex, Koltira yanks the door closed, slamming it before she can get out.

Anarchaia quickly replaces the charm on the door and the screams are cut silent. She gives a half chuckle, half sigh. “Well. She’s alive. And here.” She grits her teeth at the thought of the claw marks and turns to the door next to Alisbeth’s. She steps inside where it is as eerily silent as it was the last time they’d been there. She swallows as she looks over the motionless form beneath the sheets. “He’s…not decaying. Heh. That’s—… That’s good. Right?”

Koltira leans against the wall and folds his arms. “Sure, I guess? I…I don’t know, Ana. It’s been a month…”

Anarchaia sits on the bedside and purses her lips against the tears. She shakes her head. “N-no. I won’t give up on him.” She sniffles and presses the back of a wrist to her nose. “I-I mean he’s not getting any worse. He’s not rotting. He—… He has to come back.”

Koltira clenches his jaw at the dried meat rashers and water left untouched on the nightstand since he’d put them there in some distant hope the man would wake while they were gone. “I’m not so sure anymore.” A pang of guilt hits him and he lets himself out of the room to lean against the wall beside the door.

Anarchaia runs her tongue over her dry lips and sighs. She stands, adjusts the coverings over Grimory’s body, and sets a hand on the flagon to chill the water inside. “Please wake up soon,” she mutters and joins Koltira in the hallway. “Are you okay?” she asks quietly up to him.

Koltira purses his lips at the mage. “What if I made it worse? What if I’m the reason he might never come back?”

Anarchaia blinks, completely taken aback. “W-wha…? No! Koltira, why would you think that?”

“I had to kill him again, Ana. Who knows what that did?” He runs frustrated palms down his face. “I do hope he comes back…but I’m not holding my breath. No pun intended.” He quirks his mouth into a small, half-hearted smirk.

Anarchaia scowls and sighs, taking him by the hands. “Look, I—… I know you wouldn’t have done…what you did…if you’d known what would have happened. A-and I know you had the best intentions. Besides, I don’t think he’ll even remember.” She looks back into the room and frowns. “And I’m not going to give up…”

Koltira shrugs. “Since my liver is already dead, would you care to get drunk with me? Who knows, maybe Thass is at the Nightheart’s and he can distract us with his idiocy. If not, drunk with you is still more than good enough.” He doesn’t wait for an answer, just wraps his arm around her shoulders and steers her away.

“Yeah. I…think I’d like that.” Anarchaia allows him to lead her all the way to the Nighthearts’ tavern.

In the darkness of the room where the demon hunter’s corpse lies undisturbed, a thump echoes and the wall shudders. A picture of a flower falls from its nail, and ripples cascade across the surface of the water in the pitcher.

As expected, the pair see a familiar head of silver hair at the bar, chatting up Ervaen behind the counter.

The elf grins tiredly as they approach. “Back, are you? How goes the excursion?”

“Uh…it goes.” Anarchaia chuckles sadly.

Koltira drops down beside Thassarian and punches him in the arm. “How’s your mistress?”

Thassarian punches him back. “I’ve no idea what you’re talking about. Ana, he’s losing it. You may want to do something about that.”

Anarchaia gives Thassarian a small smile and smooths her palm over Koltira’s forehead and bangs. “He’s the perfect amount of crazy for me.” She picks up her glass of wine as it’s set before her and takes her seat on the elf’s other side. “Zero.”

Ervaen chuckles quietly and glances at the new death knight, still polishing a rocks glass. “Let me guess. Scotch? Oldest we have?”

Koltira nods. “That or anything strong and bitter, like my friend here.” He pats Thassarian hard enough that some of the human’s drink sloshes out.

“Careful, before I knock you off your stool, Deathweaver.”

“You never did respond about Juliember,” Koltira says.

“I’ve no idea what you’re talking about,” Thassarian grunts.

“Ana and I don’t believe you.”

Anarchaia snerks, then purses her lips dramatically before giving a clearly disapproving shake of her head. “No shame in it, Thass. Come, now. What’s the worst that could come from telling us? Your kind, loving, trusted friends?”

Ervaen sets Koltira’s drink before him. “Thassarian special it is,” he says with a hint of humor in his voice.

The human casts the mage an unimpressed look. “Don’t make me kick you out of my tavern,” he threatens.

Koltira scoffs. “I used to be part of that family, remember? I think it’s more my tavern than yours.” He casts a sly smirk at Ervaen. “Fine, keep your secrets. Though, you’re not very good at it.” He wraps an arm around the mage. “Give us another topic to distract us, or we’ll keep bothering you about your special troll.”

“It’s technically my tavern,” Ervaen mutters under his breath.

He casts a sly smirk at Ervaen, then back at his friend. “Fine, keep your secrets. Though, you’re not very good at it.” He wraps an arm around the mage. “Give us another topic to distract us, or we’ll keep bothering you about your special troll.”

Anarchaia rolls her eyes. “How has your creepy ziggurat been? Cold and uninviting as I recall?”

Thassarian nods in agreement with Ervaen. “His tavern. I’m here all the time. I’d say we’re friends? No? Whatever. Shut up, you two.” He takes a drink, then pauses as though just realizing the subject had been changed. “Acherus is…Acherus. Yes. Deathlord has a dragon, now, though. That’s an exciting addition to the rooftop.”

Koltira cocks an eyebrow. “I get sent across the universe to near certain death and the Deathlord gets to ride dragons… Did I draw the short stick?”

Anarchaia snerks again. “I beg to differ,” she mumbles and buries her nose in her cup. She clears her throat. “So, you’ve really been up to nothing in the past month or so?”

Ervaen refills her cup though she hadn’t asked. “Besides keeping that seat warm? Er…cold?”

Thassarian shrugs. “I go where the Deathlord commands. Mostly keeping the infestation on the Broken Shore at bay. When I’m not there, I’m drinking, because honestly why not? Nothing better to do.”

“Except a certain druid,” Koltira says on a snerk.

Thassarian bats him so hard he tips onto Anarchaia. “I said stop it.”

Koltira catches himself, his arms wrapped around the mage to keep her from falling. He straightens and sits back in his seat. “You really going to stand for that sort of behavior in your fine establishment, Nightheart?”

“Only if it’s you,” Ervaen says with a smirk and rests his elbow on the bar.

Anarchaia happily wraps her arms around him to keep him upright. She chuckles. “Hey, no hitting on my boyfriend.”

“How is Argus?”

The mage sighs. “Depressing. Not fun. So much destruction.” She takes a long drink of wine as though to emphasize her point.

Koltira makes a face. “Argus is honestly the worst. The wildlife is reclaiming the land and demons roam free. Everything wants to kill you. And of course listening to Kel complain about literally everything doesn’t help.”

Ervaen blows a puff of air through his nostrils indicative of a laugh. “You guys chose to have her tag along.”

Anarchaia sneers but only slightly. “Actually, we didn’t. Master and Archmage Kalec demanded I bring her along.”

He lifts his eyebrows, then gives another small laugh. “Then I feel for you.”

“You don’t even know the half of it,” Koltira mutters.

Anarchaia clears her throat. “Hey, Thass. How about a game of Never Have I Ever? Ooh! I’ll go first! Never have I ever slept with a troll.” She grins deviously past Koltira at him.

Thassarian scowls at the drink he’s in the middle of taking. “That didn’t count. And I’m not playing.”

Koltira rolls his eyes. “Stick in the mud. So sensitive.”

Anarchaia chuckles. “Yes, it does. And yes, you are. I’ll even go again. Never have I ever…kissed a woman.” She points at Ervaen. “You’re playing, too.”

The elf blinks slowly, then pours himself a pint of his weakest ale before taking a sip.

Koltira and Thassarian both drink, the latter a little more reluctantly.

“Never have I ever irritated a friend for the sake of irritating him,” Thassarian says.

Koltira punches the man’s shoulder. “Nonsense. You do it all the time. Never have I ever lied about fucking a troll.”

Anarchaia takes a drink at the first prompt, then quickly lowers her cup at the second to stifle a chuckle. “That sounded a little racist.”

“Never have I ever tried to get someone to tell me something through the use of a passive aggressive drinking game,” Ervaen drones.

Koltira and Thassarian both blink, neither drinking.

The elf laughs. “Ana, he’s onto you.”

Anarchaia bristles as Ervaen moves to assist another patron, then scowls and forcibly lifts Koltira’s hand to bring his drink to his lips. “You did it last time, you big liar,” she hisses with a smirk.

“Evening, Jorick. Bourbon?”

The mage stiffens at the exchange happening behind her, a few seats down the bar.

“The most beautiful word in the Common language,” a smooth, aged voice like bourbon itself responds. “Would name my child after it had I had one,” the man chuckles. “Thanks, Erv.”

Anarchaia looks over her shoulder, then quickly looks back and hunches over as though she may be recognized through her mask. “U-uhm. Maybe we should find a different tavern?”

Koltira cocks an eyebrow at the mage. “Are you…trying to hide?’

Anarchaia gives a nervous chortle and lowers her voice. “U-uh? Hiding? Me? Never. Heh,” she blurts, her instincts automatically telling her that it’s not a conversation she wants to have.

Koltira’s eyes narrow. “Ana, I swear to gods…”

Anarchaia purses her lips. <<Okay, fine. I knew him, all right? Before…everything. He was my best friend since I was six. If he hears me, he’ll recognize my voice and probably talk to us.>>

“Oh, I’ve seen him before,” Thassarian says. “Hey, Jorick! C’mere a minute!”

“Oh, yes, this should be fun,” Koltira says.

Anarchaia’s mouth falls open and she makes a show of presenting Thassarian her middle finger. She quickly throws it into her lap when the man approaches, however, and keeps her face turned away as he walks behind her to clap Thassarian on the shoulder.

“Thassarian. The only poor bastard here more than myself these days. Who are your friends?” He casually sips his drink with a demeanor that says he has all the time in the world.

Thassarian pats Koltira on the shoulder. “This here is my brother in death, Koltira Deathweaver. That there is his little friend. What did you say your name was, dear?” He leans around to grin slyly at her.

Anarchaia turns quickly and scowls at Thassarian. “My name is Fuckyou.”

Jorick tilts his head—topped with feathery, jet black hair—at the sound of her voice, then laughs outright. “Hoo! What a coincidence! That’s my ex’s name.” He chuckles and takes a large gulp of his drink. “A pleasure, Mr. Deathweaver, Ms. Fuckyou.”

Anarchaia groans apprehensively. “I-it’s…Alisbeth.”

Koltira stiffens and subconsciously moves the smallest bit away. “A pleasure to meet you.”

Thassarian blinks, his brow lowering just the littlest bit at the mage. “We were just talking about people from our pasts—”

“Were we?” Koltira asks.

The human grunts. “Yes. We were. Being undead and all, we have a lot of lost friends. What about you? Got anyone you miss?”

<<Is there a point to this?>> Koltira asks in careful Thalassian he thinks the other death knight will understand.

Thassarian grins like a devil. <<Paycheck, my wagon.>>

Koltira blinks. “Practice. A lot.”

Jorick furrows his brow slightly at the exchange in front of him, but his grin remains—until his past is brought up, that is. He scratches at the coarse hair on his cheek. “Hm. Haven’t seen my brother in a good couple years. But I’m sure he’s fine.” He downs the rest of his glass. “Other than that…”

Anarchaia holds her breath.

“There was this girl I grew up with. Disappeared off the face of Azeroth along with her parents. We were close.” He shrugs and smiles again. “That was over twenty years ago, however. But who’s counting?” He laughs and pats Koltira on the shoulder despite knowing his discomfort. “How about you three?”

Koltira purses his lips. “Everyone important from my past is dead. Your girl sounds like a memorable person.” He turns his gaze directly onto the mage. “Wouldn’t you agree…Alisbeth?”

Anarchaia narrows her eyes at him. “Yeah. Uh huh.”

Thassarian raises his eyebrows as he realizes the other human is, indeed, speaking of the mage. “I already reconnected with my sister,” he says. “It’s difficult, sometimes. What would you do if you reconnected with that girl, hmm?”

Jorick thinks for a moment as his drink is refilled. “Eh, I don’t know. Probably nothin’ if I’m not kidding myself. She was pretty. No doubt has a husband and a few kids by now.” He lifts his glass to Ervaen. “Wouldn’t want nothing from an old asshole like me.”

The mage frowns and fidgets with her fingers in her lap.

Koltira smiles. “Oh, yes. It’s the beautiful ones you have to look out for. Then again, she could be single and off hiding somewhere… Using someone else’s name to avoid something from her past. That would be strange, though. Right Alisbeth?” Koltira looks pointedly at the mage, his mild annoyance apparent. <<Couldn’t think of any other name. Had to be hers?>> he asks in Gutterspeak.

<<It was the only one I could think of on the spot!>> she hisses in response, then clears her throat. <<Why does it bother you so much anyway? What are you trying to accomplish by outing me?>>

Thassarian wrinkles his nose at the two, then chuckles. “Single life isn’t so bad, though, right Ervaen? No one to call you stupid or worry when you’re kept late.” He seems to drift off for a moment, then finishes his drink. “What brings you to the Broken Isles? My home traveled here with Dalaran, so I didn’t really have a choice.”

Jorick scratches at his neck. “Business, I guess. Of the unfinished sort.” He looks over at the two. “Yeah, that sounds like something she’d do. Especially if it meant avoiding me. What about you two?”

The mage sighs. “I’m a student here.”

<<I just don’t understand why you can’t tell your friend it’s you. Did he wrong you? Did you wrong him?>> Koltira says.

Thassarian narrows an eye. “Ignore them. They’re always like that. As I said, my home was brought here and I had no choice, neither did Koltira. We serve the Deathlord in any capacity they deem necessary.”

<<Because we dated! Okay? We were close! And if he sees me like I am—if he finds out that I—…all those memories for him will be ruined,>> she says in a hushed yell, then places her head in her hands.

Koltira’s ears pull back. <<Oh.>> His jaw tenses with things he doesn’t want to say out loud.

Jorick shakes his head at the man before him as he’s blown off by the other two. “You like living that way? Wouldn’t you rather be your own man? Maybe have a house? A woman?”

Thassarian shrugs. “We’re death knights. We follow orders. When we don’t have orders, we’re free to do other things. Like drink. It’s almost impossible to find a woman willing to settle in with a death knight. Though, this idiot has no problems with that. First Alisbeth, now Annnnn…” He coughs into his glass.

Koltira’s eyelids lower. <<Good one,>> he says to the human in Thalassian.

Anarchaia’s fingers tense around her glass and she gives Thassarian a hidden glare.

Jorick blinks again at the two, scarred eyebrow raised. “All right,” he says with a helpless shrug and humble smile. “I can tell suspicious behavior when I see it. Comes with the job.” He sets an elbow on the bar to look past Thassarian at the other two. “And I know a few words of Gutterspeak.” His deep green eyes settle on Anarchaia. “We’ve met? Annnnn?

The mage frowns, brow furrowed, then looks into her wine. “Y-yeah.”

He smirks and lowers his voice to a more familiar tone. “How’ve you been, Ana? You think I wouldn’t recognize your voice?”

She sighs. “I’m sorry, I just…” She shakes her head. “Things happened. I couldn’t contact you.”

He chuckles. “Over twenty years and the first thing you say to me is an apology. Why am I not surprised?”

Koltira’s eyelids lower and he leans to stay out of the way. Thassarian laughs and mutters something about the awkwardness, but otherwise stays out of the conversation.

The man notices the shift in atmosphere and gives a quiet, also uneasy chuckle. “Well it’s good to see you in one piece. I’d…best get.” He drains his cup, sets it down with gold, then offers a smile to Koltira as he straightens again. “Pleasure meeting you. Take good care of her.” He grins at the scowl he receives from the mage. “What? Someone’s certainly got to. Gods know you can’t.” He laughs and pats Thassarian on the shoulder one last time before turning for the exit.

Anarchaia glares at the two men beside her.

Thassarian growls. “You made him leave!”

Koltira’s lips tighten at the corners. “What?” he demands of Anarchaia.

Anarchaia gives an exasperated ugh! then points at them. “You made me hurt his feelings! Now he knows I was avoiding him! If you’d just left well enough alone,” she hisses. “Jorick! Jorick wait!” She rushes out the door to catch him just down the cobblestone path a ways. “I’m sorry! Really. I-I didn’t mean—”

“Woah, calm down there, little bird.” He smiles and raises his hands. “I’m not offended. I’d have done the same thing.”

She pauses, taken aback. “You would…?”

He chuckles. “Of course. Just look at me. Ain’t the rugged scamp I was, eh?”

“That isn’t…” She chews on the inside of her cheek, then sighs. “Please. Come have a drink with us? Er…another one.”

The dark-haired man places a curled finger on his chin and hums, then shrugs. “Fine, but only for a bit. I do actually have things to do in the morning.” He allows her to drag him back and falls into the seat adjacent to Thassarian, on the other side of the corner of the bar. “Heh. Pleasure meeting you again?”

Anarchaia retakes her seat and lifts a hand to raise her mask, but stops and sets it in her lap instead.

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