Book 5 – Chapter Forty-Two

Eophen casts a sad smile after Kel’ori, then nods down to Taveth as he follows the scholar. “Those two seem…close?”

Taveth shrugs. “I’m actually not sure how they know each other. Knowing my sister it was probably something indecent.” The tips of his ears warm. “I think that’s all behind her, now, though.”

Eophen lifts his pearly blond eyebrows. “Is it his?” he blurts as he inspects the interior of the Legerdemain Lounge.

Taveth flinches and leads Eophen away. “No, no…unfortunately. I mean, not to say that would be a good thing, either, but just…better than the— Are you hungry at all?” He wipes his palms on his trousers, suddenly nervous in the knowledge that he and the draenei have so much time alone together.

The lightforged hums in a second of thought then nods. “Yes. I could eat.” He takes note of Taveth’s discomfort and becomes slightly uncomfortable himself. “That is…if you also could. Eat. I mean.”

“Perhaps if we’re still here in the evening I can get you a better tour from someone who actually knows the city. My brother is a guard, so maybe he could. Heh. For now, we can eat. My treat. Heh, that rhymed.” He nervously leads the draenei to his family’s tavern.

Eophen chuckles. “I would enjoy that. Where do you recommend? What do people around here generally eat? What do you use for currency?” He digs in the pouch at his hip and produces a handful of prismatic crystal chips. “This? I can help pay.”

Taveth laughs and sets a palm over the crystals. “We pay with precious metals. Besides, you’re the guest, it’s only polite that I pay. As for what to eat, there’s quite a bit of variety. Pandaren cuisine is a personal favorite, but…we don’t typically eat what the Pandaren chef cooks here… You wanted to stay in Dalaran, so, there’s a charming outdoor café my sister—I mean cousin—enjoys?”

Eophen flushes some and places the bits back into his pouch. “Panda…ren?” He perks at the word café and nods. “That I would like.” He follows the elf to the small café and sets himself in a chair across from him. “So, uh…” He looks at a menu as it’s handed to him by a waiter. “I…know some of these things?” He blinks. “I think?”

Taveth laughs and looks at his own menu. “Ask me what anything is. I promise I won’t lie.” He glances across the table and his ears warm some before he lifts his menu higher to hide himself from view.

Eophen chuckles and looks over the menu. He points at the word ’macaroon’. “This?” He says, holding the menu high enough for Taveth to see from his hiding place.

“That’s a type of cookie. Kel used to love them.” The elf smiles over the menu. “You might try chicken. I didn’t see any fowl on Argus, so that might interest you.”

“Chicken,” Eophen repeats, then smiles up at the waiter when he returns. “My friend here recommends the chicken. I will have that.”

The waiter grins at the man’s accent and nods. “Yes, it’s one of my favorites. Did you want the mushroom cream sauce or the orange reduction?”

The draenei casts desperate eyes back to the high elf across from him. “Uhh…”

Taveth smiles and leans forward. “Fungus or citrus. I personally like orange, it’s very light.”

The draenei’s ears perk at the word fungus and he grins at the waiter.

“Mushroom…?”

Eophen nods. “Please.”

He turns to Taveth. “Anything for you, good man?”

“Orange for me, with some greens on the side. And um, moonberry juice.” He fidgets once the menu is out of the way and he’s left with nothing to fiddle with or hide behind. “So, erm…what do you think of Azeroth so far? Heh. Our sky isn’t typically green, I assure you.”

Eophen orders the same drink, then blinks over at Taveth. “What color is it normally?” he asks, eyes bright with genuine interest.

“Everywhere else, it’s blue. The Legion’s presence has stained it. You never saw your home before the destruction, did you?” Taveth says.

Eophen shakes his head. “No. I was very young. Too young.” He shrugs. “It is a miracle my father, sister, and I made it off at all.” A smile catches in his lips. “But that is neither here nor there. Please, tell me about your family.”

Taveth shrugs. “There’s really not much to say. It’s a large family. My younger sister is actually my cousin. Our father raised us alone since I was born.” He rubs a fingertip along the tabletop. “What about yours? What’s your sister like?”

Eophen nods in understanding. “Oh, uh, Uulora. She is…fun. Likes to play pranks. Very hard working. Has a bit of a temper though. I am sure she gets it from father. She was very young when mother passed, after all.” He smiles at the waiter when his food is placed before him. He sniffs a bite before taking it. His blond eyebrows lift. “Oh. This is tasty. What is a chicken?”

“It’s a type of bird,” Taveth says, sampling his own meal. He chews slowly, instead watching the expression on Eophen’s face. “I’m glad you like it.”

Eophen catches the elf’s eye and quickly looks away. “So. Your sister and your cousin? Were your parents…?” He sips at the juice, then decides it’s good enough for him and takes a proper drink.

“No! No no.” Taveth laughs uncomfortably. “We adopted her. I only found out recently that she’s my cousin’s daughter. I still think of her as my little sister, though. Otherwise I’m the youngest of seven. Did your mother not make it off the planet? If you don’t mind me asking.”

Eophen nods but does not show any signs of being uncomfortable. “It is true. But that was long ago. We have healed as she would have liked us to.” He smiles through another bite. “What is your family like? Other than the strange matter with your sister-cousin?”

“Large. Mostly chaotic. My eldest brother manages the tavern here in Dalaran. The one below him is a guard. Kel, of course, is a mage apprentice. One sister is a barber, the last works at the tavern in Stormwind, and the brother right above me is also studying to be a mage, while working at the tavern. I’m the only scholar, obviously.” He picks at his food, his nerves dampening his appetite.

Eophen whistles. “That is quite a few. How do you keep track which you are?” He chuckles. “I kid, of course. How are your parents?” He finishes his chicken—a small portion in comparison to his size—and sets his elbows on the table, his waning energy apparent in his eyes.

Taveth gives a genuine laugh. “We wear colored ribbons, of course.” He chuckles another second, then shrugs. “I never knew my mother and the father I’ve always known has been harsher since her loss. He’d rather keep all of us at home, working the taverns. Safe. Heh. What do you and your family plan on doing when—if we’re successful on Argus?”

Eophen ponders on it for a moment before shrugging and taking another drink. “Perhaps I can convince them to move here.” He smiles. “Though it should not take too much convincing. This place is much nicer than…well, anything they have been used to.” He chuckles. “Or perhaps this Stormwind? What is it like?”

“It’s very beautiful. Very busy. I hope you can see it one day. I, uh, hope you do end up staying. Tell me, what’s it like living on a ship your whole life?” Taveth shoves around what’s left of his meal, then takes a sip of his drink.

Eophen thinks over his response. “Bland.” His smile grows somber. His eyes watch Taveth’s fork move around the plate. “Are you feeling unwell? We can, perhaps cut the tour short?”

The elf jumps to attention. “No, I’m fine. Really. Please don’t go. I-I mean, heh… Just not as hungry as I’d thought. Did you want anything else, perhaps?”

The draenei shakes his head. “I am fine for the moment.” He looks up, past the parasol, torward the stars. “It looks more like home, now.” He chuckles.

The waiter from earlier regards them with a sympathetic smile as he takes the empty cup and single empty plate. “I’m afraid we’re closing up shop for the night, gentlemen. You may stay seated here, but we’d prefer to have our dishware.”

Taveth frowns and pushes his plate to the waiter. “Oh, I didn’t realize it was so late. My apologies.” He sets the gold in a neat stack beside the plate, deciding to forego asking if they’d honor his king’s token. “Would you still like that tour?” He fixes his gaze on the draenei, his small smile not betraying his desire to remain in the man’s company for longer.

Eophen at first gives a half nod, then cannot help yawning, the weight of a long time without sleep wearing on him. “Eh. Perhaps in the morning? I…have not slept in a couple days.” He gives a sympathetic smile. “If that is okay.”

“O-of course! Let’s get you a room, then?” He smiles nervously and leads the man to Greyfang Enclave. “I hope you don’t mind. I uhm, well, my benefactor, rather, has an arrangement with this inn. I can get you a room, if you’d like.” He shifts and smiles, trying to smooth everything over.

Eophen nods, smile unwavering. “Yes, I would like that. Thank you.” He follows, hammer still on his shoulder. When they reach the inn and a room is arranged for him, he inspects the quaint area—his frame taking up a good amount of space between the floor and ceiling. He sets his weapon against the wall and turns to smile down at the elf. “It is cozy. And warm. Already better than my metal room.” His face softens. “Thank you, Taveth.”

Taveth smiles shyly up at him. “Of course. Good night, Eophen.” He fidgets for a moment before holding out his hand.

Eophen blinks down at the elf’s fingers, then smiles and takes it. He brings Taveth’s knuckles to his lips, then smiles and releases him. “Good night, Taveth.” Before the other can respond, he gently closes the door.

Taveth blushes and goes back to his own room, shutting himself inside for the rest of the night.

~ * ~

In the darkness of the second story room, two emerald glows slowly fade to life, flickering. The demon hunter sits up slowly as though thawing after a long winter. He brings a hand up to run through his dry, straw-like hair, then breaks down into a fit of coughing, his lungs regaining strength.

Grimory perks at the water beside his bed and hastily takes it up and downs the still chilled contents. He rips it away from his lips to give another raspy cough. His stiff, cold feet find their way to the floor and he finishes the water before replacing the flagon. He tries to stand but finds his muscles will not comply. He instead leans back to lie again, a palm on his throbbing head as it stares hazily into the silence.

A knock sounds from inside the armoire. After a moment, the knocking sounds again. And again. It continues urgently.

Grimory perks at the noise. He sits up and physically hits at one of his legs until he can feel it again. He pushes himself shakily to his feet. He steadies himself on the nightstand, then quickly pushes himself to the vanity beside it. He pauses, however, when his reflection catches his eye. His eyes are sunken and dark, his hair a dry mess, and a thread holds his throat together.

“My hair!” he makes to say, but the words don’t come out, just the breath that would accompany them. ::My throat!:: He grabs at his neck, then notices the massive, gnarly scars coming up and around his chest. ::My body!:: He frantically runs his hand over the smooth, hard tissue and frowns. The knocking continues again and he grits his teeth as he pushes himself to stand without aid. When he finally makes it to the armoire, he opens it.

A small hole has been burrowed into the back, from it stretches the blue arm of Alisbeth, her fist knocking in the empty air. When the knocking sound ends, she pauses and swishes her arm around, then slaps against the board. “It hears another in the room, we will find it very soon!” She pulls out her arm, then her frosty blue eyes pop into the small opening between rooms. She stops and blinks at him as though trying to process the sight. After a moment her eyes go wide. “Hi Grim! Where are you? Where am I? Where are my clothes?” She disappears and pounds on the door, then returns. “I can’t get out. Oh, look, a hole!” She reaches her arm through again to grab at his hand.

Grimory pushes Alisbeth’s hand back through to look at her through the hole. He holds up a finger, then exits the room to go to the bar downstairs.

The color in Arille’s face drains and he drops the glass he’s polishing. “S-Silver…song?”

The demon hunter nods, then points toward the array of room keys behind the other elf.

“You…need a spare?”

Grimory shakes his head and points to the key that coincides with room next to his.

Arille nods and, still pale, hands over the key. “I, uh…hope she’s all right up there.”

The Illidari gives a curt nod and returns upstairs to unlock Alisbeth’s door. He steps inside, then pauses at the disaster before him.

Alisbeth leaps onto the demon hunter, giggling as they topple to the floor. “Weren’t we on Argus just a minute ago? Hey, what happened here?” She picks at the stitching along his neck.

Grimory flinches at the sensation of the thread being pulled, then shakes his head. He tries to explain that he doesn’t remember much beyond traveling from Destiny Point, but nothing comes from his mouth. He sighs, then hugs her to him there on the floor.

Alisbeth smiles and melts into his embrace. “Why do I feel like I missed you for a long time?” She sighs and stands, helping him up. “Let’s get you back to bed. You look like you haven’t slept in ages!” She helps him back to the room and tucks him in, crawling in beside him. “Why aren’t you talking? Will you please say something?”

Grimory lets her pull him along with no capable argument. He sighs up at the ceiling, then sits up to turn toward her. He points to his throat, mouths a few words and shrugs.

Alisbeth frowns. “I don’t understand what happened. Do you wanna stay here, or should we find someone who can explain it?” She curls closer as apprehension nags at her mind.

Grimory points at his throat and mouths, ::Healer. To get this thread out. It’s gross and ugly.:: He looks down at her. ::But you have to get dressed.::

Alisbeth leaps from the bed and pulls on the first clothes she finds—pink pants and an obnoxious green shirt—not bothering to wash away the dried blood covering her face and body. “I’m ready! Let’s go.” As she pulls him up off the bed, she sets a small peck on his lips. “I feel like you needed that. And me. I did.”

Grimory follows her to the infirmary where the draenei woman who is normally there rushes to meet them. “Grimory!” she says, startled. “What happened to you?!”

She fusses at the stitches in his neck and he flinches and leans away. He wiggles his fingers and points to his throat inquisitively.

Alisbeth slaps at the healer’s hands. “Don’t hurt him! Just make him better.”

The draenei woman blinks, then gives an airy laugh as her hands glow golden. “Now, now. Let us not get violent.” She brings up a hand to grab the thread, then pulls at it while simultaneously healing the wound. A scar, however, is left behind.

Grimory hisses and grimaces, then steps back again when she’s finished.

“Never can stay out of harm’s way, can you?” the healer says, patting him on the shoulder. “Should heal fully in a couple days. No straining it until then, okay?”

He nods and hands her a few gold pieces for her trouble.

Alisbeth hugs the demon hunter. “What do you want now? Sleep? Food? Booze? Name it! I’ll get it.” She grins eagerly up at him.

Grimory thinks on it, but no sooner does his finger reach his chin than his stomach gives a sickening grumble. He shrugs and smiles. ::I guess that answers that.:: He jerks a thumb at the café down the street inquisitively.

Alisbeth frowns at the dark buildings. “I think everything is closed. Except taverns. Do they serve food in taverns?” She hooks her arm in his and leads him down the street, not heading anywhere in particular. She grins up at him, then frowns, then grins again. “I can’t help but feel like I’ve missed you, but also like something bad is going to happen.” She grips him closer. “Don’t worry. I’ll keep you safe, okay?”

Grimory looks around him, confused at his lack of being able to tell the time. A sudden rush of panic hits him and he looks down at her. ::What’s the date? How long was I asleep for?::

Alisbeth purses her lips, then shrugs. “I dunno. Isn’t it just…a day? Don’t you usually only sleep for a day? Maybe we should ask someone!”

Grimory shrugs, then nods at the suggestion. ::Where are the others?::

Alisbeth shrugs. “I don’t know. Tavern? I didn’t see them at the inn. You wanna go to them? If we can find them.”

Grimory nods. ::Maybe they have answers about…this. I bet they’re at the Nighthearts’.:: He takes her hand and smiles.

Alisbeth jolts and grins. “You’re so smart! Come on, let’s go.” She tries to run but realizes the demon hunter is still weak. She returns to his side and grins but remains jittery all the same. When they reach the tavern, she peeks inside, then screams out with joy as she hops into the doorway without him. “You were right!” She throws her hands up in the air.

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