Book 5 – Chapter Forty-Three

Koltira takes a breath and holds out his hand for Jorick to shake. “Sorry for that awkwardness a moment ago. Not sure I was ever prepared to meet an ex of hers.”

Thassarian barks a laugh at the other human. “So, you admit Ana is better than you?”

Jorick grins and gives Koltira’s hand a firm shake. “No harm done. And I’m about eighty percent more friend than ex. It was only a short time.” He inhales to say more but is cut off by the screaming at the door.

Anarchaia turns, the sound of Alisbeth’s voice jarring her. “Ali? Right about…?” Her eyes widen as a second figure joins the death knight in the doorway. Her bar stool screeches across the floor as she scrambles to her feet. She throws her arms around the demon hunter’s neck, tears welling in her eyes. “Grim! Oh, my gods, Grim!”

Grimory stumbles back a pace, then furrows his brow and returns the embrace cautiously. ::Uh… Hi.::

Alisbeth bats at the mage while gripping the demon hunter. “Stop, he’s tender! Hey, Agamemnon, what’s today? Grim asked me and I don’t know. I thought we were on Amtrack, but then I was in this room and there was a hole and the door was locked! How rude, right? Hi Ervaen! Kolty! Thass!” She runs over to hug each in turn.

Thassarian blinks at the blood that has soaked through her shirt in small bits. “Um…hi Ali? Where’ve you been?”

“Africa!” She turns on Jorick and stops. “I don’t know you. Hi!” She throws her arms around him, as well.

Jorick chuckles as he’s jostled and returns the embrace with an arm. “Well hello! I haven’t met you, either. Name’s Jorick. And who might you be?”

Koltira stands and goes to the mage and demon hunter still in the doorway. “Grim…” He motions at a table. “You look like you could use a seat…and a drink.”

Anarchaia looks between the two, then clears her throat. “It’s been, uh… About a month. Heh.”

Grimory’s eyes widen and he mouths, ::A month?!::

The mage tilts her head. “I… Don’t understand. Can you not speak?”

The demon hunter sinks into the chair he’s beckoned into, running a hand over his hair.

“Do you remember anything that happened?” Koltira asks, flagging Ervaen over with a raised hand.

Grimory shakes his head. ::Argus? That’s…it. What happened?::

Anarchaia scrunches her face. “I can’t understand anything he’s saying.” She shoots Koltira a look.

Ervaen responds by bringing over a glass of whiskey as is per the demon hunter’s usual request, winces at the sight of the scars, then returns to his post.

Alisbeth jumps up and down and giggles. “Hi, Yearbook! I’m Alisbeth! I was married to Koltira but then he started screwing Anagram behind my back, but that’s okay because I was doing the same with Grim—but it turns out I knew Grim from forever ago—and so that wasn’t too bad, but at the time I was pissed, so I killed him, but he didn’t actually die because Atheist found him and saved his life and I’m normally not supposed to talk about all this stuff, but Grim doesn’t care and Koltira is waaay over there. Hey, are you a friend or a stranger?”

Thassarian blinks slowly and swallows a large gulp of his drink. “He’s a friend. Why are you bleeding?”

“I don’t know!” she says with a grin that seems too happy for the subject. “Suddenly I was in a room and I was covered in scratches, but that’s okay cause I got out. Grim got me out. He’s so wonderful.”

Jorick simply blinks as he takes all the information in. “Oh, so you’re the real Alisbeth,” he laughs, disregarding the butchering of his name. “Nice to meet you. That’s, uh…quite a story.” He glances at Thassarian as though he can add some clarity to the chaos, then eases Alisbeth’s arms from around his neck. “You’re quite the spitfire.”

Thassarian blinks slowly again and just nods at the other human.

Alisbeth grins. “I’m a firepit!” she shouts, then runs over to sit on the demon hunter’s lap. “There’s a new friend over there. His name is Yucca. Did you find out how long you were asleep? Hey, hey,” she tugs on Anarchaia’s sleeve, “if Grim was asleep for a day, where was I? I don’t remember anything. Oh! We were fighting a big demon guy.”

Koltira blinks rapidly. “Ali, slow down.”

“But why? I’m excited! I don’t know why, though.” She tugs on the mage’s sleeve again. “Hey, hey, why can’t Grim talk? Why did he have a string in his neck? Why was I in the room next to mine with a hole in the wall? I had to knock on the door.”

With Alisbeth out of earshot, Thassarian grimaces. “She, uh…had a traumatic death. Didn’t take the resurrection too well and then spent far too long in solitary confinement because she went on a murderous rampage. She’s completely harmless, though.”

Jorick nods while watching Alisbeth fervently talk with the others. “Uh. I…guess that’ll do that to you?” He thanks Ervaen when another glass is put before him. “So, the big guy with the slashed throat. He seems popular.” He sips his drink. “And those two were together?” He gestures at both death knight elves with two fingers, then chuckles. “Quite a change if he’s with Ana, now.”

Thassarian shrugs. “I stay out of their weird affairs. As for the demon hunter, eh. Yeah. I’m not sure what’s going on there. Looks like he got the bad end of a demon.”

Jorick sighs. “Maybe I better take your advice,” he mumbles to Thassarian.

Anarchaia fidgets and glances between them. “There was a demon. A big one. He…knocked…you out.” She looks at Alisbeth. “You were so upset. I had to restrain you. So I put you in the next room.” She grits her teeth when Grimory gestures to the nasty scar across his neck—mouthing words she can’t make out—then she again glances at Koltira. “Yeah…”

Koltira purses his lips, his eyes shifting nervously to the other death knight. “Just a flesh wound,” he shrugs, deciding to tell him the truth later, without Alisbeth around.

She purses her lips. “I don’t like your story. How true is it?”

Anarchaia waves her hands dismissively. “One hundred percent!” she blurts with a nervous laugh. “Sit, Ali. Have a drink. Heheh…”

Grimory rubs at the spot on his throat and takes another drink. He sighs. ::Are Tav and Kel okay?::

Anarchaia goes to the bar to retrieve her drink, smiles awkwardly at the two men, then sits at the table with the other three.

Koltira nods after Alisbeth asks Grimory’s question aloud. “Yeah, they’re fine. Everyone’s fine. Just…worried.”

“Grim’s hungry. Right, Grim?” Alisbeth scoots into an empty chair. “I want a drink, too. Hey, Ervaen! I want a drink too!” she shouts. “Hey, Ytterbia, Thass, why are you all the way over there?”

The human death knight sighs. “I won’t blame you if you don’t want to go over there. On the other hand, you can catch up with Ana.” He winks and chuckles into his glass.

After narrowing an eye, Jorick gives a defeated shrug and stands. “Fine but you’re coming with.” He grabs Thassarian by the back of his cuirass, then pulls him to his feet and toward the table with the rest.

Grimory gives a nod to the two men before nodding at Alisbeth as well.

Ervaen brings over a bottle of whiskey and sets it in the center of the table. “Sorry, kitchen staff is gone for the night. I have some bread and peanuts behind the bar if you can deal with it.” He smiles tiredly when the demon hunter gives him a nod of affirmation and goes to retrieve the items.

Anarchaia clears her throat and gestures to the Illidari. “Jorick, this is Grim. Grim, Jorick.” She wrings her robes beneath the table as the human takes up a seat beside her after giving Grimory a hand shake. “He normally talks, I promise. Heh. Just had a bad row.”

“What kind of a row leaves one unable to speak?” Thassarian asks, dropping down between Jorick and Alisbeth.

Anarchaia purses her lips beneath her mask and swirls her wine around in the glass.

::The bad kind, I guess,:: Grimory mouths and takes a drink.

Koltira just shrugs and takes his own drink. “I think this talk is dreary. We’re all together, Grim’s awake, Ana has her new friend, and Ali is…bleeding but in good spirits. Let’s hear more about Jorick. What is it you do?”

Alisbeth looks down at her shirt. “No. I’m fine. Not bleeding.”

Grimory looks down at Alisbeth and lifts a brow. ::Are you certain you’re not bleeding?:: He takes a bite of slightly hardened bread, then barely finishes chewing before downing the rest of the piece.

Jorick clicks the clawed metal tips of his glove against the wooden table top. “I’m a mercenary,” he says casually.

The mage jerks her head in his direction. “M-Mercenary?! But isn’t that ridiculously dangerous?”

He smiles knowingly at her and lifts a segmented brow. “Not if you’re good.” He winks.

Alisbeth reads his lips and furrows her brow. “Pretty sure? Here, check for me.” She lowers her shirt collar and leans forward so only he can see down it.

“Gods, Ali,” Thassarian says, laughing anyway.

Koltira rolls his eyes at the two, then rolls them again at Anarchaia’. “Because what we do isn’t dangerous at all.”

Mouth full of a second piece of bread, Grimory leans over to look down her shirt as though it were second nature to him. He shakes his head and swallows. ::All clear.:: He washes it down with the rest of his drink, then rubs at his aching eyes.

Anarchaia looks at Koltira and scowls only slightly. “We have magical abilities. And what we do doesn’t really leave room for acquiring enemies.”

Jorick blinks, eyebrows raised. “Are you saying I’m gimped because I can’t use magic?”

She flinches and turns back. “No! I-I mean—” She shakes her head. “It certainly does you no favors…”

“We could protect him!” Alisbeth squeals as she releases her shirt. “When we’re done, maybe. Oh! We could bring him with us!”

Koltira clears his throat. “Let’s not, uh…add anyone else to the roster.” He sets his hand on Anarchaia’s knee. “I lived without magic for centuries, Ana. I did fine.”

Grimory shrugs. ::I’d say the more the merrier.::

Anarchaia crooks her mouth at Koltira though he cannot see. “High elves are inherently magical. Perhaps you didn’t utilize any, but I’m sure if you wanted to you could have.” She sticks out her tongue, but it only appears as a bulge in her mask.

Thassarian shrugs. “I was also without magic until my death. A warrior of Lordaeron.”

“You got old when you died,” Alisbeth laughs.

He makes a face. “It’s just the beard. All Northrend did was turn me grey far too early.”

Old man,” she teases and giggles, grabbing the whiskey bottle.

Jorick gives a small, breathy laugh at the fuss. “I honestly don’t need any protection, but the offer is kind all the same. I’ve been doing this for twenty years.” He casts a grin toward Thassarian. “And not a gray hair yet, eh?”

One of Koltira’s lower lids raises up. “Being a magical being is different from using magic. And it’s beside the point. Did you hear Thassarian? Normal, boring human. And it wasn’t the adventures that killed him, it was his Prince.”

“Well…” Thassarian says on a high, contemplative note, “technically we were on an adventure. In Northrend. And technically Arthas didn’t kill me, it was my captain. And—”

“Okay, she gets it.” Koltira kicks the other man’s boot under the table. “Point is, I’m sure he’s fine. But if you’re that worried I can raise him if he fails.” He shrugs casually, though a playful smirk twitches on his lips.

Anarchaia purses her lips up at him. “Also not my point.”

“The more the merrier!” Alisbeth shouts when she realizes no one noticed Grim’s airy, silent comment. “New friends are great. I like having friends.” She reaches across Thassarian to gently pet the other human’s dark brown hair.

Jorick’s eyes widen some at the word raise and he gives an uneasy chuckle. “Eh, heh, think I’d rather stay down in the event of my no-doubt-violent demise.” He leans forward to look at Koltira past Anarchaia, not minding the petting by Alisbeth. “No offense.”

Grimory gives a nod of agreement and resists the urge to pull Alisbeth’s hand away.

Anarchaia again wrings at her robes.

Koltira’s smirk turns nervous. “It was a joke.” He leans back with his drink.

Thassarian chuckles. “I thought it was funny. Especially this poor bastard’s expression.” He jerks a thumb at Jorick. He grumpily waves Alisbeth’s arm out of his face. “Pet your demon boy.”

“Okay!” Alisbeth switches arms, reaching up to run her fingers along Grimory’s horn, stopping to scratch lightly in the curve.

Grimory leans away slightly and sticks his tongue through his fangs at the sensation. ::That tickles.::

Jorick drains his glass and rolls his eyes at the man beside him. “I said no offense! I just like being…y’know. Warm. And alive.”

Anarchaia shifts uncomfortably. “G-game! Our game. Thass, your turn. Heh.”

Thassarian blinks at the mage. “Oh. We’re still doing that? Ehh…”

“What game are we playing?” Alisbeth asks, scratching the demon hunter’s horn faster to tickle him.

“Never Have I Ever,” Anarchaia reminds, lifting a finger in point.

Jorick gives the faintest of smirks. “I’m bad at this one.” He pauses. “And old?”

Grimory scowls and grabs Alisbeth’s hand hard enough to stop her but not enough to hurt.

“I wanna go next!” Alisbeth shouts. “Never have I ever fu— No. Die— Uh… I’ve never uhm… Eaten an insect?”

Koltira makes a face and takes a drink.

Anarchaia’s head immediately turns to the elf next to her and she chuckles, half amused and half appalled. “Really? Gross. Why?”

“I lost a bet,” Koltira says to the mage. “Faltora made me eat a beetle. I got him back, though.”

Jorick also takes a hesitant drink, then shrugs at the look he gets next. “Said I was bad at this game, didn’t I?”

Grimory makes a face of minor disgust at the two, then pauses. ::Are worms insects?::

Thassarian chuckles at Alisbeth’s repeat of Grimory’s question. “Bottoms up.”

Alisbeth picks at the table and chews on her bottom lips. “I’m not good at it, either. Not much I haven’t done, and even then sometimes I can’t remember.”

Anarchaia shakes her head and makes another face beneath her mask. She clears her throat and grins. “All right. Never have I ever eaten meat.”

Jorick scoffs at her. “You pull that one every time, you cheater.” He takes another drink from his glass.

Grimory blinks. ::Not once? Ever?::

Anarchaia sticks her tongue out at Jorick before giving Grimory a befuddled glance. “I have no idea what you’re saying. But just drink.”

The demon hunter gives an irritated sigh and drinks. The combination of a nearly empty stomach and alcohol make his head light and he presses a cheek to his knuckles, elbow on the table.

Koltira turns to stare at the mage. “I don’t believe you.”

Alisbeth takes a drink and leans her head on the demon hunter’s. “Seriously, meat’s awesome. I miss the taste.”

Thassarian also drinks. “Dehydrated meat rations and bread. A soldier’s banquet.” He chews on the inside of his cheek. “Never have I ever been someone’s apprentice.”

Alisbeth takes a quick drink; Koltira seemingly ignores the new comment, his eyes still fixed on the mage.

Anarchaia grins at the death knight beside her from beneath her mask. “Never. I’m a vegetarian.” She turns automatically at the word apprentice and scowls. “Oh, so this is the game you want to play,” she mutters, then reaches for her mask to drink. She stops when the cup reaches her lips, very aware of the eyes of the man beside her. No! Nonono!

Jorick lifts his eyebrows. “Apprentice? To whom?”

She quickly lowers her mask again. “N-no one important. Heh.” She swallows, both relieved and suspicious that he did not seem to notice.

Grimory drinks. I guess Father counts.

Koltira’s eyes narrow further. “I don’t even know who you are anymore.”

“She’s Antelope!” Alisbeth says. “Whose turn is it?”

“Pretty boy’s,” Thassarian says.

Anarchaia scoffs and puts a hand on her chest. “What! Why is that so astounding?”

Grimory looks up at the name, then scowls and motions somewhat drunkenly to his throat. “…?”

Jorick grins. “I think he’s saying Never have I ever worn a shirt.”

“I just…never took you for a vegetarian. I mean, I suppose it makes sense. If you had to kill something to feed yourself, you’d starve to death.”

Anarchaia hugs herself and huffs. “I saw father clean a rabbit when I was a toddler, all right? It was traumatizing.”

Koltira raises an eyebrow as he acknowledges the things being said. “Thass either means me or Grim, I’d think.”

“Don’t you know I only have eyes for you?” Thassarian says, laughing as he takes a drink.

“You get weird when you drink,” Koltira says, his nose wrinkling.

Jorick looks over the mage at Koltira and chuckles. “Ana, I think you’re being cheated on.”

She snerks. “If it’s Thass I think I can live with it.”

Thassarian scoffs at the other human. “He’s cheating on me with her. I killed him fair and square.”

Alisbeth chews on her bottom lip. “Are you saying ‘I never lost my voice’? Oh! ‘I never got my throat cut’!?”

Grimory stares off, unamused, into the ether. Then slowly looks at Alisbeth and mouths ::No. I’m saying I can’t play, really. Just drink.::

Koltira shakes his head at both humans. “Never have I ever been through the Dark Portal.”

Alisbeth makes a face at the other death knight and takes a drink.

“You have to kill him to claim him? Ugh, I guess I’m still single, then.” Anarchaia ponders for a second while she watches Grimory take a drink. “Does it matter which timeline? I’ve…been… Y’know what? Never mind.” She folds her arms after taking a quick sip. “Jorick.”

Alisbeth giggles and pushes her forehead into his cheek. “That’s your favorite part, anyway!”

“”The man perks. “Oh. Hm.” He scratches beneath his chin. “I’ve never dated someone more than a century older than me.”

The mage blinks, then turns to the elf beside her. “How old are you?”

Koltira laughs. “Does she need to take a drink for every century?”

Alisbeth takes a drink. “Do I have to take a drink for each person?”

Thassarian chuckles. “Do it for the sake of drinking.”

Alisbeth takes another drink and cranes her neck to grin at Grimory.

Anarchaia sighs and takes another, longer drink, being careful to face somewhat away from the man beside her. She reluctantly refills her cup with the bottle in the middle.

Grimory blinks at her. ::You’ve dated a lot of guys, have you?::

Alisbeth blinks her widened eyes at him. “You and Koltira. You’re old.” She giggles and pokes at him.

Grimory jerks and rubs at the spot. ::I’m only, like, fifty years older than you,:: he silently mutters.

Koltira chuckles as he watches the mage. “I have two centuries on this one,” he says to Jorick.

“I prefer them younger,” Thassarian says. “None of these long elf years, thank you.”

“You’re lucky I have no issue robbing the grave so to speak,” Anarchaia says with a sarcastic grin. She pinches his cheek gently, then looks at Thassarian. “Oh? Prefer the average age of a troll, hm?” She smirks.

Jorick chuckles at the chaos he’s caused, then gives Thassarian a sideways glance. “Your turn, I’m afraid.”

Thassarian narrows his eyes at the mage and the other man in turn. “Reasonable age,” he says curtly. “I never been with a mage.”

Koltira rolls his eyes and drinks.

Alisbeth purses her lips. “I don’t remember. I don’t know. What do I do?”

Grimory drinks the last of his glass and closes his eyes. He opens one to look at Alisbeth, then places a hand on hers to lift her drink to her lips.

Jorick looks down at Anarchaia beside him. “Were you technically a mage then?”

She blushes and looks away, discomfort growing. “No.”

He grins at Thassarian. “Free pass.” He points at Alisbeth. “Hyper pale woman. You go.”

Alisbeth taps the glass to her teeth as she thinks. “Never have I ever been to the Exitdoor.”

“Try again,” Koltira says.

“I don’t remember so it counts.” She looks to Grimory. “Right?”

The corners of Grimory’s lips tighten and he shakes his head slightly. ::Then just choose something you remember.::

<<There something wrong with this one?>> Jorick whispers to Anarchaia in Common, gesturing subtly with his cup.

She sighs. <<It’s a long story.>> “What about Mac’Aree, Ali? You haven’t been there.”

“Where’s Macaroni?” Alisbeth asks.

Koltira drinks and lifts Anarchaia’s drink for her. “Argus.”

Thassarian grunts and taps at his glass. “You people and your wild adventures.”

Jorick lifts his eyebrows and looks at the two to his side. “Argus? As in the huge, looming doom orb in the sky driving everyone bonkers, Argus?”

Anarchaia nods. “It’s not as awful as that. Some parts are really beautiful.”

The dark-haired man clicks his tongue and shakes his head. “And I thought I was the crazy one. Hope you guys are getting compensated.” He lifts his glass. “There’s one. I’ve never taken a job that didn’t pay me.”

Anarchaia bristles. “Some things are more important than money. And some of us don’t have a choice!” She folds her arms, then briefly unfolds them to take a drink before crossing them again and pouting.

Koltira nods. “I get orders I cannot refuse. Her cousin,” he points at Alisbeth across the table, “has mysterious orders from some unnamed entity. He asked us to act as bodyguards. He’d die on his own, to be honest. Shouldn’t even be there.”

Alisbeth throws a pretzel at the other elf. “He wouldn’t die on his own! I mean…on Asparagus, I guess. If he didn’t crawl into a hole and just hide until someone saved him.” She giggles.

Thassarian eyes his glass. “I’m afraid you might be the only one at the table who is in it for the pay.”

Jorick leans back some and shrugs. “Guess I’m the only one retiring early, then.”

“Early? You’re forty-four.” Anarchaia chuckles.

Now slightly inebriated, he narrows an eye at her. “Oh yeah? You’re nearly just as old, miss. Is that what the mask is for? Don’t think I wasn’t gonna ask—” Jorick hisses in pain as his shin is kicked.

Anarchaia gives a nervous chuckle and scrambles to fill in the silence that follows. “Kolt, I think it’s you… Heh.” She fiddles with her robes, then leans over to the human beside her. “Meet me in back after this round and I’ll tell you, okay? Just don’t bring it up again.”

Koltira narrows his eyes at the mage. <<Should I be getting jealous, or is this actually nothing to worry about?>>

Alisbeth chews on her bottom lip and leans to set her lips to Grimory’s ear. “Why’s the new guy get to know about Almondbutter’s face, but I don’t?”

“I never whispered secrets in peoples’ ears while in the company of others,” Thassarian grouches.

Anarchaia flushes and gives the death knight a smile. “N-no! Nothing to worry about.” She gives his cheek a gentle pat. “Oh, uh…” She takes a drink at Thassarian’s prompt, albeit grumpy. “Koltira, you go since Thass took your turn. I’ll, uh, be right back. Heh.” After a quick kiss to her partner’s cheek, she stands and makes her way toward the back hallway of the tavern.

Jorick, as not to seem suspicious, simply relaxes at the table and sips at his whiskey. “So, you two a thing over there, or…?”

Grimory’s ears perk and he flushes. His head takes one motion of a shake before he makes a face and looks at Alisbeth instead.

Her smile dims at the immediate negative response and she straightens. She locks her jaw and stares ahead, ignoring the demon hunter. “Nothing,” she hisses through her teeth.

Thassarian blinks rapidly and chooses to ignore the growing tensions. “Deathweaver, she said it was your turn.”

He leans back. “Never have I ever killed my best friend.”

“Doesn’t count,” Thassarian grumbles.

“It counts.”

Alisbeth takes a quick drink, as though the faster she goes the less likely it is she’ll be noticed.

Grimory sighs and looks back Jorick with a more irritated demeanor. ::Yes,:: he mouths. Before he can explain more, however, Koltira’s words hit him and he frowns. Somberly looking at the nearly empty bottle in the center, he takes a drink.

Jorick flicks his attention between the majority of the people at the table before giving a breathy, amused chuckle. He stands. “I’ll be right back, kiddos. That whiskey goes right through you.” He saunters off in the direction Anarchaia had gone.

Thassarian sets his glass down and cocks an eyebrow at the demon hunter. “If I ask, will I get a story or a very stern ‘fuck off’?”

“My vote is on the fuck off, just so you can be disappointed,” Koltira says on a chuckle. He glances toward the back, where the other two had gone.

“I’ll get her,” Alisbeth growls. She stands abruptly, knocking her chair to the floor, and heads for the restrooms at the back of the tavern.

Grimory knits his brow at the human. ::Will you even understand me if I tell you?:: he mouths.

Thassarian eyes the demon hunter. “Uhh…what?”

Koltira laughs and leans back. “Maybe wait until he can talk?”

Grimory rolls his eyes and gives a dismissive wave.

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