Book 5 – Chapter Forty-Five

Taveth wakes reluctantly, sitting up slowly. He stays in the bed, a small smile on his face as he thinks over the night before. After consulting the calendar on the wall, he picks out a nicer outfit than he usually wears and pulls it on slowly as he loses himself in thought.

Eophen, very accustomed to only sleeping for a few hours at a time, sits on the window sill of his quaint inn room. He gazes, golden eyes fixed on the blue sky above as he purposely averts his attention from the looming green orb just in his peripherals. He sips his hot tea.

Taveth mumbles and thinks over and over what he’ll say as he heads toward Eophen’s room. He stops and turns to walk away as his nerves get the better of him. He stops again and goes to the door, then forces himself to knock.

Dressed in his quilted under armour and tea still in hand, he looks down at the elf after opening the door. He smiles. “Good morning. Are we back off to Hell or am I getting that tour?”

Taveth smiles absently for a minute, then jolts as though remembering himself. “Actually, I lost track of the days, and, heh, it’s Pilgrim’s Bounty.”

Eophen blinks. “I am afraid I do not follow? Is it some sort of holiday?”

Taveth frowns and fiddles with his satchel strap. “Oh! Heh. Yes. We have huge feasts all around Azeroth. It has a great history. Come on, we can get the others!”

Eophen perks and smiles. “That sounds great. I would love to.” He looks down at himself. “Though perhaps a change of wardrobe is in order. Had I known I would be here longer, I would have packed…at all?” He gives a bashful grin.

Taveth grins up at the draenei. “There’s a beacon on Krasus Landing. I can take you there.” He leads the man through Greyfang Enclave and across the city, pointing out shops as they go. “I hope a partial tour is all right,” he says on a chuckle.

Eophen nods and gives a shrug. “Anything is good with me. Just experiencing new things is something I love.” He gives the shorter man a sideways glance. “So, this holiday. What does it mean?”

The high elf smiles up at the man. “It’s a time of…almost mutual peace on Azeroth. We celebrate family and friends with feasts outside our cities, and most guards and enemies will look the other way if you sit at an enemy’s table. I’ve never had friends of the opposing faction, but now that I do I’m eager to share the holiday with them.” They reach the bustling Landing and their progress is slowed incredibly as Taveth stops to let everyone pass first, lest he be trampled.

Eophen stops with him and watches down on the sea of people rushing by. He lifts his eyebrows. “Factions?” he says curiously, then apologizes as a dwarf pushes past his large frame.

“Heh. The races of our planet have aligned with what is called the Horde, or the Alliance. Some, such as myself, prefer to be more neutral–when I have the choice.” After what seems like ages, the two get to the beacon to return to the Vindicaar.

Eophen leads Taveth back through his familiar turf, toward his personal quarters. “How odd. Why not just come together?” The door of light dissipates at his approach. “Is one side evil like the eredar?” He rummages through his wardrobe in the corner of the quaint, metal room.

The elf laughs uncomfortably. “Not…evil, per se. Centuries ago the orcs came through the Dark Portal to conquer our world. Now, most of them just wish to live in peace on Kalimdor. The Alliance is unforgiving of the past and the Horde remains loathe to trust. So the fighting continues.”

Eophen blinks. “Yes. The Dark Portal. I have heard stories. Of my people being used as fuel.” He frowns. “Though, that seems to be a memory for them as well.” He smiles again as he removes his shirt to change. “Which is good. Progress is good.”

Taveth’s gaze drifts over the golden patterns across the draenei’s torso before he turns away to allow the man privacy. “Yes. I remember it. We had to leave our home in Stormwind and seek refuge elsewhere. The library was lost. It was a travesty. I helped rebuild it with a few books of my own.”

Eophen pulls his horned head through a new, more casual shirt, then frowns and sets a hand on Taveth’s shoulder. “I am sorry to hear about that, but can appreciate the work you put in.” He grins but does not remove his hand. “It is admirable to rebuild when things are taken from you.”

The elf gently sets his hand on Eophen’s for a moment before growing self-conscious. “Can’t expect others to do their part if I won’t do mine, right? A-are you ready?”

The draenei nods and removes his hand just as a similar looking draenei woman steps into the room.

“Oh,” she says, then relaxes and grins, tail flicking. <<You’re going out again?>> she says, arms folded.

Eophen nods. <<I’m going to participate in a holiday on the off-world. I don’t plan to be gone for more than a day.>>

Uulora gives a shrug. <<I imagine you want me to lie to father for you?>>

He gives a sheepish grin. <<Please?>>

She gives a tsk of defeat and walks over to pinch her brother’s cheek. <<Just be safe.>> She looks at Taveth. “You be safe, as well.”

Taveth grinsand nods. “I’ll keep him out of trouble.”

Uulora nods and pats Taveth on the shoulder. “Good.”

<<Thank you, sister.>> Eophen gives her a grateful smile.

<<I just want to see you happy, brother.>> She turns, tail lazing behind her as she leaves. <<You haven’t been the same since Mother. Go have fun.>> She smiles and waves before disappearing back into the hallway.

Eophen turns his grin on Taveth. “Let us go.”

Taveth smiles up at the man walking beside him. “Your sister cares a great deal about you. It must be nice to have that kind of support.”

Eophen gives a sad sort of smile in return. “She is my only support. I am not sure what I would do without her.” He gestures to the portal back to Dalaran. “After you.”

~ * ~

Alisbeth grips her cup of fresh cocoa in her palms, the liquid quickly cooling around the four candy canes hooked over the side. Her frosty blue eyes are fixed on the demon hunter.

Grimory slowly opens his eyes and smiles tiredly at the woman beside him. ::Enjoying your cocoa?::

Alisbeth bites her bottom lip and sets the pad of her forefinger to the tip of his nose. “Boop.” She takes a drink and nods. “It’s very good. You want some?”

Grimory nods and brings his hands up to cradle the back of his head. ::Yeah. Maybe it’ll sate my hunger some.::

She holds out her mug to him. “Unless you want me to go get you some fresh?”

Grimory shakes his head and takes a sip of her now lukewarm cocoa. ::I prefer to share with you. And don’t get up on my account.:: He offers up the mug again. ::What’s the plan?::

Alisbeth scoots down and snuggles into his side. “Hmm. Lay here all day? More cocoa? See if I can fix your voice by making you scream?” She bites into his pectoral, hard enough to jolt him, but not enough to bruise or even draw blood.

Grimory jumps, hisses, and swats her head away with gentle fingers. ::I think it just needs time. The nurse said a few days?:: He smirks and shifts to get more comfortable. ::Not like anything I say means much anyway.::

Alisbeth bats at the man, then lets him take another drink. “I care about what you say!”

Grimory blinks tiredly. ::Only you.:: He brings up a hand to brush a lock of her hair back, then sighs through his nose and hands back her mug. ::Duty calls, I guess.::

She makes a face at him. “Everyone should care what you say. Can I come? I don’t want to stay here…alone.”

The Illidari nods. ::I don’t want to be alone up there, either.:: His grin widens some as he brings up a finger to poke into the tip of her pointed nose. ::Plus, we make a good team, yeah?::

“Of course we do! We’re awesome.” She hops up out of the bed and begins digging for matching armor. “What about the rest of them? Think they’re still at the tavern?”

Grimory sits up and shrugs, rubbing at an eye. ::I don’t know. I’m sure Anartira is…wherever they fuckin’ go every night.:: He stretches. ::And Tav is…wherever he fuckin’ goes every night.::

“If you think we don’t need them, then I guess we don’t need them!” She grins and tosses his boots at him.

Grimory jerks as his boots land in his lap. He sighs and throws his feet over the side of the bed to pull them on. He fixes his hair in the mirror and frowns again at the sight of his disheveledness. His stomach gives a low gurgle as if in agreeance.

Alisbeth frowns at the demon hunter and runs her fingertips through his hair to assess it. “It feels like dead grass. Did you forget to condition?” She grins teasingly and taps his nose with her fingertip.

Grimory scrunches his face in a strange sort of smile. ::I think the water may have been too hot.:: He turns her toward the door. ::Mind if we stop for food, first?::

“Only if I can order something and pretend to eat it!” She giggles and jumps onto his back.

Grimory silently chuckles and locks the door behind them as he makes his way toward the café they’d become accustomed to. He sets her in a chair and sits beside her. ::Order for me?:: he says, cheek on his knuckles.

“You want a steak with a bone to gnaw on like a dog, and a coffee cause it’s too early to get drunk. Right?” She grins and bumps her shoulder to his. When the waiter comes out to take their order, she gives Grimory’s, then pauses. “And…can I have…some whipped cream with cinnamon on it?”

“I…think we can do that,” he says with a laugh, then goes inside.

Grimory’s smile falters the faintest bit at the word dog, but returns when she gives her order. ::Into whipped cream now, are you? Why not get coffee with it?::

“Because I’m not tired!” she giggles, leaning against him. “It’ll be like eating a cloud, don’t you think? Cinnamon is just so I can taste something. You can have a bite, if you want.”

Grimory knits his brow but smiles all the same. ::I’m not a sweets person. All for you, girlie.:: He nods his thanks to the waiter when their food arrives. He does not immediately take up his utensils, however. ::So…how are you feeling?::

Alisbeth furrows her brow at him as she pokes her whipped cream with a fork. “I feel fine. Why? Are you feeling okay?”

Grimory’s face softens and he shakes his head. ::I’m fine.:: He takes some of her whipped cream with a little finger, then dabs it onto her nose before cutting at his steak as though he hadn’t.

Alisbeth tries to lick the cream from her nose. “You promise?” She cleans the white spot off with a napkin and goes back to swirling her whipped cream around, watching the brown spice make patterns that immediately change.

The demon hunter nods while he chews, then rubs at his throat after he swallows. ::Peachy.:: He looks up at the green orb in the sky, then decides to ignore it for the time being. ::You’ll have to speak to Lord Illidan for me.::

Alisbeth’s nostrils flair and she purses her lips. “No. He’s a jerk and he hates me. I’m not talking to him. You can’t make me. Nope.” She drops her fork to her plate with a clatter and folds her arms to scowl at the air across from them.

A gnome makes a rude gesture at her, thinking her expression to be aimed at him.

Grimory frowns and furrows his brow some. ::But I can’t do it myself. And I need the mission details…:: He gives an apologetic wave to the small man at the next table.

She thinks on it, practically chewing the idea in her mouth. “Fine. Only for you. And I get to call him a butthead…to his face.”

Grimory straightens in mild panic, eyes widening and cheek full. ::Please don’t.::

The death knight pouts. “Behind his back…loud enough for him to hear.”

~ * ~

Anarchaia sits up with a start, bare chest heaving as she gives a quick glance around. “Oh,” she chuckles, head throbbing. “I actually passed out for a bit. Haha.” She pauses. “Wait, what day is it?”

Koltira smirks and removes his attention from his book, giving it to her. “Oh, is that it? Thought you’d died on me.” He chuckles. “It’s only been one night. Bad dream?”

She eases back down and places an arm over her eyes. “All my dreams are bad. But no. Just…felt like I’d missed my alarm, you know? Like I was late for a class I don’t even have.” She chuckles quietly and runs skeletal fingers through her tangled hair.

“Was it one of those ones where you’re naked?” he asks, looking down at her body.

Anarchaia stretches and rubs at her good eye. “No. Well. I don’t remember. I don’t think so? Just remember suddenly feeling late.” She sighs and smiles gently up at him, still slightly intoxicated. “You’ve never felt like that?”

He purses his lips and looks around the room. He sighs and picks at the dirt under a nail. “You know that time when I kind of raised a monster from the dead and… Don’t hit me.”

Anarchaia’s smile fades and she purses her own lips as well. “Yes, I recall. What about it? That makes you feel late? Or gives you bad dreams?”

He purses his lips. “I was meaning…the still drunk…part.”

Anarchaia’s face softens and she chews on the inside of her lip. She sets a hand on his thigh. “I’m sorry,” she says slowly. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

Koltira shrugs and sets his book aside to wrap his arms around the undead woman. “It’s okay. I deserve the disappointment I know you must be feeling.” He sighs and presses his forehead to the side of her head. “Do we really have to go back?”

Anarchaia threads her arms beneath his to press their chests together. She presses her lips to his shoulders and absently runs her fingers through the very ends of his hair. “You know I’d love not to. But you said it yourself: responsibilities.”

Koltira makes a sour face and groans. “But why.” He grudgingly eases out of the bed, still holding onto the mage as though to give her the opportunity to change her mind and drag him back under the cover.

Anarchaia does just that, tightening her grip on him and allowing all her weight to sink into the bed. “Noooo,” she cries softly. “What if she’s there, though?”

The death knight grabs the mage into his arms and stands anyway. “We can check the inn to see if they’re there. If they’re not, then we’ll just do our best to avoid them. Shouldn’t be too hard, they’ve never been to Mac’Aree, they’ll just get lost.”

Anarchaia cringes at the thought of running into them and nods. “That does seem like the best option.” She blinks then reaches for her robes, a smirk slanting her lips. “Or we can have Tav do it.”

Koltira stops and stays still as a statue. “He doesn’t know yet… And Diori…”

Anarchaia buttons her pants at her waist and blinks up at him. “Yeah, you’re right. Unless you mean my face, then Tav does know…” She frowns and wrings her collar in her fingers. “She’ll probably tell Diori…and Kel.” She sighs and lowers to sit again, then picks up her mask to gaze down at it. “This is why I wear it to begin with.”

Koltira sets his hands on the mage’s. “Ana, not everything is about you and your pretty face. I meant about Grim. They don’t know he’s back.”

Anarchaia straightens and blinks again. “You’re right! They’ll be so excited! We have to tell them.” She pauses, then grows reserved, smiling shyly as though he doesn’t tell her often. “And it’s not pretty.”

“For someone so intelligent, you sure do say some stupid things.” He finishes dressing and takes her hands. “Let’s get this over with.”

Anarchaia scrunches her face at the compliment before throwing her mask back over her face. She secures the gown-like robes that Kel’ori had made her and turns to scrutinize herself in the mirror. She sighs and summons her bag to pull out their hearthstones. “To Dalaran, then?”

Koltira nods and takes his own stone. “I’ll see you there.” He kisses her cheek and disappears in a flash.

Anarchaia smiles and follows. She trots down the stairs of the Vindicaar until she finds Koltira. “You’re too fast,” she chuckles, then pauses near the end of the corridor. “Hello Tav. Er, Eophen, was it again?”

He nods. “Hello again, little mage.”

“Oh! Ana. Hello. And Koltira. Are you going to be joining in the festivities?” Taveth asks, pausing just before the portal back to Dalaran.

“Festivities?” The death knight nods a greeting to the draenei.

“Pilgrim’s Bounty, of course. We’ve been gone so long I didn’t realize today was the height of the holiday.” He takes the mage by the hand. “Please join us?”

Anarchaia straightens in mild surprise. “Is that this week?” She chuckles. “Time really starts to lose you when it doesn’t get cold in the winter.” Taveth’s hand still in hers, she looks up at Koltira with a smile. “Maybe just for a bit? We won’t eat anything, but…it’s our first holiday we actually have time to spend together.”

Koltira nods in agreement. “I think a calm day of food we won’t eat would be nice. Which city were you planning on celebrating in?”

Taveth purses his lips. “I hadn’t thought that far ahead. I wasn’t sure who would be joining us.”

Anarchaia frowns in realization. “Oh. There’s no neutral cities in which we can celebrate. The Horde won’t accept you two and the Alliance won’t accept Koltira, Ali, or Grim.” She taps at her chin.

The draenei perks. “Grim? Your Illidari friend?”

Taveth frowns at the mention of the demon hunter. “Ana…”

“Would you like to tell him, or should I?” Koltira hisses down to her.

Anarchaia perks once more and smiles. “Oh! That’s right!” She grabs Taveth by the shoulders and gives a small shake. “He’s alive! He woke up!”

Eophen’s eyes widen and he smiles. “That is good to hear!”

Taveth stiffens, his eyes wide. “R-really? It’s not some…trick? … Or Spinewing?” He stares at the death knight.

Koltira raises his hands up. “I didn’t do anything. Not this time.”

“We have to go see him!” The elf leads the others through the portal, and once on the other side, turns toward the Legerdemain Lounge. “I assume they’re at the inn?”

Grimory’s eyes slip past Alisbeth to the oncoming group. He tenses at the sight of the mage and quickly sets a hand on the death knight’s thigh.

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