Taveth leads Alisbeth to the small hut he knows exists but has never visited. He rings the bell and waits as Alisbeth fidgets.
“Is Diori having nightmares?” she asks.
“I’m sure it was just the one.”
The door opens and Docra stares blankly at them. “Take her.”
“Beg pardon?” Taveth asks, stepping inside.
“She snores now. Her nap ruined my sleep.”
“If I could teleport to the Hall, I would,” Kel’ori grouches.
Alisbeth blinks at the mage and stares conspicuously at her rounded belly. “You got fat. Fast.”
Kel’ori scowls. “I assume it’s because it’s half d— Wait, you’re—”
“Here to get you, yes!” Taveth interjects. “Come. Let’s go. Pilgrim’s Bounty and all.”
“That’s today? I can’t face father like this!”
He holds up his hands to calm her down. “It’s fine. We’re having a small party here. Diori and Tyndra are here from Stormwind, Eophen Is joining us… Would you like to…?” he looks at the priestess.
“Oh! Yes. Docra is my guest.”
“No, I’m not,” the priest drones from her sink.
“I’ll buy you coffee,” the mage insists. “Black. Just like you like it! You wouldn’t pass up free food, would you?”
She sighs and smooths her hands down the length of her black bodice. “I suppose I wouldn’t.” She grabs her black parasol and practically sweeps all of them out the door. “Keep it safe, Ivory. I’ll bring you something.”
The black cat mrows and leaps into the carpeted tower under the window.
Taveth looks the woman over and blinks at her usually snow-white skin now darkening to an ashy-blue, and her eyes now a paling teal color. “I don’t mean to pry, but—”
“I’ve joined with like-minded people. I’m going through a process to become like them. You don’t need to know any more than that.”
He nods and leads them back to the tavern.
Taveth stops in the doorway. “What happened? Why does everyone look tense?”
Beside him, Kel’ori screams in shock, then rushes into the room to hug Grimory. “Oh, my gods, you’re back! I’m so happy!”
Alisbeth makes a face. “Why does he get all the hugs? I like hugs, too.”
Taveth reaches over and gives her a quick hug. “Better?”
Docra blinks, her eyes flicking to each person. “I’ll be in the bar.” She goes upstairs and sits in a solitary corner.
Ervaen makes his way over to the dark little table as all his barmaids are currently helping others. “Good afternoon. Can I get you anything?”
Docra gives the faintest of nods. “Coffee. Black… With vodka.”
Grimory, still agitated, scoffs. He tenses, however, at the sound of Kel’ori’s voice. Silently he clears his throat before hesitantly returning the embrace. ::Y-yeah. Hey.::
Diori runs over to Alisbeth when she sees her again and is certain she is how she once was. “Grim hit Koltira,” she whines, hugging Alisbeth’s arm.
Alisbeth purses her lips and pulls the girl close. “Did Kolty deserve it?”
Anarchaia sighs after fussing over the side of Koltira’s face, despite being ignored. She scowls over at him. <<That was highly unnecessary,>> she scolds in Darnassian. <<He was only trying to cheer your daughter up. She missed you. We missed you. I suggest you apologize the second you have the opportunity.>> She narrows her eyes when he mouths something she cannot read. “Whatever. Just…butcher that rabbit.”
Tyndra gives a quiet chuckle from the back of the group. “Tav, are your friends always this exciting?”
Taveth slips past to go to where his sister refuses to release Grimory. “Apparently, we’re not telling Ali, so…”
“Okay,” she says, but doesn’t let go.
Taveth then turns to his other sister. “Uh… A little bit, I suppose? The marriage drama was less violent, I think?”
“Nope,” Koltira snaps from the counter.
“It was more violent, actually,” Anarchaia mutters and returns to her table near the ovens, conjuring an apron to tie around herself as she does so.
Tyndra gives another quiet titter. “Maybe Father will let me go with you guys on your next mission.” She turns into the dining area to rummage through the cabinets for the plateware to set the tables.
Grimory takes Kel’ori gently by the shoulders and pries her from him. He pauses uncomfortably as he looks down at her. ::Uh…how are you?::
Kel’ori wipes her eyes and furrows her brow. “I can’t understand you.”
“Read his lips!” Alisbeth insists as she takes Diori to the ingredients. She grabs sugar and flour and finds her own counter space to work at.
Eophen clears his throat. “Taveth. Perhaps you can assist me in identifying these herbs.” He points to the swag hanging overhead alongside the pots and pans.
After the demon hunter repeats himself slowly, the mage nods some. “I’m okay. Better now. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to—”
Taveth clears his throat loudly. “Kel, why don’t you help Koltira over there. Your dressing was always fantastic.”
She jumps. “Oh. Um. Okay.” She stands beside the death knight, tentatively grabbing at ingredients to add to the mixture he’s already started.
“Don’t talk about it in front of Ali,” Koltira whispers. “We don’t know how she’ll react.”
The high elf nods in sudden understanding. “Oh! That makes sense.”
Once the situation is sorted, Taveth looks up at the herbs. “It’s…dangerous,” he says to Tyndra. “By all rights, I’m not equipped for that environment.” He begins pointing out each herb and naming them for the draenei.
Kel’ori turns to look over her shoulder, casually hiding her belly from her younger sister. “You never know when a situation can go completely wrong. Friends can…turn on you.” She eyes the demon hunter, but her look is apologetic instead of accusing.
Grimory can’t help but send a quick glance to Kel’ori’s stomach before turning. He takes up his cleaver again and sets to skinning and butchering a couple rabbits.
Alisbeth glances at Anarchaia as she listens to her cousin. Slowly she sidles up beside the undead woman, her hands balled into fists and her gaze on the counter instead of on her. “You were my friend.” She freezes, her face pinched in sad contemplation over what to say next.
Anarchaia tenses as well. She clears her throat as the whisk beats the eggs, butter, and sugar on its own. “I still am.”
Tyndra shrugs from the other room. “I could handle myself! I’m really sneaky, you know!”
Kel’ori gives a small laugh. “You? Sneaky? I’m sure.”
“I stole your brush that one time,” Tyndra says in an airy tone as she places goblets at each setting. “You didn’t find out for almost a whole hour.”
Kel’ori narrows her eyes. “You said Diori took it…”
Tyndra giggles and stands in the doorway, hands clasped behind her back as she totters teeters on her heels. “And you believed me,” she teases with a grin.
“How could I not? She was always in my room!” She sticks her tongue out at the little girl across the room.
Eophen chuckles and sniffs each herb as it’s identified. He places some rosemary and thyme inside a small game hen and ties the legs together. He points at a bowl of lemons. “These?”
“Lemons,” Taveth says. “They’re very sour.”
Eophen mimics the word absently. “Oh! Uhm. Alcohol. We cook with alcohol. You do that here?”
“Cooking wine?” Taveth asks. “Or something more robust? Sometimes we use bourbon or even whiskey. For today, though, wine would be more appropriate. I can get a good bottle of red from upstairs, if you like.”
Eophen nods. “Whatever you think will be best with this…fowl.”
Alisbeth sets a stiff, tentative hand on the mage’s shoulder. “Okay. Friends.” Without realizing it, she slowly squeezes harder the longer her hand is on the woman’s shoulder. “I’m glad. I’m glad we’re still friends. What are you making?”
Anarchaia winces but does her best not to show the growing pain she’s in. “C-cakes. Small ones. With icing. You can make the icing i-if you’d like,” she says through grit teeth, sliding the icing sugar toward her.
Diori pulls on Alisbeth’s shirt. “I wanna help.”
Alisbeth releases the mage and turns to grin at Diori. “Yes! Architecture needs help with the frosting. Would you like to help with that? You can be in charge of the taste test!” She smiles over at the mage. “Do you have a recipe you like?”
Anarchaia forces a smile in the presence of the girl. She pushes flour and vanilla toward them as well. “I’m partial to buttercream.”
Diori bounces. “Me, too!” She grabs for the sugar and measuring cups.
Taveth sets his hand on the draenei’s bicep for a quick moment. “You’re the chef. I’ll grab some and you can decide.” He goes up the stairs and waves to get Ervaen’s attention. “I need wine.”
Ervaen looks up from his conversation with the priest in the corner, own cup of coffee steaming in his hand. He gestures over to the wine rack. “Take the oldest open one, please.”
Grimory finishes with his rabbits and arranges them in a cast iron pot. He throws in some whole potatoes, carrots, and stock before placing the lid on and sliding it into the flames of the oven and closing the door. He wipes his hands off on a kitchen towel and goes to inspect Eophen’s work.
The draenei perks and smiles. “What do you suggest?”
The Illidari points to the lemons, then a dish of butter. Eophen nods and gets to slicing the fruit.
Taveth gives his brother a strange look, then eyes the bored-looking priest. He eyes the rest of the patrons, then looks at his brother again. “Everything under control up here?”
“He said to take the oldest bottle,” Docra says.
“I’ll…do that.” He gets the wine and returns downstairs.
Ervaen blinks slowly as his brother leaves then tilts his head back toward Docra. “Siblings.”
The priestess blinks. “I wouldn’t know.”
“Oh, Grim. I, uh, got this.” Taveth holds it out as though unsure which man he should give it to.
Grimory nods, pours a good amount of the alcohol into a baking dish, places the bird inside, then pours the rest over the top. He points to the lemons and Eophen places them on top along with the butter, then slides the dish into the second oven.
Anarchaia sighs and turns to look at Alisbeth. “Look, Ali. I’m sorry I lied. B-but can you blame me? The first night we meet, Koltira told me about…how you feel. I couldn’t tell you.”
Alisbeth frowns and busies herself with measuring, doing her best to only glance at the mage out of the corner of her eye. “I…suppose that makes sense. I don’t forgive you.” She pauses. “At least not yet.” She smiles as she looks down at her daughter. “I’ll get a bowl.”
Anarchaia sighs and lifts her hands. “Fine.” She conjures her own bottle of wine and tosses the cork into the fire before downing most of the contents. The bowl she’s working on tips itself into a muffin tin.
Diori nods. “Okay! Can we do sprinkles?”
“Of course we can,” Alisbeth says.
Once the dishes are all cooking in the ovens, Kel’ori goes and sits in the dining room. “When do we get to eat it all?”
“When it’s done,” Koltira says. He leans against the wall near Anarchaia.
~ * ~
It’s not long before Grimory exits the kitchen with the basted rabbits he’d prepared arranged neatly, but not artistically, on a platter. Diori assists him by bringing out a large bowl of salad and vegetables.
Eophen trails behind with his dish of drunken game hens and sets it on the table looking rather proud of himself. “It smells good. I think that is a good sign, yes?”
Anarchaia nods and chuckles, running a finger along the opening of her bottle of wine. “It’s one of the criteria, yes.”
Taveth pulls out a chair and looks expectantly at Eophen. “It smells fantastic. I’m sure it’s great.”
Tyndra runs her tongue over her upper lip and takes up a spot beside her sister. “This looks great,” she uncorks a bottle of champagne she’d covertly stolen from upstairs and begins pouring as many glasses as the bottle will allow. “Don’t tell Erv.”
Kel’ori smiles her thanks but pushes the glass away from herself. “I’ll get some juice from upstairs. I think Docra’s up there anyway.” She does her best to keep her cloak over herself as she stands, knowing eventually it’ll come up, but hoping to delay it as long as possible.
The death knights each find seats, Alisbeth yanking Grimory down beside her.
The Illidari takes Kel’ori’s glass and pours it into his own. He smiles at Alisbeth before smirking at the mage across from him. ::No boyfriend?::
Anarchaia’s lips tighten. “You know I don’t understand you.” She sips her wine.
Koltira sighs and switches seats to sit by Anarchaia. “I was saving you a seat. Didn’t know you had one in mind.” He works his jaw and presses his fingers to it as the soreness from the hit sets in.
Anarchaia blinks up at him and smiles. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t see you brooding in the shadows.” She lifts a hand to turn his face toward her with her fingertips. “Are you all right?” she asks quietly.
Koltira nods. “I’m fine. Just sore. I’ll be better after a dangerous amount of drink.”
Anarchaia grins and sets her bottle of red on the table for him to share. “Anything else can I do to help?”
He purses his lips and pretends to think. “Kiss it,” he demands, pointing at his jaw.
Anarchaia gives a small smile and places a peck on the spot. “All better?” she says with a smirk. “Or should I call a nurse?”
Koltira narrows his eyes, pretending to think on it. “One more and it should be good.”
Anarchaia’s eyes roll beneath her mask and she gives the area another kiss. “Any more and I’ll have to charge you.”
“No. I think that is satisfactory,” Koltira says.
Anarchaia smirks. “Are you broke? Is that it? Or are my services not worth paying for?”
Koltira grimaces. “Maybe I just don’t like when you make yourself sound like a prostitute?” He leans away, eyes pleading with her to not hit him.
Anarchaia straightens and scowls, then breaks down into chuckles. “That was the joke, you dork. But if you’d like me to add to your growing collection of bruises…” She playfully raises a fist.
“Maybe later,” he whispers in her ear.
The mage blinks and lowers her hand. “Oh, that’s right. You’re into that.” She gives a sheepish smile. “I…could humor you sometime.” Her smile grows reserved. “Probably literally.”
He chuckles. “I’m sure I’d love it either way.”
“Don’t be so sure,” Anarchaia mutters quietly and takes a drink of wine.
Eophen shreds a small portion of a hen and tastes it for himself. His golden eyes glimmer before he swallows. “How have I lived my entire life without this?” He slices the hens into portions and takes some for Taveth, handing it over. “I may not go back.”
Taveth grins to himself. “I wouldn’t mind that.” He tries a bite of the hen and his lavender eyes widen. “Oh, wow. You actually did an amazing job.”
Eophen flushes and gives an embarrassed chuckle. “I cannot take all the credit.” He gestures to the demon hunter. “I had some help.” He sits beside the scholar.
Diori skips back out of the kitchen with a plate of cakes she’s neatly decorated herself, complete with sprinkles and edible glitter. She places it carefully upon the table. “Do they look good?”
Alisbeth claps at the girl. “They look great! I bet they taste great, too. Go ahead and ha— Wait. After dinner? Right Tav?”
The high elf takes his eyes from the draenei beside him and blinks. “Hmm? What? I don’t care. Whatever you think is best.” He smiles back up at the man. “Do you do much cooking? I admit I…read about it more than I actually do it.”
Eophen gives a tentative shrug and swallows his bite of carrot. “When Mother died, Uulora and I took care of meals. I know a thing or two but I am no chef.”
Alisbeth grins deviously to the girl. “Take a bite now and tell me!”
Diori gasps with excitement and shoves half of a whole cake into her mouth. She hums in approval while chewing. “You and mask lady are good cooks.” She holds up a second for Alisbeth and Grimory. “Try!”
The demon hunter waves a hand. ::Sweets aren’t my thing, yeah?::
Alisbeth frowns at the sweet. “I can try, but I’m not sure I’ll taste anything.” She takes the smallest of bites and makes a face. “Tastes like sweet dirt.” She hands it back and laughs. “More cakes for you!”
Taveth jumps as he realizes what is happening outside of his conversation with Eophen. “D-Diori! Sweets after dinner.”
“You said I could decide,” Alisbeth says on a pout.
“That’s what you were talking about? And no one stopped—” He rubs a hand down his face. “Diori, why don’t you try some of this bird? Eophen made it. And get— You know what—excuse me Eophen—let me make you a plate.” He stands and takes a little from each dish, then sets it in the empty spot beside Grimory. “At least half of everything, little miss. And don’t you dare hide it in the napkin. Grim is watching you.”
Diori looks up at her father as he’s addressed, then giggles at the smile he gives. She climbs into her seat and takes a small bite. “Mm!” She looks at Eophen. “You’re a good cook!”
The draenei flushes. “I really am not. Heh.”
Taveth smiles up at the man beside him. “No, you really are. Maybe you should get a place in Stormwind just so I can come over for dinner.” He retains the innocent smile, though the implied other meaning creeps into the back of his mind.
Eophen gives the elf beside him an amused grin. “You know that is not a bad idea. My sister would be thrilled as well.”
Taveth’s smile grows wider. “Please tell me it’s not just an idea you’re only going to entertain for a while. I know of some nice places you could stay—apartments or even some houses. Any size you like, but the cost goes up, of course.” He blushes and turns away to shove food into his mouth to keep him from blithering more.
Eophen blinks at the elf’s enthusiasm, then chuckles and takes a sip of water. “We will see how our adventures go.”
Alisbeth leans against Grimory and rests her head in the swirl of his horn. “I’d love that. Just have a house. Kill animals and cook them. Just the three of us.” She glances at the girl and grins. “But I’d need to be alive so I could eat, too.”
Grimory’s eye twitches some at the pressure of his horn being pushed, but he nods all the same and places a hand on her thigh.
Diori blinks over at her mother, mouth full of sweet potato. “Can’t a healer make you alive again? I heard High King Anduin can resurrect people…”
Alisbeth stares down at Diori. “He can’t do that… Can he? I mean. I… He wouldn’t do that for me anyway… If he could.” She gives a nervous laugh and frowns, knowing her heart is giving into false hopes.
Diori shrugs. “I bet he would. He’s really nice.” She sneaks a bite of Grimory’s cake and the Illidari pretends not to notice.
~ * ~
Ervaen looks up as his little sister now approaches and a flicker of irritation crosses his eyes. “Yes, Kel?”
“Can I get some juice? Non-alcoholic. They only brought wine and…such.” She sets a palm on Docra’s shoulder. “Also the food’s ready.”
The priestess blinks. “About time. It’s been over an hour.” She stands and nods at the man. “You didn’t have to keep me company that whole time.”
Kel’ori’s smile strains the littlest bit as she widens her eyes on her brother. “Whole time? When was the last time you spent that much time with a patron that wasn’t Thassarian?” She leans over to hiss. “And female.”
Ervaen purses his lips in the slightest of ways but otherwise remains unfazed. “Hardly any of your business. There’s juice in the icebox. Enjoy your meal.”
Docra looks between the two, then sighs. “It’s okay, Mr. Nightheart. Your company was not terrible, so I have no complaints. Kel’ori is probably just bitter seeing a man flirt with a woman, knowing men typically don’t flirt with pregnant women.” She turns for the stairs. “See you down there.”
Kel’ori’s eyes go wide and she freezes in place as her face turns a dark shade of embarrassed red. “J-juice. Thanks. Bye.” She clutches her cloak about her and rushes to the icebox.
Erevan’s eyes widen. “Preg—?! Kel, hold on.” He pushes from his chair to follow her behind the counter. “What did she mean by that?” he hisses quietly.
Kel’ori stops, her lips pressed to a thin line and her eyes squinted shut. “I don’t like to talk about it, but Docra doesn’t think it’s healthy to just ignore it and I’m pretty sure she’s just getting back at me for something. Don’t worry about it, right? Okay. I’m getting the juice now. Bye!” She tries her best to slip away from him gracefully, but hiding the growing mound beneath her cloak hinders the effort.
Ervaen grabs Kel’ori’s cloak in a fist. “Kel’ori, this is serious! Who’s the father?! Have you told our father?!”
“No I haven’t told father. I haven’t told anyone. But it’s not like I can hide it anymore.” She pulls her cloak back to reveal a belly that would indicate six months of pregnancy. “It was Spi— A demon. On Argus…” Her chin quivers, but she squares her shoulders. “And I’m keeping it. Docra convinced me to.” She wipes away a tear that rolls down her cheek. “Now, can I have that juice? Please?”
Ervaen’s eyes widen further. “Dem— Keep— What?! Kel’ori, no. You can’t. How even—? No.” He runs a palm over his mouth and beard. “You need to tell father.”
Kel’ori purses her lips and gets in Ervaen’s face, looking up into his eyes to make sure he’s listening to her. “You have no say in what I do, brother. I didn’t have a choice before, but I have one now. My child is not at fault for what that monster did. My child will not be anything like those demons. I will tell father in my own time—probably soon, though, because I don’t think this baby is on a normal timeline. Obviously.” She takes a breath and calms down. “Would you like to…go with me when I tell him? I’m probably going to take Docra. She’s been my rock. I love her so much—not like that,” she adds quickly.
Ervaen scowls as he’s reprimanded, but cannot help sobering when she calms and requests his presence. He sighs. “You know I will. But you should know that this isn’t a good idea.”
Kel’ori’s lips pucker in annoyance. “Show me another time this has happened and I’ll take your advice. But trust me, I have…other demons…helping. Nice ones. Kind of. They’d have told me, but like I said, if you can prove this is a bad idea then I’ll happily rid myself of—” She stops as though frozen in time. Tears pool and roll from her eyes and she presses her palm into her mouth to cover a surprised gasp.
Ervaen blinks, then knits his brow in the slightest of ways. “What? What’s the matter?” He sets a hand on her shoulder.
“Sorry. I’m sorry.” Kel’ori wipes at her eyes and takes a breath, a wide smile on her face. “It moved, Erv. It’s never done that before. Oh my gods, there’s a living thing inside me.” She has to wipe her tears away again. “My baby is moving. Mine. Okay. I’m late. I’m hungry. I’m getting the juice and going downstairs. Maybe you can come down later and try your best moves on Docra.” She waggles an eyebrow and makes for the icebox again.
Ervaen watches her, a mixture of sympathy and disgust on his normally cool features. “Kel… What if this kills you?” he asks quietly. “You don’t know what’ll happen.”
Kel’ori frowns. “What if it doesn’t? I’ll be fine. Now, excuse me, I’m late.” She takes her juice and storms down the stairs.