Book 6 – Chapter One

Anarchaia pulls Grimory’s wrapped box away from him as the demon hunter inspects the tag. “Not yet. You have you wait for everyone else to get here,” she scolds and pushes it far beneath the tree she’d set up in a small annexed room in the Nighthearts’ tavern.

The Illidari rolls his eyes and sits back with his drink.

Taveth arrives with Kel’ori in tow. The mage resists against his pulling.

“Nobody wants me here, Tav!”

“I want you here,” he says. “I’m sure the others will be happy to see you.”

“Move it or lose it!” Alisbeth screams as she barrels past to leap onto the demon hunter. “How did your thing go? Good, I assume, ’cause you got here early.”

Grimory nods and smiles, locking her arms around his neck with his own. ::Yeah. They obviously weren’t interested in anything I had to say. Which was nothing.::

Taveth finds a seat and drags Kel’ori down beside him. “Koltira said he’ll be right here,” he tells the mage. “He’s doing a last minute thing at the shop?”

“I really shouldn’t be here. The baby—” Kel’ori hisses.

“That’s why we brought Docra,” Taveth hisses back at her. “Shut up and have a good time, okay?”

“A-actually, I got you a gift, too, Kel. Since Ali took care of my debt, I could actually afford one for everyone this year.” Anarchaia says somewhat sheepishly, then nods at Taveth’s information.

Kel’ori smiles slightly. “I got you something, too, actually. Erv should have put it under the tree.”

“I got a little something for everyone, too,” Taveth says.

Alisbeth dives under the tree to examine the name tags. “How many did I get?”

Koltira enters and sets a small wrapped box under the tree, away from the snooping blood elf, then sits beside Anarchaia. “Docra said she’s not joining us. She and Ervaen are discussing her work, I guess. She said to scream if…anything happens.”

The mage flushes and nods.

“Is this everyone, then?” Taveth asks the undead girl.

Anarchaia nods. “I got something for Eophen, but he said he couldn’t make it. I guess he and his family are getting settled in Stormwind.”

“I can take it to him later,” Taveth offers.

She grins at Grimory. “Okay, now you can open it.”

The demon hunter easily peels away the paper from his gift and blinks down at the leather notebook with a G stamped into the cover and gold lining the pages. ::Thanks, Ana.::

“I’m assuming that was thanks. Now you can write to us instead of mouthing.” She giggles.

Grimory’s eyelids lower. ::I think I’ll just use it for notes.::

Alisbeth finishes digging around in the tree and sets a final present on one of many piles. “I sorted them!” She shoves each stack to the corresponding recipient. “I hope you guys like what I got you. It’s only the best possible gift ever.” She sets herself up beside Grimory to start ripping open a box, then frowns at the contents and sets it aside before reaching for another package.

Koltira purses his lips at the small stack of gifts at his feet, then leans to whisper to the mage beside him. “I only got you something.”

Anarchaia blinks up at him, then gives a reassuring smile. “I labeled everything from both of us. I hope you don’t mind.” She watches as Alisbeth pulls out the candy cane bouquet she’d gotten her. “And thank you, Tav. I’d appreciate that.”

The stairs give a quiet creak as another figure makes its way down them. Jorick, dressed in a festive sweater pulled over a collared shirt, scratches at the back of his neck as he smiles. “Turns out I found some time.”

Anarchaia’s grin widens and she waves him over. “Good! I’d have had to throw your gift away otherwise.” The two chuckle as he sets himself on the arm rest beside her.

“A better place for it,” he laughs. “You know I hate gifts.”

“And you know I don’t care.” She sets the small box in his lap, then picks up the small package from Koltira. “What is it?”

Alisbeth squeals loudly. “This is the best possible gift ever!” She takes one out and begins crunching it into little pieces between her teeth.

Kel’ori purses her lips. “Does that mean she got us all candy canes?” She opens the gift from Alisbeth and sneers at the assortment of different flavored canes. Wrapped around the center, though, is an ornate mithril necklace with a ruby pendant. “Now I feel bad I didn’t get anything for her,” she whispers.

“I don’t think she’ll care,” Taveth says, unwrapping a new quill from Anarchaia. “Oh, wow, this is beautiful. Thank you!”

Koltira nods a greeting to the human, then gives the mage a blank look. “It’s a million microscopic, flesh-eating insects., Obviously.”

Anarchaia gasps with fingertips to her lips as she grins. “How did you know?” She opens the small gift and her face softens. “Oh, Kolt. I love it.” She gingerly lifts the bracelet from the box, little charms of books, quills, and runes tinkling from the links. She kisses his cheek and holds out her wrist for him to clasp it around. “I left your gift at home.”

Koltira gingerly fastens the bracelet around her bony wrist, then kisses the top of her hand. “Are you sure my gift isn’t right here? Just…overly-clothed?” He gives her a devilish smirk.

Anarchaia gently bites her lower lip as she smiles. “Perhaps. Perhaps not.” She looks past him as he pulls her close.

Jorick snerks as he pulls out a new belt—multiple places for daggers and other items lining it. “I suppose the old one has seen better days. Thanks, little bird.”

The death knight’s eyes narrow somewhat at the human’s use of a cute nickname he assumes is from their romantic past. Instead of saying anything, he wraps a territorial arm behind the mage and pulls her closer to his side. The undead woman gives Jorick a small smile.

Grimory steals a cane from Alisbeth and smirks as he crunches off an end. ::Shame. I got you the same thing. But with whiskey.::

Alisbeth squeals. “You got me whiskey? And candy canes? I’m gonna crush them up and put them in and wait until they melt so I can have a peppermint whiskey.” She pushes aside her other gifts, ignoring the second one from Taveth to rip open the one from Grimory so she can execute her plan. “This is the best ever. You’re the best ever.” She gives him a quick peck on the lips, then returns her attention to pulling out the cork on the bottle.

Grimory grins triumphantly. ::That was the intent.::

Kel’ori nervously opens the gift from Anarchaia, then stops. Tears come to her eyes and she sets the back of her fingers to her lips. She frowns at the other mage, but is unable to say anything.

A frown threatens her features. “You don’t like it,” she says to the elven mage matter-of-factly. “I can return it…”

The mage shakes her head as Taveth leans over to look in the box. “I just realized I forgot clothes. I’ve been rushing to get everything I need for the baby and…I forgot clothes.” She lifts a yellow onesie from the box, then slowly sorts through the rest of the clothes. “It’s all gender neutral, too.” She cries a little harder and covers her face. “I’m sorry. I’m not upset. This is perfect. I…need to get you something.”

Taveth grins between the two mages. “Open the one I got you!”

Alisbeth narrows her eyes over at the baby clothes. “Shoulda killed it before it learned to defend itself,” she whispers. “I bet it’ll be defenseless without her magic. Babies die in their cribs all the time.” Her eyes bug with a vicious plan. “Don’t worry, Grim. I’ll take care of it for you.” She finishes dropping in crumbled canes and beats the cork back on so she can shake it up and set it aside.

Grimory’s eyes widen some as well, but for a different reason. He shakes his head. ::You aren’t going to kill a baby, Ali.:: He pauses to give her a look. ::Right?::

Alisbeth gently strokes the demon hunter’s hair. “Shh. Don’t worry about it. Just open your presents, okay?”

Koltira blinks at the clothing, then sighs into Anarchaia’s hood. “Wouldn’t it be nice if those were for us?”

“Oh, don’t worry about me.” Anarchaia smiles at Kel’ori’s reaction, but the frown returns at Koltira’s. She nods as she brings the gift from Taveth into her lap without having to bend. She opens it and furrows her brow, then lifts the tome from the box and scowls. “How the hell did you get ahold of a copy of this?” She shows him the cover as if he didn’t already know—the words The Codex of Leisande scrawled across it in plain blue ink. She peeks inside. “And untranslated?! Taveth!”

Jorick lifts his eyebrows. “Aren’t there, like, three copies of that in existence?”

Taveth recovers from the cringing at Anarchaia’s tone. “Uhm, heh, two and a half, actually. One copy met an unfortunate near-end when the orcs took control of the city. I…think they were using the pages as…heh.”

Kel’ori opens her gift to find a baby rattle made of a green metal that glows with fel energy. She purses her lips at her brother.

Taveth raises his eyebrows in innocence. “What? I thought it was cute. Open the rest.”

She digs through the wrapping tissue to find several more little items, including baby spoons and some jewelry for her. “Taveth…this is all expensive stuff.”

He tears loudly at the paper around a gift from Alisbeth and pretends not to hear.

Grimory, resisting the urge to swat her hand away from his hair, opens his gift from Alisbeth. His shoulders shake with a silent chuckle as he pulls out the exact two items he’d given her. ::Great minds think alike?::

Alisbeth grins at him. “Want me to crush your canes?”

Anarchaia’s face twists in disgust and she stammers for words. “I—… They—… It—… I think I may actually vomit.”

“Not that copy!” Taveth says on a laugh. “That one is intact. I made sure of it.”

“I didn’t think that!” Anarchaia laughs. “Just the thought of someone doing that to such a rare book makes me physically sick.”

Two tall figures step down the stairs, one the familiar Archmage and the other a dark skinned human with bright blond hair who looks like he’d rather be anywhere else.

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” Khadgar says after clearing his throat politely into a fist. “But I have a task for the lot of you.”

Taveth blinks up at the Archmage. “I’ll have to clear it with…him.”

Kel’ori purses her lips and begins packing up the baby clothes and other items into the bag around her shoulders. “I’ll be out of your hair in a moment,” she mutters.

Koltira’s fingers twitch and his ears perk. “What sort of task?”

Khadgar motions to the tired looking man beside him and he steps forward. “This is Vendormu, a member of the bronze dragon flight. He has an issue and would like our help.”

The dragon aspect nods. “My brother has been seen running amok in the Outlands twenty-three years ago.” He sighs. “I need someone brave enough to go back and put an end to his shenanigans by any means necessary.” The corner of his mouth twitches in a sneer. “Or it’s my head.”

Koltira purses his lips. “By any means necessary means you have to have it in you to possibly kill your own brother. Are you brave enough for that?”

Vendormu gives Koltira an unamused look. “I wasn’t under the impression that that was included in the phrase by any means necessary. Perhaps I should rethink this incredibly important decision I am making.”

“Oh, heh. Guess I’m not going this time?” Taveth smiles absently.

Alisbeth narrows her eyes at the dark-skinned man and crunches loudly on several candy canes at once, completely blocking out everything the others are saying. Grimory gives a silent snigger.

Anarchaia shakes her head at Taveth. “No, you have to come! Imagine the research!” She jerks as the tome she’d been clinging to is snatched from her hands.

Khadgar scowls down at the cover. “Is this real? Where did you get this?”

She grasps for it back but he holds it out of her reach as he flips through the pages. “Taveth got it for me!”

Koltira narrows his eyes at the aspect. “I’ll remember that when you have a last minute change of heart and try to stop me.”

Alisbeth blinks at everyone and crunches even louder, opening her mouth so the sound travels.

Kel’ori sneers at the death knight. “Is that really necessary?”

As response, the blood elf shoves another candy cane into her mouth. Taveth purses his lips and says nothing, just helps his sister pack her new things.

“Change of heart. Right.” He looks around at the lot, then lifts his hands. “Right. All but the weaselly one, the pregnant one, and…” He purses his lips at Jorick’s sweater.

The man smiles in response and shrugs. “I’ll go. Sounds like fun.”

Vendormu rolls his eyes beneath their lids and, in a swirl of golden, blinding light. A vortex of sparkles, stars, and moments in history fly by as the group stands frozen. When the whirlwind of magic finally subsides, they are all standing in a dimly lit room with stone walls and leather hammocks lining them.

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