Taveth wakes late in the morning, still feeling groggy. He flinches as he’s welcomed by the wails of the distraught infant accompanied by the frustrated begging of Kel’ori for him to calm down through her own tears. He hops out of the hammock and automatically takes the infant. He goes into her bag and finds the clothes Anarchaia had given her.
“Get some sleep,” he mumbles, regarding the dark circles around her eyes. The elf is met in the common area with a flinch from Koltira and a glare from Alisbeth.
“What the hell is that?” Alisbeth asks, one eye scrunched and her nose wrinkled.
Koltira’s brow furrows as he gets his first look at the child. “That… Okay…”
Anarchaia squeezes Koltira’s hand as though she can read his thoughts and is pleading with him to be polite. “At least he’s healthy?”
Koltira narrows an eye at the mage. “Yes. Healthy. Good things.” Without another word, he stands and leaves to escape the din.
She glances at Jorick, still resting against the wall despite the cacophony and scoffs softly. “Still sleeps like the dead.”
The man’s eyebrows raise but his eyes remain closed. “Not these days.”
She flushes. “Oh. S-sorry.” She frowns back at the crying baby in the corner, then looks at the open doorway. She groans apprehensively.
Tryxora appears behind Taveth, a wide grin on her face. <<I can take him!>> she says almost too eagerly.
“It’s fine. I’ve got him.” He sets to changing Bel’theas into a yellow onesie, using a handkerchief as a sort of diaper.
<<I know how to soothe him,>> Tryxora insists.
“I can handle it,” Taveth says, flinching at the screaming in his ear. “I’ve done this before.”
The demoness scowls and folds her arms as she moves to the corner.
Baemalen rubs at an eye as he steps out of the room as well. “Want me to do the thing again?” he says groggily, then turns his head to look at Kel’ori while the door remains open. “Or am I not allowed to?”
Kel’ori sniffs. The corners of her mouth tilt down as she looks at him. “I don’t want him to… But if it calms him down…” She sniffs again, then falls into a series of crying hiccups. “You’re so kind.”
Baemalen’s smile softens at her crying and he closes the door to let her rest. He approaches the warlock and extends his hands. “Need some help? It won’t repay what I owe you, but it’s something.”
Taveth blinks tired eyes at the man. “Owe…me?” He shakes his head. “Why would you owe me anything? And, really, I helped raise my little sister. I’ve got this handled…” He flinches as Bel’theas’s screams raise in pitch and volume. “Mostly,” he shouts.
Baemalen eases the baby from Taveth’s arms despite being virtually denied. “I also helped raise my sister.” He sits. “Granted she didn’t prefer Ereduni victory arias, but you do what you can when it’s just the two of you.” He hums a tune similar to the one from the previous night and the baby grows quiet but continues to fuss.
Taveth blinks blearily at the Illidari. “How.” He lets out an annoyed sigh. “Do we have breakfast? Oh, who am I kidding. Of course we don’t have breakfast. Would you like me to go get some?” He asks the two other living beings in the room.
Anarchaia and Jorick give one another a look. “A-actually, the two if us could go to Honor Hold and grab some supplies? They’d let us in,” the woman says.
“We could stop on our way,” Jorick agrees, standing. He groans in pain as he stretches. “Awful position to sleep in. What was I thinking?”
The mage hums a laugh. “Maybe they have canes in Honor Hold, too.”
Jorick points at her, unamused. “You shut your face. Not all of us can be graced with everlasting beauty.”
Taveth nods absently. “Oh, you have gold? If you insist.”
“Some.” Jorick sets to fixing his hair in what little he can see of himself in an old vase. “But I can get more.”
Taveth absently combs his fingers through his hair as he nods at the human. “Oh. Okay. If you have it covered, then. Good. That’s good.”
~ * ~
Grimory, still outside, scowls at the sky and slowly opens his eyes at the noise coming from the doorway.
Koltira notices the demon hunter outside, purses his lips, and goes to him. “Outside is a fantastic choice. The lungs on that…” He clears his throat. “So, how was your night?”
Grimory gives Koltira a tired look. “Quiet.”
Alisbeth comes running out a moment later with meat rashers gripped in her fists. “I found you food! Good thing you didn’t go in there, cause, oh man that thing is—”
“Healthy,” Koltira says, using Anarchaia’s kinder assessment.
The other death knight gives him a stink-eye. “You’re just trying to avoid calling it what it is.” She drops down by Grimory and shoves the meat at him. “Eat.”
He leans his head away, then takes a couple to chew on. “Healthy?” he says with a sudden curiosity. “That’s…great. Good.”
Alisbeth giggles sardonically. “Sure. Healthy is so great when it looks like…that.”
Koltira clears his throat again. “So, to change the subject, Ana and I have a plan. Once things quiet in there, we can go inside and go over them. Oh, and Taveth is awake. Looks only half-alive.”
Grimory nods while he chews. “Also good.” He stands when the racket inside subsides, brushing the dust from his backside. “Sooner better than later.” He makes for the door but hesitates just outside. Go. Let’s see our son, a voice in the front of his mind grumbles. He scowls, yet finds he cannot step over the threshold. “I-I’ll hang back, yeah?”
Koltira sets two firm pats on the demon hunter’s shoulder. “I understand your stress. But just remember, you can’t avoid him forever.”
Alisbeth sneers at Koltira and buries herself against Grimory’s back. “Yes, he can.”
“Yes, I can,” the demon hunter says nearly in tandem with Alisbeth. He shakes his head. “We’ll be out here once everyone’s gathered and ready. No need to go over the plan with me. I’ll just follow wherever, yeah?”
Koltira purses his lips and takes a deep breath. “You are the plan. It’s best if you hear it.” He goes inside and leans against the wall.
Alisbeth scowls. “Want me to see if the coast is clear?”
Grimory sighs, losing some of his stony demeanor once Koltira has gone. “No. He’s right.” He steels himself for a long moment, then steps inside. His eyes immediately settle on Baemalen, then the infant in his arms. He clears his throat. “What’s the plan?”
Anarchaia sits up in her chair. “Oh. Grim. We’re going to kidnap you.” She brings a hand to her mouth, suddenly remembering the other Illidari in the room. “Uhm. So to speak. Heh. We have to go to the temple.”
Grimory nods. “All right. I can lead the way.”
Koltira nods to the demon hunter and leans against the wall. “You and Ana—”
“And me!” Alisbeth shouts.
“I’m going with Grim!” She kicks at Koltira’s leg.
He pinches the bridge of his nose. “Fine. Just wear your helmet or something. Maybe have Ven give you an illusion.” He eyes the other Illidari, unsure how to phrase the plan. “We need you to go to the Black Temple and…retrieve…” He nonchalantly motions at Grimory. “Then Ana will port you back here. We have it on good authority there may be a plot against Illidan. We’ll need you to gather intel so we can prevent it.”
Grimory nods, but an anxiety gnaws at the back of his mind when Alisbeth insists on coming along. “That makes sense. I’ll see what I can do.” He motions out the door, clearly uncomfortable. “We’ll wait outside for you, Ali.”
Jorick follows the mage and demon hunter outside. “So, Honor Hold on the way?”
Anarchaia nods. “It’ll take a long time to get to the valley from here. Days. We’ll need lots of supplies for Grim and yourself. And Taveth if he wants to come.”
Baemalen blinks and tilts his head slightly as Grimory retreats outside. He looks up at Taveth. “Something happen? He seems different since I left. Grumpier.” He scrambles to hum again when Bel’theas starts to fuss again.
Taveth grits his teeth in a grimace. “What? Grumpier? I-I don’t know— You know, I think I should join them. A scholar would come in handy. Excuse me!” He grabs his satchel and rushes out the door. “He’s asking questions. I didn’t answer.”
Alisbeth sneers at the infant. “Awful.” The succubus shoves her out the door.
<<You stay away from Bel!>>
Koltira’s eyelids lower. “It’s a whole party, now. Yay.”
Taveth clears his throat. “How is this going to work? I mean, Ana is a bit conspicuous, no?”
Anarchaia smiles. “Oh, I have a pla—”
Grimory perks and turns. “No, Tav should stay. Someone has to watch over Bae and Kel and the dragon isn’t a trustworthy candidate.” He looks at Alisbeth. “And Koltira is right. Perhaps you should go ask to have him change you if you’re coming to the temple with me, yeah?”
The high elf frowns and sputters. “I— But—” He whines and motions helplessly at the area and his bag. “Research?”
Alisbeth deflates, her shoulders sagging. She stomps unenthusiastically into the building and to the room where her cousin is sleeping and the aspect is lazing in another hammock. “They said to make me look alive. Can you…do that?”
Vendormu, without even opening an eye, lifts a hand. “Sure can.” In a swirl of light, ebon seeps into Alisbeth’s hair and her skin blossoms into a healthy peach. Her eyes are restored and now glow faintly instead of flurrying with blizzard-like energy. “You’re welcome.”
Koltira folds his arms. “I agree. Taveth should stay. Your sister isn’t in any condition to—”
“I can heal her! Then I can go?” He whimpers and directs his pleading gaze to the mage. “Research…”
Anarchaia lifts her brows and looks around herself as though he could be addressing someone else. “Why am I in charge? You think my command overrules theirs?”
“You make your own decisions in the end, Tav,” Grimory grumbles. “But if you get in trouble you have no one to blame but yourself.”
“Thank you,” Alisbeth says. She pauses at the sound of her voice. She turns and bumps into Taveth on her way out of the room.
He smiles. “There’s the Ali from my memories.”
She purses her lips at him, ducks her head, and leaves the room. He sighs and goes to Kel’ori.
Alisbeth goes to the corner and begins putting on her armor. She glances at Baemalen, then focuses on the buckles of her gear. Taveth returns and waits for her to finish.
“Yeah…l-let’s go.” She scrunches her nose at her voice, having trouble recognizing it, then shoves her helm over her head.
Baemalen furrows his brow ever so slightly, then winces as one of his long locks is pulled by tiny grasping hands; he gives a flirty grin as though it hadn’t just happened. “How many people can you all fit in this place? Need some help?”
Alisbeth cocks an eyebrow at the elf. “I’ve got it.” She scrunches her nose. “Have fun. Alone. With that. Bye Baelfire!”
“Okay. Can we go now?” Koltira demands.
“I told Kel the plan. She’s feeling much better and will be waiting for you, Ana.”
Anarchaia nods. “Okay. Just waiting on Alisbeth, then.”
She runs out to meet the others. “I’m ready!”
Koltira blinks at Alisbeth, his features softening somewhat at her appearance. “Let’s go, then.”
Taveth follws near the back as he double checks his pen, ink, books, and dagger.
Anarchaia gives a small, somewhat reserved smile. “To Honor Hold for a brief moment, then off we go. Grim for sure will have to hang back. Not sure about the rest of you, besides Jorick.”
“I’m Quel’dorei,” the Illidari grumbles in response.
“Yeah but you got the short end of the Alliance mercy stick when you were born with green eyes,” the mage responds sharply with an impatient smile.
Grimory rolls said eyes before stopping to give Alisbeth a once over. He smiles. “Just like I remember.”
Alisbeth fidgets. “I don’t feel any different.” She sighs. “I’ll have to stay out, too. And no one here has seen a death knight before, so Koltira can’t…” She goes quiet when he looks back at her.
He clears his throat. “That’s fine. I’m sure the humans have it under control.”
“And me,” Taveth says. “I’ll be going in as well.”
Anarchaia also glances at Koltira. “Unless you still want to get an illusion, too. Last chance before we leave?” She shrugs and gives a nervous titter.
Koltira pinches the bridge of his nose. “Okay. Fine.” He disappears inside.
Taveth blinks after him. Alisbeth opens her mouth to say something, but remains silent instead. A moment later, Koltira returns with the same bland expression on his face and no apparent changes to his features.
“Did he refuse?” Taveth asks.
“Oh, no, he went ahead and did it,” Koltira says.
Alisbeth giggles and pokes his cheek. “Your cheeks aren’t as sunken.”
He purses his lips at her. “Yeah. Such a change. Let’s go.”
She giggles as he shoves past the others to lead the way.
“Any more great ideas?” he asks, not waiting for the others to follow or reply.
Anarchaia’s lips curl into a small smile, then fall into a frown as he pushes past. “…no,” she responds and follows the death knight and demon hunter off toward the stronghold in the distance.
When the group arrives, Grimory regards the two humans. “We’ll definitely need some healing potions if they have some. Otherwise you’ll have to make do with bandages and salves.”
“Right,” Anarchaia says in a flat tone. “Anything else?” she looks at the others expectantly.
“Within reason,” Jorick adds with an apprehensive smile.
Alisbeth nods, then shakes her head. “I don’t think they have elf helms.”
“I’m joining,” Taveth says. “I need a few things and I’d rather pick them out myself.” He again lifts the hood of the borrowed cloak to hide his ears.
The humans nod and lead Taveth inside after leaving the elves some distance from the entrance. Once safely past the guards and inside, Jorick gives Anarchaia a sideways glance. “You look ecstatic.”
She looks up at him and realizes just how she must look by the pain between her eyebrows. “I’m fine.”
He rolls his eyes. “Like I’m going to fall for that a six hundredth time.” He sighs, the smile on his face fading. “I know we haven’t talked in a long time, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care anymore.”
“I’m fine,” she insists and puts on a fake smile for the first aid vendor. The woman hands her a small satchel of potions and salves and the mage holds out her hand to the man beside her.
“Okay, six hundred and first time.” He hands over the gold in his coin purse—nearly all of it. “Are you happy with that guy?”
Anarchaia pauses and turns to give him a look of impatience.
“Don’t misunderstand,” he’s quick to correct. “I don’t want you to leave him. I just want you to be treated right.”
Anarchaia’s face softens and she gently pushes past him for the food stall. “I’m fine,” she says a third time, this time softer. “He’s not always like that.”
“If he’s like that ever it’s kind of shitty,” Jorick says on another sigh.
“Shitty like you drinking too much and getting into a fight with anything that can fight back?”
He stops as though he’s been struck. “Th-that…was…”
Anarchaia sighs and shakes her head. “A long time ago. You’re right. I’m sorry.” She looks up at him for a brief moment, wear in her icy eyes. “I can handle myself.” She turns back to the vendor who’s patiently waiting for payment.
“Right. Of course you can.” With a strained smile, he gives the man payment for the rations, takes the supply, and turns back for the entrance.
Taveth’s lower eyelids raise as he listens to Jorick. He slips away to purchase his own items, plus extra food, then slips back in behind the two to find them still discussing the death knight. He lets out a heavy sigh instead of getting involved.
Outside the gates, Alisbeth jumps up and down, waving her arms in the air as though they can’t already see her.
Koltira nods as they approach. “All set? Get enough food for the living?”
Taveth nods while scrawling a quick message in his book in the distant hope that it will be mirrored to the book’s twin in the future.
“Did you get me some whisky?” Alisbeth asks, reaching into their packs to snoop.
Both Jorick and Anarchaia pull their bags away as though needlessly defensive. “No,” the latter says, taking both bags and sending them back to their hideout in a flurry of sparkles. “Just the necessities.” She turns for the tall ridge in the distance.
Grimory’s lips tighten at their behavior, but he decides he doesn’t care enough to comment. He takes Alisbeth’s hand and follows.
She bounces beside the Illidari. “Are you excited? You get to see your old home. What does it look like? Is it big? Are there lots of demons? Can I slap this Illidan!?!”
Taveth holds out a cloth sack to Anarchaia. “Can you send this back as well? In a place Kel will find it, preferably?”
Anarchaia nods and takes the bundle. Without a word she sends it back to the outpost.
Grimory gives her a smile. “Sort of. It’s huge and stone. Yes. Yes. No. In that order.” He pulls her shoulder into himself to keep her from bouncing. “Illidan didn’t show his face too much to us until after initiation. You probably won’t see him.”
“How long is the walk?” Alisbeth asks.
“A day or two,” the demon hunter says. “We have to make our way through Terokkar. Tav will have a lot to sketch. Giant moths and trees.”
Taveth smiles. “I look forward to seeing it in person. I’m sure the sketches in books don’t do any of the scenery justice.”
“What did you send back for Kel?” Alisbeth asks, wrapping her hand around Grimory’s on her shoulder. She grins up at him.
“Diapers. Wash cloths. Things she’ll need.”
“I’m sure she’ll be thankful,” Koltira comments from the back. “That was kind of you.”
Taveth turns a shy smile on the death knight.
“What did you guys grab?” Grimory says to the two humans.
It takes a moment for Anarchaia to realize she’s been addressed, but before she can answer, Jorick does for her.
“What you told us to get.” He gives the demon hunter a grin with a raised eyebrow. “And food. And I swiped this.” He waves a rolled-up piece of parchment.
Anarchaia turns to furrow her brow at him. “Swiped?”
“A map,” he says, avoiding the implication.
Alisbeth squirms free of the demon hunter to reach for the map. “I wanna see it!” She scrambles around the human as he thwarts her attempts.
“A map? Regardless of the surely illicit means of procurement, I’m sure it’ll come in handy,” Koltira says.
The other death knight giggles. “You sound like a nerd.”
“Too much time around me, perhaps?” Taveth says, grinning in a silly manner.
Koltira lowers his eyelids at the two.
Jorick holds the paper high and, despite being shorter than the death knight and Illidari, is able to keep it away. He gives Anarchaia a charming grin. “What?”
“Illicit procurement,” she repeats.
“You stole booze all the time,” Grimory says, then gives a snarky smile when she whips around.
“I paid for it eventually!”
“One little map is no skin off their nose. Besides, you sort of bled me dry with the other supplies.” Jorick shrugs.
“I could have…” Taveth stops and instead begins sketching out the Hellfire Citadel ahead of them.
Alisbeth jumps onto Jorick’s back. “Just a peek!”
“So,” Koltira says over the squealing death knight, “ideas to occupy our time as we travel?”
Jorick stumbles, then submits when he realizes he cannot pry her off. He stuffs the map into his cuirass and smirks. “Nope. No peeking. Mine. Stole it fair and square.”
Grimory rolls his eyes and swallows his jealousy. “I spy something red.”
“Everything,” Anarchaia says blandly.
“Bingo. Ana wins.”
Alisbeth unceremoniously reaches into the man’s shirt to search for the parchment. “I dunno. It’s kind of more orangey than red.”
Koltira strides past to reach Anarchaia. He leans close, a hand at the small of her back. “I spy something beautiful,” he whispers.
Jorick flushes lightly and grabs the woman’s wrist to keep her from digging further. “Hey, now. Not even going to buy me dinner, first?”
Grimory folds his arms and purses his lips. “Orange is kind of like red. But with yellow.”
Anarchaia jumps a little, knocked out of her pensive state. She flushes a bit and smiles faintly. “O-oh.” She turns her head to look behind herself, then back. “Jorick? Beautiful isn’t the word I’d use. Heh.”
Koltira narrows his eyes down at the mage. “You take that blasphemy right back.”
Alisbeth stops and blinks at the man. “All my money is in Dalaran in the future. And I don’t think any of these places serve dinner.” She motions with her free hand at the broken buildings.
“Wouldn’t your money exist somewhere in the past, too?” Taveth asks.
She hops down from the human and goes to hug her cousin. “Genius! We just have to figure out where I kept it.” She thinks a moment, then groans aloud. “I think it was in Lordaeron. And Silvermoon. And Stormwind. And… No, I think that’s it.”
The human man chuckles but cannot help overhearing the conversation in front of them. He shrugs it off and turns back to Alisbeth. “You’ll have a hell of a time getting it all back, then. Probably making wishes with it in a fountain of green ooze right now.”
Anarchaia smiles crookedly. “Well geez, if you really think he’s that pretty…” She gives him a coy look before looking back ahead.
Koltira shakes his head. “Not in the slightest. You?”
Alisbeth sneers and folds her arms. “I got it back. A few years from now. When I went to Northrend.”
Taveth blinks at the distance between party members and frowns. He clears his throat. “I spy something white and beautiful.” He smiles at the back of the mage’s head.
“Bones!” Alisbeth shouts.
His frown returns. “N-no. I didn’t—”
“Okay, but, bones.” She points down at the skulls and various bones of draenei paving a massive path to the citadel.
“Sickening…is the word…” He begins to sketch it anyway.
Anarchaia looks down at the bones, then catches Taveth’s eye and meaning. She flushes again and gives a sheepish smile. “I spy a liar,” she says quietly and turns back away.
“I spy someone who can never take a compliment,” Jorick says, giving the mage’s shoulder a small shake.
Grimory gives his reflection a glance in the human’s armor. “I spy someone who shouldn’t have suggested this game.”
Alisbeth jumps back to the demon hunter and hugs him. “But it’s a fun game! I spy something…” She looks up in the sky and furrows her brow. “Red? Hm…” She stares at the road, lost in thought.
Taveth looks up, squinting at the distant image of a cluster of dragonhawks of all colors. He looks back at her but decides to say nothing.
Grimory chuckles. “I already did that one. Copycat.”
Jorick points ahead at an incoming caravan. “Do red orcs count?”
Alisbeth shakes her head and smiles. “Did what?” She jolts to attention. “Nope! Run! bad orcs, bad orcs!” She grabs Grimory’s hand trying to yank him off the path.
Not needing to be told twice, Taveth rushes down the embankment.
Anarchaia gives Koltira an unimpressed look, then perks at the mention of orcs. On reflex, she grabs his hand and pulls him down the slope with the others.
Grimory sighs. “Well I guess a detour isn’t the worst thing in the world—” He scowls at the mercenary as he’s shushed.
The orc party passes by on the overhang above, the chains on their wolf companions rattling as they laugh at one another’s stories. The one at the end stops and gives a wary glance around himself. <<You smell that?>>
<<Like we’re falling for that again,>> one of the others scoffs.
<<No. Smells like…elf.>>
A silence passes. <<Right. Like the last time you smelt elf? Or the time before that when you tried to lead us to a draenei camp? And it turned out to be a worg den and Fulmar was eaten?>>
Another silence passes.
<<Yeah. Let’s keep going. It’s getting late.>>