Book 6 – Chapter Eight

Alisbeth makes a face. “Those mean, smelly orcs. Kael’thas said to stay away, and I always listen to my prince.” She slowly clambers up to the road to watch them leave as Taveth hisses for her to get back down. She waves him away, then beckons the others up.

Koltira purses his lips at the other death knight, then holds out his hand to Anarchaia to help her up onto the road.

Anarchaia accepts the help up, then turns to assist Jorick up when she’s secured, picking him up with magic and setting him gingerly on the road.

“Oh, sorry, didn’t realize the lady needed help up,” Koltira says, jerking a thumb at Jorick.

Jorick blinks, then straightens. “I didn’t need help. Nor did I ask. Ana’s just a polite person. A rarity these days one could assume.” He gives a small grin as he passes.

Anarchaia frowns to herself, well aware of the tension between the two. “H-heh. I-I wouldn’t say that…”

Koltira rolls his eyes and falls into step with the others, jerking his head to get Taveth to catch up.

“Right, then. We should get a move on,” Taveth says. “They won’t come back, you don’t think?”

Grimory merely flutters up with a flap of his wings. “Probably not. I don’t speak orcish, but I doubt they enjoy being out at night, yeah? They aren’t known for their amazing vision.” He presses forward.

Alisbeth races to catch up, pressing into the demon hunter’s side. “I spy something familiar,” she whispers.

Grimory gives her a sideways glance and smirks. “Funny. So do I. Wouldn’t happen to have a horse with you, would you?”

Alisbeth furrows her brow. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She looks up at the demon hunter. “What do you mean?”

Grimory’s smirk falls into a somewhat disappointed line. “Nothing. Don’t worry about it.” He looks behind him. “Maybe we should find a place to camp for the night soon.”

Jorick gives Anarchaia a look and the latter furrows her brow and turns away. She looks up at Grimory. “Are you getting tired? We could find an alcove or something.”

“Oh! Camp! Like when we all first met!” Alisbeth bounces in excitement. “That was so much fun.”

Koltira nods and looks to the high elf. “You ready to make camp?”

Taveth looks around the barren landscape. “We should find a place less…open.”

The death knight scans the area and finds a cave in a large, rocky hill just off the path. “Is that adequate accommodations?” he asks no one specific.

“Yeah, that’s perfect. We just need some tinder. Nights get cold here,” Grimory says before anyone else can respond. He leads Alisbeth that way.

“Probably because there’s so little atmosphere here,” Anarchaia mumbles as though she cannot help speculating. “No insulation.”

“That wouldn’t explain the forests, though,” Jorick responds.

She gives him a small smile. “Yeah. You’re right. How silly of me.” She carefully navigates down the hillside, wary of her heeled boots and the many cracks in the terrain. “Wind resistance, then.”

“Many deserts have extreme temperature drops at night as compared to the day,” Taveth says as he makes his slow way down the steep incline from the main road. “It’s the lack of water, actually. There’s no humidity to trap the heat from the sun, so once that’s gone the earth gets more—”

Nerd!” Alisbeth screams and tosses a handful of sand at him.

Anarchaia stifles a giggle and dusts Taveth’s shoulder off. “Thanks.”

Once the party has reached the cave, the mage lifts a palm. It fills with fire, creating dramatic shapes and shadows on the craggy walls inside. Grimory nods in approval.

“I’m going to find some tinder,” he says after the group has settled. “Probably not wood but I’m sure there’s something. Can you keep that up for the time being, Ana?” She nods and he turns to leave as Koltira uses the heel of his boot to dig a small hole for the fire.

Alisbeth leaps after the demon hunter. “I’m going with! Take me!”

Taveth squints at his book in the darkness, then gives up and puts it away. He stretches and sits with his back to a wall. “Why can’t there be a faster way? One with less danger, at that. I’ve heard stories of Terrokar. Even in our time, the Arakkoa population is strewn about, so it’s difficult to avoid them. On top of the wildlife, which is also said to be unfriendly. According to historical maps, though, Terrokar is the only way to get where we’re going.”

“If you’ve seen maps, and you remember them so well, what’s the point of his map,” Koltira asks, jerking a thumb at Jorick.

Taveth chuckles. “I’m sure what he got was a road map. I only looked at geographical ones. His is very useful.”

Jorick narrows an eye as he sets himself on the opposite side of the cave. He pulls the rolled map out and twirls it between his fingers. “In case we get—oh, I don’t know—lost?

Anarchaia sits in the middle, serving as a substitute fire pit for the time being. She hugs her knees with her free hand. “It’s a good back up plan to say the least.” She chews on her lip, the tension weighing on her. “Can you tell us the best path from here?”

The human man, hiding his agitation, unfurls the map. “The road we’re on leads southwest through the mountains and into the forest. There’s a huge rift that we can’t cross unless we want to fall endlessly into the void.”

Koltira moans as though enjoying something. “Falling into the void. Sounds like fun.”

Taveth blinks in the darkness. “That sounds like the very opposite of—”

“Sarcasm,” Koltira interrupts.

That actually does sound rather nice right now. Anarchaia plops her cheek onto a knee.

Jorick stands after shoving the map back into his breastplate. Without a word he wanders to the front of the cave to lean and keep watch.

“Not sure what they plan to find out there,” Anarchaia says after watching him go. “I may just have to keep us lit. Heh.”

Taveth shrugs. “Who knows. We’re not quite close enough to the bramble forest, but maybe they can find some abandoned wagon?” He slowly scoots closer to sit against Anarchaia as the chill of the night begins to hit his sedentary state. He gives her a thankful smile. “Are you doing okay?” he whispers.

Koltira lets out a long breath. “I should have gone instead of Grim. Still warm to me.”

Anarchaia smiles wearily over at Koltira. “By that logic, I should have gone, too.” She turns the smile on Taveth and leans into his shoulder with her own. “Yeah, why?” she responds just as quietly.

Taveth glances between the two other men. “There’s an odd tension between them… It’s uncomfortable.”

“Oh. Yeah.” Her smile fades. <<Jorick is an old lover of mine. And childhood friend. Before I died,>> she explains in quiet Draenei. <<And isn’t thrilled with Koltira’s…demeanor.>>

Taveth’s brow furrows. <<Oh. I… I suppose Koltira does take some getting used to.>>

Koltira cocks his eyebrow. “My name sounds the same in that gibberish you’re speaking. What are you talking about?”

Anarchaia’s eyes widen slightly and the corners of her mouth tighten. “N-nothing. Just going over the plan for when we get to the temple. Y’know. Everyone’s role…heh.”

Koltira cocks his eyebrow. “Wouldn’t that be best spoken loudly? And in a language we all speak?”

Anarchaia gives a sheepish grin and visibly shrinks into herself. “Yyyes?”

Koltira’s lips tighten, but he doesn’t voice his thoughts. “So…what are we all doing, then?”

“Well, I’m not going inside. Heh. Knowing my luck I’d end up a demon hunter…” Taveth says.

“Or dead,” Koltira adds.

Anarchaia gives a quiet, forced chuckle. “Thal’kiel would be thrilled.” She clears her throat. “Grim, Ali, and I go inside while you three keep watch at the rendezvous point after we lure the old Grim there.”

Koltira nods his approval as he thinks it over. “Will you be bringing him to the rendezvous or going straight back to the outpost?”

“I told Kel to be ready for him. She said she’d get the shed ready,” Taveth says.

Anarchaia nods. “To the point. I’m sure they’ve mage proofed their temple.” She frowns. “Hopefully that doesn’t include illusions.”

~ * ~

Outside in the waning light, Alisbeth slips her arm into Grimory’s. “Where do you think we’ll find tinder? Oh, look! I know that place! I wonder if they’re still friendly to elves in this time.” She points up at the spire of Falcon Watch. “Think they have wood?”

Grimory looks at the spire in the distance. “I suppose it’s as good a try as any. I didn’t bring any money, though. Do you think they’ll accept trades?” He steers her toward that direction.

“Hmm. We could do something for them. Or I can give them this awful helmet. It’s worth at least two logs, right?” Alisbeth takes the helm off and flicks it with her fingers. The metal tings in the quiet evening.

Grimory chuckles. “Maybe. Maybe I can part with a boot. They are genuine basilisk leather.” He snatches the helm from her hands to inspect it.

“The only good thing about it is it keeps my hair back…so I don’t have to see it.” She flicks the helm again. “Stupid illusion.”

Grimory’s face softens. “You look beautiful. You always do, but…it feels like I’m getting a taste of what I missed out on, yeah?” He takes the helm from her again to force her to look at him, then smiles.

Alisbeth furrows her brow, her lips curving into a frown. “You missed out on you…or on me…like this?”

Grimory looks down at the helm in his hand. “On us.”

Alisbeth frowns at her distorted reflection in the helm. “You didn’t miss much. I’m nothing special. Never was.” She takes his hand and pulls him to keep walking. “We’re almost there.”

Grimory sighs and dutifully follows. When the two arrive at Falcon Watch, it appears that all the inhabitants have retired for the evening save for a lone archer serving as a watchman.

“Halt,” he says warily but does not reach for his weapon. “State your business.”

Alisbeth smiles at the archer. “Hi there! We come in search of firewood, to build a fire. Because the night is cold and… Much too cold for us living beings. You know what I mean?”

The man gives the two an odd look. “Right. Sure. There’s some for ten gold a bundle in back.”

Grimory holds out the helm. “We don’t have any gold. Will this do?”

The man looks it over. “It’s a bit dented, here. You can have a bundle for it. Should last you the night. Careful of the ravagers.”

“Anu belore dela’na,” Alisbeth says quickly, then grabs Grimory’s hand to drag him away.

“Al diel shala…Captain?” The archer looks her over.

“Nope! Wrong elf, ha ha. Ha ha ha!” She grins awkwardly, then drags the demon hunter away. “Stupid elf outposts,” she mumbles once out of earshot.

Grimory gives the man an apologetic grin and follows. He scoops up one of the bundles and hauls it into his shoulder. “All right, this should be fine. Let’s get moving.”

Alisbeth frowns as they make their way back to the cave. “I didn’t think about people recognizing me.”

Grimory gives her a coy grin. “Everyone knew you but me.”

Alisbeth nods. “Well, most by name. After Silvermoon, many by face.” She smiles. “I liked that you didn’t know me.”

When they arrive at the cave, Alisbeth motions animatedly in the demon hunter’s direction. “We got wood! Now you can be warm! Oh, are we cuddling Aladdin, now? I want in!” She runs forward and dives beside the mage, wrapping her arms around both the mage and her cousin.

“You’re cold,” Taveth complains.

Grimory sets a few of the logs in the shallow pit Koltira had dug. They gently light into a small fire that slowly swells.

Extinguishing her own flame, Anarchaia gives a sort of croak as she’s squeezed. She untangles herself from the hug and stumbles away a pace or two. “I’m going to go tell Jorick he can come rest, now.” She trots to the front of the cave and sets a hand on his shoulder. “Hey, we have wood now. And a fire. I can keep watch, now.”

He blinks tiredly. “But don’t you want to—oh right.” He smiles down at her. “Hard to remember that you’re dead when you’re just as pretty as you were twenty or so years ago. If you get ‘tired’, just come get me again.” He brushes her bangs from her face and pats her on the shoulder as he passes, then sticks his hands in his pockets as he returns to the others.

Anarchaia frowns the second he is unable to see her do so, then sets herself just outside atop a small boulder.

Koltira’s eyelids lower, unimpressed with Jorick’s show of affection toward the mage. Instead of speaking up, however, he turns his head away and seethes in silence.

Taveth curls up by the fire, his head on his satchel. “We forgot blankets.”

Alisbeth removes the armor from one thigh and sits by the fire. She smiles and motions for Grimory to lay down.

He obliges and sighs through his nose as he stares up at the ceiling. A million thoughts race through his head about returning to the temple and what may happen, but he remains quiet. “We have a plan yet?” he says after a bit.

Jorick shrugs from his secluded place in the shadows. “I feel like none of anything was planned.”

“A lot of things weren’t planned. Including us being here,” Koltira growls. “Basic idea is we secure a spot outside while you take the girls inside. Find yourself, Ali knock him out or something, Ana teleports past-you and Ali out. You get the information you need and get out. We’ll formulate a plan for stopping the attack after we know what we’re dealing with.”

“What if he can stop it while he’s there?” Alisbeth asks, fanning her fingers through the demon hunter’s hair to help sooth him to sleep.

Unease stirs in Koltira, seeing the Alisbeth he’d know being so tender with another man. “Then use your judgement, I guess,” he snaps and goes to the mouth of the cave.

“No teleporting inside,” Grimory mumbles. “Only the portals we’ve created ourselves are permitted. We’ll have to lure him—me—out somehow. Just outside the barrier.” He opens his eyes as Koltira’s footsteps fade away. “What’s up his ass?” he mutters.

<<A human,>> Taveth says in Draenei. “Good night.”

Grimory furrows his brow slightly. “Oh.”

Anarchaia tenses on her rock, somehow knowing who is just feet behind her. “The sky is pretty here,” she muses casually.

Koltira nods and glances over to the mage. “I’m sorry I wasn’t alive. You seemed to really be hoping he’d do that for me. Like he said, though, it’s our past selves from this year.” He looks at her from the corner of his eye, partly gauging her reaction, but also just enjoying her peachy skin tone and the pink blush in her cheeks.

Anarchaia frowns again and inhales slowly. She turns her head only slightly but finds she cannot look him in the eye. “I don’t care what you look like,” she finally says—quiet so her voice won’t carry. “It was more for covertness. But you’re right. It was a dumb idea.” She turns back to look at the sky littered with galaxies and stars.

Koltira purses his lips. “I already said it wouldn’t do anything. And you think I could convince that asshole to give me a real disguise?” he sighs out a long trail of frosty breath. “I hate this whole situation.”

Anarchaia nods absently. “Me, too,” she says, not entirely speaking on the subject. “But it is what it is, and I guess we’ll have to deal until we’re done.” Her face softens as she continues to stare into space. He feels so far away and I don’t know why.

“I guess,” Koltira says, and leaves it at that.

His eyes sweep over the land not completely swathed in darkness, due to the brightness of the stars and the moon and the other planets in the sky. It leaves an eerie-feeling illumination hovering just over the red-orange sand of the desert.

Anarchaia brings up a thumbnail to chew on, then sighs. Her eyes fall down to look at the cracked earth. She blinks slowly and a sharp gust throws her hair to one side and about her face. “You know I love you, right?”

Koltira lets out a long breath, then crosses the mouth of the cave. He leans back against the rock wall and wraps his arms around her, pulling her back into his chest. He presses his nose into her hair and closes his eyes. “Can you blame me for being the littlest bit insecure?”

Anarchaia rests her palms on his forearms, a tentative frown still on her lips. “I feel like that’s a trick question. If I say no, I’m condoning the fact that you think I would leave you for someone else.” She looks up at him from beneath a knit brow. “And I wouldn’t.”

Koltira turns her around and holds the sides of her head, his fingers knitting through the hair behind her ears. He looks into her eyes for a long time, a frown pulling at his lips. “Maybe I’m scared that you’ll realize you deserve better than me.” He finds he cannot stop staring at her. Studying how her normally empty socket contains a glimmering eye; her stitches all gone and her skin, still pale, but a livelier tone. He curls the fingers of one hand and runs them along her cheek.

She brings a hand up to hold his, then turns her head to press her lips into his knuckles. “I feel like we’ve had this conversation before,” she says against his hand. With a sideways glance, she smiles but does not release him. “Besides, Jorick isn’t better than you. If I’d thought so I’d not have broken up with him twenty years ago. …Er, three years…from now.”

Koltira chuckles and pulls her closer. “I’m sorry. You don’t deserve my insecurities.” He sets a gentle kiss on the top of her head.

Anarchaia’s face softens when he cannot see it. I might. She hugs him tightly, despite the discomfort of the hard steel against her cheek. “Too bad I only look alive, hm?”

“Too bad I don’t even look it,” he says on a soft sigh.

She chuckles softly and drags him down to sit in the dirt with her. “Well apparently that’s not even necessary.”

“You wouldn’t like to see me as I was?” he asks, staring up at the stars and running his fingertips down one of her arms.

“I fell in love with you as you are.” She curls her knees up and sets her head on his shoulder. “Do I really look that different?” She says absently and brings a hand up to feel for the now absent stitches. “Master says Master Kel’thuzad did all he could to preserve me.”

Koltira looks down at her. “Two eyes. The color of life in your skin.” He rests his thumb on her bottom lip. “Pink lips. It’s like someone colored you with the wrong paints. It’s strange, but I like it. You’re beautiful.”

Anarchaia gives a goofy sort of smile and turns away to cover her face. “You know I can’t handle that,” she whines.

“You can’t handle the truth?” Koltira asks, smiling down at her.

“No, I don’t like liars,” she says, peeking at him through her fingers.

Koltira smirks down at her. “I never lie.”

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