Book 6 – Chapter Twenty-One

Kel’ori wakes in the morning. Eyes still closed, she breathes in and pauses at the warmth against her back. She lifts the blanket to look down at the arm around her waist, then blinks over her shoulder at the head of red hair on the pillow beside her. Stay or get up? She looks at him again. He’s so peaceful. I’ll stay…just a little longer.

Baemalen groans as he slowly wakes. He realizes just how tangled up in her he is and sits up quickly when he sees she’s awake. “I-I’m sorry! I don’t even remember coming up here. I-I must have been really out of it.” He rubs at his eyes. “I don’t think…we…”

“Not while I was here,” Grimory grumbles and laces his tunic. “Get washed and let’s get going.”

Kel’ori gives a small giggle. “Trust me, Grim, you wouldn’t be the reason not to.” She thinks on her wording and opens her mouth to deliver an underhanded jab at their shared scar. But his words and actions from the night before pop into her head and she changes her mind. “How far do you think we have to go?” she asks. “And where are Ana and Koltira?”

“Not much longer. An hour or so.” He purses his lips. “And probably somewhere to do what they always do when they’re alone.”

“Play board games?” Baemalen chuckles at the grumpy look he receives. He blinks and looks over his shoulder at Kel’ori. “W-wait. You’d really…?”

“Hurry up,” Grimory says one last time before exiting into the hallway. He finds the two in question down in the tavern, sharing an armchair in front of the fireplace—the mage idly running her fingers through a lock of Koltira’s hair while the latter does his best to read a book while she sits across his lap. “I take it you two are ready.”

Kel’ori gives a calculated scoff. “With someone else in the room? Or with you?” She doesn’t wait for clarification. Instead she produces two hairbrushes: one with strands of blonde threaded within the bristles, and the other with strands of red. “Walk and brush. Time’s wasting.” She does as she’d instructed, going downstairs as she smooths her golden locks. She orders a quick breakfast, then shovels the eggs and bacon onto the toast to make two sandwiches, wraps it in a napkin, then finds the others. “Ready?”

Koltira pauses, his mouth open. “I was literally just telling Grim we’re always—”

“Okay, good, let’s go.” She drops some gold on the counter from a pouch previously belonging to a daraenei enjoying a bloody mary. When she gets to the doorway, the other Illidari appears. “You look hung over. Eat this.” She hands him one of the sandwiches, then heads outside, stuffing her own breakfast into her mouth.

Anarchaia shrugs up at Koltira and gets up to follow.

Baemalen, silent this entire time, gives a grateful smile for the food. “Thanks. It’s the hangover. Oh, Grim! Wait!”

The blond man stops and looks over his shoulder curiously.

“Can I see? I wanna see,” Baemalen says with a full cheek.

Grimory sighs. His wings pull out from beneath his skin, stretching and groaning as they spread. “The Botanica.” He gestures in the direction with a thumb. “I’ll see you there.” He leaps into the air and is gone.

“Cool,” the red-haired man croons dreamily.

“Rethinking the bed you slept in?” Kel’ori asks from the flight master.

Baemalen sets a hand on his hip and gives her a coy smile. “Maybe. Why? You jealous?” He hands the money over.

The mage rolls her eyes. “It was rather cold last night. The extra warmth was helpful.”

Baemalen chuckles and pulls her onto the saddle in front of him. “It’s okay to admit you liked it.”

She twists around to look at him. “I’m not the one who cuddled the other, now, am I?” She turns around with a smirk. “And, no, I didn’t hate it. But I think ‘like’ is a generous word.”

Koltira wraps an arm around Anarchaia’s shoulders. “Okay, so, less screaming at takeoff this time? Yes?”

Anarchaia fidgets. “No promises. Heh.” The wyvern eyes her warily from its perch and she whines. “I may not make it to takeoff.”

Koltira covers the mage’s eyes. “Better?”

Anarchaia perks. “Yes.” The wyvern yawns, a quiet growl escaping it as they approach. She backs into Koltira and grabs the sides of his thighs. “No.”

Koltira shoves her forward and lifts her up. He sits behind her and pulls her to him. “Remember what I said yesterday? He won’t hurt you.

Both wyverns take off after being given instructions. “Oof. My heart. I think it’s broken. Feel it?” Baemalen presses his chest to her back. “Shattered.”

Kel’ori jerks forward at the suddenness with which he presses into her. She turns her head and forces a sly smile. “Guess you need someone to help with that? Ana’s good at mending things. I’m sure Koltira won’t mind.”

The human mage cries out, but the remainder of her screaming is drowned out behind the death knight’s palm.

Koltira holds the woman tight. “How should I distract you today?”

Anarchaia shakes her head, eyes clamped shut. “You don’t have to. I-I’m a big girl. I can…manage.”

The death knight chuckles and squeezes her tighter. “Did you know that you have the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen?”

Anarchaia purses her lips, face red. “Did you know that you’re the biggest liar I’ve ever met?”

Baemalen returns the grin, not showing any signs of offense that she’d pulled away. “I’m sure he wouldn’t. But would you?”

Kel’ori laughs, genuinely entertained. “You sure think highly of yourself, don’t you?”

“Mm. Highly isn’t the word I’d use. In fact, I really don’t have any self-confidence and put up the illusion that I do as a defense mechanism.” He smiles. “But that’s neither here nor there.”

She laughs again, using the action to cover her own twinge of sad recognition to his words. “A little empty flirtation never hurt anyone, right? Are you saying I need to try it?”

Baemalen shrugs a shoulder and makes a noise of thought. “Couldn’t hurt, right? Or maybe it could. Light forbid either if us actually develop feelings.” His grin widens.

“For you? Or for someone I actually flirt with?” Her smile changes from one of snark, to a small one as she realizes how he’d been unintentionally distracting her from her worry, and how her nerves had calmed over the flight thus far.

“You haven’t been flirting with me?” Baemalen gives an innocent shrug. “My romance detector must be off. Mind flirting for real to help me recalibrate it?” He winks at her.

Kel’ori turns away, not used to a man who so boldly flirts with her and finding she cannot help the small flush in her cheeks—though maybe it’s just the wind? “If I flirted with you, you’d melt like butter. I’m not sure you could handle it,” she says.

His smirk grows playful. “No one’s ever short-circuited my detector before. You’d be the first, little lady.” He tightens his grip on the reins as the wyvern beneath them shifts, but makes sure to keep his distance lest he make Kel’ori uncomfortable again.

“I believe you’re enjoying this, Bae. Or are my wires crossed?” She grips his arm at her side as the wyvern tilts.

He laughs quietly at her covert fear. “Maybe neither of us are working properly.” The wyvern, as though annoyed by their prattling, shifts again and the Illidari reflexively wraps an arm around the mage’s waist. “Now you stop that!”

The mage stiffens and digs terrified fingernails into Baemalen’s arm, digging in deeper the longer he holds onto her.

I like blondes.

“No! Let go, let go, letgoofme!” She breathes deep as tears sting her eyes, and she scratches at his forearm.

The Illidari immediately releases her, then grabs the back of her robes as she flails. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you! I-I didn’t want you to fall!” He hisses at the weeping claw marks on his arm, doing his best to keep the blood off her clothes. “Are you all right?”

Kel’ori covers her face and shakes her head. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so embarrassed. Oh gods, are you okay?” She turns to look at him, using a finger to push the tears from her eyes. “Please tell me you’re okay?”

Baemalen lowers his arm to hide it from her view and gives her an embarrassed smile. “I’m fine. I-I wasn’t thinking. It was a reflex. I’m sorry.” He chuckles. “But at least you aren’t splattered on the ground.”

Kel’ori nods in agreement. “I know. I know you were just trying to help. Ugh. Shit! Why can’t I just…get over it. Be normal again.”

Baemalen sighs and leans down to talk but not enough to get too close. “You won’t ever be over it. And that’s fine. It wasn’t your fault.” He furrows his brow. “The best you can do is live like you did. Or better.”

“It’s not the same, Bae. You don’t understand. I know you were hurt, but…it’s just not the same.” She turns back to stare at the back of the wyvern’s head. “I just want it to be over.”

An urge rises in Baemalen’s throat but he swallows it after a moment’s consideration. “Y-yeah. You’re right. Heh. The best I can do is be there for you if you need it.” He sighs, though his smile remains. “And the best you can do is be there for Bel.”

~ * ~

Koltira chuckles and turns the mage slightly, putting his hand on her cheek so she looks at him, rather than their surroundings. “Did you know that I never lie to you? Especially when I tell you that you’re the most powerful woman I’ve ever known.”

Anarchaia cracks one eye open to look up at him, then opens both as she frowns. “You’re just trying to distract me with sweet nothings,” she huffs, hair whipping around her face. “If you don’t stop I’ll have to compliment you, too.”

“Oh, no,” Koltira says, laughing, “How dare I distract you from endless screaming, preventing you from ruining that beautiful voice of yours.”

Anarchaia scowls, her ears growing hot. She turns away and folds her arms. “Yeah? Well…your muscles are hot. And your face is…cute. And you’re not dumb.”

Koltira feigns offense. “I beg your pardon, but my muscles are just as frosty as the rest of me. And this face? Please. You couldn’t handle the real deal, if this pleases you.” He chuckles and kisses the back of her head.

Anarchaia blinks up at him, lips shifting to one side as curiosity takes her. “I honestly can’t imagine you being anymore handsome. How differently could you possibly have looked?” She reaches up to press a fingertip to one of his cold, sunken cheeks.

He thinks on her words and shrugs. “I think a blue skin tone, nearly black lips, and snowy eyes kind of changes things, don’t you?”

Anarchaia’s face softens and her hand cups his cheek instead of poking at it. “Well you were quel’dorei, right? Statistically most likely with blue eyes? So that’s not a big difference.” She smiles. “And even so, this is the face of the man I fell in love with. So, if you say you’re ugly, then you’re insulting my judgment.”

“Nah, just your eyesight. You should probably borrow Taveth’s glasses sometime and see if it clears a few things up.” He gives her a charming, albeit silly, smile.

She responds with a bemused stare. “My eyesight prior to my accident was…well, not twenty-twenty due to my condition, but it’s well enough!” She folds her arms and turns away, smirking as her hair flutters about in his face. “Maybe you’re the one who needs glasses.”

Koltira smirks like a devil and brushes her white hair behind one of her ears. “Maybe tinted ones to help keep me from being blinded by the radiance of your beauty.”

“Maybe black ones. Because you’re clearly blind.” She flicks her head to one side so that her tresses shake free again. “Besides, if you’d met me before I’d died, taking care of me would have been too much work for you.”

Koltira’s brow furrows. “Were you still alive in this time? Cause, I mean, I could…”

Anarchaia quickly turns to look at him. “You could what?” She purses her lips and scowls. “No. Don’t you know what that would mean? …For us?

He gives her a sad smile and runs the backs of his fingers down her cheek. “Give us more time together. Maybe a chance at making your biggest dream come true. A chance to give you the life you deserved to live, instead of the one you were forced to take.” The pad of his thumb rests beside the eye which is missing behind the image of her former self. “If I could take away all of the hurt…”

Anarchaia’s scowl melts into an expression of sorrow and she shakes her head. “N-no. If I don’t die, I’ll never meet Master. Then I’ll never meet Grim, then I’ll never meet you.” A tear wells in her good eye. “Besides, you could save Ali instead. And you could both be happy. She’d have her baby. You’d have a family. L-…like you wanted.”

Koltira’s smile fades into a pensive frown. “It’s too late for me in this timeline. But…what’s so wrong with saving you two? If I tell you what you need to know, you can have that apprenticeship. Jorick has a point. Why can’t we fix the past while we’re here? You didn’t deserve your fate. Neither did she.”

A tear rolls down her cheek. “But… I’d lose you. We’d never have Stormheim or Val’sharah. Or Argus.” Her lower lip gives a small quiver and she turns away to hide her crying. “But…I guess…you’d be happier, right? That’s what matters…”

“You really think I wouldn’t leave something to bring us together? A letter? Something.”

Anarchaia shakes her head and rubs at her cheek. “You’ll have her, still. You wouldn’t need me anyway.” She sniffles.

Koltira wipes the tear away and wraps the mage in his embrace, tucking her head beneath his chin. “Yes, I would. You just…deserve so much better. In life and…and in love. Maybe that’s worth destroying the timeline over. At least for me, it is.”

The human hugs the death knight’s arm to her chest and groans in apprehension. “…you think we could really have a life together?”

Koltira chuckles and strokes her hair. “You really think the living you would put up with my insufferable, grumpy ass?”

Anarchaia smiles. “I think it’s more my parents who would have a hard time accepting you. My taste in men has never changed.”

Koltira forces a fake scoff of offense. “Oh, so now I’m just like all the others, huh? Just go with any random mercenary, then. At least maybe he’d be a living insufferable, grumpy ass.”

Anarchaia blinks and tilts her head back to look up at him. “I didn’t mean it like that. Jorick and I weren’t even together anymore at this time.”

“I mean, you just basically said we’re all the same. Pretty girl like you would have no trouble finding another one of us assholes.” Koltira chuckles, then sobers some. “I’m serious. If I could…” He presses a kiss to her temple. “You deserve so much more. So much better.”

Anarchaia flushes and smiles, turning her head to press her lips to his while he’s close. “You aren’t an asshole. And I don’t even deserve what I have now, let alone better.” She grips his arm as they near the structure.

~ * ~

Kel’ori nods. “Grim said he’s still okay. Do you think we’re nearly there?” she asks as the scenery changes beneath them.

The sky darkens and the land beneath turns to bleak black. Spires reach to the heavens, shooting electrical bolts into the ground around them.

Baemalen nods and points to an imposing structure floating against the black sky in the distance. “That’s Tempest Keep.”

She grips his hand and pulls it to her collar bones as a comfort to herself. “We’ll bring him home. We’re almost there.” Her heart thunders in her chest in anticipation.

A hint of color tints Baemalen’s cheeks. “We will.” He mulls over a thought. “Maybe when you get back you can ask Vendormu to send you back. For your safety.”

Kel’ori frowns at the thought, then forces a smile for his benefit as she turns to look over her shoulder at him. “Sick of me already?”

“N-no!” Baemalen waves a hand. “I just-… This is no place for a mother and her newborn.” He shrugs. “What with all the murderous orcs and elves about.”

“That exists in my time, too, Bae. In my time Dalaran has moved to the middle of the ocean over a place called the Broken Isles. Why? Because the Legion came back. I was on Argus when I was attacked. That’s a whole other planet, you know. It just suddenly appeared in the skies over Azeroth. You’d have to ask my brother for the details.” She lets go of his hand and smiles wider. “You’re probably right. I should take Bel’theas back home. Irritate Docra in her one-room shack. Scare off her customers until she tells me to go home. Where my father…” She chokes on her own words. “He already tried to kill him once. And I don’t think Master Kalec would react much differently.” She swallows and shakes her head, but not to say no. “What about you? Are you just going to hang out alone in that shack, waiting for Venny-poo to return and wearing a bag over your head to feed Grim?”

Baemalen knits his brow at the deluge of information. He refrains from telling her that her information on Argus is nothing new to him. “Mm. No. I’ll probably let Grim go, if I’m being honest. Maybe make my way to Shattrath. Hope Lord Illidan doesn’t find me. Or go through the portal.”

“Looks like neither of us really has anywhere to go.” Kel’ori looks into his eyes, her jaw set in stubborn defiance. “And I’ll be damned if I let some eyebrowless cunt and a few smelly orcs chase me away from that rickety shitpile I spent so much energy furnishing and decorating.” She nods once and turns to face the temple. “We should paint the walls. Maybe put some critters in Bel’s corner? You think he’d like ducks or something like bats?” She sucks on her bottom lip, the gleam of her creative passion sparkling in her eyes as she turns to face the man again.

Baemalen’s eyebrows raise at the word cunt and he chuckles. He watches the passion as it slowly spreads across her face, his own smile growing. “Asking me to move in, are you? I don’t know, this is all so sudden.”

The mage smirks at him. “Oh, but we’ve got the loveliest deteriorating hammocks, a roof two seconds from caving in, and a dungeon. Who can resist a nice dungeon? Bet you’d like for me to shackle you up, mmm?” Her eyebrow lifts upward, along with the corner of her lips.

His eyebrows lift again. “Ooh. Can’t knock it ‘til I’ve tried it, eh?” He gives a nervous chuckle. “Though I think I prefer my hands and feet unfettered, thank you.” He tightens his grip on the reins as they near the ledge.

Kel’ori gives her most flirtatious giggle. She leans to him as the wyvern lands, her eyelids lowered. “I’m sure I could make you quite comfortable…including in chains.” She hops off the creature and casts the man one final, somewhat sensual, smile, then goes to meet the others as they land.

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