Kel’ori yawns as greeting to the two undead in the main room. She rubs her eyes and starts readying to make breakfast for the entire house. “Were the cellar rats fed last night?” She snerks at her own joke.
Anarchaia gives a reserved frown. “Yes. And Grim.”
Jorick stretches and sets himself atop a wooden barrel, a knuckle to an eye. “The elf bitch is just as moody as he is when it comes to free food. Spat at me. Had half a mind to throw it in her face.” He blinks groggily at the scowl he gets from Anarchaia. “I didn’t.”
“You should’ve,” Kel’ori grumbles. “Eggs and sausage okay with you?” she asks the human. “Want to use the last of them.” She waves her hand, but nothing happens. The elf tries again and a small box of eggs and a chain of sausages appear on the table. “I haven’t misfired in decades…”
“I’ll eat anything,” Jorick responds with a smile.
“Except bananas,” Anarchaia says, raising her eyebrows.
He makes a face. “They’re gross. Give me a break.”
She chuckles and gives Kel’ori a sympathetic nod. “I think we’re both about spent here. Maybe we should consider taking a trip through the portal for a little bit.”
“Can you even walk yet?” she asks, setting the skillet on a rack over the fire to warm up.
“I can carry her,” Koltira says.
The smaller mage hums as she wiggles her toes within her boots. “My feet work but my legs still feel kinda…heavy.”
“I’ve got you,” he insists. “Nothing to worry about.”
Anarchaia smiles albeit reservedly. “Not sure I like the idea of being a piece of luggage…”
The death knight lets out a long breath. “Okay.”
Anarchaia waves her hands. “U-unless you don’t mind, that is.”
Koltira pinches the bridge of his nose. “How about you decide what you want. Sit in the chair another day until you’re fully healed, or go now so that at least you two aren’t drained. I don’t care either way.”
She blinks, then shrugs and folds her arms. She pouts the smallest bit. “Whatever you’re fine with.”
His nostrils flair as he purses his lips and just stares at the mage.
Baemalen yawns as he saunters into the room, his hair a mess. “I smell eggs,” he mumbles. “What are we talking about?”
“Ana and I need to go to Azeroth. We’re just not recovering our energy properly here.” She scrapes the scrambled eggs into a large dish, then sets the already cooked sausage on to warm and sear the sides. “Bae, would you mind getting dishes out? I just…can’t magic right now.”
He nods and sleepily retrieves the items. He yawns again. “Are you taking Bel with you? I can stay and watch him if you’d like.”
Kel’ori furrows her brow. “Do you not want to come? I don’t think we’ll be gone long.”
Baemalen thinks on it a second. “I could, I suppose. Though Lord Illidan usually has people standing watch at the portal…”
The high elf purses her lips at the tension across the room as she rolls one sausage onto each plate. She separates the two for the living prisoners and makes eye contact with Baemalen in the awkward air. “Do you really think they’d recognize you?”
He does his best to ignore the other two and smiles uneasily in response. “I was there for a good amount of time, so…maybe?”
“Tav!” Kel’ori beckons her brother over. “Can you think of any ways we can smuggle Bae past guards into Azeroth?”
Baemalen’s smile grows more nervous. “There’s really no need to fuss over me. I mean, shouldn’t someone stay and feed the priso—…people?”
She blinks at him. “We won’t be gone that long. Besides, you can’t go down there, remember?”
“Right.” Baemalen sighs but his smile remains. “Guess it can’t be helped.” He pokes a sausage with a fork and bites off the end. “So when do we go?”
“When those two stop doing what they’re doing.” Jorick motions to the death knight and mage.
“Fine!” Anarchaia surrenders. “I’ll go.”
Koltira motions emphatically. “Was that so hard?”
“Yes,” she huffs indignantly.
Kel’ori giggles nervously and hands a tray to Taveth. “Help me feed them? Unless Jorick wants to go say hi to the bitchier Alisbeth?”
“Yeah, no. I’m good,” Jorick responds. “Had enough attitude for the week from her and Grim.”
The two Nighthearts go below to feed the two living elves. Taveth sets the food in front of the woman and purses his lips at her, then turns and gives Grimory a small smile.
“S-sorry. About all of—”
“We’ve all already apologized,” Kel’ori says. She sets the tray down. “Come on. He doesn’t want to hear it.”
“Thanks,” Grimory says to Taveth as he turns away. “I appreciate it.” He takes a drink of water.
Taveth stops and turns back to the man. He glances at his sister, then back. <<I promise you, it was worth it,>> he says in demonic. <<You’re a hero, you just don’t know it yet.>>
Kel’ori’s head snaps around. “What are you saying to him? What was that?”
He flinches. “N-nothing!”
Grimory’s brow pinches slightly, only understanding most of what was said. “Thanks?” he says meekly as the two walk away.
Kel’ori huffs as she pushes her brother into a chair. “Eat your damn breakfast.”
“I didn’t say anything!” he insists.
“Just do as you’re told.”
“I’m not a child anymore! I will eat, but only because I’m hungry. Stop bossing me around.”
Jorick snerks through a cheek full of egg. “After the other day I should agree with him.”
Taveth tilts his head, still tired. “Which day? There have been many days.” He shovels nearly too much food into his mouth.
“Two days ago when you kicked that bitch’s ass with your pack of demons,” Jorick says plainly.
Taveth blushes lightly at the compliment. “Oh. Heh. Most of them were just really upset about Tryx. I haven’t had the heart to count my losses. No idea about the doomguard she was so fond of.”
Jorick shrugs. “You give yourself too little credit.” He collects the empty dishes for washing, then gently pushes Kel’ori away when she fusses. “You may not use that power of yours often but when you do it seems pretty useful,” he continues.
Taveth shakes his head. “I really don’t like it, though. I’d rather just be researching in the library than summoning demons.”
The older human chuckles as he stacks the clean plates after washing them in the bucket. “I suppose you would.”
Kel’ori sighs from her seat. “We ready to go, then?”
Anarchaia gives the death knight beside her a sideways glance. “I am.”
Baemalen nods. “Just let me pack a couple of things.” He disappears into the next room to fill a rucksack with some clothes, then throws a cowl over his head to obscure his face. He returns. “All right, all set.”
Kel’ori packs a diaper bag and wraps Bel’theas in the papoose around her shoulders. “I’m ready.”
Taveth nods, clutching his satchel.
Koltira looks to the human mage. “Are you going to change your mind halfway there?”
Anarchaia folds her arms and, after waiting a second, looks down. She gives a quiet noise of frustration, then grabs a thigh to cross it over the other. She pouts and folds her arms again. “No.”
He gently lifts the mage and gives her a stern look. “I’ll hold you to that. Don’t make me drop your ass in the dirt.”
“And we’re off,” Kel’ori says, leading the way out the door. “I can’t wait to feel like I actually have some energy. You know, this is very similar to Argus. Not as bad, but similarly draining.”
Anarchaia’s pout deepens and she begrudgingly leans her temple on his shoulder.
“Never knew being a mage had so many rules,” Baemalen chuckles.
“Honestly, neither did I,” Kel’ori says. “I’ve never left Azeroth before, so it was never a problem.”
Jorick jumps as another figure joins him on the back of the group. “Woah. Uh, where have you been?”
“Brooding,” Grimory grunts.
Taveth smiles tentatively at Grimory. “You doing okay?”
He nods. “I’m fine. Don’t like double crossing people is all.”
“What did you say to get her here, anyway?” the elf asks.
He sobers. “She said if I could get her to Vendormu, she’d ask her boss to send us back so we could fix our past.” He shakes his head. “But no matter what, that would mean the other dragon would help Sargeras come to power and, even if we were happy, that’s not a future I’d want.”
Taveth nods in understanding. “I would’ve done the same, if it’s any comfort. I stand to lose a sister, a friend, and even a newer friend who is waiting for me in Stormwind back in our time.”
“It’s a tough choice,” Koltira says over his shoulder. “You don’t have anything to gain from such an arrangement. Grim does. I wouldn’t have made it so easily, either.”
Kel’ori looks over her shoulder at Baemalen. When she catches his eyes, she gives him a gentle smile.
Grimory shrugs a shoulder, grateful for the support but not wanting to show it. “I couldn’t do that to you guys, either. I made her promise you’d all be safe, but…I know that’s not guaranteed.”
Jorick nods absently, not wanting to admit that he disagrees. “She’s untrustworthy in general, anyway.”
Koltira bites his tongue, but scoffs at Jorick’s comment.
Baemalen returns the grin with no hesitation. “Not much father.”
Kel’ori giggles. “Oh, really? I couldn’t tell. Not like there’s a giant gate, or something.” She winks at him, then returns her focus forward as Bel’theas squirms impatiently in the papoose.
Baemalen sets a hand on a hip. “Oh, wow. Sarcasm.” He smirks. “Next you’ll be mocking me, then poisoning my dinners.”
“If I didn’t know better, I’d say you two were married already,” Jorick snerks from the back.
Kel’ori rolls her eyes. “Already implies ever.”
Taveth shakes his head. “Something my sister is completely incapable of.”
Jorick chuckles. “Marriage? Or commitment?”
“Probably the latter,” Anarchaia mumbles a touch too loudly.
Kel’ori’s nostrils flair at the other mage, her eyes narrowed on the back of her head. “I probably know more about relationships than you,” she hisses.
Anarchaia narrows her eyes in turn. “I suppose that’s a fair assessment considering you’ve been in so many.”
Baemalen gives a nervous chuckle. “Eh, let’s fight nice, shall we, ladies?”
Kel’ori’s nose wrinkles into a sneer. Before she can snap back at Anarchaia, Taveth clears his throat loudly from the back.
“Looks like it’s not far, now. Any plans once we get there?”
Koltira smirks. “We’d be fairly close to Duskwood. Ana knows of a good tavern we could spend the day at.”
The mage perks out of her annoyance, then sobers. “Duskwood.” She nods. “Yeah, we can go there. I’ll need to put on my mask.”
Jorick chuckles. “Maybe I’ll pay a visit to myself and show him what’ll happen if he gets on that boat,” he says, pointing to the thickest scar across his chest through the opening in his shirt.
Grimory narrows an eye at it. “You get thrown to the sharks?”
The human laughs. “In a manner of speaking.”
Taveth looks at the human’s scar. “What’s the story on that one?”
“Well,” Jorick responds, “I was on a boat for a few years. Doing unfavorable things. There was a mutiny and a not-so-fun-but-just-as-unfavorable battle. The captain himself gave me this beauty. Pleasant fellow.”
Anarchaia cranes her head to look over Koltira’s shoulder. “You were a pirate?”
“That’s a word,” the human says simply.
“Real honorable,” Koltira mutters on a breath.
Taveth smiles and takes out his journal. “Do you mind? I like to keep notes on everything, including my travel companions. Private journal.”
Jorick gives the scholar a small smile. “Oh, uh, sure. Never thought to jot down any of my adventures. Guess it’s not a bad idea.” His eyes flick ahead to the back of Koltira’s head. “And no, it wasn’t. But I’d argue no one’s ever been completely honorable.”
Koltira glares ahead. “Exceptional hearing for an older gentleman.”
Anarchaia gives a quiet laugh, a hand over her mouth.
The other human gives a curt sigh. “Younger than you.”
“By elf standards, we’re the same age… Ish,” Koltira says.
“Well sadly we don’t get to retain our youthful beauty. No matter how…ghastly,” Jorick responds with a joking grin.
“Fight nice,” Anarchaia mumbles.
Koltira makes a face but chooses not to respond to the human.
Kel’ori slows to walk beside Baemalen and discreetly take his hand to pull him away from the others. “Wanna see my house?” she whispers.
Baemalen’s eyebrows raise. “Ooh. Sure. Where’s that at?”
“Stormwind. We’re practically in the shadow of the Citadel.”
He nods. “I’ve always wanted to visit there. But being a penniless orphan really put a wrench in those gears.”
“Well, I hope you’re ready to see what it’s like being quite the opposite.” She giggles, then lets go of his hand after realizing she’s still holding it.
His smile widens some. “I’d thought I’d already gotten a taste of that by having friends and free will.” He pauses. “For the most part.”
Kel’ori giggles as Bel’theas reaches a chubby hand out to grab at the nearby Illidari. “What, you’d rather have friends than nice things and lots of gold?”
Baemalen hums and taps at his chin. He makes a show of thinking it over. “Mmmmmyes.”
The high elf laughs and sits the infant up so he can babble at Baemalen and look around at their surroundings. “How sweet. I’m rather fond of things. They can’t stab you in the back or say shitty things while pretending they don’t realize they’re being a giant bitch. And then they play victim when I pay them back.” She smiles sweetly.
He looks between Kel’ori and the death knight carrying the other mage. “R-right. Though things won’t be a shoulder for you when you’re down. Or save you when you’re in a tough spot. Heh.”
Kel’ori shrugs. “It’s called shop-therapy for a reason.” She lifts Bel’theas so he can see over her shoulder.
Baemalen titters. “You women, I swear.”
The infant blinks his black eyes, then lets out a little raw of a growl at Grimory.
Grimory blinks at the infant, then—through no will of his own—makes a face back along with a growl. He pauses, then gives a confused grimace.
Kel’ori glances back at the exchange of noises. She purses her lips and moves Bel’theas out of sight of the demon hunter. He whimpers in annoyance but doesn’t fight it.
“What? I like new makeups!”
Baemalen chuckles. “I guess I can give you that one.”
The mage shrugs and smiles coyly. “Of course you can’t. My logic is sound.”
Taveth looks at Grimory from the corner of his eyes. “You, uh, bonding with him or…”
The Illidari returns the sideways glance, brow knit. “I don’t know. I guess.”
Taveth blinks and smiles. “He’s cute. Can’t argue that.”
“It’s a baby. They’re all cute,” the Illidari responds moodily.
Anarchaia frowns into the distance.
Jorick chuckles and shrugs. “I don’t know. Have you seen a newborn goblin? Not exactly cuddly looking.”
Taveth forces his smile. “Not…all…babies are cute. Most are just babies. That look like babies.”
Kel’ori giggles ahead of them. “Taveth doesn’t like babies.”
“They’re sticky,” he says defensively. “And covered in drool. Not parchment friendly.”
“Oh, but I bet you were a cute little brat, hm?” Jorick says to the scholar with a smirk and nudging him with an elbow.
Grimory snerks. “Probably born with a book in his hands, yeah?”
Taveth blinks. “I wouldn’t know.”
Kel’ori glances back. “He wasn’t cute at all. Just another average baby. Not much has change, huh?”
He makes a face at his sister. “Diori was a cute baby. Still covered in drool, but cuter than most.” He gives Grimory a reassuring grin.
A hint of sadness flashes through Grimory’s eyes and he doesn’t smile. “I’m sure she was.”
Taveth frowns. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Grimory responds curtly.
Koltira stops to gauge the final leg of their journey. “Okay, be quiet. We’ll skirt around the outside to avoid the worst of the demons. Hopefully none notice us at all. Let’s go.”
Jorick nods to the death knight. “And our mages are virtually out of commission, so let’s do our best to avoid conflict.”
Anarchaia’s previous frown deepens. “I can still help.”
“Let’s just be careful and quiet, all right?” Koltira growls.
Taveth lifts a hand for attention. “What ab—”
“I said quiet. Not a word or a sound. Let’s go.”
They rush around the edges of Hellfire until they arrive at the steps of the gates.
“We should run through while they’re distracted,” Kel’ori says, motioning at the demons fighting their way to the portal.
The group hurries up the massive stairwell—Baemalen being sure to hold his cowl about his face—then step through. The portal’s energy washes over them like an odd blanket, and when they emerge on the other side, the dryness of the Blasted Lands bids them greeting. The moon hangs overhead and a warm, gentle breeze floats by.
Anarchaia inhales slowly, already feeling the effects of being back on Azeroth. “Home,” she hums.
“Past home, anyway,” Jorick adds.
Kel’ori takes a deep breath and sighs. “It’s like a shot of espresso.”
Taveth looks around, his lips pursed. “Okay, so, we’re going somewhere not here until you two are recharged? This area seems unfriendly.”
“Ana will take us when she has enough energy, right?” Koltira says.
Anarchaia nods. “I should have enough for a portal right now, actually. But, first—” She produces her mask from her satchel and throws it over her face. She then lifts a hand and a doorway of swirling light opens, a large but run-down looking tavern showing through the middle.
Jorick sneers. “Of all the places I miss the most, that isn’t one of them.”
Taveth cocks an eyebrow. “Another tavern. Okay, this time I will not be drinking an idiotic amount of liquor, and you can’t make me.” He points an accusatory finger at Baemalen.
Koltira rolls his eyes. “You did that all on your own, kid.” He steps through the portal before the high elf can retort.
Baemalen laughs. “That’s what they all say until my bad influence kicks in.” He gives Taveth a wink before following the rest through.
“Kel?” Taveth asks.
“I’m not your mother. Mind your own intoxication.” She follows Baemalen through the portal, wrapping Bel’theas in the papoose to hide him from view.
Taveth frowns and steps through. “Fine.” He rushes to catch up as Koltira leads the others inside.
A bored looking goblin woman greets them at the counter near the door. “Tavern or board?” she says, not bothering to look up from her nails.
Anarchaia uhhs as she cranes her neck to count heads. “Board, I suppose. How many vacanc—”
“Two,” the goblin says shortly, then tosses two keys onto the table. “Fifty a night. Per room.”
The mage pats at her satchel, then curses quietly beneath her breath. “I forgot—”
“On me, then,” Baemalen says with a charming smile. He sets the precise amount on the counter.
The goblin woman grunts and scoops up the gold—again without looking.
“Does your tavern serve food?” Kel’ori asks. “What?” she asks as Taveth gives her a look. “I barely ate breakfast, I’ve been so tired.”
“Do you want to go in for a drink or hide in a room?” Koltira asks Anarchaia under his breath.
“A drink sounds kind of nice,” Anarchaia says with a small smile. “But if you’re…tired…”
“Yes,” the goblin responds to Kel’ori, then raises her voice. “Ana! Patrons!”
The mage in Koltira’s arms jumps. “Oh. Right.”
A shattering sounds quietly from the next room behind a short curtain. The goblin huffs. “You’d better fix that.”
“Sorry! I will!” comes a well-known voice from behind the curtain. “And I’ll be right out!”
“Are you just trying to get me alone in a room?” Koltira whispers.
“Gods forbid,” Anarchaia responds equally quiet, smirking. She then turns and frowns at the woman in the doorway, who isbrushing her white hair behind an ear and dusting her palms on her barmaid’s apron. “And I don’t want you to witness my customer service voice.”
Jorick chuckles as he meanders to the long table near the lit fireplace. “My childhood memories consist mostly of the sound of things breaking.”
Baemalen and Grimory join him. “Mine’s mostly…children. And scrubbing floors,” the former says thoughtfully.
Kel’ori laughs and sits near the red-haired man. “Same. Though it was younger siblings and tavern floors. Punishment for various things.”
“Like bad grades and shoplifting,” Taveth says. He sits across from her as she sticks out her tongue.
The younger Anarchaia smiles warmly at the two as she passes and makes her way to the table. She sets a menu down and pulls a worn notepad from her apron. “Hi, guys! I’m Anarchaia. How are we doing on this late night?”
“Whiskey please,” Grimory says tiredly, causing the girl to pause.
“Whiskey. Right. Anything for anyone else?”
“Make it a bottle,” Jorick responds, “if you’d be so kind.”
“Make it three!” Baemalen adds with an excited grin.
Kel’ori smiles at the young girl. “Well, this is a treat. I’d like a shepherd’s pie with no onions and extra carrots, three slices of hot bread, with butter on the side, and an apple pie with extra cinnamon. Think your little self can handle—ow!” She reaches down to rub her knee as she glares across the table.
“You’re doing that thing again,” Taveth says, most of his attention on his journal, where he’s sketching out the tavern. “She doesn’t want any of it fresh, Ana—archaia.” He clears his throat and glances nervously up, hoping she didn’t catch the slip of her more familiar nickname. “She’s just a horrible person for no good reason. Whatever your kitchen has already got made is good enough for her.”
“No, that’s what I wanted,” she huffs.
“You hate extra cinnamon and love onions. Now leave the girl alone.” He gives Anarchaia a small smile, then returns to his book, forgetting to order anything for himself.
Koltira chuckles, his ear perked to the other room. “Good thing you didn’t want me to hear that. It was awful. Like listening to an actually confident version of you.” He turns for the hallway. “What’s our room number?”
The pencil over the notepad scribbles away on its own accord as the girl patiently smiles at the elf across from her. She nods as though she weren’t just nearly slighted. One of the room keys lifts itself from the table and she watches as it floats into the mage’s hand in the doorway. “A mage!” she said excitedly. “H-hey, miss! Do you think you could—”
“Sorry! Long day and all! Good night!” The Anarchaia in Koltira’s arms gently presses an elbow into him. “Room thirteen,” she mumbles urgently.
Koltira chuckles. “Are you sure you don’t want to go give a young, aspiring girl some advice?”
Anarchaia leans her head back and groans. “I don’t think so. It may change a lot if I do.”
He sits her up on the bed, then closes the door. “Yeah. Don’t want to do more damage to the timeline. All that.”
“Yeah,” she responds quietly as she beats a fist gently against one if her thighs to assess the feeling. “What if she decides to go to Dalaran of her own accord? Then she’ll never die, never meet Master, never meet you.”
“But you’d be alive. Khadgar would probably hear of your skill. As for me, a girl like that has no need for a dead man.” He purses his lips and shakes his head. “I just want you to be happy.”
She frowns up at him. “But I’m happy with you,” she says, pulling off her mask to reveal the sadness in her eyes.
He takes her hand gently in his and leans forward to rest his forehead on hers. “You say that…but I think you’d be so much happier. You’d have all the things you can’t have now.”
Anarchaia scowls but does not move. She shakes her head. “That’s not true. I like what I have now. Sure, I miss my parents and my looks, but having you makes it all worth that.”
“Nothing is worth undeath. You say you’re happy, but I know how much it hurts you. You could have a child of your own.” Koltira looks away, knowing that any child she had would not be his.
The mage’s scowl deepens and she grabs his chin to force him to look back at her. “Stop talking like that! We’ve been through so much together and you’re all right with just tearing that away from me? Away from us?”
“You can’t tell me there is no part of you that wants to go and talk to that girl back there and save her life.” He brushes a lock of white hair behind her ear, his fingers rest on her pale cheek.
Anarchaia remains silent for a long beat before she looks down at her hands. “Yeah. But not as much as I don’t want to do that.”
Koltira lets out a long sigh and shakes his head. “If you insist.”
She frowns up at him. “You aren’t going to do anything, are you?”
“Why don’t you distract me so I don’t do something stupid?” He gives her a suggestive smile.
She returns the grin. “Hm…but if I do that, won’t you still be doing something stupid?” She kisses his forehead.
He gives her a look of insult. “How dare you call yourself such a thing. I may just have to punish you for that.” He leans close, sliding his hand around her waist. “How are your legs?”
She gives a small smile, cheeks pink. “Tingly but coming around. And I thought you were the one who likes punishments around here.”
He chuckles and leans closer, pulling her chest against his. “You’re not exactly in a position to argue, now, are you?”
She smirks and gently chews her lower lip. “What position should I be in?”
Koltira stands and grabs her by the legs, then yanks her so she’s laying down. “How about this one?”
She yelps as her head hits the mattress, then titters. “Oh? Is this your favorite? I’m rather fond of it.”
He leans over her and chuckles. “Me too.”