Book 6 – Chapter Thirty-Six

Jorick shifts his belt of daggers over his hips as he steps out into the cool Duskwood air. He scratches at an arm and throws a glance up at what little of the moon he can see before stepping east down the path.

“Rather late for a stroll alone in the woods,” Koltira says from the trees. “You wouldn’t be off to do something stupid, now, would you?”

Jorick goes rigid, then quickly relaxes. He slowly turns. “I reckon that depends on your definition of stupid.”

“Something like try to save Ana.” He steps onto the road and folds his arms over his chest, blizzard eyes staring the human down.

He inhales through his nose and looks away before nodding. “Yeah, actually, I am. I gotta fix what I fucked up. And…what? You’re here to heroically stop me because you love her so much?”

Koltira’s eyes shift left and right along the path. “Actually, I was going to heroically save her, because I love her so much. But I guess now I’m not doing it alone.” He pats the man’s bicep. “Come on, let’s work fast, before she realizes I’m not just having a drink.”

Jorick blinks, then follows. “You’re…just willing to give her up that easily?”

Koltira purses his lips. “I’m not giving her up. I’m saving her life and I’m going to tell her about us and about Khadgar. Put her on the path for the life she has now, but…actually giving her life.” He purses his lips and glares through the canopy at the small slivers of moon that peeks through. “What do you mean by fix your mistake?”

“If I weren’t good at keeping secrets, I’d have more fingers,” Jorick says. “I just happen to know where Flayblade and his goons hang out.”

Koltira’s eyebrow raises. “Who’s Flayblade?”

“The man who killed her,” he responds simply.

“You two are finally getting along, hm?” Grimory says from the side of the path as the two nearly pass him completely.

Koltira’s shocked gaze snaps to Jorick. “You—” His gaze snaps to Grimory next. “The fuck are you doing out here?”

Grimory folds his arms over his glowing tattoos. “Following Taveth to make sure he gets back all right. The fuck are you doing out here?”

Koltira narrows his eyes. “Where did Taveth go?”

“Saw him walking with Ana. Tavern Ana.”

Jorick’s eyelids lower. “Guess he’s already doing the job for us,” he mutters to the man beside him.

“So I’ll ask again,” Grimory continues, “where are you two going?”

The men glance at one another.

“Jorick wants to get an old dagger back from some asshole. I figured some backup wouldn’t hurt.” Koltira shrugs like it’s no big deal.

“Bullshit,” Grimory spits. “Sound carries pretty easily on these trails at night. You wanna fuck everything up.”

“Or unfuck it,” Jorick corrects with a shrug.

“You two really don’t care what happens? She’d probably never run into you or me, even with a stupid note, yeah?” he says to Koltira. “Maybe I want to keep my memories with her. “

Koltira folds his arms over his chest, his eyes narrowed. “Maybe that just makes me want to do it more.”

Grimory scoffs in disgust. “You really are just the most spiteful asshole. Did you even ask her how she felt about any of this?”

“Not particularly,” Jorick admits.

“Maybe I did ask her and she didn’t give me a solid answer,” Koltira lies. “Go back to the inn or fetch Taveth. Either way, stay out of our way.” He shoves past Grimory.

The demon hunter grabs him by the upper arm. “Or else what?”

 He grips the Illidari by the wrist to pry his hand off him. “You really want to get into this again? While you’ve been drinking? Go back to the fucking room and mind your own business.”

Grimory’s arm morphs and the claws dig into the elf’s arm. He narrows his burning eyes. “I recall winning last time. How are you even so sure your dumb plan is going to work? It all rides on her dying, don’t you get that?”

“Having Alisbeth step in front of my sword doesn’t count as winning.” He grits his teeth, not making it visibly known how much the claws are hurting him. “She wants to be alive, Grim. I just want to grant her wish.”

“No, she wants to be with you, you stupid cockbite.” His grip tightens. “I know I don’t defend her much since meeting you two, but this is crossing the line for me, yeah? Now get back to the tavern before I fly you there myself.” His gaze turns on Jorick who gives a nervous grin. “That goes for you, too, old man.”

“Don’t you fucking try to tell me what she wants!” Koltira snarls. He reaches for the Illidari’s throat with his free hand.

Grimory narrows his eyes and lifts his chin as he’s grabbed. “Yeah? Why’s that? Because you know so much better?” He grits his fangs as the fingers tighten around his throat. “You want to know what might happen…if you fuck everything up? She could stay here…in this shithole forest. Grow up…have some kids with a drunkard…who beats her every night.” He tightens his own grasp, cold blood trickling around his claws. “Or die anyway…and not…come back…”

Jorick steps forward, hands up. “Fellas, we don’t have to get any more physical over this. Surely we can come to some sort of consensus?”

Koltira tightens his grip even more, his glare deepening. “She could also end up going to Dalaran and being happy. With or without me.” His fingers loosen before he completely strangles the Illidari. “You’re really going to stand there and tell me you don’t want to fix her past? That you wouldn’t change shit and risk losing this future, just to make the one you love happy?” He scoffs and releases him, jerking his arm to free it from the claws digging into his flesh. “Oh, that’s right, you don’t actually love anything besides booze and loose women.”

The Illidari steps away as well when the two release one another. He rubs at his bruised throat and scoffs. “Not even close to true. I cared for Ana—a lot—before you and Ali strode in on your deathcharger. And trust me, the thought of saving Ali has crossed my mind. And Illith’ra. But I won’t. You know why? Because everything happens for a reason.” He shakes his head and looks at the two men before him. “Are you even thinking about the look on her face if she knew you were doing this?”

The human sobers and folds his arms, looking away. “Yeah. But…the consequences would outweigh that.”

The death knight sneers. “Fuck you. You don’t care about any of them. Not really. Or else why would you let anything get in the way of their happiness? Ana deserves to live. She deserves a child.” He grips his arm to stop the bleeding. “But you just want to get your rocks off to memories of her that you denied cherishing up until this point. Back then you couldn’t have cared less. Now you’re pissed you made the wrong choice.”

Grimory growls and clenches his fists. “That’s not it! I care about everything after that, too! Getting to reunite with Alisbeth! Meeting my daughter!” He scowls and takes a second to calm himself. “This isn’t just about Ana. It’s about all of us, yeah? The shit we’ve been through as a team.”

“That’s right, your precious daughter. The one who is in Stormwind right now without her real father, right? You really don’t want to get a message to yourself in this time and maybe have a life with her?” He drops his hands at his sides in defeat. “You could all change your lives for the better, every single one of you. It’s too late for me in this time line, and yet I’m the only idiot besides Ali and this fool that wants to try.” He motions at the human beside him.

Grimory’s jaw works through the things he wants to say, but he swallows them. “For selfish reasons. Both of you.” He snorts a laugh through his nose, though he doesn’t smile. “If you go back now I won’t tell Ana what you were planning.”

Jorick gives Koltira an empathetic look and tucks his hands in his pockets. “But if we don’t, there’s no Ana to tell.”

Grimory gives him a look. “Unless nothing changes until we go back, yeah? Then you deal with her hating your living—and unliving—guts until the mission is over.”

Koltira s wallows hard, a knot forming in his throat at the thought of his last days spent with Anarchaia being ones in which she hates him. “Fuck you. She deserves better.” He turns on his heel and strides back to the inn as though if he doesn’t hurry, she’ll disappear.

Grimory watches him go, then looks at Jorick. “Well?”

The human inhales and taps a foot as he thinks. “Welp. Can’t say I’m much of a match for a magical demonic elf, so I guess from whence I came, I go,” he responds with a shrug and turns to follow Koltira.

The demon hunter sighs in relief, then turns back down the road east to look for Taveth. Grimory stops and flushes when he’s close enough to realize what the two are doing. His slit pupils avoid the girl’s hand between them and he clears his throat. A small part of him almost wants to leave them be, but he doesn’t. “Tav, what are you doing?”

 Anarchaia jumps and turns to see the glowing eyes and symbols of the demon hunter.

Taveth’s face drains of color as he sees Grimory. Then his skin flushes a deep red as he freezes in place. “Uh—We—I—I w-walked her home? H-heh…”

The Illidari lifts his eyebrows. “You’re doing a lot more than that, yeah?” His eyes settle on the girl and he sighs before looking back at the scholar. “Put yourself away and let’s get you back to the tavern. Before you do something stupid, too.”

Anarchaia pouts and buckles his belt back up for him, then steps away. She smiles. “Next time. Mr. Taveth. Maybe I’ll visit you in Stormwind.”

“Yeah don’t do that,” Grimory says blankly.

Taveth swallows nervously. “G-Grim, could you just… Uh… Few more minutes?” His brow furrows at himself. Slowly he brings his satchel around to cover his groin. “O-or not. Heh.” He frowns at Anarchaia and forces the words from his mouth. “I-I’m sorry. I… I drank too much, Ana. I-it wouldn’t be wise to go to Stormwind. I have to go.” He slowly backs away from her to meet the demon hunter, his fists gripped around the leather of the bag over his front so tightly it would scream if it was living.

The girl clasps her hands at her front and watches him go. She visibly deflates in disappointment. “Right. Sorry for taking advantage of you. Have a good night.” She gives a small smile, then turns to continue into her house.

“Bye!… Ana,” Taveth shouts after her. He turns his attention to the road under his feet, doing everything in his power to not look at the other man. Grimory gives him a sideways glance of disapproval. “Don’t worry. I won’t tell Koltira. Come on.”

 “I don’t know… Eh… Sh-she… Maybe I’m just too drunk? I don’t…understand. Please don’t tell anyone. Please.”

The demon hunter nods. “I won’t.” He scrunches his face in confusion. “But why her? Do you have a thing for our Ana, too? Thought you were into men…”

Taveth shrugs his shoulders up to his ears, a look of bewilderment on his face. “I… I don’t know. I’m not interested in other women, that I know of.” He frowns deeply and sulks. “I think I’m…”

Grimory blinks slowly down at him, studying his face. “You’re…?”

Taveth’s mouth opens and closes several times. He cringes and takes a breath. “I think I…” he deflates and shrugs, “I’m just going crazy, I guess.”

Grimory shrugs a shoulder. “You know you can trust me, yeah? I won’t judge you.”

The high elf lets out a long, agonized sigh. “I know. I do trust you. I just… I have to be crazy, right? To suddenly…beinlovewithher,” he mumbles the last part.

Grimory’s eyes widen the tiniest bit and he clears his throat. “I, uh, guess you two are good for each other, and you’d probably make a better boyfriend than Koltira, but I think you’re barking up the wrong tree.”

Taveth puts up his hands defensively, his eyes wide. “I know! I don’t want to rep— Wait, you really think so?” He gets a dreamy look on his face, a soft smile spreading across his lips. “She’s so wonderful, isn’t she? Do… Do you think she’d really… N-no, that’s crazy. Heh. She has Koltira. What chance would I even have.” His dreamy look remains, even though he’s talking himself down.

Grimory’s brow knits over his glowing green eyes and his lower lids raise. “Did something happen to you? You’re acting… Weird…er.” He shakes his head and sets a hand on Taveth’s shoulder. “Just don’t do anything that’ll get you punched, yeah?”

Taveth shrugs. “Nothing. Just the drinks.” His brow furrows. “You don’t think Ana would… No. She would never use potions, right? Heh. She’s too good of a person for that.”

The demon hunter’s expression intensifies. “You have to be a bad person to use potions?”

Taveth’s eyes go wide. “Wh-what? No! Not any run-of-the-mill potions. But potions that influence another’s thoughts and feelings? Those are actually illegal. Ana wouldn’t… Heh.” He runs his fingers through his hair, slightly relieved to at least be done with the physical discomfort. “Perhaps I’ll have to ask her?” He looks over at the man, still feeling the same interest in him as before—though it has mostly diminished since getting closer to Eophen—and frowns. Why just Ana? I’m going insane.

Grimory lifts his eyebrows and looks away. “You can. She probably didn’t, though. Is that why you wanted to walk her home? For some…face time?”

Taveth blushes and frowns. “N-no! I thought she was our Ana! Thought she was better and…I didn’t want her wandering off alone. Sh-she’s the one that— Is that why she was asking if I have a girlfriend?”

The Illidari’s attention quickly flicks back to the scholar. “She asked if you have a girlfriend? Did she repeatedly comment on how single she was? Though it doesn’t matter much. It was clear how interested she was in you…” He purses his lips. “Our Ana isn’t nearly that…pushy, yeah? Every time we had sex, it was me initiating and her being…Ana.”

Taveth shrugs, his attention on the road under foot. “I wouldn’t say she was pushy. Confident, yeah. It was actually beautiful. She is beautiful. Both versions of her.” He holds up a finger as though stopping a comment from Grimory before it happens. “I’ve always thought that. I can think someone is aesthetically pleasing without…this nonsense.” He lets out a long sigh, frustrated that he can’t stop feeling that way about her, while still unsure if he’s been dosed with a love potion or if maybe for some reason he really does love the mage.

The tavern comes into view. “I’m not sure how to check something like that, yeah? Maybe your sister has some sort of potion detection spell.” He glances up at the still dark sky. “In any case, why not try sleeping it off? Maybe if you still feel that way in the morning, it’s not magic?”

Taveth nods, then shakes his head. “You’re right. I do need sleep.” He frowns and shoves his hands in his pockets. “I do miss Eophen, though.” He stares ahead at the inn. “Do you know which room might have an empty bed? Please don’t say Ana’s. I…don’t know how I can look at her right now.” His eyes go wide as a realization hits him. “She’s going to remember this, isn’t she? Oh, gods.”

Grimory hums in thought. “Most likely. But knowing her, she won’t say anything, either.” He holds the door open for him. “She, Kolt, Bae, and Kel are in twelve. You, the old man, and myself are in thirteen.”

Taveth nods, the wear of the night catching up to him. “Who’s sharing?”

The elf shrugs. “Up to you. You’re the smallest.”

“I’ll share, then. You can decide who I’ll share with, I suppose. I promise not to cuddle anyone, heh.”

“You can share with me, then. Not sure how close you and him have gotten on this trip, but I figure your awkward ass would prefer familiarity.”

They reach the proper room and Taveth sets his bag in a corner, then removes only his vest.

 Grimory removes his simple linen shirt and throws it on the chair, then lies in bed as though he’s waited for this moment all day. “Ugh.”

The high elf crawls tentatively into the bed and wraps himself in the blanket. “Thank you…for coming after me. You’re a good friend. Good night Grimory.”

“If you say so. Good night, Taveth.”

~~

Anarchaia furrows her brow as Koltira quietly closes the door behind him. “What happened to your arm?!” she asks in a whispered yell, holding her hand out.

The death knight sighs, eyeing the sleeping couple on the other bed. “Nothing. I’m fine. Just a…wolf out there. Died before I could heal myself.” He sits beside her on the bed, then pulls her close and closes his eyes. “You know I love you, right?”

She frowns and gently inspects the damage despite his nonchalant attitude. “Of course. I love you, too.” Her brow knits slightly. “Why do you say that? Did something happen?”

“I just… Seeing you in this time… You seemed so happy. I want you to be happy, Ana.” He sets the backs of his cool fingers on her cheek.

She furrows her brow upward and grabs his hand while looking up into his eyes. She shakes her head. “I wasn’t that happy. My parents fought all the time. I had no friends. I couldn’t go out during the day.” Her face softens. “Now I’m a real mage of Dalaran. I have lots of friends I would gladly die again for.” She smiles. “And a man who loves me for who I am. Why would I give any of that up?”

“Not even for a child?” he asks on a whisper.

Her smile falters just the littlest bit. She sighs deeply through her nose and shakes her head. “Not even for a child.”

He presses his forehead to hers and closes his eyes. Why don’t I believe you? He lets out a long breath and threads his fingers through hers. “As long as you’re happy.”

Her smile returns and she nods against his head. “I am. And look!” She extends one of her legs, then visibly struggles to keep it up before it falls back against the bed. “Almost better.”

Koltira smiles softly, her recovery not easing his unrest from earlier. “That’s great. Won’t have to be carried around anymore.”

Kel’ori moans from the other side of the room. “Shut up. Some people are trying to sleep!”

He makes a rude gesture behind her back. “Yeah. Sorry.”

Anarchaia flushes in embarrassment and lowers her voice. “Maybe we should just pretend to sleep like we do at home,” she whispers and pulls her robes off before pulling herself beneath the blankets.

Koltira chuckles and tucks the mage into his arms. “Goodnight, Ana,” he whispers.

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