The Surprise

The morning was dawning bright over the Broken Isles. The Dalaran shops opened one by one. Adventurers appeared in the Archway one at a time, then shuffled off to banks, inns, or armor repair shops. Up in the tower high over the city, in a quiet room filled with books of all sizes and shapes, a figure sat curled against a giant stuffed elekk. Her left eye shot side to side, the empty socket of her right eye glowed red in approval of the contents of the tome.

Shouts came from below, a single voice crying out to be heard above the various noises of the city. She tried to ignore it, but soon realized what was being shouted.

“Ana!”

She opened a window.

“Ana-Banana!”

Standing on the cobblestone below was Alisbeth, the reigns of Koltira’s horse, Bloodmist, in one hand as the other waved side-to-side as she shouted for the mage.

“Hey!” A guard stopped to scrutinize the death knight. “Aren’t you supposed to be escorted by Koltira Deathweaver when you visit the city?”

“Oh! Yes. Well, you see—Oh, my! Are those two trying to duel?” Alisbeth pointed over the guard’s shoulder.

He spun to look. Alisbeth leapt onto the stolen horse and spurred her into a gallop. The death knight raced through the city, circling the Hall of the Guardian, screaming for the mage.

“What are you doing?” Anarchaia shouted from the path ahead of Alisbeth.

The death knight gave a devilish grin and spurred the deathcharger even faster. When she reached the mage, she leaned from the horse and scooped Anarchaia up to lie belly-down in Alisbeth’s lap.

“Ali, this is not okay!” Anarchaia shouted. “Do you hear me? This is not okay!”

The death knight only laughed. Among the adventurers porting in, Alisbeth spotted Koltira. She kicked the horse, hoping it still had some speed left to urge out.

“Alisbeth, dammit!” Koltira shouted as she raced past him. He chased after, but couldn’t stop the horse.

“Ready?” Alisbeth shouted.

“What are you doing? Ali? Ali! Stop— Aaahhhhh!”

The horse raced up the rubble and leapt into the open air. Anarchaia screamed. Alisbeth laughed. They tumbled through the air, Bloodmist falling faster than the other two.

“This is so much fun!” Alisbeth screamed.

Anarchaia only screamed in terror as response.

Falling from Dalaran

They splashed into the water. When Anarchaia brought her head up Alisbeth spat a stream of water onto the top of her mask.

“What in the name of Alodi—”

“Come on. Kolty will probably jump after. We need to keep our head start.” A sheet of ice spread across the sea’s surface. Bloodmist scrambled onto it as Alisbeth pulled Anarchaia up. This time she situated the mage in front of her, allowing her to sit up. She pressed her chest into her friend’s back and leaned her chin over her shoulder in order to see.

They galloped across the water, nearing Suramar, but sticking to the river between it and Azsuna. When they neared the other side, Alisbeth turned right onto a steep path leading up into the green forest of Val’Sharah.

“Where are we—”

“Shh.”

Anarchaia crossed her arms over her chest and pouted as she watched the scenery pass by.

“Nope,” Alisbeth chirped. “Have to smile! It’s a day for smiles!”

Anarchaia faked a smile, which turned into a grimace. The women laughed together as the deathcharger raced on. Soon enough they reached the other side of the zone, where an upturned cart marked the path leading into a crumbling hold. Alisbeth stopped and took a breath.

“Right, Ana, I need you to bend over and grip the saddle horn. Don’t look up for anything, okay?”

“Why am I—” She turned to see Alisbeth buckling a helm under her chin.

Alisbeth shoved Anarchaia forward and pushed up the face guard of her helm. “Don’t want anyone taking your head, now, do we?” She winked and pressed a kiss against the side of the mage’s head.

With that she kicked Bloodmist back into a run, straight for the gates and right through the ghosts patrolling it. Once inside she didn’t stop. She led the horse up a set of stairs and into a tower room, where she grabbed the doorframe, dropped down, took a sword which leaned against the wall just inside, and slammed Anarchaia and Bloodmist inside. Anarchaia flinched as the ghosts crowded around the death knight, their spectral weapons pounding against the steel armor. Alisbeth laughed maniacally over the fray, then shouted. After a moment, all went silent.

“Ali?”

The door burst open. Alisbeth sauntered inside and tossed the helm and sword to the floor. Her smile was wide and crazed with her bloodlust. “What a rush!”

Ba-a-a!

Anarchaia jumped up and away from the ewe tied to a hoop in the wall. “Why is there a sheep in here?”

“I borrowed it from Bradensbrook.”

“Why?”

Alisbeth bit her lower lip in barely contained excitement as she shut and barricaded the door. “Because…” she ripped a cloth from over a tall object, revealing a three-tier chocolate cake, “how else will you enjoy this?”

Anarchaia bit back her smile. “Alisbeth, what are we doing here?”

The death knight’s smile fell. “You don’t like the cake?”

“Oh, no,” she sputtered quickly, “I’m sure I’ll love the cake. I’m just wondering why we had to come all the way out here for it.”

Alisbeth’s smile returned. “Oh!” She took the mage by the shoulders and spun her around. “I tried to get all the pages, but I may have missed a few.” Stacked along the entire back wall was, as far as either knew, every tome to be found on the grounds of Blackrook Hold. “The entire history of Ravencrest is in here, along with some other bits I know you’ll love. It was too much for me to bring to you…so I thought I’d bring you to it.”

Alisbeth chewed on her lips in nervous anticipation as Anarchaia stared at the books and the sheep, the cake, the horse and the psychopathic death knight who all too frequently tried to kill her. “I-I—”

“You hate it. This was a bad idea. When Khadgar said it was your birthday and he had something spectacular planned and Grim was telling me that he was going to outdo any gift that old man could conjure and…I’ve never had a friend before, even when I was alive. The other paladins-in-training were stupid and I didn’t like them. It’s always just been me, and then Koltira. But you…treat me like I’m not a monster, even though I am. And you of all people should hate me, but you don’t. So I wanted to be the one to give you the best birthday present.”

Anarchaia sighed. “Oh, Alisbeth. My birthday is still a few months off.”

Alisbeth’s chin quivered. “Oh.”

The mage’s lips spread into a huge grin. “You really did all this for me?”

Alisbeth shrugged. “I guess I had fun killing ghosts as I collected the pages.” Her lips spread into a smirk. “You know, they don’t really die. So if I waited long enough I could kill the same ghost over and over again.”

Anarchaia’s lips twisted into a wry smile. “Okay. You got me. I love it. The cake any good?”

“I didn’t taste it…I can’t taste it. I used to love chocolate.” She used a dagger to cut out a piece of cake. “Winter Veil was always my favorite holiday because of the cakes and the presents. Now I can only taste the candy canes. And even those aren’t really much of a flavor…they make my tongue buzz.” She set the plate with the piece of cake down on a bench beside the long, cloth gloves as Anarchaia made herself comfortable on the floor.

A book levitated from the top of the pile, down into the mage’s bony fingers. She pulled off her mask and set it with her gloves, then swished the hair from her face so she could read and eat at the same time.

“Read it to me,” Alisbeth said.

Anarchaia coughed. “Are you sure? Grim would never let me read this stuff out loud.”

Alisbeth shrugged and leaned her cheek on the other’s shoulder. “Grimory is all brawn and no brains. Please?”

Anarchaia took another huge bite and laughed. “Okay,” she said through the cake. “This one is a medical grimoire. It begins with local herbs and their medicinal uses.”

“Mm-hmm. Go on.” Alisbeth swiped a finger through the frosting, sticking a huge gob in her mouth to suck on. The mage read for a long time before Alisbeth lifted her head and set a gentle kiss on her friend’s temple. “Happy birthday, Ana.”

Anarchaia wrapped an arm around Alisbeth’s shoulders and smiled. “Thanks. It’s the best ever.”

Advertisements