Chapter Two

“Looks like…a couple of Death Knights are up next. Koltira and Alis…beth?” The vials on the ground levitate upward in a cloud of purple glitter before disappearing one-by-one into nothingness. She pauses. “Why does that sound familiar?”

“WHY DIDN’T YOU KILL HIM, YOU PUSSY!?!” A woman screams from the trees. Another female blood elf bursts out, frosty eyes wild with excitement. “That was so cool! You were just like GRAW, BLAGH—” She jumps around, slashing at the air in a clawing motion.

“A-Alisbeth, what did I say?” A male blood elf with frosty blue eyes joins her.

She sobers. “Stay quiet and let you do the talking.”

“Yes. Exactly.” He turns to the other two and gives a friendly smile. “Hello, I’m Kol—”

“OH MY GODS!” Alisbeth screams, dropping to her knees.

Koltira flinches and tries to wrestle the chunk of cracked red flesh from Alisbeth’s hands.

She bats him away. “I could start a demon hunter suit with this!” She wraps it over her forearm. “On guard!” She holds out the flesh-covered arm at Grimory. “Did you lose any? Can I have it? I can cut some—”

Koltira grabs the flesh and throws it on the ground. He wraps his fingers over the top of her breastplate and shoves her away to growl at her. “Alisbeth. You promised.”

“Yeah. I did.”

“So…?”

“But it’s—”

“Ali,” he warns.

Alisbeth pouts for a second. “Okay.” She kicks her heel into the dirt and folds her arms over her chest. “Go do the talking, then.”

Koltira turns, his smile a little tighter. “I’m Koltira Deathweaver. This is my… This is Alisbeth Redblade.”

Anarchaia backs away quickly from the newcomers, the scroll in her hand disappearing once again. “Oh,” she says, recovering from the startle. “It’s the couple from Krasus’ Landing.”

Grimory glances up at the sound of Alisbeth’s voice, flashbacks of that day coming to his mind’s eye. “Oh. Yeah.” He reflexively rubs at the point where his horn connects with his scalp.

Alisbeth wraps an arm around Koltira’s waist and shoves her head under his arm, keeping her cheek to the armor at his side as she stares at the other two. “Why does he have horns?” she whispers.

Koltira sighs, rolling his eyes to the sky as a plea for patience. “I told you last time, he’s a demon hunter.” He turns his attention on Grimory and gives a small, sideways smile. “Yeah, I thought I recognized you two. Sorry about last time. She gets…excited.”

“Sure,” Grimory mutters, running fingers through his hair. “Whatever.”

“I’m Anarchaia,” the mage responds, a hand over her slim chest, “and my moody friend is Grimory. But let’s get down to business while we still have sunlight. We’re testing applicants on their ability to hold their own in combat while exuding signs of teamwork. So whenever either of you are ready Grim will—”

“No. This one’s yours.”

Anarchaia’s spine stiffens and she throws him a glance. “Don’t be such a baby. You’re healed, now, aren’t you? Plus, it’s not my fault you can’t listen to instructions.”

Alisbeth smiles. “Oh, I wanna do it! Pick me!”

“If you want to determine our level of teamwork you should take us both. Hard to see how someone cooperates when you single them out. For example, that rogue showed excellent teamwork, staying in the running for a friend and jumping in to help him when things got too rough.” Koltira shrugs. “But it’s not my call to make.”

“Pick me!”

Koltira chuckles. “If you do single us out, I think Ali might want to get in the ring. I’m not sure, though. You’d have to as—”

“ME ME ME!” She waves her hand over her head and jumps up and down on her tip-toes.

“If I’m being honest, I just didn’t like that woman’s attitude,” Anarchaia whispers to the two, a hand shading the side of her mouth. She then sighs. “And I guess it’ll be you and me, Ms. Redblade. Because my partner can’t handle a couple of scratches.”

Grimory bitterly gives Anarchaia a rude gesture behind her back.

Alisbeth widens her eyes at Grimory. “Rude!” She nudges Koltira. “I wanted to fight him, why don’t I get to fight him?”

“Because you’re fighting the mage.” He whistles and a crimson deathcharger ambles to him. Koltira takes his green-bladed sword from one side as Alisbeth grabs a silver axe with a spiked, round head; a screaming skull embellishes the middle, red mist oozing from the open mouth. Koltira takes her axe.

“Ooo, I get to use the Redblade?”

“No.” He returns her axe to the saddle and pulls out a wide wooden sword. “You get to use this.”

Alisbeth sticks out her lower lip. “That’s not fair.”

“Maybe not, but you’re not having another accident.”

“It was just the one time!”

Koltira shakes his head. “Since you were resurrected. What about that paladin you threw your sword at because he disagreed with you on battle strategies?”

“Esmond. He was an idiot when he was younger.”

“How about the time you cut me open?”

Alisbeth rolls her eyes dismissively. “And I healed you and got you back to the temple in one piece. And if I remember right, that was the only reason you kissed me the first time. So, I don’t think it should count.”

Koltira slides his gaze to the mage. “Sorry. You’re waiting so patiently. She’s ready.”

“But I still have a hunk of wood!”

He leans in to whisper, keeping his smile on the mage. “Quiet or I’ll take that, too.”

“It’s fine,” she responds, parting her feet slightly. “Ready when you are.”

“Be careful,” the demon hunter mutters under his breath, still rubbing at his forearm.

“Ready?” Koltira asks.

Alisbeth casts a disappointed sneer down at the wooden weapon, then nods.

Koltira kisses the side of her head then steps away from the ring to stand near Grimory. “I didn’t catch your name,” he says.

Alisbeth picks at a splinter on the wooden blade. “Ready when you are, I guess. Ooo, fear my stick.” She scrunches half her face in annoyance.

“Grimory.” The Blood Elf’s green gaze gives the other a wary once-over. “You?”

Anarchaia scuffs her boot along the dirt and a torrent of fire bursts forth in the same direction, gathering mass as well as momentum as it heads toward Alisbeth.

“Koltira,” he extends his hand for a friendly shake.

Alisbeth smiles with glee. “Ooo! Pretty!” She throws a red shell around herself and stands in place as the fire sweeps over her. Her eyes dart around to catch every glimmering flame. When it passes, she licks her thumb and forefinger to extinguish a small fire at the tip of a clump of hair. “That was so cool! Do it again!”

“Ali,” Koltira warns, “You’re not ready for another pass like that. Pace yourself. Counterstrike.”

“Oh. Right.” Alisbeth crouches low and runs toward the mage, throwing down a ring of red decay under Anarchaia’s feet.

Grimory grasps the other’s hand firmly in his own and shakes reluctantly. “A pleasure.”

Anarchaia hisses at the pain that shoots up through her body from her feet. She blinks a few yards behind Alisbeth, still cringing. “If you insist.” She sends another wave of flames in the girl’s direction, this time with more conviction and power.

Koltira barks a short laugh. “Judging by your facial expression when you saw us, you’re lying.”

“Uh-uhh… Kolty!” Alisbeth shouts, staring up at the wave of flames. “You were right, I’m not ready, what do I do?”

“Move your damn feet, Ali!”

Alisbeth cringes, concentrating on fortifying her defenses. She grows a few sizes larger, then leaps out of the path of the fire, a single boot getting caught in the wave. She buries her toes into the dirt to smother the little sparks still clinging to the plate. The death knight reaches her hand out, a purple tendril snakes through the air toward the mage, plucking her from the ground and dropping her in front of Alisbeth. She swings the wooden sword, aiming for Anarchaia’s neck.

Anarchaia winces once more as the wood makes contact with her muscle. The fake blade continues passing through her, however, as her body phases into a flurry of cinders. She reappears a few yards away once again, rubbing her shoulder in pain. A large apparition of a dragon’s head materializes above her and, at her cue, sends forth a cloud of flames from its maw.

Grimory watches the fight intently, his elbows on his knees and toe tapping. “You sound offended. Should it be a pleasure?”

Alisbeth dodges back out of the flames’ reach, holding up the broad side of the wooden sword over her face to dampen the heat. She reaches out a hand; shadows spiral around the mage’s neck and hoist her into the air. “Shh.” Alisbeth smiles and runs forward, readying a sweeping blow that would hit the mage at her waist.

Koltira’s fists clench in anticipation as he watches the two. “It’s a pleasure if you want it to be, but I’d rather just call you on your bullshit. Say what you mean, my friend. If it pisses someone off, then make sure you make the first move and that they aren’t getting up anytime soon.” He flinches as Alisbeth pulls back her arm, knowing full well the strength of her swing is much more than it seems her small figure could deliver.

Anarchaia grins beneath her mask, grasping at the tendrils about her throat. Using what strength she has, the mage kicks her legs up and out of the way, dodging the swing completely. Knowing she’s unable to use magic, she brings her boots back down hard toward the Death Knight’s crown.

“You talk a lot,” Grimory grunts, giving Koltira a sideways glance. “That honest enough for you?”

Koltira sits on the log bench and delivers a devilish sideways grin. “It is possible to be both brains and brawn, you know.”

Anarchaia’s heels meet the back of Alisbeth’s head. Her momentum from the missed swing and the impact sends her face-first into the dirt. Alisbeth lifts her filthy face and glowers, then spits a clod of mud from her mouth. She stomps closer to Koltira. “Give me my sword.”

He shakes his head. “No. We agreed I could keep Byfrost, and you’re not using a real sword in a duel.” She spits at his feet and stomps back to the wooden sword. She swoops her arms around for an overhead strike on the mage.

Grimory turns his head towards the other man, returning the smirk. “Is that so? And who do you know who has both?” He glances up at Alisbeth as she approaches them both, charmed by her fervor in battle. The aspect of her using a potentially harmful weapon against his friend sends a twinge of apprehension through him but he says nothing.

Anarchaia ducks out of the way of the swinging blade, scurrying away and turning to put both hands up before the girl can make another attack. “All right, I yield. You’re definitely skilled enough.”

Koltira smirks. “I’ll let you know when I see them. Say, have you got a mirror?”

Alisbeth stops with the sword over her head, eyes wide and mouth open in a frown. “But…we were having fun! Weren’t you having fun?” She throws the sword over the mage’s head. “I thought you were having fun with me!”

Anarchaia shrinks back, bringing her hands to her chest defensively. “I don’t like to fight.” She rubs at her shoulder, still sore. “And I need my arms.”

“Pretty sure you won’t find one th—” Grimory leans away from the flying sword and scowls towards the girls’ direction. “Hey, watch where you hurl things!”

“We were having FUN!” Alisbeth stomps to stand over the mage.

“Ali,” Koltira takes her wrist. “It’s not a game. You won. Stand down.”

She purses her lips to think, then nods. “Wait, I won?”

Anarchaia clears her throat and brushes her robes. “Yes. And if you’re both still interested, we leave tomorrow morning. Payment will be given at the time of completion otherwise partial payment can be arranged if you guys decide to duck out halfway through.”

Grimory stands and stretches, coming to stand at Anarchaia’s side. “We’d obviously prefer you don’t, though.” He picks up the coin that’d been stolen from him and flips it idly. “It should go smoothly with four.”

Koltira places himself beside Alisbeth. “I think I speak for us both when I say we are still interested.”

“Do I get to fight you now?” Alisbeth asks Grimory with a smile.

Grimory blinks down at Alisbeth before flashing a fang-filled grin. “Did you want to?”

Anarchaia claps her hands together once and tilts her head with a grin. “Good! We have a room at the inn down the road, here. You’re both welcome to join us for a drink before we rest up for tomorrow. Maybe get to know one another…”

Alisbeth’s smile widens. “Do you always fight with your claws out? Do I get to keep any piece of you I hack off as trophy? Can I use a real weapon? Can—”

“I think drinks sound wonderful,” Koltira replies, speaking loud to overlap Alisbeth

Anarchaia grasps Grimory by the belt and pulls him toward the trail before he can respond. “To the inn, then!” she calls, a finger to the sky. “Not far, just around the bend.”

The Demon Hunter follows behind, swatting her hand away from his waist.

Koltira releases a shrill whistle as he retrieves the wooden sword. His deathcharger follows him as he presents his arm to Alisbeth and she tucks her hand in the crook of his elbow.

“I want to fight the beast monster,” she says wistfully.

“Demon hunter.”

“Yeah. The big guy.”

He laughs and kisses the top of her head. “Of course you do.”

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