Grimory snores quietly into his pillow, arm curled above his head to press it tightly to his face. The bloodied blankets remain on the floor in a heap near the wall.
Alisbeth kicks in the door and runs forward, then stops to stare at the Orc laying in the bed, staring up at her with curious eyes. She smiles wide. “Wrong room!” She turns to leave.
“Are you sure about that?” he grunts, giving her body a quick scan.
She turns around to look him over in turn. “Well, maybe…”
Koltira leans in the door and yanks her out by the back of her breastplate. “Come on. Wrong room.”
“Better luck next time!” she shouts to the Orc as Koltira closes the door.
Alisbeth kicks in the door across the hall and grins. “Jackpot!” She runs inside and leaps over the bed, landing spread-eagled across Grimory. “Rise and shine, Clementine!”
Grimory’s eyes fly open and he makes to sit up only to find he’s inhibited. Defeated, he pushes his face into the pillow. He winces at the lightning-like pain in his skull and groans. “Already? Can’t it wait another hour?”
Alisbeth rocks side to side. “But I’m already in heeeeeeere!”
“Then don’t be in here,” he growls, grabbing the pillow and throwing it over his head instead despite his horns making it difficult.
She flattens her palms on his shoulder blades and pushes him up and down. “But Anargabar said we could leave now! It’s time for an adventure!”
“Get up, Grim.” Anarchaia rubs at the back of her neck tiredly as she stands in the doorway. “It’s time to pay our tabs and go. Get dressed and packed.”
“Told you! Anabooboo said it was time to go.” She spanks his ass. “Let’s go, Griffindor!”
“Be downstairs in ten minutes, please,” Anarchaia’s voice fades off into the hallway.
Grimory flinches and jerks his head to look at Alisbeth through the hole between his arm and the bed. “Fine,” he breathes, putting his hands on either side of his chest and lifting his torso in hopes of shaking the death knight off him.
Alisbeth pushes up to sit on her heels and grins. “Ten minutes!” she echoes the mage. Alisbeth leaps at Koltira, landing on his back. “I left my pauldrons in her room.”
Koltira wraps his arms under her knees and turns to give Grimory a sly smile before carrying Alisbeth from the room. “Let’s go get those, then.”
Grimory narrows his eyes at Koltira and rolls out of bed before scrounging around for his belt and legplates. “Good. Close the door on your way out.”
“He said to close the door,” Alisbeth whispers as Koltira continues to Anarchaia’s room.
“Oh, did he?” His grin widens. Alisbeth leaps from his back and replaces her pauldrons, then jumps on him once more.
~ * ~
Anarchaia counts coins carefully as she walks up to the bar. “How much, then?”
“Eighty-two.” The Goblin behind the counter responds, not bothering to look up from the glass she’s polishing. “And seven silver.”
Anarchaia’s eyes widen and she stops. “Eighty-two.”
“Yep.” The barkeep glances up at her with magenta eyes. “And seven silver.”
“Yuh huh.” The mage stands there for a long moment, an incredulous, broken grin on her face. She silently hands over the coin and readjusts her rucksack before making for the door.
“Hope to see you again!” The Goblin calls after.
Anarchaia leans against the outer wall of the inn, arms folded over her chest and waiting patiently. She sighs for what feels like the umpteenth time and looks up at the sky, admiring the gradient of bright pinks, oranges, and navy. She sinks down to sit in the dirt and stretches her forearms out to rest on her knees.
Koltira saunters from the inn, still carting Alisbeth around on his back. “Here.” He holds out a small pouch for her to take.
Anarchaia glances at the pouch and waves a hand. “Oh, no. Please. Repay me in kindness.” She smiles up at him with weary eyes behind her mask.
Grimory yawns loudly as he comes up behind the two death knights and scratches at one of his sideburns. “Do you have anymore of that tea, Ana? I could use some.”
Bitter, but not about to let a friend suffer, a mug materializes within the mage’s hand followed by a small mass of water and a teabag. It settles within and, in only moments, begins to steam. She hands it over and stands. “First stop is the Weeping Bluffs.” She brushes off her behind, twisting her neck to see if she’d done an adequate job.
Alisbeth hops from Koltira’s back as he heads for the stables. She reaches out and pinches a twig from the mage’s robes. “Got it! So…Weeping Bluffs sounds like a nice place!” she says without a hint of irony.
Anarchaia chuckles at Alisbeth’s enthusiasm.
Koltira returns with Bloodmist and takes in Anarchaia’s figure. “Would the ladies care to ride?” He smiles first at the mage, a genuine smile and invitation. Then he turns his sights on Grimory, a sly smirk twitching under his cocked eyebrow. “While you rest and wake up, of course.”
The mage turns and recoils at the sight of the beast, not expecting it to be so close. She steps back. “N-No thank you. Walking is fine for me.” Her eyes lock onto the horse’s and she swallows. “I don’t mind.”
Taking note of the other man’s wandering gaze, Grimory downs the entire, boiling mug in one drink and holds the receptacle out for Anarchaia to take back. He closes his eyes for a long moment before glancing at Koltira with contempt. “Only weaklings need rely on an animal for travel.” A grin spreads across his face then turns to a grimace as his headache pounds.
Koltira approaches the demon hunter. “How’s your head?” he asks close by, much louder than necessary. He gives him a jarring pat on the back.
Grimory turns his head away and jerks as he’s struck. Eyes full of irritation, he turns to Koltira with a sarcastic grin. “Fine, thanks,” he whispers, pushing past him and making his way for the path. “Briarthorn tea always does the trick.”
Alisbeth pouts. “But Bloodmist is a darling!” She nuzzles the slightly decayed flesh of the horse’s face, then wraps her arms around for a hug. After a moment, she lifts her feet. As though used to this behavior, the mare shifts on her hooves to swing Alisbeth side-to-side.
Grimory kicks a small stone out of his way and gives the horse a gentle pat on the flank as he passes.
She deconjures the mug. Then, terrified of the beast’s strength, Anarchaia takes another step back. “Yeah, no. I’ll pass.”
Alisbeth stands and pats Bloodmist again. Then she falls into step behind Grimory, kicks the same stone, and mimics his gait. She stops in her imitation for only a second to throw the other two a smile and usher them on.
Koltira chuckles and holds out his hand for Anarchaia to go first. “I guess we’re off, then.”
Anarchaia gives a curt nod and takes a wide, arcing path around Bloodmist, then bounds off to join the other two. “If we hurry we can make it there by nightfall,” she says, pulling the map from her bag.
Grimory sends Alisbeth a sideways glance, unable to hold back a small smile upon seeing her imitation. He stretches and locks his fingers over the back of his neck. “Hurry? What for? Last I heard we aren’t on any kind of set schedule.”
Alisbeth reaches up to lock her fingers behind her head as well. “So…we woke up early to go on an adventure…to walk all day?” She makes a face. “Just walking and walking and more walking?” She kicks a stone at Grimory’s heel.
Koltira follows at the rear with Bloodmist close behind, staying at his back, though he holds no reigns. He listens to the conversation, but stays quiet and alert.
Grimory ignores the pebble and twists his neck to stretch that as well. “That’s what Ana and I do. We walk. Walk and talk with people. Then we drink and pass out.” He smiles. “It’s a pretty good setup.”
“You pass out,” the mage grumbles, looking at the map in her hands.
“I feel like there’s probably a story out there about a group of people that spend most of the book walking. You’re the book expert,” the death knight nudges Anarchaia, “am I right?”
She nearly stumbles, not expecting the nudge to her side. Anarchaia gives a small laugh. “There’s actually a lot of books filled with adventurers who do nothing but walk.” Her eyes light up beneath her mask. “My personal favorite is a memoir about a druid who makes it his life’s work to touch every corner of Azeroth. It’s rather enthralling.”
Alisbeth makes a face. “Personally, I like the ones where people die. Unless I like them, then I don’t want them to die. Though, there was one book I read in my room about a hunter. Loved the character but she was stupider than shit and…well, I kinda wanted her to die just so she’d stop being stupid. But I also didn’t because I liked the story.”
“Sounds like a good story, then.” Anarchaia chuckles, rolling the map back up and stuffing it into her bag. “Have you read any others? Also, if you’re ever interested, I have tons of books in my room that I can get at any time. They’d make for good time killers if you ever get bored of the scenery.” She glances back at Koltira with a smile, choosing not to look at the steed behind him. “That goes for you as well.”
Koltira smiles graciously, then returns to his role as silent sentry.
Alisbeth ambles closer to Anarchaia and slips her hand into the mage’s, pressing their palms together. “That sounds nice.”
Anarchaia tenses somewhat at the touch and blinks. She turns her head away as her cheeks grow warm. “S-So what do you guys do for fun? When you aren’t looking for adventures with strangers?”
Grimory senses the tone shift in the mage’s voice and turns briefly to see the issue, then purses his lips and returns to leading the pack. “And not telling people about your relationship,” he mutters to himself and pulls his ears back.
Alisbeth giggles and sing-songs, “You didn’t ask.” She pauses. “Well, you kind of did. But there’s a good reason we don’t tell people. We’ve never told people. You’re the only ones besides Thassarian, now that Tirion and Faltora are…” She frowns and turns an apologetic stare on Koltira. “Sorry.” He shrugs. She turns back around and wipes a tear that’s creeping down her cheek. “I miss Tirion. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I heard there was a siege on Light’s Hope…someone trying to resurrect him?” She goes quiet and sighs. “I wish they had.” Her mood shifts again as though she’d never been sad in her life. “For fun I like to cut heads off—”
She giggles and grins, tilting her head sideways at Anarchaia. “Things I’m not supposed to say out loud.”
The sudden topic of the loss of a loved one makes the mage clench her jaw and she readies a response, but the words flutter away on the breeze when the topic passes. “It’s fine.” She knows the end of the sentence but waves a dismissive hand anyway. “Anything else? Card games? Chess? Fishing, perhaps?” Anarchaia casts a quick glance between the two, still holding Alisbeth’s hand within her own. “We’ll be together for a while so finding things we have in common is wise.”
Alisbeth stares at the ground, kicking pebbles with each foot. She shrugs. “I don’t remember.”
Koltira’s eyes finally find the girls’ clasped hands. He adds them to his mental checklist of things to keep an eye on.
Anarchaia grunts and turns back to face forward, her features falling into unimpressed defeat. An awkward silence breezes through the lot and she squirms inside. She opens her mouth to bring up another topic but after a beat she closes it again, instead choosing to tread in silence. The stars disappear as the sun lifts and clouds that look like smeared paint litter the sky. A hawk cries overhead and a chilled wind blows through the evergreens.
Grimory perks at the sound of flowing water and is reminded that he hasn’t bathed in nearly a day and a half. He stops and turns to Anarchaia, motioning with a thumb. “I hear a river somewhere near here. Mind if we take a quick break?”
“We’ll make camp by a lake, Grim. If we stop now we won’t make it there by tonight—”
“That’s fine.” The Blood Elf waves a hand and steps off the path toward the brush. “We’re not in a hurry.”
Alisbeth perks at mention of water. She runs a hand over her hair matted with dried blood and touches the sticky mess on her neck. She releases Anarchaia’s hand and sprints after Grimory, sliding on the dirt to collide with his back. “Oof!” She squints up at him. “Well? Lead the way so I can clean up your mess.”
Grimory stands sturdy as he’s collided into and turns to furrow his brow down at Alisbeth. “I’ll show you afterward. I’m going first.” He pauses to watch her reaction. “And you aren’t coming with.”
Anarchaia lolls her head back to sigh dramatically toward the sky above. She finds a cushy spot in the crass beside the path and settles down, legs crossed. “I swear it’s like travelling with a child sometimes,” she grumbles, her note scroll and quill poofing into existence before her.
Alisbeth gapes up at him. “Are you serious? You’d rather waste time than just show me? Are you afraid of letting me see you naked?”
“If I was afraid of letting you see me naked then last night wouldn’t have happened, would it have?” he hisses through his sharp teeth, voice low.
Koltira chuckles and waves her back. “Come on, just let him be.”
Grimory glances up at Koltira then back at Alisbeth with a snarky grin. “Listen to your buddy.” He turns back to trudge into the trees.
Alisbeth skitters back to Koltira. He takes her by the arm and leans in to whisper in her ear. “Remember what I taught you in Eversong?”
She glances up at him, then her face twists into a devilish grin. In less time than it should have taken, she strips her armor off, leaving only her linen shirt and trousers. She races back after Grimory, stepping carefully and avoiding rustling any leaves.
Koltira gives Anarchaia an innocent grin.
Anarchaia returns the smile, unsure of what the two were up to but not particularly caring—she figures Grimory deserves whatever he gets at this point. She leans back to lie in the grass and stare up at the sky. The parchment follows to float before her face and obscure her view. The quill scribbles.
~ * ~
Grimory finds a secluded spot to strip, folding his pants neatly and setting them in the grass with this boots and leg armor. He pulls a single bar of soap from his small pack and tosses it in the air once, letting it spin before catching it again and giving a hum, happy to have the chance to get clean.
Alisbeth strips, then takes a running leap, screaming in excitement as she crashes into the water back-first. She scrunches up her face in a triumphant grin at Grimory. “Didn’t hear me, did you? Did you? Ever seen a paladin stealth? Well now you have.” She ducks under the water to swish at her hair.
Grimory gives an exasperated sigh and steps into the water. “I’m more amazed by the fact that I thought you’d listen to me.” He throws water over his shoulders and sits so that the slowly running surface is at his chest. “Why do you feel the need to harass me?” he says in a semi-serious tone, rubbing the bar of soap between his palms to build a lather.
Alisbeth emerges, spitting a stream of water in Grimory’s direction. “Harass? I’m not harassing. I thought we were friends, Gilderoy. We had fun last night, right? Friends have fun together.” She looks around and frowns. “I didn’t bring my soap.” Her lower lip pokes out in annoyance with herself.
He chooses to ignore her question and instead leans forward to throw water into his hair followed by the lather. He scrubs at his scalp and holds out the bar. “Use mine, then. Unless you don’t want to smell like a man.”
Alisbeth narrows her eyes at him. “Aren’t you concerned I might contaminate it with my fun?”
Grimory tilts his head back and smooths his hair, arm still outstretched. He sighs. “No, I’m not. It was fun, okay? I just…didn’t know you were taken.”
She purses her lips and takes the soap, lathering some through her hair. “Okay but…we can be friends, right? And then, maybe one day, if you’re feeling lonely…” She winks and passes back the soap to tip back and rinse her hair.
The demon hunter rinses his mane, making sure to rub his face as well. He pulls down an ear to clean that also. Memories of the night before invade his mind and he gives a small grin. “Yeah, we can be friends. Just keep your guard dog at bay, okay?”
Alisbeth splashes water on her face and rubs at her neck. “Kolty? No, he’s just…we have an agreement, um… He…stands watch normally. He makes sure that I don’t… You know…” She laughs and shrugs.
Grimory lifts an eyebrow and scrubs the other ear, then rubs the bar over both horns, leaving scrapings of soap in the grooves. “So you don’t what? Kill me?”
Alisbeth scrunches one eye to think. “Yep! Ever since the Troll.” She smiles brightly.
The demon hunter dips half of his head in the water to rinse a single horn. “Oh? A Troll? Do go on.”
“Oh.” She tsks and bats at the water dismissively, then moves in closer and smiles to share her juicy secret. “Okay, since we know each other now I can tell you this thing I’m not supposed to talk about! I found a Troll in the tavern and we went up to his room and I told him not to touch me. No hands. No kissing. Those are the rules. And he broke the rules. So I punished him. He shouldn’t have broken the rules.”
Grimory tilts his head in the opposite direction and lifts his eyebrows in genuine intrigue. “Punished, you say? Good or bad punish?”
Alisbeth shrugs. “Well, do you think having your own axe buried in your chest is a good punishment or a bad one? I think it’s good. Gotta follow the rules.” She smiles sweetly and holds out her hand for the soap.
Grimory slowly hands the bar back. He clears his throat. “So…if I don’t follow the rules…?”
Alisbeth clambers out of the stream to kneel on a rock, her back to Grimory, and soap down her entire body before handing the bar back. “Well, I mean…you didn’t. But I had to make new rules for you. That’s why he got mad, he didn’t know the new rules.”
Grimory stands as well but remains in the water. He runs the bar over his abdomen and thighs. “So you’re saying I’m special?” His fangs peek through his lips as he grins, gazing up at her from behind his brows.
“You turn into a beast man and your teeth are…” She stops, remembering what she’d told Anarchaia the night before. She gives a shy giggle and slides back into the water to rinse.
Grimory sinks back down to a sit, crossing his legs and lifting a clawed foot out of the water. “You have a teeth fetish?” he asks as nonchalantly as he can, a smile still spread across his features.
Alisbeth shrugs casually. “What does it matter?” She wades over to stand so close she can feel the heat of his skin. “You don’t want to have fun with me anymore.” She reaches out to tap her fingertip to his nose, then continues past him.
Grimory’s eyes scan over her body of their own accord. He turns away and stands once more. “I suppose there can be…exceptions.” He pushes past her to step onto the shore. “Especially if what you say is true about your husband.”
Alisbeth gives a short “Ha!” Then once on the shore she does a quick twirl, one palm on her belly. “Did I get it all?”
Grimory gives Alisbeth a once over and smiles, placing his hands on his hips. “Sure did. How about me?” He turns to expose his back, not bothering to cover the star-shaped scar on his hind cheek. “Any bubbles?”
Alisbeth chews on her bottom lip, enjoying the view and having already forgotten why she was staring.
Grimory glances over his shoulder and grins. “Is that a no?”
Alisbeth’s attention snaps to the demon hunter’s face. “You’re clean.” She spins on her heel and stomps away to glare at her dirty clothes. She gathers them up, holding them to her front, and heads back to where the other two are waiting, her nose stuck in the air as she blatantly avoids looking back at Grimory.
Vexed, Grimory turns to his own clothes with a shrug. “Maybe she’s gained a conscience.”