Chapter Nineteen

His ale in one hand, Grimory throws himself into the single armchair by the fire and silently seethes. He grabs one of the books from the shelf beside him and looks it over, speculating if it’s worth his time. Grimory throws his legs over an armrest and opens the tome, resting it upon his thighs. He picks at his nails absent mindedly while he scans the first page.

Koltira returns to the tavern and orders a full bottle of whiskey, then takes a rocks glass and finds a seat where he can keep his back to the corner and his eyes on the room.

“How was that kiss?” Grimory jokes with a heavy hint of snark. He takes a sip of ale.

Koltira pours a glass of whiskey. “She’s resting.”

He hums in satisfaction. “And you bothered her.”

“Not at all. She was happy to see me, just needed her rest. Why don’t you give it a go?” He smiles and sighs as he leans back in the chair.

“Because she needs her rest, obviously,” the Illidari hisses, flipping the page of his book. She wouldn’t want to see me right now, anyway. He narrows his eyes suddenly after a moment’s thought. “What did you two talk about all last night?”

Koltira shrugs. “Just about everything, I think. Played some drinking games. I’m sure all boring things you’ve done before.” He swallows the whiskey in his glass and refills it.

“That’s bullshit.” He snaps the book shut and cocks his head to glare across the room at Koltira. “You told her what I said about her.” Grimory’s ears twitch as they warm from the alcohol and he finds himself emboldened. “That’s why she’s pissed at me.”

He shrugs at the demon hunter. “That may have come up, yes. If you didn’t want it to get back to her, maybe you shouldn’t have said it.”

Grimory pulls his ears back and sneers. “But I bet you didn’t tell her what you said about her, did you?”

Koltira nods. “I told her I wasn’t without fault, but she didn’t want to hear it. She says I’m too charming to be an asshole.”

Grimory chuckles darkly and finishes his ale. “Oh, I’m sure. I’ll be sure to ask her when I get the chance.” He sets the empty mug on the mantle above the fireplace.

Koltira’s breath pauses in his throat, though he remains collected. “Nothing I said was near as bad as you.”

Grimory grins as he’s given what he equates to a confession. “I’d say it’s equally bad considering the circumstances.” He shifts in the chair to sit in it properly, an ankle on a knee. “When she hears she’ll just assume anything you say or do will be to get in her tight, linen trousers. No more Mr. Charming then, hm?”

“Oh, get over yourself already. You think everything is about fucking. That’s literally the only thing you think Ana is good for.” He swallows back a whole glass of whiskey and pours another. “She is so much more than that, why can’t you see that?”

He bristles again. “I do. Trust me, I do. We’ve shared many nights together filled with conversation. More than you.” His jaw flexes as he gnashes his fangs together. “She’s my friend. And what you said about her was quite sexual so one could only take it that way.”

“At least I have remorse for what I said.” Koltira sits back and tries to relax. Don’t let him get to you. His mind spins through all the reactions Anarchaia might have and forces himself to hide a flinch.

“And at least I am honest about the kind of person I am.” He clasps his hands behind his head and thinks for a moment. “Tell you what. How about a wager? If I win, you don’t talk to Ana anymore—at least in private. And if you win, I won’t tell her what you said about her.”

Koltira scoffs and shakes his head. “You can’t stop Ana from talking to whomever she wants.” He props his feet on the table in front of him. “Out of curiosity, what’s your game?”

He shrugs. “I didn’t say she couldn’t talk to you. I said you couldn’t talk to her alone.” He leans forward in his seat. “You ‘n me. Outside. No weapons. No armor.”

“No claws,” Koltira growls, “and I’ll show you a real fight, little puppy.”

Grimory smirks and stands. “Just fists.”

Koltira stands as well. He drops gold onto the table and grabs his bottle of whiskey. “Lead the way, pretty boy.”

Grimory scoffs. “Pretty boy? Your charm won’t work on me.” He strides over to the main entrance and pulls the door open, gesturing out into the twilit outside. “Ladies first.”

“Amazing that you think that’s what charm is. No wonder you’re just a one hit wonder with the ladies.” He leans against the wall, refusing to go outside. “Well, go on.”

“I’ve had plenty of relationships but thanks for your concern.” Grimory rolls his eyes and steps outside. “Gods forbid you not take yourself seriously for a moment.”

Koltira makes a rude, childish face behind Grimory’s back just to prove him wrong. He swigs from his bottle, then finds a safe place to set it.

The demon hunter walks a safe distance from the building and turns, unbuckling his belt. He tosses his leg armor to the dirt and kicks off his boots. His knuckles pop as he crunches them together. “Rules: no magic, no hitting below the belt, and most importantly, no mortal strikes. I don’t think we need any more of Ana’s wrath.”

Koltira finishes piling his armor under a tree, then scrapes the sole of his bare foot across the dirt. “Ana says you can fly. None of that, either.” He readies in a boxer’s pose, fists in front of his face.

“Like I’ll be needing my wings for this.” Grimory mimics Koltira’s stance, planting a clawed foot firmly behind him and raising tightly clenched fists. “I’ll even let you go first.”

“How sweet of you.” Koltira studies Grimory carefully, gauging his stance. He sees a momentary opening and sends his right fist toward the demon hunter’s ribs on the left side.

Grimory grunts as Koltira’s first collides with the solid muscle of his torso. He uses his sturdy footing to absorb the blow. Cringing in pain, he aims a similar punch at the other’s jaw.

Koltira sees Grimory’s fist in his periphery and turns his head. The demon hunter’s knuckles graze along his jaw—enough to let him know it was there, but not enough to do real damage. Koltira takes the opportunity to throw another punch under Grimory’s raised arm.

After not landing his blow, Grimory grits his teeth and reels back, holding his bruising arm. Using only a second to recover, he rushes forward to throw his knuckles into Koltira’s center, eyes alight with excitement.

Koltira tries to dodge back, but is too slow. Grimory’s fist impacts Koltira’s sternum, knocking him back. His feet slide along the ground. When he stops, he smirks. “Aimed for the one place I won’t feel it.” He raps his knuckles on his scar, then pulls his arm back and launches forward to hit Grimory in the jaw.

“Like I’d—” Grimory’s head jerks as Koltira’s fist impacts his cheek. He does his best not to stumble back and instead attempts to counter with his own punch to the face and a bestial growl. His mouth fills with blood from the fresh wound on the inside of his cheek.

Koltira ducks under Grimory’s arm, coming up as the man’s torso goes over him, his fist clenched to meet the demon hunter’s abdomen.

The Illidari recovers by throwing his free arm across his stomach. The blow throws him back a step and he attempts to take advantage of the death knight’s low stance, sending a knee toward Koltira’s throat.

Koltira throws himself to the ground and rolls away from Grimory. He jumps to his feet, launching to throw his shoulder into the man’s side and tackle him.

Grimory sidesteps Koltira completely and watches with a smirk, spitting blood into the dirt.

Too late, Koltira realizes that he’s had more whiskey than one should have before a fight. His reflexes slowed, he continues past Grimory and rams his shoulder into a tree. With a grunt, he rolls to sit with his back to the trunk as he holds his shoulder. “Pretty spry, I’ll give you that.” He groans and shoves himself up the tree trunk to stand; the bark digs cuts into his back. “Well come on then. Hit me for real.”

Grimory gives a hearty chuckle, not letting the other see how much his own alcohol had affected him. “As you wish.”

After a moment’s preparation, Grimory rushes forward, a fist readied with all his weight behind it. He aims a heavy blow to Koltira’s shoulder in hopes of disabling the death knight.

Koltira rolls around the side of the trunk, hoping Grimory can’t stop in time.

The force of his punch causes a rain of needles to fall from the tree.

Grimory barks in pain and recoils, shaking his split knuckles. “Bastard!

Koltira chuckles darkly and steps back to where they’d started. “Come on, you pantywaist. Hit me!

Grimory narrows an eye as he turns, sucking the blood from the back of his hand. “Are you sure that’s even word?” He pushes a foot back as his head spins. He takes a moment to collect himself before launching forward again, aiming the same fist with the same strength at Koltira’s clavicle.

Koltira spins away from Grimory again and laughs, trying to seem more sober than he is as he jabs out with his fist to hit Grimory in the spine, his own shoulder tearing in pain.

Grimory falls to his stomach in the dirt with an oof! and hisses in pain. He growls and turns to sweep a leg at Koltira’s ankles.

Koltira yelps as his legs are swiped out from under him. He falls to his back with a grunt and groans up at the stars appearing one-by-one in the dusky sky. He lets out a long sigh and slowly sits up to look at the prostrate demon hunter. “Are we done yet? I could use another drink.”

Grimory sways to his feet and blinks slowly down at the man. After a long moment he chuckles, rubbing at his cheek. The chuckling grows to a boisterous laugh. Flicking his wrist one more time to throw the blood from his hand, the demon hunter holds out his left to help Koltira up. “That makes two of us. You fight well.”

Koltira smirks and accepts the hand up. “As do you.” He lets the laughter take him too and grabs his whiskey. “What’s your drink? On me.”

Grimory presses his tongue to the inside of his cheek to inspect the damage. He grins and fixes his hair. “Whatever you’re having is fine by me.” He sits in the dirt with little grace and pulls his boots back on. “Next round’s on me though. Do you drink as well as you fight?”

Koltira takes a gulp of whiskey and drops down beside Grimory. He holds out the bottle for him. “I’m a death knight, of course I drink as well as I fight. Drink someone like you under the table.”

The demon hunter happily accepts the bottle and takes a large swallow, exhaling as he hands it back. “I suppose a dead man would have an advantage. One could almost consider it cheating.” He gives Koltira a playful smirk.

“Could always water yours down.” He grimaces at the thought of watered down whiskey and takes a drink.

“I’d sooner die of alcohol poisoning,” Grimory says with a laugh. “Though I’d be back. Presumably to do it all over again.” He runs a thumb over his wounded knuckles, smearing the now thick blood around. “So, the scar.”

Koltira offers the bottle. “Oh, you mean this one? Hardly noticeable.”

“It’s pretty nasty. I can only assume it’s what did you in.” He accepts and drinks. “A sword, I’m guessing?”

Koltira nods. “My friend’s. He got in a good shot, I lost my sword. Through and through. Next thing I know…” He shrugs and motions at his face.

“Sounds like a good friend,” he snorts and hands the bottle back.

Koltira takes a drink and laughs. “Well, he wasn’t my friend when he killed me. Just after.” He sighs and takes a larger drink. “Alright, Grim, you don’t tell Ana, right?”

“I guess you’ve earned that,” he says begrudgingly. He pushes himself to his feet, nearly stumbling as he picks up his belt from the dirt and fastens it about his waist. “I’m a man of my word.”

“How about this, I won’t talk about her to you, especially not in that way.” He ignores getting up and digs a heel into the dirt. “I’d appreciate if you wouldn’t talk about Alisbeth that way, either. Please. It’s…” He gulps down the last of the bottle. “It’s bad enough without you reminding me.”

Grimory adjusts his armor and tightens his belt accordingly. “You’re right. I can only imagine. Please accept my apologies.” He clears his throat. “I…feel pretty badly. Still.”

Koltira hauls himself to his feet and goes over to kick at his armor, a grumpy expression on his face. “We were both out of hand. I’m sure neither of us meant what we said.” He deflates. “I really don’t want to put this back on.”

“And did things we regret.” He snorts. “Then don’t put it back on.”

Alisbeth runs around the side of the building and stops, her eyes buggy and paranoid. She sees the two and smiles overly-innocent. “Hiiiiii, guuuys!” She looks behind her and walks forward, then throws a head-sized bag at Grimory. “Hold this for me, kay?” She kisses the air and takes off at a sprint.

Grimory blinks at Alisbeth, then catches the bag. “Uhhh…okay?” He inspects it and scrunches his face. “I’m afraid to open this.”

Koltira’s eyes widen. “Don’t open the bag. Ali!” He turns to chase her, but she’s already gone. He holds up his hands in defeat. “You know what…I’m too drunk for this…or not drunk enough.” He gathers up his armor. “I’m going to see if Ana will allow me to put this in her room, then I’m getting drunker. Care to join?”

Grimory drops the bag to ground and cringes. “Sounds like a plan to me.” He makes his way back inside, sucking on a bloody knuckle. “I’ll order us some rounds. If you aren’t back in five minutes, I’m drinking them all.”

Koltira knocks on the door to Ana’s room as he pulls his shirt back on.

“It’s still unlocked,” Anarchaia calls into the growing darkness of her room.

He opens the door and peers cautiously inside. “Mind if I leave my things in here?” He blinks, hoping his slurring isn’t as pronounced as he thinks.

Anarchaia sits up and sniffles. “Kolt, this is everyone’s room. Not just mine.” She inhales as though to sneeze, quickly pushing her mask up as not to messy it, then exhales slowly as the feeling subsides. “And you don’t need to keep knocking.”

He shrugs sheepishly. “You’re trying to rest. Before I go did you change your mind about needing anything?”

“I did not.” The mage lies back down and curls up on her side, sniffling again. “And you’re still sweet for asking.”

“Goodnight, then.” He turns and stumbles out the door. “You didn’t see that.”

She chuckles despite the irritation in her throat. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. Good night.”

Grimory props his feet up on the long table in the dining hall and thanks the barmaid as she sets down his order of two bottles of gin. He shoots her a pleasant smile as says thanks, then pops the top off one.

Koltira enters the tavern, then stops, his eyes wide as he remembers the bag outside. He takes a deep breath and resolves that it’s better it stay outside. He takes his seat across from Grimory and grabs the uncorked bottle. He takes a sip. “Nice choice.”

“Dad drank a lot of gin,” Grimory says with a smile. He uncorks the other bottle and takes a long, slow sip. “Is she asleep? She really should be.”

Koltira purses his lips. “Yes, of course she is. I just let myself in.” He takes a heavier drink and stares at the flames in the fireplace.

Grimory lifts his eyebrows. “Wow. She must really be sick. I haven’t seen her sleep since that incident in Suramar months ago.” He takes another sip and glances out the window at the smattering of stars through the darkening sky.

“What happened in Sura—”

Kolty!” Alisbeth stomps into the room with the bag in her first. “You left it outside?” She smacks the bag onto the table.

Grimory jumps as the bag is slammed on the table. “Uh…we didn’t want to open it.”

“Ali, get that out of here.”

Alisbeth makes a face at each man in turn. “Pussies.” She opens the bag and smiles into it. Without pause, she pushes her face inside and a loud crunch follows.

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