Chapter Twenty-One

Grimory cocks his head to look at Alisbeth…and her bag. “Heeeeeeeey Aliiiiiii,” he responds in the same tone. “Whatcha got there? More cabbages?”

She gives him a suspiciously innocent smile and giggles. “Oh, you. You’re just so cute.” She musses up his hair.

He mimics her smile. “Whatcha got there, Ali?” the demon hunter says again, louder this time as he swats her hand away. “More cabbages?

“Sssaaayyyy…could you hold this for me and maybe, I dunno…get rid of it? That would be absolutely fantastic. I know you’re just such a love and like to help out.” She twists her finger through Grimory’s small beard. “Maybe you could do that breathing fire thing on it?” She scrunches up her face in a Cheshire smile.

Koltira narrows his eyes. “What’s in the bag?”

“Yeah, I’d rather not be an accomplice to a crime,” Grimory responds coolly and with surprising clarity despite his intoxication; his grin remains unwavering.

Koltira tries to grab the bag, but Alisbeth keeps a firm grip. Her smile tightens as she turns to him. “I’m negotiating with Gimpy. Could you give us a minute?”

Koltira squeezes her wrist in one hand and pulls on the bag with the other. She lets go and pouts over her minor injury. He opens the bag. His eyes widen and he closes it and sets it down. “There better be a very, very good explanation for this.”

Eyeing the two, Grimory takes a slow, cautious drink in preparation for what he may see.

Alisbeth forces a laugh, her lips wide in a manic smile. “It’s like you think I just do things for no reason! Don’t you trust me?”

Koltira blinks in quick succession and pulls the bottle out of Grimory’s hand, then takes his own long drink. He presses the bottle back into the demon hunter’s palm.

“What is it?” Grimory whispers, his eyes wide with suspicion and excitement.

Koltira purses his lips. “I think we need to leave…now.” He grabs the sack and stuffs his hand in his coin pouch for gold to pay for the drinks.

Alisbeth stretches over the table. “Give it back! That’s mine!”

“What about Ana?” Grimory asks with a befuddled look, grabbing his bottle as if it were the most important thing to him.

Koltira stumbles on his own feet and realizes Anarchaia is the least of their problems. “Ali, did anybody see you?”

She thinks, then shrugs. “I dunno. Are you drunk? Again?” She eyes the two. “Caaaaan I have some?” She sits sideways on the end of the table and gives them a sweet smile.

“I don’t think so,” Grimory responds, pulling his gin close to himself. “We kind of have a little issue about what’s in the bag, I guess?”

“Hey. Hey. Hey. You guys were mad when it was just a cabbage in the bag, don’t get mad at me for using it as intended.” She scoots closer to Grimory. “Just an eensy weensy sip?”

Koltira straightens. “You’re right. What about Ana?”

“I can grab Ana if we need to,” Grimory says, sobering some at the situation. He pulls the bottle away from Alisbeth. “If she’s asleep, I can carry her.”

Koltira shakes his head. “Trust me, I’ll be steadier on my feet. I can carry Ana, you just get her things.” He glances around the room, realizing the tavern is empty, the Worgen’s stein abandoned on the far table. Then it hits him. He points where Alisbeth had just been. “Where did she go?”

The demon hunter glances around as well. “Okay, but what was in the bag? Why do we have to go? Where did…Ali…?”

Deciding the coast is clear, Koltira opens the bag just enough to show Grimory the head of a Vrykul, his face stuck in an angry grimace.

Finally sobering completely for the moment, Grimory takes a step back. “Y-Yeah, let’s get out of here,” he says, voice still laden with alcohol. “Where did she go? We need her, too.”

“Let’s check with Ana, see if she went in there.” Koltira takes the head sack and leaves the tavern.

Grimory follows, abandoning his bottle over the fireplace. “Why would she do something like this?” He stops at the door, grabbing the handle before Koltira has a chance. “We can’t tell Ana. She’ll be furious. We need to make something up.” He pauses and rubs his face with a palm, still struggling to sober up. “After she wakes up, of course.”

A snarl comes from down the hall. Koltira cranes his neck. “When we find her, we’ll—” The yipe of a canine comes from two doors down. His eyes widen. “Shit.”

Grimory pauses and clears his throat. “Y-You go check out that noise. I’ll get Ana and our things.”

He pushes into their assigned room, the apprehension giving him some clarity over his intoxication. He grabs Anarchaia’s rucksack, pulling her robes from the footboard of the bed and stuffing them inside. After scooping the unconscious mage into his arms, he stops to adjust his gait for the added weight, and makes his way back into the hallway.

Koltira finds the door and tests the knob, it opens without issue. He takes a step back as the Worgen from the tavern snarls and scratches at the floor; Alisbeth’s arms and legs are wrapped around him, trying to subdue him.

“Ali, stop!”

She takes the Worgen’s upper and lower jaws in each hand and pulls until the lower jaw snaps and the Worgen cries out in a shrill yelp.

Koltira enters the room and closes the door. “I said stop! What are you doing?”

Alisbeth grabs a dagger from the Worgen’s belongings and slices open its throat, blood sprays up to coat her face and she gives Koltira a triumphant grin. “You asked if there were witnesses. He was a witness. I was taking care of it for you!”

The familiar noise of pain and spilling blood come from behind one of the doors as he passes, but the demon hunter decides against involving himself and instead exits the inn into the night outside.

“We have to go, now,” Koltira growls as he pulls Alisbeth to her feet.

“But Arabia is sick!”

“Too bad, you’ve forced our hand.” He wraps the bleeding neck of the Worgen, grabs his things, and cleans up the room as best he can in the short time. “Get our things,” he hisses as he wraps the Worgen’s corpse in a sheet and throws it over his shoulder.

Alisbeth runs to their room and grabs their bags. With a smile, she digs out some extra gold and sets it on the small table.

“What are you doing?” Koltira hisses.

“Paying for the room!” She runs down the hall and holds the door open for him, keeping her eyes peeled. Once she’s sure it’s clear, she follows him out into the night.

Grimory eyes the two as they join him on the road, furrowing his brow at the sight of the swaddled corpse. “Please tell me that’s not what I think it is.”

Alisbeth smiles and skips cheerily to his side. “But that would be lying!”

Koltira purses his lips. “You got Ana all right?”

The demon hunter redistributes Anarchaia’s weight in his arms to hold her more securely. “Yeah. What are you planning on doing with that?” He cocks his head in the direction down the road, gesturing for them to follow.

“I’m going to ditch it over the next cliff. Ana’s map would be handy. I’m sure we’ll find one soon. Maybe.”

Alisbeth bounces on the balls of her feet. “Oh! Can I throw it? Can I carry it?” She doesn’t wait, but drops their packs and pulls the Worgen into her arms and slings him over a shoulder. She hums happily and begins skipping away, then turns to them. “Well, come on!”

“If you wait, or if you can wake her up, Ana can burn it,” Grimory grumbles, following to catch up with Alisbeth. “The less evidence the better I’d think.”

“On the bright side—if you can call it that—he doesn’t seem to have been anyone important. I don’t think people will miss him,” Koltira says from behind, where he’s going through the Worgen’s pack as he walks.

“Everyone has family somewhere,” Grimory grunts. “I suppose I could burn it, too.” He scrunches his face at the scent memory of burning hair and flesh.

“Burning would be pretty,” Alisbeth says with a smile. Thoughts sparkle in her eyes and she purses her lips.

“Whatever we do,” Koltira says, “we need to stay off the roads and do it soon, while most of the world is sleeping.”

Grimory glances down at the sleeping girl in his arms and contemplates waking her. He stops and addresses Koltira. “You take Ana. Ali, give me the…thing. I’ll take it into the woods and take care of it.”

Koltira adjusts the many packs he holds and takes Anarchaia in his arms.

Alisbeth tightens her grip on the Worgen corpse. “It’s mine. Back off.” She backs away from him.

Grimory scowls and takes a step toward her, arms outstretched. “Ali, we have to get rid of it. It’s important. Come on.”

Alisbeth backs away faster. “Don’t you touch it! It’s mine!” She spins and takes off running into the trees.

“A—” Koltira lurches, then stops, checking to make sure Anarchaia is still unconscious.

Grimory sighs. Flesh creaks and stretches as wings of bone and sinew extend from his shoulder blades. “I’ll get her. Either keep walking or find some place safe to sit, but stick close to the path so we can find you again.” He runs a hand over his face before leaping into the air, soaring off above the trees to follow Alisbeth and the corpse.

Koltira nods and continues on the path, figuring he hasn’t got anything but a sick girl in his hands, so there’s no reason for anyone to stop him. But just in case, he stays near the tree line.

Alisbeth purses her lips and runs faster with determination after seeing the demon hunter take flight. “Not today, Gargoyle. It’s mine.”

Grimory sucks his teeth in irritation upon seeing Alisbeth increase her pace. “Ali, stop!” he calls down in a hushed yell as not to draw any more attention than they already may have. After struggling to catch her between the branches of the canopy below, he gives in and falls back to the ground below, hovering for a moment before retracting his wings back into his body. He takes off after her, only yards behind. “Ali, please! This is ridiculous! Be reasonable…for once!

“I’m not letting you burn it!” she shouts over her shoulder.

“Why not?!” he barks back. “Do you know how much trouble we’ll all be in if someone finds out?”

Alisbeth turns to stare at him just long enough for the toe of her boot to get caught in a tree root. She crashes to the ground; the corpse rolls away from her. She scrambles toward it. “I just want one thing and you can have the rest!”

Grimory scrambles to run forward and skid to his knees. Knowing he can’t reach the body before she does, he grabs Alisbeth by the ankle. “Ali, no! Anything left over is evidence of what you did!” He pulls as hard as he can on her leg and swallows, thinking quickly. “If I let you have it, you may not see me or Ana anymore. Is that what you want?”

Alisbeth stops struggling and lets Grimory pull her to him. She sits up and frowns. “I’m sorry. Please forgive me, Gatsby.” She throws her arms over his shoulders and pulls him into a hug. “Don’t make me go back to Acherus. I don’t want to die.”

Grimory pauses, not expecting her to be so easily swayed. After a moment, he returns the hug with a sigh of relief. “No one’s going to take you, okay? Not as long as you let me get rid of that and you stop doing this.” He furrows his brow. “And it’s Grimory.”

Alisbeth nods. “I’m sorry. I won’t do it again. I’ll try my hardest, Grimoire.”

Grimory suddenly feels guilty for a reason he can’t pinpoint and gives Alisbeth a tighter hug. “It’s okay.” He pulls away, and holds her by the shoulders. He looks into her eyes. “I need you to go back to Koltira, okay?”

Alisbeth sniffs and tries to hide the tears trying to come to her eyes. “Okay.” She wipes her face on the leather palm of her glove. “Where is he?”

Grimory visibly grimaces and pulls her back into an embrace. “No no no, don’t cry. It’s fine. Really, I’m not mad. It’s okay. Okay?”

Alisbeth whimpers. “Don’t tell me not to cry ‘cause then I just cry harder,” she says as tears force themselves from her eyes. “I just really like you and Artemisia and I don’t want you to stop being my friend. Can we stay friends, please?”

Grimory nods, gritting his teeth behind his lips. “Yeah, of course we can. Why wouldn’t we be?” He stands and pulls her to her feet by her hands. “Can you find your way back? Or do you want to sit here and wait?”

Alisbeth nods and smiles at him. Instead of answering his question, she goes up on her tip toes and presses her lips to his.

The Illidari flinches—again, taken by surprise by her actions. The little alcohol left in his system makes him linger for a long moment before he regains his senses and pulls away, grasping her by the shoulders and simply staring, words failing him completely. “I-I… Uhm.”

She stares blankly at him for a long beat, then takes off into the trees.

He blinks in her wake—confusion visible in his face—then shakes his head and turns back to the wrapped Worgen corpse just feet from him. He sighs and scratches at the nape of his neck. “Well… Hope she knows where she’s going.” Taking a step toward the body, he inhales deeply. The surrounding trees light up with the green of fel fire. Arms folded, Grimory waits to assess his work.

Alisbeth finds her way to the road, then stands in place staring up and down the way. She rolls her eyes at what she’d just done, then kicks herself in the leg.

The sound of metal banging on metal catches Koltira’s attention. He weaves back to the road and back tracks. “Ali, good. Come on, we have to keep moving.”

She forces a laugh. “Yeah. More walking. Yay.”

After ensuring the body is well blackened and the fire is put out, Grimory finds his way back to the path. He jogs down the direction they’d been traveling until, eventually, catching up with the other three. Sighing in relief, he takes a moment to catch his breath again. “All right. All good. Nothing to worry about.” He holds out his arms to Koltira. “I can take her off your hands again.”

Koltira purses his lips at the Forsaken in his arms. Her unconscious state worrying him, though he can’t share his concern with the others. “Keep an eye on her. I think she’s sicker than we thought.” He settles her into the demon hunter’s arms. Slinging Alisbeth’s pack from his shoulder, he helps her into it like a coat. “Thank you for letting him take care of that.” He kisses her temple and takes her hand as they continue on.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s