Chapter Twenty-Four

Grimory gives a laugh at Alisbeth’s enthusiasm and follows closely behind. When they reach the bridge, the bodies are gone but a trail of red leads from where they’d fallen into the pine trees. “Guess he wasn’t out for long. Your husband was too soft on him,” Grimory chuckles.

“He just believes in honorable combat. I believe in people dying when they deserve it.” She follows the trail into the trees and starts humming a small tune.

“Amen to that,” Grimory responds, a flurry of fel fire spiraling around his forearms as they mutate. He pushes into the brush and scowls at how little light there is under the trees. “He can’t have gone far. We weren’t gone long.”

Alisbeth stops and squints into the trees. She puts her finger to her lips and begins stripping off her armor. Once finished, she sets her axe across her shoulders and creeps forward, then climbs up into a tree. After a moment she leaps down in front of the dark figure. “Hi again!”

Geryld cries out in surprise and quickly pulls his two daggers to the ready. “You again!” he growls, then nearly stumbles as he backs into a large object behind him.

“Us again,” Grimory says as the man turns around.

“You’ve killed my friends,” the human shouts, gesturing to the two corpses below the tree. “What more do you want?!”

Alisbeth reaches out her hand and flicks the human in the ear. “I want to play.”

The man flinches and turns, slashing blindly with his daggers. “Well I don’t! You lot’ve made your point! Leave me be!”

“I don’t think we’ve quite made our point just yet,” Grimory says with a grin, stepping toward him. “Have we, Ali?”

Alisbeth jumps back away from the swinging blades. She takes her axe from her back and thumps the human on the forehead with the forehead of the skull on the side. “I have many points,” she says, pulling the Maw close to her face. “See? One, two, three,” she taps each tip along the right, “four, five, six,” she taps the three on the left, “and three liiiiittle ones right here.” She slips the axe top first under his chin and scrapes the skin beneath his jaw with the three spikes at the top. “I have many more points, but I like these ones the most. Don’t you?”

The human swallows, the lump in his throat bumping against the point of her axe. “What do you want?” he says quietly as his eyes frantically flick between the two. “Just take whatever it is you desire and leave me be.”

Grimory settles beside Alisbeth and rests an arm on her shoulder and a fist against his hip. “Just want to talk,” he responds. “Violently.”

Alisbeth narrows her eyes at Grimory. “Talking? I didn’t want to do any talking. I wanted to play! I was playing with your friend—the one in four pieces—and Koltira took him away before I was done. So I want to play with you.”

Grimory shrugs. “A violent talk.” He lifts a foot and kicks the man hard in the core, causing him to fall back into the dirt.

The human growls in pain and props himself up on his elbows, scrambling to ready his daggers once more, despite being on the ground. He slowly stands again, deciding he’s going to go out fighting. “Fine,” he barks. “Let’s play.”

Alisbeth slashes at the man’s right hand with her axe. His fist disconnects from his wrist and drops to the ground with a small thud.

“You bitch!” he screams.

Alisbeth stoops and picks up the hand and dagger together, using her own fingers to keep the others gripping to the handle. She points the dagger at him and smiles like she would to a child. “Uh-uhh. That’s not a nice word.”

Grimory lifts his eyebrows and chuckles. “My turn.” He lunges forward, slashing at the man’s chest. Blood and bits of cloth fly and the human somehow manages to plant his only dagger into the Blood Elf’s side before falling back into the dirt. Grimory grunts as he pulls the blade free. “Thanks for the dagger.”

Alisbeth squeals with delight. “Now we both have one! What should we do? Oh! Lets cut off his ears at the same time and see which side hurts more! Oh! Oh! Let’s have a carving competition. I get the right half, you can have the left. Winner gets his head!” She drops down to straddle the man, sitting on his groin with her palm on his chest. She casts a quick glance between her thighs. “Not even a little excited?”

Grimory laughs and tosses the dagger between his hands. “I dunno. I kinda wanna see what you can do. You’re so excited, I’d hate to take your toy away.”

The human scowls up at Alisbeth, breathing heavily in pain and fear. He finally spits into her face and laughs. “Just get it over with, girl. Or would you rather wait for your man over there to show you how it’s done?”

“Aww! He thinks you’re my man! That’s adorable.” Alisbeth grins up at Grimory, then turns her smile on the human. “Let me show you what I did to horns over there. ‘Kay?” She rips open his shirt and sets the tip of the dagger on his ribs. “I think I started…here? Or was it here?” She looks at the demon hunter. “Do you remember?”

Grimory furrows his brow at the word adorable, but shrugs it off. “On the side, just below the arm and a few inches lower,” he responds, inspecting the blade in his hand in the filtering moonlight and leaning against a tree. “I suggest not making this one as shallow.”

Alisbeth points the dagger at the demon hunter. “Yes. That’s right. The first ones I was being nice. But then you nnnggg—” The death knight stops as though frozen, her eyes closed and her teeth biting into her lower lip. “And you made my hand slip.” She giggles at the memory.

Without warning the death knight clamps her mouth shut and glares at the human as she drags the dagger along the side of his torso. The human screams out and she takes his removed hand from around the dagger and slaps him across the cheek with it.

“No. You have to be quiet. Right Garby? Quiet,” she whispers and presses the index finger of Geryld’s hand to her lips. “The more you scream, the more it hurts.” She slices him again and observes the line.

The human screams in pain. “You’re fucking insane!” He turns his attention to Grimory. “Get your woman off me!”

Grimory gives a helpless shrug. “I would, but she’s not my woman. Pretty sure she told you that already.” He scoffs. “Besides, weren’t you the one who wanted her to stay behind back at the bridge?”

Alisbeth sneers at him. “I’m not insane,” she whispers. The death knight shoves the man’s hand into his mouth until the fingers gag him. She hums a sweet tune and smiles, brushing her palm down the side of his face. “You haven’t been a good boy. You don’t listen.” She puckers her lips in a pouty frown. “I’m going to have to punish you.” Her hand finds his right ear and she slowly begins to cut alongside his head to completely remove it. “Don’t need this if you don’t use it!”

Grimory tilts his head behind Alisbeth. He chews on the inside of his lip as if assessing a piece of art. He scoffs and shakes his head. “Now he’s lopsided, Ali. You should even him out.”

Alisbeth leers at Grimory. “Would you like to do the honors?”

The demon hunter flips the dagger in his palm to a position more apt for carving and grins. “Thought you’d never ask. Hold him still.” He kneels down beside the man and pulls his ear taught, then quickly flicks the blade through the connecting tissue. An impressed whistle escapes him. “A well-honed blade on a bandit? Who’d have thought?”

Alisbeth shivers at Grimory’s close proximity. “You did it too fast,” she whispers in his ear. She takes his hand and guides it to cut open the man’s cheek from the corner of his mouth to the edge of his jaw. “Slow, like this.” She nips at Grimory’s ear.

Grimory ignores the man’s muffled screams and gives Alisbeth a sideways glance. He flushes and leans away slightly when her teeth bite his ear. “Is this turning you on?” he asks in a hushed tone, a curious smirk on his face.

Alisbeth bites her bottom lip, an innocent smile spreading across her lips. “Do you want a comfortable lie or should I tell you how thrilling it is to watch you?” She snaps her teeth in the air in front of him and grins.

Grimory lifts an eyebrow and makes an identical incision on the other side of the man’s face, again ignoring his groans. “The latter sounds more exciting.”

Alisbeth gives a small moan and wraps her fingers around his arm to dig her fingernails into his flexed bicep. She watches the blood trickle from the slice and sees the fear in the human’s eyes. She takes Grimory’s hand and guides it to another spot to cut long and slow down his torso. The whole time her eyes remain locked on the demon hunter as she bites deep into her bottom lip.

Grimory again gives Alisbeth a sideways glance, almost afraid of what will happen should be actually turn to face her. Instead, he carves a shallow cut into the man’s stomach, then frowns down at him as his groans of pain fade out.

“Unconscious already? What a pansy.”

“Does that mean we have some time to kill before he wakes up?” She slips her fingers into his waistband and pulls toward her.

Grimory finally turns to look at her, his eyes instinctively running over her body. “I-I don’t know, Ali…” he says with obvious restraint. “I said I wouldn’t.”

Alisbeth’s smile dims. “Why? Don’t you like having fun with me? Is it this?” She motions at the mutilated man. “It doesn’t excite you like it does me, does it?” She removes her hand from his pants and frowns.

“No, Ali, it’s not that.” Grimory sighs down at the unconscious human beneath them. “I mean, it doesn’t excite me like it does you, but I’m not complaining.” He bites his lip and growls in frustration. “I’d…feel bad.”

Alisbeth narrows her eyes in confusion. “But it would feel good.” She turns to straddle him instead, then leans over to collect blood on her hand from the human. Humming, she sets to drawing gentle, swirling lines over the demon hunter’s chest. Her hand follows the length of his tattoos down into his trousers again, her fingertips searching for where they end.

Grimory gives a noise of frustration and grips one of Alisbeth’s wrists, pulling it away. “You’re making this hard,” he mumbles while looking into her face eyes crackling and lips in a stern yet apprehensive line.

Alisbeth giggles and taps his nose. “Isn’t that the point?”

Grimory growls and visibly hesitates before he grabs Alisbeth’s hips and pulls her closer. “Fine. But no cutting this time.”

Alisbeth tosses the daggers away from them and grabs one of Grimory’s horns. “No cutting. No kissing. And it better be fun like last time. Those are the rules or you’ll be punished. Got it?”

Grimory raises his eyebrows, any guilt he’d had before leaves him. He unfastens his belt and smirks. “Yes, ma’am.”

~ * ~

 “I assume they’re dead?” Anarchaia says as she crunches a piece of ice between her teeth.

Koltira takes a deep breath. “All but one. I left him unconscious on the bridge. Why did you run?”

Anarchaia finishes chewing, seeming to think on her words. “Some trauma I haven’t yet gotten over,” she finally says with a smile, then takes a drink.

“I’m sorry,” Koltira says. He knows it’s not his fault and that his sorry means nothing, but he doesn’t know what else to say.

Anarchaia clears her throat as she sets the mug back down. “Don’t be. Not your fault.” She hesitates. “Really, I should be the one who’s sorry.”

Koltira shakes his head. “No, you shouldn’t. Please stop apologizing for simply being yourself. Honestly, it’s probably a good thing that at least one of us doesn’t have some dark desire to kill things.”

“No, I deserve to apologize this time,” she says in her stuffy voice. “I shouldn’t leave comrades behind when I’m needed–no matter how small the situation. I’ve been yelled at for it before.” Anarchaia looks over at him and rests a cheek against her knuckles. “You have such a desire?”

Koltira nods, his eyes on the tabletop in front of him. “Such is the life of a death knight.”

“Sorry you have to deal with that,” Anarchaia says with a sad grin. “If it makes you feel any better, being Forsaken isn’t without its curses. You aren’t alone.”

Koltira shrugs. “In these times, even the living seem to be cursed, eh?” He gives a gentle smirk.

Anarchaia gives a solemn nod. “That’s one way of putting it, I suppose.” She chuckles halfheartedly after a moment of thought. “Some more than others.”

“Do you mind if I ask for a better explanation for why you ran?” Koltira asks.

Anarchaia lifts her head again, surprised by the question. “Uhm,” she stammers, her smile gone. “I…don’t want to come off as though I’m seeking pity. I’m honestly rather angry at myself for making such a scene about it.”

Koltira shrugs. “Tell me or don’t, it’s really your choice.” He makes a face as travelers bump against his back as they pass. “I don’t blame you for keeping quiet in here anyway. It’s much too busy.”

Anarchaia chuckles, which causes her to cough into a fist. “Don’t like crowds? Me either. We can go elsewhere, if it please you.”

Koltira smiles. “The way I see it, there are two people involved in this. It’s not my choice alone.”

Anarchaia rolls her eyes as she smiles and stands. “That’s right. I keep forgetting how much of a nice guy you are.” She swipes the tagged keys from Grimory’s spot on the table and makes for the stairwell, stealing an unattended bottle of wine from a table as she passes.

Koltira follows the mage, muttering under his breath. “Since when was being a gentleman something to get teased about?”

With the wine tucked under her arm, Anarchaia scowls as she fiddles with the lock to their room. “Oh, honestly! Are there any good locks in this region?” She pushes against the door with her shoulder and sighs frustratedly when it doesn’t budge.

Koltira hangs back and watches the Forsaken girl get flustered. “It’s the humidity and the sea salt. It ruins the locks if they’re not properly cared for.” He leans against the door frame. “Do you want some help or are you going to complain more about how that makes me a ‘nice guy’?”

Anarchaia tilts her head up at the death knight, amazed by his pettiness. “I can’t, for the unlife of me, figure out what makes a compliment bother you so. But if it’s really a big deal I’ll stop.” She gives the door another shove. “Especially if you—agh!” As she rams the door one last time, it gives and she finds herself on the floorboards below. She chuckles and sits up. “Stronger than I look, eh?”

Koltira enters the room and extends a hand to help her up. “Nope. You’re exactly as strong as you look.”

Anarchaia accepts his hand and pulls herself to her feet. “I’m not sure if I’m offended by that or not.” She inspects the bottle of wine to make sure it hasn’t opened or cracked, then uncorks it while kicking the door closed. She takes a long drink, then pauses. “The gurgling.”

“The what?” Koltira asks as he begins removing his gear to get comfortable.

“You asked me why I ran. I can’t stand the sound of…gurgling.” Anarchaia cringes at the word and sets the wine aside to pull off her robes. “It’s the last noise my father made.”

Koltira stops and stares at the floor. “I’m sorry.” He takes a seat on the bed. “If I’d known…”

Anarchaia waves her hand. “No, no, it’s okay. I said I didn’t want pity, remember?” She lowers to sit on the floor, knees to her chest. “Besides, that was over twenty years ago.” She frowns. “I don’t get why I’m not over it.”

“It’s not pity,” Koltira insists. “I understand how it can affect someone to lose a loved one in a…traumatic way.”

“That’s right. Your brother…and Ali. At least you have one of them, though, right?” Anarchaia says with a crooked grin, then grits her teeth. “I’m sorry.”

Koltira shakes his head. “I wasn’t there when she died, but I was for my brother. I still get images of it in my mind and it still affects me. How could it not? And don’t apologize.”

“I…suppose that makes me feel a little better. It doesn’t seem to cripple you like it does me.” She inhales then erupts into a coughing fit. Frustrated, Anarchaia rips her mask from her head and tosses it aside. “Stifling.” She coughs a few more times, then washes her irritated throat with wine. “I can’t help apologizing. I brought up something I didn’t need to.”

Koltira lays back against the pillows, shaking his head as he crosses his ankles. “I asked, remember? Don’t worry, I won’t ask again.”

“No, it’s probably good you did.” Anarchaia lets herself fall sideways onto the floor. She spreads out over the floorboards and picks at the edge of the aged rug beneath the bed. “Master says I should talk about it more because it’ll give me closure…or something close to it.”

“Well if you want to talk about it, I suppose I could listen. Not much better to do anyway.” He chuckles and knits his fingers behind his head.

Anarchaia purses her lips and unravels a long thread from the rug. “I suppose you’re right. Besides, you’ve pretty much told me everything about yourself.” She brings her feet into the air and crosses her ankles. “A group of five men killed my parents. S-…” She pauses to clear her throat. “Cutting my father’s throat in front of me.”

“I’m s… Ana, that’s terrible.” He clears his throat, unsure what to say to offer some sort of condolences.

“It is,” the mage hums. “It was.” She twirls the thread through her bony fingers. “Then they cut out my eye and made me eat it before dismembering me with a giant cleaver.” She smiles at the yarn in her hand but tears well in her left eye. “One of them suggested they rape me… Not a day goes by where I don’t wish they’d entertained that idea instead.”

Koltira stares at her for a long, silent moment. Knowing there are no words for him to say to such a confession, he moves down to sit on the floor beside her, but facing her, and pulls her closer to give her a comforting hug.

“O-oh. This isn’t…necessary…” Anarchaia sniffles into his shoulder and returns the hug anyway. She holds back her sobs. “Sorry to burden you with this. I-I shouldn’t have. What was I thinking? Heh.”

“It’s no burden. Really I just can’t believe how strong you are.”

Strong?” The mage gives a quiet chuckle. “I’m not strong. I just…have a purpose. If I didn’t have that, I’d have thrown myself into Ascendant’s Rise long ago.” She wipes away her tears.

Koltira slides back to lean against the bed. “You didn’t end up losing your mind, purpose or not. You’re very strong.”

Anarchaia crosses her legs and supports herself with her palms on her ankles. She continues to fiddle with the thread. “Not all who suffer through something significant show signs of lasting damage.” She smiles up at him and sniffles. “And I think we’re all a little mad.”

“All the best people are,” Koltira agrees with a nod. “I’m not suggesting Ali is weak, it’s just…” He sighs and swallows back what he was going to say. “So, what’s the most impressive magic you’ve done?”

“Ali is one of the stronger people I’ve met, to be honest.” Anarchaia’s watery eye lights up with interest. “I helped teleport Dalaran. Both times. What about you? What’s your most impressive feat?”

Koltira feigns modesty. “I had the Lich King at the tip of my blade and was about to kill him when Darion stopped me.”

Anarchaia turns her head away but keeps an eye on his face, brow furrowed. “Who in their right mind would stop such a thing? That’s… That’s insanity.”

“True. But what choice did I have? Given the chance, though, I’d ignore the order to pull out.” He stares around the room, taking in its drab furnishings and blank walls.

Anarchaia glances back down at the thread around her fingers and realizes she’s knotted it tightly. She begins picking at the tangled mess. “Arthas stopped by the tavern I worked at once. He was…very kind. It amazes me how much power can change a person…and magic, obviously.”

Koltira nods. “Alisbeth met him once. Introduced by Tirion. She was excited to go to Northrend. Only elf on the list. Her mentor pulled her out the day before.” He chuckles at a dark thought. “She could’ve been the death knight to kill me instead of Thassarian.”

The mage’s red pupils flick back to his face while still picking at the string. “Would you have preferred that?”

He shakes his head. “I much prefer having known her while we both lived. It was the best year of my life.” Koltira smiles. “What’s your favorite memory?”

“Understandable.” Her eyes fall away as she thinks about his question. After a moment a bit of color fills her cheeks and she looks back at the knots around her fingers. “I don’t have one,” she says pointedly, chewing on the inside of her cheek.

“Liar.” Koltira laughs. “But fine, whatever. Don’t tell me. I’ll just…drink your wine.” He grabs the bottle and begins chugging.

She bristles at the term, pouting and unbuttoning the glove of the hand that’s tangled. “I promised I wouldn’t tell,” she mumbles and slides the glove off to more easily pull the threads away from the fingers. “Well…not verbally. But still. And don’t drink all that. I stole it fair-and-square.”

Koltira hands it back, haven only taken two swallows, his face pinched in disgust. “It tastes like stale snails and dirt. You should give it back.”

“Well, it’s a good thing I can’t taste anything then, hm?” Anarchaia chuckles and takes a long drink before setting it back beside her and pulling the thread from her gloves. She swallows and sniffles.

“You can’t taste? Anything? My tastes are…dull, I suppose. Like candle wax coating my mouth so I can only catch small hints of the flavor with sharp overtones of, well, dirt.”

“Nothing but extremely sweet and extremely spicy. Can’t smell anything, either.” Anarchaia pulls her glove back on and secures it at her shoulder

“Ali and Grim have been gone a long time.”

Koltira glances out the window to gauge the sun. “Maybe there was a long line to the showers?” He grits his teeth. “Or maybe… I’m going to hit him. Again. I hope you know that.”

She raises her eyebrows. “I hope you know that I don’t care,” she says, still bitter from being confronted earlier.

“I’m just making sure you and I are on the same page. I’ll hit him twice, once for you if you like.”

The mage chortles which then leads to a coughing fit. “Punch him for me? For what? Yelling at me? Don’t bother. I’m used to it.” She takes another drink to aid her dry throat, then falls back again to lie on the floor and stare at the ceiling. “But do feel free.”

Koltira shifts and makes a face. “Well…I don’t entirely want to. I just have to keep him in line.”

Anarchaia bites her lip, doing her best not to say the one thing he hates hearing. “Sorry you have to deal with this. Must be maddening.”

He purses his lips and points at her. “Don’t apologize. You aren’t responsible for either of their actions.” He leans his head back against the matress to look at the ceiling. “I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, though. She might have problems with resisting urges, but maybe he won’t have the same problem. I mean the look on his face when he says out loud that she’s my wife…it’s like he’s punching himself in the face for sleeping with her.”

Anarchaia grits her teeth and decides to hold her tongue. “That’s probably for the best, really.” For all involved. She props herself up on her elbows, lightheaded, and points her own finger at him. “And I can’t stop apologizing. It’s apparently a character flaw of mine which I didn’t know about until I met you. And don’t point. It’s rude.”

He points again. “Don’t be a hypocrite.”

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