Chapter Twenty-Five

Alisbeth, covered in the human’s blood from head to toe, peeks one eye around the doorway to the tavern. The only part of her not coated in crimson is her armor, which has hasty smears from being put on. “They’re not in there anymore,” she hisses to Grimory.

The demon hunter nods—skin and clothes not nearly as saturated as hers. “That’s good, isn’t it? We don’t need to sneak, then.” Grimory pauses. “They’re probably in their rooms. The keys are gone.” He curses under his breath and heads for the showers. “I forgot what room numbers they were.”

“Kolty and I don’t have a room. Isn’t the other one yours?” She fiddles with her unsecured breastplate, doing her best to not clatter down the hall as she follows him.

“Ana said she wouldn’t need one, so I said you two could have one.” He scowls. “Though I’m sure they’re in each other’s company.” He listens carefully for familiar voices as he passes each door, also being as silent as his boots will allow.

Alisbeth smiles. “Koltira is good company as long as you don’t talk about anything that happened in the last four years. And you can’t get mad, I mean, at least you know they’re not having our kind of fun.” She opens her mouth comically and winks as she pokes an elbow into his ribs.

Grimory stops in front of the shower room and glances down at her, wincing as his wound is elbowed. He raises an eyebrow curiously. “And how exactly do I know that?”

Alisbeth frowns up at him. “Because that wouldn’t be fair. She can’t have him if I can’t.” She pushes past him. “And if she does, I’ll have to kill her.”

Grimory raises both his eyebrows and gives Alisbeth a coy smirk, a hand on the doorknob to the showers. “A bit of a hypocrite, are we? Does that mean you wouldn’t care if ol’ Kolt killed me?”

“But he can’t kill you. We have an agreement.” A door opens down the hall and Alisbeth jumps, pushing open the door to the shower and shoving inside, dragging Grimory in by his belt and then slamming them inside. She presses her ear to the wood. “Not them. Phew.”

Grimory nearly slips on the soaked floorboards. “Agreement? What kind of agreement?” He pauses and turns. “And you’d really kill Ana? I thought she was your friend.” He unclasps his belt and hangs it and his leg armor up on the provided hooks.

Alisbeth frowns and stares at the floor, a look of shame spreading across her face. “He just wants me to be happy, even when he can’t be the one making me happy.” She removes her gear one piece at a time, assessing them in turn for how messy they are. “I might kill her. I do like her. But she can’t fuck him unless she’s okay with me being there, too. It’s not one of the rules, though. I should make that a rule.”

Grimory furrows his brow and kicks off his boots before unlacing his breeches. “You two honestly have the strangest relationship.” He turns the knob below the rusty shower head and cold water spatters over the wooden floor. “Please don’t kill Ana, regardless of what she does. I’d really appreciate it. You wouldn’t want to hurt my feelings, would you?”

“I don’t want you thinking less of Kolty, okay? Promise you won’t and I’ll tell you something.” She stands under the cold water while fully clothed and watches the color of the blood run downward on the fabric. “I might have to burn these.”

Grimory shrugs and decides to wait for the water to heat up instead. “All right, I promise. I don’t really know enough about him to think any more or less of him so it’s really not an issue to begin with…”

“When Thassarian and I broke him out of Undercity…he wasn’t the same. I’m scared that she poisoned his mind. He loves me, but he doesn’t…make love to me.” She stares at her feet then strips off her clothes. “I get lonely. EEK!” She leaps backward out of the stream as the water suddenly goes hot.

Grimory chuckles at her shriek then slowly sobers. “I’m…sorry to hear that.” He neatly folds his pants and sets them aside. “I suppose I see why you do…what you do.” This new fact somehow makes him feel unexpectedly less guilty. “Well. Pleasure to be of service?” he says with a quiet laugh.

“Don’t tell anyone!” she warns. She finds an abandoned bar of soap and sniffs it, then shrugs and starts rubbing herself down. “I’ve never used the same guy twice. It’s weird. But I like you. You’re my friend.”

Grimory crinkles his nose at the word used. “I guess I feel pretty special. And I promise I won’t tell a soul.” He holds out a hand for the soap. “I like you, too.”

She hands over the soap and purses her lips. “Sorry I kissed you. That was…weird and stupid and never happening again. Even if our lives depend on it.” She tests the water and tentatively leans in to rinse.

“Don’t be sorry.” The demon hunter flushes and turns away. He runs the bar over his wounds, inhaling sharply at the pain. “I liked it. It’s a shame you feel that way.”

“Do you want some help?” She doesn’t wait for a reply as she snags the soap and drags him into the spray of water to work the dried blood from the wound on his shoulder. “I’m not saying it was bad. I just don’t kiss other men. That’s not Koltira’s rule. It’s mine. You were just being so nice…”

Grimory hisses more as his cuts are worked over and reopened by the scrubbing. “Sorry for being nice, then,” he grunts between gasps. “Won’t happen again.”

Alisbeth giggles. “I like when you’re being nice. Just don’t let me kiss you. ‘Cause if I break the rules there’s no one to punish me.” She scrunches one eye at his wounds. “These are pretty deep.”

He grins. “I’d be there to punish you—rrgh.” A growl rumbles through his throat at the pain. “You’re being too rough. They’re bleeding again.” He reaches behind himself to blindly grab for the soap.

Alisbeth holds the soap away from him. “I’m not being too rough! You’re being a pussy!” She giggles and backs away.

Grimory cocks his head and scowls. “I’m sorry, what was that?” He turns and narrows his eyes. “Don’t think I heard you.”

“Stop being a pussy,” she repeats. While she has it, she runs the soap through her hair, finding pine needles tangled within the bloody mess.

Without warning, Grimory snatches the bar of soap back. “Only nice girls get to use this,” he says matter-of-factly, smirking and turning away to run it through his own hair.

“Oh, and you’re such a good little girl, aren’t you?” Alisbeth sneers with a grin.

“The goodest.”

She jumps onto his back to try retrieving the soap. Instead she slides down his wet skin and falls to the floor on her rear. “Gimme the soap before I kill you.” She grabs his calf and pulls, trying to upend him.

Grimory laughs at her failed attempt. “You wouldn’t kill me over a bar of so—” He grunts as his chest hits the wood below, then laughs again, turning over and holding the soap in a fist between his spine and the floor. “You like me too much,” he teases with another smirk.

Alisbeth leaps across him, reaching her hands under his back to get the soap. “Okay, mister, you think you’re so special. But let me tell you something.” She grunts and tries to shove him over. “I need the soap, and you’re being the mean one and—grr.” She sits back and scrunches her face in annoyance. Her fingers begin picking the needles from her tangle of hair and throwing them at him.

Grimory chuckles and bats the foliage away as it comes. “That doesn’t really explain why I’m not special,” he says, sitting up. “But point taken.” He holds out the soap with a gentle grin, brushing away the pine needles that have stuck to his wet torso.

Thank you.” She finishes lathering up her hair and rubs at her ears. “I didn’t say you’re not special, either. But, being the logical person that I am, I feel it’s best I get clean or come up with a valid excuse for taking so long and being even dirtier. Unless you’re cool explaining to our friends what we did to and on that human.” She smiles slyly at the recent memory. “I don’t think he was dead yet. Do you think he was aware? Like, did he know what we were doing?” She laughs low and hands him the soap. “What an exciting last memory, right?”

Grimory snorts and rolls his eyes at the word logical and slides out from beneath her to stand again. He takes the soap as it’s offered and goes to rinse in the hot water. “I suppose exciting is a good word to use, yeah.” He clears his throat. “And no, those two should probably never find out about this.” He cringes inwardly. Especially after what I’d said. Neither would ever forgive me a second time.

“Yeah, they didn’t want us to kill that human.” She frowns. “But I never lie to Kolty.” She waits patiently to rinse.

The Illidari looks over at her, concern in his eyes. “So you’re going to tell them.”

Alisbeth purses her lips, her face riddled with guilt. “I shouldn’t? I mean…how bad would it be? It would be bad.” She puts her head in her hands and whines.

“It would.” Grimory glances over at her after pushing his hair back. He furrows his brow. “Hey, it’s okay. Everything’s gonna be fine.” He rests a hand on her shoulder.

Alisbeth pops up and stands under the water. “Does it count as lying if I just don’t say anything? I mean, lying is saying what didn’t happen but if you don’t say anything then can it actually be a lie?”

Grimory’s eyes light up as he dries his head with a towel that had been neatly folded on a side table. “That’s right,” he says with a nod. “That’s exactly right. What they don’t know won’t hurt them.”

Alisbeth crooks her mouth to the side and narrows her eyes at him. “Okay, but, if they find out I’m telling them it was your idea to not tell.” She grabs her armor in her arms and drops it under the cooling flow of water. Kneeling down, the death knight uses her fingertips to rub away all of the blood on the black and red metal.

“I’m okay with that,” Grimory responds with a satisfied grin. He pulls his pants back up over his hips and laces them. “Should be fun figuring out which room is mine.” He shrugs. “Or I could just go back down to the tavern. Care to join?”

She looks from her newly clean armor to her stained and soaked linen clothes, then up at Grimory. She smiles. “Sure! I’ll be right behind you.”

The demon hunter pauses after fastening his belt back around his waist. “Do you need help with that?” He chews on the inside of his lip for a moment. “Though I’m not too good with stains. That’s…usually Ana’s job.” He wiggles his fingers to emphasize his meaning.

Alisbeth turns off the water and kicks her gear across the room. She grabs a towel and wraps it around herself, then narrows one eye at the pile of clothes. “I was just going to leave them there.” She pokes at the plate pieces with her toes. “I need a place to put these.” She thinks for a long minute, then glances over at Grimory and jumps. “You’re still here? Why are you still in here?”

Grimory rolls his eyes in frustration. “Do you have any other clothes? I can get them for you…as soon as I find the other two.”

Alisbeth scoops her armor into her arms and struggles with them, trying to keep pieces from falling. “I’ll come with you! I have other clothes in my bag. I don’t like washing things so i just keep a lot of extras.”

Grimory takes it upon himself to grab her armor out of her arms before stepping out into the hallway. “That’s…excessive.” He keeps his ears open for the sound of either Koltira or Anarchaia. “I haven’t thought of the possibility of neither of them talking.” He sighs. “I wish I’d taken the keys before we left.”

She gives him a strange look. “Kolty actually doesn’t talk much, usually. Not lately. He just sits and thinks and listens.”

“He talks plenty with Ana,” Grimory grumbles. He stops before a door upon hearing the low murmur of a familiar voice.

Anarchaia glances up to the door from her hand of cards as a knock rings through the room. She furrows her brow beneath her mask, then clears her throat. “Who is it?” she calls out in a gravelly, masculine voice that clearly isn’t her own.

Grimory scowls at the door. “Very funny. Open up.”

Alisbeth presses her face to the crease of the door and calls through the crack, “Is Kolty in there? I need clothes. I couldn’t clean mine.”

Koltira sighs. “Yeah, I’m here.” He stands to open the door for them, ripping it open as it sticks.

Aah!” Alisbeth falls into his arms and giggles. She smiles up at him. “Hi.”

Grimory tosses Alisbeth’s armor into a pile near their belongings and glances down at Anarchaia, who gives what he can only assume is a frown of disapproval. “What?” he grunts.

<<Quite a long shower,>> she hisses in Darnassian.

Grimory’s eyes widen slightly and he turns away, scowling. <<They were all full. We had to wait.>>

Alisbeth chews on her bottom lip as she dresses, not caring who is looking at her nude figure. “I know some of those words!” She announces excitedly.

Anarchaia ignores the woman, preoccupied with her irritation. <<You didn’t.>>

<<Of course not,>> he lies. <<I said I wouldn’t.>> His gaze turns to Alisbeth. “She’s mad we took so long.”

Alisbeth purses her lips tightly and widens her eyes on Grimory. After a long moment she smiles innocently. “Whatever Gator says is the truth. He doesn’t lie. He’s not a liar.” She digs through her things. “Not a fibber. Truth-man.” After finding her brush she sits down and starts running it through her hair. “Just listen to him.”

“So what have you two been up to?” Grimory says quickly, taking note of the empty bottle of wine.

“Cards,” Anarchaia responds, giving Koltira a brief glance and shifting uncomfortably.

“I owe her five gold,” Koltira says. He glances at Anarchaia before meeting the demon hunter’s gaze.

“Oh yeah?” Grimory throws himself into the weathered chair. “Not too good at poker, are we?”

Anarchaia shrugs a shoulder. “He’s won plenty. I’ve just won more.”

Koltira also shrugs. “I guess it’s just not my night.”

Alisbeth sweeps past him with a quick kiss, then flops onto the bed.

“Bad hands. In fact, I was just about to fold.”

Alisbeth picks up his cards from the bed. Her mouth drops open at them. “You were about to fold this?”

“Ali, if you cou—”

“This is a great hand! Why would you fold this?”

He purses his lips sheepishly.

“Ooh.” She rolls her eyes. “Some things never change.” She lays her head on her arm and smiles at him. Her arm dangles off the bed and she drops the cards face-down on the floor, then pushes the coins to Anarchaia. “He folds.” She scrunches her face in a smile at the mage.

Anarchaia bristles, immediately catching her meaning. She turns to Koltira and tosses her cards to the floor angrily. “You’ve been letting me win?

Grimory snorts from his corner and rolls his eyes.

The death knight purses his lips down at her. “I…thought you’d have better hands?”

Alisbeth giggles and leans to whisper to the other girl. “He did it to me, too. I punched him so hard his jaw swelled up. It was satisfying. If you hit him, I’ll understand.”

Anarchaia clenches her fists and they glow a menacing purple. “Oh, I’ll do more than hit him,” she growls playfully.

He holds up his hands defensively. “Now, now, there’s no need to get physical.” He narrows his eyes at his wife. “Ali, seriously?”

She shrugs innocently. “You reverse cheated. Just as bad as cheating. I think we should all hit you for it. Just take turns.” She makes a slapping motion in the air.

Anarchaia purses her lips as well and shrinks back again, sighing. “I can’t bring myself to hurt nice guys.”

Grimory chuckles and cracks his knuckles. “I volunteer.”

Koltira scoffs at the demon hunter. “You hit like a bitch. Alisbeth could hi—”

Without warning, Alisbeth jumps up and punches him as hard as she can in the mouth. Her face angry and eyes swirling flurries of rage. “You don’t let other girls win! Just me!” She spins on Anarchaia, a finger wagging in the air at her. “Don’t think I don’t know your game, little girl. I will—”

“Ali!” Koltira spins her around. “What the hell? Stop!”

Grimory gives a hearty laugh. “I guess you weren’t wrong!”

Anarchaia gasps and makes to stand but shrinks back at the finger in her face. “G-game? You mean poker? We were just passing time waiting for you two!”

Koltira wipes the blood from his lips. “What’s going on?”

Alisbeth frowns, tears welling in her eyes. “Are you going to fuck her?”

His eyes go wide and he clears his throat. “No! Why would you even think that?”

“To get back at me.”

He clenches his jaw and pulls her into his arms. “Ana is my friend and I’m not mad at you for the other night.”

The mage reflexively puts a hand over her mouth in shock. “A-Ali, I would never. I… I couldn’t hurt you like that.”

Grimory clenches his jaw and folds his arms but otherwise says nothing, listening intently.

She looks over her shoulder at Anarchaia. “But I hurt you. Both of you.”

“We’re fine, Ali. None of us are mad at you,” Koltira says, looking to Anarchaia for confirmation of this.

Anarchaia furrows her brow. “You didn’t hurt me. Why would you have?” She clears her throat. “And even if you had, I’m not the type of person who seeks revenge. I’m not mad. We’re just friends.”

Alisbeth squares her jaw and stares between the two, then at Grimory.

The demon hunter lifts his eyebrows at Alisbeth, making it clear he himself is not convinced. He shrugs and looks away when he catches Anarchaia’s eye.

Koltira sighs in exasperation. “I’m not having this conversation. I’m not going to try to convince you of anything. Take it or leave it.”

Alisbeth grits her teeth, deciding to join Grimory in his disbelief. She gives Koltira a tight smile. “Okay.” With an angry swiftness she scoops up Anarchaia’s winnings and stomps out the door, slamming it behind her.

“A-Ali!” Anarchaia stands but ultimately stays in place. She throws her hands up and drops them to her sides in frustration, then shoots Grimory an angry glare. “You… Agh.” She takes up the other room key and leaves as well; the cards flutter on the floor in her wake.

Grimory stares after the two then glances at Koltira. He shrugs again, giving an innocent smile. “Women.”


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