The three step back into the bustling platform of Valdisdall. After a moment of weaving through the crowd, Anarchaia ushers the men into the inn. She pays for one room and hands the key to Koltira.
“Go set her down,” she calls over the noise of the tavern. “I’m sure a bed will do her good.”
Grimory is already hailing a barmaid for a drink and food before settling himself in the same spot he’d occupied their first visit there.
Koltira takes Alisbeth to the room and strips her before laying her on the bed. He pours water from a pitcher into a basin and uses a cloth to clean all the mud away. Once finished, he pulls the blanket over her naked body and sighs as he removes his plate gear.
“Would you just wake up already?” He lowers himself to the floor to lean against the bedside and stare at the door in silence.
Anarchaia takes up a seat across from Grimory and requests a cup of wine. “Ugh, Master was so disappointed,” she groans, placing her head in her hands. “He didn’t say it outright but I could tell.”
“He’s a reasonable guy,” Grimory responds with a shrug. “I’m sure he’s more happy that you’re okay than disappointed that we failed.” He bounces a knee under the table. “You think Ali will be all right?”
Anarchaia thanks the maid and takes up her wine, drinking deeply. “I’m confident she’s fine. If I weren’t I’d definitely say as such.” She glances at the staircase. “He seems to be rather worried, still.”
The demon hunter gives another shrug and takes a large mouthful of glazed poultry. “It’s his wife. He’ll get over it once he sees you’re right.”
Anarchaia hesitates. “But what if I’m not?”
“You haven’t been wrong yet.”
She pauses as of to tell him he’s wrong, then sighs instead. “I guess.”
Koltira drops down at the table with the other two and leans on his elbows. “I hate waiting.”
“Hm, that must be a male thing,” Anarchaia says. “I’ve yet to meet a man who wasn’t impatient.” She sips her wine casually.
Grimory stops mid-bite through bone. “Well I’ve never met a woman who wasn’t a liar.”
Koltira blinks at the two. “Oh, we’re doing this again.” He orders a tall scotch from the barmaid.
“I have never lied about anything!” Anarchaia barks, then pauses before taking another sip. “To you.”
“Right,” Grimory responds, crunching on pheasant bone. He turns to Koltira. “And you’re just gonna let her say that shit?” He washes it down with mead. “Come on, man, back me up. She’s outnumbered.”
The death knight cocks an eyebrow at the other man. “Has she lied?” He takes his drink graciously and starts in on it.
Grimory turns to Anarchaia and tilts his head expectantly.
“N-No…” Anarchaia chirps, downing a larger drink than usual.
Grimory looks back at Koltira with raised eyebrows. “I think that’s a good answer.”
“I don’t have to tell you everything you demand to know, you know,” Anarchaia responds sharply. “And I’d rather be a liar than something that does its best to fuck everything.”
“Yep. We’re doing this.” Koltira stares ahead and downs his drink as fast as he can, then signals for another, his goal to get drunk enough that the fight doesn’t bother him.
“You know what? Koltira’s right. I’m not involving myself in such mundane conversations.” The mage finishes her wine and sets the empty cup aside. “I honestly just want to drink and forget everything that’s happened in the last couple days.”
“Oh good,” Grimory says with a grin. “That means I win by default.”
Koltira grits his teeth. “Okay, you know what, Grim? I don’t think Ana has lied to you, and if she has, I can’t begin to imagine what about. The only lying she’s done recently was pretending to be Ali.” He turns his sights on the mage. “I don’t recommend doing it again, either, because you’re bad at it.” He turns forward to glare ahead. A dwarf makes the assumption he’s glaring at him and makes a rude gesture. Koltira makes a rude gesture back.
“She knows what she’s lying about,” Grimory grunts and picks shards of bone from his teeth.
“Something that’s none of your business to begin with.” Anarchaia glances at Koltira and frowns. “I was that bad? It must have been hard for me to concentrate with all the manhandling.” She sticks out her pale tongue in jest.
“I told you we had to hurry.” He swirls the scotch in his glass. “You weren’t hurrying fast enough.”
“You that violent with everyone who isn’t fast enough for you?” she whines, pouting like a spoiled child. “Perhaps I should let Master know how you’ve bruised my arm.”
Koltira shrugs. “It gets results. And I highly doubt your arm is bruised.”
“I’ll just tell Ali, then,” she huffs, folding her arms.
Koltira raises his eyebrows at her, but says nothing as he stares.
Anarchaia cocks her head. “Oh, that scares you? Good to know.” She grins and orders another glass of wine.
“Leave the poor guy alone, Ana.” Grimory stretches.
The mage pats Koltira on the back and chuckles. “He knows I’m just messing with him.”
“That really doesn’t scare me in the least, actually. You could tell Alisbeth I killed your puppy and she’d laugh. You could tell her I cut off your hand and she’d yell at me for not letting her join. You could tell her that I took the last candy cane and she’d hunt me down and beat me until I couldn’t move.” He finishes his drink and signals for another. “Your ‘bruises’ are less important than candy, Ana.”
The smile on Anarchaia’s face fades and she purses her teal lips. “You sure know how to kill a mood, Deathweaver.”
Grimory laughs. “Just desserts, Ana.”
She points a finger at Grimory. “Don’t you start, demon boy. You’re just as bad at taking jokes.”
Koltira gives the mage another dead-pan stare. “Those were jokes?”
Anarchaia ignores Grimory’s second round of laughter and glares up at the death knight. She purses her lips again and scoops up her wine as it’s set before her. “Don’t expect any favors in the future,” she mutters and takes a swig.
Koltira asks the barmaid to get him a whole bottle. When she returns with it, he takes the bottle and throws a handful of gold on the table as he stands. He lifts the drink as a salute to the other two. “To another night of waiting around and getting drunk.” He exits the tavern and heads around the back of the building to stare out at the mist and the ocean.
Grimory lifts his drink and agrees heartily, then lowers it and furrows his brow when Koltira leaves. “What’s crawled up his ass?”
Anarchaia gives a shrug and drinks more of her wine. “Go have a guy talk with him or something.”
The demon hunter narrows his eyes and parts his lips to answer. Instead, he returns the shrug and takes his mead and stands to follow Koltira. “Hey,” he greets casually as he finds the man out back on the ledge overlooking the ocean.
“Hey,” Koltira replies, adjusting to allow room in the dirt against the wall, away from the thorns in the grass.
The Illidari takes up the spot cleared for him. He takes a long pull of his mead and looks out over the sea. “Everything all right?”
Koltira gives him an incredulous look. “Peachy.”
Grimory furrows his brow at the man. “You’re kinda shitty at lying.”
“It wasn’t a lie, it was sarcasm.” He sighs and leans his head back so fast it thumps against the building. “I begged Alisbeth to stay in Helheim. I wanted to stay.” He takes a drink and purses his lips against his own words.
Grimory raises his eyebrows and blinks a few times. “I… Oh. Why? You don’t still feel that way, do you?”
The death knight swirls the liquor across his tongue as he hesitates. “And what if I do? The woman you saw in there is the woman I fell in love with. I love her still, but how can I not miss that.” He growls. “She ran away last night. I knew she was gone, but I didn’t go after her.”
Grimory scowls and recoils. “Are you serious?” He scoffs in disbelief. “I get that you miss normal Ali, but wanting to spend the rest of eternity in some…mad illusion? And for what? Nostalgia?” He sneers. “You need to get a grip.”
Koltira scowls over the cliff and nurses his scotch for a long time. “I just wanted to come home to my wife and child and be left alone. And I didn’t get that. And I can’t talk to her because she goes ballistic at the subject.” He rubs his face in frustration. “You’re right, though. I need to get over it. Leave the past where it is.”
Grimory’s eyes widen slightly at the word child but he doesn’t turn or pursue the subject. “Killing yourself inside and out would never give you what you desire. It’s best you just…appreciate what you have now.” Grimory lifts his mead to inspect it through the dark glass, the setting sun filtering through the side. “Before something worse happens.”
“Like what? A demon hunter with the same set of morals as her captures her heart and steals her from me?” Koltira’s expression remains passive for a moment before he gives in to laughter. “You wouldn’t last a day.”
Grimory grits his teeth and forces a smile. “That…isn’t what I meant. But if we’re going into that territory, I’d say I’d have no problem. Chaos is pretty familiar with me.”
“Joining your chaos with her chaos is not a good thing, if aimed in the wrong direction.” The warmth of the scotch creeps into him and he stares at the bottle, realizing it’s got a much stronger alcohol content than most. “You know what?” He pokes the demon hunter in the pectoral. “Have at it. You’re in charge of her chaos for one day. An entire day. No sleeping on the job. She doesn’t sleep, so when you do—fft!” He makes a flying motion with his hand. “No one was watching her last night, and now look. She’s sleeping for gods know how long.”
“You want me to babysit?” He asks warily, rubbing at the spot he’d been poked. A fangy smirk crawls across his face. “All right, fine. And what do I get when I prove you wrong?” His eyes flicker with amusement as he finishes his mead.
Koltira narrows his eyes. “What do you want?” he asks slowly.
Grimory thinks for a long moment, then returns the poke to the chest. “You buy my drinks from here on out. Until the end of all this bullshit.” He narrows his own eyes. “And don’t hurt Ana ever again.”
Koltira scoffs. “I didn’t hurt her! She’s just whining because she wanted to spend more time with the books…or Fester. I think she liked him. But I did not bruise her.”
The corner of Grimory’s lip tightens and he turns back to the ocean. He hurls his empty bottle off the cliff. “I know what I said.”
Koltira chuckles. “Is this going to be like last time where you talk a big talk but in the end you still hit like a bitch?” He takes a swig of scotch and laughs again.
Grimory shoots him a look. “Do I need to keep reminding you who was on the ground last? I don’t think I do.”
He calms his laughing to a few small chuckles. “Fine. What do I get when you fail?”
“What do you want?” he mocks playfully.
The death knight thinks on it as he finishes his scotch. “You have to buy all my drinks. And…” He taps the bottom of the bottle against the dirt. “You know what? Same thing. You can’t hurt either of the women.”
Grimory lets out a bark of a laugh, then furrows his brow and scowls. “You know what? Now that you’ve said that, I’m going to go beat the shit out of both of them. Right now.” His facade cracks and he laughs again. “With-… Within an inch of their lives! Oh gods, man.” He wipes a tear from his eye. “I would never hurt a woman.” A short beat passes. “Unless she asked me to, of course.”
“There’s more than one way to hurt someone.” Koltira tosses his bottle over the side of the cliff.
Grimory scoffs. “What, their feelings? Ana and Ali aren’t typical blubbering females, you know,” he says. The image of Alisbeth’s crying face in the forest returns to him and he shrugs it off. “Regardless, I wouldn’t do that, either.” At least I try not to.
Koltira blinks in disbelief. “Unintentional counts. But whatever, if you think you won’t ever hurt them, unintentional or not, then I can think of something else. I dare say, you’d make a good foot stool.” He smiles devilishly.
The demon hunter narrows his eyes. “No, I think I can handle it.” He stands and brushes himself off. “I could use another mead. You gonna stay out here and be angry at the ocean some more?”
He shrugs. “Maybe a little longer. I mean, how dare it? How dare that ocean?”
Grimory gives another laugh and turns back the way he’d come. “Well, let us know when you two’ve reconciled.”