“Crorinu, that’s not fair!” Asheeda shouts.
The rogue chuckles and walks away to stand with Asheeda.
Grimory gives another cry of pain as more blood, warm and wet, pours down his back. His vision returns, only to be clouded by sparkles. Lips and fingers going numb, he falls into a pool of his own blood.
“No!” Alisbeth shrieks, turning to look at the arena. She runs forward, unsure which man to hold, but unable to grip both.
Juliember growls in annoyance and throws a rejuvenation spell on Koltira before using healing touch as many times as she can in the short amount of time she has.
Anarchaia gives a shout of shock and anger. She turns to the rogue and growls. “This was a fair match!” She turns back to the arena, not bothering to stop Alisbeth. “I think that’s enough!” She follows, heart racing. “I’ve seen enough…”
The rogue shrugs apathetically.
Juliember raises her hands up. Small flecks of light rise from the ground to heal the wounds of the men. “That be cheatin’,” she growls.
Koltira groans in pain as his wounds close. “I’m fine, I’m fine,” he says to Alisbeth.
Asheeda purses his lips and glares at Crorinu. “That really wasn’t fair.”
Xrla steps forward. “I can help, it’s not much.” She holds out a hand to shine a light on Koltira.
He screams out in agony. “You’re making it worse!”
Alisbeth throws her boot at the paladin. “Would you stop that, now!”
Xrla clasps her hands together. “Sorry! I didn’t know!”
Anarchaia stoops and lifts Grimory up as best she can with what little strength she has. The demon hunter groans as he regains consciousness. “I think I lost,” he mumbles, blood dripping from his nose and onto the ground.
The mage ignores the mess seeping into her clothes and looks between the two women. “You both did well,” she says in a quiet voice. “But it’s clear who the winner is…”
Alisbeth sits up, her face soaked with tears. “I don’t like this game.”
The druid kneels down, making sure the wounds of both are healed. “I be acceptin’ your choice, either way.”
“I had it well in hand until that bloody rogue came sneaking in!” Edrah stomps over to also make sure they’re healed.
Anarchaia stands and releases Grimory to see if he can stand on his own, then grunts when he falls back into her. “And you did well. I just…think the druid did a more adequate job. It’s really nothing personal. Please don’t be upset.”
Grimory looks up at the sound of Alisbeth’s sniffling and gives her a reassuring smile and thumbs-up. “I’m fine. Just dizzy.” He chuckles.
Alisbeth wipes her face. “Do we still get to do whatever I want?”
Asheeda approaches swirling two vials around. “Fresh brewed,” he says, handing one to each man.
Koltira chokes the potion down, his face pinched in disgust.
Grimory gives a weak nod. “You bet.” He blinks down at the potion and takes it, throwing it back and swallowing it down as quickly as he can. He grimaces and hands the empty vial back.
Anarchaia gives Asheeda a grateful smile. “You’ve come through for us yet again. How can I make this up to you?”
As if remembering she didn’t win, Edrah stands and frowns. “I demand a retrial!”
Koltira shakes his head. “I’m not doing that again.”
Asheeda smiles at Anarchaia. “How about drinks? All of us. ‘Nu has some really rare stuff she stole off some demons.”
“Drinks!” Alisbeth shouts in excitement.
Anarchaia sobers and releases her friend when he’s able to stand again. She smiles. “We won’t be leaving until tomorrow, so that sounds lovely.”
The monk frowns and shakes her head. “Well, I’d join you, but I’ve got to find a new group. There’s this belt on the auction house just calling my name.” She gives a wistful sigh and, though still very drunk, makes the most graceful of exits.
“And I obviously need a shower,” Grimory says, wiping blood from his face. “And after that I could use all the drinks.” He turns to the monk as she leaves. “Thanks again!”
Koltira stands and wipes the blood from his mouth. “I got a room at the Filthy Animal. We can shower there and meet you in the tavern, uh…” He points at the other demon hunter, realizing he doesn’t know his name.
“Asheeda. Call me Ash.” He holds out his hand and Koltira takes it.
The paladin flips her orange and white hair over her shoulder. “Sorry for the…whatever I did to you. I actually have to go, but it was fun watching you fight!” She gives Asheeda a quick hug, then heads for the exit.
“Filthy animal,” the rogue says, picking dirt from under her nails with a dagger. “Meet you there.” She turns and leaves without waiting for any replies.
Asheeda gives his attention to Anarchaia again. “How many potions can you hold? I’ve got enough to make…” he stops to calculate in his head, “a lot. Herbs are just everywhere in Val’sharah.”
The mage narrows her eyes after the rogue, then turns to blink at Asheeda. “Oh! Uh… That’s really not necessary. Heh. Very sweet of you, though.” She waves a hand and heads for the exit slowly so the others catch the hint and follow. “I think it’d just encourage certain people to be reckless if we had more of your amazing potions at the ready.”
“I’m not reckless,” Grimory grunts, following. “I just like to not care. It’s liberating.”
“It’s dangerous,” Anarchaia responds with a pointed look.
“It’s really no bother at all,” Asheeda says. “It’s these damned seeds. They’re really not good for much else.”
The druid looks down at the two death knights. “You fight well…for an elf.”
Koltira raises an eyebrow. “Was that a compliment or an insult?”
Juliember smirks and shrugs, then follows the others.
Koltira and Alisbeth take up the rear, her pouting. “I was going to get to do whatever I wanted.”
Koltira grabs her in a sideways hug. “Maybe you still will.”
“Why is Gatsby following me?”
“Oh, I told him I didn’t think he could handle one day watching over you like I do. He wants to prove me wrong. I hope you’re giving him hell.”
She scrunches her face in a smile. “No, but I can do better!” She runs forward to jump onto the demon hunter’s back and ride him out of the sewers.
Grimory chuckles and steps out into the dark, less crowded streets. “We can still do what you want,” he says. “I just need to get cleaned up. Did you have anything in mind?”
Alisbeth thinks, one side of her face scrunched up. “Uhh…” She shrugs and gives him an innocent smile. “I’ll tell you when I think of something.”
Anarchaia gives Asheeda a warm smile. “If you insist, I can carry many since I just store everything in my room. No pack space needed.”
“They won’t be needing potions with me around,” Juliember says with a smile. “But I’m sure you have other motives for being so kind to the lady.” She winks at Asheeda.
The demon hunter blushes and looks straight forward. “I’m just being friendly, is all.”
“He doesn’t even know what I look like,” Anarchaia says with an embarrassed chuckle when they turn into the tavern. She reaches up to touch her mask, then frowns when she feels it’s damp. She pulls her hand away to find more of Grimory’s blood. “Oh, right. Uh. You guys get acquainted. I’ll be right back.” She makes for the staircase to the loft and showers.
Grimory sets Alisbeth down and shrugs. “Fair enough. Just let me know.” He glances down at himself and gives an airy laugh. “Hey barkeep. How many showers in this place?”
“One,” the goblin grunts, not looking up from his polishing.
Grimory purses his lips. “Guess I’m waiting. Thanks, Ana.”
“You could always join her,” Alisbeth says with a wink. “Or I could.” Her eyes light up. “Or we both could! That’s what I wanna do!” She grabs Grimory’s hand to drag him to the staircase.
“Alisb—” You’re not in charge of her today. Grimory will see reason and say no. Koltira purses his lips, unsure if he should stay with the new healer or run after the others to make sure they don’t barge in on Anarchaia.
The druid narrows her eyes. “What sort of insanity did I just get myself into?”
Koltira gives a nervous chuckle. “Alisbeth is just excitable, that’s all.”
Grimory’s ears pull back and he quickly scoops Alisbeth into his arms, holding her tightly around the waist. “How about we wait until she’s done and you and I can go?” He says in a low tone, half-joking. “Or we can wait patiently and I’ll buy you a drink.” He pauses. “A weak drink.”
Alisbeth flails. “But I want to see how pretty she is! Why don’t you want to go with me? What’s wrong with a group shower?”
Juliember and Koltira sit, the druid eyeing both death knights. “Is she your mate or his?”
“Mine,” Koltira says.
“But he handles her?”
“It’s just for twenty-four hours. It’s a long story.” He orders a drink from the troll who comes by, she smiles and turns to Juliember.
“I will just have water, please.”
“Ana doesn’t want to show what she looks like to anyone. You know that.” Grimory sets Alisbeth on a stool. “You don’t want to hurt her feelings, do you?”
“You said, ‘anything I want’, Gumbo. You promised. What if all I have to do is ask nicely and she’ll let me in? You know I bet she’d rather have me in there than you. Maybe probably. Oh! Kolty! You could get her to open the door, right? You’re friends!”
Koltira’s nerves jolt, though externally he only clenches his jaw. “Listen to Grimory.”
“I’m sure he could,” Grimory mumbles, sitting beside her. “You want that drink or not? Offer’s fading…”
“Fine. Gimme that drink.” Alisbeth pouts.
“Don’t worry, it doesn’t count toward your free request.” He hails a barmaid and places an order for mead, then turns to the troll. “So…I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Grimory.”
“Juliember,” she says simply.
The demon hunter narrows his eyes. “Right. Well. Pleasure.”
“I’m Ash,” Asheeda says to the druid. “I’m not part of this, but I do know Grimory and Anarchaia.”
The druid smiles. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Ash.”
The rogue appears at the table as though she’d been there the whole time, her arms filled with roughly made red bottles. “Crorinu.” She drops the bottles onto the table and hands one to each person. She hooks her foot in the leg of a stool someone else is using, dumps them out of it, and takes a seat with her own red bottle.
“Hey I was—”
She stands and kicks him in the side of the head. “Shut up.” The rogue returns to her seat. She stares at Grimory as she swallows down some drink. “How’s your back?”
Grimory eyes the bottle set before him and gently pushes it away. He gives the rogue a sarcastic smile. “Fine, thanks for asking. You’re too kind.”
Asheeda pulls the cork of his bottle and swallows as much as he can, the hoots as tears come to his eyes. “Oh, gods, this stuff is the best! It’s like drinking fire!”
Alisbeth perks. “Like a Dalapeño?”
“Hotter.” He nudges a bottle closer to her.
Alisbeth doesn’t wait. She pulls the cork and starts to chug.
Grimory’s eyes widen slightly as he watches Alisbeth down her drink. “Uh…I did say weak.”
Anarchaia takes up an empty seat at the table, her mask clean and her robes left upstairs. She smiles tiredly at the group. “So Ash. How was Val’sharah? Haven’t been there yet, myself. I hear it’s nice.”
Asheeda smiles and leans in to quietly tell the mage all about the green forest and the druids there.
Alisbeth doesn’t stop drinking as she shoves another bottle at Anarchaia. She pulls the bottle away when she’s had half. A huge smile spreads across her lips. “I can taste this! Try it Achilles! It’s amazing!” She returns to drinking.
Koltira cringes as Alisbeth goes after the drink. His first instinct is to pull it away from her. Whatever mess she makes is Grimory’s fault—unless she kills someone. Shit. He sips the drink and realizes the potency he tries to silently warn the demon hunter to stop Alisbeth as she reaches for another bottle.
Juliember slides her own bottle to the pile in the middle of the table.
Crorinu eyes the druid, then stares conspicuously at Alisbeth. “You, uh, all there or missing a few pieces?”
Grimory clenches his teeth and quickly scoops up the bottle before Alisbeth can grab it. “Yeah, no. One is enough, girlie.” He places them out of her reach. I need to take a shower…but I can’t leave Alisbeth here alone. He instead sits and drinks the bottle that had been placed before him.
Alisbeth pouts. “But I wasn’t finished.”
Anarchaia takes a small sip of her own, then immediately throws her head to the side to cough. “Oh my gods,” she chokes. “What is this?”
Crorinu laughs low.
Asheeda barks one laugh and pats Anarchaia on the back. “We call it Inferno Punch.”
The rogue gives a conniving and somewhat pompous smile. “I steal it off unsuspecting demons in Suramar.”
Koltira sets his drink down. “Oh, look, the shower is free. Don’t mind if I do.”
Grimory glowers at the death knight from across the table. “Have fun,” he sneers and takes a large pull from his bottle.
“Oh, yes,” Koltira says, “I’m going to have so much fun. Alone. Nothing to worry about.” He disappears up the stairs.
Anarchaia takes in a breath, a hand over her chest. “An apt name.” She shudders. “So, what brings you all to Dalaran?”
Alisbeth frowns, finally understanding what the rogue had said about her and what Grimory and Koltira were talking about. It was about her. I’m not crazy. I’m not crazy. Yes you are. Shh! No I’m not! They’re looking at you. All those eyes. Looking, looking. They think you’re crazy, Redblade. She presses her fists into her temples. They’re laughing at you. No! They’re my friends! No they’re not. They only stick around because you entertain them. Any moment they’ll all leave. “I’m not crazy!” Alisbeth shrieks as she stands. She throws a bottle at the rogue, pushes Grimory out of the way, and runs for the exit of the tavern.
Grimory jumps at Alisbeth’s outburst and grits his fangs as she runs out the door. “Ali!” he stands with enough force to knock his stool over and immediately follows. “Ali, wait!”
The rogue dodges the bottle and glares as Alisbeth leaves. “That one needs locked up.”
Juliember sips her water with all the calm in the world. “She seems pleasant.” She smiles at Anarchaia. “I don’t think I thanked you for the invitation to join your little…circus. I see this could be fun.”
Anarchaia swallows and reaches for her drink again. “Circus. Yes. Good word.” She takes another drink and forces it down, then turns to the rogue. “She’s a sweet girl, really. She’s…gone through some stuff. You shouldn’t judge others so easily.”
“Don’t be judging a book by its cover,” Juliember says.
Crorinu scoffs. “If the outside is covered in bat shit, then it’s safe to assume there’s some inside.”
Asheeda scowls at the rogue. “You’re doing that thing again.”
“Being a bitch. Stop it.”
Anarchaia scowls. “There are many books with bland, unimpressive covers that have long, beautifully written stories inside.”
Crorinu opens her mouth to spit a snide comment at the mage, but Asheeda clears his throat. He leans on an elbow, the Inferno Punch already blushing in his cheeks. “Alright, since it’s just us girls now, I think we can behave.”
The rogue rolls her eyes to the ceiling. “Fine.”
The druid chuckles at him. “I’m not used to an elf calling himself a girl before I do.” She turns her sights on Anarchaia. “Tell me of the Halls. What sort of trials be residing there?”
Anarchaia takes another small sip of her drink and pauses. “I…don’t know, actually. I just assumed they’d be difficult since the first task was.”
“Mmm,” the troll hums. “Tell me about that one.”
“He wanted us to reprimand Helya, another god. We had to go down into a place called Helheim. It was…very scary. We were all threatened by madness.” The mage swallows and taps her fingers against the bottle, trying to remember how it felt to feel. “We failed, but escaped.”
“Madness be a tough one,” Juliember says.
“Like, mad how?” Crorinu asks. “Like that raving—”
Asheeda clears his throat.
“Your, uh, friend?”
Anarchaia gives a sort of smile, the alcohol already creeping into her head. “Well, Grim attacked me—which he’d never do. I was…rather rude. Koltira turned into a fool, really. Alisbeth…” She pauses. “It was just unpleasant. I refuse to go back.”
“I can’t imagine what sort of horror she became,” Crorinu says, then takes a drink.
“Probably something close to you,” Juliember says.
“Excuse me, what?” The rogue stands and draws her daggers. “Come at me, club-foot!”
Juliember laughs. “You’re a waste of my time.” She flicks her fingers, a torrent of wind and leaves blows into the rogue, knocking her across the tavern.
Koltira reaches the bottom of the stairs in time to see the blood elf go flying. He takes a seat by Anarchaia and leans in. “What’s going on down here?” The close proximity stirs awkward memories and he leans away.
Anarchaia fidgets and takes another drink. “They…don’t seem to like one another. Heh.” She clears her throat as the alcohol burns down it.
An armor-clad Deathguard bursts into the tavern at the sound of a ruckus, his axe drawn and ready. “What’s going on in here?!” He points at the druid with his weapon. “You there! Cut that shit out!” he hisses.
Juliember raises her hands innocently. “I was just defending myself. The shit is across the room. Needs to be flushed back into the sewers.”
The Forsaken man narrows his glowing yellow eyes inside his helm. “Don’t do it again,” he growls, reaching to mount his axe on his back again while turning to leave.
Anarchaia stifles a chuckle into her fist.
~ * ~
Alisbeth runs to Krasus Landing and shoves her fistful of money at Aludane. “I want to go to Lothlorien.”
“Yes, that. Now!” She shoves her gold into his hand and he helps her onto a wyvern.
“This is more than—”
“Keep it!” she shouts as the wyvern takes off.
Grimory growls and runs off the landing, spreading his wings and following as closely as possible, but the wyvern is faster. “Where are you going?” He calls, his eyes watering from the cold air.
Alisbeth turns to frown at Grimory. “It’s okay, you don’t have to lie anymore.” She turns back around, her own eyes stinging from the wind and anger and betrayal. That’s right, Redblade. Everyone will be better off this way. “Shh,” she whispers to herself, “they’ll think I’m crazy if you keep talking like that.”
“Lie about what?” he responds, wings flapping desperately to catch up.
“Don’t turn around,” Alisbeth whispers to herself, covering her ears to Grimory’s shouts.
He growls when he gets no reply. “I’m going to follow you until we talk,” he yells.
Alisbeth lands in Lorlathil and looks around. She deflates, realizing she didn’t have the desire to be there anymore, and goes to a gazebo beside a stream.
“I saw her face,” a woman says in a scratchy voice.
“Well I think you’re wrong,” a man with a low, bored tone says.
A tap urges Alisbeth’s gaze over her shoulder to two robed figures.
Grimory lands not long after Alisbeth, but takes a moment to catch his breath, his back aching from the journey. He takes note of the direction the woman had run off in and follows.
“See?” The female voice says.
“Oh…” the man’s voice rises in interest. “How are you feeling, my dear?”
“We’re so sorry, by the way. But we did learn so much…”
Alisbeth covers her mouth and presses a hand to her lower belly. Kill them! Kill them! Kill them! RUN! She screams and launches herself from the stump stool, skittering backward into the stream as her cries tear through the air and tears stream from her eyes. The two back away and vanish into the dark night.
Grimory’s ears perk at the sound of Alisbeth’s scream. He sprints to her location despite already being winded. Finding her in the creek, he wades into the shallow water to retrieve her, a hand outstretched. “Ali! Are you okay? What happened?!”
Alisbeth scrambles away from the demon hunter. “No! No! Please! No more, please! It hurts so much! Spare us, please. Just let us go!”
The Illidari’s eyes widen slightly and he grabs her by the leg, pulling her toward him and dodging her flailing free leg. “Ali, it’s okay! It’s me! I’m not going to hurt you!”
As he grabs her, Alisbeth throws her head back and screams as though she’s being tortured. Run. Run. Run. KILL! She reaches out her hands, fingers bent like claws, and slashes at the demon hunter’s face. “She’s not an abomination!”
Grimory hisses as his face is slashed open and fresh blood mixes with the old but he does not let go. “Ali, stop! Snap out of it! I’m here to help!”
Alisbeth crumples against him and screams her cries into his chest. “I couldn’t stop them. I couldn’t save her.”
Grimory blinks down at the woman before wrapping his arms around her. “It’s okay,” he says quietly, doing his best to be comforting and not say anything offensive. “Who couldn’t you save?”
Alisbeth gasps to calm herself, though it doesn’t work. “We didn’t get to name her…” She presses the heel of her palm into an eye. “Maybe it was a boy, but I wanted a girl.”
Grimory pauses as the realization hits him. He pulls her closer, a hand cradling the back of her head. “Ali, I’m…” He stops himself, biting his lip and knowing there’s nothing he can say to make her feel better, to make her forget. He instead tightens his hold as they sit there together in the cold stream.