Chapter Forty-Three

“You…exploded Fenrir,” a familiar voice echoes through the trees.

Grimory sits up. “Were we…not meant to?”

“It’s…not important. Your next trial awaits,” Odyn continues. “Hyrja waits for you in the west wing. Defeat her before facing your final challenge.”

“Come on, let’s take a short cut!” Alisbeth says, running off to the pond in the middle of the area. When her feet hit the water, a sheet of ice forms under her boots. She waits for the others to catch up before heading across.

Anarchaia gives a quiet chuckle. “I could get used to this.” She rests an elbow atop Alisbeth’s helm.

Grimory leaps into the air, gliding across the pond with relative ease. “Race you,” he calls with a grin, weaving around a tree.

“Don’t make me turn my laser-shooter at you! Pew-pew!” Alisbeth laughs and takes off running. “Archie! Shoot him from the sky! Freeze his wings!”

Juliember laughs, turning into a doe and this time tossing Koltira onto her back. He gives a small yelp of surprise, then holds on as she speeds across the water to pass the girls and race up the hill after the flying demon hunter.

“As much as I’d love to…” Anarchaia gives a shrug and a laugh.

Grimory sets himself near the portal at the back, admiring his nails as he waits with a cocky grin on his lips. “Been waiting ages,” he quips to the druid as she approaches.

Without hesitating, Juliember nips his arm with her cutting deer teeth and runs through the portal.

Grimory yelps and rubs at his bleeding elbow. “Rude!” he barks after Juliember before following her through the portal.

Alisbeth lifts her skirt in one hand, bunching it up to reveal shining plate legguards underneath. She growls as the other end catches on a bush. “Why did you let me change?” She sets Anarchaia down. “Go poof ahead and hit him for me.” She bends to untangle the cloth.

The mage blinks down at her, then gives another quiet laugh as she bends down. She breaks loose the twig holding Alisbeth. “It’s not a race,” she says with a smile, then turns to jog after the others.

Alisbeth picks up her skirt and holds it in both arms as she runs after Anarchaia. “Well it’s not a race now! We lost!”

Juliember waits on the other side of the portal, smiling as she leans casually against a table, sipping an abandoned mead and chewing a chunk of roasted fowl.

Anarchaia laughs. “Last place is still a place!” She leaps through the portal.

Grimory casually swats the mead from the troll’s hand as he passes, sticking out his tongue. He continues on to the other end of the hall.

Juliember laughs and follows, taking one last bite of the leg, then tossing it back onto the table. “You act like I bit you as a bear. Little baby.” She throws a heal over him so the wound will slowly close.

Alisbeth trudges through the portal and whines. “Wait for me!” She runs to catch up with the group.

“What can I say? I’m a sore winner,” Grimory shrugs and grins, then rushes to greet a group of armored women at the bottom of a stone stairwell.

Anarchaia chases after with a sigh. “This is exhausting. It’s a good thing my muscles don’t tire.”

“I could use a small break, to restore my own energy,” the druid says. “Maybe after this next challenge. That bird was good.”

“You’re just going to eat their food?” Koltira asks, running past to help Grimory.

“They’re dead. They don’t be needing it,” she retorts.

“I can conjure something for you,” Anarchaia calls from behind, creating another localized blizzard above the enemies.

Grimory struggles to claw through the women’s armor, but successfully knocks one to the ground. “Some real help would be appreciated!”

“And apparently I don’t count,” Koltira grumbles, knocking another woman to the ground.

Alisbeth leaps up beside Grimory. “Sorry! There was a thing. Had to—” She hooks a maiden around the neck and spins her around and around until her neck is cut through and her body falls to the ground, her head rolls to Anarchaia’s feet. “Sorry!”

Anarchaia scoffs and lowers her hand, causing the hail to subside. “I beg your pardon?! I—” She looks down as something heavy bumps against her foot. Her eyes widen and she takes a few steps back before turning and retching, though nothing comes up.

Grimory notices a man adorned in leather on the next landing, murmuring spells and lifting his arms as light encompasses them. He quickly leaps to him and breathes fire in his face in an attempt to interrupt his casting. It’s too late, however, and an explosion of gold and white fills the Illidari’s eyes, knocking him off the landing and down the stairs.

You!” Alisbeth glares at the man. “Bileretcher! Bring him down!” An abomination stomps past and throws a hook around the man, then pulls him to where Alisbeth can start beating on him. She wraps a shadow around his neck to lift him from the ground.

Grimory sits up and rubs at his eyes, his head aching. He shakes his head and gets back to his feet, then leaps at the man when he’s lifted off the ground. He runs his claws through his middle and is satisfied at the sound it makes.

Anarchaia merely sends a massive orb of swirling ice towards the fray, then turns away from the carnage as it lazily floats on, freezing the enemies that wander too close.

Alisbeth runs up the stairs and sees a tall woman in golden armor. The woman readies her shield. “Wow, she’s so—”

“Move!” Juliember shouts, throwing out her aura.

“What?” The death knight turns, but doesn’t move. The next second a blast of searing light shoots from the shield to throw Alisbeth against the wall, her armor smoldering in patches. “Ow,” she squeaks.

“Ali!” Koltira turns.

“Don’t get hit by that!” She screams at him, he rolls out of the way. “It hurts. A lot.”

“Are you all right?!” Grimory calls over his shoulder, doing his best to sound more like he cares about the mission than for her safety.

The woman readies another beam and he grits his teeth, making sure to stand between her and the rest of his party. The light around her shield dissipates and she looks at it confusedly before taking a ball of fire to the face.

“You’re welcome,” Anarchaia drones, tired from her dry heaving. She throws another blast of fire over his shoulder at a second attacker.

Alisbeth doesn’t move as her injuries slowly heal. “Yeah,” she says airily, “totally good.”

Juliember throws a few more heals at the death knight. “Better?”

“Much.”

Koltira grits his teeth, fighting harder so he can get to Alisbeth to make sure she’s okay. Alisbeth, however, throws herself down on the steps dramatically, the back of her wrist on her mask like a damsel in distress. “My gear! My beautiful gear!

“I know a guy who can fix it,” Anarchaia says down at her once the last enemy is downed and they have a moment. “He’s pretty good, too.”

Grimory sits at the top of the steps, breathing somewhat labored from the adrenaline and movement. He throws Alisbeth a playful, unenthused face. “Are you gonna live? Do we need to carry you out of here?”

Alisbeth pouts a little more. “I may need to be carried. This is an absolute travesty.” She gives a heavy sigh, then stands and unbuckles the scorched skirt, letting it drop around her ankles. Underneath she’s wearing a set of purple leg armor, with no pants underneath. Plate covers her front and rear over her underwear.

Koltira stares at her scantily clad lower half. “Uhh…Ali?”

You hush! I couldn’t find the pants!”

Juliember chuckles. “And wearing other pants was completely out of the question.”

“It was. See, she gets it!”

The druid stares incredulously at the death knight, then shrugs and turns away to meet Koltira at the top.

Grimory flushes and turns away, suddenly growing serious. He clears his throat. “Let’s get a move on.”

Anarchaia glances ahead into the halls. Radiant light filters through pillars and a Valkyr woman sits atop a dais, guarded by two massive men in robes.

“Abracadabra, can you disappear my skirt for later?” Alisbeth shoves the scorched garment into the mage’s face.

Koltira raises an eyebrow at Grimory’s sudden change in attitude, but says nothing. I guess it’d be hypocritical to call him out for staring. He turns to stare at Alisbeth’s nearly bare legs again.

Juliember hits him on the back of the head. “Don’t make me splash you with water.”

Koltira glares at her, but turns to follow the demon hunter.

Anarchaia gives a curt nod, jealousy rearing its ugly head, but smiles and says nothing as she holds out her arms.

Grimory steps forward. “So, you two up next?”

The man on the left steps forward as well. “You will not interfere with Hyrja’s ascendance!”

“Guess so.”

Alisbeth runs forward and situates herself between Koltira and Grimory, her hook ready in her fists. “Both or one at a time?”

Grimory gives a shrug and runs toward the man on the left. “Not sure who you are but you’re first!”

“I am Olmir of the Storm!” the man booms, throwing lightning at the Illidari as if to prove this fact.

Grimory ducks out of its path and swipes at his legs, but is swiftly kicked away.

Anarchaia lifts her hands and summons beam of fire, aiming it at Olmir’s head. The man growls in pain and stumbles back.

Alisbeth and Koltira jump into the fray as Juliember stay dutifully behind. “Careful with that lightning,” the druid says.

The team makes short, easy work of both Olmir and his partner. From their two bodies raise spectral visages, calling words of encouragement to the massive Valkyr woman that steps down from the platform. “It is all right, friends,” she says, raising her spear. “This will not take long!”

Alisbeth giggles. “You’re right…it won’t.” She raises her bloodied hook and charges ahead recklessly.

“Gods dammit, Ali!” Koltira runs after her.

“If you die, I’m taking your pants!” The druid laughs, throwing heals at the death knight in preparation for the worst.

“There aren’t any to take,” Anarchaia mutters in a salty tone, throwing her typical blasts of fire.

Hyrja turns to Alisbeth and throws a shield of light up, then thrusts her spear out from behind it. “Small mortals! You know not what you interrupt!”

“We don’t care.” Grimory runs to the backside of the woman, behind her shield and safe from the spear. He rakes his claws against the armor at her back, then grits his teeth when he makes to mark. “Ugh. This fucking armor.”

Koltira and Alisbeth hook their weapons into the woman’s armor pulling hard to break it. Small bits bend away, but not enough to create an opening. They continue to pry, hoping to make a hole wide enough for Grimory to get his claws inside.

“Ayy, teamwork!” The demon hunter gives a thankful thumbs up and avoids a slash from the spear. He slides between Hyrja’s legs and quickly turns to run his claws through the woman’s leg, in the unarmored spot behind her knee.

Hyrja gives a groan of pain and falls to a knee. She thrusts her spear into the ground and the room fills with lightning save for a small bubble around herself.

Anarchaia immediately stops casting her spells and makes for the safe zone inside the shield, but is not quick enough. Electricity pierces through her and she falls to the floor, skidding some distance from her momentum.

“Ana!” Grimory makes to run for the mage, but Hyrja’s spear blocks his path.

She growls angrily down at him and raises it again.

Juliember blinks forward to the mage, grabs her hood in her jaw, and dashes back to safety. Once there, she gets back to her job of healing, glancing down at Anarchaia. “Are you okay?”

“Gary, get in here!” Alisbeth screams, waving her hands around.

“I…yeah.” Anarchaia gets to her feet and places a palm over her head. “Never been electrocuted before. Heh. Gotta say, not a fan.”

Grimory returns the growl and leaps onto Hyrja’s spear, effectively placing him inside the zone. He runs up the handle and throws a well-placed kick into the woman’s exposed jaw.

The storm immediately subsides and Hyrja swats the Illidari back to the ground as one would an insect. “I’ve had enough of you lot!” She turns, sweeping her spear across the floor, hoping to hit the rest of the group in one attack.

The druid blinks away and throws up her arms, little flecks of light raise from the ground to heal all of them as any damage is done.

Alisbeth jumps over the spear and runs around to Hyrja’s back to pry away more armor.

Koltira jumps too slow and catches the sweep across his shins, then is knocked end over end and to the floor.

Anarchaia blinks in the opposite direction of the oncoming spear, the blade missing her by inches. She throws numerous spears of ice into the woman’s chest, knocking her back slightly.

Grimory recovers and skids to Koltira’s side, extending a hand. “You good?” he asks, glancing between his fallen teammate and the enemy as the mage serves as a temporary distraction.

“Are my arms still attached?” He chuckles and stands, limping back into the fight until his wounds heal.

“I’ve got it!” Alisbeth shouts. She rips the entire back of Hyrja’s armor off and swings her hook into the exposed flesh.

“Good!” Anarchaia ducks out of the way of the spear as Hyrja twists in agony.

Grimory takes the opportunity as well, leaping up to dig his claws into her new weak spot. The valkyr cries out as blood pours from her wounds, leaking to the floor. She falls, the spear sliding across the floor with a screech.

Alisbeth pounces as the woman falls forward. She digs her hook into the flesh of Hyrja’s back, then yanks to cut her spinal chord in half. The woman falls, gasping as Alisbeth continues to dig into her back. She punctures a lung and Hyrja coughs blood onto the shining floor.

Anarchaia slinks back behind the druid to shield herself from the sight, a hand over her uneasy stomach.

Grimory gives a laugh as he watches. “I think you’re good, Ali. She’s not moving anymore.”

Alisbeth straightens. “Oh.” She steps off the woman, shoulders her hook, and skips away, whistling a happy tune.

Koltira purses his lips at Hyrja. “That got a little out of hand.”

“Just a bit,” the mage agrees, sauntering off after Alisbeth and swallowing her nausea.

Grimory shrugs and steps through the growing pool of blood. “I thought it was fun.”

 

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