Book 2 – Chapter Three

The dried mud crumbles from Alisbeth’s skin as she runs through the trees, determined to put herself as far away from going back as she can.

Grimory finally sees the running figure through the trees. He flies down in an attempt to cut her off, landing in front of her and holding his arms out. “Ali, slow down!”

Alisbeth doesn’t slow down and instead crashes into Grimory. She squeezes her eyes shut and wraps her arms around him. “Hi.”

Grimory grunts as he’s pushed back, stumbling to his rear. He grimaces as mud smears across his chest, but returns the hug regardless. “Hi,” he chuckles.

Alisbeth curls onto Grimory’s lap. “I was just trying to see you. I didn’t know… I didn’t think Mograine meant this as being ‘one more step out of line.’ I hope the other guy isn’t in trouble, too!” She casts her wide eyes on him. “Do you know if he’s in trouble, too? He didn’t know, I swear! I didn’t tell him what I was doing with the stuff he got me!”

Grimory’s features soften to a gentle smile. She did miss me. “Slow down. Who? What guy?”

“I had him get me things and slip them under the door. I told him if he did I’d give him a great reward after. He got me different armor and clothes and then unlocked Bloodmist’s stall and got the keys off Mograine to unlock my room. I just…shoved a bunch of candy canes at him because I didn’t have anything else. I don’t know who he was. Just some…adventurer, I guess?” She squints up at a crying eagle. “I missed sunlight. And birds. And wind.” She holds out her hand, fingers splayed to feel the tiny breeze slip between them.

Grimory frowns and hugs her close. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have let you go. It’s my fault.”

“You’re so warm. The spring is warmer! But it’s not the same.” She sighs. “And I didn’t give you a choice. I had to go. Mograine said.”

Grimory sighs. “You don’t have to listen to him, you know.”

Alisbeth stares at him. “But, he’s my superior. I have to listen to him. At least when he gives an order. When he sends Koltira I can at least…get some wiggle room.” She laughs and wiggles her body, then laughs harder.

Grimory can’t help but smile at her silliness. “Superiors aren’t always right. They make mistakes just like the rest of us. In commands, decisions, judgments…” He twirls a lock of her hair between a thumb and forefinger.

Alisbeth sobers. “I don’t want to die. It’ll make me nothing. I don’t want to be nothing.”

Grimory frowns once more and he avoids looking into her eyes. “You can’t die if you just never go back.”

Alisbeth cocks an eyebrow at Grimory. “But…don’t I have to?”

Grimory tilts his head. “Why do you think you have to?”

Alisbeth shrugs. “Because orders?”

Grimory purses his lips and lifts an eyebrow. “There’s more to life than orders, Ali,” he responds quietly, releasing her hair and letting it fall back.

Alisbeth looks down at her arms and giggles. “I look like a crockalisk!” She scratches at the dried mud. “So…what would you do?”

Grimory helps remove some of the dirt from her shoulders. “If I was part of an army that locked me away in a room, I’d either leave or demand they just kill me.”

“But, they are going to kill me. Should I let them?” She stops fidgeting with the dirt on her arms to look at him, trying to catch his eye.

Grimory’s emerald eyes quickly flick to her icy ones. “No. Don’t do that.” He pauses, his features gaining a hint of somberness. “I’d miss you too much.”

“You’re just saying that,” Alisbeth says. She smiles and pushes at his cheek. “So what should I do?”

“Am not,” Grimory says with a grin as his cheek is squished against his teeth. “What do you want to do?” he asks, eyebrows raised.

Alisbeth scrunches one side of her face in thought. “I want to do what you want to do!”

Kiss you. Grimory sighs and picks the mud from beneath his short nails. “You wouldn’t want to do what I want to do.” Nor should she. She’s married…but that’s never stopped either of you. But that doesn’t make it right. But I still want it. “So you decide for yourself.”

Alisbeth shrugs. “Maybe I do? How do you know if you don’t tell me?” She bites her lower lip in thought and looks around. “I bet they’re coming for us now. Should we go?”

Grimory glances up at the sky and sighs. “Yeah, we should.” He gives her another grin. “Unless you don’t want to.”

Alisbeth scrunches her face at the demon hunter. “I said I want to do what you want to do. Let’s do that.”

Grimory chews on the inside of his lip, then shakes his head. “Nah. You’ll just hit me. Or worse.” He lies back, resting on his elbows to look up at her with a smirk.

Alisbeth pops to her feet. “Okay, well, then I guess we won’t do what you want.” She frowns and opens her mouth to say something else, then closes it and starts running again.

Grimory blinks and scrambles back to his feet to follow. “Ali, wait! Kolt and Ana are that way!”

“I know!” Alisbeth shouts. “That’s why I’m running this way!”

Grimory grits his teeth and takes off above the trees, doing his best to keep sight of her. “Let’s at least get you some clothes!” he calls.

“I have clothes!” Alisbeth shouts up at him. “I’m wearing underwear so mud doesn’t go up my—aah!” Having not been looking where she was going, Alisbeth trips over a protruding root, which sends her sprawling across the foliage.

“Ali!” The demon hunter quickly lands and rushes to her side. “Are you all right?” He picks a few leaves lodged within the dried mud on her body.

Alisbeth giggles. “That was actually fun. I’m not saying I want to fall again, but I wouldn’t mind it.” She brushes her hair back and sobers. “I don’t want to go back. But if that’s what you want, then I’ll go.”

Grimory helps the woman back to her feet, pulling more twigs out of her hair with an endearing smile. “Then we won’t go back. We can stay here. In the forest. Shirtless.”

Alisbeth shrugs. “I wouldn’t mind a shirt. Or a bath.” She looks up at him, squinting at the sun over his head. “You really think we could live forever in the forest?”

Grimory gives a laugh and sighs in defeat. “No, probably not. Though…we should get you dressed somehow before going anywhere but here.” He smiles. “It’d be pretty hilarious if we just…left those two back there.”

Alisbeth narrows her eyes. “Would it be fun?”

Grimory’s smile widens. “That depends on what we do with our time.”

Alisbeth claps and bites her lower lip, then leans to press her palms on his chest for a excited second. “Could we kill things? And drink? And scare animals…then kill them, of course.” She looks down at herself. “But shower and clothes first, right? That’s usually the right way to do things?”

Grimory nods. “That’s probably best. We need to get you dressed before we go anywhere. And unless Ana’s here, we’ll need to get our own booze.”

Alisbeth’s eyes light up. “Let’s find a tavern and kill everyone and take their booze and then I can take clothes from the corpses! Just whatever fits. We can get you some and we can pretend we’re other people! I’ll be a miner in search of truesilver.” She crouches and throws up and excited fist. “Let’s go!”

Grimory blinks. “Innocent people?”

Alisbeth takes Grimory’s hand and pulls at him. “Anyone that gets in our way. Plus forsaken. All of them have to die. It’s for the best.”

Grimory gives a bit of resistance at her pulling. “Why don’t we find some thieves to kill and pretend to be them? We can steal things then and no one will suspect us.” Please be reasonable.

Alisbeth’s eyes light up at the new suggestion. “That idea is so much better! You’re so good at this!”

Grimory rolls his eyes upward, thanking the heavens. “Good! Now we just need to find a rogue encampment, yeah? They’re sure to have booze, too.”

Alisbeth leaps into Grimory’s arms. “Off to adventure and plunder!”

Grimory laughs and makes for the tree line. “And a shirt.”

“And pants and shoes and oh, oh! Can I have an eyepatch? Can I dye my hair? Can I cut my hair? Can we cu—… Dye your hair?” Alisbeth reaches up to play with a few styled clumps of blond.

“Nothing sharp or colored is going anywhere near my hair,” Grimory says, half-joking half-serious. “And I like yours the way it is.”

Alisbeth bites her lower lip. “But…what if it was blue?”

Grimory furrows his brow down at the death knight. “Yours or mine?”

Mine!” Alisbeth squeals. “Come on. Blue hair and blue eyes and blue…ish skin. I’d look so cool! Oh, and an eye patch. Don’t forget the eyepatch.” She adjusts herself to lean closer to his warmth.

Grimory grimaces. “No, please don’t. You’re pretty the way you are. The eyepatch I approve of, though.” He stops when he hears voices through the trees, then motions for her to be quiet. A light glows dimly near the path. “Looks like plain adventurers.”

“What if they’re not plain adventurers? Want me to go distract them while you go in from behind?” She scrambles to get down from his grasp.

Grimory does his best to hold onto her. “Wait!” he hisses. “Let’s listen to what they’re saying first. That could give us the reason we need.”

Alisbeth stops. “Okay, fine. But then can I go distract them? I mean, I am dressed for the part.” She sends an evil grin up at him.

Grimory mulls over the idea for a moment, then returns the grin, setting her down. “Deal. Just no killing until we’re sure they’re thieves.”

Alisbeth nods insistently. “Okay. I’ll just go in and—Oh! Hit me! Damsel in distress! ‘Help me please!’” She throws her head back, the back of her hand to her forehead. “If they attack me, we kill them? What if they don’t attack? Can we still kill them?”

Grimory blinks and furrows his brow. “I’m not going to hit you,” he hisses. “Just go out and, I dunno, flaunt yourself. If they try to rape you or something, we’ll know they’re pieces of shit.”

Alisbeth pokes out a lower lip. “You just don’t want me to be a damsel in distress.” She furrows her brow. “I don’t want to flaunt myself. I don’t know how.” She frowns. “I’m doing what I want. You can’t stop me.” The death knight spins and runs away toward the camp before Grimory can stop her.

Grimory reaches out a hand to stop her, then curses under his breath when it’s too late. He follows closely as to keep an eye on her from a safe distance. Please don’t get hurt.

Alisbeth stops and points for Grimory to go around the back of the encampment, then forces herself to stumble the last few feet out of the bushes. “Thank gods!” she says, covering her bare breasts in an act of innocent modesty. “I need help.”

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