Book 2 – Chapter Twenty

Alisbeth makes her way to Grimory’s room and taps on the wood, almost too quietly to be heard. When no answer comes, she taps a little harder.

“Grim?” She takes a steadying breath. “I need help. I…I did something bad.”

When still no answer comes, Alisbeth tests the knob, her sobs catching in her throat. She drops her things to the floor and closes the door to stare at the passed-out figure of Grimory. She climbs onto the bed and curls against him, dragging his arm around her. With a deep breath, she presses her face into his shoulder to cry.

“I need you, Grim.”

Grimory groans and slowly lifts his head. He blinks and rubs the sleep from his eyes. “Ali…?” He sits up as though the sound of his own voice woke him fully. “Ali?” he repeats, still quite drunk.

Alisbeth clings to the demon hunter. “I did something bad. I don’t know what to do, Grim. Do you hate me? Are you mad? I thought that it would go away if I pretended you didn’t exist. But it… Oh, gods. I did something very, very bad. But I had to, okay? I had to.” She cries harder, knowing she’s lying to make herself feel better.

Grimory groggily puts an arm over her shoulders. “Woah, slow down,” he groans, sitting up. “I don’t hate you. What happened? What did you do?”

“I didn’t have a choice, okay Grim?” She wraps her arms around his neck as a breath shudders in her chest. “He was fucking her.”

Grimory winces. I know. “What? Who? Ali, what did you do?”

Alisbeth shakes her head. “They won’t be doing it again. I had to do it. Grim, I’m scared. I don’t know what to do now.”

Grimory sits up fully, panic in his eyes. “Ali, did you kill them?

Alisbeth scrabbles to hold onto the Illidari. “I had to, Grim. Right? I had to? Please don’t hate me.” Her sobs intensify as she tries to make sense of everything. You had to. “I had to.” We had to. “I had to. Okay?” Okay.

Grimory pauses for a long moment, bringing shaking hands up to hold onto her. “I-I don’t…hate you.” He shakes his head. “No, Ali this is bad. Very bad. You…we need to hide you.”

Alisbeth calms down, two fat tears running down her cheeks as she stares into his eyes. “You’re not going to tell on me?”

Grimory swallows and shakes his head. “No. I…kind of understand.” Tears sting his eyes as the reality hits him. Ana… “We just…need to leave. Right now. Get your things.”

Alisbeth nods urgently. “Okay. Okay. I have them. Grim, I…” She throws her arms around his neck and presses a desperate, frightened kiss to his lips. “I never should have left you.”

Grimory sobers some. “I wish you hadn’t.” He stands from the bed and grabs his pack, still swaying from the alcohol. “Let’s go. Don’t look at anyone. Don’t say anything. Yeah?”

She nods again and scrambles from the bed. “Yes, okay. Whatever you think is best.” She throws her purple satchel over her shoulder and slings the Redblade across her back, then holds her axe in her fists. Her eyes lock onto the blood coating the spikes and she frowns, her entire face twisting in sorrow. “What have I done?”

Grimory wordlessly leads her from the inn. I can’t believe she actually did it. People are gonna come looking. Where am I supposed to take her? May as well just continue the mission as though nothing happened. He turns. “Are you all right?”

Alisbeth says nothing for a long time as she squeezes his hand tight in her own. “I’m not crazy,” she says quietly.

“No,” Grimory says, his fingers tightening around the strap of the pack over his shoulder. “Just upset. It’s okay, Ali. Stuff like this happens all the time.” He leads her to the road to Moonclaw Vale.

Alisbeth breaks down sobbing as she tries to keep up with Grimory. “He called me crazy.”

Grimory stops and turns to her, setting his hands on her shoulders and looking down into her eyes. “Ali, you aren’t crazy, okay? He was just angry, I’m sure and we all say things we don’t mean when we’re angry, yeah?”

“I don’t understand,” she continues, “he was supposed to love me. What am I supposed to do without him? Nobody else ever wanted me.” She straightens and wipes her face, her sobs quieting. “No. I don’t need him, right? I can take care of myself. I never needed a man before him and I sure don’t need one now.” She takes Grimory’s hand again and stomps down the path. “Come on, Grim. For duty and honor. We must press on.”

Grimory opens his mouth to respond but she’s already pulling him down the path. He shrugs and follows. “That’s right. Only a crazy person needs someone, right?” he says with a hesitant chuckle.

Alisbeth nods insistently. “That’s right! Well, no. Children need someone.” She frowns, but then shakes it off. “I’m not a child. I’ve been on my own for over one-hundred years, I’ll be fine.” She stops in her tracks and spins to wrap her arms around his torso under his arms. “But can I need you for a little while?”

Grimory stops, then sobers, wrapping his arms around her. “That’s a different kind of need, you know. That kind is okay to have.” He runs a hand down her hair.

Alisbeth smiles up at him. “I wish I’d met you before. I bet you could’ve helped me through some tough times.” She takes his hand again, threading her fingers through his as she pulls him into walking down the path again.

Grimory sighs. “Same, Ali.” He allows her to lead him, resisting a shiver with the cool night air. “Moonclaw is our first stop.”

Alisbeth smiles back at him. “I think our first stop should be for you to finish sleeping. I’ll keep you safe, okay?”

Grimory lifts his eyebrows and shakes his head. “I don’t think I could if I tried, but taking a moment would be a good idea…”

Alisbeth finds a log just off the path and leads him to it. “Take all the time you need. You were pretty drunk.”

Grimory nods and sets himself on the log. He rests his elbows on his thighs and puts his face in his hands. This is a nightmare.

Alisbeth chews on her lower lip as she frowns at him. After a moment she kneels in front of him, then scoots forward on her knees to place herself between his thighs. She sits on a hip and rests her cheek on his thigh. “You’re not happy with me.”

“It’s not you I’m unhappy with,” Grimory says with a deep sigh as he spreads his fingers to look down at her from between them. They were our friends. “Everything will be okay.”

Alisbeth purses her lips anyway. “Want me to tell you a story? Would that make you feel better?”

Grimory gives her an endearing smile and removes his hands from his face. “Yeah, sure.”

Alisbeth chews on her lip and blinks. “I don’t know any happy ones. Are you okay with a sad one?”

“A sad story is still a story,” Grimory responds, lifting his head. “Go ahead.”

She bites harder into her lip and frowns. “Okay. I’ve never told anyone this, because I was sworn to secrecy. But my friend died, so I can tell it now, right?” She nods to herself. She looks away from the Illidari at the grass as though the story is written in the blades. “I had a friend long ago. One day when she was upset she took off. Months later she found out she was with child…” Alisbeth stares at her fingers as she twists them together in her lap. “She’d never done anything like it before. She wouldn’t tell anyone who he was. I didn’t know what to tell her. Sometimes I wonder…if I had told her to go back to the man and tell him…if she’d still be alive, you know?” She rubs at her forehead. “I think about these things, you know?”

Oh gods. Is just going on like it didn’t happen really the best thing? We should go back…get their bodies. Do…something. Grimory nods as he listens despite his racing thoughts. “That is a sad story. What do you think would have happened to her if she had went back to him? And of the child?” He leans forward to sit in the dirt with her.

Alisbeth scratches her scalp and thinks on it. “Well, there wasn’t really a guy to go back to, I don’t think. I think he just wanted to fuck her. A one-off. But she didn’t think so? She didn’t want to tell him because she didn’t even really know him. She was too stubborn to go find him. By then the child was already gone.” The death knight rubs her nose and eyes in one swipe across her forearm. “She took a potion that changed how she looked, like she’d never carried a child. She never talked about it again. Not to anyone. Not ever.” She wipes her nose again. “Maybe if she’d had a friend like you it would have helped. I bet you could have made her feel better. You’re good at that.”

Grimory gives an airy chuckle. “That’s really too kind. And it’s really a shame. I’m sure if she’d have asked, the man would have stayed. Not all men are…well, like me.” He inhales and sighs. “How did she die?”

Alisbeth purses her lips. “But, what would you have done? If a woman you’d met only once had told you that you were to be a father?” She stares at the ground. “Maybe it’s best what she did.”

Grimory gives a laugh through his nose. “I’ve always kind of wanted a family, but it turned out different. If I found out I had a child, though…I think I’d be kinda happy.” He smiles. “Definitely wouldn’t have gone to war. Been a different person.” He sighs. “But that’s not how it happened.”

Alisbeth runs a hand through his hair. “I don’t know who you were, but I’m glad you are who you are—just because I got to meet you. We would’ve been strangers our whole lives. Can you imagine? You never would have danced with me or started a tavern brawl or been bandits for a night.” She wraps her arms around his middle. “Now you tell me a story.”

Grimory smiles, momentarily forgetting about his friends. “I’m glad, too.” He mulls over the request, leaning back to rest his head on the log. “When I was younger, my cousins and I would play in the forest near our home. One day we were fighting with sticks—we must have been about one-twenty, one-thirty—and Vira slipped off one of the rocks near the cliff side. She didn’t fall down the cliff, thank gods, but she ended up breaking her leg. We affixed a stick to it and pulled her pant leg over it, but our parents eventually found out. We were in so much trouble. I think that was the last time I ever got the switch.” He chuckles. “I deserved it though.”

A light laugh rings from Alisbeth’s lips. “So, you’ve always been a terror. Some things never change. What happened to your cousins?”

Grimory shrugs. “I know Vira’s married now. Not sure to whom or where. I was invited, but I couldn’t leave my post. Unsure about the rest.” He sighs. “I came out of that crystal hoping the war would be over, only to be thrown into another.”

The death knight smooths her hand over his forehead and down his cheek. She bites the inside of her lip, not wanting to say what she knows he must want to hear. “Maybe one day, when the war is over and you’ve had your fill of silly girls… Maybe… I hope you find someone to settle down with. And have children.” Her sober demeanor shifts as her eyes widen and she grins in excitement. “Do you think they’d have horns, too?”

Grimory rolls his eyes and smiles. “Maybe one day.” He laughs. “I’m honestly not even sure it’s possible for me to have kids now or not. Never looked into it.”

Alisbeth thinks, her eyes roaming the canopy above them. “Hmm… You could find a girl who is okay with or without kids. Like, she won’t be upset if it doesn’t happen, but will try, right? And just…bang every night. You’re good at that part, I’m sure.” She laughs, then sobers. “I didn’t want any. Not for a long time, if ever. I was going to wait, like my mom. She was over four-hundred when I was born. But I’d still have waited longer. If I had the choice.”

Grimory closes his eyes, head still resting on the fallen log. “I personally think you’d make a good mother. You have the qualities.” He pauses. “And I’ve kind of given up on the endeavor. It’s not worth it at this point.”

Alisbeth snorts. “Wrong and what? You’re not old enough to give up. Talk to me in a couple centuries and I’ll believe that.”

“No one wants a man who’s seen war and been with countless women. Damaged goods.”

She purses her lips and leans her face just inches from his. “Are you falling asleep? I can be quiet.” She glances around the area nervously. “Or can we keep moving? Or hide better?”

Grimory opens an eye to look at her. “I’m not sleeping, but if you wanna go further into the woods, we can.” He pushes himself to his feet.

Alisbeth hops onto Grimory’s back, waiting a second to make sure he doesn’t fall over, then wraps her arms around his shoulders and presses her cheek to the back of his neck. “You’re wrong.” She bites her lips together nervously. It’s okay, now. She grips him, snuggling her face into his hair and smiling wide. “I like damaged things.”

Grimory stumbles for a second but regains his footing quickly despite still being somewhat drunk. “I suppose that’s why we’re friends.” He carries her deeper into the trees and chuckles. “I like damaged things, too. They have more character.” He listens to the crickets and smiles.

“Hey, Grim? I wanted to tell you something, but I didn’t.” Her eyes catch and count fireflies in the bushes as they pass.

Grimory turns his head as though to look at her despite not actually being able to see her. “Hm? Wassat?”

Alisbeth frowns. “Grim, I…” She clenches her jaw. “Ithinkyou’reareallygooddancer.”

Grimory gives a laugh regardless of the sadness and stress still in his heart. “I think you’re a good dancer, too.” He finds a clearing near a glassy pond and takes up a spot on the bank, her still on his back. He swallows and looks out over the water, pushing away the invading memories of the times the four have spent together. “Beautiful night.”

Alisbeth releases him to frown at the side of his head. “You’re still unhappy. I’m sorry. I should have let you sleep. I can go, if you want. And you can sleep. And I can go and hide myself.” She backs away from him. “I’ll hide where Mograine will never find me. Okay? You sleep.”

Grimory shakes his head. “No, Ali. Stay. I am unhappy, but being alone is the last thing I want right now.” He chews on the inside of his cheek. “And Mograine doesn’t care about you anymore. You don’t have to worry about him.”

“But I…Koltira…” She frowns and keeps backing away to hide.

Grimory reaches out to grab her wrist. “Don’t leave me again.” He swallows. “Please.”

Alisbeth pushes into his chest as though he’d dragged her there with the simple touch. “Only because you said please.” She gasps and looks into his eyes. “What if she finds me? I don’t think I’m stronger than her…”

Grimory blinks. “Who?”

“Applebottom!” She covers her mouth. “Do you think she’d light me on fire?” She buries her face into her palms. “Everyone is going to come for me. You should go so they don’t get you, too, before you can find that girl you want to bang every night.”

Grimory sits up straight and peers into her face, incredulous. “You didn’t kill Ana?!”

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