Alisbeth sighs at the ceiling as she finishes the book she’d borrowed the night before. She turns to stare at the sleeping demon hunter, then snuggles closer to him. She closes her eyes and smiles as his breath tickles her forehead.
Finally sober and rested, Grimory opens his eyes slowly. He closes them again and wraps an arm around Alisbeth to pull her closer. “Morning,” he mumbles groggily. “Ready to go?”
Alisbeth snuggles even closer, tucking her nose into his collar. “Five more minutes.” You’ve already stayed at the scene of the crime too long, Redblade. “Just five. More. Minutes.”
Grimory gives a puff of a laugh through his nose and nods. “Wherever you want, girlie. Don’t blame me if I fall back asleep though.”
Alisbeth giggles and rolls to lay on his stomach. “I could keep you awake. I know lots of ways to stay awake.”
Grimory smirks and laces his fingers behind his head. “I’ll bet you do.”
“Jumping up and down is a good one!” Alisbeth says, wiggling just the littlest bit to move the bed up and down. “Slapping yourself works. Oh, oh. Spinning in circles. I like that one.” She grins wide at him and tucks her arms between his back and the bed.
Grimory gives another fangy grin. “The jumping seems to be working. You should scoot back a bit though. That would really wake me up.”
Alisbeth’s grin turns scheming. “Oh, like this?” She sidles down to straddle his hips, then moves hers just the littlest bit against him. “Or did you mean something even lower?” She scoots down farther until her face is over the top seam of his trousers.
Grimory hums and opens an eye to look down at her, his grin unwavering. “Still pretty tired…”
Alisbeth’s smile widens as her thin fingers work to undo the ties of his leather pants. “Hmm…I suppose that’s something I’ll have to fix.”
~ * ~
Grimory drapes an arm over Alisbeth’s shoulder as they make their way out of the village, his skin still glistening from his shower; hair damp, yet styled. “I looked over the map and I think I know a short cut to the next stop.” He gently pulls her off the path and into the lush forest. “Scenic route.”
Alisbeth squeezes more water from her hair—it dribbles down the front of her breastplate. “Ooo! I like scenic routes! I bet they’re pretty here.” She leans her head against the side of his chest and puts her arm around his back. “What’s our next stop? What are we doing there? Oh! Will we be killing things?”
Grimory swallows and gives a nervous chuckle. “Yes. Yes, we will.” He jerks out of the way of a dragonfly as it nears. “I assume most places we go we’ll be killing things.”
“Yay!” Alisbeth wiggles them both in excitement. “Killing things, and Grim! Two of my favorite things! Today is going to be awesome!”
Grimory’s features soften and he gives a genuine smile. The two trudge through the foliage for some time until they come upon a steep cliff scattered with boulders and trees determined enough to grow there.
“Hm. I may have taken a wrong turn.”
Alisbeth squints into the distance. “Oh! Look! A cute little town with cute little birds flying around. Let’s go ask for directions there.” She trudges ahead of Grimory, her arms behind her back and holding one of his hands.
Grimory clenches his teeth. We really don’t have time. “Sure.” He suddenly pulls her to him, scooping her up and spreading his tattered wings. It isn’t long before they land gently within the limits of the tiny, dreary farm town. A sheep runs by, bleating carelessly. “Hm. Nostalgic.”
Alisbeth giggles. “Oh, ewe.” She pokes his nose and hops out of his arms. She runs to the nearest human, waving and smiling as though he’s not looking right at her already. “Hi! Hi! We’re lost, can you—”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t have time for outsiders.”
Alisbeth’s smile wavers just a little. “Okay, but we need—”
He holds up a hand. “Can you not tell that I am busy?” He motions at a night elf, which Alisbeth had walked right past.
“Okay, but can I jus—”
“I’ll kill zombie birds for you!” she shrieks, noticing the undead state of the birds.
The man raises an eyebrow. “You do that and I might be able to make time for you. Kill some sentinels, too, while you’re out there.”
“Okay!” She stomps back to Grimory. “That asshole wants us to kill some zombie birds.”
The demon hunter laughs and nods. “I guess we can do that. Let’s make short work of it though, okay? Time is of the essence.”
Alisbeth balls up her fists and purses her lips at Grimory. She mutters obscenities under her breath before biting him on the pectoral and stomping off to yank a bird out of the sky and onto her sword.
Grimory cocks his head curiously at her but otherwise thinks nothing of it. The two make short work of the undead birds terrorizing the hounds and livestock and soon the ground is littered with mottled feathers and the smell of burning fowl. Grimory glances at the sun to gage the time and fidgets.
“What’s wrong?” Alisbeth asks. She takes his hand and swings it back and forth like in a child’s game.
Grimory frowns down at her. “There’s something we need to do. We need to go. These people can have someone else to do their chores.” He pulls her back toward the road.
“Oh. Okay. But he did say he’d give us directions. And we killed the birds.” She smiles brightly at him. “That was a lot of fun, Grim. Thank you.” She snuggles against him and closes her eyes in contentment.
Grimory sets a hand atop her head. “I have a map. The only reason I agreed was because you looked so excited to kill thing—” A roar echoes through the cliffs to the northeast and the demon hunter jerks his head to listen. “We need to go.” He takes her hand and again pulls her toward the path leading to the temple. “Come on.”
“O-Oh,” Alisbeth says. She purses her lips and sheaths her sword. “Okay. Let’s go. I’m with you, whatever it is.”
Grimory gives her a reassuring smile. “Thanks, Ali.” He gives a dry laugh. “I’d fly us but that armor of yours…my wings still hurt from just carrying you down the cliff.”
Alisbeth frowns and looks down at herself. “I’m barely even wearing any! Are you saying I’m fat?”
Grimory blinks and turns to her. “N-No! Of course not! That’s not—” He scoffs and turns back to the path. “Don’t do this to me, Ali.”
Alisbeth cackles evilly and jumps onto Grimory’s back. “Flustered you!” She pokes at his neck, cheek, and ear making little boop sounds. “Okay, so, all fatness aside,” she snerks, “that was a dragon, wasn’t it? That’s where we’re heading?”
Grimory narrows his eyes. His ear flicks as she prods it. “Yes. Yes it is. Hang tight.” Hands securing her thighs, he takes off running down the path.
Alisbeth grips him and smiles, enjoying the ride a little more than she should. She kisses the back of his neck and giggles. “Sure we can’t stop for just an eesy-weensy minute?”
Grimory shakes his head, the silence in the air making him uneasy. “Sorry, but no. Why?”
She swirls her finger around his goatee. “Just reasons. But since we can’t…” She shoves down, then runs to match his pace and take his hand, lacing her fingers through his. She smiles brightly. “Now you can run faster! Don’t worry, I’ll keep up. I don’t get tired.”
Grimory and Alisbeth arrive to the temple just in time to catch the Nightmare-bound Ysera smashing night elf guards and archers and knocking over pillars with her tail. Grimory runs to the steps with Alisbeth in tow and pauses to look down at the drained mage on the stairs. “Ana-” he begins, but is cut off by an earth-shaking roar.
“Grim,” she groans, getting to her feet. She points ahead, unsteady. “You have to stop him… He’s going to kill her.”
The demon hunter follows her finger, his eyes widening slightly at the shock of familiar white hair and armor. He grits his teeth, pushing his astonishment aside. “I know.” He releases Alisbeth’s hand and steps forward as well.
Koltira approaches carefully, avoiding Ysera’s thrashing tail. He shouts out to grab her attention from a druid she’s mauling. With a frown and a heavy heart, he throws a circle of red decay beneath Ysera. She swipes at him. He parries and slashes back.
Alisbeth stares at the dragon, seeing nothing else. “Is that…?” Tears spring to her eyes. “That’s not Ysera, is it?”
Anarchaia watches as Grimory leaves the two behind to breathe fire over the dragon’s feet and legs, a feeling of betrayal pinging in her chest. “It is,” she groans, again falling to kneel on the stairs. “Xavius got to her…before we could.”
The demon hunter dodges a sweeping tail and spreads his wings to leap onto Ysera’s back, slashing at the back of her skull and earning him a roar of disapproval.
“No!” Alisbeth shrieks. “Applesauce, you have to stop them!” She scoops Anarchaia up, forcing her to stand. The death knight puts her hands in Anarchaia’s armpits and aims her at Koltira. “Blast him with fire! Do it!” She shakes the mage.
Ysera’s head rears back to shake the demon hunter away. Koltira sees an opportunity and slashes at her exposed neck. He sword cuts through her scales, but not deep enough to be a mortal strike.
“I can barely stand on my own,” Anarchaia mutters. “Even if I had the mana…”
Grimory rights himself as he lands, gritting his teeth. He runs back forward to aim strikes at the backs of the beast’s ankles.
Ysera growls and jerks as a rogue arrow strikes her in the eye. Blood flows forth and stains the temple floor.
Alisbeth gasps out a sob as she drops the mage to the ground; Ana grunts in pain as she falls to the hard stone steps.
“Then I’ll stop them!” She runs forward. Encountering Grimory first, she leaps at him to drag him to the ground. “You have to stop! I won’t let you do this! Please, stop! Please!” the death knight screams as she hits him with her fists.
Grimory growls. He grabs at her fists to stop her assault. “Ali, she’s gone! We can’t save her! This is our only option!”
“No it’s not!” she screams. “You can’t do this!” She gets up and runs at Koltira, tackling him. “I’m sorry I killed you, but you can’t do this! Stop!”
Koltira growls and shoves her off him. “I don’t have time for your bullshit. I have orders.”
“That’s all you are, isn’t it? They say kill and you do without question. Kill Redblade, okay. Kill Ysera, okay. Who’s next?” She stops his sword with her own and pushes him back.
“Get out of my way, Ali!” He throws purple shadows around her neck that lift her into the air. While she’s there he grabs her and throws her across the courtyard. He picks up the Redblade, enjoying the comfort of his own weapon. With renewed urgency he goes back into the fight, slashing at Ysera’s front flank and her neck. Gashes open in her scales and bleed out on the white stone.
Ysera gives a tired groan and swipes weakly at her assailants. Blood pools around her claws as her wounds weep profusely and her strength wanes. Grimory takes the opportunity to dig his claws into a weak spot at her throat opened by Koltira. The dragon roars in agony; a cascade of crimson seeps down to join the rest.
Koltira edges in beside Grimory so they stand shoulder-to-shoulder. “Together. One, two, three!” They dive at the spot at the same time and in a few seconds Ysera groans as she crashes to the ground, dead.
Alisbeth stops as she’s running back to stop them. “No,” she squeaks. “No!” She runs forward, shoving the men out of the way. She throws herself to the ground and wraps her arms around Ysera’s neck. “Why? Why? You monsters!”
Grimory breathes heavily with wear and gives Alisbeth a sober look. “It had to be done, Ali,” he says with caution, not daring to step forward lest he incur her wrath.
A celestial visage of the dragon, restored anew and sparkling, peels itself from the corpse on the ground. It lifts into the sky, wings spread, and the Dreamer disappears into the night. In her wake glitters stars not previously there to monument her death and celebrate her life. From the constellation falls a single tear that lands on the corpse. The body fades into nothingness and in its place sits the drop, solidified and humming with energy.
Alisbeth remains crying on the ground where the dragon had been. Unwilling to move.
Unsure of what Alisbeth might do, Koltira turns from her and goes to Ana. “I presume you hate me, now, too.”
Building courage, Grimory kneels beside Alisbeth and places a hand on her shoulder wordlessly.
Anarchaia slowly stands and shakes her head sadly. “I’m obviously upset,” she says, still weak, “but I know you did what you must.” She sighs, biting back tears. “I just…” She buries her face in his chestplate.
Alisbeth peers at the demon hunter, gasping with sobs so violent they physically shake her body. “But…why?”
Koltira wraps his arms around Anarchaia. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I thought you would stop me. I knew the whole time…” He clenches his jaw. “The letter said to try freeing her from the corruption, but that the odds were slim. I don’t think there was ever any hope of getting her back.”
Anarchaia sighs and straightens. “I’m irritated that you lied but I can’t be angry with you. I…understand.”
“She was suffering,” Grimory responds calmly. “If we didn’t stop her, she’d have wreaked a lot of havoc on the world. She was beyond saving.”
“Would you kill me, too? If you were ordered to?” Alisbeth swipes her hand down her face, clearing her eyes to see him better.
“Of course not!” Grimory says, pulling her into a reassuring hug. “This was different. This was…detrimental.”
Koltira clears his throat. “I’m not the only one who lied by omission… You really think Khadgar would have sent you if I hadn’t asked?” He shakes his head. “You would’ve had the assignment before me if he’d wanted to send you.” He turns to look at the other two. “I don’t even know what to say to them.”
Anarchaia tilts her head back to look at him, somewhat taken aback by his accusations of her teacher, but she says nothing. She shakes her head. “I’m…almost convinced that nothing you or I say will have any effect.”
Alisbeth presses into him. “That doesn’t make it okay. Okay?”
Koltira purses his lips. “Do we just…leave them?”
The Illidari sighs and nods. “Sure. Okay.” He stands and ushers her to her feet. “Ready to go?”
Alisbeth nods and wipes at her eyes and nose. “Yeah. Okay. Yeah.” She looks in the sky. “At least we have a constellation, now, right?”
Anarchaia tenses and hesitates when she sees Grimory rise. “I don’t know. I can’t even teleport us five yards at the moment so a speedy getaway is out of the question…”
Koltira sighs all the air out of his lungs. “Ali,” he calls, then hesitates. “Alisbeth, I’m sorry for everything I said…”
Grimory pulls his ears back at Koltira’s voice as tough hearing it for the first time that day. He glances down at Alisbeth to see how she’ll react.
Anarchaia clears her throat and shrinks away, not wanting to involve herself but still remaining close lest something happen.
Alisbeth peaks around Grimory at Koltira. Her lips curve to a frown. She weaves around Grimory and runs at the other death knight.
Koltira braces himself, gripping Byfrost in a fist, even though he can’t use it against her.
Grimory reaches a hand after her. “Ali, wait!”
Having anticipated Alisbeth’s reaction, the mage acts quickly, throwing up a small barrier of violet energy around herself and Koltira with what little mana she retains.
Alisbeth collides with the barrier and falls to the ground. Her frown deepens and tears return to her eyes. She stares at the ground, avoiding looking any direction where someone is standing. “I’m glad you’re not dead,” she mutters, then covers her face.
Koltira’s features soften and he sets down the sword. “Ana, take the shield down, please?”
Anarchaia nods and does as she’s told, the sharp shell around them dissipating.
Koltira kneels down. “Are you going to do it again?” he asks Alisbeth.
She moves her fingers to peek at him with one eye. “Are you going to call me names again?”
He shakes his head. “No. Never again, I promise.”
Alisbeth launches forward to hug him. “I’m really, really sorry I killed you.”
He chuckles. “Well, you didn’t. Almost, though. Ana found me in time.”
Anarchaia, convinced no violence will happen, slowly lowers to sit on the steps. She places a hand on her forehead as her head spins.
Grimory glances away, a hurricane of emotions flowing silently through him. He looks between the couple and the mage on the steps, then tucks his thumbs behind his belt and turns away completely.
“I found your axe in a pond…” Koltira says when she pulls away to wipe her face again.
“Oh! Grim, we forgot to get that back!” She turns to see his back to them and a wave of guilt and fear hit her all at once. She gets to her feet and runs back to the demon hunter. “Are you mad?” she whispers.
Grimory shakes his head. “Not angry. Just…disappointed.” He gives one, wry laugh through his nose. “Pretty fucked up, I know.” He shakes his head. “No reason to stay with me, now, yeah?”
Alisbeth leans against him. “What if I…want to?”
Koltira’s jaw tenses as he turns his head to Anarchaia. “Let’s get back to Dalaran. Tell Khadgar and Mograine of our…fulfillment of our orders.”
Anarchaia stirs but does not lift her head. “But Malfurion…” she mumbles.
Grimory swallows and gives Alisbeth a somber gaze. “I…don’t know. As long as the two of you are…together…”
“So…you don’t want me?” Alisbeth asks, trying to hide her hurt by backing away. “Okay.” She folds her arms and turns her head away from him. “I want to go back to my room, now.”
Grimory shakes his head and turns toward her. “Ali, you know I do.”
Tyrande’s ear gives a flick at the mention of her husband’s name. She makes sure the guardian druid is healing well before going to where the other stand. “I have not given up on my husband. He is alive, I know it. It’s only a matter of finding out where he is being held.” She goes over and picks up the tear-shaped crystal left behind by Ysera and holds it out for Anarchaia. “I have a feeling this is very valuable. Take it to Khadgar for me. I trust that I can call on you to aid me in the rescue of my beloved?”
“Of course,” Koltira says.
Anarchaia holds out her hands to accept the crystal and gives a tired nod. “Yes…” She hesitates, then sends the item away in a flurry of sparkles. “We are…at your…serv…ice…” The remainder of her energy drained, she falls forward and onto the steps, unconscious.
Koltira blinks, distracted by Alisbeth leaning forward to kiss the demon hunter—his heart clenching and yet filling with a sort of relief—doesn’t see the mage fall. He kneels and scoops her into his arms. “Dammit, Ana.” He gives her cheek a gentle pat. “Come on.”
Tyrande purses her lips. “Your friend outdid herself. She needs rest. I will contact you if I obtain more information of Malfurion’s whereabouts. Who am I contacting?”
“Koltira Deathweaver. Though, if you just contact Archmage Khadgar, the message will get back to me.”
She nods once. “That is helpful. I must tend the wounded. Excuse me.”
Unable to resist impulse, Grimory meets her lips with his for a brief moment, then pulls away. “We’ll…deal with this later,” he sighs.
Koltira clears his throat loudly. “Ali, can we set her down in your room?”
Alisbeth clears her throat and steps away from Grimory, trying to hide her emotions from him. She purses her lips at Koltira. Say yes and kill her when he leaves! “She’s the one paying for it…” She stomps down the path to head for Lorlathil.
“Travelers!” a night elf waves to the death knight. She motions them over. “Fly you anywhere?” She smiles, eager to make a sale.
Grimory follows Alisbeth down the trail, then cocks his head to the flight master, then back to her. “Will you be okay for a while? I have to report back to Mardum.”
Alisbeth straightens as Koltira passes on his way to the flight master with the unconscious mage in his arms. She looks through the demon hunter as though talking to someone on the other side of his torso. “I’ll be fine.” She spins on her heel and stomps to the flight master, shoving Koltira aside to buy a flight to Dalaran before she can be stopped.
Koltira cocks an eyebrow at Grimory, who narrows his eyes slightly in return. The death knight shrugs, deciding he really doesn’t care about the Illidari’s comfort levels anymore. He buys a flight to Dalaran and holds the mage tighter, his eyes on the hippogryph just ahead of his own. Grimory shakes his head before turning, spreading his wings, and leaping off into the sky.
When Koltira lands, he’s mildly surprised to see Alisbeth waiting, twirling her room key by the leather cord. She turns and leads him wordlessly through the streets of Dalaran as she whistles a soft tune. At her room, she unlocks and opens the door, holding it for Koltira.
Koltira lays Anarchaia out on the bed and folds her hands on her chest. He decides she look too dead that way and moves her hands to her stomach.
Alisbeth says nothing as he situates the mage, then she slams the door and gives him a casual smile. “So…it’s more than just fucking, isn’t it?”
Koltira rolls his eyes skyward. “Ali, I don’t want to fight—”
“I’m not starting a fight,” she says through grit teeth. “I just need to know if I’m trying to stay in love with you for no reason.”
He turns to furrow his brow at her. “Trying?”
She shrugs and turns her head away to avoid looking at him. “I know what I said.”
The door to the room suddenly opens with enough force to bang against the wall behind it. Archmage Khadgar steps inside, brow knit and lips parted as he inhales sharply. Upon seeing his student lying motionless on the bed, he closes his mouth and exhales. His eyes glint with anger and frustration. “What’s happened?” he finally says in a tone that promises restraint.
“She overdid herself,” Koltira says, remaining calm.
Alisbeth turns her nose up in the air and presents her back to Khadgar as though she doesn’t have time to deal with him.
“She was already weak and then just pushed herself over the edge sending a crystal away.” He studies the unconscious mage for a long beat. “Tyrande said she just needed to rest.”
The Archmage takes a moment to assess the situation, then smooths his hair back once he’s decided his hands are tied. “The crystal. It resonates with the Dreamer’s energy. I assume what’s been done was done in necessity. It’s a great shame.” He sobers as he turns his sad yet stern blue eyes to Koltira. “But I digress. When she wakes she’d better have a good reason for bringing you within our sanctuary.”
Koltira’s eyes shift to Alisbeth and he clears his throat. “I was…mortally wounded. I’m sure it was the first thing Ana thought to do. I can say, with complete certainty, that her actions saved my life.”
Alisbeth glares at Koltira and Anarchaia over her shoulder, then scoffs. But he’s not dead! She stomps her foot. But yes, fuck that bitch for being the better person. Alisbeth plugs her ears and shakes her head. Ha! You’re cute, Redblade.
Anger flickers across his features once again and Khadgar swallows his emotions. “With all due respect, Mr. Deathweaver, if everyone who was in some sort of relationship with my underlings were granted entrance to the Hall for any reason, it’s not a far step from allowing anyone entrance.” He sighs and crosses the room to bring his apprentice into his arms. “She obviously cares a lot about you. That’s very…worrisome.” He gives Alisbeth an uncomfortable glance, then turns back to Koltira. “You did well in Val’sharah. Thank you.” Before the death knight can respond, the two disappear in a swirl of light.
“Yes, Deathweaver, that is worrisome. Now answer my fucking question!” Alisbeth spins on him.
Koltira sighs and admits defeat. “Ali, you know me…”
She purses her lips. “You never fuck without some emotional investment.” She squares her jaw and turns away. “I bet it’s nice, huh? Finally got something to get excited about.”
“Ali, that’s not—”
“Don’t wanna stick it in crazy. I got it. Clear as day.” She spins and punches a hole in the wall. “Fine. Enjoy. But you can’t pretend you have control over me anymore. Not a word about anything I do. Not a single gods-damned word.”
The sound of a throat clearing pierces through the two. A figure in a cowled, dark teal robe steps through the still-open doorway, his long white hair framing a gaunt, tired face. “Speaking of control over you,” the man says, blank white eyes seemingly settling on Alisbeth. “I’m Starling’s replacement. You’ll be following my strict direction, or face less-than-favorable consequences.”
Koltira’s eyes widen. “You have got to be joking.”
Alisbeth’s nose wrinkles into a sneer. Without warning she screams out and launches at the forsaken, fists raised.
“I never joke.” The man lifts a hand and stops Alisbeth in her tracks. With a flick of his wrist, her body is thrown against the far wall and pinned there. He narrows his eyes. “I hear you have a problem with forsaken, girl. I’ll have you know that I’m nothing of the sort. And even if I were, I’m going to make it very clear right now that if you attempt to lay even a finger on me, I’ll remove said appendage. Understand?”
Alisbeth shrieks out, over and over, as she’s unable to move. Her mind scrambles for words, but is too clouded with anger and fear to say anything.
“Put her down! Get out of here!” Koltira says.
Meryl Felstorm rolls his eyes and ignores the other man in the room. He instead steps over to Alisbeth, unfazed by her screeching. He narrows his eyes further as he glares into her face. “Understand?”
Alisbeth’s screams become frantic as tears drip from her eyes. Run! Run! Run!
Koltira growls and spins Meryl by the shoulder. “Let her go!”
The sorcerer’s glare turns sharply to Koltira. Still holding Alisbeth against the wall, he grabs Koltira by the breastplate and lifts him from the floor with a strength that betrays his size. “I’ve heard enough out of you, boy.” The balcony doors fly open and he tosses Koltira out of them.
Koltira bounces against the balcony railing and comes up just as the doors fly shut in his face. He bangs on them for several minutes, but when it’s apparent the mage isn’t opening up, he jumps from the balcony and opens a death gate, deciding to just get on with reporting in.
Alisbeth’s screams die off suddenly and she sniffles. “Please. Please don’t.”
Meryl turns back to Alisbeth, a strand of hair dividing his eyes. He increases the pressure of the forces holding her and snarls. “I asked you a question. Twice, even. Answer.”
Alisbeth struggles against the bonds holding her in place. She turns her head away and begins to cry. “I’ll be good. I swear. I’ll be good.”