After many minutes of searching, Grimory’s ears pick up the faint sound of weeping on the outskirts of the city. He follows to find Diori settled on a bench near a ruined part of town, face in her hands and sobbing quietly. The Illidari sighs and steels himself before approaching and sitting beside her. “Hey.”
Diori jumps in surprise as the bench creaks with new weight. She sniffles and rubs at an eye as she scowls up at the man. “Oh. It’s nobody.” She hiccups. “What do you want?”
“I…” Grimory hesitates for a long moment, rubbing nervously at the back of his neck. He growls and looks away, unable to say the words.
“You what?” Diori snaps, scowling. “Are you my father?” she scoffs sarcastically.
Grimory turns back to her with a somber look in his eyes, brow furrowed upward in sympathy.
Diori suddenly stands, turning to face him, rage renewing. “You’re my father?” She cuts him off before he can respond. “Why didn’t you tell me?!”
“WHY?” Diori begins to beat her fists against his chest as fresh tears fall down her face.
The Illidari frowns, allowing her to vent her anger for a moment. “I didn’t know until you did.” He grabs her fists and looks up into her face. “I know you’re angry. But your mother did what she thought was right.” He sobers. “Believe me, if I’d have known…”
“Why don’t I have cool horns like you?” the girl sobs, ears drooping.
Grimory can’t help but smile. “That’s a different story. But trust me, I’m your…father.” He clenches his jaw, the words foreign to him.
Taveth sees the Illidari by Diori and sighs in relief. He takes up a spot not far to observe, but not eavesdrop.
Diori pulls her hands out of his and sniffles, face still red. “I don’t even know you. You’re nobody.”
The demon hunter gives a quiet, tired chuckle. “I’m Grimory.”
“What’s your last name?” the girl demands, folding her arms and kicking at the dirt.
Diori’s pout intensifies and she continues to avoid his gaze. “That’s a pretty name.” She bites her lip. “I want to talk to cous—…Ali.”
Grimory lifts his eyebrows. “You do? S-sure.” He stands.
“Alone,” she snaps and stomps off in the direction she’d come.
Taveth approaches Grimory slowly, then sets himself on the other end of the bench. “I’m not sure how well you know Ali, but…Diori is just like her. I always thought so, I just never thought in a million years…” He clears his throat and scratches behind an ear. “So, um… Ali wasn’t just excited in there, was she? I mean… As well as I know her… Please tell me I’m wrong about something being a bit off about my cousin.”
Grimory sits back down and places his elbows on his knees. “You’re not wrong. She’s definitely not the same woman she was.” He shakes his head. “A lot’s happened between when I first met her and when I met her again a few months ago. She’s…” he shrugs, “not okay.”
Taveth’s brow furrows. “‘Not okay,’ how?”
Grimory gives the man a look. “Please don’t make me say it out loud.”
“Oh,” Taveth says, pulling his ears back. “Is she…safe to be around?”
“Of course.” Grimory hesitates and looks away. “Mostly. Certain things seem to trigger her but…she’s not violent. Usually.”
“Certain things,” Taveth repeats.
“Calling her psycho or crazy,” Grimory says quietly. “She doesn’t like forsaken.”
Taveth frowns. “As much as I love my cousin, I don’t like the idea of her being left alone with my sist— With Diori. She seems too unpredictable.” He stands and sighs. “Does that make me a bad person?”
Grimory shakes his head and stands as well. “No. It doesn’t. I’ll go with. I seem to have some weird way of calming her down.”
Taveth scrutinizes the demon hunter. “Maybe somewhere in there she remembers…subconsciously.”
Grimory shrugs as they near the lounge. “I doubt it, but it’s fun to dream.”
“No harm in that,” Taveth says as he follows the demon hunter up the steps.
~ * ~
Alisbeth scrambles back to her room, ducking to avoid being seen. She smiles and claps to find her delivery already waiting for her, and begins setting it up.
Diori finds her way back to the center of town. She makes her way up the staircase of the lounge and scowls at the door for a moment before knocking.
The death knight jumps at the knock and hides her hands behind her back. “Come in?” Her eyes shift from the door to the bed and back before she jumps forward to shove the stuffed murloc clutched in her hands into the arrangement of nearly every toy they’d had at the toy shop.
Diori steps cautiously inside, her eyes stopping on the assortment of toys. She forces herself to look back at Alisbeth before slowly closing the door. “He told me.”
Her smile fades and she sits on the edge of the bed. “Oh.” She takes the murloc back into her hands and wrings it nervously. “I, um, don’t usually open with that. I’m sure you have some questions. I’ll answer all of them. I promise. Okay?” She pats the bed beside her. “These are for you, by the way! All of them! What kind of toys do you like? I like the trains.” She sobers again. “Wait. Answers. I promised.” She takes a deep breath. “Tell me what Koltira told you and I’ll fill in the gaps. I’ll even try to not get angry. They say I tend to do that.” She laughs nervously.
Diori begrudgingly takes a seat and again looks over at the toys. When told they’re all for her, she takes up a plush of a fae dragon and hugs it tightly to her chest; the sparkles on the wings rub off on her shirt. “Koltira didn’t tell me anything. The big man with the horns and teeth. He told me.” She frowns and looks down at her feet dangling off the mattress. “Why did you send me away?”
Alisbeth blinks in quick succession. “Grim? What did hetell you? We barely know each other…” She frowns and stares at the floor. “I sent you away…” She rubs her forehead, trying to bring the memories forward. “I was only eighty. I was…too young. The boy…he was just a farm boy. It would have been hard. And I was training. I was a paladin, did you know? Oh, yes, you do. I wrote to you.” She takes a hesitant breath. “The letters were for you. I wrote them toFalren, but foryou.” She reaches up to brush the shining honey-colored hair. “I knew Falren would give you a good life when I couldn’t.” She smooths a clump of hair between her thumb and forefinger. “Oh! He was blond. Your father. He was blond.” Alisbeth frowns. “I’m really sorry I can’t remember. My memory isn’t what it used to be.”
Diori shakes her head and looks into her mother’s face. “Grimory said hewas my father. He seemed really certain.” She frowns and pulls her ears back. “And you wanted to be a paladin more than you wanted to be my mother…”
“No. No. That’s not what I mean.” Frustrated tears drip from her eyes. “Why are you twisting my words? That’s not what I said.” She grips the murloc tighter. “I don’t know who that is, but he’s lying, okay? We just have to find the letter.”
Diori’s eyes soften with understanding at the woman’s erratic behavior. “He didn’t sound like he was lying. He said…that if you’d told him about me…” She swallows and shakes her head, turning to Alisbeth again. “I think you’relying.”
Alisbeth shakes her head. “I’m not lying!Why would I lie?” She gets up from the bed and throws the murloc across the room. “I don’t know who you talked to, but he was lying. You shouldn’t trust people you don’t know. I don’t know anyone named…whatever that name was.” She fumes and wipes her cheeks, then picks up a large vase, lifts it over her head, and hurls it across the room to shatter against the wall. “I’m not lying!”
Diori flinches and looks up at the woman with a mixture of fear and determination. “What happened to you? You aren’t the Ali from the letters…”
Alisbeth balls her fists. “But I am.I am!” She goes to the mirror and sets her hands on her face, squishing it around. “It’s not the same as it was, but this face is still mine.” She crumbles. “They took my face,” she whispers. “The forsaken took my life. Thassarian brought me back, but not my face. He couldn’t find it, I suppose. I was too angry, so Mograine had to put me in a room. A big metal room with no windows and one door. And they locked the door. And they took my sight.” She covers her eyes and whispers, “So dark. So dark.” Without warning she glares at the mirror and punches it. It shatters and the glass falls to the floor. After a moment staring at it Alisbeth frowns and grows apprehensive. “Oh, no. No… Antonym just replaced that. She’s going to be so sad.” She stoops and begins picking up the pieces, one little shard at a time as she collects them in her other palm.
Diori pulls her knees to her chest as she watches her mother pace the room and break things. She swallows, hugging the plush tightly to herself. She watches the woman pick up the shattered mirror for a long while before slowly climbing down off the bed and crossing the room. She frowns and bends at the waist to hug the death knight about her shoulders. “I forgive you.”
Alisbeth stops moving and holds as still as a statue. She stares at the glass on the floor and in her palm. She turns her head and looks at the girl who would soon begin taking the shape of a woman. Then she looks back at the glass as a tear drips from one eye. The death knight drops the glass back to the floor and turns to tentatively wrap her arms around Diori. “I’m so sorry. I want to take it all back, okay? I shouldn’t have sent you away. We could’ve lived on a farm and had so much fun. I wouldn’t have met any of my new friends…but maybe that’s okay. No Koltira, or Grim, Or Afro.” She gasps and holds Diori at a short distance to look at her. “We could still do that! Me and you. What do you say? We can go and see if we can find the farm and I can tell your father and you can meet him. I hope I can remember it’s him when I see him.” She takes a calming breath and smiles. “I’m sorry. I’m blithering. I just…there hasn’t been a single day that’s gone by when I haven’t thought about you.”
Diori gives a sad smile and shrugs. “I don’t know. I…I like my life with father and…or I guess great–uncle and cousins. I-I don’t want to leave them. They take good care of me.” She frowns. Maybe if you were the Ali you used to be…
Alisbeth frowns and turns away to start picking up the shards of mirror again. “Oh. Right. Stupid idea. I’m just a stranger. That would be c-cr…crazy.” She balls her fists at the word. The death knight blinks and uncurls her left hand. “Oh, no. I’ve gone and made a mess,” she says as blood oozes from the countless cuts into her palm and fingers, then drips to the floor. “This won’t do, this won’t do at all.” She begins picking the slivers from her hand and dropping them into a nearby vase for collection. “Excuse me, sweetheart. Mommy just had a little accident.” She smiles lovingly at Diori, her face set in sudden sanity.