Alisbeth glares at Koltira as he closes the door. “It really couldn’t wait?”
“No.” He contemplates asking her to dress, but realizes that nude she might be less inclined to get up from the bed, if she’s having a shy moment. He walks to the other side of the room where others are less likely to overhear. “Ali, I think it’s time we talk about…everything that’s happened since I got out of Undercity.”
She leans back against the pillows and blinks at him, but says nothing.
“I’m sure I don’t need to detail everything. But…finding out you kept your own daughter secret from me? Ali…I…”
“I want to separate.”
He furrows his brow at her. “What?”
“I want to separate. I’ve been thinking about it off and on. I’m of sound mind and I know what I want. I have the ribbon from our marriage in my vault. We cut that and we’re done.” She stares at his state of stunned silence. “Unless that’s not what youwant? I mean, both parties have to be in agreement.”
“This was not how I envisioned this conversation going… I was going to tell you that I wanted to separate…” He leans back and folds his arms. “Well this is astonishingly easy.”
Alisbeth beams. “I’m so gladyou agree! And now you don’t have to feel guilty about mage-face, and she and I can be friends without it being weird! And you don’t have to worry about me at all. You can finally get back into fletching!” She stands and pulls on her clothes. “And we should have a party! Like, a wedding reception, but…a separation reception!” She leaps forward and hugs him. “We can stay friends, right? Does it work like that?”
Koltira blinks in rapid succession. “Uhh…” He has a split moment of cold feet, wondering if it’s the wrong decision. But then Alisbeth pulls away and gives him the most excited smile. Gods help me, I still can’t resist doing anything to make her happy. At least this time we agree.He nods. “You know what, why not? We can stay friends. Ana is your guardian, so she doesn’t really have a choice in seeing you or not, but I’m sure she’d love to be your friend, too.”
~ * ~
“Hi,” Anarchaia says with an awkward wave of her hand.
The Illidari purses his lips and looks away. “Hi, Ana.”
“So did you talk with your little girl?” Anarchaia says after the door closes.
Grimory nods, leaning against the wall and folding his arms. “She’s not too comfortable with us yet.” He sighs, doing his best not to eavesdrop through the door only feet away.
“Give her time,” the mage responds, pushing her mask up to give a reassuring smile. “I’m sure she’s just confused. She’ll come around.”
Grimory glances over at the woman who was once his close friend and finds he can’t remain irritated. “I hope your right,” he says in a softer tone. “I didn’t even know she existed until yesterday, but, now that I do, I would do anything for her. It’s…the strangest feeling.”
A pang of envy strikes through Anarchaia’s chest but she forces a smile. “Your brain produces chemicals that coerce you into wanting your offspring to survive. It’s instinct, if anyth—”
“Yeah, okay, thanks Ana,” Grimory interrupts, the irritation immediately returning.
Anarchaia shrinks, fidgeting with her fingers. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that. I’m just…really happy for you.”
“Well, I appreciate it.”
An awkward silence lingers between them and after a long moment, Grimory chews on the inside of his cheek. “Have you told him about you and the old man?”
Anarchaia blinks, blindsided. “Wh—?” She swallows and grows cold. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Grimory rolls his eyes and allows another silence to grow.
Alisbeth opens the door so fast it slams against the wall and she leaps at the two in the hallway. Koltira stands in the doorway to observe.
Anarchaia flinches, bracing herself for either impact or pain, but the Illidari quickly plucks Alisbeth from the air and pulls her back to him, more in a gesture of affection than of defense of the mage.
“All good?” he asks.
“We’re having a party!” she squeals. She jumps up and down. “It’s a separation reception. I don’t know if it’s a thing but Kolty said we can have one! And we’re going to drink until we’re stupid and Affie is going to be my friend and we’re going to cut the ribbon—Oh! We need a,” she snaps her fingers in rapid succession as she thinks, “holy person, I think. Someone with high status has to witness. They don’t have to be holy, I don’t think. Where’s Tirion when you need him, right?” She laughs, then frowns, then bounces back to her excited state.
Anarchaia lowers her shoulders when she feels she won’t be hurt. “O-oh,” she says when Alisbeth is finished, her voice a mixture of nervous and relieved.
Grimory blinks down at the death knight, his eyes flicking up to Koltira as if to confirm the story. “Uh…great!” he says, giving her a smile. “I’m…happy? For you two?”
“The short version is, Alisbeth has asked me to separate from her. We’re going to cut the ribbon used in our marriage ceremony. She wanted to have a party afterward to celebrate. I like getting drunk, so, I see no harm in it,” Koltira says after closing the door.
Alisbeth nods excitedly. “I asked him. He said yes!” She claps, unable to contain herself. “Oh, and we need an authority. You forgot that part.”
Anarchaia furrows her brow in thought. “I…don’t really think any of the Archmages would bother filling their time with something like this. I mean, I can ask…”
Koltira shrugs. “Same with the Horsemen. Plus, we’d have to tell them.” He snaps his fingers. “Would Thassarian work?”
Alisbeth chews on her lip. “He is of high rank and is respected among the death knights…”
Anarchaia gives a shrug and smiles. “Whatever floats your boat. I’d like to meet him, besides.”
“And he was there, anyway! He was our witness!” Alisbeth smiles and threads her fingers through Grimory’s.
The Illidari gives Koltira a playful smirk. “Have you told him you’ve been cheating on him?”
Koltira notices the grip and things click into place. They probably want to be a family…He clears his throat and shoots the demon hunter a look. “Oh, yes. And he’s very upset. Made me sleep on the couch and everything.” He sobers and points at Alisbeth. “Get the ribbon—”
“We can just do it in the vault. No audience. Meet me in the north bank.” She takes off running and is gone before he can say anything else.
Koltira sighs after her. “Meet you all in the bank, then.” He opens a death gate and disappears inside.
Grimory and Anarchaia exchange looks before shrugging and following after Alisbeth. “You planning on marrying her instead?” the mage says when they step outside.
Grimory physically flinches as he jerks his head to look at her. “I—… No. Are you?”
“Planning on marrying Alisbeth?”
He glares over at her.
“No, Grim. I’m not,” she says with an air of understanding as they ascend the stairs to the north bank.
Alisbeth bounces on the balls of her feet, waiting for the others. She taps the key on her palm and chews on her bottom lip. “Grim! Over here!” She doesn’t wait for him to get to her and runs to leap into his arms. “Now no one has to feel guilty,” she whispers.
“Yes, this is all very convenient,” Grimory says with a chuckle. “In the best meaning of the word.”
Anarchaia avoids looking at the goblins as she passes, coming to stand near the couple. “Are you sure it’s a good idea to bring a bunch of people into your private vault?”
Alisbeth purses her lips at the mage. “Are you planning on stealing anything? I mean… my clothes are too big for you. You can take some gold, though. If you want. “
“N-no, Ali. I just—”
“You should probably take her up on that offer, Starling,” a goblin woman with a clipboard says in a sour tone. “Gods know you need it.”
Anarchaia shushes the woman with a hand and a nervous laugh. “Yeah, I’ll…take care of that soon. Promise.”
Alisbeth strides to the goblin and whispers in her ear.
The goblin looks at her. “You sure, doll?”
Alisbeth nods. “One hundred percent sure.” A paper and quill appear in front of Alisbeth.
“Sign at the bottom and we’ll get that taken care of after your business has concluded in your vault. What is it, a party?”
Alisbeth signs the paper and it poofs away. “Kind of! Just a private thing. Needed a private place.”
“You do know your vault is monitored by visual and audio security, right?” The goblin doesn’t even look up from her clipboard.
The death knight waves a hand of dismissal. “That’s okay. No big deal.”
Anarchaia makes to protest when she catches on to what Alisbeth is scheming, but the paperwork disappears before she can stop her. She deflates. “Ali, that wasn’t necessary…”
A death gate opens in the center of the bank. A human with long white hair, a bushy beard, and burgundy marks over his eyes steps out. “What in gods’ names is this nonsense I’m hearing, Redblade?”
Alisbeth laughs nervously. “Um, surprise?”
Grimory glances up at the man and says nothing, instead sizing him up silently as he does with all new acquaintances. “This Thassarian, I presume?” he says in a low tone into her ear.
“Bingo!” she hisses to Grimory. “He’s the guy that killed Koltira…and Edmond…and Merriel…and almost Faltora…and apparently his own mother… He’s really a great guy, though. Really.”
Koltira appears behind Thassarian and runs straight into his back. “Why does no one move after stepping through!” he demands.
Without turning his glare from Alisbeth, Thassarian reaches behind him, hooks his arm around Koltira’s head, and drags him around in a headlock. “Deathweaver, what is this nonsense? You’relettingher do this?”
Koltira squirms, trying to get free. “We’re actually both in agreement. It’s for the best.” He punches at Thassarian’s cuirass. “Can we settle this like men and not children, please?”
Alisbeth hops forward and takes the human’s hand. “This way. We’re going in my vault. I got a new vault! More room.”
“Oh, good. Your last one was so full, everything tried to kill me.” He follows her, Koltira still struggling to free himself from the headlock as he’s forced forward as well.
Alisbeth giggles and takes Grimory’s hand with her free one. “Yeah. Sorry. But, hey, thanks for taking care of it while I was, well, you know.” She grins at him.
Eyes wide, Grimory furrows his brow at Thassarian’s list of atrocities but says nothing, as he’s pulled along. Anarchaia smiles, feeling a tension from the man’s irritation that leaves anxiety in the pit of her stomach. She also says nothing, following behind the line they’ve made.
Once inside the vault, Thassarian releases Koltira and shoves him. “Okay, you two, talk. What changed.”
Alisbeth throws her arms up and smiles. “Me! I died. He doesn’t like it. But that’s okay. I don’t like being bossed around, anyway. Oh, and Diori. He can’t handle her.”
Koltira purses his lips at Alisbeth. “As always she’s describing it in the most misleading way possible.” He sighs. “We don’t work. It took Grimory pointing it out for me to realize it. Maybe we did, but now… After Undercity, we’re both different people.”
“And who the hell is Diori?” Thassarian asks.
“Her…daughter,” Grimory responds, suddenly afraid that the man will hit him if he admits.
“She’s your daughter, too,” Anarchaia mumbles from beneath her mask.
Thassarian raises his eyebrows at Alisbeth, then at the demon hunter. “That’s…literally impossible.”
“From fifty years ago,” Koltira says. “Apparently they knew each other…for a day…”
Alisbeth gives a weak laugh as Thassarian scrutinizes her.
After a moment, he shrugs. “Everybody has a thingnow and then.” He growls. “I don’t like this.”
“We’re going to stay friends!” Alisbeth squeals. “I like having friends! And we’re having a party after this. Will you come to the party?”
Thassarian sighs. “If you insist.”
“It’ll be nice to meet the man these two have spoken so highly of…at length,” Anarchaia says with a smile that can’t be seen.
Grimory merely nods in agreement, still unsure of how to feel. “Should be fun. I’ll buy you an ale.” He holds out a hand. “I’m Grimory, by the way. Illidari. Farmboy.”
Thassarian laughs, his demeanor immediately shifting after the demon hunter introduces himself. “Thassarian. Death Knight. Farmboy.”
“Well met,” Grimory says with a nod and a smile.
“Koltira didn’t really say much about you two. Especially not you.” He motions at Grimory. “Told me about you, though.” He holds out his hand to Anarchaia. “Apparently you’re quite the impressive mage?”
Anarchaia flushes and waves a hand while the other rests upon her cheek. “O-oh! I-I’m not thatimpressive. Heh.” She takes his hand and gives it a weak shake. “Anarchaia, at your service. It’s really a pleasure.”
“Well…let’s get this over with, I guess. Get to the drinking part,” Thassarian grunts.
With Alisbeth’s guidance using a page torn from an unknown book, Thassarian binds the other death knights’ hands together with the ribbon.
“Now, repeat after me, Koltira,” Thassarian says. He clears his throat and reads from the page, Koltria repeating everything. At the end he says, “And I hereby decree that I am an ass for this whole ordeal.”
Koltira opens his mouth to repeat it, then narrows his eyes at Thassarian. “Shut up.”
The death knight chuckles and repeats the process with Alisbeth—not adding that she’s an ass. Then, together, Koltira and Alisbeth use a dagger to cut the ribbon.
Alisbeth throws her half up in the air and giggles. “See? Easy-peasy lemon squeezy!”
The Illidari snerks at her last bit. “Congratulations,” he says unenthusiastically, grabbing Alisbeth’s hand and grinning. “To the tavern.”
Anarchaia gives hesitant one-man applause. “How’s it feel?” she asks with a laugh.
“Like I threw a ribbon in the air,” Alisbeth says as though the ribbon itself was the best part. She jumps onto Grimory’s back. “To the tavern!”
Koltira lets the ribbon fall to the floor. He pokes it with the toe of his boot.
Thassarian leans close to whisper. “Regrets?”
He shakes his head. “I feel like I should feel…something. Happy. Sad. Something. But I don’t. I feel nothing.”
Thassarian’s brow furrows and he shrugs. “Let’s go get stupid drunk.”