Grimory scrambles to pull away from Alisbeth’s lips as the door opens. “Honestly, is knocking looked down upon, now?” he grumbles under his breath, smoothing his hair back in a moment of self-consciousness.
Diori smiles at the two and crosses the room to them. “We saw a blue woman on the way up here. She gave me this pretty flower. It grew out of her hand, it was so cool! She only had three fingers, though.”
Alisbeth smiles excitedly at her daughter. “A blue woman? Did she have horns or tusks?” She puts her index fingers up like horns, then down by her lips like tusks as she says each one.
“It was a—”
Alisbeth snaps her finger at Taveth. “Don’t make me tie you up. I’m asking Diori.”
Diori brings her index fingers up to pull at her lower lip. “She ‘as ‘eally nice,” she says, fingers still in her mouth.
“Oh! You met Junkrat! I miss her. I would have said hi.” Alisbeth smiles in excitement.
Diori giggles. “The scary lady with the mask and Koltira were with her. They smelled like alcohol.”
“They’re, um…doing something horrific to Thassarian. Promised to tell me what it was later, of course.” Taveth says.
Grimory clears his throat. “Yeah, they aren’t good role models.” He picks up the letter again, and for a moment wonders if relinquishing it is the right choice. “Diori, your mother sent you a lot of letters, yes?”
The small elf nods. “Father read them to me when I was little.”
Grimory holds out the sealed scroll. “Well there’s one you didn’t get.”
Diori blinks her large, cerulean eyes and takes the paper. “What’s it say?” she says curiously.
Alisbeth smiles. “This was the first letter I ever wrote you. It explains the decision I made and talks about your father. I wanted you to have it when you turned one hundred and ten. When you were old enough to make the choice for yourself.”
Diori runs her thumb over the seal, wondering herself is she should break it. “What choice?” she responds quietly. “And if you knew why wouldn’t you tell me right away?”
Grimory winces, the tone in her voice not promising anything good.
Alisbeth frowns. “Old enough to make the choice to see him, in case you weren’t told. Because maybe they wouldn’t tell you. And…they didn’t…” She swallows at the answer she knows she must give for the other question. “I didn’t…I didn’t know. I forgot. I have trouble remembering, since I died. And It was so long ago… I forgot Grim.” She frowns and stares at her hands.
Grimory sets a hand on Alisbeth’s shoulder then kneels before Diori. “No one involved in any of this wanted you to hurt. You have to believe that.” He sobers. “Everyone did what they thought was best for you.”
Diori frowns and glances between Grimory’s horns, teeth, and tattoos. “I’ve been trying not to think about that,” she says, looking away. “I’m happy in Stormwind.”
Grimory blinks and reaches for her hand. “No one here is trying to convince you of anything. We just…want to…” He sighs. I don’t know what we want.
Alisbeth fights the urge to run away, upset. She smiles best she can. “It’s okay. You don’t have to read it and you don’t have to leave Stormwind. You can do whatever you want to do.”
Diori fidgets, then breaks the seal to the scroll. She glosses over it, her eyes welling with tears and she’s uncertain as of why. “When did you send this?” she sniffles, looking up at Alisbeth.
She fights against the tears springing up for the simple fact that Diori is crying. “That was tucked into your blanket when you were taken to live in Stormwind. I put it there myself right before I kissed you goodbye.” A tear breaks free at the memory and she resists admitting how she’d changed her mind at that moment. How hard she’d cried.
Taveth kneels beside Diori and sets his palm between her shoulder blades. “Are you okay?”
Diori sniffles again and wipes her eyes. “Yeah,” she squares her shoulders as though she wasn’t crying and looks at Taveth. “How long have you known?”
Taveth’s brow furrows. “I’ve been finding all of this out as you have. Father is the only one that knew. He gave me these letters when I went home earlier.”
Diori scowls and looks at the letter again, then rolls it up neatly and turns to Grimory and Alisbeth. “I don’t feel like you’re my parents,” she says pointedly.
A pang of hurt pierces Grimory’s heart and he nods. “I know you don’t. It’s understandable if—”
“But I want to,” Diori finishes with a frown, wringing the parchment nervously in her hands.
Alisbeth smiles and gives a small laugh of joy. “Just let me know what you want. You can have anything, I promise. I’ll take you on adventures and—”
Taveth holds up his hand. “Slow down, Ali.”
“Sorry.” She bites into her lower lip. “But you can. Anything at all. I can get it for you.”
Diori shakes her head. “I don’t want things. I just…” She crooks her mouth to the right. “I just want to get to know you. The real you.” She looks at Grimory. “And you.”
The demon hunter smiles and takes her hand again. “That’s all we want, too. You don’t have to see us as your parents, but we’d like to at least be there for you when you need us.”
Alisbeth nods her agreement with Grimory. “You can keep calling me cousin Ali, if you want. And I’ll answer every question you have.”
Diori smiles and strides over to the bed, then blinks. “Where did all the toys go?”
“Uh…the wardrobe,” Grimory says with a nervous chuckle, standing.
The girl shrugs and hops up onto the comforter. “Can I stay here for a little bit?” she asks Taveth between the other two.
Taveth stands and furrows his brow. “Alone? What about Azsuna? I thought you wanted to see the ghost people.”
Alisbeth’s smile falters. “They’re not…going anywhere, right?” She chuckles to seem less eager. “I’m sure you can take her tomorrow, right?”
Diori gestures to the death knight. “I already found my ghost person.”
Alisbeth hides her grin behind her fingertips. Unable to resist, she wraps her arms around the girl.
Taveth smiles. “All right. You can stay. But I do have to go to Azsuna.” He makes eye contact with the other two. “In case I’m not back, dinner at seven, bed at eight. Sharp.” He looks pointedly at Diori. “None of your typical trickery for these two, right?”
Diori nods, pulling a hand behind her back to cross her fingers. “I promise!”
Grimory gives Taveth a grateful smile. “Thanks again.”
Alisbeth jumps up to hug her cousin. “Yes, thank you Tabbef!”
He looks at Grimory over her shoulder. “You were right. It was her choice.” He turns for the door and gives a final wave. “I’ll try not to be too late.”
Alisbeth sighs after he leaves. “So, what do you want to do? Anything in particular?”
Diori sets the letter on the nightstand. “What was war like?” she blurts as though she’d been holding in the question in for a long while.
“Which one?” Alisbeth asks. “I was in a lot. I fought Arthas’s armies twice and I followed Kael’thas to Outland and fought the Burning Legion, as I am now. Or did you mean Grim?”
Diori nods at Alisbeth, excitement in her eyes. She turns to Grimory at his mention. “You were in a war too? Besides the one right now?”
The Illidari nods and sets himself beside her on the bed. “Ten years ago during the Legion’s second invasion.”
Diori furrows her brow and looks back to Alisbeth. “And you guys lived? Or…survived?”
Alisbeth laughs. “I lived through three wars. I thought I would die in battle so many times.” She shrugs emphatically. “It wasn’t war that took me, though.” She chews on her lower lip, then her lips curve in a sly grin. “Want to see where I defended Silvermoon? It’s also where Koltira died. We can call it a history lesson if Taveth finds out.” She laughs.
Diori gasps in excitement. “Can we?!”
Grimory looks up at Alisbeth. “I don’t think we should take her out of the city, Ali.”
Alisbeth’s smile doesn’t waver. “Why not? We’re not going to lose her. She’s not going to run off, right? We’ll just go take the port—Oh.” She frowns and casts a sad gaze at the girl. “I don’t think we can go.”
Diori’s face falls. “Whuh? Why not?”
Alisbeth drops onto the bed with a frown. “I don’t think they’ll let you through the portal… You’re Quel’dorei. You live in Stormwind. We’re Sin’dorei. We can’t go to Stormwind, we’re not allowed.”
Diori frowns. “I don’t understand. We look almost exactly the same. Why can’t everyone just get along?” She furrows her brow. “Would they hurt us?”
Grimory nods. “Most likely. The factions take no chances. Even against those who hold no loyalties.”
“If we could just get there, we could sneak her into the destroyed part of the city. That’s where it all happened, anyway.” She purses her lips and stares off into space, thinking.
Grimory grits his teeth. “Ali, you know I’m all for adventure, but she’s too young to be venturing—”
“I am not,” Diori cries, fists clenched. “I’ll stay close. I won’t get lost. I promise!”
Alisbeth stares between the two, unsure what to do. Finally, she closes her eyes and breathes out. “The journey would be too far to do in one afternoon.” She gives Diori a wicked smile. “But that’s okay. We’ll do it another time. For now, we can just answer your questions. How does that sound?”
Diori pouts and folds her arms but concedes. “Okay,” she groans, then reaches out to touch Alisbeth’s cold skin. “Did it hurt to die?”
Alisbeth bites her lip. Lie. “Well, it—” No! She won’t trust you again if you lie! “It was—” But she’s so young! She doesn’t need to know how awful it was! Alisbeth closes her eyes to concentrate, resisting the urge to scream. “It did. I wanted to lie to you, but that’s not a good way to start off. It hurt a lot. Not all deaths hurt. But…” She thinks about that night and sighs. “Dying didn’t hurt. It’s what happened before, that’s what hurts. Dying was like…” She smiles. “It was like waking up to a beautiful morning after a stormy night. Just to be done with the pain.”
Grimory’s eyes widen at Alisbeth. “Th-that’s extremely subjective though!” he corrects looking down at Diori’s wonder stricken face. “Dying sometimes takes hours—days even. There’s nothing romantic about it.”
Diori’s face falls into one of mild terror. “Did you die, too?”
Grimory pauses. “Well, yes, many times, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make here. Just…I…” His lips purse. “Don’t die.”
Diori smiles before laughing. “I don’t want to, silly. I was just wondering.”
Alisbeth furrows her brow at Grimory. “I wasn’t saying it was romantic! Just that the actual death itself isn’t bad—it’s the events leading up to…” She purses her lips and stares at her hands in her lap. “This isn’t a good subject. What else do you want to know?”
Diori sees the distress in her mother’s face and nods. She points at Grimory’s horns. “I’ve seen a lot of elves with those. I want some. How did you get them?”
Grimory chuckles. “You don’t want these. People don’t like them.”
“I want them. Can I touch them?”
Grimory smiles, reminded of Alisbeth when they’d met months ago. “Sure.”
Diori brings a hand up to grab one and oohs softly. “Bumpy.”
Alisbeth giggles. “I really like his horns, too. He didn’t have them the first time we met.” She studies him, chewing on a fingernail. “He looks very different from when I first met him. I wonder if I would have remembered you, if you looked the same.”
“You don’t look the same either, you know.” Grimory smiles up at her. “You had black hair and this peachy skin. And these big blue eyes anyone could get lost in.”
Diori looks between the two of them, eyes wide with the romantic image. “Did— Do you two love each other?”
Grimory snaps out of his memory and frantically looks between the two. “U-uh…”
Alisbeth’s smile drops and her eyes bug. She jumps from the bed and goes to the door and opens it. You promised! She slams the door and presses her back to it. “I said I wouldn’t do that. And I didn’t.” She holds up her fist as a small victory. “We’re just friends. Right, Grim? Just friends.” She gives an awkward heh.
Grimory blinks. After another moment of flicking between the two girls’ faces, he clears his throat. “Yeah. Just friends.” He glances back down to Diori and gives a fang-filled smile. “We…didn’t really know one another very long back then.” He shifts uncomfortably. “Or now.”
Diori scrunches her face. “Why would you two have a baby if you don’t love each other?”
Grimory gives a loud, awkward eeehhhhhh that trails into the next topic. “So, what about you, girlie? What do you like?”
The small elf narrows her eyes, but thinks on it and smiles. “I like dragons. And cinnamon apples. And horse rides. And flowers.”
Alisbeth smiles. “I can borrow Bloodmist sometime and we can go for a ride!” She sits back on the bed. “What kind of flowers do you like?”
Diori hums in thought, bringing a hand up to touch her father’s horn again. “I like peacebloom. And lilies. And lilacs. Oh! And mageroyal.” She turns to smile up at Alisbeth. “Is Bloodmist your horse?”
“Those are all beautiful choices in flowers. I don’t really know what my favorite is, now.” She taps her lower lip and thinks. “Guess I’ll have to figure it out! And Bloodmist is Koltira’s horse, but she likes me more. I don’t know why, either. But she’s really nice and she loves rotten apples.”
Diori scrunches her nose again. “Rotten apples? Is she a skeletal horse? I’ve seen a lot of those here in Dalaran. They’re sooo cool. I tried to pet one and it reared at me, though. The guy on its back yelled. It was fun.” She looks at Grimory. “Does it hurt when you bite your tongue?”
Grimory gives a snort of a laugh and looks at Alisbeth, then back down. “Yes. A lot. Blood everywhere.” He sticks his mutated tongue out at her.
Diori giggles and turns back to Alisbeth. “Do you guys live here now?”
“I live in this room, actually. It’s mine.” Alisbeth says, running her fingers through her hair like a comb.
Diori looks around as though judging the room for herself. “I like it. It’s bright. Bigger than my room.” She glances back at Grimory. “Do you always walk around shirtless? Don’t you get cold?”
The demon hunter lowers a brow at her, but smiles all the same. “My head doesn’t fit in most clothing, now. And no, I don’t get cold. Not often, anyway.” He tilts his head. “Do you like living in Stormwind?”
The little elf nods emphatically. “Yes. Everyone there is so nice. The apple vendor gives me an apple every morning when we walk through the market to get to school.”
Alisbeth rests a cheek on her fist and smiles at the little girl. She looks just like him. She giggles, then gasps as she notices it. The same charming little grin; a strong nose, rather than Alisbeth’s own narrow, pointed one. She smiles wider and hugs her knees to her chest as she watches them.
Diori turns back to the death knight as though it’s her turn to answer questions. “Did you get to see the Sunwell? What was it like?”
“No,” Alisbeth frowns. “I was going to, but I was so busy. I would’ve told you in my letters if I had.” She lightly pokes Diori’s nose.
The girl blinks, then frowns. “Did you kill a lot of people?” she asks, referring to the wars.
Alisbeth shakes her head. “No. They weren’t people. They were just…monsters.”
“How did you die?” Diori asks cautiously. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want.”
Alisbeth blinks and frowns. She clenches her fists. You promised. “I w-was…captured. By two forsaken. They were upset…” She doesn’t need to know that part. She takes a deep breath and looks to Grimory for strength. “They spent a lot of time…hurting me… And then they hurt me too much and…the pain stopped. Then I woke up like this. Koltira’s friend brought me back.” She wipes her cheek, realizing she’s crying.
Diori frowns, her lip quivering as the story progresses. She puts a hand on Alisbeth’s leg and sniffles. “Are you happy now, though?”
She smiles, despite still crying. “Of course I’m happy. You’re here! I am so happy to see you.” She wraps her arms around Diori and pulls her into a hug.
Diori returns the hug and grins wide. She cranes her head back to look at Grimory. “Are you happy, too?”
Grimory sobers and gives a sad smile. “Yeah, I’m happy.” He leans forward to hug both of them together.
Alisbeth adjusts to wrap one arm around him. She smiles wider. “This is all I’ve wanted for a long time.”
Diori smiles as her cheeks are squished on both sides. In the shadows of her parents’ embrace she gasps. “Your tattoos glow! Do all horned people’s tattoos glow?”
Grimory pulls away to look down at himself as tough just noticing for the first time. “They do. And we’re called demon hunters. Or Illidari.” He ruffles her hair.
“Illidari,” she repeats with a nod. She looks at Alisbeth. “Do death knights have glowy tattoos too?”
Alisbeth shakes her head, running her own fingers along Grimory’s tattoos. “No. Only Koltira has tattoos. I like his, but I like the green of these. What’s your favorite color?”
“I like red. Like the kind apples are.” She blinks up at Alisbeth. “Koltira was the white-haired elf from earlier. He had your sword. Who is he?”
“I like red too! So did my father. Maybe it’s a Redblade thing. What about you, Grim?”
Diori looks at Grimory for an answer to her lack of any answer, but the man merely shrugs. “I’m partial to purple,” he says with a smile. “Do you like school?”
Diori nods. “It’s hard sometimes. But I get good grades. I try really hard.”
“What are you studying?”
“To be a Priest,” Diori responds with a proud tone.
“All kinds!” she says, an excited smile on her face.
Alisbeth runs her fingers through Diori’s hair. “Do you want to help people?”
Diori nods again. “Yeah. Like aunt…or I guess grandmother. Father told me about her.” She looks down to fiddle with her fingers. “I wanna be like her.”
Alisbeth strokes the girl’s hair. “She was an amazing woman.”
Diori looks at Grimory. “What are my other grandparents like?”
The demon hunter glances away, wondering if he should be truthful. “They’re farmers. Very humble and kind. Grandmother Runi makes a great apple pie.” He smiles at the delight in her eyes. “I’ll take you to meet them sometime.” He glances up at Alisbeth as though speaking to her as well.
“That sounds wonderful.” Alisbeth glances out the window. “You probably eat dinner before bed? Is it dinner time? Are you hungry?” She eyes both of them.
Grimory looks at the ticking clock in the corner of the room. “I can always eat,” he says with a smile.
Diori nods. “Dinner at seven, bed at eight.” She turns to Alisbeth with a stern face. “Sharp.” She holds it for a moment, then can’t help but giggle.
Alisbeth giggles and scoops her up onto her shoulder, then goes to her dresser to fish out some gold. “Is twenty enough for food?” she asks Grimory as she grabs a handful from her large coin purse and drops them on the top of the dresser to count.
Grimory nods and stands to stretch. “It’s plenty. There’s actually a nice café on the other side of town. I bet they have those cinnamon apples you like.”
Diori bounces on Alisbeth’s shoulder. “I wanna go there. Let’s go there.”
Alisbeth slips the coins into her smaller pouch and tosses it at Grimory. “I don’t have pockets.” She grins, grabs the room key, and heads out, ducking so as not to hit Diori’s head on the doorframe.
“What the hell?” The shout comes from down the hall.
Alisbeth cocks an eyebrow. “That sounded like Thassarian.”
Grimory chuckles and covers Diori’s ears from the continued stream of expletives coming from the room. “Taveth did say they were pranking him.”
Alisbeth giggles. “I wish I’d been in on it. I really do. I can’t wait to hear about this. Come on, before she learns words Taveth will kill me for.” She grips Diori by the thighs and races down the stairs.
Grimory follows the two down into the street. “Already getting dark,” he muses up at the setting sun. “At least out here in the isles it stays warm all night.”
Diori nods. “I like the cold and snow, though. It’s fun to put on lots of clothes and go out in the quiet.”
Alisbeth grins. “I like the cold, too. When I was alive I liked it because it meant Winter Veil was coming—and that I could train longer without the risk of heat exhaustion.” She absently reaches out to take Grimory’s hand to pull him to walk beside them. “Now, I don’t even feel it.”
Grimory follows beside. Once in the company of the pedestrians outside, he suddenly feels self-conscious of how the three must appear and loosens his grip on Alisbeth’s hand.
“You don’t feel anything?” Diori says, gabbing onto Alisbeth’s ears like reigns. “Not even the heat? What about this?” She pats the top of her mother’s head.
Alisbeth laughs and releases Grimory’s hand to tickle Diori’s side. “I can feel all of that. It’s just that the cold doesn’t bother me. It would have to be…incredibly cold for me to feel it.”
Grimory tucks his thumbs into his belt to avoid anymore handholding. He sets himself at an outdoor table with a circular bench and unopened parasol just as the waitress on duty lights the lamps outside with a wave of her hand. “Hi there, folks,” she hums as she approaches. “How are we this evening?”
Diori giggles and kicks as she’s ticked. She bounces again on Alisbeth’s shoulders when the waitress addresses them. “Well, thank you!” she sings.
The death knight lifts the girl from her shoulder and sets her on the bench beside Grimory. “These two would like something to eat.” She smiles at the waitress.
“Well you’ve come to the right place,” the maid chuckles before looking at the little elf. “What would you like?”
“Fried cinnamon apples!” Diori says without missing a beat. “And orange juice.”
Grimory chuckles and shrugs. “Make it two, I guess. Only I’d prefer some mead in my orange juice, if you’d be so kind.”
The human woman nods and grins. “We don’t have either of those things on our menu but I’m sure we have the means to make them,” she says with a smile down at Diori. She turns to Alisbeth. “Anything for you?”
She shakes her head. “Nothing for me. Thanks.”
The waitress nods in understanding and disappears inside.
Grimory looks between the two girls and rests his cheek on a fist. “What do you like to do for fun?”
“Uhmmm,” Diori begins, swinging her legs. “I like to ride. And jump rope. Swimming is fun too. Brother has been teaching me chess. I’m not very good.”
Alisbeth nods as she sits. “Chess takes practice, patience, and planning. Keep at it.”
Diori smooths her hands over the warm stone table. “Do you know how to play?”
She nods. “I do. Or I did. I haven’t had the chance to play in a few years.” She picks at the edge of the table, suddenly feeling odd—as though she doesn’t fit with the two living elves at the table and about to eat. “Grim plays, I think?”
Diori glances over at the demon hunter and Grimory gives a nervous shrug. “Eh…Ana was teaching me but…we don’t spend much time with one another anymore, so the lessons kinda stopped.” He smiles. “But if it makes you feel any better, I’m no good, either.”
Diori chortles and draws figures on the table. After a moment of silence, she speaks without looking up. “If you hadn’t sent me away, do you think we could have been a family?”
Why can’t you be a family now? Alisbeth looks away from the two and shrugs, unable to answer either question.
Grimory desperately glances at Alisbeth, then clears his throat when she looks away. “I like to think so,” he says with an endearing grin. He thanks the waitress when she sets down their items and turns back to Diori. “You know you can always come see us whenever you want.”
The girl shrugs and nods, feeling the tension caused by her question. “Okay.”
Say it. “I…” Say it! “I wanted…to be a family.” She stares at the table to avoid their gazes. “But I thought…” She looks at Grimory. But he did want you. She nods. “I was wrong.”
Grimory furrows his brow and glances away. “She just thought we were too young,” he says, placing a hand on Diori’s shoulder as she stuffs a slice of apple in her mouth; the heat of it warms her cheek.
“I understand,” she says. She swallows and looks over at Alisbeth. “I know you guys are just friends, but could we maybe try? In the future, at least?”
Alisbeth does her best to hide the eagerness that floods her. Remember what he said? She glances at him and frowns. He won’t change his mind. Give her some false hope anyway. “Maybe,” she forces a small smile and nods.
Grimory tousles his daughter’s hair and gives an uneasy laugh. “Why don’t we take you to the range after this and your mother can teach you to shoot?”
Diori nearly chokes on her apple as she looks at her. “Can we?”
Alisbeth jumps, her eyes wide in surprise. “Shoot? Shoot what? Arrows?” She laughs at him. “I don’t shoot arrows. I put them in the bow and they fly off in random directions. Perhaps you’re confusing paladin with farstrider.”
Grimory shrugs and laughs. “I figured you were better than I, so I didn’t volunteer.”
“I guess then it’ll be an adventure for us all. The one thing I do know is how to not shoot someone in the a— rear.” She winks at Grimory. “I suppose I know enough to get started?”
Grimory winces but smiles and fills his own mouth with an apple. “Just be careful. We don’t need matching scars. We already look enough alike.” He winks down at Diori.
The girl giggles and drains her orange juice in excitement. “I wanna learn to shoot people in the butt!”
Alisbeth laughs out loud, then covers her mouth. “Don’t shoot people in the butt.” She snerks again. “And I think your father’s scar is from someone who didn’t know how to shoot. So, I’m sure you could already shoot people in the butt.” She widens her eyes. “But don’t. Don’t do that. Don’t shoot people at all.”
Diori grins in amusement and looks up at Grimory. “You were shot in the butt?” she asks, mouth full.
Grimory nods hesitantly then gives a reserved laugh as she giggles.