Grimory and Diori make short work of their meals and the demon hunter leaves payment and tip on the table before standing. “Ready to go shoot some asses?” he says with an impish grin as he stretches.
Diori pumps her fists, eyes bright with determination and excitement. “Yes!!”
Alisbeth stands to walk with them. “No asses. And don’t say ass, Grim. It’s a rude word.”
Grimory pulls Diori onto his shoulders and grins at Alisbeth. “Ass.”
Diori grabs onto his horns and looks at Alisbeth as though willing her to reprimand the Illidari.
Alisbeth narrows her eyes. “Don’t make me send you to my room.”
Grimory chuckles. “Time out? I’m so scared.”
Alisbeth laughs evilly. “Remember Sporeham? The tavern?” She puts her finger to her lips. “Shh. Quiet. Remember?”
Grimory narrows his eyes. “Are you threatening me with a good time?”
Alisbeth grins. “Who said it would be good? I can be mean, you know. I can be really mean.”
Grimory pffts and shakes his head. “Maybe to people who hurt you. But I haven’t. So what are you gonna do to me that’s mean?”
“She could tickle you,” Diori giggles.
Her grin turns evil. “Oh, I have an idea. And you won’t like it. Not one bit.” She smiles up at Diori. “Or I could tickle you!” She reaches up to tickle the girl’s ribs.
The girl giggles loudly and bats at Alisbeth’s hand. “No fair!”
Grimory snerks. “I’m shaking.”
Alisbeth pinches him on the side. “Oh, you should be.”
He hisses and steps away from her assailing fingers. “I’ve seen squirrels scarier than you,” he sneers playfully as they turn onto the range.
“That’s only because they go after nuts.” Alisbeth winks at him and bounds over to the hutch where the bows and arrows are kept. “I need a child’s training bow and two adult bows, please.”
The vendor sets a child’s bow on the counter. “What tensile strength for the adult bows?”
Alisbeth turns her mouth to one side as she thinks. “High. Let’s try one hundred pounds.”
The vendor sets two bows on the table. “Right, the children’s bow has no rental fee. Adult is five gold per hour. Arrows are ten copper a piece and no refunds for un-fired arrows.”
She tests each bow. “This isn’t one hundred pounds,” she says. She scoots one bow back to him. “I said two one-hundred-pound adult bows.”
The vendor scoffs. “I’m not going to be responsible for you hurting yourself, little miss.”
Alisbeth squares her jaw and narrows her eyes, glancing between the vendor and her daughter and wondering if an outburst would frighten the girl too much.
Grimory chuckles and sets Diori down. “Maybe Diori can use the one hundred bow and you use the kid’s bow?” He gives her a devilish grin and swipes the heavier threaded bow. Hey hands it to the little elf at his side.
Diori pulls at the string as hard as she can but it refuses to bend. She pouts and hands it back. “One day I’ll pull it back!” She takes the smaller one from the counter.
Alisbeth takes her coin purse from Grimory and sets six gold on the counter. “Give the girl some arrows.”
The vendor sets a bundle of children’s arrows and a bundle of adult arrow on the table.
The death knight shoves them at Grimory. “Take her over there so I may have a word with this…gentleman.” She growls the last word through clenched teeth.
“Don’t do anything rash,” Grimory says through a painful smile and leads Diori away by a hand.
Alisbeth forces a smile as the two walk away, then turns her glare on the vendor. “Give me a one-hundred-pound bow. Now.”
He shrugs. “You’re not an archer, and I doubt you have the strength to pull a one hundred. I’m doing you a favor.”
She clenches her fists, her eyes flaring into furious flurries. She reaches forward, but stops herself from grabbing him. Instead, she picks up the eighty-pound bow and pulls the string with pathetic ease. But she doesn’t stop. She pulls until the wood groans and the string wobbles. With a sharp snap! the limb at the top cracks and splits. Alisbeth tilts her head to avoid the piece of wood that flies at her. She slams the broken bow on the table.
“Give. Me. The. One-hundred. Pound. Bow… Now.”
The vendor doesn’t move as he stares at the broken bow.
“Before I do this to you!” Alisbeth screams.
He jumps and gets down another one-hundred-pound bow. He sets it on the table. “That’s five—”
Alisbeth snatches the bow from him and spits in his hand. “Fuck your five gold.” She leans over the counter and helps herself to a quiver of arrows.
“H-Hey! Those are—”
She shoots him an evil look.
“All right. Happy shooting. Heh.”
Grimory straightens from helping Diori draw the string and lifts an eyebrow. “Getting Ana in trouble?” he laughs.
Alisbeth purses her lips. “He deserved it. I’ll pay her for the bow, but I’m not giving another copper to that swindler.” She scoffs and nocks an arrow. “Bow more fitting…injure myself…show him injure.” She looses the arrow and it embeds itself deep into the eye of the target dummy. She widens her eyes. “Oops.”
Diori pouts. “Hey, you said you couldn’t shoot!”
Grimory laughs. “She’s much better when she’s angry, apparently.” He kneels again to help her pull the string back and assist her with her posture to the best of his knowledge. “We have a range in Mardum but you’d never catch me alive there.” He chuckles. “But I know a couple things.”
Alisbeth gives Diori an apologetic frown. “Koltira taught me while I was in Silvermoon. Just a few lessons. But…if it makes you feel any better, I was aiming at the bullseye. Which is where you should be aiming.” She chews on her lip and scrutinizes Diori. “Pull your shoulders back a bit.”
Diori does as she’s told but when she loses the arrow the shaft wobbles in the air and tumbles to the ground. She frowns.
“Practice makes perfect,” Grimory says behind her. “Make sure your grip is strong on both the string and the bow.”
“Hold the arrow between your two fingers. The trick is to let them go at the same time.” She bites her lip at Grimory. “Let’s see you do it.”
Grimory shrugs and stands upright, picking up the bow. “Prepare to be unimpressed.” He nocks an arrow and draws the string with ease. Oblivious to Diori’s look of wonderment, he looses. The shaft lands in the dummy’s shoulder.
Alisbeth giggles. “At least it wasn’t a fatal shot. Your turn, Diori. Let’s try to get that arrow to fly.”
Diori nods and pulls back another. When it flies, it wobbles again but the head lodges itself into the dirt at the dummy’s feet. “Closer,” she says with a hint of dismay.
“Much better!” Alisbeth claps in excitement. “Pull back a little farther to get the right distance.” She sighs as she thinks. “You know, a former farstrider really would come in handy right now.”
An irrational pang of jealousy surges through Grimory and he narrows an eye. “Well he’s off with a certain scary masked lady.”
Diori does as she’s told and the arrow flies a little farther. She bounces in excitement. “It worked!”
Alisbeth cheers. “Good job!” She smiles at Grimory and lifts an eyebrow. “What do you mean? She’s not scary.” She nocks an arrow and aims, her tongue poking out of the corner of her mouth. She lets it fly and hits the target between the outer red and white rings. She eyes the bow suspiciously. “I think it’s enchanted.”
Grimory gestures to Diori. “That’s what she called her.”
“She is scary, though.” Diori says, twirling an arrow in her fingers. “Why does she wear that mask? I bet she’s even scarier without it.” She makes a beastly face and sticks her tongue out between her teeth, fingers curled like claws.
Alisbeth makes a face. “I don’t think she’s scary at all. She’s really nice. Except that one time…when I did something bad…” She looses an arrow and it grazes the dummy’s arm, then sails off the side of the floating island. She glowers after it. “I bet I’m scarier than her. What do you think, Grim?”
Diori looks up at her mother with a gaze filled with curiosity. “What did you do?” she says as she fumbles to nock another arrow. The shaft flings from her grasp and Grimory lifts a leg to avoid its path.
The Illidari chuckles at Alisbeth. “I suppose it matters what you mean by scary. Do I think there are things I could do where you would try to kill me? Yes. Would I be afraid to be alone with you in a dark room? No.”
Alisbeth blinks down at the girl and purses her lips. You can’t tell her that story! She looses three arrows in quick succession. One hits the target dummy’s weapon; the second sticks in the dummy’s wooden sword; the third hits where the dummy’s groin would be if it were a person. She takes a breath, closing her eyes to calm herself. “I’ll tell you when you’re older.”
Diori pouts and grumbles. I hate it when people say that. I am older! “Okay.” She releases another arrow and it lands awkwardly at the dummy’s side.
Her ears twitch at Grimory’s words. Never. She cocks an eyebrow at her own voice in her head. You won’t kill him. You know you won’t. Look at that little girl! She’d be so sad! … And she’d never speak to you again. “Grim…” Doesn’t mean you can’t hurt him really bad. She decides not to finish what she was going to say, loosing another arrow instead. It hits the inner red ring.
Grimory glances over at the sound of his name. He waits for a long moment for her to continue, then shrugs and holds out a hand helplessly. “Yes?”
Alisbeth grits her teeth and sends more arrows into the dummy, none anywhere near the bullseye. Finally she relents. “I won’t try to kill you. Or at least I don’t want to.” She sends an arrow into where the dummy’s ear would be and drops to the ground on her rear. “Diori,” Don’t. “you have to know something.” Stop. “I’m not a good person.” Why are you doing this? “And I would understand if you decide not to accept me into your life.” She looks straight at her daughter, trying to appear strong, though she’s terrified. “I kill people. Not because they deserve it, but because I’m angry. I’m angry that I died. I’m angry that I was nothing but a subject for them to torture and study until they accidentally killed me and freed me from their experiments.” She grips an arrow in her fist so tight that is snaps. “And I tried to kill Koltira. The woman in the mask saved his life—which is for the better. Really.” You just can’t keep your mouth shut. She’s a child! She turns her head and hisses at the voice. “She’s old enough,” Alisbeth whispers.
Diori’s eyes widen and she makes an effort to close her mouth. “I…I know you aren’t the same Ali from the letters,” she finally says after a long moment. “So…it’s okay. I still want you around. You’re still my mother, though, right? It doesn’t matter how…how different you are, now. Right?” She furrows her brow and looks away, fumbling with another arrow. “And you’re nice to me.”
Alisbeth frowns. “You should have a mother you can be proud of. I’m sorry.”
“Not everyone has a mother they’re proud of,” Diori says with a frown. “But everyone has a mother they love.”
Grimory shakes his head from his stupor, still in mild disbelief. “You aren’t a bad person, Ali.” He sets his bow down to kneel beside her. “You obviously have some clarity, which means you aren’t a bad person. A bad person doesn’t now they’re bad, right?”
“Some bad people like it, so they don’t stop.” She blinks at Diori, then her lips curve upward as though the smile had been there the whole time. “Come on, let’s see you hit a bullseye!”
Diori glances past Alisbeth at Grimory who gives a frown and a quick nod. The girl smiles back and nods, rubbing at one of her eyes and nocking another arrow.
“Take a step closer,” the demon hunter says, standing and offering to help Alisbeth to her feet.
The death knight accepts Grimory’s help up and stands behind Diori. “Lift your elbow some and try aiming a little higher than the target, so when the arrow falls, it won’t land short.”
Grimory nods. “Gotta take into account the arc.”
Diori nods and aims higher. The arrow sails directly into the dummy’s head and she jumps and screams excitedly. “I did it! Aaaaahh!!”
Alisbeth bounces in excitement and claps, smiling down at the girl. “Now try aiming not as high so you can hit the red circle in the middle, there.”
Diori blinks. “But I hit him in the head. He’s dead now, right?”
Alisbeth cringes. “No. The skull is much too strong for an arrow to go through into the b—…” She purses her lips and stares into the wide, blue eyes. “You know what? Why not. Stupid dummy messed with the wrong family. Now, hit him again!” She laughs.
Diori’s eyes light up and she nocks another arrow. “Prepare to be vanquished!” she shouts with a fiery determination. The arrow lodges itself into the dummy’s forearm.
Grimory laughs and pats Diori on the back hard enough to make her jerk. “Well at least he can’t attack back now.”
Diori shoots the last of her arrows and it lands near the stick serving to hold up the target. “No more,” she says with a smile and a shrug.
Grimory chuckles. “I’d let you use the rest of mine but, you know,” he takes her bow from her, “it’s probably getting late anyway.”
Alisbeth frowns. “Oh, I don’t even know what time it is.” She returns her bow and quiver to the vendor, shooting him a glare before stepping away again.
Diori pouts. “Do I have to go to bed?” she whines. “Can’t we do more stuff together?”
Grimory winces and returns the bow and unused arrows. Taveth may not think we’re responsible if he finds out. “Eh…” He looks at Alisbeth.
She blinks at the two. “Why are you looking at me?”
Grimory gives a painful grin. “Because I don’t want to be the bad guy?”
Alisbeth frowns as she assumes his hidden meaning. You did say you’re a bad person. Maybe he agrees. “Fine, then. Yes, you have to go to bed. Right now.” She squares her jaw and points back toward the streets of Dalaran. Good start, Redblade!
Diori’s eyes go wide and she sticks out her lower lip, her ears drooping.
Grimory laughs. “Oh no, missy. That won’t work on us. Right, Ali?”
She averts her gaze. “I’m not budging. Taveth said eight. Let’s go.”
Diori turns her doe eyes on Grimory. “Can’t we just go for a walk? Just a little longer?”
He hesitates and rubs at the back of his neck, groaning. “I…suppose it wouldn’t hurt…”
“Grim!” Alisbeth stares at him, aghast.
He immediately straightens. “What? What could possibly go wrong? She’s a little bit sleepy tomorrow?”
Diori smiles and hugs her father’s forearm. “I won’t be!”
Alisbeth frowns as she feels she’s losing a battle. “You promised, Grim. If you don’t keep that promise, then how can you ever be trusted to keep another.” She squares her jaw, determined to keep her composure. “Diori, I said let’s go, or else…” Yeah, show her how awful you really are! She’ll never want to see you again. Her chin quivers. “Taveth said eight…” she finishes quietly.
Diori pulls on Grimory’s arm. “He probably isn’t even back yet.”
Grimory grits his teeth, feeling torn between the two. “Ali’s right,” he groans, taking the girl by the hand and ushering her toward the streets.
Diori pouts again. “Aw. No fun.”
“Life isn’t always fun,” Alisbeth says. She looks to the Illidari, a thankfulness in her eyes. “It’s always best to keep your promises. Stand by your word and be honorable.”
Grimory bites his lip. “Or…” He scoops Diori up into his arms and spreads his wings, smiling over at the death knight. “Live fast and screw honor.” He takes a step in the opposite direction and leaps into the air, hugging the little girl tight to himself.
“You can fl—aaaaaaAAAAAAHHH!!” Diori cries, clinging tightly to the demon hunter. Her screams fade to laughter as she watches Alisbeth back on the ground. “This is the coolest thing ever!”
Alisbeth watches them, completely helpless to stop Grimory. He’s taking her away from you. Good. Panic rises inside her and she takes off running, ignoring the clenching in her chest. She runs to the inn and up the stairs where Taveth stands, an impatient look on his face.
His eyebrows raise as he sees her. “What are you doing out here? I said eight! It’s nine!”
She shoves past him, ignoring his objections and questions, to unlock the door. She lets herself in and slams it, locking Taveth on the other side, where he continues to pound at the wood. The death knight grabs a pillow and shoves her face into it to scream two lungfuls of air into the padding. Alisbeth sits up and throws the pillow. Unsatisfied with the lack of crashing, she goes to her new giant collection of vases and tears into them—throwing some and breaking others against each other. After getting halfway through them, she turns her anger to the armoire. She grabs her axe and tears into it until nothing is left but sticks and splinters. She then makes quick work of the dresser, her gold spilling out onto the floor.
A bit of time later, Grimory returns to the inn, Diori wide-eyed and smiling in his arms. He sets her down gently and the two chuckle with one another.
“You didn’t tell me you could do that!” she says, punching him in the arm as they near the stairs.
“You didn’t ask,” the Illidari says with a smirk, holding her hand as they ascend the steps.
Taveth stomps down the stairs toward the two. “What in the blazes is going on?”
Both elves look up at the man with wide eyes and fallen faces. “I couldn’t say no,” Grimory says abruptly, straightening as Diori hides behind his hip. “It’s my fault. Sorry.”
“And Alisbeth? What did you do to her?” Taveth demands. A vase shatters from within her room as though to emphasize his point.
Grimory flinches at the sound. “She…wanted to get Diori back at eight. I…took her for a fly instead.” He shrugs and smiles. “It wasn’t her fault.”
Taveth narrows his eyes. “Back at eight? You know, it was nine when Ali came back.” Another vase shatters, followed by the unmistakable sound of something heavy and wooden being thrown across the room. Taveth shakes his head and purses his lips at the demon hunter. “If you can’t keep one simple promise, how can you hope to be trusted for big ones?” He takes Diori’s hand. “You can deal with whatever is going on in there. I have to get my sister to bed.”
Diori whines but follows without resistance. “Please don’t be mad at them! They just want me to be happy and have fun!”
Grimory grits his teeth, knowing he deserves being reprimanded. He gives Diori a fleeting look, mouthing sorry before ascending the stairs to tap on Alisbeth’s door.
Alisbeth throws a vase at the door, but says nothing, assuming Taveth is still trying to get her attention.
“Ali,” Grimory says when he has a second of silence between crashes. “I’m sorry.”
Alisbeth drops the vase in her hand to the floor as she gasps. She runs to the door and rips it open, her eyes scanning around Grimory’s waist. “Where is she? Where is she?” She balls her hands into fists and pounds on his chest. “You took her from me! You took her away!” She spins away to slam the door and throw herself on the bed.
“She wanted to have fun!” Grimory yells through the door. “I’m sorry I didn’t ask your permission first!” he growls. “And I didn’t take her away from you. I’m sure you’ll get to see her again.” I hope.
“Don’t take her away! I changed my mind!” she wails, sobs pulling so hard in her chest that if she’d a need to breathe, she wouldn’t be able to catch her breath. “I changed…my…mind…” She presses her face into the comforter to catch her tears.
Grimory sighs, running a hand over his hair. “Ali, open the door,” he says over her weeping. “He won’t take her away.”
“It’s too late!” she shouts. “She’s already g-gone. You took her from me!”
Grimory opens the door himself to find it’s unlocked. Oh. Well. I feel stupid. “I took her for a ride. I wasn’t taking her away,” he says coolly, closing the door behind him.
“I changed my mind,” she mutters into the blanket, ignoring that he’s in the room with her.
Grimory sets himself beside her on the bed, placing a hand on her back. “Ali, stop. Calm down.”
Alisbeth leaps at Grimory, wrapping herself around him to cry into the crook of his shoulder. “I changed my mind. I remember.” She pulls him tighter. “I changed my mind.”
The Illidari nods. “I know you did. It’s okay.” He returns the embrace and pets her hair. “Everything is fine, yeah? Just calm down.”
“I didn’t get to say goodbye, Grim. And now she hates me for being so mean,” Alisbeth says.
Grimory chuckles quietly. “She doesn’t hate you, Ali. She’s fifty. She’s not capable of hate.”
Alisbeth frowns. “Don’t take her away from me, please.” She tilts her head to lean her cheek on his shoulder and stare at the side of his face. “I shouldn’t have let her go, huh?”
Grimory forces a smile and glances down at her from the corner of his eye. “Today or fifty years ago?”
“Fifty years ago.” She sniffs and wipes at her eye.
Grimory sobers. “What’s done is done. No use dwelling on it now.” He rubs her back reassuringly. “Plus, we have her now, yeah?”
Alisbeth frowns. “Sometimes I can’t help it. Is that okay?” Pathetic. She sneers and turns her head away from him. You’ll never be a family, you know. He only wants you for one thing. She skitters away from him to the head of the bed to sit and wipe her eyes. It’s all you’re good for. She squeezes her eyes shut and growls, then punches the side of her head. “Shut up.”
Grimory quickly leans forward to grab at her wrist. “Please stop hitting yourself. And yes, it’s okay to have regrets. But not to beat yourself up over them…literally.”
She shakes her head. “That’s not what it is.” Alisbeth wipes her nose on her sleeve, then smiles wide at the demon hunter. “Today was fun, wasn’t it?”
Grimory gives a weak smile and nods. “Yeah. It was.”
Alisbeth frowns at his disposition toward her. She looks around her destroyed room and sighs, then pushes under the comforter, pulling it over her head. “I suppose you need to sleep now. Goodnight.”
Grimory furrows his brow but grins anyway. “You sure it’s not you who’s going to sleep?” He pokes her form through the blanket.
Alisbeth peeks over the blanket at him, then turns over to curl against him. “Did you have fun today?”
The Illidari nods. “Yeah, actually. Did you?” He looks around. “Besides the meltdown?”
“Mm-hmm. You didn’t seem too thrilled a minute ago. I was just making sure.” She presses her nose into his sternum.
“Me?” Grimory laughs. “I wasn’t the one destroying my room just a moment ago. You okay, now?”
She frowns and snuggles in closer. “I made a mess.”
“You did.” Grimory sighs and sets a hand on her hip, looking out the balcony door window. “We’ll worry about it later.” The corner of his mouth twitches. “You did a good job today.”
Alisbeth traces his tattoo that covers his chest. “What do you mean?”
“With not running away when you’re scared or uncomfortable. I could see you were really trying.”
“You asked me not to run away. And I didn’t want to let either of you down…again.”
“You…didn’t let us down. Well. You didn’t let me down. I can’t speak for her.” Grimory shrugs. “You were probably right for doing what you did.”
Alisbeth reaches up to scratch at his goatee. “Sometimes I think it was a good idea. Other times I don’t.”
He hums and closes his eyes. “Can’t say I don’t feel the same.” Taveth’s angry face crosses his mind and he opens them again, the corner of his mouth tightening. “I’ll see if I can’t talk with Taveth. Without threatening him.”
Alisbeth threads her fingers together behind the demon hunter’s neck. “You have to apologize for taking off with her. I have to apologize for staying out so late. We can talk to him together.” Alisbeth’s eyes brighten and she smiles wide. “If we get to see her tomorrow, what do you want to do?”
Grimory ponders the question for a moment and shrugs. “I don’t think he’ll trust us with letting her leave the city, so that trip to Silvermoon is probably out of the question. Perhaps just a walk around the shopping district.”
Alisbeth purses her lips to think. “What if we invited Taveth. I doubt he’s been to Silvermoon. Sure, they’re outsiders, but…from what I’ve heard, that part of the city hasn’t been rebuilt. We could sneak right in.” She flashes him a devilish grin.
Grimory gives an airy laugh. “He can’t yell at us if he’s trespassing, too. I like your thinking.” He brushes a strand of white hair from her face. “We’ll ask tomorrow if we can catch him.”
“I didn’t become a captain by being stupid.” Alisbeth giggles, then sets a light kiss on his nose.
Grimory smiles down at her. “Oh?” he teases. “Are you certain? I thought that was a requirement to become a captain. Being stupid.”
She cocks an eyebrow and gives him a faux look of indignation. “Those are fighting words, good sir. I demand you take them back.”
Grimory sticks his nose in the air and scoffs. “If you think I’m going to be intimidated by a mere woman you’ve got another thing coming.”
Alisbeth narrows her eyes at him. “Is that a challenge? That’s sounds like a challenge.” Her hand shoots out from the blanket to grab his horn and pull his face even closer to her own. “Are you challenging me?”
The Illidari does his best to not let the pain show. He grins again. “To what, I don’t know. But yes, yes I am.”
Alisbeth shifts a little, then grunts. She shifts again and whines. “My arm is stuck in the blanket.” She wiggles, trying to free the arm trapped beneath her. “When I get free, you’re gonna get it.”
Grimory laughs, not budging from the blanket so that she cannot free herself. “It looks like I win by default.”
“Like spit you do! I have other means.” She pulls him closer again and bites the side of his jaw. “Don’ ‘ake ‘e ‘ake a ‘hunk out.”
Grimory hisses in pain, then reaches up to grab both her long ears in a fist. “Do it and they come off,” he says with a smirk.
“Nnnn,” she hums. “I loze ih ‘en oo talk di’ty.” She bites down a little harder.
Grimory winces and pulls on her ears with as much force as she’s biting. “You really want to play this game of mutually assured destruction?”
Alisbeth releases his jaw and nuzzles into the crook of his neck as best she can with him pulling on her ears. “I’m bored with that. I don’t want to hurt you right now.”
Grimory lets go of her ears, allowing her closer. “Oh yeah? What do you want to do to me, then?”
Alisbeth runs the tip of her nose up his neck, across his jaw, then rests it beside his so her lips are a mere whisper away from his own. “Remember that thing that got interrupted this morning?”
The demon hunter glances away as he thinks. “Hm. Not so sure I remember. Perhaps you can jog my memory.”
She delicately sets her lips to his. She pulls away and meets his gaze. “Remember now?”
Grimory smiles. “It’s coming back to me.” He closes the space between their lips again, pulling her torso against himself.