Alisbeth’s mouth drops open as they crest the hill. “Woah! What happened here?”
Taveth chuckles. “It’s been technically abandoned for ten thousand years.”
Grimory kicks a stone and shrugs. “Looks like any other ruins to me. Only this one seems to be more important for some reason or another,” he says, addressing the Naga swarming the lands and water around the crumbling building.
“Fascinating,” Taveth muses. “I’ll have to find out why that is. It’s very curious, indeed.”
Alisbeth snorts. “You talk like such a nerd.”
Grimory stops to assess the scene below, tapping the space between his lower lip and chin with a blunt fingertip. “I don’t think we’ll even be able to get in there without a fight. I guess there’s a good reason you brought us, yeah?” He gently punches Taveth in the shoulder and grins. “Though, I’m sure you could handle it yourself.”
Taveth chuckles. “Oh, yes. Beneath my simple exterior lies powers beyond comprehension. I could turn them all to stone with one look!”
Alisbeth makes a face. “Doesn’t that imply that you’re ugly? You’re not ugly. Grim, is he ugly?” She grabs his head and turns him to stare at the Illidari.
The tips of Taveth’s ears turn a shade of pink.
Grimory inspects Taveth’s face with dramatic care, scratching at his beard with a finger. “Symmetrical eyes. Pointed nose. The best colored hair.” He shrugs and turns back to the path. “Nope. Not ugly.”
A quick blush graces Taveth’s cheeks, the disappears as he clears his throat and stares after the demon hunter. “We c-can agree to…disagree. Heh.” An odd tension about Grimory pulls at him, so he stuffs his hands in his pockets and keeps his eyes on the road as he follows.
Alisbeth rolls her eyes. “Oh, hush. I bet you’re a real lady-killer back home, huh?” She winks at him and nudges his side with an elbow. “It’s the purple eyes. Has to be. Bet it makes all the girls swoon.”
Grimory scoffs at the front. “Wouldn’t be surprised. I’m always amazed at how many girls I’ve lost to bookworms. Something about you nerds really tickles them.” He kicks a murloc as is nears with its spear raised. It gargles as it bounces off. “Easy so far.”
Taveth shakes his head. “Nope. No ladies. I must not be in the right library.”
Alisbeth snerks as the murloc goes tumbling away. “I doubt everything will be as easy as a murloc with a pointy stick.” She skips ahead, humming a random tune as she pokes Grimory’s nose, then continues on.
Grimory flinches and purses his lips. “I bet I can kill more Naga than you,” he hisses with a grin, kicking a small pebble so that it thoks against the heel of her boot.
The lower lid of Taveth’s eye twitches. “We really only need to—”
“Nu-uh! I’ll totally get more than you!” Alisbeth takes off running for the ruins.
“Really,” he calls after her, “we don’t need to kill them all!”
Grimory throws himself onto a Naga spellcaster. The witch shrieks in surprise and the sound temporarily deafens him, but he plunges his claws into her scaly skull all the same. “One!” he calls after Alisbeth as both be and the woman fall forward. He leaps back to the sand and runs after the death knight.
Alisbeth hooks her axe into the neck of a naga and uses her momentum to spin around. The axe saws its way through the creature’s neck—she lets out a scream just before her head comes away from her body and rolls to the ground. “One for me!” She leaps at another.
Taveth flinches over and over, keeping his distance from the fighting. “Th-that’s really not… We don’t need to… Oh, gods… I’m going to be sick.”
Grimory ducks out of the way of a large harpoon as it sails past. He jerks his head in the direction of its origin and scowls at the Naga brute manning the massive gun. He inhales sharply then blows a cloud of emerald fire over his assailant. The Naga drops the spear he’d been loading into the gun and roars as his skin crisps. “Two!” Grimory calls with a laugh.
Alisbeth throws her axe at Grimory. It sails over his shoulder into the eye of a Naga slithering her way to the demon hunter. She runs over to him and smiles. “Two for me.” She kisses his shoulder and retrieves her axe, then charges for another Naga.
Grimory chuckles as he watches her go, then turns to Taveth and cocks his head in the direction of the academy. “What say we see how long she goes until she realizes she’s competing alone, yeah?”
Taveth squints after Alisbeth, who is laughing with pure joy as she plays a demented version of tag with a group of Naga. “You’re really just going to drop out of the game?”
Grimory shrugs and heads toward the large, weathered building. “The game has no rewards,” he laughs. “And she’s more than capable of killing them all on her own. Plus, we shouldn’t stray too far from you.”
Taveth purses his lips and eyes Alisbeth with a small amount of worry as she runs farther from them, then jolts and rushes after Grimory so as not to be left behind. “You’re sure she’s okay? I mean, she did die once before, right?”
Grimory chuckles and pats Taveth on the shoulder again. “She’ll be fine. You should have seen her at the Halls of Valor. Drove her axe into a brute’s spine. Rode him like a steed. Nearly trampled Ana.” He gives a hearty laugh. “She knows what she’s doing.”
“I-if you insist,” Taveth says.
Grimory glances over the tops of the crumbled pillars to keep an eye on Alisbeth, despite his uncaring attitude. “Unless you’d rather go help her,” he grins down at the man.
Taveth stiffens. “While the pen is mightier than the sword, I don’t believe the Naga will agree. Nor will they stop to listen before impaling me on a spear.”
Alisbeth runs up crumbling stairs and disappears through an archway. She cocks her eyebrow. “You’re not a Naga.”
The banshee’s wail echoes in the small tunnel. Alisbeth drops her axe to cover her ears.
Grimory furrows his brow at the sound and runs ahead to catch up. “Ali!” he calls, skidding to a halt when he sees her with her hands over her ears. His eyes turn on the banshee and he throws a silencing sigil beneath the specter before she can wail again.
Taveth taps his fingers on his satchel as he waits for the two to reappear. A shadow falls over the high elf. He turns slowly, then swallows as his eyes go wide.
Alisbeth glares at Grimory as she picks up her axe. “I have it under control! This one counts as mine!” She leaps at the banshee, hacking at the ghostly chest.
The banshee cries out as the weapon swipes through her ghastly form. She swipes at Alisbeth with a vengeance.
Grimory grunts, reaching to pull the death knight out of her path. “Then you’d know you need to use magic on ghosts!”
“I was going to! I’m not stupid!” Alisbeth shoves at him and throws two slithering crimson trails at the banshee to slowly eat away at its health. A swirling pool of blood flows from the banshee into Alisbeth’s palm before the creature explodes in a shimmer of light, leaving nothing behind but her silver bracelets.
Grimory furrows his brow at the woman. “I didn’t say you were. I was just wo—…making sure you had it under control.” He pricks his ears in sudden realization and glances behind him. “Taveth didn’t follow…” He frowns and makes his way back to the entrance with a rush in his steps.
The death knight widens her eyes and runs back out to the Academy grounds and frowns over the open space. “I don’t see him!”
Grimory throws rubble out of his way and toasts a pack of murlocs who object to the flying debris. “Where the hell did he go?!” he growls, scanning the stone floor for signs.
Alisbeth cocks an eyebrow at a huge Myrmidon scrabbling beneath a fallen stone, as though it’s lost something. “You think he’s looking for his glasses? Or something else?” she asks, pointing it out to Grimory.
He scowls at the Naga and picks up a large stone. He hurls it at the monster’s head; the scaled man jerks forward. He turns to glower at the two, trident raised as he rushes at them.
Grimory steps out of the way to go to the rubble he’d been digging in. “Tav?”
Taveth jumps and grips his satchel tighter to his chest as Grimory appears in the opening of the rubble. “G-Grim! Heh. I, uh, m-made a friend. Heh.” The Myrmidon roars at Alisbeth, and Taveth jolts into a little ball again.
“So, you did.”
Alisbeth does her best to make quick work of the strong beast. “Is he under there?”
The Illidari turns to call to Alisbeth. “Yeah, he’s here.” He summons his oversized, smoking claws. “Sit tight.” He leaps over and grabs the Myrmidon by his tail, his nails digging under the scales, then pulls. The Naga turns, slashing with his trident, but ultimately misses.
While the Naga is distracted, Alisbeth launches off a chunk of broken pillar and leaps at him, planting her axe in his eye.
The Myrmidon gives a short cry that is interrupted by the blade piercing its brain. It falls to the ground in a heap, the trident skidding across the stone. The tip of its tail twitches.
Grimory grins over at Alisbeth. “Well done.” He turns his head. “You can come out, Tav. Unless you’re buried in there, too.”
Taveth crawls out from under the slab and dusts himself off. “No, I was under there intentionally. For the record, I think speaking their own language to them makes them even angrier.”
Alisbeth laughs and yanks her axe out, then goes to throw an arm over her cousin’s shoulder. “I bet you insulted his mom accidentally.”
“I did not.”
“Bet you did so.” She sticks out her tongue and musses up his hair.
“You seem like the kind to reason your way out of a fight,” Grimory says, brushing himself off. “Let’s just avoid them altogether for a bit, yeah?” He heads inside and leans over the edge of the crumbled balcony to observe the trickling water and collapsed pillars. “Older on the inside than it looks on the outside.”
“It’s also bigger on the inside,” Taveth says. He purses his lips at the rubble. “I really don’t feel like walking down an unsteady ramp, but I don’t see any other way down.”
“Could always jump into the water.” Alisbeth grins at him.
He shoots her an incredulous look.
“How much do you weigh?” Grimory says down to the man. “Seven? Eight stone?”
Taveth blinks. “I don’t know. What’s it got to do with anything?”
Grimory grins wide. “How far down you think it is?”
Taveth side steps away from the man, eyeing him warily. “Two stories, at least.”
Grimory steps forward, hands slightly lifted in a menacing fashion, and eyes bright with mischief. “That ain’t so far, yeah?”
Taveth swallows. “Y-you wouldn’t…”
Alisbeth giggles. “If he doesn’t, I might.”
Grimory waits a moment for the sake of suspense, then lunges forward to grab Taveth about the waist and lift him over his head.
Acting on instinct and self-preservation alone, Taveth’s arms snap forward to grip the demon hunter wherever he can get a firm hold. His left hand wraps around a curling horn; the other finds a place behind the man’s head. Once in place, he pulls, trying to get away from being held out in the air. Strange memories flash into his mind. His eyes go wide and he gasps, then pulls his hands back as though he might get bitten.
Grimory takes the opportunity to step up on the banister. He takes another step forward and the two fall straight down. Just before they reach the water, he spreads his wings to slow their descent and lands lightly upon a piece of rubble poking from the water instead. “You’re lucky you’re wearing that satchel.” He sets Taveth down beside him and looks up to Alisbeth. “You coming?”
Taveth steps away from the demon hunter, shaking from the shock of both the fall and what had entered his mind. It’s not real. It had to have been a dream. Now shake it off, and avoid telling him your satchel is enchanted to be waterproof, so he doesn’t toss you in. He’s just a bully. A mean, womanizing, mindless…selfless, strong, handsome, char— No! Stop it! Taveth clears his throat and adjusts the strap on his shoulder. He turns on his heel and follows the curve of the narrow, sunken tower, side-stepping two spirits fighting a book flapping about like a bird.
“Coming!” Alisbeth leaps over the edge and curls into a ball. The water splashes up around her. She pushes to the surface with a smile, then climbs out onto a patch of ice forming around her.
Grimory flinches as a wave of water washes over him and flattens his hair, making it stick to his face. He scrunches his face and sets to fixing it. “Thanks,” he drones sarcastically and trots after Taveth. “Come on, Cannonball.”
Alisbeth giggles as she races ahead to wrap her cold, wet arms around Taveth. He jumps and yanks away from her, but she holds fast.
“I am not!”
“Let go of me!”
“But I want to hugs you, Tabbef!”
“You’re going to give me hypothermia!”
He finally shakes loose from her, then spins to berate her for the childish behavior. His foot hooks on a piece of rubble and he stumbles backward.
Shortly after chuckling at the exchange, Grimory takes a deft step forward and grabs Taveth by the front of his vest. “You’ve got to be the clumsiest man I’ve ever met, Tav.” He pulls the man forward to settle him on his feet once again. He elbows Alisbeth and smirks. “We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Taveth dusts himself off, ignoring the heat at the tips of his ears as they turn a dark pink. “I’m not usually so uncoordinated, I’ll have you know.” He looks away from the demon hunter and clears his throat.
Alisbeth laughs. “Then how do you explain all the bruises as a kid?”
“You play too rough.”
She grins. “Yeah… Yeah, I do.” She punches his arm and takes off running.
Taveth blinks after her. “I’m not going to tell her that this is where we’re going.” He points at an opening in the wall with a stair case leading even farther down.
Grimory gives a hearty laugh and heads in the direction indicated. “Didn’t know you were such a vengeful person. I like it.” He observes a dusty, barely recognizable painting as they pass. The eyes on the figure depicted glow with an eerie light and he looks away. “Mage stuff.”
“Do you have a problem with mages?” Taveth asks.
Grimory turns. “Hm? Oh, no. Their stuff just creeps me out. Moving pictures? Brooms that sweep by themselves?” He shudders. “Like straight out of a horror novel.”
Taveth cocks an eyebrow. “You’d hate living at my house, then. My sister is a mage and I’ve a brother who finally decided that’s what he wants to do with his life, instead of being a general hooligan.”
“You left me!” Alisbeth squeals, hopping down the stairs after them.
Grimory laughs at the squeaking death knight behind them, not bothering to turn and look at her. “Did we? Or did you just go the wrong way?”
Alisbeth jumps onto Grimory’s back. “No, you left me. ‘Cause you didn’t say anything. And that’s mean.” She snuggles her face into the back of his head.
Grimory grabs her thighs to support her weight and shrugs. “You don’t seem to upset about it. Guess I’m not in that much trouble.” They descend another flight of stairs to find a pair of ghosts dueling with wands, the one ducking only a moment too late as her large, pointed hat is blown off her head by a spell.
Alisbeth gasps excitedly and squirms. She pats Grimory’s shoulder rapidly. “I want the hat. I want the hat!”
Taveth grips her bicep. “Don’t steal her hat.”
Alisbeth whines. “But…” She makes a disgruntled moaning noise.
Grimory snerks as they traverse the narrow corridor. “We can get you a similar one in Dalaran.” He grips her tighter as she squirms.
“But I want that one!” the death knight whines.
Without a word, Taveth reaches into his satchel and pulls out a candy cane. Alisbeth snatches it from him and pops it into her mouth, then wraps her arms around Grimory, seeming to have already forgotten the hat.
“Not sure why I’ve never thought of that,” the demon hunter mumbles as they near the end of the corridor.