Book 3 – Chapter Thirty-One

Edrah blinks at the death knight, then leans to Anarchaia. “She alright?”

Anarchaia narrows her eyes and blinks, resisting the sass, then shakes her head. “Yeah. She’s always like this.” Her hands erupt in flames as she sees Grimory leap into a group of unsuspecting Naga soldiers.

The demon hunter grins as he thrusts his claws through the caster before she’s able to complete her spell. Blood sprays and he gives a sigh of contentment.

Alisbeth leaps in behind the demon hunter and buries her axe into a Naga creeping up behind Grimory.

Edrah looks over at Taveth as she drops a serpent statue on the ground and channels a healing mist to envelope the demon hunter. “You gonna jump into this fray, cutie?”

He clears his throat. “I don’t fight.”

Anarchaia surrounds the group with flames that rise from the ground like tendrils, burning only those they mean to burn. She groans and follows the other two as they excitedly dash to the next patrol group. “I’ve quickly recalled why I hate this.”

Alisbeth turns to raise her thumb over her shoulder at the mage. “Keep doing that! You rock, Apoo!”

“Is her name actually Apoo?” Edrah hisses to Taveth.

“Nope.” He strides past to keep up with the others.

Anarchaia cringes and follows the duo. The three make an easy task of carving a path through the low-ranking Naga and occasional brute. They come upon a small enclave surrounded by a rocky outcrop. In the center stands a male Naga that towers before the group, spear in hand.

“Intruders?” He bellows.

“No dialogue, please,” Grimory groans, the tips of his claws smoldering despite the blood.

Taveth gasps. “That’s, that’s him! He was in the academy. He took my bag!” Taveth runs forward, ahead of the others. “Where is it?” <<Where is it?>>

“Tav? TAV!” Alisbeth runs after him.

The monk rolls closer. “No dying on my watch, pretty boy!”

Grimory grits his fangs as the warlord lifts his spear toward Taveth. He blows fire at the Naga’s base. The creature groans in pain and thrusts the pointed end at Grimory instead.

“Pathetic worms. You are too late to stop us!” He growls again when more orange fire licks at his face.

Alisbeth leaps on the serpent’s back, burying the spikes of her axe into his spine. Taveth ducks away from the flames, narrowly missing a plate boot to his head as he dives into the grass. He scrambles away, shaking, as he looks around desperately for his bag.

“Don’t go too far, now!” Edrah shouts. “What’ve you gotten yourself into, Edrah?” she mutters to herself. “A damned bloody mess, that’s what. Should’ve stayed with the damned—” she dives to the side as a Naga and a Myrmidon slither from behind to attack Anarchaia, “—dragons.”

The warlord laughs as his duo of underlings advance on his attackers. The witch covers her commander in healing waters while the soldier raises his sword above the mage. He whips around every which way to grab at Alisbeth.

Grimory growls and hurls a silencing sigil below the witch to interrupt her casting.

Anarchaia turns and shrinks at the descending blade. In a panic, she blinks out of the way and into Edrah with an oof!.

“Would you get your clumsy arse—ahh!” Edrah grunts as she tangles further together with the mage. She throws a few good heals out to make sure no one is too hurt in her distraction.

Taveth skitters away from the commotion when he doesn’t see his bag anywhere.

“You!” The warlord points at Taveth. “I’ll skewer you!” He readies a spear.

Alisbeth pulls harder, trying to throw him off target, but he doesn’t budge.

Grimory’s gaze flicks between all three of his enemies. He runs forward to the soldier and spits a fire at his face. “Ay, asshole!” He turns and runs when the sword swipes at him, making a path between the warlord and Taveth. The former hurls his spear with great force and speed, but the soldier intercepts its path. The scaled militia skids across the dirt, leaving a trail of blood behind him.

“Fool!” the warlord spits. “Get out of the way!”

Anarchaia quickly leaps to her feet, a grin beneath her mask. “Grim you’re a genius!”

Taveth drops to the ground, panting to slow his furiously beating heart. He stares at the sky, feeling the claws of frustration slip around him. I wonder if Naga would know how to use the dagger. Could just leave it here and hope for the best…

“Don’t blinking blink on me!” Edrah says, leaping to her feet with a graceful flourish which should be impossible at her level of intoxication. “Bloody, blinking fool.” She taps Anarchaia on the ass with the gnarled end of her staff. She throws her hands out and encompasses Grimory in a huge, green sphere, then throws down her serpent statue and works soothing mist over him to close the wounds inflicted.

Parjesh jerks to the side, sending Alisbeth flying into the Naga witch. The axe instead buries itself in the Naga’s forehead. The being hisses and summons a lightning storm to knock the elf from her face.

“Stop that!” Alisbeth sends ice into the Naga’s mind.

The witch screeches and claws at the plate gear covering the death knight.

Anarchaia turns and bristles. “It was an accident! Trust me, there’s better company here to blink into.” She assists Alisbeth with lighting the witch on fire and the woman cries in agony as she slowly sinks to the ground.

The warlord jabs at Grimory again and growls when he misses. “Hold still, vermin!” He hisses in pain when the demon hunter’s claws dig into his armored chest.

“Ali! One more time at his spine!” Grimory calls, blowing fire into the Naga’s face to blind him.

Alisbeth jumps over the warlord’s slithering tail, then leaps onto his back again. She sinks her axe higher in his spine. His head rears back and he screams out a shrill hiss as she twists the weapon. “Finish him!” Alisbeth calls. “Light him on fire!”

Grimory exhales to blow more flames, but before the cinders can leave his mouth a torrent of fire several stories tall engulfs the warlord. The Naga abandons grabbing at Alisbeth to howl as he burns. After a moment of panicking and calling for help from his subordinates, he falls, crackling, into the earth.

Grimory turns to Anarchaia, lips in an unimpressed line.

The mage shrugs. “She said light him on fire…”

Alisbeth throws a red shell around herself and dances away from the smoldering serpentine, shoving her toes into the grass to extinguish the small flames. She runs over, still steaming, to grab Anarchaia in a huge hug. She twirls her in the air. “I love you! That’s, like, the best thing ever and I want to take you hunting with me and you can light things on fire and I can kill it but not in that order but we’ll have so much fun because that’s just awesome!”

Anarchaia wheezes as her lungs are crushed. “Sure…thing…Ali.”

“You’re going to make her hurl,” Taveth says, unamused. “Now, anyone see my bag? Or did you incinerate it?”

Edrah snorts and leans on her staff as she takes a swig from her flask. “Did you see any pockets on that lizard? No. Unless he ate your bag, I think it’s safe to say he didn’t have it.”

Taveth growls. “We have to keep moving.”

Grimory casts Taveth an irritated glance. “All right your attitude’s gotta change, Tav. It’s getting annoying. We’re all helping you here, yeah?”

Taveth bristles. “My attitude? I don’t know what you’re talking about. What’s so wrong with being worried? Nothing. Nothing!” He strides up to the demon hunter and pokes him in the sternum. “A precious item is missing and so I am concerned. Concerned. Understand? Do you know what a Naga could do with that kind of power? You don’t. We just, we have to keep moving. Heh-heh.” He turns away, heading for the road that wraps around the side of island. “Have to keep moving.” He undoes his ponytail and runs fingers through his straw-colored hair, trying to capture it to retie it. “Attitude. Ha!”

Grimory’s eye gives a twitch; small embers flutter out from them as they threaten to ignite. He clenches his teeth and watches him go. “Gonna throttle him,” he murmurs through his fangs and follows, pushing past the rest and slashing the head off a giant snail as it approaches.

Alisbeth narrows her eyes and puckers her lips in suspicion. “Butthead, yes. Losing it? Maybe. He needs a drink.” She runs past the monk, snatching the flask as it reaches her lips. “Taking this, thanks!”

Edrah’s mouth drops open in shock. “That’s mine!” She chases after the death knight.

Alisbeth shoves the flask into Taveth’s face. The man instinctively flinches and dodges sideways, then glares at his cousin.

“Don’t do that.”

Anarchaia gives a nervous titter sand grabs Alisbeth by the arm. “Let’s just keep moving. Heh.”

Edrah rips her flask from the death knight’s hand. “Mine.” She takes a drink, then holds it out. “Care for a nip?”

Alisbeth pauses and stares at the flask. “I, um… Yeah, sure.” She takes a sip and cringes. “That’s…”

“Incredible, right? Made it m’self.” She tips back another mouthful.

“I was going to say potent and a little vile.”

“Acquired taste, dearie. So, the one in red says the cute grumpy boy does have a thing. What thing?”

Alisbeth blinks at her. “I don’t know.” She runs to the front of the group to help dispatch an angry turtle. “Hi, Grim! Don’t drink from the flask. Kay?” She runs past him to look across the expanse. A huge Naga witch stands waiting in a small pool of water.

“No promises.” Grimory sucks on his teeth as he looks about. “I suppose we could just bypass her…but where’s the fun in that, yeah?” He pushes past Alisbeth and readies his claws again, stomping on a sentient globule of water as it nears to investigate.

Anarchaia bustles behind as she tries to keep up. “I get time is of the essence, but let’s keep together!”

Taveth races to catch up to the demon hunter. He stoops to examine the water globule as he grabs a pen from his bag. Cautiously, he pokes the globule. It undulates and shivers, then bumps into him, knocking him into the shallow water. “I think I angered it!” He skitters backward, but the water chases him.

Edrah races forward and slaps the side of the water with her palm. It slaps against her ankles. “Ow, this actually hurts?” She jumps over it and tip-toes through the water to hide behind Grimory.

Anarchaia freezes the droplets solid and melts them with a few flames. “Simple elementals. Nothing to worry about.”

Grimory turns just in time to see the globules taken care of. “Right. Well, then.” He gently nudges Edrah away before hurling himself at the gigantic witch. She screeches about her casting being interrupted and the demon hunter rolls his eyes as he nimbly dodges one of her flailing arms.

Alisbeth races to catch up to Grimory. She gives the demon hunter a goofy smile, then leaps onto Lady Hatecoil’s tail. The Naga raises her arms to the sky. “Fry, landwalkers!”

“Oh, bollocks.” Edrah rolls to a nearby patch of try land and drags Taveth up beside her.

“Get out of the—”

Electricity jolts through the shallow waters around them. Alisbeth releases the writhing tail and falls onto her back in the water. The shock zaps through her plate armor and into her body.

Anarchaia quickly blinks to a safe place, then cringes and looks away as Alisbeth falls victim to the lightning.

Grimory lifts himself out of the water with his wings, the liquid below rippling with the gusts. “Ali!” He steps toward her when he lands, but the Naga witch sends an armada of globules to attack him. He growls and attempts to evaporate them with a sigil of fire.

Coughing, Alisbeth rolls over and spits into the water. She crawls onto a little pad of land to catch her breath. As she goes to stand, lightning streaks down and breaks the sandy dune into nothing, leaving the death knight in the water once more. “Oh, come on! Fucking bitch! Landwalkers gonna kick your scaly ass!” She shoves herself to her feet and leaps onto Hatecoil’s back. She rakes the blade of her axe across the serpent scales and laughs. “Like scaling a fish. Fishy, fishy, fishy!”

The monk blinks at the death knight and turns to Taveth. “Is she always so random?”

Taveth blinks at the monk and goes to answer, but decides against it and lets out a heavy sigh. “You should probably do healy stuff.”

Lady Hatecoil hisses in pain and sweeps one of her arms to summon a tornado atop herself in an attempt to hurl Alisbeth off. “You pests are beginning to annoy me!” She brings her tail around to strike Grimory and send him flying but the Illidari rolls out of the way in the nick of time, only to be hit by the backswing.

Anarchaia grits her teeth and hurls multiple icicles at the witch’s face. She howls in pain and irritation as one finds its way into her eye and summons more lightning strikes.

Alisbeth grips tighter to the Naga, planting the spikes of the Maw of the Damned into Hatecoil’s back. When the tail whips Grimory, Alisbeth jumps from her back. “Don’t touch him!” She gets between the Illidari and the tail, then lifts her axe high, swinging to cut the appendage off.

Grimory peels himself off the rock he’d collided with and shakes his head to relieve the daze. He lifts his head just in time to be hit with a spray of blood as the witch’s tail disconnects. He spits out the bit that gets in his mouth. “Fishy.”

Edrah grits her teeth and rolls away from a tornado bearing down on the sand dune she and Taveth occupy.

Taveth runs to stand near Anarchaia instead. “You’re a fire mage, yes? But are you also trained in some frost abilities?” he asks, a plan forming in his mind.

“I’m adept in all schools,” Anarchaia responds over her shoulder as she evaporates more summoned sentient sea droplets. “Why?”

Taveth smirks at the mage. “Lots of water here. Is your ice cold enough to freeze her?” He points at the Naga.

“And then what?” the forsaken girl responds while blinding the witch with projectiles bright enough to distract her from Alisbeth and her hacking.

“Have you ever poured hot water onto an ice cube? It cracks. Between you and Grim, you have enough heat, Ali can then theoretically shatter her. Can you do it?”

The mage nods and motions to Edrah and the others. “Get on land, guys!”

Grimory’s ears perk at the command and he does as he’s told shortly after jumping back into the fray and commanding her attention again. “Ali, watch out.”

Alisbeth hops backward onto a patch of land.

Taveth pats Anarchaia’s shoulder. “Okay, do it!”

Anarchaia nods and crouches down to place her hands in the water. Tendrils of ice shoot from her fingers and quickly creep up the Naga’s body. She twists and turns in an attempt to free herself before even her head is frozen solid. The mage quickly returns to blasting the solidified witch with bursts of fire.

After shaking some residual frost from his boot, Grimory gives a nod of understanding at the plan and does the same.

“Ali, hit her!” Taveth shouts.

Alisbeth takes a running leap and brings her sword down on the Naga’s head. She shatters beneath the edge in a rain of frozen, crimson shards. The death knight’s boots hit the ground and she tucks into a ball to avoid being burned by her companions’ fires. When she opens one eye, she finds herself cocooned in a green sphere, her feet floating inches over the ground.

Edrah smirks and drinks from her flask. “Told you I wasn’t incompetent.”

“I don’t recall anyone saying you were,” Anarchaia mutters as she stirs and sets a hand on her head.

Grimory smiles up at Alisbeth. “Good job up there.”

Alisbeth giggles as the bubble pops and she drops to stand on solid ground. She wraps her arms over Grimory’s shoulders and gives him a little kiss on the cheek, then nips at his earlobe. “Bet you enjoyed that, huh?”

The Illidari blushes and casts a quick glance over his shoulder at the others, a nervous grin playing at his lips. “Always do.” He gives her backside a gentle pat before making for the path they’d been venturing.

Taveth’s nose wrinkles of its own volition at his cousin before he looks away, blushing. The high elf retrieves the new notebook and pen and begins sketching the two formidable foes they’d face thus far, before the memories could fade. Edrah leans against him, causing his pen to streak across the page. He shoves her down into the mud.

Stop touching me!” His eyes glow a deeper purple as he shouts, and she shrinks away from him. Then his eyes brighten to their normal lavender and he turns back to the book.

Swallowing a drink, the monk runs to the others. “That bloke is not right in the head, you hear me?”

Anarchaia gives Edrah a concerned look as she approaches. “He’s not normally like this,” she says low enough that Taveth cannot hear, and follows Grimory as she speaks. “He’s…different.”

Edrah shakes her head. “Well something has got his knickers in a twist.”

Alisbeth gives the monk a strange look. “You talk funny.”

“Do I?”

“Yeah, you do. I like it.” She turns back and frowns at the serpent in the middle of the area, blocking their path.

Taveth runs to catch up with the group and pulls frantically at Anarchaia’s arm. “My bag! It’s over there, I know it! Go kill that thing.” He points off to the side where four Naga witches channel energy into a towering entity whose body radiates with watery energy.

The mage jerks in surprise and looks in the direction he’s pointing. She swallows. “I-it would take all of my energy to kill something that big. Grim!” She motions as the demon hunter turns. “Taveth says his bag is that way.”

Grimory shrugs and sets a course for the whirlpool to the east. As he nears, however, a finger of electricity surges from the swirling clouds above the monstrosity and he’s sent reeling. The coral in the tidepool cuts his hand as he braces himself on it and he hisses. “Yeah, no.”

“I’ll get it myself,” Taveth hisses. He strides forward, his brow low and his eyes dark.

Alisbeth leaps on him, pinning her cousin to the ground. “You wanna get zapped? Cause that’s how you get zapped.”

The monk lazily envelopes Grimory in a soothing mist as she takes a heavy drink and stares at Taveth. “I’d rather you didn’t do that. It’ll kill a little bugger like you in one strike. On the bright side, you wouldn’t care about your bag anymore.”

The Illidari wipes his bloodied-but-healed hands on his pants and sighs. “Guess we’ll have to find another way around. Preferably one that doesn’t kill us.” He wades through the shallow pools back toward the watchful serpent.

Anarchaia folds her arms and sighs. “If you keep taking it upon yourself to do ridiculous things, I’ll be forced to drag you along the rest of this trip as a sheep.”

Taveth growls under the death knight. “Fine.” Alisbeth lets him up and he stands, attention still pulled to the creature, his palms tingling.

Alisbeth kicks his boot. “Come on, butthead.”

“Where do you think the lightning is coming from?” Edrah asks Grimory as she catches up to him.

Grimory gives a shrug. “It looks like they’re summoning some sort of hurricane. I assume we should probably take care of it. Looks dangerous. Not only that, but I’m willing to bet it has that super important relic we need…” He sizes up the serpent as it glares down at him with its one eye. “Gross.”

Alisbeth grins at Grimory. “You afraid to wrestle with a one-eyed-snake?”

Edrah slaps a hand over her face as alcohol sprays from her nose.

Alisbeth laughs evilly and runs at the serpent, her axe raised as she shouts a battle cry.

Grimory snorts a laugh but does not smile. “Gods knows you aren’t.” He rushes forward but is forced to dodge as the serpent immediately spits poisonous green liquid at him.

Taveth looks at Anarchaia. “I’m missing something.”

“Cock joke,” Anarchaia grunts as she steps to the side to avoid a few drops. She retaliates with a well-aimed fireball to its gigantic eye.

Taveth jumps to the side, avoiding acidic droplets. “I don’t get it.”

Edrah snorts. “You’re so precious.”

“What?”

Alisbeth laughs from her position of trying to climb up the serpent’s slick, slithering body to plant her axe in its head. “Don’t hurt yourself over it, Tav!” She slides back down into the pool of water below and growls. She holds out her axe and hacks at the long neck like a tree trunk.

“Cocks have one eye and look like serpents,” Anarchaia further explains in a matter-of-fact tone as she summons a swirling cloud above the monster’s head.

Hail rains down upon it and between Alisbeth’s hacking, Grimory’s fire, and Anarchaia’s ice, the serpent hisses in anger and submerges into the pool. Shortly after three heads rise out of neighboring pools, spouting fire and more toxins.

Taveth’s neck and face flood crimson. “Vulgar.” He hops away from a pool as a purple serpent pops up through the water. “Yep, can’t unsee that.”

Edrah giggles. “Poor, innocent thing. I can cure you of that, you know.”

The high elf ignores the monk as Alisbeth runs past him with a quick pat on his head. She shoots ice at the head of a red serpent, silencing its shriek. She makes quick work of the red one, then returns to the main serpent.

“You’ll further traumatize him,” Anarchaia mutters and blinks behind the violet head to freeze the pool it’s in.

It cries out in pain as the blood rushing to its brain freezes. Grimory takes up the opportunity to dash forward as well, raking his claws in a circle at the frozen base until the entire head breaks off and slams into the sand.

WOULD YOU DIE ALREADY?” Alisbeth kicks the serpent several times and whines. In response a drop of poison lands directly on her. She yelps and runs away, leaving green patches behind as she swipes it from her. “Get it off! It burns!”

Edrah frowns as her attempts to remove the venom fail. Instead, she envelopes Alisbeth in several layers of mists to ease the pain and heal the wounds.

Anarchaia sidesteps as Alisbeth runs by and bends down to observe the poison herself. She resists the urge to prod the liquid and observe its properties.

Grimory also dodges the pools and bolts forward with grit fangs. Spines protruding from his back and shoulders, he spreads his wings and leaps up to the beast’s head. It thrashes about and he digs his claws into its scales to steady himself.

Taveth gives the mage a knowing smile. “Here.” He pulls a wide-mouthed jar from his bag, scoops some toxin in, then corks it and shakes the excess off. “For you. Just…let me look at it when you’re done. Oh, and—”

“We’re still bloody fighting!” Edrah shouts and kicks a rock at him.

Alisbeth returns to the neck of the serpent and sends her axe into the flesh over and over.

“Oh, I couldn’t,” the mage responds while at the same time taking the jar and sending it away in a flurry of sparkles. “Thank you.”

Ana!” Grimory growls, still holding on.

Anarchaia jumps. “Oh! Right!”

She bounds over to freeze the pool in a similar fashion to the previous. The beast slows in its thrashing, giving the Illidari time to dig his claws into the serpent’s eye. With a bestial cry, he rips the orb from its skull and hurls it aside. The ground quakes as the monster joins its other heads in the damp sands.

Alisbeth kicks the head as she strides past. “If I had to fight that thing again, I’d just kill myself. That was not fun.”

“Aye. Like a deadly Whack-A-Gnoll.” Edrah also kicks the corpse.

Alisbeth smiles at the monk. “Thanks for the save back there. I wanted to peel my own skin off.”

Edrah throws her arm over the death knight’s shoulders. “I don’t think that’d be a good look on you. Drink?”

“Why not?” Alisbeth accepts the flask and takes a drink, her gaze fixed on Grimory to make sure he’s paying attention to her trying to be nice.

Taveth shuffles up to the mage and whispers behind her shoulder, “When you return it, lend me your notes?”

Anarchaia smiles beneath her mask as she straightens. She chuckles and sets a hand on his shoulder as she passes. “Of course, Tav.”

Grimory washes his bloody hands in a tidepool and stretches as he straightens. He gives Alisbeth a faint smile before he turns and looks over the beach. “Where to next? The storm hasn’t subsided, yet. And I’m getting sick of being wet.” No sooner do the words leave his mouth than rain begins to pour from the clouds above. He sighs as his normally well-kept hair sags about his face and forehead.

“Let’s wait it out in that cave!” Edrah says. She doesn’t wait for the others, but takes off for the shelter.

Taveth hugs the new satchel to his chest. “I second that!” He rushes after her.

Alisbeth smiles up at the sky. “It’s just a little rain!” She spins in slow circles, kicking up her feet in a half-hearted jig.

Anarchaia pulls her good up about her head and, despite doing that, creates a small air pocket above herself to stave off the rain. She follows calmly in Edrah’s path.

“Maybe to you,” Grimory grumbles. He notices Anarchaia’s makeshift umbrella and quickly ducks beneath it. Amidst adjusting his hair, he notices the proximity between the two and flushes, stepping away to just the edge of the barrier and chuckling. “Thanks, Ana.”

Alisbeth dances her way to the cave, using her Maw of the Damned as a partner.

Before the others get there, Edrah takes a moment to size Taveth up. “What’s your story?”

He blinks at her. “I don’t understand what you mean.” He turns away and finds a secluded spot to put on his spectacles and sketch out the serpent in his journal, noting its properties. He saves several pages after for the research on the venom sample.

As they reach the cave, Grimory quickly gets to fixing his hair using hot emerald flames.

Anarchaia sighs as she scrutinizes the cave. “It’s a shame we don’t have a map,” she muses. A gigantic snail slithers by and she reaches out to pet its shell. She dries her robes and observes Alisbeth with her axe. “Graceful. Has he had lessons?” she chuckles.

Alisbeth ducks into the cave and grins. “Taught him myself.”

“Aww, well isn’t that just…terrifying,” Edrah says, turning away from the sharp teeth of the gaping skull.

The mage titters again. “You wouldn’t dance with a skeleton? That’s awfully racist.”

Dead is not a race.” Edrah smirks at the others.

Alisbeth shrugs. “That’s okay. I mean, you never know if it might—” she brings the skull right to the monk’s face, “—eat you!

Edrah skitters back and falls on her rear in the sand. They both burst into laughter.

The corner of Anarchaia’s lips twitch and she forces a laugh. “I suppose you’re right. Heh.” She rests her weight on a hip and gives a genuine chuckle at the two.

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