Book 3 – Chapter Thirty-Two

Taveth glances up at the sound of Anarchaia’s voice, then pushes his glasses up with a knuckle. He pauses as a reflection catches his attention. Deeper in the cave, a group of murlocs runs into view, then back behind the wall. How deep is this cave? He puts his things away, then turns to make sure he’s completely hidden from the others. The elf positions his hands, then spins them. A green ball with a yellow slit for a pupil takes shape in his fingers. He drops it to the ground and closes his eyes.

The Eye zips across the sand, avoiding the merlocs, even though they can’t see it. On the other side the Eye comes back outside into the rain and wind. It spins, then zips to the right. It stops abruptly after spotting a towering skrog with his arms aloft, energy flows from him up into the sky to create the epicenter of the storm.

Grimory glances around when he sees they’re missing a head. He leaves the girls to talk among one another. He spots Taveth and tilts his head at the man’s behavior.

He sets a hand on his shoulder. “You all right there, Tav?”

Taveth jolts as his concentration is broken. The Eye disappears into a cloud of green smoke as the elf opens his eyes and blinks at Grimory. “Hmm? Oh. Yes. I was just…thinking.”

“Of course you were. C’mon. We gotta find a way to kill that storm.” Grimory jerks his head in the direction of the girls.

Taveth purses his lips and shoves his hands in his pockets. “I, uh… I might know a way.”

Grimory turns back to give Taveth a curious glance. “Oh, really? I’m all ears.” He furrows his brow. “No pun intended.”

Taveth’s mouth crooks sideways. “Heh, yeah. So, um… W-watch the back of the cave for a minute.”

Grimory leans away, suspicious. “All right.” He turns to do as he’s told. “What about it?”

“Just wait.” After a few seconds, the murlocs run into view, regroup, then turn around and run back the way they came. “Murlocs don’t typically inhabit deep caves. They prefer to be in close proximity to water.”

“So, they’re stupid. What of it?”

Taveth blinks at Grimory, wishing he’d have caught on. “They’re not the only ones,” he mutters as he strides away from the demon hunter and deeper into the cave. It’s a wonder he knows how to breathe.

Grimory’s ears perk and he scowls after the man. “Prick,” he says without any indication of hiding his tone and folds his arms. “Don’t get into trouble,” he then sneers and sits back to watch him go.

Taveth reaches just before the murlocs and ducks into a corner which hides him from both the murlocs and Grimory. He circles his fingers together and twists, summoning his Eye once more. The Eye zips out past the murlocs to a safe area at the mouth of the cave. A drop of green energy falls from the Eye and expands into a purple and green gateway with swirling energy inside. Taveth opens his eyes and steps out. He narrows his eyes at Grimory, then waves goodbye and disappears into a pile of ash.

Brow still furrowed, Grimory jerks his hands in frustration and turns. “Girls,” he says when he rounds the corner. “Tav found a way out back here. Let’s go.”

Anarchaia nods and follows. “Back out into the rain, though. Is your hair going to survive?’

He makes a face at her, tongue poking through his teeth like a dog sneering at broccoli. “I’d rather get Taveth’s bullshit bag and get out of here.”

Alisbeth skips over to Grimory and hooks her arm through his. After observing the frantically running murlocs, her brow furrows. “Where’s Tav?”

The demon hunter shrugs. “Turned into a pile of ash. I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about.”

Anarchaia’s eyes widen and she tilts her head. “I’m sorry. A pile of ash?”

“Mmhm. This way.”

Alisbeth frowns as tears rim her eyes. “But…no… Tav can’t have spontaneously combusted! He’s my favorite cousin ever! And Diori! She’d be heartbroken!”

Edrah rolls her eyes, shrugging off the apprehension for the man’s life. “I’m sure he’s fine. Probably.”

“Spontaneous combustion is actually a myth,” Anarchaia interjects before Grimory can respond. “You see there’s this process called wicking that—”

“Okay, thank you, Ana. But no, seriously. I’m sure he’s okay.” He blows a cloud of fire over the approaching murlocs and the smell of cooking fish rises. “There.” He points out into the rain with a lumbering skrog and more frantic murlocs.

Alisbeth runs to the opening. “Taveth!” She runs out into the storm. “Taveth! Are you dead?

Edrah makes a face. “Does she know he can’t answer if he’s dead?”

“He’s not dead,” Grimory hisses as he passes Alisbeth. He sets his shoulder near the cave mouth and walks slowly past the skrog. He holds back a sigh as his blond mane once again deflates.

Anarchaia pulls her hood up again and glances about. “I suppose Grim’s got some logic in that head of his,” she says reassuringly. “If he were to be dead, he wouldn’t just poof into ash without any cause or reason. Murlocs certainly haven’t been known to do that to people.”

“But— But what if these are…attack murlocs! Frikkin murlocs with frikkin lazer beams on their frikkin heads!” Alisbeth shakes Anarchaia furiously to emphasize her point.

Anarchaia tenses as her brain is jostled around in her skull. “They haven’t been known for that, either,” she mumbles as they near a rocky outcrop near the shore. Wet seagulls flutter about and more giant snails laze along.

Edrah blinks and swigs her drink. “I want whatever you’re on, lady.”

Grimory jumps as a crash of lightning strikes just to his left. He skitters away and looks around frantically, a sudden feeling of vulnerability washing over him. “Okay, where the hell did he go?”

Taveth reaches up and urgently slaps Grimory’s boot. His lavender eyes wide with panic, he ushers them all to follow him off the rock. “Don’t let them see you! They also don’t like to be spoken to in their own language.”

The demon hunter jumps again at the unexpected tapping of his boot. He follows. “Who? The murlocs?” He blinks. “And don’t think you can get away without telling how you poofed into dust.”

“The skrogs, I assume he means,” Anarchaia mumbles, again summoning her air pocket. “If I get sick again, I swear to gods…”

Edrah nonchalantly detoxes Anarchaia. “You should be fine, love.” She smiles and leans against the rock.

Taveth hides behind the others. “Skrogs. Yes. That one tried to step on me! I thought I could do this peacefully, but they are as rude as they are ugly.”

“Nothing here is peaceful, Tav. Not even the water.” The muscles in his arms creak as they mutate into claws. “Only one way to handle rude, ugly people.” He chuckles and runs ahead, slashing at the ankles of the pair guarding a rotting wooden archway at the top of a slope.

Anarchaia thanks Edrah with a smile the monk cannot see and quickly follows Grimory to aid him. She freezes the foot of one to the ground and the skrog merely shatters the ice, grumbling in annoyance. The mage frowns. “I’m losing potency.”

“Aim for the eyes, Ana!” Taveth says. “Short bursts to blind them. Let the others do the heavy stuff.” He sets a hand on her shoulder and smiles kindly. “We need you strong.”

Alisbeth runs back and forth between the skrogs’ legs, cutting her axe into the flesh. “I’m tired. I want to go home. So, you need to die!” She raises her axe upward to his loincloth. The skrog howls in pain and stops moving long enough for her to scramble up the netting on his body and wedge herself in the ropes at his shoulder.

“Be careful up there!” Edrah shouts. “I can’t stop you from hitting the ground, you know!”

The mage flushes and gives a nervous titter. “R-right!” She does as she’s instructed to do, sending small shards of ice directly into both skrogs’ eyes.

They growl in their natural tongue and stomp about. One manages to kick Grimory into the rocky wall nearby, causing a small avalanche of debris to rain down on him before he can recover.

Anarchaia groans, concerned. “Ali! The throat! Cut his throat!”

Alisbeth grimaces and resists the urge to run to Grimory. She slits the skrog’s throat and scrambles out of the ropes as it falls forward. She leaps to the other, but slips on his slick shoulder. She catches herself on a rope, but drops her axe into the sand below. “Grim! Are you okay?”

Edrah wraps the demon hunter in a green cocoon, cursing at everything.

Taveth runs forward to get Alisbeth’s axe. He tries to lift it, but the head falls back into the sand. “Why is this so heavy?”

Grimory groans as the gashes in his head heal. “Yeah, I’m okay.” He inhales sharply as the remaining skrog lifts a foot to next stomp on the smaller blond elf below him. Not having time to call out, the demon hunter dashes forward. He grabs Taveth by the arm and pushes him out of the way just in time for the foot to come down; it pushes Alisbeth’s axe further into the sand. He coughs when the impact knocks sand into his mouth and throat.

Anarchaia does her best to keep the gigantic man blinded but finds her efforts growing weaker.

Taveth does the only thing he can think of and grabs a stone to throw at the skrog. It hits the giant on the side of the head and Taveth cringes. “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” The elf runs as the skrog spins, its foot turning the Maw onto its side in the sand.

“You’re sorry?” Edrah scoffs. “If you survive, I’m kicking your arse.”

Alisbeth kicks her feet in the air and whines, twisting her caught wrist around in the ropes, but they hold fast, instead tearing open her skin.

Grimory grits his fangs and spreads his wings to leap up. He uses his claws to slash at the ropes binding Alisbeth, and frees her. He drops down and waits for her to fall, then catches her in his arms and gives a charming smile. “Hey.”

Anarchaia throws a much larger shard of ice in the giant’s face and it stumbles onto its back. The blade of the axe embeds itself in his lower back and he groans in pain as blood stains the sand in waves. She also cringes. “I’m sorry, too.”

Alisbeth squeaks as she lands in his arms, then scrunches her face in a grin. “Hey yourself.” She licks his lips then hops from his arms. “Slashy thing his throat!” She points excitedly at the skrog as though Grimory can’t see it.

Edrah purses her lips. “Let me get that wrist for you.” Pale green swirls at Alisbeth’s wrist, then leaves and the wound is healed.

Grimory gives a dutiful nod and leaps onto the skrog’s stomach as it struggles to move. “Nothing personal,” he mumbles and buries his claws into the monster’s neck. More blood joins the rest on the earth below and the skrog gurgles. Its flailing limbs slow to a stop and it takes its last breath.

Anarchaia quickly turns with her hands over her ears and mutters unintelligible things under her breath to drown out the noise.

Taveth gags and shudders. “That’s disgusting.”

Edrah stomps over to him and sends her boot into his rear. “You’re sorry?” She pops Anarchaia on the arm. “Both of you. Ugh!”

Anarchaia jumps and rubs at her arm, then deflates in relief when she hears the sound’s stopped. “It’s okay to be sympathetic, you know.”

Alisbeth moans and wraps Grimory’s blood covered arms around her. She presses her back to his chest and forces his hands up and down her torso.

Edrah frowns. “Okay, that’s disgusting.”

Grimory flushes and gives a nervous chuckle, then pulls her tightly to him to speak quietly into her ear through his teeth. “Save it for later, please.”

Alisbeth pouts. “But it’s so warm and wet.” She puts his hands on her face. “I want it everywhere.”

Taveth turns around, then turns around again, eyes wide. “What in the name of all the gods is going on back there?”

“Depravity,” Anarchaia says tiredly, adjusting her robes and skirting around the growing pool of blood in the damp sand. She makes her way up the gentle slope toward the archway.

Grimory pulls his ears back as Anarchaia nears and laughs again. “Warm and wet later.” He squishes Alisbeth’s cheeks together with a hand. “When we’re alone, yeah?” He hops down and extends a hand to help the death knight down as well.

Taveth rolls his eyes. “Oh, no. Please. By all means, do whatever you’re doing. Not like there’s a creature of unimaginable power being conjured on the beach.” He follows Anarchaia and leans in to whisper. “What in the— I— Is this common with them?”

Edrah takes a moment to inspect the blood-soaked pair, then skips away to check Taveth. He flails under her physical scrutiny, but allows the healing of a small cut on his cheek.

Anarchaia gives a weak laugh and shrugs. “I’m not around them nearly as much as you think I am.” She struggles to withhold more laughter at his fussing.

Alisbeth sneers, but takes his hand anyway. “You’re just saying that because these three are here.” She turns to the corpse and frowns. “My Maw is under there.”

“Because I have a sense of privacy,” Grimory says cautiously as he rounds to the giant’s side. His arms mutate again to give him the muscles he needs to push the skrog over and onto its side. “Hurry,” he groans.

Alisbeth sprints beneath the body and yanks on her axe. After a few good pulls, it comes free and she rolls out of the way.

The Illidari releases the body and it again rolls onto its back. He releases the breath he’d been holding in a sigh, then follows the others. “Still intact?” he asks Alisbeth as he passes.

Taveth clears his throat and whispers low to the mage. “So then, you probably can’t tell me why Grimory is so infuriating and yet so…” He clears his throat again.

Anarchaia turns to him and grins beneath her mask. “Charming?”

Hrng. Yes,” he whines.

“I could, actually,” the mage chuckles in a low tone, then steps over the threshold of the archway.

“All good!” Alisbeth chirps, falling into step beside the demon hunter.

“So, that fat bloke is causing all this storm?” Edrah leans on her staff, catching her breath.

“Yes. I saw him doing something—channeling his energies into the eye.” Taveth says.

“So just kill him, then,” Grimory says as he passes the group, claws already at the ready once again. “Like everything else.” He jumps as another bolt of lightning strikes near them, then curses loudly in irritation. “Okay, let’s do this. I’m so sick of this rain.” He throws a sigil of flames beneath the gigantic man and he bellows down at them as the soles of his feet burn.

Taveth’s eyes darken and his lips press into a line. “Make it fast. We’re so close!” He hisses under his breath. “I can feel it.”

“Oh, you’re back to being a little twat, now, are you?” Edrah asks.

Taveth sneers at her. “Take a long walk off a short pier.”

“Skinny dipping? Sure! Are you coming?”

Alisbeth falls to the ground as is shakes beneath her, the soil opening in cracks under her boots. “Would you two shut up and do something?”

“What am I supposed to do?” Taveth snaps.

Edrah shrugs and sets out her serpent statue. “Stop being useless, for one. Why did you even come on this expedition?”

“Please stop arguing,” Anarchaia grumbles from the back as she throws balls of fire and arcane energy. “It’s not productive.” A sphere of water forms around her and she’s lifted off her feet. She sighs bubbles.

“It’s a pity you cannot survive without air,” the skrog king calls with a laugh. Vortexes of salty wind spiral about their circular arena and the rain seems to come down harder.

Grimory makes an effort to hack at the man’s heel but is forced to dodge away when he attempts to kick at him.

Taveth spins on his heel and sticks his nose indignantly into the air. He stomps a few yards before a whirlpool sweeps under his feet and knocks him to the ground.

Alisbeth swings her axe lazily, ready to be done with the tall creatures. “I’m not climbing this one,” she growls.

“Then I will,” Grimory responds. He flies up to blow fire in the skrog’s face. The man groans as his beard of seaweed, as well as the skin on his nose, shrivels and burns. He swats Grimory back to the sand like a bothersome fly and lifts a foot to stomp on him. “Foolish, tiny mortals.”

Alisbeth runs under the skrog’s foot and braces herself as Edrah throws a her sphere around Grimory. The foot comes down, burying Alisbeth in the sand up to her knees until the sole of his foot is stopped by the sphere.

The death knight grins as though it was her own strength. “You okay, Grim?”

“Yeah,” the demon hunter says with a pained, dazed grin. “I am, now.”

Taveth pushes to his feet and slowly slinks from the arena, around the hull of a ship and down a narrow way where a lone snail puffs along with a sort of sad determination.

The bubble around Anarchaia pops and she falls to her feet again, water pouring from her mouth and nose. She shakes her head and lifts her hands. The water saturating the sands surrounding the cocoon coalesce around its shell. She jerks one hand up and a spike of ice forms, piercing the skrog’s foot. He groans again and stumbles, landing on the sharp crag behind him.

A swirl of water splashes over the two and Alisbeth giggles. She goes to hop out of the ground, then frowns as she doesn’t budge. “Well…shit.” Instead of worrying about it, she turns and bats her axe at the bottom of the skrog’s foot, gashing it open over and over until a pool of blood is staining the sand.

Edrah laughs at the death knight. “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that strategy before. What do you call it?”

“Mud wiggling!”

Anarchaia takes hold of the water inside Alisbeth and grunts as she pulls her out of the earth to drop her gently into the sand again. She does the same with Grimory, but instead tosses him up and onto the giant.

The demon hunter gives a curt wave of gratitude and begins burrowing a hole into the skrog’s stomach.

The King grabs Grimory in a fist and squeezes him until the elf cries out in pain. “You’ll not make it out of here unscathed,” the giant growls despite his pain and bleeding.

Alisbeth hops in excitement. “That was so cool, Anvilmarch!” She clambers up the skrog and swings her axe over her head to bring it down like a pickaxe on the skrog’s chest. “I’m mining for a heart. Think he’s got one?” She takes note of the demon hunter’s predicament and swings her axe around to the King’s wrist. “Drop him! He’s mine!

Taveth reaches the end of the walk. As he nears a sudden drop-off with a broken ship’s hull down in the water, a bolt of lightning hits the ground at his feet. He yelps and backs away.

Edrah throws a heal across the area, blanketing the group. She runs forward and kicks and punches at the skrog’s foot, where Alisbeth had torn it open.

The skrog hurls Grimory back to the sand to swat at the death knight hacking at his wrist. He instead grabs her with his uninjured hand and kicks at the monk as he attempts to stand.

Anarchaia summons a circle of runes around her in the sand. She closes her eyes as she concentrates and energies swirl about her robes. With hands of fire, she waits for the skrog to sit up. Once she has a full view of his face, she mutters another apology before throwing a massive ball of fire into his head with blinding speed. The King falls back, face smoldering. When the rain slows the flames to a sizzle, they see that the skrog’s face has been reduced to a crater of cooked flesh, seaweed, and bone shards; smoke billowing from the hole.

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