The demon gives another laugh. His chuckle is cut short, however, as chains—glowing with dark indigo energies—slither from the ground beneath him. They snap tightly across his chest and back and Spinewing gapes as his hand is forced open, dropping Taveth to the ground again. <<What have you done to me?>> he growls from the back of his throat.
Taveth sucks in a desperate breath and coughs on it. He gapes at the trapped demon, unable to realize what had happened.
Taveth’s own demons turn to stare at their master.
<<You…enslaved Spinewing…>> Thal’kiel says in awe.
After a moment of silence, Keeshokin nudges Spinewing with his elbow. <<You’re giving me that punch, right?>>
Frustration rising, he reaches to grab Taveth again by the throat but finds he cannot close his claws around it. After a bestial growl, Spinewing gives the felguard an unimpressed scowl. “Shove it up your ass.” He turns back to Taveth. “Release me this instant! Or I’ll destroy everything you hold dear in this world!”
Taveth stands and puts himself between Spinewing and the women. He squares his shoulders and juts his jaw in defiance. “No.”
Thal’kiel laughs at the situation. It rises until he’s cackling in Spinewing’s face. <<No. He said no! And you’re…>> He laughs even harder. <<I’m sorry, but you won’t see the humor of it until you’ve spent more time around his usual self.>>
The Doomlord gives another noise of frustration and brings a fist up, then down onto Thal’kiel’s crown, knocking the skull into the sand. He towers over Taveth. “So, what now, then, small mortal? You banish me to the twisting nether? You have me run your errands?”
“No,” Taveth says, lifting the dagger to aim the width of it at Spinewing. “You’re dismissed.”
Spinewing blinks. “I’m—” The flesh of Grimory’s chest and shoulders molds back to its original state: his wings recede, along with the many spines and spikes, and his horns curl back to their usual size. He falls to his knees in the sand, panting. After a moment he glances up at Taveth, then scrambles to his feet to wrap his arms around the smaller man. “Thank you,” he breathes, squeezing tightly.
Taveth’s eyes bug and he stiffens in shock. He returns the hug tentatively, trying not to enjoy the contact as much as he wants to. “Y-yeah. That guy was a jerk. Heh.”
Keeshokin shoves the demon hunter aside and grabs Taveth’s shirt. “Bring Spinewing back!”
The demons converge on him, the dogs biting at his leg until he falls to his knees. “You’re dismissed! All of you!” The demons fade out in puffs of purple smoke.
Thal’kiel finally pops himself out of the sand and sputters. <<Spinewing! You assho— Where’d he go? What did I miss?>>
Taveth drops the dagger to the ground and puts his shaking hands to his face as he struggles to breathe normally.
Grimory gives one of the imps a swift kick before they all disappear. He helps Taveth back to his feet, eyeing the dagger nervously as though looking at it with new light. “Why didn’t you tell us?”
Taveth seems to shrink with embarrassment. “Because I didn’t want this. I was just…researching and I found it and… They all hate me.”
Alisbeth crashes against Taveth, knocking him off his feet, but catching him in her arms. She squeezes him until he coughs for air. “You’re my hero! You sent that asshole away!” She spins on Grimory and frowns, then punches all of her anger into his jaw. “Don’t ever do that again.” She stomps away to dig her axe from a small sand dune.
Grimory grunts in pain as his head violently jerks with the blow. He scowls after her as he rubs the painful spot. “Maybe help next time, then.” He scoffs at Taveth. “You’re pretty good at it, regardless. Enslaving a Doomlord is no small feat.” He wanders over to the Tidestone and inspects it. “I’m sure I know who’d be interested in this.”
Taveth collects his things, ignoring the dagger in the sand. He holds out the soaked and broken satchel. “Put the Tidestone in here. And…the dagger, please. Whenever I touch it Thal’kiel comes out and yells at me.” He blushes some at the compliment. “Heh. The demons don’t agree with you. They all hate me. Say I’m weak. And they’re right. Heh.”
Alisbeth sheaths her axe and scoops Anarchaia from the sand, dropping her over a shoulder. She scoops the monk onto her other shoulder. “Hey! Hey, Grim! Remember when I carried your grain like this! I thought you were going to die of shock.” She strides to him and grins. “Even stronger now, I bet. Or these two weigh nothing.” She kisses his pectoral as though she hadn’t just punched him.
“I recall. Still impressive.” He smiles down at Alisbeth, nostalgia flooding him, then turns to collect the relic. “Demons hate everyone that isn’t a demon,” Grimory explains, tossing the Tidestone into the satchel. He picks up the dagger, then immediately hisses in pain and throws it into the bag as well. He rubs at his burning palms. “Warlock bullshit…”
Taveth jumps and smashes the bag closed. “Are you okay? Let me see!” He reaches for the demon hunter’s hand.
Alisbeth hums an idle tune as she leaves the men, with no clue what they’re even doing. She trudges toward the outer path that leads to the portal. “So, Ashira, you missed so much cool stuff. I had to peek through my hair to see a lot of it. I need a hood like yours. And you, drinky-lady, you missed it too, didn’t you? It was pretty great. My cousin is a badass. Totally saved the day. You won’t believe me when you wake up, I know it. Both of you are probably going to have some pretty bad hangovers. Yep. Wait, what made you fall, Apie? Nothing hit you and you just smashed to the ground. Did you faint? I bet you fainted. That’s so lame. I got kicked across the water. Went right through that thing. Don’t go inside water elementals. It’s like being trapped in a nightmare, even though it’s just a second. Then when you get out the world is screaming, and everything is dancing watercolors and it makes you real sick to your stomach. Why did that demon Grim have to be so mean? I just wanted to say hi and maybe cuddle and ask a few questions, is that so much to ask? But he doesn’t like me and so he kicked me and tried to kill Taveth and so I hate him. I hate him. It’s like, wow, dude, I think you’re cool and I like your style, but shit, I mean—”
“For the love of fucking bloody everything shut the fuck up! Just shut your mouth!”
Alisbeth jumps and drops the monk. “Oh! How long have you been awake? How’s your head? Sorry my—”
“Shut up!” Edrah downs what’s left in her flask and glares at the death knight. “I have been conscious for nearly all of your blithering, but I couldn’t bloody move to tell you to shut your damn mouth. You talk so much.”
“You’re just mad because you’re sobering up.” Alisbeth spins on her heel and leaves the monk sitting in the dirt.
Edrah narrows her eyes. “True.” She scrambles to follow.
Grimory knits his brow as Taveth glosses over his hands. “I’m fine. We should follow the girls.” He pulls his hands away do fix his hair again and turns for the trail.
“R-right. Heh.” Taveth falls into step behind Grimory, his arms wrapped around the satchel.
~ * ~
Khadgar’s eyes light with interest as the shards of the Tidestone float lazily around one another. “This is…the Tidestone of Golganneth.” He blinks, seemingly perplexed by the whole situation. “Uhm…how did you come across this exactly?”
“Naga were using it to summon a huge storm incarnate,” Grimory responds boredly. He gestures to the elf beside him. “Taveth destroyed it.”
Taveth fidgets. “I…didn’t do anything, really. Heh.” He keeps his eyes on the floor as though afraid to look at the Archmage. “I w-was doing research and it was in a b-book. The whole thing was an accident, really. Heh.” He fidgets again and looks at Grimory. “I-it was a team effort.”
Grimory rolls his eyes. “Not really. I lost control. You did most of it. Gods know Ana and Ali didn’t do shit.”
The Archmage gives Taveth a once over with his blue eyes as though questioning the validity of the story. “Impressive,” he finally says, a small smile creeping across his lips as he sets a hand on Taveth’s shoulder. “I suppose some sort of compensation is in order for such an effort. You’re free to anything you’d like within the city.” The Tidestone hovering above his other palm disappears in a flash of light. “Same goes for the rest of you, regardless of participation.”
“I have a large bar tab,” Edrah says, working her way through a new bottle of scotch. “Maybe something could be arranged for that?”
Taveth’s stomach twists in response to the smile spread across Khadgar’s lips. Then to his blue eyes. He blushes and looks away. “I-I really… Heh. N-no, it, I don’t really n-need—unless you know someone who can restore ink that’s been washed away?” he blurts, then ducks his head and blushes harder.
Alisbeth steps away from the monk, Anarchaia still on her shoulder. “She fell over and won’t wake up, even when I was telling her about everything she missed. Is she going to be okay? Can I ask for that reward? For her to not be dead?”
Khadgar purses his lips at the monk and narrows one eye as the smell of alcohol wafts through the chamber. “Consider it paid.” He glances down at Taveth, thick eyebrows raised. “Actually, Kalec is rather adept at restoration. If you’d like to leave them with me I’ll see that he gets them.” He thirdly comes to notice Alisbeth and can’t help but chuckle at her innocence. “She’ll be fine. She just needs rest. We can care for her here.” He holds out his arms to take Anarchaia from the death knight and finally comes to look in Grimory’s direction. “And you, Silversong?”
“I don’t want anything,” the demon hunter grumbles, pressing his folded arms to his chest and avoiding eye contact. “Just a drink and sleep.”
Edrah salutes Khadgar. “Right then, been a displeasure. Don’t call me again. You lot are chaos.” She stomps out the door and into the bustling streets.
Alisbeth shakes Taveth by the arm. “Tav! He’s like a genie! He’s granting wishes! Ask for more, you deserve it. I mean did you even see what you did? I may have gotten punted by Spindlebean, but I still saw it. Kind of. I think. I know you shouted a lot!” She turns her grin on Khadgar. “Give him commendations! A parade! A—”
“Ali, I don’t want anything. I just want my work restored and to be left alone.” He shoves his hand into his bag, it brushes the dagger and Thal’kiel pops into view.
<<You! I wasn’t done with you. Do you know how—>>
The elf withdraws his hand with the sodden journals and gives a sheepish grin. “Heh. Sorry K-Khadgar.”
Brow knit in a mixture of confusion and general unamusement, the Archmage slowly takes the soggy books from the man with his unoccupied hand. “Right. I’ll see to it that Kalec gets these. I’m afraid it may take some time, however. Perhaps check back as frequently as you can? I’m sure he’ll have more answers for you than I.” He clears his throat. “I need to see to the relic. You all have a good evening and know you have my utmost gratitude.”
“Th-thank you. Really. Thank you. If you need any help, just ask. I took a lot of notes on the Tidestone which you can bor— Right, it’s in that journal.” He points at the green-spined one at the bottom of the soggy pile. “L-love your research on the properties of undeath. F-fascinating.” He swallows nervously.
Alisbeth sets her hand on his arm. “Hey, let him go. He can’t fix your book if you’re talking to him.” She grins at Khadgar as she pushes Taveth toward the door. “Thanks for taking care of Aphrodite!”
“Flattered,” Khadgar manages to say with a smile before Alisbeth ushers them away. He arranges the journals so that the green one sits on top. Anarchaia still cradled in an arm, he disappears.
Grimory follows the duo. “Should we see if ol’ Kolt’s gone insane, yet?” he muses with a grin. “I’m betting he’s spoiling her.”
Alisbeth laughs. “Oh, I bet. She’s adorable and has that cute little smile when she asks for something. No one can resiste her begging face.”
Taveth smiles. “I can. It’s the same face you used to make, and I fell for it every time until I learned better.”
“Poor Diori gets no leeway, then,” Grimory says with a quiet laugh. Once outside the door to Alisbeth’s room, he reflexively taps the back of his knuckles on the door. “If she’s still awake at this hour, though…” he mutters.
“It’s unlocked,” Koltira says just loud enough for them to hear.
Alisbeth opens the door and stops to giggle at the scene. Koltira sits on the bed, still reading the book about birds, though he’s near the end, and Diori is curled into his lap as tightly as she can.
“Good book?” Taveth asks.
“Textbooks are not really ‘good’ books. But it’s something to read, I suppose.” The death knight closes said book and sets it on the table by the bed. “How was the expedition?”
Grimory swallows the seething jealousy that catches in his throat. “Successful,” he grumbles as he closes the door behind them. “You an expert on birds yet?”
“No, but I think she might be. Really loves to learn, doesn’t she?” He moves a clump of hair behind her ear and smiles at the sleeping girl.
Alisbeth eyes Grimory and bites the inside of her lip. “Why don’t we get her back to her own bed, now?”
The demon hunter nods. “She has lessons tomorrow.” He steps to the bed and holds out his arms in an expectant manner, a grim disposition painted on his features.
Koltira blinks up at Grimory. “Of course.” He gently lifts her and deposits her into Grimory’s arms. “Probably warm her up a bit, too. Where’s Ana?”
Grimory gently presses the little girls head to his chest as he straightens. “She overexerted herself. The old man took her.”
Koltira’s brow lowers. “I have no reason to dislike him, but he knows something, and I think he’s keeping it from Ana.” He gets up to stretch, nearly all of his joints popping.
Grimory stops, taken aback by the sudden exposition. “I…wouldn’t be surprised. Perhaps you should take that up with him.” He scoffs as he turns toward the door. “If you even can.”
Taveth opens the door for Grimory. “I’m not sure how the guards will feel about you coming in, but she got too heavy for me about five years ago.”
He nods to Taveth as he passes. “Surely the fact that I’m her father means something.”
Koltira slips past them and into the hall. “Right, forgot you never actually cared about your little mage friend. Have fun finding a new babysitter.” He turns to go down the stairs and leave them all behind.
Taveth sputters. “But, didn’t you two have fun?”
The death knight sets his gaze first on the sleeping girl and then on Taveth. “We did.” He looks on Grimory. “But I know my place.”
Alisbeth bites her lips together, trying to stay out of the argument. “IthinkDiori’sopinionistheonlyonethatmatters,” she blurts.
The Illidari’s jaw tenses when his care for Anarchaia once again comes into question. He cocks his head at the last statement. “Do you, though?” he snaps—more out of spite than jealousy, completely disregarding Alisbeth’s outburst.
Koltira responds by turning his back on them and leaving for Acherus.
“Well, I suppose I’ll be sitting out any future missions. Not like I’m very useful anyway. Heh.” Taveth motions for Grimory to follow.
Alisbeth trots out to kiss Diori on the forehead, then goes back into the room.
Grimory gives Alisbeth a small smile before following Taveth at his request. “You’re trying to tell me you weren’t useful? You did most of the work where it mattered most.”
Taveth shrugs off the comment. “I’m just a bumbling idiot who accidentally found a skull and the dagger to master it, and a valuable relic. Even my research is an accident. I wasn’t going to be a scholar, I just never stopped. Clumsy idiots are never the right choice.”
“There’s really no such thing as a right choice,” Grimory says as they step out into the emptying Dalaran streets. “Though if there is, bringing you with on that expedition was one. We could have just left you.”
“Honestly, you should have. I was a liability the whole time. Wasn’t in the right state of mind.” He stops in front of the guards and smiles. “Can my friend come in to put my sister to bed?”
“No Horde,” the Worgen snarls down at the men.
“I’m not Horde. I’m her father!” Grimory says with a slight scowl.
“Is that so? Where’s your proof, elf?”
The demon hunter purses his lips. “Just look at her.”
“No. The Quel’dorei are permitted. You are not.”
Taveth purses his lips and turns to Grimory. “Meet me under the Hall of the Guardian. I’ll be right back.” He stomps indignantly into Greyfang Enclave.
Grimory lifts his eyebrows with intrigue. “Will do.” He nods and finds himself turning toward the Halls without much thought.
Taveth finds Grimory some minutes later, sighing in relief as though he hadn’t expected the demon hunter to listen. “Okay, then. Let’s try to be fast.”
A fair-haired elf with features similar to Taveth’s steps around the corner. “Sorry, sorry. I had to add one more line. Has to be perfect for Khadgar. Ugh! He’s going to fail me. He’s so mean. Nothing like Kalec.”
“Can we just—”
“Yes!” Without hesitation, the elf takes Taveth’s hand in one of hers, and Grimory’s in the other. “Hold tight!” In a flash of light, they come to stand in a small, humble room with two footlockers and two beds—one small and one long and narrow. “You owe me.” She holds up her hands to leave, then stops, eyes wide on Grimory’s face. “You’re related to her!”
Grimory pauses as they reappear in the room. He blinks as he’s confronted about his appearance. “Uh. Y-yeah. I am, actually,” he says through his befuddlement. “I’m sorry. Have we…?”
“This is her father,” Taveth says.
The elf jumps as though shocked. “Dad said she was an orphan!”
“He lied. Get this, Cousin Ali is her mom.” He eyes Grimory. “Oh, just set her on the bed, here.” He tosses the blanket to the side and motions at the smaller bed, where the faerie dragon plush sits on the pillow.
“Ha! I knew it! She acts just like that little brat did.” She makes herself comfortable on the bed.
Grimory gingerly sets Diori’s small form on the bed and brings the covers up over her shoulders. “Yeah. We, uh…met a long time ago. I fixed a shoe for her charger. She gave me a fake name and I wasn’t able to find her after that.” He scratches the back of his neck and turns, opposite hand outstretched. “I’m Grimory, by the way.”
“Kel’ori.” She takes his hand and smiles. “You know, being vindicated on little miss perfect brat not being so perfect doesn’t quite feel as good as I’d expected, rest her soul.”
“She’s alive. Sort of. She’s one of those death knights.” Taveth sets about putting his things into his trunk in an almost obsessive manner.
“A pleasure.” Grimory folds his arms, suddenly unsure of what to do with his hands. He watches Taveth. “So, you’re a mage as well. You know Anarchaia?”
“I know of her,” she says tentatively. “She’s Khadgar’s apprentice—Oh, no! My paper! I have to go.”
“Wait!” Taveth grabs her arm. “He’s not thinking about that, trust me.”
“Oh? Do tell.”
The demon hunter blinks. “Are we talking about the old man? He’s…” He gives a snort of a laugh. “Preoccupied, I’m sure.”
“He’s taking my books to Kalec because they got wet. Smeared all the ink, including my research on the Tidestone, which we just delivered to him. Along with the unconscious Anarchaia.” Taveth finds a clean shirt and pulls his off, revealing just how small he is beneath his shirts. He blinks and glances at Grimory as though he’d forgotten he was there, then yanks the new shirt over his head.
“Wait, you know her? What’s she like? I mean, I hear she’s, like, amazing talented.”
Grimory can’t help but size up Taveth when he takes off his shirt. How the hell is he still alive living as dangerously as he does? “Yeah. We’re…friends. Been on a few missions together. She’s…eccentric.”
Kel’ori punches Taveth on the arm. “Your life is more exciting than mine and you’re a shut in! How does that happen? Oh! I should go help Kalec with your journals. I learned how to renew ink last year.”
Taveth narrows his eyes. “And you didn’t tell me?”
“You didn’t ask. Come on, the guards will wreck you if you go out the front gate.” She holds her hand out to Grimory.
The demon hunter glances down at her hand before taking it. “Thanks again.” He nods to Taveth. “See you later, yeah?”
Taveth nods. “Yeah. Sure. Heh.”
“Bye, dork!” In a flash the mage and demon hunter are gone, back under the Hall of the Guardian. “Nice meeting you, Grimory.”
“You as well,” he responds with a faint smile and a wave. “Take care. Thanks again.”
Kel’ori leaves in a flash of light.