Book 4 – Chapter Nine

Alisbeth cracks the door to peek out. She scoffs. “Oh. It’s you.” She closes the door on him.

Grimory sighs and deflates as the door shuts in his face. “I’m sorry,” he says in hopes she’s still listening on the other side. “I’m sure this is difficult for you but…” He lowers his voice. “It’s difficult for me, too.”

Alisbeth rips the door open to purse her lips at him. She puts a hand on her hip. “We’re not together, you said. Then you tried to get me drunk so I’d whore around with you. You really don’t seem like a good person. So, I don’t know if I even want you anywhere around me.”

Grimory furrows his brow and straightens again. “Whore—? No. I wanted you to drink so maybe you’d have some fun. You just seem so uptight and, I don’t know, I figured you could use it. And no, we aren’t together, but I…care about you a lot, okay?” He sighs. “Can you see this from my perspective?”

Alisbeth purses her lips and tunes out the rest of his speech as she zeroes in on one word. Her nostrils flair and her eyes narrow. “Uptight?”

Grimory runs his tongue over his lips. “I didn’t mean that as an insult. I meant it in a stressed-out kind of way.”

Alisbeth sneers incredulously. “How astute. Really, bravo. Hello, I woke up in the worst nightmare of a future imaginable with some sad puppy trying to hump my leg. How would you feel?”

Grimory scowls and folds his arms. “I’m not trying to fuck you. I’m trying to get the mother of my daughter back. Even so, by all means, continue being annoyed by my attraction to you.”

Alisbeth rolls her eyes and goes to sit on the bed. “And forcing me is going to work?” She puts her face in her hands. “And Tirion…”

Grimory steps inside and gently closes the door. “I’m not trying to force anything. And…for what it’s worth, I’m sorry about Tirion. I know that’s hard to hear.”

Alisbeth shakes her head, but says nothing.

Grimory clenches his fists and makes his way to her. He sets a hesitant hand on her shoulder. “I know I’m an asshole. But I’m here if you need to talk with someone about it.”

Alisbeth wipes her eyes and gives him a small smile. “Thanks, but unless things have changed, talking doesn’t bring him back.” She wipes tears from her chin. “Do you know where they buried him? Can I visit him?”

Grimory sets himself beside her and shakes his head. “I don’t know where, but I can find out. We could go there.”

Alisbeth stutters a small laugh. “I’d like that.” She uses her palms to wipe all the wetness from her face and breathes deep to stop crying. “See, it didn’t kill you to not be pushy.”

Grimory forces a small smile. “I’m kind of impatient, admittedly. Sorry.” He sighs and stands. “I’ll leave you be, though. I’m sure you’d like some time to grieve.”

Alisbeth nods. “I’d like that, thank you.”

The demon hunter gives a small wave and takes his leave, closing the door behind him. “Guess it’s my cot tonight. Been a while.” He makes his way downstairs.

~ * ~

Anarchaia frowns. “Oh, Tav,” she sighs. “You’ll find someone. I know you will.”

“Don’t hold your breath.” Taveth chuckles and stares at nothing for a moment. He takes a drink and sighs as the alcohol loosens his tongue. “Shame. He’s a great kisser.” He jolts, realizing he’d said it out loud. “Probably. Maybe. Not that it matters.”

Anarchaia’s eyes widen and her smile returns. She leans forward. “He kissed you?! When? Where?”

Koltira smirks and takes sudden interest in the conversation. “Grim? No…”

Taveth swallows a mouthful of wine. “It was a dream, okay? Just some alcohol fueled imagining caused by you people goading me to it that night.” He gives a small giggle. “Not that it was a b—” He slaps his hand over his mouth as Grimory comes down the stairs.

Grimory gives the three a tired, suspicious glance. “Talking about me?” he half jokes as he approaches.

Anarchaia gives a nervous titter. “No. Swapping weird dream stories. Care to join?”

Grimory takes up his spot at the end of the couch again and puts up a foot. “I don’t dream often. When I do, though, I’m usually at some sort of large event. I’m naked and no one seems to notice but me.” He shrugs. “Among other things.”

Koltira laughs. “I had one where I was tied up in a cage in an Amani encampment—prisoner of war type thing. And, uhh…they kept making me eat live amphibians and grass.” He cringes and takes a drink. “I was never more thankful I wasn’t stationed in the front lines.”

Taveth scratches at the side of his neck and gives a small laugh at the death knight’s dream.

Grimory gives a light chuckle. “There are certainly worse things to eat, yeah?” He gives Anarchaia an expectant look.

The mage returns the glance, then jumps as she realizes. “O-oh! Uh…at the risk of sounding edgy and cliché, I’d rather not talk about what I dream about. Heh.” She sips at her drink.

“Oh. Right. Undead stuff,” Grimory says with a tone of realization. He glances at Taveth. “Lemme guess. Books?”

Taveth wipes his sweaty palm over the thigh of his pants. “Uhh…”

“You know,” Koltira interrupts, “I think I would like to hear what you dream about. I haven’t slept since I died, maybe it’ll provide some sort of insight.” He smiles at Anarchaia, but slips a quick wink to Taveth.

Anarchaia furrows her brow up at the death knight and fiddles with her cup. “U-Uhm. Just…depressing things. Like dying. My father forcing my own eyeball down my throat over and over again while screaming that it’s my fault. Flower petals floating in pools of blood. I don’t know.” She sips her wine again. “Typical girl things. Heh.”

Grimory returns his attention to Anarchaia and swallows. After a moment he hails the barmaid for one more drink.

Koltira takes a drink, nodding absently as his face becomes blank with mild regret for asking. “I’m sorry.”

Taveth cringes and looks at the floor. “I am so so so…so so sorry, Ana. So sorry.”

Anarchaia grits her teeth. “Please stop feeling badly for me,” she groans. “I do that enough alone.”

Grimory takes a long drink of his ale. “So Karazhan. Anything interesting happen on your little learning excursion?”

Koltira smirks. “We had a few good fights. Ana disabled a huge guardian construct. Taveth fell in a hole.” He takes a drink and thinks. “Oh, and that whole incident where we were the size of insects and Tav nearly died. But then he realized we were in the library and like magic he woke right up.”

Taveth scoffs. “It wasn’t the library that woke me up! It was Ana.”

Koltira chuckles and says, with heavy innuendo, “Yes, Ana and her magic hands.”

Grimory catches Anarchaia’s eye and smirks at the vernacular. “Oh? Almost upset I wasn’t invited, now.” He snorts. “Almost.

Anarchaia flushes and gives an uncomfortable titter. “I didn’t disable it. Merely stunned it. And it wasn’t just me. It was…other things. That woke Tav. We played dress up, though. That was fun. You both were so handsome.” She grins.

“Disappointment fading,” Grimory drones.

“It was actually kind of fun,” Koltira says. “A lot more fun than sitting in a coffee shop talking all day.”

Grimory lifts his brows. “Is that what you assume I did all day? I have a life, you know.”

“I wasn’t talking about just you,” Koltira says, frustrated.

Taveth fidgets. “Heh, I rather like the sitting around not falling into spider nests.” He clears his throat and glances at Anarchaia and then Grimory. <<Ana met the boys,>> he says in Eredun. <<Apparently she smells really bad to them.>>

“Sorry for assuming everything passive aggressive that comes out of your mouth is directed at me,” Grimory says with a shrug. He gives Taveth a sideways glance, then laughs heartily. <<And I’m sure you don’t mean her perfume, yeah?>>

Anarchaia shoots Grimory a scowl.

Koltira rolls his eyes and busies himself with his drink and anything to avoid acknowledging the demon hunter is there.

Taveth laughs. “She thought they were going to hurt me and came charging in illusioned as you. They could smell the mage all over her.” Taveth laughs a little harder. “I forgot to say that in Eredun.”

Anarchaia’s eyes widen slightly and she reaches over to kick the high elf in the leg. “Don’t tell him that!” she hisses.

Grimory lifts his brows in interest once more. He looks between the two. “Oh? And why would she do that?”

Taveth’s entire body jerks in a flinch. He checks to make sure he didn’t spill any wine, then frowns. “Sorry, Ana.”

<<You incriminate yourself,>> she says in Gutterspeak, then clears her throat. “It was just a prank. Didn’t work out, sadly.” She sips her wine and gives Koltira a sideways look to ensure he didn’t hear about the demons.

Taveth looks around, confused. <<I— I— What? How? Why? I didn’t-…>>

<<You’re saying things that will make them ask questions.>> She sighs. “So how was your day, Grim?” she continues with a forced smile.

“Oh,” the demon hunter responds, “it wasn’t too exciting. Took Diori and Ali for breakfast—well, mostly Diori. Then dropped her off with Kel’ori for lessons. Then had some stuff to do back in Mardum. Came back and next thing I know your goblin bud is looking for me. Wanted me to come get Ali.”

A smile flutters on and off from Taveth’s lips. “Heh. Sounds like a nice day to me.”

Koltira finishes his glass and, realizing the bottle is empty, sets the glass on the table. “I’ll be back,” he says. He kisses the side of Anarchaia’s head and stands, then goes up the stairs.

The mage gives Koltira a smile before he departs, then turns back to the others. “Do you leave Ali unattended a lot?” she asks with a head tilt. “Because that’s worrisome.”

“No,” Grimory says with an unimpressed scowl. “Even so, that’s not particularly my job, is it? You’re technically her guardian. Not that I believe she needs one.”

“She’s a grown woman,” Taveth says. “Most of the time.” He takes a drink and smiles shyly, not looking at either. “Haven’t been any incidents thus far. Besides, this happened in the shower.”

“I’m not about to let her just go do as she pleases,” Anarchaia says. “There’d be no more Forsaken left in the city.” She drinks the last of her wine.

“I…am inclined to believe that,” Grimory responds coolly.

Taveth shrugs and occupies himself with his drink. “Grim clearly doesn’t like babysitting.” He slouches and breathes out. “I should be doing my research.”

The undead woman gives Taveth a sympathetic smile. “Drunk research?”

Grimory narrows his eyes at the man. “It’s not babysitting. I actually want to spend time with her, you know.” His eyes flick to the stairwell. “And I’m apparently not alone in the fact,” he mumbles so that Anarchaia cannot hear.

Taveth glances where the demon hunter’s eyes look. He scoffs and makes a face. “What’s so special about her?” He mutters under his breath. He frowns and casts a long look at Grimory, completely forgetting the mage has spoken.

Grimory’s ear pulls back at Taveth’s words and he gives him a curious and confused stare. “That’s…an odd thing to say. Do you really want me to answer that?”

Anarchaia clenches her jaw and again acts busy as though she’s not listening.

Taveth jolts and turns to look elsewhere. “I don’t— I just— I’m— I-I… You…” He finishes his half glass of wine in several quick swallows. “I’m sure she’s a delight. Ignore me. Heh.” He twitches and smiles at the mage. “So, Ana, the picture. May I have a copy?”

Anarchaia returns the smile. “Yes, of course.” She bites her lip and looks at Grimory though does not turn toward him. “So Grim. Taveth had a dream about you. Isn’t that funny?”

The demon hunter knits his brow thoughtfully and again looks at Taveth. “That is. I had one about him, too. What was yours about?”

Anaaaaaa,” Taveth hisses. “Nothing, heh. I-it was just stupid. I-I— Wait, you had one about…” His already pink cheeks darken.

Anarchaia shrugs and grins, pouring more wine.

“You were completely trashed and I was waking you home,” Grimory begins as he leans back in his seat.

The mage stops pouring and looks up, bottle still in hand.

A tint of color touches his cheeks. “And just as we reached your district, you kissed me.” He laughs. “I’m only now realizing how ridiculous this sounds.”

All color, save that of his intoxication, leaves Taveth’s face. His eyes widen across at Anarchaia. Once his gaze flicks to Grimory, color returns as a blush floods his face. He swallows and clears his throat. “That’s…odd.”

Anarchaia purses her lips tightly to hold back her smile. “Yes. Uh…queer, even.”

Grimory laughs again. “Right? So, what was yours about? Can’t possibly be as strange as mine.”

The high elf makes a faint noise of panic. “It was the same one. To the last detail,” he squeaks, barely audible.

Koltira returns with Alisbeth in tow.

She eyes the two on the couch and chews on the inside of her lip. He pushes her forward and she grumbles, then drops onto the couch between Taveth and Grimory. “Hey, Tav. Hello again, Grimory.”

Grimory’s chuckling stops abruptly but his grin remains as he stares with an incredulous demeanor until Alisbeth separates them. “H-hey,” he mutters, face scarlet.

Anarchaia drains half her glass in one drink and covers her lips with the back of a wrist. Oh my gods.

Koltira leans over to whisper to Anarchaia while he watches the red-faced Taveth shove himself deeper into the couch, a look on his face as though the elf hopes it might swallow him. “Why do those two look like they bit into a dalapeño?”

“Taveth actually kissed Grim. They had the same dream,” she whispers as quietly as possible without laughing. When she realizes their close proximity, however, she purses her lips and sits upright once again, cup to her mouth.

Koltira doesn’t even try to hide his entertainment over the news. He laughs outright. “I somehow feel complete. Oh, Grim’s face.” He covers his mouth to laugh into his palm.

Alisbeth gives Grimory a tentative smile. “I’ll have that drink, now.” Her gaze flicks to the strange color and frozen expression on his face. “Are you okay?”

Grimory stammers for a moment before smiling at Alisbeth. “Y-yeah. Peachy. What do you prefer?” He lifts a finger for the waitress and she obliges. “Wine?”

Alisbeth rubs her arm. “I don’t know what any of them taste like. Tav, were you drinking wine? Is it good?”

The high elf responds to her in a series of mumbles, which she is incapable of interpreting.

Grimory clears his throat. “The house red,” he says to the barmaid who nods with a smile and goes to retrieve it. “So why the Light?” he says, doing his best to not sound desperate over the subject change.

Alisbeth shrugs. “Father wanted me to be a warrior, like him. Mother wanted me to be a priestess, like her. I wanted to swing a sword, though—my father’s sword. She convinced me to learn about paladins and…it stuck. What about you? What is it that you do?”

Grimory gives a genuine, tired smile. “How admirable.” He laughs at the question aimed at him and hands over her glass of wine as it’s given to him. “I hunt demons.”

Alisbeth raises an eyebrow. “But you’re half demon.”

Grimory shrugs and gives another, quieter chuckle. “Fight fire with fire, right? Green fire, more specifically.”

<<So what were you two talking about?>> the mage says in Gutterspeak after swallowing another mouthful, the alcohol feeding her fearlessness.

Koltira shrugs. <<I just let her talk. She did that thing to me…again. Read me like a book. Then I told her we’re all her friends and we just want to enjoy her company.>>

<<Yes, she’s so quirky,>> Anarchaia mumbles into her wine, eyes half lidded with annoyance.

Koltira’s eyelids lower. “Ana…” He takes her wine glass from her fingers and pulls her to her feet. “Come on.”

Anarchaia holds onto the glass for as long as she’s able to before it’s easily pulled from her grasp. She pouts as she’s pulled. “Why? Where are we going?”

“Well, since you can’t seem to play nice, no matter what. We’re going away from them.” He takes her hand to lead her from the tavern.

Taveth stands abruptly. “Where are you going? Don’t—” He glances at the two on the couch. <<Don’t leave me here alone!>> he says in Dwarvish.

Anarchaia bristles some but dedicates more of her effort to standing straight. “I play nice!” She turns toward Taveth and grimaces before motioning for him to follow.

Grimory’s gaze flicks to Taveth. Yes. Please go. He smiles back at Alisbeth. “So, do you have any hobbies other than swinging a sword around? Perhaps you could show me sometime.”

Taveth wordlessly follows the other two.

Koltira purses his lips at their new third wheel. “Ana, you might seem to be playing nice, but you’re not. So, I guess the solution would be to keep you away from Ali for about…the rest of time.”

The high elf backs away from the two as he realizes why they left.

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