Taveth whines at the light filtering red through his eyelids. He pulls the blanket over his head and forces his face deeper into the pillow. “Diori, close the blinds.”
Alisbeth cocks an eyebrow and closes the double doors to the balcony. “Been over a century since she’s been gone. Since when was it Diori and not ‘Auntie Wedbwade’?” She sits on the bed and pokes his side.
Taveth twitches and pulls the blanket down to look at her. “If you tickle me, I’ll throw up on you.” He rubs lazy fingers over his eyes and stretches. “Your daughter. You named her Diori Nightheart and sent her to live with us. Father raised her as his own and the rest of us followed suit. We only just found out.”
Alisbeth frowns. “You must think me a terrible person.”
“Nope. We’re past all that.”
Anarchaia pokes her head into the lounge and waves to Arille behind the bar. “Good morning, Azuregaze. Is Taveth still here?”
The high elf nods as he sips his coffee. “You gonna pay your tab today?”
Anarchaia gives a nervous chuckle and simply crosses the lounge to the stairs. She ascends and knocks lightly on the door to Alisbeth’s room.
Alisbeth opens the door and gives the mage a kind smile. “Hello. What brings you here so early?”
Anarchaia pulls her mask up to return the smile. “I was actually looking for Taveth. Is he still here?”
Alisbeth moves to the side and motions at the bed. “Koltira dropped him off last night. He was out before he hit the pillow. Careful, he might be close to death.”
Taveth moans and grimaces at the mage. “Why?” he whines pitifully.
Anarchaia strides to his side and chuckles, waving her gratitude to Alisbeth. “Change your mind? Don’t want me to tell you?”
Taveth’s curiosity coerces a scowl to his lips. “Do I already know the answer?”
Alisbeth closes the door and leans against it. “What’s going on now?”
Anarchaia’s smile grows sympathetic. Images from the night before echo in her mind and she clears her throat. <<Well. Yes and no. He said he’s uninterested but is flattered and wants to remain friends.>> She looks over at Alisbeth. “Girl troubles. Heh.”
Taveth frowns and buries himself in the blankets and pillows. <<Memory charm.>>
Alisbeth narrows her eyes at the two. “Girl…troubles…”
Anarchaia frowns. “I’ll…see what I can do.” She sighs and turns to Alisbeth, then smiles again. “Yeah. Girl talk. Uhm. Have you seen Koltira between now and last night?”
Taveth shrugs lazily as Alisbeth focuses her questioning stare on him. “Girl troubles.”
Alisbeth shakes her head. “Whatever. Um, no. He dropped Tav off and then left.”
Anarchaia visibly deflates and sighs again. “All right. Thank you.” She sets a hand on Taveth’s head and musses his hair. “If you need to talk…”
“I’m just going to stay here and pray for death. No worries.”
Alisbeth gives Anarchaia a patient smile. “I’ll make sure he stays alive.”
Taveth whines and drags the blanket over his head again. “Be a love and turn off the sun.”
Anarchaia chuckles. “I’m going to have a hard enough time getting this potion from Milhouse let alone turn off the sun.” She gives Alisbeth a thankful smile as she passes. “Please do. He’ll need all the help he can get for the next twelve-to-sixteen hours.” She gives a curt wave and heads downstairs, conjuring her To-Do list in the process.
Alisbeth turns to the lump on the bed after the door is closed. “Girl troubles…”
The lump groans softly in reply.
Arms wrap around Anarchaia’s waist from behind and lift her up to leave her feet dangling in the air. Koltira presses his face into the side of hers. “Good morning.”
Anarchaia eek!s in surprise and the parchment that’d been lazily floating before her flutters to the floor. She smiles and presses her hands over his arms and pushes her lips to his cheek. “Morning. You disappeared last night. Almost thought you’d died along with Taveth.” She chuckles.
Koltira laughs and sets her down. “I had some things to take care of in Acherus. Sorry I didn’t tell you, I just couldn’t find you. Where’d you go?”
“Oh! That’s right. I, uh…I did the thing. Heh.” She waves down Arille and motions for a coffee. “It went…” She flushes. “Well. Ish.”
“He basically said Thanks but no thanks.” She sips her coffee then recoils at the heat, fingers to her lips. “Was…polite about it though.”
“And I’m guessing you already told Taveth,” Koltira says, cringing somewhat. “How’d he take it?”
“Well? Ish? Heh.” She sighs and deflates, setting the cup down. “He wants me to get the potion anyway. I said I’d try.”
Koltira shrugs and rubs her back comfortingly. “I guess he’s just too embarrassed to deal with it? I mean, he did kiss one of the straightest men I know, while drunk, and with a small spark of hope. He’s a bookworm, he probably does about as well with confrontation as you did when we first met.”
“Yeah, poor Tav. I just can’t resist helping him out.” Anarchaia frowns slightly and taps at the side of her mug. “I was as awkward as he is?” She perks, panic in her face. “Am I still that awkward?”
Koltira shakes his head and sets his hands on hers to urge calm. “No, no, no. You were close, but not nearly as bad. And now you’re, well compared to him you’re a regular person.”
The mage cringes. “That’s…not saying much.” She sighs in defeat. “Ah well. Do you have any plans for the day?” She conjures a pocket watch to check the time then sends it away. “We should do something.”
Koltira smiles. “I agree. What did you have in mind? Visit that pond you wanted to go to yesterday?” He sets his hand over hers, wrapping his fingers around to squeeze.
Anarchaia twists her wrists to grab his fingers with hers and blushes with a small smile. “Maybe. We haven’t had alone time in over a week. It’d be nice to sit and listen to the forest again.” Her eyes flick to the doorway. “Good morning, Grim. Done with your meeting already?”
The Illidari gives a curt nod and scratches at one of his horns. “Morning. And time is meaningless in the nether. Is Ali awake?”
The mage nods in return and her smile fades some. “Yeah. Upstairs. Heh.”
“Right. Thanks.” He pats Koltira on the shoulder in greeting then heads for the stairs.
Koltira’s brow lowers as the demon hunter disappears. “Did he really just ask if an undead, non-sleeping being was awake?”
Anarchaia snerks. “He does that a lot. I’m…hoping he’s joking.” She sips her coffee.
Once at the top, Grimory gently knocks on the door and stretches while he waits for a response.
Alisbeth opens the door and gives the demon hunter a small smile. “Um…hi? Did you need something?”
Grimory lifts his brows and sets his weight on a leg. “I was going to take you to Light’s Hope. Unless you changed your mind about that…”
Taveth curls the blanket tighter around himself and debates telling Alisbeth she can’t go. Instead, he says nothing.
The death knight smiles brightly. “Oh! Yes, please. Let me just get dressed.” She shoves him out the door and dresses quickly.
“I see you naked nearly every night,” the demon hunter mumbles when the door closes, then folds his arms to wait.
“Not going to shove me out?” Taveth asks.
“You’re not going to look.” She finishes and opens the door again. “Will the journey be long?”
Grimory gives a shrug when it opens. “I suppose that’s up to you. I have no plans for the next forty-eight hours or so, so it doesn’t matter to me.”
Alisbeth pokes at the lump under the blanket. “You gonna be okay alone, Tav?”
He moans and scoots away from her.
She leans over and pokes at him again.
Grimory shifts awkwardly upon realizing the mound is actually Taveth and clears his throat. “Though I don’t think they’ll allow us near after nightfall.”
“Oh! Then we should get going.” She clasps a cloak around her shoulders and puts the Redblade across her back.
The demon hunter steps aside to let her pass and grabs the door handle. He mumbles a “See you, Tav,” and closes it before following down the stairs. “There’s a portal to the Undercity on the east side of town. From there we can grab a flight path to the Plaguelands.” He shrugs a shoulder and casts a glance to the two at the bar as he passes, nodding. “Or I can fly us from there.”
Anarchaia returns the nod and smiles sheepishly before turning away. “Three hundred gold, here I come.” She rubs her palms together comically and bites her lip.
Koltira shakes his head as he watches Alisbeth go. She turns to give him a kind smile and a little wave of her fingertips at her hip.
He returns the smile, then casts his gaze to the bar. “I don’t know. Time is running out and so far he’s only managed to piss her off. Besides, how will you know if you’ve won or not?”
Anarchaia deflates some at the interaction and following question. “I suppose I won’t unless I ask.” She swallows a sigh. I’m sure you’d rather I lost at this point. She finishes her coffee and pulls her mask back down. “Assuming he doesn’t lie.” She conjures her task list and runs her eyes down each item.
Koltira shrugs and remains quiet for a minute. “Could ask both separately, and don’t tell them about the bet.”
“I suppose.” Anarchaia releases the sigh she’d been resisting and turns to give a soft smile as she stands. “You know, I…actually have a lot to do. Uhm. Perhaps you and I could do something tomorrow.”
The death knight frowns and eyes Anarchaia. “O-oh…okay. Um, yeah. That’s…sure.” He tries to hide his disappointment.
The mage leans over to place a kiss on his cheek through her mask. “I’ll find you later.” She turns and, in a moment of passive-aggressive subtlety, gives a wave similar to the one Alisbeth had given before making her way out the door with her list in tow.
Koltira’s ears pull back and he frowns after the mage. He gives a growl of frustration and heads back to Acherus.~ * ~
Alisbeth slips out the door and sighs into the morning air. “Do you think we’ll see any action on this venture?”
Grimory gives a faint laugh. “At least that part of you hasn’t changed much.” He leads her down the slowly filling cobblestone streets. “I don’t think so, though. Unless you’d like to start a fist fight with a guard.”
Alisbeth gives Grimory a look and scoffs. “What honor is there in fighting a guard?”
The Illidari gives a laugh and extends a hand to usher her into the portal. “Only a joke.”
Alisbeth gives him a wry smile and enters the portal.
He leads her through the Undercity streets and up the stairs to the loft above. “Hope you like bats,” he says with a chuckle as they near the flight master there.
Alisbeth’s nose wrinkles in disgust as she looks around the city. “What is this. What are these people? This is…wrong!” She jumps at his words and her mouth drops open. “Bats?”
Grimory pauses and clears his throat. He decides it best not to explain everything lest he overwhelm her. “Right. I guess I’m the flight master today. C’mon.” He takes her gently by the forearm and leads her onto an elevator, rushing in his steps when he sees an abomination rounding the corner. He sighs inwardly in relief when the stone door slams shut. “I’m glad you didn’t wear armor.”
Alisbeth pouts slightly. “It feels like you’re sheltering me. I’m not a child, you know.”
Grimory grimaces and leads her up the ramp and into the empty, decrepit throne room. “I’m not trying to shelter you. I just…don’t want to overwhelm you. I’m happy to answer any questions you have.” He steps out into the courtyard and gauges the wind. “Sorry if it came off that way.” He turns. “This place was overrun when the Lich King came to power. Arthas slayed his father and the Undead took over. Sylvanas Windrunner became the Banshee Queen and her followers chose here to reside. It’s known as the Undercity and they side with the Horde.” Empty lungs burning, he inhales hungrily after his lecture. “I can answer more on the way.”
“Arthas…” Alisbeth frowns and steps to the demon hunter. “I’m ready.”
Grimory nods. “Right.” He bends at the waist to take her up into his arms. With her knees in the crook of an elbow and her shoulder blades against the opposite forearm, he spreads his wings and leaps into the air heading southeast. “Sorry. I know this all must be very confusing. I…kind of know what you’re going through.”
Alisbeth wraps her arms around the demon hunter’s neck. A small panic rises that she might be dropped, so she grips him tighter and presses closer into him. “Um, I, uh… W-what do you mean?” she asks, closing her eyes as the ground speeds past beneath them.
“I was imprisoned in a crystal for ten years,” the Illidari responds over the rushing wind. “I had to learn about all this stuff by word-of-mouth, too.” A goose leading its flock honks angrily at them as it’s passed. “Azeroth changes so quickly… It’s hard to keep up, yeah?”
The death knight shakes her head and looks up into his eyes. “I feel like I’ve missed so much. But I did great deeds, right? They sing of me at the hearth? Uther said they would. I’m destined for it, you know? Did I achieve it?”
Grimory catches her glance and holds it for a moment before looking back ahead. “I’m told you were a wonder. Everywhere I go someone seems to recognize your name. I’d say that’s a success.” He readjusts her weight in his arms ever so slightly. “And from what I’ve seen personally, you’re…a great person.”
She makes a face and stares at her thighs. “Now I know you’re just trying to flatter me. If you really knew me, you’d know that I don’t play well with others. Mostly because they’re idiots.”
Grimory smiles at her first comment and adds an “I know. That’s why I like you.”
She stares back up into his face and purses her lips. “Why were you in prison? Are you a criminal?”
His grin fadesas she continues. “They saw me that way. The Wardens. Maiev. Anyone following Lord Illidan’s footsteps is near in worth to demons in their eyes.” He sighs. “I was just following orders to protect him.”
Alisbeth nods. “It was the honorable thing to do. If you’d disobeyed, the consequences could be worse. And…you enlisted for a reason, didn’t you? Was it a good cause?” She adjusts herself just a little bit to turn her chest more toward his to protect herself from the chill of the wind.
Grimory’s lips twitch at the corners as though he wants to smile but cannot. “I didn’t really enlist. I signed up to aid Silvermoon in the fight against the Scourge. I was sent through the Dark Portal instead.” He finds a safe place to land; a considerable distance from the chapel. “I trusted Kael’thas.” He parts his lips to say more, then closes them again. He motions ahead. “The crypts.”
Alisbeth peers into the darkness and frowns. “They put him in there? In the dark?” She sighs and goes to the entrance. A shiver runs up her spine as she looks down into the cold crypt.
Grimory follows behind and sets a hand on her shoulder. “I’ll be right beside you. Unless you’ve changed your mind…”
“Of course I haven’t. I just never thought they’d put such a great man in such a terrible place.” She sets her hand on his and smiles. “I’m not frightened, but it’s good to have you at my side.” She descends slowly, picking her steps with care, her hand holding onto the demon hunter’s to keep him near her.
His eyes crackle with quiet flames when her hand covers his. He clears his throat and follows. “Even the greatest of kings get put in crypts sometimes. Perhaps his sarcophagus is shrouded in light, as is fitting for him.” He gives an endearing smile down at her. “I doubt they’d do anything shameful with such an influential man.”
“Perhaps,” she says absently, her eyes sweeping across the stone coffins. She grabs a lit torch from the wall and moves forward to look at the placards. “No. No. This is wrong. These were not heroes. They were not great men.”
“I thought I smelled something.”
Alisbeth spins around to see a paladin glaring at her.
“Please, explain why you desecrate the fallen with your presence.” She draws her sword and stands ready.
Grimory flinches at the voice and turns quickly. He puts on a polite visage. “We wanted to pay respects to Tirion Fordring. Perhaps you could direct us to his resting site?” He glances at Alisbeth, unsure if he should give away her identity. “We’re not here for violence. There’s no need for a blade.”
She sneers. “After last time, I’m not even going to entertain the idea of letting your kind near his remains.”
“Please,” Alisbeth says, “I was his apprentice. It feels like yesterday, but I’m told it was many decades ago.”
“I don’t care,” she says in a clipped tone. “Leave, before I lose what little patience I have.”
Grimory pauses before scowling and squaring his shoulders. “What reason do you have to turn her away? She’s Alisbeth Redblade. They were close friends!”
The woman scoffs. “That name means nothing. Your book was burned when you left the Light. In fact, I burned it myself.”
Alisbeth’s frown deepens. “Who are you?”
“Oh, don’t you remember me? You don’t remember the worms?”
Alisbeth snorts a quick laugh. “That one never gets old.”
Liadrin sneers and takes a step toward them. “Tell me, what made you leave the Light? It had to be something big—you didn’t leave the Light even when you abandoned that bastard child. Not even when Silvermoon fell.”
The fire in Grimory’s eyes gives a quiet fwoosh as they burst brighter. He bristles, straightens, and steps forward. “I don’t care who you are or what issues you have with Alisbeth. I’m sure they’re unjust all the same,” he hisses, fists tightening at his sides. “But you leave Diori out of this.”
“Oh! So the bastard has a name. Cute.” She fixes her sights back on Alisbeth. “Leave, Redblade, and never come back. You’re not welcome here. You should have been expelled from the Light long before your little mistake. Does she know that she’s an unwanted bastard of an orphan who failed to become anything more than a forgotten memory?”
Alisbeth remains in her place, her fists tightening at her sides. Finally, she launches at Liadrin, screaming out like a banshee, her eyes wild with anger. She gets in one good punch before the paladin knocks her across the room and leaves her dazed in a heap on the floor.
The demon hunter opens his mouth to speak but is interrupted by Alisbeth’s shriek. “Ali!” He flinches as she’s thrown to the stone and gives his own growl, dashing forward with claws at the ready. “For someone who claims to follow the Light, you sure have very little honor!” He sends a slash toward her unarmored face.
A shell of light surrounds Liadrin as she hops backward. The demon hunter’s claws knock her sword from her hand; she gasps at the sharp pain in her wrist at the impact. With a growl, she conjures a hammer of light and launches it at Grimory—a tail of light streaks behind the holy weapon.
The Illidari lifts the opposite hand to slash at the shell but is met with a hammer to his jaw instead. He reels back, blood flowing from his lip and gums. He rushes forward again and throws a sigil of fel fire beneath the woman while sweeping low with a claw to unbalance her.
The paladin leaps over Grimory, avoiding both attacks. She rolls across the dirt, then bumps into the stone wall. Before the demon hunter can adjust, she pushes herself from the wall, speeding at him. She grabs her sword and slashes out at him.
He spins just in time to catch the flash of steel coming at him and ducks low to avoid it. He thrusts out a leg in an attempt to knock an ankle out from beneath her. “None of this is necessary!” he barks.
Liadrin yelps as she falls to the ground. She rolls and crouches, ready for any attack he might make against her. “Who drew first, hm?”
“Words count as weapons,” he spits. “So, you did.” He lunges forward again, claws aimed for her face for a second attempt.
Another shield encircles her, but barely too late. Grimory’s claws rake across her cheek, tearing the flesh open. She leaps away from him. “You dishonor the dead my bringing her here. I am merely defending them. Leave and I will spare you.”
“Tirion would have wanted her here!” he growls, the tips of his claws smoldering. He pushes a foot back in ready for another attack. “And if you let us through, I’ll spare you.”
Liadrin closes her eyes in contemplation. A huge, golden bubble spreads over the area to incapacitate all but Liadrin. “There is your answer. The Light does not want her here.” She sets the tip of her sword to Grimory’s throat. “Leave, demon hunter, and never return.”
A tingling sensation crawls up his legs and he slowly finds that he cannot move. He grits his fangs and swallows against the blade. “Fine,” he grunts, “but know that you’re wrong.”
She indicates the huge shield around them and sneers. “I’m not the one passing judgement.” She withdraws her sword and steps back. The shield fades and releases its hold on Grimory. “I’ll kill both of you if you step foot near Light’s Hope again.”
The demon hunter’s limbs loosen once more and he rubs at his aching muscles. “Your gods must be proud,” he spits and goes to Alisbeth. When she does not rouse, he lifts her into his arms and heads for the stairs. Still sore from the flight there, he finds a quiet space beneath a tree to set her down. He gazes down at her sadly for a moment before turning and trudging off into the foliage behind her. “I’ll be right back,” he says as though she can hear.
Liadrin remains within the gates, watching them carefully, her sword gripped in her fists with the tip pointed to the ground.