Book 4 – Chapter Twelve

After only minutes Grimory returns with a bundle of various flowers he’d been able to find. He sits beside Alisbeth and sets them in a heap beside an exposed root. Rubbing his shoulder, he hisses in pain and sighs.

“Sorry,” he mumbles, finding the word easier to say knowing she cannot respond.

Alisbeth’s eyes snap open as he bumps her. She takes an instinctive deep breath, then looks at him. “Where are we? What happened?”

He jumps. “She wouldn’t let us in,” he simply says. “She hit you. Knocked you out.”

Alisbeth stares at him for a long time as though she’s unsure how to process the information. Without warning, she crumples against him and sobs, tears springing from her eyes. “I hate this future. I just wanted to say goodbye. I just wanted to…” She hiccups and gives up trying to speak over her cries.

The Illidari flinches again as she throws herself into him. He hesitates as the sound of her sobbing causes panic to stick in his throat. He wraps his arms around her and squeezes gently. “H-hey. Please don’t cry. It’ll be okay. We’ll figure something out, yeah? I got some flowers for you to leave when we do, see?” He reaches to pick up a black lotus and holds it where she can see it.

Alisbeth takes the lotus and smiles. She wipes at her tears and looks up at him, gasping as she forces the tears to stop. She sits up to look at him. “I was wrong about you.” She leans forward and places a gentle kiss on his cheek.

His cheeks flush and eyes ignite simultaneously. He glances away and gives the smallest of smiles. “You’re welcome.” With a longing look over his shoulder at the chapel, he sighs. “I bet Ana is allowed to go in. We could get her to place them for you. Or your cousin.”

The death knight frowns and shakes her head. “It’s not the same.” She scoops up the flowers, taking a moment to smell them. She slips one behind his ear and grins, then stands. She approaches the gate, her eyes locked with Liadrin’s. Alisbeth stops just outside. The two elves lock in a glaring match for a minute. Then Alisbeth kneels and lays the flowers just inside the gate. “Goodbye, Tirion.”

With a smile Grimory stands and goes to her, also making sure to cast the paladin a look. He sets a hand on Alisbeth’s back and makes a rude gesture before turning away. “We can find some way to get in another day. She can’t possibly be here all the time, right?”

Alisbeth nods and smiles at him. She leans her head on his shoulder. “I suppose you’re right. Let’s go. I’m tired of looking at her face.”

The demon hunter’s smile widens some as he glances down at her. He gives a slightly nervous chuckle as he leads her toward the path west. “I…kind of strained myself with that last flight. I normally don’t carry people that far. We may have to hoof it a short while until my shoulders stop hurting.” He hesitates. “And there’s no portal back to Dalaran from Undercity. We’ll have to take the zeppelin to Orgrimmar…”

Alisbeth raises an eyebrow at him. “This sounds complicated and unnecessary. Why not just open a portal in Undercity? How hard would that actually be?” She shakes her head, then sighs. “I’m sorry. We should have just taken the bat.”

Grimory chuckles. “I’m not one hundred percent certain, to be honest. Perhaps it’d make too much sense.” He stretches. “And don’t be sorry. Some people like bats. Some don’t. It won’t take long for me to get my stamina back.” He pulls at his arm and winks with a grin. “We’ll be back in Dalaran in no time. Next week if we’re lucky.”

She frowns. “I suppose that isn’t so bad. It took me a month and a half to travel from Stormwind to Southshore—what, with the wagon’s wheel breaking once and then the blizzard in the Dun Morogh pass. Will your friends—our friends—miss us?”

Grimory can’t help a smile. He gives her a gentle elbow to the shoulder. “I’m kidding.”

Alisbeth makes a face. “Oh. Ha. I see.” She enjoys the scenery for a long time, lost in thought. “What can you tell me about that death knight? Koltira, right?”

The demon hunter sobers some and gives a shrug as they walk. “He’s a nice guy, I guess. Strong. Accurate.” He swallows and pushes his thumbs into his belt loops. “You two had a thing for a while.”

Alisbeth’s face flushes. “O-oh. What kind of thing?”

Grimory glances at her face from the corner of his eye and for a moment thinks about lying. “You were married. Not sure for how long.”

Alisbeth stops in her tracks and stares ahead in shock. “I don’t believe you. And besides, if he’s so great then why are we not married anymore? Wait, are we not married?”

The demon hunter stops as well and turns. “I didn’t say he was great.” He hesitates. “And no. He…left you. For Ana.”

She frowns, then forces her feet to move. “She must be something special. Or not. Not like I’m that great, myself.” She gives a sort of laugh. “What about you? Someone special or just…trying to get close to random women?”

Grimory gives a somber smile and decides to bite his tongue on the matter of the mage. “I don’t know. You and I were kind of in some sort of…partnership? If you want to call it that?” He shrugs and avoids looking at her. “And we had a one-day thing back before…everything. So, no. No random women for me.”

Alisbeth says nothing for a long time as they walk. When she does speak, it is with a strange tone. “So I’m alone.”

Grimory’s ears pull back at the word and he can’t stop himself from setting a hand on her shoulder. “No. I’m here. I have been. I…care…about you.” He clears his throat. “A lot.”

Alisbeth cocks an eyebrow at him, then laughs behind her fingertips. “I thought I was the woman here.” She punches his bicep and laughs harder. “Kidding. I know. It’s what friends do, right? I’m sure I care about you? Maybe. You’re a good…pal, I guess?”

Grimory scowls down at her before giving a snort. “Yeah. Pal.” He gives her a punch of equal force in her shoulder. “And you should be grateful. Most men find it hard to say shit like that.” He folds his arms and shrugs with a smirk. “Maybe we can paint each other’s nails later. Listen to sad music?”

“Sorry, sorry! Gosh! No need to be so sensitive.” She pokes at his pectoral. “You gonna cry now? Do you need a tissue?”

Grimory flinches and feigns pain, rubs at the spot, and grins. He swipes at his eye with the back of a finger, wiping away an imaginary tear. “Maybe. I’m outright inconsolable. Devastated. How could you be so cruel?”

“It’s easy to not care about others’ feelings when nobody likes you to begin with.” She grins up at him. “Are we done walking yet?”

The demon hunter gives her a small scowl. “If you don’t stop talking like that I’ll be tempted to do something about it.” He lets her walk a few paces ahead before outstretching a wing. A cringe crosses his face as the muscles groan in protest. “I suppose I’m good. We can fly back from here.”

Alisbeth cocks an eyebrow back at him. “Are you threatening me?” Her smile turns painful as he cringes.

“What if I am?” he says with a grin and extends the other wing. “Are you gonna beat me up worse than you do yourself?”

“Might have to take it out on that fat head of yours.” She cringes at his wings. “Are you really absolutely sure you’re okay to fly?”

He scoffs. “I’d like to see you try, girlie.” Withholding a wince, he gives them a brief flap and folds them against his shoulder blades. “Yeah. Why? You’d rather walk a bit longer?”

Alisbeth clears her throat and turns away as a means to disguise her true intentions. “I just don’t want you to get weak and drop me to my death, is all.” She continues up the path, not waiting for him to follow.

The Illidari blinks after her and straightens, then jogs forward to follow. “Fair enough, I guess,” he mumbles. After a moment of admiring the scenery, he pushes his thumbs into his belt loops. “So. How far do you remember?”

“I told you, I went to sleep in Southshore and woke up in a shower room in Dalaran.” She folds her arms over her chest. “Why?”

Grimory shrugs and scratches at his sideburn. “Just trying to get a grasp of how you’re feeling.” The sky above swirls with clouds of yellow and gray. The path they walk narrows and widens at random spots. A long silence passes. “She’s perfect, by the way.”

Alisbeth stares at him, an eyebrow raised. “Who?”

“Diori. Our daughter. You’d be so proud.” He can’t help smiling and looks away. “She’s smart. And beautiful.” He opens his mouth to say more but closes it instead.

Alisbeth looks away from him and rubs her arm. “Oh. That’s…” she clears her throat, “nice.”

He glances over at her, his smile fading some as he rubs at the nape of his neck. “Would you like to meet her? O-or…would that make you uncomfortable?”

She tilts her head so her hair covers her face. “I’d rather not. She’s not…mine.” After a moment she adds a soft, “I’m sorry.”

His brow furrows and he frowns. He sets a hand on her back. “I understand. I know exactly how you feel.” A reassuring smile crosses his lips. “Don’t be sorry.” His smile falls again and he retracts his hand. “If anything, I should be sorry.”

Alisbeth smiles at the small contact. “I don’t see why you should be. I feel like I’m…insulting your daughter.”

Grimory chuckles. “You’re not. I didn’t know she was mine up until recently, either. When we had our…thing, and when you left I searched for you for a month. I didn’t even know about her.” He shrugs. “So I’m really in the same boat as you.”

Alisbeth frowns. “I really am a terrible person, aren’t I?”

The demon hunter stops and places both hands on her shoulders to force her to look at him. He scowls. “No, Ali. You’re not. You did what you felt was right. No one can hold that against you.” He narrows his eyes. “And if I hear it again you’re spending the rest of this trip with my hand over your mouth.”

“You can’t spend the whole trip covering my mouth and you know it.” She shakes free of his grasp and continues stubbornly forward.

Grimory scoffs and follows. “That sure sounds like a challenge if I’ve ever heard one. You’d honestly rather wallow in lies than continue the road back without my hand on your face?” He slows to a stop as a group of two men and a woman step out of the shadows of the trees on either side of the path. He grunts. “Are you kidding?”

“There’s a toll to get through these parts,” says the human with sandy hair through his thick country accent. He tosses a dagger between his hands.

“Coin or other. Doesn’t matter,” continues the orc at his side.

Alisbeth rolls her eyes. “Oh, a path toll. Would be a shame if someone just walked off the path and told you to kindly fuck off.” She turns and walks away into the trees.

The undead woman, eyes glowing a hazy blue, throws up a hand. Chains made of ice thrust up from the dirt below and wrap themselves about Alisbeth’s ankles.

“Hear that? She told us to fuck off.” The two men laugh. The human turns, mouth open to regard Grimory, but is interrupted with a hard, mutated fist to his jaw.

“I’m honestly so sick of you bandits.” The demon hunter dodges the orc’s retaliation, his blade swinging close to his chin. “With people like us walking about y’all still manage to breed like rats.” He swings at his abdomen but the orc leans away as well.

Alisbeth turns to glare at the forsaken. She withdraws her weapon while simultaneously dragging the woman forward with a purple tendril. Once her hand is around the undead’s throat, she sneers. “Bitch, please.” She swings wide, an overwhelming desire to take the forsaken woman’s head off creeping into the back of her mind.

The human recovers and swings his arm around, his dagger aimed at Grimory’s side.

The woman’s form becomes ethereal and she swirls around Alisbeth and out of her grasp. Without a word, she spins and aims the sole of her heavy metal boot at the small of the other girl’s back.

Distracted with the orc and not having expected the human to recover so quickly, Grimory hisses as the blade nestles itself between his ribs. He lifts his boot to kick the man away from him as to deprive him of a second strike. The orc, taking the opportunity, brings his blade back down on the elf, but again narrowly misses.

Alisbeth twirls around, her sword swinging in a wide arc, aimed at the forsaken woman’s throat. The woman continues to remain silent as green ichor pours from her neck. Visibly hindered, she retaliates with a slash from her rapier towards Alisbeth’s midsection.

The human trips over his own heel and stumbles to the ground on his rear.

Grimory takes a quick moment to blow fel fire over the stumbled man, ensuring he will not rise again. As he does, however, the orc brings his blade down, into his shoulder. Blood sprays and the Illidari growls loudly in pain. He swings his claws across the offender’s chest, ripping gaping holes in the flesh.

Alisbeth dodges away and swings again, her face set in a malicious leer, eyes manic as she imagines this woman’s head rolling from her shoulders onto the ground.

The human stands and laughs. “Pathetic demon hunter.” He leaps forward, slashing at Grimory’s face with his dagger.

Grimory dodges the slash by backpedaling out of its path. He winces at the pain in his shoulder and uses his non-dominant hand to slash at the man’s hand in an attempt to disarm him.

As though through divine will, the blade slices clear through the woman’s neck. Helm and all, her head rolls off and into the bushes, scattering foliage as it disappears into the shrubbery.

Alisbeth watches the head roll away, a desperate need in her eyes. She takes a few steps forward, then hears the battle raging on behind her. She stares between the head and Grimory, unsure which one is more important—and unsure why she feels so drawn to the head. With a growl, she spins on the human.

“Hey! Catch!” Alisbeth tosses her sword through the air and sprints after it.

The Redblade tumbles end over end toward the others. The hilt turns copper as it goes. The human reaches out his hand and catches the sword by the handle. His pompous sneer drops in the blink of an eye as the weight of the weapon snaps his wrist back, dislocating it as he loses his footing and spins sideways, unable to stop the sword’s momentum. He drops the sword to the ground, then spins to find Alisbeth right in his face. She pulls back her fist and punches him as hard as she can.

Grimory gives a breathless chuckle as the man flies into the foliage on the side of the path. “Guess I’m not the pathetic one, here,” he spits, bringing a hand up to staunch the flow of blood coming from his shoulder. Nose broken and bleeding, the human looks between the two, calculating his odds with his friends already dead. He turns and runs into the sparse forest around them.

Alisbeth shrugs and picks up her sword. “I guess he does have a brain.” She observes Grimory, a look of worry across her brow as she chews her bottom lip.

The demon hunter gives a tired sigh and shrugs. “That’s arguable.” His eyes slide to hers and he knits his eyebrows slightly. “What’s wrong? Is there something on my face?” He wipes at his cheek only to spread blood from his wound across it.

She laughs gently into her fingertips and gathers her cloak into one hand. “You’re making a mess.” She wipes the blood from his cheek onto the cloth in her hand, and smiles at him. “Are you okay? That’s a lot of blood.” She nods at his shoulder.

A flush graces the demon hunter’s cheeks and he grins. “Tch. I’m fine. I’ve had worse.” He turns away and heads down the path to hide his burning eyes. “Much worse.”

Alisbeth smirks behind him, staring at his back as he walks—at the muscles working in his shoulders and hips to make his stride strong and purposeful. “You can’t say something like that and not tell me more. Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.”

He turns, pace slowing. He gives a sort of chuckle at the vernacular. “My scars died with the rest of me. Multiple times. But by all means, I’m open to seeing yours.” He folds his arms and rests his weight on a heel, still refusing to wince at the pain of his wounds.

Alisbeth eyes his wounds and frowns. “Those are terrible.” She goes to him and sets her palm to his bleeding side. Her brow furrows as she pulls her hand away and the wound continues to bleed. “I can’t heal you? Why can’t I—ugh!” She sighs and unpins her cloak. Using the Redblade, she cuts strips from the fabric. She flings the remainder of the cloak over one shoulder, then stands and purses her lips at him. “I’m sorry.” She meticulously binds his wounds, smoothing her hands over his skin and the cloth to check the binding.

Grimory quietly watches, pursing his lips at the pain when she pushes on his cuts. He inhales sharply when she dresses them. “I’m fine,” he eventually mumbles as she fusses over the fabric. “Really, it’s nothing.”

Alisbeth smiles up at him, her hand lingering on the bandages wrapped across his chest. “I’m not willing to take that risk.” She pauses, then turns on her heel to resume walking. “How else will I find my way back to…well, people I don’t know, I suppose.”

He watches her walk for a few yards before following—admiring the shape and sway with her steps now that his view is unhindered by her cloak. “Are you implying you require my guidance?” he says with a playful grin, and again tucks his thumbs into his belt loops. “Almost need me, in a way?”

Alisbeth slips him a sly smile. “Even a braying ass has its uses.”

Grimory gives a hearty laugh, then finally winces at the pain caused by doing so. “I’ll take being a glorified map or pack mule over most things.” He smiles down at her with a mouth of fangs. “Especially for a pretty face. No charge.”

“You, sir, have low standards. But, if you enjoy being used, I’m not one to object to your pleasures.” She smiles again, hoping to disguise her accidental double entendre.

He lifts his brows and lowers his eyelids as he places a hand on his chest. “Me? Low standards?” Another laugh escapes him. “You really have hit your head. My eye catches only the fairest.”

She makes a face at him. “I didn’t realize how injured you were, your eyesight seems to be failing. Perhaps you should get that looked at.” She reaches up to playfully push his shoulder.

He chuckles. “Afraid not. See, unlike the rest of those pansies back in Mardum, I still have my eyes.” He leans over to give her a flirty grin. “And they’re twenty-twenty.”

Alisbeth rolls her eyes and decides not to humor him any further. They continue on their trek, engaging in small talk and keeping their eyes peeled for more bandits.

 

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