Alisbeth sighs at the ground. “A horse would be helpful about now. I feel like we’ve been walking forever.”
“Not having further injured my shoulder would have been a good move,” the Illidari says with a sheepish grin. “Perhaps there’s a stable around somewhere. Or even an inn to point us in the right direction.” He turns to gaze over the hills and trees for signs of a chimney or silo.
Alisbeth follows his gaze, then points to the north west, within Western Plaguelands. “There. Seems a little out of the way, but if they have a horse…”
The Illidari nods. “Seems good a lead as any.” He gives another embarrassed smile. “Sorry this isn’t going the way we had originally planned.”
Alisbeth smiles, fidgeting just the littlest bit. “I don’t know, this has been…lovely, really. Getting to know you. You’re less pushy by yourself. The others stress you out, don’t they? Being around them? It’s her, isn’t it? The mage. Show over-interest in someone else to prove you don’t care she’s with another man instead of you?”
He furrows his brow. “You fancy yourself good at analyzing people. But no. She and I…had…something. But I like you. I always have. Since the day we met, I’d never forgotten.”
Her cheeks flush a darker blue and she hides her face behind her hair. “Oh. My other guess was Koltira. The way he was looking at me? You can’t say I’m wrong about that.”
Grimory’s brow furrows further. “No. You aren’t.” He clears his throat. “That’s also probably the reason she was being rather passive aggressive toward you.”
“Why did—” Alisbeth clamps her mouth shut and shakes her head. “Never mind.” She picks up her pace as a lumber mill with a large stable comes into view.
Grimory follows, biting his tongue until he can’t. “Why did what?” he finally can’t keep himself from saying. He stops at the fence and glances over the field for signs of the owner or otherwise.
“Why did he not stay with me if he still feels the way I think he does?” Alisbeth walks along the fence until she finds a gate and spots a man swinging a torch at a gathering of medium sized spiders. Without a moment of hesitation, she leaps over the gate and runs to the man’s aid.
Grimory opens his mouth to respond, then closes it again as she runs off. He follows, bellowing fire over the offending insects. He winces in pain at the strain in his shoulder and chokes on his own embers.
Alisbeth goes to him and sets her palm on his side. “Stop. You’re going to hurt yourself more.”
The farmer frowns at the two. “You didn’t have to kill them! They would’ve run away.”
Grimory grunts at the touch and purses his lips. “I’m fi—” His gaze shifts to the farmer. “And what if they hadn’t?”
“They’ve done before, I don’t see why they wouldn’t. They’re just innocent creatures, no need to go killing them!”
Alisbeth turns to the man, her nostrils flaring and eyes flashing. “You’re welcome.”
He shifts stubbornly, but doesn’t thank them. “What brings you up this way?”
Grimory bites his tongue. “We’ve found ourselves a bit stranded. We’re in need of some transportation.”
The farmer folds his arms and eyes them.
“This is Grimory, I am Alisbeth.” She extends her hand.
He takes her hand in a firm shake. “Nathaniel.” He sighs, relaxing. “Tell you what, take one of my horses out to the field and give the spiders a good scare, get them to back up away from the mill so my workers aren’t too afraid to work. You do that and you can take the horse. When you get where you’re going, just release it—all my horses know their way back home.”
Grimory knits his eyebrows but keeps a courteous tone in his voice. “I mean…we have money, too. So. Y’know…if you’d like that.”
Alisbeth holds up her hand as though blocking Grimory from view. “I’ll scare off the spiders. Give me a horse.”
Nathaniel goes to his stables and returns with a black and white stallion. “Just give him a good kick and he’ll whinny loud enough to scare them off. It’s not his first time. And he hates spiders, so just hold on tight or he might throw you.”
Alisbeth sighs and stares the huge horse in the face. It stares back at her, shifting as though unsure what to make of her. “Throw me and I’ll feed you to the spiders.”
The demon hunter gives a snerk of a laugh and leans forward onto the fence to watch. Memories of the first time he and the death knight had met floods his mind and his smile fades. “I’m sure you’ll do fine,” he calls encouragingly, then can’t help but chuckle when he continues, “If you fuck it up I can always fix any shoe you loosen.”
Alisbeth shoots him a look. “Oh, and I suppose you know all about it?” She rolls her eyes. “Please.” She jumps onto the horse and gallops away into the field. She barely has to tap the horse on the sides to get him to cry out over a spider. In front of one group, he bucks up and cries out. Alisbeth leans forward and squeezes her thighs to remain mounted. “What did I say?” she shouts and flicks his ear.
“I do, actually,” Grimory mutters as she trots off. He places his chin in a palm and watches, then snickers when the steed tries to throw her off. “He’s afraid of spiders and you make him chase them off? Seems kind of mean, don’t it?” he drones over to Nathaniel.
The human shrugs. “Makes him whinny the loudest, which scares the spiders. It’s a good solution that doesn’t involve bloodshed.”
Alisbeth gets the last of the spiders scared back into the field of hay stacks, then gallops back. She grins triumphantly at Grimory. “Believe it or not, I know what I’m doing on a horse. I’ve never slipped a shoe in my life.”
A smile spreads slowly across the demon hunter’s lips at her words. “I somehow don’t believe that,” he says in a coy tone. His gaze slides back to the farmer. “Is there anything else you’d like assistance with? This seemed like a pretty simple task for loaning us goods…”
Nathaniel smiles at the demon hunter. “You look honest enough. Besides, you should probably see a healer, and soon.”
“I assure you we are the honorable sort. I don’t want to take your loudest horse from you, though,” Alisbeth says. She slides from the horse and hands over the reins.
“Take Pathcarver, he’s the fastest I’ve got. But be careful, once you get him going, he’s hard to stop.” He points out a pure white horse, which is currently pacing as though he knows he’s going to get to run.
Alisbeth smiles. “Just like Bloodmane. Perfect.” She hops over the fence to wrangle the steed.
“Uncanny,” Grimory adds and assists with gathering a saddle cloth, saddle, bridle, and reins. He hands over a couple of the pieces to Alisbeth while securing the others. With a grin he regards Nathaniel. “You’re sure there’s nothing else? Gold? Bale some hay?” He glances at Alisbeth. “Haul some grain?”
Alisbeth stares expectantly at the farmer, but he shakes his head.
“I’m all right just knowing I’ve done a kindness to someone in need.”
She smiles. “As am I. Thank you.” When the horse is ready, she climbs on and indicates Grimory should get behind her. “Let’s hurry to a healer.”
Grimory nods his gratitude toward the man and carefully climbs his way up. He hisses when he’s forced to use his arm to settle himself comfortably behind her. “Thank you, again. If you find yourself in need of more arachnid herding, we’ll heed the call,” he says with a laugh.
With a nod, Alisbeth kicks the horse forward and out the gate as Nathaniel opens it for them. The horse doesn’t wait to be spurred forward; he immediately jolts forward to gallop down the path as Alisbeth steers him toward the main road.
Immediately jerking backward, Grimory thrusts both hands forward to wrap around Alisbeth’s middle and locks his wrists at the front. It takes a second before he realizes how closely he’s pulled himself forward and he leans back some, a flush in his cheeks. “Heh. Sorry. Wasn’t…expecting…”
Alisbeth smirks and leans back just a little, putting them in close proximity once more. “Did I say I minded?”
He swallows, genuinely surprised by her wanting to be close to him. He doesn’t complain, however, and tightens his arms around her waist. “I do, by the way.”
“Oh.” She sets her face in aggravated determination and leans forward again. Aww, how sad. Makes you wish you were dead, doesn’t it. Oh wait! Ha ha! Alisbeth physically flinches and looks around for who could’ve spoken to her.
Grimory blinks before realizing how she’d taken it. He laughs and resists the urge to pull her back. “No! Not mind. I was saying I do know how to shoe a horse.”
Alisbeth grits her teeth, her knuckles white as she grips the reigns. “That was forever ago.” She waits for another comment from the invisible bystander, but none comes.
Grimory pulls his ears back at the tone in her voice. “Well. Ten minutes or so but I suppose that’s fair, yeah?” He deflates some. Yeah, I’ll just be quiet.
They ride in an uncomfortable silence, neither willing to be the first to speak, until they reach the outer wall of the Lordaeron ruins. Alisbeth pulls the horse to a stop in front of the front gate and eyes the broken city. “I never got to see it when it was intact.”
The Illidari hops down and his boots scuff against the dirt path. Yes, you did. “It wasn’t too different, to be honest. More living people. I used to come here with Father for deliveries.” He lifts his good arm to help her down.
Alisbeth tentatively accepts his help. The horse shifts and shoves her against Grimory; he holds onto her tightly to prevent both of them from toppling over. Upon realizing she’s no longer holding the reigns, the horse whinnies, then turns and gallops back the way they’d come.
Alisbeth blushes up at the demon hunter, letting her chest linger against his for a moment longer, before she takes a step back. She clears her throat. “What sort of deliveries?”
With an embarrassed smile, he slowly removes his arm. “Grain and vegetables, mostly. Sometimes small metal goods like nails, daggers, and rivets that we’d make from scrap metal in our forge.” He offers a bent elbow to escort her up the path into the ruins.
Alisbeth eyes his arm, then sets her hand in the crook of it. “You were a farmer, then? So, you really do know how to shoe a horse?”
He chuckles some. “I’ve shoed more than I can count. We owned quite a few.” He glances over his shoulder at the purple sky and for a long while ponders if he should visit home. He turns back. “But yes. A farmboy, as you liked to call me.”
Alisbeth smirks up at him. “Well, it sounds rather adorable. We met here, didn’t we?”
He clears his throat as they step back into the cold, empty throne room. “No. We met on a road near my family’s farm.” He pauses, again feeling a pang of homesickness. “In Hillsbrad.”
“That’s not far from here. Did you want to visit before we leave the area?”
He gives another quiet chuckle and ushers her onto the elevator platform. “I could never let Mother see me this way.” He sobers until his smile has gone completely. “She’d be heartbroken…”
Alisbeth frowns and shakes him a little. “I think a mother’s love is stronger than you think. Besides, I see nothing wrong with how you look.” She goes onto her tip toes and plants a soft, quick kiss on his cheek.
His eyes crackle when her lips meet his face. “They didn’t think this is what I was getting myself into.” He gestures to his horns and leads her down the stairs toward the center of the large circular room. Bats and people bustle about. “I…never told them. And haven’t visited since I left.” He cringes. “I was purposely vague with my letters.”
“When was the last—”
“You’ve got a lot of nerve showing your face in this city!” a forsaken woman growls.
Alisbeth hops backward, startled. “I beg your pardon?”
“Genocidal bitch!” She grabs a fruit from a nearby table and launches it at the death knight.
Grimory reacts quickly, reaching his wounded arm out to bat away the projectile. He scoffs at her. “You’re mistaken,” he barks. “So how about you get back to hocking junk and minding your own business?”
The woman growls. “I’m not mistaken. That’s her. She needs to die. We have to take her head!” she shouts so others around them stop to look. “Before she takes ours!” The crowd murmurs, eyes turning on the two.
Alisbeth shrinks away, a fear spreading through her to mix with anger. She has half an urge to run like hell, but half a mind to draw her blade and take their heads. Her grip tightens on Grimory’s arm. “I think I need to leave,” she whispers.
The demon hunter pushes himself instinctively closer to her and spits at the ground. His arms mutate and the nearby guards withdraw their swords and bows. “You’ll have to get through me to do that, and I honestly don’t think you vendors and disgruntled citizens have the manpower,” he hisses, angry fire billowing from his eyes.
Alisbeth withdraws the Redblade and snarls. “I’ll have your heads before you have mine!” She leaps at the woman.
The forsaken woman draws back, scrambling to get away from Alisbeth. “That’s exactly what I was talking about!”
Grimory again reacts quickly, reaching out to grab Alisbeth around the waist and pull her back. An arrow whizzes through the gap between his face and the back of her head.
“That’s enough!” the Deathguard shouts, another arrow already nocked. “Carry on or suffer the consequences!”
Grimory leans forward to whisper. “Always wait for them to strike first.”
Alisbeth turns and presses into the demon hunter, her entire body shaking from fear and anger. “I can’t do this.”
Not listening to the guard, the woman lobs a tomato at the death knight.
An arrow pierces the fruit and it flies off into the pool of green ooze surrounding the platform. One of the Deathguard nearest her grabs the woman by the upper arm and gets in her face with some stern words about authority and imprisonment.
Grimory takes Alisbeth by the hand and pulls her toward the staircase leading to the outer corridor where auction house vendors line the walls, giving a sorry nod to the guard as they pass. “It’s okay. We’ll grab a portal out of here and you’ll never have to deal with it again, yeah?”
Alisbeth bursts into tears as they pass more forsaken, their glowing eyes seeming to fixate on her. It’s coming back, isn’t it? “Who said that?” She demands, spinning to look at the decaying faces around her. “Leave me alone!”
The sound of crying causes him to stop and he turns on his heel. Oh no. He pulls her into a hug. “No no, don’t cry. It’ll be all right, yeah? We’ll get out of here. You just gotta hold it together until we do, okay?” He holds her by the shoulders to look at her. “I won’t let them do anything to you.”
Alisbeth grips him as though letting go will hurl her into a black hole. “I don’t understand. What’s wrong with me?”
The demon hunter runs a calming palm down the back of her hair and sighs. “Nothing. Nothing’s wrong with you. Come on.” He cautiously releases her from his arms and slides his hand into hers. He weaves through the vendors and citizens of the Undercity, making sure to hold her close to his side—his knuckles white around her hand. He makes his way toward the magic quarter, skirting along the river of ooze that separates the outside chambers from the inner ones.
Alisbeth stares at her feet as he guides her, doing her best to not look at anyone as she dries her tears. “Are we almost there?”
“Yeah.” He crosses at the bridge and leads her up the steps of the pyramid-shaped chamber. Once there he quickly explains the situation and the mage there nods and opens a portal, then waves a hand when the Illidari attempts to pay for it. He gives her a grateful smile and pulls Alisbeth through and into the sparsely populated streets of Dalaran at dusk, then sighs in relief. “Well. List of places to never go again…” He makes a check shape in the air with a finger.
Alisbeth brushes away the tears on her cheeks, though she’s still shaking. “Thank you.” As though by instinct, she goes on her tip-toes and presses her lips onto his.
Grimory’s eyes light once again and his shoulders tense as he’s taken by surprise. He returns the kiss and smiles gently down at her. “You don’t have to thank me, Ali.” He rolls his injured shoulder and grits his teeth. “Though accompanying me to a healer would be kind…”
Alisbeth blushes. “I’m sorry. I don’t know why I did that.” She averts her gaze. “Of course I’ll go with you. I suppose it’s the least I can do.”
He gives her another coy grin and turns toward the local infirmary, thumbs in his belt loops. “I wasn’t complaining. It’s nice to get your kisses again.”
Alisbeth purses her lips at the demon hunter. “You’re a very confusing individual.”
His grin widens as they enter the first aid building. “Me? Confusing? Mmmmmsorry, I just don’t see it.” He returns a grin to the draenei woman seeing to a couple occupied cots behind curtains.
“Silversong,” she coos and strides over to them, white robes brushing along the stone floor. “Cannot stay out of harm’s way, hm?” She immediately sets to work undoing the makeshift dressings, then presses a hand over the afflicted area. Golden light sparkles from between her fingers and the Illidari winces was the wound seals. “More?” She tsks and shakes her head as she sees to the stab wound as well. Afterward she brings a hand to his cheek and gives it a pat, a smirk playing on her lips. “Get rest,” she simply says and turns back to the cots.
Grimory flushes and chuckles at her musings, then rolls his eyes at her final command. He waits until she’s completely turned away to place some gold on the counter and turns away as well. “I think a shower is in order.”
Alisbeth smiles absently. “Um, have fun?”
He resists a snerk at her words. “You know the way back to your inn, yeah?”
“I do. Oh! I owe that nice goblin some gold for that dress. But I don’t remember where the shop is.” She purses her lips up at him. “Would you mind? After your shower, of course.”
He gives her a sideways glance and shrugs a shoulder. “Yeah, of course. I’ll just use the ones at the inn then, instead of going back to the Hammer.” He chuckles. “Logistics.” His ears perk at a familiar figure as they pass just outside the Legerdemain Lounge, To-Do list trailing behind her. “Ana,” he greets with a wave.
“Grim,” she mumbles and continues past and into a nearby shop without a second glance.
The demon hunter deflates a bit and shrugs. “Bad day, maybe,” he muses on a chuckle as though embarrassed and heads for the stairs. He points out Alisbeth’s torn cloak. “Thanks for that…by the way. That was…kind.”
Alisbeth looks at the cloak and shrugs. “It’s just a thing. Hardly worth fretting over.” She smiles and fidgets. “Well, um, I’ll just be in here…when you finish.” She pushes into her room before she makes a bigger fool of herself by lingering.
“Right.” Grimory watches her go. He fidgets in the hallway for a moment before turning and making his way to the showers, unfastening his belt as he goes.