Book 4 – Chapter Fourteen

“Have a nice time?”

Alisbeth jumps and spins to find Taveth still curled up on her bed, his face, a sickly green, poking from within the comforter. “Yes. It was rather nice. Jealous?”

Taveth narrows his eyes. “Not even a little.” He wraps his face in the blanket. “I’m going to hurl. Again.”

After a long time in silence, Alisbeth sits on the bed. “Do you know Grimory well?”

“Mff.”

“He’s rather nice when you get him alone. I quite like him.”

Mrrrff

“Can you keep a secret?”

Taveth shifts under the comforter. “Mm…hmmm?”

“I kissed him.”

I need some air!” Taveth shoots from the bed and out onto the balcony, closing the doors behind him so fast that Alisbeth can’t react.

After thoroughly scrubbing his hair and ensuring his injuries left no scars, Grimory steps out from behind the curtain and grabs a towel. He frowns when he glances at the pile of blood-stained clothes and armor on the floor, realizing he hadn’t grabbed cleaned ones. He shrugs and scoops them up, then makes for Alisbeth’s room, towel around his waist. He knocks gently with his free hand.

Alisbeth opens the door, her eyes taking just a moment to see the clothes in his hand and the towel around his waist. She jumps and blushes before averting her eyes. “You seem to have a small problem, there.”

“Sorry. I…didn’t grab new clothes.” He clears his throat. “I have some in here. Would you…mind if I…?”

“O-oh! No! Please, by all means.” Alisbeth sort of dances around him as though touching his wet skin is dangerous. She hops out into the hall and smiles up at him. The smile is quickly replaced by an odd look. “Why do you have clothes in my room?”

Grimory gives a quiet laugh and opens the bottom most drawer of the wardrobe while tossing the bloodied pants into the hamper beside it. “I…practically live here, if I’m being honest with you.”

“Oh.” She blushes deeper and closes the door to give him some privacy.

He can’t help but smile at her bashfulness and tosses his towel in the hamper as well.

Hearing the door close, Taveth sighs and decides it’s safe to re-enter the room. I suppose it’s time for me to return to— Taveth stops, his eyes wide and his body frozen against his commands to hop back out the doors and slam them shut.

Grimory’s ears prick as the balcony door closes amidst his unfolding his clean trousers. He pauses as well, slit pupils dilating in panic. His ears pull back and the corners of his lips twitch. “Tav,” is all he’s able to mutter.

Taveth’s face floods a deep crimson as he clears his throat urgently as though somehow he’s been spotted through invisibility. “G-Grim.” Still he can’t move. His eyes painfully fixed on Grimory’s.

The Illidari’s eyes flick quickly to the door and back to Taveth’s. He composes himself and folds his arms across his chest, resting his weight on a heel and smirking as though this were all planned. “So…still hungover I take it?”

Taveth forces a nod. Forces a blink. Wishes desperately for Grimory to finish dressing, yet too petrified to acknowledge the obvious nudity. “Yes…little…fine…yes.”

A flash of mischief glints in Grimory’s eyes and his smirk broadens. “You still a little tipsy yet? You need someone to walk you home again?”

Taveth purses his lips and straightens indignantly. “I don’t need— And besides, you don’t— And you’re—” He blinks rapidly and takes a few calming breaths.

The demon hunter tilts his head as though not hearing. He lowers the pants shielding his groin some and sets the other palm on a chiseled hip. “I’m what?”

Taveth breathes in and holds it, his eyelids fluttering as he becomes too flustered to think. His eyes turn to the ceiling before he squints his entire face. “Just put your pants on, already!” he demands so fast he nearly stumbles over the words.

Something within Grimory’s chest tightens and his arms tense as he grasps either side of his trousers. He steps into them and ties them at his waist, a confused and alarmed look in his eyes. He parts his lips but finds no words to retort with.

Taveth opens one eye and peeks at the demon hunter, then blinks at him. “Thank you. Sorry, I…didn’t mean to snap. I should probably…go…”

Befuddlement clouds his mind and Grimory can do nothing but blink rapidly and shake his head. “Y-yeah, no. Don’t worry about it…” he mutters in a semi-aware state.

Taveth’s eyes dart from the door to Grimory, who is standing in such a way that he’d have to pass within a breath of the man. He purses his lips and holds in his breath. “Heh. Should, um, let you…finish. Heh.”

As though snapped from a dream, Grimory straightens and runs a hand through his hair. “Oh! No. ‘M sorry. Lemme just…” He steps aside, pulling the door open for him. “I-I don’t wear shirts, anyway,” he says with a painful laugh.

Alisbeth jumps and smiles at her cousin as he slides out the door as though one more minute in the room will kill him. “Y-yeah. Heh. Th-thanks. Hi, Ali.” He shuffles down the stairs and heads to Greyfang Enclave.

Alisbeth turns her grin on the demon hunter, then tilts her head. “You okay? You look funny.”

Grimory blinks at her. He clears his throat and rubs at the back of his neck, then bends to grab his leg armor. “Yeah,” he says on a laugh. “Just…had a weird experience is all.”

She laughs lightly and lets herself into the room. “Did he scare you? I forgot he was on the balcony, sorry.”

He gives another laugh. “Yeah a little. But…” He shakes his head. “Never mind.” He clasps his belt at his waist and sighs. He studies her for a brief second, then smiles tiredly. “There was somewhere you wanted me to take you?”

“Oh! Yes. I need to give money to the goblin.” She pauses. “Um… Do you know where I keep my money?”

He blinks. “Uh. Here? No, actually. I know you have a premium account at the bank, but I’m not sure about this room. Perhaps the wardrobe…”

Alisbeth shrugs and begins digging through one drawer at a time. She eyes Grimory, still, her lips pursed. “You sure you’re okay? You kind of look lost.”

He nods. “Yeah. Just…” He pauses. “Taveth told me to do something and…I did it,” he says as though just emphasizing the last words will solidify his meaning.

She stops shuffling through the drawers and cocks her eyebrow at him. “So? Isn’t that just being courteous to others? I mean, what did he even have you do?” She closes the drawer and moves down to the next one.

He shakes his head. “No, no. It’s not like that. I mean, I would have obliged anyway, but…my body just moved. Like I was…” He knits his brow. “Y’know what? Never mind. It’s not important.”

Alisbeth smirks. “I really think you’re just tired and over-thinking things. Ah-ha!” She scoops a handful of gold from the fat pouch at the back of the bottom drawer. “Just show me to the shop and then you can go get some rest.” She pats his arm as she steps out the door.

He purses his lips at her speculation, then smirks and folds his arms. He gives a fake yawn that turns into a real one. “Oh, I’m not quite sure I remember where it is, now. Perhaps I’m over-thinking that as well.” He leans against the door frame, eyes bright with humor. “Perhaps I’ll take a rest now.”

Alisbeth blinks at the gold in her hand. “But I have to pay him. And I’m not tired at all. You may use my bed, if you like.”

His grin falls when she completely disregards his joking demeanor. “Never mind, let’s go.” He closes the door and heads for the stairs.

The death knight blinks at him and follows. “Did I say something wrong?”

He chuckles quietly and shakes his head. “No. You’re just all business, now.”

Alisbeth purses her lips at him. “I really don’t see how I could be anything else.”

Grimory shrugs a shoulder as he leads her back into the streets. “There’s no business to do, so I don’t see how you could be.”

Alisbeth’s lower eyelids raise up as she stares at him. “It’s like you think I’m someone else.”

The street lamps above flicker on as they pass. He tilts his head to glance at her over his shoulder. “I don’t think I understand your meaning.”

“You make me sound like I wouldn’t be acting this way. My father always said to present yourself in such a way as to be respected, no matter the circumstances.” She clinks the pile of gold in her palm and makes a face. “Besides, paying someone back is business. Is it not?”

Grimory gives a quiet scoff. “Pretty sure he said not to pay him back, so it’s more like charity than business.” He rounds the corner and pauses. Bathed in the light above the door of Gildwynn’s shop is a sign that reads CLOSED in large red letters, followed by Scram in a smaller font below it. Grimory sucks his teeth and turns. “I forgot it’s the weekend. He closes up early.”

Alisbeth frowns at the coins in her palm. “Well, I suppose we could put this gold to another use. Buy you a drink?” She smirks up at him, looking up through her eyelashes.

He smirks in return. “I never pass up a free drink.” Wrapping an arm around her shoulders he directs her back down the alley and toward the lounge. “I imagine you’re good at cards?”

“I happen to have an excellent poker face,” she says, smiling and allowing his arm to remain around her.

The demon hunter laughs and seats them both in their usual corner. “I suppose you have no qualm putting your money where your mouth is, then.” He reaches into the cubby-hole in the shelf beside the couch and pulls out a bound deck of worn cards. As he unties the leather throng, his ears perk as, again, a familiar mage steps in.

Anarchaia seems to notice too late, however, as she turns to leave again. Her shoulders go rigid when he calls her name.

“Come have a drink, Ana. Gods know you need one,” he beckons while pushing a chair away from the low coffee table.

Anarchaia sighs after a long second of thought, then turns back. Her list disappears in a flurry of sparkles and she takes up the appointed seat with a forced grin beneath her mask. “I suppose I don’t disagree,” she mumbles, lifting a finger for a barmaid.

“It’s on me,” Alisbeth says with a friendly smile. “I was going to pay back that kind goblin, but the shop is closed. I know he said not to, but I just don’t feel right not doing so.”

Anarchaia blinks, her hand lowering as the waitress approaches them. “O-Oh, I couldn’t…” she says, taken aback.

“Mead,” Grimory orders without much thought, tossing cards at both women and in front of himself.

Alisbeth waves her hand dismissively. “Oh, please.” She smiles up at the barmaid. “My friend and I would like wine… Red? White?” She looks to the mage for the answer.

Anarchaia furrows her brow beneath her mask. “Red is fine,” she says in defeat. “Thanks, Ali.” The barmaid nods and shuffles off after a curt smile.

As they sit in silence for a long time, Alisbeth fidgets, then smiles at the woman across from her. “So, how have you been?”

Anarchaia pushes her mask up when their drinks are brought, then furrows her brow again as though not knowing the question was meant for her. “Oh. Busy, I suppose. Heh. How was your trip?” She picks up her cards and sneers at them.

“Some paladin wouldn’t let us in,” Grimory grunts and takes a long drink of his mead. “Was pretty rude about it.”

“Oh,” the mage says again. “I’m sorry to hear.” She hesitates. “I can go and try to reason with them…?”

Alisbeth rolls her eyes and scoffs at the mere mention of the paladin. “I don’t think Liadrin is reasonable. She probably enjoyed every second she could say no to me just because I’m undead.” She shuffles a few cards around and tosses chips to the table. “She probably always hated me. They all did.”

Anarchaia frowns and calls the bet. “It may be a rude question, but may I ask why?” She sips at her wine.

The death knight shrugs. “Because I’m better than her?”

The mage snerks at her attitude. “Jealousy is a virulent poison, indeed.” Her smile suddenly falls and she slowly sets down her wine, impacted by her own words. Her grin returns. “Then perhaps we could just teach her better. Without words.”

Grimory gives Anarchaia a smirk. “She was pretty tough, Ana. Incapacitated me.”

“A murloc could incapacitate you.”

His smirk immediately scrunches to pursed lips. “That was once. I was seventy.”

Alisbeth coughs on her wine and stares at him. “Seventy is no excuse! You have to tell me what happened.”

Grimory turns his narrowed eyes to Alisbeth as though surprised by her pushing. “I was fishing with Father. He left for more tackle. I caught something, but it wasn’t a fish. Apparently, when Father came back it was trying to carry me off in a salvaged net.” He scoffs moodily and downs the rest of his drink.

Anarchaia chortles into her cards. “I bet it thought you were a beautiful maiden with your luxurious ponytail.”

Alisbeth forces her giggle to subside into small shaking. “Murlocs are stupid enough to do such a thing.”

Taveth appears in the doorway to the tavern, then stops and turns to walk away. He turns to enter the tavern again, then bobs from view once more. He does this several times, wanting to go in, but too scared to face Grimory again.

Anarchaia catches the strange sight and chortles. She lifts a hand and violet energy surrounds Taveth’s feet, forcing him to come in far enough for everyone to see. “Tav!” she says. “Come. Have a drink.”

Offering little more than a glance, Grimory gathers the cards after pushing the chips toward Alisbeth, then says nothing while he shuffles.

Taveth forces a painful grin. “Heh. I-I don’t want anything to drink. I just need to, eh, speak with…” He coughs awkwardly and sifts. “Grimory, if you don’t mind?”

Alisbeth blinks at her cousin, then goes about stacking her new chips as though it’s the most important thing in the world that they’re color-coordinated, stacked ten-high, and perfectly set together so none stick out of the side of the cylinder of chips.

The Illidari’s ears prick at the sound of his name and his slit pupils slide to meet Taveth’s. He inhales and sets down the cards. “Yeah, sure.” He stands and follows.

Anarchaia glances over the table at Alisbeth and her pillars, then down at her own uneven pile. The chips arrange themselves into a checkered array and she sighs. “Hey, uhm,” she mutters. “I’m sorry, for what it’s worth.”

Alisbeth raises her eyebrows at the mage. “Hmm? For what?”

“For being super rude,” she responds with a wince and drinks her wine.

Alisbeth shrugs. “I’m sure you have your reasons. Named Koltira. Whom, according to Grim, I was married to? You have no competition from me. I have no desire to get involved with any of that.” She sips her wine, ignoring that she can’t taste anything. “I’m not a homewrecker, either.”

Anarchaia grits her teeth at the word homewrecker. “Yeah…but…I suppose I kind of am. I…feel terribly for it and treating you like an enemy isn’t the answer to my insecurity. So, I’m sorry.” She downs the rest of her own wine in her anxiety. “You’re a nice girl.”

Alisbeth lets loose a quick Ha! “I don’t think I’ve heard that compliment a single time in my life. Thank you. I’m sure you didn’t mean it—being a homewrecker. You’re too nice to have done so intentionally. I’m sure it was the man’s fault. He was probably a complete asshole and I hope he’s out of your life.” She signals the barmaid for a refill on Anarchaia’s drink.

The mage cringes again. “We’re…still…together, I suppose you could call it.” She frowns and mumbles a thank you to the waitress. “Though I’m sure he’s probably done with me after the way I acted.” She groans and puts her hands over her face. “I’m really not a nice person.”

Alisbeth shrugs. “Buy him a vase of flowers. If he doesn’t accept your apology then smash it over his head!” She clears her throat and straightens her shirt. “I’m sorry. I have no idea where that came from. I was intending to say, ‘good riddance.’”

Anarchaia gives an uncomfortable chuckle and waves a hand. “I couldn’t do that. I like him too much. Heh.” She sips at her wine. “Though, you’re tough and independent. I’m sure you’d have no problem.”

Alisbeth cocks an eyebrow. “First of all, I doubt you’re not. Second… Are you asking me to hit him for you?”

The mage straightens. “N-no! No.” She can’t help but laugh. “I’ll just talk with him. It’s fine. And I’m really not, I…” A sigh escapes her. “I rely a lot on others. I’m not proud of it but…it’s a habit I can’t break.”

Alisbeth smiles coyly. “Have you ever tried to?”

Anarchaia shrugs and fidgets with her fingers. “I did. Once. Before…everything. Others became a necessity in my life. When you lose everything you have, you suddenly want it all back tenfold.”

Alisbeth reaches across to gently pat the mage’s hand. “I think you’re stronger than you’re letting yourself believe.”

Anarchaia gives a small smile. “That’s…probably untrue.”

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