Grimory makes his way to Alisbeth and sets a hand on her back. “Hey. Enjoying the view?”
Alisbeth spins quickly and launches herself at the demon hunter to hug him. “You’re here, too! At first I thought, this was a really big shower, but then of course it’s not a shower. What are you doing here?”
Grimory’s eyebrows lift in surprise at the change in Alisbeth’s voice. His face then softens. “I’m on a mission. Do you want to help me?”
Alisbeth grins and nods rapidly. “I would love to! They said we’ll get to kill things!”
Grimory smiles down at the woman before him and makes his way for the bridge of the ship. He scoffs at the other two as he passes. “Save your googly eyes for your days off. We have shit to do. It’s actually a good thing you brought Ana. She can teleport you around instead of using the platforms.”
Koltira rolls his eyes and sighs at the demon hunter. “I happen to be a great multitasker. I can make googly eyes and get my job done at the same time.”
“Great. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of romantic spots for you two down there.” Grimory steps onto the transportation pad and, in a beam of golden light, disappears.
Alisbeth follows Grimory, coming out the other side screaming as before, her fists tearing at her hair.
Anarchaia shifts uncomfortably. “I guess the suffering will be short. He’s right about one thing: I can teleport us back and forth.” She sighs. “But I’m only able to teleport to places I’ve been, so…”
“I’ll be right behind you,” Koltira says to the mage. He clenches his fists, trying to prepare for the pain, but knowing there really is no possible way.
Grimory grits his fangs and kneels to help Alisbeth back to her feet, then pulls his ears back when Anarchaia’s screams pierce the air as well. He sighs. “I already hate it here.”
The mage punches a weak fist against the dirt and trembles as she waits for the burning in her veins to cease. “That makes two of us,” she growls through tightly clenched teeth.
Koltira emerges, jaw clenched and nails digging holes into his palms, but he doesn’t make a sound. Instead he waits until the pain subsides and holds out his hand to Anarchaia. “You okay?”
Anarchaia nods and takes the helping hand. “I’ve had worse? Heh.” She pauses, then deflates. “No, I haven’t.”
Taveth purses his lips, thanking his lucky stars his pen wasn’t against the paper when they’d come through. “Really?” he says to Grimory, without turning to look at the demon hunter. “I rather like it.” He returns to his sketch as though he were alone again.
The Illidari gives the high elf a glance with the slightest of annoyance. “It’s crawling with the scum of the great beyond. How someone like you can find joy in this is beyond me.” He motions to the path. “There’s a battle for dominance in the square up the road. We need to assist.”
Taveth shrugs. “Don’t think about what’s here. Just look at the land. Without all that, it’s a rather striking scene.”
Alisbeth pops to her feet and grins at the mage. “It’s like a meat grinder!” she says cheerily.
Koltira blinks after the other death knight as she runs to catch the Illidari. “Yeah, I’ll agree with that description.” He wraps his arm around Anarchaia’s waist to guide her to the aforementioned square.
“You staying here and doodling, then?” the demon hunter drones to Taveth as he passes.
Anarchaia gives Alisbeth a look accompanied by a nervous titter. “Or like having acid pump through your heart and brain.” A small, weasel-like animal chitters as the group approaches and it swiftly retreats into a small hole in the ashy, dead earth.
Taveth finishes his drawing and takes his time putting his things away, secretly slipping his dagger back into his satchel, then follows the others at a distance.
Alisbeth nods. “Oh, yes. That’s a good description, too. Very much like a warlock slowly draining the life out of you, but not so much that you die. It’s like that.”
The mage gives another, more uncomfortable laugh. “I wouldn’t know…”
The party comes upon a barricade seemingly made of glass formed from light alone. Beyond it is a path leading into a circular alcove swarming with demons of all sorts and draenei adorned in silver and gold plate holding them off. The ground rumbles occasionally from both parties’ attacks.
Grimory’s arms mutate and he pushes past the soldiers holding the line. “Let’s get to work.”
Taveth flinches at Alisbeth’s words. He stops momentarily to converse with Velen and Illidan, then strolls back to the group. “We need to disable the shields on those cannons so our forces can take them out.”
Illidan Stormrage looks down at the retreating Taveth as though the man had just insulted him. He glances at Velen. “Who is this?”
The Prophet hums as if restraining a chuckle. “A scholar sent on the king’s behalf. He is here for research.” He gives Taveth a slight smile, having overheard. “And tactics, it would seem.”
Taveth gives the towering demon hunter a nervous smile over his shoulder, then rushes to catch up with the others.
Koltira glances around the area. “Freeing a few slaves wouldn’t hurt… Would it?”
“I’m freeing all of them!” Alisbeth shouts, then takes off running into the fray to carve a path to the shackled broken.
“This looks important,” Anarchaia muses as she follows Grimory into a small cluster of eredari and places a hand upon a glowing green crystal humming with energy. Cracks splinter up its sides and it shatters from within, unable to withstand the arcane energy she outputs.
Upon seeing what Anarchaia does, Taveth grabs her shoulder to get her attention. “I think those are powering the shield!”
The mage jumps at the touch, then grins. “Oh, so you’re saying they don’t like this,” she says and trots to the next hovering crystal to shatter it, then the next, then the next.
Grimory places a sigil of silencing on the ground beneath the group before him. The demonic draenei women charge him instead and he easily slices through one’s belly.
Koltira nods at the elf. “You and Ana get those taken care of, the three of us will keep you…safe?” He glances around, noticing the other two have already taken out every demon in the near vicinity.
Alisbeth races for a towering demon.
“You’re missing out!” Grimory calls over his shoulder to Koltira. He ducks beneath the swinging blade of the six-armed demon woman and rakes his claws across the insides of her calves as he slides beneath her. “Get her arms, Ali.”
Alisbeth swings the Redblade upward and severs two of the shivara’s arms. “Like that?” She giggles.
“Yes, exactly like that,” Grimory laughs as he dodges the falling limbs and sword. When the demon brings an uninjured arm down to swing at him again, he grabs it by the wrist and pulls her to the ashy dirt.
Taveth sneers at the sudden amputation and turns to follow the mage. One of the tallest demons there, with spikes sticking from its back and shoulders, notices the little mage alone at the cannon. “Ana, run!” Taveth shouts, running toward her.
“Hm?” Anarchaia blinks and looks around. Her grin fades when she sees the massive demon striding toward her. A look of determination crosses her face and her body ignites in flame. With a tap of her heel, a silver and purple circle circumscribes her and she steels herself before throwing a large ball of crackling fire at the advancing demon.
Koltira purses his lips and runs toward the huge demon. Once close enough, he yells out at it, catching its attention.
Alisbeth stares at the other three. “Oh! Ashmane caught a big one!”
Burning and angry, the monstrosity turns on Koltira. Deciding him a better target, he stomps toward him with his massive claws raised and ready to strike. Before he can bring them down, a tendril of flame snaps around his wrist and pulls his arm back.
Anarchaia struggles to restrain the him, but is thrown forward when the demon jerks on the fiery whip.
Grimory buries his claws into the back of the shivara’s neck as she hits the ground and the woman falls limp. He looks, then laughs as Anarchaia hits the dirt face-first. “Too big.”
Alisbeth runs after the others. “Taveth, stop being an idiot!” She passes the others to get to her cousin, where he’s busied himself unshackling a slave, too distracted to see the vile fiends hopping their way to him.
Koltira throws a shadowy tendril at the towering demon, pulling it back toward him. Just then, the beast stops in its tracks and rakes deadly claws through the air in front of itself. Koltira dives out of the way and jumps back to his feet.
Grimory runs forward to assist, but stops too short to avoid the sweeping claws. He brings his arms up and the demon leaves weeping red steaks across them. He hisses and backs up, then blows fire from the depths of his core.
The demon growls as he’s burned again and backs away as well, covering his eyes with his large, gnarled hands. He nearly crushes the mage underfoot, but she scrambles away at the last moment.
Anarchaia throws a well-placed ice shard toward his ankle and he stumbles to his back, the ground shuddering below.
“My turn!” Alisbeth squeals, hopping over as she twirls her sword. She gains the momentum she wants and swings at the demon’s neck. The Redblade buries into the thick skin, slicing through the sinew and tendons holding the demon’s head on its body. The blade stops at the bone, but not before becoming embedded in a vertebra. Alisbeth grins at the mage. “Saved your life.”
“I don’t think she’s the one who needed saving,” Koltira says, pointing behind her at Taveth, who is backing away from an eredari woman, speaking calmly as though he can talk her out of killing him.
Anarchaia gives a nervous grin as though restraining a sneer and pushes quickly to her feet. She scuffs a boot across the ground and a white spark of frost crawls across the dirt until it reaches the demon’s hooves. The woman jerks her leg in an attempt to proceed toward Taveth, but growls and whips her head to glare at the other four instead. She lifts a hand and hurls erratic balls of fel fire at them.
Grimory throws up a rippling shield of green and black and flinches as the bolt crashes against it. He steps forward but is again pushed back some with another blast of fire.
The mage takes by example and summons a shield of violet. Instead of advancing, she retaliates with her own fire spells.
The eredari leans out of the way and growls at them. <<Insolent vermin!>>
Taveth smirks at the woman’s back. <<Told you.>>
Alisbeth skips over, whistling a happy tune. She smiles up at the woman. “I like your horns. I think I’ll keep them.”
The eredari, not knowing what Alisbeth said, sneers anyway and swipes at the elf. Alisbeth hops back, but trips over a rock and falls. The woman stands over her, ignoring the spells from the mage, and stomps her hoof into the death knights stomach.
“Ali!” Grimory rushes forward as his shield dissipates. He closes the space between himself and the woman as quickly as his legs will carry him and tackles her to the ground.
When she tries to recover, he shoves her head back to the dirt. The eredari cries out and places a hand on Grimory’s chest. Fire fills the space between their skin. The demon hunter grits his fangs in pain but does not relent; he buries his claws in her chest and continues to hold her despite his burning flesh. The fire in her hand fades with the light in her eyes and she falls limp.
Grimory stands, his chest red, blistered, and bleeding. <<Whore.>> He spits on her corpse. He looks over his shoulder at Alisbeth, avoiding showing her the extent of his injury. “Are you all right?”
“That was cool,” Alisbeth says. “I think she dented my armor with her stupid, fat hoof. And my head hurts. I think I’m okay, though.” She stands and goes to him. “Are you okay?”
“We’ll get you some briarthorn tea for your head.” He sets his palm atop said head and smiles. “Yeah, I’m fine. Let’s get a move on.” He turns to continue up the path, wiping blood from his stomach as he does so.
Anarchaia chuckles to Taveth. “I wouldn’t advise trying to talk your way out of anymore fights. I don’t think the people here are inclined for peace.”
Taveth shrugs at the mage. “No harm trying? Heh.”
Koltira narrows an eye at the man. “No harm? Did you see the same things as me? Because it sure doesn’t seem that way. You can’t talk your way out of fights, especially not here. You wanted us to come along to protect you, so stop running ahead and being reckless so we can.”
Alisbeth purses her lips at Koltira, then looks at Taveth. Ultimately, though, she decides to follow after Grimory.
Anarchaia sets a gentle palm on Koltira’s upper arm and gives him an equally gentle smile. “Go easy on him,” she whispers and trots after Alisbeth.
Grimory comes to a clearing surrounded by crag and burnt rocks. In the center protrudes large structures swirling with fel energies. He chews on the inside of his cheek. “This seems…odd,” he says. “You’d think there’d be some sort of defense here.”
Koltira stares at his feet, then falls into step beside the high elf. “I’m an asshole, I know.”
“I wasn’t going to say that,” Taveth says. He eyes the area and the strange structure; the small hairs on his arms raise.
“Just let us keep you alive,” Koltira says.
Alisbeth leans against Grimory. “What do you think this is? A statue? A weapon?”
“I don’t know, but I don’t like it,” Grimory grumbles.
“Well done incapacitating their weaponry,” comes a dark growl behind the group. “This empty lot, however, is worrisome. This area is vulnerable to attack.” Illidan folds his arms and scrutinizes the surrounding area from behind his blindfold.
“Perhaps not all is as it seems,” the Prophet adds as he joins them, clenching his staff tightly.
The ground below begins to tremble. The earth around the two pillars before them cracks and splits; from the fissures crawl two clawed hands. A demon taller than the cliffs on either side of them pushes to its feet; rings of dust emanate from the soles of its boots and rubble crumbles from the rocky walls.
Grimory pulls his ears back and takes a step away, pulling Alisbeth by the arm as he does so. Anarchaia reflexively grabs at Koltira. The demon gives a groan that resonates throughout the area and raises a claw up to bring down upon them.
A shield of light encases the group and Velen grunts as the demon’s fist impacts the barrier. “A demon?!”
“A weapon,” Illidan growls and glares over his shoulder at the group. “Show no mercy!”
Taveth instinctively hops behind Koltira.
The death knight gives him a look and shakes his head. “No place for a scholar,” he mutters, drawing his sword.
Alisbeth tests the shield around them, swinging the Redblade at the foot of the demon. Her blade goes through and makes contact. She giggles and swings again and again, doing what damage she can.
“I’ll keep it distracted. Give it your worst,” Illidan growls and takes to the sky. The demon gives a groan and attempts to swipe at him, but the demon lord is faster and rakes his glaive across the giant’s arm.
“Aim for the spaces between its armor,” Grimory adds and spreads his wings to follow. He grabs onto the demon’s back and does his best to drill his claws into the flesh between the cuirass and pauldron. Green blood dribbles down onto the dirt below.
Anarchaia aims a steady blast of fire at the monstrosity’s foot. The armor begins to glow after a moment and the demon groans again, stepping away from the flames. She does not relent, however, and chuckles to herself as she continues to burn its one sole.
“Ali, hit it with the Redblade,” Taveth says as he nonchalantly slips behind Velen when Koltira runs forward to join the fight.
She stops just outside the shield. “Huh?” A giant hand swipes her across the clearing.
Grimory catches a flying object in his peripherals. His ears pull back. “Ali!” He pushes off the demon, wings spread, and races to catch her. The momentum drags him from the sky and they both hit the cliffside. He growls in pain but steadies their decent with his claws buried in the rocks until their feet reach the earth again. He carries her back to the forcefield and sets her inside. “Don’t leave the bubble,” he hisses. “Use magic if you can’t reach.”
Illidan scoffs in disgust at his disciple’s softness, then buries his glaives into the demon’s shoulder. In a flurry of slicing blades, he rips them free and the arm in its entirety falls to the ground with an earthshaking crash.
Alisbeth brushes away from Grimory as though having heard nothing he said. “You’re so awesome!” Alisbeth says, racing toward Illidan. “What’s your name? I like you! Your horns are super cool!”
Taveth grumbles. “Ali! The Redblade!” he motions where she’d dropped it.
But she ignores him, too.
Grimory instantly grabs Alisbeth by the arm. “Ali!” He turns her to face him. “Stay in the bubble, yeah? I mean it.”
Anarchaia scoots away from the growing pool of blood as though touching it will harm her. She gathers her power to conjure a massive spear of ice and sends it into the flesh peeking out between the demon’s leg guards.
The monster groans and stumbles to a knee. More blood joins the rest. Illidan sees the opportunity and plants his hooves onto its shoulder. With his weapons, he slashes deeply into the barely exposed neck. As with its arm, the demon’s head falls to the earth with immeasurable weight, breaking rubble from the cliffs. The rest of the body follows.
Velen hmphs and the shield dissipates. “Well done.”
Alisbeth purses her lips and blinks at the demon hunter. “The bubble is gone.”
Grimory rolls his eyes and folds his arms. “You know what I meant,” he grumbles and turns.
Koltira lifts her sword from the dirt and walks over, holding it out. “Don’t lose it or I might think you don’t want it anymore.”
“Why do I have the Redblade, now? Where’s my axe? Can I go get it?”
“Too busy,” Taveth muses to no one, lost in the drawing of the goliath demon.
Illidan hops down from the motionless body and scrutinizes the mage—tiny in his presence. “That mask. You must be Khadgar’s. You live up to how highly he speaks of you.”
Anarchaia flushes and waves a hand. “O-oh. It was nothing.”
He turns on Grimory. “And you, Silversong. You show obvious weakness. Work to rid yourself of it.”
Grimory grits his teeth behind his lips but nods and says nothing.
Velen gives the faintest of chuckles. “You all did well. Disregard Stormrage’s hardheartedness.”
Alisbeth grins up at Illidan’s face. “You wanted me to go splat! Didn’t you?” She hops up and down, trying to grasp his horns. “I think…you’re right…and Grim shoulda…let me splat.”
Koltira hides his pursed lips behind his fist. “Ali can you show any kind of restraint?”
“I just wanna touch them!”
Illidan jerks his head away, though she comes nowhere close to actually touching them. “I’m going back to see to the barricade. The rest of the defense should be on lookout for a retaliation.” He spreads his wings and takes off in the direction he’d come.
Velen nods in understanding. Something catches his violet gaze and he steps up the path. The previously freed prisoners make their way up the path across the now empty clearing.
“This way,” he says over his shoulder and motions for the rest to follow.
With the demeanor of a beaten dog, Grimory does as suggested with Anarchaia in tow. <<Gods forbid I have feelings. We all can’t be complete monsters,>> he mutters beneath his breath.
Taveth gives the demon hunter’s shoulder a tentative pat. <<He’s wrong.>> He walks faster to catch up to Velen and opens his journal to take notes as he interviews the prophet.
Alisbeth hops up to Grimory and hooks her arm in his. “He’s cool! Is that your leader dude?”
Koltira slips in behind Anarchaia to kiss the top of her head as they walk. “You did a fantastic job.”