Grimory pauses. “Didn’t you just have a new pet? What happened to it?”
Alisbeth stares at Grimory like she has no idea what he’s talking about. After a moment, it dawns on her. “Oh! The little thingy, right? Um…” She glances around. “Stinker? Slither? Spitter?”
Koltira takes Anarchaia’s hand as he steers her to follow the demon hunter. “You really think you can stand me that long?”
Anarchaia joins in with her own torrent of fire. “I can stand you longer than you can stand me.”
Grimory chuckles. “We’ll see about getting you a pet when we get back. Something you won’t lose.” Or accidentally kill. He flinches as a series of purple missiles fly over the demon hunter’s head to collide with a huge demon. With a smirk he steps forward and blows verdant fire over the demon in an attempt to distract him.
The demon groans at the heat, covering his face with his arms until the flames subside. He swings at the thick of the party with his massive sword.
Koltira rushes forward to try blocking the swing, but falls just short as the long weapon slashes through the group. Taveth stumbles backward into his sister, knocking them both to the ground. Alisbeth screams out as her breastplate slits open, before it catches and rips her away, throwing the elf into a nearby rocky face. The rocks break free and crumble onto her. As she curls into a ball, she cries out, realizing through pain alone that the sword cut through her abdomen.
Not having expected the demon to recover so quickly and caught on the end of the swing, Grimory grits his teeth as the sword slashes diagonally over his torso and arm. Red immediately drenches his lower half and stains his armor. He stumbles back, growling in pain. Ali! His arms mutate and he resists the urge to run to her, Illidan’s words running through his head. He instead lunges forward, dodging the backswing and flying up to blow more fire despite the agony.
The demon, stony faced, swings again, up and over to the ground to get the demon hunter and death knight in one sweep.
Anarchaia runs for the wounded death knight. “Ali!” She musters her magic and lifts the heaviest rubble from the elf. “Are you okay?!”
Alisbeth stumbles from the rubble, an arm over her middle as crimson spills over her lower half. “M’fine.” She unsheathes her axe and weaves forward, determined to join the fight. After a moment, she stops, and merely throws her axe at the demon. The weapon embeds in the back of his neck, freezing him in place for a moment before he crumples to the ground. “Not even that strong,” she says on a growl, then drops to her knees.
Koltira purses his lips. “It’s not quite dead, heal yourself.”
Alisbeth shakes her head. “He needs it.” She motions at the demon hunter.
Grimory lands gently and stumbles again but finds footing and straightens. “No. I’m fine,” he lies and turns to continue up the path before she can protest. “All yours.”
Anarchaia scowls after him. “It wouldn’t hurt to wear some armor over your chest, you know,” she mumbles.
“Heal yourself, Ali,” Taveth says, helping Kel’ori up. He nods when he sees she’s unharmed, then takes off running after the demon hunter. On his way, he conjures a small yellow stone, then presses close to the taller man to block the others’ views. “Please, take it.”
Grimory glances between the stone and Taveth’s face. He takes the item and crushes it in a fist; the smoky dust it leaves behind flutters up and into his slightly parted lips and nostrils. His wounds, along with the partially healed burn from the previous day, close and mend. He casts Taveth a gentle smile and pats him on the shoulder. “Thank you, Tav. I owe you one.”
Alisbeth frowns and drains the last of the life from the demon. “Armor wrecked by a pathetic little nothing,” she mutters, standing to grab her breastplate and tuck it behind her arm.
Kel’ori slips the item from Alisbeth’s grasp. “I can…send this somewhere out of the way, if you need?”
Alisbeth snatches it from the air and hugs it. “No! I’m going to wear it!” She huffs away and goes searching for the lost back of the cuirass.
Kel’ori stares at her hands and twiddles her fingers after she’s chastised.
Koltira goes to Anarchaia, a frown pulling at his lips. “That was my fault. I almost had it… I should have been faster.”
She sets a hand on the death knight’s forearm and smiles beneath her mask. “You did what you could. It wasn’t your fault. Don’t beat yourself up over it.” She notices Kel’ori’s demeanor after having dealt with Alisbeth and opens her mouth to tell her similar, but decides against it and follows instead.
“Heh.” Taveth waves off the man’s gratitude. “You’re the only one who’ll let me help. Ana avoids it like it’s a disease. Yay me. And I’m terrified Ali will, you know, maim me if she knew…” He sighs and shrugs. “Just…be careful.” He slows to let the man pass him.
Noticing Anarchaia’s glance, Kel’ori straightens and sets her face in a disinterested sneer. “What are you looking at, Khadgar’s Pet?”
The mage sneers in return and pushes past her. “Nothing much,” she hisses and heads up the path and toward at large, crumpled, golden device lying against the cliffside.
Kel’ori balls her fists at her sides and stomps to catch up with the others.
Grimory slows as he realizes Taveth isn’t beside him, then turns. He looks between Alisbeth and the warlock and shrugs. <<I think she’ll love you no matter what, but that’s your business.>> He holds out a hand to Alisbeth. “Need help getting that back on?”
Taveth nods, his eyes on the ground at his feet.
Alisbeth purses her lips as she looks at the two pieces. “The buckles snapped. Got any tape?” She grins up at the demon hunter.
“I do not. Guess you’re going half-…? A fifth-? -naked.” He smiles and pulls a token from his pack. A rune of Light flickers to life above it. “Hey. We found your weapon…thing.”
“Excellent!” comes a heavily accented Draenei voice from the device. “Locking onto your coordinates. Prepare for a fight. I doubt the Legion will be willing to lose their grip on the cannon.”
Anarchaia jerks forward with a yelp as teeth clamp around her ankle through her robes. She whirls, fire in her hands and backs away again as one of many felhounds leaps at her. The offending beast bursts into flames with a cry. “Rude.”
Kel’ori runs forward as the little beasts begin to swarm; lavender pulses radiate from her body and the creatures shriek in pain. Taveth is last to get to the others, and as he does, he turns, his eyes flashing to a darker purple. The fiends closest to him cry out in fear and run aimlessly as they lose their minds to the terror. He grips his satchel and backs into the group, surrounding himself with his friends.
Kel’ori purses her lips at Alisbeth’s armor and sighs. “I can help…”
Alisbeth hugs the pieces to herself. “Don’t touch.”
“I mean, I can fix it…” She straightens, consciously realizing how timid she was sounding. “Kalec is a master at restoring items to how they were, as he did Tav’s journals. I know what I’m doing, Ali.”
“And if you break it worse?”
“I’ll buy you a whole new shiny set.”
“Just fix the fucking armor and focus,” Koltira growls as small demons swarm toward the patch of light under their feet. He drops his ring of decay beneath them and throws several purple tendrils out at once, gripping the demons into a collected pile.
Grimory does similar, dragging a few felhounds and a felguard into the center of a golden sigil. He drops a sigil of flame beneath them as well and, once he has them collected, breaths a cloud of fire over the lot. The hounds run off in burning agony, but the felguard slashes at the demon hunter with rage behind its helm. Grimory leans away and grabs the demon’s arm on the backswing, then takes it off at the elbow.
Kel’ori grunts as Alisbeth shoves the armor onto her cousin to join the fight. “This is heavier than it looks!” she says.
The death knight runs into the fray. “Just fix it!”
Anarchaia sets to work with her own ring overlapping Koltira’s. From the center spouts a torrent of flames and molten rock, obliterating a few of the minor enemies and effectively burning the larger.
It is only moments before the damaged cannon evaporates into a large beam of light and is gone, back to the Vindicar.
Kel’ori purses her lips and glances at her brother. “I can’t actually fix it on the fly,” she whispers to him.
He shrugs. “Get started?” He lurches to grab Anarchaia’s arm. “Look out!” A final felhound hops into the area to nip at the mage’s leg.
Grimory sinks his claws into the felguard’s exposed chest, then kicks him off when he’s stopped moving. He turns to a pack of imps and washes them with more fire, then smirks at the smell.
Anarchaia gasps as she’s yanked, then casts an embarrassed glance over her shoulder. “Thanks, Tav,” she mumbles with a blush and kicks the hound in the jaw when it nears again. It yelps and shakes off the impact before lunging again.
Kel’ori drops the armor and throws out an arcane blast at the hound leaping for the other mage. As the blast lands, Koltira spins and bring Byfrost up in and arc to slice the demon’s head off.
He smirks at Anarchaia and winks. “I guess I’m not the only one who can’t keep myself off you.”
The mage’s blush deepens and she waves a hand. “Stop, Koltira,” she sings through a smile and walks past him for the pathway.
Alisbeth turns her axe to smash the heads of the dead creatures with the fanged skull at the center. She laughs as they scream and the axe hisses for more.
The death knight man grins and wraps an arm at the mage’s waist. “You’re the one that wanted more charm. Now you want me to stop? Please, make up your mind. I’m getting dizzy.” Koltira chuckles.
Grimory sneers at the other couple then bends to pick up the dropped armor. “Here.” He holds it out to Kel’ori with a sharp grin. “You dropped this.”
Kel’ori blushes and takes the armor from the demon hunter. She gives him a long, flirtatious look. “Thanks, Grim. My hero.”
Taveth wrinkles his nose behind his sister as he looks between her and Grimory. “Yes, Grim, such heroics… Let’s go blow a hole into the Xenedar.”
Grimory chuckles. “If picking up things is all I need to do to be a hero…” He steps away and scoops up Alisbeth as she passes, then tosses her over his shoulder. “They’d better write songs about me.” He follows the other two back down the path.
Alisbeth giggles and wraps her hands around under his arms to hug against his back. “I think you’re very heroic! And Diori does, too!”
Grimory smiles to himself, a faint blush tinting his cheeks. “You really think so?” he asks just quietly enough for her to hear as they find their way back through the golden valley.
Alisbeth pushes herself up to slide into his arms, her legs around his waist. She smiles into his eyes and holds tight to his arms. “I don’t see how she couldn’t.”
Anarchaia chuckles and sets a hand over his at her waist. “I didn’t mean now. Gods forbid we make the others jealous.”
Koltira spins the mage to press her chest to his. He lifts her mask and sets a kiss on her lips. “Let them be jealous. I refuse to treat you differently in public than I do when we’re alone.” He thinks on it as he sets her back at his side to resume walking. “Well, with our clothes still on, of course.”
Anarchaia hums against the kiss, then quickly pulls her mask back over her lips to hide her scarlet face. “Lewd,” she mumbles while biting her lip and tittering. She grabs his hand and drags him back down the ramp and toward the yellow scar in the earth.
Kel’ori sends the armor away and trots alongside Taveth to catch up. “If we can make camp or rest somewhere, I can concentrate on fixing the armor.”
Kel’ori sighs, staring at the back of Grimory’s head. “How do you deal with traveling with the cuddle bugs and the gropers?”
Taveth chuckles. “I honestly just ignore it. I’d hate to be the one to ruin something good for them.”
The mage sighs wistfully. “How’d cousin Ali get so lucky?” When she receives no response, she elbows him. “This is where you tell me he’s not that great and make me feel better.”
Taveth jumps a little and frowns. “If I said he wasn’t that great, I’d be lying. A little promiscuous, sure. Very…manly, I suppose? But he’s got a good heart. Especially for Diori. I had my doubts, but he proved himself a capable guardian.”
The mage humphs and folds her arms dejectedly. “Yeah, thanks for that. Ugh! Why’s she so lucky?”
Taveth cocks an eyebrow at his sister but says nothing as they near where the rubble had been blown away by the weapon. Turalyon, Fareeya, and several lightforged draenei stand guard before the opening.
“Great job!” the paladin beams as the group nears. “Now we can go inside and rescue X’era before the Legion gets its hands on her.”
“Y’mera has also found her way back to the Vindicaar,” Fareeya explains and readjusts her hammer on her shoulder. “Thank you.”
Turalyon regards them with a nod, grin unwavering. “You all may return to the ship as well. Fareeya and I will see to X’era. You all did magnificent work today.”
Anarchaia gives a quiet sigh of relief and turns with hands raised. Her robes swirl with the energy and a bright light bursts into being, a faint image of the main deck on the Vindicaar inside its glowing rim. “All aboard? Heh.”
Grimory sets Alisbeth down to pull her through the portal by her wrist, lest Illidan be on the other side. “Thanks, Ana.”
“Thank you,” Taveth says with a nod.
Kel’ori follows him, her eyes straight ahead as she refuses to acknowledge the other mage. On the other side, Kel’ori finds the cafeteria and obtains a meal, so she can eat and fix the armor in peace. Taveth sits near her, busy with updating his journal.
Koltira sighs. “Long trip already?”.
Anarchaia sneers at the blond girl and returns the sigh as he pulls her through. “I should probably have that talk with Master first.” She chuckles. “And I’m sure we still have things to do here…”
Koltira nods. “Yeah. Go have that talk. I’ll be right here. Somewhere. I thought I saw a map of the world up on the console, I think I’ll go study that. Meet me there when you’re done?”
Anarchaia nods and smiles. “Study, hm? I knew I loved you for a reason.” She leans up to press a kiss on his lips through her mask and waves as she makes her way down the staircase.
Grimory gives Alisbeth a smile. “I gotta talk with Lord Illidan, yeah? Can I trust you not to cause mayhem?”
Alisbeth pops into attention, her body ridged as a soldier’s. “Sir, yes, sir.” She smirks and winks at the Illidari as her hand reaches to wrap around his and squeeze.
Grimory lifts his brows and smiles, squeezing back. “I’m always worried when you wink.” He messes her hair and makes his way for the stairs as well. At the bottom he spots a familiar blond ponytail. “Eophen,” he greets with a wave.
The Draenei looks up from his conversation with his sister and smiles. “Grimory Silversong. How goes?”
“Well. For the most part.” He glances down the hall and sees the Nighthearts sat at a table through the doorway to the mess hall. “Hey, you know that guy who’s face you like?”
Eophen flashes a nervous glance to his sister, then follows Grimory’s gaze. “Ah. Yes.”
The demon hunter nudges him. “You should go talk to him.”
Eophen turns to respond but Grimory is already walking away with thumbs tucked in his belt loops. He gives an apologetic smile to his sister. <<I have a friend I need to speak with. I’ll be back downstairs in a bit, yes?>>
The shorter Draenei girl gives a suspicious nod. <<All right, but if father gets upset it’s on you.>> She pokes him in his large chest and chortles as she turns for the stairs.
Alisbeth smiles at Grimory. “What was that about?”
“Nothing,” Grimory says with a smile. “Just a friend.” He stops outside the door to the control room and scratches at the back of his head nervously. “All right. I have to check in. Stay out here, yeah?”
Alisbeth sighs and leans against the wall, her arms folded. “Fine.”
~ * ~
Eophen makes his way to the dining area and steels himself before striding up to the table where Kel’ori and Taveth are sat. “Still here, are you?” he says with a smile, leaning on the tabletop across from them. “How are your studies?”
Taveth smiles shyly and fidgets with this pen. “Um, yes, um… I’m doing, I mean, my research is going well. Heh.”
The mage cocks an eyebrow at her brother, then smiles up at the draenei, her eyes lingering on his large muscles. “Hi there. I’m Kel’ori.” She offers a hand to him.
Eophen blinks his bright yellow eyes before giving a soft smile and taking her hand in his with a delicate shake. “Charmed. I am called Eophen.” He swallows to avoid clearing his throat. “How do you two know one another?”
Kel’ori waves dismissively. “Don’t worry, he’s just my little brother. Tell me, what do you do around here? I bet it’s something amazing.”
Taveth shrinks and returns to his books, giving the draenei one more glance before allowing his sister to work her charms.
Eophen lifts his eyebrows and gives a quiet chuckle, hiding the relief in his chest. “I maintain the engine with my father and sister. It is nice to work so close to family, yes?” He aims the question between the two, hoping to catch Taveth’s attention.
The blonde girl shrugs. “We’ve only been working together for a day, so far. Keeping my baby brother safe out there. He’s kind of useless in combat situations. I, however, am a very skilled mage.”
Taveth’s ears turn a shade of angry pink as she describes him as useless. He purses his lips as she continues, then closes his book as loudly as possible. “Yes, so useful. All you’ve done is shriek at the sight of blood and mouth off to Anarchaia. And let’s not forget throwing yourself at Grim!” He stands and collects his things. “I was trying to give you the benefit of the doubt, Kel, but you’re just a shallow brat, as usual.” He straightens and casts an embarrassed look to Eophen. “I’m sorry. It was…nice seeing you again. I-I mean, if it was n-nice for you, that is… I… Excuse me.” He takes a few steps and sits just one table away, his back to his sister.
Kel’ori frowns and stares at her hands and the half-mended metal at her fingertips. She then smiles as though not bothered by the minor outburst. “Sorry. He gets a little…” She clears her throat. “So, what were you saying?”
Eophen glances quickly between Taveth and Kel’ori multiple times, then sighs as the scholar trudges off. He sets a hand on his hip and gives a crooked grin through scarred lips. “Nothing important. I should be getting back before father comes looking for me. It was nice meeting you, Kel’ori the very skilled mage.” He waves as he turns. “Until next time.”
Kel’ori stands abruptly, holding out her hand. “Oh, no. Please, stay. I could use a good conversation. You could tell me how the engines work, I’ve been curious about it since arriving.”
Taveth makes a face. “No you haven’t,” he mutters. “Probably wouldn’t understand the process by which they utilize Light magic by harnessing the explosive capabilities and converting it into energy, anyway.” He purses his lips as he looks down at his notebook, noticing he’d inadvertently drawn Eophen smiling. He blushes, and though he wants to, can’t turn the page to hide it.
~ * ~
Grimory steps inside the control room and into the shadow of Illidan Stormrage. He gives a curt bow. “The fight goes well, my lord.”
Illidan turns his head slightly but does not turn around. “Silversong. Still carrying the extra weight, I see.”
Grimory’s jaw tenses. “Yessir.”
“It’s ultimately your head. Let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself.”
The blond demon hunter bites his tongue. “Yessir.”
“Well done on the field all the same. Keep up the good work.” Illidan turns back to the console as though the entirety of the conversation hadn’t just happened.
Grimory gives another brief bow. “Thank you, my lord.” He turns back around and exits, a scowl on his lips.
Alisbeth smiles as Grimory exits. “Told you I’d stay put!” She calms and then frowns at the expression on his face and the tension in his stance. “What happened?”
Grimory does his damnedest to muster a smile. “Nothing. I’m starving. Want to come with me to grab something to eat?”
Alisbeth doesn’t smile in return. She fidgets as a knot forms in her throat. “It’s okay to lie to me. If it makes you feel better.” She takes his hand. “I’ll sit with you while you eat.”
A pang of guilt strikes Grimory in his chest, but he remains quiet. He takes her hand in return and pulls her toward the stairs. Just as they reach the mess hall, Eophen is bustling from the room with a distressed look on his features. “Woah,” Grimory stops him with a hand. “What happened? You all right?”
The Draenei shifts and gives a forced smile. “Absolutely.”
“Great, come sit with us, then.” He motions for the man to follow and turns before he can get a response.
Eophen fidgets, then sighs and follows. He ignores the awkward air as he’s forced to sit at the table he’d just escaped from. “The Illidari insists I stay.”
Grimory grabs a plate of questionable meat from the kitchen staff behind the counter and sets himself at the table as well. “A shame there’s no ale up here, yeah?”
Alisbeth nods absently, her brow furrowed between her two cousins.
Taveth looks over his shoulder at the demon hunter’s voice, then notices the draenei’s return. He closes his book and takes a breath. You can do it. Just go talk to him. Now. Right now. Go talk to him. Any minute, now. The elf freezes and sighs at himself.
Kel’ori leans her chin on her palm as she looks between the two muscular men. “Uh-huh. It is a real shame. Buy you a drink, if I could.” She winks at Eophen.
“Oh, uh, I do not partake in such beverages,” the Draenei chuckles, the tension easing some.
“Good. I’ll take yours, then.” Grimory gnaws off the end of a bone sticking out of the cut of meat on his plate and presses his knee to Alisbeth’s below the tabletop. He smiles at her. “Sure you don’t want some? It’s…palatable.”
Alisbeth gives a small smile. “I bet it’s made from rodent.” She physically jolts in shock. “Are you eating Sumpter?”
Grimory blinks slowly at her, then continues crunching. “It’s possible. He’s tasty.” He licks his lips with a mutated tongue and smirks.
Alisbeth frowns deeply. “He was our pet, Grim. We were supposed to raise him together! Like a family!” She over-emphasizes her indignance, holding back a laugh as she keeps her face straight.
Kel’ori nods at the draenei. “Oh, yes, I don’t drink, like, ever. I just thought that if you wanted a drink I’d buy you one.” She smiles eagerly.
Eophen gives the girl a smile and rests a cheek on his knuckles. I somehow don’t believe that. “Then what is your idea of a good time?”
Kel’ori smiles and blushes. “Ehm. I…like to…read. And, um, I spend a lot of time with Master Kalec.”
Grimory returns the straight face and slowly brings the meat back to his mouth. He takes a bite and is sure to draw out the tearing as he pulls it away. “Greasy meat must be hereditary then.”
Alisbeth narrows her eyes. “Because you’re slimy?”
Grimory lifts his eyebrows. “You would know,” he says with a smirk. “You tell me.”
Eophen glances toward the door—to what once was his escape—and sighs through his nostrils. “Reading is a good hobby. Knowledge is important in all aspects of life.” He smirks, deciding that he can get closer to Taveth by becoming closer to his sister. “This Kalec is a lucky man…or woman.”
Kel’ori giggles. “He is my mentor. He teaches me about being a mage. Of course, it is strictly platonic.” She leans closer to the table and gives the draenei a slightly sultry look.
Taveth’s lower lid rises up as he listens to his sister. Does she even realize she sounds ridiculous?
Eophen resists the urge to roll his eyes. “It is also good to build professional relationships.” He glances to Taveth. “And you? Do you have a strictly platonic Master?”
Taveth turns as he realizes he’s being addressed. He smiles shyly and turns all the way in his chair. “I don’t have a ‘master’, no. I’m a scholar, and so I have a benefactor. He pays for my travels and my needs in exchange for the research I’ve compiled. It’s rather refreshing getting the chance to leave the library and see these things up close and be the one writing the books instead of just copying what others have written.” When he finishes, the elf is leaning forward, a smile of excitement on his face.
Eophen grins at the man’s enthusiasm. Cute. “You are ambitious enough. I am sure anything you write will be eagerly read by many.” He chuckles. “If you ever have any questions about Argus or the Vindicaar, I am always eager to assist…”
Kel’ori sighs and bites into a noisy vegetable that cracks between her teeth like a carrot. She resumes work on the armor, her eyes narrowed with determination.
“I actually have about a million questions, and can only get so many answers from…other sources. Maybe you— You wouldn’t mind if— I mean, if it’s no bother? Heh. Just…when you have a second, of course.” Even though he insists on a later date, Taveth’s hands instinctively collect his journal and pen.
Eophen gives a hearty chuckle. “I did offer. You are not imposing. What is it you would like to know?”
Alisbeth leans in close, then licks all the way up the side of the demon hunter’s face. Her expression deadpan, she says, “You’re one slimy rat, Mister Grim.”
Grimory stares at her for a moment before bursting out laughing. “You sure you’ve gotten a good sample? Might need more testing.”
Alisbeth leans closer, then lowers her lips and sets them to his neck to lick and nibble in the crook of it.
A blush crosses Grimory’s cheeks and he stops chewing. His slit pupils flick to the others to ensure they aren’t paying attention and lowers his voice. He swallows. “Well?”
Alisbeth grins against the demon hunter’s skin. “Perhaps to judge meat, I should taste meat.” A light flashes through the room and Alisbeth jumps, her eyes wide.
Taveth and Kel’ori pop to their feet, grabbing their things to them. The elf frowns at the draenei. “I’m sorry, this’ll have to wait.”