Anarchaia’s eyes widen and she ungracefully scrambles to her feet. Salty tears already staining her mask and aggravating the wound on her cheek, she runs across the platform, around the massive corpse of the demon, and slows to a stop at the sight of his body. For a long moment nothing enters her mind but the scene before her, then memories flood her thoughts. She slowly goes to Grimory’s side and sinks to her knees.
“Grim…?” she whispers, her voice carrying little strength. She reaches out to push his hair back, then immediately retracts her hands to cover her face at the sight of his blank, lifeless stare. She hiccups, holding back a screaming sob.
Taveth frowns and shoves the dagger into his bag before Thal’kiel can say anymore cruel words. Koltira sets a silent hand on Anarchaia’s shoulder.
Kel’ori breaks into sobs. “I’m sorry. I didn’t… I’m so sorry.”
Koltira clears his throat. “You didn’t do anything. We… We should get going.” He stoops and wraps his arms beneath the demon hunter’s. “Can someone get his legs? Ali?” He looks back to see her still standing in the middle of the room, as though frozen in time.
“I-I can…” Anarchaia hiccups. She lifts a shaking hand, then gives a pained sob at the sound of the demon hunter’s torn organs falling through the open flesh as his body lifts from the ground. She covers her eyes with an arm and a portal back to the Vindicaar opens behind her.
Taveth rushes over and takes Koltira’s cloak from his shoulders. “Just going to borrow…” He cringes and wraps the article around Grimory’s gaping torso.
“I didn’t… I didn’t mean to…” Kel’ori keeps saying, unable to tear her gaze from the demon hunter. “I d-didn’t…”
“Ali, let’s go,” Koltira growls.
“He saved me…” Kel’ori whispers. “I didn’t mean to.”
“It’s okay,” Anarchaia says quietly through her reserved weeping. “It’s nobody’s fault.” She turns to make her way to the portal. “Besides,” she continues with a forced smile, “he might b-be back…heh.” She rubs at her nose with a sleeve, tears pooling at the hem of her mask. “Maybe.”
“But I didn’t mean to,” Kel’ori says on a small sob.
Taveth sets his sister’s hand on Koltira’s shoulder. “Go with them.” He walks to Alisbeth as the others go through the portal. “Ali, come on.” He pulls on her hand, but she doesn’t move or respond. He grabs her axe by the handle, but cannot lift the head easily, and so leaves the head on the ground. He takes his cousin by the hand and pulls; her feet take tentative steps only to keep her from falling over as he pulls. He manages to get her through the portal behind the others before it closes.
The world seems to whirl around Anarchaia as she brings Grimory’s limp corpse back into the lower levels, Koltira’s gore-soaked cloak leaving a trail of red behind her. Infirmary workers surround her when she nears, relieving her off the body and bringing it to a secluded corner of the station. They set to work sealing the open wounds and tattered organs, but the looks on each Draenei’s face leaves the room feeling bleak and cold.
The undead girl wraps her arms around herself, silently watching them work a short distance away. Koltira sets a tentative hand on Anarchaia’s shoulder as Kel’ori still grips his and cries out her apologies. Anarchaia reflexively sets her hand upon his in return, shoulders still jerking with held back sobs.
Taveth grunts and holds out the Maw’s handle for the death knight to take. He wraps his newly free hand around Alisbeth’s and pulls, but she won’t budge, her eyes locked on the Illidari’s corpse.
A draenei paladin, features somber, strides over to them. She sighs down at the women. “There’s…not much we can do save for making him…presentable.”
Anarchaia nods absently, eyes also still unable to tear away from the man who had once been her friend and lover. She forces herself to blink. “I-… C-Can we leave him here for a few days? Just to…to see?”
The paladin shifts uncomfortably but nods all the same. “I’m afraid the Illidari we see pass through our hands—”
“I know,” Anarchaia nearly snaps, her thin veneer of calm breaking ever so slightly. “…thank you.”
The woman gives the group one last nod and passes the party to make for the door.
Koltira sighs. “Ana, do you really just want to…leave him here?”
Taveth gives up pulling on Alisbeth and takes Kel’ori by the hand. “Let’s clean you up, okay?” He turns away from the others and quickly wipes away a tear that broke free, knowing it’s the first of many.
Anarchaia remains quiet for a moment before slowly shaking her head. She scratches at her throat where tears have dried, but her fingers do nothing to help the itching. “Maybe…Illidan can help,” she mutters, voice trailing off.
Koltira lets out a long breath and steers the mage to a cot. He waves down a healer. “She’s injured,” he says, lifting her mask just high enough to show the wound.
“Oh,” the draenei hums. Without asking, she yanks the mage’s mask off to get a better view of the injury.
A few seconds pass before the mage can fully process what’s just happened. Her eyes go wide and the red pupils within them immediately lock into Alisbeth’s immobile figure near Grimory’s cot. Her arm instinctively reaches for the mask though her eyes remain trained on the death knight across from her.
Koltira angles himself to block the view of either woman to the other. He gives a weak smile to Anarchaia.
The lightforged woman purses her lips. “Now, you just hold still, all right?” She sets her palm over the cut and golden light shines out from between her fingers.
As though not having expected it despite having been warned, Anarchaia cries out and jerks away, covering the spot on her face that’s now only half healed. She covers her mouth and looks up between the two in front of her. “Sorry,” she mumbles into her palm, her hair a mess and sticking to her face in places.
The draenei smiles nervously and takes Anarchaia’s chin when Koltira nods for her to finish. “Just one second more, okay? Then you’re free to go.”
Across the room, one of the staff lifts a sheet and covers the demon hunter from head to toe. As though a switch is flipped, Alisbeth screams and launches herself at the draenei, pounding her fists against him as her voice shrieks from the walls. Koltira runs over and pulls her back, but she fights against him, screaming and flailing as though her life is in peril.
Anarchaia clenches her eyes closed as the wound is completely sealed, then jumps at the shrieking. She wrenches her mask back into her possession and gives a sad smile to the nurse. “Thanks. Heh.” She throws the item over her head and rushes over to the death knights. She grabs onto Alisbeth’s opposite arm and pulls as best she can. “Ali! Ali it’s okay! I’m not going to let them take him! Please calm down!”
Instead of calming, the death knight turns on the two, kicking and hitting at them.
“Ali, he’s still there! Stop hitting me!” Koltira grunts, trying to reign in her arms.
Anarchaia grunts and stumbles back some as she’s kicked hard in the core. She squares her shoulders and lifts her hand. In a puff of swirling smoke, Alisbeth is transformed into a small, black cat. The mage sighs. “I’m sorry, Ali, but it’s for your own good.” She glances over at the sheet and tears sting her eye again. “Maybe we should just…bring him back.”
Koltira furrows his brow and stares down at the little cat rubbing on his ankles. “To…Azeroth?”
The mage nods. “He…wouldn’t heal until he went back. M-maybe…he…” Tears again sting at her sinuses and she inhales sharply to stave them off. She composes herself. “I-it’s worth a try.”
Not long after the door to the inn room is closed, the black cat in Koltira’s arms poofs back into Alisbeth. She returns to screaming for a second, then goes deathly quiet once she sees the demon hunter lying on the bed. She returns to her previous statuesque state.
Koltira straightens. “Apparently it was that easy?” He goes to the mage and wraps his arms around her from behind. “Ana, I’m so sorry. What… What can I do?”
Anarchaia’s shoulders go rigid at the question. Her fists clench as she struggles. She shakes her head and brings a stiff hand up to rest on his arm. “I just want him to come back,” she says in a quiet squeak, then covers her mouth when a sob pushes up into her throat. “I can’t keep looking at him, but I don’t want to leave him…”
Koltira blinks and releases her. He moves around the other death knight and retrieves a chair. “I don’t think he’d appreciate that kind of help from me.” He sets it beside the bed but faces it away. “Besides, I’m not even sure it’d be possible.” He pushes her into the chair and gives her a tight-lipped smile. “Why don’t you and Ali keep each other company?”
Anarchaia falls into the chair and blinks. As though shaken from a stupor, she looks between the two death knights. “W-what about you?” she blurts. “I don’t want to leave you alone, either…” Her eyes again slide to Alisbeth. “And honestly I’m afraid of what will happen when she…comes to.”
Koltira sighs, an apologetic expression on his face. “He was our friend. You’d think it wouldn’t bother me, but I can’t stand here and stare at a corpse all night. Not him.” Before the mage can respond, he leaves the room and heads for the Nightheart tavern.
Anarchaia gives him a fleeting glance as he goes, then sighs.
Several minutes pass in silence, then Alisbeth’s head very slowly tilts to one side. Just as slowly, a wide Cheshire grin parts her lips and her eyes go wide. She stares at the mage that way for a moment, then begins to softly hum the tune of a children’s nursery rhyme. “I know a secret,” she sings, “how long, can I keep it?”
The mage goes rigid at the humming, suddenly filled with an unexplainable dread. She turns to look at Alisbeth. She swallows. “A-Ali…?”
The death knight twitches, her hands raising to bust-height and her fingers twitching as though plucking little strings. “Ali’s gone away, ask another day. The men are gone, we’re all alone, so tell me will you stay?” By the end of her little tune her head has slowly tilted to the other side. Her smile remains wide and her snow-flurry eyes remain trained on the mage.
Anarchaia hesitates. “I-I’ll stay as long as he—you need me to.” She lifts a shaky hand. “M-…maybe come sit? With me? …heh.”
Alisbeth stares for a longer than should be comfortable for the mage, then jerkily looks around the immediate area. Not seeing another chair, she leaps straight up and lands on the dresser in one bound. She crouches low, her knees nearly to her head. After another minute, she turns to look at the mage, her head tilting so far sideways it might threaten to turn completely upside-down if it were able. “A question we are pressed to ask, why does it wear a mask?”
Anarchaia hides a small gasp of fear ushered forth by the death knight’s sporadic behavior. She slowly rises to her feet. “I-I was in an accident. You know that. Heh.” She again holds up her hands. “Let’s just…sit. Okay? Sit and…” She swallows, unsure of what word to use. “Calm down.”
Alisbeth undresses as the mage speaks, dropping her plate gear to the floor in a pile. She blinks rapidly, her vision strobing behind her flitting lids. Her smile still does not waver. “It asks us nicely to calm down, and yet the creature wears a frown? Quiet, listen, just you wait. Shh,” she sets a finger to her lips and holds a pauldron over the pile of armor, “we drop the plate.” She opens her fingers and the metal piece crashes against the others.
At the loud crash, Anarchaia gets to her feet, her chair screeching across the floor. “Ali, you’re scaring me. Let’s just calm down, yes? T-talk… It’ll make you feel better. O-okay?” She takes a step backward.
She leaps from the dresser and stops so close the mage can feel the cold from Alisbeth’s chest against her sternum. The death knight sniffs from Anarchaia’s collar, up the side of her head, across her forehead, and stops at her nose. “Calm it says, calm it wants. Quiet, so we hear the haunts,” she sings on a chilling whisper. She wraps a gentle palm over the mage’s neck and urges her back until she falls into the seat again. “Don’t you fret, and don’t you fear, it is safe when we are near.” She straddles the girl’s lap and wraps her up in a protective embrace. “It’s raining, it’s hailing, the heroes are failing.” She grips her fingers around Anarchaia’s jaw to look where her eyes might be. “She went downstairs and she was theirs and she was dead in the morning.” She breathes in a long groan as she arcs backward, then backflips off the chair to kick off her boots and strip her lower half of armor.
Anarchaia gives a weak whimper at the closeness, doing as she’s bade to do. She cries out when the death knight suddenly jumps away, covering her head with her arms. She presses into the back of the chair and slowly lowers them. “I…I think I should go. I…can trust you to watch him, no? Heh.”
With one leg still clad in armor, Alisbeth launches at the door. She crashes against it and turns her manic grin on the shorter girl. “The winter wind is blowing. It says it must be going. Ashes, ashes, you’ll all burn down.”
Anarchaia stiffens and her hands glow a faint purple. “Don’t make me polymorph you again,” she whispers, visibly shaken. This is the last thing I need right now. Keep it together…
After a moment, the death knight’s head twitches sideways as she stares at the mage. “Does it want to play a game?” She picks up the mage by the waist and spins her around. “Little thing…” She presses Anarchaia’s back to the door and grins at her. “Give us a name?” She licks the tip of the mage’s nose, then bounds across the room and leaps up to grab the pole across the top of the empty canopy. In one movement she wraps her legs over it and falls back to hang upside-down, staring at the girl at the door.
Anarchaia inhales, for a moment actually considering doing as she’s told. Then, in the next moment, she turns and slams the door behind her, breathing heavily in the hallway. She cringes. I don’t know if I can leave her alone with Grim. What if she does something? But if I don’t, she’ll most certainly do something to me… She slides down the door, face in her hands. “This is the worst.”
~ * ~
Kel’ori drops the blood-soaked dress to the tiled floor and frowns at herself in the mirror. She takes a deep breath and, for the first time since Spinewing, looks down at her body. For a long moment she feels a sense of depersonalization. There is no way she’s looking at herself. When she reaches the bump of her belly, tears force themselves from her eyes.
“Your bra is getting too tight,” Docra says, pushing the door open. “Did you want to make the clothes this time?” She takes the mage by the elbow and urges her to the bubble bath waiting in the tub.
“I can’t,” Kel’ori says. “My magic is too unpredictable.”
Docra nods. “Your dress is in my sink, soaking. I know you wouldn’t appreciate the beauty of the red water swirling around…”
“Am I an idiot if I keep it?” she whispers.
The priestess blinks. “No. You’re brave. And I don’t think a half elf half whatever that demon is has actually ever come into existence—or been conceived. It’ll be quite the scholarly adventure. Taveth will be thrilled.” As she says this, she uses a rag to clean the blood from the high elf’s face.
After a while of the mage slapping at the woman’s hands, Docra leaves the bathroom and stops to stare at the powder pink dress making itself in the middle of her living room, next to it a matching set of underwear and a bra. She peeks back at the sullen mage half-heartedly scrubbing the blood from her face, then at the clothes with an odd teal magical aura. Rather than saying something, she goes to make a fresh pot of tea.