Koltira purses his lips down at the lifeless figure on the bed. Byfrost’s green glow settles and he sheaths it on his back. With a heavy sigh, he sits on the other side of the bed, elbows on his knees and fists clenched together as he looks out the windows of the balcony doors. I hope Diori didn’t actually think I could do this.
Suddenly, a large, clawed fist curls around the bulk of Koltira’s tresses. The once lifeless figure beneath the sheets swells as it mutates, spikes bursting from the skin and horns curling outward. Frosty breath billows from lips twisted in a smirk. <<Oh, this is nice,>> Spinewing chuckles as he stands, lifting Koltira and turning the elf to face him, icy blue eyes meeting the other’s. “Nice and quiet without that pathetic worm,” he laughs in Thalassian.
“Sonofabitch.” The death knight mumbles. He grabs the sword on his back and swings it wide to try hitting the demon, while simultaneously kicking at him. “I didn’t want you!”
Spinewing chuckles darkly again as the blade bites into his open palm. He wrenches the sword away while taking the blows with ease. Dropping the blade, he pulls the elf back, then hurls him, armor and all, through the closed balcony doors. He steps out onto the splinter-littered platform and stretches his skeletal wings before leaping down to meet the Dalaran guards—their weapons readied and waiting.
Koltira grunts as he hits the ground and rolls across the street, Byfrost skittering away and out of sight. He shoves to his feet and growls up at Spinewing. “I’m warning you! Where’s Grimory?” He steps in among the guards.
“Dead. Are you stupid? You were there.” The demon kicks a guard into the far building. He turns and blows bright cyan fire over the remaining two, then lifts an arm to shield himself from Koltira’s attack. “How’s the girl?” he snarls with a smirk.
Koltira sneers. Rather than answer, he growls and takes an axe from a deathguard. He swings it around at the hulking demon’s torso. “You can’t exist if he’s truly dead, can you? You’re bound to his soul! Now release him!”
Spinewing grunts as the blade cuts into him, but does not falter. “Well he’s not here.” He kicks Koltira away to dislodge the axe in his side. “So maybe his weak little soul couldn’t find its way back. Wouldn’t be surprising.” He grabs a Deathguard by the head and swings him around to knock over multiple mages. “But thanks to your calling, I was able to find this body again.” He swipes massive, frost-ridden claws at the death knight.
The death knight rolls away and grabs up the axe again. “Then I guess I don’t have to feel bad when I kill you.” He leaps up, aiming higher, toward the demon’s neck.
Spinewing leans away from the swing and it merely grazes his hardened skin. When Koltira falls across him, he grabs the elf by his long hair again and lifts him off his feet. “That makes two of us.” He swings him around and into the cobblestone, then grunts when a blast of fire crashes against his back. He turns to make easy work of the mage guard responsible.
Anarchaia’s boots skid to a halt as she rounds the corner. Her eyes grow wide beneath her mask. “Wh-…what?”
Kel’ori rounds the corner and stops just behind the other mage. She immediately freezes in place, lips parted for a scream but unable to conjure the sound in her petrified state.
Koltira screams out and pulls himself free of the tight grip—a clump of his hair tears out at the temple, some flesh with it. He rolls away and finds the axe, then circles behind the demon, hoping to gain some ground that way.
Anarchaia’s mind scrambles for reason at the sight of the demon’s smoking blue eyes. She blinks at the sound of Koltira’s cry, then gives a quiet noise of anguish before bounding forward.
Spinewing growls as a large hunk off ice crashes against the back of his head. He turns with fury in his features, then, looking past Anarchaia, smirks at the sight of Kel’ori. He opens his mouth to speak but becomes acquainted with another bolt of ice that sends him reeling.
Docra rounds the corner and folds one arm over her abdomen to hold the bicep of the one holding the umbrella. She rests on one hip to observe. “Oh, another of those infiltrators.”
Kel’ori lets out a small squeak, but otherwise doesn’t move. Koltira takes the distraction of Spinewing to run up a slender lamp post and spin, angling to land on the demon’s back. Spinewing growls in growing irritation and reaches back to again throw the death knight off him. He sidesteps a fireball hurtling toward him, then starts on a trek down the street toward Kel’ori. He kicks Anarchaia into a nearby mail outlet as she nears to stop him. Koltira gets back to his feet and runs to the mage, pulling her by the hand to go after the demon.
<<Well well,>> he growls in Eredun, frosty breath pouring from his lips. <<Fancy meeting you again.>> He pauses when he gets near her, nostrils flaring. After a moment of sniffing, a wide, fang-twisted smile crosses his face. “How fascinating,” he laughs, bending to stare into her face. “Be sure to name it after me.”
Tears stream down Kel’ori’s face and finally she is able to scream. She raises her shaking hands and a fell green orb forms between her palms, then shatters like glass and falls to the ground as a bunch of sparks.
Docra silently and smoothly slips in front of the mage to look into Spinewing’s eyes. A scream sounds in her mind and spreads out in an invisible wave that washes over the demon. The priestess turns and takes Kel’ori by the hand, seeming to float ahead of her as she leads her back to the little hut in the alley.
Spinewing claws at his head, the screams lingering long after the two women have fled. He looks up and blinks for only a second to rid himself of the ringing, but is met with both the other mage and death knight before he can fully recover. He growls and sidesteps a swipe from the axe, then stumbles as his feet are frozen to the stone below.
“Don’t mangle him!” Anarchaia calls to Koltira, doing her best to keep the massive demon in place.
Koltira growls. “I’m not trying to mangle him! He just keeps moving!” With Spinewing unable to move, Koltira leaps at him, the blade of his axe aimed at the pulsing vein in the demon’s neck.
Glass shatters overhead and rains down on the gathering. A shrieking, bluish figure lands on Koltira and pins him to the ground. Crying out in anger, Alisbeth screams over and over, pounding the sides of her fists against the death knight as a gorilla might.
“Ali, get the hell off me!” Koltira shields his face with his arms.
Spinewing gives a dark chuckle at the scuffle. His grin widens when Anarchaia abandons him to force a rush of magic in Alisbeth’s direction to knock her off Koltira. He turns away and makes off toward Greymane Enclave, frost puffing from his nostrils as a wall of guards rushes to meet him. With a single swipe, he knocks them from his path while shielding himself from their magic with his great wings.
Alisbeth rolls and comes back up in a crouch, using the position to immediately leap back at Koltira, pinning his chest to the street as she stands on his back and pounds against the back of his head. Blood spurts from his nose and his lip immediately splits open against the stones.
Patience gone, Anarchaia blasts Alisbeth with a large bolt of fire and runs forward to stand between the two when she stumbles back. Fists clenched and shoulders rigid, she scowls and breathes heavily through her nose. “That’s enough!” she screams, anger seething in her voice. “Stop or I’ll be forced to restrain you!”
Alisbeth gets right in Anarchaia’s face. “It fights the body, hurts the Grim. We’ll kill it if you kill him!”
Koltira spits and wipes the blood from his face. “Ana, keep her here.”
Anarchaia turns slightly but finds she can’t look Koltira in the eye. She nods and turns back to Alisbeth. “It’s not Grim,” she warns in a calm, stern tone. “And I won’t let you hurt Kolt. You’ll have to get through me, first.”
Alisbeth’s grin widens. “It misunderstands what we tried to say.” She wraps her hands around the mage’s throat. “If you take his body, it’s you we will slay.” She squeezes tighter and tighter, laughing.
Anarchaia’s scowl deepens. The tightness blocks the flow of ichor to her brain and she grits her teeth when her eyes throb. I don’t want to hurt her. Sparkles invade her vision. She gives a raspy cry before pushing the death knight away with a surge of arcane energy. “Get ahold of yourself!”
Alisbeth leaps back quickly to grip her fingers around the top of the mage’s mask, her other hand going back for her throat. She forces Anarchaia to walk backward, the direction Spinewing had gone.
The mage stiffens under her grasp. She swallows against the hand around her throat and complies, fear quickly overwhelming her rage. “We’re not going to hurt him,” she says quietly, moving her feet as slowly as possible.
~ * ~
Kel’ori pulls away from Docra suddenly and purses her lips. “I can stop him.”
“Then go.” She sets herself at her door and watches the mage run back toward the screaming commotion.
Kel’ori pauses, her heart clenched in fear as Spinewing once again is headed straight for her. She takes a deep breath, turns away, and runs into the enclave. “Taveth!” She finds him with Diori in their room. “It’s Spinewing!”
“I don’t know! He’s coming this way. You have to stop him!”
The high elf grabs his dagger and runs out the door, slamming it behind him.
The skull of Thal’kiel shimmers into view just in time to smack face-first into the wood. <<Of all the idiots who could have found my spine…>> He turns, sniffs the mage with interest, then zips out the open window to meet Taveth.
Spinewing blows icy fire over the worgen guards that attempt to subdue him. He growls as a sword penetrates his defenses and lodges into his thigh. He grabs the attacker by his arm and slams him against the archway to the enclave; the worgen gives a short yelp before falling limp, helm clattering across the bloody cobblestone.
Taveth skids to a halt at the entrance. “Wh—What are you doing here?” he asks.
<<Yeees, what are you doing here? Weren’t you just about to lose that hand of cards, as usual. It really is amazing you can lose against me. I don’t even have a body.>> Thal’kiel hovers in Spinewing’s face, flames tickling the stone of the arch.
Spinewing scoffs, ignoring Taveth for the moment. <<Almost winning is not the same as winning,>> he spits and removes the weapon from his leg; dark, cold blood oozes forth. His blue eyes focus on Taveth and he grins. “Had some help from a friend of yours.” He grunts as another blade lodges into his shoulder. He rips it out and crushes the metal in a hardened fist.
“Get back!” Taveth shouts to the death guards. “You’ll only die!”
A few still move forward warily, but others look to the elf.
“Spinewing, don’t you take another step! What friend? And why did you come here?”
Tryxora appears and scowls at the demon, her lips pursed, hip popped out, and fist on her waist. <<You have been so naughty. I’m going to have to punish you, Spiney-winey.>>
Spinewing doesn’t move his feet but continues to fend off his attackers. “The pretty elf boy. The death knight.” He chuckles, pale lips curling into a smile at the succubus. “I’d like to see you try.” He wrenches an arrow from one of the tendrils hanging from his jaw.
Koltira takes a polearm from the fist of an unconscious or dead guard and leaps at the demon’s back.
“Tryx, not now!” Taveth turns his attention back to Spinewing. “If you were coming after me, that was a stupid idea.” He looks at the other guards. “Stop attacking! I have this handled!” He raises his dagger. “I dismiss you, Spinewing.”
“Not for you.” The demon pauses, blinks, then laughs. “Dismiss? To where? Foolish elf, I—” He grunts as a weight lands upon his back. He cranes his neck to see, but the mass of his muscles makes it difficult. He reaches back and growls. “This is growing tiresome.”
Koltira cries out as the demon grabs him by the hair yet again.
“Then why?” Taveth demands as the majority of the guards finally listen to him.
“Why do you always have to stop to talk, Taveth?” The death knight shouts as he drops the weapon and pounds at the fist.
“Just kill it!” a guard screams.
“My friend is connected to that thing! I will not be killing him!” Taveth returns his attention to Spinewing. “Why did you come here? Where’s Grim?”
Spinewing holds Koltira up like a freshly picked turnip and gives the warlock a look. “To check on my child, of course,” he laughs loud enough for Kel’ori to hear. His laughter fades to a low rumble. “I trust you’re eating well, you blonde whore. We require a lot of nutrients, you know. No telling what could happen if you don’t.”
Kel’ori lowers into a corner with Diori and whimpers quietly, a hand over her own mouth so keep from making any noise, tears stream over her cheeks and across the back of her fingers. She shakes her head as if willing nothing to happen. In a sudden rush of fear, she screams out and both girls teleport from the room with a loud POP!
The color drains from Taveth’s face. He purses his lips when he hears her disappear, then glares at the demon. “You’re not going anywhere near her ever again. I order you to drop Koltira and then not move at all.”
Immediately when the words reach his ears, the demon stiffens and uncurls the fist holding Koltira’s tresses. He grits his teeth, suddenly aware of the position he’s in. “He’s not in here, you know,” he says down at them with frosty breath before either can make a move. “Gone. Dead.”
Koltira falls to his feet and immediately finds another polearm. “Tav, I’m sorry.” He jams the tip into the vein on the side of the demon’s neck, then swipes it all the way to the other side.
“Koltira, no!” Taveth runs forward, but knows he is too late. “Wh-what if Grim…”
A look of distress crawls over the demon’s face as he can do nothing but bleed out. His knees weaken and the frosty glow in his eyes fades away. He crashes into the cobblestone beneath him, motionless in a pool of his own blood. The body makes a wet, squelching sound as the muscles recede back to their familiar size and the twisted face of Spinewing returns to the pale, lifeless face of Grimory.
Anarchaia flinches as she feels the ground quake beneath her. “I’ll give you one last chance,” she says quietly up to Alisbeth, a hand slowly raising.
Koltira kneels beside Grimory. “I’m sorry, my friend. I shouldn’t have…”
“Koltira, what in gods names?” Taveth stomps to him.
“Diori…she wanted me to try…”
The high elf frowns and deflates. “I…would’ve done the same. For her.”
Thal’kiel lowers and sighs. <<The number of times I would have loved to do that to Kath’rozak. But alas…no arms.>>
Koltira lifts the demon hunter’s body with great trouble, his hands slipping across the warm blood. He slings him over a shoulder. “Guess I’ll…get him back where he belongs.”
Alisbeth looks up, her smile fading and her grip on the mage faltering as she sees Koltira. She lets out a breath and whispers without a tune, “Such things in life make us ask why; Why do all the men she loves die? Such a tragedy, it cannot deny, that she watched them all with her own eye.”
Anarchaia seizes the moment to transform Alisbeth into a small, gray cat. She bends and whispers a word while running a hand over the fur of her back—a prolonging charm—then scoops the animal into her arms before she can bound off. “I’m sorry, Ali,” she whispers, then meets Koltira on his way back. She sets Alisbeth atop her shoulder and gestures for the death knight to allow her to assist him.
The body glows dimly with violet energy and becomes lighter in Koltira’s grasp. The mage opens the door to Alisbeth’s room and watches silently as he sets it gently back upon the bed. She quietly closes the door.
Koltira stares down at his blood-soaked clothing, unable to meet Anarchaia’s eye. “I’m…sorry. That didn’t go how I’d… I didn’t think that was possible…”
Anarchaia sets Alisbeth on the floor and strides across the room. A warm, damp cloth appears in her hand and she takes Koltira by the chin to wipe his own blood from his nose and lips. Her jaw tenses as she gives him a once over for any wounds she may have missed, then turns, yet wordless, to do the same with Grimory, avoiding looking at his open, gaping throat.
Koltira remains silent, feeling chastised without the mage having to say anything. He takes the cat and sits down, absently petting it. “Diori just wanted him back…” he says after a long time.
Anarchaia conjures a basin to rinse the cloth in and returns to cleaning. She does not turn around. “Did you stop to consider what he would have wanted?” she says just above a whisper.
Koltira flinches at her words. “I did. I said no. But she’s…she’s so sad, Ana. And she has these big blue eyes. And they’re sad, too. I just…wanted to help. I thought the worst I’d get was punched.”
“Did you want to be risen?” she merely responds, finishing with her work and sending the items away.
Koltira purses his lips. “I didn’t want to die.”
She turns to look at him from the corner of her eye from behind her black and blue mask. “That wasn’t my question.”
He wipes the back of his wrist across his nose and looks out the destroyed doorway into the city. His other hand absently continues petting the purring cat. “Well, that’s my answer. And now, if I had a child…I’d want to come back. Wouldn’t you?”
Her face softens and she turns away again. A quiet sigh escapes her. “I suppose.” She scowls again. “But still. You shouldn’t just be listening to what children say. And you certainly shouldn’t be raising our friends without consent.” She turns toward him again. “Yes?”
“Ana, I’m… I really was just trying to help. You’re so sad and she’s so sad and I…kinda actually miss him. He didn’t deserve this. I promise I won’t do it again, though. I shouldn’t’ve done it. You’re right.” He sighs as the cat kneads her paws into his thigh. “I’m so sorry.”
Anarchaia remains quiet for another long beat, then sighs slowly. She turns to him and folds her arms, still angry but not wanting to show it. “It’s fine,” she finally says. “If you should apologize to anyone, it’s Kel’ori and the city. He killed eight guards. Most of them mages.”
He flinches again. “I will. I promise.”
The mage nods and pulls over a chair to sit. She stares at the cat in his lap for a long moment. “I don’t know what to do about her,” she says. “She’d have killed you if I’d let her. We can’t let her into the city like this.”
Koltira scrunches one eye. “As a cat? I dunno, it’s probably the least stressful state she’s ever been in.”
Anarchaia purses her lips. “I can’t keep her that way forever. Half an hour at most.”
His eyes widen the slightest bit. “How long has it been?”
Anarchaia looks tiredly at the standing clock on the far wall. “About twenty minutes, give or take. I’d set her down lest you find yourself stroking her instead and you find yourself with another bloodied nose. Though, you’ve technically been doing so already.”
Koltira purses his lips and slowly blinks at the mage. He gives the cat one last, slow pet, then lifts it and sets it gently on Anarchaia’s lap. The cat resumes its needing on the new lap, her purring uninterrupted.
Anarchaia narrows her eyes, takes up the animal, and stands. Bloodstained robes swirling, she sweeps from the room to place Alisbeth in the next room. She locks the door behind her, then returns with a conjured needle and thread. Pushing the chair back up to the bed, she sets to work stitching shut Grimory’s open throat. “I guess I’ll deal with her later,” she mumbles grumpily.
Koltira fidgets a moment longer. “I really am sorry.”
Anarchaia stops in her work and sighs but does not turn around. “I know, Kolt. I believe you. I’m—…I’m not angry. Just…disappointed.” Instead of continuing, her hand lowers to rest on Grimory’s chest, needle still poised. “It’ll be okay,” she says into the quiet of the room.
Koltira nods and no one, folds his arms, and stares out at the city.
~ * ~
Kalecgos jumps, streaking his pen across his parchment. He blinks down at it, then sets his quill in the inkwell. “You know you’re not supposed to teleport into my quarters.” When he receives no reply, he looks up at the two girls on the couch. “Kel?”
Diori clings tightly to her sister as she looks around at her new surroundings. She whimpers. “What happened? Who was that monster? Why did he kind of look like Grim?”
Kalecgos stands over the two. “Who is this? Monster? Miss Nightheart, what is going on?”
Kel’ori shakes her head, not wanting to answer any of the questions. “I’ll go. Just give me a second.”
Her mentor takes sudden note of the bulge under her dress. “Take your time.” He conjures a tray of cakes and looks at Diori. “Have a treat.”
Diori blushes and presses further into Kel’ori’s side, lips still in a tight, tentative frown. She hesitantly takes a cake and nibbles on the edge. “Who are you?” she mumbles shyly, wiping icing from the corner of her lips.
The half-elf smiles kindly. “I’m Archmage Kalec. Who are you?”
Diori can’t help but return the small smile. “Diori. Nightheart.” She pauses. “Or I guess Silversong.” She nibbles more on her treat. “Your room is neat.”
“Not Redblade?” Kel’ori asks, her shaking subsiding. She sniffs. “I’m sorry, Master Kalec. I…I can’t control it. My magic. When I get scared lately I just teleport somewhere I feel safe.”
Kalecgos gives Diori a small nod. “I think it’s rather neat, too.” He looks to Kel’ori. “I’m guessing this is your sister, then. Mind telling me what had you so scared?”
“A demon that…hurt me,” she looks down at her belly for a split second, “somehow got loose in the streets. He was coming for me again. I think he could smell me. There was nowhere I could hide.”
The Archmage blinks and takes a slow breath. “Oh. Did you want to talk in private?” He glances at the young elf beside his apprentice.
“Maybe later?” She also glances at the girl.
Diori shrugs. “You didn’t take your mother’s name. Besides, it’s all I have left of him.” She blinks slowly when she’s regarded again, suddenly uncomfortable. “I’d…like to go back to Taveth. I-I have homework.”
Kel’ori frowns. My baby will never even know the name of that monster.
Kalecgos nods at the girl. “I can take you back.” He takes her hand and in moments is in the Enclave. “Hmm.” He looks down at the pool of blood in the archway. “Run along, then. I’m sure you know your way.”
Diori nods and, after giving the puddle a glance as well, releases his hand with smile. “Thank you, Mr. Kalec.” She turns and returns to her home within the district.
He releases her and teleports back to his room.
~ * ~
Diori stares intently at her written work, brow knit with anxiety and stress. Her quill sits still for so long that it creates an ugly blotch on the paper. She gasps and pulls it away, then groans and sets it in the well. Slowly she lowers her head onto folded arms.
“What’s the matter?” Taveth asks from behind his own notebook.
Diori shakes her head. “Nothing,” she groans quietly.
Taveth sets down his pen and stands behind her. “Do I have to call you a liar?”
Diori shakes her head again. “I’m just…I don’t know. Sad. Still.”
Taveth takes the girl into a hug. “It’s okay. Where did you and Kel go earlier?”
The little elf lifts her head. “To a neat room full of bones and stuff. There was a blue haired man. He said his name was Kalec. He was really nice.”
Taveth smiles. “Really? I hear Kalec is quite the collector, as well as a great scholar. Is that where she is now?”
She nods. “He wanted to talk with Kel’ori in private. So I asked them to send me back.” She scratches at the blotch of ink on her paper. “Who was that monster?”
Taveth grits his teeth, his lips curving into a frown. “That was… His name is Spinewing. He’s a demon.” He sits on the edge of his bed, hoping those details are enough.
“Why did he look like Grim? Grim is dead.” Tears well in her eyes at merely saying the words. She continues to pick. “Koltira said he’d try to bring him back.”
Taveth’s frown deepens. “I know, he told me. You shouldn’t have asked him to do that. Do you think Grim would want to be like Koltira?” He closes his eyes and decides to just tell her. “Spinewing is the demon soul inside Grimory. When Koltira tried to raise him, Grim isn’t the one that came back.”
Diori’s brow furrows upward, but she doesn’t apologize. “I just wanted to see him again.” She turns around, blue eyes wide with tears and concern. “He has—had a demon’s soul inside him? Wh-…Why? How? Who would ever want a monster like that in their body?”
“It was…to make him stronger. All demon hunters share their souls with a demon. Grim’s is just… Well, he’s powerful. One of the stronger ones. A doomlord.”
You don’t want these. People don’t like them. His voice echoes quietly in the back of her head. She turns back to her work but does not reach for her quill. “You aren’t going back there, are you?” she asks after a moment.
He sighs and goes to kneel beside her. “I need to. We have to stop Sargaeras from destroying Azeroth, like he did Argus. We have to protect our home.”
She looks at him with sad eyes. “I understand. Just…don’t die, too. Okay?”
“I’ll do my best. I have strong friends to protect me. Just like Grim protected Kel’ori.” He flinches and looks at the floor. “Though, I hope none of them suffer the same fate.”