Grimory finds Alisbeth behind the building punching at a wooden post haphazardly dressed as a training dummy. He stands and watches her for a moment, resting on a hip and folding his arms. “You winning?”
She turns so her back is directly to the demon hunter and runs a thumb under her eyes, then returns to hitting the target. “No,” she says after a moment, then decides against saying anything else.
He steps forward and grabs her fist the next time she pulls it back. “I think you did. Do you want to talk about it?”
Alisbeth freezes for a moment, then turns to look him in the eyes. She blinks rapidly and cocks her head. “I know you…”
Grimory gives a small smirk. “Yeah. I shoed your horse for you.”
She smiles gently, her features softening. She runs her fingers through his long hair, pulling the ribbon to free the strands. “Hello, farmboy.”
He returns the gentle smile. It turns into a smirk. “Hey. I…have some grain sacks that need hauling.” He chuckles. “Don’t miss my horns?”
She sucks on her lower lip. “I like you either way.”
His smile widens on one end as he rubs a hand through her hair to rest at the back of her neck. “Me, too.”
She wraps her hands around his neck and rests a cheek on his shoulder. “M-maybe I should have…asked him to change me, too.” She jumps suddenly and grins. “We should go find ourselves and scare the shit out of ourselves! I’ll probably beat the hell out of me and call me awful names, but would I be wrong?”
He lifts his eyebrows and wraps an arm around her. “I think he said something about not touching ourselves?” He furrows his brow and taps at his now bare chin. “Or was that my mother?”
She giggles. “How about if I do all the touching?”
He chuckles. “I’m not opposed. We really should go get briefed, though…”
Alisbeth sneers. “I suppose.”
~ * ~
“Wait!” Anarchaia chirps as she jogs to catch up. “Hold on. It’s not that big a deal. We can just steal some armor, right? Heh.”
Koltira stops, his lips tight. He looks at her living appearance and relaxes, his features softening. “I just…don’t like being dragged away without so much as a moment to get ready. The one time I relax enough to not wear armor.”
She smiles faintly. “I understand. But there’s no problem we can’t overcome, right? We’ll find something for you guys to use.” She pushes her fingers into his balled fist.
He sighs and closes his eyes. “I guess you’re right. As usual. I just… Would it kill him to apologize for being…incompetent? And for rushing us? We have no information, no plan, no supplies…”
The mage takes note of the cloaked figure leaving the building but otherwise pays no mind. She offers a reassuring smile. “That’s okay! We’re used to adventure and hardships.” She pulls him back toward the others. “C’mon. I can’t promise to get an apology, but we can devise a plan.”
Koltira follows, nodding. “Yes. I suppose. Just one small hint of where we should start would be great.”
She stops at the door as they return. “You want me to ask alone? Or do you want to see the baby?” She gives a nervous chuckle.
He pauses. “I… Should I? I mean…doesn’t it look like any other baby?”
She gives a painful smile. “Not exactly,” she says through grit teeth.
His expression flicks between curiosity, fear, disgust, and concern multiple times. “Um…”
Anarchaia gives a nervous chuckle as she turns, then says a quiet oof as she runs directly into Jorick’s bare chest. She flushes and stiffens. “What happened to your sweater?”
The man blinks down at himself as though just waking up. He perks and grins with a shrug. “Function over fashion?”
Koltira’s lips press to a line as he pulls the mage back. “Clever,” he growls.
Alisbeth leads Grimory back into the lonely hut by the hand and cocks her head at the human. “Are we taking our shirts off?”
Jorick’s eyes flit briefly to Koltira’s but he hides his irritation well. He gives Alisbeth a chuckle and scratches at the back of his head. “Nah, just me. Figured the new addition could use some threads.”
Grimory furrows his brow. “Did you fall into a pit of angry furbolgs?”
The man lowers his shoulders, the humor gone from his eyes and replaced with wear.
“Is the aspect still here? We have some questions.” Anarchaia says after clearing her throat, refraining from also commenting on the scars.
Jorick shrugs. “If you can get past the demon witch, yes.”
Rather than commenting, Alisbeth hops to the human and traces his scars with her fingertip while humming.
He purses his lips down at the woman but otherwise makes no motion to move. “You all right, there, missy?”
She nods and continues humming.
Grimory takes Alisbeth gently by the elbow. “Remember what we said about personal space, yeah?”
She grins first at Grimory, then at Jorick. “I like his scars. They tell a great story.”
“You heard them, hm? You gotta touch ‘em to hear them?”
Jorick gives a small shrug, the fuss suddenly making him uncomfortable. “Shouldn’t ever take my shirt off, I guess.” He gives Grimory’s shoulder a pat as he passes for the door. “Some of us just can’t pull off the look as well as you demon boys.”
A blush plays at Grimory’s cheeks and he scowls at the far wall.
Alisbeth grins at the demon hunter, but says nothing.
~ * ~
Anarchaia gives a quiet scoff and pushes past the two back into the room. “You.” She points at the aspect, then notices the sleeping baby. “You,” she says in a significantly quieter tone. “You need to be more elaborate on where we need to go.”
Vendormu shrugs. “I told you Falcon Watch was a good place to start.”
“How are you this incompetent?”
“Not so. Just apathetic. I’ll play babysitter until you come back with a lead.”
Anarchaia clenches her fists.
Koltira grits his teeth. “No. I’m not playing this fucking game. You want us to clean up after your family while you sit back and be completely useless. My answer is no. Fuck you.”
He lifts a brow at the elf. “And you intend on getting back to your time how, exactly?” He gives a small smirk. “No one said you wouldn’t be rewarded, either.”
He purses his lips to keep from yelling angrily. “You,” he begins slowly, seething through his teeth, “are the literal worst dragon. Keep your shitting reward. I’m sure it’s as useless as you are.”
Vendormu smirks some more and leans back to rest his hands between his head and the stone wall. “All right, no reward for you, then. I could turn your girlfriend back, too, if you want.”
Anarchaia stiffens and grabs for Koltira’s elbow. “L-let’s just go, Kolt. Heh.”
He points an angry finger at the aspect as he lets the mage pull him out the door. “You’re a special sort of asshole.”
Vendormu chuckles quietly to himself and looks over to the succubus looming over Kel’ori protectively. “Mortals. So easy to ruffle, am I right?”
The demoness freezes for a second, then shakes off the sensation. <<I’m not your friend, either.>> She turns her back on him to stare at the infant.
Vendormu gives a helpless shrug. “You and everyone else, my dear.”
Anarchaia sighs and closes the door behind her. “P-perhaps Falcon’s Watch is the next best step.” She pauses and looks around at the faces. “Wait. Where is Taveth?”
Grimory blinks. “He wasn’t in there with—?” He clears his throat. “With…Kel?”
Koltira merely closes his eyes and rubs his temples.
The demon hunter shrugs. “Probably finding a shower some—”
“South!” Anarchaia suddenly blurts, making the demon hunter jump. “I saw someone leaving here and heading south! It must have been him!” She curses at herself. “C’mon. We have to go find him. And maybe some armor on the way.”
Jorick perks at the thought of armor and follows with little argument.
Koltira follows eagerly as well, distance from the aspect being most appealing to him.
Alisbeth makes a face. “Who’s the idiot that let him go alone?”
“All of us were preoccupied!” Anarchaia pauses, then regards the mercenary. “But you.”
Jorick lifts his palms defensively. “I wasn’t aware he was one that needed adult supervision.”
Grimory rolls his eyes. “A fair defense, I guess.”
Alisbeth sticks her tongue out at the human and the demon hunter.
Jorick narrows an eye at the death knight woman. “And here I let you grope me. No respect.”
After a short while the group comes upon a bundle of abandoned armor. Anarchaia frowns down at it, then looks up to see what would seem to be an Alliance structure just on the horizon. “You think this was his?”
Grimory shrugs. “Could he even lift that much?”
Koltira eyes the mess, then stoops to investigate. “There are two sets of gear here, one is for a woman.” He indicates the bump on the breastplate.
“Is it for me?” Alisbeth squeals and jumps forward. “Mine!”
Koltira holds her back with a palm. “There was a small struggle here. Looks like someone—probably Taveth—scuffed their heels in the dirt as someone much larger stood over him.”
Jorick nods, then points to the shallow gash in the sandstone boulder. “An axe, most likely. Favored weapon of the Horde. Orcs and Tauren, specifically. But this ain’t Mulgore, and those aren’t hoof prints.”
Anarchaia taps the toe of her boot in the dry clay. “I think he was getting this armor for you guys.” She pauses to count the pieces. “Well. Kolt and Ali.”
Jorick shrugs. “Fair enough.”
Grimory frowns. “But which direction did they go?”
Koltira shakes his head. “You wear it. I’m sure I’m safer without armor than you.” He unties the pieces and separates them as Alisbeth snatches each of her pieces from his hands before he can make a pile. “Only one wea—”
“Mine!” Alisbeth snatches the axe, then begins unbuckling each piece of gear to put them on.
Koltira narrows his eyes at her, then moves aside for the human.
Jorick blinks, eyebrows raising. “You sure?” He shrugs and grabs the pieces when he receives a nod. With a little help buckling on the cuirass and guards, he smiles. “Like a loose-fitting glove.”
Grimory points. “A trail. Let’s go.”
Koltira regards the hot winds sweeping orange dust across the barren lands. “Let’s hurry before we lose it.”
The group nods dutifully and follows the tracks leading off to the southeast.
“So much for finding this dragon. Why can’t he stay out of trouble?” Grimory grumbles to himself.
“He was only looking out for his family,” Anarchaia says over her shoulder.
“Sure but going out alone is a dumb idea, yeah?”
“We were all pretty preoccupied with our own drama,” Koltira growls. A feeling of guilt gnaws at him. He trudges to the front of the group to walk alone, spurred forward by his own conscience.
Alisbeth skips along, swinging her new axe to get used to the balance of it. “Maybe he wanted to do something fun. I like doing fun things!”
“Something fun like probably being captured and possibly killed by orcs?” Jorick says with a grin and a sideways glance.
Grimory also fidgets apprehensively. “Let’s hope that’s not what happened. He’s not good at protecting himself.”
Anarchaia purses her lips as Koltira trudges away. “If you’re going to pass up armor, you have to stay close!” she calls sharply.
“I’m fine,” Koltira calls back. “I just want to hurry before we lose the trail.”
Alisbeth removes her new helm to smile at the human. “That is fun! Cause then I’d get to kill all of them!”
Jorick’s brows knit but his smile remains. “You think your cousin feels the same?”
Anarchaia gives an apprehensive groan. “Can we not talk about Taveth maybe being dead?”
He shoots a sympathetic smile toward her. “Sorry.”
Grimory jogs ahead to follow Koltira. “What’s our plan if he’s alive?”
“If he’s alive we kill everything,” he responds.
“And if he’s dead we kill everything!” Alisbeth squeals, grinning excitedly. “And then bring him back.”
Koltira’s brow lowers. “Yeah. I guess.”
Grimory purses his lips. “Not sure he’d want that.”
He nods in response to the demon hunter. “I learned my lesson about bringing anyone back…”
The man looks away and hesitates, uncomfortable. “For what it’s worth, I forgive you.”
Koltira purses his lips but says nothing and avoids looking at the demon hunter, his guilt still weighing on him.
He rolls his eyes. “I know you don’t forgive yourself because…it’s you, but just wanted you to know that you don’t have to worry about me trying to get even with you or anything, yeah?” He pauses. “More than I already have, anyway.”
Koltira tenses his jaw several times as his frosty gaze sweeps over the landscape. “What I did deserves no forgiveness.”
“I like to kill things,” Alisbeth says to Jorick. She shoves the helmet onto her head and the visor drops down with a loud clang. “This hurts my ears. I need ear holes,” she complains, but doesn’t remove the item.
The human unsheathes the shortsword in his belt. “Want me to make some?”
She eyes the sword, then the human. “Won’t that damage your sword?”
Jorick blinks, then shrugs. “It’s not my sword.”
She removes the helm and shoves it at the human. “Earholes, please!”
takes the helm and, cradling it in one arm, sticks his tongue over his lip as he lines up the blade.
Anarchaia whips around at the first strike and her eyes widen below a furrowed brow. “Wh— Stop that!”
Jorick immediately extends the helmet back, an innocent smile on his face.
Alisbeth frowns, her bottom lip poking out. “But he was making holes for me. Would it be better if I did it instead?” She reaches for the sword.
Anarchaia scowls back at them. “We don’t have a healer with us this time around so if anyone gets hurt there’s nothing we can do to help you, all right? Can you both just, I don’t know, behave?”
Jorick nods and pulls the sword out of Alisbeth’s reach. “Yes, ma’am.”
The death knight pouts and shoves the helm back on. “I always behave.”
Koltira stops as the tracks lead into a heavily guarded orc outpost. “Damn. There is no way we’re getting in there quietly, or even unnoticed.”
Grimory nods. He looks down at his hands and in the next second they morph into claws in a flurry of emerald cinders. “Well at least that still works. Maybe—” He jerks as Anarchaia runs into his back.
“I think the lot of us can handle it,” the demon hunter continues.
Koltira shrugs and draws Byfrost. “Guess we’ll start on one side and work our way through until we find him.” He charges forward, knowing the others will follow.
The first orc guard to see the death knight freezes in his tracks and turns to his companion. They both stare at the curious sort of elf for a moment longer before drawing their weapons and readying for the attack.
When the first few guards are slain, a multitude of other orcs make their way to the front lines with axes and heavy swords.
Jorick grits his teeth as an arrow narrowly misses his ear. “We’re quickly getting outnumbered here, friends.”
Grimory clenches his clawed fists. He flinches when another arrow sails toward them and crashes against an invisible barrier blanketing them.
Anarchaia frowns and gives an apprehensive groan. “We should have split up. But this landscape makes it hard to be sneaky.” Her fingers twitch at the end of her outstretched arms as the orcs begin beating at her barrier.
Koltira growls. “Don’t lose focus.” He slashes down an orc through the barrier, but another immediately takes the place of his fallen comrade.
Alisbeth fells another orc and moves onto the next. “This is so fun!” she squeals.
A purple swirl forms in the middle of the group under the protective shell. The succubus flicks her whip, knocking the first row of orcs back and creating a domino effect. She pauses and looks around, her pink eyes wide and lips turned in an angry frown. <<Where is my Tavy-wavy,>> she demands.
Anarchaia scowls and purses her lips at the demoness, understanding the last word. “Captured. If perhaps you’d been here earlier and not fawning over that half demon infant, he wouldn’t have been.”
Tryxora purses her lips. <<I’ll deal with you later.>> In a purple swirl the succubus is gone.
Alisbeth squeaks as the orcs get back to their feet and charge at the group once more.
Anarchaia grunts as the last of the barrier cracks. As a last ditch effort, the shards of the barrier burst into flames, then explode outward, taking the first line of orcs with them.
Grimory rushes forward, slicing as many as possible before taking an arrow to the shoulder. He growls and rips it out, then bellows a cloud of emerald fire over the bulk in front of him.
Jorick finds himself quickly locked in a stalemate between two blades. Both men’s arms shake as they try to overpower each other. With a smirk, the human shifts his body to the side, releases the short sword, and grabs a dagger with the other hand. The orc tips forward when the resistance is gone and impales his own throat on the waiting dagger blade.