Taveth stares helplessly at the flowing red hair splayed out on the orange dirt. The man’s blood crawls from his wound to wet his tresses. The high elf frowns and goes to the body.
<<Still warm,>> Thal’kiel hisses in his ear. <<There is…something you can do about that.>>
“You’re reminding me of this out of kindness?” he snaps back.
<<It’s always good to have those who…owe you.>>
The elf looks to Grimory. “Is he…?”
Alisbeth goes to Grimory, her lips pursed as she takes in his demeanor. “Grim? Are you okay?”
Grimory gives Alisbeth a look of wear and panic. “No,” he simply mutters and runs over to drop down beside his motionless friend. He gently pushes him over, careful not to pull open the wound. “Bae. Bae, wake up.” He casts a desperate gaze to Taveth as the others gather around.
Taveth frowns and kneels on the other side of Baemalen. “I…can try?” he says to the floating skull.
<<Do it,>> Thal’kiel urges.
Taveth sets his hands over the blood elf on the ground, his palms together. Slowly something forms between them as he mutters in demonic. When he finishes, he furrows his brow at the smooth purple sphere between his palms. A cloudy mist swirls within. He swallows and uses his sleeve to wipe away the sweat forming on his brow. He loses his balance and tips to sit in the dirt.
“H-harder than…I expected.” He holds the orb out to Grimory. “Quickly. If it worked, his soul should be inside the stone. Set it to his chest.”
Anarchaia kneels beside Taveth, a hand on his shoulder. “Are you all right?”
The high elf leans into the mage and closes his eyes. “I’ve just never done that before. Wasn’t strong enough. The books didn’t say how much energy it would take.”
Grimory does as he’s told, setting the sphere on Baemalen’s chest. It hums, glows a faint green, then sinks into the elf as though made of smoke.
The red haired Illidari gives a weak wheeze as his wound slowly closes—but not completely. His eyes flutter open and he briefly looks from the mage beside him to Alisbeth’s wide eyes in the shadow of her helmet. He smiles. “If this is what it’s like to be dead, don’t bring me back.”
Grimory gives a faint laugh, but it’s clear he’s holding back his distress and relief. “Shut up, you idiot.”
Taveth snaps upright and teeters as Baemalen speaks. “It worked?”
Tryxora grabs the elf in a hug from behind and sets kisses on his cheek. <<Master! You’re so amazing!>>
His nose wrinkles as he tries to pull away from her arms. “Stop. Stop it now. I’m not okay with this. Help.”
Alisbeth points at her cousin and lets out a nasally Ha! “She loves you Tabbef! Let her love you!” In turn she wraps her arms around Grimory and hugs him close. “Yay! The friend lives! Kind of.” She falls into a giggle fit as one hand slowly reaches to poke his wound.
Koltira clenches his jaw as he stands back. “Great. Awesome. None of this will have any negative impacts on the future.” He scoffs as a sharp punctuation mark to emphasize his sarcasm.
Blushing at the compliment, Anarchaia nearly tips over when Taveth is ripped from her arm. She stands and sighs at the two, then frowns at Koltira. “You really think it will?” she asks quietly.
Koltira purses his lips. “You think it won’t? What if that was his fate?” he hisses.
Grimory grabs Alisbeth’s arm by the wrist as Baemalen sits up. The red-haired elf winces through his smile and accepts help to his feet. He weakly wraps his arms around his Illidari friend. “Thought I’d never see you again, to be honest.”
Grimory returns the embrace. “We can talk about this later. Let’s get back to the outpost.”
Jorick taps at a younger orc’s corpse with the toe of his greave. “Hey, Kolt. This one’s about your size.”
With the last of his energy, Taveth forms a knobby yellow rock in his palm and shoves it into Anarchaia’s lap. The succubus scoops him into her arms as he teeters.
“No. Don’t let her carry me. This is embarrassing,” he whimpers.
The demons all circle around and stare at the party. Tryxora jumps. <<Oh, right, my back door. Here you go!>> She reaches on hand from under Taveth and pokes the air.
A purple vortex swirls open and the demons go in one at a time. Taveth whines again.
Koltira turns and eyes the orc, then rolls it over. “Hmm, no real damage to the armor. Shocking.” He strips the corpse of the gear and buckles it on. “Breastplate is a little wide. Nothing a few hammer strikes won’t remedy.” He goes to the succubus gripping the weakly wiggling scholar and forces him from her arms.
“Nope. This is your alternative to her carrying you.” He eyes a large building nestled at the back. “There is no way reinforcements aren’t about to come pouring out of there. We need to move.”
The party agrees and, after Baemalen has healed from the stone’s dust, are on their way back toward whence they came.
“How long have you been gone for?” Grimory casually asks as they near Thrallmar.
Baemalen gives him a curious look. “You really haven’t cared enough to keep track? I’m heartbroken.”
The other demon hunter flushes, flustered. “I-it’s hard after so many…days.”
Baemalen laughs weakly, still weary. “A couple weeks. How is Illy? Elly?”
Grimory frowns. “…fine.”
The guards stop the two humans before they can continue, weapons brandished. “End of the line for you two. Turn back or lose your heads.” He sneers at Taveth. “That one, too.”
Anarchaia and Jorick look at one another. “W-we’re ambassadors. Heh,” the mage stammers, then steps back when they step forward. “We can wait.”
Koltira hangs back. “I’ll stay out here with you guys.” He finds a place to set Taveth down.
The high elf opens his eyes a little. “Are we there yet?”
“No. Go back to sleep.”
Taveth pouts, sticking his lower lip out. “I wasn’t— … Okay.” He closes his eyes once more and seems to fall asleep almost instantly.
Alisbeth skips in circles around the two Illidari. “I’ve never been here before. I wasn’t allowed. They would have killed me if I was wearing my armor. They didn’t like Kael’thas. In the end, I didn’t like him, either. Hey, what are we doing here? Why didn’t we just go back to our secret hideout?” She stops in front of them and leans in close to scrutinize the red-haired elf. “Hi! I’m Alisbeth. I didn’t get your name earlier.”
“Supplies,” Grimory says simply. “Perhaps a map. And some herbs. Bandages. Water. “
Baemalen stops, blinks, then grins. “With pretty blue eyes like yours you can call me whatever you want.”
Grimory pulls his ears back and turns. “His name is Baemalen.”
Anarchaia frowns and sighs as she eyes Koltira, making sure the two don’t stray far. “It’s strange being regarded as a human for a change.”
Jorick gives a small laugh. “We ain’t immune to racism, either. There’ll always be someone who hates you regardless of who you are as a person.”
Her eyelids lower. “Comforting.”
It’s only an hour or so before their small, abandoned outpost comes into view. The group—sans Alisbeth—is already weary from the battle and knowing the fact that they’ve made no progress on their current objective.
Grimory looks over his shoulder at the nearly unconscious warlock and darkening landscape. He purses his lips. “Let’s get some rest when we get back. Formulate a plan—and stick to it—for tomorrow, yeah?”
The mage at the back nods. “Sounds good.”
Koltira pushes his way into the back room where the succubus is once again standing over the high elf and the infant, staring adoringly down at the half-demon. She moves to block anyone’s path to the hammock and eyes the death knight.
<<Is he okay?>> she demands.
Koltira blinks at her. “I…don’t know what you’re saying. Taveth is asleep, if that’s what you’re worried about.” He sets the elf in another hammock, narrows his eyes at the dragon aspect, then goes back out to the main area of the hut. He begins to remove the orc armor, rubbing his ears of the pain from the ill-shaped helm. After a moment of thought, he tosses it to the side, opting to forego a helmet in favor of comfort. For a quick moment he contemplates the possibility of going to Icecrown and stealing his own gear from himself, then shakes off the thought.
Alisbeth frowns at the other Illidari as she takes off her helm so he can see her expression. “I don’t like my eyes. I don’t like me.” She goes to a lonely corner to remove her new gear and prop her bloodied axe in the corner.
Baemalen lifts his eyebrows, smile fading some. He chuckles and shakes his head. “Hoo. It’s like lookin’ in a mirror.” He sags at the sight of the hammocks in the other room. “Some sleep without the threat of death sounds pretty nice, come to think of it.”
Grimory gently shoves him forward. “Go. We’ll wake you if we need you.”
Baemalen smiles tiredly and goes inside to collapse into the only remaining free hammock.
Anarchaia sighs and sets herself in a lone chair near the entryway. “I’ll talk with bronze boy in a minute.”
“Everyone’s settling in for the night. I’m sure you have time.” Jorick sits across the hall from her, back against the stone wall and wrist on a knee.
She nods absently.
Koltira goes to lean against the wall near the mage, his eyes inconspicuously trained on the mercenary. “Not like waiting any amount of time will change his uselessness. May as well just converse with a wall, for all the good it’ll do you.”
Jorick gives the man a tired look, aware of the scrutiny.
Anarchaia shrugs. “Maybe we just need to be nice.” She brings her knees up. “…-er.” She frowns. “I wish I had things to conjure. I don’t think I even have money on me.”
The human shrugs. “I have some. Not much but…some.”
The death knight looks away, studying the shining armor on the floor at Alisbeth’s feet r. His eyes snap to the human and he furrows his brow. “Taveth doesn’t have money, either… And yet.” He motions at the newly purchased items. “Not to mention the book he gave you, Ana. Something doesn’t seem right.”
Anarchaia nods and furrows her brow. “I knocked into him one day. He dropped a scroll with very familiar handwriting on it.”
“Perhaps he has a benefactor with an importance unequal to his demeanor,” Jorick hums and leans his head back against the cool stone.
Koltira folds his arms over his chest. “You think maybe a lord? Some rich asshole paying to have Taveth risk his life for research as they sit safely in Stormwind?”
Anarchaia’s eyes slide up to Koltira. “Yes. A big, sweet, pretty asshole.” She lifts her eyebrows.
“Who said they were sweet? Or pretty?” Koltira blinks down at her. “What? What is it?”
Anarchaia stares at him for a long beat. “A young…blond…important asshole.”
Koltira practically flinches as the realization hits him. “No. I don’t believe it. That’s impossible.”
Jorick gives a breathy chuckle. “The High King? And that wormy guy?”
Anarchaia scowls at them both. “I don’t see what is so preposterous about it. The handwriting, the unexplained riches, the skittering away from the subject when it arises.” She unbuttons her gloves to pull them off. “It’s not like he’s not smart enough for the position.”
The succubus eyes the Illidari as he finds an empty hammock on the other side of the mage. <<Keep your distance and I won’t hurt you. And be quiet, she just got him back to sleep.>>
Baemalen lifts his brows and rolls onto his side. His eyes slide from the infant to the succubus as he pushes his cheek into a bicep. He grins. <<Cute little abomination. What’s his name?>>
<<She named him Bel’theas. Also, you owe my master. I think he should have left you as you were, but… I suppose having two Illidari in his pocket is advantageous. Thal’kiel is teaching him well.>> She turns to make sure Taveth really is asleep and heard none of what she said, then gives the Illidari a dark chuckle.
Baemalen’s grin widens. <<Now that’s not very polite. The succubi back at the temple were always so hospitable.>> He notices her gaze wander. <<And don’t worry. I’ll repay him.>>
Tryxora smirks and slinks to the blood elf. <<Oh. You think I’m a pet to any man?>> She leans down and takes his jaw in her fingers tipped with sharp claws. <<We’ll see how useful you are. Then maybe we can play a game.>> She chuckles again. <<Though, you’re not really my type. Might be his, though.>> She sighs wistfully and casts a loving expression to the sleeping high elf. <<Unfortunately.>>
Baemalen’s smile remains through her attempts to intimidate him, but falls the slightest bit when he looks over at the sleeping high elf. <<Oh? Sadly I can’t help with that. I know a guy, though. Big night elf. Super cuddly.>>
The demoness rounds on him. <<He’s mine!>> she snaps. <<I was only willing to share… Maybe.>>
Baemalen blinks, then laughs and turns around in his hammock. <<Whatever you say, Ms. Purple Pants.>>
Th demoness humphs and sticks her nose in the air, then turns away from the man.
~ * ~
Grimory goes to Alisbeth. “You okay?”
She shrugs at first, then looks up at the demon hunter. Her brows push together in worry and sorrow. “I should’ve asked him to change me so I could be pretty for at least a little while. You would’ve liked that, huh?” She turns to unbuckle the cuirass. “I guess just being back here made me think about…a lot of stuff.”
He frowns. “You know I don’t care what you look like. It’d be for you.” He grabs at her arms to stop her from busying herself. “What kind of stuff?”
She shrugs. “Just things. Past things.” She slowly smiles and grabs him in a hug. “You always say the nicest things.”
Grimory gives a weary smile and returns the embrace. “He’s still in there, yeah? You can always ask.”
“But what’s the point of looking alive if I’m not alive?” Alisbeth asks. “He wouldn’t do it, anyway. He’s mean. I don’t like him. Can we get another dragon?”
He chuckles. “Ana seems to be enjoying it.” He sighs and runs a hand through her hair. “But whatever. Let’s relax for a bit, yeah?”
“Do… Do you want me to?” She asks, holding his gaze with her own and ignoring his urges to relax.
Grimory scowls but the kindness in his eyes remains. “It’s not about what I want. Don’t do this to me.”
She frowns and stares at the floor. “Okay.” She returns her attention to removing the armor.
Grimory gives a quiet growl and grabs her again to face him. “What do you want? You don’t need my input to make decisions for yourself, you know.” His face softens. “Do you even know what you want?”
Alisbeth shoves him back. “I can’t have what I want. So it doesn’t matter! None of it matters!”
Tryxora pops her head out the door and shushes the death knight, then closes the door again. The baby’s screams flood from behind, anyway.
Koltira flinches at the shouting from the corner, then grunts at Anarchaia. “I just… How do you think he, of all people, came to know a king? Let alone befriend him?”
Anarchaia narrows an eye up at him. “If I can’t come up with an answer does that make it more unbelievable? Do you have a better guess?”
Jorick shrugs and gives a grin. “Maybe he runs a secret fight club.”
She gives him a look and he chuckles.
Koltira chuckles at the joke and shakes his head. “I wouldn’t put money on Taveth going to a place like that, let alone winning.”
The corners of Anarchaia’s lips tighten and she gets up to go into the next room—the baby’s cries growing louder before again being cut off by the door closing.
~ * ~
Vendormu pulls the book up and away from his face and sighs. “Whelplings don’t cry this much.”
Kel’ori, tired and grouchy, sends a glower Vendormu’s way. “He’s not a whelpling. How about you worry about yourself.”
Vendormu shrugs and lowers the book back over his face.
Kel’ori whimpers as Bel’theas screams, turning his head away from her breast. “What do you want?” She covers herself as the other mage enters. “I don’t understand. He’s just being so fussy.”
Anarchaia fidgets. “Maybe he just needs some mental stimulation?” She holds out a hand, then frowns when a keyring doesn’t appear in it. “Oh. Right.” She goes to Kel’ori’s side. “Do you want me to take him?”
The high elf looks nervously at her son. “Be careful,” she says and lifts her arms to the mage.
Tryxora’s mouth drops open. <<You’ll give him to her and not me?>>
“Keep it down a little,” Taveth mumbles. He tries to shift, fails, and immediately falls back asleep.
Anarchaia smiles at the crying baby as she gingerly takes him into her arms. “It’s okay,” she sings, ignoring the clear annoyance of the succubus. “Look.” She wiggles her fingers and a cloud of rainbow-colored smoke swirls around the two.
The baby quiets for only a few seconds before hiccupping into more screams. Anarchaia frowns, then flinches and pulls Bel’theas away from a pair of reaching hands. “Oh. You…want to try?”
Baemalen nods, a patient smile beneath his sunken, tired eyes. “Nothing to lose but more sleep,” he murmurs, then sinks to sit cross-legged on the floor with the child in his arms. He hums softly; an oddly melodic tune that turns into quiet singing in Eredun.
The baby, seemingly enchanted, grows quiet. He claws at the man’s long red tresses and tangles his little fingers in them, the other thumb pressing to his own lips.
Anarchaia’s eyebrows raise. “I… Wow.”
Kel’ori blinks down at the Illidari. “What… How…?”
Tryxora’s upper lip curls. <<I tried that. Why didn’t it work for me?>>
Baemalen cranes his neck back to give the succubus a teasing smile. “Maybe he’s not a fan of well-endowed, pink-skinned demons who aren’t his mother.”
Anarchaia shakes her head, then turns to the dragon seemingly asleep in his own hammock. “You. We’d like some direction if that’s all right with you,” she whispers.
Vendormu groans. “You people are so helpless. My brother seeks to empower the Legion. He’s probably somewhere trying to get rid of their threats.”
She knits her thin white brows. “That’s…surprisingly helpful.”
“Yeah, you’re welcome. Now let me sleep while that thing is quiet.”
She rolls her eyes and quietly leaves after a small wave to the other two.
When the infant is once again sound asleep, Baemalen stands and extends him back out to Kel’ori. “He’s cute up close.”
Kel’ori bites her lower lip and smiles. “He really is, isn’t he? What is that song you were singing?”
Baemalen hesitates, laughing. “A song about how the universe will eventually bow to Sargeras’ will. Demons are not very romantic.” He turns. “I’m Baemalen, by the way. I’d honestly stay and flirt with you until you hate me, but I’m pretty beat after nearly dying and such. Nice to meet you, miss…?”
The mage’s nose wrinkles. “Please don’t sing those kinds of songs to my son. I don’t want him to be… Sorry. I’m Kel’ori Nightheart. You say you nearly died?”
The infant in her arms whimpers and shifts.
She purses her lips. “Sorry,” she whispers. “Rest while you can. We can catch up later, if you like.”
Baemalen gives a single shoulder shrug. “All their songs are the same, but have it your way.” He makes his way back to his hammock. “Yeah, glasses over there saved me with a soulstone. Taveth. Your brother, I assume? You’ve got the same nose.” He sighs as he gets comfortable again. “Good night, Ms. Nightheart.”
Kel’ori furrows her brow as she looks at the blood elf. “I didn’t know. I… Good night.”
~ * ~
Grimory scowls at the succubus, then immediately turns his head away from the sound of the baby. He lowers his voice. “Then don’t do anything, yeah? If nothing matters, then nothing you do matters, either.”
She purses her lips and just nods, then returns to the buckles on her cuirass.
The demon hunter sighs and pushes her hands away to assist her, his ears pulling back at the sound in the other room.
Alisbeth notices his reaction to the sound and suddenly her own problems seem meaningless. She sets her palms to his cheeks and pulls him close to kiss the tip of his nose. “Let me make it better.”
Grimory thinks for a long while, then nods. “Let’s go outside. We should keep watch. We can look at the stars in the meantime, yeah?” He forces a small smile.
The death knight ignores the last of the gear on her legs and takes Grimory’s hand to lead him outside. She finds a comfy spot and pulls him down beside her. She rests her cheek on his shoulder and frowns up at the stars. “I’m sorry.”
His brow furrows slightly and he shifts to get more comfortable. “Sorry? For what?” He wraps an arm around her shoulders.
Alisbeth frowns and watches the swirling atmospheric gasses covering the stars. “She shouldn’t have kept it.”
Grimory frowns and looks away from the sky to stare into the distance instead. “It’s all right.” He shrugs a shoulder. “It’s…kind of a relief now that it’s born. I don’t know why.”
She shakes her head. “Maybe because now it’s vulnerable? I can still do something about it.” She runs her fingers across his back and sighs her cold breath onto his shoulder.
Grimory purses his lips. “No, Ali.”
“Why not?” she asks. “It’s just another monster. We eliminate them all the time.”
He shakes his head ever so slightly. “You of all people should know that you shouldn’t take someone’s child from them.” He pauses. “And I’m not referring to Diori.”
Alisbeth frowns up at him. “What would make you feel better?”
Grimory shakes his head. “It’s okay, Ali. You don’t have to worry about me. I get over everything eventually anyway, yeah?” Except her. He inhales, holds it, then lets it out slowly. “We’ll get used to it.”
She nods. “We will. Maybe.”
~ * ~
Jorick chuckles and shrugs again. “She used to have better humor.”
Koltira shrugs. “Spending too much time with my grouchy ass, I guess.”
He gives a genuine chuckle. “Yeah, you really are the ice to her fire, ain’t ya? No pun intended.”
The death knight shrugs. “Still plenty of fire, though. For the right person.” His lower lids raise in annoyance at the wailing in the next room.
Jorick gives a quick glance to the door down the hall when the wailing stops, then sighs up at Koltira. “Look, friend, I’m not dense. I get what you’re feeling, all right? Practically oozes out ‘a you.” He leans his head back again. “You don’t have to worry about me ‘n her.”
Koltira gives a halfhearted nod, but stays silent, unable to accept the reassurances.
The human lifts his hands in surrender and decides it’s time for him to stop talking. He leans back and folds his arms when Anarchaia returns, closing his eyes.
She looks between the two. “Uhm. Everything okay?”
Koltira nods. “Yeah, it’s fine. Did you get a chance to talk to Vendormu?”
Anarchaia nods. “He thinks the demon hunters may be a target for…our target.” She sinks back into her chair and rests a cheek on the armrest. “We can head toward the temple in the morning.”
“Grim is the only one fit to go inside. Think he can handle it? What about the Grim from this time period?” He lets out a long breath as he thinks. “Could just replace him. I mean, he’s got that enchantment. You could maybe teleport the other one back here. You can teleport here, can’t you?”
She nods. “Yes. Teleportation is just space, not time. I shouldn’t have an issue.” She sighs, staring distantly at the far wall. “We can tell everyone the plan once they’ve recovered.”
Koltira sinks down to sit against the wall. “Hopefully they don’t take too long.” He thinks on it for a moment. “How do we get you into the temple to get him out? Would you rather bring him straight back here, or… We can’t let him see us. Especially not himself.” He stands again and looks around, then goes to the door. “What about this shed out here?”
Anarchaia lifts her head to watch him. “There’s a shed? Probably for weapons. That’s a good idea.” She smiles over at him. “And he didn’t know any of us twenty-three years ago. But yeah, I’d need a disguise. I can hold an illusion for quite some time. Maybe this?” After a swirl of smoke, her body transforms into that of a scantily clad succubus. She sits up and outstretches her arms as though asking for critique.
Koltira chuckles and nods. He goes to the mage and takes her hand. “You should fit right in.”