Kel’ori glances at the aspect as she sits up, testing the potency of the healing. “I’m hungry. Do you have any food?”
“Yes,” the dragon says simply. “Do you like raw rabbit? We love it.”
She sneers. “Uh, no. I’ll just…starve.” She gingerly hops from the hammock and searches through her bag for leftover snacks.
He watches for a short while before sitting up and sighing. He extends a hand and a small assortment of meats and fruit appears on the barrel near Kel’ori in a swirl of golden light. He leans back again and opens his book.
She blinks at the food, then goes to start picking at it. “Thank you.”
Vendormu gives a slight nod. “Don’t say I never did anything for you. Does your babysitter want any?”
Kel’ori goes to the main area and holds out her hands to take the dozing infant. “Come. There’s food in the other room.” She smiles kindly at him.
Baemalen perks as the baby is taken from him, then gives a wide grin. “Now that you mention it, I don’t think I’ve eaten for three days.” He chuckles and stands, throwing his hair back over his shoulder. “I appreciate it.”
Kel’ori smiles as she leads him back. “It’s the least I can do. You didn’t have to help Bel and me,” she sets her nose to the baby’s and smiles brighter, “but you did. And without looking at him funny or making cruel comments.” She glances back at the succubus following them. “Or being overbearing.”
He takes a piece of bread with jam and stuffs its entirety in his mouth. He smiles with a full cheek. “Well I’d be just a swell person if I didn’t help you. What kind of monster doesn’t help a pretty girl with a cute little baby?” He reaches for another slice. “…demon baby. Cute all the same.”
She blushes as she sits on a crate of questionable sturdiness and uses her free hand to pick at the assortment of foods. “No need to flatter. But thank you. Bel’theas is only half demon, luckily.” She looks at the man across from her. “Tell me about yourself.”
Baemalen jumps as a bundle of supplies appears in the corner of the room. He shrugs and turns back to Kel’ori, then takes an apple and takes a small, pensive bite before setting his elbow on the table and giving her a once over. “I’ll tell you what. You tell me about that anomaly of a baby of yours and I’ll tell you anything you want to know.”
Kel’ori’s smile falls and she looks away. After a moment, she wipes her free palm on her skirt. She clears her throat and opens her mouth to answer, then closes it. She clears her throat and opens her mouth again. “N-not much to tell. The…pregnancy was fast. I craved meat. He was born yesterday. I wasn’t supposed to be here, but…” she glances at the dragon aspect lazing in the hammock, “someone made a mistake and brought me here.” She gives a nervous laugh and pops some cheese into her mouth. “Your turn.”
He shrugs a shoulder. “That’s fine if you don’t want to say, but you could have just said it, y’know.” He inspects the apple in his hand. “Not much to say about me, either. Parents died shortly after my baby sister Chassandra was born. Lived in an orphanage in Silvermoon until I was old enough to leave. But she was adopted out long before then. So here I am with no other purpose but to be a coward.” His eyes soften but his smile remains. “I just hope she’s happy. Wherever she is.”
She flinches some. “I-… It’s not you. I don’t like to talk about it. Ever. I just want it to have never happened…” She lets out a heavy sigh. “I’m sure your sister is probably happy. Until you know for sure, just imagine her that way.”
Baemalen nods. “I suppose I can relate. I think everyone has those things they just don’t want to relive.” He smiles wider at the thought of his sister. “That’s pretty much all I can do.” He takes another bite. “So, I don’t think I had time to meet all your friends. Besides Grim, that is.”
Kel’ori smiles. “Oh, uh, the one in the red robes is Anarchaia; the male death knight is Koltira; my brother, you said helped you; and the other death knight is Alisbeth, my cousin. I don’t remember that other guy’s name. This, of course, is Bel’theas,” she brushes back the small tuft of blonde hair between his knobby horns and the infant moans in his sleep. She jerks her thumb at the man in the hammock. “And that is… Honestly between the time travel and the sudden labor, I forgot your name.” She frowns apologetically at Vendormu.
He shrugs. “Not important.”
Baemalen lifts his eyebrows and leans forward to whisper loudly. “That guy’s not very kind.”
The dragon gives him a small sneer.
Kel’ori gives a short nod. “I’m sure there’s a reason for it. I wasn’t even supposed to be here, but…” She wrinkles her nose at the dragon.
Vendormu gives the mage a wink and a mocking grin.
Baemalen tilts his head. “Where are you meant to be?” he asks through a cheek of apple.
Kel’ori purses her lips and shifts the food in her mouth to one side so she can answer. “Dalaran. With my midwife, Docra. She was protecting me from… Well, everyone. My father tried to terminate my pregnancy. According to her, my cousin did, too. Not many people are as kind about Bel as you and her.” She swallows her food and gives him a bright smile. “Thank you.”
After she’s had her fill, Kel’ori gently lays Bel’theas in her hammock, then goes to look inside the sack in the corner. She changes the infant into one of the diapers, then swings the hammock back and forth to get him back to sleep.
“I think it’s time to clean up after the…probably orcs who lived here before. Excuse me.”
With energy unfitting a new mother, she searches around the small building and exclaims when she finds a small closet with a broom, mop, and broken bucket. She sets to work sweeping the main area first, to avoid stirring up dirt where the baby is sleeping and the Illidari is eating. As she works, she begins to hum little tunes.
Baemalen lifts his eyebrows as he watches her work. When he finishes, he stands and takes the mop bucket. “I’ll help. I’m sure there’s a well outside.” He smiles and wanders out the door in search of one.
The two work to clean the outpost as best they can, discovering windows coated by grime. Kel’ori gives a hesitant snap of her fingers and the windows to the main area fling open to let in the cool evening breeze. She screams and laughs happily. The sound causes a gentle crying to emanate from the barracks. The elf takes Bel’theas and wraps him in a papoose Taveth had sent, subtly feeding the baby while she goes out to inspect the shed.
“We’ll need chains. A bucket. And to clean all of these weapons out,” she thinks aloud.
He blinks from behind his ivory cup of water. “Chains? Are we going to play a game?” He gives a sultry but humored smile. “If this hut has a basement, I’m willing to bet there’s some there.” He lowers a brow at her behavior. “You doing all right?”
Kel’ori turns her own humorous sultry smile on the Illidari. “Are you saying you like dungeons?” She laughs and closes the shed door, then squints an eye at it. “This is a terrible place to keep someone.” She turns to search the area for a cellar door. “I’m great, actually. That, uh, warlock stuff of my brother’s just picked me right up. Better than new. Then again I’ve been sleeping like the dead for a good two weeks thanks to—ow!” She purses her lips and lightly pinches Bel’theas’s leg. After a quick sigh, she continues. “Besides, this place was a mess. The hammock room is next, for sure. All of those need a good wash. Just not while Bel is in the room. Far too much dust.”
Baemalen slowly furrows his brow upward his grin growing nervous as he follows her into the dark cellar. The wooden steps creak threateningly. “And, uh…who are we chaining up exactly?”
“For Grim,” Kel’ori says, then stops. She lights a fire in her palm and turns around, her face grave. “They…didn’t tell you the plan… Did they…”
His eyes widen some and he looks at her through the darkness. “Okay, I wasn’t going to ask, but I’m pretty sure I have some questions.”
She glances around as though looking for a diversion. “I’m…not sure I’m allowed to tell you anything.”
He slowly wraps a loose chain around his arm, the bulk of it uncoiling from within a barrel. “We aren’t going to hurt him, are we? I mean, I’m all for pranks, but…”
Kel’ori watches him coil the chain almost apprehensively, a small tingle at the back of her mind setting her on edge. “N-not a prank, but not to hurt him, no. Just…he can’t see any of us. The darkness is good. Um…” She rushes past him into the sunlight and sighs in relief but waits for her heart to stop pounding.
Baemalen purses his lips. He shakes his head and follows her up the stairs. He sets the chains outside the door to the shed. “Okay, the more suspicious you act the more I think you’re all doing something bad. And I’m not about bad.” He blinks. “I mean, I’m certainly not about good, either, but dammit I try.”
She turns to him, her face pale as she takes steadying breaths. It’s not a cave. He’s not Grim. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to— It’s nothing bad. I promise. It’s good. I mean, Grim won’t like it, but he’s the one who agreed to it, so he doesn’t really get a choice in the matter.” She looks down at Bel’theas. “Time to go back in the hammock, huh, sleepy?” She gives Baemalen a shaky smile and turns to go inside.
He notices a familiarity in her behavior and abandons the chains to go to her side. He sets a gentle yet cautious hand on her elbow before she can leave. “Hey, hold on. You okay? Sorry if I said something offensive. Didn’t mean to freak you out.”
The mage stares at his hand, then at him. “I’m f—…” She takes a deep breath and closes her eyes. “I thought I was over it, but I guess I just…freaked out. It was the darkness. And…you. But not you. Now I sound insane. Would you like a glass of water?” She turns to head inside again.
Baemalen runs his tongue over his lips in thought, then smiles and nods. “Yeah. Sure. You sound like you need one, too.” He follows and pours two cups from the metal flagon set near the food, then hands her one and sets himself in his unofficially assigned hammock. He inspects himself in the reflection of the water for a short while. His smile grows somber. “I think I know what you’re going through. And I just want you to know that it gets better.”
Kel’ori finishes putting Bel’theas in the hammock and accepts the water. She studies him as she drinks. “Do you, though? I mean…” She shrugs and plays with the lip of the glass. “I have more good days than bad lately. Just that’s the first…dark, damp place. Sound of the chains.” She pauses uncertainly. “Your sister… She got better?” she whispers.
He opens his mouth a time or two. His eyes flick from the woman, to the aspect, to the floor. He swallows and smiles. “Y-yeah. Obviously, she’ll always have those memories, but sh—…she got better. Heh.”
She smiles and nods, her eyes drifting to the water in her hands. “I’m glad. Really. I wish I could talk to her. Maybe it would help.” She sets the glass on the barrel and lifts the infant so she can sit in the hammock and cradle him. “Today just wore me out. Maybe tomorrow I can get that cellar looked to. They said it would be a couple days, at least. Longer. How about you?”
Baemalen nods. “Yeah, it probably would help.” He stands after draining his cup. “I’ll go clear the cellar out myself. You don’t have to worry about it.” He smiles and heads for the door. “If you need anything just holler.”
Kel’ori shakes her head. “No, you don’t have to. It’s getting dark. I can handle it tomorrow. I have to go down there eventually, anyway. Strict orders.” She purses her lips at the dragon aspect. “As I said, I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say.”
He stops in the doorway. “That’s fine,” he says without turning. “You don’t have to tell me anything. I’m just going to get some fresh air, then, if you have your pretty little heart set on cleaning the cellar.”
“Wait! Um…” She retracts her outstretched hand. “Can you…maybe get some firewood? We can start a fire in the living room’s fireplace. Keep the four of us warm?”
The blood elf nods and smiles as he turns. “You got it. Back in a flash.” He steps out into the foyer then out into the cold night air. His smile fades as he pushes his hair back and makes for the back of the building where the firewood is kept.
“Working that boy like a dog,” Vendormu muses from behind his book.
Kel’ori’s face falls. She hops out of the hammock and sets Bel’theas back into it. “It was only a suggestion, since he was going out anyway. But fine. Not like I even asked him to help me. I’ll just do it myself. You keep an eye on my baby, and I swear to gods if anything happens to him while I’m gone—” She snatches the book from his hands and glares into his eyes, then disappears from the room with a quiet pop!, reappearing at the neat wood pile against the back of the outpost, his book still gripped in her angry fist.
Baemalen jerks out of his stupor, still standing with his arms full of wood. He scrambles to compose himself, a smile instantly popping back onto his face. “O-oh! You’re a mage. Haha. That’s neat. I can handle this myself. You don’t need to help.”
She waves a hand to lift the logs from his arms. “No. I should do it myself. The ass dragon says so. I shouldn’t have…used you.” She sighs a long breath and blinks at his bare torso. “Let’s get you in out of the cold.” She holds out her hand for him, her book hand raised to keep the wood aloft.
He looks down at her hand before taking it. “…ass dragon?” he says with a slightly concerned look in his eye.
Kel’ori laughs. “The dragon. He’s an asshole. Says I’m working you too hard. So…let me apologize with a nice fire. Maybe we can find something to make a hot meal?”
Inside the outpost building she sets the wood aside, then drops two logs into the fireplace. She conjures a ball of fire, then throws it on the logs, which crackle to life as it consumes them.
“Like I never lost my abilities,” she hums.
From the room down the hall, Bel’theas’s screaming cries echo down to her.
“What did he do,” she grouches, and heads that way.
Baemalen blinks as a number of questions swirl through his mind. He follows Kel’ori to find Vendormu bent over the hammock with a sparkling orb of glowing white light.
The dragon makes a face as he’s pushed aside. “Filthy demons have no love for good magic.” He folds his arms.
“You’re a dragon?” the Illidari inquires over the wailing.
Vendormu gives Kel’ori another look, this time of irritation. “You’ve got a mouth on you.”
Kel’ori purses her lips and goes ridged. Her hands ball into fists at her sides as her chin quivers. At the moment she bursts into tears, her hand springs up to strike with all the force she can muster across his cheek. “You bastard! He’s not a filthy demon, you sorry excuse for a dragon! He’s good. He’s good!” She scoops the screaming infant into her arms and wraps her arms protectively around him, as though at any moment Vendormu might harm him. “You’re the only monster in this room.” She storms out to the living room, not even trying to contain her loud sobs.
Both Baemalen and the aspect look at one another, wide eyed. Vendormu rubs at his stinging cheek as the elf scurries awkwardly to the door.
“Heh. Baby moods?” he shrugs and closes the door behind him. “You all right? What a jerk, eh? Haha.”
Kel’ori sits on the floor by the fire, trying to calm both herself and Bel’theas, and failing. She shakes her head. “He won’t be like those demons. Those awful creatures who hurt without thinking and take what they want, no matter the cost to anyone else.” She uses her magic to lift Vendormu’s book and toss it into the fire. “He’s not filthy. He’s not evil. He’s going to be good.”
Baemalen hesitates before striding over and sinking to his knees at her side. “I think so,” he says with a hand on her shoulder. “There are actually a couple demons at the temple who I would classify as good,” he reassures with a gentle smile. “Nurture over nature.”
The mage takes a deep breath as she rocks Bel’theas side to side. “I just don’t want him to be like that monster,” she whispers.
Baemalen’s hand slides to her back where he gently runs it up and down. “I’m sure you’ll be a great mother. You’re already so protective and want the best for him.”
She sniffs and wipes her eyes as Bel’theas’s crying turns into little whimpers. “Thank you. Really. You’re so kind.” She scoffs. “That idiot probably just frightened him. Did you see how bright that light was? And why is he so concerned about you knowing he’s a dragon? Who are you gonna tell?” She pauses and gives him a wary look. “You’re not a spy, are you?”
He lifts his eyebrows. “If I were a spy, I’d be a pretty bad one, wouldn’t I?”
She laughs a little. “I mean, gaining my trust so I tell you our secrets isn’t being a bad spy.” She thinks on it as she bites the skin of her lower lip. “I’d rather you not be a spy. You’re not like the others. All of them. They all hate my baby because of what he is. And it sounds crazy, but I’m so afraid that Grim might try to kill him. Or Ali, because she’s so devoted. I think she’d do anything for him.” She wipes her nose and forces a smile. “Ugh, sorry. Being a downer.” She leans her head on his shoulder for a quick moment. “Thank you.”
Baemalen’s brow knits some and he pats her hand comfortingly. “It’s nothing. And I know Grim is an Illidari, but I doubt he’d kill a baby. No matter how demonic. Not sure about…Ali, was it?”
Kel’ori shifts uncomfortably. “It’s not because…” She sighs and stares at the flickering fire as it consumes the pages of the book one at a time as they’re exposed. “It’s a long story. Maybe not long. But… What’s it like? Being a demon hunter. I mean, you’re an Illidari, right?” She turns to look at him as though she might be able to see his demon in his face.
Baemalen, familiar with giving the run around, gives her a sideways glance and smiles. “Technically. Just not initiated. But trained.” His smile grows somber. “I’m sure Donnie is by now, though. He’s a tough one.”
“What does it mean to not be initiated? Who’s Donnie?” Kel’ori smiles encouragingly, glad to be off the subject of Grimory’s feelings toward her child.
Bel’theas gives a little yawn and stretches his arms upward. The mage stops to watch in wonder, her heart filling until she smiles brighter and cries happy tears.
“He’s so beautiful. I love him so much.” She laughs after the moment is over. “Sorry. Please, go ahead.”
Baemalen waits for her to collect herself again, a patient smile on his face. “No worries. It just means that I’m a coward. I don’t have the soul or powers of a demon, just the training to kill one. Eldon is a friend of mine. We were recruited at the same time.” He offers his finger to the infant, then quickly pulls it away before Bel’theas can pull it into his mouth. “But I doubt he misses me much. Or Illy.”
“No demon soul?” Kel’ori’s eyebrows raise as she looks him over. She laughs lightly. “That makes me feel so much better. You may think you’re a coward, but…” she shakes her head and looks around the room, then at him, “not having that other being inside you…that could take control at any moment when your guard is down. You could lose control in an instant and hurt the ones close to you.” She gently pats his hand resting on his thigh. “I barely know you, but I think people would miss you. I think I would, if I were to go back tomorrow. There’s just something so… You have a good heart and soul.”
Baemalen’s eyebrows raise slightly and a slight flush tints his cheeks. “O-oh. That’s…kind of you. I can’t say I agree but I’ll accept your compliment all the same.” He gives an uncomfortable chuckle. “And only the weak Illidari can’t control their demons. Those ones usually die, anyway. Problem kind of takes care of itself. Heh.”
Kel’ori’s smile fades, then returns, but strained. “I’m…sure there’s…exceptions. Maybe one just happens to survive with a strong demon within…”
The Illidari chuckles. “A guy like that would be legendary. Not counting Lord Illidan, of course. He *is legendary.” He pokes at Bel’theas’s little palm and the baby grabs his fingertip.
The mage licks her lips. “I wouldn’t call him legendary. But…sometimes he loses control… And bad things happen.”
Bel’theas’s teal eyes flick between the conversing pair in a manner that makes Kel’ori think he’s listening to them. The baby coos, reaching a shaky arm out to grab at her hand and grip her finger.
Baemalen looks at her for a long moment. “So it wasn’t a demon,” he says cautiously. “It was a demon hunter.” He frowns, his serene demeanor failing. “I’m sorry.”
Her chin quivers, but she fights back the tears. “Technically yes? And…technically…no?” She turns away, giving her attention to Bel’theas. “He’s so beautiful, though. I already love him.”
He smiles again and wraps an arm around her shoulders to give her a little shake. “That’s all that matters, right? As long as you two have each other, no need to dwell on the past.” He observes the infant and the look in his small, bright eyes. “He loves you, too.”
Kel’ori holds back a yawn, but it breaks free a moment later. “Oh, sorry. Crying makes me sleepy.” She gives a small giggle. “I don’t want to go back in there. Didn’t build a fire in there, either. It’s probably freezing.” She smiles at Baemalen again. “Tell me about before joining Illidan’s cause. Why did you enlist?”
He shrugs. “We can build a fire in the next room if you’re tired.” His smile grows reserved at her question. “Mm. Well. I didn’t really have anywhere to go after being released from the orphanage. No friends. No family. So I joined the military and they nearly immediately sent me here. But that’s okay. I have a habit of being thrown around by the winds of fate.” He tilts his head some. “Why did you become a mage?”
“Just…something to do. I love fashion and it helped making clothes a lot easier.” She goes quiet as she thinks on how tired she is, debating if she is up for dealing with the aspect. Without a pause or a second thought, she hands Bel’theas to Baemalen, then pushes to her feet. “Keep him in here where it’s warm. I’ll get the fire going so it’ll be warm enough.” Three logs levitate up and follow her down the hall. She opens the door and glares at Vendormu. “I’m warming up the room so I can sleep. I’d rather you not be in here when I retire for the night.” She sends the wood careening violently into the heating stove in the center of the room, followed by a fireball, then slams the door and returns to the main room and sits back in her spot beside the blood elf. “I would love nothing more than for him to find somewhere else to be an ass until it’s time to go home.”
Baemalen and Bel’theas blink at one another as the woman fusses about the rooms. He chuckles when she accosts the aspect and gives her a smirk when she returns. “Well, I mean, he did give us food,” he laughs, then hisses through his teeth when his hair is pulled.
Vendormu gives the ceiling a bemused state, then smirks to himself. His body melts into the hammock and out of sight.
Kel’ori takes the infant’s hands in one of hers. “That hurts him, Bel.” She laughs, then sighs and casts her gaze to her skirt. “It’s the only nice thing he’s even done. And I think he only did it so I’d shut up. It’s bad enough he’s clearly incompetent, but also rude? He’s the worst.”
Baemalen gives a small shrug. “Maybe he’s got stuff going on, y’know? Surely he can’t just be a huge jerk for no reason,” he chuckles. “Chas taught me to always assume the best in people. Sorry.”
“My father is a businessman. He said to always be on your guard, because sooner or later someone will show their true colors. I think lizard-brain is the sooner type.” She smiles as Bel’theas wraps his little fingers around her thumb and ooo’s up at her. She looks at her shoulder, realizing she’s leaning against into Baemalen. She straightens and frowns. “Sorry. Just… He’s there and…”
Bel’theas’s face pinches and he begins to fuss.
“He’s probably hungry. I should feed him before bed.” She holds out her hands, waiting for the man to hand him over, rather than pulling the baby away.
The Illidari hands over the baby. “I can handle him if you’d like to rest afterward. I don’t mind and he doesn’t seem to mind me.” He chuckles about the dragon. “And perhaps you’re right. But my caretakers at the orphanage always said to treat others how you’d like to be treated, so regardless of how much of an ass he is, I’ll be kind.”
Kel’ori shrugs as she stands. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe I’m right. Regardless, it’s time for bed.” She heads for the back room.
The next morning Baemalen blinks tiredly into the dead cinders. He hums quietly to the swaddled baby in his arms and shivers in the chill of the morning.
Kel’ori blearily tries to pull her baby closer. It takes her a moment to realize that her arms are empty. Her eyes snap open and she struggles to sit upright in the hammock. “B-Bel’theas?” She scrambles out of the hammock and looks around the empty room. “No. No! Bel’theas!” She rushes from the room, tears forming in her eyes. When she reaches the main room and beholds the weary man comforting the softly moaning infant, she takes in a hiccupping breath. She drops down beside them and strokes the blond hair between the little horns. “I was so scared that hoofed harlot had taken him to the Nether or something,” she admits.
Tryxora hisses from the corner of the room. <<I would never! … He’s too young to go there, yet.>>
Baemalen gives her a tired smile. “I’m sorry. He started fussing and you were still asleep. If I’d have let him start crying, he’d have woken you up. And I know you’d prefer if she didn’t take care of him.”
Kel’ori purses her lips at the man and gives an indignant huff. “I’m his mother. He’s supposed to wake me up. What if he was hungry?” She eases the infant from him and shoves Baemalen lightly. “Go to sleep. You look like you’re going to die. You can even use my cloak as a blanket.”
He nods tiredly, nearly falling asleep the second the infant is out of his arms. He jerks back awake, however, when the clattering of wood rings through the room. He rubs an eye at the new firewood. “Yeah,” he groans and stands. “Please don’t be afraid to wake me if you need me.” He smiles and makes his way back into the sleeping quarters.