Kel’ori snorts awake to the wailing of Bel’theas. She lifts him to find blood staining his lips and teeth. A quick inspection reveals a row of puncture marks along his lower lip. “My poor baby,” she redresses her upper half and gets out of the hammock to find a clean cloth. She wets it with water, then cools it with frost magic and sets it to his lip. The mage sighs and goes to the other room to find Baemalen still passed out on the tiger skin rug.
He stirs at the sound of footsteps, eyes lazily opening beneath the book. He shrugs it off, however, and closes them again without a second thought.
The infant mumbles to himself as he chews on the cold cloth. Suddenly it drops and he screams louder as he bites down on his lip again.
“Oh, sweetie, you gotta stop biting yourself.” Kel’ori cools the rag further as she opens the door and goes outside. “Let’s go for a walk, right?”
Baemalen quickly sits up. “Wh— I’m up! I’m up…” The book falls into his lap and he groans at the crying. He runs a palm down his face and stands to follow the sound. “Everything all right?” he mumbles.
She shakes her head. “It’s fine. Just go back to sleep.” She adjusts the cloth, cooling a clean side to help soothe the injuries.
He blinks at her tone and takes a step closer. “Sure doesn’t sound fine.”
The mage holds back more tears she doesn’t want to cry, though hormones insist upon it. “He bit himself this morning and keeps biting down, making it worse. Newborns don’t usually have teeth, let alone fangs. I can’t heal him. I…don’t know what to do.”
Baemalen hums. “The orphanage used to use potatoes dipped in whiskey for teething babies.” He notices the turmoil on her face and sets a hand on her shoulder. “Do you want me to go get some…?”
“Whiskey?” Kel’ori nearly scoffs. “He’s an infant. There has to be something less…alcoholic than that. It can’t be safe… Can it?”
He chuckles. “It wasn’t enough to get them drunk or anything. Just enough to ease the pain and get them drowsy. But if you don’t like the idea, forget I said anything.”
She looks down at the crying boy as he moans into the bloody cloth. She wipes away his tears, her heart breaking for him. “Do you promise he’ll be okay? It won’t hurt him or anything?”
He gives a reassuring smile. “I’ve never seen any babies harmed by it. We actually bought some potatoes and I won some bourbon. Stay right here; I’ll go get them.”
Kel’ori purses her lips. “Okay. Let’s do that. I…hope you wouldn’t do anything to hurt him. I know he seems to like you? Which is… He’s so different from a regular newborn.” She walks beside the man, gently bouncing Bel’theas in her arms, trying to calm him down.
Baemalen kneels beside the large pack of items and rummages through it. He pulls out a small bag of potatoes, then unrolls a leather roll of knives. “Of course I wouldn’t hurt him. What kind of monster would I be?” He pauses, then chuckles as he pulls out the bottle of bourbon. “I guess I’d be Lord Illidan.” He slices a piece of potato and pours the alcohol over it—just enough to cover it. He shakes off the excess and stands to hold it out. “And no, he isn’t. He’s half demon.”
Bel’theas opens his mouth for the potato. He cringes and babbles at the flavor, then stares over at the blood elf. His fingers grasp repeatedly at the man.
“I don’t understand why you’re being so kind to us. Thank you, all the same.” She reaches out to pat his arm, then stops and retracts, opting to smile instead. Her eyebrow peaks at the sack behind him. “Can I see what you got?”
Baemalen allows the baby to tug on his finger, then nods and takes him from her so she may rummage. “Why are you so suspicious of me? I can’t be nice to you simply because I’m a nice person?”
Kel’ori pulls things out of the sack one at a time. First she withdraws a coarse linen—unbleached and undyed. Her nose wrinkles as she sets it to the side and wipes her hands off, as though it left germs on her palms. The next is a bolt of low thread-count cotton, dyed a sickly shade of green. “Was that…the only fabric they had? Really?” She finds the sewing kit with everything she’ll need to get going, then the threads, which are only black and white. She opens her mouth to say something, but instead crooks her lips and sets them on the bolts. When she finds the makeup, a squeak pinches from her throat as she stops moving as though the sight has petrified her.
The man gives a sheepish grin as he watches. “I-I had no idea what you’d like. He said he could do it.” A small, nervous chuckle escapes him.
Kel’ori withdraws the pallet of greens, browns, and yellows. She stares at it in disbelief. “Literally any other colors would do. Any other colors. At all.” She pops open the mascara compact and cringes at the blue makeup paste within. She sniffs it and her frown deepens. “Cheap goop. That’s what this is.” She next finds the lipstick. “Oh, honestly, was he even trying?” She holds up one tube of orange lipstick, and one of a pale pink. She drops them to the floor and breathes steadily.
Bel’theas seems to feel the tension or his mother’s being unsettled and makes a small fuss.
Baemalen sets a thumb on the potato slice to keep it from falling out. “You…want us to go get some more?” His ears pull back, preparing for anything she may say.
The mage scoots back and stares at each horror in turn. “This… I… I should…probably just go myself. This. I can’t work with any of this. Maybe. I may be able to make something for Bel. The clothes Anarchaia bought are going to be too small, if he grows fast. But…it’s so rough.” She takes another few calming breaths. “Ugh. I just…” She shoves everything back into the bag. “I can’t look at it. Thank you, but no thank you.”
He does his best to keep his smile. “Right. Best not send some men to do a woman’s job, right?” he says on another nervous chuckle. “And you shouldn’t go by yourself. Some parts of Shattrath aren’t suited for lone, wandering women.”
“Men can do it just fine. Any one of my brothers would have grabbed colors that aren’t the literal worst. I guess I can understand how someone might go for a cheaper fabric to save gold. But did you feel this? This is the kind of fabric farmers wear. And it’s itchy. Do you want that? No, I bet you—” She purses her lips at the sight of the Illidari cradling and comforting her fussy child. “You must think I’m a spoiled bitch.” She sighs and moves from the items, but not too close as she remembers the way he recoils from her. “You’d be right. It’s no wonder you don’t seem to like me.”
Baemalen hides his offense through her onslaught behind a smile. He makes to apologize multiple times but never finds the right opening. His ears perk at her final line and his brow knits, his smile fading. “Don’t like—I do like you. W-well as much as I can for someone I’ve known for a few days.” He frowns. “Why would you think I don’t like you?”
Kel’ori frowns at him. “Because you avoid me. I mean, not entirely. Just every time I get too close it’s like you’d like to slap me away.” She sighs and looks at the dying embers of the fire. “It’s okay. My family is just…huggers. Not everyone is okay with that.”
His face softens and he looks down at the sleeping baby in his arms to avoid looking at her. “I…didn’t even know. I’m sorry.” He thinks for a few seconds. “It’s not you. It’s me. I…guess I’m not as over it as I’d hoped.”
Her brow furrows. “Sorry? Not over what?”
He still avoids her gaze. He swallows, seemingly deciding whether or not to tell her. “What happened. At the orphanage.”
Her palm flies to her chest. “Were you beaten? Oh, gods. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’ll keep my distance.”
He shakes his head, his tongue thick in his mouth. “No.”
“I don’t understand. I mean, you don’t have to tell me. As you pointed out, we’ve only known each other for a few days.” She gives a reassuring smile. “If you want to go with me to replace this makeup…I could use the company.” She chews on the inside of her lip, hoping her changing the subject wasn’t misread in his discomfort.
His smile returns and he nods. “Yeah. I think I’d be more comfortable with that than allowing you to go alone.” He looks around. “I don’t know where Venny went. We may have to walk?”
Kel’ori smiles, though curiosity gnaws at the back of her mind. “Venny?” she asks on a laugh. “I take it you two bonded over the trip?” She looks around as though the aspect is hiding in a corner. “Um. He came into the room before I fell asleep. I haven’t seen him since. I’d…rather not walk. Dangerous and all. Bright side, once I’ve been there once, I can take us back.” She packs up the sack, readying to leave. “I’ll just set this by the door. Though you may want to get your things out. Most merchants will accept exchanges, just have to bat your eyelashes at them.” She frowns. “Though I usually already have makeup on, so they fall for the whole pretty face thing.”
The blood elf smiles endearingly down at her. “You’re pretty enough without.” He chuckles and hands over the baby for swaddling. “Venny?” he calls and the dragon materializes in one of the hammocks. “Oh. Neat. So, we’d like to take a trip back to Shattrath.”
“Yeah, I heard. You have one hour.” He lifts a hand, waits for Kel’ori to get situated, then snaps his fingers.
Baemalen steps to the side as he’s almost run into by a cart and merchant. “Now where to begin…”
Kel’ori holds Bel’theas close, wishing she’d grabbed the papoose. “You say I don’t need it, but it’s not about what you think,” she says to Baemalen as she follows him through the city. “It’s about how I feel. I…haven’t felt myself since… And I just thought putting on makeup would make me feel…normal.” She sidles closer to speak low. “How much gold do we have? I don’t want to overspend. I’m…used to a higher quality of items. Much higher. More expensive.”
He shrugs a shoulder. “Enough. Don’t worry about the money. I can get us more.” He glances at Bel’theas and hums in thought. “Perhaps a covering for him, first. He’s adorable, but I think there are some who won’t agree.”
Kel’ori lifts the blanket to cover the infant’s horns. He coos, then yawns and closes his eyes. “They wouldn’t harm an infant…would they?”
The Illidari cringes. “I’d like to think not. But I’d also like to think that cake doesn’t go straight to your thighs.” He gives her a sad smile, then gestures to a draenei man sitting on a carpet surrounded by bolts of cloth of all colors and patterns. “I’ll hold him. Take your pick.”
She gently hands him the sleeping baby, then turns to the man with the fabrics. After examination, she furrows her brow. “Your silk is overpriced.” She looks up at him, but his eyes are on her cleavage as she bends over the bolts. She smirks and gets the bolts of cheap cloth from Baemalen, then bends over directly in front of the man. “Tell you what, I’ll trade you back these for a few fabrics of my choice.”
“What does your husband think?” he grunts, eyeing the Illidari.
She giggles and bats her lashes, even though he’s not looking at her face. “He’s not my husband. If you do this, I won’t tell your other customers how much more you’re charging them for their cloth than you should be.”
“Is that a threat?” he demands, finally looking up at her.
She smiles sweetly. “Do I look like someone who would threaten a hard-working salesman? Please. Let’s just keep this between us. I just need some fabrics at a fair price. Okay?”
He grunts and nods. Kel’ori hums as she feels and checks each fabric. Her facial expressions range from disappointed the mildly interested. Finally she takes several bolts up with her magic, then summons some dye to the collection, as well.
“You’ll be paying for that dye, missy.”
She scrunches her nose and smiles innocently. “Will I, though?” She blows him a kiss and returns to Baemalen. “Would you look at that. Had plenty of gold for all this, with still so much leftover. Imagine that!” She wiggles her fingers in goodbye as they continue to another vendor. “Cosmetics?”
The blood elf lifts his eyebrows, impressed with her guile and manipulative tactics. “See? I told you you don’t need any makeup to be charming.” He smirks at her and leads her down the road towards the Scryers’ end of the city. “Dare I say you’re more beguiling than I. Perhaps we should take you down to the underbelly and see what you can win us.” He leads her into a small building with beaded curtains serving as a door. Incense wafts about and a fountain in the corner trickles quietly. “Cosmetics,” he says, waving her in with a hand.
Kel’ori giggles into her fingertips. “That wasn’t charm.” She goes to the woman at the table and holds out the makeups. “I was wondering if I could return these? My friend—”
“No returns,” the draenei barks.
“But I haven’t us—”
Baemalen clears his throat. He gently nudges the high elf aside and sets the baby in her arms. “Perhaps returns aren’t in your policy, but how about a trade?” He pulls a small pendant from the inside of his shirt and dangles it before the woman as he leans over the counter.
The woman glowers up at him. “Perhaps. What is it?”
“Oh, nothing special. Just a bit of genuine Silvermoon craftsmanship. The locket is sealed so tightly that no one knows what’s inside. I, myself, have never been able to open it, but perhaps you…?” He thinks, then waves a hand, standing upright again. “No. Maybe not—”
“Fine. You get two palettes.” She holds out her hand.
He takes the necklace off and dangles it but does not let go. “Four.”
He purses his lips. “Four.”
“Two and a choice of rouge.”
He releases the necklace. “Deal.”
The woman curls her fingers around the piece but hides her curiosity. “Deal.”
Kel’ori passes Bel’theas back and goes through the makeups. She finds what she wants and sets it on the table. “And these two,” she says, adding liner and mascara to the items. Her eyes continue to wander over the shop’s contents, as though she’d like nothing more than to take it all.
After Baemalen pays the difference, they exit back into the streets.
The mage looks at him, her lips pursed. “I wasn’t going to ask you in there, but, that wasn’t…your sisters, was it?”
He looks down at her from the corner of his eye. A forlorn expression crosses his features. “Sure was.”
She scowls and cannot look him in the eye. “You shouldn’t have done that. How much time do we have left?” She pauses to stare longingly at a fruit stand.
He smirks at her. “That’s why I didn’t.” He pulls the same locket from his breast pocket and chuckles before replacing it and pulling out his pocket watch instead. “Mm. About ten minutes.” He looks up at the salad and is suddenly reminded of how hungry he is as well. “You want it?” he smiles at the elf at the stand and tosses his last gold coin onto the table. “Take it.”
“How did you—” Kel’ori looks at the food and at the lonely coin. Her stomach growls. She smiles. “Thank you.” She takes the bowl of assorted fruit chunks. Before she can start eating, however, Bel’theas pouts away and begins a quiet, annoyed cry.
The blood elf takes the child again and purses his lips curiously. “Guess he hates fruit.”
A passing draenei woman glances into the swaddling and cringes back. “What is that thing?!” she cries. “Its eyes…they’re black!”
Bel’theas, startled by the commotion, cries out loudly.
The woman grabs onto her husband. “And fangs!”
Baemalen pulls the baby closer and steps closer to Kel’ori. “H-…he was orphaned,” he says with a nervous smile.
A small gathering has crowded near. “Well you should have let it die!” one man shouts.
Kel’ori bursts into tears and takes the infant urgently into her arms to protect him. He breaks free from the swaddle as she presses him to her collar. The blanket falls away from his head to expose the two brown horns. A woman behind the mage screams out in horror, causing Bel’theas to scream into Kel’ori’s ear.
“It’s an abomination!” a man shouts.
“What kind of people take in a demon!”
“They’re Legion conspirators!”
“Kill the demon!”
The mob presses closer. Kel’ori’s heart races and she raises her hand, prepared to blast the lot of them with arcane.
“Bae? What do we do?”
“Stop!” An older draenei steps into the circle with the three, causing the others to go silent. “It is a child. Are all of you mad? An infant is not good. It is not evil. It is innocent.”
“It’s a demon! They’re all evil!” someone calls from the back.
Baemalen shakes his head. “That’s not true. In the Black Temple we have demons that have defected and joined us!”
“The Illidari are traitorous scum!”
“You’re as disgusting for working alongside them!”
The sin’dorei pulls his ears back and throws a smile over his shoulder. “Tough crowd.”
The mage fires a warning arcane missile at the ground in front of the crowd. “Don’t come any closer!” she screams through her tears. “I’ll kill you all before I let you harm my son!”
Baemalen’s face turns to one of slight terror as he backs away from the spot along with the rest of the crowd. The masses grow angrier and converge in on the trio, but before any of them can throw out a hand to grab at them, the mage, Illidari, and infant disappear in a shower of golden sparkles.
“Have a nice trip?” Vendormu asks boredly as he files his nails.
Baemalen rubs a palm over his mouth and chin, then lets his hand fall to his side. “Y-…yeah.”
Kel’ori falls to her knees, shaking from a mixture of fear and anger. She struggles to hold the flailing Bel’theas, who is screaming and crying as loud as his lungs can project.
“It’s okay,” she whispers. “It’s okay. I’ve got you. My poor baby. Why? Why are they so cruel?” The rattle appears in her fingers and she shakes it, trying to sooth him even a little; he bats it from her grasp and continues screaming. “What do you want, then?” shouts in desperation. “I don’t know what you want!”
Vendormu furrows his brow and stops what he’s doing to give the two a curious look. “I take it you won’t be going back.”
Baemalen shoots the man an unimpressed look and he sinks to a knee beside the frantic woman. He cautiously reaches to take the baby out of her arms. “It’s all right,” he says, not to either one in particular. “They’re not worth crying over. They’re just ignorant people who are afraid of the unusual.”
Kel’ori stands and runs from the room and out of the barracks. She stares around at the barren land and just screams out. In a fit of anger, she throws arcane missiles in random directions. One explodes a few of the logs in the lumber pile, another takes a chunk from the corner of the building. The shed receives two, and due to its age, it collapses into a heap. The rest of her missiles harmlessly crash into the ground and the nearby hill. She falls to her knees again, feeling the drain of using so much energy and not having the ley lines of Azeroth to replenish her. After a moment to let her tears quietly drip from her face, she stands and walks slowly back inside.
The Illidari is holding the baby close, having finally gotten him quiet by allowing him to chew and suck at a lock of his hair. He gives the woman a wide eyed, concerned look when she returns. “A-are you all right? We heard explosions.”
She huffs. “I’m fine. And I’m hungry. And I bet you two are hungry. And he’s hungry, and it’s making my— He’s hungry.” She waves her hands like they won’t get anymore details, half knowing they wouldn’t ask, anyway. She drops into a hammock. “I spent too much energy out there.”
Baemalen swallows a sigh and stands. He offers the baby back to his mother. “Perhaps you should take care of him and I’ll make us something to eat.” His smile widens some and he sets a hand on her shoulder. “Just relax.”
The mage shrugs the man’s hand away as it rests where the faintest of scars wraps around the front of her shoulder and the back as little dots and lines. “Yeah. I’ll do that.” She purses her lips and turns away. “Thank you for your help today.”
The Illidari retracts his hand, somewhat taken aback by her coldness but not giving it any further thought. He nods. “It was no trouble.” He retreats into the next room to rummage through their cooking supplies.
Vendormu scoffs from his hammock. “That boy is too damned nice.”
Kel’ori’s gaze snaps to the aspect as she prepares to feed the impatiently moaning infant. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
He looks over at her from his book. “He’s put up with a lot. Nearly died. Now serves to help you take care of your sniveling baby. And doesn’t ask for anything in return.” He releases a small laugh as a puff through his nose. “I wouldn’t stand for it.”
The mage sneers. “I didn’t ask him to.” She stands, wrapping the papoose awkwardly around herself using her one free hand. She situates Bel’theas inside, where he continues to nurse. “I don’t understand why he likes you so much.” She stomps from the room, closing the door harder than necessary. She gets to the main room and purses her lips at the man. “Get out. Go spend time with your friend or do something—anything. I can do this myself.”
Vendormu chuckles to himself and again melts into his surroundings and out of sight.
Baemalen visibly jumps at the loud bang. Eyes wide and confused, he slowly gets to his feet. “I…can handle this?” he says hesitantly, spoon still in hand.
“Doesn’t matter,” she says hautily. “I can take care of myself. I don’t need your help.” She holds out her hand and the bourbon from the bag appears in it. “Share a few drinks with that insufferable lizard. Maybe it’ll make him less of an ass.”
His bright green eyes flit between her face and the bottle. He purses his lips and relinquishes the spoon for the bottle. “Since you asked so nicely,” he says with a smile, and disappears back into the sleeping quarters. He blinks when he sees that the aspect is again missing and sighs. Bottle to his lips, he throws himself into a hammock.
Once he’s left the room, she lets out a breath and sinks into the chair, her energy lower than before. “I don’t need help,” she says.
Bel’theas’s eye opens to look up at her.
“We don’t need anyone else. Right? Just you and me.” Her chin quivers and a tear rolls down her cheek as saying it fills her with a hollow loneliness.
Without bothering to wipe her cheek, allowing more tears to fall, she continues making the meal, until she’s simply too tired. She removes it from the fire so it doesn’t burn, then lays down on the tiger skin rug with her baby beside her. His eyes drift closed, and hers soon after.