Book 6 – Chapter Sixteen

Kel’ori finishes the new stew and spoons some into the metal mug. She sets it on a tray with a battered spoon and a small wooden cup filled with water. She takes the napping Bel’theas to the barracks and lays him in an empty hammock. She scrutinizes the nearly empty bottle tucked beside the Illidari as he sleeps, and frowns but leaves him to his rest. She takes the tray out to the cellar door and opens it with her magic, then slowly descends. At first she’s unsure if the man is awake. The lanterns on the wall ignite for her and he looks up.

She clears her throat. “It’s hot,” she warns and sets the food before Grimory, then hops backward as though he might leap forward to grab her. She smooths her palms over her skirt as her heart pounds. “I’ll get some firewood,” she motions at the little stove in the corner, “if you’re cold.”

Grimory looks from the mug to the woman in front of him. “How did I get here? What do you want with me?” He folds his manacled arms and leans against the wall, taking note of how skittish she appears. “If you’re looking for information, I don’t have any.”

Kel’ori shakes her head and takes a step back. “No. No. We don’t want information. I mean, not from you, Grim. They said it shouldn’t take long. Then they’ll return you to the temple. In one piece, so don’t worry. We’re not going to hurt you.”

Grimory furrows his brow at the mention of his name. “Who? Why?” He scowls, frustration welling inside of him.

Kel’ori purses her lips. “I think I’ll go get that wood now.” She sweeps from the cellar and out into the cooling night, where she stomps her foot at herself. “Keep it together. He’s probably more scared than you are, idiot.” She returns promptly, the wood floating behind her. She busies herself at the stove, keeping her back to him and her lips pursed tight.

Grimory watches her intently, taking more notes on her abilities and demeanor. “I’m not cold,” he says. “Don’t bother.”

Kel’ori closes the stove and brushes her hands down the front of her dress, though she hadn’t actually touched the wood. “I’ll come back, then. Eat. Please. We don’t want anything bad to happen to you—including starving.”

Grimory again looks from the mage to the food. He narrows his eyes, then kicks the mug over. “No.”

Kel’ori jumps at the sound and skitters back against the stove. “Please, Grim. You need to eat.” Her voice catches to betray her fright. She inches forward to reach for the mug to set it upright, hoping there is any left inside.

Just before she can pick up the mug, he skids his boot across the floor loudly and watches her jerk away in response. He lets a short silence pass. “Why are you so afraid of me? Who are you?”

Kel’ori opens her mouth and closes it again several times, her mind pressing her to tell him the truth.

I like blondes.

She gasps as tears come to her eyes. “You’re a monster,” she whispers, then runs from the cellar, slamming the door behind her.

Grimory eases back into the wall and sighs. “News to me.”

Baemalen jerks awake at the slamming outside. He inhales slowly and pinches at the bridge of his nose, his head pounding. He sits up and groans, rubbing his palms over his face.

Kel’ori goes into the house and sinks down in the brightly lit corner by the fire, her back to the cool stone. She covers her face and shivers, though she is not cold, and gasps in breaths, but doesn’t cry.

The man sits up at the commotion in the next room. He looks at the sleeping baby wrapped in many blankets near the covered fireplace, then sighs and stands, taking up the infant and going to the foyer. He frowns and sets a hand on Kel’ori’s shoulder. “You all right?”

“He won’t eat,” she says without moving.

Baemalen blinks. “Bel? Well he’s also asleep so I imagine he doesn’t want to.”

Kel’ori shakes her head. “Grim. He won’t eat. And he knows I’m afraid of him. I can’t do this. I can’t look him in the eyes as though everything is fine between us, even though he’s not the man I fear, yet. He looks so innocent. So happy. There’s no demon inside him yet, and still his eyes in the darkness…” Her breath catches on a hiccup as tears finally form. “How do I make him eat? I can’t let him starve! He’s not the man I know, and yet I want to hit him. Because he’s weaker. But I can’t, for the same reason. Is it wrong to wish to punish someone for something they haven’t done yet?” She gasps and covers her mouth. “I can’t keep all these secrets. I can’t. It’s too much.” She glimpses the sleeping baby and sorrow fills her. “I could tell him. I could stop it ever happening.” She buries her face into her knees and wraps her hands behind her head. “Oh gods, I’m a terrible mother!”

Baemalen blinks at her rambling, his eyebrows slowly furrowing. He pulls the baby away from his shoulder and looks into his sleeping face. He stammers, fumbling over the beginnings of many sentences before finally coming upon “this is Grim’s child?!” He pauses, putting the pieces together. “A-and he… You?! What?”

Kel’ori grows more frantic, her eyes wide. “You can’t say anything, Bae. You can’t tell him! For him…it hasn’t happened, yet.” She bites at her bottom lip as it quivers. She closes her eyes and turns her head. “It wasn’t his choice, either. And I still have trouble forgiving him, even though I tell him I have.” She turns back, her tear-filled eyes pleading with him. “You can’t go down there. You can’t tell him. Promise me.”

Baemalen visibly flounders in his as he fidgets. He looks at the floor, then back to her. “He’s my friend. My best friend.”

The mage forces herself to calm down. She takes a few deep breaths, then looks into his eyes and purses her lips. “Not anymore, Bae. That’s why you have to stay away from him. He can’t know you’re here.” Her breath hiccups in her chest. “And if you tell him…as much as I sometimes wish it to never have happened… It would mean losing Bel.” She runs her fingertips across the smooth, soft cheeks of the infant. “I’m either a terrible friend to Grim or a terrible mother to my son… Which would you choose?”

He hesitates again, still wrapping his head around everything and his mind racing so quickly he barely hears her self-deprecation. “Y-you’re talking about…time travel. Right? And Grim—cellar Grim—is…my Grim? Yours? I-I don’t understand.”

Kel’ori takes a breath. “Fuck it. We’re from the future. Twenty-something years from now. The Grim in the cellar is the Grim you know—the one from this time. Our Grim has taken his own place in the Black Temple. I don’t remember all the details. I wasn’t listening the first time, because I wasn’t supposed to be here. I only know what my brother told me before they left.”

Baemalen swallows and again looks at the floor. “We can’t just leave him down there,” he says quietly. “Illie will be heartbroken if something happens to him. Donnie, too.”

“I don’t know who those people are. But, if the plan works, they’ll never know Grim was gone. They’ll never know a version of him from the future was with them. Once he’s done in there, Ana will come get this Grim, and they’ll just…put him back. But they can’t do that if he won’t eat. If he doesn’t eat and he dies… It’ll change everything.” She frowns and rubs at her temples.

Baemalen tenses. “No, we can’t let him die. And if he can’t see me, then I can’t help.” He paces a bit again. “Illie was always really good at convincing him to do stuff with her sweetness. But he likes her.” He bites at his lip in thought. “He’s also just really hardheaded. If you give him enough time he may come around.”

“In my time he’s always with Ali. She can convince him to do pretty much anything just to make her smile. He’d also literally die for Diori if she asked him to. Not really options, from where I’m sitting.” As though she’s just remembered, she motions at the fireplace. “I made more stew. Go ahead and eat.”

Baemalen glances at the stew, his headache slowly coming back as his adrenaline fades. He hands over the infant. “Ali? The death knight girl?” He frowns at the implications. “Does something happen to Illie? Why else would he leave her?”

Kel’ori’s brow furrows. “Leave her? I… I honestly don’t know. I’m sorry. All I know is he’s kinda stuck on Ali, but they’re not, like, together, but also they had this thing like fifty years ago—my time, of course. And they had a kid. My little sister. Adopted, obviously.” She shrugs and leans her head back. “Maybe they just didn’t work out. I know some Illidari, once they were brought back, a lot of them didn’t…get along with society. Too much time spent alone. Which I shouldn’t be telling you because you might try to change things.”

Baemalen nods, his brow furrowing further as he thinks. “He has another child?” He shakes his head as though the act will rid him of his confusion, but a sadness seeps into his heart. “She must not have made it, then. Illie isn’t as big a coward as me, but she’s not as strong as him.” He sighs, then smiles as he feels tears stinging his eyes at the thought. “Sorry for freaking out. This is just…a lot of information at once.”

“I know. I’m sorry. The others can explain it better. It’s just hard knowing that all I’d have to do is go down there and tell that Grim anything, and things would change. I could show him the little girl in Stormwind right now, and he’d probably change his whole life around to spend time with her, just like he did in the future.” She stares off into space. “I could go tell myself my future as well.”

“Really can’t see that guy being a father, to be honest. He’s so young. Right now, anyway.” Baemalen nods absently. “Do you happen to know what happens to me?” He gives a small chuckle.

Kel’ori shakes her head. “Never heard of you until now. Sorry.”

Baemalen shrugs, still struggling to calm himself some. His eyes flick to the doorway to the sleeping quarters. “Worth a shot.” He sighs and looks back at the stew. “Did you eat yet? I’m not having any until everyone’s had some. It smells great.”

Kel’ori pushes to her feet. “No one has eaten. I was going to after taking some to Grim. Eat. Please. You slept all day and only had booze. You’ve already nearly finished the bottle.” She studies his demeanor and frowns. He looks so scared… “I’m going to hug you, okay?”

The Illidari gives a small chuckle, then quiets when she doesn’t laugh with him. He clears his throat. “A-all right. Can I ask why?”

“Why am I warning you? So, you don’t flinch like I’m going to hit you.” She steps to him and wraps her free arm under his, then pulls him close, her head on his shoulder. “Why am I hugging you? Because you seem scared. I want you to know that I’m a friend.” Her ear picks up the rapid pace of his heartbeat.

Baemalen laughs breathily through his panic. He brings his arms up to return the embrace. “I’m not scared,” he says, albeit unconvincingly. “And I consider you my friend…as well.”

Kel’ori smiles. “Want me to let go, yet?”

His heart jumps at her words—suddenly not by the aspect of her touching him, but at the thought of her letting go. I’ve needed this. He pulls her the smallest bit closer and shakes his head.

“Just tell me when,” she says softly.

After a minute or so, Baemalen pulls himself away from her. Something drips onto his chest and he blinks, bringing a hand up to wipe at a cheek. He flushes and turns away, still smiling. “S-sorry. How embarrassing.”

The mage twists her lips. “It doesn’t make me think any less of you. If you ever need to talk…” She uses her magic to serve him in the chipped bowl and sets it at the small table with a large, battered spoon. “Found some utensils in a pile of trash. Don’t worry, I cleaned them.” She motions for him to sit.

She sets herself in front of the stool and uses her magic to collect all her makeup. Sitting with her legs crisscrossed, she sets Bel’theas neatly in the center. As though forgetting she’s not alone, she begins humming as she brushes her hair and picks out eyeshadow colors.

Baemalen sits across from her and takes a bite of stew—but not before thoroughly blowing on it. He watches her, eyes sliding from her pretty face to the sleeping baby’s, then back. It doesn’t make me think any less of you. “I’m here, too.” He shakes his head when she looks at him. “If you need to talk, that is.”

Kel’ori smiles at him. The shadow pallets float up and open, angled so he can see. “Pick your favorite color.”

Baemalen tilts his head. “My favorite color wouldn’t suit you very well.” He points to a shade of green not unlike that if healthy grass. “Wouldn’t work with your pretty blue eyes and vibrant yellow hair.”

“First of all, never doubt a master. I can do anything with any color that isn’t brown. Because brown is hopeless. Second of all, shameless flattery won’t get you very far with most people.” She fluffs her hair as the pallets come back to her. She casts him a flirty smile. “But I’m not most people.”

She sets to work, using her hands instead of magic to hold the brushes and control the makeup. After her lids are done, she traces with a charcoal-colored liner from a little silver tin. She opens the mascara tin and coats the little bristle brush to carefully apply the pigment. Finally, she finishes with a pale rouge on her cheeks and her signature deep red lipstick.

“Still like the green?” She asks, batting her lids intensely so he can see the green expertly cut with a smoky purple that makes the green stand out all the brighter.

Baemalen, spoon still between his lips, swallows his remaining bite of dinner. He makes to speak, then remembers the spoon and pulls it out. He clears his throat, flustered. “You look beautiful,” he finally says after regaining his composure. He returns the sultry smile. “Though, I gotta say nude would suit you better.”

She smirks at him. “Huh. You wish.” She stares at herself a bit longer in the mirror, her chin on the backs of her fingers as she turns her head this way and that. “I haven’t felt this much like myself in months. Mmm, just what I needed. Thank you so much for the help.” She kisses her fingertips and blows it at him. She stands, then bends to him. “I have to go make sure that idiot doesn’t freeze to death, as well as starving. Do you mind?” Her eyes remain somewhat sultry, but her smile is genuine and sweet.

“I didn’t do anything?” His eyes instinctively flick to her cleavage as he leans away, then back to her face. His grin widens and he takes the baby. “Of course. Be nice to him. He’s a softie inside.”

“Oh, please. The mysterious Silvermoon locket that no one has ever seen inside?” She scoffs, smiling, and wraps her cloak over her shoulders. “I’ll be the nicest Kel’ori I know how to be. Don’t worry.” She winks and steps out into the cold.

The mage sweeps down the stairs and turns up the lanterns with her magic. She settles her sights on Grimory, this time unwavering behind her shield of makeup making her feel stronger. She strides to the furnace and opens it, moving to the side so he can see. She snaps her fingers and the logs inside ignite, then she slams it shut with a clang! Still silent, Kel’ori lifts the untouched tray and the mug from the dirt. Before she leaves, she raises her hand and extinguishes every lantern on the wall, leaving the only source of light what little there is flickering through the narrow grating of the stove.

“Have a good night,” she says in a cheerful tone heavily saturated with sass. Then she leaves and goes back upstairs to smile at Baemalen holding the slowly waking Bel’theas. “I hope he likes how hospitable I can be,” she says without a hint of sarcasm.

Baemalen’s smile grows slightly concerned as he again relinquishes the baby. “I’m…sure he’ll be fine,” he says more to himself than anyone.

“He will be,” she says. “I would kill for running water.” The dishes dunk into a small basin of water. After a moment glaring at them, she sends them away in a puff. “We’re better than this.” With the wave of a hand a crate of dishes appears on the floor. “So lovely,” she muses, lifting a porcelain plate etched with precious metal from the packing hay. “It’s so important to put things away if you don’t want to lose them.” She finds a bowl and a rolled leather sleeve filled with silverware. “Perfect. I’m starving.”

Baemalen blinks down at the cutlery and plates. “Wh-…where…?”

Kel’ori beams. “I saw them in Shattrath. At one of the shops.” Her smile falters the smallest bit. “Do you not like them?”

A smile creeps across Baemalen’s face. He leans on the table, knuckles on a cheek. “Five finger discount, eh?”

“Think they’ll miss them?” She rinses one, Bel’theas cooing at the shimmering water, then serves herself some stew.

Bel’theas gives an impatient pout as he watches her.

“Oh, is it dinner time, my sweet?”

Baemalen chuckles. “A woman after my own heart. I like you more every day.” He stretches. “Maybe you can swipe me some bourbon? Be careful, though. Some powerful mages there can trace arcane signatures.”

Kel’ori shakes her head as she arranges the infant in the papoose. The item covers her as she opens her top to feed him. “Careful what you say. You could give a girl the wrong impression.” For a moment she frowns down at Bel’theas, then breathes a heavy breath. “I can get you some. Later maybe. Just promise to be careful. I’ve seen where too much can go. I don’t want to be responsible for something happening to you.”

Baemalen tilts his head, curious. “Oh? Someone you know get in an alcohol-fueled accident?”

The mage shakes her head. “When my mother died, father was…unwell. He went so long without being sober. Taveth had just been born and father couldn’t even look at him. I took the younger children to live with my aunt and uncle. Ervaen and I took care of the Tavern so father didn’t lose it. We didn’t go home for many years, just took food to him and made sure he ate something. The rest of my siblings don’t know that’s why we left.” She swirls the spoon through the stew, her eyes on the vegetables moving within. “So just be careful, all right?”

Baemalen sobers. “Sorry to hear that. Your mother, too.” He idly digs a thumbnail into the wood. When he looks down, his hair slips from his shoulder to inadvertently hide his face. “It’s a good thing I don’t have anyone to disappoint.”

Kel’ori sets her spoon down and reaches across to push aside his curtain of hair. “I wouldn’t be disappointed. Just worried. And I might force you to eat, even if you don’t want to. Friends don’t let friends suffer alone.”

The man jerks, too caught up in his own thoughts to expect a hand so close to his face, then calms. He smiles and takes another bite. “Better?” he says, cheek still full.

The mage laughs and nods. “It’ll do.”

They finish their meal with much lighter-hearted conversation before the mage yawns and leans back.

“I think it’s time for me to retire for the night. Isn’t that right, little guy,” she says to the infant she’s burping at her shoulder.

Baemalen nods and grins. “You go ahead. If you need me to watch over him I can. I’ll be up busying myself anyway.”

Kel’ori nods as she heads for the other room. “You were asleep all day, anyway.”

“I feel called out,” the Illidari says with a smile. “Good night.”

She smiles back. “Good night.”

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