The rolled paper appears beside Anarchaia and smacks the woman on the side of the head before falling to the ground.
She jerks and squeaks in surprise, then furrows her brow down at the scroll. She unfurls it, immediately recognizes the handwriting, then gasps and stands when she finishes. “She took the baby! And Grim!”
Jorick blinks up at her. “Who?”
“A blood knight woman!” She tenses, then flails in panic. “We have to go help.” She groans. “But I can’t make a portal if I can barely teleport myself.” She paces, rambling ideas.
The mercenary blinks at her again. “So we fly.”
She stops and opens her mouth, then closes it again and shakes her head apprehensively.
Taveth blinks at the chaos. “Okay, but…where did she take them?”
“Ask Grim,” Koltira says from the doorway.
“How are we supposed to—” Taveth’s eyes bug wide and he looks over at Anarchaia. “You don’t think…”
Anarchaia shakes her head, for once not following. “Why ask Grim? What don’t I think? What am I missing?”
Taveth whimpers in annoyance. “Because maybe he’ll remember?”
“That doesn’t help our situation of getting back to the house, and then getting to wherever they went,” Koltira says. “But I agree that flying might be our only choice.”
“I’ll send Tryxora to ask Grimory if—”
<<I was listening,>> the demoness says from the darkness deeper in the tunnel.
Taveth jumps. “What are you doing down there?”
<<Not protecting the infant, apparently.>> She stomps forward and growls at him. <<I knew that weak little elf couldn’t protect him!>>
“Okay, okay! Can you just go get Grim?”
She hisses one last time, then walks through a purple portal.
Anarchaia fidgets more. “Y-you guys can fly. I’ll just meet you there.”
Jorick purses his lips in bemusement. “So you can pass out for three days again?”
She frowns. “It was three days?”
Koltira goes into the cave and sits by the mage. “You can close your eyes. We won’t judge you for it.”
She groans apprehensively in response. “It’s not the heights I’m afraid of.”
“A dragonhawk ain’t the same as a horse, Ana,” Jorick says as he stands. “What’s it gonna kick you with?”
She purses her lips. “They bite.”
“Someone needs to stay here, in case Ali comes back,” Taveth says, not paying attention to the other discussion. “I think I’d be an adequate choice. Given my…friends?”
Jorick shakes his head and rolls his eyes at the mage, then turns to Taveth. “I can stay. They may need your friends.”
Taveth frowns. “You’re still injured. I won’t leave you here alone.”
Jorick gives Taveth a small smile. “You’re a good kid.”
Taveth blushes and shrugs. “Not really. Just doing what anyone would.”
“I won’t let it bite you,” Koltira insists.
Anarchaia sighs but remains tense at the thought. “Okay,” she finally says.
Grimory jumps as his elbow is grabbed. He narrows his eyes down at the whip binding his arm and scowls at the succubus. “Ana? What are you doing? Are you enjoying being up there a little too much?”
<<Try again, big boy. You and the baby were stolen. Our master requests your memories.>> She pulls at the whip and pushes herself against him. <<Do you plan on resisting?>> Her grin is one of almost daring.
Grimory gives her an annoyed stare but does not resist. <<No. What does he need? Why can’t I just tell you and you tell him?>>
Tryxora purses her lips. <<Do you remember a blood knight?>>
Grimory thinks on it, then nods. <<There were a few here a few days ago. Why?>>
Tryxora’s brow furrows. <<Did you not hear me? A blood knight kidnapped you. And the baby.>> She growls and throws her hands up. <<No memory at all. You’re useless.>> She doesn’t wait. But returns to Taveth. <<He’s useless. And doesn’t care. Let’s go save Bel’theas.>>
“We’re not going,” he says.
Anarchaia stands. “Let’s find ourselves a flight path, then,” she grumbles begrudgingly.
Jorick gives a small, two fingered salute. “Be safe.” He fishes the map from his bag and relinquishes it to the mage. “Send word, okay?”
She nods. “Are you sure you want to stay behind?”
He nods and scratches at the back of his neck. “Yeah… I’d just be a burden. No magic powers, just a bum leg and dead weight.” He smiles.
Taveth stands to hug the mage and give Koltira a handshake. “Thank you for helping my family. I know they’re in good hands.” He ignores the angry mumbling of the demoness.
The mage and death knight duo travel back west until they come across a small draenic village mostly in ruin. The people there go about their work, regarding the two with dubious interest as they walk toward the post at the top of the steps of the altar. A draenei man sits with a wyvern on one side and a griffin on the other.
Anarchaia gasps and grabs at Koltira’s arm. “We didn’t bring any money,” she hisses quietly.
Koltira lowers his brow at her. “Why do I feel like you’re lying?”
She purses her lips and straightens, then frowns and gives the waiting draenei man the remaining silver in her satchel. The griffin squawks expectantly and the mage cries out, putting Koltira’s much larger frame between herself and it. “I-I change my mind! The baby can die!” she whimpers.
Koltira’s eyelids lower. He pinches the bridge of his nose, then turns and wraps his arms around the mage. The death knight lifts her onto the wyvern, then gets on behind her. It immediately takes off for Falcon Watch; he keeps his arms wrapped around her. “I won’t let you fall, and it can’t face you to bite you. Besides, they’re trained.”
She presses herself tightly against him and screams, holding onto his arms. “The horse that kicked me was trained, too!”
“Ana, it can’t kick you, either. Calm down.” He deals with her screaming all the way until they land in Falcon’s watch and she leaps from the creature’s back. He rolls his eyes and takes her by the elbow. “Okay, let’s try to make good time. Might get there by morning.”
They travel swiftly and when they arrive at the house, they find a sleep-deprived Kel’ori with dark circles around the smeared makeup of her eyes. She’s propped in the large chair in front of the fire, Baemalen dozed at her feet. Her head snaps to them and she frowns.
“Do you have him? Did you find him? She took my baby.” The elf breaks down into more sobbing, though hardly any tears come to her eyes as though she’s out of them.
Koltira blinks and looks around. “I… Where did you get all this stuff?”
“Koltira,” Anarchaia hisses, then takes Kel’ori gently by the shoulders and lowers her voice to a comforting tone. “No. We need some information before we go. What happened? Did you see which direction she came or left from?”
Kel’ori shakes her head. “Um. I, uh, I don’t know.” She gently shakes the Illidari’s shoulder. “Bae? Bae! Where did they go? Did you see where they went?”
Koltira purses his lips. “She was probably on that stupid dragonhawk. She could have gone anywhere.”
Baemalen jerks awake. “Sorry!” He calms after a moment. “O-oh. Uhm,” he clenches his eyes shut and shakes his head as he thinks quickly. “North. She went—”
“To Tempest Keep.” Grimory regards Anarchaia and Koltira with a nod as he strides in.
“And how do you know that?” Anarchaia says, hiding her surprise.
He shakes his head. “I suddenly have these memories of being taken.”
She purses her lips anxiously. “We may be messing with the timeline too much.”
Kel’ori stands. “Then we go to Tempest Keep.”
“Do you really think you should go?” Koltira asks.
She shoots him a deathly glare. “If you even try to stop me…”
Baemalen nods as he gets to his feet. “I’ll go as well.”
Anarchaia groans quietly at the thought of more flying but nods all the same. “Back to Falcon Watch, then…”
Grimory nods and turns back outside. “Right. I’ll meet you there.” He spreads his wings and is gone.
“Let’s hurry,” the elf mage says, grabbing a bag she’d prepared during the night. “Do you know the fastest way there?”
Koltira looks at Anarchaia, then shakes his head. “I honestly don’t think Anarchaia has fully recovered. We’ll have to—”
“Okay, let’s go.” She shoves past him out the door.
“Other way,” Koltira grumbles when she heads east.
Kel’ori stomps past the door again, this time pointed west.
“N-no, it’s fine,” Anarchaia mumbles as she follows the other three. “I’m fine. Trauma is fine.”
The four make it to Falcon Watch in record time thanks to Kel’ori’s urging. With help from Baemalen’s pilfered money, they take two dragonhawks and set out north.
Koltira holds tight to the mage. “You still okay on energy?”
Anarchaia nods but continues to keep her eyes shut. “Yeah. I guess the distance was manageable. Just kind of tired, now,” she says just barely over the rushing wind.
“Maybe try to nap while we fly…if you can,” Koltira says.
Anarchaia groans apprehensively and turns sidesaddle to curl into his chest while giving the beast a sideways glance. “What if it decides that’s the best time to eat me?”
“Then he’ll have to go through me. Plate-covered jerky.” He kisses her forehead and squeezes his arms tighter around her.
She sticks out her lower lip. “You’re hardly shriveled. Have you looked in a mirror?”
“I imagine I look less dead,” Koltira says. “But I like hearing your compliments.”
Anarchaia gives a forced, quiet laugh. “Well. You’ve got beautiful eyes, long, luxurious hair, chiseled abs, and the brains to back it all up,” she says, finding that the continuous talking takes her mind off the terror.
Koltira chuckles into her ear. “If you insist on lying, then I will have to compliment you until you’re red in the face.”
The human girl scowls. “I’m not a liar. …And please don’t.”
“You don’t want me to tell you how beautiful you are in the sunrise? How your hair catches the colors perfectly and your cheeks turn the sweetest shade of pink?” He brushes her hair from her face. “How can the smartest woman I know not recognize her own beauty?”
Anarchaia looks away, her scowl deepening along with her blush. “Stop it or I’ll jump.”
Koltira moves the arm over her waist that’s keeping her in place. He looks over the side of the wyvern, using his other arm to push her to look at the black abyss below them. “I mean, it does look inviting.”
She gasps, leans back, and clings to him, suddenly very aware of the danger. “Y-yeah for once I think I disagree with you.”
Koltira chuckles and puts his arm back around her. “That’s what I thought.”
~ * ~
Baemalen looks down at the back of Kel’ori’s head and leans down to talk to her instead of yelling. “Are you sure you want to do this? Tempest Keep isn’t a very safe place. It’s swarming with Kael’thas’ militia.”
The mage jerks around to talk to him, then jumps at the closeness of their faces. “What kind of mother would I be? I have to, Bae.”
Baemalen nods after a second. “All right. Promise you’ll be careful?”
She nods. “Do you promise to be careful as well?”
Baemalen gives her a confident grin and winks. “If she gets between you and I, or Grim and I…or Bel and I, then no promises.”
“If anything happens and it’s either Bel or me, promise you’ll save him. And… If anything happens to me…” Kel’ori swallows, unsure what to tell him. I’m all Bel’theas has… Tears spring to her eyes and she turns forward to let the wind blow them away.
Baemalen frowns, then, on impulse, pulls her back to him to again speak in her ear. “Nothing is going to happen to you. And if it does…” he swallows, “I’ll take care of him.”
The mage’s throat goes tight. She closes her eyes as more tears blind her. Gently, Kel’ori leans back until her temple touches to him. “I’m scared.”
Baemalen tenses the slightest bit, heart picking up its pace. He fights through it and brings a hand up to rest on her head while the other grips the reins. “Everything will be okay.”
Kel’ori tenses at the touch but clenches her jaw and forces herself to concentrate on how comforting his arms around her is. Without realizing it, she dozes lightly against his chest, getting a moment of rest that she hadn’t gotten that night.
~ * ~
The dragonhawk slips into the hideout through a secret passageway just barely large enough for him, forcing the two on his back to duck low. Stormbreaker lands among the green trees for the others to dismount. He warbles at the blood knight.
“You did so good, boy,” she says, scratching its chin. She waits by a small pond, then snaps up a fish. “Just one.” A quick snap of its neck renders it motionless. She pauses and offers the fish to Grimory, holding out her other hand for Bel’theas, who has begun to whimper for a meal. “Don’t get too close with the child or Stormbreaker is liable to eat him. Feed him this, though. He’ll consider you a friend.”
Grimory hands over the child and allows the beast to snatch the fish from his palm. It makes a contented noise and sniffs around for more. The Illidari turns to the woman. “Why did you save me?” he says after a second.
The blood knight regards him. Stormbreaker takes flight through the halls, leaving the others alone. She turns and motions for Grimory to follow.
“You’re free to go anywhere within the Botanica. Given that you can sprout your own wings, don’t bother looking for an exit. It’s blocked. The foyer is blocked off as well, don’t try to find a way in. That’s Stormbreaker’s roost and he is very territorial.” She finds a milkplant and pulls off a bud, then shoves the end into Bel’theas’s mouth. “The plants are labeled if you get hungry or thirsty.” She lovingly pats a lasher as it slithers up to her. “Any questions? Besides the one…” She rests on a hip and studies him. “Captivity doesn’t suit you. And, well, as payment for killing all of them I was promised anything I want.” She strides close and trails her fingertips up his arm. “I don’t see why you can’t be on that list.”
“I…can’t fly, yet. I’m still uninitiated.” A flush crawls up his neck at the touch. His lips part in an attempt to tell her that he’s currently in a relationship, but the fear of what she may do to him if he rejects her closes them again. He clears his throat. “Kill who?” he says instead.
“Uninitiated? Hmm… Good.” She leads him to a room out of the way, where a crib has already been set up. “Convenient, no? I was about to use it for firewood.” She sets Bel’theas inside. “Be a good little monster and keep the noise down.” The blood knight leaves the room, expecting Grimory to follow, but not hinting it. “I have a mission. I’m to kill a demon hunter, a mage, two death knights, and a warlock. You can help, if you like. If not, stay out of my way.”
Grimory gives one last curious look at the sleeping baby, then follows. “I’m…not really in the business of killing things that aren’t demons.”
The blood knight shrugs. “Then stay out of my way. It’s really that simple.” She slips her hand into his elbow and steers him away. “Come, let me show you around.”
Grimory nods and allows her to guide him. “Is this not Tempest Keep? It looks…abandoned.”
She hmphs behind her mask. “Something wrong with a little privacy?”
Grimory holds his hands up and stops following, giving a coy grin. “Well. You just had to say…”
“Are you hungry, Mr. Silversong?” the blood knight asks. “Perhaps you’ll join me for… Well, either a late dinner or an early breakfast.”
Grimory’s stomach twists at the thought of food and he sighs. “As much as my pride would protest, I haven’t eaten in days…”
~~Grimory stares curiously at the woman as she sharpens her weapon and he finishes his glass of ale. “You never answered me about who you are. And what you want exactly with that baby.”
She pauses and looks over at him “I believe I did tell you. It’s a dragon halfling, isn’t it? My employer wishes the dragon dead. The child is simply bait.” The blood knight casts her eyes to the blade, then returns to sharpening it. “I haven’t had a name in decades. I wouldn’t even know how to respond to it. Do you require a name for me, or is my promise to keep you from harm satisfactory enough?” Her glowing green eyes peer at him from behind her helm.
Grimory furrows his brow, deciding the answer is good enough for him. “Why does your employer want this dragon dead?” He stares into his cup as though it will answer him instead. “And why didn’t you just take me back to the temple?”
“The temple isn’t a good place to be, right now. As for the dragon… He’s meddling in affairs he’s no business in. He and his band of merry morons.” She stands and brushes the leather of a gloved finger down his cheek. “I do hope we can become friends…Grimory. In time, of course.”
He tenses but does not pull away. “What’s wrong with the temple? It was pretty safe before I was kidnapped,” he responds cautiously.
“It’s nothing to worry about. I promise. You’re safe here.” She smirks behind her mask. “It’s a shame I wasn’t chosen for that mission. Seems more important than exterminating a few vermin.”
He frowns, nearly scowling. “I’m not worried about my safety. What are you blood knights planning?”
The knight hisses behind her helm. “The blood knights? Are you kidding? These pathetic mongrels couldn’t even defend our Prince! You think they are any sort of threat to the Black Temple? Weaklings who couldn’t hold back a small army sent over from Azeroth. Those who don’t die are filthy little turncoats out for their own hides; kneeling down to lick their boots like beaten dogs. They can rot today or in a few years, for all I care.” She crosses the room, her anger palpable in the air.
His worry for his friends rises in his throat. “Then who? Why?”
The woman slowly turns to look at him. She studies him with narrowed eyes. “Have I mistakenly brought a wolf into my den?”
Grimory furrows his brow. “I’m an Illidari. I have friends at the Temple. I was kidnapped. Can you really blame me for being worried about them?”
“If you return to the temple, your fate is no better,” she whispers. Her eyes stare off through a stained-glass window, as though caught in a memory.