The group eventually lands in a goblin town busy for even that time of night. Anarchaia quickly leaps from the animal and scrabbles away from it, glad to be done with the ordeal for the time being. She blinks over at the second wyvern as it lands, then smiles and bites her lip. “She fell asleep?” she says, gesturing to the curled-up mage in front of Baemalen.
The Illidari nods and dismounts with the woman in his arms. “I guess all this stress has taken a lot out of her. I know it’s urgent but maybe we should rest here for a bit.”
Anarchaia nods and looks around. “I wonder if Grim is here.”
Koltira shakes his head. “You really think he’d take the same path as us? He couldn’t have kept up, either.” He nods in the direction of a lively tavern, the windows on the floors above dark. “Well, at least the inn is easy enough to find.”
“He did have a rather large head start,” Anarchaia mumbles.
He pauses and blinks at the man holding the mage. “You wouldn’t happen to have any gold on you?”
Baemalen turns to the death knight, then merely grins wide. “Plenty. Let’s grab some rooms.” He turns and lowers his voice. “And maybe a drink or five.”
The Illidari leads the way inside, purchasing one room when the other two insist they don’t require one. He brings Kel’ori upstairs and lays her in the bed. After removing her shoes, he ponders for a moment if he should remove the rest of her clothing, then decides against it and pulls the blankets up to her chin. He locks the door on his way out and joins the other two at a table in the corner. “Out like a light. Haha.”
“Wasn’t sure of your poison of choice, so I got you gin. Grimory likes it.” Koltira’s frosted eyes scan the inhabitants, many of whom are staring. “I need a hood,” he complains. “Or to…go back another year.” He throws back his drink and pours more into the small glass.
“I’ll drink nearly anything short of rocket fuel,” Baemalen says as he sits, then lifts the glass in cheers. “And that’s only because the opportunity hasn’t presented itself yet.”
He regards Anarchaia, then the other elf. “Remind you of something?”
Anarchaia takes his glass to drink from it, then tilts her head once. “You didn’t seem too keen on that idea.” She blinks between the two, then smiles. “Just like in Stormheim,” she says with a small blush. “And Val’sharah.”
Baemalen looks between the two. “Oh. Are you two a thing?”
“Not back then, we weren’t,” he says. “First time we met we went to an inn…very different from this one—taller doorways. Me, her, Grim, and Ali.” He chuckles and pours another two fingers, not bothering to take the glass from the mage. “Ali’s cousin and Grim’s best friend? You and Kel make okay replacements. Not sure if a specific activity of that night will be repeated tonight.”
Anarchaia flushes more and takes another sip before handing it back. “I don’t see any dartboards, however.”
Baemalen throws back the two shots and sets the empty glass back down. “Ah. Shame. Was going to try for you myself.” He gives a charming grin to the mage, then chuckles at the death knight’s reaction. “But I won’t.”
She titters embarrassedly.
Grimory sighs as he enters the tavern, then makes his way to their table. “Oh, you guys are taking a break, too?” He slowly sits beside Baemalen, clearly weary.
Koltira narrows his eyes at the mage. “Wrong night.” He tips the bottleneck toward Grimory as greeting. “Oh, now Grim can play his own part.” His lips press into a thin line as he rethinks the comparison. “I take it back. You wanna be Ali for a night?” He flashes a silly grin at the red-haired Illidari.
Anarchaia blinks and furrows her brow. “Which night, then? The first one?”
Grimory looks around at the three. “Oh, are we reminiscing?” He takes Baemalen’s cup immediately after the man is finished pouring a new drink and drinks it himself instead.
Baemalen patiently waits for his cup back as he gives Koltira a curious smile. “Oh, the pretty elf with the black hair, right?” He chuckles. “I can be her. What do I have to do?”
“Well, you have to act unpredictably. Drink far too much cinnamon whiskey…” Koltira smirks to resist smiling. “Flirt shamelessly with Grim.” He holds back a laugh. “And, of course, then you have to fuck him.”
Anarchaia laughs loudly. “Then you have to cut him up while he’s tied to a bed.”
“Oh, so a regular night at the temple, then?” He smiles flirtatiously up at the man beside him, hand still out and waiting for the glass.
Grimory huffs and blushes. “Bae!”
Koltira laughs outright, which draws more unnecessary attention at the hollow echo of his voice. He sneers and averts his gaze. “I should go hide in the room. What do you think my appearance here is doing to the timeline? All death knights were restricted to the Citadel in the four years while Arthas slept. Not many had seen our kind before.” He slides his eyes sideways at Baemalen. “Plug your ears and forget I said that.”
Baemalen pauses, a reserved smile on his face. “Kel’ori told me everything. B-but you can’t blame her!” He sighs. “She’s a mess. It’s really not her fault.”
Anarchaia sighs and crooks her lips to one side. “I mean, it can’t be too big a deal, right? …I hope.” She sets a hand on Koltira’s arm and smiles. “And if you really think it’s so important, no one will blame you for grabbing a room.”
The death knight shrugs at Baemalen. “Just so long as these facts stay between us. No one else can know. Which means when we return to our time, you have to keep your mouth shut. You can’t tell anyone what you may have heard of events yet to happen.” He shakes his head at the mage. “Just tell them I’ve a skin condition. And an eye condition…”
“The fact that you’re with me already says you have an eye condition,” Anarchaia mumbles and takes another drink of gin.
Koltira narrows his eyes at the mage. “I know your weaknesses. Don’t press your luck.”
Anarchaia smiles at him and swirls the contents of her glass. “Oh, but you don’t disagree. Glad we’re on the same page.”
Baemalen holds up a hand. “Your secrets are safe with me—give me back the godsdamn glass,” he hisses and swipes his cup back from a chuckling Grimory. “Wait, so if you exist in the future, does that mean you survived initiation?”
The other demon hunter nods. “Yeah. Eldon, too if that means anything to you.”
“And Illie?” Baemalen continues with an expectant grin.
Grimory shifts uncomfortably. “N-…no.”
His smile falters. “But-…but how—”
“It’s best not to tell you.” Grimory takes the bottle and takes a long drink.
The death knight points a warning finger at the mage but turns his attention on the Illidari. “Who’s Illie?”
“Illith’ra Calmwind. Grimmie’s main squeeze.” Baemalen pinches Grimory’s cheek, then laughs when his hand is swatted away. His smile grows somber. “Though I guess not for much longer.”
“In a month or so.” Grimory takes another drink.
“So save her! You can stop it, right?”
Grimory grits his teeth and looks away. “I shouldn’t.”
Koltira shakes his head. “We’re under strict orders not to change the past for personal reasons due to the possible repercussions. We have to think about how our actions now will affect the future. How saving someone from his past might change his future. He could save her, but then this version of him would cease to exist. Gone in an instant. And then we are left one man short in this fight.” He takes a long drink and stares at his glass. “If we could all save the one we loved, then our lives would veer off the course we traveled. And then it’s safe to say none of us would be here and the dragon would win and the Legion would successfully invade and possibly conquer the Outlands and Azeroth. Then all will be lost.” He scoffs a laugh. “At least, that’s the argument Taveth gave me.”
Baemalen looks between both Koltira and Grimory. “But…she’s going to die.”
“I know,” Grimory grumbles.
“How, then? At least tell me that much.”
Grimory tenses and turns to glare out the window instead. “I’d really rather not talk about it, yeah?”
Anarchaia clears her throat. “M-maybe some light-hearted banter is in order. How do you think Jorick and Taveth are faring?”
Koltira purses his lips. “I don’t know you… But stop trying to put ideas into his head. If I can’t do it, then he can’t.” He regards Anarchaia across from him. “When was yours?”
Baemalen pouts up at Grimory and the latter scoffs and looks away.
“Puppy eyes aren’t working this time. Trust me. I’d like to.”
Anarchaia perks and blinks. “My…? My death?” She brings up fingers to tick them off. “Well if we’re twenty-three back, it’d be a year or so from now. Why?”
Baemalen turns to the mage. “You’re dead, too? Light above, the future looks bleak. Also, you’re awfully pretty to be scourge.”
She flushes again. “I-I’m not scourge. And I don’t normally look like this. Neither does Grim.”
“I died a year ago and Alisbeth about ten-ish years from now? Ana can’t prevent her own death.” He meets her gaze and his expression softens. “As much as I’d like that… And I can’t save Ali. As much as I’d like that, too.” He pours the last of the bottle into his glass and swallows a mouthful. “And if I have to tie you down or throw you into some pit to keep you from changing the future… I will.”
“Me?” Baemalen frowns and opens his mouth a few times as he articulates his thoughts. “I won’t. I told Kel I wouldn’t.” He sighs, his smile growing somber again. “At least you and Donnie made it.” He pats Grimory on the shoulder.
The other grunts in response.
Baemalen retracts his hand. “The years have clearly made you grumpier.” He chuckles.
Anarchaia looks away from Koltira to catch her reflection in the empty bottle. She frowns and brings a thumbnail to her lips to nibble on the tip.
Koltira sets his hand on hers. “You know I love you, no matter what.”
She smiles back up at him. “I know. I love you, too.”
Baemalen tsks and puts his cheek in a hand. “Awe.”
Grimory lifts a finger for another bottle, this time of whiskey. “Don’t encourage them, yeah? They’ll be at it all night.”
Koltira casts the Illidari a sly smile. “We don’t need encouragement to be at it all night.”
Baemalen’s ears perk. “Ooh. Maybe they’ll let me join?”
Grimory gives him a bemused stare. “I’m glad you haven’t changed.”
Anarchaia’s eyes widen some and she clears her throat as her face turns scarlet. “S-so how are you and Kel’ori getting along?”
Baemalen chuckles at her reaction. “She was rather suspicious of me at first, but I think I’ve grown on her. Her baby is super cute.” He looks at Grimory. “Or should I say your baby?”
He scowls. “She told you—?!” He lowers his voice. “She told you that?”
“I said she told me everything.”
“Are you just trying to ruin my night? Is that it?”
Baemalen gives him a sympathetic smile. “I didn’t mean anything by it. Was hoping you’d be complimented. I said he’s cute.”
“No more talking about me, yeah?” Grimory moodily swipes the bottle from the waitress as she brings it to him, then drinks straight from it after he opens it.
Koltira blinks rapidly. “Yeah. Cute… That’s uh… Not the word I’d use for it. It’s also not Grim’s.” He raises his bottle to signal the waitress he’d like another.
“Have you even really gotten to know him or hold him? Little Bel is definitely cute.” He glances again at Grimory. “Oh right. A demon?”
The other Illidari sighs dramatically. “You know,” he hisses, “that…event was just as traumatic for me, too. You of all people—”
Baemalen holds up his hands in surrender. “All right, all right. Sorry.” He sighs. “But he really is adorable.”
“I tried to hold him, but…he clearly didn’t want that. Heh.” Anarchaia rolls one of Koltira’s fingers between her thumb and forefinger. “I love babies, but babies don’t particularly love me.”
Kel’ori mumbles, then jerks. She jolts awake and looks around, bewildered. “Bae? Bae!”
Baemalen’s ears prick and he glances around the crowded tavern, then shrugs.
“One day,” Koltira whispers only for the mage. He wraps his large hand around her smaller one and holds tight. “If you haven’t decided to hate me before then.”
Anarchaia smiles. “I don’t see how it’ll ever be possible,” she says and purses her lips through her smile, rubbing his thumb with her own. “And I could never hate you.”
The corner of Koltira’s lips twitches upward. “You mean I’m not making it easy enough?”
The high elf runs through the hallways, lost and frantic, until she happens across the tavern. She rushes to the table, her eyes wide. “Bae? What are we— Which Grim are you?”Grimory purses his lips and looks up at her from beneath his brow. “The bad one.”
Baemalen lifts a hand to calm her. “Kel! Calm down. We’re just taking a break, okay? You fell asleep.”
The mage purses her lips at Grimory. “I-I’m sorry.” Her frantic eyes sweep over the others. “Okay, well, are you rested?”
Koltira narrows his eyes. “No. Why don’t you go take a shower or something? Freshen up.”
The blond demon hunter shakes his head. “I can barely stretch my wings let alone fly.” He rolls a shoulder and winces in demonstration. “I’m not going anywhere for a bit.”
Baemalen frowns up at her. “Surely she won’t murder a baby in cold blood. We can confront her in the morning when we’re rested.”
The mage breaks down, sobbing and trying to say something, but it all comes out as nonsense over her crying as she wipes at her eyes.
Koltira cringes. “The showers are on the second floor. End of the hall.”
She nods and says more incomprehensible things, then turns and shuffles away, still wiping at her tears.
The two Illidari grimace at one another.
Anarchaia sighs then looks at the bottle Koltira had ordered as it’s placed between them. “I feel so badly for her. I can only imagine what she’s going through.”
Koltira shakes his head. “I don’t want to imagine what she’s going through.”
Baemalen plucks the bottle from Grimory’s hand. “Maybe I should go console her after she’s done with her sad shower.” He drinks from it and slaps the other Illidari’s hand away when he reaches for it.
“Perhaps you should. You two seem to be getting along well anyway.” Anarchaia smirks.
Baemalen flushes lightly. “I’m just doing what anyone would do.”
“Not for some demon felspawn,” Grimory growls as he continues to try and grab his whiskey.
Koltira shakes his head. “Yeah, I’m with Grim on this one. Not anyone would. It’s okay, you’re not the first to fall for Kel’ori’s…” he momentarily rounds his hand to indicate breasts over his own chest, then takes his bottle back up. “…charms.”
Anarchaia lifts an eyebrow and smirks. “Oh, and who was? You?”
Koltira scoffs. “I was too busy with you, if you recall. She was completely happy with your little friend’s attention.”
Baemalen purses his lips. “That had nothing to do with it!” He frowns at them. “You all really wouldn’t take care of a defenseless baby just because it was part demon?” He straightens when he gets no response. “Really?”
Grimory shifts uncomfortably. “I think you’re missing the point.”
The death knight swirls his drink and nods at Grimory’s words. “She gave Grim no choice in the matter. She didn’t care about how he felt. She wanted to be in it alone, so she gets to be in it alone.”
Baemalen’s frown deepens as he looks between the two men next. “I-I suppose I can’t blame you. At least, from what I understand, it wasn’t your fault.”
“No, but now I have a living, breathing reminder of just how much it wasn’t my fault.” Grimory drinks, scowling.
Baemalen studies him. “What happened to you?”
Grimory growls and stands. “Life,” he grunts and turns toward the stairway. “Good night.”
Anarchaia fidgets with her fingers. “He won’t talk about it.”
Baemalen blinks at her. “Talk about what?”
She shrugs. “I don’t know. He never told me. But I imagine it’s why he isn’t the Grimory you’ve known, anymore.”
Koltira shrugs. “The only person he isn’t a complete asshole to is Ali. And Diori. And probably whatever chick he’s trying to fuck next and never talk to again.”
Baemalen cringes. “The Grim I know is a snarky but happy kid. Not a mean bone in his body.” He sighs. “Wait, Diori. That name sounds familiar. Who is that?”
“His daughter,” Koltira says simply.
Baemalen shakes his head. “No, he said it was a woman he’d been with. Wait, he has another child?” He scoffs. “Out there starting families. Must be nice.”
“Tell me about it,” Anarchaia mumbles, slowly swirling Koltira’s bottle.
“Another accident,” Koltira growls. “Alisbeth. She’s the woman he was talking about. Lied about her name. Then of course never talked about it again, not even to me, and we were married. By the way, our little group is fucked beyond reason. Welcome to the freak show.” He slips the bottle from the mage and pours more into his glass, then returns it to her hand.
Baemalen lifts his eyebrows and shakes his head, then sighs. “I’m no stranger to freakshows. I grew up in an orphanage, after all.” He smiles. “And if you knew my friends back at the temple…”
“We all have stories. So, what’s yours?” Koltira asks.
Baemalen gives a nervous titter. “Oh, I’m nothing special. Parents died when I was young and my sister was only a baby. We grew up in an orphanage and when I was old enough, I joined the militia and was sent here.”
“And where is your sister now?”
He shrugs. “Not sure. She was adopted long before I left. They didn’t want me, though. Heh.”
Koltira shrugs. “Silvermoon? You’re several years younger than me. Maybe I know a name?”
The death knight scratches at his jawline. “I’m actually not sure. I’m sorry.”
The Illidari shrugs again. “Ah, that’s all right. Honestly if I just knew she was happy somehow, I wouldn’t care where she is.”
“Not many people made it out of Silvermoon.” He catches the mage’s look and clears his throat. “I’m sure she’s fine, though.”
Baemalen’s smile grows reserved but it’s clear he’s distressed beneath. “I know. But…I just have this feeling, y’know? Like she’s still out there. Probably thinking of me, too.”
Anarchaia pouts. “Aw. Bae.” She reaches over to pat his arm. “I’m sure she is.”
Koltira takes a drink but chooses not to give the man any comforting words of false hope.
She sighs and takes a drink from the bottle. “I mean it.”
Baemalen smiles. “I know. I think so, too. I also think you’re drunk.”
Anarchaia chuckles. “I’ve had two shots max.”
“No one holds their liquor quite like the undead,” Koltira comments wryly.
Baemalen chuckles. “Right. I keep forgetting. I can’t imagine you being any less pretty, though.”
Anarchaia flushes. “N-no. Really. Without the illusion I look like a true undead.” She drinks from Koltira’s cup without asking.
Koltira glares over at the mage. “She isn’t. She’s still beautiful, no matter what.”
She gives her partner a shy smile.
“Do you mind if I ask what happened?” the redhead asks.
Anarchaia runs her teeth over her lower lip and sighs. “A band of rogues broke into my house. Killed my cat, then my parents, then me. But they’ve since been taken care of.”
Baemalen huffs and scowls. “Evil really knows no bounds, does it?”
~ * ~
Kel’ori’s ears perk as the door opens. She wipes her eyes and continues squeezing her wet hair with a puffy towel. “You must hate me even more, now. I have no excuse that you don’t know… Thank you for helping.” She breaks down again, crying into her palm. “Even though you h-hate—”
“I don’t hate you.” Grimory sighs and closes the door quietly. “Look, I’m sorry if I’ve been rude. I just—… This is all very stressful.” He runs a hand down his face. “And, if I’m being honest, I didn’t want to come…”
Kel’ori scoffs and sniffs. “Of course you didn’t. I bet you thought long and hard about letting him d—” She flinches and bites her lip. “He’s innocent. My son is innocent. It’s a shame you can’t see that. All you see is the bad, and it’s blinded you.”
“No, he made—” Grimory’s jaw works as he chooses his words. “I know he’s innocent. That’s not the point, yeah? I just…” He sighs. “It’s like looking at a photo of what happened every day. And I know you don’t believe me, but it…it kills me, too. Inside.”
She shakes her head. “He’s a victim in this, too, Grim. Don’t you get it? None of us asked for this. Punishing him would be like punishing you or me. Which, I’m sorry about. You were being a stubborn ass.” She purses her lips. “How do I get you to cooperate? Your past self, I mean. He won’t eat.”
Grimory scowls, again holding back the scathing words he has prepared on the tip of his tongue. He swallows them. “Can’t say I’ve ever been too fond of being forced to do things. But being offered things in exchange for stuff, or feeling like I have a choice would help…” He shrugs. “Otherwise I’d definitely starve myself out of spite alone.”
Kel’ori purses her lips at him. “And what about when I was being nice? And you kicked things at me. You broke my nice dishes. You don’t respond to anything because you’re just a self-serving asshole. Some things never change.” She plants herself on the bed, her back to him.
Grimory straightens and bristles. “Yeah, I’m so sorry for things I, myself, didn’t even do! Or…he himself…” He scoffs and throws his hands up as he turns. “Why do you constantly do this?! I always come to you with intentions of apologizing, and you somehow find a way to throw it in my face!”
Kel’ori snaps to her feet. “Because you’re not sincere! You’re never sincere! The only time you’ve ever tried to be friendly with me was when you asked me to kill our baby. Yes, ours. Regardless how little you contributed to any of it. And now you’re only here, because, why? Why did you suddenly show up to save the day when it’s so obvious you would rather stand by as a defenseless infant dies, than actually do anything to help.” A pair of fat tears roll down her cheeks. “I’m so glad you didn’t have anything to do with Diori. I bet you’d let her die, too.”
Grimory crosses the room in two strides and is quickly towering over her. Face set in ire, he bends to inches from her face, breath still laden with whiskey and gin. “He made me come. As far as I’m concerned, that abomination is yours and his,” he says in a low, cold tone. “And if you ever question my love for my daughter again, I’ll do a lot worse than get in your face.”
The mages stands her ground, her lips shivering. “You don’t scare me anymore. What’s it say about you when the monster has more compassion than you do?” She shakes her head. “You miserable man. You would rather dwell on the bad that happened in the past than accept it and find any sort of joy in what you do have in spite of everything. So, go ahead and hurt me, if that’s your intention. Because I don’t for a minute think you’re even capable of caring.”
Grimory’s fists clench and he also does not move. “Your manipulation won’t work on me,” he says, only half lying. He studies her face. “What is it you want from me?”
Kel’ori pauses, her lips puckering and her chin wrinkling as she thinks. “Maybe I just wanted my son to have a real father.” She steps back and looks around for her words. “I just want him to be good. I know he can be. He’s not a monster. But I’m so afraid that I’m not good enough. Diori has had so many people who love her, including her parents. Bel doesn’t have anyone. No one wants to make sure he stays good… I’m all he has. Whether you like it or not, we’re in this mess together. And maybe… Maybe I just wanted you to care.” She ends her quiet thoughts by wiping at her eyes.
Grimory bites his lower lip when the mage turns away. He runs a hand through his bangs and sets the other on his hip as he struggles for words. Finally he sighs. “F—…fine.”
“Two words I never thought I’d hear from you.” She shakes her head and sits back down. “You really remember all this? Do you remember if he’s okay after t-two days?” She does her best to hold back the sobs of worry trying to break though, instead biting at the inside of her cheek to keep her composure.
Grimory folds his arms and ignores the slight. “I only remember what’s happening at this very moment. And from what I know, he’s fine.”
Kel’ori lets out a long breath of relief. She clenches her fists over her heart and lets her tears flow freely and quietly. “Let me know…if anything changes?”
Grimory sighs and waits for what feels like ages before crossing the room again and wrapping his arms around her in a gentle hug. “Sure,” he says simply. “If you need anything, don’t hesitate to ask. I’ll-… I’ll do my best.”
Kel’ori stiffens in the embrace, then tentatively returns it. “Thank you.” She wipes her eyes as he pulls away. “I think we should both get some rest.” She motions at the second bed. “If you think you can handle sharing a room with me.”
Grimory nods. “Well there aren’t any other vacant rooms, anyway, so I guess it’ll have to do.” He sighs, still clearly very stressed, and sheds his shirt to crawl into the second bed. “Night.”
The high elf slips under the covers of her designated bed, fully clothed. As quietly as she can, she cries herself back to sleep.
~ * ~
After enough drinks, Baemalen sways in place and smiles dreamily at nothing. “Y’know,” he slurs, “it’s so sweet that the two of you have—” He hiccups. “—have each other. This world is filled with shitty people and shitty things, but yoooou…” He sets a hand on Koltira’s shoulder. “You got lucky.” He finishes his bottle and slams it on the table hard enough to rouse the remaining patrons.
Anarchaia chuckles. “I think it’s time for bed.”
Koltira blinks down at the man. “Yeah. I’m very lucky. I’m sure you will be, too, one day.” He smirks at the mage. “Let’s get you back to the room before I have to carry you like a damsel in distress.” He pulls the man up by his arm and waits as he finds his footing. “Come on, Ana. Help me get him to bed and maybe we can find something to occupy the rest of our night?”
Anarchaia hums a laugh and puts herself beneath Baemalen’s arm. She helps him up to the room number on his key, giggling at his incoherent ramblings along the way. She opens the door and blinks at the two in separate beds. “Hm. Who do you want to spoon, Bae?”
The elf chuckles and teeters. “If you ever have the opportunity to put me in bed with a pretty lady and you don’t do it, are you even my friend?”
“So Grim, then?”
Baemalen untangles himself from the two and saunters over to Kel’ori’s side. He crawls onto the bed, collapses beside her, and is out in seconds.
Anarchaia hums a laugh into her fingertips. “Awe.”
Koltira sighs at the scene, then takes her under his arm. “Too bad there’s only one of those things available to me… A pretty girl in a bed,” he clarifies. “Then again, who needs a bed when the shower is vacant?” He steers her down the hallway.