Book 6 – Chapter Twenty-Four

Illith’ra sighs as she watches the other recruits practice. She wipes sweat from her brow and looks through the sea of faces but sees no sign of the one she’s looking for. “Where did you go…?”

Asheeda enters the training room, one fist balled as the other’s fingers are woven with another woman’s. Her lips are pursed tight and her face is set in anticipation.

“I’m really, really not a fighter.”

The woman behind the veil gives a small giggle. “Nonsense! Everyone can fight.”

“I don’t really like to,” Asheeda hisses. “Why do you think I spend all day in my lab? If I’m too busy to fight, then I don’t have to fight!”

Illith’ra perks and meets the two at the door. “Ash! You haven’t seen Grim anywhere have you? He was supposed to meet me here an hour ago for training. Who is this?”

“Oh, this is—Ow! Stop squishing my hand!” she pries her fingers away. “Why are you so strong?”

“My name is…Diori,” Alisbeth replies carefully.

“She’s a new recruit. Just came in last week.”

Illith’ra smiles and holds out a hand. “Hi, Diori. Welcome to the madhouse. If you need any help, my name’s Illith’ra, but everyone just calls me Illie.”

Alisbeth takes the woman’s hand. “Hi Izayami! So, Grim is missing? That’s a shame. Probably. Hey, who’s that?” She points out a night elf man as he walks in the door. “I wanna fight him.”

Asheeda’s eyelids lower. “You want to fight everyone.”

“I do. I really do.”

Eldon narrows his eyes behind his blindfold and down at her. “I’m here to babysit. Not to fight. Get yourself a partner, recruit, or I’ll choose one for you.”

“Donnie!” Illith’ra looks up at him. “You haven’t seen Grim, have you?”

“Mm. No. Not since yesterday.”

“He didn’t come back last night.”

“I’m aware. We all share a room,” he says, mildly annoyed.

“I know,” Illith’ra whines. “I’m just worried.”

Alisbeth points behind the elf. “That elf, not you. But I’ll fight you.”

“You should stick to someone your own size,” Asheeda hisses.

“But I wanna kill him.”

“You mean beat him.”

Alisbeth shrugs. “Same thing?”

The man behind Eldon blinks, then gives a nervous titter. “Oh, it wouldn’t be much of a fight. I’ve barely trained. Heh.”

Illith’ra looks around the massive demon hunter at him. “Well you aren’t going to fix that being out there, y’know.”

He shakes his green ponytail and chuckles again, stepping onto the mezzanine. “I suppose you’re right.”

Alisbeth purses her lips tightly together behind the veil. “Untrained? Hmm… Say, what did you say your name was?”

“Thoren,” he says with a smile. “And yes. I’ve only been here for a week or so. What can I call you?” He holds out a weathered hand.

“I’m Diori!” Alisbeth says. Again she slides her gaze to a nearby group containing faces she knows from her past. They can’t know it’s me. I’m supposed to be at the keep. The familiar voice chuckles darkly, enjoying the new path they’ve started on. “This is Ashvain.”

Asheeda makes a face. “What is it with you and giving me random nicknames?” She laughs and wraps her arm over the death knight’s shoulders, anyway. “I’m Asheeda. I’m the lead alchemist around here.” She leans to Alisbeth’s ear. “Do you need a coat? You’re freezing.”

“Am I? Ha! I don’t feel a thing.”

“You really need to be more careful with medical conditions like this. Don’t worry, I’ll get you under the covers later.” She gives a sly grin as the death knight nods eagerly.

Alisbeth’s eyes slide back to the night elf with the green hair. I’ve seen you. Nighttime doesn’t hide secrets from those who don’t sleep. Snap his neck. Drain his blood. Take his head. Yes. “I’d like to—”

“Why don’t you spar with Illie?” Asheeda suggests. “With your military training, I’m sure she’d be more your level than Thoren.”

Alisbeth’s face contorts behind her mask and she gnashes her teeth. “But I want to ki— fight…that guy.”

Thoren gives another nervous chuckle. “Again, it wouldn’t be much of a fight…”

Illith’ra smiles brightly. “Let’s give the newbie a break, hm? I’d love to see what you can do. …despite your obvious bloodlust.”

“Bloodlust? Me? No. Just…eager for real battle.” Alisbeth takes the woman by the arm and to a clear area. “Don’t worry, I’ll go easy on you.” She stands opposite her and readies herself, hands up and completely motionless as she holds her breath and studies the woman’s build.

Illith’ra gives a determined smile and lifts her bound fists. “You ready?” When the other woman nods, she lunges forward and ducks to aim a punch at Alisbeth’s core.

Alisbeth waits until the last moment and shifts just enough for the woman to miss, bringing down her elbow at Illith’ra’s spine; The Illidari yelps as her face hits the stone floor. She recovers quickly, however, using her arms to twist her waist and bring a kick toward Alisbeth’s ankles.

The death knight notices the motion before the kick nears her. She leaps in the air over the woman, again crooking her elbow to bring it down with the force of her weight onto the Illidari.

Illith’ra grunts as she catches the attack out of the corner of her eye. She rolls away and again uses the momentum to spin herself, her heel this time aimed for the woman’s head.

Alisbeth takes the kick straight to her jaw. It knocks her veil off and causes her to bite into her cheek as she slides across the floor.

By this time the pairs sparring have already stopped and are watching. But as the death knight springs to her feet and throws back her black hair, the group at the other end of the room turns to look at her.

“Captain,” one says in shock.

“Captain Redblade!” a woman cheers, clapping over her head.

A man balls his fist. “Show her how hard a blood knight is to take down, Alisbeth!”

Hearing their voices, she pauses. Thoughts and memories and ideas and orders all rush through her head. She claws at the side of her head, doubling over and covering her ears as she tries to focus on what she’s even doing there. Something about the timeline. Fuck the timeline. Her eyes snap open and she straightens, a sneer forming down at the woman staring at her from the floor. Alisbeth leaps forward to grab her by the ankle to spin her and toss her effortlessly across the room.

Illith’ra and the numerous people she’s thrown into all collectively groan as they sit up. She eeps and dodges out of the way when Alisbeth rushes to grab her. “Blood knight?” she says as she dodges another punch. She grunts as she’s struck in the chest and sent sprawling, then leaps to her feet and attempts to return the blow. “I thought you were a recruit!”

Alisbeth slips sideways to easily avoid the blow, then turns and stands as though posing for presentation. “Kael’thas sent his strongest as well as those he felt fit to serve Lord Illidan. What were you before you got here, hmm? A sniveling worm, like you are now?” She hisses the cruel words, spurred on by her cheering compatriots. “I will prove my worth. I will claim my place here as I did at the Keep.” She throws her fist in the air and gives a manic grin. “You will never forget the name Captain Alisbeth Redblade!” She reaches to snatch the hair on the woman’s scalp with one hand and readies a punch aimed at Illith’ra’s nose with the other.

Before the punch can land Alisbeth is thrown sideways and away from the woman. Grimory stands, fists clenched and glowering. “What are you doing?!

Alisbeth rolls across the floor, then stands defiantly, her back straight and her nose in the air. “Sparring. Now, if you’d clear the floor.” She motions for him to move.

Asheeda huddles down, hiding her face behind her fists. “Eldon, didn’t she say her name was Diori? She said her name was Diori. Potions? I should get… Should I get potions?” But she doesn’t move, unable to look away from the scene.

Grimory stands his ground. “You know damn well that’s not what you’re doing. You’d have broken her nose if I’d have let you!”

Eldon grumbles and helps Illith’ra back to her feet. “Maybe you should. The mezzanine is no place for an alchemist.”

Alisbeth’s smile comes forced as her eyes fill with fury. “Oh, I’m sorry. Did I hurt your feelings, somehow?” She rips the woman away from the night elf and holds her tightly, her fingers wrapped firmly around Illith’ra’s forearm as her other hand wraps beneath her jaw and presses on her throat. “This doesn’t bother you, does it? Me sparring with Ivory. We were just having a good time, Grim. Just having a good time.” She whispers the last bit in the woman’s ear, then presses her cold cheek to her temple. Her fingers slowly tighten on the Illidari.

“Let her go!” Asheeda shouts. She freezes as the death knight casts her gaze over to her. “Please, Diori? Or…what was your name?”

It doesn’t matter!” Alisbeth shouts.

Eldon scowls and steps to Grimory’s side, clearly unamused.

“You hurt even another hair on her and we are through, do you understand me?” Grimory’s knuckles whiten as his fists tighten further. “Or you can let her go and we can talk about whatever’s caused this, yeah?”

Alisbeth closes her eyes, a tear rolling down one cheek and onto Illith’ra’s shoulder. “I see now,” she hisses. “I was never good enough,” she says loud enough for him to hear. “I will never be good enough. Not because I’m a monster. Not because I’m broken… It’s because I’m not her.” She lifts the woman’s head so she’s looking at Grimory. “This is it. This is why you’re here.” She tilts her head to rest it on the other woman’s, her frown deepening and her chin crinkling. She closes her eyes and kisses the woman’s temple at the same time she sends a shock of freezing power into the Illith’ra’s brain. She releases her and stands with her hands out and her stoic gaze on Grimory.

Illith’ra’s eyes become hazy as her body goes limp and she falls. Grimory races forward to catch her before she can hit the ground. He glares up at the death knight. “I don’t know what it is you think is going on, Ali, but you’re wrong,” he says low enough for only her to hear as Eldon steps forward.

“Varedis can decide what happens to you,” the night elf growls and takes her by one of her wrists.

Alisbeth blinks and starts laughing. “For sparring? We were just practicing.” She tries to rip her arm away, but he holds fast. Her face contorts to a sneer. “Get your hands—” She grabs his wrist and squeezes hard against the bones. “—off me.” She bursts out laughing again. “We’re having fun, right?” She sets her manic grin and wide eyes on Eldon. “Aren’t you having fun?”

Asheeda runs in, an awkward bundle of potions in her arms. “Di— A— Eldon, let me handle it!”

Alisbeth cocks her head to the side. “Crooockolisssk boooy,” she sings, then says, “I’m gonna make a suit out of you.”

The Illidari looks behind her and, seeing no one, frowns, a shiver running up her spine. “W-what?”

Let me go!” Alisbeth struggles against the night elf. “Don’t put me in my room. I don’t want to go back to the dark.” She pulls back, crying. “I don’t want to be alone.” She drops straight down to her rear and sobs into her free palm. “Don’t let them lock me back up. I’ll be good. I promise. I’ll be good.”

Grimory sighs as he watches the other two stare down at her, befuddled. He lifts Illith’ra and hands her to Eldon. “Get Illie to the infirmary. I’ll take Alisbeth to detainment.” He kneels to look at her. “Are you okay?”

Alisbeth leans away from him. In a split second, she reaches over and slaps him. After a moment in silence, she reaches out to slap him again.

Grimory jerks in surprise but is quick enough to catch her by the wrist. He frowns at her, breathing quietly as he chooses his words. “Come on. We can talk in the hall.”

Alisbeth rips her hand away from him. “Why?” She demands loudly. “Is it because you don’t want everyone else to see me? Am I making a scene? Am I embarrassing you?” She gets to her feet and stomps away, then abruptly spins on him again. “I was never going to be good enough for you. Admit it!

The crowd behind them begins to murmur and Grimory swallows and he cautiously ushers her toward the door. “This isn’t the place for this. Please, can we just talk in private?”

“You’re just like Koltira,” Alisbeth spits. “I thought you were different. But you’re not! You just want to lock me up again. You just want to forget about me.” She aims a heavy punch at his sternum. “Get rid of me so you don’t have to lie anymore. So, you can have someone else warming your bed.”

Grimory grunts and steps back. The murmurs around him grow, along with his anger. He decides nothing he says will work, and so resorts to preserving the past. “That’s not it at all! We only knew each other for a day! You expected me to wait for you after you trot off into the sunset after giving me a fake name?!”

Alisbeth’s mouth curves into a deep frown. “This whole time…I never meant anything to you? Oh.” She backs away from him as though physically struck. “That makes sense. It all makes sense now.” Her lips purse together as her tears fall harder, blinding her. “I hate you.” The death knight runs from the room, unknowing and uncaring where she’s headed.

Grimory growls to himself, not bothering to meet the gaze of those behind him, then leaves to follow. “Ali, wait!”

The death knight ignores his distant voice, instead picking up her pace as she races through the halls.

~ * ~

After a while of searching, Grimory sighs as he stops at the end of the last corridor. A figure passes and he perks, then runs to catch up. “Alchemist! Have you seen Ali? Er, Diori? The blood knight…that knocked you out.”

Asheeda’s eyes go wide as she grips her potions to her. “My name is Asheeda. Not Alchemist.” She looks around them and takes a step closer to him. “Illie woke up. She said it felt like there was an ice storm in her brain.” Her lips purse tight and she steps even closer. “Is there something I should know about Diori?” she whispers.

A rush of relief washes over him about Illith’ra, then he hesitates. “She’s…not—” He sighs. “She can lose it sometimes, yeah?”

Asheeda swallows. “I casually asked if she was insane and she… Well. I woke up in the infirmary with a bandage on my forehead, so… And I was just starting to like her.” Her shoulders sag and she shakes her head. “I guess I just hope she’s not coming back?” She continues to her laboratory. “The infirmary is low on potions. I don’t really feel like making a round trip and if you’re headed to see Illie… And I’m sorry for the threat the other night. I just don’t like being threatened. I won’t tell anyone…even if you tell on me.”

“I won’t te— Hold on.” He stops to look at her. “You said your name was Asheeda?”

Asheeda’s face flashes with aggravation, before it falls in defeat she sulks again. “Like a million times. I even introduced myself to you. We were initiated at the same time. Don’t worry, you’re not the first to forget me. Won’t be the last.”

“Sorry, I just—” He shakes his head. “Never mind. You said you wanted me to deliver some potions?”

“I hate when people tell me never mind,” she mutters, passing him to lead him down the hall and around a corner. “Just finish your sentence. Obviously it was important enough to voice, and then you just stop?” She scoffs. “It’s a big crate of them. You can handle it.”

Grimory cannot help smirking. “No. Really. You don’t want to hear it. Where is it?”

“Maybe I do want to hear it! I have an inquisitive mind. It’s not fair.” She opens the door to her lab and stops. Several bottles sit open and empty on the counter or broken on the floor. The faint sound of sniffling breaks the air from near her cot. She steps forward, grabbing a letter opener and holding it up as a weapon. She approaches the man curled on her cot and crying into his knees. “Okay, vandal, who are you?”

“I just wanted something to make me sleep. None of these made me sleep, Ashy. They’re bad potions.”

Asheeda pauses. “Uh…Diori? Or whatever your name is…”

“They weren’t labeled.”

The Illidari woman widens her eyes at Grimory and motions for him to try talking to the elf on the cot.

Grimory blinks down at the man and takes a step forward. “Ali?”

Alisbeth stiffens. She sniffs but doesn’t lift her head.

“At least two of those were sleeping potions,” Asheeda announces as she looks over the bottles. “We have to get her to the infirmary!” She runs to pull Alisbeth’s face up from her knees, stifling a giggle at the attractive man frowning back at her. “Ali? Right? Y-you’ve ingested a toxic mix of potions. We have to get you to a healer. Can you walk?”

“I just want to sleep until the nightmare is over,” she whimpers.

Grimory sighs and sets a hand on Asheeda’s shoulder. “She’ll be fine.” He gives the male Alisbeth a small frown. “Look, Ali. I don’t get where all this is coming from but…” He gives Asheeda a sideways glance. “It’s not what you think.”

Asheeda jolts. “Fine? She should be convulsing on the floor!”

The death knight yanks her chin away and lays her cheek on her knees. “I saw you with her.” She sniffles quietly a moment. “I want to go home… Back to my room, where I belong.”

Grimory pauses and furrows his brow, then wets his lips and looks away for a brief second. “Ali, I was with her at this time, yeah? It’d be suspicious if I didn’t pretend.”

Alisbeth shakes her head as the potion wears off. Once the fog clears, and it’s her looking at him, she lets out a cough of a cry. “You weren’t pretending. I’m not an idiot. You pretended with me, though. I see it now.” She sniffs and thumbs at her face. “I need to leave. The cave. I’m supposed to go to the cave. I got lost and I knew I could ask you. But you weren’t there for me.” She claws at her scalp and smacks the flat of her palm against the side of her head. “Monster. Filthy monster. Not worth being loved. Unworthy.”

Grimory jumps and grabs her wrist before she can hurt herself again. “Ali, no! That’s not true! I—…” He sighs. “I do really care about you. I just need to act like I care about her while we’re here, yeah? I promise I still…like you.” His face softens and he frowns. “I mean it.”

“Liar,” she hisses. “Liar!” She shoves her way off the cot, her limbs slightly weak from the sleeping potions. “I have to kill Thor. You can just…have her. Forever. I never want to see you again.”

Grimory shakes his head and holds tightly to her wrist. “No, Ali, please. You’ve got to believe me.” He pauses. “Wait, who’s Thor?”

“What do you care?” Alisbeth screams. “Tristram and his pals talk in the halls at night. But they don’t know I don’t sleep. So, I listened.”

Asheeda pauses in cleaning up the glass from the bottles. “You…don’t sleep?”

Grimory’s eyes widen and he turns her back to look at him. “You know who the assassin is? Who?!”

“Assassin? What?” Asheeda asks, her purple eyes wide.

Alisbeth growls. “I told you his name! And he’s mine! I’ll get rid of Thundercat. Then Lord Illidan will make me an Illidari. His right hand, even!”

“No! Lord Illidan can’t know!” He growls and turns to look at Asheeda. “And you can’t say a word of this to anyone, yeah? No one.”

Asheeda drops the vials in her hands and jumps, her eyes wide. “Oh, no. This is where you threaten my life. Ah…” She glances around nervously. “I-I really wasn’t planning on…telling anyone.”

Alisbeth pushes Grimory out of her way. “How dare you threaten her!” She goes to the other woman to grab her in a hug, but the Illidari backs away, a hand out. Alisbeth stops and frowns. “Oh.” Her tears return. “I see.” After scanning both of their faces, she stares at the floor, then pushes out into the hallway, slamming the door behind her.

“Please leave,” she says to Grimory. “I promise, I have no one to even tell. I just…you and she bring so much into my life that I never want to be a part of. So just go. And don’t ever come back. Just go back to pretending I don’t exist. All right?”

Grimory growls, finally getting caught up in his anger. “I wasn’t threatening you, all right? I was asking you! Stop being so fucking dramatic!” He follows suit into the hallway where he can see Alisbeth retreating and slams the door. “And I don’t give a fuck what you do anymore!” he calls after her and turns to storm off toward the infirmary.

Alisbeth freezes at his words. She doesn’t move for several minutes. Then she squares her shoulders, bites down, and strides through the halls until she finds a door that leads outside. The guard calls out to her as she passes, but she ignores him and continues walking. After a long time, and after checking several empty caves, she realizes how lost she is. She enters the next empty cave she finds and huddles in the darkness at the back.

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