The Grimory in the basement swallows his sip of water, eyes still fixed on his new cellmate as he leans back against the wall. “So, uh…what’re you in for?”
Alisbeth peers at him with one eye, then hides her face behind her arm. “She’s here because of me…”
She squirms. “You’re…uh…the Gr— one I’m not supposed to say things to. Aren’t you?” She pulls her legs tighter. “But I want to tell you. I don’t like keeping secrets from you.”
Grimory watches her as he thinks, unsure of what to make of her words. “You can trust me.”
“I know. I know I can trust you,” she whimpers. “But not you. But…” She tugs at her hair then smacks the back of her head with a fist. “Don’t say a word. No. No. I trust you, Grim. They don’t trust me.” She whimpers and adjusts her position several times, eventually settling on facing the wall, still hiding her face from him. “I told her not to go… Now she’s killing us.”
He tilts his head. “Who?” He repeats, unsure if even he can make heads or tails of what she’s saying. “And how do you know me?”
“The woman.” She growls and whines. “I can’t tell you. I’m not supposed to tell you. Don’t look at me.” She peeks at him again. “The blood knight lady. Did you meet her? She wants to kill everyone.” She goes quiet for a long time. “She’s going to succeed.”
He furrows his brow. “You really think she’ll succeed? I mean, she could barely hold her own against those four, yeah?”
“M-maybe I just…want her to help me disappear.” She wipes her cheek. “You should kill her. I bet you could do it. Maybe you should.” Alisbeth buries her head in her knees. “But I don’t want you to kill me,” she whispers.
He blinks slowly again in the dim light of the furnace. “I’m not killing anyone. And why do you want to disappear?” Despite being clearly kinda loony…
“Because of you.” Alisbeth frowns and gently reaches for him but sees her pale blue hand and pulls it back. “I used to be so pretty.”
He frowns. “I made you not pretty?”
She shakes her head furiously. “No. No. You made me… She’s here because of you.”
Confusion continues to swirl in his head, but his curiosity urges him to continue questioning her. “What did I do?”
“Not yet,” Alisbeth whispers. “Not…yet.”
Grimory gives a quiet groan and leans back again, silently deciding to give up.
Alisbeth looks over at the Illidari and sighs, then whispers something into her elbow.
His ears perk. “Hm?”
She chews on her lower lip as she stares at him. “Nothing. Shouldn’t have said it. You don’t want it.” She blinks at where the door is. “I’ll keep you safe when you sleep, okay?”
He smiles gently, holding back his joking demeanor. “Yeah. Thank you. And if you feel you want to divulge…”
Alisbeth shakes her head more insistently. “You don’t want it. Not from me. I just… You don’t want it.” She fidgets with the chains around her ankles, finding where they link to the wall.
She tugs against the chains, testing how well they’re bolted into the wall. She grits her teeth. “I said I… y–…” she mumbles quietly, under the rattling of the chains.
Grimory sighs, now completely giving up. “I’d release you if I had the keys. The blond girl has them.”
“I know. We gave them to her. She’s supposed to take care of you.” She turns to him with wide eyes and a sweet smile. “Did she take care of you? We don’t want you to get hurt.” She gives up on the chains and crawls toward him. “I’ll kill her if she hurt you. Did she hurt you?” She reaches out for him again, not recoiling at her own skin this time.
Grimory’s eyes flit between her outstretched hand and her face. He shakes his head. “She didn’t hurt me. She was pretty petty, but she didn’t hurt me.”
She stares at her ignored hand, then at him, then back at her hand. After a minute, she pulls it back. She slowly curls back up to press her forehead to her knees. “I don’t want to be down here. Not with you.”
He shakes his head. “I don’t even know you. But you keep refusing to say how you know me.” He sits back and folds his arms.
“You will,” she assures. “You will.”
He furrows his brow, then brings a knee up to rest a wrist on it. “If you say so.”
She throws herself sideways and growls, wanting nothing more than to tell him everything, but resisting the temptation. Alisbeth chews on her lower lip and looks at him from the corner of her eye. “I’m gonna talk to you anyway, okay? Don’t tell on me?”
Grimory, his pride still hurt, looks over at her through the darkness. “I won’t tell,” he says quietly.
“They should have taken you home. It’s not fair.” She pulls on the chain again. “If I can break these out of the wall…I’ll take you home. Okay?”
He nods. “Thank you. Why are you being so nice to me?” He jumps when the door opens again and Jorick returns to wordlessly set a second tray of stew and water near him. He looks back at Alisbeth when they’re alone again. “Are you hungry?” He narrows an eye at her ghastly appearance. “Or are you…?”
She shakes her head. “I don’t eat. But I can cool your food down if it’s too hot!” She holds out her hands and grins encouragingly.
After a second, Grimory stands and sets it as close to her as he can get, then slides it the rest of the way, curious.
Alisbeth reaches out and holds the bowl long enough for the steaming to calm. She gives it a quick stir, then scoots it back to him. “I hope I didn’t get it too cold. I held it as long as I do for Diori.”
He drops the spoon back into the bowl and looks up at her. “…What did you just say?” he asks quietly, eyes wide.
Alisbeth’s eyes go wide. “Um. I… Uh…” She grabs at her hair, furiously pulling at a clump as her fists slide down one after the other. “I hope it’s not too cold? Is it too cold? I did it wrong, oh no.”
Grimory’s brow knits and he stands. “No. That name. What name did you just say?!”
She backs up, her eyes wide. Just tell him. “I’m not supposed to,” she whispers to herself. She shakes her head. It won’t hurt anything. “Shh!” She presses into the corner and shakes her head. “Do you n-not like that name?”
“How do you know Diori?” he demands. “Where is she? What’s her real name?”
Alisbeth’s eyes shift side to side. Too late now. She thinks fast anyway. “Do you mean Diori Deathweaver? I don’t know where she is. Lost a lot of people in Silvermoon. Yep.” She nods emphatically. “She could be dead…”
Grimory pauses, then sighs and sinks back to the floor. “Sorry. I thought you were speaking of someone else. At least now I hope you were.”
She nods. “Who were you talking about?”
He stirs his stew halfheartedly. “A woman I’d met. A while back. I thought we had something but…I was never able to find her again. Called herself Diori.”
She runs her thumbnail along her lower lip. “Maybe something kept her from you.”
“Maybe.” Having suddenly lost his appetite, the Illidari retreats to his wall and sits, leaning against it. “Maybe not.” He closes his eyes.
“I’m sorry,” she says, again resisting telling him the truth about everything. She waits a long time until she thinks he’s asleep. “I said…I love you…” She sniffs and turns to bury her face into the corner.
~ * ~
Koltira sets the mage on the floor beside the tub and gently removes her boots before trying to get her robes off. He chuckles as it bunches beneath her buttocks. “I don’t think I’ve ever had such a difficult time undressing you.”
She chuckles embarrassedly. “Here, I can—” Her fingers grasp the front of her robes and she pulls them away from herself as though they were simply draped over her shoulders. They solidify again when she tosses them to the floor. She undoes the button of her shirt and looks down at her useless legs. She sighs. “There are people who live this way,” she says, “and I can barely stand half an hour of it.”
He smiles softly at her as he lowers her into the hot water. “I’d be here helping you whether it was just this half hour or for the rest of your life. At least I know you can’t run away from me when you finally realize I’m a mess.” He kneels outside the trough.
She sighs at the warmth and leans her head back, then turns it to face him and smile. “You’d really deal with this forever? Carrying me everywhere. Helping me bathe.” She blinks. “You’re not joining me?”
“Does the lady insist?” Koltira asks, splashing water at her chest.
She smirks and closes an eye as water splashes into it. “Oh, we’re doing this?” She tilts her head. “The lady commands.”
Koltira laughs and strips, then slides in behind the mage so she can lean against his chest. He wraps his arms around her and just holds her for a long moment, his eyes closed and his face pressed into her shoulder.
She leans her head back to press her cheek to his. “And you aren’t a mess, by the way. Even if you were, I’d have still been attracted to you when we met all…those…” She blinks and furrows her brow. “Oh my gods. It’s only been a year.”
He hums into her collar. “Not long enough. Need more time.”
She laughs and brings an arm up to idly toy with the tresses on the back of his head. “It feels like a lifetime. And to think we haven’t even spent a Heart Day together yet.” Images from the previous Love is in the Air festival suddenly come to her mind and she frowns, flushing. “Did you have anything in mind?”
“What did you do last Heart Day?” Koltira asks. “Mine was awful.”
A pang of panic strikes through her. Oh gods, I was with Grim. But we weren’t together at the time so it’s fine. No, don’t tell him that. “Nothing fun. Just…the ball with Master like every year. Always hate it. Heh.”
“Mmm. Well, this year you can be with me and hate it.” He takes the washcloth and rubs it down with soap, then gently begins working at the blood on her chest.
She hums a laugh in the back of her throat. “I don’t hate anything I do with you. Even when we fight.” She looks down once the dried blood has been washed away and leans back to point excitedly at the scar right below her ribcage. “Look! We match, now!”
The death Knight laughs and turns her so he can kiss the scar. “It’s just as beautiful as the rest of you.”
She flushes and brings a hand up to drop water onto his head and down his face. “Then I get to say that about you, hm? Yours is just as beautiful as the rest of you.” She runs a finger up the deep scar on his chest.
“Oh, so, it’s hideous and you only look out of politeness and the curiosity preventing you from looking away.”
“That’s not it at all,” she retorts, pursing her lips.
He gives her another quick snuggle, then straightens to wash her back. He lifts her by the waist and bends to kiss the twin scar on her back. Koltira pulls her back into an embrace and purses his lips. “I should’ve stopped it. I should’ve heard it. I’m sorry.”
She frowns and leans her head back to look at him. “It’s not your fault. We were all talking and she’s incredibly stealthy.” She holds out her hand for the bath brush. “Trade places with me.”
Koltira lifts her and spins her to face him, sitting her on his lap. “Don’t you dare refuse me my moping. I’ll be upset all I want for your current condition.”
She grabs a lock of his hair and runs soap through it with her fingers. “I’ll deny you anything I want, sir. Especially telling yourself lies.”
“Is there any way for me to win this argument?” the death knight asks.
She giggles quietly and shrugs a shoulder as a globe of water presses itself into his sudsy hair. “Well. You can just do as I say. Or you could keep me from arguing somehow.”
“Well, this one always works.” He presses his lips to hers and locks her in a long, passionate kiss.
~ * ~
Jorick blinks around the room from his hammock. “Uh…wasn’t bookwormy warlock with us when we got back?”
Baemalen’s ears prick. “Uhm. If he was, I didn’t see him.”
Jorick steps out of the sleeping quarters to find the blond mage busy with fabric in front of the fire. “Have you seen your brother? I swear he came back with us.” He pauses. “I think.”
Kel’ori only glances up from the pinning of a shirt as Anarchaia’s new robes hover over her head being sewn together. “He went outside. Need something?” She looks up again, this time at a clock behind him. “Crap! I’m late starting dinner!”
Jorick nods. “I can help with that if you’d like,” he says as he steps out into the chilly night air. He saunters around the building until he finds the scholar seated near the back. “Hey. You holding up okay?”
Taveth jumps and turns his puffy, red eyes on the human. He opens his mouth to speak, then sighs and just shrugs.
Jorick blinks before his face softens. He drops beside the elf with a sigh. “Anything I can do?”
Taveth shakes his head. “Take back the past twenty-four hours? How’s Ana? I should have stayed. She’s my best friend, but I…”
Jorick sets a hand on his shoulder. “She seemed fine. I guess her legs won’t work for a bit, but she’s all right.” He grins. “And she’s not the type to be upset over something like that.”
He smiles and nods. “You’re right. Heh. Perhaps I should go see her. See if she needs anything.”
He leads the human inside to find a frazzled Kel’ori surrounded by clothes that keep dipping low before rising back up, a cauldron of water refusing to get on the hook over the fire, and Bel’theas whimpering impatiently as he slaps at his mother’s bosom. She jumps as they walk in but doesn’t bother to fake a smile.
“Oh, you found him.” Her tone betrays the drain on her energy.
Jorick quickly strides across the room to secure the cauldron on its hook. He huffs from the strain after he’s released it and gives Kel’ori a look. “Maybe you should lie down.”
Taveth nods in agreement. “Finish the sewing later.” He takes his nephew so she can compose herself and stand.
Bel’theas pouts and immediately starts wailing.
Jorick sets himself at the table and takes the floating knife before it can fall. He resumes cutting the vegetables and shakes his head. “Glad I’m not a parent,” he mumbles.
Baemalen looks up as Kel’ori enters the room and smiles. “Finally going to sleep?”
Taveth follows with the screaming infant.
Kel’ori shakes her head. “Just resting while I feed Bel.” After Taveth leaves, she casts a small smile to the man. “I’ll understand if you leave, too.” She sets about feeding her baby.
Baemalen shrugs and leans back in his hammock. “Why would I do that?”
“Because you usually do,” she says in a teasing tone.
Baemalen gives her a small smirk. “Pretty used to it at this point.”
“I’m not sure how I feel about that woman being alive,” Kel’ori admits. “My cousin, but not… I don’t feel safe here, that’s for sure. What if she comes back for Bel?”
The Illidari lifts his eyebrows, then smiles across the distance between them. “We won’t leave him alone ever again, okay? And if I have the chance, I’ll kill her for you.”
The mage smiles. “I’d like to help.”
“Good, you’re stronger than me anyway.” He rests his head on his palms. “When he’s finished give him to me. You need to sleep.”
Kel’ori purses her lips at him. “It’s not even sunset and I have to take Grim’s food to him. Don’t be silly.”
He sits up again to look at her. “We have people here to help with that, now. Don’t make me make you.”
Kel’ori makes a face at him. She flicks her wrist and his hair lifts and swirls around his head. “I’d like to see you try.”
Baemalen flails and untangles himself from his own tresses. “Using my weakness against me? I’d thought better of you.” When he’s finally free, he throws his hair back over his shoulder and stands. “Regardless, I’ll send someone down with food. You relax.”
~ * ~
Anarchaia runs fire-covered hands around her hair to dry it as he’s carried from the washroom. She blinks at the men in the foyer. “Oh, Taveth. Where have you been?”
Taveth goes to the chair as Koltira sets her within. He grabs her in a hug. “I’m sorry. I just…needed to be alone. How are you feeling?
The mage returns the hug and frowns when he pulls away. “Alone? Why? What happened?”
He frowns. “Oh. You were unconscious. Um.” He rubs his palms on his trousers. “I lost a lot of demons…” He goes to say more, but decides he just isn’t ready to say it out loud. You’d think I’d be happy…she’s out of my hair, now.
Anarchaia frowns and takes one of his hands. “Oh, Tav. I’m so sorry. They don’t come back when they are defeated?”
Taveth shrugs. “We’re not on Azeroth, nor in our own time. I’m really not sure what will happen.”
She squeezes his fingers with her own. “I’m here if you need to talk.” A sad smile crosses her lips. “I’m not going anywhere for a couple days anyway.”
Taveth nods and scoots the mage over to sit with her. “Is now okay? I’m not sure I want talk much… I, uh, just hope she comes back.” He leans his head on the mage’s and stares at the fire. “I’m glad you’re okay, though.”
Anarchaia frowns and brings up a hand to pat his cheek. “Everything will be okay. Even if she doesn’t, you’ll always have the memories with her. And look, Grim died off-world—on Argus, no less—and he came back.”
Taveth tentatively smiles. “I hope you’re right. Didn’t think I’d miss her this much.”
Still combing his locks with his fingers, Baemalen saunters into the next room. “Would one of you mind sending some of that down to Grim?” he says, gesturing to the boiling stew over the fire.
Jorick looks over from the worn tapestry he’s admiring. “It’s not done yet, but sure. I can.”
The small mage wraps the elf in a hug, her cheek to his shoulder. “It’ll be okay, Tav. We’re here for you.”
The high elf nods. “Your hair smells good. Did you take a bath?” He straightens. “Is there a real bath here?” He looks around the room as though finally looking at it. “Where did all this stuff come from?” His gaze finds the matching table and chairs, complete with kitchenette filled with expensive china. “Definitely Kel’s taste…” He eyes the tiger skin rug. “Not that, though.”
She nods and chuckles in response, a slight blush in her cheeks. “Maybe tiger skin is more Baemalen’s taste. They must have made a trip to Shattrath. If you can get me into the washroom I can heat a bath for you?”
Taveth laughs. “I…don’t think I can get you in there. Where’s Koltira?”
Anarchaia perks and looks around. “Oh. Uh. I didn’t see where he went.”
When the stew is ready, the mercenary fills a bowl and, along with a flagon of water, sets it on a tray before making his way outside. He kicks the tool through the handles and bends to open them. Before he can, the doors fly open and Grimory leaps through them.
“Woah, there, friend,” Jorick says as the tray is knocked from his hand. He grabs the escaping Illidari by the ponytail before he can get too far and tosses him back down the stairs. “No one said you’d be unchained.” He descends the stairs, then lifts an arm to block the incoming punch. He sidesteps the second one and again grabs the elf by his hair.
Grimory grunts in pain and grabs at the human’s wrists. “How are you so fast? Let me go!”
When the elf’s foot comes around to try and trip him, Jorick lifts his own to lock their ankles together and bring Grimory to the ground instead. “Years of practice.” He drags the Illidari to the wall and, not without a struggle, secures the shackles around his wrists. “Though you should really consider cutting that hair of yours. Would have been a lot harder for me. Now I have to go get more food for you.” He turns his green eyes on Alisbeth and straightens. “How are you faring?”
Alisbeth sneers at the human and jumps to her feet. “How dare you hurt him!” She launches at the human, but falls short as the shackle chain goes taught. She falls to the floor and scratches at the dirt, grunting angrily. She throws a handful of dirt at his chest. “Let him go! We’re done with him! You can let him go, now!”
Koltira leans into the door, arms full of firewood. “Ali! Shut up and get in the corner.”
“Fuck you!” She throws dirt at him, but it just smacks onto the stairs.
“No thanks. Now stop screaming. And don’t talk to Grim.” He eyes the mess of food on the ground, steps around it, and goes back inside.
Alisbeth pushes up to her knees and frowns at Jorick. “I was being good, though. Can I come out now? Can you remind him I don’t like the dark?”
Jorick blinks slowly after Koltira, then back down at Alisbeth. He sighs and wipes the sediment off his shirt. “After that stunt, little miss? I’m not so sure. I’ll be sure to pass the message on, though.” He turns and ascends the stairs to retrieve the bowl and flagon, bringing them back inside to refill. “Alisbeth says to remind you she doesn’t like the dark,” he drones when he passes Koltira.
The death knight stops as he’s brushing bark off his shirt. “And?”
“Ana says there’s a bath,” Taveth blurts.
Jorick shrugs, taken aback. “Don’t shoot the messenger.”
Anarchaia clears her throat between the tension. “Can someone bring me to the washroom so I can heat some water?”
Koltira purses his lips at the human. “She’s not coming out until we’re going back home. I don’t care what anyone says.”
“Wasn’t going to tell you to,” Jorick mumbles as he prepares another bowl of food.
The death knight smiles down at Anarchaia. “Do I count as someone?” He lifts her into his arms as Taveth moves for him. “Why, though?”
“Because I want an actual bath,” the high elf says. “You two don’t get all the fun.”
Anarchaia flushes at the scholar. “Fair enough? Heh.”
Bel’theas looks up at the Illidari as he returns to the room. He hums and smiles as he wiggles against his sleeping mother, who hadn’t even covered herself before falling asleep.
Baemalen picks up the small baby, then flushes as he readjusts Kel’ori’s brassiere. He sighs and sinks to sit with the infant. “What are we going to do with her, huh?”
Jorick, hiding his jealousy well, brings a couple bowls into the next room, then blinks. “Oh, she actually decided to sleep.” He sets her dinner on the barrel near her hammock.
Baemalen nods. “Not without a fight.” He chuckles and sets the sleeping baby beside him on the floor. “Thanks.”
“So how are you two getting along?”
The elf flushes as he chews a bite of stew. “Well? I guess?”
The human smirks. “That’s good.”
Baemalen clears his throat. “Yes. Very good.”
Koltira laughs and waits for the mage to finish. “I’d say we could have some fun when all these living souls go to bed, but…can you feel from the waist down or is it just completely numb?”
She pinches at one of her calves then smiles up at him. “Like ninety percent.” Her eyelids lower and she smirks. “And trust me, even if I couldn’t, I wouldn’t deprive you of anything.”
He narrows his eyes. “It’s no fun if you’re not enjoying it, too.”
She tilts her head. “A lot of my enjoyment comes from seeing you enjoying it.” She bites her lip. “That face you make…”
Koltira narrows his eyes. “I don’t make a face.”
Taveth coughs from the doorway. “Sorry. Just…waiting.” He fidgets with his fingers. “Don’t worry, I just got here. Heard nothing.”
The mage jumps and blushes. “If you didn’t hear anything, you wouldn’t feel the need to tell us you didn’t hear anything,” she mumbles, then lifts a hand at the basin in the next room. Steam slowly rises soon the surface of the water. She turns back to Koltira and lowers her voice. “And you so do. It’s my favorite.”
Taveth shakes his head insistently. “No no. I just know you two say private things in private…” He thinks over his words and shrugs. “I was just warning you I was here.”
“I believe him,” Koltira says. “For now.” He takes the mage back to the other room. “Enjoy.” He sits in the large chair and settles her on his lap.
“Enjoy being the definition of useless?” She folds her arms and rests her head on his shoulder.
Koltira cocks an eyebrow. “I was telling Taveth to enjoy, but way to make everything about you.” He gives a playful chuckle and kisses her forehead. “Wouldn’t have you any other way.”
She purses her lips. “Oh. Yes. I hope he enjoys, too.” She blinks then sits up after his last statement. “Wait what’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means shut up and kiss me.”
She narrows her eyes then does as she’s told anyway.