Grimory ducks into the cave as soon as he’s sure it’s noon. He squints his eyes into the darkness. “Ali?”
The dragonhawk flies down to hover in front of the entrance behind Grimory. “Don’t call me that.” The woman removes her helm and smirks at him from its saddle. “Just making sure you didn’t bring the rest of them to ambush me.” She studies him, her eyes squinted in the light of high noon. “So, shall we, then? I’ve got it all set up. I take care of Vendormu and your friends will be taken home, then we will go and fix our past together.” She holds out her hand for him.
He hesitates and looks at her. “Your boss will take my friends home after you’ve killed his brother?” he asks, slowly raising his hand.
She nods. “That’s the deal. Why? I did tell you this is what he’d say.”
“I know. Just…reiterating.” He takes her hand and climbs into the saddle with her.
“Did you speak with them?”
He swallows and nods. “Yes. They…weren’t thrilled. But I told them you’d leave them alone of they let us do this. They seemed okay with that.”
“Really,” she says suspiciously. She puts on her helm. “Okay, then. Is he at that hovel in Hellfire, or is he hiding?”
“The last I saw of him was at the outpost in Hellfire. I can’t promise he hasn’t gone anywhere between then and now, though, yeah?”
She turns her head to look at Grimory over her shoulder. “Can I actually trust you?” she asks as they take to the skies, heading back to Hellfire.
He knits his brow. “If you didn’t think you could trust me then why did you come back?”
She doesn’t answer for a long time. “Did I make a mistake?”
Grimory sighs. “I’d like to think not, but your trust was never really easy to obtain, anyway.”
“I’d like to hope you want this, too, and aren’t lying to me. I’d hate to have to kill you.”
He lifts his eyebrows. “You’d really kill me? Knowing that our daughter is waiting for me back home?” He tsks. “Cold.”
The woman shrugs. “Then don’t deceive me.”
He cringes inwardly. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”
They reach the barracks; she lands Strombreaker behind a hill and pats at his beak. “You be good. This won’t take long.”
He gives a small purr of a sound and settles in the sand.
She turns to squint at the building, studying it. “The others are gone?”
He pulls his ears back as he observes from a distance. “I don’t see a fire in the bedroom. It seems like it.”
She looks over at him. “Really?” she scoffs and shakes her head. “They’re in there, aren’t they?” The blood knight takes her spear from her back and holds the blade up to his neck. “Are they? Grimory? Huh?”
He tilts his head away from the blade and scowls at her. “I don’t know. I told them if they were smart they’d leave. I can’t make them do anything.”
“Do it anyway,” she demands. “Go inside and clear out your friends. I don’t care how you do it. If I go in there and anyone but the dragon is waiting for me, I will not hesitate to take them out. No matter who it is.” She pulls the spear back the slightest bit. “Give me a reason to trust you. I want to trust you, Grimory. Don’t be like all those who came before.”
His glowing green eyes flick from her face to the outpost then back. He nods. “All right. I’ll see what I can do, yeah?” He pushes away from her spear and sets out over the hill. When he steps inside, he gives the group a solemn nod in greeting.
“Grim! I’m glad you’re all right. How did it go? Where is she?” Anarchaia says with a curious smile.
He hesitates and lowers his voice. “Ana, that mind reading thing. Do it on me, yeah?”
She blinks, then nods and beckons him over. When he bows his head, she takes both his temples in her palms. After a minute he pulls away and she furrows her brow. “Are you sure?”
She sighs and looks at Kel’ori. “Kel, how good are your environmental illusions?”
The high elf looks up from her infant playing on the tiger skin. “They’re, uh…decent? I think? Why?”
“We need to make this place look empty.” Her form is enveloped in a purple cloud and when it dissipates a copy of Vendormu is sitting in her place. “She’s coming to kill him.”
Kel’ori’s nostril’s flair. “You spent an entire day with that bitch and she’s still alive?”
Koltira glares from the corner. “I know it’s Ali and all, but she wouldn’t think twice about killing one of us. And you brought her here?”
Taveth’s face pinches in anger and sadness. “She killed Tryx.”
Kel’ori frowns. “Wh-what? That’s where she went? Oh, gods.”
“Hide us,” Koltira insists. “I’ll do what you won’t.” He stares pointedly at the Illidari.
Kel’ori takes a breath and closes her eyes. Everything in the room puffs out of existence. A small commotion of it settling in the next room echoes down the hall. Then the others vanish from sight.
“I assume we’re invisible now?” Koltira’s disembodied voice asks.
“Yes,” Kel’ori hisses. “Now be quiet and hold still. Grim, go fast. I’m not sure how long I can last.” She cradles Bel’theas close, frowning at his presence. “Stay quiet, my love,” she whispers.
“If I’d have killed her, our only lead on the other dragon would be dead,” he grumbles to himself and steps outside. He rushes back over the hill. “They’re gone. Like I said. Only he remains.”
She takes her spear in one hand and the Redblade in the other. “This should only take a minute.” Grimory follows, but stands just outside, not wanting to see the look on her face when she realizes he’s betrayed her. Once inside, she pauses, peering around the room. Koltira holds perfectly still as she nears where he stands.
“Strange. First you hide from me and now you await your death almost eagerly.” The woman nears the chair, head tilted in suspicion.
Anarchaia grins, doing her best to mimic the dragon’s mannerisms. “If I was ever hiding from you, I assure you it wasn’t out of fear.” She gives a half scoff, half laugh. “Do you really think you stand a chance against a member of the Bronze Dragonflight?”
“You flatter yourself in thinking you’re my first dragon.”
Bel’theas peers around the room, and, seeing that he’s being ignored, begins gnawing on his toy. The blood knight stops, her ear twitching at the sound. A board creaks in the doorway and her head tilts.
“You seem to have an infestation… Rats, perhaps?” Her fists grip tighter around her weapons. “Or maybe—” She spins around, striking out with the tail of her spear and buries it into Koltira’s thigh.
The death knight cries out and Kel’ori’s concentration breaks. She groans lightly and slumps sideways, her energy near spent. The room’s illusion drops, revealing the people hiding within.
The woman’s teeth grit together as her brow scowls beneath her helm. “He…”
Baemalen quickly presses to Kel’ori’s side to keep her upright. The blood knight’s body goes rigid and she grunts as she attempts to move again, golden magic shimmering around her.
Vendormu phases into existence, arms folded and a smirk on his handsome face. “My, we’ve caught ourselves a sneaky little mouse.” He turns to Anarchaia. “Very impressive by the way. Though I have three earrings in my left ear, not one.”
The mage curses quietly and her form melts back into her own. “You choose the most convenient times to show yourself.”
He shrugs. “Surprises are my favorite.” His icy eyes turn back to the woman. “What to do with you…”
“Kill her,” Kel’ori says weakly against the Illidari.
Koltira straightens and rips the Redblade from her grasp, then sets it to her throat. “That’s two votes for your head,” he says, sneering.
“Three,” Taveth murmurs, as though partly ashamed he can even say it.
Vendormu holds up a hand. “No. Not yet.” He steps across to her and gently eases the blade down with a finger while removing her helm, then smiles. “Where is my sweet brother?”
She sneers and spits in Vendormu’s face. “I’d rather take the blade.”
He clenches his eyes shut. The saliva shimmers as it evaporates from his skin and he slowly opens his eyes. “Put her in the cellar,” he says with a smile.
Koltira clenches his jaw and lowers the Redblade. He rips her helm from the dragon’s grasp and shoves it onto her head. “The second he’s done with you…”
“You’re pathetic, Deathweaver,” she hisses. “You always were. I’m glad I never went back. I should have put you in your place back in Eversong, too.”
He balls a fist and sends one into her throat, causing her to choke on her own voice. Without letting her recover, he grabs her by the hair. “Vendormu is the only reason you’re not already dead. You are not Alisbeth. You have no honor in your black heart. You’re just an insect compared to the woman you were. The real Alisbeth is a thousand times the woman you could ever hope to be.”
She tries to speak, but only rasps painfully.
Taveth purses his lips from the doorway. “I agree. You’re not my kin.” He turns his back on her and goes to the room of hammocks at the end of the hall.
Jorick releases an apprehensive groan from the depths of his throat. “Harsh.”
Grimory gives the elf an apologetic frown as she’s dragged past him. “I’m sorry,” he says quietly, “but I can’t let you destroy the family I have now. Or my friends. And I can’t let your dragon buddy let Sargeras come to power.”
Alisbeth’s face twists and she jerks her head to look anywhere but at him.
“She won’t be talking for a while,” Koltira says.
Unable to contain the rage as everything the woman had done to them plays through his mind, he throws her down the stairs, as he’d done to the death knight before. As though defeated, the blood knight doesn’t move when she hits the bottom.
“You shouldn’t…throw people,” Alisbeth hisses from her corner.
“If I wanted your advice, I’d still ignore you.” He drags the woman to a pair of shackles on the other side of Grimory, where the two Alisbeth’s can’t touch.
“She could break,” the death knight presses in a sing-song manner. “Don’t wanna break her. Do you?”
“Yes, actually, I do,” Koltira shouts. “If it was up to me—”
The blood knight laughs maliciously into the dirt. “Temper, temper, Deathweaver,” she rasps out.
“What would your superiors think?” the Alisbeth in the other corner finishes.
He sneers at each in turn. “Fuck you both.” He stomps up the stairs and shuts them back inside.
“I’d like to unmeet that bastard,” the blood knight says, rolling onto her back. She removes a glove and presses her cold fingers to her neck.
The Grimory in the cellar presses his arms closer to his chest as he looks at the two. “Well. At least we have more company,” he grumbles.
The death knight giggles. “Welcome to the pit of despair. We spend most of our time not talking to each other.”
The blood knight peers over at the frosty blue eyes, trying to discern any distinguishable features in the dim light. “Who are you?”
Alisbeth curls into her little ball and peers over her arms at the woman that could have been her. “I think you know who I am.”
“Unfortunately…” She coughs and sits up to brush the dirt from her clothing and in her dreadlocks.
“Well at least you two know one another,” Grimory says moodily.
The death knight frowns. “I know you, Grim.”
“Believe it or not, so do I,” the other rasps. She sets a small heal on her throat and clears it. “Sorry I didn’t protect you,” she says.
Grimory sobers and sighs. “Guess I’m the only one in the dark, then. Metaphorically. And…it’s all right. Don’t be sorry.”
The blood knight stares intently at him, then reaches to unclasp her helm.
Across the room, Alisbeth shakes her head. “Don’t.”
The woman drops her hand and closes her eyes. “I’ll fix everything, Grimory. I promise.”
He sighs and takes a drink from his dwindling supply of water. “Whatever you guys say.”
“I wish you trusted me like I trusted you.” The blood knight leans back and stares up at the floorboards.
Grimory frowns. “Not sure what you mean, and frankly I’m kind of tired of this merry-go-round of questioning. So…I guess I’m going to sleep.” He turns away and closes his eyes.
Both women glance at each other, then look off into the darkness.
~ * ~
Vendormu paces a couple times, tapping the small patch of hair beneath his lip. “How to make her talk,” he muses.
Anarchaia grimaces from her place on the chair. “Kindness? Maybe?”
Jorick gives her an annoyed glance. “How can you be so forgiving? She nearly paralyzed you forever.”
She shrugs. “Just…how I am. I guess.”
“The only thing that…” Kel’ori sighs, her eyes drifting closed.
Koltira enters the barracks and stares at the others. “What are we talking about?”
“Trying to figure out how to make Alisbeth talk,” Anarchaia says to the death knight.
“I can think of a few ways,” Jorick responds, cleaning his nails with the tip of a dagger.
“Unlike in death, she wasn’t one to let secrets slip before. Most of the things I learned about her were after her death and she lost her filter. Very private person. Her birthday is the only secret she can keep now.” Koltira folds his arms and leans against the wall near Anarchaia. “You did good.”
She gives a tired, grateful smile. “Thank you. And…perhaps I can talk to her? Maybe reason and logic will get her to talk?”
Vendormu scoffs. “That ruffian probably doesn’t know the meaning of those words. But I’ll try anything at this point.”
Koltira purses his lips. “That woman is a mystery to us all. It’s worth a shot.”
Anarchaia nods. “When I can use my legs again, I’ll go talk to her. For now, maybe you should keep away from her,” she says, a nervous smile on her lips.
Vendormu gives a heavy sigh. “Right. Well, let me know if that works. Otherwise the job will be the death knight and the bloodthirsty mercenary’s.” His form shimmers out of existence.
“Grim or Taveth, maybe,” Koltira muses. “She went out of her way to not hurt either of them.”
Anarchaia cringes. “She’s probably not too thrilled with Grim at the moment.”
Koltira gives an apathetic shrug and slides down the wall to sit. “Well, then, not him.”
~ * ~
Baemalen hoists the blond mage into his arms and carries her into the next room to rest with her brother.
Taveth purses his lips. “This was supposed to be simple. I shouldn’t have been here. She shouldn’t have been here.”
Kel’ori mutters, but is too weak to say any real words.
Baemalen gives Taveth an apologetic grin and eases the baby from Kel’ori’s arms. “Hey, at least we got to meet. Hopefully that’s worth something.”
Kel’ori smiles weakly at the Illidari.
Taveth leans back in the hammock he’s sat himself in. “I mean, I did save your life. Heh.”
Baemalen chuckles. “You did. Still haven’t found a way to repay you.”
“You seem to be taking good care of my nephew. And my sister. Maybe that’s enough.” Taveth settles a small smile on the man.
Baemalen sobers. “Perhaps. Regardless. I’ll find a better way some day.”
Taveth waves him off. “I’m really not about debts and repayment. Unless you run up a tab in my family’s tavern, then my father will force me to be firm with you… But my oldest brother will step in and do it for me. Really, it’s fine.”
Baemalen’s smile turns nervous and he chuckles again. “I’ll, ah…be sure to avoid that one, then.”