Diori raced from the mage platform toward the glowing green river in Undercity. She reached her hand down, then paused, her wide, glowing blue eyes turning up to silently ask her father’s permission. The demon hunter nodded and she slipped her fingers into the goo.
“Eww,” she said, laughing.
“You need to put the tabard on,” Grimory said, holding out the cloth. “It’s part of the terms for—”
“I know, I know. They’ll kick me out or accuse me of spying.” She yanked the article over her head and grinned at him. “Thanks, Grim.”
He set an arm on her head and glanced around. “Okay, so, you’re here. Is that enough?”
“Not even! I’m going to look at everything! And you can’t stop me.” She took off across the bridge.
Grimory trotted after her. “Attitude, young lady.”
She spun and made a face at him, then returned to running away from him.
The demon hunter set his hand over his face. “Teenagers. Ugh.” He stretched his wings to catch up with her. “We could do this the quick way?”
Diori blushed as a couple of Sin’dorei girls passed by, tittering into their fingertips. “Gods, stop. You’re embarrassing me. Can’t you just go get plastered and I’ll enjoy the city?”
The demon hunter frowned. “For your sake, you’d better hope this shit ends soon. Ali may not care, but I fucking do. Show some respect.”
Diori cringed and looked around to see if anyone was watching her berating. “Okay, fine. I get it. But can I still just…look on my own?”
“Fine.” He flew off before she could respond, turning for the target dummies to blow off some steam.
Diori hugged her arms around her chest and frowned. “Me and my stupid mouth.”
A while later, when her stomach groaned for lunch and she couldn’t find Grimory anywhere, the high elf girl found a small food stall selling items advertised as ‘safe for living consumption.’ She took two apples, a shaker of cinnamon, and a wedge of cheese to a small table to eat as she watched the passersby. Movement beneath the vendor’s table caught her attention and her ears pricked. Once the forsaken man’s attention was turned, a small, pale teal arm snaked up and snatched an apple. A moment later, it did it again. Nothing happened until the vendor turned again. A child streaked from beneath the table and into the crowd.
Diori hopped to her feet, wrapping her food in a napkin as she ran after the figure, weaving between legs expertly before dropping down from the ledge. She gasped, then sighed as they popped up on a lower path and raced through and archway. She ran after, catching sight as they ducked behind a cart. The crunching of an apple echoed quietly from the stones of a sewer pipe. The girl poked her head into the opening to look at the figure in the darkness.
“Hello in there.”
Two pale blue orbs blinked on and off at her, but no answer came.
“You like apples?” She sat down and spread her napkin over her lap. She shook cinnamon onto her apple and bit into it; the crunching down the pipe stopped. “I like cinnamon apples,” she said over the bite. After swallowing, she smiled into the darkness. “Supposedly I get it from my mom. She doesn’t eat, though. Not anymore.” She licked the spice from her lips and waited. “Would you like to try?” She set the small jar just inside the opening and waited.
The figure moved forward, snatched the shaker, then retreated again. The crunching began again, accompanied by a soft humming of enjoyment.
“Well, don’t hog it all.”
The figure stopped and waited.
Diori smiled. “Come on out and we can share it.”
No reply came.
“Do I have to get in there and get it back from you? I will. Just because I’m wearing a pretty dress, doesn’t mean I won’t come for my cinnamon.”
The figure approached and Diori moved back to give them space.
“Come on out. I don’t bite.”
Then she could see it was a young boy, as he slid out and sat just at the opening. His skin was that pale teal all over, and it reminded her of her mother’s. His eyes were a strange ice blue, glowing bright like her own. His long ears poked through his black hair.
Diori gasped. “What sort of elf are you?”
He didn’t say anything, just shook some cinnamon onto his apple and took a huge bite. Though he’d been stealing, he wore fine clothes—nice black trousers and a white shirt, but no shoes. His nails were clean and, aside from the cinnamon, so was he.
“So, why are you stealing apples at the forsaken market?”
He took a slow bite of apple as his eyes studied her, ran across her dress and locked on her eyes. Diori sighed and broke her cheese in half, then held one piece out to him. He stared at her hand for a long time, then reached out.
“It’s pretty,” he said, then shoved the cheese at his lips.
“Huh! Wha—” Diori jumped as he spoke. “What’s— Oh! My dress? Thank you.” She swallowed her chunk of cheese and held out her hand. “I’m Diori, by the way. Diori Nightheart.”
The boy shifted his apples to one hand and wiped the freed one on his pant leg, then shook hers in return. “Kaelsig.”
Diori’s nose gave a curious, quick crinkle at how cold his touch was. “Why are you so cold?”
Kaelsig stared at his hand curiously. “Why are you so warm?”
“Because I’m alive.” She laughed.
“So am I.”
The girl flinched. “I mean…I’m living. I’m not an undead, like the forsaken or death knights.”
He blinked at her. “I’m living, too.”
“But why are you so cold?”
He shrugged. “Always have been.”
Grimory stepped around the wagon, unable to keep his distance any longer. “Hi,” he said to the boy, eyeing him carefully.
Kaelsig frowned and looked into his lap. “I’ll pay, I swear.”
“I’m not a guard,” the Illidari said. “I’m her father.”
The boy’s eyes bounced between the two. “You don’t have horns,” he said to Diori.
She giggled and put two fingers coming from her forehead. “Think I’d look good with some?”
The boy grinned wide and laughed. Grimory stopped, his eyes on the smile.
“Diori,” he said, “would you like to invite your new friend to Dalaran? Something has come up.”
The girl rolled her eyes. “It’s just Dalaran.”
Kaelsig’s eyes widened. “Could I really go? I’ve heard it floats in the sky and has big towers!”
Grimory shrugged. “I guess he’d love to come.”
“I just need to tell my parents. They get worried if I’m gone too long.” He shook cinnamon over the last bite of his apple, then tossed the core behind him to a rat after he finished.
Grimory smiled. “Oh, no need. We won’t be gone that long.”
He would kill me if I did that, Diori thought, pursing her lips up at him.
~ * ~
Once in Dalaran, Kaelsig’s eyes went wide to take it all in. Diori held him by the hand, making sure to not lose sight of her new friend. To the girl’s shock, her father led them straight for the citadel, then demanded to see Khadgar—a man she’d seen once, but had never actually met. Soon they were tucked in the privacy of the Archmage’s study, the children left to a bowl of cinnamon apples each as Grimory took Khadgar aside to speak in whispers. When they turned back, they both stopped. Kaelsig was drinking from a glass with streaks of frost across it, while Diori’s only had a small amount of condensation.
“Is this why you brought him to me? Frost affinity, do you think?”
Grimory shook his head. “Something about him. Do you think one of those sick fucks could have raised a child?” he hissed.
“He has a large appetite, if he were undead. Anyway, yes, I do talk frequently with Ana. She would be interested in helping to assess his talents, I’m sure.” As he spoke, a quill scribbled something across a parchment, which then rolled up and disappeared. “We’ll see if she’s interested.”
A minute later a loud pop! shook the room. Kaelsig jumped, spilling his juice before running to hide behind Khadgar’s desk.
“I was making cookies,” the mage said, holding out a plate of fresh chocolate chip cookies for the Archmage. “Grim, it’s been a while.” She hugged him and he returned it. “So, what’s so urgent?”
“Come on out,” Khadgar said, waving the boy from behind the desk. “That was just the minor displacement of air when Anarchaia arrived. No need to worry.”
Anarchaia gasped at the child. “Is he— Was he raised?”
“I know you’re talking about me,” he said. “I’m not dead. My parents say so, and they’re experts.”
“What’s your name?” Anarchaia asked, bending to smile at him.
He eyed them, then shrugged. “Just Kaelsig.”
The mage smiled. “I love your name. Do you know what it means?”
He nodded and eyed his unfinished apples.
“How old are you?”
“Forty-five.” He sat down and returned to the treat, he and Diori grinning at each other over their full mouths.
Khadgar muttered to himself, then went to his bookshelves to read the spines as he searched for something. Anarchaia put a finger to her lips as she thought.
“Ah-ha!” Khadgar returned with a book, flipping through the pages. “It’s one I wrote, so I remember there being a small section… Here!”
He gave the book to Anarchaia and she frowned, knowing well which passage he referenced. She dropped the item and went to the boy, looking him over carefully. Then she smiled.
“Would you kids like some cookies? I have a fresh batch coming out of the oven any second now.”
Diori looked to her father.
Grimory smiled. “I’d love a fresh one, too. Oh, damn, uh… Ali and Tav are off…something. Should we send for them?”
Anarchaia took the children by the hands and nodded. “Mas— Heh. Khadgar, would you be so kind as to send word and then bring them to my home.”
Khadgar nodded. “Only because you asked so nicely.”
Anarchaia teleported all four of them into the back yard of a quaint home surrounded by the murky forest of Duskwood. Grimory poked at a flower and cocked an eyebrow.
“This is where you’ve been the whole time?” he asked.
“Home sweet home.” She rushed into the small kitchen and got the cookies from the oven compartment of the old wood-burning stove. “Let them cool. Grim, with me, please?”
He followed her up the stairs and smirked. “I know it’s been a long time, but I’m not sure we shou—”
“Oh, honestly, Grim! No!” She pushed open a door and he followed.
“Oh. Still with ole’ Kolty? How’s that working?” he asked as he caught sight of the death knight’s armor and Byfrost leaned up into a corner.
“It’s working perfectly, thanks for asking. Get his sword.”
“Get the damn sword. I don’t like touching it.”
Grimory chuckled. “Remind me why?”
“Because it works on me. That whole worthy soul thing, I guess.”
The demon hunter laughed and picked up the sword. He frowned when the handle remained copper. “Wait, does this mean I’m not worthy?”
“It does. Come on.”
“Okay, so, why the sword?”
Anarchaia turned to eye him as he followed her down the stairs. “I need to test a theory.”
Diori perked. “Redblade!”
“What’s that?” Kaelsig asked.
“Why don’t you tell him,” Anarchaia said to the high elf girl.
“That’s my family sword. My mom is a Redblade, and this sword turns red when we touch it. It turns other colors when someone worthy touches it, and stays copper when the unworthy pick it up.” She eyed Grimory and giggled.
The demon hunter leaned the sword against the kitchen table and gave his daughter a bored expression. “I’m guessing Ana wants you to show him?”
The mage nodded and the girl lifted the sword. The handle shimmered red under her touch and the flames danced brighter. “I can’t lift normal big swords, but this one is easy. Cool, huh?”
The boy smiled and nodded. Anarchaia set a hand on the girl’s shoulder.
“Why don’t you give your friend a try?”
A squealing rushed up toward the house, but the inhabitants were too focused on the boy to notice. His had wrapped around the copper handle. After a moment, it tentatively shimmered to red. The front door opened and the footsteps rushing in stopped.
Anarchaia frowned. “Kolt, that was fast.”
But he wasn’t looking at her, his sights were on the sword.
“Who’re they?” a little girl asked, tugging at Koltira’s shirt. Her faintly glowing, intense blue eyes were trained on the sword. Her long, wide ears twitched when she got no reply, instead, she looked to the mage. “Mommy? Who’re they?”
Anarchaia ran her fingers through the girl’s hair and kissed the top of her head. “They’re friends. Come on, Aralisse.”
The little girl went forward, curiously comparing her own periwinkle skin to the boy’s arm.
Kaelsig turned to eye the girl. “Are you like me?”
Grimory shook himself of the shock of seeing the blade respond to the child only to turn and see another of similar color, but with white hair. Diori couldn’t look away and didn’t notice anyone else. Her lips curved into a frown.
“Are you a Redblade?”
Anarchaia laughed nervously, then peeked around Koltira. “Faltora, get inside before the sun comes out!”
A little boy ran inside, holding a small frog in his hands. He stopped and stared at the black haired child holding the sword. “Why’s he get to hold papa’s sword? I never get to!”
Koltira snapped out of the trance and eased the frog from his son’s hands. “What have we said about amphibians in the house?”
“Don’t bring them in?” His blue eyes with the red pupils locked on the death knight. “Sorry.”
Grimory stared at the two. “Half-elven?”
Anarchaia nodded. “They’re the reason we left that life behind. My little miracles.”
“How many human sacrifices did you have to make to accomplish this?”
Anarchaia laughed. “If only it had just been that. You have no idea what we had to do to make this happen.”
Koltira leaned against the wall, his arms folded as he trained his sights on the boy now poking at his daughter as they figured each other out.
“He’s so cold!” Aralisse said, clamping her hands on his arm.
“Oh! Uh, you have to see this. Can you get a glass of water or something?” Grimory asked the mage. She gave him a glass of water and he set it on the table beside Kaelsig. “Hey, buddy, can you do what you did a few minutes ago in Khadgar’s office?”
The boy looked at him and pursed his lips. “I just like my drinks cold,” he said, as though he’d needed to explain himself more than this once.
“So do I, actually. So I wondered if you could cool my water down for me?”
Kaelsig took the glass and seconds later ice and frost crept across the surface from his palm. Grimory took the glass and made a show of bringing it to his lips.
“Thank you so much, Kaelsig!”
The room grew quiet as everyone became aware of the tension seeping from Koltira in the corner.
Anarchaia handed each child a cookie and opened the back door. “Stay in the shade,” she said to Faltora, ruffling his hair as he followed the others outside. When she closed the door, she frowned across the room at the other two. “He’s half death knight, half Redblade, and he’s forty-five years old. It’s literally impossible for this to be a coincidence. And his name!”
“What about it?” Grimory asked, helping himself to a cookie.
“Miracle,” Koltira said. “It means miracle in Gutterspeak.”
Grimory set the treat down, suddenly losing his appetite. “You’re basically telling me that somehow he survived and that those monsters kept him and raised him? What kind of fucked up—” Pop!
The air around them shifted, then settled. Taveth remained flinched a moment longer before opening his eyes and grinning wide at the sight of Anarchaia. Alisbeth blinked her swirling eyes as she adjusted. She squeaked in excitement and ran to the demon hunter.
“Grim! We had so much fun. You should come next time!”
He returned her hug. “I should, huh? Hey, remember these guys?”
Alisbeth screamed in excitement as she turned around. “Kolty!” She hugged him enthusiastically, but he continued to frown. “What’s the matter? Didn’t miss me? Oh, right, you have mage-face.” She made a face and gritted her teeth at Anarchaia. “It’s…so nice seeing you…”
“Don’t kill me in my own home,” Anarchaia warned.
“Ha. Ha ha. Why would I do that?”
“Not in front of the children,” Grimory said pointedly.
Alisbeth followed his gaze to the porch outside, where the four children played in the shade. She pressed her face to the glass. “Hi Diori!” she shouted, waving through the glass at her daughter. “Who are those others?” she asked over her shoulder.
“The twins are mine,” Anarchaia said. “And Koltira’s.”
Alisbeth spun and forced a grin at them, her hands gripping the door knob behind her back. “How precious for you. Little miracles, right?”
“Ali, look at the other boy,” Grimory said.
The death knight spun and glared out the window. “Yes, another little undead child. Congratula—”
“He’s a Redblade,” Anarchaia blurted. Taveth gasped beside her and she nodded to him that she was serious.
“They tested him,” Koltira said, lifting the sword to set it on the table. “And he did this.” He slid the frosty glass forward.
“With his bare hands,” Grimory added.
“His name is Kaelsig,” Koltira continued. “It means ‘miracle’ in Gutterspeak. He’s forty-five.”
Alisbeth didn’t move for a long time, then her hand shot her her abdomen and her other went to press on her lips. She shook her head and blinked as tears rolls down her cheeks. “No. No, it was a girl. I wanted a girl. That’s not—”
She spun and burst through the back door, then dropped to her knees in front of the boy. She wrapped him in her arms and cried, while his expression became scared.
Diori set a hand on his shoulder and one on her mother’s head. “It’s okay, you get used to her.” She looked at the heaving shoulders of the death knight. “Ali, what’s wrong?”
Alisbeth straightened and laugh-cried as she stared at Kaelsig. “D-Diori, this is… They’re telling me this is your brother. Half, of course.”
“Do you know who his father is?” she asked accusingly.
Alisbeth nodded. “Koltira.” She brushed the black hair from the boy’s face. “Oh, my baby. I lost you forever. They said I lost you forever. And I tried to protect you from them. I did.” She pulled on his shirt, pleading with him. “I tried so hard, but they killed us anyway. Then they took you away from me. And nobody told me that you were a boy.”
Grimory eased her hands from his shirt and the boy stumbled backward away from her. He wrung his hands, his confusion and fear apparent as he chewed on his chocolate-covered lower lip.
“But, my parents said—”
“Your parents? Who are they?”
He stepped back from the crying woman. “My mom, she’s a priest, and she heals people.”
“I’m a priest!” Diori squealed.
“And-and my dad, he’s a w-warlo—”
Alisbeth screamed in anger and sorrow. She beat against Grimory’s arms holding her in place.
“No! They took my baby. They took my boy,” she wailed. She squirmed and kicked to be free of the Illidari, but he dragged her back into the house to set her on the couch to try to calm her down.
Koltira closed the door, shutting her screams behind the glass. He fought back his own emotions and smiled, then knelt down to look the boy eye-to-eye. “Kaelsig. That’s a very special name. You’re a very special boy”
“M-my parents say so, too.”
The death knight rubbed his thumb and fingertips along the corners of his mouth, wanting to shout his own obscenities but knowing he couldn’t. “You know they’re not your real parents, right?”
Kaelsig nodded. “My real parents didn’t want me.”
He frowned and scratched his fingers through the hair at his temple. “That’s absolutely not true. I know that because I’m your father. That’s why you’re so cold, see?” He held out his hand for the boy to take.
Kaelsig smiled a little as he wrapped his fingers around Koltira’s hand. “You don’t feel warm. Even the forsaken feel warm. Diori feels hot, like my tongue.”
Koltira snapped his head around to look up to where Taveth was taking notes, as usual. “You’re not making this public. Any of it.”
“N-no! Of course not! But, I mean, we could add just a little more to Khadgar’s book?” The high elf kept his book open expectantly.
“Who’re you?” Kaelsig asked.
Taveth capped his pen and strode forward with his hand out. “I’m Taveth, Diori’s brother.”
The girl scoffed. “You’re not my brother, he is.” She motioned at Kaelsig.
Taveth frowned. “I spent fifty years calling you my little sister, I don’t see why I have to stop.” He backed away again, muttering about teenagers.
Diori stuck her tongue out at the elf, then went to Kaelsig’s side. “I grew up away from my parents, too. That other death knight is my mom. Our mom. She wasn’t a death knight before, though.”
“That crazy lady is your mom?” Aralisse asked, her eyes wide. She and her twin exchanged shocked looks.
“Aralisse, be nice,” Koltira said. He gave her a warning look, then turned back to the boy. “These two are your half brother and sister on my side.”
“Daddy,” Faltora blurted, “is he going to live with us? ‘Cause I don’t want to share my bedroom.”
Kaelsig wrung his hands and looked around at all the faces.
Diori reached out her hand to him. “I think he’d like to live with me in Dalaran.”
“That’s not fair,” Aralisse growled. “He’s our brother, too!”
Tears welled in Kaelsig’s eyes. “I want to go home.”
“I’ll take you home,” Alisbeth said from the doorway, her face clear of tears and a small smile on her lips. “Sorry I got a little upset.” She dug into Taveth’s satchel and pulled out a candy cane, then approached with it out for him.
He took the candy and bit off the end to chew on. “Did you really want me?”
“Of course we did,” Alisbeth said. “They took you from me.”
“Because I was alive, Koltira was a death knight then, too. You shouldn’t have been possible. You were my little miracle.” She held out her hand to him.
“My parents took me?”
Alisbeth nodded. “They called you names and did experiments on me until they killed me.”
“And then they cut you right out.” She lifted her shirt and lowered the hem of her trousers to show him the long scar across her stomach. She dropped her shirt and wiped her eyes. “I’ve never talked about it until now. Because it hurt. And it still hurts.”
“My parents love me.”
Alisbeth nodded. “Maybe. But I loved you first. And I never stopped. But if you don’t want to come live with Diori and me up in the city in the sky, or here with your father and your brother and sister, then…” She couldn’t say it. She couldn’t tell him it was okay to go back to the home he knew when she wasn’t willing to let him go again.
Kaelsig thought on it, then looked at his feet. “I’d like to go home. Please.”
Anarchaia stepped from the doorway, straightening her robes. “I’ll take you. Ali, why don’t you come with? Say a proper goodbye?”
Alisbeth went to the table and reached for her sword.
The mage set her hand on the death knight’s. “Leave it. We’re just taking him home.”
Alisbeth frowned and forced herself to nod. She took Kaelsig’s hand in hers and nodded to the mage. In a crack of sound, the three were gone. Koltira hung his head and his children set their hands on his shoulders.
“Can he come visit again?” Faltora asked.
“I hope so.”
~ * ~
The three appeared on the road through the Western Plaguelands.
Anarchaia smiled down at Kaelsig. “Where is your house from here?”
“We live outside Andorhal.”
The air cracked again and they appeared just outside the destroyed city. Kaelsig released their hands and ran forward, toward a small house at the edge of the forest.
“I get that you hate my kind, but I’m your friend,” the mage said to Alisbeth.
“That’s why I haven’t killed you.”
They laughed lightly, their hearts heavy.
“I want to live in Dalaran,” Kaelsig said suddenly from their elbows.
Alisbeth crouched. “You do? Really?”
Anarchaia smiled. “I lived in Dalaran for decades. I love it. If not for my family, I’d have stayed.”
“I’m going to tell them I want to live in the big city with the big towers.” He smiled at Alisbeth.
“Well, then, let’s go say goodbye,” the death knight said.
Kaelsig turned and ran for the house again.
Anarchaia gave a relieved laugh. “That makes my plan so much easier. Now I don’t have to take him against his will.” She gave an innocent grin to Alisbeth. “What? I don’t ever condone kidnapping and I was trying to convince myself I could live with doing it.”
Alisbeth didn’t say anything as she stared at the mage.
Anarchaia cleared her throat. “You’ve been looking for them for forty-five years, though. Can’t go to their house without the intention of returning the favor.” The Redblade popped into her hands, the handle shifting to purple. The mage hurriedly shoved it into Alisbeth’s hands.
Alisbeth set the sword across her back and grabbed the mage in a hug. “I won’t make you watch.”
“Kaelsig is the one you should be concerned about.”
The boy waved them to follow faster.
“Okay,” Anarchaia said, slipping her arm around Alisbeth’s shoulders as they walked, “the plan is: you wait outside. I’ll go inside with him. When you hear the crack of me leaving, go have your fun.”
But it didn’t happen that way. Kaelsig dragged Alisbeth inside moments after the mage had taken him into the house.
“She says she’s my mom,” he said. “I want to go live with her in the city in the sky.”
The two forsaken growled. “Get out of our house!” the warlock shouted.
“Stay away from our son,” the priest said, tugging him back.
Alisbeth unsheathed her sword and stared at the blade. “Remember when we first met?” she asked as though speaking through a dream. “I do. You had me kicked from the inn because I was pregnant with a— What did you call it?”
“Get out!” the priest shrieked.
“No. That wasn’t it. You called my baby an abomination.”
Kaelsig frowned and looked between the two forsaken. “What does that mean?”
“It means they were disgusted by your existence. They thought you were a monstrosity. Half living and half death knight. They had to get me when my guard was down, then they took us and told me they had to fix you, Kaelsig.”
“Shut up!” the warlock said.
“Stop lying to our son!”
Alisbeth’s eyes snapped to them. “You called him evil. Said you had to purify him. Why would I lie about that?”
“Get out of our house,” the warlock growled, bringing his hands together.
Anarchaia reached out her hands, the warlock stopped casting and the same green ball began forming between the mage’s palms. She tossed it at him; the chaos bolt hit him in the stomach and knocked him into the wall. “We’re just trying to talk. No need to go throwing spells at my friend.”
Alisbeth screamed in pain as a light came from the ceiling onto her head. It surrounded her and pulsed every few seconds. She fought to stay upright; blood trickled from her nose as more Light spells hit her, but she resisted collapsing to the floor in agony. “I died for him once, you really think you can stop me this time?” She pushed forward, one painful step at a time.
Kaelsig tugged at the priest’s robe. “Stop it. Stop hurting her. Stop!” He raised his hands up and icy air shot from his palms, causing snowflakes to form in its path. “Stop it!”
The priest clutched her head and groaned.
“Take him,” Alisbeth said. “He doesn’t need to see this.”
Anarchaia blinked forward, wrapped her arms around the boy, who was wide-eyed in shock at what he’d done, and disappeared from the house.
Alisbeth strode forward, the Redblade raised over her head, the green lights ignited with her anger. “Eye for an eye.”
Next: Play Date