Less Travelled

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Richard Laskey grinned around his unlit cigar as he carefully laid the stack of garments across the tailor's counter and dropped a handful of coins into the gnome's outstretched fingers.

"I'd like them cleaned and pressed by tomorrow, if that's possible. There will be extra in it for you if you can do it." His voice was lightly accented Gilnean, slightly gravelly, but with a noble air to it.

The gnome gave him a tired smile and nodded once. "I think we can handle that sir."

"Excellent, thank you!" Richard smiled and accepted the claim ticket from the gnome, quickly stuffing it into his breast pocket and turning to walk unhurriedly out of the tailor shop.

He did enjoy having clean, nice clothes. It was one of the few things to link him back to his former, brief tenure as a baron and patron of the harvest in Gilneas. He had presided over exactly two harvests after his father had died, passing the family holdings on to him. He had been preparing for his third harvest season around the same time that the worgen curse befell his nation, and the wall came crashing down to the unrelenting march of the Forsaken.

He let out a brief sigh for old times, before shaking his head to clear it, preferring to think of new opportunities instead of old pains. As he stepped out of the shop's archway, a small panther cub detached itself from the shadows curling around the side of the building and nuzzled his leg before falling in, padding along in-step with him.

"Are you ready to head home, Little Grace?

Grace mewed.

Richard smiled at the cub and began making his way down the street. It was getting a little late to make the trip back to Darnassus, and he had his clothes to pick up in the morning anyway, so he decided to return to the Sword guild hall instead and bunk there for the night. Besides, he just might catch another glimpse of the pretty, curious young woman he had met during his visit to the city this week. He had spoken with her twice now, and both times had been a pleasant experience. She had even agreed to join him on a trip to Darnassus, the thought of pouring through the old volumes there seeming to intrigue her.

Richard smiled to himself again. Yes, it was far more pleasant to think about the present than the past.

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She peered after the man when he left, a flush lingering in her cheeks as she lifted the rose to smell.

"So! Who was that?" A semi-loud, curious voice interrupted her thoughts. A blonde bounded down the stairs of the guildhall, mischievous grin on her face.

Zeka spun around, blushing hotly again, "Misha?!"

Misha approached her twin, still grinning broadly.

"How long were you watching?"

"Long enough."

The mage turned away form her grinning twin, clutching the rose in her hand. "His name is Richard. I'm surprised you didn't know it already seeing as the two of you bear the same tabard."

Misha could tell Zeka was still a bit embarrassed, and watched her twin quietly for a few moments. It was rather nice to see her scholarly sister taking an interest outside of her books and research. Something she would do her best to encourage.

Moments later she walked closer, pulling on Zeka's arm. "Come on sis. Let's go find a midnight snack."

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She sat on a stump near the base of the budding Nordrassil, staring intently at nothing and flicking her fingers in the air absently in some kind of half-remembered incantation from the days before Shan’do Stormrage had destroyed the well and sundered the world. Long, blue-black hair framed a soft-featured face with sad eyes and light skin with just a hint of violet.

Durian Mistfall thought she was beautiful, even in her melancholy.

He had been stealing glances at her from the edges of the forest for days, letting her utterly distract him from his hunts as he prowled through the underbrush in cat form. She was one of the few remaining displaced highborne, a noble without a society. She came here every day, though he still knew not why. She would sit on the stump for hours, staring off into the distance, moving her fingers in simple gestures and mouthing sub-vocalized phrases and incantations.

It made him feel sad for her, despite all the horrors her people’s reckless use of arcane magic had brought upon the world. It was a curious thing, to feel bad for the loss of a thing that had destroyed so much, but he supposed that was the nature of an addiction and had come to pity her for it.

Alstiara S’entegari was her name. He had learned it the day before when he had finally worked up the nerve to leave the forest’s edge and approach her. It had been a brief and somewhat awkward conversation, him fumbling about having happened by and seen her and did she want something to eat - he had some fresh-caught fish that he could cook over a fire - and oh, she wasn’t hungry but it was nice of him to offer.

But he had gotten her name at least, and she hadn’t seemed to have the resentful look in her eye that so many of her fellow highborne did when looking upon the druids that had done so much to fix what they had broken.

He wanted to talk to her again, so today he had arrived with a couple of rings he had found, relics of Zin-Azshari as best as he could tell. He thought maybe he could show them to her and ask her about them. Perhaps it would even cheer her up a little bit to talk of the past she had lost.

Stepping out of the forest, Durian cleared his throat as he approached her, smiling inwardly as she turned her sad, but pretty face toward him...

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Richard Laskey looked over to the far corner of the ship’s cabin where Zekekra sat at a small table in the dim candlelight, hunched over a particularly large volume, surrounded by huge stacks of books. He wasn’t sure exactly from where she had produced so many tomes; it hadn’t seemed like she could carry that many on her person. He watched her pull out her little notebook, writing and making comparisons and smiled a bit.

She had such a thirst for knowledge that it bordered (and perhaps went well past) the obsessive. He had been forced to practically shove his book in front of her face to get her attention when he had found the volume on the aftermath of the War of Ancients, and even then it had elicited a startled shriek from the young woman, which had instantly made him feel not a little bit guilty.

The text had contained a bunch of handwritten notes in ancient kaldorei tongue and his barely passable darnassian wasn’t enough to translate it. They had decided to bring it back to Stormwind to see if any of their comrades could translate the ancient handwriting. If it included someone’s personal account of that time period, it could potentially provide some really fascinating insights on either arcane magic, druidism or maybe even both.

Richard thought of going over to speak to her about the potential for a bit, but decided not to interrupt. They would have plenty of time to talk about it, and he didn’t really want to interrupt her. Besides, he had to admit that he found the way she got so absorbed into her reading rather fetching. He just watched her for a bit out of the corner of his eye, noting the way her eyebrow screwed up just so when she was thinking, the way her eyes widened almost hungrily when she encountered something particularly fascinating.

Eventually, sounds began to emerge from the outside: familiar noises of a ship getting ready to put into harbor. Richard rose from his seat, walking over to Zeka’s table to help her gather up her things to disembark.

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Richard Laskey yawned yet again as he slowly made his way through the darkened streets of Stormwind. The young mage he carried in his arms drifted in and out of consciousness, making bits of small conversation when her eyes weren't glazed over in wooziness from the blood loss.

He blamed himself.

He shoudn't have waited.

If he had jumped in and dealt with the blood elf rangers earlier instead of waiting to see how the encounter played out, perhaps the petite mage in his arms would not now be sporting an ugly cut down the side of her neck. He had done what he could to heal the damage, and the wound would scar very little, but it had clearly caused her pain, and that was the last thing he would have wanted.

In an effort to translate the ancient volume they had found, Richard and Zekekra had travelled north into Quel'thalas, seeking out some ancient ruins in the ghostlands. Once there, they had met with a blood elf friend of Zeka's, Serelas, and the three had explored the area, happening upon yet another ancient book. This one had been preserved with magic and appeared to be a personal diary of some kind, written in the same ancient dialect as the first book. IT wasn't a whole lot of help, but Richard hoped that comparing the two might aid in his translation efforts.

Zekekra stirred in his arms, leaning slightly more into him, and he smiled warmly to himself. Despite his exhaustion, the feel of her small frame snuggling against him was pleasant, even if the reason he was carrying her in the first place was not. They had grown a bit closer during the trip - at one point he'd even dared to steal a kiss from her - and he hoped that things might continue in the same manner. Richard found Zeka's company to be pleasant, her mannerisms adorable and her form rather easy on the eyes.

He felt strange for a moment, a slight pressure on his brain coming from his pocket as he thought about the little mage. It was gone as quickly as it came, but it reminded him again of the two rings he had found while searching the ruins. He had planned to show them to her, but the time hadn't seemed right yet...

Perhaps in the morning when they both were rested.

Richard turned the corner toward the Sword guild hall, noting that Lady Serian already stood outside, looking toward them with an anxious and concerned expression, clearly having received his message and waiting for the pair.

He increased his pace and hurried toward the shaman.

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Serian remained nearby so her totems remained active, but gave the twins enough distance so they could talk privately as most sisters would after such adventures.

Misha studied her sister, eyeing the bloodstains on her clothes before meeting Zeka's gaze. "So what happened?"

Zeka sighed a bit, glancing in the direction where Laskey had gone. "I need to work on my skills of impersonating a blood elf. I wasn't entirely too convincing." she sighed again. Her words were true, but even Misha could read between the lines. That wasn't all that had happened.

The warrior raised an eyebrow, crossing her arms over her chest. "You are -not- gonna keep everything a secret. Even if I have to tag along with Lir to speak to Sere myself… I will get all the details." she gave an impish grin with her last words.

the mage snorted, "I doubt Lirese would take you there will be issues visiting Ghostlands or Eversong for awhile I believe."

Misha shrugged, "Never stopped us before."

"No, but we've never killed blood elves before either."

"…No, we haven't." Misha sombered. "Is…that what she had to do?" her voice lowered to just above a whisper, glancing at Zeka from under her lashes.

Zeka looked down at her lap for a moment before nodding. Misha's shoulders slumped a bit as she sat there quietly. The mage tugged at her clothing and sighed again.

"Probably should change soon." she plucked at the hem of her dress.

"Probably." Misha agreed and glanced over at where Laskey slept. "Probably will need to remind -him- to change too."

That comment seemed to make Zeka flush slightly, her eyes lowering again as she fidgeted a bit. Misha caught what her twin did and smirked suddenly, an impish look seeping into her expression.

"Is there something -else- you need to tell me?" her lips curved up into a grin, an almost knowing look in her eyes. Oh yeah, Zeka was busted.

Zeka's face flush a deeper red, averting her eyes, "Maybe…is this even a good place to discuss this?"

Misha snorted, "He is so deep asleep I doubt even an attack on Stormwind would wake him for several hours."

Zeka squirmed and mumbled under her breath something about meddling sisters before she took a deep breath. Scooting in the bed she sat up with her back to the headboard; she still felt a bit light-headed.

An eyebrow raised as she watched her mage twin fidget a bit more before settling into a sitting position. This was becoming a bit more curiouser than usual.

Zeka sighed again, her eyes going towards where Laskey slept for a brief moment, bracing herself for the words to come.

"He kissed me."

Misha's eyebrows shot up just as she gave a small noise of gleeful excitement. "What happened?!"

The mage's cheeks flushed more again as she quietly and slowly retold her adventures. By the time Misha stopped grilling her twin for as many details as she could Zeka was yawning like crazy and seeming to visibly droop.

Misha blinked, "I'm sorry Zeka." she rose to her feet, "I'll go get some clean clothes for you."

Zeka nodded faintly as she pulled a blanket up to her shoulders, laying against the pillow with her eyes fluttering open and closed.

Misha leaned over, kissing Zeka's head softly before leaving the room. She met Serian as she left, saying she would be gone for a bit to get clothes. The shaman nodded, sending the young human on her way.

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"It's not that simple. You know why I can't tell them about... us."

Durian Mistfall sighed as the same words fell from Alstiara's lips for what might have been the hundredth time. Her lean, naked flesh was pressed against his as they cuddled together on the blanket beneath the stars, but there was a tensity to her frame that kept her nearness from being as comforting as it usually was.

"Elune take your family's thoughts on the integrity of bloodlines." He sighed and pulled his arms from around her, sitting up and hugging them around his knees. He absently turned the old Zin-Azshari ring on his finger with the fingers of his other hand. He felt her stir behind him, and soon her slender fingers wrapped around his waist from behind, the coolness of the other of the two rings - the one Alsti bore on her own finger - cold against his skin.

"It doesn't mean my feelings for you are any less, my love."

He felt her body press up against his back as she spoke; some of the tenseness had drained away and her skin felt comforting again. He let out a sigh as he warmed to her touch, unable to hold on to his frustration.

They had been seeing each other for some time now, and their relationship had become intimate. However she stubbornly refused to reveal this fact to her family. They were old-blooded highborne, the lot of them, and they had very specific ideas about what made a proper marriage to noble lady. Much to Durian's chagrin, those ideas did not include the possibility of a pairing with a lowborn druid, despite the order's newfound position of leadership in Kaldorei society.

So their relationship remained secret, hidden. They met in the woods, or in out of the way places; occasionally beneath the budding branches of Nordrassil where they had first met. But always covertly. He could not share his love for her with the world, despite his desire to shout it out from the top of Hyjal. He placed his hands on hers, gently pulling them away so that he could turn to face her, placing a hand on her cheek.

"I know, and I love you too, with all my heart." He sighed. "But the time of the highborne has passed; Zin-Azshari has fallen and taken the old order of things with it. Your family needs to adapt."

"They never will." She shook her head, and then turned her gaze from him slightly, her voice lowering with the weight of her words. "I think they are going to join the others who are sailing east... and..." She trailed off.

"Alsti... what is it?"

"I think I'm going with them." She lowered her gaze further, not facing him.

He was silent for a long moment and his body frozen in complete stillness at her words. How... how could she leave him?

"As much as I love you, Durian, this new society has no place for my people, it holds nothing for us... and I... I miss the magic."

He sighed again, still not knowing what to say. The highborne had been addicted to the energies of the Well, and the loss of it had affected all of them. He would never be able to fill that void in her being, no matter how hard he tried. He realized that there was likely no way to turn her from her decision, which left only one option.

"I'll come with you."

Alstiara's gaze turned sharply back to him, her eyes wide with surprise and confusion, but clearly conveying an unspoken question.

"Yes, I would leave all that we have done here to be with you. If you go, I will sail with you; in secret if need be. I cannot go on without you, Alsti." His eyes searched her face.

Her response was to press her lips to his in a kiss that seemed to go on forever.

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Richard Laskey wasn't sure how long he slept, be it twenty minutes or several hours, but when he awoke, it had grown darker outside and the sound of falling rain could still be heard, accompanied by distant rolls of thunder. Zekekra's small body was warm in his arms, and she lay nestled up against him, making small sleep noises, her naked skin flush with his own.

He had never felt quite as content as he did just now. The little mage had become important to him over the last month or two. Working together closely, trying to translate the ancient Kaldorei journal and the inscriptions on the two rings they'd found, they had grown very close. They spent every evening together and he always looked forward to her company. He was sure he loved her. Or at least pretty sure... Well... he definitely had never felt this way about anyone in the past. She had been so shocked when he'd told her, though. He'd blurted it out earlier that evening, in the post-coital glow of their first time together and he hoped he hadn't ruined things. The sheer passion of the kiss she'd given him in response seemed to indicate he hadn't, but he couldn't shut out the rumble of doubt completely.

He bent and delivered a gentle kiss to her forehead as his thoughts turned toward how he was going to get their clothes hung up to dry without waking her.

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She turned in her sleep, shifting to cuddle on her side, lost in her dreams. Full of light and smelling of spring one couldn't help but be happy. Zeka wandered through the field of green, littered with color from numerous flowers, a wide smile on her face. Especially since her sister came into view freshly dressed in armor set off with her blue and gold tabard bearing a sword. They hugged and went towards what appeared to be a picnic with other friends and allies. As Zeka moved among them, greeting Lady Serian and Lirese she looked through all the faces knowing it was a good time. But as she moved around and enjoyed herself there seemed to be something missing. It ate at the back of her mind. She couldn't place it.

Time passed and the feeling at the back of Zeka's mind grew; something wasn't right. This time of happiness wasn't complete. She wandered just yards away from the gathering, trying to let her thoughts sort themselves out. She was almost out of eyesight of the group when she stopped and sat on a rock, looking back at them. Her eyes went to every person. Some she knew personally, some she knew only a little. All generally wore the Sword tabard. Only one bore the telltale signs of being a blood elf in their clothing from the bright red and gold. But even as her gaze traveled from person to person, something was still incomplete with the scene.

She hadn't even noticed when Lady Serian joined her, gracefully taking a seat on the grass. In a way the draenai seemed more real then the rest of them. The young mage looked down at the shaman, a small frown on her face.

"What troubles you Little Mage?" Serian asked, her expression as calm as ever, always warm and helpful.

Zeka looked around again before answering, "I feel like this is one of the happiest days of my life..." she trailed off. The frown was still in place as her gaze seemed to take in their surroundings a little more intently.

Serian glanced around before waiting. She knew that the mage would confide in her, it was just a matter of patience and time. As it was she was in a meditative state when she felt the dreamer on the edge of her senses. It seemed Zeka needed assistance of some nature and so Serian answered. Just as she had once done for Sylennis.

"Something...or one is missing. I don't know what or even who..." the blonde looked around again, noting that even the pandaren of the Sword were there, joking and rolling out a new keg of something. Hopefully it wasn't that one brew Wiq had been trying to perfect. That would be a minor disaster.

"Are you sure? It seems to me that the majority of the banner is here." Serian swept a hand towards the scene.

Zeka looked from the shaman back to the scene again and shook her head unsure.

"What about a certain young baron? Have you seen him?"

Zeka flushed immediately at the mention of Richard, her eyes lowering to her lap for a moment.

"You enjoy his company though I'd assume." Serian continued as if she hadn't noticed the coloring of Zeka's fair skin. "Just as I would assume the same of him. His step has become lighter throughout the guildhall and he seems...happier." she smiled warmly, almost talking to herself. "Is he not here?"

That made Zeka blink, her head coming up quickly. Her eyes roved over the party crowd (again noting that the pandas were up to something. Another keg was being rolled up and even Serelas was in the middle of group), searching for him. The small smile that had curved her lips fell as she turned back to Serian. "I don't see him."

"Maybe perhaps because you seem to be hiding?"

"Hiding?" Zeka blinked. She sat there thoughtfully before slowly saying, "But I'm not hiding Lady Serian."

"Are you sure? It seems he would be here if you weren't."

Zeka's frown deepened.

"You enjoy his company don't you?" Serian inquired.

"Yes…" Zeka slowly responded, still frowning. "I look forward to our meetings…sometimes wishing our guildhalls were closer together…" she looked down at her lap.

"And there are things that you don't even tell your sister first isn't there? Things that you used to."

Zeka looked up surprised. Until that moment she hadn't realized she was doing just that. Before she had come to know Richard she went to her twin with everything. Even her studies. Especially her studies. Even if Misha hadn't quite understood half of what the mage told her, the warrior would still sit there sharpening her sword and listen intently. That's what sisters were for right? Her closest family; her best friend.

But now…more and more often she sought the company of a certain druid. More often she found herself keeping him up with dozens of questions and new books. Late into the night they would talk…and not just about their researches. She came to the realization that she couldn't see herself -not- spending time with him; he had became such a big part of her life now. An important part.

A warm feeling began to seep into Zeka as she sat there in thought, almost forgetting Serian was even there until she whispered to herself, almost surprised to hear the words from her own mouth, "I…love him."

"Then come out of hiding and show him that. Tell him what you've told me and tell him what you know is inside your heart." Serian's smile was still warming and caring. "And look there." she pointed off to the side at the edge of the meadow towards a line of trees. If you looked closely enough you could just barely see the outline of a physically fit young man standing in the shadows. "He's waiting."

Zeka's head jerked up in the direction Serian pointed, the frown disappearing altogether being replaced with a smile. Within seconds Zeka was off the rock in a swirl of skirts and rushing towards the treeline.

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(( Following post is an excerpt from the ongoing RP that felt worthy enough on its own as a post and I figured it would be a more interesting read than covering the events in flashback as I have been doing. It's co-written by Serian and myself. Hopefully the shifting viewpoints aren't too much of a distraction. And apologies for typos and literary faux pas, a very large portion of this was originally typed via iphone while I was at work >.>))

Richard stood topside, hanging over the railing at the ship's prow as it gently rocked in the ocean waves. He enjoyed the feel of the ocean breeze as it washed over his face, causing loose strands of hair to fan out occasionally behind him. His eyes searched over the horizon, trying to catch a glimpse of some of the life that teemed beneath the ocean's surface.

While he was topside Zeka was reading down below trying to read a little more of her notes while comparing them to one of the books. She was even all curled up on the bed for the time being, book cradled in her lap. But if her lover were to find her at that moment he would discover she had fallen asleep, head resting against a pillow she had repositioned .

He squinted his eyes at the horizon, noting a formation of dark clouds ahead. It looked like a storm was brewing. Thinking it might be best to let Zeka know they might be in for some rough seas, he headed back below to the cabin, letting himself inside to find her quietly dozing form. He smiled to himself and settled down on the edge of the bed near her, gently brushing a stray hair out of her face, looking at her sleeping face.

She stirred in her sleep, but only enough to turn into his hand as he brushed aside some hair, a small smile on her face.

He bent down and planted a gentle kiss on her forehead. He was reluctant to wake her, but didn't think she'd want to be jolted awake should the ship start rocking in choppy seas that bad weather might bring on. He whispered her name. "Zeka..."

She stirred a little more, her breathing changed patterns as she slowly woke up. She was a little disoriented as a hand slowly rose to rub at her eyes, almost hitting her nose with the book since it decided to try and come with the hand.

"Sorry to wake you..." His voice remained a low whisper and he trailed his fingertips very lightly along the contours of her face. He cocked his head to the side, just watching her as she slowly clawed her way to cognizance.

Her eyes blinked open, taking a moment to focus on his face. She leaned into his touch, a faint smile curving her lips before she asked, "Is something wrong? I didn't mean to fall asleep."

"Nothing too much, just looked like we were headed into a squall." His hand moved to trail fingers lightly through her hair where it had come loose from its bun. "I didn't want you to get startled if we hit some rough seas."

She nuzzled into his hand, coming more awake as she moved the book in her lap, closing it before setting it away from her.

He tucked the stray strands of hair behind her ear and adjusting himself into a more comfortable sitting position. He nodded toward the book. "Learn anything new before you, uhh... took a break?" He smiled mischievously at her.

She flushed slightly, "I hadn't meant to fall asleep..." she protested weakly. 'But the ship was rocking just right and the sound of the water just outside and splashing against the wood..." she trailed off.

He smiled again at that, stroking the back of his fingers along her cheek once more. "I have to admit, you looked very sweet and peaceful. I almost couldn't bring myself to wake you."

She wasn't sure what to say to that one, her cheeks flushing all the same just enough to show a little color in her skin.

His smile widened into another mischievous grin. "You never look so much like... you... as when you're accessorized by a book." He gestured toward the book that had recently been in her lap as she slept.

She flushed even more and turned away from him, giving him mostly her back. "Enough..." she protested, gesturing slightly with a hand.

He frowned a bit at that, withdrawing his hand and picking up the book she had been looking at. "I'm sorry" he mumbled as he traced his fingers along the binding of the book.

She instantly felt guilty and turned back towards him, letting her slight weight press into his body as she curled against him.

He unconsciously slipped an arm around her, holding her against him as he continued examining the book. "I guess I get carried away sometimes... I just like to tell you the things you do that make me smile."

Her own arms slipped around his form a bit more securely, squeezing him for a moment. "I can't help my reactions." she said softly, glancing up at him.

He looked down at her. "Sometimes even those are cute, if I'm being honest." He gave her shoulder a little squeeze. "I confess maybe part of me does it just to provoke them."

She snorted faintly. She glanced at the book and then up at him for another moment, "Do you see something I have not?"

He frowned. "Not really... you're better at this part than me. I'm good at sniffing out clues, but between the two of us, you're the researcher here."

Her face fell a little at that one, "But you are looking at the book as if there is something there..." she pointed out before scooting up in his embrace to lean more properly against him. "I concede the point that I am a better researcher yes, but I'm better at the written things...not the physical all the time."

He blinked. "Oh... I was just admiring the craftmanship of the binding. Do you think it was made in a-- ooofff"

He didn't get a chance to finish as a sudden wave rocked the boat, sending them both tumbling from the bunk to the deck.

She didnt have any kind of graceful landing, her body slamming into his before rolling a bit to the side. She scrambled to hold onto him.

He wrapped an arm back around her, trying to hold her, steady her as his other arm scrabbled along the wall to find a handhold to leverage them upright.

She pressed against him as she steadied herself against the movements of the ship and looked up at him, "I guess the storm is hitting?"

He growled, feeling a pain in his elbow where it had hit the bulkhead. "Ouch, yeah, it appears so... you oka--" Another sudden roll of the ship sent them tumbling back toward the bunk. Richard tried to maintain his grip on little Zeka and roll so his body was between her and the hard baseboard to cushion the impact.

She started to respond but a breathless cry came out instead as they were thrown again. He cushioned some of the impact but Zeka still hit the baseboard with her hip. She gave a small sound of pain before pulling her body more firmly against his.

He managed to drag the two of them back onto the bunk, positioning himself so that the bulk of his body would prevent her from being thrown from the bed again. "Are you hurt?" His expression tried to keep itself calm and stoic but a hint of worry showed at the corners of his eyes.

She curled into a ball against his body wincing a little as her weight settled on her hip before answering him, " I'll be fine; just bruised."

He frowned and rubbed his head, looking at her. "I have some nautical training... I feel like I should go up and try to lend a hand... " His grip on her tightened a little. "But I dont want to... I mean if you... You know... I uh..." He gave up in a frustrated stammer. He felt he could help, but then again the ship's crew was probably well-trained for this... And he really didn't want tl leave Zeka alone in a crisis. The last time he'd done so he'd come within a hair's breadth of letting her get killed.

She placed a few soft kisses along his exposed skin and gave him a soft smile. He really was being sweet. "I won't begrudge you of wishing to help. If you think you are able to offer your skills then by all means, go. I won't be leaving the room."

He turned to her, pressing his lips to hers in a slow kiss before pulling away. "I love you, Zekekra." He moved to get his feet under him.

She smiled into the kiss, looking a little distracted when he pulled away. "I love you too." She said softly, still a little shy at the still-new feelings she had for him.

He smiled at her as he got to his feet. "Just brace yourself against the roll of the waves and you should be able to keep yourself mostly steady. I wont be far away, Zeka. If you need me, call for me." He let the worgen form overtake him, twitching his ears toward her with a grin. "I'll hear you."

She nodded and watched him go as she adjusted her position on the bed, fluffing her skirt around her. "I'll be fine." She smiled at him again.

He turned once more, moving out of the cabin as his claws scratched against the wooden deck. Shortly later, the waves began to get worse. From above voices could be heard shouting orders and acknowledgements, the deep bass rumble of a worgen among them. Rain pounded on the deck, thunder crashed and through it all the ship rocked violently.

She listened to the storm but moved carefully in the cabin, gathering the book into one arm as she used the other to brace herself. But as she turned towards their packs a strong set of waves hit, throwing her against the wall with breathless squeak of pain. More bruises. Oh well. The book needed to go back into her pack to be protected; it was spelled to be waterproof and fireproof. But it was after the book was safe and she tried to move back to the bed another wave threw her hard against the bed frame. A small cry if pain erupted from her.

More waves rocked the ship. A Bright flash filled the porthole as a large blast of lightning struck nearby with a loud thundering crack. A large sound of splintering wood could be heard above along with a sudden burst of shouts and yelling.

She listened again, her aching body tensing when she wood splintering. Slowly she crawled into the bed and tried to hold onto the frame to brace herself, but her aching body meant her grip was loose at best.

The ship lurched heavily to one side, almost at a 45 degree angle at one point. Another violent crack could be heard and water began to leak through the side of the cabin.

The sudden tilting threw Zeka from the bed again, a shriek half ripping from her throat before a loud thud cut it off when she hit the wall oppsosite from where she started. The hit knocked the breath out of her and had her semi-unconscious.

Cold seawater began to leak steadily through the crack in the side of the cabin until an inch of it began to cover the floor, rising slowly. Thunder and lightning crashed and the ship rocked violently

When the water splashed against her face and neck, Zeka stirred, but a sound of pain erupted from her lips. Her whole body ached and now she wasn't sure if she broke anything or not. Her entire right side and back throbbed in pain. Opening her eyes it took her several moments to clear her vision and find that more water was leaking into the cabin. This wasn't good. Maybe they should've had a shaman on board? But even Zeka's thoughts were slow as it was taking several minutes to even sit up, hisses of pain leaving her. "Ri--Richard~" she tried to say, but it barely got over her normal speaking tone. She wasn't sure if he had heard her.

More voices, more yelling. Wood cracked and splintered and water continued to fill the cabin. There was a cracking sound outside the door and the frame splintered, possibly rendering the thing stuck.

The rocking of the ship did nothing to help Zeka gain her feet again, in fact hindered her more as her wet clothes clung to her body. Her attention was drawn to the door, all her emotions jumbled and pumping adrenaline through her system. Her gaze jerked around the room, seeing the water pour through the cracks. She tugged the packs and her staff off the floor and stashed them in the corner of the bed before turning back to the door. One emergency at a time.

There was another loud crack and the door splintered halfway down the middle. "ZEKA!!" The low growling yell was muffled on the other side of the hatchway. A crack ripped open and a huge gash opened on the seaside wall of the cabin, water gushing through.

She turned at the sound of her name just in time to avoid a face full of sea water that now rushed her towards the wall again. This time she was able to brace herself just enough that she didn't hit anything again, but it made it hard to stand and gain any kind of footing. "Richard! I'm here! The cabin is starting to flood!"

There was a loud roar at that and a furred shoulder, slick with blood crashed through the doorway, a worgen body following along behind it, barely able to keep his footing as the door gave way.

She was a bit startled, but couldn't move too much as the water pressed her still to the wall. But her eyes were drawn to the blood she spotted. "You're hurt!" she exclaimed.

He stumbled in the rush of water, trying not to lose his footing and likely only keeping it due to the powerful wolf muscles he currently posessed. He glanced at his shoulder where the skin had broken open from his attempts to bash down the door that had threatened to confine his love to a watery grave. "It's nothing" he mumbled.

She frowned, concerned, "But you're still bleeding." she protested as she moved slowly towards him, trying to keep the small winces of pain to show in her expression. Not that it would've helped even if she tried. She moved as if in pain, almost huddled slightly around her right side.

He growled. "No time. Gotta get topside. Ship's taking on water everywhere." His arm lifted her almost effortlessly onto his good shoulder in a fireman's carry, taking as much care as he had time to.

Even with him being gentle with her, she still cried out softly in pain, movig against his shoulder as if trying to curl up on her side. It was all she could do to gasp out, "Our packs...the books!"

"There's no time!" he roared. "Your life is more important." Despite his words and his intention however, his other hand snatched up the packs almost against his will (and nearly effortlessly) and slung them over his bloodied shoulder with a noticeable grunt.

She moved against his shoulder, producing another soft moan of pain as she gritted her teeth against any more and braced herself on his body.

He lowered his injured shoulder and barreled out into the hallway, legs fighting against the surging tide of water that threatened to sweep them away. Slow deliberate steps saw them to the bottom of the stairway and he began to climb slowly upward. "This is no natural storm. It's being caused by magic. -Powerful- magic. I can't even fathom the strength of whomever's causing it." He paused for a moment. "It's like Elune herself wants to stop this ship from reaching its destination."

She opened her eyes to look around them and then at his fur (which she was nearly tempted to pet for a brief moment) and asked, "But why? Why would someone stop us from getting to Darnassus? There haven't been any reported Horde attacks here in ages."

He shook his head, furry braids flopping with the motion. "I don't know. Hasn't been much time to contemplate it.' He pointed as they emerged onto the deck. "Mast snapped in half with the first lightning strike. We lost the mainsail. If the ship doesn't sink, it's at least dead in the water."

"Oh. How far are we from Darnassus?" She asked as she moved enough against his body so she wouldn't be bruised more than she already was. A few winces of pain later she was practically raised enough to survey the damage and smooth her wet hair from her face.

The sight that would greet her eyes was likely much worse than she could have expected. The mast had broken clean off and fallen into the ocean and was no longer visible but for the gaping trench it had smashed into the side of the ship as it went. Sailors and men were running, shouting, in a general chaotic fashion. The ship was listing badly to one side toward where the gash in the hull was located. And all that was beside the fact that the storm still raged. Wind battered the two as soon as they left the shelter of the stairway, rain pouring down on them and causing Richard to wince as the water struck the exposed cuts on his shoulder. The ship was rolling in the sea even as it listed and thunder and lighting struck all around.

"No way to tell." Richard said in answer to the little mage's question. "Captain said we were getting blown off course almost as soon as the wind started, we could be way off our original route by now. Without being able to see the stars..." He started to shrug, but remembered his shoulders were occupied. "And even all that's predicated on whether or not we survive the next ten minutes."

She slithered down from his grasp, hunched slightly as she favored her right side, but still clutched at his body. "What can we do?"

He frowned, wincing and clutching his left shoulder after she climbed down. "I'm not sure there's much we can do. If they can't plug the leaks, the ship is done for."

She tilted her head to the side, "can't you do anything Druid-y?"

He shook his head. "If this was a normal storm, probably, but I can't fight whatever magic is causing... this." He gestured to the roiling clouds, crashing waves and pouring rain."

She looked up at the clouds, wiping rain from her face even though it didnt help. Her clothes and hair were plastered to her body. "What would help? Is there any way I could... Offer power?"

He shook his head again. "Not that I know of... the kind of strength behind this storm is such th..." A huge wave crashed into the side of the boat opposite where the mast fell, causing the list to turn into a full blown flip, the side of the boat going up 90 degrees at an angle. Richard grabbed for Zeka, holding on to her as his free hand grabbed for the nearby railing.

Zeka screamed in pain as he grabbed her, and gasped out in more pain as her weight dragged her down a bit. She was tiny yes, but still weight was weight on a banged up body. Hands grasped at him as she gasped out, "Don't let go!"

The boat teetered on its side, seemingly usure of which direction it wanted to fall. "Zeka..." Richard's voice was strained with his effort to hold both of their weight and worry that he tried not to let show. "If... if the boat goes over... I want to you to cling to me for all you can, even if we go under water... nghh... understand?"

She gasped in pain as she dangled, looking up at him as her fear crossed her face. "Ri--chard... I love you." A softness ran through her eyes before it was taken over by the tension and fear of the situation.

"I love you, Zeka!" There was a loud groan and the boat went over. Richard's grip was wrenched from the railing and he wrapped both arms tightly around Zeka as they were plunged into the cold seawater. Instantly his body started to change, feet stretching out behind into flippers and his body elongating into the form of an orca. Don't let go, don't let go, he willed her.

She screamed as they fell, her arms slid around him, fingers scrambling hold into him. Her scream ended as they splashed into the warring waves. But his form started to change under her hold, almost instinctively letting go. It wasn't pleasant to feel his body twist and contour; it was one thing to watch him shift, it was another to feel it happening. And under all her pain and fear a little disgust trickled through but then fear pushed it aside as her lungs longed for more air. The water pressed around her, tearing at her clothing, trying to rip her small frame away from her lover. It made her determined to hold onto him.

He swam desperately, trying to put enough distance between them and the boat not to get hit by falling debris. He managed to locate the mast where it floated in the water some distance from the ship, getting pulled along by the waves and current and winds. He swam up to it, shifting back into worgen form, using what strength he could to grip Zeka and guide her to the floating wood.

What little strength she had gained from the adrenaline was starting to fade even as she tried to help swim along. She knew they had to get away to avoid being dragged under the water.

By the time they reached the floating mast Zeka was on the last drops of strength, exhaustion clear in her face and body. She seemed almost a dead weight now in the water.

He helped her up onto the mast, steadying it with his other hand as blood from his shoulder filled the water. He could only hope it wouldn't attract sharks. He secured her exhausted form, hanging on to the side, watching her worriedly as her exhaustion caught up with her.

There wasnt enough strength left to reach out to him or even lift her head... her vision was even starting to fade. The feel of his arm around her was the last thing she knew before the darkness swallowed her.

Richard watched her worriedly. The mast was a temporary safety at best, but it would do for the moment. He was making this up as he went along. Next he would have to... to...

He blinked and shook his head. It was getting hard to think. He would need to... need to... He gripped the mast tighter. He was thinking he probably knew what to do next... but first he'd just hold on here for just a moment. Just for a moment...

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