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The Tide's Gone Out


Preface

Eszti "Iron Legs" Nightwing - kaldorei huntress, sailor, and at the time the newly promoted Captain of the Alliance Swashbucklers - was confronted by unsavory individuals from her recent past. Being the independent sort of woman that she is, rather than going to her friends and allies for assistance Eszti decided to return to her previous occupation as a sailor while she trying to find a more defensible position to take on the people following her. Unfortunately, she didn't take the opportunity to explain most of this to anyone, save a few select people who she felt needed to know the reason for her disappearance.

After noting her absense for a number of days, Tanriel Vassily managed to discover from his extensive network that Eszti's former employers were hunting her down again - most likely to do her harm and kill her. Being the heroic sort of person that he is, the Paladin decided to obtain a ship with the sole intent of tracking her down and dispatching the people that have been chasing her.

The nobleman, however, lacked a crew and captain.

The Tide's Gone Out was a short story written as an introduction to an in-game event that culminated with Tanriel finding Eszti after having dispatched her pursuers. During the course of the RP, Tanriel sought brave adventurers, sailors, and fighters to join him on his quest to aid the Kaldorei. Barring that, he purchased the services of any sellsword that he could get his paws on.

Chapter 1

The ship bucked as a particularly strong wave struck the bow, splashing water onto the deck above. The kaldorei standing alone at the bow was hit full in the face, though she found little comfort in the water's tangy and refreshing feeling this evening; with a soft sigh, Eszti Nightwing wiped her face clean with the back of her hand and peered out into the surrounding darkness, her sharp eyes piercing the fog. The damp air hung heavily in the gloom, weighing down on the woman. At the moment, she felt all of her five hundred twenty-four years.

Her hands wrapped around the wooden railing, Eszti tightened her grip involuntarily as she considered the path now in front of her. Murderous assassins, petty lordlings, and even a damned goblin, she thought, momentarily shutting her luminous blue eyes. Things were so much easier when I could approach my enemies on the battlefield, sword in hand. This, however, was a different sort of hunt. Eszti opened her eyes and stared up at the night sky, noticing the ominous clouds that spread out overhead, some seemingly spanning the entire distance of the heavens. Her normally bright crystal eyes were hooded in fatigue and thought.

Then there was Tanriel Vassily to consider.

With a low hiss of exasperation, she slammed her fist into the unyielding surface of the wooden railing in front of her. The sharp spike of pain prompted by that action was a welcome distraction from the tumult of emotions she was experiencing; their intensity rivaled even the ferocity of the storm that now assaulted them and were as equally incomprehensible. Eszti knew that it was unfair to be angry with the young nobleman, yet she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was in this position as much for his sake as her own.

As much as she might joke about Tanriel’s tendency for heroics, the Paladin was neither foolhardy nor overconfident. He could be counted on to remain levelheaded in the face of combat and was a damn fine leader. He was, however, overzealous when it came to the safety of his friends – she feared that in his inevitable insistence in giving her aid, Tanriel would inadvertently brush away the very tracks of her pursuers.

Or, worse, he would try to protect her. Tanriel would scurry her away to someplace safe far from any possible harm, where he could assign people to watch over her while he alone sought her pursuers. Eszti couldn’t allow that; she had to be able to see what it was that was coming for her. Otherwise she’d go crazy and claw her way out. It was an instinctual reaction to being hunted – and one she didn’t like experiencing.

And so, she had not told him.

He’d be furious when he found out, of course. More than likely, the young human would give her another lecture extolling on the virtues of having friends and possessing the common sense to rely on them. She could almost visualize it: his young face drawn in a disapproving frown, his lips pursed, his eyes looking eagerly up at her as he chastised her. Oh, Tanriel would be pleasant enough about it – he couldn’t be anything but polite – but his words would be heavy with disappointment.

With a heavy sigh, Eszti rubbed her temples with the inside palm of both hands. As genuinely fond as she was of the Paladin, he could be downright overwhelming at times.

Yet, even despite that, she had found it strangely difficult to leave his side.

That morning had found her in that large bed of his that they had claimed all those weeks ago. Their bodies had been wrapped around one another, the sheets strewn across their naked forms. They had remained together after their lovemaking, Tanriel quickly falling asleep with his arms wrapped around the woman. She had not slept during the remainder of the night, and had listened instead to his breathing as it gradually evened out and grew deeper, her body rigid and anxious with the same inexplicable tension she had felt the entire evening. Eszti had not been able to rid herself of the feeling that she should depart immediately, much as she had during their other nights together, and yet had found it difficult to do so that evening. Four times she had fully intended to leave his embrace; each time she had reconsidered, firmly promising herself that she would leave shortly. Finally, long after the moon had inexorably climbed overhead and reached its zenith, she decided that the hour had grown late and it was far past time for her to go.

The kaldorei had slipped quietly from the bed, to avoid waking the sleeping Tanriel. The cool morning breeze brushing across her soft skin, Eszti had stared down at him, her arms wrapped around her slender waist while her face was drawn in an incomprehensible expression. His normally stern face was softened in slumber, framed by that wealth of dark raven hair. His eyes were closed and he breathed deeply, his broad chest rising and falling slowly with each breath.

Even in the early morning twilight, she had been able to make out the series of scars that mottled the skin of his sword arm. They were deeply scored, as if the very flesh had been rent from his body. Though Eszti had sometimes wondered how the Paladin had managed to acquire such wounds – and why he hadn’t used his power to heal them as he had other injuries – she had never once asked. It was clear by the way Tanriel often concealed his entire arm that he didn’t wish others to know about it.

Besides, the kaldorei had thought, the fingers of one hand sliding softly over the large puckered scar that marred the skin spanning her shoulder and downwards towards her breast, there are those injuries that are best forgotten.

Banishing those thoughts, much as she had the night of the ball, Eszti had returned her attention to the sight of Tanriel sleeping peacefully. The feelings that it had stirred in the Kaldorei were deceptively sweet, much like touch of his calloused hand on her cheek or the way he would gingerly brush his lips against her hands, that silly grin on his face. Feeling strangely conflicted, she had turned her back on his slumbering form. She had dressed silently, donning her weathered, serviceable leathers. Without glancing back, Eszti had carefully opened the door to the bedroom and slipped into the hall without.

As she had padded through the halls to leave his estate, the woman had been struck by a sudden reminder of the morning following that first evening that the lovers had spent together. Eszti had recalled how Tanriel had turned to her and offered directions to find the room again should she forget. His words then had been "First floor of the house, near the back." To her surprise, the kaldorei had found herself repeating them softly that morning though she left without the Paladin at her side.

Another wave hammered against the hull, tipping the ship precariously and breaking the kaldorei’s train of thoughts. The vessel groaned as the sails strained against the great gust of air that suddenly filled them. With the ease born of over a decade spent aboard one ship or another, Eszti managed to maintain her balance with a minimum effort. Nearby, a seaman stumbled and clung to the railing in front of him, his legs scrabbling for purchase on deck bucking beneath his feet. Moments later, the ship leveled out and he climbed to his feet with a muttered curse.

The dark, damp air filled her lungs in slow pulls as she breathed deeply, her eyes scanning the horizon. Eszti released her grip from the railing and brushed back the sodden hair from her face, smiling crookedly as she did so; the feel of the deck moving below her feet, the salty tang of the air, and the roar of the wind in a storm – all these things she had forgotten during her time shoreside in recent months. There was a vibrancy to a life at sea that had been lacking on land.

The kaldorei glanced upwards as she heard a loud screech pierce the night air. She felt the backwash of Alatus’s wings scooping the air to break his descent. When the aged strigid owl landed to roost, balancing himself on the railing so that his cruelly pointed claws scored deeply into the wood, he chirruped questioningly at her. Eszti grinned at him, working her fingers beneath the thick coat of feathers to scratch his chest. "Being back out here seems to have cheered even your sullen disposition, old friend," she said to the creature in Darnassian. He tilted his head to one side with boneless flexibility and eyed her, large amber and green orbs meeting her own. The mannerism was so familiar and welcome that Eszti chuckled aloud as she slid the tip of one finger along his curved beak.

As if to challenge her words, the strigid owl nipped at her fingers. The bite was more a reminder of his temperment than any serious attempt to injure the kaldorei; Alatus had learned early in their relationship that a serious attempt would have rather dire consequences. With a muttered curse in Darnassian, Eszti quickly pulled back her fingers and mock-glared at the owl. "Wretched beast!" she snapped. Then, with a broad laugh, she waved her arms to shoo him from his perch. The suddenness of her action startled the bird aloft and he squawked irately down at her as he beat the air with his wings to gain altitude.

Chapter 2

Light! It had to be like the elders always had said, didn't it? "You don't know what you really had until you lost it", that was the old saying.

Pacing fast enough to power some gnomish machine, Tanriel folded one arm across his chest, his other elbow set onto it, clenched fist below his chin as he thought. She was gone now. Gone. Gone. Shadows take him, he had always known sometime that their moments together would end! - but this? This! This all was not how it was supposed to be. He was supposed to see her on the battlefield, or in Stormwind, he would know she was safe at least. They were supposed to still be friends, close friends, looking out for each other.

But now, now that she had all but disapeared Tanriel realized a question he had never asked himself before.

"Would I have been able to let her go under the circumstances I had suspected?"

Had the huntress known that would have been the problem if she had left any other way? But no, she was in trouble. That had not been her thinking, had it? She wanted to get away from him for his own good. Women, they really were the same no matter the race. Than again, he supposed men were no different either. He'd go after her.

It made him grin and want to scream all at the same time. She always told him he needed to stop trying to be a hero.

The look on Ema's face hadn't helped either. She looked as though her own son had just lost a wife. Of course, what was she to think? The poor woman had raised Tanriel along with the rest of the house staff since he was a boy. He'd never explained the nature of his relationship with Eszti either, not to her, the poor old woman would have a broken heart from that.

A knock came, then.

"Tanny, are you alright son?" Tanriel's door was slowly pushed open, giving way to a short, white haired elderly woman.

"Ema, you should be in bed resting... it is far too early," There was more than a hint of tenderness in the noble's voice as he went to his servent, kneeling down partially before her.

"Telling me to get some rest? Hmph, just like your father Tanriel. Always concerned about others when you're the one about to play hero," The elderly women put a soft, wrinkled hand to Tanriel's cheek, chuckling quietly at him.

"Ema..."

"Fortunately, I'm rather old fashioned. Despite what sort of relationship you two may have had," She coughed, "I can see a bit more than lust in those youthfull eyes,"

"Ema.. I.."

"Get after her, son. But when you find her, don't you start expecting her to run into yoru arms. She'd hardly be worth your time if you did. Vassilys always seem to find themselves strong women,"

"Mother, I do not know if I even should..."

"Did she leave behind that pendant you gave her?"

"No..."

"Than she wants to be found."

"She'd never..."

"Admit it? I know Tanny. She looks the independent type. But son, despite what she says or acts, she's alive. Living beings need other living beings,"

"What should I do, then?" Tanriel leaned forward searchingly.

"Oh light son, don't make me dig out any cliche's. You know exactly what to do," With those words spoken she kissed the noble's cheek, and turned to leave.

The door shut softly behind her, and Tanriel was left standing alone in his bedroom once more. He walked in silence to his bed, brushing a hand across their pillow. The pillow still held the scent of a night of love making, and for once, the thought made Tanriel shake his head. They could have spent their last night in such a better way.

"Eszti..." He went to his desk, brushing his hand across the wood as she had that first morning.

He could see the memory of her hand outstretched from behind him, following the same path of his own.

After their first night together she had walked behind him there and wraped her arms around him. He laughed a quiet nostalgic, strained laugh, and bit his lip. There was a pile of letters there, as there always was. Bills, taxes, invitations, summons - all of them found their way to the floor with a sudden brush of Tanriel's hand.

"I believe it's time I invested in a boat..."

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The author is in no way affiliated with Blizzard Entertainment.
This story is Copyright of Cynra © All Rights Reserved.

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