The horizon was long, flat, but in constant fluctuation. Black goliath waves rose below the skyline, ink spilling into the deep blue sky, then recoiling back into the ocean. The abyss was broken by a little ship skipping over the waves, a drifting star in the Sea of Sorrows one silent night.
It was not so silent aboard the brig as it heaved over, under, and through the waves. Each fresh wave groaned through the wooden armature. The vessel was as alive as the sea surrounding it.
A crew of pirates and mercenaries kept the ship on course, shouting back and forth across the deck. Below deck, the sleeping quarters chittered with the live cargo of Courtiers, three forms illuminated by gold lamp light. Though there were six hammocks stretched across the pokey little box of a room, four were left vacant. Two sylvari remained in their beds, but one paced in the few feet left free of bedding and crates.
He was a tree of a man. Tall, broad, with rough bark twisting into branches at his skull. The rich nutmeg hue of his complexion had drained from his face. He pressed his fingers to his temple, his teeth clenched and bared. This sylvari was sea sick.
“You know, your title really doesn’t fit you right now.” Teased a sylvari the hue of the night ocean grinned from the middle hammock. “Really, Vigour. I’m not seeing that right now.”
“Kier! Don’t tease, this is his first time at sea.” Cooed a slate gray woman curled in her own hammock below Kier.
“Please, both of you.” The man groaned. “Give me dry land and a great sword and try question my title again.”
Kier laughed, the woman toppled from her hammock, landing heavily on her hands and knees on the planks beneath her. Both men reacted quick.
“Aistear!” Cried Vigour.
“Atrocity!” Cried Kier.
The woman hissed her discomfort. “It’s okay, I meant to do that.” She pulled herself to her feet. “My Heart, let me get you some water or-”
She couldn’t finish her thought as the ship suddenly lurched, sending her into the adjacent hammocks. Vigour followed, sending both arms out to brace against the boards behind the tangle of hessian and rope. The ship righted immediately, leaving Aistear tangled with the troubled man in their beddings.
“Thank you Carew.” Aistear smiled, a soft lavender glow rising in her cheeks.
“You’re okay?” He seemed relieved of his seasickness, at least in this moment. He smiled, a green glint colouring the hollows of his cheeks.
“I’m okay.” The two emanate warmth, eyes locked on eachothers in an improvised embrace, their shared empathy curling adoration around each other.
“I’m okay too.” Kier quipped. “I am here, you two. And unless I have an invite, don’t be climbing all over each other.”
Aistear’s brow furrowed. She tapped Carew’s chest. She could spit at the lounging man. “Please. You’re filthy.”
“Hey! Don’t tell me you didn’t do that on purpose! Swooning, falling.’Oh, catch me Carew!’”
Kier only saw a flash of steel before feeling it at his throat. Carew had immediately righted himself, and was grinning down, pressing a neat knife to his subordinates throat.
“Try that again. I didn’t ask you to accompany us on this voyage to mock my dearheart. And I certainly didn’t invite you to forgo my title! So. What’s my title? What’s your purpose here?”
“I’m sorry, Vigour, Atrocity.” He fell into rank, stiffening in his hammock. Unable to stand with a knife at his throat, the man salutes while prone. It was an odd sight, Aistear couldn’t conceal her giggle fast enough, her fingers covering her mouth nonetheless. “I’m here to provide an adequate environment for Atrocity’s research, sir!”
“Come on, love. That’s enough. He’s learned his lesson.” Aistear rubs her dearhearts shoulder. She smiles at Kier, radiating apology at the man. Vigour retracts his blade, sheafing the delicate dagger and lacing it onto his hip.
“You’ve got to remember your place.” He warned Kier, and turns a pale face to Aistear, his tone wavering from stern to shakey. “I would much prefer dirt beneath my feet. This sea. The water.”
“You didn’t have to come, you know.” Aistear frowns, her hand at Carew’s shoulder now rubbing its way across his back.
“It’s too far for you alone.”
“I’ve got Kier.”
“Neither of you are warriors.”
The air around Kier crackled with white sparks. He shot up in his hammock, his white eyes glaring at his knight. “Oh please. You’ve seen me fry men, women, soldiers! Tell me I’m not a warrior!”
Even Aistear had frowned at this. Both magically attuned sylvari stared at the fighter, indignant.
“I didn’t mean that. I meant. Neither of you practice with strength alone. You’re bloody brilliant with your spells. But some situations call for brute strength.”
“Are boulders not brute strength enough for you-” Kier began, but stopped as Aistear directed a stern glare towards the defensive sylvari.
“Well.” Aistear wobbled to their stack of belongings at the end of their quarters. “I’m glad for your company at least, Love. You have this incredible ability to make even the Sea of Sorrows feel like home.” She glanced at her dearheart, a coy smile lingering as she turned back to her business in the corner.
The woman revealed a small keyring and unlocked a large leather trunk. She began carefully unearthing journals: one neatly bound and patterned in a careful script, another made to match, but was blank.
She then pulled out a leather wrap, unfurled it, and began arranging writing implements. She propped everything on top of the trunk, and then leaned on it herself. She loaded a quill with ink, tap tap tapped it on the small jar, then put it to an open page in the first of her journals.
“Be careful with that ink.” Kier chirped, still laying back in his hammock. “If a wave hits all your papers will be black.”
Carew pinched the bridge of his nose in annoyance. Aistear paid him no mind.
Kier had left it at that, and had either fallen to sleep or had grown bored of the lack of reaction to his jabs. It might have been an hour, maybe two. By the light of their little gaslamp, Aistear wrote away those hours, until ligaments of inviting longing curled around the sylvari’s form. The woman was lifted from her words and turned to her left, where Carew had settled beside her, silent and observing.
“Love.” Carew whispered against Aistears side, but gestured to her work. “Findings?”
“What findings can I make aboard this ship? In this little wooden box?” Aistear chuckled lowly. “Theories, really. I’ve had a few thoughts on the magical properties keeping the risen of Orr thriving despite Zhaitans destruction. My theory is that some kind of magical infrastructure remains even after the original force has dwindled. I want to see this structure at work. I want to see how far I can push the confines of their previous bonds, whether they strictly serve Zhaitan or if necromancers may be able to assume control. What would the control even entail? Could I regain control? Would it be simple- ah. Are you still with me?”
Carew stared, occasionally blinking, with a polite smile resting on his lips. As Aistear probed him, he smiled wider. The man raised his hand, his rough fingers making gentle contact with the woman's soft face.
“Of course, Aistear.” He examined her face, his touch careful as if Aistears face was a hand crafted treasure. “You glow. More than just bioluminescence. You come alight when you speak like this. Your eyes, your mouth. You’re so beautiful.”
The woman chuckled softly, raising a hand to Carew’s cheeks now. Where her flesh was soft and supple, his was rough, raw bark. A face beaten by the elements and battle. But every little crease curled into a dignified profile. He looked older than his seven years, he felt like a sturdy tree; silent, watching, strong.
“Carew, thank you. For your patience, your curiosity, your strength.” She leaned in to press a soft kiss to his lips. “Thank you for coming on this trip, for encouraging me, for fighting for me, for giving me all I need.” Another kiss, his fingers slipped through her fronds. “Thank you for being by my side through everything. Thank you for being there still.”
A third kiss and the the pair stayed close, basking in each others presence. The space between them bridged by their soft touches, little kisses, and sweetness radiating from each other. A warmth that shrouded them in this moment.
Carew consumed Aistears attention in a way that her study never could. Where science was her food, Carew was her water. With both in her life, she was at peace. She was content.
Aistear packed up her things, storing everything neatly away while Carew made some arrangements of his own.
“That may make our hosts a little perturbed.” Aistear observed as Carew began untying the ropes suspending a hammock.
“I’m sick of it, I want to lay by you tonight.” He grinned at his dearheart. He was acting spoiled, but with that jovial smile Aistear couldn’t help but smile back. She would allow this vandalism.
Carew lay the fabric on the floor, then guided Aistear to his makeshift bed. The two lay down, pressing themselves together in a gentle embrace, and held each other as they fell asleep.
The two had extinguished the golden flame keeping the room glowing. In the blackness, the walls lit up with occasional bursts of lavender, green and cyan lights as the three sylvari roused in the night. It was a cold night on the rough waves. But together in their cabin, the three were warm.