It had been a frustrating, but educational, few weeks.
Ephasia's diagnosis had proven correct. Captain Ashford had taken unstinting care to see that his crew and her friends both humored Zaerah's delusion and worked to jog her memories. They chipped away bit by bit, like so much bilge rust, at the corroded veneer of Lady Gunwale.
After several days, Kino decided to load up the big guns. He set up all her camping things and took her to see them. He knew Zae had spent years living exactly this way, trapping and hunting and trading with backwoods settlements, with her home, her Fort Thistle, tucked away in her packs. Kino could see that Zae was highly confused at facing so familiar a scene, but not once did he waver in his purpose. Instead he had cooked a meal for her, amiably but doggedly kept her chatting, and rejoiced in her increasing uncertainty. Still, Zae had clung desperately to the belief that she was "Lady Gunwale."
Until he appeared, his eyes reflecting brightly from the darkness at the far edge of the campsite. The sight of the enormous red wolf padding cautiously into the firelight had shattered the facade for good. Throwing her arms around his shaggy neck, tears streaming down her face, Zae had suddenly known exactly who she was, and she knew her oldest friend. She had echoed his name like a blessing, her voice cracking with emotion. "Timber, Timber...."
In the intervening weeks, some of her memories had resurfaced. Many had not. Captain Ashford had filled her in as much as possible, though there was one subject he'd had to avoid until recently. The twin discoveries that she was in fact a married woman, and the cause of her wild singing and punching episodes, she found equally upsetting.
Zae sat in her newly planted garden, at her little cottage in Theramore, reflecting upon these things. She'd been so busy lately, either aboard the Thunderstorm or reacquainting herself with old friends. It felt good to finally record her thoughts into the thick, leather-bound journal that she'd begun to keep with her, wrapped tightly in a square of oilcloth. She dipped her quill into the inkwell and continued to write:
The fact that I'm triggered to cause a kerfuffle at the mere mention of his name is highly troublesome. Last night at the trial, I'd only just spied him across the room when he was called to testify. Barely managed to clap my hands over my ears, lest I set to belting out an ode to "cowmeats," as Kelaani would say, right there in the middle of the courtroom.
And yet I must risk the humiliation, and endeavor to know to what sort of a person I chose to hitch my wagon. He is, after all, my husband, as alien as that notion feels. Why cannot I remember him at all?Embarrassing enough that I am continually bumping into "strangers" who know me well. But to have no remembrance of someone who, by all accounts, was most dear to me? It is downright shameful. And so I've resolved, plainly speaking, to spy on him. I've no wish to burst in upon him and reopen the wounds he surely must have suffered. But I must try to know him from afar. Perhaps memories will resurface in time. Might be that something salvageable exists between us, but until I can quietly find it out, I will not step in the way of his healing.
Zae glanced up to dip the quill into the ink once more, but her attention was caught. Two guards were making their way up the cottage walk. Stormwind guards. In Theramore.
Transfixed, Zae stared at the pair as they advanced. Everything about them, from the glinting shine of their freshly polished armor, to the sedateness of their approach, announced their purpose here.With sinking apprehension, Zae rose to meet them.
They spoke in somber tones, put a letter into her hand. She heard not a word they said; her head was full of a white roaring, like a raging squall.
Wordlessly she stared at the crisp envelope, covered over with official seals. Zae knew exactly what it was. She'd received a horribly similar one, years ago. Petyr. The two faces of the men she'd lost swam in her vision; one laughing and freckled, the other green-eyed and intense, framed by blond locks.
The guards were now condoling, now departing. She nodded sightlessly in acknowledgement of their retreat.
Zae returned to the garden and sank into her chair, dumbstruck, the letter placed aside, still unopened. At some length, she picked up her quill, and wrote in a hand nearly as faint as her own confused thoughts.
It seems, however, that this is not to be. I have just had a letter from Stormwind. Today I am a widow.