The ringing tread of plate boots heralded the entrance of the Silvermoon City Guardian. Her appearance was unchanged from the night they stood together beneath the stars in Ghostland months prior. Red and gold armor gleamed in the flickering light of an arcane lantern. A gust of wind caught the edge of her crimson tabard and her hands reflexively smoothed downward along the soft woolen fabric. Talandriel turned toward the window, looking sidelong at Zackary Leingod. She spoke softly from the heart as he struggled to stand, listening intently to his newly arrived visitor.
"During the Second War Hector Thatcher and other heroes of your race stood with my people in defense of these lands. Hector often spoke of you in the lonely hours of the night watch. He spoke of your courage and humility, of your humor and humanity. Where others saw a peasant boy, Hector saw a hero. He believed in you, Zackary Leingod."
Talandriel turned toward him, her green eyes sorrowful .
"As do I. Whatever the evidence suggests, I do not believe those Farstriders died by your hand."
Zackary hunched forward, taking a few steps toward Talandriel to break their distance. "I …" He hesitates, sighing heavily before reverting those sky orbs away from the Sin’dorei. "It .. wasn’t me, you’re right." He spoke with irrefutable honesty, yet the Human seemed reluctant, as if afraid to speak the truth even if it were in his own favor. "You wouldn’t understand, Talandriel.." Leingod returned his gaze back onto her, distressed in his state of discomposure. In truth he was happy to see her again, but if only under different circumstances.
Talandriel took a slow step forward, directing a warning glance toward the door and the guards just beyond. "You may be right," she replied carefully. “There is much about this I do not understand.” She exhaled softly, ”Most of all, why you came back.” A brief flash of emotion shimmered in the green depths of her eyes. "Be that as it may. It is enough to hear from your own lips - I was not wrong about you." Her eyes flickered over his frame, brows meeting in a light frown. "You’re injured. Have your wounds been tended?"
The Human forced a faint smile, nodding his head. ”My wounds will heal .. my injuries aren’t as grievous as they look.. I will be fine.” Blonde tendrils of hair descend to frame his sun kissed visage, those distinctive blue eyes meeting the emerald orbs of the Sin’dorei as he went to speak again. "Talandriel .. you risked everything to help me, and I haven’t forgotten your selfless acts, but I .." He paused, taking a deep breath. "I know coming back defeated the very purpose of your actions, but I received a letter from a man seeking refuge and protection for his family, and I answered the call immediately, setting out to the furthest reaches of Lordaeron .."
Zack went silent momentarily, exhaling deeply before ongoing his explanation further, hoping Talandriel could forgive his foolish road of heroics. "I met with him, a Sin’dorei like yourself .. he was cold, the staleness of his Fel-orbs offsetting. He was the husband, father, protector of his family that sought a new life, a new sanctuary, and I had already come so far, and now I knew children were involved. How could I turn my back on him, on them? Even if it was Horde affairs.. I know how oppressive your people can be, Talandriel .." The Human winces, grasping his abdomen abruptly. "We were attacked by Farstrider’s .. and we were forced to defend ourselves .. I didn’t want to kill anyone, but him .. every blow he directed was intended to kill, and when the last Farstrider begged for his life, he slayed him without mercy, and I watched.. I watched when I could have prevented it. So .. in many ways I could be to blame, just as he."
Leingod avoided using the mysterious Sin’dorei’s name, refusing to speak it aloud.
She frowned heavily, eyes trained on Zackary. ”You acted out of compassion, Leingod. The Farstrider’s blood is not on your hands.” The guardian looked at him, and her eyes were full of empathy. She approached him more closely, reaching for the clasp at her shoulder. Her arms circled his shoulders, the soft whisper of cloth brushing against his skin as she draped him in the warm folds of her crimson cloak.
"For Hector’s sake - for the love I bore him - I will speak to Captain Ronaestrider on your behalf. My influence is diminished since your escape from Quel’thalas, my position precarious. I do not know what weight my words will hold. It may be that you will die in sin’dorei lands, but you will not die friendless." The Sin’dorei stated. The Human furrowed his thick brows, relieving his hand from his stomach and moving it through the front of his blonde hair. "Why do you keep trying to help me..? This is a mistake .. you shouldn’t be here." Zackary asked, his tone full with anxiety and worry.
Talandriel tilted her head to the side, the beauty of the Sin’dorei’s features on display as the light from the sun glared down against her face. She offered him her shoulder to lean on and there was no hesitation in her quiet response. ”We both acted out of compassion and will endure the consequences of our choices. If I had it to do over, I would make the same choice.” Talandriel smiles, nodding her head in self-assurance, no regrets. "Whether your story ends here or on some distant battlefield, hold in your heart the knowledge that you will not be forgotten. You leave your mark not just in mighty deeds, but in the hearts of those whose lives are touched by your compassionate spirit." Her words caused Zackary to stand up straight, finding newly found strength, his posture confident, stoking the flames of his heart. His wounds no longer seemed to hinder him, no longer the decrepit Human she had seen prior to their engagement on the platform of Farstrider Retreat.
She carefully released him and stepped back, glancing over her shoulder at the doorway. "I dare not stay longer, lest they come inquiring. Shorel’aran, Zackary Leingod." Zackary nodded, watching as she made her leave. "Be safe, Talandriel.."
Zackary Leingod was once again alone, isolated and waiting for the Sin’dorei to determine his punishment. If he was to change the course of a fate they deemed worthy of a Human vermin, he would need his Zweihander blade, but it was still thrust in the sandy earths of Quel’thalas’s coast…