The Hierarch climbed the stairs after the arduous meeting with Lilybeth. Gods below, that woman can go on at such lengths when a simple few words would suffice. He shook it off, hoping that it was, for now, sufficient to allow them a little peace while they awaited word.
His feet came to a stop before their door when a faint glow in the woodgrain caught his eye. It seemed to pulse between only a hint of light and long periods of nothing. Pale violets into bright blues, it shimmered into life, then back out. It took him several cycles to work it out, the result of which caught him completely by surprise. A simple privacy spell. Peering around at the other doors in the corridor, he was able to observe that they existed on every single one. It was only in that moment that it struck him how the only sounds that reached his long ears came from below in the kitchens.They could have dispelled that and been well within their rights to listen to what we do within. And yet the mark remains. I will not discard the possibility of it being used in the reverse though. Not with what I have seen already.
He lifted the latch of the door slowly and stepped within, turning to close the door as quietly as he could. Once done, he shifted back to face the room. To his unexpected joy, she was not only awake, but standing before him in uniform. Well, most of it. His many years of restraint faded briefly as he smiled, matching the bow she had dropped into once she had his attention.
Her expression was hidden from him behind the scarf wound around her face and head, only her eyes visible. “Hierarch,” she said calmly.
“Novice,” he replied, a faint smile remaining on his face. “I had not inspected your uniform when they were delivered. I did not realize they had repaired anything.”
She held her arm upwards, displaying the cloth that draped over her arm. The deep purple was a very close match to his own, though the tone was not exact. “It’s not quite right, but it does have sleeves now. So I suppose that’s something.”
He ran his fingers over the material, inspecting it. Nodding, he gently pushed down on her arm, indicating she could lower it, which she did. “It is an improvement anyway. Sellynna…” He gestured for them to both move further from the door. “You realize that you are not required to wear that if you do not wish to, right?”
The young novice paused and looked down at her feet. “It’s the only thing I have,” she murmured. “I worked so hard to earn it and…” she stopped and shrugged uncomfortably.
“This I understand,” he offered. “However, would you prefer to wear something else?”
Her head raised, pale violet eyes looking over his face. Her heart jumped when she saw that he actually seemed to be pleased by her words. “Would you, knowing the meaning that it holds?”
His expression shifted, his brows knitting together somewhat. “For me, I am trying to live up to what I wanted it to stand for, all those years ago.”
She placed a hand gently on his arm. “Perhaps, once this whole mess is over, you could make that happen?”
He sighed, stepping away from her. “I don’t know, Sellynna. Even if the Lord Protector is…removed, I do not know what shape our world will take.” He glanced back at her, and weight she would not have expected was visible in his features.
Reaching behind her head, she unwound the scarf and pulled it around her neck. “We aren’t going back, are we?” she asked at a whisper.
“I do not know yet,” he replied. “Because of the Lord Protector, the Quel’dorei have dominated our Azeroth for five centuries.”
“And if we have the chance to change that…Borænin, we could change so much,” she offered.
He winced a little, his hand coming up in a loose fist to rest against his lips. “No, Sellynna. I do not think you are understanding me. The Lord Protector does not share our riches with the other denizens of Azeroth. If he is removed, their resentment…it will manifest. The Realm will be in chaos for a long time, I fear.”
The woman sighed, nodding. “You are right, of course. Forgive my foolish hopefulness.”
The corners of his mouth tugged upward. “You are not foolish. Perhaps just a little less experienced. Some things have to be learned through actual observation.” He glanced over at her briefly. “That being said, if you wish to return if we are victorious, I will not try to stop you.”
She froze and blinked a number of times. “Will you not?”
“I will not. Your service to me is now at your own will.”
Sellynna opened her mouth as though to say something and promptly thought better of it. Smiling faintly, she reached over to him. “Would you like to go get some fresh air?”
He smiled, but shook his head. “I am weary. I was just grilled for some time by one of the Silverthorns. This one was something of a record-keeper. She wanted more in depth information on our Realm. She asked a lot about the Order and the Void Rangers, as well as how the Lord Protector came to power. I regard it as a hopeful sign, actually.”
Sellynna nodded. “If they are interested, hopefully.”
“I am going to lie down. I am afraid I am not very interesting company. Though, if you wish to stay, your company would be welcome,” he said gently.
She reached out to touch his cheek, pulling back at the last moment. His expression was torn, though it seemed to her he was trying to be sanguine. “I should, at the very least, check that lump on your head.”
“As you wish.” He moved to step further into the bedroom, turning slightly to get by. “They left some bedclothes for us as well. If you don’t mind, I would like to change.”
The Novice inclined her head to him and turned for the door. “I’ll be right outside.” Her hand hit the handle and she opened it slowly. Once through, she closed it behind her and sat down on the floor, leaning against the wooden door. Her gaze fell to her hands as if searching them for meaning that would not be forthcoming.
After a few minutes, he carefully opened the door. “I am ready,” he offered.
“All right,” she replied, rising to her feet. She entered the room once again, seeming lost in thought. He watched her, concerned. “Do you…” she cleared her throat. “Do you want me to check your head for you?”
“Please.” He settled onto the bench at the end of the bed. bowing his head, he waited.”Something troubles you,” he said softly.
Sellynna tugged off her gloves and set them down on the table. Crawling up onto the bed, she moved his hair gently, carefully checking his injury. “It’s nothing you need worry about,” she murmured. Climbing down, she moved to the washbowl and wet a small cloth.
“But I do.”
She sighed. “You seem…no…ignore me.”
“Please do not say that.” He forced himself to pull his eyes away from her bare hands and focus on their conversation.
She moved behind him again and cleaned the cut on his scalp. Running her fingers through his hair, she fixed it back to his usual smooth style. Stepping back around, she put the cloth down and gently ran a finger down his cheek. He closed his eyes, willing himself not to draw back. Smiling faintly, he looked up at her. “You seem to think that what I care about is going back there. That I place it above…”she said softly. Looking at him carefully, she watched for his reaction. “Above you. And I think you fail to see why I have done all of this.”
His brow furrowed. “I admit, am unsure why you chose to side with me.” His eyes followed her as she walked over to the bed and looked at the bedclothes. “What did I say,” he asked quietly.
“I wanted to be at your side,” she whispered, afraid to look him in the eye. “I hate the Lord Protector, though I have never had to do the things you have. I hate the fear that his way of things has drilled into me. And I…” she sighed. She unfolded the nightgown and spread it out on the bed. Her fingers traced over it, smoothing the fabric. “I started to truly get to know you and…I…”
He turned, sighing. “Sellynna…I don’t know where this is going. I am so far out of practice with such things it is as if I’ve never experienced it. But I know I am more at ease in your presence. Even with everything that is happening, when I am with you, I can face it.” His eyes watched her intently . “And I know that you are my only friend.”
“I never have,” she admitted. “But with you I feel, comfort. And my stomach keeps spinning and I don’t know what that’s about…maybe it’s just the food here. But I thought maybe,” she paused, turning back to look at him, “I thought maybe it was you.”
He swallowed, his cheeks turning a darker shade. “Please sit with me.”
“As you wish.”
“It was a request, not a command,” he reassured her.
“I was hoping so, since you said please.” Moving back to the bench, she settled down slowly, tucking her bare hands beneath her tabard.
“We are equals now, Sellynna. Here, the Order’s titles mean nothing.”
She shook her head. “Perhaps the titles do not. But I will never be your equal. The things you have seen, what you can do. I will never come to meet that level.”
He sighed, looking away. “The things I have done do me no honor, Sellynna. Do not revere me for that.”
Her hand slipped out from beneath the cloth and tentatively raised to his chin, pulling his gaze towards her. “I said what you can do.”
There was a deep sadness in his eyes, his voice soft as the touch of a feather. “I don’t even know what I can do.”
“What did you do before,” she prompted. Her thumb traced over the tuft of purple hair on his chin. “Before it all changed.”
“I was a teacher. At the Monastery of the Sunwell.”
She offered him a tender smile. “Perhaps you could begin again. If you will not be going back, then this is a blank slate. The parchment waits for the quill. All you have to do is pick it up.”
He arched a long eyebrow. “You become very poetic when you want to, my dear.”
“I have my moments,” she chuckled. She tugged and smoothed her uniform. “I worked hard for this. But here, it holds not less, but more meaning. Because here, I am the only person who has achieved it. I earned something that no one here can touch.”
“Have you spoken to other Ren’dorei here?”
“Lady Niquisse. And the other….um….Gilræn.” She winced hard.
He chuckled. “Difficult to say it, isn’t it?”
“I keep expecting to feel someone’s blade shortly after. Or to get a sharp look from you…”
“I understand. But I promise, no sharp looks from me anymore.” His expression grew thoughtful. “They are…lost. Directionless. Umbric is supposedly their leader, but he doesn’t actually act as one. The Umbric here is different. He is a scholar, really. He is just interested in understanding the Void. Alleria claims she will help, but she seems too wrapped up in old politics.” He took a deep breath, shaking his head. “Most of them sort of…drift.”
“They need help.”
She ran her hand down his arm. “You could do that, you know.”
“Perhaps,” he whispered, “with help.”
“I will keep an eye out for someone appropriate for you,” she promised, drawing an unexpected frown from him. Her head tipped to the side. “Would that not be helpful to you?”
He sigh, shaking his head. “I was speaking of you, Sellynna.”
She blinked rapidly. “Me? You think…I could help?”
“In five centuries, only one of my charges has helped me start a rebellion.” He looked deep into her eyes, holding her gaze captive. “Who else would I want by my side?”
Sellynna’s cheeks turned a deep indigo. “I would be by your side through all of it,” she whispered. “But I think, in teaching, you might find me lacking.”
“There’s more to be done than teaching, my dear.”
“Then with those things, I’m your girl,” she responded enthusiastically.
He smiled, chuckling. “Are you,” he whispered.
She chewed on her lower lip, her pale eyes shining. “I thought you’d figured that out already.”
“I have very little figured out,” he admitted. “You are a mystery to me.”
Try as she might, she could not contain the grunt that formed. “I’m a mystery? I keep doing anything I can to show you affection without making you uncomfortable…I’m pretty open…I thought anyway.”
“But I am closed. I try to be otherwise, but it is hard for me.” To say that he was unprepared for what she did next would be an understatement of several centuries. Sellynna grabbed his face between her hands. She looked him in the eyes deeply before leaning in and kissing him. Borænin stiffened for a moment then relaxed and returned it.
“That wasn’t so terrible, was it?”
Borænin smiled faintly. “I could develop a tolerance for it.”
“And this time, neither of us is so drunk that we won’t…a tolerance?” She gaped at him as he laughed aloud. “Way to make a girl feel attractive, Borænin.”
“I told you, I am out of practice.” He chuckled, an impish grin on his face. “The other night? Not my best at all.”
“I’d like to see what you consider better in that case.”
“Hmmm, I will have to work on that then. I need a lot of…study.”
“As with all things, practice helps,” she teased. “Maybe a little less biting next time though.”
“You cannot dictate terms to an artist, my dear. Doing that can only stifle the…output,” he quipped.
“Or make him get more creative.”
“Hmmm, an interesting theory. It may require further study.”
“I agree.” She laughed brightly before sobering a little. “In all seriousness though,” she said, “Can you try not to bite so hard where clothing rubs? Fucking hurts today.” She pulled her uniform up away from her shoulder.
“My abject apologies, my lady,” he replied, attempting to look properly abashed.
“Given our topic, I am not certain I am anyone’s lady,” she laughed. “I’m not sure ‘Lady’ really fits a simple farm girl. I never was part of that world.”
He tilted his head to one side. “Are you not mine,” he asked quietly. “Because I feel it suits you better than you know.”
She smiled, leaning in to nuzzle him tenderly. “Then you may call me that, if it brings you joy. Though I admit, I like it when you call me dear.” Her cheeks filled with color. “I know you might not have meant it as anything special, but it was nice to hear it all the same.”
“The joy comes from you.” He paused to think on what she had confessed. “Then my dear you shall remain.” He gently touched the side of her face. “My dearest, in fact.”
She turned her face and kissed his hand. “Do you mean that?”
“I do,” he whispered.
“Forgive me. You wanted to get some sleep.” She pulled back reluctantly.
“I am sorry, but yes, I do. I am bone weary.”
“I would have stayed in bed earlier, but I saw your note and went to look for you. I just…things with this started off with you getting hit on the head. So I couldn’t help but worry.” She slipped from the bench and headed back to the bed. She began to slowly removed her uniform.
“I am sorry if I worried you,” he said gently, turning his back to her to avert his eyes. “I was not mistreated. My interrogator took me up into that tower across the courtyard.”
“Borænin, it’s all right. You can look if you wish.” She slipped her pants off, standing there a moment in naught but her shirt and undergarments.
“Permit an old man his follies, my dear.”
She sighed as she pulled her shirt up over her head. “As you will.”
He glanced over his shoulder, stealing a peek, turning back again quickly, his face flushed. His actions drew a giggle from Sellynna. “What?”
“You peeked,” she replied, laughing.
He turned dark purple, blushing up to his ears. “I confess, I was weak.”
She pulled the night dress on and moved in front of him. “You have already seen every inch of me. Why would I be embarrassed now?”
He hesitated to look at her. “Neither of us is drunk now. The lights are on.”
“Neither of us needs the lights to see..”
He chuckled in spite of himself. “It is the principle of the thing.” He stroked her cheek again as she suddenly attempted stifle a yawn with limited success. He tipped his head to the side. “I have bored you.”
She shook her head. “No, I haven’t slept much since I arrived.”
“Shall we both take some rest then?”
“I think we should try,” she replied, moving to the larger bed and climbing in.
He rose from the bench and bowed before her. “Sleep well, my dear.” He turned towards the other bed.
She pulled the blankets over herself. “Borænin?”
“You are welcome to…you…” she started, nervous. “You may share this bed, if you like.” She pulled the blanket up, hiding her face a little.
He stared, slack jawed. “Oh…ah… I did not wish to presume.” He hesitated a moment and then walked over.
“I am saying you are welcome.”
“Do..ah…do you have a preferred side?”
She opened her mouth to answer, then paused. “I have no idea. Is that a thing?”
“I cannot say,” he whispered. “Let’s find out then.”
“I suppose we could start one way and then…switch if we need to?”
He climbed into the bed gingerly, nodding in response.
“I’ve never shared a bed with a man,” she whispered.
“Neither have I!” He winked at her, smiling sleepily. “And that is not quite true. You did only the other night.”
“We didn’t sleep,” she reminded him.
“That is true,” he chuckled, drifting off moments later.
Sellynna watched as his features relaxed, though his brow maintained the a touch of furrow. He cannot let it all go. At least not yet, she thought. reaching over, she lifted a lock of hair that had fallen in front of his face. She placed it gently back behind his ear and closed her eyes. Sleep well, my Hierarch. One day this will all be memory. Tomorrow we fight on.