Sellynna crossed the grounds, heading for the large tower. Pausing a moment, she admired the stained glass windows that circled the upper floor. Stepping inside, she blinked at the array of floating candles filling the lower level. To her left, a wide opening revealed a spiral ramp leading upward. Not seeing any other places to go, she began the ascent.
Reaching a point where she could almost see the upper floor, she called up. “Hello? I was told to come here…” She gripped the mug of coffee in her hand a little tighter. “Am I in the right place,” she wondered at a whisper.
A tall Kal’dorei stood inspecting a tome that floated above the table before him. A pulsing orb of violet and blue, drifted behind his left shoulder, moving only when he did. He looked up, regarding her for a moment before frowning slightly.
“Are you…Kalithil?” She tried her level best not to stare at him, or whatever he had been reading.
“I am,” he replied. “You are Sellynna, yes?” He watched her carefully as she set her mug down and bowed low. “Let me see your face, child.”
“Yes, my lord, I am Sellynna,” she answered, almost on top of his word. “Oh…apologies.” Her hand came up, tugging down the covering. She adjusted it neatly about her neck and looked up to find that he was bowing to her in return.
“A pleasure to meet you, Sellynna Greythorn.” He rose, arching an eyebrow at her gaping expression.
“I…” she shook her head to clear it. “An honor, my lord.” She immediately lowered her eyes, realizing her presumptuous behavior. She fixed her eyes instead, on the edge of the table beside him.
Kalithil furrowed his brow. “You seem uncomfortable, child.”
“Please, forgive my gaze, my lord. It was…inappropriate,” she murmured.
“Is looking at an old man considered inappropriate where you come from?” He could not help but find a level of amusement in the situation, though his expression did little to betray it.
“Staring at the Founder is, my lord,” she replied quietly. “The Lord Protector would not approve.”
“The Lord Protector is not here, and his opinion carries no weight here in any case.” He watched her carefully as she winced, but quickly resumed her calmer appearance. “Founder, hmm? Is that was they call me in your..ah..Realm?” He raised his hand, banishing the arcane orb that hovered at his shoulder. At the same time, the light in the whole room seemed to shift and grow warmer.
“No, my lord,” she answered, shaking her head. “Your name is forbidden. All mention of you is. I only learned of you recently.”
“Hmm.” He beckoned her over and gestured to a chair across from him. “Come, sit.” He continued to watch as she crossed to the chair and stood in front of it obediently, but did not lower herself until he had done so. He smirked knowingly. “I am not a lord, or a king, young one. I am simply an old man.”
“You are the Founder of the bloodline, are you not?”
He smiled faintly. “I am.”
“Then you will please forgive me if I disagree that you are not just an old man, my lord.” She crossed her gloved hands carefully over each other and placed them in her lap.
He chuckled. “Well, how about this. I am not the Founder of your bloodline. I am the founder of the one here. However, I cannot deny there is a connection, despite the barriers between realities.” He tipped his head to the side almost imperceptibly. “I can feel it.”
“Feel it?” She glanced at him for the briefest of moments before averting her eyes once again.
“I can…sense…those who carry my blood,” he explained, smiling.
Her brows knit together. “But, how is that possible?”
“How is it possible I can sense it, or how is it possible that I can sense it of you,” he asked.
She chuckled in spite of herself. “How can you sense that I am of the bloodline, my lord?”
He offered her an enormous grin. “I have absolutely no idea.” He laughed lightly at her stare of utter confusion. “The concept of alternate worlds was introduced to us here only recently. We have not explored the possibilities yet. Although, after this, my own research will be more focused in that direction.”
“They are seemingly without end, my lord. However the power required to travel them is substantial,” she explained.
“Hmm, I would imagine so.” He leaned back in his chair, taking a more relaxed position, though it did little to diminish the grandeur of the man. “So, tell me. If my name and knowledge of me is forbidden, how did you learn of me?”
How much do I tell him? We need their help, Borænin said. Do I just… She chewed her lip, eventually landing on her choice. “Borænin told me. He risked execution for it, because he felt he could trust me with the knowledge, my lord.”
“Was this before or after he decided to…hmmm…defect?”
“I…” she blushed very slightly. “Well, my lord, he has been considering it for some time. It was before we decided to do it right now, if that is what you mean.”
Kalithil nodded. “Why do you think your Lord Protector has worked so hard to erase my memory?”
Sellynna smiled faintly. “This is only a guess, my lord. But we think the Lord Protector wished to supplant you in every possible way. On our world, He is the Founder. To be honest, my lord, no one even knows what caused the issues between them in the first place.”
“I see. The Lord Protector and…” he paused to clear his throat. “…his father?”
“Has the truth leaked out among the general population? Are the people of your world completely taken in by the lies?” He tapped the table softly with his index finger.
“They believe him to be the Founder of the Bloodline, if that is what you mean. They don’t know about his father at all,” she explained.
“Have you ever met the Lord Protector?”
Sellynna’s eyes went wide. “No, my lord. And I very sincerely hope I never do. Especially after…” She took a breath. “I was in training, my lord. Dedicated study. I should not be here at all, if things were done as they should have been. But circumstances, as they happened, brought me here,” she told him by way of explanation.
Kalithil nodded. “I was only curious,” he said, waving it off. “I am fascinated by the differences between the Realms, but even more so by the similarities. How did you feel when you were told you would be coming here?” He sat back, watching her carefully, though his expression never shifted.
Sellynna swallowed. “Terrified, my lord.”
Kalithil took a slow and measured breath. Don’t press too hard. Let her lead you there. “Terrified because?”
“It was my first mission and I was sent through the rift already knowing something was wrong. My uniform was not ready for me and…well, I was told I would be serving the Hierarch. And to be out of uniform…” she sighed, the color in the two tendrils that draped over her shoulder pulsed slightly. “There was a high likelihood of severe punishment.”
“From the Hierarch?” He leaned back in, looking at her oddly.
“Or the Lord Protector himself,” she replied, nodding.
“So you feared the Hierarch…Borænin,” he asked again, his tone indicating that he did not care at all for her initial answer.
Sellynna sighed nodding. “Until I met him. My fears were drilled into me. They are a part of me. My life expectancy is very low as a Novice. If I was being sent on a mission to serve the Hierarch, that meant it was an important mission. Everything I was to do was a…” she explained quietly. “Well, screw it up once and you will be removed.”
Kalithil frowned heavily. “This fear…it was part of your training with the Order?”
“Yes, my lord, as well as from childhood.”
“What was your opinion of the Lord Protector before you joined the Order?”
She shrugged. “To be honest, I didn’t know much about him at all. Growing up where I did, it was about focusing on the day and getting your work done. We didn’t have much effect on the greater world. But we were told, for our entire lives, that we were there at his pleasure. That should we ever be called upon, we were to do anything he asked. To do otherwise could mean not only our life, but the lives of our family. But I was young and he never came down to the farmlands. Mostly I wondered if I would get a meal that night or not.”
He seemed unconcerned by her statements, continuing instead, to dig deeper into his interrogation. “How would you say the populace regards the Lord Protector? Is he feared? Admired?”
“A bit of both I suppose. Greythorns use their name for advancement or political trade and gain. Others wish they were Greythorns. Some of the population think he is the Prince’s most trusted advisor,” she explained. She watched him as he sat back, his brow knitting together slightly. “Am I being at all helpful,” she asked nervously.
“Yes, child. You’ve already given me much to think about,” he replied. “I have been told that your own family…sold you, to the Order. Is that true?”
Sellynna’s face broke into an enormous smile. “That is correct, my lord.”
He looked at her oddly. “You do not seem in the least perturbed by that.”
She laughed brightly. “My lord, please forgive me. I forget that on this world, that is something most find distressing.”
“Indeed it is.”
“For me…for me it meant I ate not one, but multiple meals a day. I had a bed that was mine alone. Clothes that I didn’t have to share. And work that was not only physical and mind numbing.”
“How were you treated once you were with the Order?”
“As well as I could ever have hoped,” she murmured appreciatively. “The Uplift was, well I’d prefer not to discuss it. But once I was taught to handle it all, I was tested and given training that focused on things I excelled at.”
Sellynna reached up and touched one of her thick tendrils, allowing it to wrap around her hand. “Becoming one of the Ren’dorei.”
Kalithil arched an eyebrow. “You were not Ren’dorei before joining?”
She shook her head. “No, my lord. Only members of the Order become Ren’dorei. And only Greythorns can join the Order. It is…exclusive.”
“Hmm…So before, you were…Quel’dorei?”
“Yes, my lord.”
“Can you describe what you looked like?”
What an odd question. How could that give him any insight towards helping us? Sellynna smiled faintly. “Bronze skin, golden hair, like all of the Greythorns.”
“I see. How much variation in those pigments are there,” he asked, seeming to be studying her features. “You’ve seen a few Silverthorns, we are all colored the same. Are your Greythorns like that as well?”
She shook her head. “The Lord Protector saw to it that we were all golden, with minor variations into the shades of bronze and gold,” she explained. “The Greythorns are not as…consistent as the Silverthorns I have observed so far.”
Kalithil arched an eyebrow. “Did he now?”
“Yes, my lord.”
He smiled knowingly “I noticed that you and Borænin’s complexions are different, as well as your hair color. When you become Ren’dorei, the color changes?”
“Yes, my lord. The process of infusing us with the Void doesn’t always yield consistent changes.”
“I see that. We have only small sample size here, but it seems that in this Realm, the change among Greythorns is consistent.” He smiled, giving her the sense that he was holding something back. “Interesting, is it not?”
Why the obsession with all of this? Stop thinking too much on it. Just answer his questions, she berated herself. It doesn’t matter if they are seemingly unconnected. “Perhaps it is the process? My understanding is the Ren’dorei here were created through an accident of sorts. Rather than an individual, intentional change.”
Kalithil nodded. “That is one possibility.”
“My lord suspects something else, though.”
“In your Realm, do Greythorns ever attempt to mask their coloration? Change their hair color, anything like that?”
Her eyes went round as plates, and there was little doubt as to the horror the lay behind the violet glow. “They would be executed for such a folly.”
Kalithil blinked. “…what?”
“One does not change their physical appearance. It is strictly forbidden.”
“The Pri…The Lord Protector,” she answered, correcting herself partway through. This isn’t about the proper political line. Tell him how things truly work. “The Prince is a puppet, though most of the population does not know that. The true laws, those are dictated by the Lord Protector.”
Kalithil nodded, thinking a moment. “Does everyone from the bloodline take the Greythorn name?”
“They do. There are great advantages to bearing the name.” And many disadvantages. Like those who see fit to punish you for things that are out of your control. He would like to punish you too, hissed the voice in her head.
“So they have a choice?”
“In so much as it’s what they are born with. I think it is more the parents doing the choosing.” She closed her eyes a moment, whispering something under her breath. When she opened her eyes again, she seemed perfectly at ease.
“Hmmm,” He replied, making a mental note of her actions just then. “I don’t suppose you have ever met the Prince?”
“Once.” She sighed at the memory. “Very Briefly. He happened along the road where I was doing some of my training. My class was ordered to stand for inspection as he came through.”
“How did he impress you?”
Like a beaten dog. “He seemed quiet, put on a stern face, though behind his eyes he was tired. His clothes, though appearing finely made were not of the finest cloths. He walked with dignity, but…” Again, that bare twitch at the end of a tendril. “It was very forced, my lord.”
“Do you think he chafes under the Lord Protector’s boots?”
“I would say he does. Though I cannot speak for the man, my lord. It seemed very much that he was weary of acting a part that was not fully his own.”
“Now that is interesting.”
“I have done something right then?”
Kalithil smiled faintly. “You have been observant, child, and that is very much right. That’s one of the words your Hierarch used to describe you, actually.”
Sellynna’s body relaxed a small measure. “He…spoke of me? To you?”
“To Tindomiel. And after, we discussed him.”
“Oh… I was not aware.”
He arched an eyebrow. “Would it surprise you to learn that each of us, after we speak to you two, tell the others what we’ve learned?”
Sellynna nodded slowly. “I am…unused to such behavior.”
“We are trying to learn as much as we can. We compare notes to see if others can bring their own insights to the discussion.”
“So you rely on each other’s intuitions as well as the evidence you receive?”
“All of this is at the Patriarch’s direction,” he confirmed.
“And he wishes you all to..speak to us, one after the next? Is this simply to see if we will crack and change our stories?”
Kalithil smiles “I won’t lie, that may have been the intent at first, but not now. Would you be equally surprised if I told you that we all agree that you are both telling the truth?”
A faint smile touched her lips. “That is a comfort, my lord.”
“The rest of this is…intelligence gathering. Preparation.”
“Intelligence gathering through eyewitness accounts is fallible,” she replied.
“Of course, hence the comparisons.”
“I apologize. Had I known what is was you were seeking, I could have written proper reports for you.” She pursed her lips, but quickly banished the expression.
Kalithil looked at her a moment, obviously surprised, then laughed aloud.
Sellynna blinked. “My…my lord?”
“You’re quite the helpful one, aren’t you?”
Her cheeks darkened. “I only wish to help you make the decision to help Borænin. If there is any way I can achieve that, I will.”
“Between you and me, child, I am fairly certain that decision has been made.”
Sellynna perked up, hopeful. “And…will you…is it?”
“Well, nothing’s been said officially, you understand,” he replied, holding a hand up indicating she should slow down. “But I know my grandson. We would not be doing all this,” he explained, gesturing back and forth between the two of them. “If he was not planning to do something.”
Sellynna’s face cracked into an enormous smile of relief and joy. Somewhere deep within her, the Shade stewed, unable to combat the surge of mirth.
“When he tells you his plans, try to act surprised,” he grinned.
The man will not appreciate someone speaking out of turn like this. I will need to inform Borænin of that detail. “On my life, my lord,” she vowed, bowing her head.
Kalithil looked at her oddly. “I was not being serious, child.”
“Oh…” she murmured, feeling the heat rise in her cheeks. Idiot. Perhaps you should remember your lowly place, reminded the Shade.
He chuckled. “That’s another word Borænin used. Earnest.” Kalithil smiled knowingly at her.
“I suppose I am over eager, my lord,” she admitted, darkening further.
“There are worse vices, young one.”
“Not if one wishes to live, sir.”
Kalithil nodded. “So, since you are so helpful..”
“Is there anything about your Realm, or the Lord Protector, that you think we should know? Anything we haven’t thought to ask?”
Sellynna sat quietly, thinking a moment. Her gaze drifted over to the cup of coffee that she had left at the entrance to the room. A moment later, it rose from its resting place and drifted to her, settling beside her on the table. The only indication of how it was done, was the faintest of glow at Kalithil’s fingertip. She took a sip and sat up a bit straighter. “The Rift is located in Kul Tiras. It is warded, you won’t ever find it. If I had a map…I could mark it. Perhaps having someone who could observe it would be useful. We will no longer be privy to what happens there,” she explained.
Kalithil’s eyes widened. “That is very helpful, young lady. Can the Rift be closed?”
Sellynna smiled wide at the compliment, though it faded as quickly as it appeared. “I don’t know how it’s done, my lord. At least, not properly. The only way I know for certain is to kill the ones who maintain it.”
“May I assume that those who maintain it are on the other side?”
“Yes, my lord. They are specially selected and trained for that duty.”
“Are they members of the Order?”
“Yes, my lord. Revered in one sense. But…” she hesitated, a sadness overtaking her posture. Those poor souls will never know life without pain.
“Can I ask you something about Borænin?”
She blinked at the random subject change. Careful. He may hate you if you share the wrong things… the Shade taunted. Sellynna nodded slowly. “I will do my best to answer. But I will not betray his privacy.”
Kalithil smiled faintly. “You said to my son that Borænin tries to assassinate the Umbric of every Realm he visits.”
“Yes. That is so.”
“This is a personal vendetta?”
“I do not know his reasoning, my lord,” she explained quietly. “But from what I have seen when he speaks of it, there is something personal about it.”
“Do you think he could be..flexible, about it?”
“I don’t know, my lord. He spoke about Umbric very briefly last night. He seemed somewhat surprised at how different he is here.” She took another sip and set her mug down soundlessly.
“Hmm…that is a hopeful sign. We shall have to appeal to his practicality then.”
Peering at him, she tipped her head to the side. “Why does this matter?”
“Well, child, Umbric is quite possibly the foremost expert on Void Rifts in this Realm. We may need him.”
“In that case, I will do what I am able to assist in persuading Borænin.”
“Somehow, I think you might have tremendous influence on him,” he quipped.
“I am not certain. But perhaps one day.”
Kalithil offered her a knowing smile. “Well!” he said suddenly. “I believe I have kept you long enough, young one.” He rose from his chair, stretching a little. He couldn’t help but chuckle inwardly as Sellynna jumped to her feet. Kalithil smirked slightly. “You may return to your rooms. Or explore the grounds. Consider yourselves to have the run of the fortress. Do not leave the walls however, it is a somewhat dangerous world beyond.”
Sellynna inclined her head. “And as my weapons have all been confiscated, that would be unwise.”
“I am sure they will be returned in due time,” he replied.
“I look forward to earning enough trust to regain them.” She bowed low before the ancient mage.
“Good evening, Sellynna,” he said gently and he bowed to her in return.
“Good evening, my lord.” She straightened and headed immediately down the ramp and back to the quiet and comfort of her room.