Sellynna reached the base of the tower, releasing a heavy sigh. She looked out across the yard, over to the long, steep steps that led to the inn. Days with little to no sleep was beginning to wear on her. Though her mind knew it wasn’t all that far, her legs refused to carry her the distance. She closed her eyes and focused, stepping through the shadows, arriving at the door to their room.
Grasping the handle, she opened the door and stepped inside. Her boots dragged along the floor as she slunk to the chair and dropped herself into it. Her head fell into her hands, the throbbing pound behind her eyes making it difficult to focus.
From his place on the bed, Borænin watched her, arching an eyebrow. He rose and crossed to the table. He placed a gloved hand down on the dark wood and leaned in close.
She looked up and blinked at him, bleary. “I’m sorry…”
“Sorry for what, my dear?”
The novice rose from her seat and bowed low to him. “I didn’t even see you.”
“Let me guess. More questions,” he asked softly, returning the bow. He gestured for her to sit down once again. “You look very tired, my dear.”
She very nearly fell into the chair. “Exhausted really. And keeping the appearance of being well rested is draining.”
“What can I do?”
“Shut down my mind? Tell the voices to stop when I do start to drift off? It’s the only time they get loud enough to penetrate,” she replied. She looked over at his face, lines forming between his brows as he listened. “Do not worry yourself,” she murmured. “I have been tired like this before.”
“Your Shade is troubling you,” he said, not as a question. “Your mantras are not working?”
“They help. My Shade will start to chatter away as soon as I try to sleep, yes. Only because I am exhausted and under a great deal of stress. It will pass.”
He sighed, electing not to press the issue further. “Who was it that questioned you today?”
The Hierarch’s eyes went wide. “Indeed?”
She nodded. “Interestingly, he did not seem to mind my calling him my lord,” she told him.
“Odd, he made a point of correcting me when I did so.”
“To be honest, I think it amused him.”
“He looks like a lord, doesn’t he? The way you’d expect a Kal’dorei lord to carry himself.
“Very much so. I think the Lord Protector would be quite jealous of the man’s finery.”
He chuckled softly, though his eyes held some worry still. “Did he treat you kindly,” he asked at a whisper.
“He did. We sat and he asked me a great many questions.”
“Hmm. Anything you think I should know?” He returned to the bed and sat down again. A long eyebrow raised when rather than respond at first, Sellynna rubbed either side of her head with the heels of her hands. “Would you rather wait to talk?”
She shook her head. “I’m all right. It’s just a headache. His primary focus was what the general public thought of the Lord Protector. And he was rather intrigued about our coloration.”
Borænin patted the mattress in front of him. “Come. Sit here,” he said gently.
“Hmm?” She looked over at him. “Oh…um, all right.” Rising slowly, she moved to the bed and climbed up onto the bed. Folding her legs under her, she settled down across from him.
He smirked, stifling a small chuckle. “Facing away, my dearest.”
Sellynna blinked at him. “Ok…” She pulled her legs out from under her and turned her back to him. “He wanted to know about the Greythorns…our coloring, who took the name, so many things.”
Borænin pulled off his gloves. He placed his hands at join of her neck and skull, pressing the thumbs on the bone, then ran them slowly up across the back of her head with gentle but firm pressure.
“I couldn’t answer it all. I….oh shit….that’s..” Sellynna’s eyes slid closed.
“You country girls are so rough around the edges,” he snickered.
“I’m sorry,” she said quietly, color rising to her cheeks and long ears. “I know I don’t always remember to speak properly.”
Borænin sighed. “I am only teasing. I like you as you are, my dear.” He smiled as she grunted a little under the pressure of his ministrations. “Back home, there were a hundred Novices, Acolytes and Primarchs that would have leapt at the chance to share the Hierarch’s bed,” he said softly. “ And yet none of them ended up there.”
“I still am not sure how I did,” she whispering.
Borænin chuckled. “You got the Hierarch drunk off his ass.”
“I did no such thing. I was drinking milk. You started it.”
“Then how did we end up here?” Borænin pressed his thumbs against her temples firmly.
“You tricked me into drinking that….fuuuuck that’s good,” she moaned.
Borænin tried to stifle a laugh, mostly successful. “I think I’ve heard you say that before.”
“Maybe a couple of times,” she smirked.
“I may have misheard, your thighs were over my ears at the time.”
“Next time I will make sure they are farther apart.”
“Hmm..good. I like a roomy work environment.”
Sellynna laughed. “Work, huh?”
“I take it too seriously to call it play.”
“I was thinking artistry might be a better word for it.”
Borænin dug into the knots in her shoulders, drawing a gasp from her. “Artistry is work. Although in this case, the artist was quite terrified he had lost his touch.”
“What in the name of the shadows are you trying to do back there? Put your thumbs through me,” she yelped.
“I am attempting to create a therapeutic response in the muscle group in your shoulders. Applying additional pressure to the knotted area will cause it to release and relax,” he explained.
“Ahhhh….all right….” she managed before biting down on another yelp.
“Don’t tell me you never took advantage of physical therapy after combat training?”
“After combat training I studied.”
“Hmmm…Perhaps I need to review what the head trainers are doing.” Borænin scratched her back.
Sellynna’s eyes rolled back into her head. “Oh fel… that’s good. For the record…you haven’t lost your touch.”
“That is gratifying to hear.”
She sank down a little. “I don’t think I can move now.”
Borænin leaned in. Pulling the neckline of her uniform down slightly, he placed a small kiss between her shoulders. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to,” he murmured. Sellynna took a quick breath in, causing him to go very still. “Is something wrong?”
“Not at all,” she answered, falling back into him. “Your…kisses just…” she tried, flushing.
Borænin turned nearly black. “Oh…”
“It’s an unexpected pleasure and comfort,” she offered softly. “Whatever you did helped my head. Thank you.”
“Good, I thought it might.”
“Perhaps I was foolish skipping the therapy during 60 years of training.”
“Were you encouraged to skip it?”
“No, but staying ahead of the others was valuable.”
“Hrm…If we ever get back home, and the Order still exists…I will have to re-examine priorities.”
Sellynna turned her head to look at him. “What do you mean?”
“The training is not meant to be competitive, it should be cooperative,” he answered. “I want the members of the Order to trust one another.”
“Pushing to be the best caught the trainers eyes. If we stayed ahead, we were asked to assist. And usually passed over for the more dangerous work.” She laced her fingers with his, her heart beating hard in her chest as she noted the bare digits. “It was about surviving.”
Borænin sighed. “The kill or be killed reality of our society cannot easily be swept aside.”
“No, it cannot,” she agreed. Pushing against the heel of her boot with a toe, she kicked off one, then the other, letting them fall to the floor with a thud. “If we ever go back, it will take decades to even begin to shift that mindset.” She kissed his fingers gently. “If we go back, shut down the Rift Wardens. Stop the openings. Close down the others.”
“I’m not sure if it is possible. There will be chaos.”
“Borænin, it needs to be done,” she urged, gently.
“No, I mean, it may be impossible to do it peacefully. All of it will come down, without the Lord Protector, Silvermoon will turn on itself,” he explained.
“Then let me…give them peace,” she offered. “Destroy the books so the knowledge cannot continue. But so long as we have our world taking from others…”
Borænin furrowed his brow. “Why do you think that would bring peace?”
“To the Acolytes of the Rift Wardens? It’s torture and you know it,” she answered, sitting up.
“Oh, I think you are misunderstanding me.”
“I am not,” she said flatly. “I was trying to focus on forcing us to keep our eyes on only one place. Our people. So long as the Rifts are open, there will be a divide. People will try to escape to other places, create chaos there.”
“There will be a divide regardless. If the Lord Protector is removed, there will be an enormous power vacuum,” he countered, a sadness filling his words. “There will be Civil War, Sellynna.”
Sellynna sighed, covering her eyes with her palms. “I know this. All I am saying…I’m not being clear..” She took a breath and collected her thoughts before continuing quietly. “The other realms to not deserve to be pillaged to help fuel that war, Borænin. And they would be.”
“Ahh, I see. I disagree.”
She spun around, gaping at him. “You think they deserve it?”
Borænin frowned. “No! I disagree that they would be pillaged for that. Sellynna, knowledge of the Rifts and other Realms is strictly controlled.”
“Do you thing that there is a chance they would ignore the Order? In a time of civil war,” she asked, her voice gaining a passion in her views. “Not try to break in? Once they do…there’s a chance that they could learn of it. The youngest of the trainees. Those who have not learned how to survive questioning…”
“No, Sellynna, I think they will overwhelm the Order and the Void Rangers, and all servants and allies of the Lord Protector.”
“So what then? How do you keep that knowledge secure?”
“I think long before they learn anything, the Rift Wardens will have been killed, and the rifts collapsed. The keys to Realm travel are held in only one place, my dearest.”
“Where,” she asked quietly.
“The Lord Protector’s head. He has never shared that knowledge. No rift is opened without his direct involvement,” he explained.
“So if we kill him…”
“Exactly.” He squeezed her hand gently. “Do you not remember why we are in this Realm, or rather, that other one, in the first place?”
“To locate the person or persons who opened the unauthorized rift.”
“A unique occurrence,” he confirmed. “The Lord Protector became distracted by other matters once we passed through, but he was quite agitated by the thought that someone else could open a rift.”
“Kalithil had a…um…” she started quietly, chewing on her lip. “He suggested that Umbric may be particularly helpful in that.”
He frowned. “How so,” he asked, his voice suddenly fading.
Her tendrils twitched lightly at the tips. “He said that in this Realm, Umbric is the leading authority on Void Rifts.” She watching him carefully as he went completely still. “And he…” She started to shake a little, but took a breath to calm herself enough to speak it. “He hoped that you could be persuaded…to..um”
Borænin climbed from the bed and walked listlessly to the chair. He sank down into it, putting his head in his hands, his whole body trembling.
“I’m sorry…I’m so sorry,” Sellynna whispered. Very slowly, she slipped down from the bed. She stepped closer, reaching out. Her hands shook violently, but she forced herself to take hold of his arm. “I don’t know….what…what happened…with you and,” she paused and swallowed hard. “I…I know it’s personal”
“How painful was The Uplift for you,” he whispered.
Sellynna sank down to the floor and placed her head against the back of the chair. “I don’t want to talk about that…” she replied, her voice soft.
“Consider this. We have been honing and improving the process for five hundred years,” he said. “What do you think it was like for the first of us? All because of him. Silvermoon was at peace. The royal line had been restored to the throne. The Legion had been defeated. Our people had extricated themselves from the disastrous entanglement with the Horde.”
Sellynna unlaced her tabard and slipped it off. She folded it slowly and placed it up on the bed. Moving slowly, she crawled in front of Borænin and sat down.
“And Umbric tried to take it all away. To fight him and his Void minions, we made terrible sacrifices.” He watched her, as he spoke, remove her gloves and set them aside. “And we defeated him. And in the end, what did it get us?”
Sellynna pulled off her shirt, revealing the results of the Uplift on her skin. Ragged, wide spreading lines of deep void emanating from thick round craters at multiple points on her body. “Covered in void scars…”
“It got us the Lord Protector,” he said flatly, not even reacting to her bare skin. “Oh, he was there before, of course. But Umbric gave him the final leverage he needed. After that he totally consolidated his power, and took the power of the Void Rifts too.”
“Perhaps, dear one, the best revenge on Umbric, is to use him as a tool.” Her voice was gentle, kind. “Force him to give us what we need to be done with the entire mess.”
“Revenge…” he whispered. “I have killed a lot of Umbric’s, Sellynna. So many… And it changed nothing.” Borænin looked at his hands. “I am no better than the Lord Protector.”
Sellynna took his hands in her own. “Yes, you are. Because you didn’t do it all for personal gain. Everything you did with the Order, that wasn’t out of your greed.”
“I didn’t murder all those men I didn’t even know for my own sake?”
“That wasn’t what I meant.”
“It’s what I meant. All of those lives. None of them the one responsible.” He released her hands and balled up his own. “Just like Him.” His face twisted, anger growing in his features. “Just like fel-fucked, gods-forsaken Gilræn Greythorn.”
“No,” she said firmly. “Because he doesn’t give a damn about anyone but himself. And I know that’s not who you are.”
“You don’t know the things I’ve done,” he snapped.
Sellynna sighed. Stop pushing so hard. You cannot convince him of this all at once, she chided herself. “No. I don’t. But I know it causes you to grieve. It brings you pain that I can never begin to help you undo,” she said, “and yet…” She placed hand on his arm as he closed his eyes. “Given the chance to tell him the things I said to you. Or give me to him to keep your own neck safe, you…you made the decision to do what you can to put an end to this. You protected me. A damned Novice who is worth nothing.”
Borænin’s eyes snapped open and he looked at her sharply. “Do not say such things.” You’ve no idea what I’ve already done for you. I’ve been watching you for longer than you know.
“I know my value in our world, Borænin. I am not a fool.”
“What about your value to me?”
Sellynna smiled gently. “That was my point. You placed me before yourself. You are not Him.”
Borænin sighed. “If our Realm doesn’t know your value, it can burn.”
She leaned in and kissed his fingers. “I am no one that special, dear one. Only you see me as such.”
“In five hundred years, no one else has inspired me to do what I have done these last five days.” He stroked her cheek with a single finger drawing color to her cheeks.
“All I did was tell you how I felt. Hardly inspirational,” she countered.
“Obviously that is untrue, here we are,” he replied, gesturing to their room.
“I was honest with you. Maybe, in everything you’ve been through, that’s what you needed.”
Borænin smiled faintly. “You did a little more than just speak the truth to me.” His countenance lightened finally, a little smirk appearing at the corner of his mouth.
“I also let you bed me,” she admitted, tipping her head to him. “And I drank that horrible liquor.”
He chuckled lightly. “Let me? I simply don’t recall any such passivity on your part.”
She offered him a sly wink. “My point is, I don’t just allow any man with a higher rank into my bed.”
“Well, that is something of a relief. I was wondering if you started rebellions with lovers every week,” he teased.
Sellynna laughed. “I’m fairly certain you’d have heard about it if I had.”
“One would hope,” he murmured, suddenly aware that she was naked to her waist. Looking away, he lifted the blanket from the smaller bed and drew it around her. “So tell me. Why me, then?”
“I..I was drawn to you. You trusted me, you placed yourself in my hands. You seemed to find me worthy enough to call you by your name, right from the start,” she answered.
“Hmmm. I assumed it was my rugged good looks.” He traced her jawline with his finger.
“I did start with saying I was drawn to you,” she quipped, winking at him.
He couldn’t help but chuckle. “Do you remember meeting me when you were first inducted?”
“I do,” she whispered.
“What did you think of me then?
Sellynna turned a deep violet. “I…dreamt about you. You were the most handsome man I had ever seen.”
Borænin blinked, entirely unprepared for that answer. “…really?” His own cheeks flushed.
“The other girls in the room made fun of me when I said something. Told me that it was the most absurd thing I could think about and to get it out of my head because it would never happen. The Hierarch doesn’t even see us, they said.”
“I…might have talked in my sleep. And they asked about it the next day.”
Borænin bit his lip, trying not to laugh. “I’m sorry, my dear, I should not laugh.”
She shook her head. “No, it’s all right. You probably don’t even remember meeting me.”
“Untrue.” He chuckled when she blinked, obviously brought up short. “You are surprised?”
“I didn’t think you’d remember me at all,” she murmured.
“I saw you there, obviously so very eager. You practically vibrated with the need to demonstrate that you wanted to serve,” he recounted as her cheeks darkened further. “And you were, despite the country demeanor, singularly beautiful.” He smiled, watching the blush creep all the way to the tips of her ears. “I said, idly, to one of my aides, that you would clean up very well, and I speculated on the color of your hair after you went through the Uplift. He asked if I wanted you brought to me.”
Sellynna’s mouth fell open. “I thought you didn’t…”
“I don’t. He was demoted for the suggestion, after I reminded him that I was not running a brothel.”
She bit her lip and looked down, thoroughly embarrassed.
“I’ve never…no one before has ever….nothing,” she stammered.
Sellynna covered her cheeks with her hands. “No one ever said…some of the trainers tried to bed me…but…they never said… That I was…pretty. I just thought they did it to all the girls.”
He shook his head. “Such behavior is strictly forbidden outside of endurance training, my dear. And that program is monitored. The punishment for going outside the scope is severe,” he explained. “You are far beyond pretty, my dearest.”
Sellynna buried her face in her hands completely. “I’m sorry,” he offered gently.
“It’s all right. Just a bit overwhelming.”
“All right,” he sighed.
“I didn’t know when those men were…that they risked…”
“They must have thought you worth the risk.”
“I just thought they were…um…horny.”
“Well, they were,” he agreed, chuckling. “But most of the time they just go after other of their own rank. Which I have no issue with.”
“You didn’t want them using their power to force someone to be with them,” she realized.
“Most of them didn’t take issue with it. My denying their advances, I mean.”
“Too risky, I imagine. If they made a fuss, well, they might get caught.”
She nodded. “One of them tried to press it. Do you remember the survival trainer…Arlaan?”
Borænin arched an eyebrow. “Yes…”
“He…um…is under the old footbridge.”
His eyebrows both shot up. “You killed him?”
Sellynna looked away, chewing on her lip. “Yes?” She sounded less confident now that she had admitted to it.
“Did he deserve it?”
“Then good. If we ever go back, that’s one less file on my desk,” he chuckled. “I am impressed, a lot of people were trying to figure out what happened to him. He lifted her chin with a finger. “Pretty little killer.”
“He tried to force the issue. I might have slit the insides of his thighs for his presumptions.” She was surprised to find him chuckling at that. “You aren’t upset that I killed your most senior survival trainer?”
“Not if he assaulted you,” he replied, waving it off. “I have no patience for such behavior.”
“He didn’t get the chance to do much. And I was in full survival mode. It was my final day so I was not in the best headspace.”
Borænin smiled. “Well, top marks, my dear.” Sellynna lay her head on his lap and he ran his finger along her jaw and up her ear, drawing a shiver from her. “What do you think your reward for such exemplary performance should be,” he whispered.
“Perhaps you would grace me with some of your artistry?”
“Any of it you choose.”
Borænin chuckled. “I think you have other pressure points in need of attention.”
“Your hands on me is a pleasure I cannot capture in words,” she said, the blush that was just beginning to recede flaring anew. She peered up at him, smiling as she noted he cheeks had turned a deep shade of purple. “Well, I think I made us both blush with that.” A tingling sensation swept through her, working its way down. She lifted her head to find his tendril touching hers. She blinked. “That’s new…”
Borænin grinned wide. “The Void is ever revealing new truths, my dear.”
She bowed her head to him. “I am, as ever, humbled by your skills.”
“Are we talking about last evening,” he asked, winking at her.
“Well not just that, but yes,”
Borænin laughed and blew out the candle, leaving only the glow of their violet eyes and pulsing tendrils to light the room.