Borænin sat very still, taking long, measured breaths. He had a hard enough time accepting the plan when Kalithil and Gilræn, gods it was difficult to think that name, had presented it. Then, leaving as he had without allowing Sellynna at his side had only added to the turmoil within himself. The Patriarch had been right though. For safety, having them in separate places was the wisest course of action. He assured him that he would watch over her during this particular mission. Another slow breath. He was trying mightily to project an outward appearance of calm. He was mostly successful.
“Nervous?” came the question, issued forth in a heavily accented bass rumble from the largest draenei Borænin had ever laid eyes on.
“Yes,” he snapped, irritated at himself for letting it show.
The draenei leaned in and said in a conspiratorial whisper, “Others not notice. Not as observant as Sutrakarre.”
Giving the big man a skeptical glance, he answered, “Well, I suppose that is something.”
“Trust Sutrakarre. Sutrakarre is very wise,” he said with grin.
Borænin was about to make a witty retort when his skull split open. At least, that was how it felt. He called out, “It’s him! I am receiving a summons!”
A tall Kal’dorei came bounding up the stairs to the lounge where they had been waiting. He started to ask, “Are you certain,” but then he saw Borænin’s face.
Squinting and holding one hand to his brow, Borænin responded to the aborted question, “Positive.”
“Is it always that painful?”
“No, he is angry. I am surprised at how long he waited, though. We’ve been here half an hour.”
“That is a long wait?”
“The Lord Protector is not known for patience.”
Kalithil scoffed lightly, said, “All right, are you meeting him at your usual place?”
Nodding, Borænin replied, “At the other end of the city. On the terrace I showed you overlooking the merchant’s quarter.”
Kalithil looked at Sutrakarre. “You are prepared? You know your position?”
Sutrakarre nodded gravely and said, “Sutrakarre is ready. No harm will come to Borænin.”
“Very well. Let’s go.”
Borænin walked up the stairs, trying to pretend it was just like all the times before. How many times have I done this? Answered the Lord Protector’s call? He had long ago lost count. He found he was not nearly as frightened as he expected to be. Was he resigned to death, or did he simply trust the Silverthorns to save him? He realized that it didn’t matter why. He was here, and he was about to speak to the Lord Protector the way he had longed to do for centuries. He was actually excited. He was looking forward to seeing the smug, arrogant look drain off that golden face. Grinning, he ascended the final stair and strode out onto the balcony where the Lord Protector awaited him.
As was his habit, the Lord Protector was facing outward over the street, not watching the door. He has to appear as if he is not waiting, that your appearance doesn’t matter, Borænin thought. Asshole. Borænin began this encounter as he always did his audiences with the Lord Protector. He cleared his throat lightly and waited.
The Lord Protector’s shoulders tightened. Borænin observed that his whole body tensed. Without turning, the Lord Protector spoke, “I am disturbed, Borænin.”
Borænin almost answered in his normal obsequious tones, but bit back on the habit and instead chose to let his usual sarcasm rule the day. “I’d say that is a monumental understatement, Your Grace.”
The Lord Protector whirled around. His eyes narrowed and he hissed, “What in fel does that mean?”
“It means that long ago, probably long before I was born, you sailed right past disturbed on to total lunacy.”
The golden face turned red, with a look of utter shock as he cried, “You dare speak to me thus!”
Smirking slightly, Borænin said, “I find myself daring more and more as of late, Your Grace.”
His eyes going wide in disbelief, the Lord Protector growled through clenched teeth, “So Sulime was telling the truth.”
“Oh, I am sure that she told you nothing but truth, Your Grace. She is a dutiful servant, more’s the pity,” Borænin replied in an openly condescending tone. He then smirked and added, “That reminds me, do give her my most heartfelt apologies for the trial she suffered. It was an unfortunate necessity.”
The Lord Protector gaped at him in frank incredulity. His mouth opened and closed a few time before he managed to croak out the words, “You have gone mad.”
“Regardless, Your Grace, I have but one purpose here today.”
“And that is?”
“To inform you that this is the last summons of yours I will ever answer. I am done with you.”
The Lord Protector’s eyes almost bulged from his head. In a guttural whisper he hissed, “That…that Novice. Somehow, she did something to you. I will find her and I will…”
His threats were cut off abruptly as Borænin, much to his own surprise, let fly a punishing backhand blow across to the Lord Protector’s face. The Lord Protector reeled, staggered back several steps from the strike of Borænin’s gauntleted hand. Borænin stood resolute, and spoke in a low, threatening voice, “You will never touch her.”
The Lord Protector was stunned a moment, unable to process the indignity of an assault on his person. It took very little time, however, for rage to overtake him again. He raised his hands, a blue nimbus of elemental ice gathering between them.
Calm, resigned, and dignified to the end, Borænin pulled himself up to his full height, his eyes never leaving those of his for master. Inwardly he thought, This is it. This is how I die. Closing his eyes he mused, It was worth it. For her.
Before the sorcerous blow landed, he felt the tingle of arcane energies surround his body. Snapping his eyes open, he saw a brief moment of shocked confusion on the Lord Protector’s face, then a blue-violet flash seared his eyes. He had just enough presence of mind to speak before the room around him dissolved away, “Goodbye, Gilræn.” When the spots cleared, he stood in a room not far from the terrace, the draenei paladin Sutrakarre looming over him with a worried look.
“Borænin is unhurt, yes?” asked the paladin.
“Y-yes,” he replied, shaking his head to clear the spots, “But the Lord Protector was attacking. It could be dangerous there.”
“Is in Kalithil’s hands now. Kalithil will prevail.”
“How can you be sure?”
With an enormous grin, the big draenei answered, “Sutrakarre is very wise.”
Back on the terrace, the violet flash of arcane puissance faded. The golden magnificence of the Lord Protector’s face turn to ash as a figure emerged from the arcane torrent. Tall, even for a Kal’dorei, and decked head to toe in blue and gold, a ghost from another life stepped forward to confront him. So shocked was he that he stumbled backwards and fell, landing unceremoniously on his toned backside. He could only look up and stare as the man before him removed his helm, revealing a face the Lord Protector knew all too well. The face that haunted his nightmares to this very day. Suddenly he shrieked, in rage and terror, letting loose the icy blast he had summoned to hand. The crystals of frost raced out, only to be swatted aside with a mere gesture from the Kal’dorei before him.
Kalithil laughed aloud at the ease of turning aside the Lord Protector’s frigid bolt. He spoke in low, sonorous tones, mocking, “This is the sublime Lord Protector? A child would be more dangerous.” The Lord Protector made no answer, simply gaping at the apparition, unable to comprehend how easily his attack had been thwarted. “Well, boy? Nothing to say? Very well, if you will not speak, you will listen.” The Quel’dorei before him simply sat, slack-jawed and unresponsive, as Kalithil went on, “Your time is over, boy. I have had your rift disrupted, and you are trapped here. Your continued…” Kalithil’s voice trailed off. Something seemed wrong to him. By all accounts, the pathetic creature before him should have been in a towering rage. Instead he sat motionless, his eyes glazed over and empty.
Raising one hand, Kalithil whispered an arcane word. The blue gem set in the staff he carried on his back flared slightly, and to his eyes, the world changed. He saw flows of arcane energy everywhere, swirling and pooling together, creating currents and tides that washed over, around, and through everything. Those currents did not react to the Lord Protector as they should, not as if he was a living thing. Concentrating, Kalithil saw them. Lines of force, like the strings of a puppet, stretched away far into the distance. This was not the Lord Protector. It was an arcane construct. Kalithil began to laugh, an almost insane cackle that echoed through the streets of Dalaran.
“A doppelgänger!” he roared. “You are such a coward you do not even come yourself!” With a spasm, life seem to return to the construct. Scrambling backwards, the now-revealed simulacra of the Lord Protector made to flee. Before he had made two steps, arcane bands whipped out and wrapped him ‘round. Kalithil went on, “It seems I’ve found your secret, boy. No doubt when you treacherously murdered my counterpart in your world, you pillaged his library as well. The source of your vaunted power! My work!”
Spitting with rage and struggling against the arcane bonds, the Lord Protector shrieked, “I didn’t just kill you, old man. I erased you!!”
“You erased him, stripling, I am still here.” Narrowing his eyes, Kalithil exerted his will on the arcane bands holding the doppelgänger, causing them to constrict. The duplicate began to scream as the bands squeezed him. Laughing, Kalithil commented, “Is this the pain of the facsimile, or do you feel it, boy?” Before the counterfeit Lord Protector could reply, the air beneath him shimmered and it seemed a rupture in space appeared, black, edged with searing violet. The doppelgänger fell through, tumbling into the void. Kalithil cursed and lunged for the ebon tear, but it snapped shut the moment the doppelgänger was through. Shrugging, Kalithil said, “We’ll find you again, boy, have no doubt.”
In the sewers beneath the city, Sulime the Void Ranger caught the Lord Protector as he fell through the short-range rift she had summoned. She tore at the arcane bands, using her special skills to banish the magic that held him. He lay unmoving. She pulled him close, holding and rocking him as if he were a child.
How long she held him she had no idea. Without warning, his body stiffened and convulsed. Before she could call his name, a blast of ice threw her backwards, slamming her against the far stone wall of the sewer. Shaking her head, she saw the Lord Protector approach, glowering down at her.
“Since when can you open a rift, Sulime?” he demanded.
“Most of the void rangers can do it, Your Grace,” she replied weakly, “But only short range, less than 50 spans, and we cannot hold them open for more than a few moments.”
“You kept this from me?”
Stunned, Sulime replied, “I..I assumed you knew, Your Grace, you created us…”
The Lord Protector cuffed her hard across the cheek, bellowing, “Of course I knew! Do not presume to educate me, you worthless thing!” Leaning in close, he hissed in her face, “And never dare to think I am so weak that I require rescue from the likes of you.”
“But, Your Grace…”
He slapped her again. And then again, to be sure she would remain silent. Turning away, he spoke with a disgusted tone, “Now take me out of this filthy place. And you can be sure you will be bathing me later, to wash the stench of this gutter away.”
Sulime resumed her feet, leading him up and out of the sewers. She rubbed her bruised cheek, but sighed with relief that her master was unharmed. With a spring in her step, she anticipated his bath that evening.