Borænin climbed the steps of the inn, his boots making a slight scuffing sound as they dragged across the wooden planks. The door to her room was open and he spied her sitting at the small table. The plate before her looked reasonably fresh and she held the fork above it, yet she did not appear interested in it at all. He leaned on the doorframe, silently admiring her as she pushed the food around on her plate. “Sellynna,” he called, his voice barely above a whisper.
Sellynna turned, her whole body relaxing at the sight of him. She stood, smiling, until she took in his weary, ashen face. All traces of mirth left her, her expression shifting to concern. “What is it, Dear One? Come in. Sit.” She had received word that he had survived, he was safe, but little else. She took his hand in her own and led him over to the chair. He slumped into it and looked down at his left hand. He closed it into a fist and then flexed his fingers repeatedly.
The woman looked him over carefully. “Borænin?”
“I hit him,” he whispered.
Borænin blinked a few times before looking her in the eye. “I hit him. Backhanded him right across the face.”
Sellynna’s purple eyes flew open wide. “Borænin why would you dare such a thing”
“He threatened you…” The Hierarch looked on her with such intensity. “He said he was going to find you, and I struck him across the mouth and told him he would never touch you.”
She lifted his hand to her face and kissed his fingers gently, drawing giggles from the man. “Did I tickle you,” she asked, pulling back.
Borænin couldn’t help but snicker. “No…” He smiled at her concerned face, almost as though he were unaware of her worries. “I slapped the Lord Protector,” he said, his giggling becoming ever more manic.
“Borænin? What…why are you laughing? This is bad,” she exclaimed.
He laughed aloud. doubling over in his chair. “You should have seen his face! He couldn’t believe it!”
“I’m having trouble believing it!”
“It wasn’t a little slap either, he staggered back several steps, almost fell over.” Borænin relaxed, sighing with a smile on his face. “Shadows, it felt good, Sellynna.” The man sat up straight once again and glanced over to find a stricken expression on her face, causing him to blink. “What’s wrong?” His voice was soft, careful.
‘You hit him. Over me. He’s….Borænin…he’s going to come after us even harder now!” There was a edge to the words, panic beginning to set in. She settled onto the floor in front of him, still holding his hand.
Borænin giggled. “Let him. I’m not afraid of him. He’s…weak, Sellynna,” he said with confidence.
“What do you mean he’s weak?”
Borænin laughed brightly. “After he recovered from being bitch-slapped, he raised his hands to cast a spell. He was enraged. The look in his eyes said it all, he was going to destroy me.” Sellynna gasped.“Kalithil did his little trick,” the Hierarch continued, giggling. “And the Lord Protector cast his spell at Kalithil. Want to know what happened?” He watched as she shook her head. “You don’t want to know?”
“Please…please don’t tell me he killed Kalithil.”
Again, that mirthful laugh erupted from him. “He cast the spell, and Kalithil made a gesture, barely a flick of one finger!” He demonstrated with his own hand. “And dismissed it! Dispelled it! Like it was nothing!”
Sellynna’s mouth fell open. “He what?”
“Like it was nothing, Sellynna. And…” he laughed again. “That’s not even the best part.” Borænin related Kalithil’s account of the confrontation, giggling throughout like a child that had stolen the cookies without being caught. His novice listened, her eyes growing wider with each bit of information revealed.
“So he isn’t here? We aren’t in any danger?”
“The real one isn’t here, no. But don’t you see? Do you see what it means?”
“That we are free of him,” she whispered.
“More than that, my dearest.” He placed a hand on her shoulder. “He’s…weak. He’s so weak, such a coward, that he sends out a…copy. You realize that he may never go anywhere? I may have never stood in his actual presence! Every time I ever met him it might have been one of these doppelgängers.”
Sellynna placed her head in her hands and started weeping openly. “He’s nothing,” Borænin whispered after a few moments. He squeezed her shoulder gently. “Just a fraud who got lucky. Kalithil said the frost bolt he threw might have given me a chill.”
Sellynna took a few carefully measured breaths and looked up at him, her tear streaked face relieved beyond words.
“The Patriarch said we can leave here whenever we wish. We should be careful, Sulime is still out there, probably endlessly loyal to him, but we are free.”
“I wasn’t sure it would happen…ever.”
“The danger is not entirely over, we must remain vigilant,” he reminded her. “But he is not a vengeful god, Sellynna. He is a vengeful child.”
“But what of the doppelgänger?”
“We will find him and deal with him.The Silverthorns are pledged to help.” He let his hand slip from her shoulder, offering a gentle smile.
“You’re safe…” she said, nodding slowly. “Thank the Shadows, you’re safe.”
“You know…I almost wish Kalithil’s spell had failed.”
Sellynna blinked. “Only now that you know that the bolt wouldn’t have killed you, right,” she asked, offering him a sharp look.
“Of course,” he grinned out. “To see his face when his bolt barely scratched me.”
“Perhaps the next time we see him, we can let him try.” she offered with a shrug. “If only so he doesn’t feel like he died without taking a shot. Or…the doppelgänger did?” Borænin giggled. Sellynna scratched her head. “I’m very confused.”
“From what Kalithil told me, he casts his mind into the body of the doppelgänger, controlling it. He feels what it feels. When Kalithil hurt the thing, he felt it,” Borænin explained. “That’s why it seemed to go…catatonic. He had retreated from it. I imagine he will be avoiding Dalaran for a while.” He scratched his chin, thoughtful.
“Back to Silvermoon?
“Shit.” She sat back on her heels with a heavy sigh.
“We must send word back home, Sellynna. We will send messages through the rift, tell them the truth,” he said with quiet firmness.
“Would they even believe us? I’m no one,” she replied.
“Someone will. I am the Hierarch, members of the order will believe. What happens to him if the order stops supporting him?”
“Then it’s best you do it,” she offered. “I wouldn’t even be able to get someone to believe you looked at me twice.”
“I’ve looked a lot more than twice, my Novice.” He offered her a sly wink and cupped her cheek.
Sellynna cheeks filled with color. “I am very glad you did, My Hierarch.” She nuzzled into his hand and kissed his palm.
Borænin sighed happily. “As am I.”
“To answer your question, it is very possible he would kill anyone who showed rebellion.”
“He would try, but he can’t kill everyone, my dear, and if word reaches the other races…”
She nodded. “Who would be most willing to accept this? Who within the order?”
“Not my Second, he is a backstabbing climber who will be only too happy to take my office,” he said, almost impressed. He lowered his hand, but not before trailing his fingers over her pewter hair.
“Which is why he was your Second,” she quipped. Her purple eyes hooded slightly at his silent attentions.
“But those beneath him? How many more are like you, Sellynna? Not truly loyal to the Lord Protector.” Borænin grinned, her blush creeping up her ears. Even the tip of her tendril betrayed a hint of the intensity of what she felt in that moment. It flicked, just for a moment, before settling back into place. “A Tyrant like him breeds rebels, and they strike as soon as they come to realize they are not alone,” he continued.
“But we need a few there for that to happen. Because we cannot assist,” she countered.
“There will be more than a few, my dear, you may count on it. His most trusted servant was just waiting for the opportunity, after all.” Sellynna smiled and laid her head on his knee. “Oh, I almost forgot…” he said with a grin. “My final words to him.”
“What were they?” Her head rose from his lap to watch him.
Sellynna covered her mouth, gasping, wide-eyed. “You didn’t!”
“I did!” He laughed aloud. “I know him well, Sellynna. Denying his title will enrage more than everything else.”
“I think I need to find Sutrakarre. You have well and truly lost it, my love.”
Borænin laughed. “Sutrakarre, I’ll have you know, thought it was delightful. He has little use for tyrants and those who hold power through false pretenses.”
She tipped her head to the side. “Sounds like the two of you have been talking.”
“Only a little, there is something in his past. I do not know details.”
Sellynna nodded, letting a contented sigh escape as she placed her head back into his lap. “This is far better news than I expected tonight. I admit, I was fearing the worst.”
Borænin smiled faintly. “I am sorry you were worried.” He quietly ran his fingers over her hair.
“How could I not be? The one who carries my heart was going off to face the man I fear more than anything,” she whispered.
Borænin put a hand to the side of her face. “Not anymore.”
“Not anymore,” she repeated with a nod. “I had my meeting with Eliân while you were gone.” She picked at the cuff of his trousers.
“Hmm…you seem nervous.”
“The Patriarch indicated that she cannot be impressed. That she is immune to it,” she explained. “And that she will not like me, because she does not like anyone. So I did the best I could to have her at the very least, accept me. I will find a way to make my skills help people, if I can Dalah’surfal.”
“Just be wary, my dearest. These Silverthorns…they are good people, I believe, but also ruthless,” he cautioned. “This Realm is a place of strange contrasts. They may take us in, but I have a feeling they will watch us closely for a long time.” He slumped slightly, most would never have even noticed, and let out a sigh that carried such weight.
Sellynna took his hand, weaving their fingers together. “Let them watch. I care only that you are safe.” She sat up and peered up at him. Her free hand came up and gently pushed a lock of hair from his face. “I would take all of this from you. The pain, the guilt…all of it,” she murmured.
“It means more than to me than you can imagine that you say that, my dearest.”
She smiled faintly. “What can I do to help you?”
“Just…” he whispered. “Try to understand how difficult all of this is, how much I bear on my shoulders.”
Sellynna rested a hand on the side of his head. “Let me have some of it. You don’t have to carry it all.”
Borænin sighed his head lowering. “What do you want to know?”
“Anything you wish to share.” Sellynna pushed off her boots and peeled off her socks. She wiggled her toes a little, trying to get comfortable. Borænin glanced down staring at the bare skin, then forced his eyes to her face. Sellynna blushed, but said nothing as she tucked her feet under herself to avoid distraction, causing him to blush in turn. “I know there is more than what you have shared with me.
Borænin sighed. “It’s really just more of the same. It is not one specific, or a few specific incidents, it is the volume. I helped him subjugate and exploit so many worlds.”
Sellynna furrowed her brow. “Do you think it might help if you were to document them? Put down the things about them that were remarkable. So they are never truly lost.”
The pained expression on his face spoke volumes to her. “None of it was recorded, my dearest, and I don’t remember very much. We didn’t study them,” he said quietly. “He would not take the time. He wanted their riches, their resources, and their magical knowledge if they had any.”
“He is a fool.”
“Worse than a fool. A fool could be ignored, and do little harm.” His voice fell to a whisper. “He is a monster. And I was the monster’s keeper.”
“And soon, you will bring an end to him,” she offered consolingly.
Borænin shrugged. “It is unlikely to be me that does it.”
“Bringing his end doesn’t necessarily mean you deal the blow. You provide the leverage, the insight, the information. You give the ones that can what they need to strike.” Borænin nodded in agreement as she spoke. “Sometimes the critical piece is knowing where and when. The how is often irrelevant,” she said, winking at him.
“Are you quoting my writings back to me?”
“I am,” she answered. Borænin chuckled though there was a sadness in his eyes. “I know, that is going to get old. We’ll find a way to build something here…” she started to say, pausing at the look on his face. She tipped her head to the side as he offered her a sly smile. “What’s that look for?”
“How well do you know all of the teachings?”
“I can recite most of it verbatim.”
Borænin laughed. “Of course you can. The teacher’s pet,” he added, grinning.
“Not until very recently,” she argued. “More like the teacher’s mirror.”
“The teacher’s salvation,” he said quietly. Sellynna blushed and looked at her knees. “I was just thinking, building the Order was my life’s work…all of it will be lost.”
“I don’t think I can write it all down fast enough to be of value,” she said with a shrug. “There’s too much.”
“You don’t have to,” he stated. He chuckled as her face shifted to confusion. “Kalithil’s wife, the blue-haired one. She is a scribe, a very gifted one.”
“That too,” she asked incredulously.
Borænin furrowed his brow. “What?”
“Something Kalithil said. The runes? The ones on his table that don’t exist?”
“Ah, I see. Well, leave it to a scribe to discover new runes, I suppose,” he said, not fully understanding why this was brought up.
“My love, creating entirely new runes is not simply done. And he…ok, do not tell him I said this. He said that she is probably more skilled than he is,” she whispered, causing his eyebrows to shoot up. “He said he would erase my memories if I were to share that with anyone.”
Borænin took several moments to consider this. “…was he serious?”
“I have no idea and I really hope I never find out.”
He smiled. “My Novice is wise beyond her years.”
Sellynna flushed a deep purple. “I thank you, My Hierarch.”
Borænin chuckled lightly. “You are quite adorable when you receive praise.”
Sellynna looked at the floor, her ears turning purple. “I am unused to it.” Her hair tumbled out of place, covering her features.
He reached down, pushing it back once again before lifting her chin with a finger. “Get used to it, my dearest.”
Her breath caught and she kept her eyes from meeting his. “That may take some time. The closest thing I received to praise was lack of punishment.”
“I have complete faith in you.”
“You are the Hierarch, isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?”
“And yet, here we are, and I sit here looking at the face that gave me the courage to challenge an empire.”
Sellynna blushed down her neck. “I did nothing. I simply told you how I felt.” Though she knew in her heart that there was far more to it than that.
Borænin leaned in and kissed her forehead. “My brilliant and beautiful Novice Sellynna.” He watched as the color in her face darkened dramatically before she managed to hide it in her hands. He chuckled softly.
“You’re doing it on purpose!” Her declaration was muffled by her gloves.
“I am,” he admitted, grinning wide. “I love watching you turn that color. I am uncertain of the reasons, I just know I do.”
Sellynna peered at him between her fingers, smiling. “I love you, Borænin,” she whispered. She slowly lowered her hands back to her lap.
“And I love you, Sellynna,” he answered. He grinned at her as she sighed happily, reached up, and started to tug off his gloves. “Especially that thing you do with your mouth.” The smile on his face spread ever wider, knowing exactly what was coming.
Sellynna’s face turned nearly black, she stood up, and moved to the bed, burying her face in the pillow. She screamed incoherently into the soft fabric. “You’re killing me! I have no defense for this!”
“Then surrender,” he said, his soft tenor cutting through to her soul. He rose to his feet and walked towards her, his movements almost predatory.
The Novice turned to watch him. “I am already yours, what is left?”
“I suppose that depends,” he replied, pulling off his gloves. He flexed his fingers as she chewed on her lower lip. He removed the staff from his back and set it against the wardrobe. “On what you are holding back.” He pulled the tabard over his head, laid it over the back of the chair, and began to unbutton his vest.
Sellynna’s breath quickened in anticipation. “I have not held anything back from you.” Borænin watched her with a practiced eye. She started to loosen the laces on her dress.
Borænin pulled off his vest and shirt. The void scars that spread over his skin, blooming from various points, seemed to almost pull her eyes in. The deep purple of them was as intoxicating as the void itself could be. She whimpered, her eyes drinking him in. “Is something wrong, my dear,” he asked softly.
She shook her head, her attention returning to his face. “No, Dalah’surfal. But seeing you like this…I still sometimes cannot believe it.” Sellynna pushed the dress from her shoulders, letting it fall and pool on the bed around her. Borænin gasped lightly as her skin became exposed. Her own scars were more extensive, but a lighter shade than his own. He studied every inch of her, his eyes growing to a deeper purple. “Did you not want me to…” she grabbed the fingertips of a glove between her teeth and pulled it off slowly.
Something guttural escaped the Hierarch and he pushed off his boots. “I don’t want you to stop.” Borænin unclasped his belt, letting it fall to the floor. The heavy buckle that bore the Void gem caused a loud thud. There was a hunger in his eyes as he pushed his trousers off. “What does my Novice wish of me?”
Sellynna slipped off her undergarments and laid back on the bed. She took a sharp breath in. “Anything my Hierarch will give. I am his.”
“I will give my Novice everything,” he told her, pulling off his briefs. “For I am hers.” A tendril snapped out from beneath his hair and slammed the door to the inner chamber of their room closed.