Sellynna had wandered the district for a while, ordering her notes in her mind before her weekly meeting with the Hierarch. He had tasked her to watch the young tailor, and the events of that morning had been unusual to say the least. She turned the corner and spotted him sitting partway up the ramp that led to the portal nexus. She adjusted her tabard, making sure everything sat properly before she deigned approach him.
“Hierarch,” she called up as she stepped within his line of sight. He blinked and glanced down at her. “Shall I come up there, Sir?”
He peered at her a minute, looking much like a man who had no idea where he was. Shortly after, he blinked again, realizing who had spoken. “Oh. Hello, my dear. No. No, I’ll come down.” Sellynna tugged her scarf from her face and folded it neatly, placing it in her pocket. Borænin stepped from the ledge, floating down gently to the ground. The young Novice bowed before him which he returned.
Eyeing her up and down, a faint smile graced the corners of his lips. “You have acquired part of your dress uniform,” he noted.
She nodded. “Yes, it came through last night. Some of it was, however, damaged. I attempted to find pieces that at least matched the colors for now.” She indicated the sleeves and her belt which bore a slightly different hue from his own. “I don’t think the damage was accidental either.”
“It was sent through the rift?” He frowned deeply. “Highly irregular. Nothing should be sent through after the fact without express orders.”
“I think the Warrant Officer is still trying to cause me issues,” she muttered.
“The poor fool has no idea what awaits him.”
Sellynna grinned wide. “Either way, I hope this is acceptable.”
“It will do,” he replied. She bowed to him in appreciation. “And should an issue arise, we can always lay it at his door.”
“Well I certainly didn’t ask for a torn shirt and a belt that wouldn’t close.”
The Hierarch smiled faintly. “No doubt,” he murmured.
The woman looked him over carefully. “Something is off about you this evening. Has an issue come up?”
He furrowed his brow and hesitated. “I really suppose that depends on where one is standing, my dear. Come,” he gestured towards the outdoor patio of the small tavern. “Let us find somewhere to sit. I feel a strong desire to remain out in the air this evening.” She nodded and stepped ahead of him to find a clean table. As she located one, she pulled a seat out in preparation for him to sit as he nearly slumped into the one opposite. “So, Sellynna,” he asked almost absently. “Do you have anything new to report?”
She nodded, pulling out her notes. “The young tailor showed up for work this morning and left rather abruptly.”
He arched a long, violet eyebrow. “Any insight as to why this occurred?”
“Well,” she offered. “I followed her. She went and met with a man and paid six months rent on a vacant shop overlooking the memorial fountains.” Borænin looked across the square at the ramp into Larson’s Clothiers. “It sounded to me like she and someone else intend to open their own business.”
“There is an inordinate amount of drama surrounding that little shop over there, isn’t there?” He indicated the door.
“The human woman made a rather horrible sound as Lady Niquisse left.”
“When we were there, ordering your gown, I did notice a surplus of tension in the place.”
“As did I.”
He gestured for her to continue. “Is there anything else?”
“She showed up at the shop with a guard of sorts. I think I heard her refer to him as Gerald. He went with her everywhere. Kept very close to her and she seemed quite uncomfortable walking about the city.” She traced a nail along the carved graffiti in the table top. “Have you had any luck?”
Borænin blinked. He started to laugh ruefully but it built until it took on a slightly hysterical edge. Sellynna watched him carefully, concern growing on her features. “Once again, I suppose that depends on where you are standing, my dear.” He gazed at her, speculatively.
“If you will forgive me, Hierarch,” she started with great care, “if I am to serve you, I need to know what you would have me do.”
He sighed, placing his hands, fingers spread wide down slowly onto the table. “There’s a couple of things I’d like to share with you, my dear. But I am slightly hesitant.” He scratched his chin thoughtfully. “I have yet to report them to the Lord Protector, and he doesn’t generally like to be informed second. Can I rely on your discretion?”
“It is yours, absolutely.”
He eyed her for a moment more. “Hmm…very well. Two nights ago, I had a very illuminating encounter.”
“Oh? With whom?”
“I was seated not far from here when I saw what could only be a Silverthorn enter yonder tailoring emporium.” He gestured to Larson’s again.
“Truly,” she asked, surprised.
He nodded. “I tried to shadow her. I confess I thought I was being sufficiently discreet but she realized quite easily that she was being followed.”
“Hmm, Perhaps she is simply sensitive?”
“Or well trained,” he countered. “At any rate, she left the shop and went into this very tavern. When I walked in after, she called me out. Publicly.”
“Oh my. How did you handle it?” She leaned in, listening intently.
“Only way I could,” he chuckled. “She called me over, so I went. We talked for some time. I gave her the same name I used with the Lady Niquisse and made myself out as a scholar studying the various diasporas of the elven people.”
“And was she? A Silverthorn.”
“Oh yes, she very much was. Not merely a descendant of that bloodline, but a claimant to the name.”
“So it’s true. They thrive,” she commented.
“One might say, yes.” He chuckled ruefully. Sellynna waved a server over and ordered herself her usual glass of milk along with a slice of pie. She indicated that he should order as well. The Hierarch smiled faintly. “Do you ever drink anything with more kick, my dear?” He requested a glass of bourbon and the server nodded and walked away.
“What is that,” she asked curiously, avoiding his question. “Bourbon?”
“A liquor. Straight from the mouth of the Old Gods.”
“And you drink this on purpose?”
He chuckled at her. “I find the after effect to be rather pleasant.”
“Oh…” she looked thoughtful. “Should I try some?”
Borænin arched an eyebrow, stroking his short, perfectly groomed beard. “Have you ever even drunk wine, my dear?”
“It made me giggle a bit too much, according to the other Novices…oh no..” she covered her mouth, realizing her mistake.
He chuckled. “You think I am not aware that that rule is broken from time to time? It is always about at your rank, my dear. Though if it continued beyond, then adjustments would need to be made.” She flushed, embarrassed for admitting her fault. She shrank for the briefest of moments before replacing her placid expression of control. “Perhaps you should wait on bourbon, then.”
“All right,” she replied meekly.
“So this Silverthorn girl. She was friendly enough, if a bit cagey. She regarded me with some lingering suspicions despite my cover story. Why I cannot say. Perhaps it is a family trait.” He drummed the table with his fingers once. “She did let slip a few things, however.”
She nodded. “Things we might find useful?”
He barked out a laugh. “Would you say the fact that Kalithil Silverthorn lives is useful to us?” He watched her reaction carefully as her mouth fell open. “She was his daughter, unless she lied.”
“The one you told me of,” she asked. “The one we are not supposed to speak about? But…how? And she is…” She furrowed her brow, trying to make sense of it.
“Yes, that one,” he confirmed. “The real Progenitor.”
It took her a few minutes to absorb this information. “If I may, what does this mean for us?”
Borænin took a deep breath. “I am not yet sure. It is a first.”
Her hand came up as she rested her elbow on the table. Closing her fingers most of the way, she rested them against her lips, thinking quietly. “Well,” she said finally, “I suppose if this is the mission I was sent on to likely die, at least I will make the historical records.”
He chuckled, shaking his head lightly at her once again mentioning her death. “If I,” he started before coughing suddenly. He blinked away the urge for his eyes to go wide. “That is to say, when, I inform the Lord Protector, it may precipitate…well… fury of a type I have difficulty describing.” Sellynna gaped at him. He tipped his head to the side, surprised by her sudden break in the proper facade. “What is it,” he prompted.
He furrowed his brow. “What do you mean?”
“You said if,” she pointed out. “I would not judge you. You know how best to speak to him.”
“I have not before,” he sighed out.
“But you are considering it now,” she asked in hushed tones. Her eyes carefully monitored the people surrounding them, watching for any who might appear to be listening too closely. He stared at her, swallowing hard. She held up a hand with the intention of telling him that he need to explain himself.
“Perhaps,” he responded quietly.
“May I have permission to speak,” she asked cautiously.
He tipped his head to one side. “Go ahead.”
She looked around one last time before meeting his eyes. “I don’t give a rat’s ass about what the Lord Protector wants,” she hissed out. “I serve you because the life I have with the Order is thanks to you. Not him.” Borænin looked slightly alarmed, his eyes darting back and forth. “So if you say we do X,” she continued. “Then we do X. Because serving him, I will never be good enough. I will simply be dead.”
“Dear child,” he murmured. “It would be worth your life if those words reached him.”
She nodded. “And I am hoping that I did not misplace my trust. I gave the words to you. Do with them what you will.” She brought her arms together, and rested them one above the other on the table.
“Let me tell you why,” he started before catching himself. “Well, one reason why, I am considering keeping him in the dark about Kalithil’s existence here.” She gestured for him to continue as she listened intently. “Many years ago, we opened the way to a new Realm, not so unusual by itself, but this Realm was very different from our own, or even this one. Like this Realm, the Silverthorns had survived. In fact, they spread far and wide, forming their own schism from the elven root, they called themselves the Tel’dorei.”
Sellynna nodded to the server delivering their orders. Reaching into a pouch at her hip, she retrieved some coins which she dropped into the server’s hand. He smiled and walked away. “So they held themselves apart,” she asked curiously.
“As much as the Quel’dorei and Kal’dorei do here and at home,” he explained. Sellynna sipped her milk thoughtfully, waiting for him to continue. “The Kalithil of that Realm had long since passed. But his descendants worshipped him as a god. He was held in the same esteem as Elune.”
She blinked rapidly. “That’s rather disturbing. It’s as though the Lord Protector’s position was raised even higher.”
He nodded, getting a far away look in his eyes. “The Lord Protector’s fury at learning it cannot be described in words…” he said quietly, trailing off.
Sellynna touched his hand lightly. Leaning in a little, she spoke to him gently. “Hierarch? Are you all right?”
His eyes suddenly locked on hers, the look behind them intense. “He ordered me to destroy it.”
“The world. The Realm.” His voice was still and calm, though there was pain behind it. Sellynna gasped. “I opened rifts and let the Void have it,” he told her.
“Gods below…” she whispered.
“Indeed they were,” he confirmed.
“Please,” she began. “If I am permitted a request, do not tell him.”
He ran his hands into his hair from forehead, stopping to rest his face in them. “I am a coward, Sellynna,” he whispered. “I have walked the razor’s edge for so very long.”
How do I even begin to help with this? She thought quickly, managing to come up with what she hoped was a good response. “That does not make you a coward. It makes you a survivor.”
“Is there a difference?” He brought his hands down to his neck, fixing his hair before bringing his hand together, resting them against his lips.
She smiled gently. “One runs from everything. The other turns away from things that will mean certain death.”
Borænin sighed and waved it away. “Enough philosophy. The point is, I am on the horns of a dilemma.”
“As I can see. How can I help?”
“I do not yet know,” he replied. “The true danger here is that Sulime will discover this on her own. She will not hesitate to tell him.” He slowly spun the glass between his fingers, not really aware of his actions.
“She wants to keep her place,” she conceded. “She acted with me as if she were almost his second. Like she held a seat at his side.”
“She does hold that delusion,” he chuckled.
“And where does she actually stand?” She broke off a bite of pie with her fork and put it in her mouth. She chewed it slowly, as one who often savored food when given the opportunity.
He tilted his head to one side. “Why, the same as any of us, my dear. A tool he will use and discard on a whim.” His eyes regarded her, thoughtful. “No doubt you believe my own position is more secure, perhaps more favored?”
“Is it not?”
He sighed. “I suppose in some ways it could be said to be so, but in others…it merely provides me with opportunities for more spectacular failures.”
“And yet, you survive,” she commented with a little smirk playing at her lips.
“The Lord Protector indulges me in small ways, but do not doubt for a moment he would kill me out of hand if something irked him. I have not yet failed, nor have I ever defied him,” he warned her.
“Child…” she muttered.
Borænin’s eyebrows shot up. “Hmm?”
“Oh…Nothing, nothing.” She took another sip from her glass to avoid answering further.
“Speak your mind, my dear,” he instructed. “We are far down the path now.”
Sellynna looked down at the table, doing everything in her power to prevent herself from shaking. Her voice became soft, nervous. “He acts like a spoiled child.”
He laughed aloud, drawing a look of bewilderment from her. “Oh that!” He chuckled again. “Well, yes, obviously.”
“This toy doesn’t amuse me properly, so I will throw it in the fire.”
“Except we are the toys.”
Sellynna nodded, the subject obviously one she wanted to have, but it was apparent that it made her very uncomfortable. “Why does his bloodline mean so very little?”
“You know, I truly wish I could meet this Kalithil,” he muttered. “Just tell him what I think of the child he raised.”
“But this isn’t the one he raised,” she reminded him gently.
He shrugged. “Surely this one has something in common with the other.”
“Must he,” she asked genuinely. “The Lady Niquisse here bears almost no resemblance to the Lady Isse. Not in power, nor in bearing.”
His smile faded, shifting into a full scowl. “Stop making sense, damn you,” he snapped.
Sellynna shrank back in her seat, trying to make herself small. “I’m sorry,” she offered pleadingly.
Damn… He took a breath and waved it away. “Do not be frightened, my dear. I am an old man forced to face his own cowardice. My mood is understandably foul.”
“Perhaps you should drink your,” she paused, trying to remember the name. “Whatever it was you called it.”
“Bourbon,” he corrected. “And that is the kind of sense you can keep talking.” He lifted the glass and took a long pull on the golden liquid within. He swallowed and coughed, his eyes watering.
Sellynna looked completely confused. “Is it bad?”
He laughed through his tears. “Wanna try it?” He held the glass out to her.
The Novice looked at the glass, then back up at him, clearly confused. She accepted the glass and sniffed at the contents. Borænin sat back and watched her, grinning. She brought it to her lips, tipped it back and took a sip. She immediately turned a little green and started coughing violently.
Borænin laughed far too loudly, drawing the attention of the other people nearby. “I warned you,” he teased, laughing even more.
She set the glass down and gasped. “That’s…why would…I think I am going to be sick.”
“Just give it a moment,” he reassured her. He watched as her features went weird and glassy. She pushed the glass across the table back to Borænin. “Well,” he asked.
“My face feels hot,” she commented, her hands touching her cheeks.
“Annnnd?” She giggled at him. “There it is,” he responded with a wide grin. Sellynna giggled again before covering her mouth with her right hand. “Looks like those other novices weren’t wrong.” He winked at her as her cheeks filled with color before throwing back another swig of bourbon. He coughed airily.
Her eyes went wide before she busted out laughing. “Maybe not so much at once?”
“Don’t lookit me like that…” he slurred out. “I drinksh all the time. I got a higher toler..tol.. I c’n hannl more.” He waved his finger it her, spilling his drink a little which brought a pout to his lips.
“Oh dear,” she giggled. “His Lordship the Hierarch is drunk.”
“Bullshit,” he muttered. Smiling wide, he set the glass down in front of him. “I can’t be drunk. I gots too much dign…dig… I’m too fancy.” Sellynna burst into a fit of uncontrolled giggles. Borænin pointed his index finger down into his glass. “Ye want one?”
“Can I just share yours?”
“What if I don’ wanna share?”
She reached out for his glass, teasing. “Maybe I’ll take some then!”
“Insubordination,” he yelled a little too loudly.
Sellynna leaned over the table, offering him a sympathetic, if mischievous look. “Awww, how can I make it up to you?”
Borænin blinked. “Careful, little girl,” he cautioned.
“Of what,” she teased, giggling a bit more.
“I’m a mean old man. Never know what I might do,” he replied in low, slightly sinister tones, though his eyes were anything but. He slid the glass across the wood towards her.
“And I have the ability to summon daggers of pure Void.”
“Not talkin’ ‘bout Void stuff, girl.” She picked up the glass and took another sip. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she fought against the cough building in her throat. He giggled at her. “Lightweight.”
She pushed the glass back to him. “Yes. You are so mean that you call me barely offensive names…”
Borænin took another drink, much smaller this time. “Offensive? What’s offensive?” He pushed the glass back to her.
“I’m not a lightweight…” she replied in an almost whining tone.
“Pffft,” he waved it off. “Ye took two little sips. Giggling like a little girl.”
She lifted the glass and looked at the contents nervously. She smiled faintly and took a much larger sip. She started coughing and wheezing, choking on her words as she spoke. “Yes. Yes, you were.”
He stared at her, wide-eyed. “Yer gonna lose that pie ye ate.”
“Not me. I ain’t eaten nothin’.”
“No wonder…” she sighed.
He waved it away. “Don’t want anything gettin’ in the way o’ the drinks.” Sellynna frowned at him. “Why ye makin’ that sour face?”
“I don’t think that’s good for you.” She picked up the glass and looked at what is left before taking one more swallow. The girl pushed the glass back to Borænin, gasping a couple of times. “What the fel is in that? It’s horrible.”
Borænin grinned at her, picked it up and finished it off. “I was told they make it from grains. No idea what the fel they do to it to make it taste like that though.”
Sellynna started giggling again. “Grains? That’s weird. You can’t squeeze a grain.” she bust out laughing at herself.
“You can squeeze anything, you just might not get the result you want,” he taunted, leering at her.
“Or maybe you will,” she replied, her eyes locking onto his. His eyes went fully round. Sellynna giggled at his reaction. “You seem surprised.”
“Ummm…” He swallowed. “Aren’t you supposed to be some wholesome country girl?”
“Country girl, yes,” she replied. He blinked. “Who the fel gave you the idea I was wholesome?”
“Probably all the damn milk you drink,” he laughed.
She shrugged. “I like milk. Nothing wrong with that.”
Borænin leaned in close. “What else do you like, Sellynna Greythorn,” he asked, his smooth tenor dropping lower, tempting.
She blushed fiercely, but held his gaze. “How badly would you like to know?”
“You realize I am your superior,” he reminded her, his violet eyes shining.
“So that means you will be on top of things?” She giggled, reaching out to touch the ends of his fingers very lightly.
“Or maybe you will,” he responded huskily. She smiled wide and he started giggling himself.
“I suppose I might have to be. I’m not certain you can even walk right now,” she teased.
“The young lady underestimates this old man.”
“Perhaps she simply needs a demonstration.”
Borænin adopted a look of sublime dignity. He rose to his feet, stumbling slightly to one side, and turning it into a dance before steadying himself. Sellynna burst out laughing, nearly falling from her own chair. “Does the young lady think she can do better?”
Composing herself slightly, she managed to reduce to mere chuckling. “The Hierarch is a fine dancer.”
“The Novice has no gods damned idea.” Sellynna stood slowly, using the table for support. She wobbled a few times before taking an uneasy step and falling flat on her face. “Hah” he barked out at her.
“This is your fault,” she whined.
“I think not, Lightweight.”
“You gave it to me. Your fault,” she muttered. She pushed herself up to a seated position, dusting off her uniform.
“You didn’t have to take it,” he teased.
“You’re smiling now, so I think I did.” She smiled up at him, her irritation banished.
Borænin chuckled and reached out a hand to her. She took it and tried to stand. As she did so, she overcompensated, nearly toppling them both. He laughed aloud, leaning back to balance them out. “Steady now, my dear. We shall get through this together.” She made another attempt, this time successful. As she straightened, she pulled her hair back over the tiny scars that had become visible at her neckline. He waited for her to compose herself before leaning in close. “Where are you staying, my dear,” he whispered
“There’s an inn in the…” she burst into giggles. “Inn in…” He laughed along with her. “Over there,” she pointed towards the next district over. She tried to stop laughing which resulted in a snort.
Borænin offered her his arm. She peered at it a moment before taking it. “Well,” he said quietly. “I hate to tell you this, my dear, but I doubt very much that you will be getting your security deposit back.” They slowly started towards the ramp down towards the grass, moving carefully.
“Is that a promise, or a threat,” she teased.
“A little of both, my dear,” he grinned mischievously. “Shall we?” He indicated the path out. “Now I warn you. This does not guarantee a promotion. But it can’t hurt,” he winked.
“Not looking for a promotion, Hierarch.” She stepped onto the grass and steadied herself against him.
“Hmm, well then,” he replied softly. He watched her carefully, an expression of wonder mixed with fear warred against his normally perfect appearance. “Let’s be off.” He guided her towards the exit from the district. This is not wise, but I have denied so many things for far too long. Perhaps it is time to simply feel.