He sat on the bed, staring at nothing. This leap he had taken, would it bear fruit? Or bring him to the very gates of death? His capture was strange; the subsequent interrogation even more so. Sorcery of such magnitude had been used to hold him, silence him. Then the portal. The Other had opened it with such ease, it brought to mind the use of magic they had seen on other Realms. But when he had stepped through, there was that familiar sensation. Stepping from one, to another. He knew it well, though he dared not question it. Wait for them to explain, he thought. Do not give them cause to doubt you.
Upon arrival he looked at the surroundings, doing what he could figure out the layout. He was not afforded much time as they had escorted him to a building that appeared to be an inn. They showed him to a room, nicely appointed. He chuckled inwardly, thinking it reminded him very much of the rooms given to the Acolytes in the Order. His musing was interrupted by a knock at the door, causing him to jump. His eyes came into focus as he listened to a melodic voice call his name through the rough wood.
“Excuse me, Borænin? Are you in there,” the woman’s voice asked sweetly.
“Yes, my apologies,” he replied. “I was deep in thought.”
“May I come in?”
“Of course.” The latch on the door clicked softly, allowing the door to swing inward. He moved off the bed and dismissed the shadows swirling around him. He waited for the silver woman to enter the room before bowing before her. Straightening, he picked at his clothes absently, looking nonplussed.
The Kal’dorei woman bowed to him, smiling at first. As she stood, she tipped her head to the side. “You seem a bit frustrated.”
He glanced around the room, unable to meet her eye. “I’m afraid I feel a bit exposed, my lady. My uniform and effects were confiscated. I am not in the habit of wearing cast-offs.”
“Forgive me, a precaution only,” she explained. “My name is Tindomiel Silverthorn.”
Borænin’s eyes widened and he bowed even lower. “An honor, Lady Silverthorn”
“Please, that is not necessary,” she said, gesturing for him to stand. “I am the wife of the Patriarch, not a queen.”
Borænin furrowed his brow, tilting his head to one side. “Is there really a difference?”
Tindomiel smiled faintly. “Very much so. I for one, don’t expect to be treated any differently.” She leaned against the wooden dresser and gestured towards him. “Sit, if you wish.”
“Your ways are so strange…” he murmured, shaking his head.
The Hierarch glanced around the room. He peered at the bed a moment, but discarded the notion. “My quarters lack chairs, my lady.”
The woman chuckled. “I meant on the bed, but we can go downstairs and eat, if you wish.”
Borænin looked at her almost reproachfully. “I shall not sit while the Lady of the House stands, and I certainly will not sit on a bed,” he stated simply.
“I would have sat on the other, but if it bothers you so very much, let us go down to the dining area,” she offered, holding her hand out towards the door.
Borænin nodded and the headed for the stairs. The descent was made in silence as he composed himself and made mental preparations for the next round of interrogation. Finding a smaller table off to the side, Tindomiel took a seat and gestured for him to do the same. Borænin nodded in thanks and settled into his chair. He held himself upright and proper, with little hint of relaxation. The tension he carried was quite obvious to the empath, though you would never have guessed it for the expression on his face.
“Before we go much further,” she began, “I understand that our guard was a bit…rough. Would you like for me to check your head for damage?”
Borænin smiled faintly. Such an odd gesture. So unlike back home. He looked over at her as he touched the back of his head instinctively. “I require no ministrations, my lady, my own skills were sufficient. Your man did what he felt he had to do. Given my performance, I can hardly blame him.”
Tindomiel arched an eyebrow. “You did perhaps come on a bit strong with Niquisse.”
A rueful chuckle issued from his chest. “The girl was terrified, and I was incoherent. I made quite the fool of myself.”
To say the very least, she thought. Gesturing to the young man waiting by the counter, she offered Borænin a genuine smile. “Would you care for something to eat? Or some wine perhaps?”
“Wine would be very much appreciated,” he admitted. “If you have something palatable, that is.” At this point, I am certain palatable is the best I can hope for in the Void forsaken Realm.
“I have several, what is your preference? I do have a rather nice vintage white which,” she explained while nodding to the server. “I will be having.”
“I shall trust your judgement, my lady,” he replied, frowning.
“Anything else? All on the House, of course.”
“Forgive my sounding ungrateful, I’m afraid the refined tastes of Silvermoon have me somewhat spoiled.” He inclined his head towards her. “Just the wine for now; with my thanks, as I am currently without a means to pay.”
“Well, for as long as you are our guests, of sorts, you will have no need of it. Any meals you wish, simply ask the staff.”
“I thank you,” he replied. “Prisoners are not so well-treated where I come from.”
“I would not call you a prisoner,” she countered. “At least, not in the typical sense.”
Borænin arched an eyebrow “Well, perhaps you would not, I feel that your Gilræn might feel otherwise.”
Tindomiel chuckled. “You scared his granddaughter. And while that is not a difficult thing to do, it is something that upsets him greatly.”
“That was my assumption.”
“Tell me something, if you will?” She pushed her long white hair behind her shoulders, and for the first time, he noticed her simple garments.
He made a mental note of it, as it struck him as a sharp contrast to the other members of the House that he had met thus far. Nodding, he gestured for her to do so. “I am at the lady’s disposal.”
“You seem so very composed right now. And my understanding was you were with the men as well. Why so frantic with the young one?” She rested her elbow on the table and pressed her thumb into her lower lip, her other fingers dangling downward in a relaxed manner.
Borænin sighed. “The decision had just been made. I had done things just hours earlier that I knew were a death sentence if your people refused to shelter me.” He shrugged, trying to play it off. “I was nervous.”
No, NOW you are nervous, she observed inwardly. “I see. Are you feeling any better now?”
Borænin smiled faintly as the server arrived with a tray. He placed a glass in front of each of them, along with the bottle. He watched Tindomiel as she nodded to the man delivering the wine and then lifted her glass and brings it to her nose, inhaling the aroma. Hmm, actual appreciation. Perhaps this may be decent after all. “I have had time to collect my thoughts, and still the voice of the Shade. If you must know, part of me is still screaming bloody murder inside. I am endeavoring to appear calm.”
Tindomiel chuckled. “I thought as much. Your nerves are making my chest practically vibrate.”
He arched a long eyebrow. “I beg the lady’s pardon?”
“I am, depending on how you look at it, either very fortunate, or very unlucky. I am a high level empath,” she explained. “It can be…interesting at times.” Tindomiel sipped her wine and closed her eyes, letting the wine swirl around on her tongue before swallowing it down.
Borænin furrowed his brow “I see. My apologies for any discomfort my tumultuous mental state may be causing you.”
“I have dealt with far worse, I assure you,” she said gently, opening her eyes once again.
“Before I keep poking at you, do you have any questions?”
He pursed his lips. “Only one of consequence. Will you help me, or turn me away?”
Tindomiel smiled. “We are not certain yet on the help part. But we are not sending you out into danger.”
Borænin looked distressed, glancing towards the exit. The woman across from him reached over to place her hand on his, causing him to pull away abruptly.
“You are safe here, that I can promise you,” she said, almost apologetically.
“My subordinate, Sellynna, is in Stormwind. She does not know where I have been taken. She is in grave danger if the Lord Protector returns before we have secured sanctuary,” he explained, his manner rushed.
Tindomiel smiled a little, knowingly. “She is not,” she said softly.
Borænin furrowed his brow “What do you mean?”
“She is neither in Stormwind, nor is she in danger,” she offers cryptically.
The Hierarch jaw tightened. “This is not a joking matter, madame. Please do not speak in riddles.”
“I am sorry.” She leaned in and opened her hands, palms raised. “She is upstairs, resting.”
His jaw dropped open, all pretense of a calm facade vanishing. “She….what?”
“She is in the room across the hall from yours,” she explained.
“Well, after you paid your visit to Niquisse, we sent someone to keep an eye on the shop.” The corners of her mouth turned up slightly as his comprehension of the situation began to show on his face. “He was waiting there when she went looking for you. After she was questioned, she was brought to me.”
Borænin’s relief was palpable. He looked down, then made a visible effort to compose himself. When he looked up, he found that her face had split into a wide smile. “I thank you, my lady. Her safety was weighing on my mind a great deal.”
“You care for her,” she said gently.
He looked away for moment, working inwardly to find a diplomatic way to explain. “I am responsible for the situation she finds herself in.”
“Perhaps more than that though,” she offered. “Borænin, why now? Why did you jump in so frantically?”
Borænin sighed. “Everyone seems to want to know that. Even me,” he replied, his hands raised, palms up. He held this position for the briefest of moments before clasping his hands together. He pressed his crossed thumbs to his lips. “As I told your Gilræn, there are things that were, are, very different about this Realm.” He lowered his arms, crossing them in front of him. “I had a strong…call it intuition, that I had found what I sought here”
“Something hit you, hard and fast. I can tell you, if you want,” she explained. “It radiated off of you just moments ago. While you may have had some things beginning to line up in your mind, that wasn’t why you leapt.” She lifted her glass and took another sip, letting her words sink in.
Borænin scowled at her from across the table. “My lady is being somewhat invasive.”
“I don’t need to be invasive. It rolls off of you,” she replied. She picked up her glass at sipped. “But,” she continued. “I think it important that you, and we, understand all the variables.”
The Ren’dorei sighed, looking down at his own lap. He remained that way for several moments. “Please forgive my rudeness, my lady. In order to survive as I have, I have had to wall myself off from attachments. Discussing such things is difficult for me.” He took a breath and met her gaze once again. “However, you are correct. I only truly met Sellynna on this expedition. She is a Novice, barely through training. Under normal circumstances someone of her rank would not have been sent to assist me.”
“And yet, she was, because she angered the… what was it again? Some sort of officer,” she recalled.
“The Warrant Officer.” He shook his head in frustration. “The man who controls the flow of goods and personnel through the Void Rift. He sent her here in the hopes of seeing her slip up and get herself killed.”
Tindomiel nodded. “She angered him by refusing him and he sent her to what he thought was her death.”
“Just so…” He paused, thoughtful. “And only now I realize you are comparing our stories.”
She smiled. “You caught me.”
Borænin looked at her slyly and waved it off. “It is to be expected.”
“But I do admit, there was another purpose to it,” she explained.
“Oh, and what was that?”
“If we are to help you, we have to understand the workings of your relationship with each other. Not the…private details, but how you feel about one another. It affects how you will behave,” she said carefully. She raised her hands, palms up.
Borænin nodded. “I understand. I would do no less in your shoes.”
Tindomiel grins. “So, let me ask the question again. What made you leap?”
The man cleared his throat. “Sellynna made an immediate impression on me. She was intelligent, driven. She showed initiative and wit. All traits I value.” She nodded, listening attentively. “The truth is, I had already begun to wonder if I had found what I sought in this Realm. Not five days past I spent a sleepless night wandering the streets of Stormwind, contemplating my options. But then…” He sighed heavily, once again looking at his hands. “Sellynna and I spent an evening discussing our position here, and we drank a quantity of the liquor you call bourbon.” Borænin looked down, obviously embarrassed.
Her mouth fell open. “That stuff is vile and will loosen, well, many things”
“It did indeed loosen many things.”
“And if you want to see something that will make your head spin, I’ll introduce you to the House assassin. That is her favorite drink and she consumes a large amount of it at a time.” Her voice carried a tinge of disbelief, but also fascination.
Borænin arched an eyebrow. “I am going to assume that your offer of introduction to the House assassin is not a threat.”
“Not at all.”
Borænin nodded, his shoulders relaxing very slightly. “So, we got drunk, and I am afraid I was indiscreet. This is not normally my way, you understand,” he added quickly.
“I understand. And yet you felt you could trust her enough to drink with her,” she said with a smile. “Which led to the rest.”
Borænin nodded, turning a darker shade of purple
He sighed. “The next morning, I answered a summons from the Lord Protector. During the course of our conversation, he…threatened…to make Sellynna his new plaything. He is getting tired of his old one, you see.”
Tindomiel wrinkled up her nose. “That’s…disgusting.”
Borænin shrugged. “It is how things are done in our Realm,” he said, his voice resigned to it. “After I left him, I just…realized I could not let that happen.”
“But you say it was a threat, why do you consider it so?”
“He was angry with me,” he explained, finally allowing himself a sip of the wine. “He had summoned me the previous night, and I did not respond until the next day. One does not keep the Lord Protector waiting.” He smiled briefly, his mind drawn to enjoy wine for the first time since arriving in this Realm. The moment was fleeting as his usual, placid facade fell in place once again. “He said it to let me know how he would punish my tardiness.”
“You think he knows,” she said gravely.
“He at least suspects that I am fond of her.” He took another sip of the wine and set the glass down in a very intentional manner. “It was his way of reminding me he can take what is mine at any time. Whether she was a…” he stopped, blushing. “ A lover, or simply a valued assistant.”
“I find,” she replied flatly. “The more I hear of this man, the more I dislike him.”
“You haven’t really heard the worst parts yet,” he muttered. “His crimes go back thousands of years, my lady. He murdered his father. He exploits other Realms and drains them dry. He has committed genocide…” Borænin bit his lip and looked at the floor, cutting off the thought.
Tindomiel sighs. This poor man, she thought to herself. He carries all of it. “He made you do it, didn’t he?”
His jaw clenched tightly and he nodded. “For the pettiest of reasons.”
“And that was?”
Borænin sighed. “We found a Realm. There were no Greythorns there, but there were Silverthorns. So many of them. They were their own people, separate from the other elf kindreds.”
“The Tel’dorei..” she whispered, awed. “Kalithil’s wish…”
Borænin eyes widened. “Just so,” he said, surprised. “That was bad enough, the Lord Protector was enraged. And then we discovered…” A sound that was somewhere between a sigh and a groan escaped him. “They worshipped Kalithil as their creator-god. His temples had supplanted the worship of Elune.”
Tindomiel barked out a laugh but stifled it quickly. Not the time, despite the absurdity of it, she berated herself. “Forgive me.”
Borænin looked down and shrugged. “I have never seen the Lord Protector so angry. He ordered me…” he explained, barely audible. “He ordered me to open the world to the Void.”
“The entire world,” she asked, incredulous.
Borænin nodded dully, his expression tortured.
“Mother Moon save us…”
“No,” he murmured. “She did not.”
Tindomiel gasped, her eyes closing, a tear losing its hold, rolled down her cheek.
“A Void Lord came. The Old Gods erupted from their prisons beneath the world. Elune herself was torn from the sky,” he continued in a hoarse whisper. “All because of me.”
The Kal’dorei woman held up her hand. “Please…” she pleaded for him to stop describing it, his pain threatening to overwhelm her. “Not because of you. If you did not do it, he would have forced someone else to. Am I right?”
“That does not change anything,” he snapped, guiltily and bitter. “I did it.”
“You did. But that does not make it your fault,” she countered.
Borænin sighed, and it seemed to her that the weight of a lifetime was carried upon it. “Don’t tell lies to one who has stared into the void, my lady, we know them too well.”
Tindomiel held out a hand, drawing the shadows in the room to her. She wrapped them around herself, her form growing darker by the moment. “You are not the only one who has seen what lives behind that veil, Borænin.” She did not anticipate him gazing at her impassively. “I don’t lie, Borænin. I understand fully what one will do when a knife is held to the back of one’s head.”
“I won’t debate this, my lady.” He picked up his glass and took several large swallows.
She sighed. “As you wish,” she replied, letting the shadows retreat.
“As I was saying. I knew I could not let him do that to Sellynna, so I went to her and suggested we go renegade.” Shifting in his chair, he adjusted himself to a more casual position. “She agreed, with some enthusiasm. I knew the Lord Protector planned to return to our Realm for a few days to attend some..ah..business.”
“She is terrified of what he will do to her if she is located.”
Borænin nodded. “With good reason,” he agreed. “I arranged for his right hand to be removed from play for a few days, we made our move. And here we are.”
“Here you are,” she echoed, nodding. “Safe in yet another realm.” He arched an eyebrow, but waited for her to continue. “In your realm, did you ever find your way to the unspoiled Draenor?” She watched as he shook his head. “You have now,” she explained, smiling.
The man’s eyes went wide before settling into a faraway, thoughtful look.
“Within the walls of our fortress, you are both completely safe. Until we decide what is to be done, the Gilræn of your world cannot harm you,” she reassured him.
Borænin looked full of questions, but said nothing.
“Go ahead,” she urged. “Ask.”
“Your people travel to other Realms?”
“Not others. Only this one.”
“How did this happen?”
“Some time ago, there was a portal opened here. A war broke out. This was once an Alliance stronghold. After the war, the Alliance had no further need of it. So Kalithil kept it,” she quickly described. “A simplification, of course, but as I understand you are a scholar, I will have some books brought to you.”
Borænin nodded. “Have you visited the Azeroth of this Realm?”
“I have not,” she answered, shaking her head. “What are you thinking?”
“A few years ago, we discovered a Realm where the orc invasion never took place. No Dark Portal. No Orcs. No Outland,” he told her. His hand came up and idly scratched the side of his nose. “The human and elf kingdoms were peaceful and prosperous. The Lord Protector determined that some outside agency had interfered with history there. Very suddenly, we returned home. The Lord Protector claimed the Realm was temporally unstable and unsuitable for exploitation. He forbids discussion of the events now.”
Tindomiel tipped her head to the side. “How odd…”
“Which means, to those who know him, that he was lying.”
“You think it could be this one.”
“Perhaps,” he agreed. “There’s no way to know without going to Azeroth. It has always been my theory that the elves of Quel’thalas in that Realm rebuffed him and drove him away. Thus he will not speak of it, his defeats and embarrassments are always covered up.”
“Well, then perhaps that makes this doubly safe for you.”
“Perhaps,” he murmured, his brow furrowing. “How do you travel here? Do you use Void Rifts? His Void Rangers can track their use…”
Tindomiel grinned. “No, either through custom hearth stones or portals.”
Borænin looked impressed. “Fascinating.”
“However, the fortress is heavily warded. Were you to step outside its walls, you would never find it.” She watched as he nodded, a sense of his relief washing over her. “The reason you were brought here is because you were believed. And it was deemed best for your safety.”
“I must admit, I am surprised by that.”
“By what? That we believed you both or that we cared enough to bring you here?”
“Both? But mostly that you believed me at all.”
Tindomiel laughed musically. “My dear sir, the tale the two of you told, which matches in every regard I might add, is far too strange to be a lie.”
Borænin chuckled. “I suppose that is true.”
“No one would weave a tale that elaborate just to meet us.” She picked up her wine and finished it off. “Do you have other questions? Concerns?”
“Still just the one, really,” he admitted.
“When may I see her?”
“As soon as you wish,” Tindomiel answered, gesturing towards the stairs.
Borænin nodded. “I thank you. I am relieved she is safe,” he said, almost tenderly, though that could have been her imagination. “I had told her to try and make contact with your people, and failing that, to go to the King in Stormwind.”
Tindomiel rubbed her face with her palm. “Going to Anduin would have been a risky move.”
“Every part of this was risky for us. What I did the day before yesterday to the Lord Protector’s Captain of the Guard nearly unmanned me.”
“Is this person that frightening,” she asked, surprised.
“She is nothing to be taken lightly. She is his right hand and the Captain of his Void Rangers.”
“I see. And those are the…how did Sellynna explain it to me, the demon hunter like fighters that were Gilræn’s first attempts,” she recalled.
Borænin nodded. “The Lord Protector studied the demon hunters after the fall of Sargeras. He made something similar using the Void instead of the fel.”
“What did you do to this woman that worried you so?”
Borænin looked embarrassed. “I lured her to a goblin town, Booty bay I believe it is called. I had hoped to sow doubt in her mind, perhaps even make her see the righteousness of my cause…” he sighed. “But she is utterly devoted to Him. As a back up plan, I had paid off the goblins to ambush her and poison her. They knocked her out and will keep her prisoner for four days.” He held up his hands in a gesture of harmlessness. “I did not kill her.”
Tindomiel ‘s eyes went fully round. “How much did you pay them?”
“How much? This is important,” she urged.
Borænin furrowed his brow. “Why?”
“Because my husband and I used to use their services. If they suspect they can get more from Gilræn to release her early, they will go looking for him.”
“I suspected as much, that is why they only hold her four days,” he explained. “That is when he should be back in any case. Hence my urgency when I went to see the Lady Niquisse.”
Tindomiel nodded “I see.”
The Hierarch chuckled mirthlessly. “I have used the services of goblins before, my lady.”
“That may well be the case. But you understand my concern,” she replied.
Borænin nodded. “My intent was never to have her removed permanently, it was simply to provide Sellynna and I a small window of opportunity.” He rubbed the bridge of his nose with his fingers. “And I didn’t want to kill her,” he admitted quietly.
“You are a man caught up in a tornado, Borænin.” Her voice was gentle, soothing.
Borænin looked away. “One of my own making.”
“You became a part of the storm, but you are not the storm itself.”
He looked back at her with a raised eyebrow. “That was poetic, my lady.”
Tindomiel smiled slightly. “I have moments.”
“But you are right, I am not the storm. I am the one who would bring the storm crashing down,” he stated. “But I cannot do it alone.”
She nodded. “I understand that all too well. And when the time comes, hopefully you will not have to.”
He does not just threaten us, my lady. He will suck your world dry.”
“I will do what I can to guide things towards assisting you,” she promised. “But I am not the leader of this House. I cannot make the decision”
“Your Patriarch seemed sympathetic. Or at least open to listening.”
Tindomiel chuckled. “Surprisingly so,” she murmured, sitting back in her chair. “Let us say, I have a way of bringing wounded puppies home. And he doesn’t always agree with my assessment of their value.”
Borænin frowned deeply. “I see…” His shoulders tensed, despite his attempts to keep himself relaxed. This is far more nerve wracking than I had anticipated.
She held out a hand in a reassuring way. “In your case, I was prepared to convince him and he was already most of the way there,” she offered.
A heavy sigh escaped his lips, relief washing over him. “That is good to hear.” He sat up straighter in his chair, finding a piece of his confidence once again.
“Go be with your sweetheart,” she encouraged. “She will breathe easier in your company.”
Borænin blinked. “My…what?”
“If you keep denying it, it will take a whole lot longer for things to move along,” she said with a smile.
Borænin made a sour face. “I believe that is my own affair, my lady.” He blushed suddenly as he realized his words.
Tindomiel chuckled. “An interesting turn of phrase, Borænin.”
He regarded her flatly. “If that is all, my lady? I would like to see to my assistant.”
“You are free to go.”
He rose from his chair and straightened his clothes, smoothing them as best he was able. He bowed before her and started to turn away. “My thanks for your company, and the wine, my lady.”
“Just…one other thing,” she said softly.
“Yes?” He did his level best to hide the annoyance in his voice.
“If you see Niquisse, be gentle with her? She has had a very difficult situation to deal with recently,” she asked
His expression softened. “Of course, my lady. My intent was never to disturb her.”
“She is less harmful than the flowers growing outside. She will do you no ill.”
Borænin nodded. “Goodnight, Lady Tindomiel.”
“Goodnight, Borænin. My apologies if I overstepped.”
Borænin waved it away. “Think nothing of it,” he replied before striding to the stairs and headed up to the rooms above.
Tindomiel sighed. She listened for a moment until she heard a soft rap on the wooden door. The floorboards creaked and the sound of a latch, followed by quiet voices telling her they had found one another. A smile played at the corner of her mouth as she stood and headed for the door.