Mounting the top step, the dusky Ren’dorei adjusted his uniform. He took a moment to mentally prepare himself for this meeting with the Lord Protector. Borænin knew all too well this was always a tense one. The briefing on the new Realm missions. His Master’s mood was always difficult to measure at this stage. A glance at the mirror in the hall to be sure of his presentation, and he stepped out onto the balcony.
The Lord Protector stood, his back to the doorway, gazing out over the streets below. He wore a robe of fine silks that gleamed in the light, embellished with gold and black to give him a look of pure perfection. His golden hair, painstaking manicured to cascade in long ripples down his shoulders.
Borænin cleared his throat and bowed. “Your Grace,” he opened in his soft tenor tones. Something in the way he spoke exuded confidence and power, though his voice remained a comfortable volume for anyone around him.
The Lord Protector’s ears twitched. He turned to face the man who had entered, saying, “You’ve arrived. Excellent.”
“Less than an hour past, Your Grace,” he replied, nodding.
“Then you’ve not had time to situate yourself.”
Borænin furrowed his brow lightly. “I am afraid not. The Rift played its usual tricks. My subordinate arrived hours earlier than I. Fortunately, she seems to have initiative. She had already begun scouting.”
A single, long, golden eyebrow lifted. “Is that so? Perhaps they didn’t send me an incompetent one this time.”
The Ren’dorei coughed lightly in an attempt to disguise his nerves. “We shall see, of course, Your Grace. She seems a bit… green. But I think she will serve.”
The Lord Protector’s bronze countenance pinched. Narrowing his eyes slightly on the other man, “Spit it out, Borænin. Is there a problem with her?”
Borænin chuckled lightly. “I should know better than to try and hide anything from Your Grace. She is not merely green; she is a Novice that has never before traveled a Rift.”
“Bring her up to speed. Quickly,” he ordered, pursing his lips tightly.
“Of course, Your Grace.”
“I do not have time, nor the patience for a first timer.”
Nodding his understanding, “I wish to point out that I was not informed of this in advance either. The Warrant Officer may need to be spoken to on our return.”
The golden one grunted. “Replaced. The word you are looking for is replaced.”
Borænin nodded again, his face unreadable. “That is only for Your Grace to say.”
“Just so,” he responded and walked past Borænin, entering the door. “Now. Mission outline,” he continued as he walked. The Hierarch followed behind him quietly, listening. They entered a small parlor where The Lord Protector seated himself in a a tufted chair with gilt woodwork. Borænin remained standing, his hands comfortably resting behind his back. “The obvious is, of course, blend in with these Alliance Ren’dorei. Once you have done so, the first step is for you to locate the two surviving Greythorns of this Realm.”
The man’s eyebrow arched. “Just two?”
The Lord Protector held up two fingers. “Two,” he repeated before taking a bite of fruit from the platter beside him. “If the Silvermoon census records are accurate.”
“Unfortunate,” he said, scratching his chin.
“And if the rumors we have been able to track down prove correct, my counterpart was seen in the company of Umbric.” He waited a moment for that to sink in, knowing the other man’s opinion.
Narrowing his eyes, Borænin growled softly. “So here, that one lives.”
The Quel’dorei nodded. “Correct. And there is more.” Borænin gestured for his master to continue while forcing his mind to focus on the conversation. “The Silverthorns live.”
The Ren’dorei’s jaw dropped, his eyebrows shooting straight up. “Damnation,” he whispered.
“That is precisely my feelings on the matter.”
“I would expect no less.”
Eating another bit of food, he wiped off his lips with a cloth. “Stage one, Find the Gilræn of this world. And Lady Isse’s double. Keep your ears tuned for word on the Silverthorns. I will bring you in on the details of the second stage once we solve that riddle.”
Borænin stood quietly a moment, hesitating. “The survivors are reportedly your own counterpart and Lady Isse?”
“That is what we have found, yes.”
“An interesting duo.”
“What makes you say that, Borænin?”
Clearing his throat and forcing a smile on his face, he replied. “Well, if anyone is to survive, it would be the strong, yes?”
The Lord Protector, lifted a glass of wine to his lips. “Ah, yes. I see what you mean.” He took a sip before setting it down quietly. Borænin nodded. “We will wait and see. By the way. There is a strong chance they will be among the Ren’dorei.” He slowly spun the glass under his fingers as Borænin gasped at the information. “Umbric, in this Realm, was responsible for the creation of them.”
“That is also unfortunate,” the Hierarch frowned.
“My understanding is that it was an accident caused by his hubris.”
“Of course it was.” He took a measured breath. “If I may trouble Your Grace, is Umbric here,” he cleared his throat.
“Off limits for now,” the Quel’dorei cut him off.
“Very well, Your Grace,” he grumbled.
“Observation first. Always.” he chuckled. “You will have your chance, as usual.”
Borænin smiled faintly. “Your Grace favors his servant,” he said in lieu of thanks. He fell into a dramatic, low bow.
“You have proven yourself loyal. And your purpose in that usually aligns with my own.”
“I am happy to serve,” he nodded.
“No you aren’t,” he chuffed. “But you do it.”
Borænin barked out a laugh. “Just so.”
“I am well aware that you, and the rest of my progeny, dislike me. I really don’t care.” He took another sip off his wine. “Now. Go. Find the Novice and makes sure she does her job.”
“As Your Grace commands,” he responded, bowing.
The Lord Protector waved him off as he stood and made his way back out to the balcony. “Go,” was his only response. His view from above gave him a sense of pleasure as the insects crawled beneath his feet. Soon enough, you will be mine as well.