Some time earlier, the two ren’dorei marched down the stairs of the inn, resolute. They had decided they would no longer wait. They would get the help they needed from these Silverthorns, or they would leave and take their chances. It was better than the waiting. They reached the inn’s common room, only to be brought up short by a familiar face.
“Oh, I see you are already prepared to travel. Did someone send word?” asked the local version of Gilræn Greythorn pleasantly.
Borænin, stammering, tried to answer. “We were…ah…we wanted…well, we wanted to speak to someone. We’re tired of waiting.”
“Ah! So this is merely fortuitous coincidence. Wonderful!”
Scowling in confusion, Borænin replied, “What’s wonderful about it?”
“The wait is over, my friends. Mostly over, at any rate. I am here to take Borænin to discuss plans with Kalithil.”
Sellynna blurted out, “So you are going to help?”
Smiling at her, Gilræn said blandly, “Right now we are going to talk.”
Sellynna’s face fell, a look of frustration taking over. She grunted out, acidly, “So, more waiting.”
Smiling apologetically, Gilræn answered, “For you, I am afraid so. I am here to bring Borænin to speak with Kalithil.”
“I go where he goes.”
“Kalithil was specific. “
“I don’t give a shit.”
Borænin put a hand on her arm. Speaking gently, he said, “It’s all right, my dear. I think they are in earnest. Wait here for me. I will return soon, and tell you what we have planned.” Sellynna looked at him, pained. She did not want to be separated. She did not yet trust these people. He smiled at her and tried to sound reassuring, “If they wanted to harm us, they could easily have done so by now.”
Borænin leaned in close, sparing a slightly self-conscious glance at Gilræn before speaking to Sellynna in a low voice, “I promise you, my dearest, I will not fail to return to you.”
Her face falling, she replied in a quiet, desolate tone, “Don’t make promises you can’t keep, my love.”
“I assure you that I am not.” He embraced her suddenly and whispered in her ear, “I will not lose what I have found.” He turned to go, walking swiftly past Gilræn. Sellynna found a nearby chair and slumped into it, looking miserable.
“Don’t worry, young one, we will take good care of him,” said Gilræn.
Gilræn bowed and hurried after Borænin.
Once outside, the two men walked together across the main courtyard towards Kalithil’s tower. Borænin stared straight ahead, avoiding or ignoring the greetings from the fortress’ denizens. He especially avoided looking at Gilræn, who he could feel giving him a curious look.
Irritated, he finally said, “Your curiosity will have to go unsatisfied.”
Smiling slightly, Gilræn simply nodded and sad, “As you wish.” They finished the short trek in silence, with Gilræn leading the way up the twisting stairs of the tower.
On the top floor, Borænin was greeted by the sight of books. Books lining every wall. Books in piles on tables and chairs. Books stacked on the floor when all other space had been used. Even books floating in the air. Amidst all this, at a central work table, stood Kalithil. He was dressed more casually than when Borænin had seen him before, though still in blue and gold, and still in the finest cloth. Borænin briefly wondered if the Kalithil from his Realm had been like this, if the Lord Protector’s own tastes, his insistence on finery and elegance, were merely another attempt to supersede his father.
Lost in these thoughts, he did not realize Kalithil was speaking to him. “I’m sorry, what did you say?” he asked, slightly embarrassed.
Kalithil smiled pleasantly and repeated himself, “I said you can take a seat. But you can stand if you like.”
Smirking slightly, Kalithil went on, “We want you to go somewhere with us today, Borænin. To speak to someone, tell them your story. Someone we think can help.”
Gilræn, who had crossed the space and seated himself at a table called out, “You aren’t going to like it.”
“Tell me anyway.”
Kalithil regarded him steadily for several moment before uttering a single word, “Umbric.”
Borænin’s face darkened and twisted with loathing. In a rasping voice he replied, “I will not speak with that man.”
Sighing heavily, Kalithil spoke softly, “Borænin, I don’t claim to know the specifics, however I know you have a personal issue with Umbric. But the man you despise is not this one. As I understand it, the one from your Realm is long dead.”
Borænin glared. “I have found him in many Realms, and he is always the same. Not once did I find a reasonable man named Umbric.”
“I won’t say you’re wrong about that. Umbric is reckless. His foolishness hurt a lot of people. But the man here is not guilty of the crimes for which you condemn him.”
“Heard it all before. I do not care. What can he possibly offer, anyway?”
“Borænin, time flows more slowly in this Realm. The use of void magic is very new here, previously only the domain of cultists and servants of the Old Gods. Umbric is the foremost expert on void rifts in this Realm.”
“What about the Quel’dorei woman? Alleria.”
“Alleria’s focus is elsewhere. And I…well…I have concerns about her.”
“What do you mean?” This was said by Borænin and Gilræn both, with Gilræn twisting in his chair with a strange puzzled look on his face.
From a shadowed alcove across the room, a raspy voice spoke out, “That’s a conversation for another time.”
Borænin turned, peering into the shadowy corner and saw a seated figure. Casually dressed and seemingly at ease. But one could not mistake the small horns jutting from his brow, nor the cloth wrapping over his eyes. Bowing, Borænin addressed him, “Patriarch. I am sorry, I did not see you skulking back there.”
With a grin, Forosuul tapped the cloth over his eyes and replied, “I’m not really skulking. I just don’t always notice where the lights are.”
“Of course. Forgive my presumption.” Forosuul started to reply, then just shook his head and gestured for Kalithil to continue.
Kalithil said, “Umbric is our best chance. No one says you have to like him, or even be nice to him. Just don’t kill him today.”
Despite himself, Borænin cackled a bit before biting it back and turning serious again. He stood for a few moments looking unhappy before finally saying, “What do you intend him to do?”
Kalithil explained, “We want to see if he can disrupt the rift that brought you here in any way. Cause interference, make it less stable. Anything.”
Nodding, Borænin said, “You’re trying to cut him off. Prevent him from calling reinforcements.”
From the dark corner came Forosuul’s gravelly reply, “Exactly. We believe that, while he may be a powerful sorcerer in his own right, The Lord Protector’s real power comes from the resources he commands. We mean to take that from him.”
Borænin again nodded, and stood silently thoughtful again before finally replying in a quiet voice, “There may be something to what you say.”
Kalithil asked tentatively, “So, you agree?”
Through gritted teeth, Borænin answered, “I will tell my tale. No promises beyond that.”
Grinning, Kalithil said, “Good enough. We leave immediately.”
“What? No! I have to go back to Sellynna. I have to let her know what’s happening.”
“Umbric is often on the move. We know he is at Telogrus right now, but not how long he will stay. We have to go now,” replied Kalithil.
“I will not leave her here, not knowing what is happening!”
Gilræn cut in, trying to sound reasonable, “Borænin, we do not have time for pers-”
“Shadows take you all! You will wait or you can go to -”
Suddenly, Forosuul spoke up again, “I will go to her.”
Surprised, Borænin could only ask, “What?”
“You don’t need me at Telogrus. I will look after Sellynna personally. I will tell her what is happening, and I will make sure she is cared for and safe,” Forosuul declared, guessing Borænin’s true concerns.
His brow furrowed, Borænin asked, “You are the head of this House, why would you perform such a…menial task?”
“I serve this House, Borænin. I hope you understand what that means someday. Are we agreed?”
Hesitating only a moment, Borænin nodded. Kalithil clapped his hands together and cried, “Excellent. Let’s be off!” He then began to weave his hands into the configuration necessary to summon a portal.
Soon after, they found themselves standing on a desolate, blasted chuck of rock hurtling through the Void. Ranged all about, there were the tents and other semi-permanent structures of the Ren’dorei encampment. Ren’dorei surrounded them, each and every one engaged in eager study of the Void and it manipulation.
Kalithil watched the scene for a moment and murmured, “I may need to spend some time among these people.” Borænin gave him a sour look and Gilræn just chuckled softly.
Gilræn indicated a large pavilion on the other side of a nearby ridge. “That is where Umbric is usually to be found.” Nodding, the others followed.
A few tense minutes later they were seated before Umbric himself, having just barely managed to talk their way past his sycophants and guards. Umbric himself eyed them curiously, unsure what to make of them, all except Gilræn. Him he gave an almost venomous look before addressing Kalithil, “Did you think bringing that one with you would open doors?” His basso voice had the strangest quality, seeming to approach one from all sides at once, while harmonics played through it at chaotic intervals with each syllable he spoke.
Kalithil shrugged and replied, “He knows your people, I do not.”
“That he does,” said Umbric, in a sibilant whisper undercut with the tones of a deep bell, “So what is it you want of me?”
Kalithil gestured to his left and said, “This man has a tale to tell you. It will sound insane, but we believe it is the truth. I think you will understand what we want after you hear it.”
Umbric looked at Borænin a moment then said simply in his crawling tones, “Very well. Out with it.”
With a great sigh, Borænin spoke of his home. He sketched the history of his world, some of the theory of inter-Realm travel, and the rise of the Lord Protector. With a supreme effort, he glossed over Umbric’s own culpability in the events. The omission drove him to distraction, he wanted to scream at the man before him, to condemn him, as he had so may others who bore his name. Finally, what seemed an eternity later, he was done. He stepped back, exhausted in body and mind.
Umbric, for his part, sat through the entire tale without a word, with a barely a reaction on his face. Who Borænin finally stepped away, he sat in silence for several minutes. Finally he leaned over and whispered a few words to an aide. The he regarded Kalithil again and said, “You are correct, the tale is insane.”
“Nevertheless, we be…”
Umbric held up a hand. Kalithil’s face darkened at the interruption, but he did not otherwise react. Umbric went on, “However, not two days past we found something in Kul’Tiras that would seem to confirm your story.” At that moment a young ren’dorei woman entered the pavilion. She curtsied to Umbric, who said to her, “Please, Belara, tell these men what you found.”
Turning to them, the eager young ren’dorei spoke excitedly, “A void rift! Bigger than anything we’ve managed to create! And the power flowing through it is simply astounding. We theorized it could lead almost anywhere!”
Kalithil looked at Borænin sharply, who confirmed it, “Yes, that is where we came through.”
Umbric gestured dismissively to the young girl, who inclined her head and scurried from the tent. He said, “We cannot enter it, but we can sense…something, passing through. Unsure what it could be, we have already set up wards to prevent its use.”
Shocked, Borænin spoke out, “You are closing it?”
Umbric shook his head, “That, I’m afraid, we cannot do. Something powerful is holding the rift open on the other side.”
Sighing, Borænin said, “The Rift Wardens.”
Confused, Umbric asked, “That is what we call our security forces here in Telogrus. I take it you mean something else.”
“Ren’dorei with a natural talent in rift-awareness. They are imprisoned at the Rift Nexus, their life forces drained to power and control the rifts.”
Giving him a look of utter revulsion, Umbric said, “That is monstrous!”
Borænin’s eyes flashed deep purple and he hissed, “You are the very last person in all Realms who will lecture me…”
Kalithil put out a hand and set it on Borænin’s shoulder. “Now is not the time, my friend,” he said. Umbric looked back and forth between them, confused. He sensed great matters behind the strange Ren’dorei’s words. He made to speak, but Kalithil cut him off, “Leave it for another day, it has no bearing on what we came to discuss.”
With ill will, Umbric replied, “Very well.”
Kalithil nodded, saying, “Thank you. So! It seems you have already done the thing we came here to ask. So you cannot close the rift, but you have sealed it?”
Umbric shook his head. “We cannot entirely stop the flow through it, but we have disrupted it to the point where nothing of any great mass, such as a person, can come through.”
“That is sufficient. It will prevent this Lord Protector from calling for aid.”
“And what of the invaders already here?” demanded Umbric.
“The House of Silverthorn will deal with them.”
“The House of Silverthorn…alone?”
“Will that be enough?”
Kalithil indulged himself in giving Umbric a wicked smile and replied, “We are more than enough, Master Umbric. Good day.” Without waiting for a reply, he turned and strode from the tent. Borænin, glad to be leaving, hurried after him. Gilræn stayed half a moment, gave Umbric a mocking look and shrugged, then left as well.