The portal shimmered, and out stepped Forosuul Silverthorn. Chest thrust forward, shoulders back, he strode forward to the portico of the Fel Hammer. The guards on either side of the door saluted, but kept their gazes steadfastly forward, refusing to look at him. The behavior was odd enough that he almost stopped to find out why, but his instincts warned him not to do so.
Once though the doorway, it became evident that something serious was afoot. The normal frantic energy within the Hammer was absent. No other guards. No technicians, no servitors. Even the demons chained for practice were missing. The ship’s lights had been dimmed, the only glow coming from the planning map on the central deck. Just beyond, barely discernible to normal vision in the fel glow of the mapping instruments, stood a lone form.
The figure was unnaturally tall, with curved horns arcing up from its brow, and leathery wings spreading outward from its shoulders. Forosuul might have gone for his blades, had it not been for the all-too-familiar swirling pattern of green-glowing demon hunter tattoos outlining the arms and chest.
Dropping to one knee, he said simply, “Lord Illidan.”
“Forosuul, once called Brilelor. Now Silverthorn, yes?” His voice, as always, that curious mixture of basso rumble of knives.
“Yes, my lord, I discovered my heritage after my release.”
“So I have heard. This, and many other things, Forosuul.”
Illidan looked irritated, and it colored his voice, “Let us not waste time, Commander. You are no fool. You know why I have come.”
Shoulders slumping slightly, Forosuul responded, “I can guess. But you have avoided the Fel Hammer since your return.”
Illidan nodded, saying, “I have. I needed time to consider what was reported to me.” At this, Forosuul simply looks at the floor, waiting. “Oh, stand up. We’ve known each other far too long to play this game.” Obediently, Forosuul regained his feet. “Come here. Look at the map.” Again, he obeys, moving like a man condemned. “There are those who have expressed doubts to me, Forosuul. Doubts about your ability. Doubts about your dedication to our cause.”
The muscles in his neck and shoulders taught, Forosuul responds angrily, “My dedication and focus has never wavered!, I…” Illidan raises a hand, silencing him.
“Of your dedication I have no doubt, my old friend. However, your focus is another matter entirely.” He gestures to the map, adding, “Look at it, Forosuul. What would you do to save these lands? To defeat the Legion?”
“What would you sacrifice?”
“Even her?” At this, Forosuul goes silent, his mouth working, but no words usher forth. “And there it is. You know how this works, Forosuul. You know why I did it this way. The Legion has no distractions. They have no limits. No families waiting at home. They do not hesitate. They are absolutely clear of purpose. And only by emulating that can we hope to defeat them.” Forosuul nods stiffly. “Have you aught to say for yourself?”
Forosuul shrugs, saying, “I thought she was dead, Illidan. And when she returned to me…” He sighs heavily, then adds, “Her family faked her death. They fooled my younger self. Neither of us asked for this. If you want someone to blame, talk to the House of Whisperwind.”
At this Illidan growled low in his throat, leaning in close until his smoldering eye sockets were inches from Forosuul’s own and hissed, “Take care in assigning blame in that House to those to whom it does not belong.”
Forosuul meets Illidan’s fel-gaze, unflinching, and says, “I did not say her name, Illidan.”
Sneering, Illidan replies, “Fair enough. But all of that is neither here nor there. You know what must be done.”
Nodding, Forosuul replies, “I will leave. Is there anything you need of me before?”
Illidan shakes his head and continues, “You are not being cast out.” Ignoring Forosuul’s stunned expression, he goes on, “You cannot lead, that much is obvious. Nor can you fight alongside the other Illidari. Among our units we can have no hesitation, not in the sacrifice of oneself, or ones companions.”
Forosuul looks confused, “Then what…”
Illidan raises a hand again for silence, saying, “You are now an agent at large. The Fel Hammer and its resources are open to you. You may choose your own battles. You may even request assistance from the Illidari, but know that it can be denied if your battles do not serve our broader agenda. Go. Slay. Serve us. Among us, but apart.”
After standing in stunned silence for several minutes, Forosuul unconsciously reaches behind his shoulder and touches the haft of one warblade. Slowly, reluctantly, he lifts it from its harness, bringing it forward to rest on the glowing map.
“No, Forosuul. Keep them. I can think of none better to wield them.”
“Why are you doing this for me?”
Smiling almost warmly, Illidan says quietly, “You are the first of the Illidari, though no one knows it. We did our time together in the Warden’s Vaults, long before any of the others. You are the closest thing for me that passes as a friend. And you truly are dedicated to our cause.” With that he steps back and adds, “Now go. It would not be good for the others to come back while you are still here. I will inform them of the new state of things.”
Forosuul nods and looks around the Hammer, sighing heavily. Defeated but hopeful, he turns and strides to the portico. Just before exiting, he stops, and turns suddenly, looking at Illidan questioningly, “My Lord. Forgive me for asking, but does your decision to strip my rank have anything to do with…her family?”
Arching an eyebrow and allowing his lip to curl in answer, Illidan says, “I was under the impression that this Tindomiel was a Silverthorn.” The emphasis on the last word is unmistakable.
“Yes. Yes, I suppose she is.”
“In that case, no issue lies between us, Forosuul Silverthorn.” Nodding stiffly, Forosuul turns and walks away, a confused expression on his face. Once he has left, Illidan adds softly, “Good luck, my old friend.”