The tavern was bustling as usual. Sellynna approached the steps to meet the Hierarch in her newly acquired clothing. She took a moment to smooth down the sleeves and bodice. She had searched the stores for two days, finally settling on one. The sea of bright, eye-searing green was punctuated with a vibrant pink sash and pink hem work on the sleeves and bottom of the skirt. To say that she was catching every eye was an understatement. Though whether they enjoyed the sight or not was unclear.
She walked in to find Borænin waiting for her at the bottom of the inner steps. She bowed graciously, smiling wide. Her face fell as she rose to see him looking at her with a deep frown set on his sharp features. She blinked in surprise at his reaction.
“What in Void’s balls are you wearing,” came his exasperated question.
Sellynna looked down at the gown, her ears drooping slightly. “I… a dress?”
He sighed heavily. “I supposed via technicality, it could be called that.”
Her ears fell a little further. Chewing on her lip, she managed, “It’s not good enough, is it?”
Borænin rubbed at his eyes with his fingertips. Either weariness or the burn from the gaudiness of the dress. “You really are from the back woods, aren’t you?” She nodded, not meeting his gaze. The older man’s features shifted, looking slightly chastened. “I apologize, my dear. My words were over-harsh.”
“I thought it was simple, but I didn’t think it was that bad.”
He quickly covered his mouth to stifle his laughter. “It’s the colors, my dear. They are…hmmm…garish.”
Sellynna sighed. “The women at court were always wearing vibrant things…”
“Hmmm, I see. I suppose this is my fault,” he apologized. “I should have been more specific.”
She jabbed her thumb over her shoulder. “I’ll go try again,” she muttered. She shouldered her bag and made to head back out.
Borænin placed a hand on her arm, stopping her. “Oh, I think I have a better idea.” She looked at him, her long eyebrow raised. “I think I should come along and act as your advisor in this.” Her eyes flew open wide. He looked her over carefully. “Is something amiss?”
“I..y-you… wish to go shopping? W-with me, Hierarch?” Her face flushed deeper and deeper.
He chuckled. “I cannot say I wish to, however, I feel it is necessary.” He gestured towards the door. “Come, let’s step outside.” He let her move in front of him and followed her out, letting his arm fall gently to his side as he did. He watched her, drinking in the smoothness of her movements, the deliberateness of her steps. As his eyes adjusted to the light outside, he looked around at the throng of people that gathered about the various tables and shops in the district. “Lively place, is it not?”
Sellynna cast her eyes about, her trained eyes spotting potential threats as well as people who genuinely seemed to be enjoying themselves. “A far cry from the Priory,” she murmured.
“That is an understatement,” he smiled. Turning so he was fully facing her, he held his rams out to the side. “So tell me, my dear, when you look at my attire, what strikes you?”
She stood back, regarding him carefully. The way the deep purples blended into more subtle violets. Vibrant magenta created a blush in the center, accentuating his chest. The trim work was done in a shimmering gold, embroidered in places to pay tribute to the Order and his position. His belt and gloves were set with stones that captured the swirls and depth of the void, one moment sparkling, the next drawing one’s eyes in as though they would fall deep within. “Well… It is well adorned and each piece coordinates. And it’s a bit flashy.”
“Very good. You have a good eye at least, just no training in the sartorial arts.” He chuckled. “Flashy is good when done well, my dear.”
“But not green,” she frowned. She tugged at the skirt of her dress uncomfortably.
“It is not so much the green,” he tried to explain gently. “It’s more that shade of green coupled with that shocking pink.” He gestured to his tabard. “You see how in my uniform, the violet fades into the background to allow the gold to stand out and frame the magenta?” She nodded. “That, my dear, is the difference.”
Sellynna stuck out her lower lip, making it even fuller than before. “I liked the pink…”
“There is nothing wrong with the pink. If that is what you prefer. It must simply be combined with something a bit more subtle.”
“So..make one color the show piece and the rest…”
“There you go.”
She shook her head, sighing heavily. Her shoulders fell, disappointed in herself. “i cans out a city in limited time,” she bemoaned. “But fashion? It completely escapes me.”
He gestured ahead of himself. “Come with me,” he said, with only the barest hint of command behind it.
“Oh, do stop calling me Sir,” he replied, his tone hinting at the edge of exasperation. Sellynna winced. He pretended not to notice. “Ah, here we are. I noticed this little establishment as I walked through the district earlier.”
Glancing up at the sign, she pulled her hair back over her shoulder. “Larson’s Clothiers. You think they can do something suitable?”
“This being the high rent area of the city, one assumes they have to be competent,” he reassured. She nodded as they walked into the small shop. She looked around at the dresses hanging on the walls. Long, elegant pieces that capture so many different styles. She was caught up in the shimmering embroidery of a particular bodice when Borænin touched her arm lightly, bringing her attention back to their task. “Now,” he instructed, “you just stand here adnd let me do the talking.” Sellynna nodded.
Borænin looked at the human woman at the counter for a moment and sniffed disdainfully. To his left, a little behind him, a soft voice called over to him. “Welcome to Larson’s!” He turned, spotting a dainty Ren’dorei girl behind the counter at a small worktable. She pushed her sapphire locks from her face, revealing a a sweet face full of freckles. “How may we help you?”
He turned to her and smiled thinly. “Good afternoon. Are you the proprietor, my dear?”
The girl giggled, tipping her head slightly, “No, My Lord. Miss Wynne here is.” She gestured to the woman who offered a half-hearted smile to him.
The man looked back at the woman and frowned. Returning his attention to her, “Well, may I assume you are the talent then?”
“Oh, Light! Well…” she laughed lightly. “I am a seamstress and assistant to the designer. He isn’t in right now, but I would be more than happy to show you his books and help you pick out something appropriate.” She stood, setting the gown in her hands on the counter. She offered him a low curtsey and smiled.
Borænin stepped forward and peered at the embroidery she had been working on. He trailed a finger along the tiny stitches and delicate flowers. “This work is very fine for an assistant.”
She blushed, some of her freckles fading away in the purple that filled her face. “Thank you, My Lord,” she murmured. “Embroidery is something of a specialty of mine.”
“That I can see,” he smiled faintly. “Perhaps you can help me with a little problem I am having.”
She looked over his clothing carefully. “You seem very finely dressed, My Lord. What is it you would be needing?”
He inclined his head in appreciation of the compliment. “My associate back there,” he pointed over his shoulder at Sellynna. “She is in need of something to wear.” The young seamstress peered around him, her eyes going wide for the barest of moments. Borænin arched an eyebrow. “Is something amiss, my dear?”
She lowered her already soft voice to a whisper. “Those colors…”
His eyes widen and he bites his lip to avoid laughter. Whispering back, “She is from the south of Quel’thalas. Farm country.”
She nodded. Tapping her lips a moment, she seemed to be contemplating a number of possibilities. She turned and pulled out a few sketchbooks, laying them out on the counter. It was obvious her brain had shifted into a higher mode and she started to flip through the pages. “She needs to be in southing more subdued so her hair doesn’t look dull. And the blue skin begs a better color than a vibrant green. Hmmm….”
Borænin smiled broadly, watching her work. “Well, I see we came to the right place. To be specific, she needs something appropriate to meet with…ah… a lord,” he explained. She turned around and moved towards the bolts of fabric, running her fingers along them, selecting a few options. “A rather prickly Lord with exceedingly high standards,” he added. As she heard that last bit, she set one of her options down and lifted up another.
The sapphire haired girl laid the fabric down, unfolding them slightly to show him the full array of options. “Would this be court design or should she appear beneath him?”
Borænin felt the various fabrics, indicating a high end silk. “And just to be clear, she will be appearing as a devoted servant and retainer, not a concubine.” She nodded to him, a slightly uncomfortable look flashing over her face before she managed to banish it. Her tendrils however pulled up tightly, twisting up close to her neck. “This Lord feels all are beneath him, but demands elegance in his servants.”
She selected a sketchbook from the stack and flipped through to a page in the center. She nodded a moment before turning two more. She turned the book and placed it in front of him. “Something more like this?”
He peered at the page, seeing a grand gown with elaborate scrollwork embroidery adorning the front, hem, and sleeves. “Hmm, that’s quite nice. However, could we move it towards a violet? The Lord is partial.”
She smiled. “Of course. Any changes other than that should not be an issue. My brother is a master tailor.”
Borænin tilted his head to one side. “Your brother?”
The young woman laughed lightly. “Well, not by blood. It’s umm,” she waved her hands in a circle, trying to work out a good way to explain it. “It’s more of a personal vow to each other.” She lifted up the countertop and stepped through, setting it back down in place.
“Well…how charming,” he responded. His brow furrowed, seeming as though something was on his mind.
“Is something wrong, My Lord?”
He peered at her face intently. After studying it for a moment he ansered, “You seem oddly familiar, my dear.”
She shrunk back a little, her long tendrils curling up. “F-familiar?”
Talking a step back, he held up his hands. “My apologies, I do not mean to frighten you. I could just swear we have met,” he replied calmly.
She shook her head, a hint of her smile returning to her face. “It’s all right. I’m.. I’m a little jumpy. Forgive me, My Lord.”
“You give me that title very easily, my dear.”
“My grandfather taught me that it is the proper way to show respect. Respect is given first, if one is to receive it.”
“Your grandfather was a wise man, I daresay.”
“He is, My Lord,” she smiled at him. “So you wanted a violet you said? I have one that is very similar to the shades in your sleeves, would that suffice?” He inclined his head, his eyes still watching her carefully. “I will need to take measurements of course. How soon will you be wanting it?” She picked up the order book. She flipped through until she found a blank page.
“My Lord’s schedule is his own. I need this as quickly as possible. There is no knowing when he may call on her.” His tone was oddly terse, as though he was trying to cover the fact that he did not like the idea at all. She nodded at him. “Price is no impediment,” he included.
“Provided my brother is well enough to return to work this week, I could have it ready in about a week and a half,” she offered.
Borænin nodded, sighing heavily. “Very well,” he responded, clearly disappointed.
She carefully noted the design at the top of the page along with color instructions. “Forgive me, My Lord. It is very heavy on the embroidery, so it will take me a while to get it finished.” Her tendrils, pulled back, curling into her hair. She reached up and untangled them so she could move her head more freely.
Borænin watched her behavior for a moment. “I understand,” he accepted. “Fine work takes time. I shall simply have to run interference until then.” He offered her a smile.
She tapped the pencil on her chin thoughtfully. “If you wish, I could start with the sleeves and the hem, have those done fairly quickly. And I can try to work in such a way that if it is needed sooner, it will still be presentable.” She peered upward at the man, hoping her offer would be acceptable. “You could bring it back after and I could continue.”
“Oh, yes,” he replied, appreciating the suggestion. “Let’s approach it that way.” She nodded and made a few more notes in the book. “Thank you, my dear. You are a credit to your family and your people.”
Her bright blue eyes dulled. “I hope that’s true,” she murmured. She reached down into her pocket, withdrawing a measuring tape.
Borænin furrowed his brow. “I have no doubt, but why do you seem sad?”
“There is very little of my family left, My Lord. But that is not for you to worry over.”
He bowed his head respectfully. “My apologies again.”
She waved it off, “No need, My Lord.” Looking around him, she addressed Sellynna. “Will you please stand here, My Lady?”
Borænin motioned Sellynna over. “Do as she says, my dear.” Sellynna stepped over to the spot that had been indicated. She looked for all the world like she was uncomfortable with the situation. The seamstress started taking measurements and noting them in the order book. Borænin watched it all, trying not to laugh at Sellynna’s discomfort, knowing that a good deal of it was an act.
The one working did not realize however, and did her best to sound comforting. “Forgive me, My Lady. I will do my best to make this quick.” She raised Sellynna’s arms and asked her to hold them in that position. As she measured again, she asked, “What name would you like for me to put the order under, My Lord?” She noted the numbers and looked up at him expectantly.
“Borænin. Borænin Sunspine.”
She nodded. “A pleasure, Lord Sunspine.”
“Indeed, Lady…” he trailed off, waiting for her to finish.
Smiling indulgently, “What do I call you, my dear?”
A look of horrified embarrassment overtook her features. “Oh, forgive me!” She curtsied low to the floor. Niquisse Greythorn, My Lord.” Borænin went very still, his eyes casting a furtive glance towards Sellynna who also had lost her composure slightly. Seeing the exchanged, Niqi blinked. “Have I said something wrong?”
“G-Greythorn?” He stammered for only a moment, forcing himself back to focus. “An old family, yes?”
“Yes,” she confirmed quietly. “All but got now.”
He made a sympathetic expression cast over his features. “Yes, of course. I am sorry, Lady, Niquisse. The name simply rang a bell.”
One of Niqi’s tendril’s worked to pull her hair back from her shoulders. She stopped them and continued her work. “Well, I admit it isn’t an uncommon thing. Before the Scourge attacks, we were known as benefactors to many. The family always made sure that people were well cared for.”
His mouth fell open ever so slightly before he coughed to cover his surprise. How unlike us. The Greythorns… generous? He is going to be displeased. He coughed again, “Oh, I beg your pardon. I am afraid the air in this region is dustier than what I am accustomed to.”
Niqi gently pat Sellynna’s shoulder. “I have what I need, My Lady.”
Borænin nodded to Sellynna. “You may leave, my dear. I shall arrange payment and meet you outside.” Sellynna bowed to them and walked out of the shop to wait, her eyes lingering on Borænin’s face for a moment.
“Would you like a glass of water, My Lord? I have a pitcher just over there.” She turned and indicated small brown vessel on the end of the counter. “I would be happy to get some for you.”
He smiled at her, genuinely surprised. “You are too kind. I will be fine. I think I will go across the way and take a meal in any case. My young charge and I have much to discuss.” Niqi nodded. “How does this one,” he gestured dismissively at Wynne, “prefer to take payment?”
Running her pencil down the page carefully, Niqi counted out numbers on her fingertips. “Let me see. A gown of this level would be about seventy-five gold. Rush work places it at one hundred. Is that acceptable?”
“Absolutely. All on delivery or do you need a deposit?”
“A deposit of half for materials, payable to Miss Wynne is preferred.”
Borænin reached into his belt pouch and pulled out fifty gold pieces. He placed them on the counter in a neat stack, his eyes cold on the human woman behind the counter.
“I thank you for your business, Lord Sunspine. If the Lady could return in about three days for a rough fit, that would be ideal.” She watched out of the corer of her eye as Wynne inspected the gold and placed it all into the money box.
“I shall see that she does,” he assured her, bowing. “it was a pleasure to meet you, Lady Greythorn.”
“And you, My Lord.” She curtsied low to the floor again before gesturing towards the door.
He made his way out, ears twitching lightly at the mocking tone from Wynne. “My Lady better get back to work. You were already behind for the week.” Quick footsteps and a quiet apology followed.
His features darkened slightly. That one is in for a rude awaking when we are established here, he thought. Coming to the bottom of the ramp, he smiled, pleasantly surprised at their luck. “Well..” he started.
“That was humiliating,” Sellynna grumbled.
Borænin looked at her sharply. “That’s your takeaway?”
“I’m sorry,” she winced. Careful girl! That’s the Hierarch. “But Lady Isse just measured me for a dress.”
“Yes,” he chuckled. “Lady Isse in this Realm, is a tailor. Your horrific choice in garments has yielded unexpected results.”
Still stunned, “An adorable, sweet little tailor,” she continued. Borænin stood there, obviously trying to stifle his laughter. “This is funny, Sir?” He giggled some more before erupting into full throated laughter. “Forgive me, I fail to see the comedy in this.”
“Did you hear what that girl said?” He chuckled a bit more.
“About the Greythorn family.”
Sellynna thought for a moment. “You mean about them being all but gone or the part about them being generous?”
“The second part is the real news here.” He wiped a small tear from his right eye, finally regaining his composure.
“You did tell me there would be differences. But that one, I admit, was less of a shock than Lady Isse being a cute little tailor.”
The expression of incredulity overtook his features. “Less of a shock?”
“You did tell me that the Other on one Realm was a woman.”
“Yes,” he confirmed. “But she was still a bitch.”
Sellynna laughed aloud. “Fair enough.”
“In any case, her assessment of her family does not bode well for our mission. Do you know why the Lord Protector seeks out his counterpart in each Realm?”
“I assume so that he can replace them,” she replied, stepping back towards the tavern.
He moved to join her. “That is actually a good guess. But in fact, he attempts to enlist their aid.” A server approached the table and they placed an order for a small meal.
Sellynna nodded slowly in understanding. “And that is unlikely if they are so…generous.”
“Once the Lord Protector gets his hooks in a place like this, it is easier if he can find a local to oversee the operation once we move on.”
Sellynna pointed to the shop over er shoulder. “That woman in there was like a box of kittens. I didn’t know if I wanted to scream or cuddle her.”
He chuckled. They made their way to an outside table and sat down. “I suggest that you not share that opinion with the Lord Protector,” he cautioned.
“That I wanted to cuddle her?”
“That you approved of her in any way.”
“Oh…” she seemed to dim a little. “She seemed harmless enough. Are we going to have to hurt the poor thing?”
He sighed heavily. “The strength, power, and shall we say, direction of the bloodline is a sore point for the Lord Protector. He dislikes seeing manifestations at odds with his own vision.”
“We very well may. Is that going to be a problem?”
She shook her head. “If it is ordered, I will carry it out.”
“You can’t make me like it though,” she muttered.
He glanced back at the shop. “If it makes you feel better, I won’t enjoy it any more than you will.” She nodded sadly. “I have, in the past, suggested to the Lord Protector that we should simply avoid our counterparts who do not share our ways. He did not respond well to the suggestion.”
Her long eyebrows shot way up. “And he let you live?”
He chuckled. “I phrased it delicately. I am permitted certain leeway that others are not.”
“It was my understanding that questioning him in any way was a death sentence.”
“I did not question him.” He brushed a stray leaf from the table, his finger tracing the various scratches and initials that had been carved into the surface.
“Perhaps not directly, no. You called his methods into question though.”
Borænin shrugged. “As I said, I have more leeway than others, some of his more trusted servants do.”
“I think I will simply keep my mouth shut.”
“That is wise. You are a long way from having that sort of freedom, my dear. For your own good, remember that.” The server returned with a couple of plates and drinks for them. Borænin paid, thanking her.
“I did notice one thing about the woman, if I may?” She picked up her drink, taking a small sip.
Borænin pointed to Larson’s. “That one?”
“Yes, that one. I got almost no sense of power in her. If she possesses any, it is either well hidden, or very small.”
He continued to look at the shop contemplatively. “Interesting. I was too busy covering my shock at the coincidence to look at her closely.” He turned his attention back to her, his violet eyes appraising. “Good work, incidentally.”
“Thank you. As I was instructed not to speak, I thought it best I focus on that.”
Borænin offered her a thin smile. “Also, let me commend you on your lack of reaction when she gave her name.”
“Let us say that my tongue will be swollen for some time.” She speared a bite of meat with her fork and popped it into her mouth.
He chuckled. “Nevertheless, you did well.”
“Thank you,” she replied, inclining her head to him.
Borænin took a bite of his food as well, sitting back. He scratched his chin thoughtfully. “I will have to decide our next step.”
He smiled faintly at her near misstep. “I suppose the thing to do would be to report to the Lord Protector.”
“I will let you do that then,” she shuddered.
He remained reclined, looking hesitant. “Hmm?” He glanced up at her. “Oh, yes. Of course.”
“What is it?”
The Hierarch blinked it away and looked at her, focused this time. “My apologies, my dear. I was lost in thought.”
“Anything I can assist you with?” She tone was hopeful, but she disguised most of it.
He smiled, but his eyes revealed there was no mirth behind it. “No,” he answered quietly. “No, I am afraid not.”
Cautiously she asked, “Anything you wish to speak about?”
“Oh, I think not, my dear. Best not.” He picked up his drink and took a swallow. “Anyway, you run along. Make sure and keep this place on your on your watchlist. You never know who might show up here,” he instructed. The Other, for instance, his tone implied.
“As you wish.” She finished her last few bites quickly, having taken the cue that she should leave. She pushed back the heavy wooden chair and stood. She bowed to Borænin, her face trying to hide her concern. “Safe, reporting.”
“Good work today, my dear.” He studied her for a moment. “Oh, fear not for me.”
Borænin grinned. “No one yet.”
She nodded. “Shadows hide your steps, Borænin.”
“And you, my dear, and you.” As she left, he sat forward, his mind a blur of different options. As he thought over how to handle his report, he envisioned Sellynna in the gown he had just ordered and found himself fully distracted. Shaking his head to clear it, he finished his meal and strode off towards the portal nexus.