Back on Terridia...

Oranthuz tried to comfort himself with these thoughts, and tried not to entertain the possibility that a force for good in this world had opened some portals of his own.

A few hours later, another minion visited the wizard's private scriptorium, interrupting him once again.

The minion landed on the outside sill of an arched window, flapping his wings, then squeezing his way inside through the iron bars.

Oranthuz looked up and turned his head to face the black crow. “You again?” He slammed the spell book shut. “How many times must I warn you, Ruldan, not to enter my study like this?”

“Forgive me my liege,” replied Ruldan, “but I wanted to report back to you as soon as possible.”

Oranthuz pulled back his black hood, his dark eyes filled with anger. “I didn’t give you the gift of shape changing just so you could annoy me anytime you feel like it! Do that again, and you’ll remain a crow for the rest of your miserable life. Are we clear?”

“Yes, my liege.” Ruldan flapped his wings, and glided toward the wizard’s desk, situated next to a tall, bookshelf.

The dusty old library was located on the top floor of an ancient tower, connected to King Aldruck’s castle. The wizard's private study was off limits to everyone, unless he gave them permission to enter. Even the king himself had to make a special request to speak in private with the wizard, for all the kings of The Great Empire were under his thumb. But this particular minion was different; Ruldan was Oranthuz’ personal spy. Wherever the wizard went, Ruldan followed him. From King Aldruck’s castle in Loneldrin, to all the other kingdoms that served The Emperor, the two of them always travelled together.

“So what’s so important that you felt the need to interrupt me again?” asked Oranthuz. “Speak quickly.”

“The reports are all true,” said Ruldan, fluttering in circles, and getting on the wizard’s nevers. Oranthuz reached out his hand and grabbed him in mid air.

“Calm down you incompetent fool. I have no patience for a nervous wreck like you. Now go on, finish your story, before I feed you to Samantha.”

Ruldan gulped and turned his beak toward another arched window in the room, where a large, black cat was resting on the sill, her green eyes now glued to his as she purred and drooled.

“He does look tasty,” said Samantha, stretching out her front paws. She glanced up at Oranthuz. “But if I eat him, I’ll have no one else to talk to when you’re not around, oh great wizard from afar.”

“You’re not eating anyone, witch,” said Ruldan, trembling in the wizard’s tight grip. “Go hunt some rats or something.”

“Oh gross!” Samantha jumped off the window sill, and rubbed her head against the wizard’s black robe. “The master feeds me good food. I don’t eat dirty little creatures. But I will eat you...if you don’t shut up.”

“Alright you two,” said Oranthuz, “enough of this nonsense.” He released Ruldan from his grip, and the frightened minion flew to the top of the bookshelf, as far away from Samantha as possible. “Finish your story,” the wizard continued, “I have important business to attend.”

“As I was saying, my liege,” Ruldan went on, “the reports are all true. Portals are opening up that aren’t part of our network. I’ve personally witnessed it myself.”

“Oh?” the wizard raised an eyebrow. “Go on.”

“Yes,” said Ruldan, “I flew eastward, all the way to the border mountains, and its seems that somewhere along one of the mountain passes, leading to Barnoria, is a portal of some kind. I know this because I saw a strange looking fellow, accompanied by a bear and…”

“And what?” demanded the wizard, after Ruldan became silent for a moment. “Speak, fool!”

Ruldan, trembling again, knew how much Oranthuz despised the Knights Of The Faithful. He was afraid to finish the story, fearing the wizard might harm him out of anger.

“It’s not important, my liege,” continued Ruldan. “The situation seems to be under control. A band of orcs has spotted them, and their chances of survival are little to none.”

“I’ll tell you what’s important or not important,” said the wizard. “Now lets go over this again. You saw a strange looking fellow, who you assume is from another world, correct?”

“Yes my liege.”

“And this fellow was accompanied by a bear, correct?”

“Yes my liege.”

“Very good. Now tell me who the third party was, or I'll feed you to something a lot worse than Samantha!”

Ruldan gulped again, then mumbled, “A Knight of the Faithful...my liege.”

Upon hearing this, the wizard flared his nostrils, and narrowed his dark eyes.. “How many centuries must I deal with those fools!” he shouted. “Of all the worlds they send me to, Terridia's always been the most difficult.”

“I’m sorry—”

“Shut up fool!” Oranthuz slammed his fist on the desk. “And who sent this band of orcs out in the first place?”

“I did...my liege...as well as High Lord Garrold. We both figured you were busy, and from all the reports going around about unknown portals opening up, Lord Garrold decided to set a watch on every mountain pass along the border.”

The wizard scowled at him. “Since when do you, or Lord Garrold, command any military action without checking with me and King Alrduck first?”

“Well,” continued Ruldan, “I didn’t want to trouble you with—”

“And you sent orcs?” the wizard interrupted again, rolling his eyes. “Mindless savages for an important mission like this?”

“They’re fierce warriors. You’ve said so yourself.”

Oranthuz shook his head. “Fierce, yes, but hardly useful for a mission such as this. You and Lord Garrold should’ve known better. I’d rather keep the portal traveller alive for questioning.” He clenched his fists and gritted his teeth. “ Idiots!”

“I’m sorry, my liege.”

“Sorry won’t cut it this time, fool. Go back to that mountain pass at once, and command those bloody orcs not to harm this traveller. And you and Lord Garrold better hope he’s still alive.”

“What about the bear and the knight?” asked Ruldan.

“What about them? They’re of no use to me. Let the orcs feast on them for all I care. It’s the portal traveller I want to speak to, and when I’m done questioning him, I’ll feed him to the orcs too. Now go. This meeting is over!”

Ruldan flapped his wings, and quickly flew out of the window.

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