Unempty Threats

Several guards of the slave camp looked above them, "What kind of bird is that?" They saw a large creature with black feathered wings, two black horns glimmered in the sunlight. As they looked up, trying to figure out what it was flying above them, the air seemed to get colder. They noticed something dark gleaming over the thing, realizing it was armor.

One of the guards shouted, "We have incomin-"

The flying being slammed down into the guard, crushing him. Standing in the crushed remains was a horned figure wearing black demonic armour, the helmet a sneering skull. The figure's black wings fluttered in the wind. It pointed at the other guard, "Burn."

He began to scream as his armor heated up and began to glow hot, cooking the guard in it. Tiberius walked out of Sylla's tent, two swords flashed over his neck in a scissor motion, chopping his head off.

The enraged man bolted in the tent, Sylla looked over in surprise, "Who are you?!"

The being threw one of it's swords to the side, picking her up by the neck. He boomed, "Where's Orla?!"

Sylla looked at him in fear, "Zatar! We sold her to a Zataran woman named Lucretia! Please don't kill me!"

The man dropped her, turning to his side. A gargoyle yugoloth stood before the tent, "The slaves have been freed and are being taken to Soldor's palace, they have been given blankets, clothing, and food, just as you asked, Lord Draken."

Draken gave a nod, "Take this woman back to the dungeons, deliver her treasures to the freed slaves, distribute it evenly, understand?"

The beast grunted with a nod, before snatching Sylla by the leg and dragging her off.

Draken walked outside and called upon the imps, "Go to Zatar, find her. Then return to me and tell me where." The hellish creatures giggled before swarming out to the air.


Back at Soldor's Bastion, just as the cupboard door began to shut, Reise heard some sort of commotion happening behind him and paused to listen. A woman was being dragged kicking and screaming down the hall, begging to not be taken to the dungeons.

“What is the meaning of this?” Soldor demanded, running up to where he saw a drow elf in the grip of a gargoyle yugoloth that had somehow gained entrance to the palace.

"Hey Soldor, which way to your dungeons?" the creature asked with a horrid smile.

Estoban Soldor suppressed his anger at the fiend's insolence. "First, if you wouldn't mind telling me who this person is...?"

“I dunno. Some drow slaver. Lord Draken told me to bring here, so that's what I'm doin'."

“But why? Whatever for?”

“She knows what happened to Orla,” the demon explained.

“That is something I would very much like to know.” Reise stepped into view. “Tell me,” he instructed the creature.

"I only take orders from the Lord Draken," the beast said, but as it spoke it looked a little unsettled by Reise's tone of voice and manner.

“You again,” Soldor said, recognising Reise from the day before when he had suddenly appeared in the midst of Gelt's attack. “You’re one of Orla's friends, aren’t you? One of the associates of Horo Inu you also said?”

“Half right,” Reise snapped. “I am Horo Inu. I’m tired of games." He turned to the drow and yugoloth. "Where is Orla?”

Soldor scowled. “Horo Inu? I know Horo. I met him several times. You don’t look anything like the man.”

Growling with annoyance, Reise reached into a pocket and took out a small parchment package, digging out a hexagonal candy. “If you can’t shut your mouth on your own. This always did the trick back when you were a kid, Estoban,” he said, almost violently putting the candy in Soldor’s hand. “Now...where is Orla?”

Soldor looked at the candy for a moment and astonishment crept onto his face. He smiled as if in tentative acceptance of Riese’s identity. “My father told me you had changed forms before, but I only remember you as the man with long grey hair.” He glanced between Reise and the fiend. “We learned earlier that Orla had been abducted from here and taken to a slave camp near the border with Haven.”

“That’s where Draken captured this woman,” the yugoloth chimed in. “Can I have one of those candies too?”

“That half-breed psychopath had no right to assault our camp and kill my people,” Sylla said angrily. “Slavery has been legal in this land for centuries! I did nothing wrong and you have no reason to make me your prisoner!"

Reise motioned for the yugoloth to hold out its large clawed hand and he gave it a piece of candy. As if in thanks, the fiend let the drow go for a moment and shoved her toward Riese.

“Where were you going to take Orla after the camp?” he asked the drow, getting close to the woman and holding her chin in his hand. His grip was gentle but his eyes were cutting. “If you do not lie to me I will make sure they do not kill you. But if you do lie to me...well...do not lie to me,” he told her coldly.

“I will tell you all I know,” Sylla promised, meeting his cold gaze. “But in exchange for that information that is obviously so valuable to you, I want to be released. I repeat, I did nothing wrong.”

“I’ll consider releasing you if your information is useful,” Soldor interjected. “Now answer his question.”

"Draken has financially ruined me," Sylla said. "I also want to be compensated for my losses."

"Don't push it," Reise said, his voice gentle but somehow dangerous.

The drow sensed this and nodded. “We sold her to a Zataran sorceress who frequents the slave camps of Dalen, now more often than ever since the Iron Queen has disrupted the slave trade in Zatar.”

Reise looked into the woman’s eyes again. “Thank you. Soldor is a man of his word.” He paused, placing his thumb on her forehead. “When he lets you go, you must get a real job. Leave innocent people alone. I have marked you and will know every move you make, straight and narrow or your freedom will be cut short.”

Sylla looked back with helpless rage. "You have cursed me? But why? I did nothing wrong!"

"You keep saying that, and now if you value your freedom, you never will," Reise said, letting her go.

He started back toward the wardrobe cupboard where the others awaited him inside the Hall of Doors.

Soldor caught up, words slightly slurred with the hard candy in his mouth. “I saw nothing with my mage vision. Was that curse real?”

“I am the curse,” Reise told him. “A curse to her and everyone connected to her.” He stopped and gave Soldor a side glance. “If they think these demons are a threat. They haven’t met me.”

Arriving at the door once again, Reise stepped inside and slammed it shut behind him. “We are going to Zatar,” he told Severos and Orla.

A moment later, a curious Soldor opened the wardrobe door only to find a few musty old fur coats. Just like when he was a boy.

Fredrick walked into the room and chuckled, "Looking at spare coats my lord?"


"Taking her to Zatar?" Severos said, unfolding a map of western Aeran on a table.

"Yes, I do believe she said that," Reise stated, giving a bit of patience to his voice.

"That would mean they would have to be closer to an ingress to the desert. And there are not many ways past the mountains," Severos told him. "I am almost certain of this woman's direction, if she makes for Zatar. There is a city, Shadrazar, that is at the crossroads of trade between Karavoss, Sarnia, and Aelmere that lead into Zatar."

"And if she decided to go south?" Reise pointed out, mind fixated on the map.

"She would have to cut through Karavoss then and slaves are not the way of life there. She would be avoiding the patrols on the main road and the rangers of the woods," Severos said with certainty.

"He's right," the orc whose Nargozond home they had randomly appeared in said, bringing over mugs of strong Karvossian coffee and fresh biscuits to his unexpected house guests.

Orla smiled at their good-spirited host and took a biscuit off the tray. "Do you think we can catch this woman enroute?"

"Yes, there is a chance we can," the mage answered, not certain, but hopeful.

Orla was pleased to see him calm, clear headed, and his old self again. "'Tis good to have you back, Severos."

"It's good to be back," Severos said. "Now if we can only get you back."

Reise accepted the coffee with a nod of thanks to the orc and continued to study the map. "If you're right, we can get ahead of this Zataran woman and stake out the road leading into Shadrazar..."

"The Sarnian military patrols that area heavily," the orc said, handing another cup of coffee to Severos. "And Zatar is in a state of war; they're on high alert for the Iron Queen's agents trying to get behind their lines. So their border right now is sealed tighter than a drum."

"I got a means past that, but it might take some trial and error," Reise replied, continuing to stare down at the map.

"Emphasis on the error," Orla said, attempting to instill some lightness to the discussion.

Reise looked up at her and sadness mixed with anger rose up within him. His jaw clenched and his hands curled into fists. Orla had never hurt anyone in her whole life, yet was the one to suffer the most. First Ceriden and now this bastard halfling tricking her into harm's way.

"If you are meaning your hallway, that may not be needed," Severos said after a moment, looking for an unspoken permission. When Reise settled his emotions and gestured for him to go on, Severos continued, "I do not see Sarnia completely cutting all ties… Trade is needed even in war time, couriers as well. I can walk us through the border."

"Pretty sure those guards will have something for your illusions," Reise said.

"Only if they know what to look for. And they will be looking at this," Severos said, putting down a brass name plaque, a beaded cord in faded colors. His name, last to first, was stylized in Zatarese but it was the make of the tag that he was confident would be the deciding factor.

"My father was a prominent trader in the day," Severos said with a cheeky grin. "I reckon the family name still has some weight."

The grin was contagious and Reise smiled back. "When I wanted you to travel light and only pack essentials I'm glad you thought to take that along."

"It sounds like that could open nigh as many doors as the hallway," Orla enthused, taking the plaque in hand to examine it for a moment.

"If that thing is a forgery you'll all lose your heads," the orc said. "They don't play around in Zatar."

"It's authentic," Severos told him, "and one of the most coveted kinds that permits a trader entry into the Sultanate. Since they don't much like people from our side of Aeran, only a rare few are awarded."

"Your father was high up in the Merchant's Guild in Amanap, was he?" Riese said, impressed and relieved at the advantage this would give them. "For my part, I can scrounge up some suitable trade goods, whatever will work best. Then we can buy some pack horses—"

"Camels are preferable for that terrain and climate," Severos interrupted. "Once we get into Zatar, horses would struggle in that environment and mark us as foreigners. The less suspicion we arouse, the better."

"Is the desert there as harsh as they say?" Orla asked, never having been to one.

"Harsher," Severos said. "Not a place you'd enjoy. It's barren, nearly barren of all life, and very hot."

Orodrim Wastes were worse, he knew. Raiders, soldiers, and all manner of desert monsters roamed there. Though, it was one of a few places one could find the Bedouin. "We will need plenty of water for such an adventure. Fortunately, I know where a few oases are if we get in a spot of trouble. But we need to be serious and prepared if we are to go."

"Then that settles it," Reise said with emphasis, folding his map. He made to get up, to which Severos laid his hand on his.

"At least finish your coffee first, my friend," he said. Severos then turned his attention to the two of them. "The only thing is your skins… I tan easily and can pass as Zataran. I don't know about you, Orla though I do have an idea. What about you?" Severos asked Reise as he sipped his coffee.

A grumpy voice spoke behind them, "I can help with that." An old dwarf wearing dark robes approached them, his black beard was greying, his eyes were unnaturally cruel and otherworldly. In his fist was a black cane, half of his face hidden by the black hood as he glared at Reise, "However Horo or Reise, whatever the hell you go by, I need you to not try and kill my brother. He is an idiot, but he does his things for a good reason, even for his idiocy. Trust me when I say that this world would be doomed if it wasn't for him." He tapped his finger at the table, the wood began to blacken slowly at his touch.

Riese looked at the supernatural decay of the table and understood the kind of thing that stood before them running its mouth. In a lightning quick blur of movement, he drew a device from his pocket with a snub-nosed barrel from which a blue beam erupted and vaporised the old dwarf, sending hot ashes cascading through the air and knocking the black cane to the floor with a clatter. There was a moment of stunned silence throughout the room, then Reise said, very coldly, "Give my regards to your brother. I don't need or want your help. You are both idiots and not as big a deal as you think you are. Get in my way again and we will see just how well the world does without you. This is your only warning. I'm tired of games."

The dark force manifested behind Reise, the cold air licked his neck. No voice spoke but the words were heard, "Unless you want to die with this world and never see Orla again, listen to my words. I am not so kind, so you will be wise when I say, you shouldn't have done that. I'm tired of Ar and his stubborn ways, I'm annoyed with my brother. Most importantly, I hate the Nameless and the Being for sticking their noses in Aeran. So Horo, you think I play games like my brother? You are gravely mistaken, this isn't a game, this is a damned mission." A cold grip touched his throat and began to squeeze, "Be glad the King in White likes you." The icy grip let go and the dwarf reappeared, "You aren't anything, brat. Do you want to save Orla or not? Either way, I don’t want that little fae elf becoming some eldritch wannabe's pet."

“Why do you all talk so bloody much? I hate this, I hate that, blah blah blah.” Reise flapped his hand like a mouth. “You’re so powerful? Huh? Why do none of you actually DO anything?” he asked. “You just wander around dressed like idiots, and talk like you are already ten steps ahead. Do something, ANYTHING. Really it would be super interesting for you to just do something.” Reise downed the last of the coffee. “So...if you are done I’m going to save both Orlas, and if you get in my way again, you won’t be reconstituting.”

The dwarf chuckled, "Acting like that and you will never find them. Ar and that mass of madness are having a headbutting contest, that alone will block that stupid scanner Hemlock gave you. As much as I would love to give you a grand show, there are rules I have to follow. What I can do for you is this." He pointed behind Reise, time seemed to slow as everything became grey, all except for a small pocket around the table of the group. "Give you some time, everything is frozen, besides this small area."
The orc turned to look at the dwarf, "Sir, I thought you weren't allowed to do that."

"If I wasn't, my brother shouldn't have been allowed to impersonate the Being to trick Orla, to trick Draken. So I will do what I can, only when this is done, I can go back to watching the world tear itself apart, naturally." He grunted, throwing his cane to the side. "Reise, let me make this clear. Your door trick is too dangerous, thanks to Ar and the freak. However, that doesn't mean you can't cheat around it. But I'm just a stupid, foolish god with no powers, right? So you must have a great plan on saving Orla, and I talk too much like you say." He summoned forth an ebony goblet filled with a grey ooze, which it sipped from as if it's wine.

“So keep using them? Got it,” Reise said heading for a door.

The dwarf only watched Reise, not saying a word, he looked amused with Reise, even impressed or proud. He took a sip of his drink, waiting for the fireworks.

But the fireworks never came.

(JP with Thaen, Rosmary, and of course, Ender)

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