Den of Wolves Pt2

A JP with Thaen, Rosmary, and Ender

((Shadrazar, Zatar))

Severos laughed, looking between Reise and the genie. "You say you are a man of science and magic is not true power, and yet I tell you, here lies true power." He looked closely at the bottle, taking it out of the bag and turning back to the woman. "Though it truly depends on what bloodline of djinn you are. Forgive me for asking," he said to the genie. "But what are you truly? It has been a long time since I read up on djinn, except for some old stories."

“It’s genie actually,” Ola said, spinning on her heels to face Severos. “Djinn is somewhat of a racial slur, and quite antiquated even for myself.” She then thought for a moment. “Or I guess I should say I suppose it would be. I’ve not been out of my bottle in quite some time.”

“How long have you been inside it?” Orla asked as Severos passed her the fancy bottle of coloured glass to examine.

Ola pondered the question for a moment, rocking from heel to tip toe a few times. “Maybe fifty years?” Continuing to rock back and forth, she looked at Reise “How old was the man who sold you the bottle?”

“The guy at the liquor stand? I don’t know, probably about seventy give or take,” Reise responded.

Ola nodded her head, “Then yes somewhere around fifty years. You lose track after a while. No sunrise or sunset, not really anyway, I could make it darker in the bottle for sleep or brighter to make it feel like day. But you can only rearrange your pillow collection so many times before you start to repeat yourself and get bored.” She gave a mildly unhinged smile for just a moment before slapping her forehead. “Oh my. My manners. Sorry, sorry. I know all of you but you don’t know me. I am Ola Denholm,” she said, giving a strange gesture not unlike a bow, that only Severos knew the true meaning of having grown up close to this region. “You are Reise, my master. Severos the tradesman wizard. And Orla the Fey Elf, and the heart of the group.” She looked at them all. “Am I right?”

“I don’t know about heart...” Orla started to say, but Reise shook his head.

“No, she's right. You are what brought us together in a way and kept us together. If you and I had never met I wouldn’t have journeyed far and wide to save you, and I wouldn’t have met Severos. If he and I never met there wouldn't have been anyone to save him from the book. Without someone to do that, who knows what would have happened? In a big way Orla you're the one that saved Severos, and by extension countless lives if that book had fallen into the wrong hands.”

Orla smiled, never having thought of it that way before and she wondered if she were unknowingly fulfilling Fernoia’s grand design.

“Any whoo. Where to?” the genie asked them. “Oops that rhymed. Sorry, I do that a lot. But really these doors are creeping me out.”

Orla could relate to Ola’s sense of unease. The place they currently stood did not truly exist in any normal sense of the term. “They are not dangerous as much as they take some getting used to,” she replied, knowing what was so difficult was not understanding how the Hallway of Doors worked.

Reise spoke up. “I'll be honest. I don’t care much for them either. They are kind of spooky, but a useful tool is a useful tool, and a straight line is much faster than a winding path.” He commented, “Thing I hate the most is not having any clue where a door will lead.”

“That’s kind of like wishes, speaking of which.” Ola held out her hands and a massive book appeared in a flash of light. “Rules for making wishes. I REALLY suggest you read them.”

Reise took the book from her and nearly stumbled forward, Ola making it look light as a feather when really it weighed like fifty pounds. “I’ll read it later. In the meantime can you put it somewhere?” he asked her.

“Is that a wish?” Ola asked intently.

“What? No, I just can’t carry it or read it at the moment so can you just put it where you got it?” Reise handed it back to her. “As far as where to go... let’s see.” He grabbed a knob and pulled open a door at random.

The door opened to a pitch black room, though in the far corner a small rectangular outline of golden light fought to illuminate the blackness, and the earthy smell of old vegetables creeped into Reise's nose. “Celler of some kind,” he said, shutting the door.

"We need to be careful here," Severos said calmly but firmly. "Opening the wrong door in Shadrazar could be dangerous. A Zataran sorcerer is definitely not one to trifle with, much less accidentally stumble into their private chambers."

"And yet, this is how it goes," Reise replied dryly.

Severos frowned. "Your Hallway of Doors is too random from what we have observed. We need to find the simulacrum in the real world. Hindsight as it is, angering a local slaver has hindered us. Saddique will undoubtedly have spellswords after us now. The man can afford to hire the best bounty hunters and there is no doubt he'll do that to take his revenge on you. Therefore, we need to be very careful when we move from here on out."

"The Hallway will keep us from running into any guards doing their jobs, or anybody hunting us we might meet on the streets," Reise replied, his previous annoyance flaring to round on Severos for suggesting they forgo the best thing they had going for them.

"The doors are unknown and potentially very dangerous," Severos reiterated. "Better to take our chances at evasion than to trust where they may lead us at any given moment. All is not lost though; my family has contacts here. We may yet be able to find her. But we will need a clever and cool head amongst us. I ask for trust," he finished, glancing between him and Orla. The genie watched with interest at the whole proceeding.

"What would you suggest we do?" Orla asked, trying to ease tensions.

"All slave records are kept by the seller and the Magistrate Office. Most cities have one and the recent rise in bookmaking has made records more easily catalogued and reported. If the local slave masters do not have a record, then the next logical place to look would be there," the mage responded with confidence. "But it would mean keeping a cool head, Horo. Otherwise, this search will continue."

Severos hoped that using his old name would get the idea of how much this meant to him as well to Reise.

"My head is plenty cool," Reise said, knowing it wasn't true, but wanting to just move the discussion along. Every damn moment they wasted was another moment Orla suffered in slavery. "So where do we find this Magistrate's office? At City Hall?"

"No, you're thinking too secularly," Severos replied. "The clergy oversee all criminal and civil matters, as well as a great deal of the bureaucracy in Zatar."

"So 'twould be in a temple then?" Orla guessed.

"Yes, a temple, but not just any temple," Severos answered, looking gravely around at them. "The Magistrate's Office is located in the Grand Temple to Ar. It will be easy to find since it's the largest structure within the city, even dwarfing the Sultan's palace."

"Easy to find but not so easy to break into," Reise said with a sigh of aggravation. "That will be a highly guarded and secure complex, to say the least..."

Severos nodded. "Very, very much so. It will be heavily protected by both conventional and magical defenses. We're talking hundreds of elite guards, not to mention hundreds of magical sentries in the lobbies and main halls. The amount of detection spells laid over the place will be a massive challenge in and of itself. Even Grandmaster Stormcrow, one of the great practitioners of magic in our time would be hard pressed to successfully breach this place undetected and retrieve what we're looking for, but I don't see as we have any choice in the matter..."

"So all we have to do is stay ahead of the top bounty hunters Saddique will have sent after us, not to mention whoever the Nameless will next be sending to kill us, even as we break into the securest building in all of Zatar?” Reise said with determined casualness. “Piece of cake.”

Orla looked at them both with fear in her eyes, fear for their lives. "I would never want you to die for me..."

Severos took a second at her words. She had gone through so much in the times before and had done nothing but help him. "I do not want to die," he responded as they readied themselves at another door. "But… I would do anything for you, Orla. For the both of you," he added, looking to both her and Reise. "I would probably be dead three times over. And you two have done everything in your powers to help me. Horo has trekked for decades trying to bring you back. I would like to see his quest fulfilled and you at the best you can be."

He meant every word he uttered. He had friends once, people whom he could rely on. But Mazarin was most likely dead or well hidden, and Feldspar had perished in the sacking of the college. The amount of people whom he could trust and help had diminished greatly, yet he still had two of the best friends he could ever ask for. Despite everything, despite the promise of death, he knew he would do anything for them.

Orla was quite touched by his sincerity and Reise gave a nod at his sentiment then reminded him of what they were doing.

"We have to get somewhat close," Severos said.

“As soon as we hit the streets and step outside the Hallway we’re going to be in danger,” Reise warned. “What kind of door would we be looking for to get as close as possible? Is it in a fancier part of town? Or would we be looking for something more run down?”

"Sigils on the door, written like this," Severos said, an illusion coming to life with a false script to show. "The door itself will be a gold and steel door with depictions of Ar giving his blessing to the people… or casting them down to the Hells if you look at it differently." The illusion switched with a twitch of his fingers to the exact description. "We would be in the noble quarters of the city; pick gold or steel in design, they will have a script similar to the temple doors. Our clothes are enough to look like we belong. But we will have to be quick. Soldiers will be looking if that slaver gave them our description. And I am not sure how much my status will protect us."

“Your status won't do us any good if you're a wanted man,” Reise said. “You were the only one of us who actually identified himself to Saddique.”

“And you’re the only one he would want to take his vengeance on,” Severos pointed out. “Orla and I did nothing to offend the master slaver, whereas you embarrassed and assaulted him. If there is a price on anyone’s head it will be yours, my friend.”

“It won’t be for the first time,” Reise mumbled.

Orla admired Severos's wonderful illusion casting that was so much more versatile and refined than her own limited, specialised abilities. “I do not possess your high level of formal training, Severos, but I am strong in the fae enchantment magicks taught to me, some by the Avatar of Fernoia herself. My glamours have been puissant enough in the past to defeat the sensing spells of Verdish Inquisitors, and I could attempt to shield us all with a cloaking incantation--”

“Have you all forgotten about me? Hello! Genie here!” the other woman interrupted, pointing at herself.

Reise shook his head, “I didn’t forget about you. I just don’t know how your wishes work and don’t have the time to risk figuring it out.”

“Short version?” Ola asked, “Be mindful of your wording. Wishes are taken very literally. Can’t wish for money, and you can’t wish people back from the dead either. Oh you also can’t wish for dragons. Don’t know why, but every time I’ve tried to conjure one of them up all I get are little lizards with wings that spit cinnamon flavored dust . Good for blinding people, but pocket sand does the same thing without having another mouth to feed.”

“Uh, that’s weird, but I take your point…” Reise wondered if the genie was making a joke.

She smiled. “Oh, but really. Not a joke, be super dooper careful how you word things to me. Master number two was a bard. When he said he wanted to ‘be a star’ he meant he wanted to be famous, but he's part of a constellation now. Master number three wanted to be ‘in a history book’ and my wishing magic turned him into a living history book. Master number four was a would-be legend who wished to ‘be a hero’ and he turned into a sandwich that got eaten up by seagulls. Master number five, well he was smarter, and well you got tricked by him and bought me,” Ola explained, referring to the Sarnian liquor monger.

“And Master number one?” Orla asked curiously, noticing the omission.

The genie laughed a slightly nervous, slightly crazy laugh. “We don’t talk about Master one. No ma’am. Nope. Master one never heard of him.”

“That doesn’t sound ominous at all,” Reise said as he continued to examine each door lining the hallway for the one with the sigils Severos had shown them. He finally came to a door that had some of the same sigils but that was made of fine wood, not gold and steel. He cracked it open to check and saw a corridor covered in paintings and tapestries all depicting the Zataran god Ar.

"The god of pirates we used to call him," Ola giggled. "Ar!"

Reise glared at her. "We're about to invade the Grand Temple, the Holiest of Holy sites, and you're seriously going to make a bad joke like that right now?"

"What?" she said, innocent. "I wasn't joking. Didn't you ever wonder why pirates say Ar all the time?"

"Wait, that's really true?"

The genie grinned. "Ha! I got you on that one Master."

"Don't call me that, and keep your voice down," Reise said with annoyance, before cautiously stepping through the doorway and out into the hall beyond.

Orla and Severos ignored the silly banter as they quickly worked their magic. Orla waved her small hands through the air and incanted a cloaking spell to keep the four of them from being seen by any guards in the temple, then another spell to allow them to see each other through the magical cloak. At the same time Severos cast a spell of detection and looked up and down the corridor, searching for dangerous wards that might unleash sudden death upon them.

"Is this really the Grand Temple?" Orla asked doubtfully.

Severos shook his head. "No, I think we must be in an annex building, or the home of one of the high priests."

They moved carefully as they exited the building onto a narrow alleyway that intersected one of the city's main streets near the Grand Temple that stood at the geographic centre of Shadrazar. The place stretched out far and wide, occupying several city blocks.

"A masterpiece of bad taste," Reise said, impressed by the sheer size of the structure, if not its gaudy appearance. "That is a lot to take in." He turned to Severos. "Any idea where the magistrate's office is located?"

Severos shrugged. "The priests don't give guided tours of the temple to tourists. Only priests and guards are allowed in the building."

"Terrific," Reise sighed. "So we'll just wander around in there and not get caught until we find their records office, and then search through all the files for Orla's. Yeah, no problem. Shouldn't take us more than a few days."

Pedestrians on the street were going about their business, young initiate priests in training hurrying to their classes. None paid them any notice, for none could see them at all. Reise turned to Orla. "How long will your cloaking spell last?"

"'Twill depend how much we tax it and what we might encounter," she answered in an uncertain sounding voice.

Severos knew Orla had had an incredibly long, but still rather sheltered life, and although she'd lived in the fabled metropolis of Opra Dale for several years, she did not have much practical experience beyond her forest home.

"Zataran magic is quite sophisticated," he told them. "The wizards of the east tend to be far mightier than those in our western part of Aeran, and they can craft some very complex magical wards, the kind that could dispel Orla's concealment spell and at the same time hit us all with a mind blast and shunt us all into a dungeon in the span of a heartbeat. Also, Ar's priests wield divine magic that would be at its full strength in the Grand Temple to Ar. I would not count on any spell for more than a few minutes, if not seconds in that place. But, if we're bold, fast, and clever, we may just be able to pull this off."

"Magic is nice and all, but I've got tricks of my own up my sleeve that these Zatarans wizards have never seen before," Reise said confidently. "However, maybe some of us should stay behind as lookouts. Orla, with your telepathy you can let us know if there is any sudden activity outside indicating we might have tripped an alarm. You can also keep an eye on my new genie here for me, who the guards would probably hear chattering from a mile away."

The golden skinned woman laughed. "I resemble that remark."

Orla accepted the bottle from Reise. She was not pleased to be left behind with the genie and more than suspected he was only trying to keep her out of harm's way, but she couldn't argue with his reasoning. "Very well, we shall keep a close watch then. But the both of you, please don't take unnecessary chances. What you're doing is beyond dangerous."

"I can't disagree, but if we get into any real trouble we can always just escape into the Hallway of Doors," Reise said to assure her, holding up the key.

With a worried heart, Orla watched as Reise and Severos set off towards the temple, still magically concealed by her cloaking spell.

In the darkness of the alley, two figures wearing hooded cowls hiding their features observed the men head across the street. The much smaller one looked where Orla and the genie stood unseen, and asked the much larger figure, "Can you see her?" The larger one simply shook it's head.

"Her magic is strong." The smaller one glanced back at the temple, "Stay here and keep watch."

It gave a nod as the smaller one approached Orla, silently, like a shadow walking up behind her, before speaking in a very feminine voice, "They'll find nothing of your whereabouts. In there... they will find only death."

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