Bolting throughout the house Sorley and Ember collected everything they had for hunting trips. Marcus’ hunting pack was larger so he insisted Sorley take it.
“But dad, you and mom need supplies too, even if you aren’t going with me!”
“The inquisitors will be here soon. Stop arguing and get moving!” Marcus shoved a few items into the pack then pushed a bundle into Sorley’s arms. “Ember, you’d better let Ayla strap your pack to you. We don’t have much time.”
Ember let Ayla tighten down the straps then scurried onto Sorley’s pack. “Don’t portals stay open for days? How are you going to defend it?”
“We have a plan, now go!”
Gripping the bundle in his arms Sorley ran and jumped into the portal, making sure he tucked so nothing stayed behind, detached.
“Marcus, what’s our plan?”
“Fight until the portal closes. Even if we die trying.” Marcus turned to face her. “Ayla, can I have your grimoire?” As he turned he saw the tears in her eyes and he felt the wetness in his own. They hoped Sorley would end up in a better place, but they had just sent their son into the unknown.
– – –
For what felt like days Sorley and Ember tumbled through light-speckled darkness. They lost all sense of direction and equilibrium as gravity left them.
On the third day Sorley felt gravity starting to exert on him again. Just when he realized what he was feeling he tumbled forward. His face impacting the snow that blanketed the ground as Ember flew over his head and landed in a snow-drift.
“Maybe we can be a little softer on the landing next-time.” Ember shook the snow from her fur.
“Agreed. But wasn’t it fall when we jumped through?”
“Different realm different weather?” Ember suggested.
“Fair enough.” Sorley glanced at the sky. “I think we need to find somewhere to shelter for the night. It’s starting to get dark.”
Ember and Sorley took stock of their surroundings and realized that they were in the middle of a tundra. Not a tree was in sight, but Sorley noticed some smoke swirling in the distance. Ember glanced in the direction Sorley was staring and also noticed the smoke.
“Well, that looks as best a direction to try as any. Let’s go.” Ember started hopping over small snow drifts. She got four feet then turned to look at Sorley. “I don’t think I’m going to get frozen doing this. Get moving and I’ll ride on your shoulder like usual.”
Approaching what they could only assume was a campsite Sorley and Ember crunched their way along. The top layer of the snow was frozen, but was easily crushed through by Sorley’s weight. After a while Sorley paused and looked around.
“What’s wrong?” Ember looked around, seeing nothing. “I don’t see anything. We should probably just keep going.”
Sorley listened for a moment longer. “Odd, I could’ve swo-”
His sentence was cut off as a large, white wolf jumped out from behind a snowdrift and tackled him. Immediately he fell unconscious and Ember scurried off, watching as the wolf dragged him towards the rising smoke.
– – –
When Sorley awoke he was lying in a tent and a sky elf was tending to his wounds. Sorley had read about such creatures in his parent’s small collection of lore, but he had never seen one before. He was instantly enamoured with her, then he noticed the muzzle on her face and the brand on her arm. He had heard of slavery before, and it always made his blood boil to think that some people believed that they should be allowed to own other people. He tried to speak, then realized that he, too, had a muzzle preventing him from speaking above a normal talking voice.
“Don’t talk too much. The muzzles start to chafe. You aren’t from the South Reaches, are you?”
“No, I’m from Europe. I come from a line of warlockes.”
“I don’t know where that is, but it doesn’t sound like anywhere I’ve heard about. Here.” She opened the front of his muzzle. “Try to drink this. It’s soup.”
As Sorley attempted to drink the soup a large, greenish tusked 6’3″ humanoid entered the tent. “Ah, human. We need a little bit of labor done and these elves are too fragile for it. Maybe you can do that.”
“Feel the frost.” A bolt of frost passed by the orc’s head. “Crud. Quick warlocke, kill him.”
Sorley quickly pulled a hair from his head, knotted it thrice, and cast a laughing spell on the orc.
“Krakust doesn’t know why everything is so funny, but it is.” The orc fell to his knees laughing uproariously while Sorley grabbed the elf’s hand and pulled her behind him.
On her way out the elf snagged a small pouch of gold and then started leading Sorley as they exited the tent. “I think you were sent to free my people from the orcs. Will you help me and my people?”
Sorley looked at her face for a short moment. “Yes. By the way, my name is Sorley.”
“Have you seen a red fox running around anywhere? She’s my familiar.”
Helena glanced at Sorley. “Red fox familiar? It can’t talk can it?”
“Yes, have you seen her?” Sorley glanced around and followed Helena to the edge of the camp.
“She was seen to the west. Here, I’ll take your muzzle off and show you how to remove mine.”