As they neared the airport, Asad moved to the front of the plane in order to radio the Rainlords on the ground and ensure a safe landing. A car was waiting for them on the tarmac, as was a group of reaperless workers who began unloading supplies as soon as Asad and the others were clear.
It was a quiet car ride, even between the reapers. Perhaps everyone was nervous, wondering what difference four more servants would make. After a spell, Asad’s daughter decided to break the silence.
“Where did you get that shield?” she asked. At twenty-two years, Jada was the oldest of Asad’s three children.
It seemed to take Hector a moment to realize that she was talking to him. “Oh, uh... from your... uncle, I think?”
Asad had thought he recognized it.
‘Less from Haqq and more from Sazandara,’ said Garovel.
That made more sense. Asad’s hand went to the ring in his pocket, rolling it absently between his fingers and wondering if he would need it. Haqq had given it to him just before leaving Kuros. Callous though he was, Haqq had always found other ways to demonstrate his concern for his big brother.
Soon, after passing a couple checkpoints, they arrived at a large hotel, around which stood a plethora of new reapers and servants. They all eyed Asad and his small entourage, but only one deigned to approach.
It was a very small person, Asad realized, fully grown certainly but no taller than a child. “Welcome to Rheinhal,” the little man said.
Asad couldn’t help hesitating, still unsure to whom he was speaking. “Thank you.”
“The Lion of the Desert, is it? I do not believe I have ever had the pleasure.” He certainly had a firm handshake, regardless of his stature. “I am Xuan Sebolt.”
“Ah! A pleasure, indeed! Though, at this rate, I fear they will start calling me the Black Sheep of the Desert, instead. I am sorry I could not procure any more aid from my kin.”
“You have nothing to apologize for,” said Xuan. “This is not their fight. Were we in their position, we probably would have done the same.”
Asad only frowned at that.
“Come inside, won’t you? I believe everyone has been expecting you.”
The hotel lobby broadened into a casino floor, though all of the slot machines had been turned off. Lavish red-gold carpeting filled each walkway, lined with segmented lights.