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Is That a Threat?

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"Presidents don't threaten, Jack. They don't have to."

When threatened, a character responds with, "Is that a threat?" or "Are you threatening me?" regardless of how poorly veiled the actual threat was. Stock answers include, "No, it's a fact", "No, it's a promise" and "Yes". A common variation is having the character asking "is that a threat or a promise?", and its usually used as a form of Threat Backfire, when the threatened thing wouldn't inconvenience them, or even benefit them.

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If the threatened punishment is perceived as The Unishment or the threatened character is Too Kinky to Torture, the recipient of the ultimatum may reply, "Why must you tempt me so?"

Compare "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word and Implied Death Threat.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    "Are you threatening me?" 
Audio Plays
  • Big Finish Doctor Who: "Faith Stealers":
    Bordinan: Are you threatening me?
    Carder: Come, come, Bordinan, we're both adults here... of course I'm threatening you.

Fanfiction

Film — Animated

  • Ice Age
    Sid: (The group has found a shortcut under a dangerous-looking cliff, which Sid is hesitant to enter) No thanks, I choose life.
    Diego: Then I suggest you take the shortcut.
    Sid: Are you threatening me?
    Diego: MOVE, SLOTH! (avalanche starts)
    Sid: (patting Diego) Way to go, tiger!

Film — Live-Acton

  • Babylon A.D. The High Priestess of the Neolite Cult is on the phone to Russian mob boss Gorsky.
    High Priestess: Mr Gorsky, when I kill, I kill for good.
    Gorsky: Are you threatening me?
    High Priestess: Bless your soul.
    Gorsky: You'll need a nuke to kill me!
    (Gorsky's security system detects an incoming missile)
    Gorsky: Bitch...
  • Blue Thunder
    Colonel F.E. Cochrane: You threatening me, Murphy?
    Frank Murphy: No, I'm telling you. Back off!
  • The ButterCream Gang has the cliché:
    Pete Turner: Are you threatening me? Is that a threat?
    Scott Carpenter: No, that's a promise.
  • Cinderella
    Grand Duke: Are you threatening me?
    Lady Tremaine: Yes.
  • The Dark Knight
    Lawyer: Are you threatening my client?
    Rachel Dawes: No, I'm just assuming his cooperation with this investigation.
  • Meet Joe Black:
    William Parrish: You're at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong woman!
    Joe Black: Are you threatening me?
    William Parrish: Yeah, I certainly hope so.
  • Payback:
    (Porter has just threatened to kill Carter while talking to Bronson on the phone)
    Bronson: Are you threatening me?
    Porter: I'm not threatening you, I'm threatening Carter.
  • The Principal: During the confrontation between the principal and the leader of the school gang. The threat is about as blatant as it can get (not to mention in front of the whole school), the guy who's being threatened just wanted to prove that he's not afraid.
    Victor: I expel you, you fuck! You're not the principal here anymore, fucker! And if you come back tomorrow and you try you're leaving in a body bag!
    Rick: You threatening me?
    Victor: You're a dead man if you come here tomorrow!
  • Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith:
    Mace Windu: In the name of the Galactic Senate of the Republic, you're under arrest, Chancellor.
    Supreme Chancellor Palpatine: Are you threatening me, Master Jedi?
    Mace Windu: The Senate will decide your fate.
    Palpatine: I am the Senate.
  • Time Chasers
    J. K. Robertson: Are you threatening me?
    Nick: No, I'm telling you!

Literature

  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:
    Uncle Vernon: Are you threatening me, sir?
    Mad-Eye Moody: (pleased Vernon's caught on so quickly) Yes, I am.
    Vernon: And do I look like the kind of man who can be intimidated?
    Moody: Well...(reveals his magical eye, making Vernon jump backwards into a luggage trolley) Yes, I'd have to say you do, Dursley.
  • The Monarch of the Glen has a third-party variant, where the typical response fails to impress.
    Smith: Mr. Alice will not be pleased.
    Old lady: note  Are you threatening him?
    Smith: I don't threaten.
    Old lady: Ah. Well I do. And if you or that fat bastard you work for hurt this young man it'll be the worse for both of you. (Smiles with sharp teeth) There's worse things than dying, and I know most of them. I'm not young, and I'm not one for idle talk. So if I were you, I'd look after this lad.
  • Two examples in A Song of Ice and Fire.
    • Ser Kevan Lannister warns his niece the Queen Regent not to take him lightly.
      Cersei: Are you threatening me?
      Kevan: I am counseling you.
    • In an earlier novel, Tyrion Lannister does something similar when he finds his nephew King Joffrey having Sansa Stark stripped and beaten in public.
      King Joffrey: The King can do as he likes!
      Tyrion: The Mad King did as he liked. Did your uncle Jaime tell you what happened to him?
      Ser Meryn: No one threatens His Grace in the presence of the Kingsguard!
      Tyrion: I am not threatening the King, I am educating my nephew. Bronn, if Ser Meryn speaks again, kill him. See? That is a threat.
  • Wolf Hall: Thomas More, who is cracking down on Protestantism, tells Cromwell that he knows about Cromwell's correspondence with William Tyndale.
    Cromwell: Are you threatening me? I'm just interested.
    More: [after a pause] Yes... yes, that is precisely what I'm doing.
  • Worm has a third-party variant:
    Director Tagg: And you don't care about your savior, locked away in that cell?
    Dinah Alcott: Are you threatening Taylor?
    Director Tagg: I don't know. You said she'll do damage in some form. Maybe we need to stop that from happening. And you said that no matter what happens, the outcome's more in our favor than it was before she surrendered. Why? Is it that important to remove her from Brockton Bay? To unseat her from her throne?
    Dinah Alcott: I'm not answering any more questions.
    Director Tagg: You'll answer what I ask you to answer, because we need to go into this with our eyes open. We can't have Skitter damage us.
    Mrs. Yamada: Director, this isn't constructive. The last thing she wants—
    Dinah Alcott: The last thing I want is another arrogant dickface telling me what to do. You want answers, Director? Fine. Twenty two point eight one three percent chance you die painfully, over long, slow minutes or hours. Maybe soon, maybe in twenty years, but it'll bring you to tears, and you'll wail in pain. That's a freebie. Want more details?

Live-Action TV

  • The Bluth company's former Secret Keeper Kitty turns this around on Michael in the Arrested Development episode "Missing Kitty" when she meets him in a crowded restaurant to get her job back:
    Kitty: I know where things are and you don’t and you are asking for a whole world of trouble.
    Michael: If you're threatening me, you're going to be very sorry.
    Kitty: Are you threatening me?
    Michael: Yeah, that's a threat. I'm threatening you.
    Kitty: (shouting) Did you hear that everyone?! Michael Bluth is threatening me!
  • Doctor Who: "Partners in Crime":
    The Doctor: Seeding a level five planet is against galactic law.
    Matron Cofelia: Are you threatening me?
    The Doctor: I am trying to help you, matron. This is your one chance.
  • Game of Thrones:
    Tyrion: The Mad King did as he liked. Has your Uncle Jaime ever told you what happened to him?
    Ser Meryn: No one threatens His Grace in the presence of the Kingsguard!
    Tyrion: I am not threatening the King, ser, I am educating my nephew. Bronn, the next time Ser Meryn speaks, kill him. That was a threat. See the difference?
  • Grimm:
    Catherine: She is not here! I have no reason to protect her anymore.
    Nick: Well, then find her. Or else things are going to get a little dangerous here for you.
    Catherine: Are you threatening me?
    Nick: I'm sorry... Must have done it badly, I thought I made myself pretty obvious.
  • Jekyll
    Hyde: Are you threatening my family?
    Benjamin: Yeah. I am. Explicitly, and directly, and emphatically threatening the lives of Dr. Jackman's family.
    Hyde: That's all I needed to know.
  • Law & Order:
    Witness: Are you threatening me?
    Lennie Briscoe: You catch on pretty fast!
    • Another example:
      Ron Drexler: Is that a threat?
      Det. Fontana: A threat? No. A threat would be more like... "If you stonewall this investigation any more I'm gonna break your jaw. And when you're on the ground, I'm gonna kick you 'till you spit blood you cheap shyster." That would be a threat. This is more of a request.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit:
    Elliot Stabler: Oh good, I see I got your attention. You ever lay a hand on your wife or your daughters again, I'm gonna pay you a visit.
    Suspect: Is that a threat?
    Elliot Stabler: (beat) Yeah.
  • Medium
    Joe Dubois: I'm saying I know my daughter better than you do. I'm saying I know she didn't cheat. And I'm saying if you penalize her based on your completely unfounded suspicion, then I am going over your head.
    Ariel's Math Teacher: Are you threatening me, Mr. Dubois?
  • Merlin (2008), "The Coming of Arthur, Part 1"
    Cenred: Don't worry, Morgause. I'll find him soon enough.
    Morgause: See that you do.
    Cenred: Are you threatening me?
    Morgause: Trust me, Cenred, when I am threatening you, you'll know about it.
    • Given a call back in the next episode when Morgause cheerfully informs Cenred that she's threatening him right before having him killed.
  • Oz: Martin Querns, the new unit manager of Emerald City, uses the "Are you threatening me?" version in a mocking tone towards the leader of the Muslim prisoners to emphasize how unimpressed he is by the toothless display.
  • Spooks:
    Harry Pearce: Are you threatening me?
    Tessa Phillips: You threatened me from way up there on your moral high ground. You hypocritical arsehole.
  • A variation from an episode of of the sitcom Taxi; Louie has enraged Alex to the point that Alex has ripped the front off of Louie's dispatcher cage and bodily dragged him forth:
    Louie: Are you threatening me with physical violence?
    Alex: [growls]
    Louie: I'm not sayin' it won't work! I'm just askin'!
  • Teen Wolf
    Ethan: Why are you even talking to me? I helped kill your friend. How do you know I'm not gonna kill another one?
    Stiles: Is he looking at me? Are you threatening me? You know what I'm gonna do? I'm going to break off an extra large branch of Mountain ash, wrap it in wolfsbane, roll it in mistletoe, and shove it up your freaking..
    Scott: whoa, Stiles, okay. We get it. We're talking to you because I know that you didn't want to kill Boyd. And I think that if something like that happened now, you wouldn't do it again.
  • Without a Trace:
    Agt. Jason Farrell: Are you threatening me, Agent Malone?
    Jack Malone: You take it any way you want!

Theatre

  • A Man for All Seasons:
    The Duke of Norfolk: Aaahh, he won't attend the wedding.
    Cromwell: If I were you, I'd try and persuade him. I really would try... if I were you.
    The Duke of Norfolk: Cromwell, are you threatening me?
    Cromwell: My dear Norfolk... this isn't Spain. This is England.

Video Games

  • Heavy Rain:
    Ethan's psychiatrist:: Are you threatening me?
    Lt. Carter Blake: I'm just giving you some free advice, doctor. I suggest you take it.

Webcomics

  • Tower of God:
    Lo Po Bia Ren: If King Zahard were to find out about this... I can't imagine how disappointed he would be...
    Ha Yuri Zahard: Oy, RED newbie, are you threatening me right now?
    Lo Po Bia Re: Th-threaten? Of course not. I'm simply worry about the future of Zahard...
    Ha Yuri Zahard: Ah, really? Everything seems to be solved for you when you just add Zahard's name. That's really convenient! Using Zahard's name to threaten one of Zahard's Princesses... you must be out of your mind. Know this, the strength of Zahard isn't the kind that can be called upon so conveniently. Though, there's no need bothering to explain this to somebody who just uses Zahard's name as he pleases… Get out of here or I will kill you!

Western Animation

    "Is that a threat?" 
Fanfiction
  • In Heart of Ashes, the line's used in the same dialogue by both parties.
    Lord Beronor: Do not stand in my way, witch... life will become very unpleasant for you if you do.
    Kathryn: Is that a threat?
    Lord Beronor: No, that was truth. A threat would be if I proposed something I had a chance of completing; when I say truth, I mean it with utter certainty.
    [...]
    Kathryn: Do you believe me to be a little puppet for you to pull the strings?! Do you think that because I am a woman, I am feeble! I too can command the winds sir! I have a hurricane in me so great it will strip the leaves of your Noble House bare if you dare to try me!
    Lord Beronor: You dare to threaten me?!
    Kathryn: I do!
  • Old West: Said in the 26th chapter.
    Sheriff Rango: For your own sake, I'm asking you to leave us be.
    Dufayel: Is that a threat, Monsieur Rango?
    Sheriff Rango: You don't wanna corner a wild animal.
    Dufayel: And you had best not attempt to outfox a fox. It goes badly for you in your cause.
  • Relief from Nightmares:
    Unspeakable Croaker: I would not be so quick to speak if I were you, Rukar, we have measures against your kind here.
    Harry: And I would not put myself at risk so readily if I were you. First, you take my godfather, then my friends - including your own nephew - now you threaten my mate? Do you have a death wish?
    Unspeakable Croaker: Is that a threat?
    Harry: No. A conviction.
  • Son of the Sannin has this exchange between Jiraiya and Danzo in the prelude to an invasion to Kirigakure, in regards to Jiraiya's decision to ally with Mei Terumi to topple the current Mizukage.
    Danzo: You will regret this, Hokage.
    Jiraiya: [eyes narrowed) Is that a threat?
    Danzo: It's a warning. And it's not me I'm warning you about. (leaves the room)

Film — Animated

  • The Lion King has a variation:
    Mufasa: Is that a challenge?
  • The Swan Princess:
    Prince Derek: Don't let her die!
    Rothbart: [sounding utterly bored] Is that a threat?
    Prince Derek: [grabs Rothbart by the throat] Don't you dare let her die!
    Rothbart: Ooooh, it is a threat!

Film — Live-Action

  • Club Dread:
    Juan: Yu and Hank are dead!
    Coconut Pete: ...What did we do?
    Juan: No! Yu and Hank are fucking dead!
    Coconut Pete: Is that a threat?
  • Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen:
    Carla: I'll show you what it's like to be in my school.
    Lola: Is that a threat?
    Carla: Absolutely!
  • The Dead Pool. When Dirty Harry finds his name is on the titular dead pool (a bet that certain celebrities will die by the end of the year) a suspect tells Harry it's Nothing Personal. When Harry says he might just start his own dead pool with the suspect's name on it, he wants to know if Harry is threatening him.
    Harry: You wanna play the game, you'd better know the rules.
  • Death Warrant:
    DeGraf: You're not gonna last too long.
    Burke: Is that a threat?
    DeGraf: No... that's a promise.
  • Dr. Dolittle 2:
    Dr. Dolittle: (talking to an animal) You're an endangered species!
    Archie: Is that a threat, buddy?
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:
    Malfoy: My father will hear about this!
    Mad-eye Moody:' Is that a threat? Is that a threat?!
    (Malfoy flees)
    Moody: I could tell you stories about your father that would curl even your greasy hair, boy!
  • If Looks Could Kill:
    Mrs Grober: And despite what you are saying, if I don't have Michael Corben by the end of this week, she is going to be one very unhappy lady!
    Haywood: Is that a threat, Mrs. Grober?
    Mrs Grober: French teachers do not threaten, Monsieur. They say, "S'il vous plait."
  • Rules of Engagement:
    Sokal: Is that a threat?
    Colonel Hodges: Oh yes, sir.
  • Played with in Scream 3:
    Dewey: Is that a threat, Detective?
    Detective Kincaid: When it's a threat, you'll know it.
    Dewey: Is that a threat?
  • Sweet Smell of Success
    Sen. Harvey Walker: Why does everything you say sound like a threat?
    J.J. Hunsecker: Maybe it's a mannerism, because I don't threaten friends, Harvey.
  • The 1970 horror flick Torture Dungeon:
    Ivan: I'd like to break you neck.
    Rosemary: Not if I break yours first.
    Ivan: Is that a threat?
    Rosemary: Take it anyway you like it!
    Ivan: I usually do!
  • Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf??
    George: Try and I'll beat you at your own game.
    Martha: Is that a threat, George, huh?
    George: It's a threat, Martha.

Literature

  • Blood and Chocolate:
    Aiden: Is that a threat?
    Rafe: No... (headbutts him) This is a threat!
  • In Broken Angels Matthias Hand (a Voodoo practitioner) implies there may supernatural retribution if any harm comes to him. The commander of the Wedge mercenaries asks this trope, and on confirming that he is being threatened, blows Hand in half. His Body Backup Drive means Hand doesn't actually die, but the act makes it clear the Wedge are not to be taken lightly.
  • Star Wars Legends: Vision of the Future:
    Tierce: That sounded like a threat.
    Disra: It was half a threat. Here's the other half.
    [Disra draws his concealed blaster pistol]
  • Warrior Cats:
    Skipper: I've seen Red around a lot lately. Next time, it might be a tuft of her fur that's left beside a dead Twoleg pet.
    Stick: Leave Red out of this. And don't make threats you can't keep.
    Misha: Oh, they're not threats. They're promises.
  • Winner Take All, by Barry Eisler.
    I returned his stare, and something in my eyes made him look away. “If you want to play fishing games with me,” I said, “you’re just wasting time. But if I think your I-took-a-course-at-Langley-on-verbal-manipulation-techniques bullshit contains an element of threat, I’ll take you out before you even have a chance to beg me not to.”
  • Wolf Hall: When Thomas More resigns as Lord Chancellor, Thomas Cromwell asks what he's going to do with his retirement.
    More: Write. Pray.
    Cromwell: My recommendation: write only a little, and pray a lot.
    More: Now is that a threat?
    Cromwell: My turn, don't you think?
  • In Worm, Alexandria and Taylor have this little discussion in Cell 22.4. It later gets turned around, in the most gruesome manner.
    Alexandria: You wanted to be on board, I presume. You had to be informed, so you understood exactly what it means when I make a threat.
    Taylor: You're planning to make threats?
    Alexandria: Threats is the wrong word. But English is a limited language in some ways. There's really no word to articulate what I mean. A threat with a measure of inevitability to it. A promise? Too feeble. People break promises too often. A curse? A malediction? Too... magical. An oath? The connotations are wrong. When I say I'll do something, I make it happen.

Live-Action TV

  • 7th Heaven:
    Robbie's Father: You can't stop me from moving in with my son.
    Rev. Camden: The state of New York can.
    Robbie's Father: Is that a threat?
    Rev. Camden: No, it's not a threat. (pause) Okay, it's a threat.
  • Blake's 7.
    • In "Gambit", Supreme Commander Servalan is pressuring crime boss Krantor to help her find a fugitive.
      Krantor: My dear Commander, there are many wanted men here. They come to Freedom City because we are outside the Federation.
      Servalan: Not very far outside.
      Krantor: I do hope that is not as threatening as it sounds. That would be ... most unwise.
    • From the episode "Orbit".
      Avon: Oh, that sounds unpleasantly like a threat.
      Egrorian: It is a threat. Like you, I have a price on my head. So, having revealed my little sanctuary, I cannot allow you and your colleagues to leave. Not, at any rate, until we've reached an agreement.
  • Dallas:
    Vaughn Leland: IT WAS CROOKED! And I believe you knew that! You'll regret this!
    J R: Is that a threat Vaughn?
    Vaughn Leland: A promise!
  • Doctor Who: In "The Pyramid at the End of the World", every clock and watch on Earth has somehow become a Doomsday Clock.
    Col. Brabbit: Is this a threat?
    The Doctor: I wish it was. Threats are easy. I think this is a warning. Somewhere, somehow, the end has begun.
  • Dragnet
    Battered kid's mom: Is that a threat, seargeant?
    Sgt.Friday: No. That's a promise.
  • Passions:
    Rebecca: Is that a threat, Peee-lar?
    Pilar Lopez-Fitzgerald: No. I don't make threats. I make promises.
  • Red Dwarf
    Lister: Okay, Rimmer, Okay.
    Rimmer: Is that a threat, Lister?
    Lister: Yeah.
    Rimmer: Actually, "okay" is not a threat, technically speaking.
    Lister: It is when you're meaning it to mean what I'm meaning it to mean, and I'm meaning it to mean okay, Rimmer, O-kaaaay!
    Rimmer: Lister, "okay" is never a threat, no matter how many "aaaay"s you put on the end of it.
  • Rome
    Mark Antony: Caesar has many more legions than the Thirteenth.
    Scipio: On the far side of the Alps.
    Mark Antony: Winter does not last forever. Spring comes. Snows melt.
    Scipio: That's a threat!
    Mark Antony: I assure you it is no threat. Snows, always, melt.
  • The Sopranos
    Tony: What's that, a threat?
    Carmela: No, Tony, it's a rave review!
  • Stargate SG-1:
    First Minister Dreylock: Need I remind you that the stargate is in our possession?
    Tarthus: For the moment.
    First Minister Dreylock:Is that a threat?
    Tarthus: It's an assurance that when it comes to the survival of our people, we will do whatever is necessary.
  • Star Trek: Voyager
    • "Prophecy":
      Kohlar: It is possible that the sacred scrolls were scrolled by a madman in a cave. Or perhaps they really were divinely inspired. Either way, they've guided us for over a century. If my people start to believe that the sacred scrolls have led them astray, there may be violence.
      Captain Kathryn Janeway: Is that a threat?
      Kohlar: Merely a fact. You're doing everything you can to get your people home, Captain. That's all I'm doing for mine.
    • "Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy":
      Seven of Nine: The Doctor and I are going to Sickbay.
      B'elanna Torres: Any excuse to be alone with him, eh, Seven?
      Seven of Nine: Assimilation is an unpleasant fate.
      B'elanna Torres: Is that a threat?
    • "Alliances"
      Janeway: I won't pretend that our alliance wasn't an attempt to make a show of strength. Separately, we and the Trabe are vulnerable. Together, we are stronger.
      Surat: Are you threatening us, Captain?
      Janeway: It is important that you understand our determination, but it's not a threat, it's an offer. A negotiated peace among all of us would provide a greater stability in this quadrant. How could that do anything but benefit us all?
  • Parodied in Two and a Half Men:
    Charlie: Is that a threat?
    Jake: No, it's a promise.
    Charlie: What's the difference?
    Jake: I don't know — one's a threat and one's a promise.
  • Westworld.
    Maeve: I also know your future. You have none.
    Hector: Is that a threat?
    Maeve: The start of a proposition.

Web Original

  • Played With in one of Marik's Evil Council videos after Steve Luna and Steve Umbris have been talking about how things are on the moon.
    Bakura: Well, we're not on the moon, are we?
    Steve Luna: That can be arranged.
    Bakura: Is that supposed to be a threat?
    Steve Luna: No. I was simply drawing attention to our luxury moon vacation plan. Buy a ticket and receive one free ass-whupping upon your initial payment. That part was a threat.

Western Animation

  • King of the Hill
    Hank: I am Hank Hill, and I am a MAN. You are going to change my license to reflect that, or else.
    DMV Employee: Is that a threat?
    Hank: *sighs, then speaks sternly* If it has to be.
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    "Is that a threat or a promise?" 
Film — Live-Action
  • Revolutionary Road:
    Frank: Listen to me, you do this April, you do this and I swear to god...
    April: What? You'll leave me? Is that a threat or a promise?

Live-Action TV

Video Games

    Other 
  • Escape From the Moon: In the sequel The Mare From the Moon:
    Celestia: And if you harm my student, you will discover what happens to a body when it is exposed directly to the sun.
    Spliced Genome: I can already tell what would happen; massive radiation poisoning, the body would more than likely combust the closer you get, decompression from a lack of air would happ- oh you are threatening me, (she says this last in a scared tone)
    Celestia: No, I am not. I am simply stating a fact about your more than likely prison if you attack one of my nation’s most beloved heroes for at least six hundred years, give or take our busy schedule to keep track of such things,” ... “That is only if you prove to be a threat and as an immortal myself, I have a very long memory.
  • Nixon: A conversation between President Richard Nixon and Jack, a Texas billionaire (appropriately played by Larry Hagman), where they are both subtly threatening each other until Nixon comes out on top.
Nixon: If you're not happy with the E.P.A. up your ass, try the I.R.S.
Jack: Dick, you're not threatening me, are ya?
Nixon: Presidents don't threaten, Jack. They don't have to.
  • RWBY: After a failed mission caused in part by Cinder prioritizing Revenge Before Reason, Salem gives her underlings a speech to this effect.
    Salem: It's important not to lose sight of what drives us: love, justice, reverence... But the moment you put your desires before my own, they will be lost to you. This isn't a threat; this is simply the truth. The path to your desires is only found through me.

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