Closing the Door

General Debinani Rahl sat in the forests of the north woods, looking at the two darkened and twisted trees forming an arch in the middle of a small clearing. He had been studying them for nearly an hour, looking for any signs that the waygate was supported in any way from the Sosarian end of the connection, but there was nothing. He sat down to the ground heavily and sighed.

“They’re not going to make it without you,” came a voice from beside him, “they don’t have the context or the experience. They haven’t got the first idea how to fight this.”

The General looked to the shade of Kironius Mengst sitting on the ground beside him.

“You know, you’ve got some bloody god-awful timing,” he growled.

“Don’t blame me, kid, it’s a phase of the moon, direction of the wind thing trying to appear to anyone besides Alexander, this is the first chance I’ve had to get a word in. Been watching though. Seems that lil’ slip of a Private’s got a crush on ya.” The other man swung his arm out and through the grinning specter angrily. “Hey, HEY!” the shade continued, “wars and death and universal badness happens all the time, but I’ll be damned if it’s not rare as all hell that the ladies find yer ugly-stuck-up-arse desirable. Probably just has a fetish for powerful men, “mused the shade.

“I don’t suppose you have anything useful to say eh?”

The shade shrugged. “I’ve already said the important stuff. They don’t know the Lady well enough to end this.”

“She’ll send reinforcements…” the General nodded to the waygate, “if she does then there’s no chance at all.”

“Aye,” said the shade knowingly, “kind of a pisser ain’t it?”

Both of them, man and spirit, nodded to themselves. After a moment of silence, the exhausted General stood up slowly and brushed the dirt from his uniform.

“Guess I better go blow this damn thing up,” he said, walking slowly to the waygate.

“Good luck Gen’ral,” said the shade, “tell the Queen Bitch ‘Hi’ for me.”

“Will do,” said the other, turning to look at the shade one last time before walking through the gate, “and who’re you callin’ ugly you troll? Sheesh.”

With an exhausted grin, the man walked through the waygate and vanished.

A few moments later, a burnt, bloodied, and broken man came hurtling out of the gate, followed by a geyser of fire and energy.

Time passes differently in Tablenhelm, and time did pass, two days in fact.

The General emerged from the waygate loaded for bear, expecting the entirety of Tablenhelm to be waiting there for him. Surprisingly, there was only a single artificer tending the magical fires that fueled the gate. The poor fellow took all the magical fire that General had prepared to distract an entire army, leaving little more than a pair of smoking boots.
He looked around to get his bearings. The new waygate was on the opposite end of the island from the old Great Circle, near the bluffs where the Terath’Ambul trained. The place was still a wreck, broken and scarred by the fires that Alexander released when he destroyed the Great Tally. Even after hundreds of years of relative time, very little life was to be found in Tablenhelm.

“No wonder she can’t raise an army herself…,” he mused to himself as he trotted to a cluster of new-looking low buildings near the edge of the waygate’s mustering area. He didn’t feel comfortable in the view of the immense black spire that stretched to the clouds in the middle of the island. He didn’t feel comfortable in view of *her*. He ducked into what seemed to be a small artificer’s workshop which, after closer examination, appeared to have all the tools he’d need to shatter the crystal that channeled the energy of The Ways. He gathered up everything he would need, and stole off into the hills.

It didn’t take long before there was a small herd of Terath’Ambul on his trail. He spent two days endeavoring to evade Kishara’s master-assassins, pausing in the chase just long enough to assemble a device powerful enough to shatter the gate crystal. When he finally had the thing completed, he began to work his way back through the maze of cliffs to the location of the waygate.

The Terath’Ambul were apparently a step ahead of him, having herded him through the cliffs, knowing full well that he’d return to the waygate, and had used his inexperience with the nuances of Tablenhelm geography to get him into a position where there was just one feasible way back to the gate.
It was what passed for midday in the eternal twilight of Tablenhelm of the third day that the travel-worn and utterly exhausted General found himself on his belly at the crest of a hill, looking over his approach to the waygate. He grumbled irritably and took a moment to bury his face in the dirt and not think about it. He thought about sunrises and bunnies and the curve of the bosoms of a few of the more attractive women he’d met in his years. When he looked back up, they were still there.

The waygate was guarded, and guarded well. There were no fewer than two-dozen soldiers there, as well as a woman who looked so much like Kishara that it gave him the shakes – she was very likely a vessel, someone possessed absolutely by Her so she could walk about Tablenhelm and yell at people who weren’t working and dying fast enough.

And they were all looking right at him.

“Well fuck me,” he grumbled, painfully pulling himself to his feet and forcing himself to wave cheerily at the assembly at the bottom of the hill. “Okay Old Man,” he muttered to himself as he walked slowly down the hill towards the gathering, “how’re we gonna get out of this one…We’re not, stupid, what’re you thinking?” Well, at least it was a relief to know. “Okay then…we’re not getting out of this…fine…I can deal with that…how’re we gonna blow up the gate before they get me?”

That one was a puzzler. As slow as he was walking, and as patient as the soldiers below seemed to be about letting him get there in his own time, they were still getting closer, and he would have to do something incredibly clever terribly soon. After nearly three days on the run with no sleep and little food, the ol’ steel trap mind wasn’t exactly at its best to be able to come up with something incredibly clever. Instead, he removed his explosive crystal from his ear and placed it in his mouth, dropped the tiny device he had built on the ground behind his leg so the people below wouldn’t see it, cast a meteor swarm into the tightest formation of them, and broke into a run parallel to the waygate staging area, making for the workshop buildings a few dozen yards distant.

The soldiers, several of which were now dead or badly burned and realizing now that their query wasn’t going to give himself up, gave chase, attempting to cut him off by getting to the workshop buildings first. The General ran just fast enough to make them think he was desperate, but just slow enough to allow them to get into the close confines of the buildings first, and when they did, he used a scroll to cast an energy vortex into their midst.

With many of the guards at the waygate cleared, he turned back towards it at a dead run. As he was now approaching the waygate from another angle, and all the heads were turned to him, he used a telekinesis spell to hurl the tiny device out of the rocks and latch it to the gate crystal, an act that automatically started a clockwork timer before puncturing the fragile seal that held the thing together. He figured he had about thirty or so seconds to get through the few soldiers at the gate and get through it before the whole thing went up.

Sadly, he had forgotten about the vessel, who, with a flick of her wrist, held him fast with bonds of air mere yards from the gate. He cursed himself for entertaining the hope that he’d actually get out of Tablenhelm alive, and turned his head to face the vessel, who was walking towards him smiling demurely while the remaining soldiers approached him to start binding him up. The vessel got to him first, her eyes sparkling with wicked glee, smiling the whole time. The General tried very, very hard to smile back, but couldn’t bring himself to do it. Instead, he bit down hard on the crystal in his mouth, breaking the seal and allowing air into the explosive substance within. He spit the crystal out into the cleavage revealed by the vessel’s low-cut dress.

“Kironius Mengst says ‘Hi”,” he spat. A slight frown crossed her pretty little face, and then she exploded.

The force of the blast struck him dead on, throwing him back towards the waygate, which, he thought beyond the pain in his face and chest, was terribly convenient. He landed with a thud next to it in time to hear the clicking of the tiny gears in his device stop. With a roar of defiance, he launched himself from the ground and into the gate at the same moment the tiny plunger punctured the seal.

Burnt, broken, and bleeding, General Debinani Rahl lay in a burnt out clearing in the north woods, painfully coughed up and subsequently spit out a bit of blood, and forced himself to roll over to put out his smoldering clothes. He lay there for a time, feeling his limbs get cold and numb despite the bright Sosarian sunshine he was bathed in, and smiled slightly.

“That went well…” he whispered, and promptly passed out.

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