It was a laborious process to clear crystallized mana from my body, and my active efforts seemed to only slightly influence the process. While it was two or three times faster by my estimations, I could only focus on the task for a few hours at a time. Throughout the day, that resulted in six to ten hours of increased progress. It was a draining task, and normally I would have been content just lying around all day waiting for a week or so to recover.
But this time, people were waiting on me. On us, really. Because Midnight was necessary for Gate as well, especially with regards to the Celmothians. We might not be able to get them back home yet, but we could certainly try.
“Are you certain you are ready?” Calculator asked.
“As much as I can be. I’ve cast some small spells and didn’t even feel a tingle,” I said. “So I can either try now and maybe waste a few hours, or wait around for another day or two doing nothing. Which isn’t any fun.”
“Then we will meet up with Mr. Beridze. He’s had plenty of time to calculate the dimensional origin of those involved, but he’s still responsible for seeing them returned to where they belong.”
“He can come through the first Gate,” I pointed out. “If he doesn’t mind being gone for a day or so. He can see how things go with the Celmothians.”
“I’ll notify him of the possibility. Though I’m sure Extra has some sort of protocol regarding that.”
A couple hours later, we were back in a familiar room. I’d only technically been through once in each direction, but Extra’s facilities were designed to be familiar so that small details wouldn’t throw people off. I could imagine certain things actually having issues with the similarity, but they knew what they were doing. And the walls being marked certainly helped.
“Don’t be so nervous, Midnight,” I said. “It will be alright. And if it takes a bit longer in the end, they won’t mind too much. Having the hope of getting back and a community of people they can speak to should be much better than the situation you found yourself in.”
“… I don’t want to mess up,” he replied.
“Nobody does,” I shrugged. “Don’t worry, I’ll support you. We’ll head to Granbold, take a break, and then move on. You already used Sending to have the other side prepared as much as possible.”
“But what if the teleporter is in the wrong configuration…?” Midnight said. “What if it won’t accept a Gate?”
“Then we try your room or something. It will be alright,” I said, scratching him behind the ears. “Alright, people are coming. Let’s be ready.”
Zakaria Beridze didn’t look like much normally, but he was in official Extra uniform here. Of course, there was still a significant difference between support personnel like himself and those who were tasked with security. “Are you certain you can bring this many people?”
“Numbers aren’t a problem. As long as people don’t dawdle, it will be fine,” I said. “We can get a couple dozen people through a wide doorway easily enough. Sir Kalman will lead the way. Now then, I suppose we have to coordinate people.”
“Since I’m lacking relevant languages…” Zakaria shrugged.
“Midnight and I will handle it. Alright everyone,” I said first in common. Sir Kalman would be translating for those who only spoke dwarven or elven. “We need to be efficient about this or you have to wait a few more hours. It will be boring.” Technically, we could immediately make a second Gate to Granbold, but it would require extra waiting for our plans trying to connect to Celmoth. Midnight didn’t have enough free mana, especially since we would be creating a test Gate from the other world. Maybe it wouldn’t work at all, but I wasn’t too concerned about that. “Make sure to move together. We’ve practiced, but we don’t want anyone tripping up.”
We could have had the Celmothians carried, but without being familiar with people they wouldn’t really like that. So they would be going through on their own, and they needed to be conscious of not disrupting the bipeds.
Sir Kalman finished his translation- I could have done the same with magic, but it was just more efficient to let him do it. Magic didn’t need to be the solution to everything, I supposed.
Everyone was ready, formed up with Sir Kalman at the front- his lieutenant Sir Harold was expecting us, as communicated through Midnight during the days I was recovering. Midnight and I would be the last ones through, with Zakaria.
Gathering mana, Midnight and I had settled on the same ratio as we would be attempting with him in the lead- a 12-8 split. We could technically perform three attempts in a row, but it was just walking through a wide door.
The Gate formed and Sir Kalman strode through confidently, flinging wide the closet door on the other side. We hadn’t really found a better spot for the Gate in Mossley, unless we just did it outside. But that would mean cordoning off the area, and it was just easier to go with something already secure.
People followed after Sir Kalman, slightly nervously at first. But the portal was wide enough for two dwarves to walk side by side. The door beyond wasn’t, but people understood what they were supposed to do. And as it turned out, people were generally experienced with walking. The Celmothians went after the dwarves, elves, and a couple humans and other folk. They could fit three or four at a time through the doorway comfortably, and could basically all fit through the Gate at once. Though they went in two waves to avoid the edges. They should be safe, but it was still weird to think about touching the edge of nothing.
Then, Zakaria went through followed by Midnight riding on my shoulder. We had, by feel, about five seconds to spare. A bit close, but I was confident in my understanding of the stability of the portal. I intentionally closed it behind us, watching it shrink into a small point and disappear, instead of letting it collapse.
It sure looked like a lot more people now that we were in this small building and pouring out onto the streets. Sir Kalman was going to have a lot of fun with logistics in the coming days.
But things weren’t exactly resolved without incident. Even those who had made it back weren’t going to be lacking in trauma… and there were other factors to consider as well. Like the things people would almost certainly notice involving ‘free’ skills. Not just Sir Kalman, but also Antiele and I was fairly certain Gerard and Scrag had already noticed. And someone didn’t want people to know about these things. But we also couldn’t stop people from going home, if they wanted. There was no point in rescuing them just to restrict them ourselves.
A lot of people came up to thank us, seeing they were back somewhere they recognized. Sir Kalman I expected, but I was just an orc. And while they were a bit nervous approaching me, that was about it.
The knights did their best to make everyone comfortable. They would be brought along to their various towns and villages in the coming days, but before that there was something else we had to deal with. And it only technically didn’t involve any cats.
“So the two of you won’t be going through…?” Sir Kalman asked.
“We’re just going to make sure people recognize things on the other side,” I said. “We’re not quite certain if a Gate would be equally stable in the other direction, or the quantity of mana there.”
“I want to show you my homeworld,” Midnight said. “But only when we have the choice to travel as we please. We probably need a bit more power to be certain about that. And there’s not much to fight around Celmoth. Not without getting involved with the whole Bunvorixian thing so…” Midnight’s tail flicked.
“We’ll remain here for now,” I said. “Then rest up and go back home. But I’ll stay in regular contact with you via Sending. Or in an emergency you can get Zenfer to contact me, I suppose.”
“Alright. Let us know if you need anything.”
I spoke to Midnight in English- anything but Celmothian would do, of course, but he was more familiar with that than Common. “Do we think we can trust people not to rush through the first portal? They can help you confirm that it should be the right place, but I don’t want any accidents.”
“It will be alright,” Midnight said. “I can feel that there are none so reckless among them. They’ll wait another hour or two.”
“In that case, we can make our test run now. Whenever you’re ready.”
Midnight nodded, then explained to the other Celmothians, though they already knew the general plan. Then he turned to the closet.
“8 and 12,” he said. “You ready?”
“I am,” I agreed.
As he began to gather mana, I focused on doing so while maintaining the proper ratio. We spend a good ten seconds slowly ramping up to the necessary numbers. Then, I saw something expanding in front of us.
The view wasn’t much to look at. Basically a tube with a plain room beyond it. The portal was also a bit small- though still as wide as the doorway so it hardly mattered. I might have to duck going through, but it wouldn’t be an issue. The important part was time. The image remained mostly stable as we waited, though I could feel Midnight straining. Then the portal collapsed.
“I told you that you could do it,” I grinned at Midnight. “30 seconds. That will be plenty.”
“That was the right place,” Zakaria confirmed. “Though I’m sure your recognition will be accurate, observing it myself will be more reassuring for Extra back home.”
“It was hard,” Midnight said. “But I did it.”
“A weaker connection. Like the old plane, I suppose,” I said. “Come, we need to rest. It’s going to require at least an hour. And since we have to bring ourselves back to Earth later, it won’t hurt to go over a bit.”
I found a good place to sit and pulled out the book Uvithar sent me. I didn’t remember anything about travel strictly between planes within the same ‘world’, but maybe there were references I could glean. I began to flip through it idly. The couple points of mana wouldn’t be relevant for me, since Midnight was the one taking the brunt of the two portals to Celmoth.
I took a look at some of the notes in the margins I didn’t remember. Some things about resonant frequencies and the like, commenting on the chapter. It seemed there was more to it than simply connecting to a plane. Seemed a bit dense to get into right now though.
Then I saw it. At the back of the book, a single page that had definitely been blank. Even more so as I read the notes there.
“If you’re reading this, my gift managed to reach you… and you managed to return home. Though Zentha said you wouldn’t consider it home anymore. I wish I could say more, but even this is a bit of a risky proposition if you are captured or someone replicated your mana signature. Same with your familiar- keep him safe. Not that you should need such a warning.
I wish I could tell you where I was going and why, but there is too much risk. Don’t look too hard, and be careful who you trust. Your discoveries already put you at risk. But since it’s already come to that, do your best to keep getting stronger. I will attempt to contact you later. Until then, you can focus your mana and use the mana resonance of this world to reveal the extra notes I hope will be helpful.”
Well that was… something. The only thing it told me that I didn’t know was that he’d made plans instead of having to hide spontaneously. And he’d indirectly admitted to working with Zentha Qitris, the diviner. But I somehow doubted I could contact her, and even if I could I also doubted that she would tell me any more than what these notes said. I did learn that hiding notes like this was possible, however, so that was interesting. I wondered if the notes throughout the book would have anything useful. There must be something, but I could feel Midnight getting restless. It was about time to make the second Gate, for real this time.