Metal gauntlets narrowly passed over my head as I ducked the blow. One would think that fifty pounds of metal might slow down a person, but if so it didn’t seem to be by much. I was only at the advantage of a slightly better range of motion, though I also took advantage of the ability to strike my opponent upside the head, ringing his head through the helmet. As long as I struck with the correct part of my body I wouldn’t break something.
A knee impacted my ribs, but was not quite able to break through Force Armor. Even if it had, it would have been somewhat blunted by my outfit, despite it being thin cloth. I tried to grab and twist an arm, but ultimately only one of the two of us was a specialized melee combatant.
Sir Kalman stood victorious once more. “You alright?” He asked.
I stood up and nodded. “I’m fine.” This time we had moved out of the public eye. While it might be perfectly normal in orcish society- or at least old orcish society- spontaneously fighting people wasn’t valued even though most people would get experience from it. The exceptions were those with Aspect of the Sage or the like, but most people didn’t have any Aspect and just gained experience normally.
“I heard you met with Zenfer yesterday,” Kalman said. “A fine old fellow, though someone… mysterious.”
“Really? He didn’t seem that way to me,” I replied.
Sir Kalman shrugged, “Perhaps as a fellow mage you can make more sense of him. Either way, it is good that the capital is taking this matter seriously. Now then, I have something for you,” he said.
I watched as he pulled out a modest chest, which upon opening revealed a number of small compartments. Each had something in it- a random shirt, a shoe, a trinket, or a lock of hair. There were also notes explaining who each thing belonged to.
Looking at Kalman, I could see bags under his eyes. I also noticed that the horse nearby was a different one from what I had previously seen. He must have been riding around the local area all day yesterday… and possibly the nights on either end as well.
“Great, I can begin scrying with these.” He looked at me with anticipation, but I shook my head. “Not instantly, of course. We don’t have a proper scrying surface here, and the people are supposed to be on Earth. So it will be easier to do from there.”
The man grimaced. “I don’t like waiting around doing nothing. How long will it take?”
I shook my head. “I don’t know. It’s about an hour and a half of regeneration for each casting, however. Then we have to learn details on how to find these people. There’s what, a couple dozen individuals? It would probably be two days of work before we could check up on all of them.” I looked to Midnight, “Though I guess you could help with that. You should be just as effective at Scrying as I am,” I pointed out.
Midnight nodded. “Being as quick as we could would be better,” he said. “Sir Kalman, are there more missing that you have no tokens of?”
He shook his head. “This is every individual we have heard of. Perhaps we shall stumble upon a few more as the word spreads, but this should hopefully be everyone.” He paced back and forth. “Can you return and get started immediately?”
“We can,” I nodded. With Midnight and I sharing the burden, we could Gate three times- though that would be our limit. A second time wouldn’t leave us with a huge amount of mana left, but we could at least get started. And since each of us recovered mana independently, we could do a bit more.
“I wish I could be there to help…” Kalman frowned.
I didn’t know if he would be of any help though. Paladins weren’t the sort that could simply track people down, especially not in a strange world. Still… “Will Mossley be okay without you? You could come with us and we could report to your lieutenant or whatever.”
“I… really?” he tilted his head. “To another world, just like that?”
“That’s how Gate works,” I pointed out. “Bringing more or fewer people really doesn’t make a difference. Have you traveled to another plane before?”
“I haven’t,” Kalman said.
Ah, wouldn’t this awaken natural upgrades? Well, that wasn’t my problem. And he could do so much more diplomacy on Earth. And I would have to do less! A perfect option. I was fairly certain I even had permission to bring someone. At least sixty percent.
Midnight just gave me a look, and I shrugged. He just rolled his eyes in return.
“Is traveling to another world particularly… unpleasant?” Kalman asked.
I shook my head. “Not with Gate. It’s just walking through a door to somewhere else. So we can go whenever you are ready. Though Midnight and I won’t be able to send you back until at least tomorrow, maybe later. Not without using up some mana that could be going towards Scrying.”
“Of course, I wouldn’t dream of occupying your efforts for that. In fact, until this situation is resolved perhaps it would be best if we didn’t need you going back and forth each day anyway.” He paced back and forth. “Give me some time to prepare.”
If he took more than an hour Midnight’s mana would be full which would be kind of a waste, but between the two of us we might still be able to complete the necessary Scrying by the end of the day. A long day, perhaps, but that was the way things tended to work out.
Kalan scurried around talking to people. There were many other knights around so the town should be safe without him, but it still took a bit of time to inform all of the right people of his absence.
When he finally returned to us, he was carrying a heavy pack strapped to his back.
“I am ready,” he said.
“What’s all that?” I gestured to the pack.
“Travel supplies, of course. I have camping supplies, rations, and other essential needs. And of course the chest of connected items.”
“… Alright, if you want to bring that extra stuff.” I didn’t feel like explaining that it would all be completely unnecessary. But having him carry the chest was easier, since I wanted to be able to keep my staff in hand.
I probably should have spent the mana for a Sending to inform people we were coming back with an official envoy… but there were better things for us to do with that mana when we got back so I didn’t.
“Make sure you’re ready,” I said as we moved to the official Gate room. Which was basically just a closet. “It’s only a few steps through, but we can’t hold open the Gate for more than half a minute. So don’t hesitate too long.”
“I will not hesitate,” Sir Kalman said with his back straight.
“Alright. Good. Midnight?”
“Standard split, obviously,” he replied.
“Exactly,” I said. Perhaps that would change someday, if his mana pool grew more quickly than mine. But at the moment this was better for maximizing the amount of Gates we could cast in a short time period.
It was a familiar path back and forth, and we even had a natural upgrade to Gate. Probably from the abnormally large amount of extraplanar travel, and of course our hard work being able to leave the old plane to begin with.
The Gate opened up to Extra, Midnight and I walking through first and Kalman striding confidently after us.
The paladin then looked around with wide eyes. “Such a strange location. Is this some sort of… holy shrine?” He looked at the pristine walls of the little alcove we were in with great interest.
“No. It’s just a portal room.”
As we began to make our way out of the area, another portal opened up in an alcove we were passing. It smelled of fire and brimstone, and out stepped a woman with red skin and curved horns.
Sir Kalman’s sword was on his back- fortunately nestled between himself and his overlarge pack. So when he reached up for it he wasn’t immediately able to draw his sword. “Halt, fiend!” he shouted.
I was glad we hadn’t cast Translation yet.
I smacked him on the back of the head, and he spun around to face me. “Bad paladin,” I chastised. “Remember you are in another world. It isn’t your job to enforce the laws here. And not everyone who looks a certain way will conform to the standards you expect.”
“My apologies,” he bowed his head.
“Don’t apologize to me,” I gestured.
He turned, pulling his hand away from his sword, bowing properly.
“Friend of yours?” the demonic looking woman asked.
“This is Sir Kalman,” I said. “He won’t bother you, Georgina. This is just his first time here.”
“Alright,” she said waving awkwardly as she walked past us.
I knew Georgina from this very portal room. Having gone back and forth for several days, I recognized a few people I had seen coming and going.
“I’m going to cast Translation on you now,” I said to Sir Kalman. “But I need you to promise to follow my lead. If we need to fight someone, I’ll tell you.”
His fist hit his breastplate as he stood straight. “Understood. I am at your command. Though don’t expect me to stand around if I see someone getting attacked.”
“It’s not like I’m going to do that either, but you need to trust my judgment on which side to join.”
I cast Translation, and we began to make our way out. Sir Kalman looked with interest, not at anything in particular but at a stairwell. “I feel a holy presence approaching.”
Malaliel showed up, striding purposefully towards us. Sir Kalman immediately threw himself to one knee. “Milady angel, it is an honor to be in your presence.”
Malaliel looked at me, and I looked back at her. “Sir Kalman is a representative from my world,” I said.
She nodded, looking back towards him. “Rise, Sir Kalman.” He stood as instructed. “I must ask you something.”
“Of course,” he nodded seriously.
“Do you intend anyone in this world harm?”
“Of course not!” he declared. Then he frowned. “Unless you count the individuals responsible for the capture of my people.”
“Good enough,” she said. “I will tell you that it is likely you will find none of them nearby. And I will need to ask some more questions.”
“The two of us need to be back at Brigade HQ within the hour,” I said. “To begin Scrying people.”
“With you vouching for him, it will not take that long,” Malaliel assured me.
He was bombarded with questions similar to what I remembered, and at some point during the process Basant showed up with some temporary visa papers for Sir Kalman. I didn’t even notice anyone ask for them. Then again, more than a few people had been paying attention to our particular odd cluster as we had made our way to Malaliel’s office.
“… What sort of place is this, with such vast towers blotting out the sky?” Sir Kalman stared in wonder as we stepped outside.
“Oh, yeah. Welcome to New Bay,” I gestured. “Super metropolis and all that. Oh, there’s our ride,” I said as a car pulled up. It wasn’t a terribly long walk to the Brigade, but with Kalman carrying the heavy pack and the sword it was just easier to get a car.
To the driver’s credit, he didn’t even blink as someone in a Power Brigade outfit, a knight in full plate armor, and a cat climbed into the back. Then again, the first thing was probably the least odd thing from his perspective, as he worked for a company contracted for the Brigade.
Fitting Sir Kalman’s pack and sword in with us took a bit of maneuvering, but my staff just went into Storage. And then we were off, while I tried to explain everything that Sir Kalman was staring at to him.
“And what’s that?”
“Stoplight. And that’s a shipping truck.”
He was going to have to get used to seeing new things.
We passed through security at the Brigade. The scanners were much more complex than metal detectors, which wouldn’t be that useful for him in particular. With me vouching for him the main thing they were looking for was any sort of outside influence. Like stuff from Doctor Doomsday, though I didn’t think either of us should be bugged by him.
“This is an elevator,” I explained the concept to him, which was straightforward enough.
Then we entered the Scrying room, where Calculator was waiting.
“And this is the diamond scrying orb. Well, obviously it’s not actually an orb,” I gestured to the cube. “But the woman who made it was an eccentric.”
“… Did you say diamond?” he looked at the massive cube.
“Yeah don’t worry about it. It’s artificial.” Probably still worth an insane amount of money, but that value might be more easily achieved by using it for its proper purpose. Finding one person at a time. “I’ll go first,” I said to Midnight. The cost of Scrying was low enough it was just easier for us to use it individually, in alternation.
We pulled out a leather cap and the description of someone. A female wood elf, dark barky brown skin with somewhat lighter brown hair. Young. And apparently, this was her favorite hat.
I drew upon that connection, power swirling within me and then the scrying orb. And then, something yanked me off course and I was looking at basically nothing. Except for… a scrying anchor.
“Dammit, does everyone have those now?!” I grumbled. Well, that was what my practice for wrestling out of their grasp was for. I shifted and twisted, and then the face of a woman began to form, in high contrast with one side in bright light and the other in shadow.