"So... who's the gatekeeper?"
Trogdor's unspoken question was answered when a man gave the woman in the back of the town a few coins and vanished in a flash of light. He walked up and showed the seal to her. She studied it a second, then nodded and said "Right." She closed her eyes, waved a hand, and....
Trogdor suddenly became aware that he was staring at grass. He also noticed the guard's arm restraining him from falling completely on his face. Once Trogdor figured out that he still had legs, he regained his balance.
"First teleport, eh?" the smiling guard said. "Don't worry, they all do that the first time. You get used to it." Trogdor could only nod and force a smile. He took a few halting steps forward, shook his head a little, and gazed into the city.
The only word he could think of was "busy."
Everyone was going somewhere, yelling something, doing something. Shopkeepers arguing over prices with customers, warriors testing out swords, guards changing shifts, and patrolmen reporting in. The latter was what peaked Trogdor's interest. He spied the man the guards and scouts were reporting to. He must be the captain of the guard. Trogdor made his way through the crowd.
He had to wait for several men and elves to finish their reports before he could get the captain's attention. He handed him the letter. The captain gave him an inquisitive glance, then opened the seal.
The captain folded the letter back up. He showed no emotion, which to Trogdor, seemed like an emotion in itself. The captain pointed to his right and said "You're headed to the borderlands." Trogdor looked at what the captain was pointing at. The glowing portal loomed like a giant, watching eye.
"Take this letter, give it to the guard by the gate. It'll explain what you're doing there, and he'll assign you a role." Trogdor took the letter, and turned to go, but the captain caught his arm.
"I don't say this much, but you're going to be fighting the Union of Fury. You're being sent in more quickly than I've seen any new Alliance warrior. Be careful. The Union warriors will not hesitate. They will not give you any chances, so make sure you give them none. Or you will die. May the goddess be with you."
Trogdor nodded in thanks. The captain returned to his duties as if they had never spoken.
Trogdor paused in front of the portal. The magic substance swirled and made a low humming noise. Thoughts swirled likewise in his head. He was putting his life in danger. He could die. He didn't ask for this. He had been given no choice. He could run. He could hide. He didn't need to...
He stepped through.
He came through a little dizzy, but recovered much more quickly than the last time. The first thing he noticed was the darkness. The ground was barren. The clouds were dark. Whatever sunlight that could seep through was pale and harsh. It was nothing like the fields of Aelbeageu. He took it all in as he made his way to the gate. He wordlessly handed the letter to the guard there, still looking around. The guard read the letter.
"Right," he said tiredly. "You're a ranger, you did stuff, you could be Useful To The Alliance, blah blah blah." He stretched his neck and grunted. Trogdor wondered how long the guard had been stationed there.
"Ok, here's what you do. Go out the gate, and head to your right. Go down a slope into some water. Don't worry, it's just a stagnant shallow filthy pool, nothing to worry your pretty blond head about. There's a nice bit of dry land in there, where a relic party's being formed. Talk to their commander, and he'll be in charge of you." He spat something foul into the dirt. "Probably be dead in an hour anyway," he muttered. "Oh, and if you see some monsters around, just avoid them. They'll only kill ya if you're dumb enough to get close. Well, that's all you'll get from me. Try not to die too fast. Like I even care anymore."
Trogdor left, not bothering to make a farewell, as he doubted that the guard had a taste for pleasantries. He soon spotted the bustle of men and elves. He asked a human fighter for the commanding officer, and the man pointed at a large makeshift tent in the back of the cluster.
Trogdor lifted the cloth flap. The scarred, battle-hardened officers circled a barrel that was supporting a map. They looked at him.
"I'm supposed to report to the commander?" The human in the middle, with the huge sword strapped to his back, nodded.
"New recruit." It was a statement, not a question. "Name?"
The commander turned to the elf archer next to him. "He's in your division." The elf nodded, then waved for Trogdor to exit. The elf came out behind him, and led him to a group of other archers and rangers.
"Boys, here's Trogdor. He's with us now. You know the drill." The soldiers acknowledged Trogdor, then returned to their various tasks. "Right, Trogdor, here's our job. We kill their pagans and oracles before our fighters get fried by magic. Our archers try to fit their arrows between the ranks of Death-eaters, and our rangers, like you, sneak around and attack from behind, slitting as many throats as possible and then bugging out. If you see warriors and guardians coming at you, you run. You won't last 3 seconds toe to toe with them. Soon, we're going to-"
The archer shoved Trogdor to the ground and leaped away just before the ground was scorched. "Ambush!" he yelled as he fitted an arrow to his string. The Nordein and Vail fighters charged down the hill.
The archers let loose. Warriors fell with arrows in their hearts. Fury spellcasters launched fireballs. Elves and men fell with smoke rising from their crisping flesh. A vail assassin flipped through the air, smashed an archer's bow with his foot, and, crossing his steel claws, decapitated the elf. A ranger swiped his dagger at the vail, but the assassin caught the blade with his claw and sent the blade spinning through the air. The other claw carved out the ranger's flesh around his stomach. The vail kicked another ranger in the crotch, and slashed his throat. The elf crumpled. The vail, seeking his next victim, locked his eyes on Trogdor. He charged.
The claws slashed through the air toward Trogdor's face...