Tempest stretched his fingers through the soot, through the burnt sands, through air that felt like dry jelly. His arms felt prickled by pins, his shoulders felt squeezed by ettin hands and his lungs screaming for air when at last there was a new sensation, something cool, something wet. With redoubled efforts he focused all his concentration and training on squeezing through the narrow dimensional tunnel, ignoring the twisting, warping sensation tearing at his legs. Finally, with all the grace of a newborn calf flopping to the ground, he landed on the shores of Magentia. The air burned his throat, the light of day blinded his eyes, the nearby waves seemed thunderous to his ears as he lay on the ground struggling to cope with the return of sensation. As he gasped for breath, the first thing his eyes could make out was the hovering oval glow of a moongate, hovered in the air, twisting upon itself in ways that made Tempest wondering which one of them was in worse shape. His hand gripped upon something hard and brittle and lifting it to his face he found it to be a stone so burnt by fire and magic that it had all the strength of a sugar cube, crumbling into black powder even under his weakened grip. Turning his head to one side, Tempest looked up at the towering husk of a coconut tree, dead and blackened almost beyond recognition. The ground was strewn with ash and rubble and sharp fragments of torn and twisted metal. A crushed skull lay half-embedded in a stone, part of steel helm still lining it. The ground was slightly, unnaturally warm to the touch even though a clean, cool breeze rolled in from the sea. Struggling to his knees, then lopsidedly to his feet, Tempest looked out across what had once been the forest at the edge of Magincia, now a few burn trunks rising from a field of ash. In the distance, where the city should have been seemed to be a flat open expanse of cobblestones, with only the outlines of foundations and a few distant cracked walls. There was not a roar, not a hiss, not a chirp of any animal to be heard, no sounds of the market, no laughter of children. A wave of despair washed over him, followed a prickling fear that he should hide. But the smell of demon was, although present, faint. Rain had washed the worst of the soot from the surfaces. Rising from the rubble near the moongate was a defiantly planted flag of the knights of Trinsic, weathered now, long after a victory marked. And from between the ashes and a lump of rubble, a small speck of green, the tip of a new vine climbing into the light. Somewhere in the distance, a seagull called. Tempest fumbled through the pouch at his belt and with hands shaking with exhaustion he drew forth a quivering power crystal, then two more, placing them in a triangle around the spot where he had emerged from thin air. Calling upon all the arcane power he could muster, he willed the astral breach to widen, while somewhere in the dark pit on the other side he knew his companions were working their magery to widen the crack into a fullblown gate. When the nobles of Magincia had refused to head the dire omens, the Myth and Peace Lords had committed their numbers, lords and apprentices alike, to guard the city. But the scale of the attack was beyond anything they could have imagined as wave upon wave of daemons, balrons and worse, far worse, boiled up from their dark realm. Overwhelmed and outclassed before they knew what hit them, they had attempted to hold the line for whatever minutes they could buy the people of the city. Had it done any good? There was no way to tell. Finally, their strength exhausted and the enemy without number, Woodwalker desperately attempted to open a gate to allow escape, but the magic was twisted by the surging fields of power and where they ended up was a hole darker than the darkest pits of Malas. How long they had spent in the nothingness was impossible to guess - days? months? years? Was the world the same place? Was the Maplestone's villa still there? Sergonar's fort? Salthook's untended workshop? Woodwalker's gateside forest cottage? Would Eternos' old animal companions still be waiting in the well-tended stables? As Tempest stood in the sunlit field of rubble, the gateway slowly, hesitantly, began to open.