But this could wait till the gate was taken care of. Down a gully, past a copse of twisted cherry trees and around a sneaky pitfall, the hum of magic got louder. I slowed my pace to a crawl, each step carefully placed with my sorcery softening the earth beneath my feet to eliminate any and all sound. Rath, arrogant dimunitized dragon that he is, ran right into my back foot, completely bowling me over. “Gah!” I uttered in mid-air, desperately trying and failing to keep quiet. 


  “Blessed mana!” Rath exclaimed, zipping into the underbrush, “Oh how I missed thee!” His tail whipping the brushes in his excitement, “Come to papa!”  


  Scrambling to my feet I sprinted after the noisy reptile, stealth thrown to the winds and caution right after it. “Fuck! Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!” I snarled as I took off in the underbrush, my nature sorcery allowing me to thread the dense plantlife as if there was a nice path to follow. I stopped five feet before the woodline; I could see what looked to be the gate from here. It was an entrance to a cave, but the stone arch looked carved. It had runes that were hard to make out, their shifting nature defied being pinned down. Rath’s fat head was nuzzling the cut out frame of the gate, purring all the while, even his tongue flicked out and licked it, his eyes rolling in the back of his head. I watched as his tail grew just a bit longer. 


  “Rath!” I stage-whispered, “Dude, cut that out!” The darkness that was the entrance to the cave began to shimmer, and then grow dark, and then darker still. The black mouth yawned so deep that it almost turned purple. I conjured the trusty flashbang pebbles in my hand, and then amped them up. Pulling out Gungnir, I began to pour all of my excess mana from my own regeneration and the amulet’s into it. I conjured bone armor plates to cover the armor I was already wearing and created a wall of stone in front of me four feet high and about forty feet wide, making a small fortification to change the landscape in my favor. As the gate continued to emit weird energy, I summoned a wall of ice identical to the stone one right behind it. So glad I made the rose vine seeds. Palming them in my left hand, I began to channel as much energy as I could into them without letting them sprout. I only had time for one last preparation before the gate disgorged its passengers; I reached out and made the ground directly in front of the gate thin stone with a conditional enchantment to shatter if I willed it, then turned the ground underneath it to very silty sand. I love it when a plan comes together. 


  I really did not expect what came out of that gate. Humans. Big ones. The smallest of the first four was a slender but well built brunette woman around seven and a half feet tall, decked out in futuristic armor that screamed the marriage of advanced science and magic. Behind her were three men, going up in size and height till the last one was around nine feet tall. She had a gun and the three men had blades sticking out of their armor everywhere, knives, swords, machetes and more. I thought I was prepared, these tall humans put me to shame. I was expecting monsters, goblins or elves or orcs or some other creature straight outta Tolkien, but not tall as fuck humans.  The woman in the front looked down at the still purring lizard. She spoke words in a language I didn’t know and Rath replied right back. She turned her laser grey towards the woods, looking straight at me. She pointed at me and barked something I couldn’t make out, the other three laughing at her comment. I really wanted to fight and run at the same time, but I knew when I was outclassed. “Hey Rath, wanna let me in on the joke?” I yelled from behind my wall. 


  Turning towards me, he said, “They were wondering if you’d put up a good fight. This is their ancestor’s home planet, and they want to see if humanity has grown up or degenerated in their absence.”


  “And?” I asked, gripping my tools of war.


  “Eh, maybe.”


  That reply seemed to have been what they were waiting. It was all one motion, their teamwork flawless. The woman in front knelt and sighted down her rifle at me while the huge dude in the back drew his spear and jumped up and back on top of the gate, pulling his arm back to throw. The two middle dudes, almost twins it looks like, drew swords that hummed louder than the damn gate and began to run to either side of me. I would have rather taken on a goddamn dragon.


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