The air sizzled. It popped, cracked, then opened. The pristine, blue sky unzipped and widened. A doorway, not unlike most in the universe, floated a few feet about the ground. Through it, you could see a confusing array of movement. Gears spun. Levers ticked in staccato rhythm. It was not unlike the inside of a clock. A man stepped through the door.
Only too late did he learn he opened it too high.
Trystle fell to the ground. His head bounced off the soft, spongy grass. He laid there, stunned, for a minute. Eventually, he rolled over onto his back. Sitting up, he looked around. Fortunately for him, nobody had seen him fall. Trystle waved a hand at the still-open door and it disappeared.
Trystle removed the front of his helmet. There was the hiss of released air, and the rest of it slipped off. He took a deep breath. The helmet was a precaution he always took. Traveling to new worlds was fraught with peril. A simple piece of protective gear made him feel safer. He folded the helmet into a wedge shape and tucked it into a pocket.
He stood up and shook out his clothing. He wore a long, leather coat, typical for men in his line of work although, unlike his peers, his was dyed purple and red. Not gaudy but tastefully colorful. Most copper mages were of a dour temperament. They had no flair for style. Trystle was different. Perhaps that's why he excelled where they failed. At least he thought so.
Under the coat, he wore close-fitting breeches. Not the kind of thing a man his age normally wore, but flowing robes were impractical. He found himself climbing over things. A lot. Pants were better than garments that could snag or tear. Trystle would not be seen with an enormous hole in his clothes, exposing his ass to the universe.
That also explained the boots. Thick, yet supple, he reinforced them with runes of protection. Better to fend off thorns, burrs, and teeth of many varieties. Trystle evaluated his clothing. Thankfully, nothing was singed. He proceeded to check his satchel, bandolier, and belt. Attached to these items were metal vials, kits, and small tools. They were all intact. Hanging from a loop on his bag was a tube, no more than a foot long. He grabbed it.
Flicking out his wrist, he activated the tube. It grew to seven feet in length. One end was shaped like an oblong face, resembling a god or king. It was, in fact, the face of Knomun; this was his staff. On the back of Knomun's head was a complicated array of gears and switches. Trystle stuck the butt end of the staff into the dirt. It was time to get to work.
Cracking his neck, the copper mage scanned his surroundings. He stood in the middle of a lush, green field. It was, perhaps, the lushest field he had ever seen. In one direction, it turned into rolling hills. They melted into a pure blue sky, with the hint of silver mountains beyond. In the other direction, and much closer, stood a thick wall of trees. They extended as far as he could see with his natural eyes. This was the first time Trystle visited this world. And it did not disappoint.
Gazing at the back of Knomun's head, Trystle turned one of the gears. The staff thrummed. Trystle murmured into it. Sparks leapt from Knomun's eyes. From the collar of his coat, Trystle retrieved a monocle. Placing it over his right eye, he stared at the wall of trees.
They melted away from view. Trystle saw into the forest. Every knot, root, and bush were exposed to his view. He scanned anything that moved. He spied on squirrels and hares, even a few stags. It was all very normal and boring. Until he discovered something very alien.
It was no larger than a melon. Perfectly round, it had two twig-like legs, which extended from its belly. The creature had beady eyes, set deep into its squishy flesh. Even from a distance, Trystle could make out the crimson, mushroom-like pattern on the top of its head.
"Redcap," he said to himself. "This is going to be unpleasant."
He watched as the goblin moved across the forest floor. Despite its odd shape, it was nimble. The redcap caught a scent and stopped. It lifted its face to the air. Its ball-like body split almost in half, exposing a gaping mouth. Rows of tiny fangs glistened as a worm tongue jutted out. Green bile dripped from its lips. Trystle actually shuddered when he saw it.
The coppermage extended his hand. Covering his wrist and forearm were bracelets shaped like gears, sprockets, and chains. Speaking the Unutterable Language, he pointed his forefinger in the direction of the redcap. Several of the bracelets grew white. They spun as magic congealed at the end of his finger. Tiny flames sparked off its tip. Trystle concentrated as he steadied his arm.
A hand tightened on his wrist. Trystle was yanked to the ground. The fireball flew from his hand. It went wide, missing his target dramatically. Fire struck the nearest tree, exploding. Trystle's head bounced off the grass for a second time. When his vision cleared, he discovered the tip of a spear pointed at his face.
"Speak," came a commanding voice. "You only have seconds to live."
"Get that stick out of my face." He swatted the spear.
The commanding voice shouted an order. "Anua faresh!"
Trystle clapped his hands. A ball of fire fell from the sky, engulfing the copper mage. A cry filled the air as he watched a tall figure fall to the ground. As the fire faded, Trystle was floating in the air. Slowly, he lowered himself to the ground. Now he was the one standing over a stranger.
“Now, let’s have a name,” he said.
The copper mage was met by the defiant stare of crystal blue eyes. He was a soldier of some kind. The armor suggested an important one. His helmet and breastplate were gold, and blue and white robes flowed beneath his armor, down to his feet. Beside him in the grass was the long, elegant spear. Slung on his back was a shield.
"I am Captain Iliad Silmarnir, of the King's Royal Guard," the soldier said, jumping to his feet. "What are you doing in our sacred garden?"
Trystle looked around at the leagues of pristine land. "This is the Royal Garden? Impressive."
"King Fingull's wealth knows no limits," Iliad said. "As does his wrath. Tell me who you are or die where you stand."
"Well, Iliad, I'm here because your king requested it."
"Why would he do that?" Iliad asked. "Speak truthfully, or my soldiers will divide you into a thousand pieces."
The captain nodded at something behind Trystle. He turned to see a dozen soldiers, equally armed.
"Elves, hmph," Trystle said. "Didn't even make a sound."
"King Fingull requested my services," Trystle said. "I am Trystle Eliazar Catchfire, Copper Mage of the Fifth Degree and Keeper of the Unnumbered Doors."
Trystle heard a few gasps from the soldiers behind him. Iliad was not impressed.