- and then he was back.
Perched atop one of his Nothings, one finger pointed dramatically at the sky, a battle cry half caught in his lungs, Kierkegaard spasmed. His entire body shook, as though someone had walked over his half-dug grave, and his attempt at rallying his troops stuck in his throat and died altogether. Given the shrieks of the Nothing’s flying harpoons below him, he doubted whether his troops could’ve heard him anyway.
But that was not the issue here. That was not the issue at all. Much more important was what had changed.
Logic told Kierkegaard that, in fact, nothing had changed. Nothing had changed at all. He was here, as he’d planned, battling the remnants of the Imperium’s army. They’d been slowly collapsing for months, now, and he’d arrived to finished them off. That was perfectly sound, right? That was the way of things. That was the fact of the matter.
Yet it wasn’t. Was it? Something wasn’t quite right.
Balancing himself, Kierkegaard peered down at the battlefield. The main lines of the Imperium had all but broken, leaving hundreds of disorganized humans, orcs, and snake persons to scramble for their lives as the uniformly black surge of the Non broke through. Kierkegaard’s warriors erupted over the siege weapons of the Imperium, demolishing everything in their path. Victory, though tiring and costly, was now inevitable, and then the slaughter of the Imperium’s population centres could begin.
Nevertheless, Kierkegaard frowned. He was happy that he was doing so well - damned well, in fact - but he suspected that he shouldn’t be doing this well. Something had changed, something had transformed, and it had done so with an abruptness that left him ill at ease. So ill, in fact, that his stomach seemed to churn, and the movement of the Nothing beneath his feet didn’t help matters.
Kierkegaard escaped into a portal. Floating in his pocket of codespace, he watched the battle unfold beneath him. He didn’t really need to participate anymore anyway. His guys were winning. Hell, they’d pretty much won.
But they shouldn’t have won. No, at best this should have been a tie. So what had changed?
Kierkegaard moved his eyes from the ground to the air, scanning the skyline from a tiny hole. It suddenly occurred to him that there were significantly fewer dragons darting about. Hell, now that he thought about it, there were only three or four still in the air, and all of them were on the periphery of the battle. They’d moved there rather abruptly, too, as if shunted through one of Kierkegaard’s portals - though he had no reason to do so. He rather liked watching the crude beasts attempt to take on his Non. The smell of their flaming breath reminded Kierkegaard of burning cities.
But that wasn’t quite it, either. The dragons were simply an effect of his unease. What the hell was the cause?
It took Kierkegaard several minutes of quiet pondering - something he hadn’t done, he realized, in quite a while - for geography to jump to mind. Why was the bulk of the Imperium’s army out here? This stretch of land contained nothing of value. What were they protecting? What the hell was the point? Shouldn’t they be forming a protective barrier around, say, one of their cities? Just what the deuce were all these ridiculous creatures doing out in the middle of nowhere, fighting over a lump of barren nothing?!
Kierkegaard came close to an answer. Moving his vantage point from one portal to another, high above the battlefield, he caught the briefest glimpse of the remains of a massive circle, dug into the ground. It was the only earthly sign that a tower had once stood on this spot, dominating the wills of thousands of people. But then his advantage was stolen from him by the sudden, unlucky arrival of a huge wall of brown fur, and he was robbed of his revelation forevermore.
No one who’d stood outside the tower remembered a thing about the place. Every person present, though initially disoriented, concocted some reason for being there that made sense when not subjected to intense scrutiny. But those who’d gone inside remembered everything, and they knew just how lucky they were to have survived the end.