In the Labyrinth, Marit and Hugh venture out to try and find Alfred. He turns out to be the prisoner of a Labyrinth dragon, which are almost the equal of the dragon-snakes in cruelty and savagery. With the help of the Cursed Blade, they drive it off and rescue Alfred.
On Abarrach, Haplo is dying. He will never willingly give up his knowledge of the Chamber of the Damned, and Xar knows it. What Xar must do is allow Haplo to die, and then revive him with necromancy. The fact that they both know it and accept it does not make it easier on either of them. Haplo dies peacefully, as Xar, Lord of the Nexus, the most powerful human being in the universe, weeps silently over his surrogate son, whom, despite everything, he still loves.
But when the time for necromancy comes, it doesn't work. Xar realizes suddenly: the dog! Haplo never owned a dog until his last few moments in the Labyrinth—he had fought well and bravely, but just a few steps from the Final Gate, his injuries overtook him. Because he longed to rest and let death claim him, Haplo instilled all his instincts of loyalty, love and optimism into an external form: the dog. In doing so, though, he gave it his soul. The dog is still very much alive, and escapes into the catacombs under the capitol city, bringing Xar's plans to a screeching halt.
Marit, Hugh and Alfred, though alive, are at start of the Labyrinth; they must somehow reach the Final Gate, way at the other end. Providence arrives in the form of Zifnab and the "dragons" of Pryan—the good, true side of the Wave, polar opposites to the dragon-snakes. Marit, Alfred and Hugh travel to Abarrach, where they hope to somehow rescue Haplo. In the meanwhile, Zifnab is sent on an important mission: he tells Ramu, son of Samah and leader of the remaining Sartan on Chelestra, to travel to Abarrach as well. When Xar hears about this, he redesigns his plans, sending his few Patryn bodyguards back to the Nexus, where they might make a difference in the defense of the Final Gate, and then begins to make his own preparations...
On Abarrach, Alfred and Marit leave Hugh on their ship (without magic, the air is too poisonous for him) and find the dog, through which Alfred can communicate with Haplo, but are unable to leave: for some reason, the dog can't pass through Death's Gate. Marit sustains wounds from a lazar, and the two retreat to Balthazar's encampment to rest and heal. Balthazar, of course, is very eager to leave this world if he can, but a problem arises when Kleitus, the leader of the lazar, attempts to seize Marit's ship himself. Alfred attempts to defeat him, but it takes Balthazar to really do the job. In the middle of this, Ramu arrives and peremptorily takes control of the situation. He decides to take everyone, including Marit, Balthazar and Balthazar's people, to the Labyrinth, to deal with the Patryn threat once and for all. This is exactly where Haplo wants him: with all the Sartan and all the Patryns in the Labyrinth, not to mention the good dragons of Pryan and the dragon-snakes of Chelestra, this would be the perfect time to seal shut Death's Gate, leaving the mensch to their own devices. Though both Patryns and Sartan think of themselves as gods among men, it is clear they have caused nothing but trouble. What Haplo proposes is to end it all in one final stroke. He asks Alfred to help him and Alfred, honored, agrees.
In the company of Jonathan the lazar and Hugh the Hand, the two descend to the Chamber of the Damned, actually the Seventh Gate. Alfred opens the door to Death's Gate, entering a hallway and preparing to shut the doors at both ends. Hugh the Hand takes a great deal of interest in it, and, when pressed by Haplo, he reverts to his normal appearance: Xar, Lord of the Nexus, come to finish what he has started: the collapse of the four realms back into one world, one he will rule. "Do no violence," intones the lazar Jonathan, but no one is listening.
Alfred, at the far end of the hallway, opens the door into the Nexus, where he sees Ramu being approached by dragon-snakes, who promise allegiance in destroying the Patryns. Both Marit and Balthazar see through it, and the Sartan man aids the Patryn woman in escaping to warn her people, but Ramu is totally taken in. He and his forces prepare for war.
As this happens, Xar casts a spell on Alfred that nearly kills him, and allows Death's Gate to swing wide open; in through the door rushes Sang-drax, who attempts to urge Xar into reversing the Sundering, while surreptitiously killing Haplo. But seeds of doubt have finally taken hold, and Xar sees the dragon-snake for what it really is. He sacrifices himself to undo the reverse-Sundering spell — his life's work — and is slain by Sang-drax.
Sang-drax urges Haplo to finish what Xar started, but Haplo shakes his head and begins to shut the doors—all the doors—into the Seventh Gate, saying a final good-bye to his mensch friends as he does so. When he is done, Sang-drax has abandoned his elven form and towers above him, threatening death... But Alfred lurches in, wounded but coherent. "Do no violence! It wants us to fight!" Haplo throws down his sword, and Sang-drax rears up for the kill... Only to smash himself into the ceiling of the Seventh Gate, destroying himself and bringing the entire structure down on all of them. Haplo and Alfred have only one door to jump through: Death's Gate itself, which is slowly collapsing and taking all of creation with it. Haplo and Alfred have to combine forces, forcing their magics to work together—Patryn and Sartan rune-structures, diametric opposites... That fit together so obviously, Haplo wonders why it has never been seen before. Their spell works, and with a dull thud, Death's Gate closes for the final time.
In the Labyrinth, the dragon-snakes still loom, but there is a modicum of peace. Haplo is reunited with Marit, clearly intending never to leave her side again. Alfred is alive as well—at peace with himself, having finally chosen what he truly wants. Zifnab is here as well, doddering about causing trouble for his faithful dragon. Hugh the Hand is dead, found surrounded by the corpses of Labyrinth monsters. Lord Xar, as well, lies in state, the greatest of the Patryns, flawed though he—though they all—might be. And the war between Patryn and Sartan has been called to a halt: Ramu has been removed from command, replaced by Balthazar, who was quick to form an alliance with Vasu. The war, for now, is over, and perhaps, in time, there can be peace.
Written on Monday 15th September 2008 by Antony.
SFBook is entirely funded by Ant including hosting, development and any other costs.
If you enjoy the site please consider a small donation towards the cost of the upkeep and development of SFBook.