Wong followed behind the Ancient One as she tactfully marched through the encampments now set up. Even though they were constructed for war, their skin managed to blend seamlessly into the land around them. Even when preparing for war, these sorcerers respected the beauty around them.
Doctor Strange fell in step next to Wong. "She's caught you up on the mission, then?" He asked while pinning the Cloak of Levitation to his collar. That, at least, was one constant with every single Doctor Strange Wong had seen so far. Some things don't change.
Wong huffed as they dodged a group of sorcerers. "Yes. No. As per usual, I now have more questions than before she explained the plan."
The Ancient One veered to a well-worn path that started up the mountain to the city. Wong glanced at Strange as he struggled to keep up with the determined sorcerer leading them. "What are our roles in this fight?"
Strange shrugged lightly. "That's complicated. As far as I know, we should do nothing until The Ancient One successfully traps him in this dimension. We don't exist in her universe as magic wielders. The sorcerers know this, so we must assume Thanos does as well."
"So you're saying we should do nothing but wait until she arrives with Thanos on her tail?"
"Well, there is still much that I need to do, in preparation for the spell we'd be attempting. As for you," he gulped, "unfortunately, old friend, your current state does not afford you much time. Waiting does seem fruitless, but it is all we can ask of you right this moment."
Wong stopped Strange. "I will not spend my... last moments waiting around for something I might not see." He shuddered out a breath. "I will help the Ancient One in whatever way I can, but it will be by her side and not standing around, literally wasting away."
"Hold that thought," Strange said as they closed in on the Gleaming City's gate. Wong slowed to a stop. A lone guard stood by the gate, shining in the same silver and gold that adorned the high walls which surrounded the mysteries inside. The Strange held his hand out in warning to Wong as he approached the guard. It stepped in front of the opening as a warning.
"Golem, move out of the way." Strange began.
"Only Sorcerer Supremes are allowed into the Gleaming City," the guard hollowed out, its voice echoing with a metallic ring.
"Yes, I know, and I don't care. We are about to go to war, so you're going to have a lot more to worry about soon."
The guard stood there, unmoving.
Strange sighed. "He is not an enemy, golem."
The suit of armor stood its ground.
The sorcerer supreme groaned and readied magical glyphs. "So help me, golem, I will reduce you to dust if you continue guarding that gate."
That guard pulled out a silver spear tipped in gold. "Only Sorcerer Supremes are allowed--"
"Oh! I'm stupid. He is an ally of Sorcerer Supreme Doctor Strange-318." The golem nodded and stashed its spear, stepping to the side. "We don't really deal with the guards of the Gleaming City much, so the information kind of slipped my mind. " Strange motioned Wong forward, and they continued into the Gleaming City.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
The Ancient One stepped through her portal, exiting the safety and familiarity of the Gleaming City. In the City, it was always daytime and shone a pleasant glow all across the dimension. However, here, the land was void and pocked with lightless craters. On the edge of space, the chill seeped through every barrier of protection she had.
She turned instantly, letting out a constricted breath that spread into a misty cloud, circling the portal into the never-ending blackness before her.
Fishing the makeshift amulet out of one of her many pockets, she flipped it around in her palm a few times, her gaze fixated through the portal, looking at it and at the same time past it.
The amulet hummed as she flipped it. Even though the clasp was closed, green hues slipped out of it, illuminating her palm in a ghastly color that revealed the tissue and muscle beneath her thin layer of skin. It was an all-too-real reminder of what was coming.
Finally, she sighed. No more waiting.
She fit the amulet around her neck and began the simple incantation that opened the faux-Infinity Stone to the harsh environment. Energy radiated from the Stone and she clasped just a minuscule piece of it, holding it gingerly in her mind's palm.
With it, The Ancient One fed the inter-dimensional portal and it accepted the offering eagerly, expanding the rift between the Gleaming City and her home dimension.
In a split moment that lasted for an eternity, the dimension filled the horizon. One by one, scholars and warriors and everything in between stepped through. Some were more affected by the consequences of the travel more than others, limping through, or emptying their stomachs, or barely standing after the jump. They were Sorcerer Supremes in their respective dimensions, but all of them were living in her world. They were her army.
The Ancient One moved past them, a ghost against their current. She had refused all of the Gleaming City's inhabitants to follow her into war, for practical reasons. They needed to be outnumber; Thanos needed to fall into a trap, and he needed to be none the wiser. There needed to be people to spring the trap. Practical.
Even still, a part of her regretted the decision. She reached the rift. She could see nothing moving, nothing even breathing in the City's pristine halls. All was silent. They were prepped for war.
The Ancient One held out the amulet to the portal, and it accepted the magical offering. The stone inside vibrated under her touch, sucking the rift's energy in within a moment. Just as abruptly as it appeared, the Gleaming City, her home away from home, vanished before her eyes. It vanished into the stone with a final shockwave, its one last, desperate attempt to escape The Ancient One's Time Stone shot out into the cosmos. Magic of that caliber would, with any luck, reach its way to Thanos and his children. The Dark Aster II would not be far. Practical.
The Ancient One looked back to the absence of the dimension rift as she flipped the amulet in her palm, waiting. Only the void of light and life lingered.