The vapor creeping underneath the door appeared to be sentient. It suddenly expanded and began rolling through the room towards them. Jagathy, Marko, Andrea and Janet succeeded in waking four warriors and getting them to their feet, before it rolled over them. Jagathy urged the group to follow him towards the other end of the massive storage space.
The vapors appeared to pursue them, following at their heels. The two bewitched warriors attacked them, repeatedly launching themselves at the group’s protectors. No matter how many times they were injured and struck down, they got up and renewed their attack. The tainted vapor appeared to have rendered the impervious to pain.
The roar of a blast caused Janet and Andrea to flinch, reflexively ducking their heads as the door blew off its hinges behind them. The commotion was deafening in the enclosed space, as Mukesh and his men poured into the room and clashed with the warriors protecting Jagathy. They were slowly being cornered. The tall stacks of crates seemed to crowd in closer, further constricting their movement. Janet cast an anxious look down at the vapor which continued to roll in, creeping up to their waists. How much longer, before it reached their faces and filled their nostrils?
Jagathy turned and held up his hands to stop them. His words were swallowed up by the cries of warriors fighting behind them. Jagathy suddenly brought his hands together with force and rent the air with a chopping motion of his clasped hands. A gash opened in the air before the trio. Marko didn’t hesitate, he pushed the sisters through and followed close on their heels. A wave of dizziness and disorientation swept over them, as they passed through the opening.
The gash sealed itself and they stood looking around in confused silence. It had been nightfall. They were suddenly upstairs in the church. Sunlight streamed in through the stained glass windows around them. Jagathy and the others were nowhere to be found. Janet grabbed Marko’s arm.
“What just happened?”
“Jagathy opened a rift in time and sent us through.”
The chapel was filled with injured warriors being attended to by nurses. Marko approached an older woman with steel gray hair leaning over a man with a bandage over his eye.
“Excuse me, what time is it?”
“Where is Jagathy?”
“Mukesh and his men must have taken him.”
“Who is in charge now?”
“Without Jagathy and Mukesh, I suppose that Sage would be next in line, due to his seniority. Unfortunately, he’s in no condition to make any decisions. The poor thing is practically comatose. He fought valiantly to protect the antiquities vault from Mukesh and his men.”
“Why would they want to get into the vault,” Andrea blurted.
“Sage has worked tirelessly for several years, to collect magical artifacts from all over the world. Many of them could be quite dangerous, in the wrong hands.”
“So, how do we find out whose running things now,” Andrea pressed.
“I think someone said something about a meeting in the conference room.”
They thanked her and made their way out into the hallway, which was eerily empty and quiet. The meeting was in full swing, when the trio arrived. Robert, the Director of Defense, was up at the podium talking.
“All in favor say…”
“Excuse me, sorry to interrupt. What are we voting on,” asked Marko.
“We? You three aren’t voting on anything. You shouldn’t even be in here. This meeting is for Doorkeepers.”
“We just returned from a mission for Jagathy. If that doesn’t make us Doorkeepers, then I don’t know what would,” snapped Andrea.
Robert laughed, “I wouldn’t call what you did a mission. Like Mukesh said, you were just a couple norms running around like chickens with their heads cut off, in pursuit of a target who didn’t even exist.” The other five Doorkeepers seated around the conference room table laughed, nodding their heads in agreement.
Andrea advanced on him angrily, “if you want to point fingers, then there’s plenty of blame to go around. You were at the mission meeting. In fact, you were in charge of the tactical end of things. You got fooled just like we did, so climb down off of your high horse. Mukesh also said you failed to provide us with effective counsel. So I’ll ask the question again. What are we voting on?”
Robert glared defiantly at Andrea and remained silent. Someone seated at the table spoke up.
“We’re voting on a new leader.”
Janet couldn’t believe her ears, “let me get this straight. Jagathy gets captured and rather than rescuing him, you all are just going to replace him? Don’t you have any sense of loyalty?”
Robert shook his head, “You all saw how ruthless Mukesh and his men are, the way they cut down all of those warriors. Mukesh wouldn’t have allowed Jagathy to live.”
“What do you mean Mukesh wouldn’t allow it? Jagathy is a powerful magic practitioner. You have no way of knowing what actually went down. Do you all have no faith in your leader and his abilities?”
Andrea laughed cynically, “I’ll tell you what’s really going on here Janet. This is nothing more than a power grab. You all sat by and did nothing to help Jagathy, when he was under attack in the chapel, because you wanted him to be defeated. You greedy…”
The shame-faced Doorkeepers drowned her out with their denials. Andrea only smiled and laughed harder. When the last protestation trailed off, she raised a restraining hand.
“It looks like I struck a nerve. You all have a chance to prove me wrong. Stop wasting precious time on trying to find a replacement. Work together and track Mukesh down. I’m with Janet. I believe that Jagathy is still alive. Hell, he saved our lives.”
Robert spoke up, “Mukesh probably took Jagathy up into the astral realm.”
Marko shot an impatient glance in his direction, “they have to come down somewhere. All we have to do is figure out where his hiding place is.”
“That’s easier said than done,” said Robert discouragingly.
“Yes, but it’s not impossible. Come on man. Haven’t you had to rescue a kidnap victim before?”
Robert shook his head, “Not from someone as powerful as Mukesh. You saw how much fear he inspires in people. No one we question is going to be very forthcoming and Mukesh was very secretive. I must confess that I know very little about him.”
“Then we start from square one. Where is Timothy? He was in cahoots with the man. Surely he has something useful to contribute.”
“He disappeared, when the battle erupted in the chapel.”
“Have someone track him down. I’m sure he has outlived his usefulness to Mukesh. No doubt, he’s in hiding somewhere nearby. Meanwhile, Mukesh’s room and office should be searched. There must be something useful in there. A couple of you should interview the other Doorkeepers. Someone might have helpful observations or information.”
The others around the table began volunteering for tasks, relieved to feel useful and be involved in formulating a plan to rescue Jagathy. They wanted an opportunity to redeem themselves. Robert stood stone-faced and unmoved at the podium. He turned on Marko.
“I really don’t see how scurrying around is going to achieve anything. Mukesh is a powerful warlock. For all we know, he took Jagathy to an alternate dimension. We’ll probably never see him again. It’s unfortunate, because I really did admire Jagathy. But we can’t hold onto the past, we need to move on and start to rebuild.”
“Wherever Mukesh went, rest assured he will return. He wants to rule over this realm. Don’t you see? His men tried to break into the vault of antiquities, but Sage fought them off. Do you think that he’ll just give up? From what I understand, there are objects of power from all over the world in that vault. In order for us to mount an effective defense, we need Jagathy for his experience, insights, and magical abilities. More than that, we need to send a message to Mukesh that he can’t just take what he wants from us.”