Kratia grimanced and gripped the wand tighter, pouring more power into the portal. They should have come through by now. At the energy level she was using the transport should take only seconds and they had entered the portal nearly a minute ago.
The portal shimmered and disappeared.
Panicked, she formed a spell for a view into null space. She saw demons flock around the bubble holding Nexus and Billy. How could demons have gained enough energy to affect living beings? Demons had been banished to the netherworld eons ago, stripped of the energy needed to make any significant effect on physical objects, even if they were in transit through their null space. They shouldn’t, couldn’t affect anything material. Yet they did. How?
The reasons did not immediately matter. She had to do something quickly if Billy was to be saved. Kratia reformed the portal and sent out a spell to pull them to her. She poured in twice the energy of her previous spell.
She saw and felt their bubble start to move then jerk to a stop. The demons were even more powerful than she first thought and were able to block her retrieval. She poured more energy into the spell. But the demon’s energy seemed inexhaustable.
Kratia cursed silently. Someone would pay for this. Her mind went into sharp focus. The important question was: how can I save Takashema? The demons had somehow amassed considerable energy and were moving quickly and purposefully to destroy Billy. They seemed to ignore Nexus except as an obstacle to their goal of getting Billy. It was uncertain whether she could maintain the portal spell while simultaneously joining the combat. Nexus was no pushover, but he was barely capable of holding back the demons. Null space was not favorable to wizards, with fewer lines of magic force, fewer energy sources, and distorted or missing natural laws.
Nexus might be able to save Billy if he had time and energy. But he lacked both. She would sacrifice the old wizard to save Billy, but that wasn’t an option. The demons were obsessed with Billy and only Billy. Damn. Billy was critical. He was vital to her plans. The prophecy revolved around him.
The prophesy. That was the key.
Suddenly she knew the solution. Kratia modified her spell, pinching the bubble in half and grabbing the half that contained Nexus. “Lucky day for you, old bastard,” she thought as she poured her will and energy into getting him here.
Nexus fell through the portal, collapsing on the floor. “Billy,” he moaned. “Got to save Billy!”
“He’ll be fine, Nexus,” she said, breathing heavily from the exertion but making no obvious effort to do anything further.
“No, Kratia. You don’t understand. Demons! Don’t know how, but they’ve gotten energy somehow. They’re after Billy!”
“He’ll be fine, Nexus,” Kratia repeated. Mentally she held her breath in anticipation.
The portal bulged; Billy burst through and fell heavily to the stone floor next to Nexus. The portal vanished behind him. He shuddered and forced his eyes open. He smiled weakly at Nexus and Crow, both on the floor next to him.
“Trip was a bitch,” said Billy.
“I need a drink,” said Crow.
“I’m the one who needs a drink, you damn bird,” muttered Nexus as he slowly stood up. Crow hopped, flapped his wings a few times for altitude, alighting on his master’s shoulder. Nexus patted the bird. “But we need to keep clear heads. Kratia, what happened?”
“You were attacked, obviously. I don’t know who fed the demons so much power.”
“They were trying to kill me,” said Billy.
“That would have been difficult,” said Kratia.
“I’m good, but not so good as to win against a horde of demons,” said Billy.
Kratia smiled condescendingly. “That’s not what I meant, Billy. You would not have won against them, but you would not have been killed. It’s almost impossible to die in null space. The altered physics of the place doesn’t support the entropy of death. Instead, your metabolic energy is drained away, your corporeal body loses the ability to move, your ability to think and remember evaporates, and you are left with little more than the capacity to feel pain and anguish. Forever.”
Billy stared at her for several seconds. “Nexus, perhaps you should reconsider about the drinks. I could use one.”
Nexus smiled, but addressed Kratia. “Thank you for saving me, Lord Kratia. I am in your debt.”
Kratia dipped her head in acknowledgement.
“I also thank you, Lord Kratia,” said Billy.
“But it was not I that saved you, Billy,” she answered.
Billy’s eyes widened and he was about to inquire further when Nexus began poking and probing Billy. Nexus slipped a mental note into Billy’s mind: “We will talk of this later.” He said aloud, “No sign of broken bone or other physical trauma.”
Billy rose to his feet and tested each of his muscles and joints himself, then began a few simple exercises of his kata.
Nexus turned to Kratia, who had not volunteered further information. “I understand how Billy was saved and will explain it to him later. I believe we need only a few more minutes to collect our senses. Then we’ll be ready for you to brief us on the dire events that have transpired here.”
Kratia shrugged. “Take whatever time you deem necessary. But we have much to do before nightfall comes again. I will not suffer another Rep attack on my town.”
Billy breathed slowly and deeply, continuing into the more advanced kata movements. His muscles and timing appeared unaffected by the journey. He speeded up his motions until he could hear the snap of his hand and foot cutting though the air. The memory of the trip was fading very fast and Billy didn’t try to hold onto it. He turned to Nexus and nodded. “I’m fine.”
“As am I,” Nexus said. “Very well, Kratia. Where do you suggest we start?”
“The Palatine has scheduled a town meeting that begins in two hours. That gives us enough time to tour the town and let you observe the destruction first hand.”
“Destruction? You make it sound like the Reps trashed the town,” stated Billy. “I thought they only attacked people.”
“True, but the panic which ensued during the attack resulted in extensive property damage and additional loss of life. You will see this for yourselves.”