Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2316429-The-Transcendent-Quest
by brom21
Rated: ASR · Short Story · History · #2316429
Two archeologists take the trip of a lifetime to ancient eras to help fulfil a task.
5,995 words

The red Jeep jostled as it ran over the rocky, dessert trail. The sun seared down on two men in the vehicle. Both wore white sun hats and tinted, black glasses.

“I can’t wait to confirm the finding, Dr Grale!” said a man.

“Indeed Dr. Smith! By far it is the oldest excavation project to date! It could be the biggest discovery of 1974!”

Dr. Smith tilted his head. “It makes sense being in an Iranian desert, close to the very cradle of civilization.” He drove the Jeep into a ravine traveling along a trail skirting down to the hollowed-out crevice. They stopped at the bottom and stepped out. About a dozen excavators were there working.

Heavy-set Dr. Smith approached the igloo-like, stone hewn structure. He entered it with Dr. Grale following. Photographers took pictures of paintings as others used brushes to sweep dirt away.

Dr. Grale studied the base of the wall. “The composition of this wall surface is old. It is at least six-thousand years old. I think we have found it!”

“More like eight thousand!” said Dr. Smith.

“The collection of stone structures indicates it was a tribe.”

“Nevertheless, it pales in significant records of the first actual empire, the Xiongnu people group.”

Dr. Grale sighed. “Would it not be wonderful if we could visit these ancient civilizations?”

Smith chuckled. “That would be the day.”

A portable radio phone made a loud beep from the Jeep. Both doctors walked outside.

Smith picked up the phone. “This is Dr. Smith.” He paused. “Yes, I have confirmed the claim. It is the oldest living nomadic people groups.” He paused again. “Just be sure to inform the magazines in the States of the finding.”

“We should leave the remainder of the excavation to the rest. We’re done Here,” said Dr. Smith. He got into the Jeep with Dr. Grale, and they drove towards their headquarters.

On their way to the main office headquarters in the town of Andimeshk, a popping sound came from below the vehicle.

Dr. Smith lost control of the wheel and the vehicle careened into a palm tree. Luckily, both men were unharmed, and no glass broke. Nevertheless, the engine was crushed.

The force of the collision jarred them for a few moments.

“Are you okay?” asked Smith breathing heavily.

“Yes, you?”

Smith nodded.

“It looks like we are going to walk,” said Grale.

“It is not too far. Let’s go.”

Dr. Smith and Dr. Grale had water skins. They drank from time to time and walked silently until they made out a human figure in the hazy heat.

“Who is that?” asked Dr. Smith.

The doctors stopped. They made out a hooded figure in a cloak.

“Not a clue,” said Dr. Grale.

The figure neared them until it was ten feet away from the two. The figure pulled the hood off to reveal a man with sunk in facial features and hazel eyes that glared at them. “Do you believe the supernatural?” asked the mysterious man in a raspy tone.

The two doctors looked blankly at each other.

“I’m sorry, what did you say?” asked Dr. Smith.

The man in the cloak came closer to them. He smiled with a coy air and pulled out a large red marble with Aramaic writing on it. “What would you give if you could travel back in time and see the ancient civilizations with your own eyes?” the man said.

“Who are you?” asked Dr. Grale.

“This marble is a magic talisman. It can take people back through time to any point in history.”

“I don’t know who you are, but you are speaking nonsense,” Dr. Smith said.

“My name is Rashied.” The man tossed the marble to them and Dr. Grale caught it.

Rashied looked deep into Dr. Grale’s eyes. “Hold this talisman up to the morning sun that rises over the great Arabian mountains and see what happens.” Rasheid pulled his hood over his head and vanished in a plume of purple smoke.

The two archaeologists went wide-eyed and reeled back.

“Wha…What just happened?” said Dr. Grale.

“The sun…the sun is playing with our minds!”

Dr. Grale shook his head. “That was no mirage! I’m still holding the marble!”

“There has to be an explanation,” said Dr. Smith.

Dr. Grale and Dr. Smith heard a vehicle from behind them and they turned to look and saw another jeep. Each gave a sigh of relief.

“Thank Goodness. I’ll be happy to leave this place,” said Smith. He looked Grale in straight in his eyes. “Don’t mention what we seemed to have witnessed. If we talk of disappearing people, they will think us insane.”

“Then I’ll just say I saw it.”

“I can’t bear people deriding you and deeming you’re nuts. I’ve known you too long.”

Grale sighed, shaking his head. “Okay, I won’ say anything.”

The two waved down the brown Land Rover as it came for them. A woman in tight khakis, parked the Rover before them. “I recognize you two from the site excavation. You’re Dr. Smith and Dr. Grale,” she said.

“We are. I’m sorry for only knowing you’re one of the archaeologists but not knowing your name,” asked Dr. Smith.

“I’m Dr. Fale. Call me Jennifer.” Jennifer looked at them. “I found your crashed Jeep a little way back stuck to a palm tree. I am glad you’re okay. What happened?”

“We had a blowout. We’re happy you found us,” said Dr. Smith.

“Well hop in. It’s getting late.”

The two men got in, and they drove to the nearby town. They arrived as the sun was setting and entered a stucco building full of a few computers displaying relief maps and charts as people stationed themselves at computers.

“What was your assessment, Dr. Smith?” said a man with dark skin and an Iranian accent.

“It’s the real deal, Dr Rajige! We’ve found it,” said Dr. Smith.

“You will depart at the earliest time, then?” Dr. Rajige said.

“Indeed,” answered Dr. Grale. “I will schedule the soonest flight back to the US.”

“I actually planned to go back home tomorrow myself,” said Jeniffer. “Could you book another ticket for me?” she said with a slight smile. “I’ll pay the difference.”

“It’s on us, Jennifer,” said Dr. Grale as he patted her shoulder.

“Thank you!”

Dr Smith yawned. “It’s a little past seven O’clock. I think I’ll turn in early. That sun really zaps your energy.”

“I was thinking the same thing myself,” said Dr. Grale.

The two doctors went to their separate rooms and collapsed onto their beds and fell asleep.

Dr. Grale awoke in the middle of sleep and rose to use the bathroom. He looked at a small desk to his cell phone which read 5:47 AM. He got out of bed and went to the restroom next to his room and saw Dr. Smith washing his hands.

“Good morning, Dr. Smith,” said Dr. Grale.

“And to you.”

Dr. Grale looked down. “You know, have you given any thought to the words of that…that man who disappeared into thin air after our Jeep crashed?”

“That occurrence could have been several things. It could have been mass hypnosis.”

“But I still have the marble,” said Dr. Grale.

Dr. Smith sneered. “If it puts you to rest, let’s do what the man said. The sun should be rising soon. Bring the marble or talisman or whatever you want outside.” The man trudged out as Dr. Grale went to the small desk and took out the red marble. Dr. Smith waited with an impatient frown. Smith and Grale exited minutes before dawn. He held the marble up to the eastern mountains. The first glimpse of scarlet light appeared over the tips of the mountains.

Dr. Smith shook his head and threw up his hands. “See! Nothing! Now if you don’t mind, I am going back to…”

A ball of azure light appeared in front of them. It expanded into a round portal revealing a small Chinese house with its sloped, curved roofing and sliding upholstery door.

“It’s a Siheyuan!-and it’s the White Horse Temple! The oldest dated one ever found!” said Dr. Grale. “It works! But the temple looks new. It’s barely aged.” Grale showed a beaming smile. “It’s a portal through time too!”

As they veered through the portal, Dr. Grale stepped closer to pass through. Then Dr. Smith caught his colleagues’ coat. “You’re mad!”

“This could be a chance to see an ancient world itself that we can experience first-hand!” said Dr. Grale.

“What if we can’t get back!”

“Think of the place which to go and a portal will appear leading to that time,” said a familiar, raspy voice behind them.

They turned to see Rashied there.

“Why are you doing this?” said Smith. “Who are you?”

“Does it matter? You have the chance of a lifetime.”

“It is tempting. I’m just not sure. What if…”

“We’ll be alright!” said Dr. Grale.

Dr. Smith ran a palm down his face then shook his head. “I can’t believe I’m doing this. Lead the way, then.”

Dr. Grale walked through the portal then smiled at Smith, standing on the other side. “Come on.” Grale felt a ghostly presence pass by him. “What was that?” He meant to glance back at Rashied but he no longer remained there. “Hmm…curios,” he again spoke to himself.

Smith walked through and the portal closed.

The vacant temple stood on a high hill overlooking a village.

“We’ll need new clothes,” said Smith.

“We’re in luck! Look!” Dr. Grale said, pointing to a rope with clothes drying on it.

“We must by stealthy.”

They descended behind a wooden bear statue. A sleeping man on a chair faced the clothes.

The colleagues stepped gingerly and snatched up two yellow and green robes with hoods and went behind the house and dressed.

“What about our eyes?” said Smith.

“We’ll have to stay under our hoods.”

They walked to the streetway where man-pulled wagons that ran up and down. The houses lining each side of the street were primitive-walls were made of rope-bound bamboo and the slopped roofs were of mud and thatched bamboo.

“We don’t know Chinese. What if someone addresses us?” said Smith.

“I can help you,” said a voice behind them.

They gasped. “You speak English!” said Grale.

“Indeed, I can. My name is Shang Wi. I am a shaman, well that’s what I am called still. I am actually a priest of the Most High God now.”

“So, you have some kind of magical sense?” asked Grale.

“Heavens no! Magic and spiritual wisdom are two different things.”

“What is the source of your wisdom?” said Dr. Smith.

“Why the Holy Spirit of God. I also know you came here through a Mei Dalishi”

“What?” said Smith.

“I am speaking of the magic marble talisman,” said Shang Wi. “I must say you should not be using magic anyway. It is to be condemned.”

“If we’re not supposed to use it, how do we get from time to time?” asked Grale.

“I will explain. Let me first state that I am I time traveler and land traveler, kind of what you are becoming. About two years ago, I meant to travel from my home in this village at the base of this mountain between another mountain and I was wondering in the desert of Taklimakan, the biggest and most treacherous desert in China. I was near death and collapsed. Then a man in a white robe and he helped me to stand. He gave me water told me the Gospel of Christ and I turned from the ways of a shaman.”

Shang Mi hunched his shoulders and licked his lips. “What followed was amazing! The man revealed he was an angel. He took a glass vial and poured it over my head. I felt changed somehow. He said I was anointed with the power of God Himself, and I was ordained to travel through different times and places to be a witness.”

Just as Shang Mi spoke, the man named Rashied and two others in cloaks appeared from the crowd in front of the two doctors and Shang Mi. He stretched forth his hand and glared at the mysterious beings. “Away, agents of darkness!”

They took three steps back and gnashed at Shang Mi and the two doctors.

“Cowards! You receive the protection of God!” said Rashied. “We will be waiting for an opportune time.” Three men passed before them, and the agents of darkness were gone!

“That was the one who gave the marble to us!” said Smith. “Who were they?”

“This doesn’t make sense! There has never been a portal that the agents of darkness could come to this time and place …unless.” Shang Mi glanced starkly at both men. “Did you open the portal in the presence of beings like the three we just saw?”

“Yes, his name was Rashied. He gave us the marble,” said Smith.

“Confound it! That is how they did it!!”

“What do you mean?” asked Grale.

“The ancient sorcerer who made the marbles created them to only be used by humans. That’s why the one called Rashied gave you the marble; to pass through the portal you made. The Dark Servants can turn invisible.”

“I did feel something pass by me when I entered portal. What are these beings and what do they want?” asked Grale.

“They are agents of the enemy. They seek to thwart my quest. Be assured they will come back, just like they said.”

“Ok! This is way too much at once!” said Smith.

Dr. Grale looked into Smith’s eyes. “But isn’t it an adventure! I have a good feeling!”

“Do what! You’re crazy!”

Grale looked at Shang Mi. “What do we do with the marble?”

“Let me see it.” Shang Mi put the object in his palm and closed his fist. It trembled like he was holding a burning coal. He opened his hand showing an ash pile he poured on the ground.

“Now we use the power of God to time travel!” said Shang Mi. “But first, I must do something. Come with me and put your hoods over you.” Shang Mi led them to three men sitting at a table playing an ancient board game.

“Stand over there,” Shang Mi told the two doctors. He sat down at the round table on a fourth stool and took out a small book. Shang Mi must have used some persuasive and powerful words for in five minutes the three men were weeping after they took the prayer position and uttered some Chinese words.

Shang Mi rose and nodded. “They are one of the truly spiritually enlightened souls. They now have eternal life.”

“I don’t mean to be cynical, but I am not a religious man,” said Smith.

Grale grabbed Smith by the shoulder. “Didn’t you see how he destroyed the marble?”

“That could have been several things. It could have been magic for that matter! Do you believe it was God or some holy power we’re discussing?”

“Perhaps. Anything is possible.”

Shang Mi motioned for the two doctors to follow him. “Come with me.”

The priest led them to an empty alley and he stretched forth his hand and a blue spiraling portal appeared. They peered through the portal and saw an amazing temple adorned with precious stones and overlaid gold. They also saw Roman guards fighting what appeared to be armed Israelite citizens.

Shang Mi walked through it and Smith and Grale followed.

“It’s the second Jewish Temple. Don’t get too attached-it will be completely leveled in two days,” said Shang Mi.

“This must be 70 AD,” said Smith. “I wonder when exactly emperor Titus will decimate the temple. What bloodshed will follow?” said Smith.

The area was in a loud, violent pandemonium as the sound of sword clashes reverberated from the temple wall. War cries and death shrieks made all three men grit their teeth and grab their heads.

“Ack! The noise and the violence are overwhelming! The man I am looking for is Phannias ben Samual the high priest. But how will I find him in this chaos?”

“Won’t your spiritual gifts allow you to find him?” said Dr. Grale.

“Perhaps. My own intuition tells me he lives in Caiaphas’s palace-the high priest during Jesus’ time.”

“What about those…agents of darkness, like the one who called himself Rashied?” said Smith.

“I am concerned about that as well. Nevertheless, they have only so much power and influence dictated by God’s Spirit.”

“Why doesn’t’ He just totally stop them if He is so powerful?” said Smith.

“That echoes the question of ‘why does God allow suffering.’ The honest answer to both is that God gives power and will to all his creation. Would you prefer to be a helpless and mindless creature?”

Smith frowned and looked away. His brows relaxed and he looked down in thought.

The palace of Caiaphas is on top of mount Zion up there in the distance,” said Shang Mi.

“How will we travel all that way and avoid all the wild carnage?” said Grale.

“There is our answer!” said Shang MI, pointing to an abandoned roman chariot with two horses.

The men looked frantically for a way to avoid the warring crowds and flailing weapons and reach the chariot. Finally, a gap broke through and without a word they barged forward. They made it just in time as the gap closed. Once they hopped on the chariot, Shang MI flicked the reigns and off they went. “Do not fear my friends! God will protect us!”

In ten minutes, at full gallop, they reached the base of the mountain, and stopped the chariot.

“I can’t believe we made it here without a scratch!” said Smith.

“I told you we would be safe,” Shang Mi said with a chuckle.

“There’s no fighting up top,” said Grale, looking up.

“Thank God! Let’s not waste any time!” said Shang Mi.

The three ascended a mountain trail and in about twenty minutes they reached the top. They reeled back at the sight of citizens crowding the outer court of the palace, pleading with whoever was on the other side of the white-washed door to allow them protection from the battle beneath them.

“Now what!” said Smith.

“There must be a way!” said Shang Mi.

Suddenly the ground quaked and vibrating filled the mountain top. Near the edge, a crack split through half of the mountain. The people stumbled to stand as smoke came from the widening crack. An enormous pair of claws gripped the edge of the crack and a hideous red, serpentine head emerged with five horns on it emerged. Its completely black eyes, bigger than saucers, had red pupils.

“Horrid creature! What is it!” said Smith.

“It’s a beast sent from the darkness. Only a powerful righteous force can vanquish it. I don’t know to do.”

“What! You don’t have any spiritual power or something!”

“Not as much. Nevertheless, with every obstacle, God gives a way to thwart it. We must have faith.”

“Faith is not going to save us! We’ll be dragon lunch in a few seconds!”

Even Shang Mi looked frightened and at a loss. “Something must happen! It must!”

The red behemoth continued to crawl out of the smoking crack. Then the creature made a morbid smile. The dragon’s steps shook the ground as the beast walked right up to Shang Mi and roared at him. The dragon’s breath was putrid and dank. Its teeth were like spears that dripped with saliva.

Shang Mi fell to his knees and prayed a desperate prayer.

The people panicked and screamed as some sought to escape the mountain top but stumbled and slipped downward.

The dragon’s chest expanded as it stood on its back legs, towering over the three men. Its chest contracted as it spewed a cloud of fire that came down to devour them.

A flash of light strobed and a man in shining armor and silver eagle’s wings appeared in the sky holding up an enormous, gleaming shield that blocked the fire barrage. The being shone bright and wore glowing azure robes under his armor. The being looked to be a male and had eyes that like burned like sapphires. He was obviously angelic.

Everyone, including the three companions, covered their eyes with their forearms.

The dragon stepped back. The angel brandished a sword like white lightning.

The dragon turned and began to retreat back into the crack but the angel grabbed it by the tail and slammed it onto its belly and thrust it through. The creature writhed with an ear-piercing shriek. The wound turned into a dark, nebulous knot that expanded to its torso until it was a complete black shadow-like cloud. The black darkness wisped away like ash in a gale.

The angel turned to look at the three companions. All else had fled.

“I am Trophimus. I commend you for keeping hope in the face of certain doom, priests of God. Your prayer allowed me to come to your aid.”

Shang Mi’s eyes lit up. “Thank you, great angel, Trophimus.”

Trophimus descended to them. “I know you seek Phannias ben Samual, the High Priest. He is not here any longer. He fled the palace when he saw the dragon through the top window.”

“Where is he?” said Grale.

Trophimus brought out a golden rod with a glowing emerald at the top. “This is the Agios Scepter, made in the Heavenly Forge. The stone at the tip glows greatest when it points to the direction of the high priest. It will also allow you to defend and attack against evil foes.”

Shang Mi bowed. “Thank you, angelic one. It is an honor to be used by God when He could accomplish this task by an angel or by the hand of God himself.”

“Phannias is the last one to convert. Then the task will be given to another.”

Dr. Smith frowned. “If he is a priest, isn’t he converted?”

“Unfortunately, the Jewish priesthood rejected the Prince of Life. They aided His death,” said Shang Mi. “Nevertheless, the dark forces that prompted them to do so will someday be crushed!”

“God be with you all!” Then the angel ascended into heaven.

Shang Mi turned to look around and the emerald brightened. “That way, friends. We’ll have to skirt down the mountain and then follow the scepter’s direction.”

“What about the mobs below? We won’t make it!” said Smith.

“We survived the chariot ride and the dragon attack. Haven’t you learned faith?” said Grale.

Smith sighed and put a hand to his forehead. “Lead on, then.”

The two followed Shang Mi down the mountain.

“The horses and the chariot are gone!” said Smith. “They must have been stolen.”

“Nevertheless, we will be fine like we have been-chariot or not,” said Shang Mi.

They walked silently for forty minutes until they left the city of Jerusalem, headed toward Bethlehem.

“Be careful. The wilderness contains evil beasts that come out at night.”

“There could be more like that dragon!” said Smith.

“But remember, we have the Agios Scepter with us. I believe the angel would have foreseen such a situation.”

The sun began to set in the west and Dr. Smith stopped to catch his breath. “I wish we had a car.”

In the distance there was an oasis with closely bunched palms growing together.

“Perhaps those trees conceal a pond with drinkable water,” said Grale.

“I’m thirsty as well,” said Smith.

“This is too good to be true. We approach carefully,” said Shang Mi.

Fifteen minutes later, they reached the wall of palms and passed through them-and there beyond the tree line was a glistening, crystal clear pond.

Smith and Grale ran to the water edge. “Wait! The water could be tainted!” said Shang Mi.

“What do you mean?” said Smith.

“I’ve read of oasis like this that are poisoned or cursed!”

“Is there a way to find out?” said Grale.

“Hmm…maybe the scepter could help. The angel said it would protect us.” Shang Mi dipped the bottom of the scepter and suddenly his reflection turned into a young woman pounding on the water surface like it was ice.

The three reeled back.

“What in Earth!” said Smith.

“This poor soul is trapped in the water! Sorcery!” said Shang Mi.

The maiden kept pounding with desperate eyes.

“We have to help her!” said Grale.

“How!” said Smith.

Then Shang Mi did the obvious and reached down to ger her and the two clutched hands and she was pulled out of the water and onto its edge. She breathed heavily with her eyes closed for a little while. She opened them and sat up, looking at the clouds and cried tears of joy. “I’ve forgotten how beautiful the sky is,” she mused. “I do not know who you are but, you rescued me from a very long and lonely curse.”

“Who are you?” said Shang Mi. “How were you cursed?”

“I don’t know how long I have been trapped under there, perhaps decades. You have my thanks. I am Ithia, princess of the kingdom of Solace. I was riding my mare through the wilderness and my horse stumbled over a branch and my mount sapped his neck. I was wondering my way back and I found this place and drunk from it. Thank goodness I was met by wizard. Your scepter is beautiful.”

“Not magic-holy power. I...think I was meant to meet you. Yes…I am sure of it!”

“For what purpose?” said Grale.

“I believe it involves my quest.” Shang Mi shook himself. “Let’s make haste to Bethlehem. Twilight nears.”

“How does Solace fair in the present?” said Ithia.

“I am sorry, but in all the books I have read, it does not say where it is located in this time,” said Shang Mi. “But do not fear, I believe God will reveal all eventually.”

“Who is this God you speak of?”

“He is the creator of Earth and Father of the Son, who came to our world to be the propitiation for man’s destructive nature and folly. My mission is to preach the gospel to specially selected people in this era.”

Twilight approached and with it a looming sense of danger.

“We must hurry! Evil beasts prowl about at night, as I said.”

“I hope there is fresh water and food available I Bethlehem. I’m famished and parched,” said Smith.

“I’m sure we all are. What will we do Shang Mi?” said Grale.

“We will cross that bridge when we get to it. Let us first focus on getting there.”

When darkness had come, the emerald on the Agios Scepter brightened and became a guiding light in the stark darkness. They stopped walking when a group of black wolves became visible at the edge of the circle of illumination from the scepter. Strangely, they stood at bay.

“It is the power to the scepter! They cannot harm us!” said Grale.

As they traversed farther, the wolves stayed out of the circle of light, but matched the four humans, step-for-step.

Soon the travelers made out groups of firelight and buildings and a few people outside close by.

“Bethlehem!” said Grale.

The closer they got the wolves retreated and the four had arrived!

The Agios Scepter dimmed to a glow. They turned until the emerald grew brightest and followed it.

“Does it concern you that nobody is saying anything about the scepter?” said Smith.

“Perhaps its true form is cloaked to others,” said Shang Mi.

A man in a white robe and brown turban approached them, speaking Arabic.

Shang Mi conversed with the man in Arabic for a few minutes then the man walked away.

Shang Mi smiled. “Good news! That kind man has offered us food and lodging!”

Suddenly, someone grabbed Shang Mi’s neck from behind him and he dropped the scepter. Ithia, Grale and Smith were grabbed as well. They gripped their necks and struggled until Grale elbowed the stomach of the person behind him. The grip on his neck was released and he spun around to see a man in dark-purple robe and a black cape grabbing his stomach.

Grale struck the heads of the ones holding Ithia’s, Shang Mi’s and Smith’s neck and the men stumbled to their side, holding their heads.

The one who was elbowed picked up the scepter and addressed the four companions. “Give up, or you will never see this again!-on your knees!”

Ithia, Grale, Smith, and Shang Mi obeyed.

“Who are you?” said Grale.

“They are human servants of the darkness. They wear necklaces bearing the seven headed dragon-the mark of the Dracmire cult,” said Shang Mi.

“Very perceptive,” said the man holding the scepter. “As such, you know we are privy to your quest. But it all ends here.” The man pulled out a long dagger.

Shang Mi folded his hands and muttered something under his breath. Moments later, the scepter in the assailant’s hand burned as if in a smoldering forging furnace. The man cried and let go of the scepter and it hit the ground. The scepter instantly cooled and Shang Mi stretched forth his arm and the scepter came flying into his grasp. He stood and held out the scepter horizontally as a green flame engulfed the servants of darkness.

Ithia, Grale, and Smith stared in amazement and speechlessness.

“A little bit of faith goes a long way, my friends.”

“Faith? You just prayed!” said Smith.

“Indeed. However, I’ve spent a good portion of my life in devotion and prayer that has resulted in faith.” Shang Mi flicked his head in the direction of the high priest. “Come now, he is close by! Our quest is nearly over!”

Shang Mi followed the light of the scepter and soon they came to a small Jewish synagogue. It looked like the palace of Caiaphas with large, burning candles that encircled the structure with a spear-shaped double door at the front part of a colonnade surrounding it.

“Come, you three. I want you to see this.” Shang Mi walked up a small stairway and then knocked on a door.

The doors cracked open and there he stood! He gasped and reeled back staring at the glowing emerald.

“He sees it!” said Grale.

Shang Mi conversed with the high priest in Hebrew as he spoke pointing to the scepter.

Minutes later, he welcomed them all inside. Within, arches had decedent jewels and gold designs. The arches supported a twenty-foot-high vaulted ceiling with a chandelier. A raised platform supported an ark with the hanging Torah parchment attached to a spool.

Everyone sat on a seating pew.

“I spoke to him about the dragon and how it was slayed by the angel who gave me the Agios Scepter. I also told him about my quest and shared the gospel. He still has doubts though. This may take time.”

Ithia, Grale and Smith explored the synagogue for an hour until Shang Mi jumped to his feet and threw up his hands and grabbed his head. “He refuses to believe!”

Shang Mi stood with a frustrated frown. His countenance changed and something came over him and a childlike glisten filled his eyes. He spoke to Phannias and then Shang Mi placed his hand over the ground and a blue, glowing orb appeared and took shape and slowly it took the form of a young girl.

Phannias kneeled by her and she opened her eyes. He cried as he gripped her hand and kissed it. She stood and the high priest embraced her. Next, he went to Shang Mi and nodded and bowed folding his hands as Shang Mi led him in a prayer. He cried with joy.

“It is done!” said Shang Mi.

Suddenly the two doors broke off their hinges and three beings in black cloaks and hoods appeared. All three had swords that burned with black fire and the eyes of the horrid beings glowed red.

“Pneuma Sentries! The three generals of the dark force!”

Phannias reeled back and his face went flush.

“This is a holy place. They cannot enter.” Said Shang Mi.

“We can’t stay here forever,” said Smith.

Shang Mi approached the doorway and glanced across the three dark beings. “If I go with you, will you leave these others alone?”

“We will,” said one of them in voice like smoldering coal.

“You can’t!” said Ithia.

“There has to be another way!” said Grale.

“There is not. Even the Agios scepter cannot subdue them. And I don’t think my faith is great enough to rebuke them. My quest is fulfilled. If I am slain, I will be with God.” Shang Mi gave the scepter to Grale. “It will return you to your own time. When a portal is made, pass the scepter on to Ithia. It is time for he to take up the mantle and bring the gospel to chosen individuals through time and space, starting with her own people.”

He walked past the door and a black nebulous mist enveloped him then it materialized like tar that covered his body. He cried out and his body turned to black stone that instantly corroded and crumbled to the ground.

Ithia, Grale, Smitha, and Phannias observed the ashes with shock.

The dark beings disappeared in plumes of scarlet smoke.

“Such a holy man,” said Phannias.

“Phannias spoke English!” said Grale.

“It must be a latent effect of the scepter when Shang Mi died!” said Smith.

“Who is this young lady?” asked Grale to Phannias.

“She is my daughter. Shang Mi asked what it would take for me to believe his message. I asked if he could bring my beloved. She died from accidently standing between two foes from the present fighting.”

“I suppose the last thing to do is return home, Dr. Grale.”

“No, I don’t think so. I feel there is one more thing to do,” said Grale.

“Do you think it involves Shang Mi somehow?”

“Hmm…I believe it does.” Grale pulled at his chin in thought. “His message-it regards his message.”

“In what way?”

“It’s us, the last thing is us! The message was for us as well!” said Grale.

“You mean we’re supposed to pray?” said Smith.

“A prayer of repentance and submission-yes! Ithia, this is meant for you too. Come on let’s bow our heads together.”

After Grale finished the prayer, they laughed with tears of joy.

“My own people worshipped many gods. Now I know there is one true God,” said Ithia.

The synagogue quaked and Trophimus, the angel who slayed the dark dragon, appeared and addressed Dr. Smith and Dr. Grale. “It is now your turn to witness others in your time. Be warned; the people of your time are stiff-necked and hard-hearted towards the Gospel. It is known because it is after the risen savior has come just like in this era.”

Ithia and Phannias were in shock and amazement.

“An angel of God!” said the high priest. “What could this mean!”

“Be at peace, high priest. All is in order,” said Grale.

“What being did I just see! What is an angel?” said Ithia.

“They are messengers of God-servants of the deity you just now prayed to,” said Grale. “It’s time to leave Dr. Smith.” Dr. Grale held out the scepter and a spiraling, blue portal appeared with the Iranian land on the other side. Next, he gave the scepter to Ithia. “This will direct you to the inhabitance of Solace. It is time for you to take up the quest, just as Shang Mi did.”

“I understand.”

The two doctors passed through and the portal closed suddenly. They found themselves in the same spot and time, at sunrise.

“You know what this means, right?” said Smith.

“Yes. It is just as Trophimus directed. It will not be easy.”

“Yet it will be possible with faith.”

They felt tired and went back to bed, awaiting the first day of their quest.

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