06 March 2007

The Desert of Einfuhlung - Chapter 4, Part 2

The Doctor could vaguely feel her embarrassment at intruding on his thoughts. He swallowed hard, wondering if she could also sense his emotions at this distance.
"Yes I can," she answered his thought. "I'm very sorry, Doctor. But I didn't choose this, and once we're out of this, I promise, I'll be taking Dr Karg's pills in large doses."
The Doctor swallowed again. "Let's just worry about getting out of this situation alive, shall we?" He felt Saskia's gratitude that he wanted to concentrate on the immediate situation. "How are we going to play this? I don't want Jackson getting his hands on that Grimoire."
"You're not the only one! If he does get it and use it, Einfuhlung will be in far more danger than it ever was from the Rovians. The only way to stop him is if you can get to it and remove it first. But you'd have to get past the Guardian, and only someone who doesn't want it for themselves can do that."
The Doctor half smiled. "That shouldn't be a problem," he said. "I've no desire for it."
"Good. But you need to get into the central chamber, preferably without anyone else seeing you. I think you should wait until dusk, then try to enter the palace." Saskia said.
"Do you know where the central chamber is?" asked the Doctor. "I mean, this place is huge, I don't want to waste time wandering through lots of corridors."
"You'll have no trouble finding it," Saskia answered. "That hum of power you felt at the doors will lead you straight to the Grimoire."
"How do you know all this?" the Doctor asked, unable to contain his curiosity any longer.
"From Jeff."
"He told you about his research?" the Doctor asked, once again sensing that Saskia was holding something back.
"In a manner of speaking," she answered evasively.

Before he could push her for a more detailed answer, there was a loud crack like a thunderclap and a scream. The Doctor spun around just in time to see Jones being hurled across the courtyard and through the archway.
"What happened?" yelled the Doctor, racing across the courtyard. He had barely reached the archway when Jackson's thugs barrelled into him. "What are you doing?" he yelled, picking himself up again. The thugs grabbed his arms, holding him back from going through the archway. Jackson sauntered over. "No point going after him, Doctor," he said casually. "He's dead."
"How can you know that?" the Doctor demanded, straining to pull himself free. "He might only be injured."
"Either way, he's no use to me." Jackson turned away and headed towards the flight of steps.
"He's right Doctor," Saskia said quietly. "Jones is dead." The Doctor stopped struggling against his captors. They let go of his arms and followed Jackson. The Doctor slumped against the rock wall beside the arch, then sank down to sit on the ground, his head on his arms which he rested on his knees.
"He's really dead?" the Doctor asked.
"I'm sorry Doctor." There was a note of fear or awe in Saskia's voice.
"What aren't you telling me?" the Doctor asked quietly.
"When Mr Jones was thrown through the Crack in Time, he was aged instantly. Only his skeleton is left."
The Doctor swallowed hard twice. "Are you OK?" he asked Saskia after a moment.
"Yes," she answered.
The Doctor sensed she was unhappy with what she had just witnessed. "How am I going to get inside the palace, if that's what happens to anyone who tries?" he asked.
"Purity of intent," Saskia answered.
"Perhaps I'd better do this sooner rather than later," he said.
"Not if you want to get away without Jackson getting the Grimoire," she answered.

The Doctor was about to argue with her when a second thunderclap followed by a scream echoed around the courtyard. His head snapped up in disbelief as another body was sent flying across the courtyard and through the archway. He leapt to his feet and sprinted across to Jackson.
"Have you gone completely mad?" he yelled, his face contorted with fury, as he reached Jackson.
Jackson gave him an indifferent look. "I want to look inside," he answered, clearly believing that this was sufficient justification for his actions.
"Have you considered the possibility that you might not be able to get inside?" the Doctor asked, a steely look in his eyes.
"I'll find a way," Jackson replied. He nodded at Gordon and the other thug. "Gordon, Philips, get a meal going."
They hurried off to the camp.
"And you, Doctor, bend that mighty mind of yours to finding a way inside, or I might just get bored and kill you out of hand."
"And what good will that achieve?" asked the Doctor.
Jackson gave him a contemptuous look. "None, but then I'm not interested in good, as you know." He walked away, and his other men followed, leaving the Doctor to sink down onto the bottom step.

"I'm here," she answered.
"How much longer until I can get inside?"
"About five minutes. Wait for them to lose interest in you."
The Doctor waited, listening to the men talking noisily about the meal they were preparing. As he waited the sky darkened further, a couple of stars shining faintly.
"I'm ready." He stood up and dusted the sand off his trousers.
"Once you've got the Grimoire, bring it to the archway. I'll be waiting for you there, and then we can deal with Jackson and his men."
"OK." The Doctor turned and walked up the steps to the doors.
"Remember, purity of intent," Saskia said softly.
The Doctor nodded to himself and placed his hands on the doors. He felt again that strange humming. He swallowed hard and concentrated on the idea of keeping the Grimoire from Jackson. He pushed at the doors, which swung open silently. The Doctor stepped over the threshold, then paused. Saskia had been right about the fact that he would know where to go, he thought. He walked forward, taking apparently random turnings through the corridors until he reached the central chamber. He opened the door and stopped on the threshold, surprise and disbelief arresting his steps.
"That is incredible," Saskia said quietly.
The Doctor started. "You can see this?"
"As clearly as you can," she answered.
"Once we're away from this, you and I are going to have a talk," the Doctor said firmly.
"A long talk," Saskia agreed.
He pulled his attention back to the task in hard, looking at the stele in front of him.
"What do you know about this?" the Doctor asked Saskia.
"Only the rumours that Jeff discovered. He found an account from about a thousand years ago, that referred to a stele, or stone slab, about fifty feet high, that was to be found at the heart of the Rock Palace of Eupatoria. The carvings on it are supposed to be an account of the building of the Rock Palace."
"And where's the Grimoire?"
"There's a hollow space at the base of the stele, at the back. The Grimoire is inside it," Saskia answered.

The Doctor walked into the room, then around the stele. He wanted to stop and examine the carvings, but he was afraid Jackson and the others would notice his absence.
"They're eating at the moment," Saskia told him. "But the sooner you bring the Grimoire to me and we get it out of their reach, the better."
"I know." The Doctor saw the hollow space Saskia had described and knelt down in front of it.
"Gently. Remember, purity of intent."
The Doctor stopped as he was about to reach out for the Grimoire. "What?"
"The Guardian's still active," Saskia said. "If it believes that you don't want the Grimoire for yourself, you'll be able to remove it without harm."
The Doctor rubbed his suddenly sweaty palms on his trousers, then reached out, thinking only of getting the Grimoire to safety. He picked it up, then waited. Nothing happened, so he shuffled backwards a little on his knees, then stood up. He looked down at the heavy, dark-coloured book, then walked out of the chamber. He hurried back through the corridors of the palace and down the steps. He glanced across at the camp, but not one seemed to have missed him yet.
"That's because they don't care about anyone except themselves," Saskia observed with contempt.
"Right now, I'm glad of that," answered the Doctor as he crossed the courtyard. He started when Saskia stepped out of the shadows. He'd got so used to talking to her telepathically, that seeing her standing there was slightly odd.
He put the book down and reached out to hug her. Saskia hugged him back tightly.
"Ow!" The Doctor winced as a stab of pain shot through his ribs.
"Sorry," Saskia said softly.
"It's OK. I think one of those thugs kicked me in the ribs when I was unconscious."
"I wouldn't be surprised," Saskia answered.
"So what happens next?" asked the Doctor.
"We make Jackson pay," she answered.
The Doctor was surprised by the note of steel in her voice. "How?"

"Watch." Saskia pointed across the courtyard and the Doctor was astonished to see himself standing at the top of the flight of steps. He looked at Saskia's face and saw she was gazing fixedly at the figure on the steps. He swallowed half a dozen questions, sensing her utter concentration, unwilling to break it.
"Jackson!" The Doctor's voice rang across the courtyard from the figure on the steps.
Jackson and his men came crowding out of a tent at the Doctor's shout.
"If you want to retrieve the Grimoire, you'd better come with me," the other Doctor answered.
Jackson hurried across the courtyard and up the steps, his men close behind.
"Stand beside me," the other Doctor ordered, "and when I say, push the doors open."
The four men ranged themselves on either side of the other Doctor.

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