Chapter 60: Cataclysm
Marko glared at the Doorkeeper warriors and spellcasters, waiting for one of them to step up and seize control of the situation. They all appeared to be in shock. The loud report of a crack forming and splitting the wall behind them made the group recoil. Their panic was palpable. Someone needed to take over or chaos would ensue. If there was any hope of them surviving, they had to stick together. The senior Doorkeepers were as anxious as the others. Marko decided to step up to the plate, before things got out of hand. He had to shout to be heard.
“We need to get inside the antiquities vault. Can one of you open it? Hello? I’m talking to the senior Doorkeepers. Which one of you has the combination?”
They looked quizzically at one another and back to Marko shaking their heads. He let out an exasperated sigh.
“None of you know the combination?”
“For security reasons, access to all codes and combinations is limited on an as needed basis,” spluttered Lead Warrior Kevin shamefacedly.
“We’ve got to get inside that antiquities vault,” insisted Marko.
He kept to himself the very real possibility that the few people who knew or had access to the vault combination might have been slain in the battle. There would be no way of knowing, until they could rejoin the others. Meanwhile, they had to stay and guard the vault which was full of priceless and powerful enchanted antiquities. It stood to reason that even though the forcefield had been deactivated, there was most likely protective spellwork active inside the vault. Without knowing what spells had been cast or the layout of shelves and tables, opening a portal in a random spot would be risky.
The safest option would be transmutation. Marko would be able to pass through the wall or door of the vault and ease his way in, hopefully avoid any traps. On second thought, there was one big problem with that approach; that level of conjuration would take a huge toll on his reserves of strength. Marko was still tired from all of the spells he had already cast during the battle. It was necessary to always be prepared to defend himself against any unforeseen circumstances. Suppose once he got inside, something attacked him? Even proceeding with caution, he might suddenly become ensnared by a protective spell. Janet and Andrea were still too inexperienced to be much help. The Doorkeeper spellcasters had already demonstrated how unreliable they could be.
Marko was still weighing his options, when the seismic vibrations caused the floor to buckle, fragmenting the mortar which held together the bricks in the walls around them. Brickwork in the wall along the lower left side of the vault crumbled into a heap, opening a large hole. Brilliant Kaleidoscopic light streamed through the opening. In a bid to save face, Kevin charged through the hole and almost immediately screamed hysterically. Marko went and stuck his head through the gap and then stepped through. Andrea and Janet started to follow. They stopped abruptly at the opening and peered inside, looking for Marko. Janet suddenly shrieked and dove inside. Andrea grabbed the back of her sister’s shirt and found herself being pulled inside. She frantically called out to the others.
“Help us! There’s some sort of swirling vortex in here. It’s trying to suck us in!”
The others made no move to follow. They stood eyeing one another, telegraphing the idea of running off, to save themselves. Before they could move, Andrea reemerged from the hole dragging her sister, who was desperately clinging to Marko. She shot an enraged glare over her shoulder which got the others moving. It took concerted effort by warriors and spellcasters alike, working against the centripetal force of the vortex, to haul them out of the vault. They were surprised to see that Marko was clutching the Antiquities Curator Sage.