Chapter 62: Eye of the Storm
Marko and the others felt themselves violently pulled downward through the ruined floor of the antiquities vault, past the basement and subbasement of the Doorkeeper compound. Their shouts could barely be heard over the roar of the cyclonic force buffeting their bodies. They desperately contorted their bodies to avoid the spinning chunks of rubble torn from the building above their heads rocketing past them. Marko could hear the screams of the unlucky ones who failed to dodge the steel and concrete projectiles.
One by one, they tumbled into and down through the calm eye of the storm. As if an invisible cord was cut, they rocketed down through the darkness. In rapid succession, they tumbled through a portal and landed in a heap. The warlocks weaving together the cone of power driving the tornadic spell, were startled into silence. The cone of power winked out and the portal closed, plunging them all into darkness dimly illuminated by the moon overhead.
Marko landed flat on his back with the wind knocked out of him. He could only roll weakly out of the paths of the others crashing down around him. He could make out very little around them. They appeared to be in an open field surrounded by woods. Marko was distracted from his musings by the cries of pain around him, as his comrades fell on one another. Marko moved to sit up and a stab of pain in his side made him gasp. He gradually realized that the steady drone of the warlocks’ chant had abruptly stopped. Marko and the others sprang to their feet warily peering into the darkness around them, automatically seeking one another out and forming a defensive circle with their shoulders touching. Mukesh’s throaty laughter floated out from the darkness.
“Well, well, well, it looks like my net has snared rats instead of amulets and talismans.”
Andrea tilted her head toward Sage and whispered urgently, “what are you waiting for Sage? Don’t you have something to say to Mukesh?”
Sage suddenly remembered that he had an amulet clenched in his fist. He cleared his throat and spoke up, “We’ve come to make a deal Mukesh. You give us Jagathy in exchange for something you want.”
“What could you possibly have that would make me give you Jagathy?”
Sage replied briefly holding the stone up clenched in his hand, “I have The Amulet of the Buckle. If you want this stone, you’ll have to give us Jagathy.”
“You’re right about one thing Sage, I would like to possess that stone. But I don’t have to give you anything. What you have failed to grasp is the fact that you are trapped inside my ritual circle. So, you’re in no position to strike deals. Here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to kill you all and pry the amulet from your cold dead hand. Then, I will stroll into the Doorkeeper compound and scoop up all of the amulets and talismans in the antiquities vault. The only question is, what would be the most amusing way to kill you? Hmm, suffocation sounds fun.”
Mukesh murmured inaudibly as he raised his left arm palm up, activating vaporous residual magic inside the ritual circle. The imprisoned Doorkeepers felt the air around them rush out of the ritual circle, drawn by the fingers of his left hand closing into a fist. The stoic Doorkeeper warriors were panic-stricken, by the sudden inability to breathe. All rational thought was chased away by the fear of death. The warriors rushed forward and beat at the impenetrable wall of energy encircling them. One by one, they dropped to their knees and collapsed, as strength and then life began draining out of them.
Mukesh watched impassively for a few moments and then abruptly opened his hand. The group gasped and coughed, gulping at the oxygen rushing back into the circle. Mukesh looked on contemplatively saying, “that wasn’t fun at all. None of you even tried to cast a spell to save your miserable hides. You all just gave up. So, killing you that way would have ended your lives too quickly. I want to watch you suffer slow agonizing deaths, for all of the trouble you caused me today. Oh, I know what would be…entertaining. Since you all came here looking for a fight, I’m going to watch you all fight to the death.”
“If you think we have any intention of killing one another, you’re even crazier than you look,” rasped Marko.
“Who said anything about you fighting one another? That would be boring. No, I’m going to conjure up something that will prove to be a real…challenge,” the sound of Mukesh’s sinister laughter sent a chill rippling through the group.