Sage latched onto the outer edge of the hole in the ruined wall, resisting Marko’s attempt to bring him out the antiquities vault. The gravitational pull of the whirling vortex aiding him in his resistance. Janet and Andrea rushed to pry his fingers loose. In his exhausted state, Sage did not have the strength put up much of a fight.
They quickly forced him to relinquish his hold and helped Marko in drag him out of the vault. Abruptly freed from the oppositional pull of the vortex, their concerted effort had them stumbling backwards. They fell into a heap on the floor. Sage angrily wrestled with them, trying and failing in his weakened state to free himself from their grasping hands.
“Let go of me! What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Boy, when you got injured, you must have hit your head. You don’t even realize we just saved you from getting sucked into a giant vortex,” quipped Andrea.
“I was trying to jump into the vortex!”
“What? Now, I know you’re punch-drunk. You were actually trying to kill yourself?”
“Of course not. I believe that vortex is actually a portal. if I’m not mistaken, Mukesh is at the other end.”
“You don’t sound too sure about that Sage. What if you’re wrong and jumping in that thing kills you?”
“That’s a chance I’ve got to take. I can’t just stand by and let Mukesh steal all of the antiquities. I spent the last ten years creating that collection. Their historical significance makes them invaluable for occult education and research, not to mention the appraised value of all the jewels, inlaid gold and platinum pieces in there. Besides all that, the amulets and talismans are enchanted with curses and powers. If you think Mukesh is dangerous now, just wait and see what happens when him and his thugs get their hands on hundreds of amulets and talismans, they can weaponize! Besides, he’s still got Jagathy.”
“So, what’s your plan Superman? Don’t tell me you actually believe Mukesh is just going to shut off that vortex and hand over Jagathy out of the kindness of his black heart,” sneered Andrea.
“Of course not. That’s what this gemstone is for. It’s called The Amulet of The Buckle and I happen to know that out of all the amulets in the entire vault, this little baby is the one he wants the most. It grants whoever possess it access to every place in the underworld. It will be my bargaining chip.”
“Even if he agrees to your terms, you just said that you didn’t want Mukesh getting his hands on any of the amulets or talismans. What’s to stop him from using that thing on you and anyone else who gets in his way?”
“I popped it out of its gold setting. The gemstone is part of a charm and there is an incantation engraved on the setting. Reading it aloud, during a specific ritual activates the spell and the gem amplifies its power. Without that setting, the gem isn’t nearly as potent. I figure with the gem clenched in the palm of my hand, he might not notice what I’ve done until it’s too late.”
“You’re leaving a lot up to chance Sage.”
“Have you got a better idea Andrea? Do any of you have a better idea? Take your time, no rush. The entire contents of the antiquities vault are about to get sucked into a vortex and the building is seconds away from collapsing on us, but hey I’ll wait while you kick around a few ideas,” Sage snapped.
Marko laughed mirthlessly, “I hate to admit it, but he’s right. We’re out of time and options. However, I cannot allow you to be reckless by yourself Sage. You’re already wounded and so exhausted that you can barely even stand up. So, who’s going to join our kamikaze mission? Are you coming ladies?”
Without hesitation, Janet her nodded her head. Andrea gaped at her incredulously.
“I’m sorry I’ve got to say something here. I mean, I’m all for lending a helping hand but this is crazy talk! You two are acting like we’ve got no choice but to hurl ourselves into a whirling vortex that will probably just rip us apart or twist us into pretzels or something. I don’t know about the rest of you, but Janet and I actually have another very obvious option. We could just wash our hands of this whole ridiculous situation and walk away. That’s my vote.”
“I’m not going anywhere. You can run off with your tail between your legs if you want to, but I mean to see this through,” countered Janet.
“You can’t be serious. Why are you putting your life on the line for these people? They don’t care about us. Hell, these assholes never get tired of reminding us that we’re outsiders. They won’t even listen to us, because we’re not Doorkeepers.”
“Have you forgotten everything Marko has done for us? He has had our backs this entire time. Marko wouldn’t even be mixed up in this, if it wasn’t for us. We owe him.”
Janet resolutely folded her arms across her chest, glaring at her sister. Andrea rolled her eyes and silently mouthed the word “fine” to signal her reductant consent. Marko turned a questioning gaze on the Doorkeeper warriors and spell weavers. The oldest of them spoke up.
“Sage is our Curator of Antiquities. Where he goes, we all go. He must be protected.”
Marko stood and helped Sage and the sisters to their feet saying, “The warriors and I should go in first. There might be an ambush waiting for us. If Sage’s plan actually works, then we need to be ready to open a portal as soon as Jagathy is with us, so we can get out of there before Mukesh has time to pull the rug out from under us. So, be prepared spell weavers. Agreed?”
The group nodded. Satisfied, Marko led the way and climbed back through the ruined wall of the vault. He was alarmed to see that the vortex had doubled in size. The overwhelming centripetal force immediately pulled him into the maw of the swirling mass of energy. He could hear the startled screams of the others getting sucked in behind him.