“Took you long enough,” Steve said coolly. “But you are still too late. This cursed phylactery will never again claim the soul of another player.”
“It’s not too late!” Stephen shouted from the sideline. “I need it! We need it! The team needs it! Isn’t that what a coach wants? To win?”
Steve shook his head sadly. “There’s more to life than winning, Steph. There’s friends. Health. Happiness. All things which the three-point shooting amulet stands in the way of.” He paused, as if gathering his thoughts, then continued, “I thought that, when you matured, then I could entrust the amulet to you two. How wrong I was! It is clear to me now that I should have destroyed the amulet long ago, before anybody was tempted by its mysterious enchantments.”
“Then take it! Keep it until we’re ready!” Klay responded. His fingers itched to get a hold of it one last time, to feel the sensation of its strength pouring through his body.
Steve again shook his head. “You have been corrupted by it. Even you Steph, who only handled the amulet for the briefest of times, you were ensnared by the mere thought of it. Until it is destroyed, its corrupting influence will never loosen its insidious grip. The three-point skill might diminish, but its hold on you never will!”
Klay roared with anger and attempted to charge at his coach. However, when he reached the out-of-bounds line, he was abruptly stopped by some kind of invisible barrier. “Ow! Wha-”
“I can’t let you do that, Klay,” Steve said, not looking amused by his player’s mishap, but instead, piteous.
“How…?” Stephen asked.
“There is more to the amulet than mere three-point shooting,” Steve answered cryptically. Suddenly, the lights in the arena all shut off, and they were left in darkness. Seemingly in response, the amulet in Steve’s hand glowed brighter, giving off a golden illumination that was almost sunlike. Soon, the center of the court was visible again, but Stephen and Klay still could not reach where their coach stood.
“Avis, inquit, da sapientia!” Steve shouted. “Accipe a me phylacterium!”
At these indecipherable words, the jumbotron above their heads emitted a downpour of sparks. The screens flickered and distorted before an image of Celtics-era Larry Bird appeared on them.
Stephen and Klay stared, dumbfounded, as the image above them began to speak through the arena’s PA system.
“I knew you could do it, Steve.”
“Perhaps, but it took me too long,” Steve demurred. “The amulet has poisoned more victims. Even I underestimated its terrible might.”
“I thought that might happen,” Larry said, shrugging. “But it could have been worse. The amulet ended my career. It came close to ending two more. Perhaps this is the reminder we needed that this magnificent artifact does more harm that it could ever do good.”
“Yes. I was foolish, but now I am given the chance to redeem myself.”
Klay banged on the invisible wall that prevented them from reaching Steve. “True redemption would be giving the amulet back to me, using it to win a title! Nobody would blame you!”
For the third and last time, Steve shook his head. “No, Klay, that is not redemption. That is greed. Redemption is righting the wrongs, not taking advantage of them.” Now he looked up at Larry’s image. “Do it.”
Larry Bird nodded once before the jumbotron turned black. Simultaneously, the floor underneath them started to rumble. Stephen and Klay were thrown off their feet, but Steve stood steadily amongst the chaos as the hardwood began to develop flaws, then cracks. The amulet glowed red, sensing that its time was coming to an end.
“One more thing, Steph,” Steve yelled, struggling to make himself heard over the loudening tremors. “If you ever wondered why our names were so similar, why we shared so many other things in common, why our coach-player bond was stronger than any other before or since, there was a good reason.”
Steve stopped talking. A single diamond tear was shed from his eye.
“I am you. And I trust that you have learned enough to go on by yourself.”
At the very moment Steve spoke those words, he froze, then burst into a million crystalline fragments. The amulet dropped from his hand into a wide crevice in the floor.
“NO!” Klay shouted. He ran towards the place where Steve had been standing, to find that the barrier had been dispelled. The rumbling ceased and the gaps in the hardwood sealed themselves. While Steph sat in stunned silence on the floor, Klay desperately clawed at the floor where the amulet had just disappeared.
“Klay, stop,” Stephen said, walking over to where Klay was on his hands and knees. He placed his hand on his teammate’s back. “Steve was right. We don’t need the amulet. But what he didn’t understand is that, while it brought out the worst in us, it has also made us stronger.”
As the two Warriors watched, A snow-white dove flew down from the rafters and landed in front of them. On its breast was a green shamrock.
Part I: http://youtu.be/vn6LVM-kyU0