“That’s it. That’s the book he was reading before all this happened,” Dell Curry whispered as he stood outside his son’s house, peering through a gap in the blinds.
Steve Kerr nodded gravely. “Either he is experiencing a problem with his newly-created three-point amulet, or he desires to craft an artefact of even greater potency,” he whispered in reply, his voice almost lost in the heavy rain.
“It’s lucky that I didn’t have access to the full text of that infernal tome when I forged the original amulet,” Larry Bird added, sounding blustery because of the rain. “That Doyle fellow from Oxford only sent me a few bits and pieces, no more than a few paragraphs in total. He must have suspected my intentions. The resulting enchantment was strong, but the path towards inhumanity, I only took a few steps upon before I freed myself of that burden. Stephen is already halfway down that path.”
Dell shuddered. “He looks like my son from the outside, but I have to keep reminding myself that the real Stephen is gone forever,” he said. Then, he angrily turned towards Larry. “If it weren’t for your own damnable hubris, Larry, this never-”
“What’s done is done,” Steve interrupted, sternly enough that Dell halted his tirade. “It is impossible to say what would have happened had the original three-point shooting not been made. Stephen, in his quest for greatness, might have learned those secrets himself. On the other hand, Klay Thompson, who also sampled the intoxicating allure of the amulet, never made an attempt to remake it after the original was destroyed.”
“My goals were noble,” Larry mumbled, almost to himself. “To elevate the three-point shot, neglected at that time, to an art form.” He paused and sighed bitterly. “Now I see how the amulet has had the opposite effect. It has perverted the three-pointer.”
The three men stood silently in the rain, waiting to see what Stephen’s next move would be. Some time later, Stephen closed the book, took it somewhere out of eyeshot of the men, then snuffed out the candles and retired to bed.
“Nothing more will happen tonight,” Steve finally said. “But we must remain vigilant. Stephen is surely planning to undertake another ritual. When that happens, we must be ready to act swiftly.”
As the weeks lengthened into months, Stephen found that he no longer wore or even touched the three-point amulet. He had gotten the strong feeling that whatever “Other Gods” he was trying to reach did not like how the amulet was so foully tainted with Christian theology. They seemed to consider themselves above the lesser gods that mankind worshiped, a notion that Stephen fully agreed with.
His research indicated that only a select few among humanity’s billions-strong ranks over millennia had ever discerned the existence of the gods beyond the gods. The author of the “Magickal Objects…” text only had second- and third-accounts of men who had tried to attain that knowledge; all had been driven to madness by their findings. The unnamed author also spoke of obscure Arabian mysticists who had more in-depth knowledge of these gods, a cabal of learned scholars who had even established a library to preserve their knowledge, but there were no other details.
It was unnecessary to make a search for that lost archive. For some weeks, Stephen had been receiving strange visions during his sleep. He hesitated to call them dreams, for they were not rooted in his subconscious, so far as he could tell. They seemed to be instructions. Instructions on how to establish further contact with those who dwelled outside of time, and achieve true command over the three-point amulet.
Stephen had returned to the chamber underneath Oracle Arena where the first (or, really, the second) amulet had been made. The mineral composition of the walls and floor were entirely different than they had been just months ago. Here he would find all the materials necessary to complete the new ritual, the steps of which had been given to him piecemeal in visions over the course of many weeks.
After two days of delicate chiseling, during which he wanted for neither food nor drink nor rest, Stephen was ready. He slotted the obsidian pentagram, insetted at the center with a sphere of vibrant orpiment as bright as the sun, into the star-shaped hole that was hewn into the rocky floor of the chamber; then, he murmured the incantation, the alien words slipping easily out of his mouth.
All at once, a luminous green portal materialized in the empty space in front of him. In awe of its emerald glow, Stephen slowly reached out with one finger to touch the gateway between dimensions. The amulet around his neck shook violently and pulsed with different colors as his fingertip drew closer to the portal.
“He’s here!” came Steve Kerr’s voice, unexpected but also not so. “Steph, don’t! You know not what ancient evil lurks beyond!”
Stephen smirked and pressed his finger into the glasslike threshold.