<<<21 August 2057, 09:23no spoilers
Note: This timeline is not the same as the one
depicted in the stories in the Fiction section, which
is why it won't make sense if you've read some of the stories.
I'm not certain that any of us was in a hurry for the
next day to arrive, but it did nonetheless--and all too soon,
if you ask me. Our day began with a call from Harlequin's
young friend, who gave us the location where the ritual to
take us to the Metaplanes would be performed. He told us that
it would take quite some time to get the ritual ready, so
there was no point in our arriving early. However, we were
all anxious to get on with it (and I especially was interested
in seeing how such a large ritual would be constructed) that
we told him we would be there straightaway.
We gathered what little gear we thought would prove useful
on the Metaplanes and set off. When we arrived at the warehouse,
we found Harlequin and Gabriel already hard at work constructing
the largest ritual circle I have ever seen in all my years
of practising the magical arts. Harlequin was on one side of
the circle, Gabriel on the other, each one drawing out arcane
patterns and almost oblivious to us. Upon closer scrutiny, it
appeared that their patterns were very dissimilar; 'Wraith
became very interested in Harlequin's (which he later told me
looked like some very old variant on the Elven language
Sperethiel), making copies of the patterns in his deck, while
I concentrated on watching the patterns being drawn by Gabriel
on the other side. I had seen something similar, but it took
me quite some time to realise where--the last time I had seen
something like this, we had been summoned to visit Dunkelzahn
in one of his homes. Obviously there was more to the young
man than met the eye. I felt it wise not to pry, though, since
the two of them were clearly hard at work.
Eventually the circle was completed, and Harlequin directed
us to stand at various points around the outside, each one
next to a different colored gem. Harlequin stood inside the
circle, while Gabriel remained outside. Gabriel was not going along,
Harlequin told us--someone would have to remain behind to open
the gateway back.
That said, the two of them began the ritual, pacing about
and muttering in languages that have probably not seen the
light of day since the last Age of Magic. I gave up trying to
follow their chants and instead concentrated on the energy flowing
in the circle. At last the world began to flow around us, and
the entire circle seemed to drop into the stone floor of the
warehouse. It was then that we saw the black shapes.
Fear gripped me as I realised what they must be--some sort
of Horror, or at least Horror constructs, bent on destroying
us. They flew toward us, nearly hitting Joe and me and requiring
us to quickly duck out of the way (no mean feat when one is
held fast to the ground) to avoid their touch. They flew by
us and up toward the top of the hole. We barely had time to spare
a thought about the implications of that when the world
When our vision cleared, we were standing on a blasted plain.
In all directions we could see scorched earth and nothing
else. Welcome to the Metaplanes.
We started walking because we couldn't think of anything
else to do, and that was when we saw the outcropping.
A very familiar outcropping.
I don't know whether a chill went through the rest of the
team, but one certainly went through me when I saw it. The
chill was amplified when I saw, with the help of a Clairvoyance
spell, what else was there.
I think I began walking forward at that point. I don't
have a clear memory of it. Soon enough the others saw what
had disturbed me:
Back when we had completed the last metaplanar jaunt with
our favorite clown-painted elf, we had chosen to leave part
of ourselves behind to guard Thayla and her song. Now Thayla
was gone, and we...
I saw myself first. I had been neatly impaled on a spike
of rock. The others fared no better: 'Wraith was in several
pieces, looking like he had been pushed violently through
the bars of a cage. Joe hung precariously on the edge of the
Chasm, his body buffetted by the winds. Ocelot was rolled up
in a much smaller ball than his bones, had they been intact,
should have allowed. It was quite a disturbing sight, and that
is probably the understatement of the year.
'Wraith was the first to attempt to touch his "double's"
body. Upon doing so, he immediately collapsed, becoming violently
ill, as the body crumbled to dust. The rest of us, feeling
that this was something that needed to be done, followed suit
with varying degrees of success. It was after the bodies were
gone that we noticed the golden birdcage with the single white
and black feathers inside. Things did not look good for Thayla.
A pall of sadness fell over the team, and we immediately
determined that we all wanted to be elsewhere. We started
walking once more.
Gradually as we went we became aware of the ground
crunching beneath our feet. At one point Joe stepped through
something, crushing it under his massive weight. Taking
a close look at the ground beneath us, we realised we
were trudging through a field of blasted human skulls.
Harlequin decided this would be a good point to try to figure
out what was going on, so he made use of my Clairvoyance
spell to add to another spell of his own, allowing him to
project to us a view of what had occurred here.
'Wraith recognized it first, and I wasn't far behind.
The oldstyle flatscreen movie is still a classic in our day,
and there was no mistaking the scene of merciless robots
rolling over fields of skulls. It was a bizarre amalgamation
of "Terminator" and "Terminator II." But what did it mean?
Harlequin surmised, and we agreed, that this was a vision
of what would befall Earth if the Horrors were allowed to
cross over the Chasm. It was at that moment that we remembered
the black figures that passed us as we went. Harlequin told us
that was the other reason he had left Gabriel behind--to guard
against such interlopers. We asked if he had any chance against such
creatures, and Harlequin replied that he hoped so. Not very
Like the last time we were here, Harlequin told us that
he could not go with us where we had to go--that he had things
he had to do as well, and that we would likely meet up again
some time later, if we were successful. Taking a piece of
chalk, he drew a strange pair of double doors and motioned
us through them. 'Wraith approached them, looking for a knob,
but Joe merely touched them. With a "whoosh" reminiscent of
some old science fiction series, they slid open. Joe, without
a look back, went through first, and we were quick to follow.
We had no idea what we were supposed to do, but we all knew
that whatever it was, we had to do it.
When we reappeared, we were standing next to a freeway.
All four of us were human, and dressed in the style of the late
20th century: Joe wore basketball shorts and jersey; 'Wraith,
a T-shirt, jeans, and a baseball cap; Ocelot, leather motorcycling
pants and jacket; and myself, a pinstriped suit and Italian loafers.
Confused, we searched our pockets and discovered various items,
and, more importantly, cash and credit cards (of which I apparently
possessed the lion's share). The sign near us read "405 - San Diego
Fwy." And naturally we had no idea what we were supposed to be
But then, that's nothing new.