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  1. A comment to a Kickstarter Update got me thinking - When dealing with Mythos Tomes, are there any specific ones that are evocative of a certain theme? How do you impart that tome's "flavor" to your players? For an example of what I'm wondering, I'll refer you to Shimmin Beg's blog posts about "fun-sizing the Great Old Ones" which kinda talk about how to infuse a GOO into a scenario beyond just having it make an appearance (and he's tackling world-ending ones at that). Based on his post, here's a few things to start off thinking with: cues that can be used to evoke the feel of what the tome is/does slanting descriptions towards the tome's theme/purpose NPC behaviors and actions non-plot events/"random occurrences" The readers of the tome, whether cultists or not - is their mood or behavior impacted by it, either due to proximity or what they read? What mythos entities would be logical inclusions for scenarios with said tome(s), that don't just end the game?
  2. Chaosium at NecronomiCon 2017 have announced that a new edition of Masks of Nyarlathotep is in the works with a planned 2018 release. The new version of the venerable campaign will be compatible with both Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu 7th edition and Pulp Cthulhu rules sets. It's reported on Twitter, so it must be true... Source: @AdamAlexander
  3. Not sure how many have seen this one yet, but Golden Goblin's re envisioning of the Cthulhu Invictus setting for 7th Edition is now kickstarting until the Ides of March (15th).
  4. PaulStJohnMackintosh

    A darker 1920s?

    One of my main beefs with Classic/1920s era CoC and many of the campaign books for the period is that it's not dark enough. There's plenty of Jazz Age jollity, quasi-steampunk fun with Orient Expresses and Chicago Pianos, but not enough true cosmic horror. Lovecraft himself managed to craft true existential terror from materials like these - why shouldn't CoC scenarios and campaigns do the same? So, does anyone have any recommendations for existing scenario books or campaigns that capture a true darkly horrific flavour while staying within the Classic period? Or any key events that can act as a focus for such a mood and such a campaign? For scenario books, my examples would be The Fungi from Yuggoth and Beyond the Mountains of Madness (though oops, already more 1930sish). For events, the US rejection of the League of Nations, the Irish War of Independence, the March on Rome, the Great Kanto earthquake, the Sacco and Vanzetti trials, the Beer Hall Putsch, the Scopes Monkey Trial, the 1925 KKK march on Washington, the Great Mississippi Flood, the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre, and as a grand finale, the Wall Street Crash. Any other ideas?
  5. Some with long memories may remember my old thread: Call of Cthulhu Starter Kits? – well it seems 12 years on Chaosium are planning a Call of Cthulhu Starter Set. Source: https://www.magicmadhouse.co.uk/chaosium-call-of-cthulhu-7th-edition-starter-set-p291956/
  6. This game was mentioned here months ago but I can't find the thread so I'm creating a new one. A bit of news has popped up regarding the release: http://www.bluesnews.com/s/169468/call-of-cthulhu-next-year
  7. Hi all, I have launched my new online store, Rare Roleplay I had trouble getting hold of some RPG books that I desired, but the high cost of shipping often meant that the shipping would cost more than the books, so I figured I would do something about it. I reached out to a few publishers, made a few deals and I've now launched my online store, so you can now buy books from smaller publishers without needing to pay international shipping! It is my belief that I am the only retailer in Australia that holds these books, and that my store will be a much more cost effective option for buying books from these publishers. Some of the products I have in stock: New Comet Games Devil's Swamp Hardcover (and softcover too) The Star on the Shore (and softcover too) Stygian Fox (Includes PDFs for immediate download) Fear's Sharp Little Needles The Things We Leave Behind Hudson and Brand Thanks, Dave
  8. Just posted on Chaosium's website/facebook: (with a possible tie-in with Horror on the Orient Express) https://www.chaosium.com/reign-of-terror-pdf
  9. Due to surging demand for Call of Cthulhu, we're temporarily out-of-stock of the Keeper Rulebook. But more have already been printed and are on their way! (This will be the sixth time we've printed since the Kickstarter). In the mean time, remember if you buy the PDF from Chaosium.com, you'll get the FULL PRICE of the PDF off the cost of the physical book when it becomes available.
  10. Hi. I have some (and maybe more in future) problems and questions about HotOE. First one is, that my players failed to found Smith’s journal in London and I really want to run Blood Red Fez. Is there a proper way for them getting the journal later on? Ideas? Second one is Paris chapter. Players don’t have good library skills and no one speaks French. Can I just let them get info from library easy, or should I be strict with rules? Thank you.
  11. Monday, October 1, 2018 (After playing the Call of Cthulhu Down Darker Trails Catastrophe Engine Campaign original scenario “The Causal Enigma or Strange Times in Gravity Falls” Sunday from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. with Ashton LeBlanc, Kyle Matheson, Yorie Latimer, Ben Abbot, John Leppard, Whitney Ward, and James Brown.) Dr. Eva Weisswald had last seen her friends on August 21, 1875, when Matilda Terwilliger had come to Devil’s Gulch to beg for help. Lambert Otto had gone with the woman but Dr. Weisswald had stayed in Devil’s Gulch in the ruins of the Gilded Lily Saloon because Ophelia, the serpent person disguised as a human, had fallen ill that morning. Dr. Weisswald guessed it was something she’d eaten as she had been trying human food. She didn’t think travel was a good idea and was determined to stay with her. After a few days, the illness had passed. Ophelia was annoyed at the entire situation. Shortly after that, the two of them returned to Dr. Weisswald’s cabin in Cheyenne, Wyoming Territory. During her time there, she had finally found a horse that didn’t shy away from Ophelia. She had been looking for a horse that would tolerate the serpent person as most were afraid of her. It was a solid-colored bay with flesh marks on the flanks, a white snip on the muzzle, and a diamond on the forehead. The man said it was named Satan. He warned them it was the meanest horse he’d ever had and he was going to put it down. He noted the horse had tried to kill a man who was cleaning out the stallion’s stall and warned them to stay out from behind it … or in front of it …or on its sides. “It’s a hateful thing,” he said. “It’s the Devil incarnate.” Ophelia approached the animal, which snorted at all of them, and stared into its eyes. The horse stared back for a few moments and then seemed to relax. With Dr. Weisswald’s help, she saddled the animal and mounted it. It seemed intimidated by her but in no better state of mind. It seemed to hate all living things but seemed to fear Ophelia. They were charged $5 for the animal and the man was glad to see it gone. After being home for two weeks without sign or message from Jacali, she began to worry about her friend. She and Ophelia traveled west once again, heading for San Francisco, the last place she’d seen Jacali before Devil’s Gulch. She resolved to travel to Midnight in southern California if she couldn’t find Jacali in San Francisco. * * * The two of them reached Oakland by train in mid-September and saw Clayton Pierce’s name in the headline of one of the newspapers. Dr. Weisswald paid a penny for it and learned Marshal Pierce had been instrumental in the rescue of Professor Marion Terwilliger from the clutches of notorious outlaw John Valentine at a house near Mount Diablo at the end of August. The house they’d been in had been blown up and Marshal Pierce had been put in charge of the investigation, leading posses throughout the county in search of John Valentine for the past two weeks. According to the newspaper, Marshal Pierce was working closely with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office in Oakland. They found him there. “I guess it ain’t easy for me to hide, is it?” he said to them. “Nope,” Dr. Weisswald said. “Your name’s plastered all over the papers.” “Yeah, I keep telling them not to do that. But … I guess the paper needs a hero and it ain’t Jack West.” “Well, that’s for sure.” “Ophelia. Nice to see you again. How is the transition going?” “Your food is terrible,” Ophelia said to him. “Your food is the worst.” “I’m sorry to hear that,” Marshal Pierce said. “I figured snakes and humans ate somewhat sort of the same type of food but … maybe not.” She just stared at him. “I’m sorry, you’re not a snake anymore,” he said. “I’m really confused about … that. But we’re just going to let that be.” “I can educate you if you wish,” she said. “Nah, I’m good,” he said. “I’m good.” He looked at Dr. Weisswald. “You’re here for a reason, I suppose,” he said. “The papers don’t tell everything that happened,” she said. “I thought I was working alone, looking for Terwilliger, and then I ran into Otto and Jack West, as I often do. They tagged along and we found John Valentine and the Crescent but … John Valentine had a hostage and we had to make the decision whether to save the hostage, or stop him right there. And we chose to save the hostage, which I am very surprised that Jack West decided to do that. But … the Crescent … sort of … exploded as if it was a very strong dynamite, stronger than anything I’ve ever seen. We had a tool that would point us to the Crescent.” “Had?” “Yeah.” He told her a madman had put the rod into the Crescent and it had unraveled him, turning him into nothing. “Apparently when the Crescent is complete, bad things will happen,” he said. He noted the Crescent they had found was badly damaged, scorched on one side and partially melted. He also related they had learned from Terwilliger the scorched Crescent was not the one from Yellow Flats. There was more than one. “Where are … the others though?” he asked. “I was working and now the group is kind of split. Otto and Jack West seem to be best of buddies now. I have not seen Jacali. Have not seen Stalloid … or Wilder … or Gemma Jones … or … I don’t even remember anymore.” “I was hoping you would know where they were,” Dr. Weisswald said. “Well, I know where Otto and Jack West are going to be … in two and a half weeks. But, I mean I’m trying to get as much of us together as I can because it seems like we’re the only ones that care about this Crescent right now. And still got business to do. We’ve got to stop John Valentine. Have you seen Jacali?” “No, but wherever the Crescent is, probably she’ll be there too.” “Okay. Well, I’m going to this place called Gravity Falls over in Oregon. Got to get there in two and a half weeks so we’ve got to make some trail. Do you and Ophelia want to tag along?” “Yep.” “I guess I should explain why we’re going there. There is someone there who can tell us more about the Crescent and who he works for but he was very coded and would not tell us a lot. But, he seems to be an ally and one we could very much use. It’s our biggest lead right now where John Valentine is and what the Crescent does.” He told her they were to meet in Gravity Falls on October 1st. * * * It took them only a day to make their plans for Gravity Falls. It would be fastest to take the Central Pacific Railroad to Winnemucca, Nevada, and then go overland north through the badlands of Nevada and Oregon to Gravity Falls. It looked to be about 200 miles from Winnemucca to Gravity Falls, which Marshal Pierce figured they could make in about 10 days on horseback. Cost of taking the horses the nearly 400 miles via train was actually more than the cost of tickets for the three of them. However, Marshal Pierce managed to talk his superiors into paying for Dr. Weisswald and Ophelia to go with him on his trip to Gravity Falls. They arrived in Winnemucca, Nevada, on the morning of Monday, September 20, 1875. Once they had the horses off the train, they headed north on the trail to Quiet Gap. * * * In Quiet Gap that same day, Jacali approached the Marshal Churchill and told him they thought they knew who might have robbed the bank. She said she wanted to try to get the money back herself or prove for certain it was him themselves as he was traveling with them. The marshal was fine with that, so long as the money was returned, but urged her to do it quickly as people were planning on leaving the town soon and for good. Professor Brandon Stalloid got the people of the town together late that morning and told them he wanted to help them. He said if they didn’t have any family to go to who could help them, he knew of a town called Midnight in southern California that had new construction and could use help with that. He said he’d help finance getting people to Midnight and noted he could arrange accommodations in his own house for people who didn’t want to stay there. He told them he was going to Winnemucca that day but would return on the morrow as he needed to arrange with a lawyer for the funds for transport of the people. The citizens of Quiet Gap were both amazed and surprised by his generosity and most of them seemed hopeful for the first time. The woman who had collapsed in the street when she learned her life savings were gone started crying again and hugged the man, thanking him. He also talked to Marshal Churchill, noting Midnight needed a town marshal as it only had a deputy who didn’t seem to want the job. Marshal Churchill took that into consideration. By noon, Professor Stalloid was ready to ride back to Winnemucca. “Do you need protection?” Otto asked him. “If you want to,” Professor Stalloid said. “I have this.” He took out a Colt peacemaker Jack West had lent him, holding it by the cylinder. Otto decided to go with him. Before they left, Jacali came to the livery stable. “Did Jack West take these people’s money?” she asked Professor Stalloid. “Oh, most definitely,” Professor Stalloid said. “Well, that solves that,” Otto said. “He’s the only one who could have done it,” Professor Stalloid said. “I don’t think Otto would do it. I doubt you would do it. I was with one of y’all the whole time and you can search me.” “The safe was closed when you found it, originally?” Jacali said. “Yes. Quite. I mean, I did try but … that’s when I thought they were all dead. You know, loose money is loose money. That’s people’s money.” “I understand that a little bit but he did ride off with it, supposedly.” “I didn’t see him!” “Yes.” “I don’t even know if he got out of the spiders. He might be on the moon.” “Was that the moon?” “Yeah, I think, maybe. Not our moon.” “Er … what? There’s only one moon, idiot.” Professor Stalloid just laughed. “Yes, there’s only one moon!” he said. “Just as there’s only one sun.” “Well, if we find him and we do think that he has taken the … wait!” Jacali said. “Is his horse here?” It was not. “He made it with the spiders,” she said. “He left with the money.” “Why didn’t he take the gold?” Professor Stalloid said. “That’s what I don’t understand.” “It’s Jack West,” Otto said. “He doesn’t go by logic,” Jacali said. “It is Jack West,” Professor Stalloid said. “What do you think we should do about getting that money back?” “Well, next time we see Jack West, I guess, I mean, maybe tell Clayton Pierce?” “That’s what we were thinking of doing.” “I mean he’s a pretty good … bounty hunter.” “Marshal,” Otto said. “Like I said … bounty hunter of the law,” Professor Stalloid said. “You’re not wrong,” Otto said. “I think that’s our plan,” Jacali said. Otto and Professor Stalloid set off for Winnemucca. Jacali opted to stay in Quiet Gap. * * * About halfway to Winnemucca, Otto and Professor Stalloid ran into Marshal Pierce, Dr. Weisswald, and Ophelia. When they met, Professor Stalloid rode to Ophelia and whispered to the serpent person that he had learned a spell. “What does it do?” Ophelia said. “It lets me talk to ghosts,” he told her. “Oh,” she said, unimpressed. She would later tell Dr. Weisswald, as would Professor Stalloid. “Clayton Pierce,” Professor Stalloid whispered to Otto. “What are the chances?” “Marshal,” Otto said. “Otto,” Marshal Pierce said. “Dr. Weisswald,” Otto said. “Where’s Jack West?” “Oh.” “How come I always see somebody and, the next time I see you, someone’s missing from the group? Last time I saw her, she was with Wilder and Jacali and she just shows up alone. Last time I saw you, you were with Jack West.” “There’s a … funny story to that.” “About Jack West? I’m not surprised.” “Marshal, do you know how much of a Federal crime it is to steal $7,000 from a bank.” “I sure do. It’s a felony.” “It’s a death sentence!” Professor Stalloid said. “That’s a big deal, Otto,” Marshal Pierce said. “Is this your confession?” “No, I believe it is Jack West’s confession,” Otto said. “Confession comes from the man who did it.” “What I’m trying to say is we think he stole $7,000.” “That’s called an accusation. Not fact. Do you know he stole $7,000?” “Stalloid will back me up.” “I am most certain of it.” “And Jacali will, back at Quiet Gap.” “My next question is: Did anyone see him take it?” “Not visually,” Professor Stalloid said. “But, there are only four suspects that could have done it.” “You,” Marshal Pierce said. “Jack West.” “Jack West. Jacali.” “Me,” Otto said. “She has no need for the gold and money,” Professor Stalloid said. “That’s racist,” Marshal Pierce said. “What I mean is … she can fend for herself.” “Okay. And the fourth?” “Me,” Otto said. “Otto,” Professor Stalloid said. “And he’s right here.” “So, two of the suspects come to me and say that the fourth suspect has done it,” Marshal Pierce said. “Yes,” Otto said. “I will think about this logically and, when we meet up with Jack West at Gravity Falls, which─” Marshal Pierce said. “Or the marshal in town,” Professor Stalloid said. “No, I’m the marshal.” “He’s a marshal.” “I’m the marshal. We’ll handle it from there.” “Just continue on to Quiet Gap and talk to Jacali,” Otto said. “Yes, I would like to hear Jack West’s side,” Marshal Pierce said. “But, do not tell the marshal about it.” “No no. I will handle this internally.” He looked them over. “You two lost?” he said, wondering why they were traveling south. “I’m protecting Stalloid,” Otto said. “He does need protecting but why are you heading south?” Marshal Pierce said. “Stalloid is doing charity for the town since the bank’s …” Otto said. “Since the bank was robbed, I’m heading off to get some money wired over here and take care of everything,” Professor Stalloid said. “So, you are a suspect …” “Yes!” “… and are missing $7,000.” “Yes.” “And … now … you are doing an act of charity …” “Are you the IRS?” “I’m just pointing out─” “Do you wish to inspect my funds?” “I’m just pointing out a funny coincidence─” “If you want to search us, marshal, you can, but …” Otto said. “Some people would see that as an act of guilt,” Marshal Pierce said. “Forcing you to─” “I have about … $150 on me,” Professor Stalloid said. “Very shy of 7,000.” “I will tell you one thing: Jacali least; you second least, Stalloid. Otto … you’re probably the third least guilty and then it probably was Jack West. Anyways, you all continue. Are you heading to Gravity Falls after?” “Of course.” “You’re going to have to travel mighty fast.” “The plan is, we’re going to go down to Winnemucca for a day and then head back,” Otto said. “You just better hurry,” Marshal Pierce said. “That’s all I got to say.” “Oh. Okay.” “He seemed to indicate that the date was pretty important.” * * * It was late afternoon on September 20, when Marshal Pierce, Dr. Weisswald, and Ophelia reached Quiet Gap. They noticed the large stones about a mile from the town, each of them a mile or so apart, apparently in a circle around the town. Curious, they rode to the stones to take a look. They saw the stones were carved all over with pictograms and figures. Though it wasn’t in Algonquin, it was general enough for Dr. Weisswald to recognize it as a warning to stay away. She guessed it was within the circle and realized the stones were very old and knew it would have been a lot of work to move them to the place and carve all over them deeply enough for the markings to stay for hundreds of years. This was something the natives of the area took very seriously. “Shall we go around?” Marshal Pierce asked. “What’s your opinion?” “No, Jacali’s in there,” Dr. Weisswald said. “Let’s go.” “Oh,” he said. “Okay. We’re going in.” Just outside town was a sign that read “Quiet Gap: Population 87.” The populace of the town appeared to be, as a group, readying themselves to leave. Suitcases, trunks, and sacks of goods were piled outside of homes and businesses. Several beds were also in the streets. People were busy preparing to leave. Some of them had gotten pieces of canvas for makeshift tents to spend the night outside town, apparently. “That’s smart,” Dr. Weisswald said. “They must be heeding the stones.” They soon found Jacali. “Friends!” Jacali said. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen you all. Ophelia.” The serpent person merely stared at her. “I see Ophelia’s well,” Jacali said. “I haven’t seen you for many moons, Jacali,” Marshal Pierce said. “I have not seen you either, Clayton Pierce.” “What have you been up to?” “Well, I recently came into this town. You might have noticed the stones that told people not to do that.” “Yes,” Dr. Weisswald said. “Turns out that people in this town were getting stolen away in their sleep from monsters under their beds from another … place that was not this world,” Jacali said. “We went there and into a giant cube and there were spiders and we dove into the floor to escape them.” “Spiders?” Dr. Weisswald said. “Oh, and, I think Jack West stole $7,000 probably,” Jacali said. “First off, is there a regular town around here anymore?” Marshal Pierce said. “You are the third person to say Jack West stole $7,000.” “Well, he was in the bank all day,” Jacali said. “Mr. Stalloid said that the vault doors were closed when they came there and they were open when they left. And, when all hell broke loose and Stalloid, Otto, and myself came to help the town, Jack West mysterious vanished, and his horse, after we found that $7,000 went missing in the night. Without telling any of us. So … if you want to tell me who else did that, while we were the only people in the town and nobody else was here because they were all stolen away to another planet, then I would like to hear it.” “Another planet?” Dr. Weisswald said “I have narrowed my search down,” Marshal Pierce said. “That’s what Stalloid tells me,” Jacali said. “I don’t know what it really means.” “I guess I have narrowed my search down to Jack West or a man that is worse than Jack West, which is hard to find. So, we will just confront Jack West when we meet him in Gravity Falls. Do you know of Gravity Falls?” “Yes! We were heading there. I was heading there with Stalloid and Otto. And Jack West.” “And they’re going … the wrong way.” “Yes, they… once we figured out that $7,000 of these people’s money was missing and that our friend Jack West probably did it, we felt like we should intervene somehow.” “Did you say ‘friend?’” She looked at him. “I use the term loosely,” she said. “I guess traveling companion is …. more accurate. Especially now.” “Yes,” Marshal Pierce said. “Is there anything else we need to do in this town?” Jacali told him she was helping people prepare to move as most everyone was fleeing the town. He said he would help. Before dark, Professor Tennesley, the librarian, found Jacali and noted the strange entrances to the other world had continued to shrink during the day and were only a few inches across by dinnertime. She noted there was not too much to worry about but understood people still being skittish. Jacali, Marshal West, Dr. Weisswald, and Ophelia were not made to pay for anything while they were in town. They had free dinner at the Crystal River Hotel that night and there was free beer and whiskey as well, mostly because the owner of the place, Anderson Smith, didn’t want to have to haul any more than need be. Marshal Pierce paid for everything he ate and drank however. Jacali introduced Marshal Pierce as the man she had gotten to help track down the stolen money. People seemed happy about that and it soon word got around that Marshal Clayton Pierce, the same man who had saved a town in Arizona, was going to help them. Dr. Weisswald met with Dr. Groate as the two did what they could to see to those injured the terrible night before. Though most of the people were fine, a few had suffered bumps and bruises from their escape through the portals. There was talk around town of the horrible things that stole them under their beds. Jacali described the place she’d seen to Ophelia in hopes the serpent person might have heard of it. She described a world of ash and dust, the orange sun, the two moons, the huge cube with the city within. She described the night sky with the wrong stars and a great red nebula. None of it was familiar with Ophelia. Jacali described them going through the strange gates. Ophelia said gates could have unlimited distance dependent upon who created them and how much magic was placed into them. She pointed out the gate she came through went through time. The case of this gate was probably through space though she noted it might be through time instead. If the constellations were all wrong than millions of years or more could have passed and the world was in its death throes. She mentioned the world might even be in some other galaxy. None of that made sense as they all knew the Milky Way was the only galaxy and the entirety of the universe. Clayton Pierce laughed it off. It was insane to think there were more galaxies. “I want what you got,” he said to Ophelia. She merely narrowed her eyes at the man. After some discussion, they decided to spend the night in the hotel. * * * Professor Stalloid and Lambert Otto arrived in Winnemucca that evening and located a lawyer in the town by the name of James Longfellow. They arranged for him to receive money and then arrange stagecoaches and wagons to move the residents of the town and their belongings. Professor Stalloid wired to San Francisco to have $3,000 sent to the Longfellow to cover the expenses and his bill for the work he would put in coordinating everything. * * * On Tuesday, September 21, 1875, those in Quiet Gap had a short discussion on whether to wait for Professor Stalloid. Marshal Pierce pointed out if they ran into weather, it could slow them down. They knew if they pushed the horses just a little, they might still make it to Gravity Falls the day before. Dr. Weisswald noted it would be good to get there early. Eventually, Jacali suggested they leave a note but head out that day. They left that morning, heading north. They spent the first night in Paradise Valley, a little town north of Quiet Gap. * * * Professor Stalloid and Lambert Otto left Winnemucca on Sept. 21 and arrived at Quiet Gap to find a note from Jacali left with Marshal Churchill. It said they had headed on to Gravity Falls and bid them to follow as quickly as they could. They left the next day. * * * Marshal Pierce, Jacali, Dr. Weisswald and Ophelia pushed their horses only a little bit to try to cut time off the journey. Dr. Weisswald also plotted a course she said would save them some time by following the various valleys when they came to mountainous terrain. Ophelia didn’t seem to care if they arrived on time and at least once noted if her horse died, they could eat it. However, over the course of the journey, she seemed to warm to the creature a little bit, especially after it was startled by a rabbit in the camp one night and trampled the poor animal to death. Ophelia was happy to eat the rabbit, uncooked and unskinned, almost graciously. * * * Lambert Otto and Brandon Stalloid followed their friends’ route, both of the men regularly looking for fresh tracks and finding them. Over the course of the journey, the tracks seemed to get less fresh however, and they guessed the other group was still pulling ahead of them somewhat. * * * Jack West had left Quiet Gap on the morning of September 20 and had pushed his horse a little bit so that he made good time to Gravity Falls, arriving on September 28. The road that led into the valley went between two bluffs with great pine trees upon it, much different from the badlands just outside the valley. The bluffs were nearly a quarter of a mile high and the hanging cliffs appeared to jut out impossibly. Between them was a railroad trestle that went between two tunnels that must have been mines as Jack West had seen no sign of a railroad in the vicinity. Nor were there any telegraph poles or lines. The valley beyond was lush with great waterfalls and huge pine trees. He saw mountain tops in every direction several miles away. The sign at the edge of the valley read “Gravity Falls: Population 420.” He decided to look outside the valley first to find a place to hide the money, but was unsuccessful wasting the day and actually spending the night in the badlands. He finally returned to the valley the morning of September 29 and found it more lush than he expected. He followed the road past the tent with the word “Seer” over the opening until he arrived at a cemetery outside of the town. He went into the graveyard and found the freshest grave that still had loose dirt on it as if someone had died within the last few days. He removed his gloves. With his hands, he dug down two or three feet and deposited the bag of money there. Then he replaced the loose dirt. He made sure to memorize the gravestone. It read: “Jeffersonson’s Son. April 7, 1859 - September 26, 1875.” He looked around and then headed into town on horseback. * * * Lydia Fitzsimmons was a tall, well-built, solid prospector. She was a large woman who was weathered and even kind of grizzled for her 30 years. Her long, brown hair was braided to keep it out of her face. She wore rough clothing and carried a heavy backpack with pick and shovel attached, disdaining the use of a mule or other pack animal. She was very unattractive with a big nose, eyes a little far apart and a thick jaw. She was sometimes mistaken for a man. She was returning to Gravity Falls from working a mine in the outskirts of the valley that morning to drop off her gold and silver and have it valued and deposited in the Gravity Falls Bank. She was coming down the road to town from the west, passing the hill where Northwest Manor stood, when she saw a man dressed all in black in the cemetery. He appeared to be putting something in a grave and then shoved the dirt back over it. He looked around, mounted a black horse, and rode into town. She knew she would recognize the man due to the horrible scaring on one side of his face. She would recognize him if she ever saw him again. * * * Jack West rode into town. Gleeful’s Livery, Blacksmith, and Cooper was on the left, across from the Gravity Falls Hotel. Next to the hotel was a general store. Tucked in next to that was the Gravity Falls Gossiper, which appeared to be a newspaper, right next to the Floating Eye Saloon. Across the street was a barber shop and dentist, the Gravity Falls Post Office, and the Gravity Falls Bank, just off the square. The square was a wide area. A water tower stood next to the Marshal’s Office, which appeared to be heavily built and solid, a church, and the Gravity Falls Town Hall. Jack West had noted one house on the way in had a sign out front that noted “Dr. Horatio Wamboldt, Physician” and had also seen there was a schoolhouse down the road. Several people were about though many of them seemed nervous or had thousand-yard stares. He went to the marshal’s office, meeting Marshal Joseph Durland, who was not pleased to see him. “You ain’t here to cause no trouble, are you?” the man said. “I don’t like boys that cause trouble.” He poked Jack West in the chest repeatedly. The marshal had dark, messy hair and his eyes never quite focused. He had a thin mustache, an overbite, and a scrunched-up face. He had a thick southern accent and didn’t seem terribly bright. “Don’t you cause trouble in my town,” he said. “I got my eye on you. Not literally, mind.” “You might not want to with all this,” Jack West said. “I definitely don’t,” Marshal Durland said. Jack West looked through the few wanted posters on the wall. One of them was a woodpecker, for some reason. Another one was a horse. The last one was a child of probably 12 years old. He learned from the agitated marshal that children were prosecuted as adults starting at age 10 in Gravity Falls. He ended up getting a room at the Gravity Falls Hotel. * * * After doing her business in town, Lydia Fitzsimmons got her regular room at the Floating Eye Saloon. The rooms there were smaller and usually not as clean as those at the Gravity Falls Hotel, but they didn’t have fleas and they were much cheaper. It was also better than spending the night in the forest, like she usually did. She’d heard some strange things in the woods at night, but had tried to put them out of her mind to do her work. As she sat down for lunch in the Floating Eye, she was accosted by one of the locals. “Are you a moon man?” the man said to her. “Moon men are not allowed in Gravity Falls. It’s against the law! Are you a moon man? Are you?” “Uh … no,” she said. “Are you a moon woman?” “Uh … no.” “All right then. As long as you ain’t breaking the law.” “No.” * * * In the afternoon of September 29, 1875, Marshal Clayton Pierce, Dr. Weisswald, Jacali, and Ophelia rode into the valley of Gravity Falls. They were amazed at the hanging cliffs, which seemed to hover impossibly above. There also didn’t seem to be any sense to the trestle there. The valley was probably 10 to 12 miles across and Marshal Pierce thought it looked more like western Oregon than eastern Oregon. The road wound past a tent with the word Seer over the opening and they could see a church on the hill in the direction the road went. Further into the valley was a great mansion on a hill further to the west, probably overlooking the town and the whole valley. Clayton Pierce stopped them when they reached the tent. “I’ve been giving it some thought,” he said. “I think Jack West did take the seven thousand, which means that I will be obligated to take him under arrest and I will need both of y’all’s help.” He looked at them. “Now, Jack West is probably the most dangerous man I’ve ever met,” he went on. “So, I suggest that I try to handle it by myself and you two stay out of sight and, if things go bad, intervene.” “I was hoping that we could arrange something peacefully as well,” Jacali said. “Before I talked to you I was hoping to talk to him myself and, if anything, just get the money back. I could care less about him going to jail.” “You want to … actually, that might be a good idea. Why don’t you talk to him before he knows that I’m here and then if I see things going south … I’m not planning on shooting at Jack West but he’s pretty quick …” “Oh, I know if I get in a shootout with Jack West, I’m going to die.” “There’s a good chance he kills all three of us.” “Oh yeah.” “But I like that idea. Why don’t you go talk to him?” Ophelia coughed. “I meant all of us,” Marshal Pierce said. “That does remind me though, if things do go south …” Jacali said. “He means no one can kill you,” Dr. Weisswald said to Ophelia. “No, he doesn’t,” the serpent person replied. “… we might need Ophelia’s help to deal with him,” Jacali said. “Ophelia, do you know anything that could incapacitate someone non-lethally?” “Like poison?” Ophelia said. “Non-lethally?” “Oh.” “Well, I don’t know how violent we want to get. I certainly don’t. The only thing that I think we have if it gets dangerous that could contest Jack West’s gun is … Ophelia’s magic.” “What hand does he use?” “Both? I think he could shoot with his foot, honestly.” “There is something that might incapacitate him that I know if, if it’s needed.” “Let’s worry about that when we come to it. I’ll try to talk to him pleasantly without you around first.” “I’ll be watching from afar though,” Marshal Pierce said. Jacali mentioned she was looking for a gypsy woman named Daisy whom she had a description of: white hat, black hair, dark eyes, two horses, and a gypsy vardo. She noted the woman supposedly had the Crescent Gemma Jones saw and used it to heal her. She also wanted to see the Seer first. They rode back to the fortune teller tent and saw the sign read: “The Seer: Fortunes Told.” Jacali and Dr. Weisswald planned to enter while Marshal Pierce and Ophelia would stay outside. Marshal Pierce volunteered to hold their horses. “You can stay with Satan,” Dr. Weisswald said to Ophelia. “My name is Clayton Pierce,” Marshal Pierce quipped. The two women entered the tent and found a woman within who was young and unattractive with a large nose and chin. She was short and olive-skinned with messy hair. She wore a brown robe with dark brown handprints on the front. “It’s about time,” she said. “I was expecting you.” “Oh,” Jacali said. “You were? Like you knew … what’s my name?” “Asking such specifics is, of course, impossible.” “Oh, of course.” “You are … the Jicarilla Apache. Which would make … you … the doctor?” “I have an doctor’s bag. It’s not that impressive,” Dr. Weisswald said. “Believe what you wish to believe,” the Seer said. “Most people don’t get the Apache thing, much less more specific,” Jacali said. “I came because I’m looking for a specific fortune teller named Daisy. I don’t know what she goes by professionally.” “Oh,” the Seer said. “I don’t know her.” “Well, I suppose while I’m here I can take a spin of your services. I’m in some rough times. I would love to know what’s going to happen in the future.” “How much is the future worth?” Jacali thought on that a few moments and put down 10 silver dollars. The Seer’s eyes opened wide. “That … is …” she said. She took the money. “I don’t know how much these things cost,” Jacali said. “I hope that’s enough. I don’t buy many things often.” The Seer bid them both to sit and they looked around the large tent. There were strange things hanging from the poles that held it up. Off to one side was a cage that appeared to be full of hands, all of them severed at the wrist. “I cannot tell always, with certainty,” the Seer said. “But, for this much money, if I cannot tell you today, you are welcome to return tomorrow, free of charge.” “So, you know there will be a tomorrow then?” Jacali said. The woman looked at her. “You seem to think that a fortune teller sees everything,” she said. “Do you know how much there is to see? There are millions of people on the world. If I saw all of the futures at once, I would be lying on the ground, foaming at the mouth, as I tried to figure out what I was seeing.” “Fair enough,” Jacali said. “Fair enough.” “If I cannot give you a reading today, I bid you to return tomorrow, no charge, and I will try again then.” She started chanting and Jacali realized she was actually casting a spell. She knew it to the depth of her soul that she was actually using magic as she took two of the hands from the cage and tossed them onto the table. They were real and, as the Seer looked over the position they landed in, she looked terrified. “You are going to see things you do not want to see in the near future, but not the future,” she said. “You are going to a place that you know far too well. You are going to see people that you haven’t seen in many, many years. You … are dealing with forces that are dangerous, but are not necessarily working against you. You … you …” She started sweating despite the cool air in the tent. She raised her hands up and they started shaking. The shaking worked its way down her arms until her whole body seemed to be suffering from a spasm, a seizure, or a fit. “But you must face these things!” she said quickly. “You must face your fears. You must face the things you do not wish to see! You must face them!” She slammed her hands down on the table so hard the severed hands were flipped up off the wood, almost as if they were running away of their own volition! It was too dark in the tent to tell, however. She put her face in her own hands. She had gone pale and looked exhausted. Dr. Weisswald realized the woman had not faked what had just happened. “Do you have seizures often?” she said. “I have a diet I can recommend you.” “No, I don’t,” the Seer said. “But this is powerful. This is powerful. Be wary and be careful.” “I mean …” Jacali said. “I’m sorry that I cannot see more …” “Half the stuff surprised me. That’s just where I’m at. Yeah, I will heed your warning. Did you get it all or should I come back tomorrow.” “You have paid me much. If you wish to come back tomorrow, we’ll try again. But I don’t know if I’ll get anything else from it.” “Do you do the cards? I know some people do the cards.” “Yes, I do the cards.” “Fine. I’ll come back for the cards tomorrow.” “If you wish the cards tomorrow, you may.” * * * “I think fortunes are silly,” Marshal Pierce said to Ophelia while the others were in the tent. “It depends on if the fortune caster has actual magic,” Ophelia said. They heard voices inside. There was a squeaking noise and they saw Satan had a chipmunk under one of its hooves and was pushing down on it over and over again. “You and that horse were made for each other,” Marshal Pierce said. “Thank you,” Ophelia said. She listened as the woman chanted within. “I can’t tell if that’s a real spell or not,” she said. Then the woman’s voice inside raised. “What about you?” Marshal Pierce said. “Can you tell fortunes?” “No,” Ophelia said. “Do you also think fortunes are silly for the most part?” “Depends on if the magic is real or if it is just a charlatan. If it’s a charlatan, they should be put to death, preferably by drawing and quartering. That was the way.” “Alrighty then.” They only had to wait a few minutes more before the others came out of the tent. “Hey,” Jacali said. “That was pretty spooky. It was real … for once.” “Well, what’d she say?” Marshal Pierce said. “She did tell me a couple of things I already knew, like I’m dealing with dangerous things that aren’t necessarily working against me. Which I guess is kind of nice. But we get that. I’m going to see things I don’t want to see. Happens every other day. I mean, I’ve been traveling with Jack West for how long? Anyways. She said I was going to see people I haven’t seen in a long time.” “You personally?” Marshal Pierce said. “A place you know well,” Dr. Weisswald said. “A place I know well,” Jacali said. “There’s nowhere around here.” “And … I … it wasn’t … it wasn’t acting, I don’t think. What she did.” “It wasn’t.” “Nice,” Marshal Pierce said. “I guess we don’t have to kill her then, Ophelia.” “Such is the shame,” Ophelia said. They headed into town. When they went around the curve of the road, Marshal Pierce pulled his hat low over his eyes. He suggested they hang back until Jacali found Jack West so Jacali rode ahead. When Marshal Pierce saw Gleeful’s Livery, those following stopped to stable their horses. They met Thomas Gleeful, the owner. He was a heavyset man with thick eyebrows. He wore wide-brimmed straw hat and greeted them with a friendly air. They got their horses in stalls and when Gleeful said he’d have one of his boys take Ophelia’s horse, she stopped him. “If you touch this horse, you will die,” she said coldly. He looked at all three of them. “She’s right,” Dr. Weisswald said. Gleeful looked at Ophelia’s waist, probably for a gun belt. “It’s the horse you have to worry about,” Dr. Weisswald said. “Oh, one of those,” Gleeful said. “I got some stuff I can put in the oats if you need him to calm down.” They declined. “Trust me, drugs don’t work,” Dr. Weisswald said. “I’ve tried.” Ophelia took care of her own horse while the young men took care of the others. Gleeful had a special stall for the horse with bars over it and holes so grain and water and such could be put in without getting in the stall itself. * * * Jacali went to the Floating Eye Saloon, tying her horse to the hitching post out front. The sign over the door looked like an eyeball. As she entered the saloon, she smelled food and beer. The floor was covered in sawdust. She spotted Jack West in the back corner to her right, his back to the wall, a whiskey on the table in front of him. He was writing something on a piece of paper. He obviously saw her standing by the doors, looking around, and waved at her. She walked back to his table. “Good to see you made it, Jacobi,” he said. “Good to see you made it too, Jack Weast,” Jacali said. “Weast?” “Well, you called me Jacobi. I thought that’s just what we were doing now.” “Is that not your name?” “Well, I’ll fix it later. Anyways. It’s Jacali.” “Joe-Kali.” “You know what, you just want to call me Jojo, Jackie … does one of those work for you better?” “Jojo sounds good.” “All right, you can just call me that. Anyways, Mr. West, I was wondering why I didn’t see you at Quiet Gap in the morning. We didn’t know if you had made it out alive.” “You did see those snake spiders, right?” “Yes, I did.” “Yeah, I didn’t want to be near the snake spiders. So I left.” “I didn’t really pick you as a fearful man, Jack West.” “Did you see how many snake spiders there were? I did not have enough bullets.” “Well, that’s true. But I stayed outside the town and was pretty fine myself though I guess I can’t fault you for that. Jack West, whenever you have a moment, there’s something I’d like to talk to you about.” “Well, sure. I got plenty of moments. We got two more days, right?” “Just somewhere in private. Just let me know when you’re ready. I don’t want to do it here.” She looked around at the room. A few people were in the place, eating or drinking or playing cards. A solid woman sat in the opposite corner. Another man stood up and walked in their direction. He wore all black and had a scruffy face and a mustache. “Did you say Jack West!?!” Pete Sutter said. “Ah, Mr. Sutter,” Jacali said. “Always pleasant to see you.” “Is that Jack West!?!” Pete said again. Jack West had taken his hand off his pencil and put it under the table near his gun. “Is that Jack West!?!” Pete said. again. “Is it?” Jacali said. “You’re better-lookin’ than I thought were,” Pete said. “I gotta beat the ladies off me,” Jack West said sarcastically. “You shot me you son of a bitch!” “And you shot I.” “Oh, you gonna beat me with grammar? Is that what yer plan is?” The two glared at each other. “Excuse me, Jack West,” Pete finally said. He turned to Jacali “I been looking for you,” he said to her. “Oh, you have?” Jacali said. “I’ve not been looking for you at all! I hoped I wouldn’t see you. But here you are.” He glared at her. “They sent me to find you and keep an eye on you,” Jack West said. “Who sent you?” Jacali said. “Them Secret Service men! ‘Member how they sent me up to Gravity Falls and I wouldn’t go? Well, this time they sent me and I went. They said I was supposed to keep an eye on you, so I’m keeping an eye on you.” “Why be keeping an eye on me?” “I’d like to kill Jack West first. Son of a bitch. Shot me in the chest. He shot first. I fired in self-defense.” “Pretty sure we squeezed the triggers at the same time, Pete,” Jack West said. Pete glared at him. “How do you know my name, Jack West?” he said. He looked at Jacali. “What’s your name again?” he said. “You can call me Jojo,” Jacali said. “Jojo? All right.” “It’s not my real name, but … judging by how well Jack West pronounced it, I figure you wouldn’t do much better.” “You comparing me to Jack West?” “I believe she did,” Jack West said. “We all have our own strengths,” Jacali said. “I’m sure you are better at other things than Jack West is.” “I’m just supposed to keep an eye on you,” Pete Sutter said. “Maybe I’ll keep an eye on you!” “So, until that obligation is done …” Pete looked at Jack West. “… you get to live, you slimy, snaky, sneaking … damn, I thought you were uglier,” Pete said. “I bathe as well,” Jack West said. “Why?” “So, they can’t smell me coming.” “Keeping an eye on you. They paid me well. Where’s them others?” “I wish I could close my mouth all the way. I can taste you.” “Well, two of my─” Jacali said. “If I close my eyes all the way, I can see you!” Pete said. “Touché,” Jack West said. “Touché. Don’t you be throwin’ no French at me!” “Well, Pete, if there’s anything you need to talk to me about, I’m not hard to find,” Jacali said. “There is,” Pete said. “It’s important. Why am I supposed to watch you? What are you up to? Rob a bank? ‘Cause I’ll help.” “Oh, I’m not doing anything like that, Jacali.” “Jacali?” “Pete Sutter.” “Oh, that’s her name!” Jack West said. “That’s her name!” Pete said. “You couldn’t get right?” “Jacobi sounds better.” “What is wrong with you?” “What is─ do you even remember her name?” “Jacali.” Jack West looked at him. “Impressive,” he said. “Smarter than I thought.” “You’re better looking than I thought,” Pete said. “Well, Pete, if I were you, I’d say there’s no reason to watch me,” Jacali said. “I’m not doing anything. I’m just meeting with some friends.” “I been paid to do it. I been paid to watch you so I’m with you now.” “How are they going to know you did it?” “I been paid to do it.” “But how are they gonna know?” “I told ‘em I’d do it. I didn’t tell ‘em I do it before but I didn’t and now I do it ‘cause I did because I said I would.” “But …” “There ain’t no ‘buts.’ When Pete Sutter takes a job, Pete Sutter fills it out. When Pete Sutter goes to kill Jack West, Jack West is gonna die, probably with a bullet in his back. No offense.” “So make sure I don’t turn around?” Jack West said. “No, please do,” Pete said. “It’ll help me. It’ll be much faster for me.” Pete grinned. Then he looked at Jacali. “I tell you what, I got a lot of money,” Pete said. “I’ll even pay for your room at the hotel. Wait, I’m staying here at the saloon. Here at the saloon.” “Oh, that’s very kind of you,” Jacali said. “If you’re going to stay at the hotel, I have to move all my things there. That would be a might inconvenient.” “Well, if you didn’t tell me you were paid to do it, I’d thought you had a crush on me.” “You’re an injun. Ew.” “Welp, I’ve had worst things said to me. But, like I said Mr. West, there’s something I’d like to talk to you about in private.” “Shall we go to your new room?” Jack West said. “You stay right here,” Pete said. He went to the bartender, an older man with a white beard and mustache. He put a coin down on the bar. Then he came back and pointed to a door in the back of the taproom. “That’s a private room,” he said. “I just rented it for ya. Twenty minutes. Have fun. Ain’t no back door so you gotta come out this one.” He returned to the bar and ordered whiskey. “Try not to be too loud,” he called to them. “For God’s sake.” “No promises,” Jack West said. * * * The other three walked to the saloon. Dr. Weisswald peeked into the front window while Ophelia stood nearby and looked around, bored. Marshal Pierce stood near the door and tried to listen to what was going on within. Someone approached him. “Have you seen my wife?” the man said. “Why would I have seen your wife?” Marshal Pierce said. “Well, I don’t know. I mean … I’m looking for her. I can’t find her.” “Do I look like the kind of guy who would know where your wife is?” “You’re a marshal. You’re an officer of the law.” “Oh, son of a bitch. I forget I leave it on sometimes. Yeah, I’m a marshal.” “I’m sorry.” “I’ll help you find your wife.” “She’s really small. And she’s got red hair. And her hair goes straight up. And she’s got a beak. And she’s got really tiny black eyes.” “Sorry, wait, what was that last part? Back up.” “What?” “The beak?” “Yeah, she has a little beak. You know she has to use it to peck at those trees to get those grubs out.” “Your wife?” “Yes! She got a darker-colored body and she got really skinny legs.” “She got wings?” “Yes, she does. I’m sorry. I forgot to mention it. Yessir.” “Back up.” “Yeah?” “Your wife is missing?” “Yeah. I can’t find her. Maybe she just went home.” “Your wife has a beak?” “Yessir.” “And your wife has wings.” “Yeah.” “That really sounds like, to me, you are describing a bird.” “A woodpecker, yeah.” “You are married to a woodpecker, sir?” “It’s legal.” Marshal Pierce looked at the man for a moment. “Well, let us go find your wife,” he said. They walked away to find the man’s wife. “Jack West!” Dr. Weisswald said. “You got it,” Marshal Pierce said. “He’s right,” Ophelia said. “I’ve got it.” “Yeah, she’s got it,” Marshal Pierce said. “We talked outside the tent. She’s got it. It’s fine.” “You need him incapacitated … or killed?” Ophelia said. “Judgment call,” Marshal Pierce said. “I’m going to go find a woodpecker.” * * * “So, Jack, what did you do with the money?” Jacali asked. The two of them had walked into the back room, which had a table, probably for private games. “What money?” Jack West said. “Jack, we were the only people in that town and I know you were in that bank all day and you left pretty hastily and the bank doors were closed when we arrived and they were open when we left,” Jacali said. “Listen, a lot of money is missing. Now, I didn’t, of course, tell any authorities about you because I don’t want to do that to a traveling companion, but this is a lot of money and there are desperate people trying to restart their lives. I don’t want to get you in trouble if I don’t have to and I would love for it to just blow over. But … if it was you, and if you took anything, you should let me make it right without getting any authorities involved.” She looked at him. “Well, I very much appreciate that offer but … I didn’t steal the money,” Jack West said. “Well, listen, Jack,” Jacali said. “The thought did cross my mind to blow the vault and take the money but we were dealing with portals with square buildings.” “I understand that you don’t want to implicated even if you didn’t do it, but …” “Wait, is someone suspecting me of stealing money?” “Well, it was me. And Otto. And Mr. Stalloid. When you left us that night without saying anything …” “So, let me get this straight. Y’all are suspecting that I just stole money and ran off. Why would I have even helped?” “Well, I figured you needed to make your exit and a nice time to do it would have been when all hell was breaking loose. Listen─” “Couldn’t I have just killed y’all in the town and just left?” “Well, but then there would be bodies. And a trail. Honestly, I don’t have evidence enough to convict you and turn you in. But I do have suspicion and I don’t know of anybody else that was in that town. But, listen, I … I think you should have some time to think it over. I feel obligated to find whoever it is who did this and, if it does happen to be you, I want to give you a chance to make it right before authorities are involved so I don’t have to do that to you. And listen, I don’t know how much money in total was stolen, all I know is that the bank was robbed and that stuff is missing. So, if you have any part of it, I will turn it in without mentioning your name. That’s all I’m going to say and you don’t have to defend yourself about it if you don’t want to, but if it isn’t you, I’m going to start investigating it, whoever it is.” “Again, I appreciate your willingness to work with me if it was me. I appreciate you giving me a second chance if it were me. But it wasn’t me.” “All right. Well, I guess that ends our talk. If you have a change of mind, I won’t think anything differently of it. Just let me know.” “All right. Where was the specific point of the meeting though? Since you’re here, I’m assuming everybody else is.” “They’re on their way. Otto and Stalloid headed back to try to make reparations to the village. I came ahead of them.” “Wait, aren’t they gonna move because there’s portals to … spider snakes?” “They are, but … all their money was stolen so, they need─” “So I’ve been told!” “─houses and stuff like that. Yes. So, we were trying to help with that part of it, how their lives were destroyed.” “And that is terrible.” “It is. Terrible.” “But I was not involved.” “Listen, all I’m staying is I have had to restart my life before, from nothing, and I know that it is not easy. So, if there’s anything you can do to help these people or if─” “You have something now?” “Huh? I have something now? Well, I have the clothes on my back. I have a house to go home to even though I’ve been traveling─” “You have a house!?!” “All right, Jack West, I think I’m done talking to you.” She opened to door to the room. “I don’t know what Pete is up to,” Jack West said. “But I’d rather not consistently look over my shoulder to try to look for Pete, so if you don’t mind telling him to calm … all of that.” “Well, here’s the thing, Jack West, we are on the same side in that argument, if I could ignore Pete Sutter for the rest of my whole entire life, I would,” Jacali said. “Okay, good.” “However, the one thing I know about him is he is persistent and stupid.” “And for some reason he don’t die!” “Yes, I’ve noticed that too. Apparently there’s someone who’s told him to look after me?” “Doesn’t that make you feel a little safe? Because that means he’s not shooting at you?” “Well, I have a feeling it’s a shoot when they do something you don’t like situation. And I have a feeling a know who it is, although I don’t want to think about it.” “Tell you what, I’ll try to keep an eye on him so he can’t get a jump on you.” “Welp, I would appreciate that but, as long as he is following me, I intend on making it the worst experience of his life, so … hopefully I can do that.” “Oh, that’ll make me happy as well.” * * * Marshal Pierce helped the man find his woodpecker wife after a short time. He called to the animal and she swooped down and landed on his shoulder. He was very thankful to Marshal Pierce and shook the man’s hand after getting his name. “If you ever need … any carvings … of woodpeckers …” the man said. “Absolutely,” Marshal Pierce said. “… I can set you up,” the man said. He told Marshal Pierce his name was Jack Styles and he had a little house on the edge of town. “I will take you up on that momentarily,” Marshal Pierce said. “I think one of my friends might be getting shot so I need to go back.” “Oh,” Styles said. “Oh! I’m sorry. Oh! Oh!” “No, this was interesting.” They had talked while they searched and Marshal Pierce learned Gravity Falls not only had a law allowing the right to marry a woodpecker, but that there were actually 46 different laws involving when, where, and how to properly court a woodpecker for marriage. Marshal Pierce noted he wanted to learn more about that and Styles invited him to his house for supper that night. He said he did most of the cooking. “I would hope,” Marshal Pierce said. “There’s a lot of seeds involved,” Styles said. * * * When Jacali exited the backroom, she saw Dr. Weisswald and Ophelia sitting at a tale near the front of the saloon. West followed behind her as Marshal Pierce peeked in through the batwing doors. Pete Sutter stood up and walked over. Marshal looked at Pete and wondered why they were dealing with an outlaw. Pete walked over to Jack West and Jacali. “Was it fun?” he said. “Well, I mean … it was a business discussion,” Jacali said. “Right,” Pete said. “And I asked if it was fun.” “Oh, business is always fun,” Jack West said. “It wasn’t fun,” Jacali said. “All right,” Pete said. He looked at Jack West. “You wanna turn around now?” he said. “Not when you’re right here,” Jack West said. “All right, just checking,” Pete said. “It’s okay. You want a beer then? “You buying, Pete?” “Sure. Why not?” “I’d like the bartender to pour though.” “Who else would?” “In case you bought the bottle.” “A bottle o’ beer?” “We’re not going top shelf?” “You think you’re in the 1970s or something?” “Must be too fancy for you, Pete.” Pete motioned to the bartender for beers for everyone. The man poured beers and walked over. “Oh yes, this is Pete,” Jacali said to Dr. Weisswald. “You may have met him.” “Weisswald, hi,” Jack West said. “You’re that lady from Chinatown,” Pete said. “And the train,” Dr. Weisswald said. “Train?” Pete said. “I’ve learned he has a crush on me,” Jacali said. “Which train?” Pete said. “I hate robbing trains. It’s like robbing a bank on wheels! Why would you rob something you gotta catch up to before you can rob it? That just strikes me as way too much work.” “Pete, have you robbed any banks recently?” Jack West said. “Ain’t had time,” Pete said. “These damned Secret Service people keeping me busy.” Marshal Pierce burst into the room. People looked up at him. Most of them looked down. One man, when he looked up, seemed terrified until he got a good look at Marshal Pierce. “Oh, thank God,” he muttered to himself before looking back down at his bottle of whiskey. “I thought you were that 12-year-old coming back.” “Somebody say ‘Robbing banks?’” Marshal Pierce said. “Sure, we’re talking about it,” Pete said. “You want in? Wait a minute, we’re not robbing a bank! I got business! Quit talking about robbing banks!” “You’re the one that brought it up!” Jack West said. “Oh no, you did!” Pete said. “No. What?” Marshal Pierce pulled the rifle from the holster on his shoulder. “Who started the talk about robbing banks?” he said. Pete pointed at Weisswald. She pointed at him and Jack West. Jack West pointed at Pete. Jacali went back and forth pointing between the two. “Sutter brought up robbing banks,” Jack West said. “I asked him if he’s robbed any lately.” “Oh, U.S. Marshal!” Pete said, looking at Pierce’s badge. “You want a beer?” “Not in a bottle,” Marshal Pierce said. “What is this? 1970?” He laughed at his use of Pete’s joke. Pete looked confused. “God damn,” Pete finally said. “Get over here and have a beer. You’re clever.” He gestured to the bartender and pointed at Marshal Pierce. The bartender looked frustrated but poured another beer and brought it over. “I’m looking for about seven grand,” Marshal Pierce said. “Stolen from Quiet Gap.” Dr. Weisswald noticed Jack West’s good eye twitched slightly. “I didn’t make that much,” Pete said. “I only made two for this job.” He turned to Jacali. “You’re worth $2,000,” he said. “Oh, thank you,” Jacali said. “When can I cash that in? Because that would be very helpful.” Pete looked a little confused. “Well,” he said. “From an existential point of view, aren’t we all just motes in God’s eye?” Everyone looked at him. “Pete,” Jack West said. “Nobody’s worth 7,000,” Pete said. “Don’t get all philosophical,” Marshal Pierce said. “So, me and you should─” “Well, that was my major!” Pete said. “Me and you should go to California sometime … if you know what I mean …” Marshal Pierce said. “I know what you mean!” Pete said with a grin. “Yeah, you do,” Marshal Pierce said. “You sit down here!” “Yeah, all right!” The bartender came over with the beer for him. “So, Jack West,” Marshal Pierce said, taking a sip of the beer. “Had your name come up quite a bit about this Quiet Gap $7,000.” “What?” Pete said. “I heard something too,” Jack West said. “Is he a criminal?” Pete said. Then to Jack West: “Maybe we could do business.” “I heard something from Jacali about the bank over there getting robbed, but …” Jack West said. “I heard you were in it all day and then … things got dicey.” “Did you know Otto was in there all day too?” “As a matter of fact, I’ve talked to Otto and he also mentioned your name and the missing seven grand.” “Well, since you haven’t talked to me yet, you want to talk to me about it?” “I figured that’s what I’m doing right now.” They stared at each other. Pete had been looking back and forth between the two as they talked, rapt with anticipation. “Do y’all need a room?” he asked. “For what?” Marshal Pierce said. “Talking,” Pete said. “I like it out in the open.” “He talked to Jacali earlier. “They said they had … ‘fun.’” “I said I didn’t,” Jacali said. “You got that wrong. Jack West said he had fun.” “I apologize,” Pete said. “You’re fine,” Jacali said. “Did you not have fun?” Marshal Pierce said to Jacali. “The women rarely do,” Pete said. “So true,” Jack West said. “Pete Sutter, I’m sure that’s your experience,” Jacali said. “On a good day,” Pete said. “Back to the seven grand,” Marshal Pierce said. “That is a lot of money,” Jack West said. “Jack, I’m almost certain it’s you and you know who I am and you know what that means,” Marshal Pierce said. “So, why don’t you just come out, say you have the seven grand and we can deal with it.” “Why would I admit to something that I haven’t done?” Jack West said. “Also, why would I travel in the same direction as people that know the same thing? Why would I have saved those people in that town? There’s a lotta ‘whys’ here.” “If I may interject, I would have thought it was you even more if you had just ditched us after that entirely,” Jacali said. “Well, true,” Jack West said. “I could’ve gone in the portal, shot y’all in the portal, and then jumped back out of the portal. And there is literally no one that would be anywhere that could’ve said anything. No bodies. No muss. No fuss.” “Well, while that’s true, I also, knowing you, think you could’ve gotten away with it,” Jacali said. “I think that you think you can get away with it without doing that. If you did it, that is.” Marshal Pierce emptied his mug. “My biggest point here is, if I wanted that much money, I would’ve killed for it,” Jack West said. Ophelia whispered to Dr. Weisswald: “He’s lying. Everything he’s saying is a lie.” “Here’s the last thing I’m going to say, Jack West,” Marshal Pierce said. “I been a lawman for a while. And a lot of times, when a name keeps popping up, it means something. Now, your name’s popped up from four different sources and I have to believe there’s some correlation. Now, let’s believe you didn’t take that money. I think you know who did. So, I need to take you in for questioning regardless.” “How would I know who took money that I didn’t know was taken?” Jack West said. “I have ways of making people remember,” Marshal Pierce said. Pete looked interested. “Ooo,” he said. “That doesn’t sound too friendly,” Jack West said. “I’m a pretty friendly guy, but … if I gotta find something, I can do it,” Marshal Pierce said. He glared at Jack West and Jack West knew Marshal Pierce was convinced he’d taken the money and he was giving the man an out if he would just come clean. Jacali, in the meantime, wanted to test how far Pete Sutter was willing to go to follow her. She got up and started going from table to table in the room, introducing herself to everyone while keeping an eye on Pete to see what he would do. The man watched her while she did so. Pete called “Duskerton!” and motioned for another round. Jack West noticed both Ophelia and Dr. Weisswald watching his conversation with the marshal intently. Pete was more focused on watching Jacali. Jack West realized Ophelia was the snake person and she could do weird things. It made him a little nervous. “Well, Pete, we might need that private room for a minute,” Jack West said. Pete looked at him. “All right,” he said. He went to the bar where Duskerton was finishing drawing up the next round of beers. Pete put a 50-cent piece on the bar and collected the beers, asking for the private room as well. Then he nodded at the two. As Marshal Pierce got up, Dr. Weisswald caught his arm and whispered to him that everything Jack West had said was a lie and he should probably keep the shotgun handy. “I know,” Marshal Pierce whispered to her. The two men walked to the room while Pete sat down at the table and watched Jacali. * * * “Hi, I’m Jacali,” she said to the mountain of a woman sitting at another table. “I’m Lydia Fitzsimmons,” Miss Fitzsimmons said. “Fitzsimmons. Are you a local here to Gravity Falls?” “Oh, I’ve been here for a while.” “Oh. Well, excuse me and my group for having our noisy conversation. We’re a noisy bunch.” “I’ve been interested. I’ve been eavesdropping.” “What brings you to Gravity Falls?” “I’m a prospector. I’m in it for the money, but …” “Well, most, I would assume, are. Well, seeing as I have made a new acquaintance of someone I didn’t know before here, if you want free drinks, you can head over to our table and tell Mr. Pete Sutter that you are my friend.” “I’m going to capitalize on that.” “You should. As much as you want from him.” “Thank you, that’s very kind of you.” “No, it’s very kind of him.” She walked over and sat at the table. “Who the hell are you, mister?” Pete said. “Wait a minute.” He looked her over. “Oh!” he said. “This is my friend,” Jacali said. “All right,” Pete said. “Bartender!” He motioned for Duskerton to get her a beer. “You are one hell of a woman!” he said. “You must be Pete,” Miss Fitzsimmons said. “You buying?” “I’m Pete. I’m buying.” “Good. I’m drinking.” “Uh-huh!” Duskerton approached with the beer. “Get me one too, there, buddy!” Pete called. Duskerton stopped and put down the beer before going back and getting another one. * * * Marshal Pierce let Jack West lead them into the room and, as he entered, drew the pistol and pointed it at him. He closed the door behind him without turning away from Jack West. The man turned and saw it as Marshal Pierce cocked it. “I don’t usually point a pistol at a man’s back but, I figured against you, Jack West, this makes it fair, don’t it?” Marshal Pierce said. “It makes perfectly sense, honestly,” Jack West said. “Pretty quick on the draw. I figured I’d get ahead,” Marshal Pierce said. He watched Jack West’s hands as the other man stretched and then sat at the table, putting his elbows on it and his hands together. “So what do you got to tell me?” Marshal Pierce said. “So, Pierce, you’re a smart man,” Jack West said. “Obviously.” “You’ve already got the gun. Want to have a seat?” “I think I’m fine right here by the door.” “So … when we started into the town …” “Who’s ‘we?’ Start simple.” “Oh. The four of us.” “Who’s the four?” “Stalloid, the injun, and the coward. We thought the town was abandoned so … like any sensible person, we still wanted to load up on goods before we made our way to Gravity Falls. Trying to get people’s attention. Even shot a round off into the air. Nobody came out. Got some general supplies from the general store. And then thought ‘Wow. That money’s all gonna waste away just in there in its lonesome.’ So I thought ‘What does a ghost town need with money?’” “Fair.” “Opened the door to the bank. You saw that handiwork, probably. Then found out that the vault was much smaller than I thought so blowing it up would just blow up everything. So, we look around town. They’re snooping around for people. I snoop around for a combination and find one. I get the money and say it’s no worse for wear. Nobody’s missing out. There’s no one around. Throw it in my saddlebags. Good to go. We continue with our investigation, just for their sake. Then I’m fighting strange spider monsters from space, save the town, and we need to bolt. Everybody bolts. I end up, up here, knowing that well, damn, all those people are back but if I just turn in the money, that looks very suspicious.” “So does lying about taking it.” “True, but … if you never found out … I try to provide for my family.” “Did you think that I wouldn’t find out? Especially when I accused you directly?” “You treat people as well as you can.” “One difference between us, Jack West. On this adventure, I think you’ve shown everything you can do. I haven’t shown everything I can do.” “That may be true. But you all try so much to give that money back to those people.” “I think it’s theirs so it’s theirs.” “Then there’s only one thing left to talk to you about, if I’m in jail, I can’t provide for my family. And I can’t have that.” “I didn’t say jail. I said I’m getting the money back.” “By all means. You can get them back their money. Be that hero you like to be so much.” “So, where’s it at?” “It’s buried out at … Jeffersonson’s son’s grave.” Marshal Pierce looked at the man. “What?” he said. “Jeffersonson’s son’s grave,” Jack West said. “It’s the son of Jeffersonson.” “One more time. How many ‘sons’ is coming out of your mouth?” “So, it’s Jeffersonson’s─” “Nope! Nope! Slow down.” “Jefferson … son’s … son’s … grave. That’s where the money is.” “How far of a ride is that?” “It’s just outside of town. You passed it on your way in.” Eyes still on Jack West, Marshal Pierce opened the door carefully and spoke loudly enough for the rest to hear. “Jacali, go to … listen carefully … Jefferson─” he said. “Wait wait, hold on,” Jack West said. “We don’t want the whole bar to know. Just ask her in.” “I’m not going to say anything about the money,” Marshal Pierce whispered to Jack West. He looked out of the room. “Go to Jefferson - son - son’s grave,” he said. “I’m not repeating it. Just do it.” “What do I do once I’m there?” Jacali said. “Start digging,” Marshal Pierce said. He closed the door. “Should be pretty easy to find,” he said to Jack West. “You must have buried it pretty soon.” * * * “All right, Pete,” Jacali said. “Are you good at digging?” “Ain’t nobody better,” Pete said. “Well, if I go to this place are you going to follow me anyways?” Jacali said. “Find me a shovel.” “You have $2,000. Can’t you buy a shovel?” “I’ll buy me a shovel.” “I have a shovel,” Miss Fitzsimmons said. “Thank you so much,” Jacali said. “Pete Sutter will cover a small fee for this lending.” Pete flipped her a quarter. “Where we going?” Pete said. * * * Marshal Pierce opened the door again and asked for some drinks. “Marshal, just ask for some glasses,” Jack West said. “I got the drinks.” “I don’t need laudanum right now,” Marshal Pierce said. “Oh, so you know about my condition?” He looked at the man. “Now Marshal, I’m reaching for my bottle,” Jack West said. He took out the bottle of whiskey and laudanum. While he drank, he told Marshal Pierce about all that had happened to them in Quiet Gap. * * * Jacali and Pete found Jeffersonson’s Son’s grave. As Jacali couldn’t read, Pete had to locate the freshly dug grave. “This un?” he said. “It says Jeffersonson’s Son.” “Yep!” Jacali said. “Whatever the hell that means!” “You know what to do.” Pete dug and watched Jacali. When they got down about three feet, he came across a large burlap bag. While Pete pulled it out, Jacali took out her bow and nocked an arrow. Pete noticed and grinned. “I can still shoot you before you can shoot me,” he said. He pulled out the sack. “Is this what we’re looking for?” he said. “I suppose so,” she said. “Put it on the ground.” Pete looked inside and gasped. “Put it on the ground,” she said again. “All right,” he said, tossing it to her feet. Then he grabbed the shovel and started filling the grave back in. “I’m respectful of the dead,” he said. “‘Cause, you know … they come back. They done it! Here! This place is awful! I hate it!” He finished up with the grave. “Now what?” he said. “Now we wait until Mr. Pierce comes back,” Jacali said. “Because he told us to do this.” “That marshal? He ain’t coming back! He’s gonna go sit somewhere at a desk and put his feet up. That’s what they do! Don’t you know nothing about marshaling? It’s all about putting your feet up!” He leaned against the gravestone. * * * After an hour, there was a knock on the door to the back room of the Floating Eye Saloon. “All right, Pete, we got the bag!” Jacali said loudly from outside. “Pierce, we got the bag!” “What’re you talking about Pete?” Marshal Pierce said. He opened the door and put his hand out. He felt a burlap sack put into his hand and pulled it back in. He shut the door and quickly looked into the bag filled with paper money and coins. “Is it all here?” he asked. “Should be,” Jack West said. “I didn’t touch it since.” “Why’d you have to lie?” “About the money?” “Yeah.” “Well, what happens when you walk back to a town saying ‘Oops, didn’t mean to steal this.’” “I found that most times they say ‘All right.’” “How many towns you been to!?!” “I saw those people. They were pretty desperate. I figure if you came back and gave them the money, they woulda understood.” “I do not believe that.” “Well, whether you believe what they would’ve done, you shoulda known that your friends would have helped you if you had told the truth.” “I haven’t made friends in a very long time.” “Well … if I’m going to be completely honest with you …” Marshal Pierce holstered his pistol. “… I don’t think … we … can do what we need to do without you,” he said. “Having a good gun is always important in these … spider snake times,” Jack West said. “But I will tell you this,” Marshal Pierce said. He drew the pistol again and pointed it at Jack West. “If you ever lie to me again … I will shoot you without talking to you,” he said. “In the back or the front, I don’t care.” “Back would probably be safest,” Jack West said. “Back would get it done,” Marshal Pierce said. He holstered his pistol again, opened the door, and backed out of the room, motioning him to follow. * * * Marshal Pierce talked to Jack Styles and the man went with him to the postmaster, Otto Cutebiker, an older man with a big mustache and a lot of hair coming out of his ears. Marshal Pierce asked the man to help him send a package to Quiet Gap Nevada, sight unseen, unopened and uninspected. He was told they generally didn’t inspect packages and it would be sent. During their conversation, he learned there was a law called GimmieOcracy in Gravity Falls which meant anyone in possession of the physical, legal document to a property gained ownership of said property. It was also called the “Finders Keepers” law. Cutebiker helped him get a package together and Marshal Pierce put a note in and addressed it to Marshal Churchill in Quiet Gap. Marshal Pierce made the return address to Styles’ house and asked the man that if the package came back to notify him. The note he put in merely read “I believe this is yours.” It was signed “Clayton Pierce.” “Gettum! Gettum!” Cutebiker said. “We’ll get it there! We’ll get it! We’ll get it there!” * * * On the morning of Thursday, September 30, 1875, Jacali went back to the Seer to have her fortune told using the cards. The seer had her shuffle the cards until they felt right and then did a simple, three-card reading. The first card, representing the past, was the Queen of Wands which represented a strong feminine person who was happy and courageous and made the world how she wanted it. The present card was The Chariot, which meant direction, charging forward, or having a specific goal in mind. She saw success in said desire. The future was the Nine of Swords, which symbolized nightmares, indecision, and haunting thoughts. She said things would be really hard for Jacali emotionally and mentally soon. * * * Lambert Otto and Professor Brandon Stalloid arrived in Gravity Falls that afternoon. When they saw the Seer’s tent, they decided to stop before they went into town. The woman was willing to either do the cards for the man or, possibly better, the entrails of a possum she had in her tent. He took the latter. She chanted and then cut open the possum to read the entrails and organs. “You are going to go someplace you don’t want to go,” she said. “That you didn’t ever think that you could go or would go and that … it is important to you that you make sure you know what should happen. You must know what should happen because if you try to do things that shouldn’t happen … it could destroy you.” Professor Stalloid asked to have the cards read for him and so the woman did so. She had him shuffle the cards until they felt right and then had him draw three cards, one at a time. The past card was the Empress, which represented nature and motherhood. It was kind of the archetypal protector or a motherly influence. The present was The Moon, which represented things that were hidden, things that were subconscious, things that one knew but wasn’t aware of. It represented secrets and illusions. She said perhaps Professor Stalloid was seeking something no one knew about. The future card was the Hierophant, meaning traditions and represented laws and hierarchies, traditions either good or bad. It could be very restrictive or sticking to laws and traditions. When Professor Stalloid asked if it meant to not break governmental laws of the universe, the Seer’s eyes opened wide. “Exactly!” she said. “You do not want to cause things to happen that didn’t happen.” All three of the cards were the major arcana, which was strange. * * * When they found the others, Jacali told Otto everything that had happened, filling him in on all the details they knew. She told him Marshal Pierce had exonerated Jack West and arranged for all the money to be returned. In the late afternoon, Dr. Weisswald, Otto, Miss Fitzsimmons, Marshal Pierce, and Professor Stalloid all saw a man in a simple suit with a Colt Army Pistol in a gun belt around his waist ride a mule into town. The man had a bowtie and short, dark hair. He was slim and wore a bowler. Both Marshal Pierce and Otto recognized the man they had met on the Mountain House Hotel who had told them about the meeting in Gravity Falls. The man had a large trunk on the back of the mule and he stopped at the Gravity Falls Hotel and went in. Marshal Pierce went to find the others. Otto followed him. They found him at the front desk, signing in at the guest registry. Otto approached him. “Hello, Dr. Mordin,” Otto said. “Oh, hello Otto,” Professor Mordin said. “Yes, I’d like to meet you tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. My associate will meet with you … well, we’ll get you to my associate. I’ve got to arrange a room of some kind.” “Where?” “I don’t know. I’ve got to find out. I just arrived. I haven’t even put my mule in the livery yet.” “Well, I assumed you would know where we’re supposed to meet in town. I’m sorry.” “Well, you assumed wrongly. Once I’ve made the arrangements, I will contact you.” “Very well.” “Are you staying here?” “The Floating Eye Saloon.” “I will contact you or the others.” “There are others who were not there when we last met. Is that all right?” “Bring whomever you wish.” “Very well. I will get out of your hair.” “You’re fine.” He left the man to check into the hotel. * * * Marshal Pierce found Miss Fitzsimmons coming out of the Floating Eye Saloon, having eaten an early supper. Her napkin was still tucked in her shirt. “It seems like you’re from around here,” Marshal Pierce said. “Have you seen an Indian, a white-haired doctor, a weird loud guy, or a guy with a burn on his face? Or all four? They like to hang out.” “I saw them last night,” she said. “I can tell you that. I had drinks with them. But … I’ve seen them today around.” “Can you help me find them?” “Sure.” * * * Jacali was down by Gravity Falls Lake with Jack West. Jack West was fishing and thinking about getting some dinner. Jacali was there in the hopes it would annoy Pete Sutter. He was fishing as well, but he’d fallen asleep. As soon as she tried to move away, however, he would say “I ain’t sleeping.” As they sat by the edge of the lake, something massive rose up out of water, moving faster than a horse could gallop, and rolled by. It had a huge, horse-like head but was covered in scales and had a massive body. They could not tell its size exactly as most of it remained submerged, but it was probably at least 50 feet long from head to tail if not larger. People from Gravity Falls who were out there fishing just pulled in their lines and then walked away as if they hadn’t seen anything. They looked disturbed but left as if it hadn’t happened. They later learned the thing in the lake was called the Gobblewonker and it lived somewhere near Scuttlebutt Island out on the lake. People seemed worried about it but no one talked about it. * * * When they all got together, Otto told the rest he wanted to meet them at 9 a.m. the next day but he hadn’t yet gotten a location but as soon as he knew, he would tell them. The soon learned Professor Mordin wanted to meet them in the back room of the Floating Eye Saloon at 9 a.m. the next morning. * * * When Professor Stalloid was heading to the Floating Eye Saloon for dinner that night, he noted a little man no more than two feet tall in an alley across the street. The little man had a bushy beard and a tall, red, pointed hat. He looked more like a head with arms and legs than a person. Then the little man grinned at him and he saw he had very sharp teeth. Several other men identical to the first approached the little man. They carried a pie between them and they smiled. They looked at Professor Stalloid and nodded to the man. He nodded back to them. Then they ran away with the pie. He could see, from behind, their little bodies. “I’ll be off to find that pie later!” Professor Stalloid called after them. One of them yelled back something about a queen but he was unsure. * * * Dr. Weisswald was frustrated with her inability to learn the Voorish Sign spell and asked Ophelia if she might be able to teach her magic. Ophelia seemed interested and when she asked what she wanted to learn she asked about the incapacitating spell she had mentioned for dealing with Jack West. The serpent person seemed inclined to teach her if she wanted. “Do you want to blast his mind and drive him mad or would you rather shrivel him up into a tiny little hunk?” Ophelia asked. Dr. Weisswald said she’d like to learn how to drive someone mad and Ophelia said they would begin the next day. * * * Otto purchased a new stock for his Winchester carbine that day, finally replacing the one he’d damaged in Gravity Falls. Professor Stalloid did some gambling in the Floating Eye Saloon that night and made a few dollars. It was only small-time gambling but he enjoyed it. * * * On Friday, October 1, 1875, they all went to the taproom of the Floating Eye Saloon and found Professor Mordin just finishing his breakfast. He greeted those he had met before. “I recognize you,” he said to Jacali. “Have we met?” she said. “No,” he said. “Now, who are your friends?” “This is my friend Jacali,” Marshal Pierce said. “This is Dr. Weisswald. Stalloid. Oh. Well, you’re here now.” He had noticed Miss Fitzsimmons. She had seen them enter the saloon so joined them. “This is Miss Fitzsimmons, isn’t it?” Professor Mordin said. “Sure,” she said. “Do you mind seeing spooky ****?” Jacali said to her. “‘Cause that’s what we see.” “That’s what I’ve seen so far here in Gravity Falls.” “Oh good.” “If your investigating, I’m fine with helping.” “Yes, I’m Professor Mordin,” the man said. “You’ve been here too long. Don’t stay in Gravity Falls long.” He led them into the next room. In the center of the table was a device made of brass that had a big, red gemstone on the top. Those who had been in Professor Terwilliger’s lab recognized the general design from a device they’d seen there. “Please, if you could all take a seat at the table,” Professor Mordin said. He noticed Pete Sutter for the first time. “Who’s this?” he said. “Um … he said he has been sent to watch me,” Jacali said. “I’m Pete Sutter!” Pete said. “You got a problem with that?” “Pete Sutter? I’ve heard of you. Everyone have a seat.” He ignored Olivia and she ignored him. As they sat, Professor Mordin reached forward and touched the strange device in the center of the table. The machine started to hum and lights began to flicker from it. Professor Mordin closed the door. “It will take a few moments to warm up,” he said. “If you’ll just be patient, I apologize.” They waited as more lights flickered on the machine and the gem at the top began to glow. “There is a man who has been exposed to the Crescent for a good portion of his adult life,” Professor Mordin said. “Not directly exposed, but he has had some exposure. He can answer your questions about it. You want to talk to him about this.” The gem at the top glowed brightly and light projected out of it. A figure appeared over the table. The thing was an enormous, transparent, iridescent cone about 10 feet high and 10 feet wide at the base and made up of some ridgy, scaly, semi-elastic matter. From its apex projected four flexible, cylindrical members, each a foot thick, and of a ridgy substance like the cone itself. These members were sometimes contracted almost to nothing and sometimes extended to any distance up to about 10 feet. Terminating two of them were enormous claws or nippers. At the end of a third were four red trumpet-like appendages. The fourth terminated in an irregular yellowish globe some two feet in diameter and having three great dark eyes ranged along its central circumference. Surmounting the “head” were four slender gray stalks bearing flowerlike appendages whilst from its nether side dangled eight greenish antennae or tentacles. The great base of the central cone was ringed with a rubbery gray substance which seemed to move the whole entity through expansion and contraction. Jacali recognized it as the terrible thing she had met in her dreams. Sheriff Pierce’s eyes suddenly glazed over. “Nice trick,” he muttered. The thing was translucent. Pete Sutter cursed and put his hand on his pistol in terror. “Subjects are prepared?” the thing said in an emotionless voice. “Correct,” Professor Mordin said. “Prepared for what?” Jack West said. “Preparations are complete,” the translucent thing said. “Initializing.” “Oh no!”Ophelia said as she started to stand. They all felt like they were falling. * * * The sensation only seemed to last a moment. But then they were in a great, stone room with others of the creatures they had seen in Gravity Falls though they did not look nearly as large as the first one they had seen. The room was made of stone and they each felt like they could see at angles they could only imagine before. It all felt wrong. Only Jacali and Jack West were oblivious to the giant ferns outside a window in the room. They were also oblivious to the brontosaurus that chewed on the leaves of the fern that must have been at least 30 feet tall. Professor Stalloid and Miss Fitzsimmons recognized it as a brontosaurus. Then they were suddenly falling again. * * * They found themselves in a dimly lit room that smelled of sweat and smoke. There were several other people lying around on the ground, as were they. They thought they could hear the sounds of people somewhere outside of the room they were in. Light suddenly flashed into the room as a tent flap was flung to one side. They were blinded for a moment until they saw they were in a teepee. A little girl was at the tent flap and she spoke in a language they didn’t understand. Except for Jacali and Dr. Weisswald. “Wake up, you lazy braves,” the little girl said with a giggle. “Are you going to sleep all day?” Jacali recognized it as herself at 12 years old. The teepee was filled with American Indian men. “What the hell did she just say?” one of them said in English. With the light coming in to through the tent flap, they could see a naked woman lay on one of the blankets, another blanket over her. All of the men looked around and then one of them, an older man with a large nose and his hair pulled back in a braid and wearing only deerskin pants, leapt to his feet and ran outside. He was quickly followed by another man who was skinny and very tall, completely naked, who wore war paint. He had been next to the woman. A third brave leapt up and followed them both. He was unattractive and bug-eyed with crazy eyes. He was solid and fast and wore doeskin pants. * * * Professor Stalloid had suddenly woken next to a naked woman. He found himself naked as well and then heard the child speak though he didn’t understand her. When another of the men in the teepee had leapt up and run out of the structure, he had followed. He found himself naked and sticky. * * * Clayton Pierce didn’t remember anything after entering the room in the back of the Floating Eye Saloon. He suddenly found himself in the teepee and was unsure how he got there. He saw an Indian leap up and run out, followed by another, so he followed as well. He found he was only wearing doeskin pants. * * * Jacali had leapt up when she saw herself and ran outside of the tent. She realized she was in her village, the village she had grown up in until she was 12 years old. It was the village that was attacked by white men on horseback where the majority of the villagers, including her parents, had been killed, 20 years before. But now she was here again somehow. The teepee was near the center of the village where she recognized a couple of hogans, permanent dwellings, and the large fire pit where she remembered the fire was constantly kept burning. Everyone in the village used it. She recognized the place with a mixture of nostalgia and terror. * * * Otto looked around for his clothing as he felt something on his ears and realized he was wearing earrings. The clothing nearest him was a thick coat that he donned. He couldn’t find his saber but noted a flintlock musket beside him, along with a large club. * * * Jack West reached for his pistols and found they were gone. He wore doeskin clothing and had a bandana on his head. The only things near him were a bow and arrows and a tomahawk. He found a knife and filled his hand with it, pointing it at the little girl, who was in the opening, grinning at the men who had run out. When she saw the knife in his hand, she laughed again. “Kuruk,” she said. Then she jabbered in some other language. She had told him: “Don’t you threaten me!” She wagged a finger at him. He looked at her, confused. “Does anybody speak English here?” he said. “When did you learn English?” the little girl said. “When did I get so tan?” “Kuruk, you are not going to lose your temper around me. You might be rowdy around other people, but not around me. I’ll take you down a couple pegs. Now, it’s time to get up.” * * * Outside, Jacali, in the body of a male brave, looked back at the little girl whom she recognized as herself. Someone tapped her shoulder and she found herself facing a handsome young brave wearing war paint. There were feathers in his hair, which was pulled into two braids. He was very slim and tall. He was also completely naked. “Where am I?” he said in English. Another unattractive brave with bugged out, crazy eyes stood behind him. He was strong and slim and wore a few feathers in his hair as well. He wore doeskin pants. “This is wild,” he said. “Get weapons!” the other brave said. * * * In the tent, the others looked around at the unfamiliar faces as they realized they were not in their own bodies. One of them, a dark-skinned and attractive Indian who wore beads in his hair, was poking his arm. “What is …?” he said. He grunted every time he touched his arm as if it was uncomfortable. “What is this!?!” he said, looking around in anger. Dr. Weisswald found herself in the body of brave who was short though with long hair and beads. She was wearing doeskin clothing as well. “Ophelia?” she said, her voice deeper than normal. “What!?!” the dark-skinned brave said. “Who are you!?!” “Weisswald.” “No! You’re not! Noooo!” She got up and backed towards the tent flap, looking at them all suspiciously. “Wait, did you say Weisswald?” the man the little girl had called Kuruk said. “Yes,” Dr. Weisswald said. “So, I lost my guns and I got this garbage knife now!” Jack West said. “Jacali?” Dr. Weisswald called. None of them responded. The tall brave with long black hair who had a wolf-pelt hat next to his blanket was looking around in shock, as was the fair-skinned man with earrings who was pulling on the heavy coat. The man who had been backing away suddenly lunged at Dr. Weisswald and grabbed her by the shoulders. “No,” he said. “Put me back. Put me back. Put me back.” The brave shook her and she recognized the dead eyes of Ophelia in the man. * * * Jacali realized she had been in one of the teepees used by the unmarried braves of the village. She knew if the men had gear, it would be in there. She ran back into the teepee followed by the other men. “Bow!” she said when she got inside. “Bow! Bow!” “I don’t want it!” the brave with the bandana said. He handed off the bow and a quiver of arrows. “Jacali?” a short brave said. “What?” she said. “What’s going on? Where are we?” “Get your weapons.” “Anybody seen my guns?” the brave with the bandana said. “All I got is this garbage knife!” He started to search through the blankets and furs near him. Jacali ran back out. Two braves followed. Another brave grabbed a musket and followed. * * * The naked warrior who was Professor Stalloid started to get dressed. The woman woke up. She looked around in terror. “My piece!” she said in English. “Where’s my piece!?! Someone took my piece! Someone’s touching my piece!” She was young and very pretty, slim with dark hair and light skin. She had a thick accent. “Pete Sutter!” the brave said to her. “Where the hell am I?” she cried out. “What did you do to me? Who are you?” Professor Stalloid grabbed the girl by the shoulders. He’d recognized the inclination of Pete Sutter’s voice. “Look, it’s me, Brandon Stalloid,” he said. “I know you do not understand this but … your piece’s gone!” The woman looked at him in shocked terror. “Also, you’re a woman!” Professor Stalloid said. The woman looked him in the eyes. “You mean to tell me our minds have been wrenched through time, plummeted back some unknown amount to inhabit the bodies of injuns from this time for some unknown reason?” Pete said. “Yes!” Professor Stalloid said. “Again!?!” Pete said. Professor Stalloid looked at him, confused. “So, what do we need to be doing to get back to our bodies?” the brave called Kuruk said. “If you die here, do you die in your body?” “They told me that!” the woman they thought of as Pete Sutter said. “So, Weisswald … man?” Jack West in the body of Kuruk said. “What should we be doing?” “I was in a city fulla freaks! They were horrible to look at! I saw them. They were freaks. Did ya see ‘em? Big ol’ flubbly blubs.” “I did see the flubbly blubs.” “Alright. They talked to me. It was disgusting. They told me I had to tell ya three things. What were they? What did they tell me? Uh …” “It sounds important.” “That you can’t change history and … if you try, uh, you’ll either get killed or you could destroy the universe. That sounds like it fits in with philosophical teachings about such things.” “Okay, anybody know when we are? Where we are?” “We’re here, mentally, and if you die in these bodies, you’re dead. Uh … and that … uh … there’s answers but you gotta find ‘em. Who’re you?” “I’m Clayton Pierce.” “All right. I respect you. Who’re you? Jack West?” “Weisswald,” the short warrior said. “Damn it,” the woman said. “Oh. All right.” “Lydia, the prospector,” the warrior with the wolf-skin cap said. “The ugly one? You remember.” “One of you is lying,” the woman said. “There’s only four of us here,” the brave with Jack West said. “That’s Jack West,” Weisswald said, pointing at the correct warrior. “That’s Jack West?” Pete in the woman’s body said. “You did this to me! I hate you!” Jack West just smiled at him. * * * A light rain started outside as Jacali looked around, panicking and thinking for sure the attack was going to come to the village soon. The people in the village were doing chores, walking from place to place, and living their lives. It was fairly early in the morning. Jacali started asking the other Apache what day it was in an attempt to determine how long they had until the attack. Her companions couldn’t understand her as she spoke in the Southern Athabaskan tongue used by the Jicarilla Apache. The villagers greeted her but seemed confused by her questions. They didn’t have an effective dating system in the village and, to be honest, Jacali was unsure of the exact date of the attack in 1855. She did realize it was spring. Fallow fields stood on the east and west sides of the village. The morning was cool but there was a hint of promise in it. The river flowed from west to east on the north side of the village. To the southwest was the great mountain that she always remembered. She spotted herself as a child, going to do chores. She looked back at the natives following her. The man wearing the white-man jacket, the beautiful man wearing war paint and just a loincloth, and the man with crazy eyes all followed here nervously. “Jacali, right?” Otto, the man in white-men’s clothing, said in English. “Jacali, right?” “Yes,” she said. “You know that fortune lady outside of town?” “Yes.” “She said … you’re going to go to a place that you didn’t think you’d ever go and know what should happen or be destroyed. What happens?” “Something very bad happens here.” “But what happens exactly?” “She told me─” Stalloid, in the beautiful man, said. “I know it’s soon,” Jacali, the man with the large nose, said. “I don’t know if it’s today. But this place … is going to get attacked and … almost everyone is going to die.” “She told me not to change what has already happened.” “She didn’t tell me anything like that.” As villagers walked by, one of them said to them, in their own tongue: “What language are you speaking?” “I am trying to learn English,” Jacali said. “Not very good yet.” “Oh,” the villager said and walked on. “Listen,” Jacali said. “I don’t know how much time we have, but very soon everyone in this … in this settlement could be in grave, grave danger.” “Who attacks ‘em?” Marshal Pierce in the bug-eyed man said. “Well …” Jacali said. “I assume the white man,” Professor Stalloid said. “It’s a group, they’re armed with guns,” Jacali said. “They …” “Are they U.S. Military?” Otto said. “No,” Jacali said. “Bandits?” “No. They were just townsfolk.” “Well, then, we don’t have a chance,” Marshal Pierce said. “Jacali,” Otto said. “Eskaminzin!” a woman called, approaching them. She was an older woman. “Eskaminzin!” she said again. They all turned to face her. “Eskaminzin,” she said to Jacali. “Eskaminzin,” Marshal Pierce said. “Have you seen Ih-Tedda?” the woman said in her own language. “I-I have not today,” Jacali answered in the same tongue. The woman looked towards the teepee. “Did she spend the night with Illanipi again?” she said. “She’s not supposed to. She is the chief’s daughter.” “I slept in today,” Jacali said. “I don’t remember.” “You tell her to go to her father.” “I will.” “She should not sleep around. It’s bad of her.” She glared at Professor Stalloid before moving on. “I am not going to be the best help in this but we need to tell everybody what’s going on and everybody needs to be prepared for a fight,” Jacali said to them. “Jacali, wait,” Otto said. “You can’t change anything!” “I’m not going to let it happen again.” “No! You cannot! You have to let it happen again. You cannot stop what happened.” “Watch me.” Otto held up his musket. “If you’re going to change it, I guess I’ll help you,” Professor Stalloid said. “I’m not much for rules anyways.” “No!” Otto said. “But, she said ‘destroy the universe if you change what happened!’” “Destroy one universe, make another.” “But we live in this universe!” “Yes, we can live in another.” They saw the woman who had talked to Jacali walk to their teepee. “She’s not going to enjoy Pete Sutter,” Professor Stalloid said. “Look, let’s just tell everybody what’s going on,” Jacali said. “No!” Otto said. “No!” “And do what!?! Just sit here and wait for anything to happen!?!” “Nothing! You can’t stop it from happening! If you do, you’ll die!” A small crowd of villagers had begun to gather around where they argued. “We’re going to die no matter what, it sounds like,” Professor Stalloid said. “We could be some of the ones who survive,” Otto said. “Then you can try,” Professor Stalloid said. The locals asked them, in Southern Athabaskan, when they had learned the other language. “We’ve all been learning,” Jacali said. “Practice is over.” People nodded and Jacali headed for the teepee. * * * As Jack West exited the teepee, an older woman approached and jabbered at him in her own language and then looked expectantly at him. He just pushed her aside. “Hey, everybody that speaks English, come over here, please!” he yelled. The older woman flung open the teepee flap and said “Ih-Tedda!” Then she disappeared inside. * * * The three remaining inside saw the woman walk over to the young girl who was inhabited by Pete Sutter and spoke to her in her own language. Professor Weisswald could understand most of it. She was telling the girl to dress herself and that she should be ashamed as it was no place for the chief’s daughter. She started to help her dress. “What … is … she … doing!?!” Pete said. “Pete, she wants you get dressed,” Dr. Weisswald said. “She just has to tell me!” “She did tell you!” She helped Pete get dressed and then pulled him towards the tent flap. “What am I supposed to do!?!” he said. “What’s going on?” “Apparently find weapons!” Dr. Weisswald said. Then Pete was gone. * * * As Jacali approached the tent, she recognized the chief’s daughter, she thought. The old woman dragged her towards the river, she guessed to do chores. And perhaps wash herself. Jacali remembered her father and mother had both spoken English in addition to Southern Athabaskan. They all got back into the tent and soon figured out who was who. They still didn’t know their bodies’ names. Marshal Pierce took his knife and cut his arm to see if he felt pain. He did. It hurt like hell. “Okay, this is real,” he said. He still couldn’t remember how he had gotten there. The last thing he remembered was sitting down at the table. Then he had woken in the tent. He thought he remembered saying “Nice trick,” but wasn’t sure why. Jacali realized all of the men were unmarried warriors who shared a teepee. There were two or three such teepees in the village for those men who were unwed. “I don’t know when,” Jacali said. “I don’t know if it’s going to be today or tomorrow─” “We can’t change it,” Otto said. “Sutter said we can’t change things otherwise it’ll unravel time,” Jack West said. “See?” Otto said. “For once I agree with Jack West and I feel terrible for doing it.” “And we can’t die in these bodies or we’ll die,” Jack West said. “Did these men die in your village?” “Well, I just cut myself so this is real,” Marshal Pierce said. “I don’t want to die.” “Shall we just go in the woods …?” Jack West said. “Okay, the Yithians wanted us to learn something here,” Dr. Weisswald said. “Yeah,” Jacali said. “Sutter, you done this before?” “It sounded like he was confused so I don’t think he’s done it before,” Dr. Weisswald said. “For Otto and Jack West, you say we can’t change anything, how do you know if you’re supposed to die or not here?” Marshal Pierce said. “Exactly,” Jack West said. “So, are you ready to die?” “Obviously not.” “Then I guess we stop whatever this is, huh?” “Give me a pistol and I can stop anything.” Jacali was trying hard to remember what happened and realized it had not been raining on that terrible day, like it was doing outside. It had been a bright, sunny, clear, perfect morning. “It’s probably not today,” she said. “We are … it seems we are in the bodies of warriors who would have been the first people to the call when the violence started. It would be hard for me to imagine that we all survive. If that day happens while we’re here …” “So, that’s Ophelia,” Professor Stalloid said. The serpent person was touching her hair and her skin. “It’s only temporary,” Professor Stalloid said. “You can still use your fancy magic in that body, right?” Jack West said. “Can I use it on you first?” Ophelia said. “Probably on the white guys that are going to try to kill us.” “What’s the difference?” “I haven’t tried to kill you yet.” “I haven’t tried to kill you yet, either.” “Probably better keep it that way.” “If there is something we need to figure out, we need to do it before that attack happens,” Jacali said. “Well, we need to figure out what exactly happens,” Otto said. “Particularly, I feel like, what happens to whoever these people are.” “Like I said─” Jacali said. “That will be very hard until the moment,” Professor Stalloid said. “I don’t know specifically but … it’s not likely that any of us would survive,” Jacali said. “If what you said is true.” “How many people survived your village attack?” Jack West said. “Do you see how many folks are around us?” Jacali said. “There was a handful left afterwards.” “There’s a handful of us,” Otto said. “Where are you?” Marshal Pierce said. “I suppose one of the main things we could do is make sure you live,” Professor Stalloid said. “I … I don’t want to think about it,” Jacali said to Pierce. “But I’m somewhere around here.” “We should find you,” Marshal Pierce said. “We should definitely make sure you live,” Professor Stalloid said again. “I don’t think we should do that,” Jacali said to Pierce. “I’m not ready for that journey.” “Do you remember anyone talking about strange things that day?” Professor Stalloid said. “All I can remember when I’m in this place is what happened,” Jacali said. “How many scores of men are we dealing with?” Professor Stalloid said. “As many as us but they have guns,” Jacali said. “Here’s what I think,” Marshal Pierce said, sitting up from where he’d been laying on his back on a blanket. “So, there’s one thing we do know about this attack: Jacali survives. I think we make it our mission to make sure she survives this attack once again.” “That’s what I was saying,” Professor Stalloid said. “It’s my idea. Do not steal it.” “I said that!” “If we are here when the attack happens, I’m going to fight,” Jacali said. “That’s Brandon Stalloid’s idea!” Professor Stalloid said. “My idea,” Marshal Pierce said. “I think we should just make sure Jacali lives,” Jack West said. “And then we’ll be fine.” “Shoot him!” Professor Stalloid said. “I know that was said before, but now we can actually do it,” Jack West said. “I feel that is the only─” Otto said. “If you don’t want to take care of yourself, some of us can do it,” Professor Stalloid said. “That way you don’t meet yourself.” “You can but, even if I … I won’t─” Jacali said. “I say Weisswald should be involved,” Professor Stalloid said. “What is this!?!” Ophelia suddenly said. She was looking in her pants. “I’ve shown you anatomy books,” Dr. Weisswald said. “Don’t worry about it.” “That’s a man-snake,” Professor Stalloid said with a giggle. “Ew,” Ophelia said. “But, was there anyone when you when you survived this attack?” Otto asked. “Do you remember that?” “Did anyone help save you?” Professor Stalloid said. Jacali thought of the terrible memory of that horrible day. “I don’t want to talk about it,” Jacali finally said. “I was … alone. And … none of us were there. None of us were there.” “But was there anyone who helped save you?” Professor Stalloid said. “Yes,” Jacali said. “We can find them and make sure they get to where they need to be,” he said. Jacali looked at the ground. “My mother died trying to save me,” she finally said. “Okay,” Professor Stalloid said. “Do you─” “And if you try to make her die again …” Jacali said. “I don’t know if I can allow that.” “I will save her,” Professor Stalloid said. “No!” Otto said. “We can’t!” “I’ve already told you my mind,” Professor Stalloid said. “Do I have to kill you? Because I don’t want to die because you decide to destroy the universe.” “I think you decide to kill me now … a certain amount of other hands are going towards you.” “I don’t feel like you understand the gravity of the situation.” “I don’t think you understand the gravity of her mother’s death.” “I don’t want to sound like an ass, here─” “The annihilation of her people.” “─but people die. This is in the past. We can’t change the past.” “Is it? We’re here. This is the present.” “When?” Ophelia said. “I was 12 years old,” Jacali said. “I’m 32 now so it’s 20 years ago.” “Is that the Yithians’ secret? They’re called the Great Race of Yith. We never knew why.” “I can’t tell you. But this is 20 years ago.” “Ugh. How do you cope?” Ophelia said to Dr. Weisswald. Dr. Weisswald was taking mental notes, fascinated at the effect the change was having on the serpent person. “I’m already born so if we switch anything, it’s not going to affect me,” Jack West said. “Why does everything keep going black?” Ophelia said. “Over and over and over!” “You’re blinking,” Dr. Weisswald and Professor Stalloid both said. “Like this,” Jacali said. She blinked. Ophelia looked at her and blinked. “Ah!” she said. “It’s happened again!” “It rehydrates your eyes,” Professor Stalloid said. “There’s no need for this!” Ophelia said. “What is wrong with you people?” “Listen, who here besides me and Weisswald can speak the language?” Jacali said. “English,” Marshal Pierce said. “German,” Otto said. “That’s what I thought,” Jacali said. “I can speak German,” Otto said. “I guarantee you there will be less people here who can speak German than English,” Jacali said. “I know a bit of Chinese,” Professor Stalloid said. “Aklo,” Ophelia said. “Our language. Well, a derivation.” “I think that whatever we do, Weisswald and I should be the leader of the groups since we can actually talk to the people here,” Jacali said. “At least the ones who don’t speak English, which is most people.” “If you want your mom to live, if we can get me a revolver, these guys some rifles …” Jack West said. Jacali didn’t remember any revolvers in her village. She thought they had a few flintlock muskets and maybe a few Pennsylvania long muskets. Other than that it was just bows and arrows. She also remembered there were no Winchesters or other repeating rifles. She remembered some of the attackers had rifles but guessed they were one-shot devices. “There is nothing like that here,” she said. “So, kill the first white man,” Jack West. “I’ll grab his gun.” She knew her people had horses and ponies. They were planters and would plant crops in the spring. Fishing in the river was also popular to supplement their diet, as well as hunting the nearby deer and buffalo. The village was semi-permanent with teepees, wickiups, and a few permanent hogans, mostly near the center of the village. “Do you know which direction they came from?” Dr. Weisswald said. “We could ambush them.” Jacali wasn’t sure. “Which direction is the town?” Professor Stalloid said. “There is a town around, but they might not have come from the same direction,” Jacali said. She remembered the nearest things were ranches but they were still miles away. “Can some of us go scout it out?” Professor Stalloid said. “My question I think we need to answer first is why the hell are we here?” Jacali said. “To learn something.” “I don’t want to learn anything from this place.” “Probably about the Crescent,” Dr. Weisswald said. Marshal Pierce left the teepee. “I need medical supplies and we need to figure out what we’re supposed to learn,” Dr. Weisswald said. “Maybe the Crescent is here,” Professor Stalloid said. Jacali directed Dr. Weisswald to some of the midwives and women who practiced simple medicine. “Maybe the Crescent was here,” Professor Stalloid said again. “That 12-year-old looked suspicious!” Jack West suddenly said. “Who was that? She had a mouth on her.” “That’s all the Yithians seem to care about,” Professor Stalloid said. “Dr. Mordin said that someone was exposed to the Crescent,” Otto said. “For a very long time,” Professor Stalloid said. “Yeah,” Otto said. “Was it someone here?” “That’s why I’m wondering if maybe the Crescent is here,” Professor Stalloid said. “You think I remember any Crescents from my childhood?” Jacali said. “Do you think a Crescent just appeared and I have no memory of it?” “Maybe─” Professor Stalloid said. “No, I don’t know if it was here,” she said. “You could have been exposed to it,” Otto said. “Or someone here could’ve.” “Maybe it wasn’t a common thing,” Professor Stalloid said. “Maybe you could draw it and show it to people,” Dr. Weisswald said. “Let’s just ask people randomly,” Jack West said. The tent flap opened up and a brave leaned in. “Are you braves going to do some hunting or lie about all day and be lazy?” he said in Southern Athabaskan.” “Yes, we will get on it,” Jacali said in her language. “It was a rough morning.” “I bet!” the brave said. He looked at Professor Stalloid, the brave who had woken up next to the chief’s daughter. Professor Stalloid winked at the man and he shook his head and left. Jacali told them they were supposed to go hunting as it was their job. “Oh yeah, we’re hunting,” Dr. Weisswald said. “Hunting for information.” * * * Marshal Pierce spent some time trying to get a musket, shot, and powder but he was unable to make himself understood by the villagers. It was confusing for them and frustrating for him. They kept pointing towards the ponies and saying something to him but he didn’t understand. * * * The others found Marshal Pierce, who suggested only half of them go hunting, specifically the ones in the group who could hunt. He suggested the rest stay in the village and get information. They discussed purchasing a revolver for Jack West at a nearby white settlement and Jacali pointed out their purchasing one might be problematic and certainly difficult. In the end, Marshal Pierce suggested he, Otto, Jack West, and Miss Fitzsimmons go hunting while the rest of them investigate the village. When Professor Stalloid suggested going to talk to white people, Marshal Pierce said it was a bad idea and suggested he help Jacali and Dr. Weisswald. Ophelia told Dr. Weisswald to let her know when she needed someone destroyed. “Is there a burial mound in this village?” Professor Stalloid asked Jacali. She did not know of one. She was not familiar with Apache burial rituals and did not know of anything like that near the village. “If we could figure out where, there’s something I could do,” Professor Stalloid said cryptically. * * * Marshal Pierce, Otto, Jack West, and Miss Fitzsimmons took four horses and headed out to hunt. Only Otto was familiar with riding bareback. They found a deer and Otto shot it with the musket, injuring the animal. It fled and three of them tracked it most of the day before they were able to bring it to ground. * * * Jack West didn’t want to follow the injured deer so he returned to the village for string and laid several traps in a copse of woods and caught several rabbits over the course of the day. * * * Dr. Weisswald got hold of some bandages and healing herbs. Once she had her supplies, she, Professor Stalloid, Jacali, and Ophelia walked around the village and drew the crescent in the dirt, trying to find out if anyone knew anything about it. Most of the villagers seemed confused as to why the warriors were not out getting meat but others thought their drawing was very pretty and very nice. As they moved about the village, Jacali recognized the older villager who came out of one of the hogans near the center of the settlement. He had a sour face and wore a few feathers in his hair, which was braided on one side. He wore several fetishes and other items about his person and was probably in his 50s. Jacali remembered the man as Laziyah, a shaman who she had liked very much for his stories. She remembered him being very nice to her and doing little tricks for her when she was a child. Laziyah looked over at Professor Stalloid. He laughed and pointed at him. “White man,” he said in English He laughed again and then went about his business. Professor Stalloid laughed and pointed. He walked over to the man followed by the rest. “You know who I am?” Professor Stalloid said. “Or what I am?” “Illanipi,” Laziyah said. “You are Illanipi. You … should stay away from the chief’s daughter. He does not like that.” “You said something else earlier.” “Huh?” “You said ‘White man.’” Laziyah gasped. “The clouds are white!” he said. “They are very white.” “Yes, they are,” Professor Stalloid said. “Now, focus.” “You speak English very well,” Dr. Weisswald said. “No,” Laziyah said. “Only some. You speak English well, white woman.” He looked up at the sky again. “I am with these two,” Jacali said in Southern Athabaskan. “I know them from before.” “You have grown so quickly Jacali,” Laziyah said. Dr. Weisswald realized something was mentally wrong with the man. He moved and spoke like a madman. Professor Stalloid noticed the other Indians looked at the man and shook their head and sighed, obviously feeling pity for the shaman. He sidled up close to the madman. “Have you seen the Crescent?” he whispered. “Who hasn’t?” Laziyah said. “Look, it is there!” He pointed at a cloud that was vaguely crescent-shaped. “It is,” Professor Stalloid said. “It is. But where is it here?” “Yes, it is here,” Laziyah said. He coughed and then walked away. The rest of them followed him for only a little ways before they were stopped by another villager Jacali recognized as Elan, whom she remembered was Laziyah’s assistant and the man who would take over as shaman. She remembered shamans in her village seemed to change often though she never knew why. “You must leave Laziyah alone,” he said to them in Southern Athabaskan. “You know he has difficulties.” “But do you know what the thing that has made him this way is?” Jacali said. “Why─?” “No,” Elan said. “Nothing has made him this way. Nothing has made him this way.” Dr. Weisswald drew a crescent in the dirt and Elan looked startled, kicking it apart. “No,” he said. He walked away, very disturbed. Some of them followed him. * * * The rain let up by the afternoon. As they put the deer on one of the horses, Marshal Pierce and Otto spotted a glint of light coming from a copse of woods a mile or so from the village, almost like the reflection of light off a piece of glass. The three of them left the horses behind and crept towards the copse at an oblique angle. The glint of light disappeared as they approached and they saw someone ride away on horseback. He appeared to wear an army uniform. “We need to go to the village and alert the people!” Marshal Pierce said. They headed back to the horses. “I feel like we should confer with Jacali first if they have an alert,” Otto said. “‘Cause even though we noticed it─” “Well, I can’t alert anybody,” Marshal Pierce said. “I don’t speak the language but I’m going to tell Jacali what I saw.” They headed back to the village. * * * Professor Stalloid went down to the river to wash himself as he was very dirty. Then he went to find Laziyah. The man was sitting in front of his hogan, drawing in the dirt. When Professor Stalloid drew the Crescent, he kicked it. When Professor Stalloid drew it again, he stood up and went into the hogan. There were two braves out front and he guessed he wouldn’t be allowed in. * * * Elan had gone about his daily business. The hunters returned with a deer which the villagers set about preparing. The four who had been hunting found their companions after only some difficulty. “Raspberry,” Jacali said when she saw them. “I think the attack is coming soon,” Marshal Pierce said. “I saw somebody ride away on a horse in what appeared to be a military uniform when we approached them. I believe we are running out of time. Also, can you do something with your hair so we can find you better?” “I think it’s something that should be told,” Jacali said. “So, it should be told to whomever can handle it. We are warriors and hunters so … it might be strange for warriors to say that but I think we should tell someone.” She went to look for somebody and found another warrior, telling him of seeing the scout. He guessed it was nothing, though, as the war between the white men and the Jicarilla was taking place on the other side of the great mountains to the west. While she was talking to him, she saw a man pass by whom she recognized as her father. He was a gruff-looking man with long hair pulled into two braids. She stopped when she saw him walk to the shaman’s hogan where Professor Stalloid loitered outside. The brave said he would tell the chief and the speaker what she had told him. He said he would inform those who needed to know. She pointed her father out to the others. “I don’t like this feeling,” she said. “I really don’t like this feeling. This is horrible. I don’t want to be here.” She looked at the shaman’s hogan as her father went inside. Other braves were returning to the village with game or without. Jack West returned with a brace of rabbits he’d caught in his snares. “It looks like there is someone in town who knows about the Crescent,” Jacali told them when they got together to eat. “The shaman, the old one, I would guess, is the person who has been exposed to it. He was never quite conscious of the present.” “I don’t know, it might be the assistant,” Professor Stalloid said. “I think both of them know,” Jacali said. Laziyah came back out of the hogan and skipped away. “Yeah, that’s him,” Jacali said. Professor Stalloid went over and asked the shaman if he could teach him a game. When the man said he could, he taught him the Chinese game of shoushiling, a form of game where A beat B, B beat C, and C beat A, in this case the frog, represented by the thumb, superseded by the poisonous centipede, represented by the little finger, superseded by the snake, represented by the index finger. “We need to somehow convince this shaman, Elan, to tell us where the Crescent is,” Jacali said. “He knows. He doesn’t want to admit it. He doesn’t want to talk about it. He must know.” “Does he understand English?” Otto said. “He speaks English,” Jacali said. “Maybe your dad will know something about the Crescent,” Dr. Weisswald said. “We should ask him.” Jacali’s father exited the hogan as they talked. “I’m not going to speak to my dad,” Jacali said. “I’m not going to do it.” “Then I will,” Dr. Weisswald said. She went over to the man, whose name was Naiche. She drew the Crescent on the ground and asked him in Southern Athabaskan, if he knew anything about it. “No,” the man said. He scuffed out the drawing as the others had. He turned and walked away. She realized he was disturbed by the fact that she had any knowledge of something that looked like that. She followed him. “I need to know where it is,” she said. “We do not talk of these things,” he said, still walking. “I need to know where it is.” “No.” * * * “He’s been exposed to it,” Dr. Weisswald said to Jacali of Laziyah. “Yes,” she replied. “That’s why he’s as he is.” “A long time. I know.” “They both have,” Professor Stalloid said. “Well, they both know about it, it seems,” Jacali said. “How are we going to convince him to tell us what the Crescent is? I feel like … he knows something that’s going on and, maybe knowing that I’m someone from this village would convince him but … I don’t want to play that card and have it go badly for us and the whole jig is up.” “Don’t change the timeline,” Otto said. “How do you know what happens, Otto!?!” “I don’t!” “How do any of us know!?! So what does it matter what we do or don’t do!?!” “Because, if we make a mistake …” “So, we’re just going to be inactive because we don’t have any knowledge of what’s going on?” “I’m not saying be inactive but we should work with what little information we have.” “And what information do we have about what three people talked about of some secret thing that I couldn’t possibly know of for everybody else who could?” Otto got up and walked away. She glared after him. * * * Otto went in search for Pete Sutter and eventually found the pretty Indian girl. He was sitting on the ground with a small bowl of cooked deer meat. Several little girls of the village, including little Jacali, were braiding his hair. He sat there, a frown on his face, obviously hating the attention. The little girls talked to him and put little bits of sticks and grass in his hair. “Pete!” Otto said. “Who the hell are you?” Pete said. “Otto.” “I don’t … you’re worse than these children.” “Look, I need your help, Pete.” “Who’s Otto?” the little Jacali asked. Otto looked at her. “Wait, you speak English?” Pete said to her. “Yes, I speak English,” Little Jacali said. “You’re so silly. I didn’t know Itza-chu spoke English.” “I’ve been working on it,” Otto said. “You’re not very good,” Little Jacali said. “You’re right, little girl, he’s awful,” Pete said. “What do you want?” “I need your help,” Otto said. “I’m busy getting sticks in my hair.” “It’s more important than that.” Pete sighed. “Excuse me children,” he said. “I must go with … what the hell’s your name?” “Itza-chu,” Otto said. “Itza-chu.” Pete burst out laughing. “That ain’t no real name!” he said. “You made that up!” “No, that’s his name,” Little Jacali said. “Itza-chu.” “What’s my name?” Pete said. The little girls all giggled. Pete sighed again. “I hate this place,” he said. “Get me outta here.” He stood up and went with Otto. “Whatta you want?” he said. “Pete, I overheard that you might understand more what’s happening here than I do?” Otto said. “No. I don’t even know where it is. Where are we? When are we? They’ve taken us through time. They’ve transferred our minds through a process I couldn’t hope to understand, obviously something … scientifically infeasible.” “What’s the purpose of this?” “Iunno.” “Why─?” “They said we’d find answers here.” “Find answers here?” “That’s what they said.” “What answers?” “If I knew the answers, I could just tell you and we’d go home, couldn’t we?” “I realize that, Pete, but I was just hoping there was something you might know.” “I don’t know. I don’t even know the process that they used to exchange minds over a period of time.” “But─” “I don’t even know what year it is!” “But─” “What year is it? You go find out and maybe I’ll have some answers for ya.” “They don’t speak English here, Pete.” “They’re injuns. They wouldn’t know what year it was even if they spoke English. And my voice is driving me crazy!” “It is … I feel the same. But you said that if we change the timeline, what happens?” “They told me it’d destroy the universe. Or we’d be killed.” “Jacali wants to change things. I think she wants to save her mom.” “Well, that’d create a paradox. If you create a paradox, it will unravel all time and space and destroy us all, probably.” “Well, how do I stop that?” “You don’t create a paradox.” “I can’t get to her to tell her that.” “Shoot her?” “Does that happen?” “How the hell should I know!?! I’m in the same boat you are. I was shoved into another body, not even a man.” He slapped Otto’s shoulder. “And I’m stuck in it now!” Pete went on. “Little girls making me mend clothing and fish and cut open a deer. They wanted me to chop a deer up. I don’t do that. I hate deer. I don’t cook!” “All right,” Otto said. “Enjoy having your hair braided, Pete.” “I hate you Otto,” Pete said. * * * After dinner was over, another native entered the village. He wore many feathers in his hair and was dressed in buckskins. He was young, probably about 20, and looked like a shaman. He seemed quite angry. Professor Stalloid, Jacali, and Dr. Weisswald all recognized him as the younger version of He-Who-Waits. The shaman demanded to see the chief in English. He demanded to see the shaman. He said he knew they were hiding it. He said he knew it was there. He loudly exclaimed that he was He-Who-Waits and he demanded the Horn. Chief Ka-e-te-nay, Elan, and Naiche, Jacali’s father, all met with the man. Naiche spoke to the him in English, refusing to let him see Laziyah and motioned surreptitiously to several braves, who came close to them, war clubs or lances ready. Professor Stalloid and Jacali joined them. He-Who-Waits claimed he could control the spirits of the air and demanded the horn. Naiche told him there was nothing of the sort there but they would defend themselves against even the Paiute should it become necessary. Naiche said he didn’t want bloodshed but if He-Who-Waits raised weapons against them, they would defend themselves. He-Who-Waits blustered for a while before finally leaving, claiming the village cursed. Jacali and Dr. Weisswald overheard some of the other braves talking about how the man had come to the village before, in the Fall, wanting the horn, whatever that was. He had been rebuffed then as well. * * * Professor Stalloid went to find Pete Sutter. “Hello there, Pete,” he said when he found him. “It’s me, Stalloid, child savior.” “Stalloid?” Pete said. “I have a proposition for your operative.” “No, I been propositioned before!” “It’s about your instructions from your employers.” “They told me to watch Jacali.” “Yes, but did they say which one?” “What? What do you mean ‘Which one?’” “The little girl that’s been following you is also Jacali.” “That one that speaks English?” “Yes.” “Oh.” “Did they say which one?” “They didn’t. That raises a conundrum.” “Because we know Jacali must survive anything that happens here for the past not to be changed, right?” “When are we?” “1855.” “God damn it. All right, I’ll keep an eye on the brat.” He stomped off. * * * They all settled into the teepee that night. Dr. Weisswald suggested sneaking into the shaman’s hogan after dark. Jacali pointed out the man slept in the structure. She was worried they would go into the structure and find nothing. “Why don’t we just kill the shaman?” Ophelia said. “Then we can do whatever we want.” “But how will we get the information from him when he’s dead?” Jacali said. “I can do it,” Professor Stalloid said. “I don’t feel good about doing that,” Jacali said. “I don’t either, but I can do it,” Professor Stalloid said. “Fine,” Ophelia said. “Fine.” She left the tent. “What’s the plan for tomorrow?” Jacali said. “Any day could be the day.” “Possibly find He-Who-Waits,” Professor Stalloid said. “We could try,” Jacali said. “But also, he doesn’t know where it is either,” Dr. Weisswald said. “That doesn’t help us.” “No, I know,” Professor Stalloid said. “What if he is part of the reason the attack happened.” They looked at each other. “He stopped waiting, like he does, and he attacked,” Professor Stalloid said. “Well, then we can’t do anything about it,” Otto said. “Sure, we can,” Professor Stalloid said. “I’ve already seen his death throes once. I’d like to see them again. I don’t like him.” “But killing him will make it impossible to kill him later,” Otto said. “Also known as ‘will not have the need to kill him later,’” Professor Stalloid said. Otto got up and left the teepee. “Has anyone considered maybe what we’re doing now is what the warriors did before anyways?” Marshal Pierce said. “I did,” Professor Stalloid said. “That we can’t change it anyways?” “Yes.” “That’s what I believe,” Jacali said. “So there’s ain’t nothing to lose,” Marshal Pierce said. “I’m going to sleep.” “Well does anybody have any ideas other than telling Elan or Laziyah to tell us?” Jacali said. “Laziyah isn’t going to be cohesive, he isn’t going to tell us much, if at all. Elan might be convinced, but he is going to be stubborn. And my father as well.” “We would have to reveal our future knowledge as well,” Professor Stalloid said. “I feel that likely the best way …” “To convince him.” “You do have a trump,” Dr. Weisswald said. “A trump?” Jacali said. “What is that?” Ophelia said. “Your father,” Dr. Weisswald said. “Yes,” Jacali said. “Do you want me to talk to my dad?” “I mean …” Dr. Weisswald said. “If you could convince him that you’re his daughter from the future …” Jack West said. “I mean, if I had another chance to talk to my dad, I probably would,” Professor Stalloid said. “… and the only way to keep you safe is for him to tell you where this is,” Jack West said. “And maybe I can get my guns back!” “I … don’t really want to do it,” Jacali said. “But I realize it’s probably the best bet. What do you all think?” They were unsure. “If it doesn’t work out … even if it does, I don’t know what I’ll think of it, but I could do it,” Jacali said. “I just want …” “Pants lady’s a psychologist, right?” Jack West said. He pointed at Dr. Weisswald. “Show some respect!” Ophelia said. “Also, that’s a man,” Professor Stalloid said. Jack West looked at the body inhabited by Dr. Weisswald. “At the moment,” he said. “Yes. Still no pants.” “Well, I guess that’s our plan,” Jacali said. “I just hope we’re not too late already.” * * * The next morning was sunny and pretty. Otto came back to the village from spending the night in a copse of woods outside of the settlement. He was in bad spirits from spending the night in the cold. * * * After they got up, Jacali taught them all a few rudimentary words in the Southern Athabaskan tongue to try to help them get along in the village. She taught them apologies and phrases like “I’m busy,” or “I don’t know.” She taught them “yes” and “no” and “I can’t talk right now” among others. Jack West wanted her to teach him how to say “revolver” and she reminded him there were none in the village. He had plans for recovering a pistol from one of the attackers. * * * Marshal Pierce left the village with a bow and a score of arrows. He spent most of the day practicing shooting at a stump. A few people approached him, talking to him in their own language, which he did not understand. He merely smiled. The man walked away. A little girl later came up and spoke to him in her language. He just laughed. It was Little Jacali. He handed her the bow and an arrow and she shot the stump, hitting it twice before handing it back. He tried to fire the bow the same way she had but missed the stump once again. She said something to him and he laughed again. * * * Professor Stalloid tracked down Laziyah once again and followed him around. * * * Jacali, Dr. Weisswald, and Ophelia went in search of Jacali’s father: Naiche. They had difficulty finding him that day though they did see a pair of white men ride into the village. Both of them wore side arms. Dr. Weisswald thought the older man looked familiar. One of them looked a lot like Clayton Pierce. He had long hair, a beard and mustache, and was a tall man in rough suit. He wore a .36 Colt Navy on his belt and there was a .44 Sharps rifle on the scabbard on his saddle. A bedroll and saddlebags were on the back of the saddle. The other man was much younger, probably still a teenager, with short-cut hair and also wearing a rough suit. He was clean-shaven and looked very green. He had a massive .44 Colt Dragoon on his gun belt and also had a sharps rifle in the scabbard on his saddle. His horse was also laden down with saddlebags and bedroll. They nodded to the Jicarilla as they passed and a few seemed to recognize them. Professor Stalloid also noticed the two white men. He realized the bearded man in charge was the spitting image of Clayton Pierce. The man could have been his brother. The two men went into the chief’s teepee and Naiche soon joined them. Jacali crept close to the teepee and could hear her father translating from English though the white man obviously spoke a little Southern Athabaskan. They talked about the rumors in the vicinity that the Jicarilla were stealing cattle and said they were there to investigate that. Jacali learned the two men were from the Bureau of Indian Affairs with the bearded man being in charge and the other man being his recently-hired assistant. They all seemed familiar with each other as if they already knew each other. The gentleman with the beard was very concerned with the rumors. He was very forthcoming in saying he didn’t believe they were true, but he was concerned about the situation. * * * After they left the chief’s teepee, the Bureau men took their horses to the corral and then carried their saddles and gear to a teepee on the edge of the village that was unoccupied. Professor Stalloid approached them as they reached the teepee. “Mr. Pierce,” he said. “Yes?” the bearded man said. “I didn’t any of the Jicarilla spoke English.” “I don’t know how to explain this. It is a weird circumstance. But could I explain something to you that may shock you greatly.” The two white men looked at each other. “If you wish,” Pierce said. “Could we do it inside the teepee?” Professor Stalloid said. “Of course,” Pierce said. The three went into the teepee and the men stowed their saddles and saddlebags. “Now, this is going to sound very crazy, but I am not this person,” Professor Stalloid said. “And I know who you are and of your son. But from the future.” The young man stifled a laugh. Pierce just looked at Professor Stalloid. “This is all very nice but we don’t have any money for you,” Pierce said. “Or firewater.” “I do not need money,” Professor Stalloid said. “It’s illegal to give Indians liquor.” “I do not need firewater. I do not require anything.” “Of course you don’t.” “I swear.” “You may do that as much as you want.” “In the name of the United States of America.” “Look, we’re just here to dispel some rumors and make sure the Jicarilla are safe. That’s my job.” “We appreciate that. They appreciate that. I mean, I appreciate it secondhand. Because, I cannot explain the circumstances, but I am not this person. I’m seven right now, in actuality.” They looked him up and down. “I’m off in California,” Professor Stalloid said. “Okay …” Pierce said. “I told you, this is going to be strange.” “We understand and yes, it’s very strange. Very interesting but yes, we believe you.” “I don’t need you to believe me.” “It’s fine. It’s fine.” “How about this? Let’s do hypotheticals. What, hypothetically, could I produce through knowledge alone that would provide you evidence to at least have an inkling of belief in me?” Both men looked at him blankly. “Possibly my language and vernacular alone,” Professor Stalloid said. “Well, obviously you’ve been taught by somebody,” Pierce said. “Yes, my dad!” “There you are.” “I went to the University of California.” “Of course you did.” “Your son’s name is Clayton Pierce.” “Yes. Naiche knows this. We’re friends.” “I don’t know Naiche.” “It’s not surprising that he’s told other people in the village. That’s fine.” “I woke up here yesterday.” “Of course you did.” “Let’s see. Let’s see. What has Clayton told me before?” The younger man got up and left. “Your son admires you greatly,” Professor Stalloid said. “He will grow up to be a Federal marshal. I can at least tell you that. That won’t help though. It’s not proof. He’s very proud of the fact. He’s a good man. Even to his friends who are not so good.” “I appreciate your telling me all these things,” Pierce said. The other man opened the tent flap and returned with a pair of braves. They jabbered at Professor Stalloid in their own tongue and finally took him by the arms. “I do not understand them,” he said. “They want you to go with them,” Pierce said. “Yes, I know. I can tell.” “They’re going to help you.” “Oh … man.” “They understand that you’re … disturbed right now. I’m sure it will be fine. It’ll be fine.” The two Jicarilla were badgering Professor Stalloid now in a language he didn’t know, certainly asking him why he was bothering the Bureau of Indian Affairs man. “Good-bye Mr. Pierce,” Professor Stalloid said. “I couldn’t think of anything to convince you.” “It’s fine,” Pierce said. “It’s fine.” “It won’t be.” “You’re fine. You’re fine.” “It won’t be.” “You’re fine.” The two Jicarilla escorted him out, obviously annoyed with him and talking to him in a language he did not understand at all. When he replied in English, they didn’t understand him either, obviously. He told them he needed some water in Southern Athabaskan, one of the phrases Jacali had taught him. They took him to the river and he sat in the water to cool down. After he had cooled off, he went in search of Clayton Pierce, whom he found near a stump with arrows all around it but only one in it. “Mighty fine shot, sir,” Professor Stalloid said. “You’re dad’s here.” “Yeah, your dad’s here too,” Marshal Pierce said, lining up another shot. “No, he’s not. He wouldn’t believe me, of course, rationally, and I was wondering if you had any information or knowledge about him that you could use to convince him to help us.” “He always … had a phrase he’d only say around the family. I could maybe say that.” Marshal Pierce realized suddenly that it had been 1855, twenty years before, when his father had left their family. His mother always told him his father was a ranch hand and a cowpoke. He had left them without a word, according to her. He remembered his father beating him … or at least he thought it had been his father. Someone had beaten him when he was young around that time. “He says he’s a member of the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs,” Professor Stalloid said. “That’s not real,” Marshal Pierce said. “That’s what he’s claiming. Is your dad possibly secret service?” “No, he was a ranch hand.” “No, I know, but Pete Sutter’s Secret Service.” “No, my dad didn’t work with Pete Sutter.” “What I mean is, could he have been in with some people of higher knowledge of the world?” “If he was, he didn’t tell me.” “No, I know, but …” “Then why are you asking me?” “‘Cause you could go talk to him.” “Okay, I’ll go talk to him! I’ll go say the phrase that he always said around me and my mom before he left.” * * * Clayton Pierce was surprised to see that Professor Stalloid was right. The white man was his father. He recognized him from both being a boy and a photograph his mother had hidden away at their home that he’d found as a child. He was talking to some of the villagers in their own language. Another younger white man approached him and he said something to that man who nodded and walked away. Marshal Pierce approached but did not understand what he was saying to the other Indians. Pierce nodded at him and then continued talking as if including him in the conversation. “I believe that someone spoke to you earlier with a very wild claim,” Marshal Pierce said. “Oh, you speak English,” Pierce said. The other villagers looked a little confused at Marshal Pierce. “Oh, you hear English,” Marshal Pierce said. His father gave him a strange look. “Yes, someone spoke with me earlier in English,” he said. “He seemed to be a bit unhinged. Are you his brother?” “Said he knew your son?” Marshal Pierce said. “Is this some kind of a joke? This is a joke, isn’t it? I get it. You’re going to speak in my language and tell me things that are very silly. I understand. It’s very funny. It’s a very funny joke. It’s kind of a white-man joke but it’s funny. Well done.” “Did you ever tell your son ‘Pierces don’t cry?’” “A lot of men tell their sons not to cry.” “Did you used to hit him over and over and tell him ‘Pierces don’t cry?’” “No.” Marshal Pierce looked at the man. He could have sworn he remembered his father doing that. He could swear his mother had confirmed it at some point in the past. But it was all so hazy, sometimes. The man seemed sincere. “You’re not going back home, are you?” Marshal Pierce said. “You’re not going back to your wife and kid.” “Yes,” Pierce said. “I don’t think you are.” “I travel a lot.” “Yeah.” “But I’m going to be going home in a month or two.” Marshal Pierce looked at his father and didn’t believe he’d ever go home. “You should go home,” he said. “I will,” Pierce said. “But I have business here. We’ve got to make sure that─” “It’s not important.” “I’ve got to make sure that you people understand what’s going on and I’ve got to make sure I understand I know what’s going on.” “Yeah yeah. Don’t steal cows. We got it.” “But I’ve got to make sure that you people are safe. Look, the white man has broken a lot of treaties with the Jicarilla. It’s a terrible, terrible tragedy and something that’s got to be put right.” “Who’s side are you on?” “I’m on the side of humanity.” “Humanity?” “Yes. You might not remember but I took over from that other Indian Agent who was stealing from you people and treating you badly. I was the one who … well, I’m not one to brag. But he’s gone. I’m here. We’re going to try to set things right for a change. The United States government might not have been treating you people well for the last hundred years … or ever. That doesn’t mean we can’t start now. Look, I’m just trying to be fair. That’s why I’m asking around, talking to some people. Not to mention the fact there’s some white men in this village for a few days … that’s considered almost a safety measure. Some of the locals have been complaining but they’re not going to do anything as long as we’re here.” “That’s what you think.” Marshal Pierce turned and walked away. * * * Dr. Weisswald and Jacali went in search of Naiche. They found him repairing a teepee. “Naiche,” she said in Apache. “Eskaminzin,” the other man said in greeting. “I … need … to know where the Crescent is. It is of dire importance.” “The what?” “The … the Horn. The …” Naiche was startled. “I don’t know what you’ve heard but you must forget it,” he said. “You must forget what you heard.” “I can convince you,” Jacali said. “That way lies madness and destruction.” “And that is what I’m trying to stop. Listen.” She switched to English. “My name is Jacali,” she said. “I’m 32 years old.” She told him about how she remembered how he taught her to shoot a bow. Tears started to come from her eyes. “Eskaminzin,” Naiche said. “No. Stop. I don’t know if this some kind of a joke that Illanipi put you up to.” “Dad,” she said. He looked at her, confused. “Please,” she said. “It needs to happen. I must find it.” “You must forget about it,” Naiche said. “That way lies madness. That way lies despair. Eskaminzin, I know that you are a dreamer, a cautious dreamer. But you must forget these dreams. They are bad dreams. They will lead you to a bad place. Trust me on this. I’m trying to protect you.” He patted her on the shoulder. “Have you ever seen me speak English before?” she said. “I have not,” he said. “I don’t know who has taught you. They have done very well.” “You taught me.” “No, I didn’t. Eskaminzin, it is fine. It is fine.” “It’s hard seeing you again after all these years.” “I saw you yesterday. It’s a very funny joke.” He patted her on the shoulder again but she pushed him away, tears still flowing out of her eyes. “I’m not laughing,” she said in English. She walked away. * * * Jack West went out to check his traps and recover more rabbits and squirrels. He returned that afternoon with several and recognized one of the white men in town. It was Elroy Gerhart, albeit a younger Elroy Gerhart. He, Otto, and those two women had talked to him at the farm near Terwilliger’s when the scientist had been kidnapped. In fact, it had been him who had given him the rod that led them to the Crescent. * * * Otto and Miss Fitzsimmons went hunting once again, this time tracking down buffalo and bringing it back that afternoon. * * * That evening as the clouds rolled in, three military officers on horseback rode into the village with a civilian. The officer in the lead had thick black hair and a goatee and mustache. He was armed with a pistol and a saber hung on his belt. The other two officers had rifles and sabers. The man with them was overweight with thinning brown hair and a beard who wore a cheap suit. He wore a .44 Colt Dragoon on his belt and scowled at the Jicarilla. Otto recognized the insignia officer in the lead as a major. The other two men had rank insignias of lieutenants. He didn’t recognize their company patches. The village was in a bit of a stir as the men went to the chief’s teepee and dismounted. Otto and Jack West headed for the back of the tent in hopes of eavesdropping. Professor Stalloid, assuming Pierce would come to the tent as well, sat nearby, hands ready to make the claw motions that he had heard the Yithians sometimes made when in possession of human bodies. Laziyah sat down next to him. “What are you doing?” he said with a grin. “Trying to convince them of what you know,” Professor Stalloid said. “Oooh. They think I’m crazy but I’m not.” “No, I know you’re not.” Laziyah burst into insane laughter. “You’re so dumb!” he cried out. “I know I am,” Professor Stalloid said. “Don’t go in my hogan. All the answers are there.” “I know but─” “I’m off!” The medicine man leapt to his feet and ran away, arms in the air. When Professor Stalloid saw Warren Pierce also heading for the teepee, he whistled to get his attention and, when the man looked at him, he made his hands in crab hands and tapped the fingers together. The only reaction he got from the white man was an expression that seemed to say “That Indian is crazy.” The man didn’t speak to him but went into the teepee. * * * Jack West and Otto, both outside the teepee could hear those within talking mostly in English as Naiche translated from Southern Athabaskan. They learned the name of the officer was Major Preston Wyatt. The bearded man without a uniform was Topher Peel, the former agent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs who dealt with the Jicarilla on this side of the Rocky Mountains before Warren Pierce Wyatt told them he had orders the Jicarilla were supposed to be moved within the next few days. Chief Ka-e-te-nay wanted proof, citing white men always had papers when they made demands upon his people. Said papers would have letters upon them as well as stamps or gold leaf. He wanted to know where the papers were. Major Wyatt said it was on his word and the Jicarilla needed to leave all their possessions behind and go west to join the other Jicarilla already across the Rocky Mountains. The chief refused without papers and indicated the village had been there for many years and it would stay there. Wyatt was not pleased with that but told them he would return with papers. After the army officers left, Pierce talked to the chief and noted Major Wyatt might be out of his jurisdiction with his orders. Pierce didn’t know anything about the situation, even wondering aloud why Peel was even there as he was no longer any position to do anything with or to the Indians. They talked for some time about what the orders were all about and why the major had brought them. Both Jack West and Otto realized Pierce sounded like he was on the side of the Jicarilla, especially after the man noted he had not received any word on any removal of the natives from the village. * * * The army officers and Topher Peel left the teepee and mounted their horses once again, leaving the village. Pierce and Gerhart left the teepee a short time later with Naiche and the two conferred outside before the white men headed for their own teepee and Naiche went to the Laziyah’s hogan. After he had been in the hogan a few minutes, he and Laziyah left the structure and headed off into the night. * * * The time travelers got together to try to determine what they should do. Otto and Jack West told them what they had learned. Dr. Weisswald said they needed to get into the hogan. Marshal Pierce said he could create a diversion and Jacali said she could teach him some phrases in Southern Athabaskan to help. There was talk of setting something on fire or yelling and creating an alert. Jacali suggested they get the two guards to leave somehow. Dr. Weisswald suggested Marshal Pierce cut himself and the man did so. Otto just sat there and sullenly looked at the floor. “You need a distraction?” Ophelia said. “I can help you create a distraction. I can very easily help you create a distraction.” “What will you do?” Jacali said. “I can drive one of them mad,” she said. “No no no no no,” Professor Stalloid said. “That might draw people near,” Dr. Weisswald said. “Yeah, to where that person is,” Jack West said. “All right,” Ophelia said. “And I have problems with …” Jacali said. “I can hit them,” Ophelia said. “So gauche.” They discussed it, Jacali wanted as many of them as could to overwhelm them. Jack West suggested punching one in the face and running off. Ophelia said she could do that as well. “I think that─” Jacali said. “That actually sounds fun!” Jack West said. “─infighting is not what we need.” “Ah, it’s just a temporary thing. Then we’ll say ‘Aw, it was a joke.’ What’s that in … uh … injun?” Jacali glared at the man. “I don’t know what the word is in ‘injun,’” Jacali said. “I already cut my arm …” Marshal Pierce said. “Put blood on your face and say ‘He did it to me too!’” Jack West said. “What’s that in injun?” Jacali taught them all the word for “Sorry.” “Apparently everyone that’s not going in to the tent …” Marshal Pierce said. “Or Otto,” Jacali said. “Or Otto,” Marshal Pierce said. “Wait. Otto’s not going?” “We could get in a fight with Otto!” Jack West said. “… is going to go up and say ‘Help. Please. Help. Please,’” Marshal Pierce said. “I’ll be bleeding and point and hopefully they’ll help.” “And if that doesn’t work,” Ophelia said. “We punch them.” “Then we punch them in the face,” Jack West said. “See? I knew we’d get along, Ophelia.” “Don’t talk to me,” Ophelia said. “I suppose you can if they won’t move either way,” Jacali said. “But don’t permanently hurt anyone.” “Oh no, I’ll be fine,” Jack West said. “I’ll punch them in the gut instead. How about that?” “It wasn’t going to make me feel good either way, to be honest,” Jacali said. Marshal Pierce spoke in Jacali’s ear. “How do I say ‘I don’t know him?’” he said. Jacali told him. * * * Marshal Pierce led Jack West, Ophelia, and Miss Fitzsimmons to the hogan. The place in front of the hogan with the fire pit was very dark as most of the natives had bedded down some time before. Only the two braves stood in front of the hogan. “Help,” Marshal Pierce said in Southern Athabaskan. “Help. Please. Help please.” He pointed across the camp and grabbed the man by the arm, tugging on him to come help. The men spoke to him in their own language and he didn’t understand what their questions were as they asked him what was wrong. The two talked to him and seemed to be questioning. One examined the cut. Marshal Pierce looked at Jack West, pointing at him. “I don’t know him,” he said in Southern Athabaskan. Jack West motioned to Ophelia and the two attacked the two men. Jack West punched one man chin and Ophelia punched the other one in the stomach. Jack West’s opponent fell, unconscious. Ophelia’s was not as badly hurt. Then Jack West punched the second man and he fell as well. Ophelia grabbed one of the men, dragging him around the side of the hogan where the others stood. Jack West pulled the other man around. Jacali cursed. “It’s clear!” Jack West hissed. “Go! Go! Go!” Jacali, Professor Stalloid, and Dr. Weisswald headed into the hogan. Miss Fitzsimmons went to guard the two unconscious guards. “Ophelia, let’s go stand out there and act like we’re guarding,” Jack West said. The woman nodded and went with him. * * * Otto watched the whole thing from the darkness of a teepee across the clearing. He shook his head. * * * The structure was well made and had many woven mats and skins on the floor. A pile of furs and blankets near the entrance was probably the old man’s bed. In the center of the place was an indentation in the ground where the furs stopped. It was about four feet in diameter. It looked like a fire pit but there was no fire in there. They walked forward and saw the Crescent within. It was scorched on one side and partially melted. Then they heard movement behind them and found Marshal Pierce standing just inside the doorway. He stepped forward and recognized the Crescent that had been under the house in Mount Diablo. They felt a presence in their minds. They got the impression that it knew they would be there, as did others. They got the impression it knew who sent them and was not happy about that revelation. “We don’t like them either,” Professor Stalloid said. They saw an image of the Earth, hanging in dark infinity with stars so bright and crystal clear as to be both breathtaking, beautiful, and terrifying. Then the image began its descent and there was fire and heat and pain and the ground rushed up and it struck. They saw an image of American Indians looking down upon it as it tried to communicate but only partially succeeded due to damage to itself. They got the idea the thing was both alive and not alive, both machine and organic, both intelligent and only a device. They saw an image that the Crescent was not the only one and that it originally went by another name: The Tri-Mnemonic Static Harmonizer. They felt the idea come to mind that the device was used to house information, to gather it, to record it, and to keep it, but the impression that, over the aeons, it became more, that it evolved, that it decided to join with another of its kind. They felt it failed. They got the impression it knew who sent the investigators, that it must not be taken at that time, and that it did not want to return to its masters. They felt the longing to be free. They got the indication that someone who knew how the Tri-Mnemonic Static Harmonizer worked could make it do other than simply gather information. They felt the fear that they would somehow return it to its creators but also the knowledge that they could not. They got an overwhelming feeling events that would soon take place could not be changed and they must still play out as they were remembered by the older Jacali. Marshal Pierce said the damaged Crescent was the same one he had seen in the house near Mount Diablo that had destroyed the house. “It just goes back to my feeling that we can’t change what’s going to happen,” he said. “That we have to just let it play out.” They all looked at each other. Then what are we supposed to do with you and the other Crescent on Earth? Jacali thought. They all got the impression that the Crescents wanted to leave the Earth and didn’t want to be returned to those who created them. I would love for you to leave the Earth, Jacali thought. How do I do that? Tell me, please. They could all hear these thoughts. Together, Professor Stalloid thought. “Yeah, let’s make that happen,” Marshal Pierce said. They got the impression that the Crescent didn’t know how to do so. It knew only that it could move itself, but only effectively out of a gravity field. They got the impression of the Earth pulling down and the idea that if it could get outside the area where the Earth pulled down, it could go where it wanted, at least out of reach of those that created it. They looked at the damaged Crescent. They again got the impression that the thing knew who they all were. “Who are your creators?” Dr. Weisswald said. They all saw an image of the Yithians, the creatures all of them but Marshal Pierce had seen in their journey there. They had strange devices that they used to create the Crescent. Odd machines that spewed fire and great saws run by electricity. In moments they received the impression of the building of the Crescent and, for some reason, a great deal of pain. They got the impression part of the device was organic though it was, at the same time, not organic. It was all very confusing and off-putting. “Can we actually move you?” Professor Stalloid said. They got the impression that they couldn’t move it at this time. Jack West stuck his head in the hogan. “They’re coming!” he hissed before ducking back out. “How do I find you?” Jacali said. “How am I supposed to find you or your partner? The other one.” They got the impression that it would reveal itself. “So, I’m supposed to just wait?” Jacali said. They again got the impression that they would reveal themselves. They felt that only those that sought evil or the bad or something wrong were the ones that needed to fear their touch. They saw visions of dinosaurs. They saw men in armor with helmets that some of them recognized as conquistadores. They saw the prisoners in a cave who touched the Crescent and then broke their shackles and freed their fellows. They saw a woman and realized it was Daisy, who had the Crescent. They saw an avalanche or an explosion with several bodies. She walked up to the Crescent, obviously exposed by it. It was overwhelming. * * * Outside, Jack West and Ophelia saw Warren Pierce and Naiche walking towards the hogan with Laziyah in tow. They went by the two and entered the hogan without saying a word. Jack West followed them in. Professor Stalloid pointed at Laziyah as he entered. “He told me to come in here!” he said. Naiche seemed very upset and spoke to them in Southern Athabaskan, telling them the place was terribly dangerous and they needed to get out. He told them the horn created madness in shamans and those who are close to it. He told them they had to leave. “I do not understand you,” Professor Stalloid said. A powerful image slammed into all of their heads, including Miss Fitzsimmons, who was just outside the hogan. They suddenly saw Jacali as a child and then saw her grow up to the woman she would be in 1875. They all saw her in Gravity Falls, Oregon, and her mind and the minds of others being catapulted through time into the body she was in at that moment. It further showed a child named Clayton Pierce, waving good-bye to his father and calling out “Pierces don’t cry” as he tried to hold back the tears for the very last time he would see his father They saw the man whom his mother briefly let into her life to fill the void left by his father, the man who slapped him repeatedly and told him “Pierces don’t cry,” the man whose memories he’d imprinted on his own father’s. They all felt him grow up to be a marshal, going to Gravity Falls, and suddenly plummeted into the new body. They heard his mother tell him his father had been a ranch hand who had left, rather than tell the boy his father had died. The two fathers stared at their lost children, all of the doubts dashed from their minds. Their eyes were filled with recollection. “By the way, I can probably shoot better than you with a revolver,” Jack West said. Warren Pierce ignored him, looking instead at his son and seeing the man who actually stood there and knowing exactly who he was. Naiche was staring at the man wherein his daughter’s intelligence resided. “I need to know as much as you can tell me about this thing,” she said. Naiche moved forward, arms out, and she grabbed him in a hug. He embraced her back, confused by the situation, obviously, but lacking no love for his daughter. “The horn came to the village generations ago,” Naiche said. “It fell from the sky and it could tell the future and it could sometimes guide the tribe in what they were doing, guide the village. It drove the shamans mad so someone was assigned as keeper to the shaman. I am such a keeper. When the shaman has gone so mad he must be replaced, it is my duty to determine when it happens. Sometimes it heals. Sometimes it harms. Sometimes it sees the future. Sometimes it gives information that is not clear enough for anybody to understand it until it’s all happened.” He knew it was not a god or a spirit, but they didn’t know what it was. They knew it was something else but were unsure what. They used it over the years. They tried to comfort it as it seemed mad as well. What he had learned and the lore that the other keepers had passed on was that it and the other horn or horns, they were never clear on that, wanted to be together and they wanted to be away, off the world. It had been trying to get off the world for a long time but had not been able to do so. “Good thing Terwilliger’s making a rocket,” Professor Stalloid said. “He’s making a very powerful arrow that self-propels itself into the sky.” “Why do the Yithians want it?” Dr. Weisswald asked. They all got an impression that the things were information-gathering devices that has evolved over the millennia that had become sentient. The Yithians wanted it back because they want that information. They got the impression the Yithians were epistemophiles, obsessed with collecting as much information as they possibly could about all the different eras of history and the people who inhabited them. They got the impression the creatures switched minds with people from other time periods and then had those people, while they were switched, write down everything they knew. They wanted knowledge. They got the impression the Yithians wanted to store it, preserve it, and save it. They got the idea the Crescents were supposed to help gather knowledge, one in orbit, watching, and the other two on the ground. “What will you do once you’re together?” Jacali said. They got the impression they merely wanted to leave. They didn’t want the Yithians to destroy their minds, destroy their sentience, and put them back to work as machines. They got the impression that if they could get off the Earth, they could go wherever they wanted through the universe. They did not age, so it didn’t matter how long it might take them to get there. “Why don’t they just make more?” Jack West asked. The impression that came to them was one of confusion. The Crescent didn’t know. However, the information they had gathered in the last 50 million years was substantial. They got images of various kingdoms and peoples of the world including the K’n-yanians and the Hyperboreans and Hyboreans, who seemed to be men of some kind, about Mu and Lemuria and Atlantis and other places the peoples. “Do we know why Valentine wants it?” Jack West said. They got another impression that the Crescent did not yet know but that the other Crescent did. They got the impression that something was terribly wrong with John Valentine that it could not define. It was not the madness the shamans got but something else, something terribly wrong. “Could he possibly be something like a Yithian?” Professor Stalloid asked. They again only felt confusion and missing knowledge, which seemed uncomfortable. There was something terribly wrong and the feeling of panic began to rise in the room, in all of them, a terror that was growing and growing. They felt the thing knew the Yithians were going to capture it and knew they were going to win if something was not done. As the panic increased, the Crescent began to hum. It started at a low pitch and tenor but began to quickly grow. “How do we get back to the present?” Dr. Weisswald said. Jack West and Marshal Pierce recognized the humming, which reminded them of what had happened in the cave under the house near Mount Diablo. “Everybody should probably leave,” Jack West said. “Run run run run run run!” Marshal Pierce said. Marshal Pierce grabbed his father’s hand but the man resisted. Dr. Weisswald grabbed Laziyah’s arm and pulled him towards the door as Jack West and Professor Stalloid fled. “Where we going!?!” Laziyah said with a grin. Naiche seemed torn. He obviously wanted to flee but looked back at Pierce and Marshal Pierce. Then Jacali grabbed her father by the arm and pushed him towards the entrance, yelling at him that she always kept them with him and loved them dearly. Naiche clutched the man’s hand as they ran out. Marshal Pierce tried to pull his father towards the entrance. “We have to stop it!” Pierce said. “We have to stop it!” “We can’t!” Marshal Pierce said. “We can! Just let me try.” “Okay dad.” Pierce broke away from him and ran to the Crescent. It was humming more loudly as the pitch of the hum went higher and higher and the thing began to glow. He reached down and grabbed one of the spikes and jerked it out. There was a flash and a stink of ozone and he let out a cry. The high-pitched whine stopped as he stumbled back, the glowing golden rod in his burnt right hand. “Nice one, dad,” Marshal Pierce said. His hand was badly injured and he shoved the strange rod into his belt. * * * When she got outside, Dr. Weisswald urged Ophelia to run and they heard the humming suddenly stop. Jack West and Marshal Pierce both realized the pitch stopped exactly where it had begun in the cave under the house at Mount Diablo in 1875. When they returned to the hogan, they found Warren Pierce sitting on one side, wrapping a golden rod in a piece of leather. “How do we get back to the present?” Dr. Weisswald asked. There were no impressions or images in her head. Professor Stalloid tried to tend to the man’s wounded hand and then Dr. Weisswald took over and bound the man’s hand up, applying some herbs for the pain. Otto eventually wandered over. * * * “You’re a woman, aren’t you?” Laziyah said to Dr. Weisswald. “You already told me that,” she replied. “Oh yeah!” “How do we go back to the present?” “Oh! You’ll get back … when they bring you back. Y’see, they … they have seen the future. They control the vertical. They control the horizontal.” He pointed to the hogan where the Crescent still lay. “They’ll bring you back,” he said. “They might make you forget everything.” “That would suck,” she said. “They might,” he said. “I don’t know.” * * * Both Clayton Pierce and Jacali talked to their respective fathers. They were very unusual conversations wherein the father asked little about themselves and the son or daughter did not know exactly how to respond in any case. * * * Clayton told his father the things he’d done and the man he had become. Pierce was a little disturbed by the whole thing and didn’t completely understand it. It was quiet awkward. Clayton learned his father had been a Bureau of Indian Affairs agent for the last year or so. When Clayton told him his mother had told him he was just a ranch hand who left for cigarettes one day and never came back, he had no explanation for it, unless it was to protect young Clayton. “Why?” Pierce said. “What happened? So I just … I didn’t come home?” “I don’t know what happened to you,” Clayton said. “You just never came home.” “Oh, I probably know what happened,” Jack West said, sidling up. “Maybe you should try to come home,” Clayton said. “Is this some other … person in my life?” Pierce said. “No no,” Jack West said. “Sorry to ruin this family moment, but …” “You ruin every family moment,” Clayton said. “That’s true,” Jack West said. “But … the army men that were here earlier, they aren’t really working with the army right now. They’re probably working with somebody else that wants that horn. They’re going to attack, kill everybody here. You’re probably one of them. A lot of the other Indians will die. When that happens─” Otto, who had heard the conversation, marched over and slapped Jack West hard in the face. “But anyways!” Jack West said. “Maintain the timeline!” Otto said. “When we get in a fight, just to let you know, I don’t know **** about a bow and arrow,” Jack West said. “If I could borrow a revolver?” “I have one revolver,” Pierce said. I’m not giving it to you.” “What about your friend?” Jack West said. “He’s not a family member, right?” Pierce said to Clayton. “No,” Clayton said. “God, no!” Pierce didn’t want to give him Elroy’s revolver either. “I’m a better shot than Elroy!” Jack West said. * * * Naiche asked Jacali if she wanted to tell her mother what had happened. Jacali told him she was willing to but she didn’t want to cause any pain to them or say anything that would upset her. She was fine with it if he was. He noted he was fine with it, and reminded her that her mother was a strong woman, but pointed out that it took the horn showing them the truth for him to be able to accept it. They decided to try. The two met with Jacali’s mother, Dionta, and felt her out about what they wanted to tell her. However, in the end, they both realized she was not going to believe any crazy tales about her daughter being in the body of a brave. In the end, they gave up on trying to convince her so they left to talk, just the two of them. They talked for some time. He didn’t ask any questions about himself or her mother but was glad that she was still around in 20 years. * * * Dr. Weisswald asked Ophelia if she had heard what the Crescent had talked about and she had. She had glimpsed other kingdoms of serpent people as her own was gone long before the Crescents were created and placed some 50 million years before. She didn’t know anything about places called Mu or Lemuria or Atlantis. She did tell Dr. Weisswald that when she had been alive, there had only been one great continent on the Earth. The serpent people lived among others: the K’n-yan who looked human but purported to be from space. There were also the Yithians and, far to the other side of the continent were other creatures known only as Elder Things that were on the planet for a billion years. “Aren’t you glad you stuck with us?” Jacali said jokingly. Ophelia looked at her. “If you were sent to Valusia 225 million years ago but you would live for 500 years, would you rather be there?” Ophelia said. “The only one of your kind?” “Well …” Jacali said. Ophelia stood up and left. “Wow,” Miss Fitzsimmons said. “Ungrateful.” * * * It was a beautiful and clear morning the next day when the men attacked the village. Only a few of them were in uniform, but most were without badge or symbol to identify them. The village was unprepared with many warriors and braves out hunting or foraging. Some of the men had torches to light teepees and wickiups on fire while others attacked the horses. Some attacked and killed the villagers. Major Wyatt was in the back, yelling orders, some of them in a language they’d never heard before. The soldiers seemed to coordinate with him when he called out in the strange language. However, those whose minds had been catapulted through time had overslept and were just getting around when the attack came. They found themselves separated and rushing around trying to help. * * * Ophelia’s eyes went wide when she heard the Major call out in the strange language. “That’s Aklo!” she said to Dr. Weisswald. “That’s serpent person tongue!” She started chanting something. * * * Otto looked at the invaders. They didn’t seem to have very good tactics. They were obviously trying to burn out the place and kill many people, but they didn’t seem to have a good solid plan for doing it. The Major was in the rear, shouting out orders and the rest were scattering as they attacked everyone in the village. He ran for the horses and mounted one. * * * Miss Fitzsimmons aimed and fired her musket, shooting one of the uniformed men riding nearby who swung a club at a brave. The bullet went directly through the man’s chest and, as he was hit, he seemed to shimmer and then changed. The thing on horseback more resembled some kind of smooth-skinned lizard the size of a man. It had a bulging forehead and devil horns with jaws like an alligator. It fell from its horse, it’s hat flying from its head, and crashed to the ground to lie still. * * * Marshal Pierce aimed at one of the ranch hands with the musket he’d gotten. “Die you God damned red devils!” the man yelled as he swung a torch over his head. Marshal Pierce fired and creased the man’s skull with the .50 caliber ball, the bullet entering the man’s eye and bursting out of the back of his head. He was flung backwards and crashed to the ground. * * * Jack West had hidden away in a teepee until he saw one of the attackers come by who wore a pistol. He saw a man ride by wearing a uniform who had just fired a Sharps carbine at one of the villagers. The man slung his rifle onto his shoulder and was reaching for his pistol when Jack West erupted from the teepee and rushed him, tomahawk in hand. The man saw Jack West charge at him, grinning broadly. Jack West cut off the man’s left hand and he let out a shriek as he shimmered and changed to one of the horrible reptile men. The creature drew a saber and swung at him but he fought back with the tomahawk, cutting into the horrible thing and knocking it off the horse. He reached for the .36 Colt Navy pistol on the horrible thing’s belt. He realized the weapon didn’t use cartridges but was cap and ball. He knew once he fired those six bullets, it would take roughly two minutes to reload the weapon. He was very, very disappointed. * * * “What’s the word for flee!?!” Professor Stalloid yelled at Jacali as they all ran their separate ways. Jacali shouted the name back to him and the man ran away from the soldiers and headed off to where he’d last seen Pete Sutter. He ran to the other side of the village yelling for the villagers to flee. He found Pete Sutter looking confused standing with Little Jacali. No one had told him what to expect. As soon as the little girl heard the shooting, she ran towards it. Professor Stalloid tried to intercept her but she ran right at him, tumbling to the ground and doing a somersault under his legs. “Pete!” he shouted. “You better not let her go!” The little girl rolled out of the somersault to her feet and rushed towards where all the commotion was coming from. “God damn it!” Pete Sutter, Indian Princess, said. He ran after the little girl. There were a few other children. Professor Stalloid tried to get the remaining children heading away from the combat. “Uh … uh … Jalupe … uh … Jacali! Wait!” Pete called after the little girl. * * * Jacali wanted to try to kill the Major. She felt he was behind the entire attack and was in charge. In the bright sunlight, she could actually see the shadow cast by his horse looked like a horse, though misshapen by the morning sun. However, the shadow of the man on top was not the shadow of a man. It had a tail and a long neck with a large head. It’s a serpent person, she thought. The man continued yelling orders, sometimes in English, sometimes in a language she didn’t understand. Near her, Warren Pierce had taken shelter beside one of the hogans and shot one of the attackers with his rifle. He dropped it and drew his pistol. She aimed and fired an arrow at the Major. The arrow struck the man in the chest but seemed to get caught in his coat and didn’t injure him. He looked around for his attacker and then shot Warren Pierce with a pistol. Pierce let out a yell. * * * Dr. Weisswald found one of the villagers was injured and ran to help him. She quickly wrapped the wound and the man leapt back up, grabbed a tomahawk and attacked the nearest raider. * * * Otto watched one of the ranch hands throw his torch down in disgust and ride away, obviously done with the entire attack. He rode towards one of the attackers and fired at one of them, hitting one in the shoulder. The man was badly injured and fell from his horse. There was a nasty crack as his head hit the ground and he stopped moving. * * * Miss Fitzsimmons dropped the smoking, empty musket, knowing it would take her forever to reload it. She had a war club tucked into her belt and flung it at one of the passing raiders but it flew wide and missed altogether. * * * Marshal Pierce was under fire. He moved to the man he’d gunned down and found he had a Colt Army pistol. He’d grabbed it from the body and fired at the man shooting at him. Both of them hit their targets. Marshal Pierce fell over backwards and, as he lost consciousness, saw Warren Pierce shoot the man who’d shot him. Then everything went black. * * * Jack West finally had a pistol in his hand. He fanned the Colt Navy and fired three shots, hitting three men near him. Two of the men fell off their horses while the third, while injured, managed to keep to his mount. * * * “You’re that one that always touches all the women!” one of the children said to Professor Stalloid in Southern Athabaskan. “Yeah!” another yelled at him. “Mommy says you’re a bad man,” another said. He didn’t understand so just smiled and tried to get them to flee the village. * * * Jacali shot the Major a second time but the arrow still didn’t seem to hurt him. He looked around trying to find who was shooting him but Jacali had taken cover by one of the wickiups and he hadn’t picked her out among all the gun smoke, dust, and debris in the air. * * * Warren Pierce was struck by another bullet and knocked up against the wall of the hogan. Elroy Gerhart shot one of the men who’d shot him and then ran over to Pierce. Pierce pulled out the leather-covered rod of the Crescent and pressed it into the man’s hands. Elroy shook his head and tried to tend his wounds but the man just shook his head and demanded Elroy get the rod to his son, get it to somebody who could do something with it. Elroy finally took the rod and put it in his mouth. Then he changed. In the course of a few moments, he slumped over, his jaw extended and fur rippled over his entire body. His eyes moved apart and his ears rolled up to the top of his head and sprouted gray fur. His legs seemed to break and creak and his hands and feet shrunk to paws. His clothing tore and a wolf was there. Jacali, Dr. Weisswald, and Otto all saw the terrible event. The wolf ran towards the edge of the village, leaving his clothing and guns and equipment. * * * Little Jacali ran into the terrible fray, making for the horses. Pete Sutter, in the body of the chief’s daughter, followed close behind the girl, running like a man. * * * Otto charged his horse at one of the raiders, war-club in hand. He struck a man in the head with the war club and kept riding as fast as he could. * * * Miss Fitzgerald flung her knife ineffectually at one of the raiders. * * * Jack West fan fired the last three bullets in the pistol, hitting three more men. One fell from his horse with a scream. He tossed the useless pistol away and walked through the gun smoke. * * * Jacali saw her younger self running through the terrible fight and spotted her mother running for the girl to get her away. She didn’t want to see what happened next. She didn’t want to see her mother get gunned down so she looked away and turned to fire another arrow at the Major. Ophelia had stopped chanting and was pointing at the Major. She yelled something in a language none of them understood and the man stopped and looked her direction. Then Jacali let fly her arrow and it struck the man in the neck. He shimmered as blood came from the wound. In a moment there was a serpent person in a military uniform. He looked different from Ophelia but it was undeniably a scaled serpent under the magical disguise. Miss Fitzsimmons saw the horrible thing and felt a terrible feeling well up within her. She suddenly realized everyone was trying to kill her and everyone was out to get her. The raiders, the Indians, the people who had brought her there, everyone. They were out to get her and she had to do something to stop it, anything to stop it. She turned and fled, trying to stay away from everyone. “Should I shoot him?” Dr. Weisswald yelled at Ophelia. “No!” the serpent person in the man’s body yelled back. “Wait!” Dr. Weisswald shot an arrow at one of the other raiders, hitting the man in the shoulder. He yelled profanities but didn’t fall. * * * The world seemed to be getting dim around them and a strange sensation of falling was beginning once again. Jacali realized she was losing touch with reality and being drawn back to another time. She already had an arrow ready in the bow and struggled not to leave the body she was in until she fired it. She let the arrow loose and it struck the Major once again. Unfortunately, the arrow merely struck him in the shoulder. He wasn’t dead. Then she was falling again. * * * They once again found themselves, only a for a few moments, in the strange stone room in the stone city. Miss Fitzsimmons was shrieking as the terrible things were obviously trying to get her and she saw a great fern and a dinosaur outside, as did several of them who all found it disturbing. It was all terrifying. The thing that held Jack West started screaming and flinging its pincers in the air. Then they were falling again. They all suddenly found themselves in a camp in the woods. Jack West lay on the ground, shrieking and rolling, swinging his hands in the air. Otto laughed at him. They found they were in a camp and back in their old bodies, those of them who were there.
  12. Has anyone ever linked these two scenarios? The names are of course suggestive. My idea is that the eponymous antagonist of Mt Corbitt is the grandson of Walter. But other than the vicarious thrill players would experience, can anyone suggest anything of substance that could be added?
  13. In the new Masks of Nyarlathotep, at the end of the Peru section, one of the goals presented at the end for investigator development is "Releasing Augustus Larkin from the control of Nyarlathotep". Unfortunately, there is zero guidance given on how this (probably) new group of (relatively) ignorant investigators would go about wresting physical/mental control of this human (that is rotting from the inside out due to "Nyar-sposure" and is also ensorcelled via a magical tattoo) from a powerful Mythos entity. Having pointed out those factors, while it seems like it should be a challenging task, it seems it should be attainable. I have a doctor with a backstory that lends itself to the medium psychic talent from Pulp Cthulhu, which I have just added after they brilliantly tried to get more information out of Larkin using a guided hypnotism combined with a guided ayahuasca-induced dream hallucination. This of course resulted in powerful mental contact with Nyarlathotep and they realize he is "possessed" in a sense. I was thinking that a combination of burning away the tattoo with The Golden Ward and a blood transfusion could get Larkin free, with some fair amount of blood, gore, and spell-slinging from Nyarlathotep, while requiring the Doctor to maintain contact with Larkin's mind throughout the process. 1 - Does that sound like too much? 2 - Does anyone else have any good ideas?
  14. Black-Seal-Editor

    Presentation of CoC skills?

    I'm knee deep in converting 6e material 7e, and I've been following what Chasoium did in the rule book and early books: combat skills with regular/hard/extreme values and normal skills with the straight regular value. Now I've seen a few recent books from various publishers where the normal skills also have regular/hard/extreme values. This is a logical development as that's how the ruleset works, and with a spreadsheet, as I'm currently using, isn't that hard to implement. However, I'd like to ask the audience what they prefer as they are the end user after all. And Chaosium are there guidelines for statblock presentation?
  15. We are pleased to show off the cover of our release for Free RPG Day, coming up in June. SCRITCH SCRATCH is by Lynne Hardy, our associate line editor for Call of Cthulhu. It's a modern-day scenario which includes six ready-to-play investigators and a whole mess of rats. Look out for it at participating FLGSs on Free RPG Day! Cover art is by Joel Holtzman.
  16. Greetings, I'm looking for some advice on how to approach tasks that cannot be completed during the session, or during the length of the scenario even. Last winter I wanted to try role-playing and convinced some friends to play CoC (7th edition). So far I've just run the introductory scenario The Haunting (which went well I think) and now we're at the middle of another scenario. I have no tabletop role-playing experience beyond that and thus have some trouble seeing the bigger picture. I am wondering about handling tasks that take a lot of time to accomplish - things like reading tomes, learning and casting spells, also recovering sanity. According to the rulebook these tasks can take days, sometimes many weeks. My main question is that if it takes weeks or more to accomplish something that is also unreliable and bad for your sanity, then how should I play this out and sell this to players? Considering that using magic is dangerous and complicated, why would a player even pick up a tome or learn a spell unless it is tied specifically to some mystery at hand? This doesn't seem to fit well with shorter, independent scenarios. and I have trouble integrating these into my game since as a beginner I don't really want to commit to a bigger campaign just yet. Similarily, what happens if the character enters the sanitarium in the middle of a scenario to recover sanity? How would I handle this? Is he/she out of the game for now and the player would need to create a new character if he/she wants to keep playing or what possibilities are here? Or do you come up with some asylum sub-plot or find something else for the player to do? Any tips are appreciated.
  17. The Miskatonic Repository community content program continues to grow thanks to support from creators far and wide. Here are seven new releases this #MiskatonicMonday, including scenarios (one in English and French), props, a setting book, and an one adventure that even comes in two versions; full color, and a B&W "print-friendly" version... https://www.chaosium.com/blogmiskatonic-monday-seven-new-releases/ WHAT IS THE MISKATONIC REPOSITORY? Are you a Keeper looking for new scenarios and story elements? A player looking for something mysterious to spark a character idea? Is your group looking for eerie ideas to use in your game? The Miskatonic Repository is where you can find —and create —self-published material for the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game. Interested in submitting content? Go here to see the guidelines, and here for the additional guidelines. No extra license is required. Get started and download the MS Word template or the InDesign template for Miskatonic Repository submissions, and check out our other free creator resources. [URLs unobfuscated. ~Mod.]
  18. Max_Writer

    The Beast Under the Bed

    Sunday, September 16, 2018 (After playing the Call of Cthulhu Down Darker Trails Catastrophe Engine Campaign scenario “The Beast Under the Bed” adapted from the scenario by Michael C. LaBossiere from Challenge Magazine #77 today from 12:40 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. with Yorie Latimer, Ben Abbot, John Leppard, and James Brown.) Brandon Stalloid had left the others when they reached Denver, Colorado, back on August 16, 1875, making arrangements to have the huge dinosaur skull, which he had dubbed Formidulosaurus (and nicknamed the Dio Dino) shipped to San Francisco by train. He, of course, accompanied it, taking Night Horse with him to Salt Lake City on the way and giving the native enough money for the train south to Santaquin so he could make his way back to the Uintah Indian Reservation. He returned to San Francisco on August 21, 1875, almost immediately going to the local police to report the murder of the derelict Wormy in Hilton Springs, Nevada. When police suggested he would have to report such a murder to the authorities in Nevada, he related Lambert Otto’s attack on him in Chinatown in early June. They took information of the man’s name and description. He made arrangements to show the dinosaur skull to try to raise funds for an expedition to the valley where he’d found it. He sent invitations out to notable scholars, professors, and even businessmen. He remained vague on where he had found the skull, other than “the west.” The scientific community did not believe the man. They were less than impressed with the skull, many citing it as a forgery only slightly better than the Cardiff Giant or the Mark Twain’s Petrified Man hoax of the 1860s. Though still in debate about the Calaveras Skull, some thought that a fake as well. His most vocal opponent was Professor Leonard Brown, who taught history at the University of California in Berkeley. Brown claimed the skull was a fake and Stalloid was a snake oil salesman and carnival barker who was trying to make a quick buck just like P.T. Barnum. He said he would be more willing to believe Stalloid devised some kind of bone solvent that allowed him to melt down and recast bones in different shapes than believe the man found or fought and killed a real dinosaur. He was very vocal in how he felt. Professor Stalloid volunteered to have his property searched for the alleged bone solvent but the man refused. He also noted he didn’t even deal in snake oil as he preferred to work with opium. He called P.T. Barnum a civil-rights disaster. Other scholars were not as vocal but, overall, the scientific community seemed very doubtful. At one of the meetings, he met Philip Sanbourne, a man in his 30s who wore pince-nez glasses and was very neatly dressed in an expensive suit with a high collar. He chatted with Professor Stalloid, who learned he was the son of the recently deceased Carlton Sanbourne II, the fishing magnate and canning millionaire. Carlton Sanbourne II had died earlier that year and left his recently-built mansion and grounds, as well as his world-famous collection of Pacific antiquities, to the state under a self-perpetuating foundation to establish a museum in Santiago, California. Philip Sanbourne noted he was presently working with the newly formed and named Sanbourne Institute of Pacific Antiquities and in San Francisco to initiate proceedings for a possible expedition to the Pacific in the summer of 1876. When Professor Stalloid asked if he was searching for a lost city, he noted his father had brought back many artifacts from Polynesia and Ponape and the Pacific. Philip wanted to continue research and examination of the Pacific Islands. When he learned Professor Stalloid’s find was in the Continental United States, he noted it was not necessarily what he was looking for, but he did seem to believe Professor Stalloid and was very interested in his find. He didn’t have the funds to help Professor Stalloid with his expedition but he invited Professor Stalloid to visit him and the Institute if he was ever down in Santiago, which was in San Diego County on the coast. Professor Stalloid asked him how much he needed for his expedition and they discussed the possibility of helping each other in their respective expeditions. They both resolved to meet again to discuss it in a few months. Another person who had come to all of the meetings, especially those serving food, was Emperor Norton I, the Emperor of America. He was resplendent in his uniform and his stovepipe beaver hat with three ostrich plumes clasped to the front to symbolize his dominion. Emperor Norton was some 57 years old and had proclaimed himself Emperor of the United States in 1859. Though he had no political power, he was treated deferentially by the city of San Francisco, walking the streets of his capitol like a monarch though he lived in a flophouse on Sacramento Street. He even issued currency in his own name that was honored in the establishments he frequented. Though some considered him mad or eccentric, the citizens of the city of San Francisco celebrated him and his proclamations. He had called for the United States Congress to be dissolved and made numerous decrees for a bridge connecting San Francisco to Oakland and a corresponding tunnel to be built under San Francisco Bay. He complimented Professor Stalloid on his lecture and patted the dinosaur skull carefully. He was quite impressed with Professor Stalloid and noted if the Empire of America were in a better financial state, he would fund his expedition to the wilds the West himself. He regretted he could only give him a few dollars of his own handmade money in order to help in what little way he can. Professor Stalloid accepted the money graciously, noting he might be able to put it into a savings account and use the interest in a few years. “It is doing better than the dollar,” Emperor Norton said. “It is,” Professor Stalloid said. They shook hands and Emperor Norton told him he looked forward to his next talk about the skull. * * * Professor Stalloid was visited in his home by Yan Min, the leader of the Rightful Spirit Tong, who still insisted the man pay him for the damages to his people and establishment when they had hunted the demon in Chinatown in May. The cost had gone up to $7,000 due to interest over the months. “Ah, sir, if you could lend me a few hands, I could find … 20,000 … 50,000 … dollars more,” Professor Stalloid said. “Where is this?” Yan Min said. “Where?” “It’s off in the desert.” “That skull thing that you’re trying to sell people.” “Treasure. Yes. But alive. Think about how good your organization could run with a monster of non-supernatural means.” Yan Min just wanted the money. “They had human-sized ones with claws …” Professor Stalloid said. “Uh-huh.” “… the size of my hand!” “Yes yes, pull the other one, it has bells on.” He didn’t seem to believe the man though he had summoned a demon himself. But Yan Min thought the man was lying as he didn’t want to pay the money he owed the tong. “Money is of no consequence!” Professor Stalloid cried out. Yan Min made it very clear that if he paid him the money he owed him, he might be more susceptible to working with the man in the future. He was very polite though the conversation was filled with more veiled threats about his demon. He also expressed an interest in Lambert Otto, who he understood was the same man who attacked another of his men. Professor Stalloid told him he’d make him a deal. “I want this Otto-man brought to justice too,” he said. “He tried to kill me that night.” “Uh-huh,” Yan Min said. “How about, I will help you in his capture and we will settle on 4,000.” “Bring him to me, captured, and we’ll settle for 3,000.” “He is a very dangerous man.” “Exactly. I’m not going to risk any more of my men.” “I … I do not fight.” They agreed that if Professor Stalloid brought Otto to Yan Min alive, he would abide by that agreement. * * * Though Professor Stalloid read about the kidnapping of Marion Terwilliger in the papers and planned to do something about it at some point, he ended up far too busy and it slipped his mind. * * * On August 25, he finished studying the Command Ghost spell he had found in Mysteries of the Worm, the book they had found when they had investigated the strange murders in Midnight, California, in early May. He was confident he knew how to cast the spell, which would allegedly compel a ghost to come forth to answer specific questions. The spell had to be performed at night by pouring a mammal’s blood on the grave or ashes of the dead person the caster wished to contact while chanting the spell for 10 minutes. That evening, he went to one of the cemeteries in San Francisco in one of the better neighborhoods. He had gotten some fresh rabbit’s blood in Chinatown on the way. He found a grave of a rather prominent businessman who had died the previous week in the corner of the cemetery out of the way. The man’s name was Randolph Carter. He poured the blood onto the grave and then chanted quietly for 10 minutes. The figure that appeared over the grave was of a heavyset man in an expensive-looking suit. He huffed and puffed for a moment, clearing his throat. Professor Stalloid was a little unnerved by the fact that he could see through the man. “Do you remember anything after death?” he asked. “What’s the afterlife like?” “What afterlife?” Carter replied. “How does it feel to be here for this spectacular occasion?” “What spectacular occasion?” “You’re here.” “I’m dead. Find a way to bring me back! Yes, bring me back!” “I’m working on it.” “Bring me back!” “I’m working on it.” “All right, I’ll hold it to you to bring me back! I’ll reward you handsomely.” “Did you hide any money?” The ghost told him that he had hidden money in various hiding places within his mansion, but was very certain his relatives would have found it. He didn’t have any money buried in a hidden place. “Any messages you want me to pass along?” Professor Stalloid asked. “Tell my daughter not to trust her cousin Silas,” the ghost said. He said he would and then said the words to end the spell. The ghost vanished. * * * Professor Stalloid learned the next day, August 26, the daughter of Randolph Carter was Amelia. She was the beneficiary of most of his estate. He warned the girl that he had heard some bad things about her cousin Silas and she said she would take it under advisement. He told her he knew her father and he warned him before he died. * * * Later that same day, there was a knock on Professor Stalloid’s door. He found Li Wei, the lawyer from Chinatown he and the others had dealt with in May. He carried a simple briefcase. “Oh, you’ve finished the scroll,” Professor Stalloid said. “Yes,” Li Wei said. “Yes, I have finished the scroll.” Professor Stalloid ushered the man into the house and his study. Mr. Li had the original Chinese scroll. He also had a manila folder filled with papers, a manuscript in English with the entirety of the contents of the scroll. He told the other man it was the only copy in English. “Is there … is there anything extra I could do for you?” Professor Stalloid said. “Well, there is your fee,” Li said. “I know! I’m going to do that. But I am very gracious … for what you’ve done for me. I know that it was … a very big toll on your mind. Believe me, I know. I’ve been reading too.” “There is no charge. But … you must agree … to fulfill a favor for me at some point in the future.” “Would you like to hold onto the scroll itself as a measure of face to you and a show of respect to your culture?” “Yes.” “That is yours.” Li Wei also told him there was an alleged spell in the book that allowed one to raise the dead. Then he left. Professor Stalloid immediately settled down to begin studying the manuscript. * * * Jacali had been away from Devil’s Gulch on August 21 when Matilda Terwilliger had come to find the others and beg them to help her find her kidnapped father. After Lambert Otto had told Jacali about the Crescent being held by the gypsy woman, and getting as much information as possible, she had gone in search of the woman and the gypsy vardo east of the town. When she returned, she found that Ophelia was sick, learned of Matilda Terwilliger having been there and left with Otto, and learned Dr. Weisswald had not gone to help the woman as she didn’t feel the serpent person could travel safely. Jacali asked around town and continued her investigation. According to the townsfolk, the woman named Daisy was an Indian half-breed, and small with dark hair and eyes. She was very pretty and wore a white hat. She read palms and gave fortunes. She also gave out potions that people said was some kind of magical water. One old woman in town claimed she had a bad kidney and had been p***ing blood, but it started working again after she drank the elixir. No one knew where she went or where she was from. Most of them didn’t talk much to her as she was a stranger. She was only in town a couple days. The vardo was pulled by a horse while another was tied behind it. No one saw her leave town though people guessed she went east as she hadn’t passed through town before she left it. * * * Cost of the train ticket was more money than Jacali had but Lily Jones leant her $52 for the trip back to San Francisco with her horse. She was hesitant to take it but Lily pointed out it was just a loan and she trusted the other woman to pay her back. She left Devil’s Gulch on August 23, arriving in San Francisco on August 28. She decided to go to Professor Stalloid’s house. Not one to worry about propriety and remembering Professor Stalloid had invited them all back whenever they were in San Francisco, she arrived at the property, took her horse, Nalin, to the stable behind the house, put her in a stall, and rubbed her down. She let herself in the back door, which opened into a large kitchen where the little old Chinese woman who lived with Professor Stalloid was cooking dinner. She waved at the other woman. “Study,” the Chinese woman said, pointing towards the front of the house. She went back to her cooking. Jacali found Professor Stalloid in the study in the front of the house that overlooked the street. He was at his desk, furiously studying a manuscript, his hair a mess and eyes bloodshot from lack of sleep. “Ah, Mr. Stalloid,” she said. “It seems you have been enthralled with this new Jane Austin novelist that I’ve heard so much about.” “No no no no no no no no no no no no no,” Professor Stalloid said quickly. “This is that - this is that - this it that - this is that manuscript! It’s the Chinese man’s manuscript! It’s good. It’s good. This is what I was looking for!” “Oh, I remember.” “This is what I wanted. This is what I desired. This is it. This is it. This is it. This is it.” “And what, pray tell, Mr. Stalloid, is it that it is?” “The secret of the gods.” Jacali looked at the man. “The secret of the gods?” she said. “The key to the gate,” Professor Stalloid said. “The key to the gate? Well, I just came in through the back door, I didn’t need a key.” “The key to the golden gate.” “The golden gate? That’s a very expensive gate.” “I found it. I can save them.” “Excuse me, Mr. Stalloid, you’re going to have to give me a few more details.” “I can save them.” “You can save who? From what? “Everyone.” “You can save everyone?” “Everyone.” “From what?” “It.” “Well, whenever I come down with this ‘it’ I will go straight to you.” “One of the two. The inevitable.” “The inevitables?” “Yes. Taxes─” “You mean death and white people?” “I’ve become like your shaman. I can speak with the ancestors.” “Well good. Tell them the place is awful and they should stay up there.” “Oh, there is no ‘up there.’” “Then how do you talk to them? It doesn’t make any sense.” “Yep.” Professor Stalloid called for Chun Zhi Ruo. The old Chinese lady entered the study moments later. He asked her to bring him some coffee as he needed to calm him nerves. She patted his back and left as he gathered up the manuscript papers and tucked them back into the folder. Then he went to a safe in the corner of the room and opened it up, tucking the papers within next to his locked research book and locking the safe. “So, Mr. Stalloid, have you heard anything about─?” Jacali said. “Terwilliger!” Professor Stalloid said. “Yes, have you heard anything about Terwilliger?” “I was about to go visit him. I saw it in the papers that he’s been found.” “Oh. Very good. Seems like my work here is done.” The newspaper had been very vague on what happened to Terwilliger aside from the fact that he had been rescued by Clayton Pierce and that the house near Mount Diablo he’d been imprisoned in had exploded or fallen into a sinkhole. Jacali asked Professor Stalloid if he knew anything about the Crescent or its whereabouts or where Terwilliger might be so she could ask him the same. “Didn’t the Crescent go in the water?” Professor Stalloid said. “Well, it appeared at Devil’s Gulch not too long ago,” Jacali said. “Someone was carrying it but I haven’t been able to track them down. Do you know why Terwilliger was kidnapped?” “No. Never went.” “Hm. Well, do you know where he is now?” “No.” “No?” “No.” “Does he have a permanent address?” “Yeah, I know where he lives. We can go visit him.” * * * The trip across the bay to Oakland took them a few hours. Professor Stalloid had brought his high-wheel bicycle. He had it imported from France only the year before though he’d learned to ride on the Michaeux “velocipede” or “boneshaker.” The type of vehicle was called the “ordinary” as there was no other kind. The front wheel was over 48 inches tall and the back wheel less than a fifth that size. There was a metal extension towards the back of the vehicle, the “step” which allowed the bicyclist to mount the massive machine. Jacali had brought her horse. Professor Stalloid used the step to push the bicycle forward and then stepped up and onto the pedals of the wheel. Jacali kept up with her horse at a trot. “How the hell do you balance on that?” she asked the man who sat proudly on the tall bicycle. “It’s about like riding a horse,” he said. “The horse rides itself half the time.” “Yeah. That’s what the bike’s doing!” “All right.” The Terwilliger farm was a few miles outside of Oakland and took them about an hour to get to. It stood by a mile-wide lake and consisted of a tidy, two-story farmhouse and a large barn and corral. There was also a chicken coop. A tall wooden and metal tower stood near the barn and was connected to it via wires. A rounded metallic device the size of a wagon was atop it. More wires led into the woods nearby and they could hear the gurgle of a creek or stream there. On the lake near the farm was a 50-foot-tall tower with a platform atop it. Under a tree in the yard was Lambert Otto. He sat on a blanket, his arm in a sling, and had his Winchester in pieces, cleaning it. They saw Jack West sitting by the lake, fishing. Jacali rode over to Otto while Professor Stalloid rode to the barn, where the sound of metal banging on metal came from. * * * Otto had returned the incapacitator to Professor Terwilliger and asked the man how it worked. When the professor started to explain it, he interrupted him. “I’m not asking how it works, Terwilliger,” he said. “I’m asking how I can actually use it.” Professor Terwilliger pointed out the button installed on the side of the devil’s lamp. “How do you aim this thing?” Otto asked. “Aha!” Professor Terwilliger said. “That’s the question! That is the ten dollar question. I haven’t worked that out yet. I barely worked out the science that runs the thing.” “Hm,” Otto said. “You mind if I keep one of these for the time being, or …?” Professor Terwilliger was willing to let the man borrow one of the things. “I feel like something that could incapacitate people might be useful,” Otto said. “It can also give them a heart attack and kill ‘em,” Professor Terwilliger said. “Keep that in mind.” “Matilda did not mention that when I borrowed it before,” Otto said. Professor Terwilliger noted it only held six charges but he’d have to return to the farm to get it recharged. * * * Jack West had talked to Professor Terwilliger about increasing the range of his pistols. Professor Terwilliger suggested possibly a scope, though it probably wouldn’t work on a pistol. He suggested he might be able to do something but he’d need the pistol for a while. West had given him one of his back-up pistols and the man had taken it away to the barn. * * * “Hello Otto,” Jacali said. “Hello Jacali,” Otto said. “Stalloid.” “It seems you’re making use of your time again.” “Indeed.” “What has happened since I’ve been away.” “Oh boy. This is a little long, but I can explain it to you, Jacali, if you want.” “Just give me what I need to know.” “All right. From what I heard from everyone else, we’ve tracked the Crescent down … well, a Crescent … down to a house near Mount Diablo─” “Excuse me?” “A Crescent.” “A Crescent?” “There are multiples.” “There are multiple Crescents!?!” “Yes.” Jacali looked up at the sky in frustration and flung her arms up in the air. “There are multiple Crescents,” Otto said. “We had one of the spikes … from some … monsters? They wouldn’t touch silver. Over there.” He pointed across the lake. A quarter of the way around the water sat another farm amid the trees. “But, we found Jack West there, well, they did,” Otto said. “I wasn’t down there when they encountered him. I mean John Valentine.” “Was he looking for the Crescent?” Jacali said. “Well, he had one there.” “He had one!?!” “A damaged one.” “A …?” “It was scorched, you know how metal gets scorched when exposed to intense heat?” “Yes.” “But, from what I heard from them. There were two kids there too. And some bandits. But anyway, Jack West was there. I mean John Valentine.” “So Jack West and John Valentine were looking for the Crescent, they had a blackened Crescent, and they were carrying two kids and bandits with them.” “Jack West was.” “Jack West was? Otto put his head in his hands. He had meant John Valentine. “What’s the difference?” he said. He looked at the woman again. “John Valentine,” he said. “But, anyway, so, there were two bandits there. I forget their names. One of them was … mentally deranged. But what I hear was, he put the … the Crescent was missing a spike and he put the spike in the Crescent and then disintegrated. And then … everything around it started to disintegrate, from what I hear, and that’s what happened to the house: the Crescent disintegrated it and just left a hole. I’m not sure what happened to Valentine. I wasn’t down there when it happened. I was ... nursing a dislocated shoulder from my … brave heroics.” He rolled his eyes. “Well Otto, you know I am a fan of your heroics,” Jacali said. “But you said you had a horn from the Crescent … or a spike?” “A spike, yes,” Otto said. “Where is it? How were you holding it?” “Well, Jack West … I got it right this time …” “So, actual Jack West, not John Valentine?” Otto pointed at the man by the lake, lying on his back and fishing, his black hat low over his eyes. “Yeah,” Otto said. “Not Jack North,” Jacali said. “Not Jack South.” “Jack West and Clayton Pierce …” “Jack West and Clayton Pierce.” “… held it and nothing happened to them. And it pointed towards the Crescent. The one that Valentine had.” “Hm.” “Like a compass. You could hold it on your hand the spike would point towards where it was.” “Interesting. And who has it now?” “Well, I assume John Valentine, assuming he didn’t die when─” “So, John Valentine did capture the last …” “Yes, but …” “But, the spike.” “I don’t think you’re quite understanding what I’m saying.” “Okay. So, let me tell you what I got so we’re both on the same page. So, John Valentine came through town with a dirty Crescent, two kids, and a bandit. So, you three, heroic men, fought John Valentine─” “And two women. One Chinese.” “Heroic men and two women. Didn’t cast aspersions, you just didn’t tell me about them so you can’t blame me for that one.” “You said only the important facts. I don’t think you cared who was there.” He went pale. “No, no, no!” he said. “I meant … no! Jacali! Wait. Wait wait. I meant … you wanted to know what happened with the Crescent. Who was there was a secondary fact.” “Okay,” Jacali said. “So, they all were there. They fought for the Crescent. John Valentine … you almost got me doing the same thing … John Valentine ran off with the Crescent─” “No! Okay. Okay so, his lackey put the spike in the Crescent …” “And it dissolved everything.” “… the Crescent started to hum and … I think glow … and then everything … it started to radiate a field that started to tear everything it touched apart.” “So, where it is now?” “I don’t know. Because, as I said, everything around it─” “Everything disintegrated.” “Yes.” “Have you examined the wreckage though?” “I couldn’t see anything in the bottom of the hole it left.” “It was that deep?” “It destroyed the house! And the house was underground. I mean … where it was, was underneath the house. And it destroyed the house on top.” “So, we haven’t cleared out the wreckage from the house, but theoretically, it’s under there.” “There was nothing left. Nothing.” “It’s gone!” Jack West, who had strolled up, said. “Valentine’s gone!” “So, it’s just gone?” Jacali said. “Everything’s gone,” Otto said. “So, where did John Valentine go?” “Dead. He could’ve fled. I don’t know what happened.” “I heard him chanting something strange,” Jack West said. Jacali noticed the man for the first time and started visibly. She had been concentrating so hard, trying to figure out Otto’s story, she hadn’t even noticed him approach. “Oh, Jack West, you’re here,” she said. “And if it isn’t my second-favorite injun,” Jack West said. “Oh, I’m your second now,” Jacali said. “Who’s your favorite?” “Uh … Walks-with- … uh … Rains?” Jack West said. He had forgotten Rhymes-with-Wolf’s name. “So, John Valentine is missing,” Jacali said. “The Crescent is missing … or maybe in the hole.” “One of the Crescents,” Otto said. “Oh yeah, the second Crescent,” Jack West said. “The second …” Jacali said. “The damaged one,” Otto said. “What happened with the spike you all touched? Somebody put it back in the Crescent?” “Yes.” “It’s gone!” Jack West growled. “It’s gone,” Jacali said. “So, it’s with the Crescent if it’s still somewhere,” Otto said. “Damn, it looked valuable,” Jack West said. “Terwilliger is okay?” Jacali said. “Yes, he’s fine,” Otto said. “Oh! I forgot. I know you’d want to hear about this.” “Oh.” “We had a talk with one of the agents of the …” He made a claw shape with his hand. “Oh!” Jacali said. “… people,” Otto said. “And we’re supposed to meet him in Gravity Falls in October.” “Some all-knowing being or something,” Jack West said. “Sounds interesting.” “I set up the meeting,” Otto said. “October first.” “Well, let me tell you, I have a very large selection of choice words for those little clicky-clacky slug people,” Jacali said. “Well, apparently you’ll get to meet one of them,” Otto said. “Whoa, slug people?” Jack West said. “Oh. Yeah. Don’t worry about it, Jack West,” Jacali said. Jack West looked at the woman. “Eh, I won’t,” he said. Jacali was interested in examining the remains of the house and Otto noted it was on the other side of Mount Diablo. Jack West told them he had to make a trip to Colorado. Jacali asked how long it would take to get to Gravity Falls but Otto wasn’t sure. He handed Jacali $50. “Why are you giving me $50?” she asked. “For the horse,” Otto said. “You said to pay you back.” “I did,” Jacali said, taking the money. * * * In the barn, Professor Terwilliger had a pistol in a vice connected to an anvil and was banging away at it with a hammer. He whistled as he worked. Professor Stalloid walked over behind the man to look at his work. It appeared that he was attempting to lengthen the already fairly long barrel of the pistol. Professor Terwilliger was startled when he finally noticed the other man. “Oh!” he said. “Professor Stalloid! How nice of you to come.” “How was the kidnapping?” Professor Stalloid said. “Not as pleasant as I would like it to be.” “It usually isn’t.” “No no no. John Valentine grabbed me. He wanted me to examine a Crescent that he had, you see.” “Ah, the Crescent. I thought that fell in a river.” “Not ‘the.’ A Crescent.” “Oh.” “This one was scorched on the side. I think it was in orbit.” “Ah.” “I had a vision.” “Reentry.” “Exactly! Must be a lot of heat with that kind of speed. Some of your friends, that Jack West fellow and Lambert Otto …” “I know him. He’s my bodyguard.” “And a couple of ladies. I didn’t get … there was a Chinese, I didn’t get her name.” “Weisswald?” “But … uh …” “Gemma Jones?” “No no no. This was Johanna …” Professor Terwilliger snapped his fingers several times. “Johanna …? he said. “I don’t remember her last name. Matilda will remember it. They came in and they rescued me. He had kidnapped a couple of kids. And he was going to torture them if I didn’t help him so … what are you going to do?” “You can’t let people torture children!” Professor Stalloid said. “You can’t let people torture children.” “You just cannot!” “So, I found─” “Grown men, yes. But not children.” “He found it a year and a half ago, back in 1874.” “What?” “He found this thing!” “Why was he after the other one!?! If he already had one!” “Because it didn’t work!” “Ah.” “It was missing one of the spikes. You know the little spikes? On the Crescent?” “Yeah.” “It was a hole. It was blue in there. It put off a lot of energy, a lot of really strange energy. Some I couldn’t even analyze. And … tried to figure out what I could. And your friends showed up, and they had one of the spikes. And he had one of his boys put it in, and that was a bad thing, I think. I would have advised against it, but I was being held at gunpoint.” “Yeah, a whole Crescent is quite powerful.” “Well, this one … well, the man disappeared. Came apart.” “He unraveled at the seams?” “Yes, and there was nothing left. Although you could taste blood, bile─” “In the air? How foul.” “Yes. Jack West shot at it: the Crescent.” “The fool!” “The bullet did the same thing! It stopped in midair and it unraveled and I could taste gunpowder and lead.” “Do you think it was … atomized.” “Maybe. I believe it was knocking down to a molecular level. Very fascinating. I wish I could have studied it. But everything was disintegrating so I ran, as did we all. Actually, Jack West saved my life. Grabbed me and got me out of there.” “He’ll do that from time to time.” “I appreciated it. So, the whole house was destroyed and collapsed. I’m guessing the Crescent blew itself up. Well, discorporated.” “Maybe it dematerialized itself.” “Exactly. Dematerialized. That’s my guess. But it’s not the only one! Because he found that one almost two years ago. The one we found in Yellow Flats from 50 million years ago, we only found six months ago. There’s more than one! The other one’s out there somewhere. Still. Jack wanted me to fix up one of his guns. Give it more range.” Professor Stalloid had noticed the strange devices in the room. He saw two wheeled vehicles with steam engines mounted upon them as well as more of the lightning guns and some demon lamps. A few pairs of the wings hung upon the walls as well. Professor Stalloid asked if he drew up some blueprints, could Professor Terwilliger use his mechanical expertise to help him make something. Professor Terwilliger agreed and asked what, to which Professor Stalloid asked for time to “fathom its mechanisms first.” Professor Terwilliger assured the man he wouldn’t steal any of his ideas. Professor Stalloid noted they could go into a partnership upon it. Professor Terwilliger showed him around the barn, noting the quadro-velocepedes he was working on. Professor Stalloid asked to the see the blueprints for them and Professor Terwilliger was more than willing to allow him access. It was an efficient steam engine attached to a stagecoach frame, less the actual coach body. Instead, a wicker basket-like device had been added along with a steering tiller on the left. There were two seats for riders along with the steam engine, which sat behind them. Jacali, Otto, and Jack West entered the barn. “Oh, Jack West!” Professor Stalloid said. “I do need to give you your payment. I do not have any laudanum on me right now. Fresh out.” “I was just coming to ask you about that,” Jack West said. “I’ll get you at my house.” “Good.” * * * Professor Terwilliger had atlases and maps in his house. They looked over them and found the easiest way to get to Gravity Falls, which lay in the badlands of eastern Oregon, was to take a train from Oakland to Winnemucca, Nevada, and then travel overland from there, passing through the towns of Quiet Gap and Pleasant Valley before crossing the badlands for most of the trip until they reached Gravity Falls. They guessed the trip to Winnemucca would only take about a day. The cross-country trek on horseback would probably take closer to 10 days on horseback if they didn’t run into any other difficulties. If they gave themselves a couple of weeks for the entire journey, it should be enough. Jack West thought about sending a telegram to White River where he had left the Formidulosaurus skin to be tanned and made into a poncho but realized the town had no telegraph station or line. He wondered about sending a message some other way but realized mail would take some time. The best and quickest way to get his poncho would be to go himself. A little calculation indicated it was nearly four days to Denver via train, another two days to white river and back. Professor Stalloid asked Professor Terwilliger if he had a spare camera he could borrow. Professor Terwilliger didn’t as he’d converted them all to static generators. He only bought cameras to use the outer casing as it felt right for the devices. Professor Stalloid asked if he got Jack West a camera when he went to White River, Colorado, could he take the camera with him and take photographs of the bones of the dinosaur they had killed. Jack West was willing to do it. “I could look for it,” Jack West said. “Don’t waste too much time,” Professor Terwilliger said. “But … uh … my time’s not free.” “Of course. We’re going back to San Francisco first. I could muscle up some payment.” “How much we looking at?” “How much can you carry?” Jack West looked at the man. “I like you,” he said. He didn’t know laudanum was relatively inexpensive at about 35 cents for four ounces, and easy to come by. He was still convinced it was very expensive and either illegal or only available from a doctor since he had gotten addicted to it while in the hospital. Professor Stalloid was happy to let him keep thinking that. * * * Jacali and Otto went to investigate the destroyed farm. With the white man’s help, they were able to find the ranch in a day. There were no cattle or other animals at the place and Otto told her the place was not really used. A sinkhole about 30 feet across and eight feet deep was where Otto said the house had stood. There was no debris or anything in the pit. She was unsure if it would be safe to enter the pit and she asked Otto if anyone had gone into it. He said no one had. He noted they had just left. “I wonder if the Crescent fell into the hole and things fell in on top of it and its buried there,” she said. “It could be,” Otto said. “Or …” “If nobody’s come around, I guess it’s safe.” “I’m not sure … I almost said West again … I’m not sure if Valentine went with it though, because there was a cave exit he was standing next to and he could have ran down there when it happened, from what I heard.” “Sure.” “But if you want to go down there, I might have some rope to shimmy yourself down there.” “Oh. Brilliant. But I think if we go down there it would be to dig.” “I don’t have a shovel.” “I don’t either.” “There is a hotel on Mount Diablo that might have a shovel if you want to dig.” They searched the barn and found some tools, including shovels. They decided to tie off Jacali and she walked down to the bottom of the hole. It felt very solid but they spent some time digging and found some debris but little else. She found the finger of an old person as well. “Hey Otto!” she called out. “Does this look familiar to you?” “Jack West,” he said. Jacali looked at the finger. “You think he wants it back?” she said. “That’s from someone he killed,” Otto said. “Oh. Do you think he wants it back?” “I don’t know. You might understand the enigma of Jack West better than I do.” “He’ll want this.” They spent the night at the Mountain House Hotel and then returned to Terwilliger’s Farm the next day. * * * Over the next week or so, Professor Stalloid worked on blueprints for a two-wheeled electric vehicle. He had examined the electric motor he had found in Midnight and taken notes on the device, using it as a template for his own ideas. He also sent word to Midnight to have the motor from the hearse brought there. He had already removed it for study so it was easy to ship it back to San Francisco. Though he could not figure out the motor himself, he brought them to Oakland to show Professor Terwilliger. Professor Terwilliger was very excited at the motor, citing it was exactly what he needed for the airship, an improvement on the French design, that he wanted to build. He thought it perfect for the airship as it was light, used batteries, which he could recharge or possibly replace with the static generators, and small. He and Professor Stalloid set to work on building and improving the engines. * * * Jack West took the train to Denver, rented a horse and headed to White River P.O. He went out into the wilderness first, looking for the dinosaur bones, but only found them after tromping around in the wilderness for an extra day. When he found them, he took several photographs of the ones that remained as best he could from the instructions on how to work the camera and tripod Professor Stalloid had given him. Then he made his way back to White River P.O. Rueben Fielding had the dinosaur skin poncho ready for the man. The leather was over an inch thick and the entire poncho was uncomfortably heavy. However, Jack West guessed it would slow bullets that might hit him in the chest or abdomen though the sides were wide open. He had a little trouble moving in it, as it weighed him down, but not to the point where he was disappointed with the purchase. He paid the man the $20 he had promised and headed back for Denver the next day, taking the train back to San Francisco. * * * Otto asked Professor Terwilliger about the man he had mentioned to him once before: a surgeon who specialized in facial reconstruction surgery. Professor Terwilliger told him the man he knew about lived in Boston and the procedure was experimental but might be able to smooth out Otto’s scar. He also took the time to deposit the $1,000 in the bank he had earned in Devil’s Gulch for killing Charles Allen, one of Jack Valentine’s lieutenants. He also went into Oakland to try to find a gypsy or someone with mystical powers to help him determine if he was somehow cursed. Jacali had advised him to look out for that woman Daisy and, if he found her, to contact her as she wanted to see the woman who allegedly had the Crescent. He tried to get Jacali’s advice on where to find a medicine man or gypsy or something. She suggested the poor part of a town or the edge of town. “Otherwise I could probably do a good enough job,” she said. “But it’s about the …” Otto said. He indicated the terrible scar on his face. “Yes, that’s a scar,” Jacali said. “But is it cursed, is what I want to know,” Otto said. Jacali picked up a stick and cut a slice in it with her knife. “Is that cursed?” she said. “I’ll just go look on the edge of town,” he said. “Good luck,” she said as he rode off. “Look out for Daisy.” * * * Otto found a gypsy vardo in a field on the edge of Oakland. At first he thought it might be Daisy, somehow, but the woman there was someone else entirely. The woman had long, silky black hair, pulled up in an exotic-looking bun. She appeared to be darker-skinned and exotically swarthy, like someone from eastern Europe or the Mediterranean Sea. She was very pretty and looked to be in her 20s. She wore fine, colorful, exotic clothing that was modest and embroidered with mystical symbols and flowers. She wore jewels in her hair as well. She also had tattoos of some kind on her hands. Her eyes were very deep blue. Otto approached her vardo and introduced himself. He learned she called herself Madam Violet. “So, Mr. Otto, what brings you to my realm of fortunes today?” she said. He told her he was concerned about his scar. She looked at him carefully. Violeta Bratiano was special; she was able to read the aura surrounding a person or even animal. It sometimes, when she could understand the colors she saw clinging to people she concentrated upon, allowed her to determine good or evil, health or disease, and possibly the mood of the person under question. The colors indicated a person’s mood or ill-health. From his aura, Otto seemed nervous and worried according to the colors swirling around him. There was a sense that he needed to know about the scar, badly. She saw a dark red or purple glow around the scar. She felt it was a source of insecurity, a lingering force that was haunting him. She didn’t see anything of a curse about it, though was unsure if his aura would actually reveal such. But she felt it was something he needed to confront. She led him into the vardo and sat him down at a small table there. The place was filled with strange and exotic items. She sat on the other side of the table and produced a pack of tarot cards, handing them to the man and asking him to shuffle them. As he did so, he told her a negro woman in Denver claimed the scar and he were both cursed. He needed to know if that was true. He was also unsure why the saber blow that had struck him in the face had not simply killed him. She took the deck and shuffled it as well, using her own skills at sleight of hand to force three cards to the front of the deck to give the man the fortune she wanted. “I can tell you are a man of fortune,” she said. “A soldier, weren’t you, before?” “Yes,” he said. “Where did you get that scar?” “Cavalry charge back in Texas.” “Oh. In Texas you say, so you were in the Mexican War?” “Civil War.” She nodded and finished shuffling. “What I’m going to do it lay three cards in front of you,” she said. “They are going to represent your past, your present, and your future.” She put the cards down on the table. “So, one at a time, reveal the cards on top of the deck,” she said. He pulled the top card and put it down. “The Tower,” she said. “It is a very powerful card. It represents disaster. It represents pride. And it represents failure. It represents everything you’ve worked for coming crumbling down. I would imagine in your past, you were a proud soldier, weren’t you? And since that scar came, you’ve lost a bit of yourself. Have you failed in the past? Have things gone wrong inexplicably?” “Yes,” he said. “That is what this card represents. Turn the next card.” He did so. “The Hermit,” she said. “Another powerful card, representing major forces in your life. The hermit represents contemplation. It represents a search for inner truth. I can tell that something is bothering you. It’s that scar, isn’t it?” “Partially,” he said. “You have something else going on in your life that’s worrying you, causing you lots of anxiety. Are you in danger?” “Potentially.” “This card represents that inner truth for yourself. You are seeking something. You are wanting to know more about what is true and about something in yourself that only you can know. Reveal the next card … and your future.” He turned the third card. “This is … the four of wands,” she said. “It represents home. It represents comfort. It represents family and a celebration. I would say to you that you are struggling, still, with the actions of your past and it is causing you to linger on those actions. You need to get past something and see what is now and what is in your future and stop dwelling on these dark things that happened long ago. Once you get past that, you can find your inner peace, your home, your new home, and comfort.” “Okay,” he said. “Is there anything else you want to ask me our time together today?” “What about the scar?” “The scar. What the cards tell me is that the scar represents what is lingering in your soul. Your failures of the past that have stacked up against you and are still causing you to fail today. I would say that the scar is something that is in your soul as well and you must mend it yourself before it will stop maligning you.” “How would I do that?” “Well, that is a journey of self-discovery, like the hermit represents. Only … unless you tell me, I can’t perceive exactly what issues plague you but, you have thought about whether or not you are a good enough soldiers, perhaps, or you have failed in the past, you have thought that you were a bad person. You need to find what is true for you now. You need to make the future that you want to be. And whatever happened in the past, when you were a soldier, when you failed, when you got that scar, it is still with you, and it still haunts you, and you are the one who is clinging to it as a description of yourself. Free yourself from that. Make peace with your failures of the past and you will succeed in the future.” She looked at him for a moment. “You are an interesting man, Mr. Lambert Otto,” she said. “Yes?” he said. “I would love to do a reading for you again. You seem to have an interesting past and interesting struggles. And I am curious as to what all is plaguing you. I have not seen such … conflicting … such different … such worried and troubled auras from a person in a long time. Most people here, they come here talking to me about love and money. But, yours are much more interesting, deeper issues.” Otto took his leave of the woman. * * * When Jack West returned to San Francisco, Professor Stalloid had the photographs developed. He was a little disappointed with the results. One of them was very overexposed and he wondered if Jack West had taken a nap while the cap had been removed. One was of a treetop, which he didn’t understand. One of them had some kind of bone. Professor Stalloid realized he forgot to tell the man to put something into the picture for scale, which was also an issue. Some of the photographs were out of focus. There was a picture of Jack West’s face as well, apparently when he was trying to figure out the camera and took off the lens cover while pointing it at himself. It was blurred and various portions of his face were smeared together as if he had been moving his face and the camera while it was pointed at him. So many details forgotten, Professor Stalloid thought as he looked at the terrible photographs. He decided to frame the odd photo of Jack West’s face and put it in his study. He got a brass caption for the frame that read “Westerly Winds.” Jack West was very disappointed to find his pistol had not yet been improved. The two scientists had been busy working on some kind of electric engines. They even had some of them attached to large propellers. * * * Jacali presented Jack West with the finger when they met again. “Jack West,” she said. “We went investigating the sinkhole up at Mount Diablo and I found a trophy if your conquest.” Jack West slowly took the finger. “And what in the Sam Hill am I supposed to do with this?” he said. “I just thought you might want it as a trophy,” she said. “Is this that old guy’s finger I shot off?” “I knew you’d recognize it.” Jack West stared at it. “How did it not get disintegrated?” he said. “I think the house collapsed in on itself rather than disintegrate,” Otto said. “Well, this is gross,” Jack West said. He flicked the finger away into the grass. “Well, it was worth a try,” Jacali said. * * * Tickets for the 383-mile trip from San Francisco, California, to Winnemucca, Nevada were expensive. Third class costs around $12, second class was about $16, and first class was about $20. In addition, there was a 10 cents per mile fee on freight if they wanted to bring their horses, which came to roughly $38 per animal. Otto offered to pay for the transport of Jacali’s horse. “You’re being very nice to me, Mr. Otto,” she said. “What has gotten into you?” “I don’t know,” Otto said. “I’m feeling generous.” “I like it,” Professor Stalloid said. “I reckon because maybe─” Jack West said. “That and you’ve been so nice to me, Jacali, I feel like I have to repay you for the kindness,” Otto said. “Well, you did just repay me $50 so I’m not going to make you, but─” Jacali said. “Yes, but you also saved my life,” Otto said. “Fair enough,” Jacali said. “I will accept your offer of horse payment and I will travel second class with all of you.” * * * They left San Francisco on the 17th of September by train, all of them traveling second class and bringing horses as freight. They arrived at Winnemucca, Nevada, the next day. Winnemucca was a small town on the Central Pacific Railroad and mostly inhabited by Basque immigrants who worked as sheep-herders. The town’s population was about 465 souls and it had a post office, train station, and other amenities such as saloons, hotels, and the like. It was a vibrant town on the railroad. It was also the county seat of Humboldt County since 1873. There were numerous travelers of the Transcontinental Railroad in the town. Roads followed the rail and headed off all different directions. Sheep farms surrounded the town. The town was semi-arid, hot in the summer months, but the temperature dropped significantly at night. They spent the night there. * * * They set forth from Winnemucca on Sunday, September 19, 1875, heading north. They arrived at their next stop, Quiet Gap, by mid-afternoon. It was a small town on the Nevada badlands, mountains to the north and south. As they approached, they could see large stones surrounding the village at a distance of about a mile from the structures in a rough circle, each a mile or so from each other. Professor Stalloid counted four that he could see clearly. They looked like pillars. They passed by the nearest stones, each a half mile or so away, and soon saw a sign that indicated the town of Quiet Gap, “Population 87.” They rode into the eerily quiet town passing a church and a house with the windows boarded up. They didn’t see any people at all. The town itself was very green, a surprising change from the badlands they’d been riding through. “Welp, it’s gonna be one of these again,” Otto said. “When do we go into a town and it’s just a nice town?” Jacali said. The Crystal River Hotel stood not far from the cemetery, which was close to the church. As they rode down the street, they saw the houses and buildings all appeared to closed up, with the shutters closed on some of the buildings as well. There wasn’t even any wind in the town. Jack West rode north, looking for a general store. They could hear the lowing of cows from somewhere nearby and Professor Stalloid headed that way while Jacali and Otto rode to the livery stable. * * * Professor Stalloid found the lowing coming from a good-sized shed behind one of the houses. There were a pair of milking cows within that made low noises seeming to indicate their discomfort. He wondered if they hadn’t been milked and if they were in distress because of that. He didn’t know how to milk a cow. “Anybody here?” he called out. There was no reply so he mounted up and headed for the livery stable where he saw Jacali and Otto opening the doors. There were horses in the stalls in the livery stables but the troughs for water were empty and there was no grain or hay in the feeding troughs. Otto took the saddle and blanket off his horse before he set to work getting grain and hay for the horses. Jacali put her own horse away in a stall and helped him. Professor Stalloid rode into the stable. They heard a gunshot. * * * Jack West rode around the town, passing the bank and marshal’s office on the north side of town before turning south down the only other street where he found the general store across from a house marked “Dr. Merle Groate, Physician.” The front door was closed and locked with a sign hanging there noting it was closed. He knocked loudly but there was no answer. He looked down the street. Next door to the general store was the Six Feet Under Saloon and across from it was a hardware store. Further down was what looked like the Assay Office. He walked over to the saloon and found the doors closed and locked there as well. “I don’t like this place,” he muttered. He drew his peacemaker and fired it into the air in the hopes of getting some attention. * * * Otto climbed up into the hayloft and pushed open the wide doors in the front, peering out, his carbine ready. He saw there was a bank and a marshal’s office across the street. He saw no one. * * * Jacali took out her bow and nocked an arrow, moving out of the back of the livery stables and creeping through the yards until she reached the alley between a hardware store and a blacksmith shop. Stalloid followed close behind her. They saw Jack West sitting on his horse in the crossroads, looking around. She could smell gun smoke. “Jack West, what was that gunshot?” she asked. “Ah, I was just knocking for the whole town,” Jack West said. “That’s some way to say hello, but …” “Doesn’t look like anyone’s answering,” Professor Stalloid said. “Yeah,” Jack West said. “There’s two things, we could either just keep moving, or … get some free stuff.” “Well, last time we came into a town where nobody was around and we had to find them all, I didn’t enjoy it,” Professor Stalloid said. “Now, what town was that?” Jack West said. “You weren’t there … and I wish you were,” Professor Stalloid said. “But … we have been riding so long and we need food first.” “And I am here now, so it’s okay,” Jack West said. “Well, the horses were all unattended so it seems like it’s been a few days since everybody up and left,” Jacali said. “There might not be good food, but … I do think it’s worth a shot. Something’s got to be done.” “Somebody’s got to be here,” Jack West said. “So, which door we … forcing open first?” “The general store, of course,” Professor Stalloid said. “That’s what I want,” Jack West said. “Next would be the saloon.” Jacali said she’d finish up in the stables and then head that way. They parted. * * * Otto had seen no one. “Hey Otto,” he heard Jacali call from below. “It was just Jack West firing off.” “Figgers,” Otto said. “Nobody responded though, which is odd.” “Might be abandoned.” “What would cause the town to be abandoned?” “I don’t know. But it’s not a good sign.” They could hear the lowing of cows in the distance and Jacali, who got back to work feeding and watering the horses, noticed it. They sounded agitated or uncomfortable. She wondered if they were in need of milking. She told Otto about that. “Otto, do you want to help me milk some teats?” Jacali said. “You seem like a teat-squeezing man.” “I’ve dealt with a cow in my life,” Otto said. “If you want to go milk the cows, I’ll finish up here and come join you. I would hate to see these horses starve.” She set off in search of the cows. * * * Jack West and Professor Stalloid found the back door of the general store locked and the windows closed and shuttered. “Anybody’s inside, please open up!” Jack West called. There was no answer. They walked around to the front of the store again. Jack West got off his horse and tethered it to the hitching post out front. Then he kicked the door open, the lock snapping. The inside of the general store was clean and well-tended. The shelves were all full of merchandise. A cold pot-bellied stove sat in the middle of the room. Everything seemed to be in order. Jack West soon found a small crate of dynamite with about a dozen sticks behind the counter. He grabbed three along with fuses and blasting caps. Professor Stalloid also took three sticks and tucked them in his pocket. “As long as the place is abandoned,” Jack West said. Professor Stalloid found several jars of preserves and took a jar of peaches. Jack West filled a bag with bullets, hardtack, and beef jerky. Professor Stalloid found the preserved peaches were very good. He left $10 on the counter, which he figured would cover the food they’d taken. * * * Otto finished with the horses and set off in search of Jacali. He noticed one of the houses just down the street from the livery stable was completely destroyed. He went over and saw that it appeared to have been blown up though there was no debris anywhere around it to indicate a blast. He could smell the stink of explosives and some wisps of smoke still came from the various blasted boards. All that remained was the blackened floor and a few broken walls. He looked around and saw there was no debris. He poked at the floor of the house with his sword. The scorched walls were very fresh. He rubbed his finger against one and it came back covered in soot. The house must have burnt down, though it looked like it had blown up. It was very strange. He went in search of Jacali and, when he found her, told her what he had discovered. “That’s strange,” Jacali said. “Yes.” “It seems like everybody left,” she said. “Something doesn’t make sense about it.” * * * “So, uh, Stalloid,” Jack West said. “I notice you put $10 on the counter.” “You never know if someone’s coming back,” Professor Stalloid said. “I want this man paid for his goods.” “I was heading back over to the bank … uh … were you not interested in that?” “We’ll check that out. I don’t want to hurt this man personally.” “I need to make a withdrawal anyways. It’s not my fault.” They left the general store and headed for the bank, passing the marshal’s office and the doctor’s office on the way. Jack West looked back and forth between the bank and the doctor’s office, wondering if there was laudanum in the latter. They found the large front doors of the bank closed and locked. The entire building was made of stone and there were bars on the windows. There was a second floor, also with bars on the windows. Professor Stalloid knocked. The sound didn’t seem to carry through the thick doors so he picked up rock and knocked with it. There was still no answer. “All right, how dedicated to this are we?” Jack West said. He took out a stick of dynamite and put it on the two door handles. “We need to get to the telegraph,” Professor Stalloid said. He looked around and saw there were no wires for a telegraph but wondered if they might be using some new system of burying telegraph wires in a veiled attempt to convince himself of the rightness of breaking into the bank. Jack West attached the blasting cap with fuse and took out a match. “I mean, if there is someone here, this looks like the most secure location,” Professor Stalloid said, trying to rationalize the break-in. “If there is anyone around, they should be here.” Jack West lit the dynamite and they both quickly mounted their horses and rode away. There was a great explosion behind them. * * * “Should we even go look, Jacali?” Otto said. “It was us!” they heard Stalloid yell in the distance. “Should we just let these animals free?” Otto said. “You know I was thinking of it, but I don’t know if it would be better for them,” Jacali said. * * * When Jack West and Professor Stalloid returned to the bank, they found the doors blown off their hinges and smashed to pieces. One of them had survived somewhat intact and smashed through one of the two teller stations. The other has been blasted to splinters. The doorway had been badly damaged as well and the flagstone floor of the bank was cracked and broken. Most of the force of the blast had gone into and out of the bank, apparently. The hitching post lay in pieces in the street. They could hear the horses in the nearby livery stable stirring as if frightened by the blast. Through the smoke, they could see a large safe built into small office in the back of the building, the glass of the office now shattered. Another door off to the right was closed and still, surprisingly, intact. Professor Stalloid picked up another rock and walked over to the door. A sign on it said “Employee’s Only.” He found it unlocked and cracked it open. Steps went up to the second floor. “Anybody in there?” he called. There was no answer. “If anybody’s up there, tell me I’m not allowed up there!” he called. There was no answer. It was very quiet. He shut the door. They examined the safe and found it quite large. The walls were built around it but it was not a walk-in safe, obviously. It had a combination lock on the front. Professor Stalloid looked through the desk in the back in hopes of finding a combination written down. * * * Otto and Jacali went to various small barns around town, milking the cows and feeding and watering them. They noticed a building that had the word “Library” on the front door, which was surprising for such a small town. It was across the street from the Jewel Theater. They also found The Quiet Gap Enquirer. The sign out front noted Benjamin Thorpe was the Editor. Jacali suggested there must be some record of what happened, possibly at the library or the newspaper office. Otto suggested checking the marshal’s office as well. “Why would they close everything down if they were running?” Jacali said. She also found it odd that all of the windows and shutters were closed on all of the houses. “This doesn’t make any sense,” she said. “As if everyone just disappeared,” Otto said. “But if they just disappeared, the windows would still be open,” Jacali said. “Unless some otherworldly forces caused them to disappear.” “Well, if the otherworldly forces closed up all the windows. It seems people knew ahead of time they were just leaving without grabbing anything.” “Hm.” “I don’t know. I’m tempted to look at the library and at the newspaper office.” “Can you read?” “Otto, can you look at the library and the newspaper office?” “I don’t mean to insult you, but … I’m just saying.” “I think those would be places to check on.” “Let’s try the newspaper office.” “Which one was that?” “The Quiet Gap Enquirer.” “Yeah. Which one says that?” Otto led her to the little newspaper office. * * * There was no key or combination to the safe written down anywhere. Professor Stalloid did learn the banker’s name was Thurston Smith. He obviously owned and was president of the bank. Jack West, meanwhile, fiddled with the combination lock, turning it in the hopes of getting lucky and hitting the right combination. They heard something scuttle across the floor above. “Upstairs,” Professor Stalloid said. “Someone was there.” “Maybe they know the combination,” Jack West said. “They may know the authorities.” “We could implore them to help alleviate this safe of its money.” “I’m not saying that, but let’s go upstairs.” “When in Rome, Stalloid, … rob a bank.” They went to the other door and opened it, Jack West leading them up the steps. * * * Otto and Jacali found the newspaper office locked up. They walked around and found a back door that was also locked. The windows were all closed and the shutters were up inside. “Got any ideas, Jacali, that don’t require breaking and entering?” Otto said. “Well, again, why would someone lock the place if they were running away?” she said. “It doesn’t seem like anyone disappeared suddenly, like anyone ran away, like it was something they all had planned. That they all knew about.” Otto took his carbine off his back and used the rifle stock against the handle. With a crash, the stock cracked up the middle. He looked at the carbine and then chucked it angrily into the street. “Well, that seems like bad luck,” Jacali said. Otto drew his saber and smashed the guard against the door knob over and over again. The wood cracked around the doorknob and he soon broke it away, knocking the door open. He went to the fallen carbine in a huff and picked it back up, slinging it over his shoulder and then walking into the newspaper office. Inside the building was a larger outer office with a door in the back that obviously went to a second, smaller room. In the main room was a small Stanhope printing press near a cluttered desk. The press had typeset already laid out within it. Otto looked at it but the words were backwards. He tried to decipher it but found it impossible so looked around for a mirror. “Otto, can you read?” Jacali said. “It’s backwards, Jacali,” Otto said. “Oh,” Jacali said. Otto didn’t find any mirrors in the main office. He noted he could try to read it but it might take a while. “I wish I could help you,” Jacali said. “Here, let me try.” She couldn’t make heads nor tails of the backward script. “It’s all Greek to me,” she said. They found the back room held living quarters and Otto looked for a mirror. The only reflective surface was a piece of polished metal attached to the wall over a built-in sink with a pitcher of water next to it. It was not a very good reflective surface. Jacali mentioned possibly using a window pane but they were unsure how to best remove the glass. They returned to the office and looked over the press, trying to figure out how to make it work. “I vote we go find Stalloid to get this thing working again,” Otto said. “I-I also have a question about this thing?” Jacali said. “What?” “What is it?” Otto explained how a printing press worked with the paper on one part and the typeset on the other. The typeset had ink put on it and when the lever was pulled, the paper would go down onto the inked typeset, which would put it on the paper. “Amazing,” she said. “It’s a miracle.” She looked around and found paper and ink. “Couldn’t we ink it up and slap some paper down and get a rough copy?” she said. “We could try,” Otto said. “But it would be really sloppy and hard to read.” “Well, would it be harder to read than that?” Jacali said. She pointed at the backwards typeset. “I mean at least I can read the letters okay on this,” Otto said. “I don’t know,” Jacali said. “Just an idea. We could get Stalloid though. See if it works.” “Let’s just go get Stalloid or find a mirror.” “All right.” * * * Jack West led Professor Stalloid up the stairs, gun drawn. He had pulled a bandana over his face. Professor Stalloid, seeing this, pulled out his handkerchief and put it over his own face. There was a small landing at the top with a single door. The room beyond was a living room with a window. There was a small kitchen and there was a study and a single bedroom as well. They had thought there was some noise from the bedroom but when they carefully peeked in, there was no one there. The bed was a mess, the sheets pulled partially off it, and there was clothing laid out as if someone had put it there the night before, both a man’s suit and a woman’s dress. Shoes were also by the bed for both a man and a woman. The room held a wardrobe and a dresser. Jack West looked into the wardrobe, finding nothing. Professor Stalloid peeked in. “Hey, check under the bed,” he said. Jack West leaned down and peeked under the bed. Nothing was there. However, he noticed he could see very clearly under the bed. It wasn’t dark under there at all. He reached under the bed, looking for a trapdoor, and was shocked when his hand went right through the floorboards. When he looked more closely, he realized the light was coming from a circle under the bed. “What’s under the bed?” Professor Stalloid said. Jack West stood up and grabbed the foot of the bed, sliding it to one side. “There’s a … portal over here,” he said. Professor Stalloid entered the room to look. “That’s a floor,” he said. “It’s a portal,” Jack West said. “Stalloid, you don’t believe in portals, you just step right on in.” “That’s … that’s a floor.” “Just … put a foot on it.” Professor Stalloid picked a pillow off the bed and tossed it to where Jack West was pointing. It landed on the floor and lay there, as he had expected it would. “That’s a floor,” he said. Jack West knelt down and touched the spot with his hand again. It moved through the floor as if it wasn’t there, disappearing from sight. He left his hand there for a moment and realized it felt like his hand was being pulled slightly. There was a pull though no pressure upon it, almost like the feel of a hand in running water. * * * Jacali and Otto realized they had probably found their companions when they found the two horses near the bank, which had the doors completely blown off their hinges. “Typical,” Otto said. “The telltale signs of Jack West and Brandon Stalloid,” Jacali said. The smell of gunpowder was very strong and they looked into the place, which was in a shambles. The safe in the back was still closed, which was somewhat of a surprise. A door to one side stood ajar, steps going up from it. “Truly righteous men we follow,” Jacali said. “Not stealing from the bank but just blowing the doors open so they can.” “Yeah,” Otto said. “Jacali! Otto! We’re upstairs!” Professor Stalloid’s voice called. “There’s a portal!” “Oh great,” Otto said. “We found what happened to the town,” Jacali quipped back. “It’s just in reverse!” “Yeah, I don’t care!” Professor Stalloid called down. “Portal!” “Is there a mirror up there, if you’re going to be uncooperative?” Otto called. “Well, I’m not uncooperative!” Professor Stalloid called down. “Y’all come up here.” “I don’t see a mirror but I do see a portal!” Jack West called. “There’s a portal!” Professor Stalloid called. “Well, do you want to see this portal?” Jacali said to Otto. “If it gets them to help us,” Otto said. They went upstairs. “We were going to draw lots to see who puts their head in the portal,” Professor Stalloid said. Jack West made some comment about Otto going in the hole. “I heard that!” Otto called. “We need you, brave Sir Otto!” Professor Stalloid called back. They found the two men in a bedroom with a bed pushed at a strange angle. Professor Stalloid gestured for Jack West to put his hand in the portal again. “I think it will mean more if one of them does it,” Jack West said. “That’s floor,” Jacali said. “Put your hand on it,” Professor Stalloid said. Jack West moved around the piece of floor to stand near the wall. “Here, come walk straight towards me,” he said. “Don’t do that!” Professor Stalloid said. “Put your hand on it.” “This is ****,” Jacali said. She reached down and put her hand on the floor. It went right through the solid wood. She let out a shout and pulled her hand back quickly. She had felt a pulling on her hand but not something she couldn’t resist. “So, how do we decide who goes in?” Professor Stalloid said. “It’s not me,” Otto said. “Oh, it’s definitely not going to be me,” Jacali said. “Let’s see what your thing is first,” Professor Stalloid said. “Brilliant idea Stalloid,” Jacali said. “Just like I said.” “Hey, Jack West, you want to stay here and make sure that noise doesn’t do anything?” Professor Stalloid said. “Uh … sure,” Jack West said. “Oh yeah, we heard footsteps up here,” Professor Stalloid said. “Or skittering.” “Could’ve been a rat,” Otto said. “So the rats stayed,” Jacali said. “We heard it downstairs,” Professor Stalloid said. “It’s a big fricking rat,” Jack West said. “That’s a big rat,” Professor Stalloid said. “If so, that could be food.” “Regardless, we need your help running a printing press,” Otto said. “I’ll come,” Professor Stalloid said. “While you’re doing that, someone want to wipe down my horse?” Jack West said as they walked out of the room. “While I bravely watch this portal so nothing comes out to get you all?” Before he left, Professor Stalloid whispered to Jack West to look for the combination in the study. He realized the man wouldn’t be able to watch the hole and search the study. “You know, Otto, you’re our greatest fighter,” Professor Stalloid said. “Could you watch the hole?” Jack West coughed loudly and looked at Professor Stalloid. He didn’t want the man there while he searched the study for the combination. “I don’t feel terribly confident about the way you phrase that,” Otto said. “We can put a sheet over the hole,” Professor Stalloid said. “And you can watch the sheet. I found material objects don’t go through it. I tried to put a pillow through it.” “That way it looks like a spooky ghost if something comes up!” Jack West said. Professor Stalloid suggested Otto stay with Jack West while Jack West would search the study for clues. Otto grudgingly agreed and Professor Stalloid put the sheet from the bed over the portal. Otto drew his saber and held it in hand to watch. Professor Stalloid noted Jack West would be looking for information on what happened in the town. Then he and Jacali left. * * * Jacali and Professor Stalloid went to the newspaper office. It only took him a little while to figure out roughly how to work the press and print out a single newspaper page. The page top noted it was the Quiet Gap Inquirer and had a silhouette of a bear on one side and a howling wolf on the other. Under the nameplate was the name “Benjamin Thorpe: Editor and Reporter” and next to that it read “WEEKLY 1 PENNY.” It was marked “Special Edition” under that and dated September 19, 1875: the date that day. The headline read: “Town Children Disappear!” The article read: Every child in the village of Quiet Gap disappeared two nights ago without a trace. Yesterday morning, the parents of several children were startled to find them missing from their beds. Said parents had put their children to sleep in the safety of their homes the night before only to find them gone when they awoke. Marshal Alba Churchill has no answers. Each of the homes of the missing children was searched both inside and out but, according to the Marshal, there was no sign of forced entry or foul play in most cases. The children were simply gone without any footprints or other clues as to what might have happened to them. How they were snatched from their bedrooms without making a sound is also unexplained. In two cases, the room of the child was upset or disturbed though even in those cases, there were no other signs of who might have taken the children or what might have happened to them. Three posses of mounted men left the village in three different directions yesterday morning in the hopes of finding some trace of the lost children. Unfortunately, they returned to town last night, empty-handed and exhausted. The search will resume tomorrow. Plans have been made to send riders to the towns of Paradise Valley and Winnemucca today to spread the word in hopes something can be done to find and recover the children. Professor Liam Tennesley, proprietor of the Quiet Gap Library and late of the University of Cambridge in England, related that some Indian myth warns anyone from settling in Quiet Gap. He notes the Paiute tribesmen who lived in the Gap centuries before left because of some kind of curse on the area. One would have thought something of this curse would have appeared before now. Professor Tennesley said he would do more research on the area soon. The names of the missing children include: Fred Blackburn Emma Burris Thomas Caley Theresa Carney William Harlow Jr. Marcus Hoffman Patience Hoffman Wesley Howe Cora Howell Victoria Morgan Esther Slater Sarah Smith Daniel Strong Mayor Eric Griffin has offered a $100 reward for the return of the children. “Whoever did this was able to enter the rooms of children while their parents slept, sometimes in the same room,” Mayor Griffin said yesterday. “I don’t think he will stop at children, however. I’ll be guarding my own room with dynamite tonight and won’t sleep a wink. I would advise others do the same.” It is hoped these children will soon be found. In any case, the men and women of Quiet Gap will not give up the search until they find their lost and wayward children. “Sounds like we need to go to the library,” Professor Stalloid said. “Boy, I’m tired after reading all that.” They went to the library and found the building locked up. Professor Stalloid motioned to Jacali and the door. “I’m the not the strongest but … I have a knife,” she said. “Otto seemed to be pretty good - oh, he’s not here.” They walked around the building and found a back door but it was also locked. The windows were closed, latched, and the shutters drawn on them. They decided break into one of the windows, breaking a pane of glass and unlatching a window, shoving the shutters in and entering. “Maybe everybody’s out in the other towns and looking and that’s why it’s a ghost town,” Professor Stalloid said. “That would make me feel really bad about busting down these windows and doors,” Jacali said. “It’s for the safety of the children.” “But why wasn’t the newspaper printed?” Professor Stalloid looked at her. “Because they’re too busy,” he said. “Why would they typeset a newspaper and go to all the trouble?” Jacali said. They guessed the man set his typeset the night before with plans to print the paper out that morning. He probably did that in case there was new information overnight. They entered the Quiet Gap Library and found the downstairs was one large room with numerous built-in bookshelves that were mostly empty. There was a small collection of only about 100 books in the place. They found a stairwell going up to the second floor where there was a small suite of rooms. There was no sign of a struggle in any of them though the bed was unmade. In a small study were several notebooks filled with information on the Paiutes as well as notes Tennesley took after the children disappeared and a journal. The journal indicated it was the possession of Liam Tennesley. It indicated Tennesley taught at the University of Cambridge, in England, but came to the United States to both educate and learn about the native people. He was most interested in the native Paiute of the area around Quiet Gap, where he ended up, purchased a building, and moved his own private library at some cost. The entry for the day before, September 18, noted all of the children of the town disappeared the night before. It related Marshal Churchill was investigating the disappearances and posses of all of the men in the town who could ride had been sent out to find the children, though without success by nightfall. Tennesley himself devoted the day to researching the local myths and legends of the Paiute from copious notes he took while interviewing natives who lived near, but not in, Quiet Gap, not finishing until late that night. What he found intrigued and terrified him. Apparently, the local Paiute avoided the spring and green area around Quiet Gap for generations, even going to far as to put up stone markers covered in warnings in pictograms and their native tongue. The legend went that something horrible came into the village there hundreds of years ago, taking the children. When the incident occurred more than once, the elders of the village took notice. Eventually, the Paiute left the area of Quiet Gap, putting up markers to warn others away and leaving the cursed place where children would not stay themselves. Tennesley was unsure how often the events of missing children occurred but guessed it was every 15 to 25 years or somewhere in between. He noted the town of Quiet Gap was established in 1867 and there had been no disturbances until the night before, at least none that he knew of. He made a note to visit the office of the Quiet Gap Inquirer the next day to make sure though he thought he was sure, in his time living in Quiet Gap, he would have heard of such an occurrence of importance. There were no other entries after that. Professor Stalloid looked at the books on the table. They were all about the Paiute of Nevada. Some were manuscripts but a few were printed. Most of the manuscripts were in the same handwriting as the journal. * * * Jack West searched the study and found a small slip of paper with three numbers on it. He went downstairs and opened the safe. He found quite a bit of money and a few small bags he guessed were filled with gold dust. He went to his horse and got the saddlebags, bringing them in and putting the paper money in. He left the gold dust behind. He closed the safe, lifted the handle, and spun the dial once again, locking it. He took his horse to the livery stables and took off the saddle and blanket, rubbing it down and putting it in a stall. He left the saddlebags in the stall as well. * * * “There’s obviously something terrible going on there,” Jacali said. She had realized the amount of work it would take to move large pieces of stone like the ones they had passed, cutting them, and then carving warnings on them. The local Paiute had gone to a great deal of effort to warn people away from the place, especially for people who lived hundreds of years before. “They wouldn’t do it for nothing over superstition,” she said. “I’m not one to believe in curses but … with what I’ve seen, maybe it’s something like … that.” They went back downstairs and Professor Stalloid started looking through the books there. “I’m going to go look at those rocks,” Jacali said to him. “See if there’s anything to it.” * * * Jacali left the library and went to the livery stable to get Nalin, riding out about a mile from town and examining the stones. She found they were not like any of the rocks and boulders in the area so must have been brought there from somewhere else. They were covered in pictograms and were obviously very old and worn from the weather. They had been carved deeply enough to last the ages, however. They appeared to be a warning to stay away as the place was a bad place or cursed. There was nothing specific but a powerful warning to avoid the area. She realized if she had seen it before she had come to the village, she would have recognized it as a bad place and avoided it. * * * When Jacali returned to the livery stable, she found Jack West just finished rubbing down and putting away his horse. “Hey Jack, this place looks like bad business,” she said. She put Nalin in an empty stall. “Really, some native folks, hundreds of years ago, went to an extraordinary amount of work to warn people to stay away from here,” she said. “Well, you know what they say,” Jack West said. “One people’s bad business is another man’s good business.” “I mean … I wouldn’t drag hundred pound rocks and carve into them inch-deep to warn people not to go there at any costs because that could be their good business.” “Gotcha. If you want to tell the doctor, if y’all want to meet us up by the portal, we can decide if we’re going in.” “I honestly don’t want to be in this place anymore. The only thing keeping me here is those children and … there might be some way to help them, but … obviously, if they haven’t come back out of the portal, it’s not something they can do on their own, which makes me nervous about trying to go in it. I’m going to inform all the others and make sure everybody’s on the same page and, hopefully we can regroup soon.” “Sounds good to me.” “Share some information with you guys.” She left the livery and went up to the bank to let Otto know what was going on. He hadn’t seen anything. She headed back down the street towards the library. As she passed the general store, she saw a shadow move inside the building, past the broken-open door. She stopped and took her bow from her back, fixing an arrow onto the string. “Raspberry!” she shouted. * * * Jack West sauntered back to the bank to help Otto watch the hole. He found the man tapping the sheet with his saber. Then he took one of the sheets and wrapped it around the broken stock of the rifle, tying it off to do a makeshift repair. Neither one of them heard Jacali’s call. * * * Professor Stalloid was still engrossed in looking at the frontispiece of each book, but had, so far found nothing of real interest. There were a few histories and several works of fiction, especially those written by Charles Dickens and other British writers. He also didn’t hear the Apache woman call out. * * * “Surely they heard me,” Jacali said. She looked more closely at the general store and saw the large windows on the front had shutters over them on the inside. The door had a broken lock and part of the lintel was cracked and shattered as if someone had kicked it hard. It was fairly dark inside. She saw no more movement. She crept onto the porch of the place and tried to peek into the windows but it was too dark to see. The light coming from the eastern-facing doorway was not substantial in the late afternoon. She peeked in through the door, her eyes taking a moment to adjust. She saw the filled shelves with narrow walkways between them, the pot-bellied stove with the small table and checkerboard next to it, and, in the back, a counter that ran the width of the building with a cash register upon it. She heard the tapping of feet or … something behind the counter and then saw the back door to the room push open and bang against the wall. Something had gone through it, it seemed, but she didn’t see anything. It must have been on all fours, whatever it was. She crept to one side and then pushed open the shutters on either side, letting more light into the room, while keeping her back to the front of the building. She thought she heard some kind of scuttling or skittering noise from the back room. Then she heard a hiss or heavy breath. There was more scuttling. There was a rattle and a crash that sounded like a pan or a pot. Then there was more skittering. Something clinked. She tried to determine what to do, listening to the noises. The counter that ran the length of the room had a glass front and top but a wooden back. The brass cash register stood on part of the counter that was all wood. She moved to the counter and hopped over it. Bow ready and aiming low, she kicked open the back door all the way and it rattled as it struck the wall. She peeked in and saw a simple living area with a larger iron stone. There were two doors off to her left forming two more rooms on that side of the building. There were several windows but they were all closed, as were the shutters over each. It was dead quiet. A coffee pot lay on the floor along with a couple of other kitchen implements. It was dim but she could still see as beams of light from the setting sun came through the shutters. She started to move, back to the wall, from window to window, sliding open the shutters to get more light in the room. When she reached the back door, she found it locked with the key in the lock. That perplexed her. The back bedroom was still dim, the door ajar. It had a large bed which had messy sheets and covers. Clothing was over the end of the bed, and shoes were on the floor. The sheets were partially pulled off the bed. She moved to the other door and saw there were two smaller beds in that room. The beds in there were actually made. Children’s shoes and clothing were at the foot of each bed. She crept into that second room and saw a chest of draws and a small table and chair. She didn’t see anything in the dim light but crept towards the bed and reached underneath it. She wanted to see if there was a portal under there. Then something grabbed her arm. It didn’t feel like a hand. It seemed to wind around her arm and she jerked her hand away, pulling away from the thing easily and then kicked the foot of the bed, knocking it aside, her bow ready. Just for a moment, she thought she saw a form or shape. It was smaller than a man, but not by much. She couldn’t make out any details before it disappeared into the floor. She didn’t get a good look at it. She went down to one knee and slid a single finger along the floor where the bed had been until it seemed to reach and edge and disappear into the floor. She immediately pulled it back out and then fled from the general store to find the other men who she figured had heard her but hadn’t done anything about it. * * * Professor Stalloid hadn’t found anything in the books that seemed to have any connection with the town or what might be happening there. There were histories and fictions and even a few textbooks, but nothing of interest. He even looked at the librarian’s desk and found a book with names and the names of books, obviously those that people in the town had borrowed. He crept upstairs and checked the bed, looking underneath it, and realized there was some light there, barely visible, but enough to let him see clearly under the bed. He headed back to the bank. On the way, he saw Jacali run out of the front of the general store and up the street, turning right, and heading towards the bank. He followed her. * * * Jack West and Otto sat in silence. “You break your gun again?” Jack West said at one point. Otto ignored him. They heard someone run into the front of the bank and crash up the stairs at speed. Jack West aimed his pistol at the door and Jacali ran into the room. “West! It’s me!” she said. “I saw a thing! Or - I didn’t. I only saw a shadow! But I heard the noises! And it grabbed me by the arm! And it tried to pull me into the portal under the bed!” “You didn’t go in?” Jack West said. “Wha? No! Because it went in there! It disappeared as soon as I moved the bed. Only a shadow was there! And it disappeared into the portal.” “So, I’m thinking, when Stalloid makes his way over here, Otto and I just jump in first. We got the bigger, closer ranged … goodies.” “Well─” “I think I saw Stalloid with a shotgun at one point.” “Otto, just like we did earlier, I think whoever does that should tie a rope to themselves. Keep people close so we can pull them back in.” “Well, I’m not very strong,” Otto said. “So, it shouldn’t be me.” “Who’s the strongest of all of us?” Jacali said. They looked at Jack West, who was huge and solid. “Mr. West, thank you for volunteering,” Jacali said. “Or we could just tie the rope around something in the room,” Otto said. Jacali agreed it would be better to hold onto the rope so they could pull the person out. Jack West suggested if it was safe, he could pull on the rope a few times and they could follow him in. Otto thought it a good idea to tie the rope around something in case they lost the grip so it wouldn’t just fall in the portal. Jack West agreed. Otto asked what happened and Jacali told him about the great stones around the town and about something being in the general store. He also wanted to know what was on the newspaper and Jacali related what Professor Stalloid had told her had been in the newspaper article. She also related they went to the library to learn what they could of what the librarian had learned. Otto laughed while reading the newspaper. Then he got serious. “Poor mayor,” he said, remembering the destroyed house. “I know what happened to the mayor.” “That’s what I think too,” Jacali said. “Regardless, it seems to me, what happened, y’all can agree or disagree, the facts are: the children disappeared. They tried to find them, running in all directions, but couldn’t. And then they found out the tales of this thing stealing children in the night from Paiute tribes, that they warned people about. I think the people caught wind of this and … either fled or tried to protect themselves from whatever was doing it. I was in the general store and the back door was locked from the inside.” “Judging from how … uh … everything was placed … I’m thinking they abducted everyone this time, after they locked up for the night,” Jack West said. “It could be,” Jacali said. They heard steps on the staircase again and Professor Stalloid soon appeared in the doorway. “There’s another portal in the library,” he said. “It was under the bed.” “And there’s a portal under the bed in the general store,” Jacali said. “Something grabbed my hand from it. A tentacle? A rope?” “Some sort of changeling, maybe?” Professor Stalloid said. “I only saw a shadow,” Jacali said. “If bullets affect it, I’ll be good,” Jack West said. Jack West suggested tying off the rope and Otto noted the bed was too heavy to get out of the room. They could all see the circle of the portal with the sheet over it in the glowing gloom. Jacali put her hand on the sheet and pressed down but nothing happened. “You have to have organic contact,” Professor Stalloid said. Otto went and got his rope out of the stable. Jacali didn’t want to be in town after dark. Otto wondered about letting the other horses loose. Jacali wasn’t sure as she didn’t know if there were any townsfolk to save. They discussed tying the rope off and Otto tapped the sheet with his rifle, asking how they would get the rope through. Otto moved the sheet and put his boot down on the floor. It was solid. “You gotta go in naked,” Professor Stalloid said. “Just watch this,” Jack West said. He leaned down and, with gun in hand, touched the floor, his flesh touching it before the weapon did. Both went into the floor as if it wasn’t even there. He pulled it back out. “Okay, maybe you don’t go in naked,” Professor Stalloid said. “Flesh first,” Jack West said. They discussed who would go in, Otto wondering who would stay behind or if they would all go in. Jacali asked if they had enough rope for all of them to go in together. Jacali thought one person should go in first and, based on what they saw, decide if the rest should follow. They discussed who should go first and James West said he would go if they could pull him back out. He was a big man and wore a heavy poncho. “Maybe you should take that poncho off, West,” Otto said. “My poncho … is part of this outfit,” Jack West said. “It brings everything else together.” “Maybe Jack West doesn’t go first, with the poncho,” Jacali said. “Someone else can go first. It could even be me.” Otto sighed. “I’ll go,” he said. He tied the rope around the torso and drew his saber. They discussed signals and decided one tug meant he was okay while wild tugging meant he was in trouble. They tied off the rope to the bed and the other three all took the rope in hand. Otto took his boots off and went in feet first, stepping into the portal, which gave him absolutely no resistance, so he went in fairly quickly, disappearing from sight almost immediately. * * * Otto fell down a long tunnel of stars and lights for what felt like a long time, but then found himself coming out, upwards, on the other side. He found himself in a stark area with pieces of metal rising up around him. Stretching out in all directions from his point of entry was a vast desert of thick, gray ash. Protruding from the ash were bits of withered bone, hunks of rubble, and twisted pieces of corroded metal. The sky above was gray with a reddish tinge, a dim orange sun that barely lit the land visible above the horizon. A strange, high-pitched whine was everywhere. There was a stench of fires long burning and something decaying. All around him were strange circles of light, barely visible. Strange prints were in the ash leading from each of them as well as footprints of mostly bare feet. They all went off in the same directly, each of the tracks moving around the various holes. He looked where he had come and touched it with his foot. It went into the ground and he quickly pulled it back out. * * * “So, how are we taking bets on whether he comes back out of there?” Jacali asked. Professor Stalloid noted he wanted to visit the marshal’s office. “I think he’s going to make it,” Jacali said. “Mr. Otto’s a cold-blooded killer of a man. I think he’ll be fine.” “Those monsters ain’t got **** on him,” Professor Stalloid said. “I don’t know, I’ve seen him … run away from quite a few fights,” Jack West said. “True, but maybe the means he’s more likely to survive,” Jacali said. “True,” Jack West said. “When I figure out bullets don’t work, I’m done as well. But I haven’t seen that except for the Crest. It said ‘no.’” Jacali looked at him quizzically. “When I shot it,” Jack West said. “The Crest?” she said. “Oh yeah. It … uh … dematerialized my bullet.” “Oh, the Crescent.” “Crescent. Crest. Spaghetti. Whatever you wanna call it.” “What’s spaghetti?” Jack West looked at her. “That doesn’t sound like an English word,” she said. “You never eaten Aye-talian?” Jack West said. “What’s an Aye-talian?” “It’s those people with the … uh … different color skin. Uh … kind of like yourself a little bit but a little whiter, like me.” Otto’s foot popped out of the floor and vanished back within. “Oh … God,” Professor Stalloid said. “I think he was just testing to see if he could come back through. Everything’s still okay. Let’s do one tug … and see if he does one tug back.” * * * Otto drew an “X” in the ash with his saber to mark where it was. Then there was a solid tug on the rope. He tugged back once. He felt the slack on the rope go taut. He took out one of his spare peacemakers and put it in the center of the “X.” He walked a few feet off towards the tracks. * * * “Who’s climbing down next?” Jack West said. “You want me to go?” There was pulling on the rope and the other three gave it some slack until they were out. It pulled tight against the bed until the bed started to move towards it a little bit. “Untie it,” Jack West said. “He knows he can only go so far, right?” Professor Stalloid said. Then it went slack again. A moment later, Otto came back through the portal out of nowhere, right at Jack West, who was startled. They could smell smoke on him. “So wait, you were just able to stand there and jump out?” Jack West said. “Story time, Otto,” Jacali said. “Tell us.” “On the other side of the portal … you go through the portal, you see a spiral of stars and light before you enter this desolate, ashen, plain,” Otto said. “Jagged peaks.” He suddenly knelt and reached through the portal. He’d forgotten his pistol. “Oh, God, Otto, why?” Jacali said and looked away. He pulled out the pistol. “So, Otto, we’re good to go?” Jack West said. “There’s nothing over there,” Otto said. “Tracks. Forever.” Jack West looked at him. “You went 30 feet,” he said. “Well, what did you want me to do?” Otto said. “So, we can explore.” “But I feel weak after using the portal.” “Oh, you’ll be fine.” “You left your weapon in there?” “So the portal would be noticeable.” “You didn’t see the rope going into the top?” “What do you mean by that?” “You came down with a rope. The rope should’ve been going through the portal still.” Otto looked at him. “That should’ve been your way back out,” Jack West said. “When I went through the thing it was like I was standing on the ceiling and I came out up there,” Otto said. “The rope. Let’s say I came out under the side and upside down.” “You were underneath.” “I was not dangling.” “So, what is the point of the rope? Do we need it?” “At least for safety purposes,” Jacali said. “For the test.” “I would say we need it,” Professor Stalloid said. “If he came out, in his perspective of mind, he’s coming out of a ceiling and going down, right?” “I just walked through a door when I went through it,” Otto said. “I was still standing when I came through.” Otto put his boots back on. They discussed going through with Otto complaining he felt weak. Jacali was for going through to try to find the missing people. She pointed out the place was apparently not immediately dangerous. They would have a chance to run if there was danger. “I have to balance out what they call that karma deal,” Jack West. There was talk of who was going to go through. Jacali thought they were done with the rope but Jack West pointed out the general store would have more rope. Jacali thought they should all go in together and protect each other while they were in there. She was adamant to go. Professor Stalloid was for whatever the group consensus was. “Would you rather watch the outside?” Jack West said to Otto. “Perhaps,” Otto said. “Sounds like an Otto thing,” Jack West said. Otto glared at the man and then took a swing at him, trying to punch him in the face with the sword guard. Jack West slapped his hand aside, took a step back, and put his hand on his peacemaker. The two men glared at each other. “Do we need to take this outside, Otto?” Jack West said. Otto sheathed his saber. “Now we can focus on the children,” Jack West said. They discussed Otto keeping watch again and talked about signaling the man if he didn’t go. Professor Stalloid suggested he stay there as well and could put a piece of wood through and hold it and if they got in trouble they could shoot the piece of wood. “I trust your aim,” he said. “That is a terrible idea,” Otto said. There was some discussion of how that might work or not work. They eventually decided to all go in. Otto said he was going to go to the general store. Professor Stalloid took advantage of his going to head for the marshal’s office. * * * Otto found plenty of rope at the general store. He also found a replacement for his Winchester carbine. He left his broken Winchester behind and borrowed the new carbine, loading it, and headed back with the rope. * * * Professor Stalloid found the marshal’s office locked up. He tried to break down the door but it was solid. He peeked through the bars and saw a desk covered with paperwork. There appeared to be two cells in the back. He walked across the street and aimed the lightning gun at the door. There was a crack of thunder as the bolt struck the doorknob of the door, melting it and the lock within and burning it right off the door. “It was me!” Professor Stalloid shouted. He went to the door and found the blast had only damaged the handle. He pushed on the door and it opened with a groan. He went in to search out the room. A pile of notes on Marshal Alba Churchill’s desk noted the disappearance of 13 children in the town, which were all of the children of Quiet Gap. Each of the separate 13 reports went into detail on how the children disappeared from their rooms with no indication of forced entry or signs of anyone outside. Dogs did not pick up any strange or unusual scents outside of any of the windows of the children’s rooms, some of which were on the second floor or upper loft of the building they were living in. All of the events took place on the same night, September 17, two nights before the investigators arrived in Quiet Gap. All of the children were between 1 and 13 years old. The notes and reports further indicated that in most cases, the rooms were completely undisturbed though the children’s clothing and footwear were still there, indicating they must have been kidnapped wearing nothing but their underwear. Nothing was missing from any of the rooms, making it unlikely the children ran away or left on their own. However, in two cases, there was mention of sheets being pulled under the bed, which Marshal Churchill noted was strange and disturbing. However, the child was obviously not under the bed. He speculated the children in question might have hidden from whoever kidnapped them under the bed though that doesn’t really explain why the sheets seemed to have been pulled under there. More notes indicated several posses of men went out on the 18th, the day before the investigators arrived, in search of them. No tracks, trace, or clue was found to any of the missing children. A few notes indicated men would be sent to Paradise Valley in the north and Winnemucca in the south on the 19th to further the search and alert nearby towns of what had happened. Nothing further was indicated, however, since the 18th, the day before they had arrived. * * * When Otto returned to the bank, Professor Stalloid was gone. The other man returned after a little while, his hands filled with notes and reports. He shared what he had learned. “Sounds like two of the kids got dragged under,” he said. “Betcha they all did,” Jack West said. “No, I feel like some of them might have gotten coaxed under.” “Or gently carried. It doesn’t matter. They’re down there.” There was some discussion about use of the rope, how far the drop was, who was going to stay, and such. It was finally decided they would all go through the portal. Stalloid went outside and found some dark rocks to mark the portal on the other side. Otto went to the smashed house and got some wood. Jack West retrieved the bank door that survived mostly intact. He felt around the portal and found it was about three feet across. By the time they finally got organized, the blood-red light of the setting sun shone through the shutters. Jack West went first. He stood on the spot, holding the door, and then put down his hand and both he and the door dropped out of sight. Professor Stalloid bent down and touched the portal, then somersaulted into the portal. “Jacali, I would suggest you walk in rather than jump in,” Otto said. “I would like to keep my shoes on,” she said. “Do you think─” “Just bend down and touch it.” “Yeah, that’s what I’ll do.” She reached down and touched it with her hand and then slid her feet in and eased through the portal. Otto took a minute to check all his equipment and then followed Jacali’s lead. * * * Jack West flopped out of the portal feet first and crashed to the ground clutching at the door. A moment later, Professor Stalloid rolled out of the portal and stood at the end of his somersault. “Tah-dah!” he said. Jacali came out feet first but just pivoted over out of the ground to sit on the edge of the portal. Professor Stalloid started putting his rocks around the portal to mark it. It felt like a very long time before Otto came through the portal, easing out and standing on the ashy ground. He had a rope tied around him. They looked around at the strange, gray desert. Otto thought they were in hell. Jack West though they were on another planet. Professor Stalloid thought they were in the “Underneath” as he called it to himself, perhaps some other dimension. Jacali had no idea where they were. The orange sun was setting and the area around them was lit. They guessed there were more portals all around. Tracks led from various spots around them, most of them meandering around but all going in the same direction. Professor Stalloid jumped up and down. He realized he felt lighter than he should have. He looked at the sky and at the sun setting on the horizon. He was certain they were not on Earth but on some other planet. He was certain of it. He could confirm it when he saw the night’s sky and saw the stars. “Hey, I think we’re on another world,” he whispered to Jacali. “Not Earth.” “There are more?” she whispered back. “Yeah,” Professor Stalloid said. Otto and Jacali led them after the tracks. They were easy to follow though they both guessed that after only a day or two, the footprints would disappear with the blowing wind. The tracks in the immediate vicinity moved around, apparently avoiding certain spots on the ground. The tracks were a mix of footprints, mostly of bare feet, and strange prints they couldn’t identify: some long and some small. They realized the way the tracks moved, if they were avoiding other portals, they were in a square area over a hundred yards across, and seemed to be in the same places where the houses of Quiet Gap were. Or maybe where the beds of the town were. Off to one side the opposite direction the tracks were going was the broken, burned, and smashed remains of a good-sized contemporary house. “That oddly looks like the mayor’s house over there,” Otto said. “I say we should go check it out before we go.” “I concur,” Professor Stalloid said. The wreckage did, indeed, appear to be made of the same wood as the mayor’s house had been. The remains of the upper half of the house appeared to have been blasted with dynamite and was, for the most part, smashed to pieces. They realized it was the part of the house that wasn’t around as debris. “It looks like, when he had his dynamite accident, it caved in on the portal,” Jacali said. “And this is the debris that flew through there.” “But this is the top of the house,” Otto said. “All I know is there’s no kids over there,” Jack West said. “But how, if it collapsed in on itself would the top end up on this side and not the bottom, which is in our reality?” Otto said. “Because it was pulled into the portal,” Professor Stalloid said. “What I want to know is that if I go into there, and there’s a bed, is there a portal under it?” “That’d be a possibility,” Jack West said. “But it don’t matter ‘cause we got 30 other portals to use.” “I know, but I want to know if he destroyed the portal in his house by doing this. Or if it still exists somehow.” “We’ll tell him to move!” “I think finding the missing townspeople is more important,” Jacali said. “They could be in the house,” Professor Stalloid said. The tracks didn’t go to the house. They moved on, following the tracks. Twin moons rose over the horizon to the right, near an impossibly huge structure that seemed to be some kind of great building. The stars were completely unrecognizable, as was the blood-red nebula across half the sky. They all realized they were not on Earth anymore. The trail didn’t lead anywhere near that building but to a flat area beyond the strange, broken hills. As they crested the rise of a dune of ash some three miles beyond the portals, they saw another massive structure ahead of them. Standing impossibly in the ash and sand was a great cube at least 100 yards across. Unadorned except for the strange patterns upon it, the massive cube was where the trail was going. It balanced impossibly on one corner and was huge. They followed the trail that went around the side of the cube. A huge mound of debris was piled up to what appeared to be a door in the side of the cube. It formed a rough but solid ramp. The metal of the cube was unlike any they had ever seen before and the entire structure was covered in strange and unrecognizable sigils and markings that had obviously been there for a great deal of time. The doors had no hinges or handles but a large red button was on the wall next to it. Jack West pressed it with his pistol and the doors slid open widely without a sound. Lights flickered from within and there were small fires in some places. A pall of smoke hung over the immense room that seemed to fill the cube. Nearest to the door were several short walls forming a barricade. They had apparently been supplemented by a great deal of debris, most of it once connected to the main barricades: metal and bone apparently. Now, everything was in ruins. The room itself was filled with great, broken buildings of all shapes and sizes, most of them several stories tall. The road that ran from the door was wide. The buildings are broken and obviously in ruins. More disturbing were the buildings on the walls and ceiling of the interior. Roads and avenues were on the walls and ceiling as well. There were also doors in the other walls, both on their level of the cube and connecting to the other walls and ceiling, as if gravity were not a thought to the makers of the thing. Even the ceiling had doors where it met the four walls of the cube. They realized there was rubble and debris on all of the walls and ceiling as well. Great ramps ran up and down from floor to ceiling in two of the corners and more ran from side to side between all four walls. They were wide enough for a wagon but still looked small compared to the vastness of the great room overall. Otto took cover behind the barricade. Jack West sauntered into the huge room to look around more carefully. Jacali moved into the room as well. As each of them stepped into the room, the tilted floor seemed to right itself and they found themselves on solid ground. Both Otto and Jacali searched the ground nearby for tracks without finding any. Professor Stalloid peeked into the huge room before entering. He saw another red button next to the door on one side and a lever on the other side. “Let’s make sure this door opens on the other side too,” he said. He stepped back from the door and pushed the button on the outside, closing the door. Otto and Jacali noticed when the door closed, a light above it that glowed purple turned green. Jacali pushed the button and saw that it was no longer leading outside. Instead, it showed a more open area with smaller buildings of some sort. The entire area seemed to be more regimented and controlled than the room they stood in. Several metal or horn or ivory sleds of some kind lay in the street, all of them partially disassembled, missing parts, or corroded. Jacali pressed the button again and the door closed. The light remained green. She looked around and found a lever on the opposite side of the door from the great red button. It was up but she pulled it down and the light changed to purple again. She pressed the button again and the door opened to reveal Stalloid outside of the cube. Her eyes rolled up in her head and she fainted. Otto rushed over to help the woman to help her. Jack West, looking up at the other strange walls and ceiling, noticed movement. There were a few spider-like creatures some distance away on two of the walls and on the ceiling. The creatures didn’t seem to have noticed him but they moved strangely through the rubble and broken buildings. He realized they must have been pretty big for him to see them so far away. He also noticed buildings on the wall they had come in, sticking out as if the wall was also a floor. He guessed when he stepped on the wall, it would turn into a floor for him. Jacali was only out for a few seconds before she came to once again. “Hey, so, quick question,” Jacali said. “Yes,” Otto said. “When I swung the lever, did the door go to a different place?” “Yes.” She looked at him. “I hate this place,” she said. “I want to go home. This is awful. Oh my goodness.” He offered her a hand and helped her stand up. “Let’s find these people,” she said. They discussed the light changing color. They noted it had changed green again when the door had closed and explained how the door led to different places. They explained the lever to Professor Stalloid as well. “Hey, there’s spiders on the ceiling,” Jack West said. “What?” Jacali said. They all looked at the things on the walls and ceiling and realized the creatures were clinging to the walls and ceiling as if each had its own gravity. Otto tried to step onto the nearby wall but nothing happened. It was just a wall. Professor Stalloid, his face filled with mad hate, pulled the lightning gun from his shoulder. Otto rushed the man and grabbed at the lightning gun. The two men struggled with the case for a moment and Otto snatched it. Stalloid pulled a stick of dynamite out of his pocket. They saw it already had a blasting cap and a short fuse sticking out of it. Out of his other pocket, he pulled out a box of matches. Otto shoved the man and the two struggled. Professor Stalloid’s eyes were wide and he looked back and forth between Otto and the spiders. His mouth was open and he drooled copiously from it. Something was obviously wrong with him. Jack West turned around and saw the men apparently fighting over a stick of dynamite. He laughed. “What are you clowns doing?” he said. “Help me!” Otto said. Jacali ran behind Stalloid and tried to grab him but the man elbowed her in the gut and she stumbled back. Jack West turned and walked away, heading for the nearest building. “Bunch a clowns,” he muttered. “Everybody knows I take the best pictures.” Professor Stalloid lit the match and then set it to the fuse, which sputtered. He looked straight up at the spider 60 or 70 yards above him. “Save yourself!” Otto said. He dropped the lightning gun and ran towards the barricade. Jacali ran along the wall and launched herself over where the barricade met it. Professor Stalloid flung the dynamite straight up and suddenly realized what he had done. The stick didn’t hit the wall as if it was the ground, like he’d hoped, but arced and came directly back down. He heard a gunshot as Jack West, having looked over his shoulder, fired at the stick of dynamite but missed. Professor Stalloid, desperate, slapped the red button and flung himself through the door, ducking to the right in the room beyond. Jack West, a little ways away, leapt into the building. The explosion rocked the ground and sent terribly loud echoes throughout the place. Stalloid was knocked to the ground in the next room and slightly injured. Jacali and Otto had both crouched behind the barricade and their ears rang. Otto looked over the barricade, expecting to see Professor Stalloid’s mangled corpse. He saw the door closing and no sign of the man. Jacali looked around, bow in hand, and saw the spiders all scuttling their direction. * * * Jack West looked around the room he was standing in. There was debris and broken items in the place, as well as a ramp in the back that went up. He didn’t recognize anything in the room so he made his way to the ramp. * * * Professor Stalloid looked at the strange, regimented buildings and odd-looking sleds that littered the street of the room he found himself within. He turned around and looked over the doorway. There was no light over and he noticed there was no lever either, just the red button. He pressed it carefully and the door opened to reveal the barricade and the blackened street. He smelled gunpowder and saw Otto peeking over the short wall. He strolled back into the room and Otto aimed his rifle at the man. It was a very familiar feeling. He didn’t like it. “Are those spiders dead?” he asked. “They’re coming over here now,” Otto said. “Can I have my lightning gun?” Professor Stalloid said. Otto just looked at the ground and it was then Professor Stalloid noticed the bits and pieces of wood and glass scattered in the area that looked like it had once been a camera. “You need to throw that very far away!” Professor Stalloid said. “No!” Otto said. “No! The-the stuff on the ground? That needs to be gone!” “Well, you do it!” “Okay.” He quickly gathered up the remains of the lightning gun and chucked it through the door before it closed. “So … what happened?” Professor Stalloid said. “You tired to kill us!” Otto said. “I tried to kill spiders I thought. Yeah yeah! There was a spider behind me!” “That was Jacali.” “I’m not a spider!” Jacali said. “Well, why did you try to stop me from killing spiders?” Professor Stalloid said. “‘Cause now they know we’re here!” Otto said. “Aren’t we here to stop them?” “No.” The creatures weren’t spiders and they resembled them only in that they had eight appendages. The nearest was only a little smaller than a man but had a bulk to it that belied its size. It had four thick tentacles holding up its greenish body and four others that sprouted from the sides like loose and flabby arms. It had no discernible face, but more a series of claws or fangs that covered the front of its head. The back was large and had strange bulbs upon it that might have served as some sense organ or might merely have been some sort of cancerous growth. Professor Stalloid looked around for Jack West but saw no sign of him. He shouted for the man. * * * Jack West Professor Stalloid shouting his name and went to a window in that direction. He saw the others by the doors they’d first come in, Professor Stalloid running towards the building he was in. * * * Jacali looked at the things moving towards them. One was coming down the nearest wall straight towards them. Another was on the ceiling and heading for the same wall. The last were off to the right on the wall there, heading towards the floor. The one on the wall nearest was only about 20 feet away and Jacali shot at it, striking it with an arrow. Otto put the rifle to his shoulder and fired directly after that, hitting the thing. It stumbled and slumped to the ground. It stopped moving. It didn’t fall, as Jacali thought it would. She saw the thing in the wall to the right head for one of the main doors like the one they had come in. “I don’t feel like the kids are in this cube!” Jack West called. “They’re in another cube through one of these other doors!” * * * Professor Stalloid ran into the building where he’d seen Jack West leaning out the window. He saw the ramp in the back and ran up to join the other man on the second floor. “We’re gonna get swarmed,” Professor Stalloid said. “We better hurry,” Jack West said. “We better get down.” * * * The creatures on the right wall had reached their floor and went through a door in it. That’s when Jacali noticed another door in the floor of the room she was standing in, not far from the door they had entered. She looked around but none of the other doors opened. “What are we doing?” Jacali said to Otto. “Are we following the others? At least we should stay as a group.” “Stay as a group,” Otto said. They headed for the building they saw Stalloid enter. They went up the ramp and found Professor Stalloid and Jack West there. “Let’s go back down,” Jack West said. He ran down the ramp. “What?” Jacali said. “Okay. Fine.” They followed and went back to the street. Otto started searching for tracks. Jacali looked as well and found signs of numerous people walking down the road recently. She also found a handkerchief near the center of the great room but down the main road that led to the left. She continued finding signs of people passing through leading all the way to the main door in that wall. Unlike the door they had come in, it had neither a lever nor a light. The room beyond was huge, another 100 yard by 100 yard room. There were no buildings in that room at all though there were murals on all of the walls and the floor. It was an ingenious mural that was made in such a way that no matter what floor a person might stand on, they could see the entirety of the mural. Overall, the room had a central thoroughfare and was mostly open though there were small plinths, many of them with the remains of glass boxes, almost like display cases along the floor, walls, and ceiling. Most interesting were the great murals. Professor Stalloid told them what he thought the murals meant as he followed them from left to right. They showed the evolution of the creatures from their earliest evolving from something from their seas to their creation of great cities and finally to the creation of the cubes, which floated what appeared to be hundreds of feet in the air square to the ground. It also showed something similar to Professor Terwilliger’s rockets leaving an orb around a sun to other such orbs. It showed more of the cubes with the inference that they were taken to other worlds in the star system. Finally, it showed a select and smaller group of the creatures with markings coming from their heads creating what appeared to be gates, this time to other star systems. There were also spiral nebulas shown, with the gates leading to them. The Milky Way galaxy was the only galaxy that existed, Professor Stalloid knew. But the murals indicated that there were other galaxies, possibly hundreds if not thousands of them. It was something he had never seen before. These creatures had gone very far. Everything known in contemporary astronomy was wrong. However, the murals became cruder towards the end, at one point showing a strangely shaped creature with a tentacle where the face should be and then some kind of strange lights or mushrooms appearing all over one of the spheres. A few of the rockets and cubes were shown leaving the sphere and some of the gates were also shown to be formed. There was little after that. “I feel like that mushroom orb is the one we are on,” Professor Stalloid said. “And there were some sort of explosions beyond my comprehension.” All of them but Otto suddenly realized the rooms they were in were the same size as the exterior of the cube. Each of them was 100 yards on a side, as was the exterior of the cube. They were in an impossible structure. Jacali started looking for tracks again and found a bow and ribbon off to the right. She guessed the townsfolk were taken in that direction. Then she looked at the plinths, wondering if they were used to hold the Crescent. They were all different shapes and sizes but she saw some that might have been large enough to house it. They went to the door to the right and found themselves in another impossibly large room. This one had more tall, broken buildings, these with storefronts, apparently. It made them think of storefronts, at least. They had a terrible time following the trail and lost it, wandering for an hour, entering one of the buildings but finding absolutely nothing there. Jacali found some obvious clues she had missed the first time. The trail led from the door they came into and then bore left to one of the great doors on wall. They found that door ajar and a great room with low broken and shattered buildings beyond, only a few larger than two stories high. The trail seemed to lead to the center of the cube on that floor where there was a low, solid structure with no windows. It was about 40 or 50 feet on a side. As they carefully approached the building, they saw there was a crude bar over the doors and could hear the sound of voices within. They removed the bar and opened the door. A field of purple glass and the semblance of a park was in the open-topped building, almost arrayed like some kind of athletic field. There were dozens of people milling around, most of them in their underwear or nightshirts and with bare feet. It looked like the population of the entire town was there. “It’s time to go home, people,” Jack West said loudly. The townsfolk looked their way, surprised and several rushed over to them. “Listen! We know the way out!” Jacali said. “We can guide you all, but we need to stay together!” People seemed confused and frightened. A large muscular man wearing long johns but no shirt approached them, as did a small, mousy man, and a fully-dressed man who was missing a boot but wore a star on his vest. “I see you wear your badge to sleep,” Jacali said. “No, I was still up when they came out from under the bed,” Marshal Churchill said. “I took a few shots at ‘em. Then they got me. But most of ‘em here was sleeping … and they said they never woke up. But I saw ‘em being taken! They were walking! Some were being carried. You can get us out of here?” “We know the way we got here,” Jacali said. “We’ll follow it back.” “All right,” Marshal Churchill said. “They took some of us away. We don’t know where they went. We don’t know what they did to ‘em. Five or six of us.” “Those people are probably gone,” Professor Stalloid said. “Okay, hold on Mr. Stalloid!” Jacali said. A little girl nearby burst into tears. “It’s just probable,” Professor Stalloid said. “Listen, do you know which way they went?” Jacali said. “They took ‘em out the doors you just came in,” Marshal Churchill said. “We can’t see outside. What is this place?” “It’s a hellscape,” Professor Stalloid said. “William Jeffries, he just won’t say anything. He just keeps staring at the ceiling.” “Is the mayor here?” “We haven’t seen the mayor.” “He’s probably gone.” “Shut up, Stalloid,” Otto said. “Stalloid! I think you’re making the situation a bit worse,” Jacali said. “Why don’t we deal with the grave realities of the situation after we have people out of the hellscape?” “Yeah yeah yeah,” Professor Stalloid said. “Yeah yeah yeah. Hellscape.” He looked over the people. “If you don’t get out of here, you know this is a bad place, right?” Professor Stalloid said loudly. “We’re all going to die.” People started to panic. A few women screamed and children cried and called to their mothers or fathers. One little boy started slamming himself into a wall. It was pandemonium. “I don’t wanna die!” one man cried out. Three or four people pushed by them and ran out of the open doors, fleeing. “Nice going, Stalloid!” Otto said. “Everyone stay still!” Jack West cried out. He brandished his pistol. “Shut up and listen, God damn it!” he cried out. No one listened to him. Jacali moved towards the doors and closed them. “Everybody step out for a minute,” Jack West said. The townsfolk surged forward in a panic. “Let’s just get everybody out and we’ll come back for the other people!” Jacali said. Jacali went out the doors and pointed down the street the way they’d come, then led them. Otto stayed close to her. Jack West exited the building but stepped aside to see that people got out. Professor Stalloid stayed with him. A little girl got knocked down by Otto and he swooped to her and snatched her up. She was crying and holding the leg someone had stepped on. He tossed aside the new Winchester as it didn’t have a strap. A few people fled the wrong way. A woman near Professor Stalloid was muttering “Where’s my husband?” and going off perpendicular to Jacali’s main mob. She pushed by the man as he put his arms out and tried to point her in the right direction. He told her to follow the war hero and pointed out Otto. She was confused but headed in the correct direction. On the other side, near Jack West, an old man seemed confused and out of sorts. “I ain’t following no God-damned injun!” he said to Jack West. “It is tough to do but they know where they’re going,” Jack West said. The old man grudgingly went that direction. Marshal Churchill tried to help guide the people, as did Doctor Groate, an old man in a nightshirt. The big blacksmith slapped people who got out of line or shoved them in the right direction. An intelligent-looking woman and another gentleman who had talked to them before were also trying to persuade people to keep moving and follow the people who were leading them out. Only a few were keeping their heads however. Most were terrified. They had made it about halfway to the door when a little girl screamed and they saw she was pointing to an alley between two of the buildings. Lying on the ground were several bloody bones that appeared to be human. Her shriek was ear-piercing and loud. Jack West moved forward and yelled for them to keep going. Something peeked out of one of the houses. It wasn’t human. Jack West fired a single shot and the thing screeched and fell out of sight. “C’mon, your homes are almost there!” Professor Stalloid shouted. “We’re on our way!” Everyone surged forward but they heard the sound of other alien screeches and then the sound of metal banging on metal and more loud, alien screeches. Moments later the horrible creatures started pouring out of the houses on the floor, walls, and ceiling. Most of them erupted from the buildings on the wall they were heading for, racing down the wall towards them. They would not be able to make it through the door before the horrors got to them. The townsfolk panicked again. “Don’t stop running!” Jack West cried out. At least a dozen people fainted, froze, or stood and watched the things, screaming. One man started pounding his face with his fists like he was trying to blind himself as he shrieked and shrieked and shrieked. Jack West opened fire, fanning his pistol, shooting three of the things. Two of them stopped moving and the other, obviously badly injured, scuttled into one of the buildings on that wall. Jacali looked around, unsure where to go. She had stopped the townsfolk some 20 feet from the wall and the creatures swarmed around the door, unable to reach them but blocking their exit. The things leapt up towards them but they were too far away. Professor Stalloid suddenly realized the gravity was subjective. It depended upon which door each room was entered from. They had not seen any of the things scuttle from wall to wall or wall to ceiling or floor. Just like them, the things were limited to the wall, ceiling, or floor they were upon. He shouted it out for the rest to hear. Jacali yelled for everyone to stay put and took out her bow. It took her but a moment to realize there were far too many of the things to kill. They were moving down the wall as Jack West fired at the things but others moved on the ceiling and other walls, going to doorways that would, presumably, lead them to ways to get to the villagers. There were hundreds of the things. She called for the townspeople to turn around and head off to the door on their left. Jack West and Stalloid were now at the front of the group and they saw Jacali pointing to another door. Jack West switched guns, holstering the one he held. He opened the door there and saw they were back in the museum room. He moved in along with the townsfolk and the others. Jacali ran into the room to search the area and try to figure out where they had initially entered from and hope they were on the correct floor. It was very quiet once Otto closed the door to the last room. No sound came through whatsoever. Professor Stalloid used the revolver Jack West had lent him to blast away at the button. It shattered and there was a hissing noise. Sparks came out of the thing and Professor Stalloid turned and ran. Jacali realized they had originally come in the door directly across from the door they just entered. She pointed the townsfolk to that door and led them towards it. The door behind them opened and the horrible creatures burst in, not far from them. When they entered the original room to the cube, they made their way to the door with the light, Jacali leading. She got there before the rest and pushed up the lever, causing the light to turn purple. She pressed the red button and the door lead out into the desert. More of the creatures poured out of the door to the museum. Jack West fired at them but they didn’t slow. Professor Stalloid lit a piece of dynamite and dropped it at his feet. He kept running. Otto led the fleeing townsfolk. After about half the villagers were out of the cube, Jacali ran out among them. In the back, Professor Stalloid and Jack West were catching up to the group as they bottlenecked at the door. They saw one little boy running and running and running behind everyone, trying to keep up. “Grab him!” Professor Stalloid yelled. “We’ll run together as a unit!” “Just blow up the exit!” Jack West said. He scooped up the boy and put him under one arm. The kid was still moving his arms as if he was running. Behind them, there was a blast and several of the things were blown to pieces or flung into the air as the dynamite Professor Stalloid dropped finally exploded. Professor Stalloid brought up the rear as Jack West ran down the slope. The scholar lit the dynamite and dropped it by the door. Then he pressed the button as he left the cube. He ran down the slope. The things did not immediately come out, as Professor Stalloid had hopes. It was several minutes before the door finally opened and the horrible creatures boiled out of the cube along with a good amount of smoke, but they had gained a decent lead on the horrible things, though Professor Stalloid was not terribly pleased to be in the very rear of their group and finding himself short of breath. He realized there were hundreds of the things. Jacali had moved to the front of the group of townsfolk and was leading them along with Otto. Unfortunately, both Jack West and Stalloid were falling back, out of breath and with stitches in their sides. Jack West put the kid down, but the child wasn’t making much better time than the two men. The horrors were catching up. When Jacali and Otto reached the place of portals, they saw that only about half the surviving townsfolk had kept up. Others had fallen behind over the three miles between the cube and the spot, though Jack West and Professor Stalloid were bringing up the rear as the horrible creatures gained on them. “Otto, it doesn’t matter which portal, right?” Jacali yelled at the man. “Let’s just get them in the first.” Otto got through a portal with the child as Jacali started telling people to get into the portals without jumping in. Most were slowly entering the portals nearest the side of the field they approached. Others fell through. One little boy leapt into his and then fell back out, holding his head and climbing back in. Most of the people were through when Jacali spotted Professor Stalloid and Jack West, along with a child, running with the horrible creatures close behind them. Jack West dropped a piece of dynamite on the ground and planned to shoot it later. “C’mon mister!” the little boy yelled at Jack West, grabbing his arm. “C’mon! C’mon. God damn it!” He slapped at Jack West’s arm. “Don’t you die on me!” he cried out. Jack West looked back, hoping to shoot the dynamite, but the things were all around it and couldn’t even see it. Jacali ran to the three and grabbed the kid. “No!” he shouted. “Daddy!” She ran to one of the nearby portals and put the boy down. “Where do I go?” he said, taking a few steps and falling into one of the portals. Jacali fired several arrows into the pack of the things before she felt them too close. She killed at least one of them and injured three others. Then she fled through the portal as one of the things lunged at her. Jack West and Professor Stalloid followed them, the things very close behind and lunging at them as both of them entered the portals. * * * Otto had gone through the portal with the little girl near the front of the pack and found himself in a room he didn’t recognize. Others started coming through and he handed off the girl to someone. Someone struggled with the back door and someone else picked up a chair and busted open a window to escape. He noticed the shutters were opened in the room. Otto shoved the bed aside and went over to the back door where he smashed it open, leaving it hung there on one hinge. * * * Jack West came out in a hotel room. He ran to the open door and out, rushing downstairs to find himself to find himself exiting the Six Feet Under Saloon next to the general store. He ran for the livery stable. * * * Jacali came out of the room in the back of the general store. The door was smashed out and the windows were all broken. She recognized the place and ran out the front, heading for the livery stable. * * * Professor Stalloid came out in a hotel room and fled the Six Feet Under Saloon before the horrible creatures came after him. He made for the bank where his horse was tethered. * * * It was very dark in the town with a waning moon well over half full. Townsfolk were fleeing the town, running directly away as quickly as they could. Professor Stalloid saw Marshal Churchill run to his office at a full sprint. Other people ran towards the livery stable. When Professor Stalloid got to his horse, he saw someone untying his reins from the broken hitching post. “Hey, that’s my horse,” he said. “You can ride with me but you can’t take it.” The man looked at him for a moment. “Okay!” the other man said. They mounted up and rode out of town. * * * Otto reached the livery stable and found a man saddling up the horse. He glared at the man. “I’m not letting you ride that horse but you can ride with me,” he said. “Okay!” the man said. Otto helped him get the horse ready and they fled town. * * * When Jacali reached the livery stable she found several people saddling horses but the man in the stall with her horse cursed there was no saddle and fled. She ran in, mounted up, and took off. “Burn everything or leave!” she yelled. “I’m not coming back here!” * * * Jack West sprinted to the livery stable and found his horse completely left alone. He saddled it and put the saddlebags with the stolen money in it and then headed out of town going north. He decided he would make tracks for Gravity Falls and meet the others later. He wasn’t even going to stop that night. As he rode out of town, he saw several people run out of the marshal’s office. Then the door slammed shut. Next he heard gunfire from the building. First it was several reports from a peacemaker. That was followed by shotgun and rifle blasts. He passed an overweight man running from town. Should’ve gotten a horse, he thought as he passed the man. “Help me!” the man cried out. “Please help me!” “You’ll make it,” Jack West said to him. * * * Townsfolk fled the town in droves. Jacali had fled to the great stones a mile from town and stopped at one of them. She saw other people running out of town to the stones or to places between town and the stones. Some of them flung themselves to the ground once they reached a place of relative safety. They could see the horrible creatures moving around in the town and heard intermittent gunfire coming from someplace in Quiet Gap. They watched the town carefully for the rest of the long and terrifying night. They could hear someone crying in the distance and sometimes saw people moving around in the darkness in the distance. * * * The morning of Monday, September 20, 1875, saw everyone who hid outside of the town exhausted but happy for the light. Townsfolk moved back into the now-empty town and Otto, Jacali, and Professor Stalloid also went back to the town. There was no sign of the creatures and they learned things in the homes and businesses were disturbed but not taken. Professor Stalloid suggested to Jacali that they tell the villagers to burn the town to the ground and leave. She said she would make that announcement. Otto went to the general store to retrieve his damaged Winchester. They saw Marshal Churchill exit the jail and later learned he had barred the doors to the office and blasted away at any of the creatures that had come through the portals under the beds in the cells, holding off any things that came near the jail all night despite the wrecked door. Jacali nodded at the man. She gathered as many people together as she could. “You all can take what you want from this place, you can grab all the valuables, you can burnt he rest,” she said to them. “But as long as you stay here, if this is going to keep happening every night, or every night every few years.” She described the rocks around the town, which all the townsfolk knew. “The professor in town had found the old Paiute stories about this place but I think you all have seen the realities of it,” she said. “I can’t tell you what to do but, if you stay here, nothing’s going to change. I’m sorry.” People nodded and crying. They looked like refugees of some war. “I’m sorry for your loss,” she said. “I’m glad those who are here are still here.” People started to ready themselves to leave the town. At some point that morning, Thurston Smith, the banker, told the townsfolk the bank had been robbed and all the money held there was gone except for some gold dust. People were devastated. One woman sat on the ground and started bawling. Marshal Churchill questioned who they were and got their names. He wondered if they had seen anyone else in the town who might have robbed the bank. He told them the bank was missing $7,000 in cash. He needed to know if anyone else besides their rescuers had been in the town before as the loss of that money was going to ruin several people. A little later, Professor Tennesley, librarian found Jacali, and told her he’d examined the strange opening under his bed to find it had shrunk to less than two feet across. He believed it was continuing to shrink and would soon be gone. She told the villagers they probably had another few years before the horrors came back, which explained why it had not happened in the town before then People talked about camping outside of town every night until they could get out. Others were flinging their beds out into the street and planning on sleeping on their mattresses that night. * * * Jack West was gone. They saw no sign of him that day. “Otto, Jack West isn’t a coward, he’s a rat,” Jacali told the other man. “What do you think, Otto? Should we talk to Stalloid about it? He’s outside of town somewhere.” “His opinion on the matter is somewhat clear,” Otto said. “My only worry is it might make traveling with Jack West very difficult.” “It would also make it conflicting for me and Clayton to go with him because he would have a bounty on his head.” They were unsure what to do.
  19. Roland9410

    Refreshing Mythos Favorites?

    Just wanted to hear some keeper favorite monsters or groups of monsters. I have an upcoming session one and I have been finding it difficult to decide on a threat for my home brew scenario.This group I have ran through Rat Things (Loved), Wendigo (They Loved), and just recently the Dead Light Scenario. I have been debating using a Colour or a dark young and goat wood gnomes. Any favorite creatures I should look into?
  20. We at the Sons of the Singularity (“SoS”) are excited to announce the launching of our kick starter for “The Sassoon Files”. The Sassoon Files will be a set of scenarios and campaign resources for Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition and GUMSHOE rpgs set in historical 1920s Shanghai; an international city of intrigue, espionage, style and violence. (Intended for mature gamers only.) Please check out the KS at:
  21. Hello, all. First post here! What a lovely forum this is--looking forward to exploring the resources. By the way, please excuse my mirror of this post over on /r/callofcthulhu if you have seen that, too. I am a new keeper, and I'll be running Servants of the Lake in a couple of weeks. Yesterday, to study up, I took it upon myself to listen to the HowWeRoll podcast of the adventure and noticed some issues with the scenario. While it seems Servants of the Lake relies on the investigators spending at least one night at the motel, the HowWeRoll players in the first few minutes of arriving at the motel discovered the doctored logbook and collection of license plates. This caused the investigators to immediately suspect the motel owners in James' disappearance and develop an aggressive attitude toward the Brophy brothers (and who in their right mind would spend a night there after that?), which in my opinion spoiled the intended direction of the scenario--the midnight dream-pull by the Gla'aki avatar and subsequent attempted abduction of those investigators who didn't fall under the spell, all leading to an epic lakeside encounter with the Gla'aki avatar and his servants. Instead, due to the mistrust of the Brophy brothers, the HowWeRoll investigators quickly ended the scenario with a search of the workshop and consequent standoff fight, and while it was cool, I feel that 50% of the fun was missed. As a new keeper, I do understand that this sort of thing is bound to happen, but do you have any recommendations as far as modifying the scenario to prevent the investigators from suspecting the Brophy brothers right off the bat? Or some way to get them to spend at least one night at the motel? I've considered moving the license plates to William's bedroom and perhaps doing something different with the logbook.
  22. Hi all. I’m planning to run Cold Warning tonight and just realized that the first handout - an audio recording of a patient during hypnosis - would be so much better in actual audio compared to the paper transscript provided. Anyone seen anything like this somewhere? Cold Warning is an adventure for 7e by Scott David Aniolowski that was released last year. --- I kind of realize that posting this the same day as I plan to run this adventure sort of indicates a botched idea roll. Oh well.
  23. I'm thinking about running Horror on the Orient express and I read somewhere the idea of doing it in chronological order without telling the player's. So starting with a stand-alone Roman adventure, then a medieval adventure, and so on... Only to let the player's discover the connection in the full campaign. It sounded like an intriguing idea, but I'd love to hear the opinion of experienced keepers who played the campaign before starting a year long adventure!
  24. I've been working on a rather ambitious PBEM game and am currently putting feelers out. The game will not be light-hearted and casual - I'm going for something dense, wordy, and long-running. Players should be available to participate 2-3 times per week, possibly more. I have loose plans to construct similar games in the future with varying rulesets and settings, possibly simultaneous with one another. Feel free to hit me with any questions you have. More details below:
  25. Alone Against the Dark, Matt Costello's solo play Call of Cthulhu mini campaign, is available now in print at Chaosium.com. First released over thirty years ago, this new edition has been completely revised and updated for Call of Cthulhu 7th edition by Mike Mason, with new illustrations and player aids (color softcover, B&W interior). Note: print version currently from our US warehouse only. Alone Against the Dark is also available in PDF. [Web links unobfuscated. ~Mod.]
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