It's 1926, early May. Arkham. The school year is coming to an end, and professor Philip Sidney Grimm, who specializes in French history, is wrapping up his lessons for the semester. He looks forward to a summer of research into a pet project of his, and he's counting on the help of his best friend and colleague, archeology professor Hannibal Callahan. They have offices right next door to each other on the top floor of Locksley Hall on the M U campus, the same building that houses the university's museum, and when they're not meeting with students, you can often find Callahan in Grimm's office, playing chess. It's Grimm's favorite pastime, and he has a travelling chess set he brings to school in his briefcase. Grimm is currently reading Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt, and when they're not playing chess he and Callahan discuss literature and current events. The morning's copy of the Arkham Advertiser brought news of President Coolidge's attempts to get additional funding for pensions of veterans of the Spanish-American war.
The day is fairly typical: after teaching his morning French history class, Grimm meets a few students in his office. Final exams are coming up, and anxious students trying to get an edge on the competition drop by for help or hints about what to expect. The Dean of the School of History and Social Sciences, Harvey Wilcox, drops by Grimm's office to discuss Grimm's prospects for getting tenure. After some amiable chat about the weather, Grimm's wife, etc., Wilcox mentions that the tenure review board meets to discuss Grimm in the near future: next year will be Grimm's last unless they report favorably on him. Wilcox urges Grimm to come through with some solid work on his pet project, the Rod of Aaron. The Rod is none other than the Biblical staff that Moses and Aaron turned into a serpent when they went to talk to Pharaoh. This same rod was used in bringing down the plagues of Egypt, and according to legend, Moses used it to part the Red Sea. Along with the Ark of the Covenant, it mysteriously disappeared in 586 B. C. when the Babylonians destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. This very famous mystical object was rumored to have been owned by the king of France in the early middle ages, and ever since he learned of it Grimm has entertained the dream of one day proving it existed in medieval France. Along with Callahan, he's dreamt of finding the Rod as part of an archeological quest. He is nearly alone in searching for it, since most scientists believe the object to be purely legendary, scoffing at the notion that it might one day be found. Wilcox, who doesn't hold out much hope for the Rod project, nevertheless suggests that any solid evidence about it might be just the thing the tenure review board needs to grant Grimm a permanent place on M U's staff.
Later in the afternoon, this ordinary day turns extraordinary. Grimm goes down to check his mailbox in the teacher's lounge, and stops on the way at the museum gift shop. Jerry Peabody, who runs the candy counter, and Grimm have one of those strange but wonderful professional friendships that occasionally develop. Although on the outside their manner is merely cordial and businesslike, somewhere inside, for no real reason that either of them could identify even if they wanted to, they share a secret smile of friendship, and Jerry often turns a blind eye when Grimm's hand pauses over the Wrigley's doublemint gum, and never seems to notice if there's one pack less when he leaves the shop. At a nickel a pack, Grimm doesn't take this liberty often, but today is one of those days. He greets Jerry and they talk about this and that, and when Grimm goes for the gum, Jerry inspects a spot on the wall near the ceiling. Leaving the shop, Grimm finally makes it to his mailbox, and finds there a telegram that just arrived from France. Marcel Abelhard, a colleague working at an abbey library in France, wires to announce that he's uncovered an extremely important piece of evidence, an ancient illuminated manuscript called the Chronicle of Adalberon, that gives details about where the Rod of Aaron might be found.
Grimm is very excited, and runs back upstairs to tell Callahan. The Chronicle of Adalberon is a text known to have been written by the Archbishop of Rheims in the early eleventh century, but no copy was thought to have survived to the present day. Callahan is similarly thrilled, and the two friends contemplate the exciting academic adventure that may now be possible.
Grimm goes home to his wife, Cathleen, and over dinner Grimm tells her of the day's wonderful news. She is very pleased for him, and asks if Dean Wilcox knows about it yet. Grimm says no, he didn't see Wilcox after getting the telegram, so he won't find out until tomorrow. After dinner, Cathleen tells Grimm that she is going over to her sister's, and that he shouldn't wait up for her. She leaves, and Grimm spends the rest of the evening alone, reading Babbitt and thinking about the Rod of Aaron, that elusive relic that could just make his career. Cathleen comes home a few hours later and finds Grimm still up. They go to bed after a long day.
Grimm sleeps soundly, and when he eventually drifts back to consciousness, his wife is not in bed. That's because it's not the same bed. It's not even the same house, Grimm discovers to his extreme confusion and mounting panic. He wakes up to find himself in a small room completely foreign to him. All of his clothes and many of his personal possessions fill the closet, shelves and drawers, and he discovers his books with notations in his handwriting. His chess sets he finds shoved into the back of one of the dresser drawers. His briefcase is empty and stowed away in one corner of the closet. But neither his wife or any trace of her are to be found.
Reeling with confusion, and half hoping it's just a dream, Grimm staggers out of the room and finds himself in a hallway. Other doors, all locked, line the walls, and at the end of the hall are stairs going down. Grimm descends and finds an old man sitting at a table in the dining room of a house he has never seen before in his life. The man sips at some iced tea and reads a newspaper. He doesn't pay any attention to Grimm. Grimm looks around this strange house, and finds a parlor with a piano and a large radio, a sitting room with a fireplace, and the dining room with the old man and a tawny cat. The man continues to read the paper. Grimm, feeling with growing certainty and sinking dread that he is not asleep, rushes back upstairs to search the room. The view out the window is of a rooftop over a garage, beyond which is a street that Grimm feels is vaguely familiar. On the desk Grimm finds a deck of tarot cards and a crystal ball. He also finds a manila folder with a lengthy research paper entitled "The Rod of Aaron in Carolingian France." The date: 1928. The author: Philip Sidney Grimm. Even more startling, however, is the final discovery on the desk: a single leaf from an ancient Latin illuminated manuscript. There before him is an intricate medieval painting of Lothaire, last of the Carolingian monarchs of France, sitting on his throne beneath a gaily colored pavilion. Behind him stand ladies in waiting, and a man sits at his feet. To his right stands an imposing looking man dressed in a black tunic with red trim and a large, silver, shield-shaped crest covering his chest and stomach. In his left hand, the man holds a big black book. In his right hand, he holds nothing other than the Rod of Aaron.
Grimm vaguely hears some noise from downstairs, and then the man's voice shouts up, One of your ladies is here. Then a woman comes up the stairs with a birthday cake. She's very pretty, middle aged, attractively dressed and looks wealthy. She doesn't introduce herself, but tells Grimm that she's just brought the cake over in advance so that Margaret will be surprised, and that he should probably put it in the icebox until later that night. She says she's looking forward to tonight very much. Grimm tries to explain to her that he doesn't know who she is, has never heard of Margaret, and doesn't in general know what on earth she's talking about. At first the woman is confused, identifies herself as Regina, and prepares to make an explanation, but then she realizes that Grimm is only joking with her, laughs heartily and says I see, it's all part of your plan for tonight. Oh well, I'll be back later with the girls. And we are looking forward to your special surprise. The woman breezes down the stairs and out of the house as though she'd done it a hundred times before, leaving Grimm to wonder what's going on.
Grimm goes back downstairs, to find the old man still reading the paper. Grimm asks where he is, and the man, who is hard of hearing, doesn't understand the questions very well. Grimm slowly learns that the man is Calhoun, the owner of the house. Grimm learns that he himself is a boarder here, like several other people, and has apparently lived here for quite some time. When Grimm asks about his wife, Calhoun replies: Wife? I didn't know you were married. You haven't had a woman up there have you? You know that's against the rules! Grimm feels the panic rising in him, and takes a look at Calhoun's newspaper. The date: September 1930. Four years and eight months after yesterday.
Grimm is deeply shaken and confused. He confesses to Calhoun that he can't remember the last four years: nothing in fact since 1926, and asks for the old man's help. Calhoun, at first deeply suspicious, tells him that he has lived in the house as a boarder for years. That he never knew he had a wife. That he has regular meetings with a group of women in the parlor, and that they get up to "hocus pocus" that Calhoun would rather not know anything about. Calhoun doesn't know anything about Grimm working at M U, either. Grimm begins to feel his life has gone very wrong, and is on the verge of tears. Calhoun offers to make him some tea, and after the old man goes to the kitchen, Grimm looks at the paper.
The news is very bad. The country is in a terrible economic depression. Herbert Hoover, whom Grimm remembers as Secretary of State, is now the president, and there's an article about building a memorial for some man named Charles Lindbergh that Grimm has never even heard of. There's also an enormous feature article about Russia and its experiment with a socialistic economy. While Grimm reads the paper, Calhoun is playing with the cat in the living room. Grimm is only dimly aware of the old man shouting deafly at his pet.
Grimm drinks the tea that Calhoun has prepared, and after calming down somewhat, he decides to try to dial his own telephone number. He is afraid of what he'll hear at the other end, but after a couple of rings a familiar woman's voice says Hello.
Cathleen? Grimm asks.
Leave me alone, comes the tense reply, and then the phone goes dead.
Grimm, devastated, dresses and prepares to go out, determined to find out what happened to him and where four years of his life have gone. Calhoun asks if he'll be back for dinner, because he's planning to go out, and Calhoun knows that none of the other boarders will be at home this particular evening. Grimm says he doesn't know. Calhoun says he'll leave the key in the mailbox if he goes out. Grimm packs his briefcase with the things he found on his desk and leaves the house.
Grimm walks across town to his old house. As he approaches, he sees that the name on the mailbox is Wilcox. He rings the bell, and Cathleen opens the door. She stands silently glaring at him, and he asks her for help. She's uncommunicative, to say the least, and soon another person appears from within the house. It's Harvey Wilcox, Grimm's former boss. Wilcox tells Grimm to get out and not come back, and he has Cathleen's complete support. Grimm, thunderstruck and profoundly upset, walks away. He goes over to the university, and drops by the museum gift shop on his way up to his office. Jerry Peabody is there, but there's no smile of friendship in his eyes. When Grimm picks up a pack of gum, Jerry brusquely says That will be ten cents. Grimm snaps, and shouts at Jerry Why does everyone hate me?!
Grimm tearfully makes his way upstairs, and isn't surprised to see that his office now has a new name on the door: T. Freeborn. Callahan's office, however, is the same, and Hannibal Callahan is inside.
Callahan is surprised to see him, but receives him cordially. When Grimm tells his old friend that he has amnesia, can't remember anything since 1926, Callahan says Again?, and then tells him the whole story.
The morning after Grimm got the telegram from Abelhard, Callahan tells him, he suffered some sort of stroke while teaching his morning class. Callahan was devastated to hear that his friend had collapsed in his classroom, and rushed over to the hospital to see Grimm as soon as he could. Doctors only reluctantly allow Grimm to have visitors, and even Cathleen had trouble getting in to see him for a couple of days. Callahan did all he could to help Cathleen through this rough time, although, unbeknownst to him then, she found a great deal of consolation in the arms of Harvey Wilcox, whom she'd been having an affair with for months. Callahan got very little information from the doctors for the first few days, barely more than appeared in the Arkham Advertiser.
Grimm did not regain consciousness for nearly ten days, during which time Callahan despaired of ever talking to his best friend again. Finally, however, he opened his eyes. When he awoke, his personality was very different. Grimm had amnesia, and could not remember Callahan or his wife, and seemed to make no particular effort to become reacquainted with them. Callahan was heartbroken, although Cathleen took it fairly well, with Wilcox there to comfort her. Grimm neglected his job, his friends, and his marriage, devoting all of his time to research. The tenure review board met and turned him down. He got fired, alienated everyone, and his wife, seeing no point in staying with him, left him and eventually married Wilcox. Grimm travelled some, but eventually returned to Arkham and moved into Calhoun's boarding house, where he's been for a few years. Callahan has visited him there once or twice. Now, Callahan informs him, Grimm makes his living as a fortune teller, catering to a group of rich women clients who call themselves his "coven."
Callahan doesn't know much about Grimm's "coven." The ladies meet Grimm every other week, usually in the parlor at Calhoun's, for tarot readings, crystal gazing, and erudite conversation about various mystical topics. Two of the ladies in the coven, Rachel Roberts and Mary Patterson, are Investigators. Mary is working on her graduate degree in library science at the university, and Rachel is married to the head of M U's psychology department. The women have immense respect for Dr. Grimm, and have known him for a couple of years.
What the ladies in his coven don't know about Dr. Grimm is that he's been dealing with Arkham's organized crime kingpin, Danny O'Bannion. Since the stock market crash, O'Bannion has been in bad financial shape, and with the repeal of prohibition just around the corner, O'Bannion is nervous. His Boston associates would just as soon slit his throat as look at him, and he really can't afford to be weak just now. Not long ago, the Yithian Grimm approached O'Bannion, introduced himself as a psychic, and offered to help O'Bannion solve all of his financial worries. He proved his trustworthiness by supplying a couple of stock tips that paid off very handsomely indeed, and rapidly gained O'Bannion's confidence. What Yithian Grimm wanted was simple: O'Bannion's men were to help him steal a certain volume from the rare book vault at M U's library. The Necronomicon. The handwritten English translation by Dr. John Dee. With this book, Grimm assured O'Bannion, he could provide even more inside information and further solidify O'Bannion's position. O'Bannion agreed. His boys pulled the job, seriously wounding a guard in the process. The book was delivered to Grimm, who said he'd be in touch with O'Bannion in a couple of days, after he'd had a chance to read the book thoroughly. That was just a couple of days ago.
Yithian Grimm didn't get in touch with O'Bannion. O'Bannion began to be very nervous that he'd been played for a sucker. And that's where the fifth Investigator comes in. Patrick O'Connor, a smart, Harvard-educated man, has been involved in the Irish mafia for years, ever since his bride was killed at their wedding years ago, when a stray bullet meant for one of the wedding guests took her life. Patrick owes Danny a favor or two, and now Danny calls him in. Danny tells Patrick that he's scheduled a meeting with Grimm, and he wants Patrick to go and get the book. Patrick agrees. The meeting is supposed to take place late at night on a bridge in some deserted woods just outside of town. Patrick goes with a couple of O'Bannion's men, and the trip is difficult. They have a hard time finding the location, one of the men loses his hat, it's incredibly dark and Patrick, although he doesn't admit it, is very nervous. The woods are incredibly creepy at night. Grimm never shows up. When Patrick and the men report back to Danny O'Bannion, Danny is very angry. He asks Patrick to find Grimm and recover the stolen property, appealing to Patrick's Irish pride. Patrick himself feels that he's been made a fool of, and he determines to find Grimm and get the book.
Callahan doesn't know anything about Grimm's dealings with gangsters either. He's just glad to see his old friend again, apparently restored to his former self. Grimm shows Callahan the grant proposal, and the page from the illuminated manuscript. They don't have much time to look it over: Callahan has to get on with his day's business: classes and an important meeting with Dean Wilcox, for example, but promises that he'll come over to Calhoun's boarding house tonight to meet Grimm. Callahan tells Grimm that he has a girlfriend, a beautiful girl named Mariel Thorne, and tells him that he has purchased a ring for her. He was planning to ask her to marry him that very night, but in light of Grimm's bizarre condition, he can wait another day or two. He says he'll call Mariel, and ask her to meet them at Calhoun's that evening. She's always wantedt to meet Grimm anyway, Callahan confesses. Grimm agrees and takes his papers and heads back to the house.
When Grimm returns to Calhoun's, he finds the key in the mailbox and the landlord gone. The house is empty, except for the cat, and Grimm sets about searching it for clues. He begins to go through all of his things meticulously, hoping for some shred of evidence which will help him understand what has happened to him. He doesn't get very far into his labor, however, when the doorbell rings. At first not sure how to respond, but then unable to ignore the repeated summons from downstairs, he descends and finds two men standing on the porch. They announce that they have come from none other than mob boss Danny O'Bannion.
They tell Grimm that his failure to show up at "the meeting" was a great disappointment to their employer, and that Mr. O'Bannion certainly hoped there wasn't some sort of misunderstanding. They said Mr. O'Bannion was very eager to get his hands on "the merchandise," and that it might be a good idea if they take it right now. Grimm of course doesn't have the faintest idea what the hell they're talking about , but he gets the idea that it wouldn't be wise to let them know that. He blusters his way through the situation, and the gangsters are very polite, but unmistakably firm. When Grimm says that a later time might be better, they politely acquiesce, but with the very clear understanding that they will come back for "the stuff." They never say precisely what "the stuff" might be, but Grimm realizes that if he doesn't figure it out by the time they come back, he could be in very serious trouble. After a tense few moments, the men leave, assuring the professor that they will return later that night, and Mr. O'Bannion wouldn't want to be disappointed again. The white-knuckled Grimm closes the door behind them and wonders what he's gotten himself into.
Meanwhile, back at Miskatonic, Callahan is having a meeting with Dean Wilcox, who informs him that two nights ago the library's priceless English copy of the Necronomicon was stolen and a guard was badly injured. The University has been trying to keep the theft very quiet, and is trying to pursue an independent investigation because it believes the thief is someone who is or was associated with the school. Wilcox knows that Callahan has been in the rare book vault in the past, and knows that some of Callahan's students have read the Necronomicon, and wants Callahan to come forward with any information he might have. Callahan is shocked at the news, and has no insights to offer, but assures Wilcox he'll keep his eyes and ears open. Wilcox enjoins Callahan not to mention the matter to anyone until the University's inquiry is complete, and Callahan agrees. After the meeting, Callahan calls Mariel and asks her to meet him later at Calhoun's. She sweetly agrees. Then Callahan leaves the campus and heads over to visit Grimm.
At Calhoun's he finds Grimm in a state of high alarm. Grimm tells his old friend that two gangsters dropped by looking for "the merchandise," and Callahan unhesitatingly breaks his promise to Dean Wilcox and tells Grimm that the Necronomicon has been stolen. They sit and wonder if the two events could possibly be related. They decide to look around the house some more, hoping to uncover some clue as to the whereabouts of the missing book. They can't help but notice the cat, who has been behaving strangely all day, especially whenever it's near the fireplace. The cat seems to be swatting at some imaginary assailant from the fireplace, or rolling on its back and clawing at the screen. In fact, Grimm remembers that he heard Calhoun yelling at the cat to leave the fireplace alone while he was reading the paper earlier that morning. Grimm and Callahan search the fireplace. Underneath the logs they find a hole which opens into a very deep pit full of ashes. Some pipes run through the pit about a foot below the level of the floor, and as he reaches in to investigate, Callahan feels something fall off the pipe and drop into the ashes that lie several feet down. He quickly realizes that the pit is far too deep to search by feel, and that they'll need a flashlight. They get some matches, which provide adequate illumination, but they conclude that the pit doesn't contain anything of interest.
Callahan stays with Grimm for the rest of the day, and they take stock of the situation. It seems from Regina's appearance with the cake earlier that morning that tonight there is going to be a scheduled meeting of Grimm's "coven." They are expecting some sort of special treat for somebody's birthday, and Grimm hasn't the slightest clue what it might be. Also, some gangsters will almost surely be dropping by, and they're probably going to want the Necronomicon or else Grimm is in big trouble. The closest thing Grimm and Callahan can find among Grimm's possessions is a book called the Astronomicon, and they're not sure if that will be a satisfactory substitute. They're not sure what the gangsters want at all, really. And Callahan's girlfriend, Mariel Thorne, is going to be showing up too, and Callahan had planned to propose marriage that very evening. All in all, it promises to be a busy night. Grimm and Callahan decide that Grimm can, at the very least, try to fake his way through the "coven" meeting.
After searching the rest of the house for useful clues, and finding none, they sit down together and read Grimm's grant proposal thoroughly from cover to cover. It's quite a lot for them to think about. After the two men read the report and talk about the Rod of Aaron, Grimm takes the Chronicle of Adalberon and the grant proposal up to his bedroom, gets the tarot cards and the crystal ball from the desk, and begins to practice for the evening's hoax, while Callahan steps onto the porch for a cigarette and to keep his eye out for Mariel.
Time has passed, and soon people begin to arrive. First to show up are Mary Patterson and Rachel Roberts, two of Grimm's clients. They come in, happy to see the professor, chatting as though everything were fine and it was a perfectly normal day, seeming pleased to meet Grimm's friend Callahan. Whether Grimm lost his nerve at that moment or decided on a new strategy, he decides to tell them that he has amnesia and that he can't remember anything since 1926. They are shocked and saddened, and when he asks them to help him fake his way through the evening's ritual, they agree.
The others arrive, and with Mary and Rachel's help, Grimm fakes his way through small talk with the coven. The evening's ritual begins. Grimm fakes his way through a combination tarot/I-ching session, looks at the crystal, etc, and then they cut the birthday cake and sing Happy Birthday to Margaret. The group talks about all kinds of things. Grimm brings down his grant proposal and the illuminated manuscript from his room and shows them around, and they talk about the Rod of Aaron.
And then Mariel appears. She's a lovely blonde woman, and she apologizes for being late, but things got all fouled up at the library, she explains, and she had to walk. Callahan is glad to see her, and all the women are pleased to meet her. Grimm eyes her a little suspiciously. The conversation continues, and the fact that the Necronomicon was stolen is mentioned. Rachel had heard about it from her husband, and she tells the others in strictest confidence. No one is supposed to know about it. But no sooner is it mentioned, when Mariel becomes very angry.
She wants to know what became of the book. Why didn't Callahan tell her that it had been stolen? When exactly did it happen? She's very upset. She tries to get a look at Grimm's grant proposal, and the illuminated manuscript. She demands to see them, but Grimm has hidden them under a chair. Mariel reveals a side of her personality that Callahan has never seen, and he's aghast. He tries to calm her down.
As the confused group tries to deal with her anger, there comes new pounding on the door. It's the gangsters. They burst in, surprised to find such a large array of people, mostly women. Though taken aback, they still intend to get what they came for, and when they approach Grimm, Mariel, still furious, grabs the gun from the one nearest her and begins shooting. She guns down three gangsters in very gory fashion, leaving Patrick O'Connor, who had waited outside on the porch, alive, then storms upstairs while everyone gapes in wonderment at her. There is massive confusion as people try to figure out what to do. One of the women becomes hysterical. Rachel goes upstairs to find out what's come over Mariel. Mariel is tearing Grimm's room apart, looking for something, and Rachel tries to reason with her. But she can't get through: Mariel is a whirlwind of fury and frustration. She brushes past Rachel and heads back downstairs, demanding the manuscript from Grimm. He won't hand it over, and, furious, she goes back upstairs. This time Callahan and Grimm follow her, and see her duck into Grimm's room. As the two men go into the room, they see Mariel stepping out the window onto the adjacent garage roof. They follow, just in time to see Mariel say something in Latin and make some cryptic gestures.
A big black hole in space opens up in midair in front of Mariel. Lightning flashes from inside the hole, and huge clouds of steam billow up from it, accompanied by a great roaring sound. With scarcely a look back at them, Mariel steps forward, off the edge of the roof of the house, and plummets through the hole, disappearing. Callahan rushes forward to the edge of the roof and gazes thunderstruck into the boiling void. Mariel! he shouts. After a moment of hesitation, realizing that the hole in space has not closed up or disappeared, he takes a step back, readies himself, and jumps through.
Grimm, standing just behind him, can't believe his eyes as his friend disappears with a flash of lightning and a blast of fog into this cosmic vortex. Grimm peers into the hole and can see nothing: no bottom, no trace of Mariel or Callahan. Just a roiling fog and flashes of light. He turns around and goes back into the house through the window. The ladies and Patrick have now drifted upstairs, trying to find out what the hell is going on. Grimm gathers up his coat, his hat, and puts the grant proposal and the illuminated manuscript into his briefcase. He breezes past the ladies, doffs his hat in a very gentlemanly manner, says Best of luck. It was a pleasure meeting you all. Then he steps out through the window, runs for the edge of the roof, and dives through the portal as the lightning flashes, engulfing him in fog. Margaret, who witnessed the whole thing, follows the doctor through, skirts flying.
The other women and Patrick, who have not seen the portal, but only people jumping out the window, think that everyone has gone mad and jumped to their deaths from the roof. They go downstairs and out the front door, timidly circling the house, afraid of what they will find. But they see nothing. No pile of wounded or dead bodies. Nothing. They are deeply confused. Regina flees. Virgie becomes more hysterical. Patrick, inside the house, finds the Astronomicon, and wonders if this is the god-damned book O'Bannion has sent him to recover. Rachel, Mary and Virgie come back inside, and Patrick begins to turn on them, but Rachel, who has picked up a gun from the dead body of one of the other gangsters lying on the living room floor, is not taking any flak. She and Mary go back upstairs and look out the window. There they finally see the portal, which has shrunk and is about to close. They jump out the window, and as the lightning flashes yet again, they jump through. Patrick runs upstairs in pursuit, and when he sees them disappear over the edge of the roof, he mutters Holy shit. He cautiously goes out the window and looks at the portal, which is almost gone. He pauses for a long moment, but then, just before it becomes absolutely too late, he steps through as well. The portal closes behind them, and Mariel and all six of her pursuers have vanished into thin air.
They look in all directions, trying to find the source of the shouting, and out of the mist materializes a tall, dark shape. It's a man, wearing a voluminous dark brown tunic with a white belt and a cross around his neck. He approaches and speaks to them. It sounds like French, but of a dialect that none of them can readily comprehend. Mary and Callahan both speak some French, enough to get the gist of what he's saying, although there are many misunderstandings. The man talks to them for only a moment, however, before he shouts out a call, and suddenly the investigators see a dozen more men materialize from the mist, coming from all directions. They are surrounded. The men who come toward them are dressed in tunics and cloaks, and all are armed with swords and clubs. They speak to each other in French, and soon take the investigators prisoner. They march the investigators towards a river, and discover there the dead body of Margaret, lying in the damp grass. After some confusion, the bandits lift the limp body and prepare to carry it along with them.
Rachel and Patrick slowly recover their sight, and follow along through the river and into some woods beyond it. Margaret soon becomes too heavy to carry over the rough terrain, and the bandits leave her body behind, lying in some weeds as they continue to march up hill towards some unknown destination. Eventually they reach a camp. The sun is only just rising, and its light has not yet penetrated the shadow of these woods. The camp consists of several large makeshift canvas tents pitched beneath a thorny tree, with blankets and pillows everywhere. A campfire burns, and a cast iron pot full of bubbling stew simmers from a tripod over the coals. Game birds roasting on a spit cook as well, and the smoke and the smell of the meat mingles with the fresh outdoor air. There are several women in the camp, plus a few men. One of the men shouts out a codeword as the party approaches, and the friar leading the group shouts out a reply. They enter the camp, and everyone stares at them.
The friar goes and speaks to a man in the camp: he's tall and dashing, better dressed than his cohorts in a red brocade tunic and a hood, now thrown back to reveal his face. He is Jacque, their leader. With much difficulty the bandits communicate that they suspect the investigators of being the king's spies. They will be kept prisoners, and most probably executed after the battle. They will be kept alive till then because they may be useful as hostages. Jacque will leave them in the care of guards, who give them food to eat and converse with them only slightly. Jacque goes about his business, and the investigators try to learn from other bandits in the camp. When they ask where they are, they are told In the kingdom of Lothaire. It becomes apparent that they have travelled backwards through time, to the French countryside sometime during the late tenth century. Exhuasted and thunderstruck, the investigators eat some stew, bread, cheese, and wine, and try to get some sleep on some blankets in one of the tents.
After an hour or two, visitors approach the camp from the forest. A knight in full battle armor, his helmet topped by an ostentatious Romanesque horsehair crest, rides into camp on an enormous brown horse. Behind him, on a handsome dark brown stallion, rides a man dressed in a black cloak and hood. The knight dismounts, and bandits take his horse. He removes his helmet and talks with Jacque, while the man in black watches from atop his steed. Soon he too dismounts, and approaches Jacque. The man in black throws back his cloak to reveal a black tunic with red trim and a silver, shield-shaped crest on his chest. It's the man from the picture in the Chronicle of Adalberon, Basle, the court magician of King Lothaire, standing before them large as life. He's not carrying his book or the Rod of Aaron, but removes a purse from beneath his cloak, and throws it to Jacque, who opens it and weighs the money it contains in his hands. He seems pleased. It is becoming more clear that Basle is a traitor, and that these bandits are mercenaries hired to assassinate King Lothaire. Grimm is fascinated, but still deeply confused. He is having difficulty thinking clearly in part because he desperately needs a cigarette, and his cigarettes didn't survive the trip through time.
Jacque gestures towards the investigators. Grimm and Callahan are particularly alert, whereas Rachel is still asleep and oblivious to all of this activity. Basle walks over towards the investigators, and stands staring at them for several intimidating moments. He leaves again without saying a word to them. The knight and the man in black remount and ride out of camp.
The camp buzzes with activity as the bandits prepare for battle with the court of King Lothaire. Jacque announces that in order to prove they are not the king's spies, the Investigators must join the bandits in the battle. Grimm, Patrick and Callahan are trained in the use of swords, and wrestle with some of the bandits, who are beginning to trust them more and more. Some of the leftover chickens, which never did cook very well, are used for target practice, and as the bandits throw chickens into the air, someone shouts Pull! as other bandits shoot arrows at it. Grimm, to show his friendship, tries to amuse the bandits by doing some juggling. Then Jacque takes the cue and juggles too. The bandits and the investigators are now friends, and prepare to leave for the battle. The bandits offer to give more appropriate clothes to the investigators, and Callahan trades his modern 1930 shirt and vest for a simple brown tunic and rope belt.
Jacque's plan is to attack simultaneously from two directions, and the group splits into two raiding parties. All of the investigators are with the friar, who says a short mass before the raiders leave the camp. After hiking quite a distance through the woods, the raiders come upon a clearing. From a hidden vantage point behind a high river bank the investigators see the king, on his throne, looking just like he did in the picture from Grimm's illuminated manuscript. Two knights at tournament fight for the entertainment of the king. The man in black stands at his right, the Rod of Aaron in his hand. Behind the king, standing among the ladies in waiting, is Mariel Thorne.
After a confusing interval while the other raiding party gets into position, the bandits attack, Jacque leading the charge, and the field is all confusion. Callahan, armed with a spiked mace, jumps into the fray, trying to get to Mariel, while Grimm plunges in after the Rod. The ladies hang back near the river bank, put Patrick rushes in. Callahan plucks a sword from a fallen bandit and fights valiantly. Arrows fly. Quarterstaffs clash. Men go flying into the river. Callahan and Patrick are both wounded, but both fight on.
Meanwhile, at the king's pavilion, a different battle is taking place. Mariel has attempted to wrest the Rod of Aaron from the hands of Basle, and now the two are locked in magical combat. Sparks fly as each tries to crush the other in the grip of some enchantment. Smoke billows up around the pair, and soon the pavilion is lost to view. Mariel emerges from the smoke triumphant. She has ripped the Rod from Basle's faltering grasp, and smashed him over the head with it. She has grabbed his black book, and as the fighting continues around her, she jumps from the pavilion and heads across the trampled grass.
Someone during the battle cuts one of the guy lines holding up the tent, and the pavilion crashes down around the king and what's left of his retinue. Mariel does her magic, and a new time portal opens up in space on the other side of the clearing. Smoke pours out of it. Callahan sees it and screams The portal! The investigators take off running after Mariel as fast as they can, but she gets to the portal long before they do, the Rod of Aaron in her hands. She leaps through and disappears once again. As the portal begins to shrink, the investigators jump through after her, leaving the battle still raging on the field.
A figure on horseback appears over the crest of another low hill not too far away, and he halts when he sees them. He's barechested, with a leather and fur loincloth, riding an Appaloosa pony. He watches them motionlessly for a few moments, then tilts back his head and lets forth a piercing ululation, in apparent response to which two men on foot appear at this sides. The three approach the investigators.
On closer view, the men look very much like American Indians. Callahan, who has some experience in this field, tentatively identifies them as Miskato Indians, native to the Arkham area, but extinct for years. The Indians try to communicate, but of course the language they speak is completely incomprehensible to the investigators. The Indians offer them necklaces and other tokens of friendship, and the investigators respond with medieval trinkets they stuffed in their pockets in France.
The men lead the group down the hillside and across a large, flat valley to their village, a small encampment of tipis tucked away in a hidden grove of willow trees. Women and men in the village stop in their tracks to watch these oddly dressed strangers enter the village, and the braves lead them to the tipi of the chiefs. The two chiefs (for these are Miskato, and Callahan can tell the other investigators that the Miskato had two chiefs: one for domestic affairs and one for relations with other tribes) try to communicate with them, but with improvised sign language the investigators cannot hope to explain that they've travelled through time and space yet again. One chief goes into the tipi and emerges a moment later with another man.
As this man emerges from the tipi, all the Miskato drop to one knee in genuflection. The man has flowing white hair, and wears a huge deer pelt over his shoulders. He is barefoot, and wears over his face a strange, vaguely cat-like mask, with a row of animal teeth where the mouth should be and long jute hair streaming from the top. He is the shaman.\
The shaman stops dead on first glimpse of the strangers, and utters not a word for several moments. He stares at them through the eyes of his mask, and no one can tell what emotions he may be registering. After a tense silence, he speaks quietly to the chief in their native tongue, and motions to the braves who stand reverently nearby. After issuing hurried instructions, the shaman strides off to his own tipi.
After a few moments, the braves, nervous, gesture to the Investigators that they must approach the shaman's tent. The braves lead them there, and gesture to them to wait outside. After going in to prepare it, the braves indicate to strangers that they should enter.
How, he says.
How in the hell did you get here?
Stunned to hear perfect English, the Investigators are overcome by a wave of emotion: fear, relief, amazement, joy. They begin explaining everything that's happened to them, and the shaman listens intently, apparently believing and understanding every word. He questions them for more details about how they came to be there. He seems to know them all, and calls them all by name. He knows of Mariel Thorne, and is deeply troubled when he learns of her ability to travel time. He becomes almost frantic. His mind racing, he quickly realizes that she must be somewhere nearby, and tells them that she may be dangerously close to succeeding in an evil scheme that must be stopped.
But the investigators are keen to know how he knows so much, and who he is. Led by Rachel and Callahan, they ask the shaman questions. He tells them to come with him. He will explain everything he can along the way, but they must lose no time in finding Mariel, whom the shaman feels sure must be with his apprentice.
As they search the camp, watched in awe and fear by the other Indians, the shaman explains his identity, saying My identity is unimportant. I have been known by many names. Right now, I am He Who Walks With the Cats, the last shaman of the Miskato tribe. But in a later time, I will be known as Philip Sidney Grimm.
Realization floods over the investigators. Yes, the shaman continues to Grimm, I was you for four years and eight months.
This may seem a stupid question, asks Callahan, but are you human?
No, replies the shaman. He explains that he is a member of the Great Race of Yith, and that he abandoned Grimm's body four months in advance of the scheduled five-year date because he discovered the unspeakable plot of Mariel Thorne. Mariel, he discloses, is planning to attempt an ancient magical ceremony that could well alter forever, and perhaps even destroy, history itself. Upon discovering her plan in 1930, the Yithian bent all his efforts to stopping it, but despite all his precautions she may yet succeed, because, unbeknownst to him, she has learned how to travel through time.
To perform her insane ritual, the Yithian explains, Mariel needs four things: the Rod of Aaron, an incredibly powerful magic artifact; a copy of the Necronomicon, which contains the magic words she'll need to utter; an incredibly obscure mind altering drug, the secret of which died out with the last of the Miskato shamans in 1840; and the correct cosmic conditions, which exist at some point in time that the Yithian cannot identify. The Yithian believed he had destroyed her access to three of these four items. By suppressing Grimm's grant proposal, he tried to ensure that the Rod of Aaron would never be found. By arranging with the gangster Mr. O'Bannion to steal the Necronomicon from the university library and hiding it away he tried to make it more difficult for her to get her hands on it. By inhabiting the body of the last Miskato shaman, he tried to make certain that the secret of the drug would never survive to 1930, so Mariel would be unable to learn it. There was nothing he could do about the cosmic conditions, but he felt confident that he had foiled her plot in any event.
But when he learned that she could travel time physically, he realized that she might well circumvent all the obstacles he had put in her path. She had travelled to 986 and recovered the Rod, and, presumably, the Necronomicon. And if she was there now, in 1840, and if she had gotten to his apprentice already, she might have procured the secret to the obscure Miskato drug, for besides himself the only person who knew the secret to the drug was his apprentice. It was clear that she had to be found immediately.
The shaman explains all this while leading the investigators down the valley, over the creek, up the hill side, through the thorny blackberry patch, into the woods, and down another, steeper hillside. Failing to find the apprentice in the woods, the group finally catches sight of some people at the riverbank. The shaman's apprentice stands talking to someone. It's Mariel. The apprentice is completley naked except for a small loincloth, and his body is completely painted with mud from the river bank. He is holding a leather pouch, and Mariel seems, from a distance, to be trying to convince him to give it to her. The shaman shouts out in the Miskato tongue, and the apprentice looks up guiltily. Mariel takes advantage of the distraction, picks up a rock, and bashes the apprentice on the head. She grabs the pouch from his limp fingers, and runs up over the river bank and off down the path toward the Miskato village, which is visible in the distance through the trees. The Yithian, horrified, shouts Come on to the investigators. We can't let her escape!
They rush forward, down the treacherous hillside, over clutching roots and loose rocks, splashing across the river, running out from within some trees and onto the valley floor again. There they see Mariel making for a stand of trees. Mariel picks up some objects from the ground near the trees: the Rod of Aaron and a black book among them. She turns to run, and about 75 yards down the valley a familiar black hole opens up in space, smoke issuing forth as ominously as ever. Mariel runs for the void.
The Yithian, frantic, shouts to the investigators Follow her! But they hardly need prompting. They are hot on her trail, and Callahan catches up to her. He tackles her and they both go down. But she is able to perform some quick magic that paralyzes him, and she escapes from his grasp after a lengthy struggle. She runs for the portal again, with Patrick right on her heels. Another Miskato brave is giving chase too, and as the ladies pass by, Callahan's ability to move is restored. The shaman, an old man, lags behind, but screams Go through! I'll catch up to you! I'll catch up to you! Just as Mariel makes it to the portal, completely armed with Rod, book, and Miskato drug, Patrick grabs her by the ankle. She goes through, dragging the gangster in after her. The Miskato brave is right behind them, followed by Grimm, Rachel, Mary, and, just as the portal is closing, Callahan.
The investigators are skeptical, but since they have no idea where or when they are, and no clue how to find Mariel on their own, they have little choice but to accept.
The men lead them to a very strange car and drive them north. It's obvious to the investigators from the car and the clothes that they must be in the future. They recognize the town: it's Arkham, but new buildings stand everywhere, on sites where old buildings used to be. The town is filthy, dark, and decaying. The men introduce themselves as Dak and Xap, and they play incredibly loud music on a large portable phonograph-like device that sounds mostly like very angry men banging pipes together. The men weave down streets through a burned out neighborhood. Children line the streets, even though it's after midnight, playing with baseball bats and looking like they're up to no good. The investigators ask Dak and Xap what year it is. They are told: 1995. The men make lots of jokes about President Quayle, how the Germans and the Japanese rule the world, and about how the Soviet Union destroyed itself in bloody civil wars not long ago.
The men eventually approach a huge industrial site of some kind, with huge metal towers rising up above machinery with conveyor belts and hoppers, spouts and tanks. It's clearly some kind of processing plant or factory. In the distance is a huge bridge the like of which the investigators have never seen: an interstate highway overpass.
Stopping the car under one of the towers which rises more than fifty feet overhead, Dak and Xap tell the Investigators to get out. Mariel is waiting, they say, in a shed that the investigators can see on the other side of the compound. Dak and Xap lead the way, and just as they pass a huge mound of coal lying on the ground, they pull out large, intimidating handguns, and level them at the Investigators. Here's the deal, the men say. We kill you, and you stop bothering Mariel. Dak raises his gun and points it directly at Callahan's head. A shot rings out. And Dak is wounded.
Xap spins around to find where the shot came from, and more shots pop from somewhere nearby. Dak goes down, and Xap is killed a moment later. Grimm leaps onto Xap and pries the gun from his hand. Callahan and Patrick make certain that Dak is finished. Suddenly, a light comes on from high up the side of one of the towers. A diminutive figure steps into the beam, standing on the steel grid of an escape stair landing, thirty feet above them. The light comes from behind her, so they cannot see her face, only the silhouette of her short, unkempt hair and the large rifle she has propped against her hip. It's me, she says. From the Great Race of Yith.
The Yithian has inhabited a new body, this time that of a strung-out woman drug addict. As she comes down the escape stairs from the tower, the investigators see that she is very slight, dressed in meticulously tattered clothing, with a huge tattoo on her upper arm. She doesn't seem to have very good command of the body, and moves with strange, jerky motions. She speaks in a thick voice with a bizarre, almost German accent. The woman explains that they are in 1995, and that she's traced Mariel to an abandoned laboratory on the university campus. Leaving Dak and Xap to rot in the industrial waste, they approach the car, and the woman asks Does anyone know how to drive this thing? None of the Investigators is prepared for the technical complexity of a 1982 Subaru station wagon, but Callahan gamely volunteers to try to drive it. After he figures out how to turn it on, he discovers that he does not know how to put it in reverse. Leaving it in neutral, he pushes the car into a more favorable position, and they very slowly and carefully drive away from the plant back towards town.
The Yithian reveals that her research in 1995 has revealed that Mariel is really much more intelligent and powerful than the Yithian had realized. She had assumed that Mariel was from the year 1930, never dreaming that a human could master time travel. But Mariel Thorne, it turns out, is the daughter of CalTech physicist Kip Thorne, who in the early 1980s did groundbreaking work on black holes, worm holes, and the theoretical possibilities of time travel. Mariel, born in 1971, is a genius with a taste for the occult, and in 1993, after having completely comprehended her father's work and theories, killed him and began developing the more practical aspects of his ideas on time travel. Through the use of magic and extremely advanced physics, which are essentially very similar, Mariel devised a way to physically travel through time. Once she'd mastered the technique, she began taking steps to realize her ultimate ambition: deification.
The Yithian further explains some of the theoretical background to Mariel's plan. The universe, she tells them, was created in a "big bang" some 200,000 million years ago. Ever since then it's been expanding, at a diminishing rate. One day it will either reach a steady, stable state, and time will go on forever, or gravity will overcome the expansionary forces, and the universe will begin to shrink, in which case the universe will collapse on itself, and time itself will come to an end.
Mariel intends to go to that point in time where the universe could go either way, and nudge it in the direction of self-collapse. She believes in her megalomaniacal insanity that she can survive the new "big bang" through the use of magic, and reign as a god in a new universe, created in her own image. She plans to destroy time and space, and start over again. If she succeeds, the world will not only cease to be, it will cease ever to have been.
Mariel is making her final calculations for her trip in time at her hidden laboratory, the Yithian reveals, and suggests that the group go there now and try to stop her before she leaves.
The lab is in an old house near the university campus. It appears to be abandoned, although a faint bluish light does flicker from an attic window. After parking the car with much difficulty, the group goes into the house and stealthily creeps upstairs. They hear noises, it sounds like a radio playing, and head up towards their source. In an upstairs bathroom they find stairs leading to the attic. The noise comes from somewhere above.
The wooden stairs creak under their weight, threatening to betray them, but they finally manage to sneak up. They find themselves in a large attic room filled with technological equipment. Calculations fill all the walls and ceilings, and glow in a strange blue light. The sounds are quite distinct now: it sounds like a radio program, but, from their hidden vantage point behind some equipment, the investigators see that it's not a radio. It's a small box with moving color pictures. T. V., the Yithian explains. A complete waste of time.
The show is "Love Connection," and Mariel sits in a comfortable chair, facing away from the investigators, absorbed in the program. Leaning against a nearby table, within easy reach of her hand, is the Rod of Aaron. Nearby, the black book and the leather pouch with the Miskato drug. Spread out over the surface of a work table closer to the investigators are pages and pages of complex calculations, along with another small box with a screen like the T.V. This screen has white lines that move in complex patterns on it. Though none of the 1930 Investigators could recognize it, it's a computer.
The Yithian and the investigators quickly formulate a plan. The Yithian, with her limited knowledge of magic, is best qualified to create a distraction and most likely to survive one of Mariel's magical attacks. While she tries to keep Mariel occupied, the others will rush in and try to grab the Rod or the drug or anything they can get. The Yithian has no reason to suspect that Mariel is invulnerable to gunfire, so she'll begin her distraction by trying to shoot Mariel in the head.
They move into their positions, and the Yithian fires her rifle. But her aim is bad, and Mariel screams in pain and surprise as the bullet catches her in the shoulder. Blood spatters the television, and she grabs the Rod, wheeling to face her attacker. Before the Yithian can get off another shot, Mariel has stretched out the Rod of Aaron in her direction, and the Yithian goes down in apparent agony. Explosions begin to go off in the room, and smoke begins to fill the air. The others try to reach Mariel, but, alerted to their presence, she is almost unapproachable. Callahan finds himself stopped by an invisible force field, and the others can't get past self-destructing lab equipment. Wires and cables hanging everywhere form a web that tangles them up. With waves of her hands Mariel, bleeding profusely from her left shoulder, protects herself, and then she grabs up her possessions, the book and the drug, and conjures up another time portal.
Don't go through! the Yithian wails as Mariel disappears again. You'd never survive the trip!
The investigators don't get the chance to follow her anyway. The portal shrinks rapidly, and Mariel is gone, the magical items still with her.
\The Yithian is badly hurt and fading fast, but explains a few final things quickly. You have no idea how lucky you were to have survived the few trips you've made. If she'd ever gone more than a thousand years in any direction, you'd have certainly died. This time she's going at least 200,000 million years. The only way to survive such a trip is in a portal of your own construction. Besides, even if you did follow her and vanquished her, you'd have no way to get back. You'd be trapped forever.
The Investigators ask the Yithian how they can construct a time portal of their own.
I'm not sure, she replies. There's only one hope I can think of. If you use the Miskato time drug while going through a dimensional gateway, and if you knew precisely when you wanted to arrive, you might succeed. The Yithian offers further hope. I can give you the secret of the Miskato time drug. I invented it. I was the first Miskato shaman. And the magical spell to create a dimensional gateway exists in only one book, the Necronomicon. I bricked up the copy that O'Bannion's men stole in the basement of a building that was just being built back in 1930. The Portman Gallery. If it's still standing, you might be able to get it back.
Patrick, sensing that his own personal quest to get the Necronomicon is near completion, and Callahan lead the group in trying to recover the stolen book. The two men take Grimm and Mary down to the car and head out to try to find the Portman Gallery. Meanwhile, Rachel stays with the Yithian in the attic.
After considerable searching and a lot of bad driving, the four investigators discover that the Portman Gallery does still stand, but it has been converted into an apartment building at some point in the last 65 years. Patrick expertly picks the lock on a back door, and they enter quietly. They begin to search the basement rooms, not so quietly. Mary and Grimm find a crawlspace under some stairs and begin to rifle through it, while Callahan and Patrick pick the locks on a laundry room and a tool room. Eventually Patrick breaks through a door that leads down some steps into a large boiler room, and all four begin to search it. Patrick ultimately finds some masonry behind a huge water heater that doesn't match the rest of the wall, and they break through it, tearing the bricks free from the weak plaster with their bare hands. Inside the wall they find a compartment that contains nothing other than the ancient handwritten manuscript, bound in a strange cover of green leather. Patrick, at long last, has accomplished the mission Danny O'Bannion sent him on three days and more than one thousand years ago.
Meanwhile, back in the attic, the Yithian, in agony, is explaining a lot of useful things to Rachel, who is very smart and learns quickly. The Yithian tells her about the proper use of the Miskato time drug: how it is burned as an incense and inhaled, brewed as a tea and drunk, and made into a paste and painted onto the skin. The drug's purpose is to increase concentration, make angular time more accessible, and serve as protection. The Yithian believes that the components for the Miskato drug must be somewhere in the lab. She tells Rachel further that the pages of calculations on the table are a precise mathematical description of exactly where Mariel is heading. Even though the investigators don't understand them, they couldn't get a better road map. She also tells that she's not sure what spells from the Necronomicon will be entirely useful, but that a careful study of the book should tell the investigators what they need to know. She advises Rachel to find Mariel and try to destroy the Rod of Aaron. Without it Mariel would be powerless to attempt this spell. Finally, the Yithian explains that she cannot go with the investigators to the distant future, since there would be no suitable host bodies for her to inhabit.
The other investigators return to the lab, and find Rachel and the Yithian in their last moments together. The Yithian warns them that the body is going to die soon, and that she must leave before that happens. However, the body is that of a psychotic drug addict, and is liable to be violent and very unmanageable. The Yithian advises the investigators to leave the lab before the switch is made. Wishing each other luck, the investigators leave the Yithian behind, and as they flee down the stairs, they hear the woman go berserk, smashing what's left of the mechanical equipment and screaming horribly.
Patrick and Mary, completely exhausted from all the adventuring, decide to find an inn and try to get some sleep. Patrick mugs a student passing by on the street and steals his wallet to pay for their lodging. The others, however, are too wound up to sleep. Grimm's hair has turned completely white from all the trips through the portal, and all of their clothes have faded. After spending some time at an all night coffee shop trying to figure out what to do, the other three decide to go back to the lab, and make it their headquarters. The body of the woman is gone, and the lab is now completely trashed. Grimm, Rachel and Callahan set up some chairs, and Grimm sets about the mind-numbing task of reading the Necronomicon and transcribing it from illegible Elizabethan cursive to a more contemporary hand. It takes many hours of terrifying work. The book is very long, and speaks of evil creatures and magic that no sane person should know about. It contains, among other things, a spell for restoring the dead to life, and a formula for the Unction of Kephnes, which brings knowledge of the truth to one who dreams. It talks about the Staff of Harun, which they realize is the Arabic name of Aaron, and about how it was created, not by the God of the Israelites, but by Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos, a god of infinite evil who embodies cosmic perversion. The more Grimm reads, the whiter his hair becomes. He seems to age visibly while sitting at the desk, and begins to mutter incoherently to himself.
Meanwhile, Rachel and Callahan busy themselves by looking through the lab for the components to the Miskato time drug. They find the Jimson Weed and the seaweed fairly quickly underneath some floor boards. But the corn liquor eludes them for more than five hours. They take breaks from looking every once in a while to watch the television, which Rachel in particular finds mesmerising. It's a Saturday morning, and cartoons are on, from which Rachel learns a lot about 1990s violence, and several '90s phrases that she begins to sprinkle into her converstation: words like bitchin', bogus, and radical. Eventually it was Rachel who found the elusive liquid. She sat down on the floor, exhausted from five hours of searching and frustration, and looked up, saying It's probably been right in front of us the whole... and the words literally died in her throat as she realized she was staring right at it: a jar sitting in plain sight on a shelf.
Grimm finally falls asleep, and Rachel and Callahan take a look at the notes he's been making. Rachel reads quickly over the transcription, and aided by her own intelligence and the insights given to her by the Yithian, quickly grasps what it is that the investigators need to do. There are four spells in the book that they will have to perform, in the correct order. Each of the spells is complicated in its way, and when done altogether it will be an incredibly complex ritual. When Patrick and Mary return, somewhat refreshed, to the lab, all five Investigators discuss their plan.
Although Rachel has her information basically very right, Grimm and Callahan, having been brought up to believe that women are inferior, are very reluctant to trust her judgement. They are not as convinced as she is that they know what to do. However, it does seem clear to everyone that several of the spells from the Necronomicon will have to be performed, and to do that they need to get lots of ingredients, including, among other things, powdered silver, an egg, a piece of parchment, etc. The problem, of course, is that they have no money and no clue about how life works in 1995. There is no shortage of guns, however, with the Yithian's rifle and the pistols wielded by Dak and Xap. One thing does seem certain: crime is apparently rampant in 1995, and Patrick feels right at home. The solution seems obvious to him. They'll rob a bank. This seems rash to some of the others, so they rethink the plan and eventually decide to rob a pawn shop instead, thinking that a pawn shop is likely to have some silver, some cash, and won't be nearly as heavily guarded as a bank. Patrick and Mary, being the least tired, volunteer to do this duty. Callahan and Rachel need sleep, and Grimm volunteers to go to an occult store, if he can find one, to try to round up some of the other ingredients they need.
Patrick and Mary go to a pawn shop owned by a Eurasian named Sakto. After casing the joint, they draw their guns and make the robbery attempt. But Sakto and his men, there are two or three, are very well armed, and the firefight ensues. Patrick is good, however, and Mary must have been watching cartoons at the hotel, because she turns out to be a killing machine. Patrick and Mary take out the pawn shop personnel, and then make a run for it. But they quickly realize they're leaving empty-handed, and go back. They find a woman looting the place, a staff member who didn't get killed earlier, and Mary blows her away. Patrick searches the bodies like a true professional criminal. Patrick and Mary pick through the bodies and get two silver candlesticks, a silver ingot, various trinkets, and almost two million bucks in cash, which, it turns out, in 1995 isn't that much money.
Meanwhile, across town, Dr. Grimm is implementing a secret plan that he has hidden from his colleagues. He knows he's going insane from having read the Necronomicon, and he is afraid that if he told his friends what he wanted to do, they would have tried to stop him. He has taken two pages from the Necronomicon to use as bargaining chips with the occultist, and he plans to brew up the Unction of Kephnes, in the hope of learning more certainly what it is they need to do. He finds an occult store. The dealer has the door locked, and only opens it slightly to examine Grimm. The professor passes a page from the Necronomicon through the crack in the door to show that he's serious and trustworthy, and eventually the dealer lets him in.
The dealer is a young man, apparently very high on drugs of some kind, and very depressing music blares from his portable phonograph-like device that features lots of clocks and chimes (It's Pink Floyd). Grimm doesn't look too hot. He's barely slept in three days, hasn't bathed or changed clothes in a thousand years, his hair is completely white and he looks about twenty years older than he actually is. The dealer sizes him up, hands back his page from the Necronomicon, and says So? What do you want?
After some coaxing and bullshitting, Grimm persuades the dealer to help him make the Unction of Kephnes. It's a very smelly concoction, and at some point in making it the dealer uses the fluid from a jar that contains a dead albino bat. According to the recipe in the book, you're supposed to let it sit over the fire for three days, but the dealer scoffs at this and says We'll microwave it. They nuke the stuff, and after it cools, Grimm applies some to his forehead. He instantly falls into a deep sleep, and dreams. Visions of what they should do come to him in his dream, and he believes that these visions are true. What he learns is that Rachel is essentially right, and the order for the spells that she has already determined is the one they should follow.
Grimm comes back to consciousness after a while, and finds the dealer looking at him with contempt. The dealer gives him a warning. You obviously don't have any idea what you're messing with, old man, he says. You'd better be careful, or you'll wind up dead.
Yes, well why don't you let me worry about that, Grimm replies. Grimm produces another list of ingredients the group needs for the larger ritual later that day, and, conveniently, the dealer has every item in stock. The time comes to pay, and Grimm reveals that he doesn't have any money. This is bad because the bill is over 250,000 dollars. Grimm offers to leave the pages from the Necronomicon as payment, but the dealer is not impressed by them. Grimm promises to return later with twice the money the dealer asks for, but this is also unsatisfactory. So Grimm pulls out his pistol and prepares to leave with the things by force. But the dealer also has a pistol, and the two men draw on each other (handguns are quite cheap and plentiful in 1995). It's a moment of ridiculous showdown, and after an awkward minute, the dealer makes a move. Grimm manages to deflect the dealer's gun arm, ruining his aim, and then shoots the dealer in the face. The dealer goes down, and Grimm leaves the scene of the crime, now baptised with blood like Patrick and Mary.
Later that day all the investigators reconvene at the old house which contains Mariel's hidden lab. The house is empty, and the investigators prepare to use the first floor for the performance of their ritual. As they begin to write cue cards for themselves and lay out in tape the complicated magical pattern on the floor that they will need to walk, two guys come breezing in. Hello, they say. Where's Mariel? The investigators don't spend much time in conversation with these two before Mary or Patrick or someone shoots them both, and they drag the bodies into the kitchen. The investigators have now been transformed into ruthless time travelling vigilantes, bent entirely on finding and destroying Mariel Thorne, and they will permit nothing to stand in their way. Even when the cop comes knocking at the door about twenty minutes later, to say he heard gunfire in the house and wants to take a look around.
Where's your warrant, asks Rachel, refusing to open the door to him.
The cop busts in, and Rachel is unsure whether to waste him or not. The cop goes towards the kitchen, investigating, and when he opens the door, there's Patrick, standing over the two dead bodies with the Yithian's rifle aimed straight at him. At some point during all the melee, the stock was broken off the rifle, and Patrick had attached an improvised stock made of some scrap metal, so the gun is looking more bizarre and lethal than ever before. Even so, they can't quite bring themselves to murder a cop outright, so they just bash him over the head and tie him up, leaving him in the kitchen with the stiffs.
They prepare the complicated ritual. There are four parts, and different people handle different sections. After much rehearsal and preparation, they perform the ritual, and open up a dimensional portal right inside the house. They step through the fog and lightning and disappear.
After trekking across the rough terrain they see a lone figure, Mariel, standing before a large fire that glows and sputters with sparks and strange colors. Before her is the black book and the Miskato pouch. In her hands is the Rod of Aaron. She stands quietly, gazing into the flames.
Now that they're finally here, they don't know quite what to do. They prepare to surround Mariel, and begin to move into position. Just then, Rachel, and then Mary, sink into quicksand up to their hips. They shout out in panic, and are pulled out. If Mariel hadn't known they were there before, she certainly did now. She turns to face them, but doesn't say a word. She watches them, with smug amusement on her face. Callahan tries to talk to her, creating a distraction, while Grimm, the group's appointed wizard, tries to sneak up on her other side. But it's obvious to Mariel that Callahan is only making a diversion, and she addresses Grimm.
Do you really think you can stop me? she asks.
Well... Grimm is at a loss for a reply, and perhaps begins to wonder himself.
Shut up, bitch, Callahan snaps, and he goes over to Grimm.
As they talk quietly, Mariel raises a finger towards Patrick, and says simply, You die.
And Patrick does, when explosions start going off around him. The fire roars up behind Mariel, and suddenly the investigators are under attack. More smoke, explosions, hidden force fields, etc., with people flying back, unable to approach Mariel, and so forth. Patrick drops dead, and the others try to run for cover. Callahan goes into the quicksand, but gets out again. Everyone opens fire on Mariel with all the guns they have accumulated up to this point. Mariel is not invulnerable, and is in fact badly wounded. She drops the Rod of Aaron, and summons up another time portal. The investigators watch in horror and frustration as she escapes one last time, fleeing to they have no idea where.
When the smoke clears, Patrick lies dead. Callahan is wounded again, but the rest of them seem all right. Grimm stoops to pick up the Rod of Aaron. The object he devoted his professional life to finding is now in his hands. He looks it over, trying to decide what to do with it.
Suddenly, it transforms into a snake.
The Rod, which had a second before been a rigid six-foot stick of wood, is suddenly a twelve-foot writhing serpent, and he still grips it in his hands. It attacks. It tries to strangle Grimm, and Callahan rushes to his aid. Together the two men wrestle it to the ground, and manage to throw it onto the fire. It bursts into flame, and then explodes in a large shower of multicolored sparks. The fire blazes very high for several moments, and then the Rod of Aaron is no more.
Everyone gathers around Patrick's body, and Grimm, the wizard, attempts to perform the Resurrection spell from the Necronomicon. It works, and, accompanied by more fireworks, Patrick comes back to life.
They had destroyed the Rod of Aaron and Mariel's plan of cosmic destruction, but Mariel herself had escaped. The group couldn't quite make up their minds about what to do next. Grimm wanted to go back in time, find Dean Wilcox, and kill him. If Wilcox was already dead, Grimm wanted to bring him back to life, and then kill him again. Patrick wanted to find Danny O'Bannion and kill him. Everyone wanted to find Mariel and kill her. They couldn't believe that she had escaped. But they had no idea where she had gone to and no way of finding out that they could think of. They couldn't really imagine going back to their mundane lives in 1930. They had all been too profoundly changed for that. And they couldn't really imagine splitting up either. They had been through too much together. In the end, they decided to make a new portal and step through, envisioning Mariel all the while, in the hope of picking up her trail. They felt confident enough in their own abilities to think they could take care of themselves no matter where they ended up. After performing the time portal spell, they stepped into oblivion once again.