• Music reaches his ear as he kneels to inspect a root. His white hair reflects the sunlight as he cocks his head to one side, as if one in thought. It is a clear and unfamiliar tune and his curiosity grows. He gets up and begins to move to the trees where the music seems to be coming from. When he reaches the trees he sees a man. Then there is a bright flash, a rap to the head, and he knows no more.
    She knows from past experience that breaking concentration during a summoning can be dangerous or fatal but the music has piqued her curiosity. She stops chanting and moves toward the source of the music. It leads her to a nearby stream. She looks at her reflection, but the red hair and fair complexion share the same puzzled look. As she tries to figure out what could be making the music, a man steps out of the brush across the way. There is a blinding flash, a blow from behind, and she knows no more.
    He staggers out of the bar, a mug of mead in his hand, as he follows the strange music into the street. He had been in there for hours, his peppered beard soggy from when he missed his mouth, and the dim sunlight burned his eyes. He sees a figure that reminds him of someone he fears more than a legion of undead warriors. He runs into the nearby woods, downing his mead as he jumps a stream. The figure is still behind him when he looks back. A flash of bright light illuminates the trees in front of him and he turns around fully to find the source. There is a blow from behind and he knows no more.
    He sits in his study, unlocking boxes and counting the money from his light fingered work. The room is full of schematics that are either partially burnt or have cross outs and strange markings on them. He looks up when he hears a playful, feminine giggle from outside his door. He rubs his hands excitedly and polishes his bald head as he opens the door. Instead of a woman, there is a man. Then a blinding light, a blow from above, and he knows no more.
    They all wake up in a brightly lit room on feather soft beds. They are strangers to each other. The first to be taken sits up and looks around. He sees the woman, male dwarf, and male gnome lying on the beds beside him. They are wearing clothes that are familiar to him, although he can’t remember why. The woman turns to look at him.
    “Who are you?” she asks in a strange dialect.
    “This one hast been called Rhetor,” he replied. “And thou?”
    “I’m Vocara,” she said. “Why are you dressed like that?”
    “Hush up, lass,” came a groggy reply from the dwarf. “Sum of us ‘ere have a ‘eadache.”
    “Where am I?” the gnome asked in his squeaky voice.
    “What art thine names?” Rhetor asked.
    “I’m Balatro,” the gnome said with a devilish grin when he saw Vocara. “The lady can call me Bal for short.”
    Vocara gave him a look of disgust and turned to Rhetor. “Listen, uh, Rhetor, why did you bring us here?”
    “M’lady Vocara, this one didst not bring thee nor anyone to this place,” he answered.
    “Then who did?” she asked.
    Before he could answer there came shouting from the hall. They all went quiet and listened. Balatro reached into a bag on his belt, produced an odd device, and put it against the door. It sounded like two men arguing about something.
    “Why are you mad at me?!” said the first voice.
    “Because when I said we needed people for this show I didn’t mean for you to steal company equipment and kidnap them!” said a second voice.
    “Look, boss, ther-”
    “You aren’t doing the talking right now. Not only did you steal the equipment, you broke a one of a kind machine. You may have altered history as we know it.”
    “Look, Mal. If you-”
    “No, Todd. Just get out of my sight before I fire you…Literally,” said Mal. There was a silence followed by footsteps. The door opened and in walked a man in a dark blue T-shirt and torn jeans. His eyes were as dark as the night sky but as gay as a fresh spring day. He looked like he was about 25 or 28. His dark hair was restrained in a ponytail that covered his ears and seemed to move with his eyes.
    “Who are you?” Vocara asked savagely. “Where am I?”
    “I-” he began.
    “If yer not going ter be quiet I’ll smack ya with me pike,” the dwarf growled as he turned to look at Vocara.
    “What is a pike? A new explosive?” Balatro asked excitedly.
    “Nay. This one believes he is referring to the fish,” Rhetor said as the dwarf produced a big fish from his belt.
    “Look, I want answers. Where the hell am I and who are you?” she asked the man.
    “You don’t understand how weird this feels for me but I’m Malachai. You are in Chicago in the year 2007,” he said. He put up a hand when she looked like she was going to say more. “Please let me finish. You may or may not believe this but I remember you all from a long time ago.”
    “Ruddy elves,” came the murmured response from the dwarf. “If ya really remember us then call us by our names.”
    “Very well, Ebri. You are Ebriosus, she is Vocara, he is Balatro, and he is Rhetor,” he said pointing to each one as he said their name. “Is that proof enough?”
    “How dost thou know this?” Rhetor asked.
    Malachai shook his head and went to the other side of the room. He rapped on the wall and opened a safe that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. He then pulled out a folded piece of cloth and put it on. It was a blue guild tabard with laurel leaves in a half ring on it. “This is the tabard for the guild Aegis of the Elders. Apparently you were snatched before you started the guild,” Malachai said to Rhetor apologetically. “There are a few others that remember you, too.”
    “Like who?” Balatro asked. Malachai gave him a strange look.
    “Well, Agpappy for one. Ladyleaf and a few of the other immortals as well.”
    “What about the others?” Vocara asked.
    “How did you know there were others?” he asked.
    “You said ‘Elders’ as in more than one,” she responded
    He turned his head away and shook his head. “The others died... some time ago.”
    “Like who?” Ebriosus asked. Mal looked the question at him.
    “Rathgar, Devildodger, Rayvenne, Crom….” He went on naming all the other guild members that had past. When he was done he had a tear on his left cheek and the happy look was gone from his eye. The others looked just as bad. They each felt that they knew the people that he was naming but couldn’t remember why. “Rhetor, Ladyleaf remembers you fondly.”
    “Why wouldst she remember this one so?” he asked.
    “You hadn’t met her yet but you and she were…are married,” he said. “She lives just down the block if you would like me to call her.”
    There was a knock on the door. “What?” Malachai called in an irritated fashion.
    “Phone call for you, boss,” came a raspy voice, “someone by the name of Steppenwolf.”
    “Be right there. Look this is the men’s quarters. Vocara, if you’ll follow me to your quarters,” Malachai said as he replaced the tabard. Before he left he turned around and said to the others, “You will be sharing this room with four others including myself. That was my memory safe and no one is to go into it until I get back. Understand?” The last word was directed to Balatro. He then exited the room with Vocara behind him.
    When they had left Rhetor sat on the bed and rubbed his temples. Balatro looked like he had just taken a hit to the gut. Ebri reached into his pouch and took out a skin full of whiskey. After a while they looked up at each other and somehow knew who the other was.
    “Dost thou remember what thou wast doing before we awoke here?” Rhetor asked.
    “Nah, but I took it as a part of me hangover.”
    “Neither does this one.”
    In another part of the building, Vocara was getting restless. Her head was starting to hurt every time she tried to remember what she was doing before the light. She remembered some music and then the stream…What happened before that? She looked through her bags to figure out what it was she was doing.
    “Soul shard, wand, soul share, battle ax, another soul shard,” she mumbled to herself. “What’s this?” she asked after the third bag. She pulled out the piece of paper and began to read. * “Come to me, oh minion of darkness. I call thee forth from the fiery pits of shadow and flame. Come forth and serve me.” She repeated the chant but couldn’t understand what she was saying. After fifteen minutes of chanting she was drenched in sweat and breathing heavily but she knew that if she broke her concentration now she would die.
    Suddenly she remembered what she was doing before the light. She knew what she was saying. She remembered her training and what she truly was. She wasn’t just an enchantress, she thought she was while going through her bags, she was a warlock. This was one of the most deadly of minions she could summon. The only thing that she couldn’t remember was where she was before the strange music started and why she knew the people Malachai had mentioned.