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IT BEGAN WITH THE CROSSING

In the world as you know it, it is fall 1997. The 20th of November. A Thursday, 9:23 p.m. Everything is normal. Darin is watching ER with Sandy. Grant has just gone to bed. Lucas is playing Jedi Knight II. Paul is on the phone with Jenny. Teague is working on a new campaign for the next friends weekend. Everyone has just finished watching Seinfeld.

And then, a star shines more brightly than it ever has in the night sky, the middle star in Orion’s belt, somewhere out in the vast reaches of space, disappears. It flares and then winks out of existence, this star that you all once identified, on a happy, carefree night years ago, as part of a constellation of your own making—the Bag of the Halloween Avatars, to be precise. And now, with that star’s vanishing, the bag is untied, opened, and its contents are loosed.

The last thing you remember, as your world begins to fade, and you rapidly lose consciousness, is an instantaneous vision of a strange, beautiful chapel made of stone, intricately carved, with arcane symbols all over it. Small, ugly humanoids with picks and hammers are crushing everything in sight. You can hear nothing but what sounds like water rushing around you. The ugly little men fall back as an explosion of light explodes from the floor. The closest ones are incinerated instantly, the middle ranks burned horribly, but the ones farther back move forward with glowing cloths and a steel chest, and heft a brilliant, swirling blue globe above their heads. The horrible creatures let out a guttural cheer in triumph, and set the globe in the chest. As they close the lid, your vision fades, and you are left with nothing you know—except, somewhere, somehow, the familiar presence of your friends.

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