The entire building was shaking, vibrating like a plucked guitar string. Brian fled towards where he’d last left the band. Things were quaking and falling. It was dark, the surroundings barely visible among the falling sparks.
Brian ran down the hallway. In the last shower of sparks, he could see Gerard, and following behind him in the dim light were the rest of the guys. Just before he reached them, something large and shadowy seemed to move in the corner of his eye, heading straight towards them. He recoiled instinctively and tripped in the weak light on the uneven, quivering floor. The thing exploded silently, the pressure wave snatching them up, and then everything was gone.
The next thing he knew, shards of brightness were stabbing into Brian's skull. He groaned, reluctantly crawling back into consciousness. The ground under him felt hard and lumpy. Great, he was lying on a bunch of rocks, that couldn't be good for his back. Ha, being a tour manager wasn’t the healthiest of occupations, anyway. Even concrete would be better. He had fond memories of concrete.
Brian opened his eyes and immediately wished he hadn't. The sky roiled in shades of sickly orange and ochre. The greenish gray clouds left him feeling nauseous just by the way they rolled and shifted across the polluted-looking sky. It was a place where even Gerard’s paper-and-ink terrors would loathe to go. He was in a long room, one side of it open to the air. The rough carved stone was littered with numerous bones as well as rocky debris. Brian gulped. He had spotted a few that still had bits of desiccated flesh clinging to them.
He’d thought Warped Tour was bad. This place put his nightmares to shame. Mysterious desolated ruins never boded well for anyone, if the horror movies My Chemical Romance watched were any indication. Then he noticed the odd colored patches on the walls and felt even sicker. Oh Jesus fucking Christ. The patches pulsed at odd intervals, fleshy growths sprouting in and around the walls. Oh no. Oh no no no, this could not be happening, this was just a really, really
bad dream; he must've had too much bad tequila the night before, though now he remembered quite clearly that the last place he’d been was a possibly imploding venue. He spared a brief thought for the guys as he stood. He had to get out of here. Hopefully there was a road, a trail, a fucking dirt path that went anywhere but here.
"Oh hello," said a voice that sounded like garden shears and broken bones. "The humans know better than to wander into these lands alone. Or at all, really. All the better for us. It has been quite a while since we had a new plaything."
Brian gulped and turned around, that morbid urge that made people gawk at car accidents compelling him to look at whatever horror lay behind him. Better to face it than getting stabbed in the back.
There stood the blasphemous offspring of Catholicism and Giger. She was almost human-shaped, but stood twice as tall, her body a rail-thin parody of the feminine figure. The nun’s habit was a slinky deep crimson dress slit almost all the way up to the thigh, showing death-white skin and thigh-high boots that matched the habit. The clothes, if you could call them that, seemed more like a tough protective hide. Protruding metallic gray teeth were set into a shark-like mouth.
Brian could hear metal scraping against metal behind her, like a whole choir of scissors. A brief look revealed smaller figures, also feminine in shape, clad in the same leathery material as the “nun” with long blades arrayed on their heads that covered their faces.
A barbed, two-pronged spear embedded itself in the ground inches from his hand.
“You’re just the kind of human wreckage that we love.”
Brian opened his mouth to scream. Nothing came out.
The party lasted for a week. Emperor Doviculus had been defeated and his demons had been driven from Bladehenge. The humans had finally reclaimed their land and most important of all, their freedom.
Of course, there was still much to be done. Bladehenge had been reclaimed and made…well, it was livable before, but now they could actually have a home
. The place marked by the sword of the Titans was already well-fortified by being nestled into the heart of a hill and surrounded by high earth embankments.
The traitor Lionwhyte’s former palace was being repurposed as a fortress. It had been half destroyed by the demons, but it still had great strategic value, sitting as it did at the mouth of the narrow pass from the western part of their lands into the mountains.
The work to make the former Pleasure Palace into a decent human settlement was ongoing. Two months after the end of the war, they were still clearing out rooms. The Razor Girls especially found great satisfaction in tearing out every inch of tiger-striped and mirrored-embellished décor. Lionwhyte had sold out to the demons for personal gain, and kept many young women as slaves. The place had been a testament to his enormous ego (and to his equally big hair). They made sure to carry their Razor Bows to obliterate any sign of him that remained. The charged bolts from the crossbow-like weapons made quick work of his remaining statues and portraits. Not to mention the pink and black tiger print.
The Fire Barons hated him just as much, and eagerly aided in the dismantling. The pyromaniac bikers and the female archers were getting along like…well, like a house on fire.
One of the Girls interrupted Lita’s musings as she watched Lionwhyte’s grody furnishings burn, snacking on some roast Raptor Elk cooked over the resulting bonfire.
“Lita! We’ve got squads of the Doom coming in from the eastern mountains!”
The news was as shocking and unwelcome as an electrocution. They’d had to defeat an army of the undead zombies of the Drowning Doom to get to Doviculus and his demons.
“What?! I thought they were done for!” They were supposed to be gone for good, aside from a few ghoulish squads that occasionally popped up in the jungle and the Forest of the Dead. They hadn’t been seen this far west since the war.
“Well apparently not!”
“Eddie!” Lita yelled. Eddie Riggs was the roadie from another world. He’d been the one to renew the war for their freedom, and they owed their success to him. He’d uncovered so many secrets thought lost. With his help, the humans were finally coming into the legacy left for them by the Titans that had created their world.
“He ain’t ‘ere,” the Baron, leader of the fire-starting bikers, told her in his gravelly voice. “Went off to help Ophelia at the Razor Fields.”
Lita swore. Well, the Fire Barons had turned the tide for them in their first battle against the revenants of the Drowned. They’d manage.
Lita watched the remains smolder, then vanish into the dust. With all the practice the Razor Girls were getting plus the Fire Barons’ Molotov cocktails and fast bikes, the gloomy zombies had been dispatched quickly.
Stray skirmishes were nothing strange, but there was something a bit odd about this attack. The Doom could sometimes be encountered in the foothills to the east, but they’d never ventured directly into the Palace ruins before.
She didn’t take long to think it over.
“Some of us better head out to do some recon around Death’s Clutch and the foothills,” she told Ophelia. At the start of the last war, she had freed the Razor Girls from Lionwhyte’s clutches, with the help of the near-invisible Roadies.
“Okay, I’ll come with. Something’s funky going on for sure,” she said, twirling her twin shirt swords.
And she would know. Opehlia had been the one to lead the Drowning Doom. Feeling betrayed by Eddie and everyone else, she’d jumped into the Sea of Black Tears. Her sorrows and betrayal, with the power of the Black Tears, had formed the angry doppelganger they’d dubbed Drowned Ophelia. But after the final battle with the demons by the Sea, Eddie had managed to rescue her.
“I know,” Lita agreed. “It’s outside their usual range, and honestly, the battle was too easy. There weren’t too many. Just two teams of Gravediggers and a Frightwig. Not even a Bride.”
Gravediggers, the Drowning Doom’s basic foot soldiers, came six to a squad and were armed with shovels. The Frightwigs were tougher. The disembodied heads pranced around like spiders, on long hair enhanced by the waters of the Sea of Black Tears. They could possess people by latching onto them with their tentacle-like hair. The Brides were followed wherever they went by a gloomy storm cloud that slowed everything touched by its rain.
They climbed into the foothills outside of the palace. After some hiking, they finally found it off the road that led up to the icy, mountainous reaches of Death’s Clutch.
Lita and the others stared in mixed horror and awe. The stage was half-built, but was still very impressive; it was an unfinished gothic masterpiece. It was definitely based on the Drowning Doom’s Haunted House. Parts of it looked more finished, decorated with a series of flourishes, curlicues of dark wood and metal. It was less...spiky, was all Lita could say about it. Most noticeably, the large winged skull at the back of the stage was missing. She squinted. Instead there were…stars?...yes, those were faded pale stars scattered on the backdrop. It seemed very much to belong to the Doom - the dark tone of the construction and the elaborate details ran counter to the boldness of Ironheade’s stage.
Yet it seemed – (and how Lita hated to admit this) almost, maybe, just a little - welcoming. It was the dark of a shelter rather than of caves with demonic man-eating beasts at the end of them.
Ironheade had no idea what to make of it. The stage clearly wasn't going to be used. She’d have noticed the forces amassing, and it was only half-done, anyway. No one could attack from here. But there had to be a reason for this thing to suddenly show up at Death's Clutch. Worryingly, it was quite close to where Ironheade had kept its own stage when they'd first battled the Doom in this frosty, snow-covered region. She was sure Ironheade could defeat them, if it came to that. Probably.
"Get Eddie," she told one of the Headbangers that had accompanied her. "He needs to see this."
"Huh," was all he said at first, examining the roughed-out shell of the stage. It was definitely different from what they'd usually seen, but almost familiar, and it niggled at him. After the war, Lita was handling everything nicely. He spent most of his time roaming the Brutal Lands, exploring majestic vistas, encountering strange creatures, and getting to know this amazing world that his father had called home.
Eddie’s eyes widened as he realized what the small, but important difference was. This stage, though incomplete, was set up for a show. A real show, a fucking concert, not a battle. True, in this world there wasn’t much difference between the two, but the thing was, there just weren’t any bands yet. They knew of music of course; anyone with the right equipment could tune in to the land’s ambient music, cosmic songs that echoed through this world and Earth. Producing music, however, was another matter. The elevated area near the back had to be a riser for the drum kit. Interestingly, there were three
microphones set up.
He walked cautiously over every inch. It was solid despite the decaying look a lot of the Doom's stages had. This one, however, didn't look rotting at all. Just...dark, but not gloomy. It was less decaying and more…polished, and actually was looking pretty fancy with those trimmings.
"I have no idea what's going on with the Doom, but something is, for sure," he told her.
Ophelia rolled her eyes. "Pretty sure we worked that out, thanks. We did manage to survive without you while you were off wandering all over the place after the war," she said. She loved Eddie, but he could be kinda dumb sometimes.
"Hey!” he said, giving a sheepish smile. Then he grew thoughtful. “Still. They never did anything like this when we were fighting 'em. It's set up just a little differently too. I've seen this kind of on-stage set up loads of times, but that was always back in my world."
Lita gave him a slightly surprised look.
"You don't think...that someone else came through and is leading them?"
"What? Hell no! The place would be crawling with Gravediggers and shit. No, it seems like they're working on their own."
"But obviously something's made them change." Lita turned to Ophelia and raised an eyebrow.
"Hey, don't look at me like that!"
It took a lot of work, but Lita was eventually able to forgive Ophelia. She'd seen how the real Ophelia had been trapped within the Sea. Lita knew quite well how someone could be driven by a single set of emotions like hate, or revenge. She'd seen the edge of it, and had been able to step back. She’d had to, to be able to lead her people like they deserved after her brother’s death. But things were still awkward between them sometimes.
"Hey, Ophelia, calm down. It couldn't be you, you were with us or Eddie pretty much all the time. No, something else has made the Doom resurge."
Ophelia's wary look faded. "They're preparing for something. If it's not a battle..."
"Then is it someone
?" Eddie finished.
Gerard came to with a heavy weight on his chest. He groaned and poked at it.
“Mrrmph,” said the lump. It sounded like Frank. He blinked, seeming to take a few moments to recognize Gerard.
“You’re alive!” Frank rejoiced, squeezing his sides.
“Yeah. And you’re heavy,” Gerard told him.
“Ugh,” was his only comment as he rolled off his friend and onto the hard stone floor.
“What happened?" he asked as he took a minute to appreciate the ceiling. It was tall and cavernous, soft darkness filling up all the spaces past the arched windows and sending whispery tentacles down the spaces in between. It reminded Gerard of dreary Sundays spent in church, only his childhood hadn’t been so creepy.
He sat up gingerly, feeling rather bruised all over. His bandmates were doing the same, Mikey extracting his legs from where he’d somehow landed half under Bob.
“I think…it felt like an earthquake?” Ray said cautiously. “There was an explosion or a flash of light or something
and I ran and then…it all went black.”
The others nodded. It was the same for them. They finally staggered upright and examined their surroundings.
“Shit,” said Mikey.
It was like going through the looking glass, like they’d gone straight into
the backdrop they used as The Black Parade. Everything was…dark
. It looked like they were in an echoing cathedral, thin rays of purplish light barely filtering through dirtied stained glass. The pews were cracked and dusty. The candelabras looked like spidery shrubs, a dim yellow glow shining from the tips of tarnished branches.
For a few minutes they huddled by the pile of rubble where the altar would usually be, just reassuring each other with their mutual presence.
“Fuck this, I am leaving,” Bob growled, striding towards the tall double doors just barely visible at the end of the nave. The others just stared for a few seconds, possibly awestruck by his bravery. Then Frank scrambled after him, and the others followed. Like fuck they’d stay in this creepy-ass deserted church thing.
With all five of them pulling at the huge door, they finally managed to get it open enough to slip through to the outside. What greeted them wasn’t much better than the inside.
The area seemed to be in a perpetual twilight; whether it was because it was actually nighttime, or due to thick cloud cover, no one could tell. The sky was blank. It seemed oddly pale, like city lights reflecting off clouds.
But that couldn’t be, for they were surrounded by debris, chunks of stone or possibly concrete scattered around, piled up against the shells of buildings. Skeletons of trees clawed out of the ruins. Scrubby black rose bushes peeked out of the debris. It looked like a war zone. Despite the destruction there were clear wide paths through the rubble. It looked strangely familiar, which what the fuck, they’d remember if they’d ever passed through a bombed out place like this.
“Gwah!” Frank made a choked noise. “There better not be a float with skulls on it waiting for us around the corner.”
“Like we had in the Black Parade video. Seriously, you guys, we didn’t make it that fucking long ago,” Frank said in irritation. “Bob being on fire was exciting and traumatic, but I doubt even that could make Gerard forget about the costumes and shit,” he added impishly. “Anyway, after they added the effects, it looked just like this. It was all ruined and gray.”
“Fuck, he’s right,” Ray realized. “It’s…so much creepier in person.”
Naturally. It was one thing to dress in black when you could always step out into the sunlight again. But if you couldn’t…
“Shitshitshit…okay guys, this is freaky, but we might as well get fucking moving,” Gerard urged. “This place can’t go on forever.”
They picked a direction that seemed to have more of the skeletal trees and started walking.
The debris eventually thinned out and soon disappeared altogether. It wasn’t much of a comfort; the stands of gloomy trees got thicker, their bare limbs closing overhead. The dry grayish grass rustled as they walked over it. Now and then they passed large bushes laden with thorns and inky black roses. Even more disconcerting were the wooden structures they occasionally encountered along the faint path they’d stumbled upon. They were simply two posts connected by a beam, reminiscent of a garden arbor, but the only fruit was a row of rough rope nooses.
Finally, after what felt like forever…
“Guys!” Mikey nudged his brother, who was closest. “Look!” He pointed to a flickering spot of light. It was a warm orange, a beacon among the washed-out dreariness of the forest.
“Oh thank fuck!”
Gerard, like all of them, was too tired to go running headlong towards this sign of civilization (at fucking last!). But he saw how his bandmates perked up a little bit, finding just a little more in them to keep going. Fire meant people, and these people would know a way out of this godforsaken forest.
Yula was keeping watch, along with two of the Razor Girls. Her Metal Beast was drowsing, at rest but ready to incinerate any threats at a moment’s notice. It had been months since the war had been won, but the battles were not yet over. The demons had been defeated, beaten back into the festering pits from which they came, but the Drowning Doom remained disturbingly persistent. They had attacked near the Cleave first, but soon enough there were attacks among the jungle, as well. And so, the Zaulia had joined the humans from the western lands once more. They patrolled regularly, small squads keeping eyes out for any rogue Tear-Drinkers and either engaging them or warning the main encampments of larger attacks.Crunch. Snap.
It sounded like a small group. Couldn’t be more than a team of Gravediggers, and perhaps a Frightwig.
“There,” she told the Razor Girls quietly, indicating the area with her spear. “Wake your comrades and surround them.”
A soft rustle and the whooshing of air was their only warning. The members of My Chemical Romance screamed and threw themselves to the ground, somehow avoiding the huge burst of flame
that came out of fucking nowhere.
They shrieked, rolling out of the way and running in the direction of the campfire.Jesus fucking Christ,
Bob thought frantically as tried to follow Frank through the trees. Why did I join this band again
? Crazy fans and now creepy death trees and flamethrowers!
Of course, after nearly being incinerated, it only got better. The five young men ran straight into a squad of girls carrying these huge metal THINGS and they were very sharp and pointy and looked quite deadly indeed.
Bob summed things up quite well. "Shit."Rummffff
something snuffled from behind them, as if in reply.
Ray turned slowly to see what it is. His eyes widened at the giant black-furred cat behind him. It was an odd creature. Its face was covered in fine white fur, patterns in black creating a half-familiar mask effect.
Then his eyes caught on the sharp metal point poised above him. They traveled along the shaft of a spear to a fine hand. He gulped as he took in the cat's rider. Perched on top of the cat was an attractive young woman, clad in bits of leather that covered a little less skin than a bikini. She wore stark black and white make-up that mirrored the face of her mount, and a deep bloody red on her lips. He squeaked as he realized just how little she was wearing and quickly looked away.
Yula's mouth quirked just a little at the discomfort of the curly-haired one. All men reacted like that. Still, it hadn’t yet stopped being amusing.
Gerard wasn’t making any headway in negotiations.
"Okay could you please tell us what's going on? We've been walking for hours, you're the first people we've seen, and we'd like very much to know where the hell we are!"
The weapons didn't move. The band all had their hands raised in surrender.
The members of the patrol were murmuring amongst themselves. These people weren't like any of the Doom they'd ever seen. They had no weapons, and while that didn't really mean anything, there weren't any noticeable effects lingering around the five strange uniformed men, either – no depressing gloom or syrupy feeling of lethargy.
"Quiet, Doom dorks," one Razor Girl spoke fiercely, poking her weapon sharply in Frank’s direction.
Gerard looked offended.
"Look, man, we're just a few guys in a rock band from New Jersey and all we're trying to do is find out where we are so we can find our way back and play our show. Can you help us or not?"
The word band
sent a ripple of thoughtful murmuring through the group.
"Funny, you look an awful lot like the Drowning Doom," spoke up one of the burly soldiers.
"Drowning Doom? What the fuck? Never heard of them," Gerard said, kinda baffled. "Cool name though. We're My Chemical Romance."
"You'll have to come with us," Yula declared. While they did not seem
to be a threat, the resemblance was too close to just allow them to go free. The Drowned weren't exactly known for innovation, especially when not under central leadership, but who knew what might happen? Perhaps the dark currents could stir something even more sinister from underneath the Sea of Black Tears.
They each got a couple of guards.
"Great, more walking," Mikey grumbled.
"I know, Mikes," Frank sympathized. "But I guess we should be glad they didn't spear us with those things, holy shit. Those chicks must be strong, did you see what they were carrying?"
"She could break you in half even without that laser crossbow thing she has," Mikey agreed.
Yula examined the five they had found in the forest as they traveled. She'd bring them to Lita and let her decide. Between her and Ophelia, they’d surely know if these strangers truly belonged to the Sea or not.
“The fuck is a Drowning Doom?!” Frank complained as they hiked to the encampment. “Geez, I know we’re not always welcome, but no one’s wanted to kill us before!”
“Well there was that one time in Newark…” Ray chimed in sardonically, mouth twisted in an almost smile.
After traveling for a while they finally emerged into a large clearing, the trees much less thick, though the terrain had gotten more hilly.
Gerard stopped in his tracks. One of his guards nudged him with the side of her Razor bow. "Hey. Keep it moving."
"Wow," was all he could say. He was enraptured by the multitude of stars shining in the night sky above them. It was a stunning sight to someone who had grown up in a city. Around New York City, if you were lucky, you might see enough for a single constellation. A small one. The light pollution was visible for miles, especially on cloudy days. The clouds held the glow from the city like warmth in a blanket.
This....this was something he'd only ever seen in books, or like, on the Discovery Channel. He heard soft sounds of awe from his friends that signified they were equally impressed.
Then his gaze caught on something large and round and bright to his left. His brain wasn't quite sure what to make of it for a few long seconds. Don't be stupid
, he thought, it's not the sun, of course, the sky is dark, duh.
The patterns of light and shade on the glowing globe shifted and suddenly made sense. It was a moon. And the moon. Was HUGE. And. And it was a SKULL.
. In the SKY.
His brain ground to a halt and his stomach swooped. Unless somebody from NASA decided that the moon needed to be made substantially more awesome and carved a new design into its face, they definitely weren't home anymore. Hell, maybe not even on the same planet
. And even when he put together what he was looking at, he was still bewildered - the sky was dark, but why was it so bright? But it was moonlight
illuminating the clearing, about as brightly as the sun would as it filtered through on a very cloudy day.
Gerard wobbled. A large warm hand steadied him. "Ray," Gerard said in a strangled voice.
"I know," he replied quietly. "But we have to keep going. These guys live here, and hopefully we'll get some explanations soon. We're not dead yet, and hey, at least these aliens speak English."
Gerard's mouth quirked minutely at the weak humor. "Onward, men," he murmured. He spared a second to think how they were the aliens here, on completely new ground.
By the time the moon was just a dome setting on the horizon, they had arrived at a larger camp. They heard the noise first. Somehow, it gave them a little more hope. The crackle of fire, the murmur of people conversing – it made this new world a little less strange, a bit more lived in.
The members of My Chemical Romance only got a glance at a semi-circle of intriguing vehicles (was that a giant skull? On wheels?) as they were marched into the center of the camp.
The troop was led by the spear-carrying Amazon with the fire-breathing big cat, flanked by two of the Razor Girls (as they had been informed was the term for the ladies that carried those nasty looking crossbows that rained fiery death from afar). They stopped in front of a regal-looking woman with long blond hair and kohl-rimmed eyes. Her low-cut leather top was….rather distracting, but the blade-topped staff she held with confidence made it clear she was dangerous. As they approached she’d shifted it to a two-handed grip, ready to attack.
“Lita. They say they are not of the Drowned,” said the scary looking lady with the face paint from her perch on top of a giant cat creature.
“We found these guys wandering in the forest north of the Sea,” chimed in one of the Razor Girls standing next to the cat.
Lita eyed the lost musicians critically.
“You are weaponless?” she finally settled on asking.
“Well yeah!” said Frank. “We didn’t have time to grab our instruments before we ended up in this place, and it’s not like a guitar is a weapon! I mean, you can hit someone with it but then it would break so you’re much better off playing music on it!” he rambled.
She frowned slightly when he mentioned guitars, her face becoming more guarded.
“We have no idea how we got here and you don’t have to point fucking spears at us, we didn’t do shit, we’re not out to doom anything! I don’t know what you have against black, you guys seem to be wearing enough of it…” Gerard started to rant.
“…or not wearing it,” muttered Bob, eyes flicking over to the half-naked Amazon on the big cat thing before skittering back to face their captors. Seriously, there was very little left to the imagination. The spiked arm guards were the more practical parts of her outfit. A loincloth was held up by what seemed to be mere scraps of leather. Her sleeveless top covered her neck and the top of her chest, stopping well short of what even a bikini would cover. Bob could feel himself blushing just from the glimpse of the naked lower curve of her breasts.
“We’re My Chemical Romance, doom is the last thing we want!” Gerard kept insisting earnestly, white hair sticking up from him running his fingers through it. “Our band, we fucking save lives!” he nearly yelled at the grim-looking woman who was wearing nearly as much eyeliner as he was. She seemed quite doubtful that they were a band of any sort, and would certainly prefer running them through with her very pointy blade-on-a-stick. It had a technical name, Gerard was sure, but he was too scared to think of it at the moment, thank you.
Mikey was the first to notice the distant roar of motorcycles, nudging Bob as the noise grew closer, screeching above the noise of the people around them. One screamed to a stop not ten feet away.
“Lita, what the hell is going on now, was there another attack!?! I could’ve sworn we got all of them, I made sure they burned…” the voice trailed off as its owner drew closer, fighting his way into the throng of people surrounding the band.
He gaped at them.
“Well fuck me
,” Brian Schechter declared, still staring at My Chemical Romance.
The guys stared back. Not only because they certainly hadn’t expected their manager to show up in this crazy world, but also because Brian was wearing rather more black leather than they’d ever imagined they’d see him in. The pants clung snugly, and the vest decorated with lines of metal studs showed off some really rather nice biceps.
Frank made a noise. Gerard opened his mouth, then closed it when nothing came out but a quiet squeak. Were those new tattoos?
he wondered briefly. Then he suddenly realized how long he'd been staring and felt his face heat up.
“You know them?” Lita questioned.
Brian blinked and shifted his gaze to her. He still seemed a little dazed. It was odd. He held his emotions close. Lita couldn’t recall ever seeing him so off-balance.
“Yeah,” he finally said. “Yeah. You can quit pointing your halberd at ‘em, they’re harmless really. They’re not zombies, that’s for fucking sure.” He chuckled at the last bit, then fell into full-blown laughter, hysteria creeping in at the edges.
She just stared at him. All the Fire Barons were at least a little bit nuts, but this was…what the hell was going on with him?
“What is my life,” he asked himself quietly. “Of fucking course
you’d show up here
. This fucking band,” he said, rubbing at the side of his face in exasperation. “Well come on guys,” he commanded them, capturing their gaze again and holding it steady, giving them a ‘serious manager’ face.
The members of My Chemical Romance followed obediently, hoping that Brian would make things make sense again.
He led them to a campfire. “Sit,” he commanded. “I gotta go talk to Lita, that’s the boss-lady with the big pointy thing she can use to kill you with, if you didn’t notice.”
He gazed at them for a few moments more, an almost…desperate?...look briefly flitting over his face. Then he shook his head and left.
They sat in quiet hope, relishing the warmth of the fire after the chilly forest, all the while staring after Brian like a pack of lost puppies as he spoke with the intimidating woman some distance away.
Lita stared at Brian as he led away the dark-clad young men. The normally rather stoic biker had been thrown completely off kilter. She hadn't seen him so discombobulated since....well, since the first time she'd met him.
They had been stunned to find another person from Eddie's world - especially Eddie himself. He'd never expected to find any sort of link back to the place he'd left. It's not as if summoning the Great Fire-Beast was common around here, and he didn't really want to return; he'd adapted very well to the Brutal Lands. But then again, his parents had originated here, even with one of them being a demon. Eddie himself had said that he’d never felt that he really quite fit in anywhere before. Roadie-ing, being among music, was the closest he’d come until he'd arrived in their world.
The Fire Barons often rode where no sane person would dare, looking for fights. They'd picked Brian up on the outskirts of the demons’ badlands, torn up, bleeding and half delirious. They could tell he wasn't one of Ironheade, and brought him directly to the Kill Master, leader of the bass-playing Thunderhog healers. If only to keep him alive long enough to find out where he'd come from, anyway. His wounds made it evident he’d met some demons. What made it even more intriguing was that he’d gotten away alive when he hadn’t even had a weapon of any kind on him.
Brian was something else entirely, as they found. Those who survived the venom were often visibly altered, acquiring demonic features. He recovered from the demonic poison, and displayed a talent for fighting. He’d managed to briefly get the better of the Baron even when he was still weak from fever. Astonishingly, his visage remained entirely human; the only reminder of the venom’s effect was his new power over fire. He had a good head for planning, too, which made him even more valuable. Lita would’ve been more than glad to have him stay in Bladehenge and act as one of her advisors, but for his own reasons he remained with the Fire Barons. Sometimes he came around on his own though, and helped her out.
Lita noted with approval how several Razor Girls had formed a loose perimeter around the small group they'd found. It wasn’t obvious that they were being guarded, but if they did get up to anything Ironheade could respond quickly and forcefully.
Brian stalked up to her, face intense.
"Brian, what-?" she exclaimed as he grabbed her upper arm and leaned in close. He pointed to the small band of black clad men that he'd seemed so familiar with.
"Lita. Tell me. Do you see those guys there? Wearing those black and white uniforms, looking pale and tired?"
"The new Drowned ones? I've never seen any with white hair like that before, but if it's a new kind of Doom then- !"
The grip on her arm abruptly loosened as Brian sagged against her.
"Fuuuuuck," he breathed out. "They're there? You see them too?" He looked up at her with such an open desperate look, she couldn't say another word. He was shaking, and Lita was getting a little twitchy herself. He was acting oddly, even for him.
"Brian, what's going on? Do you really know them?"
He laughed, a little hysterically.
"Yeah. Oh yeah." He turned back to look at them again. "They're my band. Back on Earth, I've been their manager for a few years now." He rubbed at his eyes. "Even with Eddie around I'd started to believe it was all a dream or something, that I’d always been here, anything before a life of fire and steel was just me going crazy. There were a couple times when I could’ve swore I saw them, like ghosts among the trees. But they're here, they really fucking are, and I'm not hallucinating." Brian took a deep breath. "I'd missed them," he said wistfully.
Lita was taken aback. This was more tenderness than she'd ever seen him display. It was disconcerting to see it on the face of someone who had clawed his way to being the Baron's right hand man with his ruthlessness and fighting ability, not to mention his talent for organization.
He stood up straight and collected himself. "They're My Chemical Romance, and despite all appearances, they're definitely not part of the Drowning Doom." He chuckled. "The outfits were Gerard's idea; he's the one with the white hair. First time I saw him after he'd bleached it all to hell and back..." He smiled fondly at the memory. It had been very startling, but he had to admit it fit the album perfectly.
Then his mouth set grimly. "I better go explain things to 'em. They've gotta be freaking out. Hell, I know I was." He looked briefly back to Lita. "Don't worry. Everything's fine. And besides, you know I can handle it if shit does go down," he smirked.
At that, Lita did relax. A little bit, anyway. Her people were always paramount. She trusted him, and Brian did know what he was doing.
She turned to meet Ophelia, who had been apparently been waiting.
“So, what do you think?”
“You know I can’t feel the Doomed anymore, it’s not really more than a hunch if they’re active or not. But…they really don’t feel like they’re Drowned. Too much life in ‘em. Still, the Kill Master could tell for sure.”
“Man, are we glad to see you,” Frank enthused as Brian joined them around the fire. His conversation with…what was her name? Lena? Had looked pretty intense. But the need to know just what the hell was going on
was even more pressing. “So. Spill. How the hell did you get here
“No idea. We were in the…was it the Midwest?”
The band shrugged. Tour quickly turned into an endless string of cities with boring roads in-between.
“…and the venue started collapsing. I ran like hell, couldn’t see where I was going, and here I am. Maybe it was a cosmic rift or what the fuck ever, you’re the comic book geeks, you tell me,” Brian went on as he snapped his fingers, lighting a cigarette with the resultant flame pinched in between thumb and index finger.
Their eyes got even bigger and rounder.
“What? They do have cigarettes here, I probably would’ve gone nuts otherwise,” he said as he shook the spark off his fingers and into the campfire. They remained boggled.
“Hmm? Oh,” he glanced down at the lit cigarette and his unburned fingers. “Fuck,” he muttered, looking perturbed. “Never thought I’d ever get used to that, and here I am.”
“You. Fire. Fwoosh
,” Gerard stammered, hands flapping about in an effort to express what he currently wasn’t managing with words.
Brian sighed. “Yeaaaaah. There’s definitely some magic-y shit going on. There are demons and zombies ‘stead of elves.”
“Demons?” Bob said faintly.
Brian nodded, mouth set grimly. “You thought where you came in was bad, you do NOT wanna know what the demons’ land is like. Lots of bones, and that’s the least offensive thing about it.” He shuddered at the memory. “I’ve been here a few months already. The Fire Barons found me, and since I’d rather not get eaten by demons, I joined up with their pyro motorcycle gang.”
Mikey made a noise.
“Motorcycles!?” Frank said, looking rather gobsmacked.
“Zombies?” Gerard said feebly.
Brian shrugged. “That’s what they are, nearest I can figure. The Drowning Doom, I mean. Wear lots of black. Really gloomy-looking.”
He wiggled his fingers at the musicians. “Not hard to see where Lita and the others could’ve gotten confused.” He smiled thinly.
“They told me about the previous war against the demons. A lot of people used the Sea of Black Tears. It’s… a big lake of emo, basically. It gave them powers, but then they went crazy or something. They were massacred by the demons. All that was left was that creepy dead forest.”
His band remained quiet. The flickering flames showed tired faces, exhaustion beyond what he’d seen after seemingly endless hours on the road.
“Come on guys. We’ll head out in the morning, get back into town. You need to lie down already or you really will turn into the walking dead.”
“They have towns?” Ray murmured wonderingly.
Brian showed himself to still be a consummate manager as he somehow found them an unoccupied tent, even it being in the middle of the night. They settled in the pile of blankets. It was still more comfortable than the cheap motels they’d had back when they were started out. And much better than a van.
Exhausted but glad for the presence of their friends, the five musicians fell asleep quickly.
Brian stood at the tent-flap for a few minutes, just to reassure himself the band was really here. Part of him still couldn’t believe it. Some days he had a hard enough time believing he was in an insane world where demons and zombies roamed the earth, the trees were made of scaffolding, and even the deer could eat you.
A wistful look passed over his face as he gazed at Gerard, curled up on his side in a nest of blankets and bandmates. He looked comfortable. Though they had
slept in worse places.
He had no idea what he'd do now. It was immensely reassuring to know that he wasn't nuts, that he really had traveled to another world. It was better than being insane, assuming he wasn't a little crazy already. But maybe he always had been, he had taken such a risk on the boys currently conked out on the floor of that tent. Look at them, they were in full-on stage costume too. Well, maybe they'd be a step up from zombies after they'd gotten some sleep.
He wandered back to where he'd left his motorcycle and leaned against it, thinking. He'd seen how they'd looked at him with his little fire trick. What would they think of him for joining up with a ruthless gang of bikers? The Fire Barons weren't too bad though. Decent drinking buddies, at least. Didn't bug him when he was feeling melancholy.
Though some of that was probably because he could fry them.
The reminder of his old life led him to wonder how far he’d come since he’d been dropped into this heavy metal fantasy world. My Chem had gotten off lightly, seemed like they'd ended up among the forest. Creepy, but not too hostile aside from wandering squads of the Doom and a few animals.
No, he'd ended up out in the Badlands, by the home of the demons. Lucky him. With no ruler, not too many of the Tainted Coil showed up in the human kingdom...well, it was a queendom, now, wasn’t it?
The land was hostile, dry and desolate, broken ruins pitted from the wind. And then there was the demonic infection within the land itself. Bloated pustules dotted the landscape, slimy-looking tentacles of sick-looking flesh twining like the most malicious ivy up the sides of some of the remaining walls of the once-glorious buildings.
Then, there had been the Battle Nun and that Punishing Party. He shuddered. He was glad enough now for those damned crazy outlaws. They’d found him and brought him to a healer.
They’d fixed him up as best he could, but Brian had been poisoned by the demons. The cuts and scrapes were gone, but not even the Kill Master had been able to help the demonic venom coursing through his veins. To their surprise, Brian had pulled through the fever and delirium.
Even more surprising was when he had set the entire tent on fire
when the Baron was checking in on him, and startled him from sleep. He'd had no idea where he was and ended up giving the other man some nasty scrapes and no few bruises in the fight that followed, before the leader of the rogue bikers had managed to subdue him.
The Baron had only laughed in the face of Brian’s glare and said, "Oh, you'll fit right in with us, son." With his pyro skills and aptitude for violence, it seemed only natural for Brian to join up with the Fire Barons. He had to fight dirty to find a place in this world, and ended up being good enough to be more or less second-in-command to the Baron himself. The fairly nomadic life suited the restless young man. Maybe
, Brian thought to himself, I can admit now that I was hoping if I looked hard enough, I could get back
Brian flung open the flap of the tent. "Time to get up, guys, we gotta get moving."
The light thumped onto Gerard’s head. He joined the chorus of groans emitted from the tangled pile of blankets and band members.
"Just five more minutes, pleeeeease," Mikey moaned.
"Sorry guys, but it ain't a request," Brian said, nudging them with his boots. When the nudges failed to produce any significant movement, he graduated to kicking.
Gerard reluctantly sat up, struggling up from his twisted position lying on his side. He blinked at Brian in the bright morning light coming from the opening of the tent. He made a startled, almost whimpering noise.
"Oh god, so it was
real," he said, stunned. They weren’t at home, they weren’t even on the same planet
. Oh, and Brian was wearing leather pants, which definitely wasn’t helping his state of mind either.
"Yep, unfortunately, we gotta get going,” Brian said, sounding disgusting cheerful. “Zombies could attack at any moment! And I really don't want you here for that. Shame on me, if after all these years my band gets killed by zombies."
"Killing zombies would be awesome," Frank said sleepily.
"We gotta head to Bladehenge," their manager continued. "I think I got Lita on our side, but everyone else will probably still think you're evil. And I'd like to have a solid roof over my head while I try to figure out what to do with you."
With much prodding and a couple of what they still couldn’t quite admit were fireballs, My Chemical Romance was finally up and moving.
"You guys are in luck, you won't have to walk," Brian told them.
Mikey made a noise like a small dying animal. "Can we get some coffee first?"