Several hereos received a mysterious summons in the form of a glowing sphere and an almost familiar voice requesting them to come to a location in Annex City. None of the heroes knew that the others had been summoned until they all arrived at the rooftop location, where the globes disappeared and told them to wait for “the others” or, for the final arrival, for their “Mistress” . . . The heroes conversed among themselves, but they began to notice a strange feel in the air, as though reality itself were being twisted in some way around them. As most of the heroes gathered had magical or mystical origins, they began to suspect something or someone of a mystical nature had drawn them to this location.
Suddenly a figure appeared before the heroes in a burst of magical flame and sigils . . . one whom they’d met previously during the Hypertime Crisis, when several timelines had become intertwined: Mistress Karma! In her timeline, Mistress Karma is the wearer of the helmet of Nabu, and thus a female version of Doctor Fate. A powerful sorcereress, Mistress Karma is a member of the Birds of Pray on her Earth and a defender of the planet through her mystical powers. She had joined with the heroes when they traveled to the Vanishing Point to locate the Time Commander. But when the timelines had unraveled again in the climax of that crisis, she had vanished with the others from that Earth. Now, it appeared, she was back. But for what purpose?
Karma quickly explained to the heroes that she needed their assistance, so had pierced the veil between the timelines and traveled ot our Earth to request their aid. It seemed that the Justice League Global from that world, along with the Birds of Pray–all but her–had gone on a mission in space to assist the Rainbow Beacon Corps with an interstellar invasion by Lobo, the Imperiator, leaving Earth unprotected, save for Mistress Karma. Coincidentally–or maybe not so–a new crisis arose on her Earth with all its other heroes gone. It seems that the stars are now right, and the Great Old Ones, eons-old beings of immense power who once ruled the world, are attempting to return and lay waste to Karma’s Earth.
The Great Old Ones had been imprisoned millions of years ago by another group of beings known as the Elder Gods. Some had been locked away among the distant stars or in other dimensions or in remote places on Earth or under the sea. But it had always been said that when the stars were right, they could break through again into our reality and take back what they’d once possessed. Even now they had minions–humans and unspeakable creatures both–who were working relentlessly to bring back the Old Ones. Mistress Karma had seen and recognized the signs as described in ancient texts such as the Necronomicon, and she knew that the return of the Old Ones was imminent–and that if they were not stopped, first her Earth and then all of reality would fall to them.
But so far, Karma had not been able to detect them, no matter how much she had scryed. She felt that if she had the assistance of others with mystical roots, she might be able to locate where the Great Old Ones might break through. She believed that an aquatic race known as the Deep Ones, the minions of the Old Ones’ priest, Dread Cthulhu, were attempting to awaken Cthulhu from his deep sleep in the sunken city of R’lyeh. Once the Temple of Summoning could be located, Karma and the heroes could engage the Deep Ones and stop the calling forth of Cthulhu from his ancient slumber. And with Cthulhu stopped, no one else could open the Gate and set the Old Ones free again on Earth. At least that was Karma’s hope–if the heroes would agree to travel to her Earth and help.
Of course, all the heroes assembled agreed. Even Firestorm, whose powers weren’t mystical in nature–though Karma equated them with the mystical energies of alchemy. Mistress Karma, when asked, explained that she had attempted to contact the Elder Gods for assistance, but had received no answer. She also explained that the only thing that could stop Cthulhu once summoned was a mystical sigil called the Elder Sign. Unfortunately, it had been lost to the mists of history. Even nuclear weapons were useless against Cthulhu. The only way to save her Earth–and all the others–would be to stop the summoning. So Mistress Karma used her sorcery to open a portal back to her timeline, and all the heroes entered, finding themselves in front of a dark stone tower–the Sanctuary of Mistress Karma.
Before they’d left, Mistress Karma had expressed hope that another that she had sent her summons to would arrive. But since he hadn’t the heroes needed to proceed without him. Arriving at Karma’s Tower, the heroes were warned by the Mistress of Mysticism not to enter until she could go in first and pave the way for them with the Tower’s Guardians. She entered and could be heard conversing with some odd-sounding voices. Then she bid them to enter, introducing them to her mystical Guardians, among they a living tree of dozens of eye stalks–whom she addressed as “Eye-gore”–and a huge, horned skull on a truncated body of ribs that seemed to go by the name of “BigSkull.” Other Guardians included a skeletal hound and a brown blob of mostly eyes and a mouth.
The mystical energies in the Tower especially seemed to creep out Mary Marvel, who felt uneasy there, especially when BigSkull asked Karma if he could eat the girl. Karma quickly got the Guardian in line, insisting that he was harmless–to those she invited to the Tower. Others, not so much. Zatanna and Troia found the exchange more amusing than anything. Eye-gore sought to invite the heroes to sit down at the table before them for a tea party, till Karma forbid it, explaining that his idea of a short tea party might last half a century or so. She told them they needed to explore the various chambers of the Tower. She had a number of mystical scrying artifacts throughout it, and some of them might be drawn to the heroes’ mystic auras, and thus they could boost her own powers and perhaps locate the Deep Ones’ Temple of Summoning.
Mistress Karma then disappeared in a burst of magical energy, teleporting the others to the second floor of her tower, at the center of which, among other artifacts, lay the Pool of Eternity. The Pool’s waters glowed with strange roiling colors, some of which seemed to lie outside the known spectrum. She explained that the Pool should be able to locate anything throughout all time and space . . . but even with her most powerful sorceries, she’d not been able to pierce the mystical veil hiding the Deep Ones’ temple, despite the Pool’s innate power. She hoped that it would respond to some of the heroes and that they could lend her their own mystical energies to enable her to scry the location where Cthulhu would be summoned.
Mistress Karma asked the heroes to gather round the pool and concentrate as she reached out to it to see whether it would embrace any of them. As they did so, the heroes felt swirling energies cascading about the room in ebbs and tides of temporal power . . . suddenly, as though it were alive, parts of the pool reached out and surrounded both Zatanna and Mary Marvel. Karma said that the two of them were in empathic harmony with the Pool, and that they may be able to help her use it to locate the Temple of Summoning. But just then, there was a burst of lightning and into the room emerged . . . Captain Marvel! Karma welcomed him, as he was the other hero she’d originally summoned, though it seemed he needed to check with the Wizard Shazam before allowing the summoning energy to overtake him. But now he was with the others.
And though the Pool had picked two of their number, Karma indicated that she had other means of scrying as well and that they might prove even more potent than the Pool–if the heroes were in tune with them. So she transported all of them to the next level in her Tower . . . her study and workshop, where she explained that she performed alchemical experiments and studied the ancient tomes of magic she’s accumulated. Zatanna was immediately taken with all the magical tomes, wishing she had time to study them here herself. The mystical energies here were strong as well, but suddenly and unexpectedly, one of the vials on the table of alchemical equpment opened and its contents begain to swirl around Firestorm.
Mistress Karma told him that it was as she suspected–with the alchemical nature of his powers, Firestorm drew to him the mystical Tears of a Virgin, a powerful alchemical potion, showing that should alchemical means be the key to locating the Deep Ones’ temple, it would be Firestorm who could lend Karma the energy she needed. But there were two more stops to make. The first–her lliving quarters–proved fruitless. Nothing in the Egyptian-themed room seemed attracted to any of the heroes. She said it was as she’d suspected, since none of them were Egyptian in origin, but it was necessary to make sure. And then she transported them to a balcony surrounding the top level of her Tower and the Summoning Chamber. The heroes found even more mystical energies enveloping them as they stood outside the Chamber.
Karma warned them to be prepared when she opened the door as a flood of mystical energy would rush out at them. She’d last summoned Nodens, Lord of the Great Abyss, to attempt to secure his aid. Though it was not to be. Still his residue was very powerful. Once the door was open and the heroes braced for the onrush of power, they entered to see a mystical circle on the floor, a brazier with a floating orb above it in the center. To the back was an altar topped with mystical artifacts. And around the edges of the circle, three powerful magical artifacts they’d last seen during the Hypertime Crisis, when they had protected the citadel of Emperor Deadman in Nanda Parbat: the Red Jar of Calythos, the Silver Wheel of Nyorlath, and the Green Bell of Ulthool.
Mistress Karma explained that she had taken the three magical items from their owners, the Demons Three, after the heroes had defeated them there. Like many other magical artifacts, she explained, they were neutral in their power–it was how they were used that determined whether they were good or evil. She was using them to protect the world against magical threats. And she hoped now they would help to locate the Temple of Summoning before Cthulhu was set free. She asked the heroes to concentrate once again to see if any had an affinity with the items. This time, the magical energies seemed to soar about the heroes, almost like a rip tide of sorcerous power . . . and suddenly a stream of stars arose from the bell, the jar, and the wheel and centered on two individuals–Troia and Captain Marvel . . .
With this development, Mistress Karma seemed to think that they now had a very good chance of successfully scrying for the location of the temple of the Deep Ones to stop them from summoning Cthulhu to unleash the Great Old Ones. But she was suddenly cut off by an eerie wailing from below. Though it seemed impossible, Karma recognized that as the signal that her mystical defenses had been breached and that the Tower was under attack. Eye-gore’s voice could now be heard calling for help before he and the other Guardians were overwhelmed. Karma quickly teleported them all down to the Guardians’ Chamber on the ground floor, where at least half a dozen black, faceless, horned, bat-winged creatures were giving the Guardians the fight of their supernatural lives.
Mistress Karma immediately identified the creatures as Nightgaunts, foul minions of the Old Ones, and declared that the heroes had to stop them before they could open a breach for more of their kind–or worse. The heroes immediately rallied to the defense of the Tower, with Captain Mavel taking the lead in attacking the Nightgaunts, followed swiftly by Mary and the others. Karma warned the heroes not to let the Nightgaunts tickle them, for if they succeeded, they might never stop laughing . . . until their hearts gave out. Troia followed the Marvels in attempting to land a solid punch on one of the creatures. Unfortunately, all three quickly discovered that the rubbery bodies of the Nightgaunts deflected most physical blows.
As they were attacked the Guardians tried to fight back as best they could, though Eye-gore was besieged by one of the Nightgaunts trying to poke out his eyes. The brown blobby Guardian tried to take a bite out of one, but missed and was tickled, going into convulsions. Following his lead, BigSkull reached up and took a bite out of the Nightgaunt Captain Marvel had attacked, declaring it to be “good eating” . . . The Nightgaunts contined to try to tickle the heroes, seemingly nearly immune to their hardest blows. Karma quickly explained that they were made of extraterrene matter and that more extreme measures would be required to defeat them. Zatanna, taking Karma at her word, began flinging fireballs at the Nightgaunts, injuring several with her mystical flame.
Shrieking in pain, as the room filled with a smell like a cross between burning rubber and a rotting whale carcass, two of the Nightgaunts flew toward Zatanna, ready to tickle the Mistress of Magic to death. BigSkull managed to take a bite from the Nightgaunt that Mary had hit, which had also been hit by one of Zatanna’s fireballs, and the creature expired, with BigSkull commending the ladies for tenderizing and frying their opponent and declaring the Nightgaunt as “finger-licking good” . . . if, that is, the Guardian had any fingers. Firestorm hit another of the Nightgaunts with a nuclear blast, turning it into salt and causing it to fall apart on the floor. It seemed that, organic or not, the extraterrene matter of the Nightgaunts were indeed vulnerable to Firestorm’s “alchemical” power.
Meanwhile, Mistress Karma rose into the air, a blazing magical ankh appearing around her as she muttered a spell, opening a mystical portal and sending multiple bolts of pure glowing mana at the Nightgaunt attacking Eye-gore. obliterating the eldrich creature. The remaining creatures, smoking still from Zatanna’s fire, renewed their attack on the heroes. One managed to tickle Troia, but with her Amazon fortitude, she cast off the effects of the attack and grabbed the Nightgaunt, throwing it at one of its fellows with all her mighty strength. At the same time, both Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel called down their magical lightning on two of the creatures as the one Troia threw at the other bounced off his brother, only to throw himself and the other Nightgaunt directly into the path of the magical lightning. The two exploded into tiny splattering chunks, causing BigSkull to complain that he liked bigger bites.
Meanwhile, as the brown blob expired from the tickle attack, melting into a mess on the floor, Eye-gore, his eyes no longer in danger, unleashed a flurry of eyebeams at the remaining creature, just as Zatanna sent more magical flame its way, and Firestorm hit it with a nuclear blast designed to turn it into pepper. The Nightgaunt tried to flee, but the skeletal hound Guardian grabbed its leg and held it in place until it, too, was obliterated by the remaining attacks. And suddenly the battle was over. BigSkull, of course, complained that Firestorm should have provided the salt and pepper to season the Nightguants before he chowed down on them. Zatanna, meanwhile, summoned up a wind to blow the smells away and clear out the tower.
Asked how the Nightgaunts had breached her magical defenses, Mistress Karma suggested they must have had the help of one of the Great Old Ones. On occasion, some of them have been able to momentarily escape their confinement to engage in some nefarious scheme. She suspected Hastur, the prince of the power of the air, as he would certainly be powerful enough to break down her mystical defenses long enough to allow the Nightgaunts access. Fortunately, since none escaped, they can’t warn the Deep Ones that the heroes are closing in on them. And now, she declared, they more than ever needed to scry for the location of the Deep Ones’ Temple of Summoning. She magically transported the heroes to the Pool of Eternity.
At the Pool Mistress Karma began to scry for the location of the Temple of Summoning, with Zatanna and Mary Marvel lending her their energies. And she started to sense a vision . . . of a structure of non-euclidean architecture on a beach near the ocean, surrounded by Deep Ones. For a moment, she almost had the location–but then it faded. Frustrated, but not defeated, Karma took the heroes to her study, where she began to concentrate on the alchemical artifacts there, with Firestorm this time lending her extra energy. And again, she got the vision of the non-euclidean Temple of Summoning and the Deep Ones, and scryed a little more of its location–before it eluded her again. Declaring that she was close to securing the location, she teleported the heroes up to her Chamber of Summoning.
There, Mistress Karma concentrated like never before, putting all her mystical power into the task, this time aided by Troia and Captain Marvel. And . . . suddenly she had it! The location of the Deep Ones’ Temple, where they intended to summon Cthulhu to unleash the Great Old Ones on the planet! Looking to the other heroes, Mistress Karma asked if they were ready to end this threat to the Earths of the various timelines before it could grow. United, the heroes agreed–and the battle was on . . .
(To be continued . . .)
Heroes Present: Troia, Mary Marvel, Zatanna, Firestorm, Captain Marvel, Mistress Karma.
Others Present: Eye-gore, BigSkull, Brown Blob, Bone Dog, and other mystical Guardians of the Tower.
Villains Present: Nightgaunts.