The Wonder Worlock: A Dish Best Served Cold, Part 1
created 03/04/2013 - 4:30pm
(Cover by Jason Heichel, Ben Weetman and Jasmin Steele)
PART THE FIRST
The winds of Oceanus’ surface blow mild and cool on what little surface there is on this gem of the galaxy. The grasses of the meadows dance to and fro as the ojiti birds can be heard from the nearby Trumpon Forests.
Another wind captures the ears of visitor to Poseidonis young Rand, captain of the flagship of the Great Goff Empire New Hope, as his small wooden craft is tied up by his Oceanic guides (and guards) at Port Selrahc, on the northern edge of the main surface continent.
<Whish! Whirl! Whissssssshhhh!>
The unmistakable noise of swordplay. Even Rand, who is new to ground combat, is aware of the sound … and the danger.
Grabbing a stunner from its holster, Rand climbs a mound of ground faster than his guards can accompany him. As he hops the ground fortress, Rand falls about 10 feet, rolls with the skills of a ninja and draws his pistol just as his necktie is carried upward by the fall and …
The black neckpiece is cut in twain, short of Rand’s heart!
“Hahaha!” says a familiar voice. “You must warn a lady when you are coming to call, Captain.”
Heaving air in and out and holding the remains of his tie in one hand, the other over his heart, the young captain tries to feign anger but cannot.
Shazetta, daughter of the late Satbon, once ruler of the Sh’zam, is here in this clearing near the seas she already loves practicing the use of her late father’s great sword, Djamaron. It is heavy in the hand and the hilt, and Randdoes not want to turn colors as he admitted the last time he saw this alien princess that he can barely lift the blade.
“Now that I can speak, fair maiden, tell me what I have done to offend you that you would slice my torso in twain,” Randheaves as Shazetta laughs loudly. She is of warriors’ blood and her people were captive in the cosmic entity called Van Wyck for what seems eons before freed mere months ago by Rand’s best friend and mentor, the celestial necromancer known only as the Wonder Worlock.
“Why nothing, kind sir,” Shazetta puts on, roughly grabbing a piece of necktie from Rand’s hand. “Ah. A souvenir of battle! Where shall I put this on my trophy case, Captain.”
“Dunno, ma’am. Just need to institute repairs,” he says. As Shazetta’s mood changes to fascination, Rand’s self-sealing brown uniform loosens its own collar and as it does the sliced half-necktie grows, reforms and repairs itself. Resealing at the collar, Randthen takes the loosened tie and tightens the shipman’s knot at his throat.
Unable to help herself, Shazetta grabs the black necktie and yanks, tightening even further on the young captain.
Pretending to be choking … or perhaps not … in a high-pitched voice, Randsays, “Urk, urk … Thank you, ma’am.”
Then they both fall to the grass, the winds whipping the tall grasses around their form. They roll and fall together, laughing.
“So how are your people progressing without the leadership of your father, here in this strange land?” Randasks. “My friend, the wizard, has been concerned for you but has been unable to make it here thus I come in his stead.”
“Queen Arema has been most kind, first sending your party here a few weeks ago and then traveling all this way herself in one of those rickety old ships that is called on for ‘official negotiation’ by my grandsires,” the princess said. “Where did the Wonder Worlock dig that up?”
“Why, from your father after you all were first freed! He thought how inappropriate it was to be talking what he then thought of as ‘surrender terms’ without the presence of a wooden craft as in Sh’zam days past,” Rand explained. “That is why, in deference to this custom, even the water-breathers are forbidden to travel to any part of Poseidonis lest it be by wooden boat. Thus spake Arema, and she has the muscle to back it up!”
“I love this land, and the vast seas that surround us,” Shazetta confessed. “I want to cross the mountains to the South to explore but, with the death of my father, the chief scientist Bran’akk is ruling our peoples now. That should be my job, but I defer to him until I feel worthy. He is an honorable man and has reached out to many of the Wonder Worlock’s allies, including the great Gaza scientist they call Le, for assistance in whipping this small but rugged land and making it the Sh’zam’s own … under the banner of Queen Arema, of course.”
“You think too much for one so young,” Rand says before he can take it back.
Shazetta grabs Rand’s necktie from its metal clip and almost angrilly spurts back: “Have you looked into a mirror, sailor?!”
Then they both laugh again and head for the main city of Sh’zam, Ynwat, where the Goff captain will spend the night … in separate quarters from Princess Shazetta, naturally.
About a half-hour before dawn, a mighty surge is felt under the grounds of Ynwat. While lanterns of a primitive variety illuminate the village prime, Bran’akk calls both scientists and warrior parties together. With the new tech from Goff, Neptunia and Oceanus, this is a new kind of army. Though still barbaric appearing in nature, they seem ready to handle any threat.
And as Rand, in the center of the activity, knows: Oceanus is a world bereft of continental drift or quakes.
Soon, the Battle Horn of Sh’zam sounds across the melting ice of the sea near Poseidonisas the army approaches Port Selrahc. The Sh’zam have already made farming beasts of burden of the native ses’rohs, a tropical cross between a camel and horse, and now Shazettascreams as she rides to the beach, a broadsword in both hands and her charge appearing like nothing if not one of the Valkyries of the Aesir. Behind the warrior woman is a war party of more than a hundred strong.
As they approach, Rand– riding behind the sword-wielding princess – sees his craft is nothing but kindling now. The beachhead is black and powdered as if a battle has already taken place here. And in the remaining sands of Selrahc is a hole, one that would do a meteor proud.
Then slowly but surely a form arises from it: tall, smelly, with energies magnetic enough to pull holstered weapons toward it.
The Sh’zam have never seen this being. Few in this universe have, since it is not of this physical realm.
It is from Null Space. It is over 10 centuries old. It is, as Randsuddenly recognizes:
“Bil’gruph of Ahmed!!”
Far away from the swirling gem of a planet called Oceanus, in the Threlkellian dimension, now meets the Circle of Allies. It is a relatively new body consisting of all planets which came to the throne world’s defense during Olympia’s most recent attack, now known by the peoples if not by the governing planets as the Olympian Incursion. At the lofty seat of power sits Traven, barbarian emperor of this otherwise scientific volcano-laden sphere. To his right, former vizier/now Olympian ruler Zavar, the most powerful telepath in the Empire. To his left, Favored Citizen of Threlkel … the Wonder Worlock!
All around the table sit representatives of the proud worlds who saved the Empire from a crazed Warlord Kwang: the Orthgons, the Sconscions, the I’rhjats and more. And at the Round Table’s other end – that is, opposite Traven, sits a tall, noble Eorge Wellton, the Emperor’s chief general and an individual many credit with winning the war almost single-handedly. He is enjoying his new station as His Majesty, Lord Wellton, ruler of Threlkel (as opposed to Traven’s title of Emperor Prime).
<Bang! Bang!> The heavy sound of Traven’s enchanted blade banging the Round Table brings the chit-chat of a dozen different languages to a halt as the Emperor speaks.
“Glad I am this day, at our regular meeting, to welcome friend the Wonder Worlock to Threlkel!” <Applause> “I know there are many here who still talk of our new addition, Microsha, a world from another realm peopled by a simple population willing to give you the shirt off their back for just a ‘hello’ … if they wore shirts, that is,” Traven said. <Muted laughter> “And I stand here as your Emperor and say you – again - NAY! Their populous shall not be put into bondage or treated as second-class citizens as Java Lyn had desired, and their lands and resources will not be mined to death or pillaged for the good of any one part of this Empire.”
Andros, King of Orthgona, winces as Traven looks his way. His thoughts on the subject have been well vented over the universal comm nets. To his wisdom, at this meeting unlike in the past Androssays nothing. But he does squirm in his throne-like seat a bit.
“Any one part of this Empire!” repeated Traven, slamming Memorell against the table. Silence, as loud now as the sound of the enchanted blade itself.
“We will respect this world as we respect our own. We will share, but not until such time as these people can understand and barter for themselves, until they themselves have representation on this council. Aside from myself, Zavar, the wizard and members of the Star Blazers, this zone is now as forbidden as the former boom dart factory area of this planet, the … er uh, the Forbidden Zone.”
As Wellton rises to present his first State of the Quadrant Address, Zavar is floored by a massive telepathic message. As the wizard helps his old friend up to his seat, Zavar dryly says aloud: “Bil’gruph! Sh’zam! Rand …”
A startled galactic guardian pauses, telepathically explains to Zavar, and briefly bows to the Circle of Allies as the Vortex of Voyages spins briefly around his form.
In but a nano-second, the Dark Mage is gone, headed to the world he calls home: Oceanus. His rage is blood red and his heart is filled with vengeance.
Bil’gruph it was who months ago murdered the celestial sorcerer’s dear friends, the alien Plantagenous and the whole of the Elves of Everwhen!
In the Wonder Worlock’s eyes, there are not stars this day. There is only the crimson of revenge!
TO BE CONTINUED …