The Wonder Worlock: Lair of the Lava Men, Part 1
Posted by: Byron Brewer, Managing Editor
October 11, 2013 18:34 | Updated: 8 weeks 2 days Ago
October 11, 2013 18:34 | Updated: 8 weeks 2 days Ago
(Cover by Jason Heichel)
Years ago, and warrior king of the dimension Threlkel, the mighty Traven, finds himself not only captive in our universe, but the subject of scientific study by mutated underground dwellers on the desert world of Za.
In their great scientific cathedral, Chief Scientist Ursus and his cadre of knowledgeable gentlemen have never seen any humanoid as big, muscular or -- well – foreboding as Traven. Their minds have still not wrapped around the idea that he is from another world. They believe that, like the mad Rock Wielder “Za,” this fine specimen of muscles and hair must be a product of genetic manipulation gone awry, genetic manipulation of a form they do not understand.
Chief Scientist Ursus is fascinated!
“What are you, large one?” Ursus questions Traven through a universal translator. “Who made you, such a marvelous specimen? We find no place where an uber-tube was removed. How were you grown? Tell us about your heavy sharp stick. Fascinating!”
“My name is Traven. I come from above. I am king!”
“Ridiculous! Only the small brown ones and madmen roam the surface of Za! You could not be from above. Why, they barely have a ‘society,’ if you must call it that like some of my gentlemen insist, much less a king. Bwahahaha! Now who made you? I must shake his hand, learn his secrets – then kill him. Who made you?!!”
The warlord concentrates, or does so as much as this body’s shock and veins coursing with chemicals allows. Memorell, he thinks, Memorell!! The sword abruptly comes alive! It begins hacking – all by itself! – its own way through the Za’nite force fields surrounding it. Flying to Traven’s shackled hand, the sword slices away wires, cables and tubes attaching its master to monstrous machinery. Traven then whirls the sword toward seven scientists, who instinctively run from the accompanying cosmic lightning; they are, after all, underground dwellers, for the most part.
“Call the serf drones!” Ursus yells. “Seize the specimen!”
At that moment, Memorell penetrates Ursus’ internal organs. “Hah!” exclaims the King of Threlkel, pulling the sword from the Za’nite’s entrails.
The barbarian runs further into the underground labyrinth of tunnels, lacking the room to take flight. He hears no singing blind crickets or crawfish; they died out in this area decades ago, for … some reason. Traven turns a corner and is aghast to the core of his very soul: A giant “boom dart” – a Threlkel term, seldom used, for a device once utilized by the Founders during the Great Solar Wars – rises before his eyes like a towering monolith. It is, in fact, an intact nuclear bomb! With a few exceptions, its like has been gone from Threlkel for ages, yet here sits one in plain view of the warrior king in the middle of Underground Za – the object of study, perhaps worship, by the masked denizens of the commune.
As the startled Za’nites turn their attention to Traven, his jaw finally lets him speak: “To have this device is madness, madness! Why do you gather before it like it is something of a holy nature? This is no deity but a weapon of great power, of mass destruction! No war ballads have ever been written about a boom dart; there were no war survivors to write them! Madness!”
In the expanse of the caverns, Traven is finally able to use his mystic sword to fly, to create a whirlwind that will carry the “dart” upward to the surface, where he can then carve an aperture to send this doomsday device to another dimension, another reality.
As the barbarian wordlessly rises along with the bomb, engulfed in the wind of a thousand worlds, the masks of the Za’nites are simultaneously swept off their faces as their “God” departs its longtime holding bay. Traven, airborne, looks back to see the faces of his hosts, faces which have been grotesquely mutated by centuries of exposure to nuclear fallout.
As Traven hacks at the air in the sweltering beams of Za’s triple suns, those same rays penetrate the caverns below, bringing the desert dayheat swiftly to the caves of Underground Za. The worshippers, the scientists’ cadre, all those nearest the breach begin to turn – to ash!
As Memorell swings wildly overhead the muscular warlord, the bomb is blown -- harmlessly and safely -- by cosmic winds into a wormhole which abruptly closes. Traven has been a master of controlling the properties of Memorell most of his life.
“This is a mad world, but I sense a familiar energy signature … it heads away from this planet,” says Traven, who throws his sword in the direction of the tri-suns, rises from the desert surface and would slowly disappear from view were there any present to witness.
“Madness!” By the time he exclaims the word, Traven is halfway across the Mephistoff Nebula.
That was years ago.
PART THE FIRST
The small mechanical bird flies aimlessly through the backdrop of stars, swept through wormholes and star gates inside and outside of hyperspace.
This robotoid has long since lost its way, only dim memories of a war that never really started in its memory banks.
A war, and a word: Degaba.
Around and 'round the galactic clusters clacks the quasi-artificial avian. Then suddenly it feels a pull, a mighty tug like an outgoing tide.
Our tiny traveler is caught in the gravity well near the rim of the Mephistoff Nebula, and its flight path spins totally out of its control.
Spinning and spinning, ‘round and ‘round, miniature gyros built into the creature try to aright its flight. It loses voluntary control and a grappling hook falls from its rear while laser beams fire from its eyes, shattering asteroids and a small moon along its haphazard route.
A hook mechanism in its underbelly arights the tiny being as its stomach feels—yes, it can feel -- the heat of a desert, three suns churning brightly and rather warmly during the zenith of the day.
It is noon on the dayside of ... ZA!
Slowly, inexorably, the bird turns from a hapless turtle into a miniature tank, little treads crossing the rolling dunes where once a mighty wizard almost starved to death.
But this automaton is not searching for crickets or monstrous serpents. No, this morphing mechanoid is seeking energy, and the trek it is following has hit on something's quite unexpected: residual radiation, energy like that which the Threlkellian Founders once called "boom darts" back in the dark days of the Great Solar Wars.
It does not know how it knows this bit of history or what it means ... except, after weeks in deep space, the avian sky-skimmer will be eating tonight. And quite well, thank you.
The cosmic champion called the Wonder Worlock soars through the spaceways of our universe, unbelievably enjoying a rare moment of adventure, again watching the cyclical migration of the Pizzar, whale-like creatures that swim the cosmic oceans of this particular nebula. Such freedom, he thinks, such intelligence!
The Pizzar are a thoughtful but peaceful race which migrates from one end of the Mephistoff Nebula to the other, a distance of about eleven light-years. A matriarchy, the Old Queen is most likely leading her daughters, granddaughters, aunts, cousins and sisters on her last migration – at least as leader. One of her daughters or sisters will have to take the lead next cycle, and the Old Queen passes on experience and knowledge with her every action.
It is then that the Wonder Worlock notices the tail of an errant comet headed the way of the great pod, possibly pulled off its ages-old trajectory around a distant star by the gravitational pull of the pod itself. This occurrence is not unusual for the Pizzar; but not all of these occasions have a space-bending sorcerer as witness!
“Zootalaris!” the Wonder Worlock exclaims, and begins quietly chanting an incantation that should leave the Pizzar pod unharmed in the comet’s wake.
By the Vortex of Viruses
And by Ogor’s foul brew
May these large playful beings
See yon comet pass through!
Suddenly, by altering the vibratory rate of the Pizzar atoms, passing them through the spaces between the atoms of the comet, the great beasts become intangible and the comet continues on its way, realigning its old orbit as the gravitational pull of the pod is temporarily removed.
The pod continues on its carefree way, as does the Wonder Worlock. But if his game was more risk-involving than 3-D chess, he would wager the Old Queen gave him a definite if subtle wink as the Pizzar passed beautifully, memorably by, on their way to the other end of the Mephistoff Nebula.
Soaring the wide gaps between binary stars, the Wonder Worlock shoots multi-colored shards of pure cosmic energy in front of his path. With a mystic pass, these rainbow shards solidify into a huge celestial disc that falls toward the smallest of three worlds orbiting the binary. The disc lands atop a lake of molten lava, bubbling hot and steamy in its confinement.
The Wonder Worlock lands on the celestial disc, continues his forward momentum and – surrounded by three layers of esoteric shields – truly enjoys a moment or two of lava-boarding!
What would Rand think of this? he thinks.
The black-clad mage doubts whether the activity will ever be an event in the Cosmic Peace Games the systems around Mephistoff enjoy every seven cycles, but right now it is clearing his mind and allowing his weary, sore muscles some rest and recovery.
His aches and pains remind the galactic guardian of when he was a prisoner on the nearby planet Za, flung there by the unbelievably powerful eye beam of the being called Kat’Wallidur. For weeks – months? – the conjurer first walked in the grueling heat of desert sands under three tremendous suns … or shared caves with serpents and crickets, deriving nourishment at times from both.
“Ugghhh!” he says to no one.
He then remembers the soulful song of his companions, the blind crickets, and the memory also helps heal his form, inside and out. The chirping lullaby brings him true peace.
Chemicals bubble above small flames as others slide through long, transparent tubes and into centrifuges that smoke and hiss. Miniature bolts of electricity and other esoteric energies shoot this way and that in the makeshift laboratory.
Once, this was a great scientific citadel. It was overseen by Ursus, father of Ursula, who now has his title of “Chief Scientist of Underground Za!”
Ursus is dead now, dead with most of his fellow scientists ... turned to ash by the tri-suns of Za or morphed into lava creatures and driven further underground following the escape of a mechanical A.I. that called itself ... Traven!
Now Ursula and a handful of Za'nites work under ever-present radiation masks to both find a cure for the so-called Lava Men led by the mad Kaysar and a solution to perhaps someday populate the surface world alongside the small brown ones.
Flark you, Father, Ursula thinks, cursing herself even as she does. O noble sire, why did you let the wild thing kill you, allow the Traven to kill our smartest and morph most of the rest? How could you have allowed the Traven to take our Great Nuke, our God?! HOW??!
Just then: SSSMMMSSSHHH!!!!!!!
A strange new automaton is among these learned men with masks, one with wings and a whirling buzz saw of a nose, one powerful enough to have made it from the hot, lighted surface to the labs.
Immediately, old security measures creak into place. Hypernetic shielding keeps the light from the sensitive entities underground as it could not the day King Traven and Memorell came a’calling. Phasers blast this way and that, but it seems to have no affect on the alien avian, which has laser guns of its own.
Just then, the flying machine begins to morph, to shapeshift as if by magic into the form of a man. It is something Chief Scientist Ursula and her cadre of knowledgeable gentlemen have never seen before.
"Ursula!" screams one of the scientists. "What is this flying mechanoid with the digging nose cone? Summon the serf drones!”
"I am Warfarin!" the automaton says as it stands now on two legs, man-like, almost seven feet tall. "I am Warfarin and I am your king!
"Now ... feed me! FEED ME!!!"