by Brian K. Asbury
The creature which now faced me was humanoid, but looked like no Kandorian I had ever seen. His skin was sallow, and his white hair, balding around a pronounced widow’s peak, stuck out like a triple crest. He wore a largely dark blue outfit with maroon gloves, boots, and trunks, and a very wide white belt. But it was his height that made him stand out — his features put him past middle age, but he was only the size of a child. A midget, I believed the Earthers called it.
“Who are you?” I asked. “Are you responsible for this?”
His reply was in the same incomprehensible language I had heard before. I concentrated. “Ring, enable me to understand this man’s speech.”
I wasn’t sure the ring could do that, but I was pleasantly surprised when I understood the strange little man’s next words: “So. Yet another new Green Lantern, I see. Well, it matters not. It is the uniform to which I owe my revenge, not the man who wears it.”
“Now wait just a–” I began. But he ignored me. Raising his arms, he began to chant.
“World I command, all I behold, bind my foe in bands of gold!”
“Look, are you going to explain, or…?” My words petered out as the plasticrete walkway of the park twisted, changed, and transmuted into gleaming golden bands, which rushed toward me, enclosed me — and began to constrict, tighter and tighter!
“Ungh!” I moaned.
The little man came closer, laughing. “Thus may all Green Lanterns know the wrath of Myrwhydden, greatest sorcerer of the age!”
“Ungh!” I reiterated. I’m afraid I haven’t much imagination when it comes to expressions of pain. I had to get out of this — but how, if my ring was powerless against the yellow gold?
Of course! I sent a mental command to the ring. I was already microscopic in size, relative the world outside the bottle, but I ordered the ring to make me smaller still — doll-sized relative to my normal size. Shrinking faster than the bands could contract, I easily slipped out of them and rose into the air, willing my size back to normal.
Myrwhydden, as he called himself, merely smirked. By Rao, I thought, I’ll wipe that off his face! Now well clear of the golden bands, I sent a bolt of energy toward him to sweep him off his stunted little feet. However, he had been muttering something under his breath. As the bolt reached him, a faint yellow aura appeared around him, and the energy dissipated.
“Do you think I do not know how to foil the green energy?” he gloated. “Trees of wood be sulfurous flies. Strike down Green Lantern till he dies!”
In response to his magic, several of the nearby trees changed form, taking the shapes of monstrous insects — but ones composed of burning sulfur! Even before they could reach me, I could smell the foul fumes emanating from them.
I took to the sky, desperately trying to think of a way I could defeat creatures like these. Again, my ring was powerless against them; Myrwhydden certainly knew how to counteract a Green Lantern’s powers. They were coming for me, though, and seemed to have quite a turn of speed. I had to outrun them, and keep them away from people at all costs. The few people abroad in the park had fled before Myrwhydden’s first creation, the dragon, but elsewhere there were thousands of citizens who could be injured or even killed if these things got loose in the city.
All right, Tan-jay, think! I scolded myself. What would Hal Jordan do? He has fought any number of foes who have used yellow against him, but he’s always won. How?
Simple — the ring could not affect yellow directly. But indirectly? That was another matter!
I swooped back down toward the park, which I judged to be the safest place for this battle. Lamps flanked the pathways on metal stanchions. The ideal weapon!
I picked up a lamppost with the power beam and, shaping it into a spear, hurled it at the nearest of the dozen or so sulfur insects bearing down on me. It impaled the monster, which hurtled to the ground in a flaming ball of sulfur and exploded! Success! What I could do to one, I could do to all — and I did, spearing every insect before it could reach me.
I looked around. This was making a real mess of the park, but that was better than putting lives in danger. I turned back to Myrwhydden.
“Is that the best you can do, dwarf?” I growled. It was time to put an end to this. I feinted with my power beam, which dissipated against his yellow aura once more. But that wasn’t my intent. Before he realized what I was doing, I flew within reach of him and attacked him the old-fashioned way: I punched him in the face!
That took the smirk away! He fell backward under the blow, squealing in pain. Evidently, he wasn’t used to his enemies fighting back physically!
Right. Now to finish this. I focused my will, intent on making the ground wrap itself around the wizard, imprisoning him. I could worry about just who he was and how he got here when I’d rendered him incapable of casting any more spells.
However, as the beam shot from the ring, its glow suddenly died. I stared at it in astonishment. It was suddenly just a piece of inert gemstone on my finger. What’s more, even my G.L. uniform suddenly changed back into the robe I had been originally wearing. What in Rao’s name?
The smirk, however, had returned to Myrwhydden’s face. “Now I have you,” he glowered. “Creature of clay and soil and stones, grab this man and shake his bones!”
So stunned was I by the sudden loss of power from my ring that I had no time to move as a huge, man-shaped mass of earth rose up out of the ground and reached out to grab me in an unbreakable grip. Not only did it squeeze me almost as tightly as the golden bands had, it started to shake me violently up and down.
Myrwhydden approached and stared up at me, gloating. “Call yourself a Green Lantern? You are pathetic! You are not fit to lick the boots of those I fought before!”
I made no attempt to reply. I was too busy trying not to bite through my tongue as my teeth rattled together. He came even closer. “So what happened to the last one, hmm? To the one who replaced Abin Sur?” He gestured, and the golem, mercifully, stopped shaking me. “Answer me.”
“Other one?” I gasped, struggling to talk as my ribs were being crushed.
“The other Green Lantern. The one I fought last time.”
“You mean Hal Jordan?”
“Was that his name? I did not know that. Hal Jordan… Well? Does he live? Has my revenge upon him been denied, even as my revenge upon Abin Sur was thwarted?”
I glared at him. “Oh, yes. He lives. He lives, all right. You might have bested me, but if you plan to take him on, you won’t win so easily. He’ll kick your sorry–“
He scowled and gestured, and the creature started shaking me once more. What happened next I have no idea, because I blacked out from the pain.
When I came to, I found myself in a strange, vast hall. Torches burned in sconces around the walls, casting macabre shadows from hideous gargoyle-like statues. Myrwhydden sat in a golden throne, staring at me. I realized that I was bound with chains, again of gold. My power ring had run out of energy, it seemed, but he was taking no chances.
“You are awake,” he observed.
“I noticed,” I groaned. As I shifted position, my ribs protested. Several of them felt broken.
“You probably wonder why I have allowed you to live, mortal.”
“The thought had crossed my mind.”
He left the chair and strode toward me. “I require information. I do not recognize this place where I find myself. It is not the world, it seems, of Green Lantern — of Hal Jordan.”
“Don’t know everything, then, do you? Not as all-powerful as you seem to think…”
He kicked me in the ribs. I won’t even begin to describe the pain. “I will have none of this insolence, dog. I allowed you to live because you have unwittingly given me the true name of my nemesis Green Lantern. With a man’s true name comes power. When next we meet, the spell I will send against him will incorporate his true name, thus making it irresistible. He will die.”
He wandered away from me toward a window. I could see the towers of Kandor through it, and pondered what was going on outside. If Myrwhydden’s magic had raised a castle here, surely the city’s security forces were trying to do something about it!
“I do not need to know what you are thinking to see your thoughts etched upon your face, mortal,” he muttered. “This hall is impregnable. Your pathetic soldiers batter its walls with their puny weapons, but the force of my magic renders them impotent. And when I choose to emerge from here, I will turn them all to stone, and they will stand for all eternity as reminders of the futility of opposing my might.”
Well, he was certainly full of himself, this one. I couldn’t see any way to escape, but maybe I could string him along until an opportunity presented itself. “Tell me, great and mighty wizard,” I said. “How did you get here?”
He turned back to face me. “I do not know. I was imprisoned within Green Lantern’s ring for… I do not know how long. Then, yesterday, I felt a kind of… wrenching. I tried to resist, but found myself being pulled out of my prison in a burning agony. I passed out from the pain, and when I awoke, I found myself here.”
Oh, great Rao, I thought. I’m responsible for that! When I used my heat-vision to chip off a shard of the ring, I must have ruptured the force that was imprisoning this creature, and he came along with it to Kandor!
He stared into my eyes. “I want to know where this place is. What planet is this? You will tell me.”
“Believe it or not,” I said, “you’re on Earth.”
“A lie! Earth is primitive. This place has technology far beyond anything the humans are capable of.” He raised his foot to kick me again.
“No — wait!” I cried. “This planet is Earth — but you’re actually inside a miniaturized city from another world.”
“It’s true,” I said. “This city is called Kandor. It was stolen from my world by an evil space villain named Brainiac, who shrunk the entire city and placed it in a bottle. A hero of this world rescued us from Brainiac and brought the bottle containing Kandor here to Earth for safekeeping.”
“What? Is this true?”
“Then… then I am still tiny? Still miniaturized as I was when Abin Sur placed me inside the power ring?”
I nodded. “It’s easy enough to prove,” I said. “Go far enough in any direction, and you’ll come up against great glass walls.”
Myrwhydden glowered, his bushy white brows knitting together. “Floor of stone on which I stand, fly so I can view this land!” he intoned. A circle of the floor around us rose into the air, carrying us toward the ceiling.
“I shall see this for myself,” he growled. “And if you have lied to me, mortal, you shall die in the slowest manner I can devise!”