by Brian K. Asbury
The ceiling opened ahead of our flight at a muttered command from Myrwhydden, and the stone circle soared into the air at breathtaking speed. Shackled as I was, and my ribs giving me agonies, it was as much as I could do to hang on — and Myrwhydden clearly didn’t care whether I did or not.
I did chance a glance down, to see security troops swarming all over the park. I couldn’t see the expressions on their faces, but I could imagine their bafflement at the sudden appearance of a medieval-style castle in the middle of the park — not to mention what onlookers must have told them about the monsters that had been swarming all over the place!
It didn’t take us long to reach the wall of the bottle. “You spoke truly, mortal,” growled Myrwhydden. “I may allow you to live after all.”
He stared through the glass, trying to make sense of what, to us, seemed gargantuan on the outside. “What manner of place is beyond this barrier?” he demanded of me.
“I told you — it’s a Fortress belonging to a hero of this world.”
“Not Green Lantern Hal Jordan?”
“No. Someone else. He calls himself Superman.”
Myrwhydden considered this. “It is of no import. If this ‘Superman’ interferes with me, I shall defeat him even as I vanquished you. What is the environment like beyond the glass? Is the air breathable?”
Was he contemplating taking us outside? If he was, I could have a nasty little shock in store for him. “To someone normal-sized, yes.”
“Restoring my normal stature will be child’s play for one of my powers,” he said haughtily. “Very well. I need you no longer!” He made to kick me and pitch me from the circle. Great Rao, I thought. I didn’t know how high we were, but there was no way I could survive a fall from this height.
“Wait!” I cried. “You need me alive!”
“How so?” he asked.
“Superman’s Fortress is beset with traps and other dangers. Alone, you’d never get through them — but keep me alive, and I can show you how to disarm them.”
His huge brows knitted. “What you say has merit — if you speak truly.”
“I do, I do. I’m one of an elite force that assists Superman from time to time. We have to know how to get safely past the Fortress’ defenses.”
He thought about this for a moment. “Very well. But I shall keep you in chains. I do not trust you.”
“As you wish. But I don’t want to die. Please take me with you.”
“Pathetic,” he sneered. “And you thought you had any chance against me? How did a worm like you ever get to be a Green Lantern?”
“If you must know,” I said, “I didn’t. Not officially. I stole the ring.”
That made him smile evilly. “A thief, eh? That explains much, mortal. Well then — you shall be my servant when I conquer the world beyond.”
He raised his arms. “Barrier vast and made of glass — part, I command you, let us pass!”
The glass shimmered and seemed to melt around a spot before Myrwhydden, which suddenly opened up into a hole big enough to allow the stone circle and ourselves through it. We passed through, and I saw the hole close up again behind us. Well, at least that resolves one worry, I thought. I had feared that Myrwhydden might leave the hole open, to leak away Kandor’s atmosphere, but perhaps he had plans for its citizens and wanted to leave them alive for now.
Whatever his motivation, the platform began to descend rapidly toward the floor of the Fortress. This time I had no problem with hanging on. Unknown to Myrwhydden, I could feel the ultra-solar rays of Earth’s sun beginning to energize me once more.
The platform reached the ground, and the wizard stepped off. He seemed to be holding his breath — understandable, as the normal-sized molecules in the air around us would have been unbreathable to him. “So small no longer shall I be, restore our size, my slave and me!”
There was a wrenching feeling, and we both began to grow rapidly until we were normal-sized. The bottle city, which had moments before seemed vast around us, now looked little more than a toy.
“That’s better,” said Myrwhydden. “And now, slave, you shall show me around this Fortress and its secrets.”
I grinned. “I don’t think so!” Flexing my now super-strong muscles, I burst out of my chains, flew toward the wizard and gave him just the lightest of slaps with the flat of my hand. Even that was enough to send him flying back across the room.
“So much for your plans for world domination!” I said as he lay on the floor, stunned. “Didn’t expect this, did you?” I strode toward him, intending to bind him with his own chains — and gag him so he could make no further incantations.
But then something happened that I hadn’t expected. I suddenly doubled up in agony, my ribs feeling like they were on fire. “Oh, no!” I groaned. I had been injured in Kandor, and I was still injured out here. The super-energy coursing through my body would heal my injuries much faster in this environment, but I still had busted ribs — busted super-tough ribs.
There wasn’t much that could cut through super-powered Kryptonian body tissue, but one thing that could certainly do it was some other super-powered Kryptonian body tissue. Like bone sticking into a lung?
I felt blood welling up in my throat, and I collapsed, groaning. Oh, Rao, I thought. Not now, not like this. Not when I was so close to victory!
As I keeled forward, I saw Myrwhydden struggling groggily to his feet. He was clearly dazed and in no fit state to fight; one blow would surely put him out of it altogether.
But I could hardly move for the pain I was in. I was strong enough to level a mountain and tough enough to survive a small atomic blast unscathed, but my own body was killing me. I could feel my lungs filling up with blood.
“W… well…” gasped Myrwhydden. “I do not know where you found the strength to deliver such a blow, mortal… but it would appear that the effort has proved too much for you. Not good enough.” He shook his head, evidently trying to clear the dizziness away. “Not good enough at all.”
On his feet now, the diminutive sorcerer leaned against one of the walls for support. “Do not die, treacherous one,” he said. “Do not dare to die before I have my revenge. As soon as my head is clear, I shall cast such a spell upon you that you shall rot in agony — but you will take a year or more to die. You have forfeited any right to a quick death.”
I tried to crawl toward him on my belly. One blow — just a casual sweep of my super-strong hand — that would be all that would be needed. Yet every movement was an eternity of agony. For all Myrwhydden’s threats, at that moment I couldn’t see that anything he could threaten me with could be worse than what I was already going through.
I looked up. He was steadier on his feet now, his eyes properly focused once more and blazing in fury. “Very well. Let us begin…” He raised his arms.
“Not if I have any say in the matter, mage!”
The cavern suddenly filled with emerald light. Someone swooped in and alighted between Myrwhydden and me. “G-Green Lantern?” I croaked.
“The very same,” snarled Myrwhydden. “Well, well. So you show yourself at last, eh, ring-bearer?”
“You won’t harm this man, Myrwhydden,” said the newcomer. “Not while I’m here to protect him.”
“Indeed? Then it’s a good thing you will not be here much longer,” said Myrwhydden with an evil curl to his lip. “This fool has unwittingly given me the power to destroy you, enemy mine. He has told me your true name. And a spell cast against you with your true name will be infallible.”
Green Lantern merely laughed. He folded his arms, making no effort whatsoever to use his ring against the sorcerer. I stared at him in astonishment. I tried to call out, to tell him to strike now and not give Myrwhydden a chance to use his magic, but no words came out. I only coughed up more blood.
Myrwhydden growled. “You think I bluff, human? Then laugh at this!”
He raised his arms again. “Name of power, golden dread, kill Hal Jordan — strike him dead!”
And with those words, a terrible shaft of golden radiance flew from the mage’s fingers, striking Green Lantern squarely in the chest — and then I could see nothing but glare and smoke!
Incredibly, to my utter surprise, the smoke began to clear to reveal the target of Myrwhydden’s attack still standing there. Parts of his costume were on fire, but he looked relatively unharmed. “Tch-tch,” he said, blowing out a small fire on his left sleeve. “Is that the best you can do?”
Myrwhydden’s eyes widened like soup dishes. “Im-impossible!” he gasped. “I incorporated your true name in the spell! It should have been irresistible. It should have destroyed you!”
“Well,” said another voice from behind him, “the trouble is, you really ought to have made sure you were aiming at the right target!”
The dwarfish mage spun around to see another Green Lantern behind him, leaning nonchalantly against the wall and grinning broadly. Myrwhydden’s head jerked back and forth between the two. “But… but…”
I suddenly cottoned on to what was going on as I realized that, where his G.L. costume had burned away, the first G.L. was wearing different colors underneath — mostly blue and red!
The second Green Lantern raised his ring to point at the confused sorcerer. “Say goodnight, Gracie!”
Myrwhydden suddenly realized what was happening, and tried to raise his yellow aura to protect himself, but too late. He began to shrink rapidly and was drawn into the power ring. “N… no-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o… o-o-o-o-o-o-o!”
Then he was gone.
Green Lantern then approached me. “And I think you have something that belongs to me, too,” he said. His power ring glowed once more, and I felt the gem fragment leave the ring on my finger and saw it, like Myrwhydden, grow smaller and smaller as it approached its parent and merged with it.
“That’s better,” he said. “And I think you owe us an explanation, friend,” he added.
“No, wait a moment, G.L.,” said Superman — for it was, indeed, the Man of Steel who had acted as a decoy wearing a Green Lantern uniform. “My x-ray vision reveals Tan-Jay has serious internal injuries. We need to get him to a hospital as a priority. Explanations can wait.”
“Wouldn’t that mean taking him back in there?” asked G.L., nodding in the direction of Kandor’s bottle. “I wouldn’t think an Earth hospital would be able to do much for him.”
“That’s right,” said Superman. He had removed his disguise now and was gently lifting me.
And what happened next I don’t know, because I blacked out again.