Rimbor was known as one of the roughest planets in all of United Planets space. Rimborian society as such was relatively young, since it was originally settled only recently, in intergalactic terms. Like all young societies, the Rimborian culture was perhaps brashly assertive in proclaiming its merits and was nonjudgmental when considering its faults. Thus, Rimbor had a rather flourishing underworld in which a few powerful and lawless figures waged war against one another in a continuing effort to dominate the others. The honest people who opposed them were also hardened veterans in their own struggle against crime. That was why it was startling to all involved when their daily pursuits were halted by a devastating invasion consisting entirely of two beings.
A group of Silverale smugglers found their profitable progress interrupted when their hidden warehouse was literally smashed to rubble by a flying youth and a lumbering giant from out of a nightmare. Ol-Vir of Daxam exulted in a savage display of his superhuman power as the disfigured youth sent rubble crashing down on the hapless smugglers inside. He turned his keen eyes to the horizon and squinted slightly seconds before beams of boiling hot energy sliced through a police cruiser as it approached from afar.
“The Master will be glorified by the shedding of blood!” cried the boy. His face was almost gleaming in a perverse rapture as he considered his deeds and how he envisioned his dark master would receive them. He was a deluded boy who had been touched by the darkness and madness of the semi-legendary figure of evil known in whispered tones as Darkseid.
Two years ago, Darkseid had used his vast power to enslave the people of Daxam and force them to use their super-powers in service to his name. The Legion of Super-Heroes and other cosmic champions like the Wanderers and the Heroes of Lallor had rescued them and defeated the wicked tyrant. However, Ol-Vir had remained slavishly devoted to Darkseid, and while few remnants of the evil being’s power now remained in the orderly parts of the universe governed by the United Planets, this tainted child was certainly forever altered by Darkseid’s corrupting touch.
Ol-Vir turned to his monstrous companion and raised his head skyward in a strange display of ecstasy. “Validus, great one — you carry the power of Darkseid within you! I relish every action you take. All you do in your childlike fury reflects his somber majesty! When I brought you here via the powers he granted me, I little expected to witness such raw power!”
Validus was a giant creature with a transparent skull that revealed a brain capable of discharging deadly bolts of mental lightning, and he was feared through space for his destructive might. Validus, member of the Fatal Five! Validus, unbeatable force of near-mindless rage! Validus, the slayer of a Legionnaire! These brief epithets were enough to make people race out of his path. His origin was unknown. All anyone could safely say about the behemoth was that he was stronger than Mon-El himself and that he killed with as little regard for life as an infant would show for a toy that displeased it.
The monster roared, sending a building crashing to the ground and ignoring the screams of those trapped within the structure. He was not a being of hatred, and he felt no malice for those he killed. He merely struck out at those around him with no true understanding of what he did. It was only during the time in which Tharok the cyborg conditioned him to obey his ruthless commands that Validus acted with what could be called a deliberate purpose beyond the senseless expression of anger and pain.
Validus turned as a group of men and women appeared from around a corner. They fled from view as quickly as they had appeared, but even their desperate flight was not swift enough to escape the crackling energy that surged into them from the monster’s skull.
Ol-Vir laughed with pleasure. His once-youthful face was craggy and scarred, and he resembled his dread master in that manner. Still, beneath that disfigurement and behind the hatred and madness, he was barely more than a child. Had a wise seer of Naltor gazed keenly at them both, she would have been hard-pressed to determine which one was a more shameful perversion of childhood. “I see now why great Darkseid directed me to use the space-spanning magic he blessed me with to take you from Takron-Galtos when the antimatter wave swept across that prison planet!” shouted Ol-Vir. (*) “We will carve his likeness in our wake! We will be devoted to spreading the darkness that he embodies!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Has Anyone Noticed a Crisis Going On?” Legion of Super-Heroes v3 #18 (January, 1986).]
“Oh, do cease your tiresome prattle!” said a female voice. “If you were as annoying as this before Darkseid claimed you, then I would say your poor parents were doubly blessed in losing you and their own free will to that ancient tyrant!” The woman who had spoken had stepped out of previously empty air and now hovered regally in front of the odd pair. She was a strikingly beautiful woman with long, flowing blonde hair and a delicate face, with perceptive eyes the color of icy waters. She wore a golden armor that left her upper arms and legs bare. A gleaming breastplate covered her chest, and a short skirt flared out beneath her body armor. As she hovered in midair, no hint of wind or weather disturbed her penetrating observation of the pair below her.
“Woman!” cried Ol-Vir. “You risk a painful death when you mock the benefits of Darkseid’s touch!”
She laughed a bitter laugh that expressed nothing more than scorn for the angry youth. He clearly was not worthy of her consideration. She dismissed the Daxamite killer like a queen might discard or be oblivious to the service of a slave. Yet the blonde woman had very different and yet very real emotions beneath that ivory façade when she turned her gaze to Validus. She gestured and spoke in arcane words, and Ol-Vir suddenly stared past her as if she had ceased to exist.
“I must serve great Darkseid!” he cried. “I must strike at his enemies where they are most vulnerable to the dark! I will attack the next generation of those who defy his will!” Ol-Vir soared away with super-speed, never giving another moment’s thought to either the odd woman, the monster called Validus, or his original plan of action. There was a logical reason for his behavior; Ol-Vir’s mind no longer held any memory of meeting Validus or their subsequent journey together, nor could he perceive anything around him until he was far away from Rimbor. Such was the power of the woman’s magicks.
Now the blonde enchantress turned again to stare at Validus. He remained in the same position below her, oddly quiet and docile, although he retained what little intellect he had possessed before her arrival. He merely waited as if he was uncertain what course of action should be taken.
She stared at him for a moment and shook her head. While no hint of the elements around her had even lifted a single strand of her silken blonde hair, in spite of the fact that and dust and debris from their rampage still swirled in the air with the cries of the dying, the sight of Validus moved her. Her voice was still clear and dulcet in tone, but perhaps the slightest tremor had briefly altered the sound of her voice. Was it anger she felt? Was it sorrow? Did she look at the creature and feel either of these emotions, or did she feel both of them ever so briefly? No one was there to judge. The wounded and the dead were far too preoccupied to make such judgments.
“I little expected to see you in this form when first we met, and yet by a strange irony that defies man’s logic or woman’s love, this is our first meeting!” she said. “You have had a bizarre journey thus far, and it will become no easier — that much I swear. Before long, you will be reunited with those most precious to you, and in that moment I will be avenged upon the one who wronged me!” She smiled bitterly, and they both vanished, leaving only the scene of horror and loss behind them.
Later, amidst the rubble of the smuggler’s den, an angry underworld leader named Syrus Rex stared at the ruins of his smuggling operation and fumed. He turned to a rugged man in furs and said, “Validus may be a monster, but nobody gets away with messing up Syrus Rex’s business! I want that oversized freak’s head! Can you track him down and kill him for me?”
The other man nodded and grinned as he stood up and ran his hand along a thin sword.
“For this kind of money, there is nothing Orion the Hunter won’t kill,” he said.
Meanwhile, on an ever-changing enchanted world named Zerox, few things could be counted on to remain the same, except for the serenity that pervaded the educational facility for magic users where the Teachers of Sorcerer’s World studied. Their island remained the same, while all other geographical features of the mystical world routinely shifted in the blink of an eye.
The fact so much of the planet changed from one moment to another via some amazing natural geographical alchemy did nothing to attract visitors, and, in fact, only those visitors who were allowed to come could safely land on the mysterious planet. One such visitor watched everything around him with a stolid but fascinated demeanor. His name was Blok, and he was welcome on Zerox because he was a Legionnaire, and he had defended that world and countless others in the past. He was also a special friend to one of the greatest pupils the Teachers had ever had — Mysa Nal, the Legionnaire called the White Witch.
Mysa smiled, managing to conceal her amusement with one of her characteristically graceful gestures. She moved with a silent beauty and charm that captivated all viewers. She shared this type of charisma with her sister Nura Nal, alias the Legion’s Dream Girl. Mysa’s pale white complexion, attractive features, and magically developed antennae combined to make a very vivid impression on any observer.
The White Witch smiled with pleasure at Blok’s obvious bewilderment. She wasn’t laughing at the rocky hero, since she cared for him and had grown close to him. She was also aware that the Sorcerer’s World would confuse anyone not versed in the mystical arts. What amused Mysa was the manner in which Blok tried to make sense of all he saw and did so eventually after a mental process of comparison of what he knew with what he saw. He had to go outside the realm of personal experience to comprehend much that he encountered among his fellow Legionnaires, since he was a silicon-based being and could not easily grasp their manners or conduct.
“Blok, my friend, what troubles you?” asked the White Witch as they strolled through an exotic garden that grew around them with a symmetry that defied explanation, since no gardener had ever touched a leaf or a twig in that area.
Gazing down at the petite girl, Blok replied in his slow, rumbling manner, “Mysa, as you know, when human colonists first came to the world my people called home, we were deemed to be inanimate objects, because the humans could not comprehend that any living creature could exist in such a torpid manner based on their own ill-considered haste. I was merely thinking about how very different this world is from even their idea of the proper rate of change. My people viewed the humans as wildly intemperate, and yet a world like this — in which the only true constant is total change — would be far beyond even the ability of those human colonists from long ago to understand.”
The White Witch nodded in agreement. “My own studies, not to mention my personal experiences, have left me with a natural appreciation for change. Remember, I was born to one of Naltor’s most powerful seers, and my mother only differed from the rest of the natives of our planet by the degree to which she could foresee the future. On Naltor, the future itself was an open book in some ways. I alone could not see beyond the present moment. I was considered to be as one devoid of the normal senses. That led me here, and it eventually led me to more than one physical transformation. That taught me to value both change and uncertainty, and to appreciate that which is different and to cherish those individuals who are equally unique and accepting. That is one of the many things I value in you, my friend!”
Blok’s craggy countenance smiled as much as his rocky composition would allow. Although he had not been a member of the Legion for as long as many of the members, he embraced the role of team archivist with enthusiasm. He had a thirst for learning more about humans and especially valued learning more about his teammates. Mysa fascinated him more than the rest, and he felt what humans would classify as affection for her. “My thanks to you,” he said. “Mysa, I am honored that you were willing to share this place that is so sacred to you with me.”
A little, withered blue man with a wrinkled face and a crooked smile appeared beside them. He seemed to possess no body below the neck, since a fluffy, cloud-like substance swirled around him and concealed what may have been beneath. “And we Teachers are pleased to have you here, Blok!” he said. “You carry an ancient magic within you based on your natural communion with things of the earth. We honor that.”
Blok nodded in respect to the wise man as two other colorful figures joined them from the far side of the vast garden. The first figure was male with orange skin and a leonine mane of hair and beard. Above his head floated a tiny halo of fire like a crown. The final figure had green skin, pointed ears, and wore a voluminous garment that shimmered like starlight or the night sky. No definite gender could be detected.
“Mysa, child, we regret this interruption,” said the green-hued teacher. “Our joy at your homecoming is that great. Still, we have all denied a burden for too long. I speak of Mordru’s fate.”
“Tis so!” said the leonine teacher. “Our fallen pupil’s darkness has tainted us for too long. He remains devoid of much of his power because of Darkseid and remains trapped within a rocky shroud. (*) We have contained his evil but never cured him of his malice. You and Blok stand among the number of those who have battled him in times past. It is fitting that you join us in our attempt to salvage his better qualities.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Curse,” Legion of Super-Heroes v2 Annual #3 (1984).]
Before Mysa could reply, a holographic image of the Legionnaire called Element Lad appeared from her flight ring. She listened as the team’s current leader and the sole survivor of the planet Trom spoke in his customary measured tones. “Mysa and Blok, we need you two quickly,” said Jan Arrah. “Validus is rampaging. Amazingly enough, reports say he started on Rimbor and then appeared on Titan in far too short a span of time for conventional travel methods to explain. If magic is involved, we need our White Witch! Can you meet some of the others on Titan?”
Mysa turned to her teachers and said, “If Validus is at large, then my skills are needed. May I depart again? Mordru’s slumber may continue while we face this more active evil!”
The little blue man nodded. “I agree. Go to your friends, and may the stellar winds ease your journey. Blok, know that you are welcome to return here as well.”