by CSyphrett, with Martin Maenza
In a blur of red and yellow, Captain Marvel soared through the expansive sky, his monstrous burden weighing him down as it struggled in his grip. He squinted his eyes as he spotted something. “Holy moley, what’s that?” he muttered, his voice lacing with a hint of apprehension as he discerned another winged behemoth approaching from the island up ahead. “Great, just what I need — another flying monster!”
As the winged monstrosity drew closer, Captain Marvel made a snap decision. With finesse and grace, he twirled in midair and flung the creature in his grip toward its counterpart. A tremendous crash echoed through the air as the two colossal beasts plunged into the waters just off the shore of the volcanic rock. “Strike!” he exclaimed triumphantly, as if he were in the world’s largest bowling alley.
Emerging from the water, the lizard-like creature faced its new opponent, who sent forth a tidal wave with a powerful flap of its massive wings. But then, a behemoth of a primate looking like King Kong emerged from a crevice in the rocky face of the volcano. The creature seemed to belong there, fighting off the other colossal beings that dared encroach upon its territory.
“Poor thing must have been lost,” Captain Marvel mused, his voice tinged with empathy. Nevertheless, he took a moment to ensure that the island was indeed a natural habitat for these creatures before taking to the skies once again. “II’ll have to alert the Navy to avoid this hazardous little Monster Island. Still, I wonder what could have driven the giant lizard away from its dwelling?”
Another island appeared as a tiny speck on the horizon, barely visible to any ordinary eye. Only someone with Captain Marvel’s exceptional vision could spot the distant landmass, and even then, it required the aid of a telescope atop the smoky peak of Monster Island.
Perhaps it’s worth investigating that place as well, he pondered. Since I’m already out here. Determined, Captain Marvel continued his flight, hoping that the answers he sought lay within his grasp.
As he approached the smaller island, a fiery display greeted him, crackling in the air like dancing flames. Captain Marvel plowed through the illusion, shattering it into fiery ribbons. “This keeps getting stranger by the minute! If someone doesn’t want me snooping around here, then there must be something worth discovering!” His boots touched the ground just as a mysterious figure materialized out of thin air, cloaked in a tan coat and donning a crisp white fedora.
Yarko the Great, a skilled sorcerer with an air of mystery, reached the edge of a bustling dock at the San Francisco Bay. Retrieving a folded piece of paper from beneath his coat, he delicately traced an arcane symbol upon the paper with his finger.
With a flourish, Yarko tossed the paper onto the gentle waves, and in that instant, smoke erupted from its surface. As he had intended, a majestic wooden sailboat materialized from the ethereal smoke, its multiple masts adorned with pristine white sails that gracefully unfurled in the breeze.
As a mischievous grin curled his lips, Yarko took a leap of faith from the dock, landing nimbly upon the deck of the magical vessel. As if responding to his presence, the sails caught the wind, propelling the boat away from the shore.
Steering the ship with confidence, Yarko firmly grasped the rudder, skillfully maneuvering the craft away from any potential obstacles. Once they had distanced themselves from the bustling city, his eyes flickered with anticipation, and with an almost imperceptible flash, the enchanted boat thrust itself into the sky, flying over the great expanse of water with preternatural speed and grace.
As Yarko’s gaze wandered across the horizon, finally settling upon a distant piece of land, a surge of familiarity coursed through him. “This is the place,” he whispered to himself, recalling the vivid sensations and images that had flooded his mind during his mystical communion with Prince Amentep. Anchoring the boat just offshore, Yarko flicked a card onto the water, and like a conjured dream, a small gangplank appeared, bridging the gap between the vessel and the mysterious shore.
Carefully placing one foot after another on the ethereal walkway, Yarko traversed the magical creation, eventually reaching solid ground. I wonder what awaits me at the end of this strange and wondrous journey, he pondered, his curiosity fueling his every step.
Suddenly, amidst the tranquil backdrop, Yarko’s sharp eyes caught sight of a figure descending from the heavens. Dressed in a vivid red suit, emblazoned with a striking lightning bolt upon his shirt, the man gracefully touched down upon the earth. And as if that weren’t enchanting enough, another man seemingly materialized out of thin air, his presence equally as mesmerizing.
Intrigued by this peculiar turn of events, Yarko couldn’t help but wonder about their purpose. Sensing no malevolence emanating from them, he made his way toward the intriguing duo. Perhaps, he thought, with a flicker of hope, these two might know of the nefarious threats that attacked Chinatown.
The captured water elemental, acknowledging his defeat at the hands of Doctor Mist’s powerful magic, began to reveal the secrets he held.
“You see, the one who calls the shots here has gotten a taste for this realm,” the elemental confessed. “When this Valdemir guy proposed his deal, the chief couldn’t resist. His plan was to bring a slice of Hell into your world, just to prove he was holding up his end of the bargain. Only thing is, things didn’t go as planned.”
“Enough with the half-truths, imp,” commanded Mist sternly. His voice dripped with authority.
“All right, all right!” the imp grumbled. “The chief couldn’t pull it off. Something blocked a piece of Hell from crossing over, so he had to resort to using a fragment of land from the Darkworld, a dimension brimming with magic. That proved to be even better than the original plan, because this very island appeared simultaneously in five different universes, including yours! Valdemir dispatched these heroes to fix the mess. It should have been a walk in the park, but they didn’t all get killed like they were meant to. That fellow with the atomic converter, he blew himself up along with his friend before we could get to them. The chief was beyond furious. Ever seen a volcano on the verge of erupting? That’s how he looked. He had a small portion of real estate in five worlds, but no means to access it or retrieve it. What a predicament!”
The imp paused, catching his breath, before continuing. “And then, out of nowhere, this kid enters the picture. He’s exactly what we need — bitter, full of rage, and despises humanity. On top of that, he possesses natural psychic abilities that grow stronger by the day. The chief just needs a little help from him, and then not only this world, but four others besides, is our oyster!”
Doctor Mist nodded, a flicker of amusement dancing in his eyes. “The boy hates you too,” he noted, almost smiling.
“With an intensity you can’t even imagine,” the imp confirmed. “Nobody can get close to him without their heads popping like squished grapes — not even the big shots like those rhyming demons. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“If he is against you, why did you cause the waterspout out here?” Doctor Mist inquired, his eyes narrowing in suspicion.
The imp crossed its spindly arms and sneered. “Firstly, he ain’t exactly against us, and there’s no way I’m lettin’ him chop my head off. And secondly, the chief said we can still have a bit of fun as long as we steer clear of the kid. So, we’re scarperin’ off to any ol’ place far away from there.”
Understanding flickered in Doctor Mist’s eyes as he processed the imp’s explanation. “I see,” he said, his voice tinged with a mixture of resignation and determination. He was about to continue the discussion when Captain Toby Stewart burst into the scene, his face flushed with urgency.
“Doctor Mist, there’s something going on over there!” the naval officer exclaimed, pointing toward a small group that seemed to have materialized out of thin air on the island.
Doctor Mist accepted the offered binoculars from Captain Stewart and swiftly trained them on the gathering. Just as he did, a woman in a sharp suit and top hat strode forward, capturing the mage’s attention. “Hmmm… I believe I ought to attend that gathering myself,” Doctor Mist mused aloud. “And I’ll bring my cheeky impish friend with me.”
“What will you need from me?” asked Captain Stewart.
Doctor Mist smiled faintly, a touch of mystery dancing in his eyes. “Time,” he replied. “And maybe a few prayers would help, too.”
With a graceful movement, the ancient mage propelled himself into the air, gracefully floating across the water toward Grim Island. He clutched the captive imp securely in his hand, ensuring it wouldn’t escape. Doctor Mist couldn’t help but feel a glimmer of excitement as he sensed the potential of these newcomers, something he had honed over centuries of covertly safeguarding the world. Hopefully, the task ahead will be within their capabilities, with no need for my direct intervention. Maybe it’ll be as simple as persuading the lad to leave the island for a while.
The imp squirmed in Doctor Mist’s hand, a shiver coursing through its tiny form. Or maybe it won’t be so simple after all, Doctor Mist mused as he joined the three other mystics and the hero dressed in vibrant red.
They exchanged introductions and began comparing their insights, and to the imp’s delight, it chuckled at their descriptions of the various dangers they had faced. “See, I told ya!” it cackled. “Those creatures are prowling across different Earths now. It’s the doing of my wicked brethren, tryin’ to establish a stronger foothold.” But the heroes listened with solemn expressions, not sharing the imp’s amusement at the dire situation they faced.
“Let’s talk to this Gareth Gallowglass and see about undoing this place,” declared Margo the Magician, her voice filled with determination. She knew that the men would continue to analyze the problem endlessly, instead of taking the necessary action.
The imp in Doctor Mist’s palm erupted into a fit of uncontrollable laughter at her suggestion. “Talk to Gallowglass? Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!”
“We will talk to him,” Doctor Occult asserted firmly, not willing to let the imp’s mocking laughter deter them. “Your little friend clearly doesn’t have much faith in our ability to convince him to leave, Doctor Mist.”
“I don’t, either,” Yarko the Great said solemnly.
“How can you say that?” Margo asked.
“From what Doctor Mist, here, has told us,” continued Yarko, “this boy has experienced betrayal and will view us as a threat to his solitude, particularly given the actions of the government on this world in their attempt to capture him and claim this island. He will attack us.”
“Let’s try a peaceful approach,” suggested Captain Marvel optimistically. “Perhaps we’ll get lucky, and he isn’t as hostile as we think.”
“Hold on!” objected the imp, suddenly serious. “I absolutely refuse to go anywhere near that monster!”
“Where I go, you go,” Doctor Mist asserted firmly.
The five mystical heroes pressed on, overcoming obstacles with their powers, while Captain Marvel protected their flank. Eventually, they discovered a teenager sitting in a scorched area, clutching a book that was three times the size of a Gideon Bible.
“Gareth Gallowglass, I presume,” Doctor Occult addressed the teenager.
Gareth lifted his head, his intense blue right eye as fierce as a bird of prey in his youthful, gaunt face. The other eye was a festering hole, oozing pus. His dark hair had grown long and tangled during the three years he had spent on the island.
“Do we really want to be here?” the imp whispered anxiously.
“Gareth?” Margo spoke softly, hoping her gentle approach would make a connection. “We need to talk to you.”
“Go away,” the boy responded wearily. “Get off my island.”
“You can’t remain here alone, Gareth,” Margo pleaded, hoping her womanly touch would strike a chord. “Your presence is causing events not just on this world but on four others. This island needs to be restored to its rightful place.”
“This is my home,” Gallowglass insisted, rising to his feet. “I won’t abandon it.”
“We’re not giving you a choice, son,” declared Doctor Occult, his voice filled with determination. “You are becoming a danger to our Earths and to yourself. We have to put an end to it!”
“Poor choice of words,” the imp interjected, a mischievous glint in its eyes. Doctor Mist nodded in agreement, sensing the escalating power emanating from Gallowglass across the mystical and physical realms.
Yarko the Great, ever prepared for such unpredictable scenarios, swiftly reacted. With a flicker in his eyes, he conjured an ethereal wall in midair just as chaos erupted around them. A reassuring hand settled on his shoulder, a united will joining forces to create a shield against Gallowglass’ sudden fury.
“Holy moley!” exclaimed Captain Marvel, shielding his eyes from the blinding brilliance.
With hair floating around him and light spilling from his empty eye socket, Gallowglass advanced toward the group. His presence seemed to defy the laws of gravity, causing fragments of earth and pebbles to levitate in his wake. “I warned you to leave! Now I will make you go!” he thundered with a force that shook the ground beneath him.
I’ve got to buy us some time, Doctor Mist thought, his mind racing for a solution. In a daring move, he hurled the imp toward the psionic, using it as a distraction.
“What are you doing?” the imp cried out, its voice filled with surprise as it flailed through the air.
As Doctor Mist attempted a simple sleep spell to halt the escalating battle before someone got seriously injured, the imp realized it had to take control of its own fate. It cupped the air in its ethereal hands, and in an instant, a menacing tornado churned into existence. The powerful vortex spat out dirt and debris as it barreled toward Gallowglass. “Oh, the glory I will receive for destroying the likes of you!” the imp proclaimed triumphantly.
Momentarily caught off guard, Gallowglass paused, allowing Doctor Mist’s sleep spell to strike. “A sleep spell? Oh, please!” Gallowglass scoffed, slicing his hand through the air. A surge of energy radiated from him, engulfing the heroes and the tornado in its wake.
The tornado dissipated as the imp was flung forcefully against the ground, transforming into a milky puddle upon impact. The magicians, caught off balance, were sent sprawling, Yarko’s protective shield crumbling under the onslaught. But there remained one unwavering figure amidst the chaos, having the Strength of Hercules and the Courage of Achilles at his command.
Captain Marvel swiftly sprang into action, attempting a gentler approach with a cautious punch, aiming to subdue the boy without causing undue harm.
“Get away from me!” Gallowglass shouted, his voice filled with anger.
With a wave of Gallowglass’ hand, Captain Marvel was hurled backward by an unimaginable force. The World’s Mightiest Mortal’s body carved a deep trench along the beach, his head throbbing from the tremendous impact. Time to take off the kid gloves, Captain Marvel thought, steeling himself as he prepared to engage once more, his resolve unyielding.