On their way back from fishing at
the lake, the four campers were all talking and laughing. In the lead is Conan,
a barbarian from the northern mountains of Cimmeria. He is big and muscular,
with long raven black hair. Next to him is Jezmine, an attractive young acrobat
with long brown hair who grew up in a traveling circus. Then there is a large
dark skinned man named Zula, who is the warrior prince of a kingdom called
Wasai. And finally there is Grey Wolf, a wizard from the magical city of Xanthus.
He has a blue stripe tattooed across his eyes, and he wears a gray turban and
an enchanted yellow cape.
Each of them carries a weapon made out of a very special metal. Years ago, when Conan was but a teenager, there was a great meteor shower. The meteors were all made out of some sort of metal ore. Conan and his grandfather gathered up as many of these meteors as they could find and gave them to Conan's father, who was their village blacksmith. He used this metal ore to forge weapons, armor, and tools. Once tempered, the raw ore becomes known as star metal. Conan's father made many star metal weapons, and sold most of them at a trade bazaar. He kept only the sword, his finest work, which he gave to Conan. But then the evil wizard, Wrath-Amon, came to their village demanding that they turn over all of their star metal. When he learned that they had sold it all, he cursed Conan's family with a spell of living stone. The only reason Conan didn't suffer the same fate was he had gone to fetch his sword so that he might fight Wrath-Amon, and by the time he returned he was too late. So now he searches the land for some way to reverse Wrath-Amon's evil spell. And along the way he has made these wonderful new friends, all of whom had purchased their weapons from Conan's father. Conan has his star metal sword. Jasmine has her set of star metal shuriken. Zula has a set of star metal bolas. And Grey Wolf has a star metal claw on his staff, The Claw of Heaven. However his magic is his strongest weapon, and The Claw of Heaven increases his magic's power tremendously. If any star metal weapon so much as touches one of Wrath-Amon's snake people, it banishes them into The Abyss to join their evil god, Set.
As the four companions have many miles to go before they reach civilization, and Wrath-Amon has not sent any minions after them for some time, they had decided to take it easy for a few days. Zula had managed to bag a wild goat while hunting just the day before, which was roasting on a spit back at their camp. And today they've left Conan's phoenix, Needle, to watch the camp and had a very lucrative day of fishing. They had each managed to catch at least a few fish a piece. Grey Wolf had the best luck, having caught seven (although Conan is nearly certain that he had a little magical help). In any case, they will be eating well these next few days.
As they approach the camp, the smell of roasting meat makes Conan's stomach grumble. But when they are able to see their camp, they stop in their tracks at what they find.
"Crom's beard," says Conan in disbelief.
Squatting down next to their campfire is this large, hairy humanoid man-beast the likes of which they've never seen before, eating their dinner. The thing is huge, at least a foot taller than Conan should it stand to its full height. Its body is covered in tan coloured fur, similar to that of a cougar or a puma. It has a mane of golden hair, like that of a male lion. And its face is black and grey. Its incisors are long and pointed, similar to those of the sabre tooth tiger. The creature doesn't appear to notice their approach, so engrossed it is in its ill-gotten meal. The creature then lifts up one of their wine skins and drinks a healthy swallow. Conan growls angrily at the theft, and he throws down his fishing equipment and this day’s catch and draws his sword.
Then he shouts, "You there! Thief! Put our dinner back!"
The creature stands up to its full height, looking even more frightening than it did before. Then it starts to roar and howl, and it holds the spitted goat up as though in challenge.
"If I have to fight you for my supper beast," says Conan, "then by Crom let us have at it!"
He charges the creature with his magnificent star metal sword held high in a two handed grip. The beast roars and howls at Conan. The barbarian swings his mighty sword, but is caught by the wrist in one of this creature's massive hands, and is thrown through the air with ease. Conan lands hard on the ground a good one hundred feet away from the camp and his sword sticks tip first into the earth at least ten feet away from his grasp.
"Let me try!" Says Zula as he takes out his bolas and charges the creature, whirling the weapon above his head as he does. He throws the weapon at his enemy and the cord wraps around it, pinning its arms to its sides. But as he approaches it, the creature breaks the cord with ease, then grabs Zula and throws him at the other two companions.
Being an acrobat, Jezmine manages to leap out of the way and then land nimbly on her feet. Grey Wolf is not so fortunate however. He tries to use his magic to catch Zula, but isn't able to conjure his magic in time to cast the spell. The dark skinned warrior crashes into the wizard, who falls hard and bumps his head on a rock, rendering him unconscious.
By now Conan has recovered his sword and is once again attacking the thief. The beast picks up a fallen log, which they had been using as a bench for sitting on, and uses it as a massive club. With one powerful strike, he knocks Conan's sword from his grasp. With another he sends the barbarian flying.
"I guess it's my turn," says Jezmine, and she hurls her shurikens at the beast, one after the other.
With a level of dexterity one wouldn't expect from a creature so huge, it actually deflects each and every shuriken thrown at it, causing them all to stick into the log. Jezmine leaps into the air and tries to deliver a flying kick. The beast drops its weapon, catches her by the ankle, the throws her off to the side with casual ease. Jezmine tucks and tumbles, doing an impressive double somersault in midair, before landing gracefully on a large boulder in a perfectly balanced crouch. The beast roars and howls at her. Jezmine holds up her bracer and concentrates, and her shurikens pull themselves free of the log and return to their owner. The beast howls and roars some more.
Zula charges the beast again, but it simply picks him up and throws him against the boulder that Jezmine had landed on.
"Are you okay?" Jezmine asks her friend.
"I'll live," he replies, "Are you hurt?"
"Not yet," she replies, "What of Grey Wolf? Maybe he can cast a spell to turn this beast into a kitten or something."
"He hit his head when we collided," says Zula, "He is out of this fight, I'm afraid."
The distraction from Jezmine and Zula has given Conan the time he needed to retrieve his sword and return to the battle.
"This time monster," he says, "I'm going to wear your fur as a coat!"
"Yaaaaa-heee!" comes a cry from the side.
Conan turns to see a blonde haired barbarian charging at him on the back of a white stallion. Before he could bring his sword up in defense, the newcomer leaps from his horse and tackles Conan. They tumble on the ground, wrestling each other, until Conan throws the blonde haired barbarian off of him. They both get to their feet at the same time, Conan quickly retrieving his sword.
"I don't know who you are," says Conan, "or why you've chosen to interfere. But I swear, by Crom, you shall regret it!"
The blonde barbarian glowers at the mention of Crom's name. "I am Thundarr," he declares as he removes his Sunsword from its bracer and ignites its blade. "And if you are servants of Crom, then by The Lords of Light that's all the reason I need to destroy you!"
And with that, Thundarr and Conan charge at each other with their weapons brought to bear. The blades of their weapons clash, and to Thundarr's utter amazement Conan's sword is unharmed. They swing and parry repeatedly, neither of them gaining an advantage.
"Demon dogs!" Cries Thundarr, "What type of metal can withstand the Sunsword?"
"Star metal!" Conan roars as he attacks even more fiercely.
As the beast appears to be oddly transfixed on the duel between the two barbarians, Jezmine and Zula try attacking it in unison. They leap at it, Jezmine successfully landing on its shoulders and wrapping her thighs around its neck in a head scissors in an attempt to squeeze the air from it. Zula grabs one of its powerful arms with both of his own and wraps his legs about its torso in a body scissors to try and immobilize it. It throws them both off as though they were little more than a nuisance, which is all they feel that they are to this creature. The beast howls and roars at them again.
Behind the beast, Grey Wolf is sneaking into position and points at it with his magic staff. He had recovered enough while the others fought the creature to regain consciousness. Now, while the beast is distracted by Jezmine and Zula, he has a chance to end this destructive conflict. But before he can cast a spell, a magical bolt hits him from behind, hurling him to the ground. Luckily he wasn't badly hurt and is quickly able to regain his footing. He turns and sees a beautiful, raven haired young woman, wearing a very revealing blue leotard and golden boots.
"Now, now," she says, wagging her finger like a disapproving mother, "It isn't nice to gang up on your playmates."
"I don't know who you are, madam," says Grey Wolf, "but you have no business interfering."
"The name's Ariel," replies the girl, "and I'm afraid I'm going I have to disagree with you. This fight most certainly concerns me."
"Then, Ariel, let us see if you are as formidable a foe face to face as you are when you attack from behind!"
And with that, Grey Wolf fires a magical bolt at the sorceress with his magic staff. Ariel deflects it with a shield spell, and then counters with a spell of her own. Grey Wolf tumbles out of the way, causing Ariel's spell to miss terribly. He counters with another spell, which Ariel dodges with impressive acrobatic skill.
As the two spell casters are dueling, the great beast turns to them and begins howling and roaring, shaking its great fist at Grey Wolf. Jezmine once again tries to take advantage of the distraction by throwing her shurikens at the creature. Again, it picks up the log and uses it to block all of the shurikens. But rather than just throw the log aside, it slams it down on the ground pinning the shurikens on the underside.
"My shurikens!" Cries Jezmine, "I can't call them back to my bracer if they're pinned under that log like that!"
"It would take Grey Wolf's magic to lift a log that size," says Zula.
"We have to stop that beast now," says Jezmine, "Conan and Grey Wolf need our help."
Zula looks over at his friends, and sees that Jezmine is right. The two spell casters and the two barbarians both appear to be in stalemates, where neither is likely to win any time soon. He turns to Jezmine and nods his head in agreement. The two of them charge the beast head on. The creature roars and howls at them, then when they attempt their double flying tackle it simply catches them and throws them away again. Again it howls and roars at them. As he and Jezmine get back to their feet, Zula has a curious expression on his face. The acrobat looks at him quizzically.
"What is it?" She asks.
"Something is not right here," says Zula.
"This creature has demonstrated on more than one occasion that it could easily destroy us. The strength it takes to lift that log alone is enormous, and the creature wields it like it was but a child's toy. Yet when we attack it, it's clearly holding back, not using its full strength."
"So the beast is toying with use, like a cat with a mouse. It does look like a large cat after all."
"I have considered that possibility," concedes Zula with a nod, "But then there are its roars and growls. I could be wrong, but I think I have discerned a pattern. I think it may be talking to us."
"Are you sure?"
"Not yet. But I have an idea. Can you keep it distracted for a few moments?"
Jezmine nods her head, "Consider it distracted!"
She gets a running start at the beast. It prepares to grab her, but she leaps up over its head. Rather than attacking it outright, she feints and dodges, ducks and moves. She keeps the thing swinging wildly at her while Zula does whatever it is he's planning.
Zula kneels down on the ground and draws a mystical symbol in the dirt. "By the Sign of Jhebbal Sag, Master of Beasts," he chants, "Animal brother, speak to me."
A blue, magical glow rises from the symbol. Then the glow leaps from the symbol to Zula's eyes, then from Zula's eyes to the beast's. He stands and approaches the creature. The creature roars and howls at Jezmine and Zula.
"Jezmine, get back!" Zula tells her. To the creature he says, "Calm, friend. Tell me what it is you're after."
The beast roars, growls, and howls at Zula. Zula nods his head as though he understands. "I see," he says.
"You understand what it's saying?" Jezmine asks.
"Aye," says Zula, "His name is Ookla. He is called a mok. He says he never wanted to fight us, and he regrets stealing our dinner. An evil wizard had banished him to the desert. He had gone days with neither food nor water. He was desperate. He tried to explain, but Conan attacked him. He understands that his appearance can be frightening, and that not all humans can understand mok, but he is not our enemy."
"So who are these other two?" She asks.
Ookla growls a reply, and Zula translates.
"Their names are Thundarr and Ariel. They are friends of his. When they saw us attacking Ookla, they automatically ran to his aid, just as we would for Conan and Grey Wolf."
Jezmine looks at Ookla. "So we're not enemies?" she asks.
Ookla shakes his head 'no'.
"Then I apologize," she says.
"We both do," says Zula.
He offers Ookla his hand, and the mok shakes it. Jezmine then clasps both of their hands together and smiles in relief. Then they turn and see that both spell casters and both barbarians are still dueling each other.
"We've got to do something before they kill each other," says Jezmine.
"Princess Ariel!" Zula shouts out, "Grey Wolf! Stop fighting! It's okay! It was a misunderstanding!"
"Princess Ariel?" asks Jezmine.
"That's what Ookla calls her," replies Zula.
"Princess Ariel!" Jezmine calls, "Please stop fighting. We don't want to hurt you! Grey Wolf! Put your staff down! They're not our enemies!"
"So, Grey Wolf?" Ariel asks, "Your friends say we are not enemies. What say you? Do you trust their judgment?"
Grey Wolf glances over to his companions and sees that they have stopped fighting the creature. In fact they were standing next to it like they were all old friends.
"I trust them with my life, dear lady," says Grey Wolf, and he lowers his staff which immediately stops crackling with power. Ariel, too, lowers her hands which no longer crackle with energy either.
The two spell casters walk over to their friends.
"Princess Ariel," says Grey Wolf, allow me to introduce my friends. Prince Zula of the Wasai tribe, and Jezmine the acrobat."
"Pleased to meet you," greets Ariel.
"Likewise," says Zula.
"And how are you doing Ookla?" Ariel asks.
Ookla replies by scooping her up in a big hug.
"That well, huh?" Gasps Ariel, as soon as she can catch her breath.
When Ookla puts her down he looks over to see that Thundarr and Conan are still fighting. He starts howling at Thundarr, but the blonde barbarian doesn't seem to hear.
"What is he saying?" Jasmine asks.
"The same thing we were a moment ago," replies Zula, "that we are not enemies and this is all a big misunderstanding."
"You understand mok?" asks Ariel, genuinely surprised.
"Only temporarily," replies Zula, "I will explain later. For now, we must stop our friends from killing each other."
"Agreed," says Ariel, "Thundarr! Stop fighting! These people are not our enemies!"
"Listen to her Conan!" adds Jezmine, "The mok! The lion creature! It meant us no harm! He was only hungry! And Thirsty! Surely we can share our food and drink with those in need!"
Again the barbarians ignore their friends and continue their duel.
"Stupid, stubborn barbarian," grumbles Jezmine.
"Which one?" asks Ariel.
"Take your pick," she replies.
"We can jest after we've kept our friends from making complete fools of themselves," says Grey Wolf.
"Too late," reply Ariel and Jezmine in unison. Then the two young women look at each other and laugh.
"Perhaps you and I should intervene," Grey Wolf says to Ariel, "Separate them with our magic."
"After you," says Ariel with a regal bow.
"Oh no," says Grey Wolf, "After you. I insist."
"Together then?" suggests Ariel.
"On the count of 'three'," agrees Grey Wolf.
The two spell casters point at the two stubborn barbarians, who still refuse to stop fighting.
"One . . ." starts Princess Ariel.
"Two . . ." continues Grey Wolf.
"THREE!" they say together, and they unleash their magic.
Princess Ariel's spell creates a gigantic hand out of yellow energy which grabs Thundarr and throws him to the ground, pinning him there. At the same instant, Grey Wolf creates a similar hand of blue energy which throws Conan to the ground and pins him there as well. Both barbarians struggle against the spells, but to no avail.
"ARIEL!" shouts Thundarr, "What are you doing? Let me go!"
"Not until you've calmed down," says the sorceress.
"You don't understand!" cries Thundarr, "They are in league with the evil wizard who sent us here!"
"You lie!" shouts Conan, "The only wizard I'm in league with is the traitor who's keeping me from finishing you off! But that will change once I get my hands on his double-crossing neck!"
"Your anger is misplaced, my friend," says Grey Wolf, "There is no reason for us to continue this senseless conflict."
"Bah!" says Thundarr, "That one is the liar! His heart is as black as the hair on his head! Why else would he have sworn fealty to the wizard Crom?"
"Is this true?" asks Ariel, "Are you in league with the wizard Crom?"
"Crom is no wizard, you black haired witch!" shouts Conan, "He is the guardian spirit of my people! He has been for over a thousand generations!"
"Thundarr!" Ariel cries, "Don't you see? It was all a misunderstanding! The Crom that Conan was speaking of and the one that sent us here are two different things! They just happen to have the same name, that's all!"
"How do we know that he doesn't worship the wizard Crom as a Deity?" asks Thundarr, "Some primitives are foolish enough to fall for such a cheap trick as that!"
"Because," explains Ariel, "He said they'd been worshiping Crom for a thousand generations! Earth didn't even have wizards that long ago!"
"Crom had The Moon Dial!" counters Thundarr, "He could have gone into their past and proclaimed himself their deity!"
"Unlikely," says Ariel, "Crom was more concerned with technology. I highly doubt he would come all the way back into the past of another world, just to set himself up as a barbarian deity. What would be the point?"
"Wait!" says Conan, "Do you mean to tell me that somewhere out there, there's an evil wizard who goes by the same name as the guardian spirit of my tribe?"
"That's exactly what we're saying," replies Grey Wolf.
"Then let me up," says Conan, more calmly but with a determined glint in his eye, "So that I may find this wizard and put my sword in his foolish heart."