by David R. Black
"I copy you sir, but I do say, you sound a little scratchy. I take it everything went well in Japan?"
The Batman allowed a grim smile, if smiles can be grim, to cross his face. His activities in Japan had went well, almost too well.
"Yes Alfred," he remarked into the microphone of the Bat-plane's transmitter. "Katana and I took care of her Yakuza problem. They won't be bothering anyone for a while."
"Very good sir," replied the butler's British accented voice on the other end. "Need I remind you that Mr. Wayne has Wayne Corp. business to attend to tomorrow morning in Point Barrow?"
"Mr. Wayne's parka is packed, and he's on his way to Alaska as we speak" responded the Batman, paying careful attention to refer to his alter ego in the third person in case someone should be monitoring the transmission.
"Indeed sir. Is that all?"
The Batman thought for a moment. "Yes, that should do it for now "
Before he could finish, a small shock wave shook the plane violently, and the Dark Knight's attention was drawn to the red light that began to flash on the plane's console. "Wait hang on a sec Alfred"
"Is everything alright sir? What was that noise?"
"Damn!" muttered Batman.
"Sabotage. The Bat-plane's been sabotaged." came Batman's stoic reply. "Explosion knocked out the primary fuel tank and ripped a hole in the other one."
"My word!" gasped Alfred. "Send me your coordinates sir, and I'll have master Timothy come pick you up once you've ejected."
"Negative, Alfred" replied Batman. "I'm not ejecting, I'm almost to Point Barrow. I'm over the North Pole as we speak and the plane's momentum should carry me the rest of the way."
"Sir, I must protest "
Th transmission was cut off as another explosion rocked the Bat-plane. The plane lurched violently to one side, and Batman fought for control of the plane.
"Damn! Not going to get a chance to reach Barrow after all!" muttered Batman to himself. "Gotta look for a spot to eject safely, I sure don't want to end up in the Arctic Ocean."
Batman scanned the earth beneath him, and saw a green canopy of leaves spreading out across the land.
"Must've been closer to Alaska than I guessed" thought Batman. "Time to punch out!"
Batman pushed the eject button and rocketed out of the plane. He tugged on the parachute's rip cord, but there was no response. Again he tugged on it. And once again. The parachute finally opened, but only partially. Batman was still falling too fast, and he knew he was in for a landing he might not survive
The inner world of Skartaris, the Kingdom of Kaambuka
Gazing out into the palace's courtyard, Ashir sighed loudly.
"Let's face it" Ashir thought to himself, "Life as the king of Kaambuka is b-o-r-i-n-g. I liked it better when I was just a regular ol' master thief before I found out that I was actually a long lost royal. Man, those were really the good ol' days "
A loud noise coming from the soldiers in the room next door snapped Ashir back to reality. He wondered what all the commotion was about, and went to go take a look. Before he could, the doors burst open and the body of a dead soldier fell into the palace. Four men wearing all blue, including blue turbans, leaped into the room.
"Vashek assassins!" yelled Ashir as two of the men charged towards him.
Ashir pulled a dagger from his belt and prepared to defend himself. The other two Vasheks remained at the doors to fend off the other soldiers, but Ashir knew he was in trouble. Vashek assassins were the most vicious, relentless, and flat out best warriors in all of Skartaris.
Ashir charged the first Vashek, and managed to graze the man's arm. That was all the offense Ashir could muster, and he was soon overwhelmed. As the flat of the Vashek's sword cracked him on the head, Ashir wondered why they hadn't killed him yet. He faded into unconsciousness still wondering.
One of the Vasheks removed a glass vial from under his tunic while the other assassin carefully slit one of Ashir's wrists. In total silence, the first Vashek positioned the glass vial so that it would collect the blood spurting out of Ashir's wrist. The vial filled quickly, and the four assassins dispatched the rest of the soldiers and began to leave. Halfway down the corridor, they abruptly stopped and reversed directions. The Vashek's pursuers had found them.
"Morgan! There they are!" cried a feminine voice.
"I see 'em, Shakira" said Morgan. "We just better stop those blasted Vasheks before they escape with Ashir's blood."
Back into the palace ran the Vasheks, with Morgan and Shakira right behind. Three of the assassins turned to attack Morgan while the fourth leapt out the window into the streets below.
"I'll handle these goons, you try to catch the one carrying the vial of blood" ordered Morgan to Shakira. "It's about time the Warlord showed these Vasheks who's boss"
Morgan bounded into the fray with enthusiasm. His swordsmanship had gotten rusty recently, and he needed some good practice. Volleys, thrusts, and parries filled the air as Morgan fended off all three attackers at once. One by one, Morgan's sword sliced through his opponents, and the blood of the three dead Vasheks turned the palace's floor crimson red.
"Not bad" said Morgan to himself. "Guess I haven't lost my touch"
Morgan noticed Ashir sprawled on the floor and his mood soured. Ashir was still alive, but his wrist needed immediate treatment.
"Sorry I wasn't here sooner" said Moragn to his unconscious friend. "But I'll get you to a doctor "
"Morgan!" Shakira re-entered the palace, gasping for breath. "The Vashek carrying the vial of blood got away. He's heading north, and we can catch up to him again if we hurry."
"All right. I'm coming as soon as I get Ashir some help" said Morgan, his voice becoming angry. "Y'smalla's going to regret doing this, I promise you."
"Ughhh " moaned the Batman quietly.
He checked his body for injuries, and found mostly bumps and bruises, no broken bones. His head still throbbed from the force of the impact though. Standing up, Batman realized how lucky he had been this time. But now it was time to figure out where he was - this place definitely wasn't Alaska - and get home.
Batman felt like he was in a tropical rainforest. The oppressive heat, constant sunlight streaming through the treetops, a tangle of underbrush at his feet, the bugs that kept biting at his skin Stepping out onto a dirt path in a clearing in the trees, Batman heard the sound of approaching horses. He quickly snapped a small pair of binoculars out of his utility belt, and putting them to his face, he could see the approaching horsemen. The well dressed, blue garbed riders all wore blue turbans and carried curved swords at their sides.
"Hmmm look like characters straight out of 'Lawrence of Arabia'" mumbled Batman to himself. "Looks like they're in a hurry though - running from something."
Looking past the 'Arabs,' Batman saw their pursuers. One was a half naked man, dressed in only a spotted loincloth, a ruby encrusted chain that ran from his shoulder to the opposite hip, and a spectacular eagle helmet. Riding alongside the man was a similarly scantily clad woman, wearing only a black fur, bikini like garment. Her long black hair flapped gently in the breeze.
"Those last two riders don't exactly look like friendly types" thought Batman. "Bet they're bandits trying to rob the guys who look like Arabs."
Climbing up into the nearest tree, Batman waited for the horses' approach. A scowl crossed his face.
"Villains are villains" he thought angrily. "No matter the time nor place, evil must be stopped and then I'll figure out how to get home."
"C'mon, c'mon! Faster!" yelled Morgan as he snapped the horse's reigns. "We've almost caught 'em!"
"Stop the lead one!" yelled Shakira to Morgan. "He's got the vial of blood!"
A look of sheer determination crossed Morgan's face. He and Shakira were gaining on the Vasheks, but they were still out of reach. If they made it back to Thera and gave Ashir's blood to Y'smalla, all of Skartaris was in big trouble. Time was running out. The closer they got to Thera, the more likely the Vasheks had reinforcements waiting to help them. And the odds were already in their favor to begin with
"I gotta stop 'em now!" said Morgan to Shakira. Morgan reached into the gun holster on his belt and pulled out his .44 magnum.
"Here" he said to Shakira as he passed his horse's reigns over to her. "Ride alongside my horse and keep 'er steady so I can get off a good shot."
"Morgan! This is crazy!" objected Shakira. "You'll never hit the lead Vashek!"
Morgan gave her a sly wink and steadied his gun to shoot. Up above in the treetops, the Batman saw the gun and readied himself to attack. His suspicions had been confirmed, and he leaped downwards towards the one called Morgan.
"Steady Steady " Morgan readied to fire just as the Batman crashed into him from above.
"WHAT THE H ?"
The gun flew out of Morgan's hand, and Batman's momentum knocked the two men off the horse to the ground below. Landing with a thump, Morgan quickly kicked Batman off of him.
"Mister, you just made a big mistake" threatened Morgan. "I was trying to stop those
"Morgan! The Vasheks are getting away!" cried Shakira.
Morgan turned to look as the Vasheks rounded the corner and disappeared from sight. Batman used the distraction to his advantage, and quickly landed a right hook, followed by a left jab, to Morgan's head. Morgan ducked another jab, and landed a right hand punch to Batman's stomach. Batman staggered backwards, the blow having aggravated an injury from the crash.
"You know this guy?" asked Shakira, still upon her horse.
"Nope" scowled Morgan as he drew his sword. "He's no friend of mine. Give it up fella, or haven't you heard of the Warlord?"
"Another egotistical villain, how surprising" Batman sneered. He threw two Batarangs at Morgan.
With ease, Morgan deflected the two Batarangs with his sword. "Villain? Me? You definitely aren't from around here!"
Morgan charged and swung his sword. Backflipping out of the way, Batman responded with a leg sweep that knocked Morgan's legs out from under him. Morgan hit the ground hard and dropped his sword.
From atop her horse, Shakira watched as the two men exchanged blows. Batman landed a kick to Morgan's ribs. Morgan responded with a punch to Batman's head. Neither one would quit.
"Hmmf" sighed Shakira. "I guess I'll have to stop this."
With a single thought, Shakira transformed into her cat form and climbed up the nearest tree. The small black feline launched herself from an overhanging branch, landing squarely on Batman's back. She sunk her claws into the flesh underneath the blue costume and went into a feline frenzy.
"ARRGHH!!" screamed the Batman as he tried in vain to pull Shakira off.
If Morgan weren't so angry, he might've laughed at the sight of the tiny cat driving a grown man crazy. But not this time. Morgan landed a series of punches and kicks, and soon an exhausted Batman slumped to the ground.
"Thanks for the help" mumbled Morgan as he gasped for air.
"No problem" replied Shakira as she resumed her human form. "What should we do with him?"
"I dunno." said Morgan as he looked at his fallen opponent. "He looks familiar somehow. Let's tie him up and bring him along. He's a helluva fighter, and we could use some help."
Morgan tied Batman's ankles and wrists together and slung him over Shakira's horse. Back in cat form, Shakira curled around Morgan's neck, and soon they were back on their way to stop the Vasheks. But by now, the Vasheks had already gotten to Thera
The Kingdom of Thera, the royal palace
The cold gray walls of the palace were devoid of any trappings of royal life. Gone were the splendid red tapestries and the ornate furniture belonging to the prior monarch. The only thing remaining was the throne, and in it sat the new ruler of Thera. The man with short dark hair and bushy mustache sat silently, day dreaming of the power that soon would be his.
"Your highness?" A servant's meek voice interrupted the quiet. "Y'smalla is her to see you. Shall I let her in?"
"Yes" replied the king coldly, lifting his piercing eyes to meet the servant's gaze.
A petite brunette entered the palace and curtsied awkwardly. She was dressed like the Vashek assassin-leader she was, with gold colored armor covering her chest and waist. Aside from that, a pair of brown boots, and the broadsword she carried at her side, she was as scantily dressed as the typical woman in Skartaris.
"Well, what news do you have Y'smalla?" asked the king to the woman.
"King Phobos," said Y'smalla to the king, "My men have arrived with the fifth and final vial of blood. I will give it to you as soon as you pay for our services."
"Excellent" hissed Phobos. "You Vasheks have served me well."
"There's one more thing I think you should know" interrupted Y'smalla boldly. "But first I want to know why you've had us collecting the blood of Skartaran rulers. The Vasheks are assassins, not an errand service!"
"Silence woman!" boomed Phobos. "You will not talk to me in this disrespectful tone "
"I'll talk to you however I please!" retorted Y'smalla as she drew her sword. "Or would you care to feel the wrath of a Vashek warrior?"
"Very well" replied Phobos. "Skartaran legend tells of a mystical artifact - the crown of Cykroth - that grants immense power to the one who wears it. This crown is no legend, and my men found it among the ruins of an Atlantean City not long ago."
Leaning over, Phobos picked up the crown from alongside his throne.
"But you see," continued Phobos as he placed the crown on his head, "Nothing happens just by putting it on. Legend has it that the crown's powers can only be activated by pouring the blood of five monarchs over it. I needed your services to get the blood, and now that I have it, the crown of Cykroth's powers will be mine!"
"Interesting story. Since you need this last vial of blood so badly, our fee just doubled" said Y'smalla coolly.
"What! Explain yourself woman, or I swear "
"Three of my assassins were killed in Kaambuka" said Y'smalla as she held up the vial containing Ashir's blood. "We ran into an unexpected problem - the Warlord, Travis Morgan."
"Idiots! I told you to avoid him!" bellowed Phobos.
"Yeah, well, it didn't work out that way" intoned Y'smalla. "We've heard reports that he's coming this way to stop your plans. I doubt he knows what you're up to, but "
"I've heard enough excuses!" screeched Phobos. "I'll double your price. Give me the last vial of blood. Let Travis Morgan come, for I have a score to settle with him. You see, my dear Y'smalla, my half brother Deimos was the sworn enemy of the Warlord! At last I'll avenge my brother's death and with the powers of the crown of Cykroth, I'll be unstoppable!"
On the road to Thera
"You know, Shakira" said Morgan, "I heard that there was a coup recently in Thera. I'm betting that Y'smalla and her Vasheks have seized power in the city."
Shakira, still in her cat form, meowed in response.
"Don't know what they're up to stealing people's blood, but I can guarantee it's not good."
Batman slowed stirred to life on the other horse. His stomach was sore from riding the horse in such an uncomfortable position, and he tried to sit up. Only then did he notice that his wrists and ankles were tied together.
"Mind untying me?" Batman asked Morgan.
"Ahh Our guest is finally awake" chuckled Morgan, before becoming serious again. "I don't know. You promise not to try anything stupid?"
"Doesn't matter" said Batman flatly as he sat up, holding his former bonds in his hand. "I let myself out. Hope you don't mind."
"Pretty good trick" said an impressed Morgan.
"I've overheard you talking to your 'cat'" said Batman tersely. "You're Travis Morgan - the so called Warlord - a former Vietnam pilot who stumbled into another land supposedly at the center of the Earth. You became its greatest hero. I remember reading the Justice League Task Force's files on you "
"I figured you were one of those long-john types from the surface" replied Morgan. "Seems like your kind are always stumbling into Skartaris. Sheesh, don't you have enough to do up there without picking a fight with me?"
"Sorry" retorted the Batman. "Just point me the way back to Earth, and I'll leave."
"It's not that simple" said Morgan. "I was trying to stop some assassins when you interfered. They're up to something, and I aim to stop it. I'll make you a deal - you help me stop the Vasheks and I'll get you home before anybody knows you were gone. Whatta you say?"
"Deal" said Batman. "Just keep your cat away from me. She gives a whole new meaning to the name 'Catwoman'."
"No problem" answered Morgan. "But first we need to get into Thera. Here's the plan "
Some time later, outside Thera's gates
"Hey! You there! How 'bout opening the gate and letting me in? I've brought your king and Y'smalla a little present!"
The two Theran soldiers on guard duty approached the strangely garbed man on horseback with caution. Not only was he dressed funny, but the insignia on his chest wasn't one they recognized.
"What kingdom are you from stranger?" asked the one soldier.
"Yeah " piped up the other one suspiciously "The colors and bat-insignia you wear aren't worn by any kingdom I know of. State your business in Thera."
Batman motioned to the horse behind him. "Call me Batman. I come from the Kingdom of ummm Gotham, a long way away from here. Can't you see I've captured the famed Warlord? I heard your King put a bounty on his head!"
Sure enough, the soldiers saw the Warlord bound and captive on the horse behind the stranger.
"Haven't heard about the bounty yet," said one soldier, "but I know those Vasheks would love to get their hands on him."
"Then let me in" ordered Batman. "And take me directly to your king."
"Wait!" cried the other soldier as he noticed something moving underneath the stranger's cape. "What're you trying to hide?"
"Nothing" scowled the Batman as he pulled Shakira out from under his cape. "Its only my umm cat"
"Oh, OK. Open the gates!" hollered one soldier. "I'll escort you to the palace."
A short time later, and Batman and a seemingly captive Morgan were face to face with a grinning Phobos. Alongside him stood Y'smalla and a legion of her Vashek assassins.
"Ahhh, Travis Morgan, at last we meet." said Phobos mockingly. "You're just in time to witness my rise to ultimate power. And then I'll have my revenge on you!"
"Revenge?" asked Morgan. "I have no idea who you are."
"You have thwarted the plans of my step brother Deimos one too many times Morgan!" bellowed Phobos. "You will not be a thorn in my side as well."
"Oh, geez. Deimos had a brother?" muttered Morgan under his breath.
"Who's Deimos?" whispered Batman.
"He's bad news, that's what." answered Morgan. "If this guy's his brother "
"Silence, captive!" screeched Y'smalla as she slapped Morgan across the face. "It is time for the ceremony to begin."
Morgan and Batman watched as the crown of Cykroth and the five vials of blood were brought out by three Theran wizard-priests. The crown was set on a ceremonial pedestal, and the priests began to chant in an ancient language. Morgan knew he had seen the crown somewhere before, but he couldn't put his finger on it.
The priest poured the first two vials of blood onto the crown, and the crown seemed to stir a little. Phobos' eyes widened in awe and in anticipation of the power that soon would be his. The third vial of blood spilled out onto the crown, and the crown began to move as if alive. Travis Morgan's eyes lit up as he suddenly remembered the Skartaran legend
"Oh no! We've got to stop them!" exclaimed Morgan to Batman. "Don't let them pour the fifth vial onto the crown "
Batman quickly undid the chains that bound Morgan and the two heroes sprang into action.
"No! NO!" cried Phobos as he motioned to the Vashek assassins behind him. "Stop them!"
"Vasheks! Attack!" screamed Y'smalla.
Grabbing his sword back from Batman, Morgan sliced through the first Vashek that reached him. Batman lobbed a smoke bomb into the charging attackers to buy them some time.
"Here. You any good with a sword?" Morgan asked Batman as he handed him the fallen Vashek's sword.
"I've had some practice" said Batman coyly.
"Good!" replied Morgan as the smoke began to clear. "Back to back, now!"
Blue clad Vashek assassins attacked from seemingly all directions. The two heroes returned the attack with vigor - each with their own style. Travis Morgan swung his sword to kill, but still honoring his vow to never kill, the Batman used less deadly methods.
In all the commotion the priests continued their chant. They poured the fourth vial of blood onto the crown, and as they readied to pour the fifth, a small feline form pounced. Shakira knocked the fifth vial away, and the blood contained in it splattered in every direction. One small drop, however, landed on the crown, and that was all it needed.
Grabbing the crown, and placing it atop his head, Phobos was filled with unimaginable power. His muscles rocked with energy, his brain was filled with vast knowledge, and he felt like an inferno was raging within him. Phobos' body began to swell to giant-like proportions, and soon he stood twenty feet tall.
"Damn it!" groaned Morgan as he watched the giant size Phobos move towards him. "We were too late!"
Phobos thundered through the palace, his immense size causing him to knock into the walls and ceiling. He raised a giant fist and brought it down towards Morgan and Batman.
"MOVE!" cried out Batman as he grabbed Morgan from harm's way. "The place is collapsing! Try to make it to the doors!"
The Vashek assassins and Y'smalla had the same idea too, and they scattered in every direction. Another giant punch from Phobos smacked into the ground near the two heroes, and soon huge chunks of the stone ceiling began to fall. Out of the corner of his eye, Morgan saw Shakira jump through a window to safety. Finally making it to the door, Morgan and Batman stumbled out into the streets of Thera.
"You cannot escape me!" boomed Phobos from above as he crashed through the remnants of the palace and into the street.
"Split up!" yelled Morgan to Batman. "He won't be able to follow both of us at once!"
Morgan ran to the right, and Batman ran to the left. Panicked Therans ran through the streets, and in the commotion, Phobos lost sight of Morgan. But the other one, the strangely dressed one from the Kingdom of Gotham, he stood out from the crowd. Reaching down with a giant hand, Phobos plucked Batman from the crowd.
"Travis Morgan! Give yourself up!" threatened Phobos. "Or I kill your friend!"
Batman struggled to free himself from Phobos' iron grip, but it was no use. The giant had him good.
"Phobos! Release him!" shouted Morgan from a nearby rooftop.
Swirling around, Phobos laughed at the threat. "Or what? You'll cut off my little toe?"
Morgan motioned to Batman, hoping he would understand the signal. "No, you can keep all your toes," shouted Morgan, "Cause I'm aiming for something else!"
Morgan launched his sword like a javelin towards the wrist on Phobos' arm that held Batman. The blade of the sword cut through the tendon, and Phobos howled in pain. He loosened his grip on Batman, and seizing the advantage, Batman threw two exploding Batarangs at the crown sitting atop Phobos' head.
The explosions caused the crown of Cykroth to shatter into pieces. Without the mystical crown, Phobos' powers were gone, and he returned to normal size.
Landing gracefully, Batman could only watch as Shakira, now in her human form, delivered the knockout blow to the would-be tyrant. Batman allowed a small smile to cross his face.
"I did my part!" Batman yelled up to Morgan. "Now you show me how to get back home!"
"No problem!" responded Morgan as he too smiled.
Epilogue - The Kingdom of Shamballah
"You sure this'll work?" asked Batman skeptically.
"Yep. Jenny's done this 'return to the surface' trick with a mirror before" said Morgan.
Morgan watched as his daughter Jennifer, Skartaris' leading sorceress, began the dimension travel spell. Within a few minutes, the spell was complete.
"Just step through the mirror, and it'll take you to your destination in Alaska." said Jennifer. "I've even set it up so no one will know you've been missing"
"Thanks" replied the Batman.
"Wait!" exclaimed Morgan, as he stretched his hand out towards Batman. "Thanks for the help."
Batman nodded, and the two heroes shook hands. Stepping through the mirror, Batman returned home.
David R. Black is Fanzing.com's magazine editor and chief archivist. A big fan of "The Warlord," he has a cat named Shakira and is looking for a girlfriend named Tara....
All characters are DC Comics
This piece is © 2000 by .
Fanzing is not associated with DC Comics.
All DC Comics characters, trademarks and images (where used) are DC Comics, Inc.
DC characters are used here in fan art and fiction in accordance with their generous "fair use" policies.
Fanzing site version 7.2