LNH20/LNH-ELSE: Bite-Size Tales of the LNH v20 #10: 'Sir Lancelot's Masticator' Bite-Size Tales of the LNH v20 #10 'Sir Lancelot's Masticator' By Saxon Brenton [now too late for High Concept Challenge #35] Cover shows Professor Penumbra in a Significant Kirby Pose proclaiming "The Secret of Sir Lancelot's Masticator!". ***** First part. This part is LNH20 cannon. Professor Penumbra was sitting at a table in the cafeteria, staring thoughtfully at a set of four small, interlocking metallic gears. The gears were all suspended about a handspan's height above the table top, and turning slowly. There was nothing readily obvious as to what was keeping them floating where they were, nor what was providing them with motive force. Gift-Wrapping Granny looked at the gears, and said, "Okay, I give. What's providing the power?" The Professor gave her a mischievous look and said, "The movement's easy. Think of them as a type of water wheel. Only in this case the 'water' is the passage of time." His eyes flickered back to the quartet of gears. "What I'm not so sure about is what's keeping them suspended in mid-air. There isn't any sort of levitation spell or anti-gravity effect that I can identify. Maybe there's an extrusion into a higher dimension, and they're being supported from there." He shrugged. "I was just thinking about what sort of tests I could run to confirm it one way or another." Granny looked askance at him. "You built the thing, but you don't know how it works?" He shrugged again. "It seems to be a natural phenomenon. I read about it..." and here Penumbra gestured off-handedly at a book set aside on the table: Margaret Murray-Mead's _The Coming of the Witch Cult In Western Samoa_, "...and was curious about it." He peered more closely at the gears, then poked one with an ordinary HB pencil. Using the pencil as a lever, he prised the gear away from contact with the rest of the assemblage. The separated gear fell away from the others, hit the table, and lay still. The others kept grinding away. The Professor picked up the gear and placed it back into contact with the assemblage - but this time rather than orientating it so that it was upright he placed it so that it was horizontal. It made no difference. As soon as it was in position to pick up movement from the teeth of the adjacent gears it simply locked into place and continued on as though nothing had changed. "Hmm," went Penumbra. "Interesting." "So is this a potential source of power?" asked Granny. "Possibly. With appropriate safeguards." He looked at her. "It grows, according to what's in here," he said, tapping the cover of the book. "Slowly, but measurably. And that actually makes it a bit more interesting, because in theory you could use it to grow new gears of magically de-natured orichalcum. But the point is they grow is size and number, and when they're massive enough you get a serious risk of crushing. Took Sir Lancelot's right arm off, according to Murray-Mead." "Sorry, what?" demanded Gift-Wrapping Granny, startled. "*The* Lancelot." "Yes," replied Penumbra, simply. "Of the Round Table." "Yes," agreed Penumbra, still cheerfully choosing not to elaborate. This was getting nowhere. "I don't remember anything like that in the Arthurian romances," Granny said pointedly, trying a new track. "Well, of course not," said Penumbra. "The troubadours latched on to the figure of Lancelot as the perfect knight. Especially in the later stories, where he was the knight who had an affair with Guinevere and reduced King Arthur to a cuckold. Once that thematic trend was underway there was no way they'd be able to admit their adopted Mary Sue had a flaw. It would have ruined him as a character for their story telling purposes. And because these are profession story tellers that we're talking about, they just ignored any facts that didn't fit, and generally made up crap. "Anyway," went the Professor, reached for the book and flipping through the pages till he came to the section he was interested in. Paraphrasing, he said, "Once there was an island in the Mediterranean where there was a tower, and in that tower was a mighty engine that laboured day and night, turning gears, even though no one knew what powered the device. More strange was the way that the wheels and gears of the engine grew in size over time, and tiny new gears appeared as if from nowhere to fill up spaces between the existing parts, and to spread out to fill up unclaimed space. The inhabitants of the island had a legend that in the remote past the island had hosted a colony of @lantis, and it was with their wisdom of the ancients that they had built the engine, which the later arrivals had never learnt the workings of." Gift-Wrapping Granny raised a sardonic eyebrow. "And did the perfection of the @lantean device offend the gods so that it was cursed never to be able to be turned off, and expand to take over the island?" "Well, it doesn't say anything like that, but I guess that is the type of thing you'd expect in a story about the achievements of ancient @lantis," admitted Professor Penumbra. He continued, "The inhabitants had to work to keep the small gears from extending outside the confines of the tower. They also set up scaffolding to support large logs to use as levers to try to prise off the bigger gears that had already grown so massive that they couldn't be removed by human strength alone. "Then one day Sir Lancelot arrived on the island. He hears about the engine and the efforts of the people of the island to keep it from growing out of control, and apparently he decides it's diabolic in nature. He went to the tower, but despite Lancelot's repeated efforts couldn't find a way to deal with it decisively. And then, being Lancelot, his frustrations got the better of him, and he went berserk and started attacking the engine with brute force." Granny sighed. "Yes, that sounds like Lancelot." Penumbra nodded absently. "Mmm. A lot of people don't realise how accurate the characterisation of him in _Monty Python and the Holy Grail_ was. Anyway, Lancelot's sword, and then his arm got caught in the gears. He was strong enough to pull himself free, but his right arm was ripped off in the process." "How did he keep from bleeding to death?" asked Granny, curiously. "Was this early enough in his career that he could use his state of grace to heal himself?" Penumbra shook his head. "It doesn't say. Either he was able to give himself supernatural healing, or this was during the period when his affair with Guinevere had caused him to fall from grace and the locals used the traditional method of boiling pitch to seal the wound." He closed the book. "Murray-Mead theorises that Lancelot eventually learnt to use a sword left handed and thereby retained his position of the most powerful knight of the round table. Meanwhile the islanders eventually managed to whittle away the engine down to nothing, and melt the gears down for scrap. The end. And the moral of the story is: keep a close watch on your magical engines." "I thought it was that writers make up stuff if the truth doesn't suit their purposes," Granny said. "Well, that too." ***** Second part. This part is LNH Elsewhirl. Can-Handle-Any-Type-Of-Change-Except-For-The-Ultimate-Ninja-Wearing- A-Cape Lad walked through the devastated Net.ropolis. The world... no, the entire universe... had been reduced to slobbering idiocy as the laws of reality had slowly rotted away as a result of the latest cosmic crisis. Even the principles of drama and comedy had been eroded. First madness, and then physical cataclysm had claimed just about everything and everyone. There wasn't much left, and soon the ruined planet would start breaking up into cosmic rubble. As Can-Handle-Any-Type-Of-Change-Except-For-The-Ultimate-Ninja- Wearing-A-Cape Lad picked his way through the streets he sighed with a touch of regret. So much death. So much destruction. The situation didn't involve Ultimate Ninja wearing a cape, so CHATOCEFTUNWACLad could look upon the death of the Looniverse without breaking down into a sobbing basket case, but that didn't mean he didn't feel a sense of immense loss. Up ahead was the being responsible for this horror. Well, time to impose the ultimate sanction, he guessed. The entity appeared as a young man. He was looking around with a kind of fascinated curiosity. But Can-Handle-Any-Type-Of-Change-Except- For-The-Ultimate-Ninja-Wearing-A-Cape Lad remembered the warning that Occultism Kid had given him, and was not fooled. The enemy before him was notorious for its many different shapes, taking on temporary forms to carry out periodic tasks. The alien mind wearing that guise had motivations and reactions that were incomprehensible to the human viewpoint. So when the seeming young man looked up and saw Can-Handle- Any-Type-Of-Change-Except-For-The-Ultimate-Ninja-Wearing-A-Cape Lad, and smiled an open smile that for all the world looked like a benevolent joyful zest for life, it did not fool the Legionnaire. "Hey there! Glad you could make it." "Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos, Messenger of the Outer Gods," Can-Handle-Any-Type-Of-Change-Except-For-The-Ultimate-Ninja-Wearing-A- Cape Lad said, almost formally. "I am here to tell you that you are going to die." Maybe Nyarlathotep was actually surprise by this announcement. Maybe he was just pretending. Whichever the case he blinked and said, "Uhm, I kind of doubt that." Can-Handle-Any-Type-Of-Change-Except-For-The-Ultimate-Ninja-Wearing- A-Cape Lad pointed at Nyarlathotep as if in condemnation and said, "Regardless of whether you realise it or not, regardless of whether you can cope with it or not, you are as fictional as everything else in this universe, and every other universe you have ever interacted with during your poly-dimensional existence. And just like every other fictional being, no matter how powerful you think you are, when you are thrown into contact with Real Life, you will be totally obliterated." Nyarlathotep looked briefly bemused, then with an edge in his voice said, "Are you threatening me, then?" Now it was Can-Handle-Any-Type-Of-Change-Except-For-The-Ultimate- Ninja-Wearing-A-Cape Lad's turn to look surprised. His eyebrows raised in astonishment. He said, "I'm not threatening you. I'm *distracting* you!" And at that point Fourth Wall Lass ripped open the wound in reality left over from the Omaha Project and the Looniverse shredded faster than the speed of plot. (This is important. Beings with superspeed who travel faster than the speed of light in order to move backwards in time and suchlike could have outraced mere physical speeds of destruction, but nothing moves faster than the speed of plot.) Nyarlathotep died. And because he was a *single* poly-dimensional entity existing across multiple universe and multiverses and multiversal clusters, *all* of him died. The stories Nyarlathotep appeared in were abrogated. The events they depict never happened. They are now lies. Yes, even the Lovecraft originals. Not that this will stop the writers. Because story tellers just ignore any facts that aren't convenient to them, and are always making up crap. ===== Written for the 35th High Concept Challenge: 'Ruined Forever!' Submitted very late; certainly too late to be voted on. This challenge was a pain in the backside. Normally I at least get an idea for the HCC, and it's sheer laziness on my part that keeps the story from being written. But in this case I was having trouble trying to properly develop a story from a single story concept. There was the possibility of writing something featuring Vile Lamer (the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern expy that Tick and Badger created when DC tried to get rid of Hal Jordon during the 1990s trend of replacing their characters with younger, hipper versions; surely as thematically appropriate to Dvandom's core Concept as you could hope.). There was the possibility of doing something with Limp-Asparagus Lad involving the already-hinted-at infection with Wolverine's Disease (the original version of Wolverine's Disease from Hubert Bartel's _Tales of the LNH_, which turns innocent mutants into psychopathic loner-killers who talk about themselves in voiceovers). There were a few other ideas that flickered through my head so quickly that I now can't even recall what they were. All in all: Curse you Dvandom! May you be tied to a chair and a swarm of vermiMACS nibble off your naughty bits! [grumpgrumpgrumpgrumpgrump] Anyway. This doesn't really hold together very well as a story; it's more a collection of exposition dumps strung together with an common theme. Barely even qualifies as a shaggy dog ending. Nor does the cosmological setup hold up to scrutiny. There are far too many fictional settings with cosmologies where Lovecraft's Great Old Ones - if they could exist at all - would be relegated to being just another bunch of powerful interdimensional monsters. At best, you might be able to limit it to a case of 'only one Nyarlathotep per multiverse'. Which is cool. Because that means I've only offed one of them, and another iterantion can still turn up - under his net.pun guise of Nyarlatho.text - at some future time. The bit about Fourth Wall Lass being able to, in extremis, rip a hole open all the way to Real Life and simply obliterate an opponent is an idea I've had sitting around in the back of my head for over a decade.Back to the Index.