by Dan Swanson
The only reason that Wizzo the Wizard had escaped from his encounter with Red Rocket in the museum was the emergency rescue spell he had placed on his wand. He and the wand had both been magically teleported back to his headquarters, where he had lain unconscious for about fifteen minutes. When he came to, he was very weak, and his magic was greatly depleted. The teleport spell actually drew its magical power directly from his aura, rather than using power stored in the wand, because he had no way of knowing in advance how depleted the wand would be when he needed to escape.
It had certainly never entered into his mind that he would be laid low by Red Rocket. Wizzo was much more powerful than he had been when he had fought against Captain Marvel four years earlier, and Red Rocket was nowhere near as powerful as Marvel. He must have been overconfident in his new strength. It was a useful lesson, as his master might have said. Wizzo held up the wand and spoke to the golden skull. “Volthoom, ancient master, your wisdom is still greater than mine own. Once again, I owe you my freedom.” The expression on the face of the skull did not change, but Wizzo sensed a smile.
He was gratified to find that the wand still retained a considerable magical charge. He absorbed most of this charge back into his own aura, which made him feel much better. He then placed his wand in contact with one of his objects of power. His master had left him several of these mystical artifacts. Wizzo thought of them as magical power batteries. They could be charged with magical energy and retain that power, and then pass it on to suitable receptacles such as his wand, or even, in times of necessity, directly into a magician’s aura.
Wizzo cast the spell necessary to move stored magical power from the power battery into his wand. This was his last reserve of stored magic — he had discharged the others and had not had the time to recharge them. They could be charged by contact with other sources, such as the fountain in Greenland, or by a wizard channeling his energy into the battery. But he had no such fountains here in Chicago, and it took several days to fully charge a battery with one’s own power, assuming, of course that he would not be forced to use his own power for other things during that time.
He estimated that it would take about eight hours to fully charge his depleted wand, and that enough power would remain in the battery for one more charge after that. This would not leave him powerless — he could use the power of his own aura to cast spells, but they would be much weaker than those he could cast from the staff.
That had been the purpose of the raid on the museum. There was an unusual exhibit on display, objects recovered from a heretofore unknown civilization in Greenland. A melting glacier had exposed these artifacts, along with human bones, the previous summer. Scientists and archaeologists had been excited to learn of an apparently advanced, unknown ancient civilization, although many had expressed their beliefs that the whole thing was a fraud. Wizzo knew that these were artifacts from a colony from Atlantis that had been destroyed in the same disaster that had sunken the lost continent. Atlantean civilization depended strongly on magic, and there were almost always magically charged artifacts in Atlantean ruins and remains.
And, in fact, there had been a couple of power batteries at least partially charged, but he had been interrupted before he could gather them. Blast that Red Rocket! After his defeat by Captain Marvel, Wizzo had gone to great lengths to ensure he wouldn’t lose future confrontations with these so-called “super-heroes.”
It was almost midnight. The younger Wizzo the Wizard sat in his maximum security cell in the state prison. The fools around him thought he was powerless, but they were wrong. After his capture, Captain Marvel had contacted that pretender Ibis the Invincible, who had cast a spell on Wizzo, preventing him from uttering his magic spells. It had taken him quite a while to counteract that spell, but inevitably he had done so. Perhaps the spell had been weakened when Ibis vanished from the planet. Yet, even though he could have escaped at any time, Wizzo remained in his cell. He was indifferent to his surroundings, and maximum-security confinement offered him the chance to work undisturbed on a unique new magic spell that would help him become even more powerful than ever before.
Floating in the air in front of him was a globe, a detailed representation of the Earth, spinning slowly to match the Earth’s rotation. It was the result of a self-sustaining spell, drawing the little magic it required from the ambient environment. A trivial spell, really — what had made it difficult was making it visible only to himself. And yet he had persevered and overcome. The world had floated in his cell for several months now, a visible reminder of his genius and his plan. Though it had taken him several months of intense concentration and planning, tonight he was ready to take the next step in his quest to become the most powerful wizard in the world.
Wizzo was preparing to cast the most powerful spell he had ever attempted. And he had to do it without attracting attention, using as physical components only those limited materials available to a prisoner in a maximum security prison. He couldn’t even use his usual loud, flashy incantations, else the guards might hear and interrupt. He shuddered at the thought. Who knows what might happen if that much magical power was released uncontrollably? He certainly didn’t want to find out.
He was quite proud of himself, for this spell was powerful beyond any he crafted in the past, and the workmanship on the spell was of higher quality than he had ever believed himself capable. He realized that this spell must work; if it didn’t, he wouldn’t be able to hide the results. He would be magically exhausted, and Ibis the Invincible would probably be called back to cast another magical restraint spell. And the next time, Ibis would probably be less careless.
Wizzo began chanting softly as he mixed the physical components of his spell in his prison-supplied drinking cup. Some tap water from the faucet, some dirt from the prison yard, the powdered wings of several hundred flies, gathered painstakingly one fly at a time. The burned ash of human hair, which he had been able to surreptitiously collect on several visits to the prison barbershop. Some powdered glass, made from the shards of a broken light bulb. His spell even made use of the aluminum in the cup. He lit a candle to heat the mixture, and continued to chant softly until just the right moment.
Now for the spiritual component. From his pocket he pulled a live mouse, captured earlier and bound up in a rag. With a remaining shard of glass, he cut its throat and let the blood drip into the gooey mess in his cup. When the mouse died, he added the body to the mix and chanted some more. Finally he was done. He poured out the grisly stew and ground it into the cement floor with the heels of his prison-issued shoes; the rubber soles and the dusty cement were also part of the spell.
He commenced the final chant.
“Ebolg fo Htrea, thiw stniop fo thgil, wohs em stnoug fo cigam thgim, neves stnoug go citsym rewop, for ym esu yalpsid sith rouh… On seye tub enim eseht snocaeb wohs; tuoba hcae tnouf I tnaw ot wonk Ebolg fo Htrea, nips sa uoy thgim, laever eseht snoceab ot ym thgis!”
As he chanted, the room seemed to grow warmer, and he could feel the magic coursing through him. With the last word, he gestured with both hands toward the globe, and magic lightning, invisible to all but Wizzo himself, flowed from his hands. Each lightning bolt broke into four smaller bolts, and each landed on the mystic globe, then continued to glow from the surface. Wizzo was surprised — he had only asked for seven, a mystical number in itself. He had no idea where the eighth bolt had come from. Something more powerful than he knew had interfered with his spell.
The eighth site was immediately distinguishable from the other seven. It was coming from New York City, and the beacon was flashing. Wizzo studied it for a while, trying to determine if it was somehow disrupting the rest of his spell. All he could tell was that it was intermittent, which was why it was flashing, and more powerful than any of the others, which was why his spell had included it. Instead of failing or breaking, his spell had stretched to accommodate an unexpected situation, which was the sign of a very well-crafted spell, indeed.
This magic spot in New York tasted strongly of the influence of good. Magic itself was neither good nor bad, but strong sources of magic were often imprinted with the concepts of those who used them. Any source of magic could eventually be turned to his purpose, but Wizzo preferred to start with a source that would require less work for him.
He concentrated on each beacon in turn, and, true to his spell, he was able to learn the nature of the magical source of power that caused each beacon. A mighty man made his home on the peak of Mount Everest, a man who had received his might through magic. Wizzo was able to sense a link between this magic and the flashing beacon in New York. The beacon in Egypt was also linked to the New York anomaly. He decided to avoid both of these sources of magical power for the present, and moved on to consideration of the others.
Another beacon was shown in Tibet. When he concentrated on it, Wizzo realized that it wasn’t a single powerful beacon, but a number of smaller beacons in a relatively small area. Many men could wrest power from Tibet, but gathering the great power he wanted in Tibet would require tracking down too many smaller sources. And it was close to the mighty man on Mount Everest, a man he would have to face eventually, a confrontation he wanted to postpone until he was more powerful than any other.
A great power lay in the middle of the Australian outback. Wizzo could feel that it was alien, unlike anything else on Earth. He concluded that it must have come from elsewhere, and it was concentrated in the great outcropping of stone that men called Ayer’s Rock. Curiosity called him there, but this power was too alien to master easily. When he ruled supreme, he would study and conquer this power and add it to his own.
Nearby, in the middle of the South Pacific, another beacon glowed brightly. Concentrating on it brought Wizzo a feeling of incredible age. This power had been dormant for ages, resting, he could tell, on the bottom of the ocean. He remembered hints of Lemuria and shuddered. This was another mystery that he could investigate when he had become the most powerful wizard in the world.
Two other sources remained. He considered Stonehenge and dismissed it. Once again he could sense a link to a mighty power for good, dormant for many years, but waiting for the event that would again release it. He realized with awe that he was sensing the power of the mighty Merlin, reputedly the most powerful wizard of all. It was best to tiptoe away from this one.
That left Greenland. There were no legends of magic in Greenland, no ancient myths, no lost civilizations, no gods walking that barren land. He touched that beacon and smiled. A powerful mage made his home somewhere in the vast plain of ice that covered Greenland. A powerful mage indeed, yet one who was strangely limited. That a being of so much power would be satisfied with a tiny outpost in a barren land puzzled Wizzo. Yet this mage used his magic to rule, and he was the absolute ruler of his domain. If Wizzo could survive contact with this mighty mage and learn what this mage must know, how powerful might he become? Greenland became his goal.
The power he had summoned with his earlier spell could be reshaped to free him from this now-dreary prison, but he must use it before it faded — it was his for an hour, no longer. He had long ago made plans for this day, but he had never thought he might have to explore some Arctic environment just to find his goal. He didn’t want to have to use his own limited magical power just to fight the hostile environment. He would need clothing, tools, and supplies. Changing his plans quickly on the fly, he chanted his long-prepared transport spell, added his newly selected destination, and vanished. He wanted to accomplish as much as he could using the leftover power from this spell, and he had only a short time before it faded away.
Almost as an afterthought, the slowly spinning globe detonated in an explosion that destroyed his cell and all traces of the magic he had cast. No one, not Ibis the Invincible, not even Merlin the magician himself, would be able to track him. And when he returned, he would be more powerful than they could ever imagine.