[ASH] ASH #48 - Shattering Hellas G: Storm of the Eye
Dave Van Domelen
dvandom at haven.eyrie.org
Wed Apr 21 12:01:30 PDT 2004
//|| //^^\\ || || .|. COHERENT COMICS UNINCORPORATED PRESENTS
// || \\ || || --X---------------------------------------------
//======================= '|` ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES #48
// || \\ || || Shattering Hellas G: Storm of the Eye
// || \\__// || || Copyright 2004 by Dave Van Domelen
[cover shows Q'Nos and the Eye of Purity grappling on a mountain
top, with a stylized giant eye glowing behind them.]
ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES ROLL CALL
CODENAME REAL NAME POWERS STATUS
-------- --------- ------ ------
Solar Max Jonathan Zachary Spacetime Control ACTIVE
Comet Sarah Grant-Taylor Superspeed, Ice Body ACTIVE
Green Knight Salvatore Napier Strength, Regeneration ACTIVE
Contact Aaron Zander Psi, Mind-over-Body ACTIVE
Scorch Scott Handleman Pyrokinetic ACTIVE
Beacon George Sylvester Living Light MEDICAL LEAVE
Essay Sara Ana Rodriguez Gadgeteer ACTIVE
Peregryn Howard Henderson Jr. Elemental Mage ACTIVE
Lightfoot Tom Dodson Velocity Control ACTIVE
Breaker Christina Li Telekinesis ACTIVE
Fury Arin Kelsey Concussion Blasts ACTIVE
[August 10, 2025 - New Jerusalem, Cyprus]
Aaron cast a sidelong glance at the helijet parked in a specially
cleared section of the casino parking lot. If the word came down, he could
be in Greece inside of an hour.
-+Not that the word is going to come down+-, Paul sighed from inside
+-You never know,-+ Aaron shrugged as he strolled casually around the
mostly empty lot. Rebus's Anchor-killing plot had put a big dent in New
Jerusalem's gambling industry, and having a shooting war going on within
short-range missile range had generally put a damper on any tourist
activity. The Milk & Honey Hotel had been ecstatic that the North American
Combine was taking over an entire floor of the hotel for diplomatic staff and
military observers...they were practically the only people staying at the
place. And they weren't gambling much.
-+Well, they're gambling quite a bit,+- Paul noted, -+just not with
cash. I think just about everyone here is convinced that if nukes start
flying over this whole thing, someone's gonna decide to lob a few over here,
for old time's sake.+-
Aaron nodded wearily. Just trying to block out all the ragged nerves
surrounding him day after day was tiring, without considering his own
worries. The Moslem Confederation was doing better than he'd expected,
working its way into Shattered Hellas at a steady pace and surviving various
ambushes. But it seemed too easy. And if the expeditionary force led by the
Righteous Flame got cut to ribbons by one last trap, the Confederation might
well decide to secure their borders with *atomic* flame.
And when you've launched one nuke, it's a lot easier to launch more.
You'll be damned for one, why not be damned for ten? A hundred?
Aaron sighed and said out loud, "Even Peter's showing nerves on this
one, and that's saying something. I bet he has friends in there working for
Q'Nos...no matter which side wins, he loses."
-+I wonder+-, Paul thought. -+Is that it? He hasn't just been nervous,
I think he's been avoiding us. As if he doesn't trust himself not to think
too loudly about something.+-
"Hmm. I think you're right. I wonder what's up with that?"
* * * *
[August 10, 2025 - Somewhere in the Mediterranean]
Standing atop the high point of the island, Simon Smith finished walking
the pattern for his third and final time. The first time had suggested it,
the second time had confirmed it, and the third time was to make sure he
hadn't been letting his hopes blind him.
"This is definitely it. The key to the next step."
Setting his hiking pack down, Simon pulled out three small vials. Each
contained what looked like blood, yet it was not clotted or decayed by having
been in his pack for days on end. He held them up to the bright sunlight,
then selected one and replaced the other two in his pack.
Emptying the vial onto the rocky ground, Simon spoke a short incantation
in a language few mortals had spoken in millennia. Then he added in English,
"I claim the peak in the name of Q'Nos."
He paused, probing with senses that most mortals possessed, but that few
mortals paid attention to. Nodding in satisfaction, he hefted the pack onto
his shoulders and started the long trek down to the sea. He might need to
rent a car to finish before the deadline, but that shouldn't cause too much
of a problem.
* * * *
[August 12, 2025 - Shattered Hellas]
"This might cause some problems," Hands of Fire muttered as the giant
crab creatures scuttled through his wall of fire without missing a step.
They were too mindless to know of the concept of sin, thus were immune to the
purifying aspect of his flames. And they seemed to be pretty well armored
against the merely physical aspect of his power as well.
Then he looked at the supply truck behind him and noticed its contents.
Crates of rocket-propelled grenade launchers. "Allah will provide when the
faithful are in need," he smiled, prying open one of the cases and motioning
for the soldiers around him to do the same. Their bullets weren't even
annoying the crabs, after all.
Fire pulled out one of the launchers and assembled it with practiced
ease. The warheads were anti-tank, but the crabs were naturally very sloped,
so the grenades were as likely to bounce off as to explode on impact. He
would have to strike the leading edge if it was to do any good, and while he
was confident in his marksmanship, most of the men around him were less
well-trained, which was why they were in the supply column and not at the
He shifted his aim at the ground, and fired. The projectile buried
itself in the dirt for a fraction of a heartbeat before detonating, the
concussive force hurling several crabs onto their backs. The monsters
flailed about frantically, rocking back and forth in attempts to right
"Flip them over with your grenades and then fire at the bellies!" he
ordered, emphasizing this by directing gouts of white flame at the less
heavily armored underside of one of the monsters. It shrieked in pain before
curling up in its death throes.
Within seconds, the ambush was retreating from Fire's section of the
column, but he could see things were not going so well up ahead where the
monsters had attacked from the other direction. "Come, men, we need to
relieve the others!" He motioned for the driver of the supply truck to break
out of the line and move forward, jumping up to hang onto the back along with
several other soldiers. The squad's NCO had the presence of mind to detail a
few men to finish off the wounded crab beasts. Fire made a mental note to
ask that the men not try to eat the meat of these abominations...it was
likely not only unclean, but poisonous to boot.
Clearly, Allah was with the Expeditionary Force. This was the seventh
time that he knew of that the enemy had tried to use an ambush to cut their
supply lines, and the seventh time that the enemy had been driven off with
only minimal losses among the righteous. Q'Nos's trap was turning out to
have paper claws.
* * * *
[August 13, 2025 - Mount Olypmus]
"It is good to have you back, Simon," Q'Nos smiled. At least, Simon was
pretty sure the minotaur was smiling. "I trust things went smoothly?"
"Aside from a stone in my shoe, completely, milord," Simon sketched a
shallow bow. "Your suspicions were confirmed, and I was able to lay the
necessary groundwork for the next step of your plan."
"Very good," Q'Nos nodded. "But you seem concerned, Simon. Please,
"Well," Simon ventured, "this war seems ill-advised. Granted, it keeps
anyone from looking at what I was doing on your behalf, but wasn't there a
less dangerous way to accomplish the misdirection? We could have
accomplished our goals in Crete without an open conquest, after all."
The minotaur's booming laugh filled the high-ceilinged "conference
room". "This is why I am the master and you are an advisor, Simon. It is
good to counsel caution, but better to act boldly. I wanted my homeland back
before invoking the final stages of my plan, is that not enough?"
"To be honest," Simon was trying very hard to keep the trembling from
his voice, "not really. Goading the Moslem Confederation into an open war at
this point, when we don't have the forces to hold much territory, strikes me
as wasteful. They cut a swath through our...your lands, kill your soldiers,
and we cannot do the same to them without abandoning more of our defenses."
After one last, nearly silent, chuckle, Q'Nos spread his hands wide and
said, "Of course, it is a trap."
"Oh? For whom?"
"The Righteous Flame, to be specific. And as much of their army as we
can feasibly ensnare. We meet them on the field every few days, hurting them
and taking losses ourselves before withdrawing. We harry their supply lines
regularly, without actually cutting them off. They think they have our
measure and may even stand a chance of destroying me personally. They
are...sadly mistaken. Misled. Our losses have mainly come from the
expendable and the unreliable. Mindless monsters who we are better off
without. Potential rivals for the throne. Those too slow or too stupid to
retreat when the tide turns...as it always does, as we never send a large
enough force to actually win. So I improve the overall quality of our
remaining forces, while giving the false impression that the inferior
soldiers lost to these battles are representative of our army as a whole."
"And then what?" Simon asked. "Crush their armies and force their hand,
so that they launch their atomic weapons?"
Q'Nos shook his massive, horned head. "First, we cut their line of
retreat for real. The Xenochromes can undo much of what this 'Eye of Purity'
has done to cleanse the land. Then I prune back the more dangerous elements
of their forces. Just enough that they will no longer be a threat to me, not
so much that the Confederation will feel itself helpless. Granted, it is a
fine balancing act, and I will have to be very careful in reading the
situation when it comes to climax, but I think we can blunt the claws of this
tiger to our east, so that they cannot interfere with my plans in any
* * * *
[August 13, 2025 - Shattered Hellas]
"I am bored," Scirocco remarked to no one in particular as he ran along
the supply train at the relatively low speed of a hundred meters per second.
"Then again," he sighed, "in war, boredom beats the alternative."
In truth, even the alternative had been fairly boring so far. The enemy
had no one fast enough to match him, and while there were plenty of opponents
he couldn't hurt, none could really hit him in the first place. A few had
tried with clouds of enchanted poison gas, but his winds had simply dispersed
those attacks, rebounding them back on the attackers.
This assumed he was even around during the short incidents, of course.
The enemy had a habit of hiding very well and waiting until he had passed
through before attacking. Fire thought he was just malingering, refusing to
report sightings of the enemy and running away.
Well...the thought had crossed his mind. It would certainly be a good
way to live through this war. But no, he had honestly seen no sign of the
ambushes. Even with the purification that Eye was doing, this was enemy
territory. They knew the land, and they probably had invisible spirits or
something annoying like that acting as spies. In fact, Scirocco had been
finding it harder to make the wind do his bidding lately, as if the wind had
a will of its own around here.
Still, the net result of all of this was that he spent a lot of time
running up and down the road to Istanbul, being bored.
Something different on the edges of the road. Different is not boring,
but different is generally bad.
He reversed direction and went back to look at the new thing. Some sort
of...fungus? It had an unhealthy look to it, simultaneously too colorful and
yet feeling gray somehow.
And it was growing down from the hills towards the road at a rate
visible to the naked eye. More to the point, at a rate noticeable to his
He slapped the panic bar on his communicator. "We have possible enemy
action at my location!" he shouted, knowing that the C-cubed units scattered
along the convoy would automatically triangulate his position and append it
to the message. "It appears to be some kind of abominable plant life!"
A mist started to roll into the valley, a familiar mist. It was the
sort of thing that existed all over this damned country, what Eye was
supposed to have gotten rid of for good on this stretch of road. What men
called the devil-fog.
"We are losing clear road!" he added over his comm, although he was
pretty sure there was now plenty of chatter on the matter. "Devil-fog is
The real danger in the devil-fog wasn't that it was instantly fatal. If
it were, there would be no enemies to fight, Greece would be completely
barren and dead. No, it was that the devil-fog was unpredictable. The
locals seemed to know it well enough to avoid the worst of it, but thousands
of troopers unaccustomed to it? That was another matter entirely.
An order came over the comms to come to a full stop, which told Scirocco
that *someone* had their brains turned on today.
But, of course, there were only so many brains to go around in any army,
and one of the truck drivers was panicking, pulling off the road and trying
to escape the devil-fog.
Scirocco ran after the truck, willing the winds to clear the devil-fog
from around them. It didn't work, never had worked, but he tried
"Stop the truck, you idiot!" he shouted at the driver. Then he saw the
driver's eyes, which were the pure white of eyes rolled back in their
sockets. This was no normal panic. This was magic. Everyone had baffles as
part of their comm headsets to block out the hideous piping of the satyrs,
but this driver had pulled his off, probably because they were uncomfortable
in the summer heat.
Scirocco opened the door, jogging easily alongside the truck, and
prepared to pull the driver out and replace him. Then he felt the truck
being pulled sideways.
He looked past the driver and saw a gaping maw of darkness forming out
of the mist.
No time for subtlety. He threw the driver aside and then started to
reach for the man who was sitting in the passenger seat, frozen in fear as he
gazed into the darkness.
Scirocco felt like he was in free-fall, and felt an all-too-unmagical
surge of panic. The truck was falling sideways, and FAST. He jumped free,
the soldier's expression of terror burned into his memory as the truck
twisted, shrank and vanished.
There was the sound of a shot, and Scirocco whirled around to see that
the driver had put the barrel of his pistol in his mouth and pulled the
trigger. But he could have just as easily shot Scirocco while he was
distracted by the demise of the truck or the swirling closed of the dark
To Ahriman with this! Boring is a LOT better!
* * * *
[August 14, 2025 - Shattered Hellas]
"MINOTAUR! I CALL YOU COWARD!"
Under normal circumstances, the sight of the slender robed figure
shaking his fist at Mount Olympus and bellowing his challenge might have
seemed ludicrous. Especially since his other hand held a sword that was
almost big enough to swing *him* rather than the other way around.
But this was not anything like a normal circumstance. Behind the Eye of
Purity was an army numbering in the tens of thousands, true believers who
would lay down their lives for their faith. And who probably would be called
upon to do so, now that they had been "trapped" at the base of Mount Olympus
by the machinations of Q'Nos. In terms of their ability to leave, they were
not truly trapped, mind you. Rather, their supply lines had been cut, and
they had a hard choice: stay and starve, or retreat through hostile
The Eye of Purity sought a third option.
"I CHALLENGE YOU TO SINGLE COMBAT!" he bellowed, lifting the sword
"Do not do this," Hands of Fire had said an hour ago when the plan had
been proposed. "These abominations will not honor any agreement based on a
duel. If you win, we're no better off. If you lose, we all lose."
But Mujahid had seen the plan the Eye had hit upon. "They do not need
to honor anything. This army is held together entirely by the minotaur's
force of will. Kill him, and it collapses. It risks much on a single roll
of the dice, but we have been left no other viable alternative save for
Perhaps Q'Nos had hoped to force the Eye of Purity into such a position,
rolling his own set of dice. So be it. Allah's will would be done this day,
and His faithful would be advised to learn from the outcome...whatever it
A great winged shape broke through the clouds that wreathed the
mountaintop, circling majestically three times before beginning a rapid glide
down the slope of the mountain. It was a winged horse, one of many monsters
out of myth that Q'Nos had brought into his service. But while the Pegasus
was normally depicted as being of the purest white, this was a roan, its coat
a better match for the minotaur's own.
Within the space of a dozen heartbeats, the winged steed had landed a
respectful distance away from the Eye of Purity, its passenger dismounting
before sending the pegasus on its way.
"I accept your challenge!" Q'Nos declared in a loud yet unstrained
voice, hefting a huge double-bladed axe in his hands. He wore armor of
stiffened white linen painted in black with the labris, a mate to the weapon
in his hands. A wreath of oak leaves adorned his head as a crown, and the
great horns atop his head were polished to a high sheen. Regal without being
ostentatious, the Eye couldn't help but be impressed. The monster knew how
to play to the crowd.
"So, what are to be the stakes?" Q'Nos inquired once he had come within
a dozen paces.
"No more and no less than our lives," the Eye replied, lowering his
sword so that the point bit into the rocky ground. "We both know that those
are sufficient stakes, yes?"
A booming laugh was the minotaur's reply. Then, "Yes, you clearly
understand the situation I have maneuvered you into. I wish you dead, for
you alone can nullify the special advantages this land gives me. You wish me
dead, for I alone can unite the inhabitants of this land. And a duel gives
us both a chance to attain these goals without wasting more of our
followers. I accept, naturally."
The Eye of Purity tore off his eyepatch, casting it aside with a
whispered, "God is God!" Then, light flaring from the uncovered eye, he
lifted his mighty sword and charged.
* * * *
[From the private memories of Cannon, AKA TCU-20432]
It was not like a war between gods. I know this, because I was present
the last time a god walked this earth and men warred against him, in that
terrible battle in Giza. I awoke that day, and thanks to the perfection of
my machine memory, I have studied the events of that day ever since, seeking
in them the sign of Allah's grace. After all, the one called Archangeli did
not destroy the world, so clearly Allah blessed us that day.
But, as I watched the Eye of Purity and Q'Nos trade blows, I could
certainly understand why others would later make such a comparison. Flashing
sword and blazing axe clashing and sending out shockwaves that threatened to
tumble those who were too near, the purity of the Eye's spirit leaching
strength from his opponent until the two were on even footing.
Shifting to other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum only made the
battle more impressive...forces being unleashed threatened to rend the land
to pieces, and those who could sense this were backing away from the two with
unseemly haste. Those other than myself, of course. I would bear witness to
the outcome of this struggle as I had been unable to do last year. A wave of
power from Archangeli had rendered me insensate and scrambled my sensors, so
I know no more about his final fate than any of my unenlightened vat-
I would not be blind this time.
However much I might have wished to not see what I saw.
* * * *
The moment seemed to stretch into infinity.
A heartbeat before, the Eye of Purity had disarmed his foe and seemed on
the verge of victory.
Now, each beat of the holy man's heart served only to pump more of his
blood onto the dusty ground, cascading over the head of his foe. Q'Nos had
let himself be disarmed as a feint, and now the weapons he could not lose had
served him well, one horn buried deep in the Eye's chest, the other pinning
the man's shoulder.
Shining no longer, the mighty sword slipped from the Eye's hand and fell
to the ground with a clatter.
The Eye of Purity whispered something that only Q'Nos could hear, then
Roaring his triumph, Q'Nos rose to his full height, throwing his impaled
opponent to the edge of the crowd with a casual toss of his head. Then he
turned slowly, taking in both assembled armies and the legion of spycameras
hovering discreetly just out of view.
"I have beaten your holy champion, o ye Mohammedans!" he roared. "I
could just as easily destroy you all, but let it not be said that Q'Nos is
without mercy! Leave this land and never return. NOW."
There was a general uproar, but it was as much confused as angry, and
only a handful of shots were fired before officers got their men under
control. Generals and their staffs met in hurried conference. Soldiers
milled about uncertainly, some looking like their entire world had been
shattered, others fearful, still others clutching their weapons with
expressions of pure hate.
Q'Nos idly collected his axe and other bits of his attire that had been
lost in the savage fight, composing himself carefully and then giving his
enemies a few more minutes before calling out, "Will you now leave?" His
civil tone was at stark contrast to the blood that soaked his head and
The Hands of Fire, who stood over the corpse of his leader, replied for
the army. "We will leave now. We make no guarantees about the future."
This earned a short, barking laugh. "No, none can guarantee the future,
can they. Very well. Go, with neither my blessing nor my curse. Tell your
leaders to expect emissaries from me within the week, to formalize your
cessation of hostilities. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a nation to
The roan pegasus landed as if summoned by a silent signal, and Q'Nos
mounted it. It clearly did not share a horse's fear of blood, as the
minotaur reeked of it now. Flapping its clay-colored wings, the pegasus rose
into the sky, carrying Q'Nos back to the top of cloud-wreathed Mount Olympus.
* * * *
[August 14, 2025 - Leaving Shattered Hellas]
"I'm just glad we're going," Scirocco muttered. "He was just playing
with us, we never stood a chance."
"If you believe you will lose, then you will lose," Mujahid replied.
"Fine," Scirocco spat. "You weren't there when those mushroom things
popped up and turned reality into curdled milk. They could have done that
any time, and probably will a few more times before we get everyone out of
this Allah-accursed land."
"The Jordanian is right," Cannon affirmed. "Obnoxious as always, but
correct. I have analyzed the C-cubed data from the invasion and it is clear
based on the forces visible at Mount Olympus that we were deliberately drawn
in and trapped."
"Why?" Base of the Pillar rumbled, breaking its habitual silence.
"Why trap us, or why let us go?" Cannon asked.
"I think the first is obvious, the second less so," Mujahid noted. "It
seems to me that Q'Nos wished to prove to us that fighting him was folly,
without having to crush us to do so. He has shown us the instruments of
torture, to borrow a metaphor from the Christian Inquisition. For whatever
reason, perhaps simply wishing to preserve the global balance of powers, he
did not want to utterly destroy us. But he wants us cowed into submission,
unwilling to launch another invasion."
Cannon arched an eyebrow. "Historically, both on this world and others,
that doesn't work. Not for long. It may buy a few years at most, but once
the fangs are bared, the confrontation is inevitable and is settled only at
exhaustion or the destruction of one side."
"Yes..." Mujahid nodded thoughtfully. "Begging the question, what is
Q'Nos buying time *for*?"
* * * *
[August 14, 2025 - Mount Olympus]
Q'Nos stepped from his bath, cleansed of blood and the sweat of
fighting, then shook like a great mastiff, sending water flying. "Ah, it has
been a good day, on the balance."
"On the balance?" Simon Smith inquired, sitting on a nearby stone bench
and monitoring various news outlets on a tablet computer. "It would seem
that every part of your plan has been successful today."
"That is true," Q'Nos admitted as he stepped over to a pair of zephyr
attendants whose winds gently dried him. "On a geopolitical level, it was
all golden, as they say. The Eye of Purity is dead, the Moslems are
chastened, and our other endeavor went quite smoothly while the world's eyes
were on my little duel. But I seem to have paid a personal price."
"Oh? Does this have something to do with what the Eye of Purity said to
you as he was dying?"
A nod. "Two simple words, the truth of which becomes apparent as my
wounds heal but my power does not return to me. It seems that with his
death, he took much of my might with him to the afterlife. And he must have
known this was going to happen, because his dying words were...'You lose.'"
* * * *
[August 14, 2025 - Palermo, Sicily]
It is just before dawn, hours before the Eye of Purity's Pyrrhic
victory. The sun is just starting to touch the top of distant Mount Etna. A
few fires here and there send smoke into the lightening sky, and the
occasional corpse can be seen in the streets. But it is otherwise quiet and
still, a setting that would seem serene if it were not so ominous.
For there is also no sign of the usual hustle and bustle of a city
coming awake in the morning. Deliveries, commuters trying to beat the rush,
a few lonely souls returning home after an evening of earning an honest or
dishonest living has come to an end...none of these things are happening.
The only movement comes from the small fires, and from shadows that flit from
door to door, from alleyway to alleyway.
Moving uphill, there are some people out and about, in rural areas as
yet untouched by the shadowy invaders and as yet taking no notice of the
silent city. Perhaps a farmer wonders about a missing friend, or realizes
that a bus that always rumbles and coughs around the corner of his property
every morning is very, very late.
Then, at the Sun-kissed cone of the volcanic mountain, there is motion.
A standard is being raised on a mighty staff. A black labris axe on a white
field. The standard of Q'Nos.
Sicily has joined the Kingdom of Q'Nos.
The arc may be over, but Q'Nos's plans are certainly not, and they
stretch beyond the Mediterranean next issue, in "Island Hopping"!
Some of you may be wondering about Q'Nos's choice of the labris, or
double-headed Minoan axe, as his symbol. Especially since it was
historically a female symbol and is now commonly used as a totem by activists
for both women's rights in general and lesbian rights in the more specific
(if you don't believe me, do a web search on "labris"). Well, let's just say
that when the Purebloods mess around with a rival's history and domain, they
tend to play dirty. Q'Nos was a very masculine god in his day (as one might
expect), adopting the labris as a symbol because of the "two horn" imagery,
among other things. As part of the hatchet job (pun intended) done on Q'Nos,
the labris was "retconned" into a feminine symbol. Q'Nos is now fighting a
war of symbols along side the war of arms, trying to take back what was his
in a history that never was...and poaching some of his enemies' symbols as
well. So in addition to taking back the labris and insisting he not be
called a minotaur, he's also doing things like basing his operations out of
Mount Olympus and wearing Zeus's crown of oak leaves. Yes, he's pretty
confident the Olympians won't come back and smite his furry butt any time
In other random points, the cover image is symbolic, Peter's situation
will be expanded on later, and I promise, next issue we'll see more of ASH in
their own book. :)
For all the back issues, plus additional background information, art,
and more, go to http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/ASH !
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