[LNH20/LNH-ELSE] Bite-Size Tales of the LNH v20 #10: 'Sir Lancelot's Masticator' [HCC35]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at hotmail.com
Sat Mar 9 18:01:23 PST 2013

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* 
     "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.
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," 
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."
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* 
     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 
     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!
     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.
Saxon Brenton   University of Technology, city library, Sydney Australia
     saxon.brenton at uts.edu.au     saxonbrenton at hotmail.com
"These 'no-nonsense' solutions of yours just don't hold water in a complex
world of jet-powered apes and time-travel." - Superman, JLA Classified #3

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