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