Far above Nootopia, in the mountains encircling the city, there lived an evil magus named Gargolon. Long had Gargolon slumbered in these frigid peaks, alone with only his icy magic and black grimoire for company. Indeed, he would have slept longer still were it not for the noises of prosperity and happiness drifting heavenward from the walled city below. He awoke then — after eons of slumber — to bullish cries of penguins chanting NOOT NOOT. It was a rude awakening for Gargolon, and he was not pleased.
Casting his gaze down from the eyrie he alighted on Nootopia and was dismayed. 8888 penguins come to defile his Antarctic sanctum? Something must be done, he thought. Something must be done, and soon...
And so, while the pengus of Nootopia slumbered and woke, worked and built, Gargolon schemed. For forty days and forty nights the dread magus plumbed the depths of his arcane knowledge, searching every dusty tome and decrepit grimoire in his ancient library. Below him Nootopia buzzed with the excitement of progress, blissfully unaware of the tragedy that was to befall them. For indeed, on the fortieth night after a thousand sleepless hours, Gargolon found his solution.
The Snowball was born.
Gargolon births the Snowball
Into the Snowball Gargolon poured his very life force. He wove together uncounted threads of magic; his own power and the power of nature and power borrowed from the malevolent forces of the world whose very names have been lost to the ravages of time. And when he was done he raised it high above the city below and unleashed it with a haunting scream.
Yet even as they fell under its shadow the penguins of Nootopia could do nothing, and 44 of them were stricken from the collection in the blink of an eye.
And Gargolon was pleased.
For their part, though they yet reel’d from the loss, the penguins of Nootopia resolved to honor the fallen and keep building. They erected a graveyard within city walls to house the souls of the dead who would never return to circulation. Painstakingly they crafted tombstones and unto them — with tear-stained faces — carved the epitaphs by which they might immortalize their fallen kin.
The Noots of Nootopia immortalize their fallen brethren
And still their work was not done; for neither was Gargolon’s.
In the manner of a few quick days, the dread magus summoned thrice more the Snowball with his uncanny powers. By his hand were smote 31, 11, and 14 more unsuspecting noots. And though the killing power and frequency of the Snowball seemed to wane as time stretched out, it remained — along with its master — a grim spectre looming above the otherwise-empyrean Empire of Nootopia.
And so it fell to the Emperor of Nootopia to devise a means to stop the Snowball. He convened a concordat of pengus, from the furthest reaches of the city and the Empire, and unto them he told his plan.
“We shall come to Gargolon’s Eyrie — an assembly so numerous he could not think to strike us down — and demand recompense. For even one so powerful as he cannot deny the voices of the many lifted high in unison.”
And so Nootopia raised a host to march to the magus’ citadel; a host of varied noots, orange and green and blue, alien and robot and zombie. They crossed the vast tundra of Antarctica, beset by foul frozen winds of Gargolon’s making, until at last they stood at the foot of his abode, somewhat less in number but not in conviction.
“HAIL, GARGOLON,” they shouted, together and as one. “HAIL, YE DREAD MAGUS OF DARK DOINGS AND BLOODY DEEDS.”
And though the wizard had tracked their approach they found in him no welcome; for he answered their cries with bitter words and a curse on his lips.
“BEGONE, TRESPASSERS, AND LEAVE ME TO MY PEACE.”
But the penguins of Nootopia were of a mind and could not be deterred.
“CEASE YOUR SANGUINE SACRIFICES, O WIZARD!” They cried. “END YOUR WICKED WAYS AND LEAVE US TO CONCORD! FOR WE ALSO DESIRE PEACE, AND WOULD NOT BUT TROUBLE YOU AGAIN SHOULD YE STAY YOUR SNOWBALL.”
Yet Gargolon would not be swayed by their words, and indeed they seemed only to incense him. For in the following moment he raised his wizard’s stave and uttered a mighty curse unto the assemblage below.
Gargolon curses Nootopia's assembled host
“THOUGH PEACE YOU SEEK, IT IS DEATH YOU SHALL FIND FOR THE DEFILEMENT OF MY ICY DESMENSE. SHOULD THE LORD OF THE UNDERWORLD HIMSELF STAND BEFORE ME AND CALL ME DOWN I SHOULD NOT RELENT, SO GREAT IS MY IRE.”
And even as he cursed the penguins of Nootopia he cursed himself, though he knew it not. For there are darker magicks in the world than even Gargolon’s — darker, and older too.
The cogs of fate began to turn.
Meanwhile, in Nootopia...
It began as a tiny fracture, so small at first it was as a filament in the ice. And from it there leaked a wicked miasma. An insidious, noxious smog that stopped Nootopia in its tracks. Indeed, even as the Emperor’s host trekked back from their futile confrontation with the dread magus Gargolon, the populace of Nootopia fell ill one by one.
So it was that the Emperor of Nootopia returned to the city to find his loyal pengus in the throes of a devastating plague. Hospitals overflowing, infirmaries overtaxed, noots lying in the icy streets of Nootopia for want of care they could not receive. Horrified and confused, the Emperor determined himself to discover the cause, but was stopped at the city gates by the very Steward he had installed to run Nootopia in his place.
“Your excellency!” the Steward pled. “Please, hasten your return to safety — not departure! The illness that has swept the city in your absence discriminates not. Young or old, infirm or hale, clothed or clean, crowned or capped — it matters none. Every pengu who breathes in this miasma falls to it, without exception. We must get you to shelter or risk the fall of Nootopia’s greatest!”
“This cannot be!” the Emperor cried, though he was in that moment wracked with a great fear. “If that were true why have you not been taken ill yourself?”
“I…I cannot be sure, your Excellency.” His Steward responded, looking deeply troubled. “I cannot be sure, for indeed we have been laid low in the blink of an eye. There is no logic what can be ascribed to who is struck and who is spared.” The Steward appeared to think for a moment, then continued. “Except…”
“Except what?” The Emperor cried.
“Except… if I might be frank, your Excellency, though I am not certain in this: it appears there is ONE pengu attribute that renders its bearers unaffected by the toxin…”
The Emperor's Steward
And so the Emperor of Nootopia was sent away — this time into hiding — and in his stead the Steward raised a party of masked noots at the head whom he sat. Determined and willing to sacrifice their very lives for the betterment of Nootopia, they set out with a two-pronged goal: ascertain the source of the miasma, and put a stop to it.
In a twist of fate both fortunate and calamitous, they needed not to look long. For indeed, but a mile out from the golden gates of their beloved city they came upon a crack wherefrom out poured the wicked toxin. No hairline fracture it was but a crack now; one that grew longer and wider by the minute. And there rose out of it sickening tendrils of greenish smog, the noxious effects of which were plainly visible: strewn about the maw of the crack there lay many noots — maskless noots.
The Steward looks on in horror at his fallen, maskless brethren
Horrified but in agreeance that the safety of their unmasked brethren demanded precedence over their original mission, the intrepid masked nooties, led by the Steward, set to work tending them. As they labored to save their fallen friends the thought occurred, incontrovertibly, to one and all: the only noots able to withstand the miasma’s corruptive effects were those like themselves — masked.
Yet even as they thought this and loaded the last of the unmasked pengus onto makeshift stretchers, the ice beneath Nootopia’s masked noots began heave and groan and shudder. With a sickening crack and a deep quake that could be felt as far away as the Eyrie, the fracture widened into a chasm. Jets of steam whistled and hissed from its depths and a greenish smog began to settle over the land.
Suddenly, in that very moment — a moment to be seared into the Steward’s mind forever — there came a noise. It was a haunting noise, both otherworldly and uncanny. And even as he heard it the Steward saw shapes emerging from the chasm, shrouded in miasma.
A strange shape emerges from the chasm, shrouded in miasma
Hesitate the Steward did not. In fear, confusion, and outright panic did he and his fellow masked noots beat a hasty retreat. Back to the shelter of Nootopia they ran, dragging behind them their fallen comrades. Not until their city’s great golden gates were shut behind them did they allow themselves rest, and when they did they all but collapsed for the horror of it.
No words were there in Penguinese to describe what crawled from the miasma that day. Neither “noot” nor “noot” gave justice to the unspeakable monstrosities witnessed. Though they were but upright with the rest of the city struck down, the mask noots felt brought to their knees and cried out in despair. Who could save them? What hope had they against a sickening smog and occult forces bearing down at their very gates?
All might have been lost in that very moment were it not for the actions of singular brave noot.
Battle-scarred and warforged from a life of hardship before Nootopia, he stood before the masked host with naught but knowledge of the grim mission ahead.
His name was Nootlysses, and he was a pengu of war.
Nootlysses takes up the sword and dons a mask
Knowing Nootopia existed in that moment on a knife’s edge, Nootlysses drew his sword from its scabbard and spake unto trembling crowd.
“Hold your ground, hold your ground. Noots of Nootopia, of Antarctica, my nooties. I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the noot of me. A day may come when the courage of noots fails, when we forsake our fellow noots, and break all bonds of nootship as Gargolon would have us. But it is noot this day.
An hour of snowballs and singed masks, when the age of noots comes crashing down — but it is noot this day!
This day, we noot! By all that you hold dear on this frozen tundra, I bid you stand, masked noots of Nootopia!”
And he lofted his sword and uttered a raucous cry and with it too cried the masked noots, for in them was replaced fear by determination. Determination to save their brethren and their golden city from the otherworldly horde that bore down on their gates. For indeed, though he dared not share the knowledge, Nootlysses knew in his heart the miasmic beings marching toward Nootopia were not of this plane of existence. They were…demonic.
Nootlysses surveys the field of battle-to-come
Far and away at the Eyrie, while below Nootopia prepared for battle, Gargolon rested. Cursing the Emperor of Nootopia and his noots had but drained his power — much more than expected. Indeed, it felt not so much like he curse’d the pengus of Nootopia, but rather had summoned into existence something altogether more… sinister.
“Perhaps I am getting old,” Gargolon thought, and the idea carried him away to slumber.
Alas he would not sleep long, and he awoke to a great tumult. Wroth, he came to the window and his gaze fell upon the scene below outside Nootopia. Though the noots themselves knew not what forces beset them, Gargolon — being a magus of uncounted years and unfathomable wisdom — could see immediately what transpired:
The Gates to the Underworld had been flung open.
At this the magus let out a wizened laugh.
“Aha! At last! Those infernal nooting noots of Nootopia shall be laid low by a mighty occult blow! Those Demonoots of the Underworld are but a trifiling presence for such a great magus as myself! I shall let them destroy Nootopia and then dispatch them myself with a single word! It is as they say, then, no bad deed goes unrewarded!”
Verily satisfied, Gargolon made as if to sleep, but something gave him pause; a sickeningly greenish smog was pouring in from without.
Gargolon observes the miasma
“That’s… odd…” Gargolon muttered. Arcane and terrible eternal being as he was, the miasma that now saturated his fortress left Gargolon unaffacted, but for the rancid smell of old farts it gave off. Perturbed, Gargolon reached for a grimoire from this library, that he might cast a spell of defeaning to mute the sounds of impending warfare below before his return to slumber. To his utter horror, the spellbook but disintegrated at his touch, flaking away into pieces of greenish paper and cloth.
To this very day there exist no words that capture Gargolon’s fury. In the vastness of his library could be found the very secrets to life itself. Power; divinity; the arcane. To defile it was to defile the foundation on which the universe sat. Every second the miasma leaked unchecked bore an affront to the integrity of Gargolon’s seat of knowledge. This would not do. Nay, Gargolon would not stand for it.
This was an act of WAR.
And so to war went Gargolon.
*Back in Nootopia… *
With Nootlysses at their head and the Steward as vanguard, Nootopia’s masked host went to war.
Heedless of the danger and driven by instinctual self-preservation, the noots mounted a valiant charge direct’ unto the mist-shrouded Demonoot horde. At the first, by grit alone well they fared, but soon a great fear gripped Nootlysses. Though bravely they fought it was fast apparent they were no match for the occult forces with whom they grappled. Even as their masks provided them a measure of resistance against the corrosive effects of the miasma, they were powerless to repel the supernatural strength of the Demonoots.
And yet, as Nootlysses would learn — and not for the first time in his life — there is always hope; sometimes, from the most unexpected of sources.
Almost without warning the snow around Nootlysses exploded. A massive Snowball screamed past him; but a feathersbreadth separated him from life and death.
Gargolon had arrived.
On the battlefield before him were noots and Demonoots alike swept away by the force of Gargolon’s creation. In shock and in horror did Nootlysses witness the evil magus himself approach a fallen noot and begin to mutter an incantation over its masked corpse. Though its skin had been fully sloughed off by the corruptive forces of the miasma, it did but rise again; a living skeleton, animated bones, a servant of Gargolon ready to fight on — with or without flesh.
Appalled though he was, Nootlysses knew they had but no choice to press on, and to accept an uneasy alliance with the dread magus himself. For the sake of Nootopia, and the sake of all noots.
Reanimated by the unspeakable forces of Gargolon's necromantic power, a formerly-masked noot fights on as a Skelenoot.
A necessary evil.
There existed no other way to describe the unholy alliance between Gargolon and the battlefield’s brave Nootopians. Loath though they were to stand shoulder to shoulder with the pengu who had slain so many of their kin, there was little recourse. For days and days they pit themselves against the occultic Demoonoot horde, each onslaught affording no room to breathe before the next began. Deep in his heart knew Nootlysses that without the weirding ways of Gargolon, Nootopia would have been already overrun.
For indeed, in his dread and infinite wisdom Gargolon saw fit not only to reanimate the dead, but to reinforce the firepower of living noots. Unto each of the rare-type masked noots he gifted upgrade to further bolster their unnaturally natural immunity to the Underworld invasion. To the Aliens he granted a power scouter, that they might ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of their foes before a tactical strike. To the Zombies he gifted a savage beak strong and sharp enough to rend any material on the planet (except for diamond hands, of course). And to the Robots he gifted laser eyes, because in his heart of hearts Gargolon like to watch things go pew pew.
Lemme lemme upgrade ya, upgrade ya.
Yet still his actions could not be mistaken for benevolence; warforged though the Nootopians and Gargolon now were, they were still enemies. For every salvo that Gargolon unleashed against the Demonoots, innocent masked fighters paid the blood price. Collateral damage.
A necessary evil.
Aided by Gargolon and his arcane prowess, Nootlysses and the masked Nootopians beat back the Demonoot horde. Days did stretch into a week and still they fought. Yea but for Gargolon they might not have survived, so great was the power of the enhancements he bestowed and the skeletal noots he revived. Stranger still though no less instrumental in their battle was their reinforcement by a small force of Demonoots. Some noots — rather than succumb to the corruptive forces of the miasma — were instead transformed by it. Wholly noot on the inside yet outwardly Demonootic, they battled on as well, wielding their newfound powers with alarming brutality.
Back, back to the brink of the chasm the beat their foes, wherefrom did outpour the miasmic vapors. Bone weary and out of strength, the Nootopians did yet despair. For indeed from within the fathomless depths of the chasm their could be heard the uncanny cries of their occultic foes, an endless army of Demonoots preparing for an endless assault.
It occurred to Nootlysses then that Gargolon was nowhere to be seen, and even as that thought was born he heard the magus’ dread voice calling out clear and cruel across the frozen plains. In a tongue long since lost to the tribes of mortal noots did now Gargolon recite an incantation. For but a moment the entire battlefield stood still, ensorcelled.
Quite suddenly a massive Snowball appeared overhead; the last of Gargolon’s reserved strength. A final cry did he utter — this time in Penguinese — that rang out uncannily in the frozen silence.
“You cannot noot. I am a servant of the Secret Snowball, wielder of the power of Antarctica. You cannot noot. The dark miasma will not avail you, scourge of the Underworld. Go back to the Chasm! You cannot noot!”
And with that he dropped the Snowball into the chasm, sealing it and the occultic forces forever.
Gargolon and the Nootpians wage war for more than a week against the Demonoot horde
When the snow settled Gargolon was gone, and with him he took the lives of forty-one brave noots. Brave noots swept away by the Snowball, brave noots who paid the blood price to have Hell freeze over. Brave noots who would never be forgotten.
Long did Gargolon sleep.
Verily tired and all but empty was he left after the great and terrible Battle for Nootvember. His final, momentous snowball cost him dearly.
And lo, he slept.
For weeks he slumbered whilst below and across the frozen tundra Nootopia regathered and rebuilt. In truth he should have slept for a hundred more eons, so great was his final effort. But it was not to be, for on the longest, brightest day of the year in Antarctica he awoke, bathed in unending light. And when he awoke, he was wroth.