Whilst the penguins of Nootopia built, Gargolon schemed.
Far above the city, cloistered in his Eyrie, he schemed.
Each day, the same. Each week, alike. Every snowball, penguins felled but their brethren undaunted.
He needed more.
Not more snowballs, no — though he planned never their cessastion.
What Gargolon required was more knowledge.
Knowledge of the arcane he had in droves. And endless library was his, from ground to roof were lined books of uncounted age from cultures long forgotten. If there was knowledge to be had in this world, Gargolon was its owner.
Not from here, not from his library, not from history, not from Earth.
And so, Gargolon schemed.
Nigh on forty days and forty nights he did scheme, and left no stone unturned. Transcendental Metaphysics? Mastered. Arcanis Obscurata? Child’s play. Unfathomably old and unspeakably evil Dark Artistry? Already known. Every school of thought, every source of magic, every life altering incantation was as yet already at his disposal. Divine inspiration was naught for him, nay, indeed it was at best Divine Derivation, for Gargolon was the progenitor of many things and what some might hail as as a finger’s breadth from omnipotent.
Even still, after forty days of scrutiny and self-contemplation, he could conclude but one thing: the answers he sought — the means to destroy Nootopia and with it, those Pesky Penguins’ happiness — existed outside this earth. As a scholar of all things and wielder of knowledge both germane and esoteric, he deduced his solution did but rest in one of two places:
The Underworld or Outer Space.
Of the two he was most loathe to visit the Underworld, owing in no small part to his recent squabble with the Demonoots. To be sure, it was Gargolon’s own frozen handiwork that sealed their gates at present. Doubtless he would be penguina non grata in their realm and his mission would be much hindered and fettered by their justifiable hostility. By no means did this render the mission impossible, but it must be emphasized, Dear Reader, that Gargolon’s chief aim in life is to slumber peacefully. He is, at his core, what one might call a “lazy bum” and chose always the path of least resistance when presented with two options.
And so it was that the Dread Magus set his sights to parts unknown and lands unconquered by even his keen and questing mind — Outer Space. The question of how to get there lay heavy on his mind for a while, for indeed his dominion over the Earth and its timeless mysteries did not extend to the cosmos beyond her atmosphere. Yet the answer to his question was not long in coming, for the jubilant nooting of Nootopia’s citizens below his great Eyrie was an answer unto itself. The means to reaching Outer Space existed on Earth already, and indeed on his doorstep.
Native to Antarctica the Alienoots were not. Nay, they had indeed arrived in Nootopia when it was but a fledgling village on a windswept tundra in the later years of Gargolon’s Deep Slumber. The late Emperor had been quick to welcome them into the fold, for they were but sixty-one in number, refugees from a collapsed star system known as Ethirium. The sixty-one were all that remained of a once-proud alien race, and with them they brought a wealth of knowledge and technology hithertofore unknown in Nootopia and indeed, in all of Antarctica.
It was this that Gargolon sought in his unending quest to ever-end the Nootopians. If the capability to annihilate those infernal noots existed not in this mortal plane, surely it did lie in the Aetheric reaches of Outer Space, for SOMETHING had made fugitives of the Alienoots. He would seek that SOMETHING, that power, harnass it, and return with it unto his Eyrie, where he might fashion with it the means to destroy Nootopia and her joyous denizens once and for all.
To achieve this he would but need a space ship and the knowledge of flight. To possess those he would need access to the Alienoot’s compound. To accomplish that…now that, he was ready for:
NOOT PRISM POWER ACTIVATE!
With a wave of his staff and a whoosh of sulfurous smoke he was transformed — an impregnable, undetectable, foolproof disguise.
All their base are belong to Garg.
Gargolon's Spell of Minor Deception rendered him completely alike unto the Alienoots.
Thus began the dread magus’ first foray into Nootopia. Though he had long and oft suffered from high above in the Eyrie the bustling and joyous sounds of Nootopia’s prosperity, never before had Gargolon set foot within its walls.
What he saw there horrified him.
Noots of every type, dress, and creed thronged the streets in joyous harmony. There were trader noots, farmer noots, banker noots, writer noots, coder noots, scientist noots, doctor noots, actor noots, artist noots, and more. There were teacher noots, soldier noots, gamer noots, gym noots, mathematician noots, construction noots — such a diverse populace of pengus it did all but bring Gargolon to his knees. And yet among them there was accord, as though their differences did not serve to divide but rather to make them stronger. Industry, prosperity, hospitality, stability; the virtues of Nootopia were nigh too horrifying for Gargolon to withstand.
Perhaps for the first time in his life — he had but slumbered deep and long and the earliest reaches of his memory were fuzzy now — the magus felt what he would later recognize as FEAR. Unlearned though they were in the weirding ways of wizardry he and he alone possessed, the combined strengths of Nootopia’s citizens frightened Gargolon in their reach and magnitude. Fortified now was his resolve and indeed conviction that the solution the his ‘Nootopia Problem’ existed but off-world, Gargolon, still in the guise of an Alienoot, passed unnoticed in the city’s streets but for the occasional smile and friendly greeting that deepened further still his disgust.
Difficult it was not to identify the extraterrestrial Alienoot compound. The cobbled streets and icy, hard-packed roofs of Nootopia’s main thoroughfare gave way to lilting beeps and mellifluous boops accompanying cosmic machinery and galactic architecture. To be sure, half the quarter floated above the city in the tractor beams of a great, green laser; curiouser and curiouser it was to Gargolon, who waddled in doublestep to the hangar bays housing the Alienoots’ spaceships.
“Have a care, young Noots,” the magus whispered, though none were in earshot. “By my wings will be your undoing, though you know it yet not.”
But the work of a moment it was for Gargolon, dread magus of the Frozen Wastes, to steal a spaceship.
The Alienoots were by their very nature an endangered breed. Tenancy of their cosmic ward was slight. In many ways, too, their extraterrestrial extratechnology was closer to Gargolon’s own magickal purview than to the advancement of Robonoots; though their doors were gated by facial recognition and eyescan technology, Gargolon’s own inscrutable disguise penetrated their dimensional defenses. ‘Twas not long before the magus was deep inside their compound.
His destination, the Galactic Nootco Space Garage, was neither guarded nor indeed occupied at all. Before him stretched a vast stage of ships; sixty-one in all with a ship for every alien and an alien for each ship. Every conceivable shape and size were they, with colors and metals and atomic hyperpolymers of every shade and hue. In the end Gargolon picked a likely vessel — neither too large nor too small, not flashy, but adorned to an extent befitting an evil sorceror — and approached the ship’s hatch. Though lacking whatever code or trinket or biometric data was required for entry, the door nonetheless sprang open at his approach. A simple sibylline spell of unlocking was all he required to stage his coup.
The fathomless, darkest reaches of the Nootiverse.
Gargolon infiltrates the Alienoot Compound and evades detection.
A host of Alienoots descended on hangar. Alarms stirred them to action; alarms set off by the departure of Gargolon in one of their ships. To be sure, the dread magus had neither the knowledge nor the experience to pilot one of their extradimensional vessels, but that mattered not. The glowing pink-red crystal set within the carved gnarled whorls of his magi’s staff suited his purposes to this end. By dislodging it and jamming it into the ship’s ignition slot, Gargolon established an arcano-cerebral with the vessel’s navigation system enabling him to traverse space with the merest inklings of intention.
From their great stage did the Alienoots launch a salvo of green lasers at the departing magus, but to no avail. Gargolon, in his vast cunning, had activated the ship’s own defenses, and the Alienoots’ beams bounced harmlessly off the ship’s shield. Helplessly they watched the vessel breach the toposphere; later they would recognize the sounds they heard at that time as the sinister laughter of an evil mage.
Gargolon was starbound.
Gargolon makes for the stars amid a volley of retaliatory Alienoot fire.
The great, inky vastness of space was alike unto the primordial soup from whence spawned Gargolon. It came without surprise, then: his consummate ability to navigate its reaches with frightening speed. Though he knew it not, the ship which now Gargolon piloted belonged to none but the Decemvirate’s own Toonfeh Gue, known also as Hew. As such was the ship equipped with commensurate capacity to navigate, create, and propagate portals.
With the press of a button could tear into existence a dimensional fissure; a shortcut in time-space; a leap to places unbound and unfound in the vast lexicon of the Dread Magus’ knowing. Portal after portal Gargolon did create in his stolen starship. Worlds flew by him. Entire civilizations he left in his wake. Star systems, galaxies, galactic federations did he pass by. Hundreds and yea, even thousands of portals did the evil wizard traverse in the ship he stole from the Alienoot Hew.
Time stretched before him and rolled him over in undulating waves. A thousand lifetimes, or ten or fifty thousand lifetimes he lived in a relativistic second. He knew naught what he sought — only that it must exist, somewhere, and that he must find it.
When his purloined vessel finally came to rest, a wide, blue planet crowded the horizon.
A strange energy did emanate from the all-blue planet. Gargolon could not so much see it as feel it, though as he drew closer he witnessed its entire surface cloaked in glowing liquid, wherefrom it did derive its azure appearance. Thrice he circumnavigated the strange celestial orb; once lengthwise, one widthwise, and once in a lazy diagonal arc — and nary a landmass was there to be seen.
An entire planet covered in water, and (he noticed) brimming with great, vibrant life taking a form wholly beyond his reckoning. Indeed was Gargolon’s mind — HIS MIND, THE MIND OF THE GREATEST MAGUS ON EARTH — but bent in his attempts to comprehend the forms he saw now before him. Where he was himself hard edges, straight, harsh, blocky, bold, the cosmic beings before him were…mellifluous. Soft curves, fading colors, visible textures, thin lines. These fish (if indeed they could be called that, for Gargolon knew naught whether hyperdimensional marine life could be encapsulated by stale Earth terms) telegraphed specificity to the Magus even as they remained utterly and paradoxically incomprehensible.
Did this mysterious form….did this fathomless existence…did it derive from their habitation in the strange planet’s endless oceans?
Deploying slender floats from beneath the fuselage of his alien craft as a floatplane would, Gargolon came to rest on the planet and even as he did the life-teeming waters began their uncanny work. The sharp edges and solid colors of the Alienoot vessel were transformed beneath his feet; transmogrified, twisted, transvected. Now did Gargolon see the ship translated into a form akin to the cosmic fishes as much as it remained akin still to him and its former self.
Perhaps this was the secret. The key that he was missing. Though possessing the knowledge of a thousand ages and uncounted dark secrets, Gargolon was in his very being alike unto the noots. Perhaps in order to conquer them, he did not need to be better, or stronger, or more wicked or powerful or learned. Perhaps he merely needed to be different: to be smoother, more textured, more detailed, more…distinct. Perhaps total domination and subversion of Nootkind would come at the hands of a Gargolon who existed in a state OUTSIDE their comprehension, as did the very forms before him.
If merely touching the extraterrestrial floodwaters was enough to transform the ship… imagine… Gargolon popped the hatch and extended a confident fin, cupping the strange water to his beak.
He threw back his head and drank.
An artist's rendering of the cosmic marine life Gargolon witnessed that day.
The quantum nature of Gargolon’s travels — owing to the ingenious technologies contained by the alien ship and operated by the Magus therein — meant that he returned to Antarctica nearly as soon as he had left. Conflicting accounts by some (Florida Man, for one) would later assert that Gargolon had actually reappeared in the sky above Nootopia before he left. This was not true, of course. The Dread Magus was a destructive being but also a cautious one, and would never leave the very question of his own existence at risk of erasure by the accidental creation of a temporal paradox. Nevertheless, this erroneous telling of the magus’ return would be encoded in Nootopia’s oral history as truth, and would only add to the legend of the events that followed thenceforth.
Far above the Eyrie he did appear, then, returning to the planet’s surface in a gesture more akin crashing than landing. Toonfeh Gue’s ship, unceremoniously jettisoned, was both changed and forgot as Gargolon alighted to the depths of his cellar.
For days thereafter Nootopia’s denizens watched in rapt horror as plumes of acrid smoke billowed outwards from the Eyrie’s great chimneys and turrets. Within the warp and the weft of the venomous vapor the very bones of the Eyries shimmered and melted and reappeared in forms unlike anything seen in Antarctica. Not even the Alienoots, in their vast experiences and great cosmic exposures, dared to so much as retrieve Hew’s sloughed ship, so enthralling and redoubtable were the now-actions of the Dread Magus.
‘Twas the grizzled and sea-faring corsair noots who made the first move. Quietly and surprisingly in a manner not at all his custom, the pirate Captain Bluebeak set his crew to task. Though he dealt far more frequently in booty and lucre than in reconaissance and information, he was not unintelligent nor uninspired, and recognized the power vacuum building now. Whilst the Decemvirate hemmed and hawed — burdened or perhaps traumatized by the tragedy of Nootvember — Bluebeak and his dogged companions began to dig.
Even for a bold noot such as himself, to travel overland to the Eyrie seemed certain folly. Thus began the grim work on the Smuggler’s Tunnel, which aimed to provide the Captain and his followers discreet access to the dread magus’ abode, that they might infer, deduce, or otherwise uncover what nefarious deeds were now brewing by Gargolon’s hand and — in doing so — provide some measure of defense for Nootopia are her citizens.
For a price, of course.
Not without honor was Bluebeak, but neither was he a pengu to pass up profit when it landed in his lap. Nootopia’s incumbent governors would pay a pretty piece to learn what evil was brewing in the Eyrie without immediate and personal risk to their citizens. So it was with great vigor and excitement he readied and roused his crew, and work began in frenzied earnest on a tunnel leading from the pirates’ cove to Gargolon’s cellar. Bluebeak had long suspected that the magus’ magickal defenses did not extend to the hardpacked snow and earth upon which he built his fortress. After all, few pengus were of the burrowing type.
Good thing the mold was broke with Bluebeak.
Quickly did the excavation commence. Fifteen Robo-Pirate-Noots Bluebeak commanded, moving with great haste. Their skill was considerable, and as such the hard-packed snow and permafrost provided only a small challenge and little impediment to their endeavors. Shortly their efforts spanned half the distance to the dread magus’ castle; a brigade of all 231 pirate pengus stretched the length of the tunnel, passing between them buckets of mixed snow and earth and passageway refuse to clear the their path, whilst erecting simultaneous structural supports.
Under the watchful eye of Captain Bluebeak, the swashbuckling corsairs bored through the underground and in their wake did their manual labors beget a great, winding snake of a tunnel. Up and up it spiraled as they sought the Eyrie. Many days they did devote with awls and chisels to carving stairs in the roots of the great mountain Gargolon called home. As they climbed and cut up toward the peaks upon which precariously perched the Eyrie, the rock itself began to change. Centuries, or verily indeed millenia of arcane practices and magickal emittances by the evil wizard had leached its way into the very mountain. Though it hindered them not, the residue nonetheless frightened the pirate noots, who seemed to shed their braggadocio and loot-hunger and take up fear in its place.
Sensing their dread — for not-naught was he called the Iron-Flippered Empath of the Seven Seas — Bluebeak entreated them with a hearty cry that crescendoed into a song.
Hey-ho me nooties beneath the mountain old we dig a trail to seek our grail of information sold Hey-ho me nooties take heart, ye now, be bold grow not ye pale turn not ye tail keep feet upon the road Hey-ho me nooties when all is done and told we’ll sing this tale o’er pints of ale so frothy and so cold Hey-ho me nooties resolve ye now must hold this mount we’ll scale to much avail to send ye home with gold!
Hearing his shanty roused the troubled pirates — for indeed Bluebeak was known also as the Merciless Songbird of the Wrathsome Waves — and they renewed their efforts with great fervor. ‘Twas not long before their pickaxes sounded in clear tones against hewn stone.
The cellar had been breached.
What befell the pirate noots on entering Gargolon’s cellar that day defies — to the present moment in time — enumeration.
Nevertheless, quill has been put to parchment here in an effort to do just that, though justly it has not been done. For indeed the very fabric of the world warped and shimmered and shifted before their eyes; a haze overlaid the dark mage’s damp basement, and all who breathed in its terrifying mists were greatly changed. Hard edges became soft curves, and flat planes grew rich and textured. Color flooded into their eyes, and all but the most grizzled and warforged of veterans broke into ineffable smiles. Shoulders emerged, sleek and shiny, and laugh lines, and shadows, and filamental feather tufts on their heads.
The genesis of this change they soon discerned. Their newfound power and fundamental alteration emanated from the bubbling forms of three massive cauldrons. Hammered iron they were, and bolted to the floor, as wide across as five noots and almost half as high. Inside there boiled and misted and steamed a shimmering blue-green liquid, and from its sublimation did these optical alterations arise.
A hush overfell the room. Whether from awe or fear it could not be said. After a time, a smol pengu, later called Peter, piped up in a tiny voice scarce louder than a whisper:
“Does…does he mean to change us with this?” Even as the room glimmered and swayed around them, the implication was clear: would the curious liquids that Gargolon now distiled be used to assail Nootopia and her citizens in some way?
It was Bluebeak who answered him.
“Nay, Laddie… methinks this brew ‘tis a wondrous thing, not a horror.” He seemed sure of himself, and in that took many of his crew great comfort. “The dread wizard Gargolon is not one to share with us his boons,” he continued. “Methinks he means to imbibe this tonic himself. Being that the case then…” Bluebeak turned to his crew and spread wide scarred wings in a grandiose gesture.
“What’s say we turn this reconaissance mission into a good ol’ Smuggling Operation?”
Bluebeak propositions his crew