Ragnarok

for those who watched Superfriends when it was on TV, and wondered just what Aquaman was for.

Three years of winter assault the world. Giant monsters devour the sun and moon. The tree of the world trembles. Fenrir, the greatest of wolves, snaps a chain made from the sound of a cat’s footfall, a woman’s beard, a mountain’s root, and a bear’s sinews. Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice, the Ragnarok bell rings!

A silence falls.

“Something in my spirit recognizes that sound, and trembles with foreboding.” The Boy Wonder stands. “What words have my mentor left for me, to read when such grave tidings come?”

The Bat-Computer rattles and its lights flash. It prints out the Bat-Ragnarok Contingency Plan. The Boy Wonder reads through it, and his face goes chill. “What must be, must be; and what is prophecied to come, shall come. Guard the world; I take my leave; anon.”

Aquaman and the Wonder Twins look after the departing Boy Wonder with heavy hearts. “The world comes to an end,” says Atlantis’ King. “Not late, but soon; and what part shall I play in the end of it?”

Zan looks down. “Have you no greater art? Then make the best of it; your fish telepathy is the weapon in our hands.”

Aquaman goes to the console and brings up images of world events. “Greater art?” He laughs. “I can imagine none. There are things in the deep you know not of, that answer to my call; and powers I may wield through them that none have seen before.”

“Gleek!” exclaims the monkey.

“Now,” says Aquaman, gesturing towards the screen. “The traitorous Luthor, killer of Earth’s spring and hope, rises from Hel on a ship of dead men’s nails; and Fenrir rages across the world; and Surt falls from the sun with all his terrors behind him; and Jormungandr’s teeth have come loose from its tail. Now, the first of these is mine; and of Jormungandr you know the truth. Surt has not yet reached the plains of Vigrid; and so I leave the wolf to you.”

Aquaman concentrates, using his fish telepathy. Golden circles fly from his forehead and plunge into the sea.

In the distant reaches of the sea, a great ship rises. The Hall of Doom is no more; but in the hideous domain of Hel, Luthor has built another. His sinister genius has taken the nails from those buried with nails untrimmed and from them forged a headquarters more powerful than his last; and now, with a crew of frost giants, he returns to once again taunt the Superfriends!

The Hall of Doom shudders. Luthor flips on the sensors, but sees only sinuous shapes in the darkness.

“Aquaman, my old benighted foe,” murmurs Luthor. “I sense your fish telepathy at work, but it is not your hand that shall destroy me.” Louder, he snaps, “All hands to the coilguns, and set the ghostfires burning; today, there shall be blood.”

The ghostfires light. The eyes of the Hall of Doom burn in the deeps. In that light, great blind shapes move: black, with crimson spots and spines, and serrated maws the length of gunships. Shapes writhe beneath their skins, the souls of dead sailors striving to break free. Ichor exhales from their mouths to cloud his view.

“Fire,” Luthor snaps. Thus begins the first of the last great battles.

Meanwhile, in the ruined Japanese metropolis Tokyo-2, Fenrir looms over the Wonder Twins.

“Fenrir,” cries Jayna. “Thou ravener! Thou beast! Thy jaw runs with the blood of innocents; thine eyes burn with your malice. Your march ends here, and your life with it.”

Zan steps forward. “Form of . . . an ice enclosure!”

“Shape of . . . a phoenix!”

A dome of ice seals over Tokyo-2, thicker and thicker, until its layers obscure the sun; and within that dome, Fenrir, and a fire burning ever brighter.

“You shall die here,” promises Jayna, and casts herself at the wolf. Fenrir’s mouth snaps contemptuously upon her, shakes her, and casts her aside to lay bloody and broken; but the phoenix cannot die. She rises again, and there is a battle there that does not end.

Nine days pass; then Zan’s communicator beeps. “It’s the Hall of Justice!”

Zan activates the communicator in an inobvious fashion. The screen flickers to life. On a throne in the Hall’s center, the Boy Wonder sits, a blue monkey on one shoulder, a bat on the other; the side of his costume is tattered and black, and his one eye burns.

“Nine days I hung myself on the tree of worlds,” he says, “with the Bat-spear in my side; and for this reason, you shall call me the Hanged Superfriend, or the One-Eyed Boy Wonder. I have learned the secrets of the runes, and thus have learned all things.”

“The battle fares poorly; my sister burns, but the flames are cold. Tell me, Hanged Superfriend—is this a battle we can win?”

“No,” says the One-Eyed Boy Wonder. “It is not so. We cannot hope for victory; only that some few might survive. This is the end of the dream and the darkest of all days.” He holds up the great Bat-stave on which the laws of the Superfriends are writ. “I break our code.”

He snaps the Bat-stave.

“I see,” says Zan, and bows his icy head. “SISTER, TO ME!”

They touch, one last time. “Form of . . . a world-drowning ocean.”

“Shape of . . . the Midgard Serpent!”

“The lie of human form is past,” murmurs the rising sea. “The lie of hearts and minds recedes. Ah! Batman, thou were wise and cruel, to bind us so.”

The Zan-ocean swallows the world; and Fenrir feels the coils of the serpent, cold and hard, rising around him. He struggles; with his jaws, he tears forth great chunks of flesh; the blood of the Midgard Serpent gouts forth until the sea is red; but the venom of the Serpent Jayna has already sunk into Fenrir’s bones.

“Finish it,” cries the ocean, with its final thought, and Jayna tears the wolf apart, and the Midgard Serpent floats, amidst the chunks of wolf and snake, in the endless sea.

“I pass from the world,” she says, into her Superfriends communicator. “My humanity fades. My comprehension turns to dust and darkness, and it shall not return again. Ah! Aquaman! This body must die! Or I myself shall crush the world.”

Aquaman uses his fish telepathy. “Peace, my friend,” he says. “You shall not go astray.”

In the dark and the silence, the first sharks come.

The Hanged Superfriend gestures. Gleek and the bat fly forth, to scout for him the world. “The battle fares poorly for your fish,” he says. “Luthor will escape, and his forces join Surt’s at the plains of Vigrid.” He stands. “This must not be. He was Hawkman’s to slay; but Hawkman is no more, and I must act. Unleash the Bat-singularity missiles.”

Aquaman’s hand hesitates over the button. “These are a thing never meant for use,” he says. “A taint upon our name; and your master was shamed that Bat-technology did give them birth.”

“It is the twilight of all things,” said the One-Eyed Boy Wonder. “The Bat-staff has broken. Fire.”

Five missiles bombard the beleaguered Hall of Doom, as it battles in the deep; one pierces its defenses; the ship of nails cracks. It takes less than a second for every man, woman, and child aboard to die. The nails of dead men drift through the bloody sea.

Gleek and the bat bound back to the One-Eyed Boy Wonder’s shoulders. He looks up, and his eye gleams. “Surt comes.”

The world has drowned; but some places are beyond the ocean’s touch. The great tree, where the last humans shelter; the Halls of the Vanir, of whom little has been said; the deep abodes of the dwarves; and the Plains of Vigrid.

The two of them meet him there: the Hanged Superfriend and Aquaman, against the most terrible of giants.

“Your sword is swift, giant, and it burns with a terrible heat; but my fish telepathy shall defeat you.” Golden circles fly from Aquaman’s head, and across the world, all that lives in water goes still. His mind fills with a terrible understanding; buoyed on the primitive thoughts of ten billion billion forms of life, his thoughts transcend the mortal coil, and he sees the world with new eyes.

“I know you,” he says to Surt, in a language ancient before the world was born.

Surt inclines his head, mocking. “Before this battle,” he says, “I knew of your legendary attainment; and so for generations, I have spoken to the fish. This is the measure of my triumph: the anglers of the deep, in exchange for my light, have sold your fish telepathy; and when I snap my fingers, . . .”

He snaps his fingers. The communion of the ocean dissolves; the terrible sword of Aquaman’s intellect breaks; and he stands, puny and unarmed, before the most terrible of beasts.

“I knew it would be so,” murmurs Aquaman, “and I have seen my death; but I have also seen beyond it. I am content.”

The sword of Surt cuts through him, and the King of Atlantis falls.

“I have my batarang,” says the One-Eyed Boy Wonder, and smiles a grim and terrible smile. “Shall we dance?”

For ten days and another ten, they fight; then Surt’s sword cuts him down. Surt laughs, and touches his sword to the Plains; and the world catches fire.

“Gleek!” shrieks the monkey, and flings itself on Surt; and with blue hands catches Surt’s mouth, and rips his jaw apart; and, carrying a Bat-singularity grenade, the last gift of the fallen Wonder, he dives down the giant’s throat.

So it ends, and so it has always ended; and in the days afterwards, the few survivors shall restore the world; and all shall live in peace and abundance, until the dark days come again.

2 thoughts on “Ragnarok

  1. Ragnarok gets its own button because I don’t want it as part of the main archive any more, but it’s popular enough that I didn’t want to just shove it into the pile of deleted posts.

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