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Elixer
By RD Rivero



“Elixir”
By R. D. Rivero
March 15, 2000

Sun up.  Cold morning.  Sky blackened in dense clouds, rolled, meshed
together with bursts of lightning, clasps of thunder.  In the dark
pyramid the mood was no less foreboding.  Through mazed halls, through
contorted passages -- wrapped and coiled around the eerie main chamber
-- roared the echo of Mumm-Ra’s laughter.
Dried herbs.  Powders finely ground.  Vials and tubes full of
multicolored liquids.  Vaporous distillers and blue, orange flames under
bubbling, boiling flasks.  A wild assortment of animal parts, torn,
ripped, hacked to pieces.  Metal utensils replete with blood that
glimmered in the dim light.  All those things and more artifacts too
gruesome to catalog any further adorned the cluttered workbench.
“At last!  At last!  After so long, after all this time, the elixir is
complete.”  He looked down at Ma-Mut.  The dog, in tail-wagging
excitement, strolled about the legs of the wooden table where his master
reclined in a moment of blissful adoration.
Mumm-Ra, cloaked in a deep red shoal, arose carefully.  He took a metal
cup into his folded hands.  He walked to the circular, reflecting pool
where Ma-Mut lay in wait.  “It’s taken me the better part of the year to
collect the very ingredients let alone to perform the exact
preparation.  Stripes of the tiger?  Swiftness of the cheetah?  Strength
of the panther?  Cunning of the wildcat?  How does one collect such
things?  Not objects, not merely ideas but truths, but realities.
Essences!  Beings!  Who else but I, Mumm-Ra, the Ever-Living, could have
done so?”
The dog barked in answer.  His master nodded though in understanding.
“How much longer must I suffer those Thundercats?  Came to third-earth
-- no! -- invaded third-earth, my planet, my home, with impunity?  They
have disgraced me and hindered me.  They have laughed at my losses.
They have mocked at my gains.  Thwarted my schemes.  Cooled my allies,
heated my enemies.  And what’s their reason?  Don’t I have eyes?  Don’t
I have hands?  Senses?  Affections?  Passions?  If I am wronged can’t I
have revenge?”
He looked at the metal cup, he held it in his right hand.  The left hand
he ran across the air over the calm water.  Suddenly the image on the
surface changed, altered.
“With this elixir I will turn Liono into my own servant, my own faithful
servant, my instrument in the cause of evil.  Now what’s the matter, my
pet?  You’re not jealous, are you?  Don’t you worry yourself, no
overgrown cat could ever replace you.  No.  The potion will destroy his
soul and convert him forever to the dark side.”
Mumm-Ra looked closely at the scene that played out before them.

In the woodlands around the Berbil village the kittens and Snarf were
busy rummaging and gathering fresh food supplies for that evening’s
feast.  Being Liono’s birthday and all, Snarf wanted the treats to be
extra special so he took more candy fruit than his wicker baskets could
hold.  He tried to fight the urge but -- but the old nanny simply could
not resist temptation.
“Well.  I don’t suppose it would hurt if I had one.  Snarf.  Snarf.”
Slyly, carefully, he looked to his left, he looked to his right, he
looked back, above and in front.  Neither Wileykat nor Wileykit could be
seen.  Snarf did hear them, though and he determined to his satisfaction
that the kittens were at the riverside, collecting mushrooms.
He put the candy fruit in his eager mouth and bit the end off.  He
chewed, he savored the quickly-dissolving sweet substance.  He bit
another, another and then yet another piece.  He sat down on the cool,
green grass, suddenly so tired, so overwhelmingly tired.  His head
ached.  His eyes spun.

Mumm-Ra poured the contents of the metal cup into a small and thin green
bottle, capped with a tight, a sturdy sliver of cork.  He knelt down
before the water and threw the vial in.  With a series of duds the
bottle landed next to Snarf, next to the uneaten parts of the candy
fruit he had let drop haphazardly on the ground.
“Hear me, Snarf and do not fail.  When you awaken you will take the vial
and hide it, keep it away from the others.  The Thundercats need not
know about it.  When you prepare tonight’s dinner -- when no one watches
-- you’ll dump the contents into Liono’s cup and make sure he drinks
it.  Did you hear me?  Did you understand?”

“Snarf!  Snarf!”  Wileykit prodded the sleeping Thundercat.
“What’s wrong with him?” her brother asked.  Snarf shook his head,
mumbled, mouthed unintelligible words to himself.  “I think he’s coming
out of it.”
“What was your first clue?”
“Yes.  Yes.  What?  What happened?  Snarf.  Snarf.”  Snarf sat up with
his head in his hands.  “What happened?”
“You passed out,” said Wileykit.
“You’ve been eating too much of that candy fruit.  See what happens?”
said Wileykat in a mocking lecture complete with shaking index finger.
“I’ll be the one to lecture you about overeating.  Snarf!  Snarf!”  He
was about to stand up but then he noticed the green vial, the green
bottle that blended so naturally, so perfectly to the grass on the
ground that even the kittens had not seen it.  Snarf did not know why
but he was strangely, secretly drawn to it.  The kittens began to lift
the heavy baskets to carry back to Cat’s Lair.  Their backs to him and
thus, for the moment, out of their sight, he took the small flask and
hid it on his person.  Then and only then did he get up, with a load of
candy fruit on each hand, he approached Wileykat and Wileykit.  “Panthro
should have returned with the meat already.  We should get back home
too.  Do you think you two have enough there for tonight?”
“More than enough for two banquets.  This stuff is heavy, too heavy for
us mere children to have to carry.”
“Stop complaining, Wileykat and take your fair share.  I’m not doing
anymore of your work today.”
“Complain, nag and complain, that’s all you kids are good for nowadays,
Snarf.  Snarf.”

“Enough with these scenes of tranquil idleness.  Enough!”  Ma-Mut darted
back into the recesses of the vast, sarcophagal chamber.  The reflecting
pool once again darkened.  The whole of the pyramid was deadly silent
but for the blasting thunder from outside.  “I’m giddy, yes, I’m
anxious.  I just can’t wait.  That’s all.  That’s all.  I just can’t
wait to see how all this works out.  I’m so close, Ma-Mut, I’m so
close.  To think I could be nervous at what must be my greatest hour!  I
should have done this a long time ago, my pet, it’s as if some other,
it’s as if some force higher even than me was at work here.”

Later that day, in the kitchen deep in Cat’s Lair, Snarf slaved over the
stoves and over the ovens.  He was alone and reached under his insignia
for the vial but then Liono entered.  Snarf darted back in a slight
panic.
“What’s the matter, Snarf?  You don’t seem happy to see me,” Liono said
in his sliest, in his wiliest tone.
“You scared me, snarf, snarf and what are you doing down here?”
“I came in for a snack.”  Liono picked up an orange and gently bounced
it up in the air.
“Dinner’s only an hour away, you’ll ruin your appetite.”
“But, Snarf, a small taste?”  Liono’s eyes seemed to twinkle.
“No!”
“Not even a candy fruit cookie?”
“Especially not a candy fruit cookie!  Snarf!  Snarf!  That’s for
dessert!”
“Then I’ll just sit here and watch.”  Liono pulled back one of the
wooden chairs Snarf used to climb.  The old nanny approached the Lord of
the Thundercats with a metal spatula waved, threatened in his hand.
“Liono, you’re not supposed to be down here at all.”
“Why not?”
“Because.  It’s you dinner.  It’s your surprise.  You’re not supposed to
know what it’s going to be.”  Snarf shook the spatula some more at
Liono.  Globs of hot, dense liquid spewed out into the air all over the
place, all over the otherwise clean kitchen.
Liono smiled: “All right, you old nanny!”  He playfully petted Snarf’s
head.  “I’ll leave you to your surprise.”
“That was close,” Snarf said under his breath.  “That was too close.  I
better do this now before the kittens come back.”  He took out glass
cups and began to fill them with wine.  The great cup, the cup with the
most ornate figures, the cup that was by sight alone the most valuable
was none other than Liono’s.  Snarf took out the vial, uncorked and
poured the liquid into the red wine.  Just then, just when he finished,
in came the kittens noisily.  Before they could see, before they could
ask he threw the empty bottle away into the trash.  “I’m glad to see you
two have calmed down.  Why don’t you start by putting the cups into the
refrigerator.  We’ll have to start putting the meal together soon.”

“Excellent!  Excellent!  My small accomplice has done his task well.”
Ma-Mut looked up at Mumm-Ra with the strangest appearance painted on his
face.  “You’ll wonder how I got a snarf to do evil?  That, my pet, is a
secret born of years of careful observation.  But because you asked so
nicely, I’ll tell you.  SNARFS ARE EVIL!  In this the whole universe
only hell has baser demons!  The vile.  The repugnance.  Even I,
Mumm-Ra, the Ever-Living, yes, even I an put to shame by the dastardly
miscreant degeneracy of those snarfs.”  The scene on the circular,
reflecting pool once again changed.  “Now watch.”
In the pool Mumm-Ra and Ma-Mut watched while the kittens brought out the
dinnerware:  place mats, pates, empty cups -- two for each seat --
knives, spoons, forks -- wrapped in white napkins.  Snarf himself rolled
in the carton that contained the wine bottles and the already-full glass
cups.  Wileykat and Wileykit put each cup before the seat it
corresponded to.  Snarf went back to the kitchen.
“Wait a moment.”  Wileykit stopped for a moment.
“What is it, Wileykit?”
“We did something wrong.  The cups are not arranged right.  Liono
doesn’t sit there,” she said, “he’s on the other side of Lynxo.”  She
switched the two adjacent cups.
“Are you sure?”
“I’m positive.”
Snarf returned with yet another carton that time full of food.  “Why
don’t you kids bring up the rest of the food from the kitchen.  Snarf.
Snarf.”  The kittens left the room heatedly arguing about something or
other.  Snarf took one last walk around the table.  “Those darn kids!
What are they up to?  Liono doesn’t sit over here.  What?  Have they
been blind all these years?”  He switched the fancy, ornate cup with
Lynxo’s simple glass.  “I should be careful what I say, shouldn’t I?
Snarf.  Snarf.”

“It’s time.  It’s time.  The Thundercats are coming in.  First Liono, of
course.  Second Cheetara.  See how she’s permanently attached under his
arm.  The thoughts, how I’m sickened by the thoughts.  Panthro and
Tygra.  Should we be surprised that those two have come together as one
as third?  Bengali and Pumyra.  Well, at least there are some
Thundercats over in the Liter Box with enough sense of moral decency.
Honestly, that I should be the one to point out such things?  What would
Jagga have said?  Yes, I know, my pet, Lynxo follows last.  Each sits at
their -- what? -- what?  Where’s that Snarf?  Where’d that Snarf go to?
No, Ma-Mut, Liono’s sitting in the wrong place.  It’s Lynxo who’s got
the potioned cup!”

The kittens returned to the dinning room with the rest of the meal.
Snarf was no where to be seen so they took it upon themselves to serve
the adults.  Wileykit was surprised that her cup-switch had been
undone.  While she and her brother waited the table she commented to
Liono.
“You know that’s your cup over there,” she said.
“I thought you and your brother were playing a joke on me.”
“No.  Snarf must have done something to how we arranged the table.”
“Let Lynxo keep the glass, let him have the honor.”  Lynxo nodded in
appreciation.  “That old nanny!  Where is he anyway?”
“He was here the last time we saw him,” said Wileykat.
“It wouldn’t be right to go on without him.  This is his work, after
all,” Tygra said.
“Agreed,” Liono responded.  “Why don’t you two go find him.  We won’t
start until you all come back.”  The kittens left the room quietly.
The adults began to converse freely.
“Since Snarf is not exactly a drinking-man and since the kittens are too
young for that sort of thing,” Lynxo said, “I don’t see why we should
wait for this.”  He lifted his cup -- actually Liono’s cup -- and the
others followed.  “I’m a humble man, not prone to too many words, but
for this occasion I’ll diverge from my usual temperament.  The past year
has been one of the most peaceful, if not indeed the most peaceful,
tranquil and just that third-earth has had in too long a time to be
remembered.  With the Lunatics and with the Mutants exiled in Limbo and
with Mumm-Ra pent-up in his little pyramid for the time being we can
expect more of the same and for all the more, much more we have to give
thanks to our Lord of the Thundercats, not in timid, not in meek terms
but with full force of feeling and affection.  There is no doubt that
our Liono is the greatest incarnation f his long line of descendants.
Happy birthday, Liono and may there be more to come that just these mere
twenty-five years.  Thundercats Ho!  All hail Lord Liono!”  The others
stood and gave the requisite three cheers.  Each tapped he rim of the
glass cup to the rim of the others until all around the table touched in
an echoing polyphony of ringing chiming.

“The elixir was meant for Liono.  There’s no telling what will happen if
anyone else drinks it.  There’s no -- wait -- wait, this might be even
better!”

The Thundercats in the room drank a few sips of the wine.  From
somewhere in Cat’s Lair came the sound of screaming, violent screaming.
“It’s the kittens!”  said Cheetara.
The adults were immediately on their feet, rushed out of the dinning
room.  The empty halls resonated with terror.  The ready Thundercats
followed the source to Snarf’s bedroom.  Wileykat and Wileykit knelt
before Snarf’s hanging corpse.
“What happened here?”  Liono asked in disbelief.  He saw a piece of
paper stuck to his dead, old nanny’s hand.  “It’s a suicide note.”  He
looked stunned at the others when he took the sheet.  He walked out of
the cramped room in stunned silence.  “‘I’m not the do-gooder you all
think you all know.  From the beginning I’ve been involved or have
directly orchestrated one plot after the next to kill Liono and user in
the final destruction of the Thundercats.  Snarf.  Snarf.  I tampered
with the suspension capsules when we left Thundera.  Liono was supposed
to age rapidly and die but we didn’t make it that far.  Since then I’ve
done more horrors and evils.  Even today.  I poured a vial of poison
into Liono’s cup.  I wish I could get off my chest everything that I’ve
done over the years but there’s not enough paper and I don’t have enough
time.  Snarf.  Snarf.  Good-bye, I guess.’”
“Lynxo drank from your cup,” said Tygra.  He was the only one who
approached.
“Have him checked out.  Check this all out to make sure.”
A detailed search of the kitchen had produced a green vial lined within
in an unknown toxin whose traces were also found in the wine in Liono’s
cup.  Lynxo showed no signs of danger at first but none the less the
others were worried.  While Tygra and Pumyra looked after the old
Thundercat in one of the medical rooms, Cheetara counseled the kittens.
Wileykat and Wileykit were so especially traumatized by what they had
seen that they could not sleep so she promised them she would spend the
whole night curled in bed in between them.  Liono was also unable to
sleep.  He did not what to talk to anybody.   He spent time in Snarf’s
empty room mulled in heated questions unanswerable by the
irreversibility of time and by the disfiguring, distorting action of
time.  Meanwhile Panthro and Bengali took it upon themselves to dispose
of the traitor:  with kicks and bashes the two dumped the dead snarf
into a quarry of quicklime.

“Look at the bright side.  I may not have been able to take down Liono
but at the least I got to bump off two Thundercats anyway.”  Ma-Mut
barked once.  “Yes, I will take the credit for Snarf’s death.  After
all, if not for his involvement in my plan would he have hanged
himself?  I think not.  I know now what’s going to happen to Lynxo.  I’m
so excited and I can’t hide it.  The elixir was too strong, too potent
for him.  You may not want to watch.”

Liono, wild-eyed and distant, entered the dark chamber where Tygra and
Pumyra stood before a bed upon which Lynxo rested.  The tiger was the
first to notice the lion’s presence.  They walked up to each other, they
hugged hard.
“How’s he doing?” Liono asked.
“Over the past ten hours his pulse and heart rate have slowed and
weakened to be almost imperceptible.  We can only tell he’s breathing by
placing a mirror up to his lips.”  The two walked to the side of the
bed.  “His hair’s fallen out almost everywhere in large bundles.  His
extremities are cold and stiff.  His eyes are covered in a dense and
cloudy film.”
“Doesn’t that happen when --”
“Yes.”  The tiger turned away for a moment.
“How?  You said he breathed?”
“I know.”
“His heart beat?”
“I know.”
“How can he be dead and alive at the same time?”
“That’s what I don’t know.”
“Tygra!”  Pumyra hovered over Lynxo’s chest with a stethoscope.  “The
heart stopped.”  The men ran to her side.  “There’s not been one beat in
the past five minutes.”
Tygra placed a mirror before Lynxo’s mouth.  Before their eyes they saw
the reflective surface fog.  The tiger dropped the mirror in shock but
quickly recovered it.  In the course of freeing it from the darkness
between Lynxo and the heavy blanket he felt that the body was ice cold
and yet the chest rose and fell steadily.
No one had either seen or heard but suddenly Cheetara materialized in
the room.  She looked down upon the scene then spoke.  “I’ve sensed
something wrong.”
“He is dead, he breathes but he is dead,” said Liono.
“Can he respond?” asked Cheetara.
“He stopped being conscious hours ago,” Pumyra answered.
“Let me look at him.”  Cheetara into Lynxo’s face and magically, to the
vocal shudders of collective horror, the features shrunk and wrinkled
rapidly.  Exposed patches of skin peeled and burst open although no
blood came forth from the gapping wounds.  The bones slowly, ever so
slowly, slowly began to poke through the outer parts of the browning,
oxidizing body.
“Wake me.  Wake me!”  All the Thundercats in the room heard the voice
clearly.  Though the lips did not move, though the tongue did not
vibrate, the voice came from Lynxo, the voice was Lynxo’s.
“For Jagga’s sake, he’s in a trance!  Is there no way to snap him out of
it?”
“No.  Liono.  There’s no way to tell what might happen.”
A thinly-veiled smile came to Cheetara’s face but she quickly erased the
smirk.
“Can’t you reach him?”  Liono pleaded.
Cheetara shook her head though she had come out of deep meditation.
“He’s in the grip of an evil I could never thwart.”
A foul stench came from Lynxo’s wide-open mouth.  Some how his jaw had
dropped while the others were turned away.  The gums were but clear
membranes tinted green, covered in globular, protruding clusters of
molds and fungi.  The tongue was black, shriveled and seemed to have
grown a mane of stringy, fleshy hairs.
The head turned, tilted up.  The eyes began to open.  Two streams of a
runny, yellow pus squirted out into the air, followed, if that sight was
not horrid enough, by the shrunken, by the hollowed-out eyes
themselves.  The grossly deformed and rotted balls landed somewhere in
the darkened folds of the blanket that covered the body.
The whole room was engulfed by death.  The Thundercats stood back with
their hands over their mouths.  Even Cheetara was shocked.
“Wake me!  Wake me.”  Everyone moved back yet further.  From the sores
that had quickly formed throughout Lynxo’s body, green and yellow
liquids trickled in oily streamed down onto dark, dense puddles on the
floor around the bed.
Pumyra could not hold her gag reflexes back any longer.  The other stood
in horror pressed up against the very walls of the medical room.  Lynxo
flailed his arms in the air until the bones shattered and his limbs fell
lifeless back down to his sides.  His legs had also moved violently, his
body rocked back and forth.  His cries to awaken him grew louder,
louder.
With another noise that sounded like a toilet flush, Lynxo turned, or
transformed or morphed into a gelatinous glob of liquefied skin, muscle,
bones.  The putrefied mass quivered on the bed, in the blanket.  The
head shook like a water balloon but still the mouth uttered the words
“wake me, wake me,” until the whole body burst in pimple form in a mess
of stomach-turning fluids:  a sea of yellow and green and brown that
literally blew-up all over the scene, onto the ceiling, the walls and
the floor.  Even the terrified spectators were doused, those who
remained anyway for Cheetara had vanished as mysteriously as she had
appeared.

Somewhere far and away an ancient mummy laughed hysterically.







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