The Two Faces of Evil
PART THREE: DARKEST
What a shock it had been to discover that the impostor actually existed!
So The God had been telling the truth after all.
Emanon stalked back into the waterlogged tomb chamber. His flood of
destruction was quickly eating away at the stone and seeping inside the
pyramid. He still had time to escape, but there was one more thing to be done
before leaving this miserable place.
The water was knee-deep and quite cold, but this did not bother Emanon.
Stepping up the dais with graceful ease, he approached the cauldron and knelt
at its base.
His wait was not long. In three corners of the room the grotesque statues'
eyes began glowing a crimson red. As Emanon watched, the statue that had been
destroyed resurrected itself, slowly but surely rebuilding the monstrous form
until the stone beast was exactly as it had been before. Now numbering four,
these hideous beings together took on a life force like nothing ever known by
mere mortals. The entire pyramid seemed to quiver in fearful acknowledgement
of this awakening power.
Emanon was impressed. Here was a state he wished to strive for with every
fiber of his being, and with the help of The God, he would soon take his place
as the rightful Ever-Living. The guardsmen of Set were granting him their
blessing. It was a good omen.
Bolts of red energy from the statues' eyes shot into the cauldron, which
instantly came to a boil as it announced His arrival. Emanon had to shield
his own eyes from the blinding white flash that suddenly erupted. When he
looked up once more, he found himself staring into a pair of fiery ruby eyes
exactly like his own. The God, Set Himself, had come at last.
"So, you have seen for yourself that I spoke the truth. Think you I am not
sent to aid you still?"
Emanon rose to his feet, ignoring the chill of his soaked clothing. Though
Set had not given him leave to do such, as He demanded subservience of His
minions, he was assured leniency in this case. They shared a common bond.
Both of them were inevitably bound for a rendezvous with destiny--Set
regaining His throne as the Supreme Ruler of the universe, and Emanon becoming
His Ever-Living consort. He addressed The God with great respect. "You were
right. The impostor seeks my destruction."
Set's eyes shone a fierce shade of red. His mouth twisted into an ugly leer.
"Of course. It is as I have said. Only when this thieving wretch has been
eliminated will you know the sweetness of your destiny."
Emanon was fully prepared to do whatever it took. "What must I do to stop
The God's eyes closed briefly and then reopened. He fixed Emanon with a
burning gaze but kept silent for a few moments, prolonging the intensity of
their meeting. Emanon was strongly tempted to press Him for the answer, but
held his curiosity in fast check. It would not do to anger Set with
impatience. That kind of insolent behavior was not worthy of a future Ever-
And so he waited.
"Find my Heart," Set told him now. "It is the key to reclaiming your
Upon hearing this Emanon was unable to contain his surprise. The God was
offering him His Heart! The greatest of all powers! "Where is it! How can I
wield Your might effectively, oh Generous One?" he gasped.
"The false Ever-Living one knows where it is. He has imprisoned it in this .
. . " Set trailed off and brought forth His hands. He cupped them together
and they both watched as an image formed above them. Emanon peered closer.
The God's ethereal presence was warming him uncomfortably, but he said
nothing, and studied what Set was showing him.
The image of a perfect cube, no more than perhaps four inches big around and
onyx black, materialized. At first glance the object was deceptively
simplistic in appearance. But when one looked closer it was obvious that
nothing less than the highest craftsmanship was in evidence here. The cube
was covered with tiny golden lines that crisscrossed and intersected across
its entire mass. The painfully thin lines were so finely, deeply etched into
the shiny onyx that it was easy to believe this creation had come not from
mere mortal imagination, but from a divine one instead. Looking at these
lines, Emanon realized that the cube was actually an ancient puzzle box, born
of the highest sorcery. He eagerly leaned towards The God to see more.
Most of the strange designs on this magic box were unrecognizable to
Emanon, but he could see a few familiar ones. There was the story of the
great battle between Horus and Set in miniature hieroglyphics along the
corners, the faces of His guardsmen on each of the four panels, and centered
at both ends, Waadjet's double-headed cobra of infinity.
Emanon scrutinized this last design carefully, for this was the very same one
he, Set, and the impostor shared. Their lone common bond. Except, of course,
that the enemy mage-priest had degraded the sacred symbol and flaunted it
mockingly in the face of The God, while Emanon had been forced to languish
inside the torturous pit called Genvironment. Exiled underneath a kingdom he
was meant to rule.
Thinking of all the misery he had suffered at the hands of the wicked General
Byron Kembri rekindled Emanon's fury. It wasn't fair! How dare this phony
mage rob him of his real life and deny any wrongdoing! Emanon was instantly
suffused with an almost uncontrollable desire to find this mage-priest and
smash every bone in his body. Unconsciously he clenched his fists and ground
his teeth in a fit. A savage snarl rose in his throat, but before he could
give voice to it Set spoke sharply. "Be calm, Emanon. Conserve all that
violence for the proper time."
"Did you see what his mangy mongrel did to me!?" Emanon screamed angrily. He
touched the spot on his shoulder where Ma-Mutt had bitten him. "Were it not
for my powers that beast could have killed me!"
"The dog is not your concern! Mumm-Ra is the one you need to worry about,
fool! If he recovers the Heart first and learns how to use it neither of us
will survive!" Set bellowed.
The harsh, resonant tone tempered Emanon's tide of rage and brought his
attention back to The God. "I shall find Your Heart, Master," he hissed in a
low voice, unable to keep his frustration from Set's notice. "I will succeed!
I swear it!"
"Caution, Emanon." Set narrowed his burning red eyes. "You have yet to
learn its value. The false Ever-Living is quite powerful in his own right.
He wishes to augment his magic with mine. Even now he will be searching for
it . . . and the way . . . to open my Heart and release its vengeful power.
When you two next meet you must strike!"
The God's thundering voice boomed throughout the cavernous chamber. His
guardsmen's own eyes blazed and they repeatedly roared His name in triumphant
howls. "SET! SET! SET! SET! SET! SET! SET!" Below the cauldron churned
and splashed its magical waters in accordance with Set's fury. Emanon, in awe
of this spectacular display, humbly knelt upon the dais once more.
"Get the Heart, Emanon."
Emanon looked up at The God. How identical they were, he thought, and
yet no two beings could ever be more unalike each other. Such a shame that
they weren't, for Emanon considered The God his sole kin.
"Only my Heart will give you the power you need to return to your glory.
Set's visage faded and left the chamber in its usual darkened state. The
statues of His guardsmen became motionless again.
Emanon got to his feet, heedless of the waters that continued to pour
into the pyramid. Water level was now rising faster than before, lapping at
the edges of the dais. But Emanon was lost in his own frantic thoughts.
The God was indeed wise. Whoever held in his hand the power of the Heart
of Set would be invincible for all eternity, truly an astonishing force to be
reckoned with. "You have spoken, Great One," Emanon said to himself. "And I
Look out, Mumm-Ra!
"He's coming around!"
"Well give him some room, for Jaga's sake!"
"Hush, you two!"
The muted whispers stirred him further awake. Mumm-Ra opened his eyes,
blinking a few times to focus them, and saw Wilykit, Wilykat, Cheetara, and
Lion-O hovering over him. What in the name of all the ancients were
Thundercats doing in his pyramid? And then he remembered: the flood. The
Thundercats must have come looking for him in the midst of it.
"Hello, Mumm-Ra. Welcome back to the world of the living, if you'll
excuse the pun," Cheetara said with a wry smile.
Confused, Mumm-Ra stared at them. "How long have I been out?" he
croaked. His throat still hurt a bit from Emanon's chokehold.
"Six days," Lion-O said.
Six days! Mumm-Ra reeled. In less than half that amount of time Emanon
could have easily located and destroyed him. Though his senses were
drastically weakened, he still retained enough of them to know that the double
was out there somewhere, searching for his prey. This was the worst possible
predicament for him to be in. He struggled to sit up but a vicious flash of
pain flared from his foot to his hip, and he flopped back against the pillows,
"Stay put, okay? No one's going to harm you." Cheetara moved closer,
giving him an odd look. Mumm-Ra eyed her suspiciously. He had the uncanny
feeling she knew exactly what circumstances had brought him back to Cats'
Lair. Given her extrasensory talents, he wouldn't have been surprised if she
"Your ankle's broken," Lion-O told him. "It had to be set, so don't move
if you can help yourself." He was also studying Mumm-Ra intently. "I know
this is not the place you really want to be right now, but you need a chance
"Should we tell him?" Wilykat piped up.
All heads turned at the teen's question. Lion-O scrunched his brows
together, looked from him to Mumm-Ra, then to Cheetara, who nodded. "All
right," Lion-O sighed reluctantly.
I don't think I'm going to like this, thought Mumm-Ra, but he asked Lion-
O anyway, "Tell me what?"
Lion-O chewed on his lower lip. He actually looked rather nervous, which
surprised Mumm-Ra because he'd hardly ever seen his old foe act as such.
Lion-O had one of the most confident minds he'd encountered and wasn't easily
flustered. Mumm-Ra decided that he was definitely not going to like whatever
news was about to be broken.
"Actually, I have to show you first," Lion-O said. "I'll be back." He
backed out of the room, watching Mumm-Ra with hooded eyes.
"What does he have to fear? I'm too weak to pose a threat to you
Thundercats," Mumm-Ra said to Cheetara. It was the truth. Never had he felt
so drained in ages. He looked down at his injured foot, which had had a
splint fitted onto it and was bundled in gauze. The rest of his body ached,
like someone had taken a hammer and pounded him repeatedly with it. It
suddenly occurred to Mumm-Ra that he apparently was so depleted of energy he
hadn't even been able to revert to his lesser form. He was still in warrior
mode. That hadn't happened to him before, since once his energy was spent he
was always forced to return to the sarcophagus in order to replenish it.
Fighting Zaxx, then Lion-O in the Book of Omens, and tangling with his clone
had worn him down to complete exhaustion.
Mumm-Ra closed his eyes. This was without a doubt the worst event in his
ever-living life, and it wasn't over yet, not by a long shot, if Lion-O's
reaction was a good indication of more trouble to come.
Cheetara's voice interrupted his thoughts. "When you see what he has to
show you, you'll understand why we're so concerned."
Mumm-Ra snapped his lids open and found himself staring directly into a
pair of amber eyes. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"All this really weird stuff's been happening," Wilykat informed him.
"Like, the computers spit out a bunch of printouts that don't make any sense.
And Cheetara keeps having these goofy dreams."
Mumm-Ra felt an unpleasant tingling in his spine. "Your sixth sense?"
"Yes." She met his questioning gaze head-on.
"And these dreams are of me?"
"Yes. Some of them, anyway."
His heart beat just a little bit faster and he decided to go for broke.
"You saw him in a dream, didn't you? The twin?" Mumm-Ra demanded.
"Emanon," Cheetara said quietly.
That lone word was enough to clear any doubt Mumm-Ra had about the twin's
existence. "You do realize that this thing is still out there, don't you?"
Cheetara nodded. "That's what we figured." She leaned closer to him.
"Jasu didn't break through its underground dam, did it, Mumm-Ra?"
She knew. Mumm-Ra wasn't sure whether to be alarmed or impressed with
the swiftness of her deductive powers. "No." He paused. "Emanon did it."
Cheetara looked at him funny for a while. Then she left the bedside and
wandered over to the window. Mumm-Ra wanted to ask her what else that keen
sixth sense of hers had discovered, but before he got the chance Lion-O
returned to the room.
He was carrying a stack of binders and the Book of Omens. The book he
placed on a dresser nearby. The binders he brought to Mumm-Ra. "These are
our readouts for the past six days. We track everything that happens on New
Thundera, be it natural . . . or not." Mumm-Ra accepted the first thick
binder that Lion-O offered him and paged through it. He saw thousands upon
thousands of jumbled symbols crammed into every line of the copy.
"This is ancient Latin. And here, this--" he pointed to a series of
angled stick-like shapes--"this is Arabic." He skimmed across another
section. "This is First Earth Egyptian." Mumm-Ra was startled. "Where in
the name of Amon did all this come from?"
"That's what we hoped you could tell us," Lion-O said. "Can you read any
Mumm-Ra traced one of the lines with the tip of his finger. "Some of it.
A lot of these inscriptions look like they were before my time. First Earth
was known to have had many ancient languages that dated back millions of
years. A few were nearly undecipherable." He squinted at a choppy sentence.
"Roughly translated, this one reads, 'Thy enemies shall know the smite of my
vengeance, and will be cast unto the depths of darkness from whence they
rose.'" He fixed Lion-O with a scowl. "I have absolutely no idea why your
computers would start printing these languages. That is why I refuse to deal
in technology. Too much room for error." He shrugged and tossed the binder
"Computers are only as good as the person who's using them," Wilykit
pointed out. "And none of these printouts appeared until after Lion-O and
Cheetara rescued you."
That got Mumm-Ra's attention. "Are you saying I had something to do with
"Possibly," Lion-O said. "Understand that we're not accusing you of
anything, Mumm-Ra. We just want to know what's going on here."
"So do I," Mumm-Ra snapped, irritated now. "I take it you know about my
unwanted twin?" Lion-O bobbed his head affirmatively. "Then you know that
your literary collections here are the least of my worries. I have the
Ancient Spirits of Evil breathing down my neck, a psychotic double stalking me
around New Thundera, and there's nothing I can do while I'm laid up weaker
than a baby!"
"I'm glad you brought this 'twin' up," Lion-O said. "He may tie into the
next part of this oddity." He picked out another binder, surprisingly thin
and containing just a few photographs, and handed it to the priest. "Check
Sighing exasperatedly, Mumm-Ra flipped it open and was puzzled when he
saw what the pictures were of. "Who is he?"
"Baron Taas. He came with Thor to help treat your foot."
Wondering what a Thunderian had to do with him, Mumm-Ra turned the page
to view the next picture and got a nasty shock.
The new photo showed what was left of the baron's body in a pool of blood
strewn across the floor of his bedroom. Whoever had taken the picture must
have possessed a skilled sense of aesthetics, for the subject was revoltingly
detailed in its savaged state. The baron had thoroughly been disemboweled,
and judging from the expression of intense agony on his contorted face, while
he was alive. Entrails, lying in a bloody heap next to the large corpse,
appeared to have literally been torn out of the abdomen. Ugliest of all were
the baron's eyeless sockets. His eyes were hacked out.
Mumm-Ra was sickened by the torturous manner in which Baron Taas had met
his end. Swallowing a lump in his throat, he looked up at Lion-O. "You think
I killed this man?"
"You couldn't have. The murder took place two days after you were
brought to Cats' Lair. You were out like a light," Lion-O said. "But look at
the next photo."
Expecting another graphic shot of the baron's corpse, Mumm-Ra hesitantly
turned the page. There on a nightstand were the baron's missing eyes, a white
pair of red-stained orbs placed side by side so that the brown irises were
deliberately facing something. He was careful not to look too deeply into
them for fear of seeing the same hellish vision Baron Taas had seen.
"The last page is the most significant one," Lion-O said.
Silently Mumm-Ra flipped to the final piece of the gory exhibition and
froze. A look of abject horror suffused his face as a flash of insight told
him exactly what part the baron's eyes were meant to play in this sadistic
Lion-O took in his reaction with apprehension. "There's that, and then
this." He brought forth the Book of Omens now. Mumm-Ra stared mutely at him.
Lion-O opened the book but did not turn any pages in it just yet. "Last night
I was reading a section when the book started flipping its own pages, right
down to the end. That page was blank." He paused, then said softly, "As I
watched, a sketch formed."
"Show me," Mumm-Ra whispered.
Lion-O pushed the pages back to the very last one and held the book up so
Mumm-Ra could see its picture. The priest's earlier expression paled
drastically in comparison with the one that appeared now. Wilykat stepped
forward. "Hey Mumm-Ra, are you okay?" he asked uneasily.
In answer Mumm-Ra fainted dead away. Kat looked over at the image in the
Book of Omens that had elicited such a terrified response from him. "Holy
Thundera! That's the box!" He started for the door. "I'd better go call
Jagara and ask her to check on it!"
"Wait a sec, Wilykat." Wilykit reached for the binder with the pictures
detailing Baron Taas's murder. She studied the last one closely. "Maybe this
is what freaked him out." She passed her brother the binder. Kat gulped as
he took in the blood-spattered wall. On it a single word was written in huge
dark red capitals: SETUUSEKHT. Below that, the double-headed cobra insignia
Mumm-Ra wore on his chest was crudely rendered.
"It's official. We've got trouble, Thundercats," Lion-O said.
No one argued with him.
“No. No. Oh gods, no,” Mumm-Ra keened softly. A dark coldness pervaded his
bones. He hadn’t had The Dream in ages! What in Amon’s name had triggered
The end of your dynasty.
Mercifully, he hadn’t followed The Dream to its bloody conclusion this time.
But that didn’t make it any easier, since he always knew exactly how it ended,
in excruciating detail. And once he’d begun remembering it was too late to
prevent the flood of memories. They came surging back with a vengeance.
“No,” he moaned as ugly images swam before his eyes. Biting his lip, he
squeezed them shut and held back a tormented cry, willing the memories to go
Die, die, die, die!
Flash of a sword moving lightning-quick through the air. Torrents of blood
cascading to the floor in a red, red river.
“Stop it,” he whispered. But the only answer was silence.
Stay and watch, Rani! Watch me cut your daddy up into Nile fish bait!
Mumm-Ra shuddered and curled up into a ball, heedless of his injured ankle.
And when I’m done with him, you’re next!
A tap on his shoulder spooked him. “Mumm-Ra?”
He shrieked and nearly rocketed from the bed when he realized that it was not
his uncle, but Wilykat visiting at this late hour. He stared at the boy with
wide ruby eyes, not trusting himself to speak without breaking down.
“Hey, you okay?” Kat asked sympathetically. “Did you have a nightmare?”
If you only knew, boy, if you only knew, thought Mumm-Ra. He nodded slowly.
“What was it about? Demons?” Again Mumm-Ra nodded. Wilykat assumed he meant
supernatural demons, but in a sense, the visions that haunted him really were
demons. The kinds that no spell, no incantation, no wish would ever dispel.
Wilykat plopped onto the bed. “Well, I hope you don’t have another one.” He
looked down at his hands, intertwining his fingers. “I have nightmares too,
so I understand what it’s like to be scared out of your wits by them.” He
pulled his legs up and sat Indian-style, facing Mumm-Ra. “I dream about my
parents . . . well, about missing them, actually.”
“You lost them too?” the priest asked waveringly.
“Yeah. Kit and I never knew who they were. We just always assumed that the
Thundercats were our family. They still are, of course,” Kat hastened to
say. “But it’s not the same thing as having a real mom and dad.” He picked
at a cuticle. “I always have these dreams that Kit and I are wandering around
a desert-like void, only we’re not alone. All these couples are traveling
back and forth, and we cross paths with them all the time. Not by choice,
though. See, they come to us and tell us that they’re our real parents and
that they gave us up to the Thundercats because we’d be safer. But it always
sounds like a load of nonsense to us, so we ignore them and move on.”
Curious now and having temporarily forgotten his own fears, Mumm-Ra asked,
“Where’s the nightmare?”
Kat looked him square in the eye as he said, “My nightmare is that out of all
these people, we’ve actually come across our real parents but didn’t know it,
and we were so suspicious that we turned them away. And once we abandoned
them, they would never come back.”
A few minutes of silence ensued between them before Kat asked, “What’s yours?”
Mumm-Ra played dumb. “Mine?”
“Come on,” Kat cajoled. “I told you mine, now you tell me yours. What has
the great Mumm-Ra the Ever-Living quaking in his bandages at night?” The
Thunderkitten’s tone was teasing, but there was genuine concern in his eyes.
Mumm-Ra closed his eyes, feeling a headache beginning to drill into his
forehead. “I’d rather not say. It’s too . . .”
“Vivid.” Opening his eyes, he said, “I don’t want to be held responsible for
giving the Thunderkids bad dreams.”
“But trying to whack us doesn’t bother you?” Wilykat laughed, but there was no
malice in his voice. “You are one weird tamale, Mumm-Ra.”
“Thanks a lot.”
“Anytime.” Kat yawned and stretched his arms above his head. “Was it really
“Was what gory?”
Kat rolled his eyes in a grownups-can-be-such-blockheads look and said, “The
“None of your business,” Mumm-Ra snapped. “Anyone ever tell you you’re too
nosy for your own good?”
“Every day. Come on, Mumm-Ra, gore doesn’t bug me. I’ve seen every Nightmare
On Hellm Street movie. I’ve seen the Helloween series, the Fryday the 13th
series, the Evil’s Dead series, you name it. There is nothing, I mean
nothing, that I can’t handle when it comes to guts and gore,” Kat bragged.
Mumm-Ra had absolutely no idea what Wilykat was babbling about, but still, he
wasn’t about to divulge the contents of his nightmare to a teenager who
professed to be able to handle a good deal of blood. Besides, it was much too
personal. “This kind of gore would bother you. Forget it. There are some
things you can go through life without knowing.”
“Was it about your family?”
That hit home. By the pained look in Mumm-Ra’s eyes Kat knew he’d scored.
“You had a family?” he asked, surprised.
“Yes, I had a family!” the priest shot back. “Is that so shocking? Everyone
had to come from somewhere.” He glared balefully at Kat.
“Hey, I didn’t mean it like that.” Wilykat held up his hands in mock self-
defense. “I just always thought you’d spent your life as . . . well, as the
devil priest. No offense, Mumm-Ra, but after the wild stunts you’ve pulled in
the past, it’s kinda hard for some of us to envision you as, uh, a family
guy. Not that that’s totally inconceivable,” he added quickly when he saw the
scowl on Mumm-Ra’s face deepen. “Are you mad at me for prying?” Kat asked
Mumm-Ra sighed. It was impossible for him to get upset at Wilykat’s beguiling
young face. Perhaps that was what had reminded him earlier of himself. “No,
I’m not mad.” Pause. “I find your honesty rather refreshing, really. No
one’s dared speak to me like that in years.”
“How come? Were they scared you’d chop off their heads?” Kat grinned.
Mumm-Ra had to smile at his choice of words. “No, they were afraid of my
casting a curse on them.” They both laughed at that.
Another five minutes of companionable silence passed when Kat asked again,
“Will you ever tell me about your nightmare at all?”
Unexpectedly Mumm-Ra felt a knot in his throat. He swallowed hard and said
softly, “Perhaps one day . . . if I survive . . . when you’re older . . . it’s
too much for a young mind to comprehend without being driven insane, really it
is . . .” His eyes were downcast. “Please believe me, Wilykat, when I say to
you that this is one nightmare I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Not even you
Kat quietly digested this. “That bad, eh?” he said after a while.
“Wow.” That single word summed up the situation neatly to both of them.
Wilykat looked out the window. He felt sorry for Mumm-Ra. He hadn’t meant to
purposely prolong the dredging up of painful memories. Yet Tygra and Cheetara
had told him that talking about them was the only way to heal such wounds.
Bottling bad feelings up inside only contributed to bad-ass ulcers, according
to Cheetara, not to mention other such ailments, which was obviously what
Mumm-Ra had spent his life doing. Then again, he supposed, when you were an
ever-living devil priest, opportunities for confession probably didn’t come
along all that often. He felt a measure of pride that Mumm-Ra had trusted him
enough to confide even this small amount of information to him, a mere
teenager. As far as he was concerned, from now on they had a bond. “Hey, you
“You know who would be able to help you work on getting rid of your
“Yep, our resident psychic. I bet if you asked her to root out your
nightmares she’d help you.”
Mumm-Ra’s response was automatic. “Why would she want to help me?”
“Why not? As long as you asked her nicely. Maybe bring her some white
chocolate as an extra incentive,” Kat winked at him. “She loves white
chocolate. Especially if it has walnuts in it.”
“And when I gave her the chocolate she’d check it for poison, no doubt,” Mumm-
Ra said darkly. “Then she’d tell me to drop dead.”
“Jeez, you’re a real optimistic,” Kat said sarcastically. “And you’re already
Shrugging, Mumm-Ra said, “I’m a born pessimist. I can’t help seeing the
negative side. I used to be evil, remember?”
Unimpressed, Kat said, “So? I fantasize about kicking Kerry Cougarin’s butt.
Doesn’t mean I’m going to go out and try it.”
“Who’s Kerry Cougarin?”
“This jerk Kit and I have to go to tutoring with. Kerry thinks he’s hot snot
just because his dad’s a retired First Officer of Thundera. He pisses Kit off
every time he hits on her. The reason I don’t stomp his butt into the ground
is because he’d do it to me first. The guy’s twice my size and has plenty of
muscle to back up his threats. He’s got cougar blood, after all. That’s one
of the strongest Thunderian kinds.”
“So you have to take his bullying,” Mumm-Ra ascertained.
“Yup. Put up and shut up, essentially. Ah well, at least we’ve only got six
more months of him. I was afraid his transfer wouldn’t go through. He brags
about having been kicked out of three tutoring programs already. Once for
truancy and twice for fighting. I heard from Kit’s history teacher that this
time he was caught trying to torch the building so he wouldn’t have to come
over the weekend.” Kat shivered. “I’m telling you, Mumm-Ra, you want a
nightmare, Kerry’s it.”
Mumm-Ra’s heart went out to him. Bullying was something he was all too
familiar with. “What do your friends say when you tell them he bothers you?”
Kat wrinkled his nose. “Aw, they only blow it off. Well, no, they don’t do
that. They tell us to ignore him or report him to the dean. They mean well,
but they wouldn’t be saying that if they saw what Kerry did to the last guy
who reported him. Kerry gave him a bloody nose and knocked out three of his
Appalled, Mumm-Ra asked, “Isn’t there anything you can do to protect yourself
from this boy?”
“Bring him five bucks every tutoring day. He threatened to pulverize my face
if I didn’t.”
“Bastard.” Unable to resist the impulse, Mumm-Ra leaned over and hugged
Wilykat, who, much to his surprise, returned the hug fiercely. “Ouch! Watch
“It’s okay,” Mumm-Ra sighed as he rubbed his aching chest. “You shouldn’t
have to put up with such a creep.”
“Yeah, tell me about it. I’ve almost cleaned out my bank account. Kit’s the
only other one who knows. I’m screwed by the end of this month if I don’t
cough up some cash.” Kat sighed and scratched his head.
“Wilykat, when I’ve finished recovering my strength-“ here Mumm-Ra mentally
added to himself and when I’ve dealt with this Emanon and the Ancient Spirits
of Evil-“if there is some way I can help you stop this Kerry Cougarin, I will,
if you like.”
“That would kick ass!” Kat jumped up and swung his fist in the air. “You’ll
scare the piss out of him! Uh, pardon my French.” He leered at the priest.
“Make up a really freaky spell. Like, turn him into something gross. Just
don’t kill him, though. Y’know?”
“I understand,” Mumm-Ra nodded. “I’ve done it before, but I won’t with
Cougarin. Since you ask it of me.”
“You mean you’ve killed other bullies before?” Kat gaped at him.
“Yes. They were very bad men who deserved it though. Murderers themselves.
If you can overlook the fact that I was a slave to the Ancient Spirits of Evil
and was compelled to destroy those they deemed a threat, otherwise I don’t
harm anyone unless they give me a reason to.” Mumm-Ra’s ruby gaze was
steady. “Sometimes, boy, you have to be just as merciless as the enemy.
Otherwise they will destroy you.” He thought about Durakkon’s advice to pay
close attention to Wilykat and wondered what weapon the boy could possibly
possess that might be used against Emanon. The more the priest thought about
it, the more he felt that it was maybe not so much an actual weapon that the
Thunderkitten had, but more the courage and spirit to help bolster his own
sagging morale. Certainly, those traits were very valuable weapons, sometimes
more so than any sword or spell.
But the Heart was part of the mystery surrounding Emanon, and all the courage
and spirit in the world wouldn’t count for anything if Set’s wrath was freed.
Wilykat hadn’t yet said anything in response to Mumm-Ra’s words, studying the
priest with intrigue written all over his face.
“That’s a pretty harsh philosophy,” he commented finally.
“Harsh philosophies for harsh times,” Mumm-Ra said calmly. “When all is said
and done, Wilykat, the only one you can ever really depend on is yourself.
It’s all about survival.”
“Yeah, but friends sure make a big difference,” Kat pointed out. “Just look
at the Thundercats and what they’ve been able to accomplish.”
“Oh, I’m not denying that truth. But you’d be surprised at how easily some
‘friends’ betray each other. I’m not saying that you Thundercats ever would,
of course. But if it came down to a decisive crisis, who would you want
looking after your own best interests? Others, who could just as easily let
you down? Or yourself, who you know would never fail you?” Mumm-Ra shook his
head. “Self-enforced solitude may not be the most pleasant thing in the
world, but it’s certainly the safest.”
“It also sounds like the loneliest,” Kat said evenly. “I’d rather take my
chances with my friends.” Solemnly he gazed up at Mumm-Ra. “You might not
believe me, or even like hearing me say this, but . . . I’ll be your friend.
You could sure use one, I think.”
A new lump rose in Mumm-Ra’s throat, constricting it painfully. “Your trust
comes awfully easy.”
“Not necessarily. Trust has to be earned. Friendships take time to grow.
But they’re well worth all the time and hard work invested in them.” Kat
beamed at him. “Besides, if you really believed in all that solitude stuff,
you wouldn’t be letting me spout off like this, and you sure wouldn’t give a
crap-s’cuse my language-about my problems with Kerry Cougarin.”
“Perhaps you do have a point.” The priest leaned back against the pillows
cushioning him and closed his eyes. All this talking was tiring him. “You’re
a very smart young man.”
“Aw, thanks.” Wilykat shrugged self-consciously. “Okay, so we’ve done the
truce thing, now it’s time to move on. Friends?”
Exhausted, Mumm-Ra opened his eyes and looked into Kat’s enthusiastic ones.
Dare he accept this deeper foray into friendship?
What do you have to lose?
And oh, what a lovely risk . . .
“Friends,” Mumm-Ra said, meaning it with his whole being.
“Cool.” They shared a smile and a handshake.
Downstairs, Snarf’s voice echoed. “Wilykat? Wilykit? Is someone in the
“Oh shit!” Kat hissed, leaping from the bed but pausing to look back at Mumm-
Ra. “If he comes up here and asks, don’t tell him I was into tomorrow’s stew,
Mumm-Ra held up a hand. “Cross my heart and hope to die.”
Kat laughed and fled the room.
Alone once more, Mumm-Ra eased back further into the pillows. Though The
Dream had shaken him badly, somehow he was sure that sleep would come easily
to him. And it did. His eyelids lowered, flickered open briefly twice, and
then lowered for good. Before he drifted off he thought of Wilykat’s offer of
Why not? You have nothing left to lose.
Then Mumm-Ra remembered Emanon and the Ancient Spirits of Evil were after
Except your life.
When he awoke once more it was still dark. Mumm-Ra checked the luminescent
numbers on the clock and saw that he’d only slept an hour. A feeling of great
restlessness stirred within, but it was not because he was primarily a
creature of the darkness. It was an edgy, keyed-up tenseness, as though any
second disaster would strike.
Mumm-Ra gritted his teeth against the onslaught of pain and stumbled out of
bed. Maybe a short stroll down the other side of the hallway and back would
help. He found his pilfered mop by the bedside and ventured outside his room.
He traveled the hallway to the opposite end, stopping to silently debate for
fifteen minutes whether or not he should try going downstairs for the heck of
it. Curiosity got the better of him and braving the stairs one by one he
managed to make it without tumbling down.
He found himself in a luxurious recreational area. Huge bay windows admitted
illumination by the moonlight, enough for Mumm-Ra to see the whole layout of
this room. Built solely for comfort, it boasted everything from a small
kitchen area to a widespread lounge and a monitor screen with a video player.
He had to smile. No wonder the Thundercats loved this home so much. Theirs
was a fortress, true, but it was a fortress you could actually live in. The
same could never be said of his pyramid. Only Ma-Mutt’s presence had made the
dreary place tolerable.
Mumm-Ra shuffled up to the davenport and gazed out the windows. Dozens of
feet below, a breathtaking view of New Thundera greeted him. Against the
white stone of the lair everything was clearly visible, even at night, and
particularly with the five full moons of Plun-Darr casting their essences
across the land. Ghostly shadows dappled trees nearby the lair, giving them a
strangely enchanting appearance.
“Gorgeous, isn’t it?”
Mumm-Ra stiffened as he recognized Lion-O’s voice. Without turning to face
him the priest voiced his agreement. “Yes.”
“I hope you’re not thinking of jumping out those windows. The view’s too nice
to spoil with another corpse.”
Mumm-Ra whirled, heedless of the pain in his back. “Was that a crack at me,
Lion-O?” Glaring at the Thundercat Lord, he gripped the mop handle
Lion-O sighed and raked a hand through his unruly mane of red hair. “It was
my poor attempt at a joke, Mumm-Ra.”
“Sure,” sneered Mumm-Ra. “I botched my first suicide attempt, so why wouldn’t
I try again? And what better place to go out than my old enemy’s home base,”
he said bitterly. What had possessed him to confess such a thing to Lion-O,
of all people!
Lion-O gave him a pitying look. “I didn’t mean it that way, Mumm-Ra.” He
stepped past the biggest couch and motioned to the mop Mumm-Ra was holding.
“You look like you’re checking out.”
“I just might.”
“Why do you think?” Mumm-Ra shot back.
Lion-O shook his head. “Does it bother you that much, staying in Cats’ Lair?”
“That’s not what I meant and you know it.” Mumm-Ra edged away from Lion-O
even as the Thundercat leader was approaching him. “Back off.”
“I’m not going to hurt you, Mumm-Ra.”
“Famous last words.”
Lion-O stopped, hands extended. “Be reasonable, Mumm-Ra. If we wanted to do
you harm we’d have done so while you were unconscious.” He indicated the mop
again. “You’re obviously having difficulty getting around, and if I’m not
mistaken you’re also in a good deal of pain. So why don’t you crash here and
get some rest?”
Mumm-Ra shifted the bulk of his weight from the mop to his good foot, even
though he was now feeling terribly drained from his efforts. “I don’t have
time to rest. At any given moment I might have four furies or one psycho on
“This is the safest place you could be. They won’t think to look for you at
Cats’ Lair. Trust me.”
“I trust you about as much as you trust me.” A young boy’s interest in him he
could handle. But Lion-O was an adult, and therefore his equal. Being the
Lord of the Thundercats, he was also an authority figure, and in Mumm-Ra’s
eyes this was more than enough reason for distrust.
Lion-O was perplexed. He was determined to draw Mumm-Ra out of his self-
imposed armor and the priest was equally determined to keep him from
dismantling it. Keeping a firm hold on his own temper he asked, “Do you trust
anyone at all, Mumm-Ra?”
“You should know the answer to that question, Lion-O. Or do I have to spell
it out for you?” Mumm-Ra retained his defensive stance.
Lion-O continued to hold him in a direct stare. “Do you?” he repeated.
“No.” Mumm-Ra started inching backwards again. “I don’t trust anyone. I
never have. That’s how I’ve survived for thousands of years.” He bumped into
a wall and looked behind at it in surprise.
“Where are you going to go, Mumm-Ra?” Lion-O asked quietly.
Just then did Mumm-Ra truly understand how completely alone he was. He had no
refuge to retreat into. His family was long since gone, and Ma-Mutt, his only
living friend (Wilykat didn’t count because he still thought of the boy’s
interest as being merely that of a passing fancy, susceptible to the changing
whims of youth), was now dead as well. And his vengeful masters and an insane
creature with his own face were all voraciously seeking his hide. It made no
difference what planet he was on. They would surely follow him to the ends of
the universe until either, or perhaps all of them, had succeeded in destroying
The sheer hopelessness of his situation hit Mumm-Ra so hard it made him
crumple in defeat to the floor. Lion-O rushed to help him. “You’re not
supposed to be up anyway,” he scolded as he lifted the priest over his
shoulder and carried him back up to his room. Mumm-Ra was too tired and too
weak to argue with him. It was a humiliating position for him to be in, but
it beat crawling back on hands and knees, which was arguably more humiliating.
Once in the room Lion-O set him gently on the bed and pried the mop from his
fists. “Get some rest, okay? We’ll figure out what to do in the morning.”
“I’ll probably be destroyed by morning.”
“We won’t let that happen.”
“It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters anymore.”
That worried Lion-O. Mumm-Ra had the listless look of a person whose spirit
is broken, crushed into dust by the heel of life. He had always secretly
admired the devil priest’s gritty perseverance, though they fought on opposite
sides. A trait like that was rarely seen even in the best of individuals. He
laid the mop on the floor and took a seat next to Mumm-Ra. “Hey, you know the
Mumm-Ra sighed. “Which one?”
“Thundercats never surrender.”
“So? If you want to do battle with the ancient ones, or my crazy clone, I’m
not going to stand in your way.” Mumm-Ra closed his eyes. “I’ve had enough.
It’s over.” He sagged against the pillows.
Lion-O shook his head. “It’s not over till it’s over, Mumm-Ra.”
“You just don’t know when to quit, do you?”
“Never have, never will,” Lion-O said straight-faced. “Look, Mumm-Ra . . . in
all seriousness I have to say that you still have a chance. The Ancient
Spirits of Evil wouldn’t go to all that trouble to browbeat you if they
weren’t afraid of your rebellion someday, which must mean that you possess the
power to depose them. As for this Emanon, we’ll deal with him when and if he
makes his entrance.” He reached out and squeezed Mumm-Ra’s shoulder. “The
important thing is not to lose hope.”
Mumm-Ra opened his eyes and fixed Lion-O with a flat ruby stare. “Hope
doesn’t make a wish come true, now, does it?”
“True. You have to make it happen. And you can, if you want it badly
enough. You told me you never give up. Prove it. Put that stubborn backbone
of yours to good use and stick it to these Ancient Spirits of Evil.” Lion-O
got up and raised the shade on the window so that moonlight illuminated the
room. “You wouldn’t be alone in this either, Mumm-Ra. We’ll help you.”
“Why? You should have left me at the pyramid so Emanon could finish the job.
Then you wouldn’t have to bother.”
“Is your life really all that unbearable?”
“What life?” Mumm-Ra shrugged offhandedly. “The only purpose I’ve had for
thousands of years was to serve the Ancient Spirits of Evil.” He paused, then
said in a lower voice, “What there was of my mortal life wasn’t much to begin
with in the first place. I was walking dead even then.” His eyes patently
Silence reigned in the room as Lion-O mulled his words over, trying to decide
how best to proceed. He’d never really thought of his old enemy as being
vulnerable or having any other feelings besides hatred. Now he sensed that a
part of him wanted desperately to reach out and be understood, but feared
rejection, or worse, ridicule.
Lion-O looked at Mumm-Ra and saw him in a whole new light. When you got right
down to it, they weren’t so different after all. They both wanted peaceful,
fulfilling lives. Wasn’t that everyone’s basic dream? “What happened to you
that makes you feel this way?” Lion-O cautiously asked.
Mumm-Ra drew a ragged breath and glanced nervously at his old foe. He seemed
on the verge of blurting out an answer, but something in his expression
changed suddenly. Lion-O watched as he shifted his position on the bed so
that they were face to face with each other. Weakened though it was, the
priest’s body tensed for a fight or flight response. Defiant red eyes
challenged Lion-O. “Why should you care about me?” Mumm-Ra said defensively.
“You hate me.”
“I never said that.” Lion-O moved closer and Mumm-Ra shot away from the bed.
Unable to stand properly, he landed on the floor with a thud and scuttled for
the door, favoring his injured ankle. It wasn’t the kind of reaction Lion-O
had intended to provoke from him, but it was better than the vacant zombie had
been minutes earlier. He realized he still had the Sword of Omens and the
claw shield with him, so he removed the weaponry from his hip and tossed them
onto the bed, thinking to alleviate Mumm-Ra’s fear of retaliation. “I don’t
hate you, Mumm-Ra.”
The priest wilted in a crouch. “Why not? It’s not like I haven’t given you
plenty of reason to.” He huddled in a wretched heap by the dresser, studying
Lion-O warily. “What are you waiting for? This is your big chance, Lion-O.
I’m powerless to fight back. You can get even with me for all the times I’ve
tried to destroy the Thundercats.”
“I don’t believe in revenge. That’s the delight of a mean spirit.”
“Now you sound like my father.”
Lion-O’s interest was piqued. For all the Thundercats had learned of Mumm-Ra,
they actually knew him very little. Nor had anyone ever raised any questions
about his life, other than in battle context. Whenever it was suggested that
Mumm-Ra had had a life separate from his ever-living persona scores of
derogatory remarks abounded. Many were the times when Panthro and Ben-Gali,
the biggest instigators, would share an unkind joke about Mumm-Ra with the
rest of the Thundercats. Lion-O thought back to those days when he was among
the first to laugh at such jokes and felt ashamed. Mumm-Ra fought on evil’s
side, yes, but he was also a person, with the same feelings as anyone else and
just as deserving of the same consideration. In the priest’s greatest hour of
need, how could the Thundercats turn their backs on the Code of Thundera out
of a petty desire for vengeance against him?
Lion-O approached Mumm-Ra once more, albeit at a slower pace so as not to
unduly alarm him. “Is that good or bad?”
For the longest time Mumm-Ra did not speak. He brought his legs in closer to
his chest as his shoulders hunched, and bowed his head near his knees. Lion-O
remembered what he’d told Cheetara about likening Mumm-Ra to a dying animal
and decided that his comparison was way off. Despair was readily evident in
his demeanor, and there was a fragile, childlike quality to his self-
protective posture, but Mumm-Ra still had some spirit left in him. Reviving
that spirit was the problem.
Lion-O went over to the window to give Mumm-Ra some space. Perhaps if he
didn’t feel as threatened by as great a physical proximity the priest might
talk more openly in his presence. He wanted to do all that he could to
encourage him. Patience was the key here. Mumm-Ra would not say a word until
he was ready. Accepting this with more ease than he had ever thought
possible, Lion-O faced the window while he waited.
Twelve o’clock. The clock above the dresser counted its minutes past the
hour, bearing silent witness to the drama unfolding in the room. Lion-O held
his tongue; Mumm-Ra remained mute as well. Neither one moved from their
respective stations. The timepiece ticked on.
12:07. The ensuing silence was maddening. Lion-O reminded himself of what
was at stake in case the temptation to prod Mumm-Ra along became too great.
12:15. Mumm-Ra’s mind was whipping through many unanswered questions. Did he
dare trust the Thundercats? Could he really take on the Ancient Spirits of
Evil? What if he lost? What if he won? How would he start over again? What
about Emanon and his origins?
Unbidden, Lyana’s words came back to him:
Emanon is hate.
He has sworn to destroy you and all that have seen you.
Suddenly Mumm-Ra felt that he was teetering on the brink of an extremely
important discovery. He recalled every piece of information he could remember
about his fight with the twin. What was it Emanon had shouted at him?
Not what, he’d cried. It’s who. Who am I.
I don’t know who you are, Emanon, but I know that you’re a killer, Mumm-Ra
thought as the memory of the gory photos resurfaced, and a chilling idea
occurred to him. “That man who treated my ankle-“
“No. The other one you spoke of.”
“Yes.” Mumm-Ra bit his lower lip, then asked, “Was he killed too?”
Lion-O left the window and took up residence on the bed again. He looked over
at Mumm-Ra. “No. He’s working with Jagara this week at the Great Beneath.
Thor didn’t actually wrap your ankle. All he did was escort the baron here to
The priest nodded wordlessly. He decided to give his subconscious a chance to
digest that information. Revelation was bound to come sooner or later.
Preferably sooner than later, but there was nothing he could do about that. A
new and doubly horrifying thought surfaced, and he asked, “How did you come up
with that picture of that box in the Book of Omens?”
“I didn’t. It just appeared out of the blue. Spooked me too. I’ve never
seen anything so hideous,” Lion-O said. “I mean, it just had this pure evil
energy surrounding it.”
What would you say if I told you the thing really existed? Mumm-Ra wondered
Another ten minutes passed before he said anything more. “Lion-O?”
Eyes met, and held.
“My father . . . he would have liked you,” Mumm-Ra said finally.
It was all the answer Lion-O needed. He rose and walked to the dresser.
Stooping down, he offered his hand to the devil priest of First Earth. “Never
Mumm-Ra hesitated for only a second before taking firm hold of Lion-O’s
outstretched hand. “Never surrender,” he echoed.
Lion-O smiled and helped him to stand. “Get some sleep. Tomorrow we’re going
to have a little chat with the Guardian of the Book of Omens first thing in
the morning. One way or another we’ll figure this whole mess out.”
Mumm-Ra hobbled over to the bed, his arm supported by Lion-O. He reached down
and picked up the claw shield and the Sword of Omens. “Don’t forget your
Lion-O smiled as he accepted his weaponry. “Thanks.”
“Don’t leave it lying around. I have a feeling you’re going to need it.”
“When don’t I?” Lion-O sighed as he slapped the claw shield and its contents
onto his thigh.
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