Time Loves a Hero

The Weird of the Sailor on the White Wolf of Eternity

(with apologies to Michael Moorcock)

By John Shanahan

A Mare Inebrium Story

The Mare Inebrium being the kind of place that it was, it wasn’t all that strange to see someone standing in the doorway looking baffled. Tonight, in fact, was particularly baffling. A contingent of D’rissh were crammed tails-out in the Napoleon room. They were singing-because they were shitfaced- and all tables within eight feet of the doorway had been either abandoned or demolished. An unlucky few, who mistook the shouted phrase “Look out!” to mean “Stay right where you are; there’s a seventy pound mutated scorpion tail about to smack you upside the head!”, lay amid the table shards and puddles of spirits from twelve different worlds and at least one other dimension. At a table in the middle of the bar, all seven actors who had once portrayed the hilariously inaccurate Dr. Who in an old Earth video-drama were vehemently discussing which one had played the role best and whose memorabilia was racking up the highest sales at conventions. On top of all that, a host of eight feet tall gynocrats from the planet Diana were callously roaming from table to table mocking men and disparaging their undersized manhoods. Between bouts of androbashing, they would lament about how they never met any nice guys. A four armed sentient with two independent respiratory systems was playing a pair of saxophones, one in the style of Ornette Coleman, the other in an early Coltrane groove. Intelligent puddles of goo writhed ecstatically at the front of the stage.

Which very nicely explained why the reasonably normal-looking fellow at the top of the stairs was whipping his head back and forth with a look that was at once abject terror and the need for something that came in an enormous frosted glass, could blind a dog, and was green. So Max the bartender mixed one for him.

Bumped forward by another patron coming in, he shuffled toward the bar. Every first- timer walked the same way: feet dragging the body inexorably toward the bar, the only universally recognizable thing in the place, while the head and upper torso, generally the smarter half, tried to twist back toward the relative certainty of the door. The newcomer spun expertly away from one of the gynocrats as she started to point, with a sneer, at his crotch, gently caromed, with an apology, off a table of half a dozen symbiots from half a dozen worlds who were confusedly trying to decide who should feed off whom, and landed finally at the bar. He picked up the drink mechanically.

“New here,” Max said.

“Here,” the man repeated. He looked around again. “Here would be where?”

“The Mare Inebrium. Finest bar on Bethdish. In port for long?”

He shook his head, then shrugged, then shook his head again. He turned suddenly, a hand on his hip, and scanned the crowd.

“Looking for something?” Max asked.

He nodded. “Chaos.”

“Well, this is the place for it!” Max laughed.

The face that turned back upon the bartender was not the same baffled and bewildered face that had turned away. It was dark, with a lowered brow and tight lips. It was hard, and it was not happy.

“Chaos,” he said, “is not amusing.”

Max raised his hands. “Not a problem, sport. Drink’s on the house, okay? No harm, no foul.”

The man leaned over the bar. “I need my weapon.”

“We don’t keep weapons here, sir, and since you’ve never been here before-”

“Look again. Its there.”

Max made a mental note to mix the guy’s second drink stronger, if not fatal. He stepped back and made a show of looking up and down the bar, hoping it would satisfy the customer and he could go on with serving. Down the bar, an nonapod with an impressive credit line was waving several appendages.

“No, sir, I don’t see a-”


Big gun, comically- if not impossibly -large barrel. Big leather holster. Hanging off the CO2 spigot. There was just no way it had been there half a second before. Max lifted it carefully and set it on the bar.

The man sighed. “Gun. Shit. Damn things never work well.” He strapped the hand- cannon around his waist.

It took Max a minute to find his voice. “How did you do that?” he asked. No, that wasn’t the right question. “How did you do that?”

“My weapon’s always waiting for me. Today its a gun, last time it was a bow, next time it might be a sandwich. Who knows how they’re going to bone me next time.”

“They? Who’s they? No, wait-who are you?”

The man took a long drink. He had intended to do so for dramatic effect, as was his wont, but he hadn’t counted on the cocktail Max had banged together. First his head rocked involuntarily back-an effect of the Tincture of Muarl, which caused paralysis in six races-then shot forward, missing the bar by inches. Then came the chills. Chills were symptomatic of a judicious use of Bu-coobi’s Green Damnation, which also gave the drink its trademark color. Then the uncontrollable barking started, which only happened if the drink was mixed properly. Max always mixed properly.

He pushed the glass away and waited for his eyes to stop pulsating. He pointed at the glass, the best question he could muster.

“Its called a ‘You and Your Mother,’” Max said. “A first-timer special. Now then: who are you and how did your big-ass gun get behind my bar?”

“I told you,” he said in a slowly descending register courtesy of two shots of home- fermented whisky Max got from an unnamed source. “My weapon is always waiting for me. I show up where I’m needed. I am the Champion Ad Nauseum.”


“The Champion Ad Nauseum,” he repeated. “The Warrior Who Goes On and On. The Nonstop Hero. The Defender Whose Work is Never Done. And I’m frigging well sick of it.”

With deft hands and blinding speed, Max concocted another drink, a milder drink, a drink that didn’t require a permit to make. “On the house,” he said. Then, because it was lesson two at bartender school, he asked, “So what’s your name, Champ?”

The Champion Ad Nauseum sighed and reached for his back pocket. “I suppose we should get this out of the way now.” He pulled out a leather billfold.

“No, this one’s free,” Max said. “That’s what ‘on the house’ means.”

The other man waggled the billfold between his fingers. “Magic wallet,” he said reservedly.

It was everything Max could do not to snigger at him. “How’s that?”

“Magic wallet. Every reality brings a new identity.” Under his breath, he grumbled, “And a new frigging name.”

He opened the wallet slowly and peeked into it like he was afraid. Then he winced, and groaned, drained his drink, and laid his head on the table. “Why do they do this to me?” he whined.

Max turned the billfold over. There was an ID with a picture of the Champion Ad Nauseum, eyes dark and jaw set hard like any good hero. Beneath it was a name.

“Gallahad von Sauvage?” Max asked incredulously.

“Fuck you,” the Champion muttered. His head snapped up and he snatched the billfold back. “Every stinking time, its something ridiculous. Brotan of the Walrus Clan. Reggie One- Eye. Urkirakimchana, the Waxy-Complexioned Reaver. Gallahad von frigging Sauvage.”

Gallahad slammed his hand on the bar, then spun around and at the top of his voice shouted, “All right, which one of you fuckers is the Minion of the Guys of Chaos, huh? Let’s get it over with right fucking now. Let’s go!”

“Hey now!” Max said, reaching across the bar to grab von Sauvage by the arm. The Champion spun, and Max found himself staring directly into the deep black barrel of the big comical gun.

Regular patrons of the Mare Inebrium religiously observed two dictums. Rule One: If you pull out a weapon, be damn sure you’re going to use it immediately. Rule Two: Never, ever, threaten the bartender, because he’s the one mixing the drinks.

So perhaps it was the motion, perhaps it was the high turbo whine of the gun charging, or perhaps it was some preternatural ripple of instinct that coursed through the bar, washing over every table and warming every glass, and it said: Max is in trouble. Whatever caused it, it effected sixty-four different varieties of weapon to become trained on the back of Gallahad von Sauvage, and the sentient behind each one was half a heartbeat away from obeying Rule One.

“Its cool!” Max shouted-which was unnecessary, because the place was stone cold silent. “My friend’s a little disoriented, that’s all.”

Weapons twitched; voices grumbled, growled, and hissed.

“Next round’s on the house.”

And every weapon, save for von Sauvage’s, was holstered, scabbarded, powered down, teleported out, or folded. Max gingerly pushed the oversized barrel away from his nose.

“I’m not going to ask you to leave,” he said calmly, “but I am going to ask you, very nicely and with all due respect, to cut the shit. Strap that ass-blaster back where it belongs, enjoy your drink, and leave when you’re ready. We cool?”

von Sauvage sighed heavily and put the gun back in its holster. “You don’t understand. I can’t leave. I want to, but I can’t. The Guys of Chaos are coming.”

“Who are the Guys of Chaos?”

“At one time they were the Dukes of Chaos. Very powerful beings. Perhaps the most powerful, save me. When I was Urkirakimchana and I beat them in the War for the Inattentive City at the Cul-de-sac of Worlds, they were demoted to the Generals of Chaos. We met again when I was Larry, Prince of the Silver-Plated Castle. I bested them in the Soap Box Derby of Eternity, and they were knocked down to the Board of Directors of Chaos. A couple more incarnations, a couple more defeats, and that was pretty much it for them. They became the Guys of Chaos. At first, it was the Three Guys of Chaos, but that sounded a little redundant, since everyone knows there’s three of them.”

“I didn’t know,” Max offered.

“Diovarion, Who Doesn’t Sleep Well Most Nights; Oga, the Aching Foot of Doom; and Calvin, Who Must Not Be Reminded of His Real Name.”


“His other name sounds ridiculous, all these odd noises, and you have to burp at the end-it really makes him angry to hear it. So he had it legally changed.” He swirled the dregs of his drink around. “You don’t want a Guy of Chaos angry at you. Believe me. Its my whole frigging life, and its not fun.”

“And they’re after you?”

“Its kind of the other way around. I’m after them. But I get here before them. But by my being here, I know they’re coming. And they know I’ll be here, but its not that I’m coming here to-” He put his head down on the bar. “Can I have another drink?”

Max poured a measure of Phrogian Chok’ndi into a shot glass tailor made for Amfvoits, a race of nine feet tall, six hundred pound beings who were unnaturally good bowlers. He would not normally, due to the liability involved, present it to a human, but he had a good idea that von Sauvage’s chances of survival were better than average. Down the bar, a scraggly being in a ratty head-rag slapped the bar.

“I hate when they do that,” Max said. “I’ll be back, Gallahad.”

“Please don’t call me that.”

Between sips of his drink-careful sips because, although he could not be slain by mortal hand, he was still shaking from the first drink and could not be sure this latest one would not at least incapacitate him-von Sauvage gazed intently around the bar. Yes, it was a place ripe for Chaos. It offered no refuge for reason with its babble of myriad tongues, its madly intermingled smells, its cacophonous mix of musics, and the jittery shuffle of its patrons. For all he knew this place, this whole realm perhaps, was already firmly in Chaos’s grasp.

“You sure?” he heard Max say, off down the bar. “Okay, but that’s a pretty ludicrous request.”

What if he was the only bastion of Order in an already Chaotic realm? Would he stand alone this time? There’d been no sign of his standard-issue doomed sidekick. No Kelobo the Jaunty Archer of N’k’mirg’th or Hurg, the Beast Not Entirely Unlike A Man. Good thing, too. Hurg was a fine sidekick and grand in a fight, but the stink that came off his blue-gray, chronically matted fur would put a buzzard’s eye out at fifty paces. Come to think of it where was his woman? He typically had at least one true love per realm, which was nice although they did tend to meet with absolutely dreadful deaths at the hand of Chaos. Ah, well. Probably better off without her. von Sauvage shook his head and sucked back the rest of his beverage. The whole thing was-


Max had said-

The Ludicrous Beverage of Chaos!

“No!” von Sauvage shouted, but it was too late. Even as he turned, he saw Max tipping the bottle to add the penultimate drop of liquor to an unearthly cocktail that already churned and burbled maliciously in its tall, perfectly clean glass. The ragged fellow looked up at the Champion’s approach, smiling with jagged yellow teeth. His forehead bore, in raised scar tissue, a small circle with eight arrows radiating from it. On his lapel was a small button that, von Sauvage was now dismayed to see, read “Got Chaos?”

von Sauvage brought up his ridiculous gun and removed the button, the symbol, the smile, and all possible traces of the ragged fellow in a single impressive-but-terribly-messy shot.

At which point the Ludicrous Beverage of Chaos erupted violently into purpose. A twisting, gleaming, smoking bolt blew upward out of the glass. It smashed through the ceiling of the bar, then through the roof of the hundred-floor building- withought passing through any of the intervening levels -and raced away into the night sky above the Mare, then arced gracefully before plummeting back toward the bar like a guided missile with a shitty attitude, blasting through another section of ceiling- once again, strangely missing everything between the building's roof and the bar's ceiling -and obliterating a table where representatives from twenty-seven disparate races had moments before raised their drinks in a toast to the formation of a coalition that would, in their words, “form a covenant of gentle beings dedicated to the proliferation of cosmic brotherhood and unquestionable kindness.”

When that bolt hit, tendrils in countless numbers sprayed upward-taking most of the remainder of the ceiling with them-turning and weaving in the air to form an uncertain liquid lattice that hardened, split down its centerline, and pushed forward, a massive door opening slowly with a tortured howl. A fecal stench soiled the air, and away in some unfathomable distance, a gong rang once with a dissonant tone that set the teeth on edge.

Through the door strode the Guys of Chaos.

It was Diovarion who came forth first. He, like his brethren, stood the better part of twelve feet tall. He was dressed in a long tunic of shifting and mildly nauseating colors, from which skeins of thread would dislodge themselves, falling to the ground and creating impossible creatures that skittered back through the doorway to the protection of Chaos. His hair was a long shimmer of white, and his face, which was very human, would have been handsome were it not for the multi-tiered black bags that hung from below his eyes like massive hammocks. He yawned almost constantly, and did not appear able to focus on anything for very long.

Next came Oga, who bore a fat, fleshy head atop a spindly neck. But it was his feet that marked him. One was of normal size-for a humanoid twelve feet tall. The other was roughly six feet long and three high, and the smallest toe bore an enormous corn that undulated as if alive and which clearly caused Oga no end of pain, as he kept rubbing at it with the heel of his good foot.

And then there was Calvin with his six eyes, each a different color, and his four arms bearing, respectively, a hand with long talons, a hand stripped of flesh down to the razor-honed bones, a lizard’s appendage dripping venom, and a hand holding a really big carving knife that he kept revving like an anxious dad on Thanksgiving.

There was, of course, an immediate crush for the exit, which Oga stopped by extending his Aching Foot before the door. The abrupt move caused at least half a dozen people to crash into the Foot, two of whom slammed right into the corn. Oga howled with a rage that shook the heavens, and he brought the foot up and stomped it down on the offenders. When he lifted it again, there was no sign of them.

The Guys of Chaos scanned the room with disdainful sneers. Calvin flicked his lizard- hand, spraying droplets of acid onto a D’rissh who had moved forward, tail raised defensively. It spattered on the scorpion’s armored carapace and spread, dissolving the D’rissh in the space of a heartbeat.

“Oh, this will be a cakewalk,” Calvin said in a high, silky voice.

“Gallahad von Sauvage,” called Oga, whose voice was like a bull moose’s belch run through a pitch-shifter into sub-bass registers that loosened the internal organs of all within hearing range. “Step forth. Is this the army with which you intend to fight the Guys of Chaos?”

“What?” said Diovarion, who just sounded tired.

“Go back to sleep,” Calvin said.

“Wish I could,” Diovarion replied.

Their chat was interrupted by a massive bolt of blaster fire that sizzled through the air between them. “In the name of Balance,” said Gallahad von Sauvage in a voice that made Diovarion sound absolutely perky, “would you please just shut up and toast this place?”

“What?” said all three Guys of Chaos and Max, in chorus.

“I’m sick of this,” the Champion said. He pushed his way through the crowd toward the Guys of Chaos. “Done. Not going to fight.”

“You have to fight,” rumbled Oga. “You must fight to save this realm.”

“No I don’t.”

“Then we shall claim it as ours,” said Calvin.

“Fair enough,” said von Sauvage with a shrug. “See, I finally figured it out. If I keep fighting, I keep going to new realms. Defeat Chaos here, defeat Chaos there. Defeat Chaos, go find more Chaos. I’m doing my job too well.”

“But you are the Champion-“

“Was. Done now. If I start losing realms to you guys left and right, what option will the Board of Trustees of Order have but to replace me? Zounds, I’m amazed I hadn’t thought of this before! Do you know how many sidekicks I could have saved?” He turned to Max. “Thank you, Max. Those drinks of yours have put a little perspective in my head.”

“Hold up now,” Max said, a bit confused. “You mean you’re supposed to fight these guys here-guys who’ve never beaten you before-but because you don’t like your job, you’re just letting them win?”

von Sauvage considered the question for several moments, his brow furrowed in meaningful concentration. The fate of this world hung upon his answer.

“Yup,” he said.

“You can’t do that,” Max said.

“Oh, but I can. Don’t worry, Chaos isn’t all that bad. See something new every day.” He tossed his blaster onto the floor by Max’s feet. “Anyway, I have to go. Once these guys wipe up, I’m sure the Trustees will send me somewhere else, and I’ll just have to hand over the keys to that kingdom too. Wonder how many they’ll give up before they fire me?” And with that, he strode for the door. Oga looked to Calvin. Calvin, who was clearly confused by the proceedings, simply shrugged. Oga paused, then lifted his foot and let the Champion Ad Nauseum pass unscathed.

“What?” said Diovarion, scratching idly at his crotch.

“Well now,” Calvin said, turning back to address the still-cringing crowd at the Mare Inebrium, “it would seem that it is time to feed this world to Chaos and turn its pathetic little beings into the Minions of Disorder.”

“No, no, no, I don’t think so.”

And there was Max, holding the massive and comical blaster so recently disowned by Gallahad von Sauvage and leveling it at the Guys of Chaos. He thumbed the charger and the barrel began to hum and glow.

“If that guy can beat you, so can we.”

“And what manner of insignificant thing might you be to presume dominion over the Guys of Chaos?”

Max smiled. “I’m the bartender, Calvin.” He vaulted with easy grace up onto the bar, the practiced result of stopping a thousand bar fights.

“A lifetime of freebies to the one who brings these sons of bitches down!” he shouted, and the Mare Inebrium erupted violently into purpose.

Tell us, Muse, of those sentients, so ready at need, who streamed from a dozen function rooms after they had sucked down the sundry concoctions of Max after he had mixed them so well, striving to win their own drinks and the myriad drinks yet to come. And who, filled with the promise of many cocktails free of charge, set upon the Guys of Chaos in battle rampant.

In the few moments they had to actually think about it before they were smashed backward through the dimensional doorway, the Guys of Chaos must have imagined that they had been set upon by their own maddening forces. D’rissh tails whipped through the air alongside the multiple regenerating heads of a group of Hydramaxians out for a bachelor party; the potent musk of the Red Clan Warriors of Flatulata 5 mingled with the hallucinogenic breath of the Psylocibs in town to see the spirit of Jerry Garcia play an acoustic set; the hammers of the visiting Worshippers of Thor flew through the air, deftly avoiding the well-aimed arrows fired by a battery of Centaurs who were friends of the sister of one of the D’rrish; and the crew of an aircraft carrier, who had mistakenly thought the Philadelphia Experiment had something to do with a cheesesteak hoagie, just busted up some chairs and went after the Chaotic sons of bitches as best they knew how. There were blades and blasters, lasers and light sabers, pistols and pseudopods, and all were vying for that greatest of prizes, a bar tab that never got called in. To their credit, the Guys of Chaos gave it their best shot. Diovarion, it turned out, had the ability to harness, on a cosmic scale, the unnaturally infectious power of yawning. Where his yawn fell, many others yawned too, and, in turn, slept. Indeed, he had been known across the ultraverse as The One Who Could Put Worlds to Sleep. But he hadn’t counted on the patrons of the Mare, known for multi-day benders and bacchanals that defied the laws of physiology.

They yawned; yea, some even dozed briefly. But they fought on.

Oga’s foot was as potent a weapon as any wielded by the Guys of Chaos, particularly when it got sweaty. For then it unleashed a thick, toxic, viscous ichor that stank like a thousand locker rooms left out in the sun. On many worlds it had sickened mortals in their numbers. But the world of the Mare included sentients whose living environments made Oga’s foot-stank seem like the mind-soothing breezes off the fragrant waters of the seas on Plikkimin. Some slipped in the goo; yea, some perished from it. But they fought on.

Calvin, as it turned out, was a big crybaby. Literally. He hated people who fought back, and spent a great part of the battle shouting that it was all very unfair and wiping tears from his eyes-tears that only got worse when he absent-mindedly wiped with the hand holding the carving knife, swiftly relieving himself of one orb. The armies of the Mare laughed; yea, some even taunted and made “neener neener” sounds. But they fought on.

And it was not as if the Guys didn’t have help. Malformed freaks in countless numbers, fiends from a thousand different realities, poured forth from the gateway. But they had become quite accustomed, as the Minions of Disorder (Local #636), to fighting a single species from a single world, all of roughly a single countenance. When they leapt out into the Mare-hosting, as it did, its own malformed freaks in countless numbers-they became confused and unsure who to fight, and slew quite a few of their own by mistake. When they realized they couldn’t tell who the hell they were supposed to be after, they took a quick Union vote (after electing a new shop steward, the previous having been run through quite soundly on the point of a Quillrimian Poly- spear), decided to go on strike, and exited back through the gateway.

Shortly thereafter the armies of the Mare made a great and quite literal push and gave the Guys of Chaos the heave-ho back through the glistening sphincter whence they came, said gateway closing with a very light and quite pleasant “pop.”

Needless to say, the post-battle party lasted well into the ridiculous hours of the morning. Max charged for nothing, and his conquering army drank everything. There were songs upon songs upon songs and tales upon tales upon tales. Several inter-species and inter- temporal friendships were born that night. As the taps ran dry, Max reluctantly hollered for them all to finish up and get the hell out. Then he stood by the door and thanked each drunken warrior personally as they left.

He flipped the sign to “Closed” and looked the place over. It was going to take some time to clean this one up. Max hopped back over the bar and poured himself a shot of Holbotini Blackwine. As he lifted it to his lips, a metallic glint caught his eye. Way down the bar, where it hadn’t been a moment before, rested a large, ornate sword. Max walked over to it. It was huge, with a wide black blade engraved along its length in bizarre symbols that appeared to twist and writhe impatiently, and it was making a hungry moaning sound. Max regarded it for a moment, then took a bar towel, wrapped it gently around the hilt, and lifted it from the bar. It was surprisingly light, and he would have sworn it whispered his name, then chuckled a little too evilly for his taste. For a moment he wondered what to do with it. There were a thousand places to dispose of it at the port, even some where he might be able to turn a nice profit. Then he slipped it carefully down behind the liquid-oxygen-driven sub-sub-zero cooler.

No telling when it might come in handy.


Copyright 2002 By John Shanahan

To reach me, please email me at my favorite Email address: john@johnshanahan.com

Bio: John Shanahan  is a freelance writer from Norton, MA. This is his third appearance in Aphelion. His work has also been featured in the magazines Shadow Sword, Carpe Noctem, MindMares, and Crimson, and in the webzines Ideomancer, Dragon Soup, and Cleansheets. Visit him online at www.johnshanahan.com.

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