“And The Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place” part III | ◄ ► | Post Theme
“First, you will know fear. Then, you will know pain. And then you will die.” C O U N C I L O F W I Z A R D S| The Rock of Eternity
Pausing in the entryway, Sivana turned back.
The man and the boy locked eyes, neither looking away as an uncomfortable silence blanketed the room.
“Finally,” Sivana uttered, at last breaking the ice.
Taking a step back inside, the man adopted a smug look as he spoke. “So, what I understand you to say is that the scepter is a real object – or, at least, it was.”
Looking away from the boy, the man broke the contest of wills – clearly believing his to be superior – as he paced for a moment, before he turned back to declare, “And, just as the legends detail, it was an object of true power.”
Dudley looked from Sivana to Teth, as though waiting for the boy to tell the man that he was mistaken.
Instead, the boy’s reaction was oddly stoic. In his eyes, he saw not some dude in a suit, but himself. The words being thrown out so arrogantly echoing his own from centuries before.
It was just that sentiment that Sivana seemed to capitalize on. “Power enough that you fear it!” the man asserted, stepping closer to the boy.
Teth said nothing. Because there was nothing he had to say that Sivana was going to want to hear.
Reaching into his jacket, Sivana produced a check, which he pushed into Dudley’s hands as if tipping the butler. As he made his way back to the entry, the man said “Thank you for your cooperation, but spare me your superstition, your majesty.”
It was only after the door had closed behind him that Dudley seemed to remember how to speak. “My God, I have no idea what we’re talking about, but tell me you destroyed that thing,” the old man remarked.
Again, Teth said nothing.
Coming around, the old man sat across from the boy. “Who even made it?”
“I know only who gave it to me,” the boy answered, his eyes coming up to meet Dudley’s briefly, before he stood from the chair with a frustrated sigh.
“It doesn’t matter, Shazam would have...”
He stopped there.
The boy turned back, hesitating in an odd instance of uncertainty. Something the old man couldn’t recall seeing in the confident youth before.
“Five thousand years, you’d think I would have thought about this before now,” the boy remarked cryptically. His eyes moved around the room, before they found Dudley again as he confessed, “Now, I find I don’t think I ever asked the right questions.”
He and Shazam had never talked.
Their relationship had never been one of cordial interaction. He was the guardian of the Rock of Eternity and Teth was his champion.
The Wizard was the task master. And him? His was not to ask why, but merely to do or die.
Unfortunately, as he’d learned, Teth was bad at either. Which had always complicated the relationship with the Wizard.
“And now I can’t ask him.”
“How’s your sanskrit?”
Dudley looked up.
He’d been here before, but each time it was like awakening from a bad dream. His knees and back no longer hurt. When he looked down at his hands, they were no longer pockmarked with age. His midsection was considerably less round, again the fit physique he’d boasted in his prime.
In his reflection, he saw every version of himself, as if shadows overlaid with shadows. A child. A teen. A young man. A hero.
The spectre of his age loomed behind him. A dark page in a book he didn’t want to turn to. A chapter he was afraid to read.
All his wants. The sum of all his fears.
His voice caught in his throat as he tried to speak. “You must be joking,” the man uttered, at last able to tear himself away from everything he was processing.
A book was thrown his way. Catching it, the man opened it to find a script he had never seen before. “What even is this?” he asked, looking over at the boy.
Or, more aptly, at Teth-Adam.
And all the many forms of Teth-Adam.
Like Dudley, one form stood out from the others. It was as unfamiliar as it was recognizable. The same boy, his head shaved. His body shackled, heavy chains weighing him down. Dried blood and scars marking out lines carved into his skin from a lash.
The Big Guy was there as well. Like with Dudley’s aged self, the massive demigod figure loomed over the boy like a menacing phantom – the embodiment of arrogance and pride.
Glancing back from where he was sorting through a stack of tomes, the duality of boy and man answered simply, “That’s aramaic.”
Might as well be Greek to him.
Tossing the book aside, Dudley ran a hand through his hair – and was shocked at the realization he had a full head of hair again.
“Are you looking for a clue about the scepter of Ra?” the man asked. “Why didn’t you just ask the doctor guy?”
“Whatever he thinks he knows, he’s wrong,” Teth, or the Teths, answered.
Dudley gave a shrug, glancing around the enigmatic structure. He’d never been able to make sense out of just what this was. A cave? A castle? A temple?
“...and, I hope it no longer exists,” he heard the Teths utter softly.
The red-garbed figure of the Captain Marvel of the late 70s turned to regard the strange figure. “You really are afraid, aren’t you?”
“I meant what I told the doctor,” the Teths offered simply, glancing through another book before finally looking up to add, “Every word.”
“First you will know fear, then pain, then... something, something death. All that?”
Discarding the book he’d been reading, the blurred form of both child-slave and god-king moved toward another shelf containing scrolls and materials leftover from the Council of Wizards.
“You use the word death to describe a concept of finality - which you ascribe as mortality,” the Teths stated, as he – or they – began to sort through the materials. As he held out one scroll, he noted, “In part, those concepts give people comfort. People say that death is what gives life meaning. But there are some horrors that exist which defy those mental constructs that man has made for his own sanity.”
Folding the scroll in his hands, the odd pair of overlapping shadows seemed to be thinking aloud as he commented, “The Old Man would have destroyed the scepter of Ra. Unless he couldn’t.”
Dudley wasn’t sure that he followed.
Actually, scratch that. He was certain he didn’t follow. “Couldn’t? Or wouldn’t?”
The demigod and the slave each turned to give the man a wan smile. “I’m not the Old Man’s biggest fan, but in this I can say with certainty that he’d have blasted that thing to oblivion and back if he could have.”
“You’re saying this thing’s unbreakable?”
Extending one hand, the pair of Teth’s made a gesture that prompted a scroll to suddenly unfurl and fly up in front of the man.
As he looked at it, the text seemed to come alive and transform into something legible to him. As he started to read, Teth explained, “The Council of Wizards wielded power and dominion over the Earth. If Shazam couldn’t destroy it then whatever the scepter is, it’s not of this world.”
Dudley tried to comprehend what he was reading, then just shook his head. This was too foreign for him. He needed to come at this from a different angle.
“Who gave you the scepter?”
The pair of Teth’s didn’t answer.
That was telling in itself. “I’m starting to think we’re in more trouble than I can imagine,” Dudley uttered candidly.
For his part, Teth seemed to incline his head in agreement. “It’s always a friend who hates you the most,” the pair remarked coldly. Then, after a pause, said, “His name was Ahk-Ton.”
“He was your friend?”
“He was my priest,” the pair of Teths answered.
That caught Dudley by surprise, if only because he’d never thought of the boy as being particularly religious.
...excepting, of course, that historically he’d actually been worshipped as a god.
“An exceptionally long-lived one, but I didn’t see it at the time,” the Teths mused dryly. There was a profound sadness that connected the two, the slave and the god. “He played my ego like a finely tuned harp.”
Now it was Dudley’s turn to say nothing, because he had no idea what he could – what he should – have said.
The boy moved on, arriving at a table that he’d seemed to reserve for last. As he started flipping through a leather-bound tome, he seemed to struggle for the first time at Dudley had seen.
Peering around the shadow of the Big Guy, Dudley noted, “That doesn’t look like sanskrit.”
“It’s a form of Canaanite,” the Teths answered.
“Can you read it?”
“Once, maybe. I’m not sure I remember it,” the Teths answered cryptically.
It was the first time that the Old Man could recall the boy suggesting that there was a language he didn’t speak.
“This was the language of my tribe.”
The twin shadows reached out, two fingers gently touching the page as though in an effort to reach and touch a part of their past that had been forgotten.
Then the two looked up. An odd question formed as he asked, “Why did he know it?”
“Who?” Dudley asked, trying to follow. “The Wizard you spoke of?”
“This appears to have been a journal... diary of sorts,” the Teths remarked, flipping forward one page and then back two as he tried to decipher their meaning. “It’s the only thing I’ve found that might have a first-hand account of what happened at Kahndaq, but I can barely read this.”
“But you were at Kahndaq,” Dudley remarked.
“I wasn’t exactly thinking straight in those years,” the pair of shadows answered flatly. “And Shazam laid my ass out, so I was unconscious for whatever happened between him and Ahk-Ton.”