King of Storms: Part 11

“Let’s get on with it then,” Lee said.

Both Vaughn and the King of Storms turned to look at him.

“Neither of you is going to change their name so now it’s time to come up with another way to handle it. You’ll want to choose seconds and Vaughn, you get to choose the weapon if it’s a duel.”

“Duel?” Vaughn sounded incredulous.

“Sure. What else would it be?” Lee grinned at the both of them, but started talking before either of them could reply. “Of course it doesn’t have to be a duel. Trial by ordeal has it own good points. I always liked the one where you each stuck a hand into boiling water and the one whose hand healed best won.”

Jaclyn stopped talking to Cassie long enough to say, “Wouldn’t that be cheating?”

“Of course it was cheating. Worked pretty well too — except for the time that some baron decided my healing had to be from the devil, and, they burned me alive.”

“Burned you alive?” Vaughn said.

“It didn’t take,” Lee said. “Ah, but you should have seen their faces. They’d had the sense to use chain instead of rope, but by the time most of my flesh had burnt off, the chains weren’t tight anymore, so I pulled my hands out and walked away. I didn’t even have to fight them, but, of course, I was still on fire.

“Public executions,” he said, “you just can’t beat them for cheap entertainment.

“But let’s get back to trial by ordeal,” Lee said. “My idea is that we have the Rocket whip up a machine that controls current and we find out how much electricity each of you can take before passing out or giving up. What do you say?”

“I think I could handle that,” Vaughn said.

“No.” The King of Storms shook his head.

Lee eyed him, “Well, what kind of ordeal would you prefer?”

The King of Storms said nothing for a moment and then at least six voices started talking at once.

“OK,” Lee said. “Stow it. If you can’t come up with an ordeal you like, let’s go with a duel.”

* * *

Two days later, on Friday afternoon, we stood with the same people in the same place.

Jaclyn stood in the sand talking to Daniel, Haley and I. “I think the whole thing is stupid. A duel? That’s the best way we can do? ‘Oh look, we’ve got nearly the same name. How will we figure out who gets to use it? I’ve got it. Let’s throw lightning at each other.’ ”

“It does look that way,” I said. “On the other hand, neither of them seem to want to compromise.”

“She’s right,” Haley said. “It all just seems senseless.”

Some twenty feet off to our right on the beach, the other group of people broke up. Cassie, Vaughn, and Lee walked over and joined us. The King of Storms and a short man wearing a blue robe with gold trim stood together next to the water.

Cassie broke the silence. “Here’s what’s going to happen. They’ll fight until unconsciousness. If Storm King wins, he keeps his name. If the King of Storms wins, he chooses a new one.”

“What weapons are they using?” Daniel asked.

“Duh. Weather.” Cassie rolled her eyes.

“I asked because you didn’t have to do that. Vaughn, as the challenged could have chosen anything. I read where some guy chose sausages as the weapon, one of which contained cholera.”

“Sausages?” Vaughn said. “What happened?”

“I think the challenger withdrew the challenge.”

Vaughn looked over to Lee. “I wonder if we should have gone with something like that.”

“No,” Lee said. “He’s just looking for an excuse to attack you anyway. Put it into a duel that includes a chance of getting what he wants, and the violence is contained. That’s the whole point. If you choose something silly, he might attack you in the middle of town.”

“In Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, there’s a duel in which the challenged person chooses cannons. It’s great,” I said.

Daniel shook his head. “How did you make it through that? It’s something like three thousand pages.”

“I liked the books. Besides, you should talk. Some of those histories of the Civil War you’ve read are about a thousand pages by themselves and really dry.”

Jaclyn looked down the beach, “Who’s the guy in the robes?”

“I don’t know,” Cassie said. “King of Storms’ second. Some wizard.”

“Let’s get moving,” Lee said. “They’re expecting this to start soon. Time for all the rest of us to get away from Vaughn.”

We joined the blue robed wizard at the midpoint between them and then got out of the path between Vaughn and the King of Storms.

“You may begin on the count of three,” Lee shouted. “One. Two. Three.”

The moment Lee said three, a dark spot appeared over the King of Storms. It expanded into clouds that covered the beach and the old lighthouse at the beginning of the channel to Grand Lake.

“Vaughn can’t do that,” Cassie said. “Not that quickly.”

Lightning began to strike the beach where Vaughn stood, but never quite managed to hit him. At the last moment it bent away.

“Wow,” I asked no one in particular. “Is Vaughn doing that? That’s cool.”

The lightning strikes doubled in intensity and number, the thunder hurting my ears while the brightness of the lightning activated my helmet’s ability to filter light. I could see sand spray into air near Vaughn with each strike.

As a particularly large strike blasted sand into our faces, Jaclyn commented, “You call this contained?”

29 thoughts on “King of Storms: Part 11”

  1. Hah! That’s funny! Nice little physics trick Vaughn is pulling on the 12-year-old. I’m surprised Nick hasn’t immediately realized what Vaughn must be doing to be able to deflect the lightning like that.

    The other interesting thing is that the beach is going to be nothing but glass craters soon, if this keeps up….


  2. @Hg: okay, now I’m lost. lol. Um… what physics trick was that? I think I missed it… or maybe it’s just too obvious that I don’t notice it. Not unheard of!! 😉

    Anyway, Jim I really like this ironic sense of humor you’ve given Lee, plus how he sort of gives a little info about himself but doesn’t really answer the question we all are dying to know. Nice work, as usual! 🙂

  3. Yep that is contained, it could be worse. Vaughn could be running thru the city while deflecting the lightning.

    Good stuff.

  4. Hg: And people get annoyed when people leave broken bottles on the beach…

    Indifferent Curve: If you’re going to read something by Neal Stephenson for the first time, I’d recommend Snow Crash. The Baroque Cycle is a bit much if you don’t know whether you like the guy’s writing.

    Jimney: I think the key point with telling/not telling things like Lee’s origin is to tell it when it matters, but not before then.

    daymon: True. Though it’ll be interesting to see how contained things are in the next bit…

  5. The trick is that natural lightning is what happens when a negative charge builds up in the atmosphere and then discharges into the earth. It does this because the earth has a slight positive charge. So if Vaughn either makes himself less conductive than air or gives himself a slightly negative charge he should never get hit.

  6. I want to see an old fashioned wizard duel, Disney’s King Arthur style (if anybody remembers that). That stuck with me a long time.

    Or maybe a straight up fencing match… against Sulu. That would r0xx0r.

  7. @Parahacker: oh yeah!!! now THAT would be something to see, I like the idea of a wizard’s duel. Something along the lines of what we saw in King Arthur would be terrific.

  8. Hmmh. To me it seemed like the obvious choice would have been pistols, but I suppose that would have been boring.

    In case anyone is taking bets, my money’s on them exhausting themselves to the point where breaking wind is the most weather they can produce and having to call it a draw.

  9. Yeah, the battle between Merlin and what’s-her-name (the pink and purple witch) in The Sword in the Stone was awesome. I totally love how he beat her.

    And yeah, Thor’s got it. Leave it to the God of Thunder to figure out something like that. 😛 (Although, the solution I had involved surrounding himself with a cloud of negatively charged particles, i.e. ionized air, but changing his own charge works too.)


  10. I loved Sword in the Stone. That and Sleeping Beauty were weird influences on No Man an Island.

    King of Storms isn’t going to get very far with Vaughn if he can just change his charge like that.

  11. Mazzon: That calls for the obligatory reference to Monty Python’s “fart in your general direction” joke somehow.

    Thor/Hg/Jimney: I was imagining ionizing the air, but I’m sure that Vaughn’s doing it by an intuitive use of his abilities instead of a deliberate use of physics.

    Parahacker/Gavin: It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Sword in the Stone, but I really love T. H. White’s “The Once and Future King.” As for wizard duels though, the main place I’ve been most exposed to them lately is The Dresden Files — which I recommend strongly.

  12. Ding! Called it! Too bad there aren’t any prizes for that kind of thing — well, except for bragging rights. I guess that’s a pretty good prize, actually.

    I had assumed that Vaughn had actually done some research into weather phenomena, mostly because his reference to looking names up in the registry and stuff made him seem like he was being fairly methodical and studious about his powers and persona. And, personally, I’ve always felt it was a bit of a cop-out, saying that someone uses all the tricks of their powers intuitively. Sure, the basics, and when they’re really stuck intuition can play a huge role, but for the most part, practice is what it’s all about, and knowledgeable practice is the best kind. Just because you have super strength doesn’t mean you know the best way to lift things or hit people, and just because you have sonic powers doesn’t mean you’d ever think of sympathetic resonance points or the Hypomixolydian scale until someone showed them to you.


  13. Oh, and I can’t believe no one has mentioned Harry Potter when talking about wizard duels — not that they were great or epic or even well-described, but just that they are the most recent pop culture reference point.


  14. Hg: I may not have phrased that well enough. Specifically, I was thinking that he knew enough to know what it felt like when he was guiding lightning toward another person/thing and in this case he knows how to produce the same guiding — only around him.

    Regarding Harry Potter: It passed through my mind, but the wizard duels aren’t especially memorable as duels… Or maybe a better way to put it might be that they aren’t as memorable as other aspects of the books.

  15. @Parahacker: Dude, yes!!! A fencing match against Sulu! I see you’ve seen the new Trek movie.

    I won’t spoil it, but…as far as I was concerned it was a decent movie that had a lot to iron out. But that scene with Sulu was maximum win!

    Jim, I love how you write this. Lee is such a cheeky bastard!

    You know it makes me wonder if every League member will have to battle somebody who can mirror their powers..I remember in an earlier episode Nick had to face off against Tomohawk, who also had powered armor.

  16. Probably not, but you never know. For what it’s worth though, it was Man-machine who had the powered armor. We’ll actually be seeing more of his grandson in the not too distant future.

    Regarding Star Trek: I enjoyed it. In one sense, I was saddened by the loss of the previous continuity, but there are good things about that too as far as future movies are concerned. I’ve sometimes thought that mainstream comics end up being far too burdened by the histories of their universes and that more often than not, the one shots that ignore the history turn out to be the better stories.

    I’m thinking of things like Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and similar stuff.

  17. The Man-machine’s grandson is an interesting issue. Since he’s already shown interest in the tech, it seems rather likely that he’ll pick up the hobby of power armourer sooner or later.

    Then again in a twisted way that might even be a good thing for the Rocket. A good old arms race does wonders to technological progress.

  18. @Mazzon: Welcome to LON.

    @Jim: I remember Man-Machine, but wasn’t Tomohawk another dude who had a suit with weapons and a rocket pack??

  19. No. Tomahawk could fly and had a kind of limited invulnerability on par with the Rocket suit, but he was a guy with powers.

    That being said, near the end of In the Public Eye, there were FBI agents wearing powered armor based on a version that Nick’s grandfather left with the army when he mustered out.

  20. And don’t forget Future Knight. He was the biggest armored suit threat that Nick’s faced so far, I think.

  21. “I could see sand spray into air near Vaughn with each strike.”

    I think you’re missing the work “the”:

    “I could see sand spray into the air near Vaughn with each strike.”

  22. If Storm King wins, he keeps his name. If King of Storms wins, he chooses a new one.

    I know the “he” in birth sentences refers to Vaughn, but I like that it’s a little ambiguous and sounds like “tails I win, heads you lose.”

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