[What up doe?! Been a minute, huh? ;) Well, I wanna jump right into the good stuff this time around. Here's the next installment in the escalating drama taking place on The Exciting World of Jalldoon...which also marks the second guest appearance of my cosmic character, Quazarec! After the story, we'll catch up with what's going on with Brownnoize. See ya after the story. Enjoy!]
Several delicate instruments on his workbench suddenly became airborne as the heavy wooden door to Toron's laboratory burst open without warning. The old slime had just installed that lock, which now lay in pieces on the floor. He sighed, then turned slowly to see an out-of-breath Slime Knight standing awkwardly in the doorway. "Lieutenant Globar. What can I do for you?", Toron fumed. "Toron...we have a...I mean, there's a...well, you better come outside!" The slimes wound their way through the halls of Hawkstorm Keep and out to the courtyard where there seemed to be a commotion. As his eyes adjusted to the daylight, Toron's face lit up upon hearing a familiar voice. This reaction didn't last, however, as he immediately sensed something wrong.
A group of Slime Knights were engaged in a melee off in the distance, and more were joining the fracas from other areas of the Keep all the time. At the center of it all, the folk hero "god of Bakurados Bay", Quazarec, stood like a living bronze statue. "Bring me Toron!!", the helmet-less space-android bellowed at one of the young Knights he had hoisted into the air. The other soldiers were trying their best not to harm their cosmic ally, so no weapons were drawn. As they struggled to pull Quazarec off of their fellow Knight, Toron hurried over at last. Taking in the situation, Toron froze when he noticed that Quazarec's eyes were glowing with a sickly greenish light that he'd only seen once before during the ferocious battle between the android and Prince Algor. During that desperate conflict, Quazarec had deactivated his Control Orb and allowed the psychic rage of his homeworld to consume him. But in addition to the robot's eyes, Toron now also noticed other changes in the Quazarec's appearance. Most concerning was that his midnight-blue cosmic armor was gored, burned, pitted, and scarred all across its once-glittering surfaces.
"Ho, Quazarec! What's the meaning of all this!?" Almost immediately, the light in Quazarec's eyes diminished, as he slowly released the Slime Knight from his formidable grip. The soldiers were in awe of the way their elder defused the situation; they'd only heard stories about the arrival of the immensely powerful android, who had nearly bested their Prince in combat. As everyone in the courtyard began to collect themselves, Quazarec suddenly collapsed to his knees, exhausted. Toron looked over the android as the Knights struggled to carry his massive form into the Keep. Gaping wounds across the warrior's body troubled the veteran slime, but not as much as the fact that they didn't seem to be regenerating, as his hand had when Algor lopped it off back in Bakurados Bay.
Toron suddenly stopped in his tracks as his men brought Quazarec's half-conscious form into the Keep's laboratory. "The Orb!!", he gasped. Globar snapped to attention, then hurried over to Toron, producing the sphere that had once adorned the head of Quazarec's mighty staff. Now, however, the Orb was completely black, like obsidian. "H-He dropped this in the courtyard when all the shouting began," Globar explained as the others gently laid Quazarec's prone form on a dusty bench covered in old manuscripts.
The android's eyes opened and upon scanning the room, a look of relief appeared on his face when he found the elder slime. "Sir Toron, it has been some time." Toron smiled and nudged Globar, standing next to him. "Heh...no one's called me 'sir' since I was in the service!" A few of the Knights chuckled at their doting mentor. Quazarec continued, "I require your assistance." "Sounds about right, given the look of ya. Quazarec, where've you been for the past year? And...why aren't your wounds healing? Does it have something to do with the Orb?" Toron replied, holding up the glossy black sphere. "I can access neither my regenerative capabilities, nor my telepathic/telekinetic powers in my current state. I will answer all your questions, my friend. But before I continue, I must make you aware that my body now harbors the essence of a malevolent reality-warping supernatural entity...I believe what your people would refer to as a 'Greater Daemon'."
The shocked silence was finally broken by Globar. "WUT!?"
For the next several hours, Toron had all the Knights garrisoned at Hawkstorm Keep setting up equipment in his laboratory, rushing texts back and forth from the Keep's extensive library, or sending word out to any and all magic-adepts they could trust across the southwestern region of the continent. Quazarec explained to a wide-eyed Toron that the past year had been spent on a grim quest. After the events of Bakurados Bay and the defeat of the Children of the Beetle, the android was deeply troubled at how easily his unearthly abilities were thwarted on this strange new world. After leaving the Bay in the capable hands of the child-army that had liberated it from the cult, Quazarec traveled throughout the land in search of a way to combat sorcery in all its forms. He became consumed with the idea of vanquishing the magical entity that lured him to this universe and trapped him on Jalldoon.
Toron was no master of the mystical arts, but as a scholarly semi-pro tinkerer, he knew it was up to him to make damn sure the daemon hiding inside Quazarec's advanced telepathic AI stayed there, locked up good and tight. If something that ancient and sinister got control of the android space traveler's body, there'd be no telling what would happen. The Keep's ancient library was home to an extensive collection of magic and science texts from throughout other universes' timelines. As Toron pored over these other-worldly books, he mused about other weird things he'd seen come through the dimensional rifts. Things like synthetic humans with ridiculous powers. Quazarec suddenly tensed up and began writhing in pain while his eyes began glowing with the same light as before. Toron took a swig of his flask as he watched Quazarec with a sharp eye. His hand tightened around a large wooden pestle. It wouldn't be the first time the wily old slime used such an object to pacify the android. Fortunately, the seizure passed quickly and Quazarec regained full control. He continued his story.
In time, Quazarec had learned to blend in with the humanoid populations of Jalldoon. With his cosmic armor dematerialized, he wore plain robes and traveled from town to town without attracting undue attention. He had altered the glassy, iridescent surface of his body to appear less metallic and more like human flesh. And though they lacked irises, the newly-added whites of his eyes were a nice touch--especially once he'd taught himself to blink.
As on many worlds he had visited in his extensive travels throughout his native reality, Quazarec began his journey on Jalldoon by seeking out the deities worshiped by the populace. Naturally in most cases, these "gods" simply turned out to be little more than mythology. But in others, extra-dimensional entities indeed existed, and in one fashion or another, intersected with local spacetime, often affecting the lives of the inhabitants in some way. Some of these beings were even quite pleasant, in Quazarec's experience. Jalldoon had, of course, quite a colorful pantheon of vastly-powerful cosmic entities whose influence was obvious. A star that orbits a planet? What puzzled the android, however, was that he was unable to make any sort of astral contact with any of them.
Unexpectedly, the android went silent for a moment, then his eyes suddenly burned with the same greenish-white light from before and his body floated into the air. The Knights in the lab dropped the books they were carrying and immediately drew their swords. Toron watched in wonder at the spectacle. And took another swig. After a moment, Quazarec's distant voice wafted into Toron's mind. In his head, the old slime heard the android say, "...can use my telepathy only for a moment while this creature's power flows through me. Toron, it is called..." And the next thing Toron perceived in his mind was simultaneously a visual symbol, a sound, and an emotion of pure dread. There was no rational way to translate the daemon's name into any language Toron was aware of. But then it hit him. The slime grabbed a book from a tall pile and threw it open to a particular page. He knew he'd seen that symbol before! In the tome, he found all the details he needed about the daemon...including how to seal it. As Toron read further, Quazarec returned to normal. "What news, Sir Toron?" "Not good," he replied. "This book will be written by one ridiculously advanced race someday! In order to maintain the seal, an astronomical amount of power is needed. It would burn out a fusion cell the size of a Hogashin freighter in a day." The shape-shifter and the space robot then looked at each other for a moment. Both then turned slowly towards the inert black ball sitting on the workbench.
Quazarec began his story once more. Upon failing to locate the planet's deities, the telepathic construct began listening to the minds of the local lifeforms on Jalldoon. From the most primal fears of the mortals, he was able to learn of a particular being located deep within Barrwood Forest, who was said to be wise enough to answer any question put to her. Quazarec set out immediately to track down this ancient creature, and upon finding her home within the inexplicably disorienting forest, he explained to her the gravity of his situation. She laughed. "Yes...I wonder. Have the gods truly forsaken all of Jalldoon...?" Quazarec posed his question. "How can I fight and defeat magic-based enemies?" She laughed again. "YOU cannot!" She then went on to say that Quazarec's form was built only to be a conduit for pure psionic energy. Alone, he would be forever susceptible to sorcery. But he needn't be alone. Daemons, as old as the gods themselves, were deathless and could never be destroyed by the cosmic traveler. But with his Control Orb, he could imprison one, bond it to himself, and use its power--sparingly--only when absolutely needed. The ancient woman told the android the name of a daemon that had shed its corporeal form altogether centuries earlier, and now existed as pure malevolent thought, terrorizing the people of Barrwood with floods and earthquakes. She also told him how to defeat it.
"And you believed her???" Toron pleaded, completely incredulous. "Both our minds were powerful enough to detect any subterfuge on either's part. And she had no reason to lie: while listening to her words, I processed her less-guarded memories. You see, she was the very first victim of the daemon, in ages past, when the creature had razed her village and slaughtered her people. Her existence was little more than a psionic echo. A ghost." Toron took another swig. "I dunno...after all this recent 'possession' nonsense with Algor, I'm not sure th--" Globar abruptly appeared in the doorway, interrupting Toron's train of thought. "Word's come back from Syndicate College!"
Toron's contact in Karnok had come through for them. A professor of strategy at the college, the old human battlemage had befriended Toron decades ago. In a letter delivered by magic, he explained that a complex spell could be used to "trade time" between two objects. They couldn't hope to fix the Control Orb with the technology on Jalldoon...but they could pull it backwards through its own timeline. Make it younger. Another object would have to be aged a commensurate amount, however. "What's done is done," Toron thought, as he put all doubt aside and set about preparing the spell.
The fierce battle with the daemon occurred on the astral plane, while Quazarec's body sat in meditation at the old woman's abode. The android's astral projection appeared pure white, devoid of any color except for the glowing sphere at the end of his staff. In realspace, the furious energy unleashed by the fight caused lightning storms and raging winds to sweep through the forest. Upon realizing that Quazarec's power was in fact finite, the daemon laughed and began toying with its synthetic adversary. Quazarec knew his time was running out. A focused psionic assault--represented in this mindscape by a plasma blast from his astral projection's chest emitter--tore into the daemon's ever-changing form. The enraged entity rushed directly at Quazarec and responded with a brutal blow that nearly cracked through his torso armor. In the real world, the actual plasma cannon on the telepathic android's chest exploded as he struggled to retain his focus on the desperate war within their linked minds. The daemon's counterattack was actually what Quazarec was waiting for: the creature was now close enough for him to invert the gravity lens of the black hole powering his Control Orb to pull the mind-creature into his own body. As the being was dragged into Quazarec's white astral form, it writhed and shrieked in a language that pierced multiple dimensions. "YOU WILL NOT ESCAPE!!", Quazarec cried in response through the savage psychic storm, as his staff shattered and the Orb burned itself out.
Toron rubbed his hands together, eager to try his latest "experiment". The markings he made on the floor encircled both the black Orb and a large pot of dirt. With two Slime Knights awkwardly assisting, Toron recited a few passages communicated to him by his friend from Karnok. The symbols on the floor began to glow and soon flashed so brightly, the slimes had to shield their eyes. When the light dissipated, the markings had vanished altogether. But the Control Orb appeared crystal-clear except for the characteristic sparks of light twinkling within it, each representing an individual sentient mind from Quazarec's homeworld. The source of the android's power. "We did it!", Toron shouted, as he rushed over to embrace...the pot--which now had a single healthy grape vine protruding from the soil. Globar stared blankly at his elder. "Enchanted Gatonian grapes, my boy. I'm gonna make the best damn wine in all of Jalldoon!"
When Quazarec came to after his battle with the daemon, he found himself on the forest floor, with no sign of the ancient woman or her home. He had been nearly overwhelmed during the frenzied fight on the astral plane, and now, that trauma was reflected in the real world. The android's armor was wrecked, and his own body was covered in wounds. The blackened Control Orb lay beside him, next to shards of his staff. The psychic connection to his people--the very source of his might--was gone. All he could sense was the turbulent, boundless force of the daemon coursing through his body, causing subsonic tremors around him. He had achieved his goal...but at what cost? With the ghost satisfied and thus departed from this plane of reality, Quazarec would have to look for answers elsewhere. At this point, he knew there was only one person on Jalldoon he could go to for aid.
Toron sipped nervously from his flask as he watched his assistants strap the massive harness around Quazarec's chest like a gigantic clamshell. By the use of complex inscriptions laid out in the future text, Toron was able to enchant the armor's plates with spells to keep the daemon locked within the synthetic warrior's form. At least that was the idea. Just as probable was that it could all blow up in his face, and an ageless monster possessing the body of a space god could be unleashed on Jalldoon.
The veteran slime took one last swig as he carefully placed the Control Orb into its prominent housing in the center of the armor. Once the last rivet was driven into place, the alien artifact immediately sizzled with flickering light from within as the connection between Quazarec's people and their android avatar was restored. The wounds on Quazarec's body spontaneously started healing, and his armor began to metamorphose into a new form to accommodate Toron's modifications. Even with the Orb now powering the incantations that would seal away the daemon, Toron still seemed uneasy. "How do you feel? I mean, are you still sure about all of this? Again, with everything Al is going through..." The android replied, "Be at ease, Sir Toron. The Prince is strong-willed, but remember: I am legion." That last sentence was delivered in the simultaneous voices of Quazarec's people, and was punctuated by a flare of the light in his eyes. "In the fragment of the astral plane found within the Control Orb, the collective telepathic minds of my homeworld will now watch over the daemon trapped there for eternity, listening to its rage and only letting its destructive power manifest when I will it."
"Well, a daemon prison strapped to your chest is certainly a new one...but let's just hope this new armor will do ya right on Jalldoon, buddy. But tell me: have you put any thought into a replacement for your staff?", Toron asked. Quazarec's eyes flashed with daemonic light for a split-second. He hadn't put much thought towards the lost weapon that had served him so well for hundreds of years. His silence was all the answer Toron needed. "Wait right here!" Toron said before rushing off to another part of his laboratory. The old slime returned with a large, futuristic axe. Given the armored cable and angular design, the handle was clearly patterned after tech the old slime had gleaned from studying the android's staff after the climactic battle in Bakurados Bay. However, instead of Quazarec's Control Orb, it housed a curious translucent crystalline blade. "When we took up residence in Hawkstorm Keep a while back, I ran across some of these crystals in the reliquary upstairs. They're extremely rare, and to my knowledge grow only on Jalldoon." Toron waved about the heavy weapon. "Pretty dangerous in anyone's hands...but these crystals...see, they're known to channel, focus, and amplify telekinetic force. So I decided to build this thing a few months ago, y'know, just in case our paths crossed again."
Quazarec spent some time examining his new weapon. As he directed his telekinetic strength along the axe, as though it were an extension of his own body, his eyes and the sparkling blade began to glow in concert with ethereal light. Runic symbols similar in appearance to the written name of the daemon he now harbored danced in tight geometric patterns along on the crystalline surfaces. The android turned toward the old slime and allowed a rare smile to appear in the corner of his mouth. Toron glanced up from the repair job he was just finishing up on the laboratory door that Globar had broken earlier that morning. "Okay, that's creepy. I'm chalking that one up to the daemon's influence."
Pleased with his work and the door's new hardware, Toron was just as relieved to know the fate of Jalldoon didn't rest upon this latest fix of his. As he put his tools away, the old slime walked over to Quazarec. "Where will you go now?" The android mounted his new weapon to the lug on the back of his harness and measured his words thoughtfully. "Vanity set me on a path away from honorable beings such as yourself, Sir Toron. My single-minded quest for power almost destroyed me." He paused before continuing, "Too many lives on Jalldoon hang in the balance to risk over pride. We face our common enemy together." Toron smiled and clapped the synthetic human on the shoulder. Quazarec looked around the laboratory. "Plus, you need someone to spruce up this place."
Just then, without warning, the door burst open. Prince Algor--in what appeared to be a spacesuit--stood in the doorway. The mangled new door latch skittered across the floor.
[So what did you guys think? Hope you had as much fun with the story as I had writing it. This time around, the writing duty was all mine, as Dr. Rampageo is simultaneously working on a separate parallel story that will be dropping very soon (Algor...in a spacesuit!?). The goal here was to reintroduce Quazarec to the TEWOJ landscape, and of course, to provide a light and enjoyable story to explain the cosmic android's new duds. ;)
And speaking of his fresh new gear, the four Daemon Armor Quazarec figures you see in the photos above were meant to debut at this year's Zolocon in Bucks County, PA...but due to last-minute logistical issues, I was unable to make it to the show. The struggle is real though--had my first kid this winter, moved to Philly last month, and my girl just started a new gig in Jersey! ;) Anyway, this new edition of Quazarec features many advances I've been working on in the last year or so. First and foremost is the Brownnoize clamshell armor, designed to fit the human/barbarian Zoloworld torso at the core of these figures. This was an exceptionally fun CAD-modeling challenge for me: how to design a 3D-printed removable armor accessory for an existing action figure. I think you'll dig the surprisingly-simple and rugged results once you see them in-hand.
Heh...^^this set of instructions^^ will accompany all upcoming figures using some variation of the armor, and just like the glowie animated gifs bookending the story above, it was an absolute blast learning how to make!
And speaking of glowie, Quazarec's new look also incorporates a wild blend of glow-in-the-dark features: GID-painted eyes, a glow marble (originally from Cosmic Armor Quazarec's staff) mounted in his armor, and a new weapon that has a GID vinyl insert sandwiched between two pieces of translucent 3D-printed plastic. Wow! And rounding out the latest advances are the use of soft goods (the tabard/loincloth) and matte spray to make the plastic's normally glossy surfaces look much more like traditional action figure material.
Aiight, bet. Where can I cop a Daemon Armor Quazarec?? Well, since our attendance at Zolocon was cancelled, we had intended to sell these guys through the Doomkick store. They didn't make it that far though--each one was snatched up by members of the Jalldoon League of Explorers. Hey, membership has its privileges. ;) But don't trip: we're definitely planning a larger run in the near future. Y'know. As soon as my daughter starts letting me sleep at night. :P
There's definitely more exciting 5-1/2" fight figure action brewing at Brownnoize HQ in the coming months, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, I haven't forgotten my vintage Japanese toy roots! Chakradhar Robo still hasn't seen a proper release. I am still weighing a bunch of different packaging options right now, and believe me when I say, the wait will be worth it. I've never done as deep a dive as this into packaging development. In the past, I've always sorta viewed custom toy packaging as an annoyance--a low-priority thing diverting resources from producing the actual toy. But as y'all probably realize, Chakradhar's VERY special to me and I want the presentation to have as much of an impact as the figure itself.
And in addition to Chakradhar, more of my "Shogun Voyager" tributes to the super robots of the 70's are in the works. Stellar Armor Genzon's core design is getting a significant overhaul, and will likely see a deluxe release similar to Chakradhar Robo at some point down the road. And as y'all have probably noticed, my minifig plans have had plenty of fits and starts over the years. Unfortunately, they continue to do so. :/ I have several ideas in mind, but 1) I'm in love with each of these concepts to the point where committing to one feels impossible...and 2) there are only so many hours in the day! With all my resources devoted to 5-1/2" figures and the higher-end robot stuff, I'm honestly not sure I'll ever be able to tackle the cheap toy subgenre and leave my mark the way I envision. There's always collaborations though...
Well, that's it for now, people. Thank you ALL for all the kind words sent privately regarding the new addition to my family...and of course for all the support for my toy-making endeavors. Y'all keep me going. Stick with me and let's see where all this takes us! ;)]