A Marvelous Tale Told in the mighty Marvel Manner!
Droom Meets Krogg
Anthony Druid, if he were alive, would have been sweating. Before him was a large crystal, and inside was the still form of Deborah Whitman, better known as Droom. "Damien, the prize is ready!"
Damien Hellstorm, one of the many rulers of Hell, appeared in a flash of brimstone. "Anthony." His smile unnerved the ghost. "Aren't you forgetting something?"
Druid shook his head. "She's ready now!" He insisted as he looked around, as if the very walls might come alive. "I can't stall that blasted old fool any longer!"
"But it is not yet the proper time. She has one more test, then she'll have copied your actions, more or less, enough." Damien's smile grew. "She's not ripe enough. One more mission, then I'll collect her."
Druid silently swore as Damien left. Turning his gaze on the crystal, he shook his head. "No, don't look at me like that! I'm weak, so weak." Clutching his translucent hand, he thought about hitting the green crystal before him but thought better of it. "Don't you see? If you take my place I can live and be free of all of this madness." Floating away, he muttered to himself. "Be free, be free…"
Deborah woke with a start. Sitting up in her bed, in her room, she first thought she was having an intense dream, but her father's voice from the other side of the door said otherwise. "Young lady, if you don't get out of bed this instant!"
"Coming daddy!" Deborah got out of bed and looked herself over. Her hair was still black and her skin pale white. Her robes were neatly hung over the back of a chair. "Then why don't I remember putting them there?" Slipping the robe on, she gingerly opened the door and stepped out into the hall.
Below was her father, a frying pan in his hand. "Come on kiddo, you're going to miss your big day!"
"Sure, sorry daddy. Just let me get ready."
"Breakfast is on the table."
She nodded silently before entering the bathroom. What was going on? She last recalled walking away from Druid, but that was it. Try as she might, she couldn't remember a single detail afterwards. She knew she hadn't been home, so why was her father acting so calm?
"Because as far as he knows, you never left. Your appearance to him has been unchanged."
"What?" In the mirror was the visage of the Ancient One. "What do you mean?"
The Ancient One shook his head. "As far as your friends and family are aware, you never left. A simple act of hypnotism committed by Druid."
Deborah was silent for a moment. Could the Ancient One have prevented this? Rather than asking him, she calmed herself and took a different approach. "Tell me then, what am I to do? Was I ever really a hero?"
The old man sighed. "Yes, yes you were. You saved this planet, but Druid is going to use your accomplishments against you." The room grew colder. "I tried to give Anthony the redemption he craved, but his baser nature won out, and I fear you were little more than a pawn to him."
"Can I stop him? Or you?"
"I can do little directly. My strength is not what is once was. No, I fear the final, battle must be conducted by you and you alone."
"But what can I do?" Her frustration was boiling over.
"Take heart, Anthony has trained you after all, only now you must use his tools against him." His visage started to fade. "There will be one more test, and then the final battle shall begin."
Deborah shook her head as she hurried downstairs towards breakfast. Entering the kitchen, she felt a sudden tightness in her chest as she saw her father fixing the food. Without thinking, she threw her arms around him and hugged him. "Hey kiddo, what's that for?"
"I, I just wanted to, that's all." Deborah saw no confusion in his eyes. "Is he still hypnotized?" She thought better than to ask. Sitting down, she tried to readjust as her father turned on the radio. The announcer's shrill voice broke through the static.
"This just in, a madman calling himself 'Mr. Smith' has claimed to have perfected an antigravity ray, and unless his demands are met, then he will launch every city on Earth into outer space!"
Her father flicked the radio off. "I swear, Halloween is over, you'd think they'd get tired of those joke reports."
"I'm sure." Deborah wolfed down her food and stood up. Kissing her father on the forehead, she snagged her books and darted out the door. "I'll see you later!"
Standing before the horrified witnesses was a man. His stature was small, his hair thinning. He ran his fingers through his neatly trimmed goatee. The sunlight reflected off of his thick glasses as he hefted a strange weapon at the throng of people. Above his head was a house.
The house itself had been scheduled for demolition and had been rightly regarded as an eyesore in the town for several years. At that moment, however, it was suspended dozen of feet into the air. The man cleared his throat.
"Attention! You saw what I did, and you know what I'm capable of!" Several reporters leaned in close as they pointed their microphones at him. "Give me one million dollars in gold, or this shall befall all of your state capitals!" Turning his back to the crowd, he pointed the gun at the house and gently squeezed the trigger. A violet flash of light struck the floating structure. The crowd gasped as the house started to move higher and higher into the sky, gaining speed at an incredible rate. Terrified onlookers dodged falling bits of debris as the man turned back towards them.
"I want the gold, delivered to this very spot, by no later than five p.m. tomorrow. Ignore me at your peril!" The man walked unmolested through the crowd.
One of the reporters turned to a colleague. "Wow, who was that guy Clark?"
"I don't know. He just said his name was Mr. Smith before calling everyone."
Druid watched the unfolding events with equal part hope and terror. "This is it, the final test."
"Yes, after which you fell into obscurity. Will she do the same?" Damien questioned as he stretched out his legs.
"Irrelevant; after this she will have copied enough of my past deeds to earn the mantle of protector. Then you take her in my place and give me life."
"Of course Anthony, of course. I would never forget the deal, but thanks all the same for reminding me." Standing up, the ruler of Hell threw on his coat and made his way towards the door. "I'll leave you to the job at hand. Summon me the second she completes the task."
Mr. Smith, as he was called, entered the small apartment with no fanfare. No one had paid him any mind as he walked through the lobby, despite his face and description being discussed at length on both the television and radio. Gently placing the gun on the warped nightstand, he slipped off his white trench coat and neatly hung it up. "Now all I have to do is wait." Picking up an ashtray, he slid off the bottom, revealing a complicated device nestled within the metal. "And now for some uninterrupted dining." Flipping a tiny switch, he sat down at a small table and started to lay out several small tins and a glass of dark liquid.
Deborah appeared in the alleyway next to a cheap hotel. "So, this is where the Ancient One sensed where Smith was hiding." Closing her eyes, she concentrated. The illusion of her former appearance slipped away. The now dark haired, pale skinned woman stepped out of the shadows and silently slipped in through the kitchen. "I'd rather keep the disguise up, but I can't afford to waste any of my concentration on maintaining a disguise."
Darting up the stairs, Deborah silently walked down the poorly lit hallway until she suddenly felt a strange tingle in the air. "Wait, I should focus on my surroundings, like I was taught." Closing her eyes, she reached out with her mind. Her third eye opened, she saw a crisscross of odd lights surging throughout the air. "Some form of defense. Not magical, but science? Its like nothing I have ever seen before."
Figuring that who or whatever set this trap up would know if it were tampered with, Deborah focused her full mental powers upon herself. Turning herself intangible, she easily walked through the beams until she came to their source. Standing before the door, she made herself solid. Using the Sight of the Blind Eye, she saw past the door. Inside the frame was a complicated machine. "Some kind of generator no doubt. Very well, I can not go in, I shall make my prey come to me."
Smith was eating a black paste from the tin when he heard some clear their throat. Leaping to his feet, he reached out and grabbed the gun. Throwing himself with his back to the wall, he scanned the room. "Who's there?"
"Someone you wanted to see. Open the door and let my partner inside and we can discuss the details of your payment."
Smith carefully edged himself towards the door. Flipping the light switch, he threw open the door. "Who are you?" He kept his back to the wall and gazed around the apartment with one wary eye. "How did you get someone in here?"
Deborah stepped through the doorway. "In due time. Tell me, how did you manage those amazing feats?"
Smith, his gun still trained on her, walked towards the table. "Science my dear, now, about the gold?"
"In due time." Concentrating, she slowly worked her way past the man's glasses and peered into his mind. Feeling the resistance, she gasped at what she saw.
Smith blinked and rubbed his forehead. "Hypnotism, eh? I hadn't expected that on this world, but then again I do plan for all contingencies."
Stepping back, Deborah banished the strange thoughts from her mind. "So that's how you did it, you're from outer space!"
"Indeed, and while your trick to gain admittance was amusing, I should warn you it won't work a second time." Flipping the glasses off, Deborah saw two solid black irises staring back at her. "Since there is no need to stand on ceremony…" With one hand he reached up and gripped the top of his head. Tugging, he pulled the flesh off, revealing a slightly misshapen head. His flesh was green and fairly scaly. The forehead was deeply lined, with his black eyes staring out from under two thick eyebrows. "And since I was kind enough to divulge my identity, would you not do the same?"
Deborah, her eyes never leaving the gun, spoke softly. "Mortals call me Droom. I am the protector of this world and all who dwell within it."
"Really?" The alien that was Smith seemed more amused than anything else. "My records showed no such person of that name, but I suppose I overlooked you. Since we are on a single name basis, you may call me Krogg."
"Very well Krogg, what is your purpose on Earth?"
Krogg blinked. "Why, to rule it, what else? My dear, you have no idea how lucky your little world is; prime location, no real threats for light years."
"Location? What do you mean?"
"What do I mean? I mean that as far as teaming galactic empires go no one would bother sending a warship or anything else here. It is, as you locals say, in the dead center of nowhere. A man could retire in luxury here, if he was willing to work."
"So you just come here and invade with your weapons and expect no resistance?" Droom's voice was deep and commanding as she clutched her fists.
"Of course not. This," he gestured with the gun, "is little more than a child's toy I adjusted. Although I can assure you, if I did bring any real weapons here I would have destroyed your entire way of life in one of your seconds. No, I limited myself to toys and antiques; no one bothers to inspect your cargo if all you are carrying is a shipment of toys." He took a seat and gestured for Droom to do the same. "As I was saying, I would have gotten the gold first, and from there I have used that capital to bribe Earthmen to work for me…to help plunder your planet."
"Setting yourself up as warlord then?"
"Yes. Of course, your presence here complicates matters. My research showed that while this world has an overabundance of so-called "superheroes", most of them were of the simple mortals in masks variety. Your powers were unexpected, and as such I see no point in continuing this venture."
Tracing a sigil under her sleeve, Droom readied for an attack. "Then what are your plans now?"
Krogg sat contemplating. "Well, my intentions right now are to blast this dwelling with my matter transmitter and erase all signs of my presence. After that, I will leave this world and wait. My people are a long-lived race. I can wait it out, and when I come back, perhaps there will be lull."
Druid watched with rapt attention. "Yes, stand by! Let him leave, and everything will have been completed!"
Droom held up her hands. "Wait, you possess such great technology, why don't you stay?"
Krogg's eyebrows both shot up in surprise. "Stay? And what, be killed or caught in endless battle?"
"No, I mean stay. With your science, you could easily make a fortune here. Why use crime when you can gain everything peacefully?"
"No! No! What are you doing?"
Krogg lowered the gun. "You know, I hadn't really thought about that." Looking at Droom, he rubbed his chin. "Although that does make some degree of sense. There would, of course, be some questions about my background, but there are ways enough to bypass that. Yes, that is a thought."
Druid, were he still alive, would have been sweating. "What am I going to do?"
Damien casually looked over his shoulder. "I'm not sure. What happened on your between you and Krogg?"
"Hmm? Nothing actually. I showed up and he left. He swore vengeance, but he never followed up on it and I never saw him again."
"Well, now that could be bad. After all, if she changes things too much, then she won't be much of a replacement for you, correct?"
Druid stood up. "I'll stop her. I'll change it, no, I'll get rid of that alien, then I'll just bring her directly here." He was gone in an instant.
Damien smirked as he watched the unfolding drama. "Ah Anthony, I am truly going to miss you." With a wave of his hand, the image changed to a red haired youth who bore a strong resemblance to the Lord of Hell. "If this works..."
As Krogg and Droom were talking, a sudden guest of wind blew in and startled the alien. "What is that?"
Druid appeared before the duo. "Krogg, you shall leave this world and never return." Turning to Droom, he gestured wildly. "And you! Come back with me this instant!"
"No." Blocking the spell, Droom rose to her feet. Holding her hands out, she focused and called upon her own power. "No more will I listen to your lies!"
Druid's face was a mask of fury. "You listen to me! I've gone through Hades itself for this moment, and I won't have anyone, especially some snot nosed waif, costing me my chance at power!" Chanting, he summoned up a variety of horrific creatures.
Krogg, meanwhile, quietly slipped away. Pressing his belt buckle, he, along with most of the apartment's trappings, vanished in a blink. "Perhaps that young female was correct. This planet is far too wild for conquest. Perhaps I will simply monitor it for a while."
"I thought the Ancient One limited your powers?" Droom stepped back. Casting shields, she weathered the assault as smoky tentacles thrashed against the barrier.
Druid sneered. "Bah! That old fool was merely holding me back! I found power from a different source!"
The stench of sulfur filled the room. Behind Druid appeared a familiar sight to Droom. The same stranger that aided her in her undersea battle stepped into the room. He did not look pleased. "Anthony, I do believe you have overstepped your bounds."
Druid snarled as he faced the stranger. "No Damien, it is you! Look, I have the girl, take her and free me!"
Damien thoughtfully rubbed his chin before answering. "No."
The life ran from Druid's cheeks. "What, what do you mean no?"
"No, I don't think I'll be taking Ms. Whitman's soul or body with me." With a wave of his hand, the shadowy horrors vanished. Ignoring Druid, he walked over to the confused Droom. "I did aide you once before, and I swore that next time the price would be high." His face was solemn. Droom lowered her shield. She felt the power resonating within him and knew any attacks would be futile. He stretched out his hands. "My price is this."
For scant seconds he was silent. Druid wrung his ghostly fingers as Droom stoically waited. "My price, Deborah Whitman, is that you not interfere with me."
Droom and Druid were taken aback. "What?"
Turning to Druid, Damien's grin grew wider. "What, you really thought I just let you escape? That you would get a second chance on Earth, no fuss, and still be allowed to enter into a contract with me?"
Druid tried to protest. "Yes! I escaped, but, but you tricked me!"
"Oh Anthony, that is what I have always enjoyed about you." Damien chuckled. "Always someone else's fault, and never yours. A pure soul is worthless in Hell old boy, you know that, a soul that escapes and attempts to create more mischief? Nearly priceless."
"Wait, so all this time, this power, was just an act? Something to trick a dead man?" Droom spat.
"Hmm? I wouldn't have put it quite like that, but yes. Don't worry, the power should vanish and go to someone else-" Damien never finished his sentence, as a powerful spell knocked him off his feet and sent him through the ancient drywall.
"You used me!" Droom called upon all that Druid taught her as the Lord of Hell staggered back into the room. Summoning nature spells, the wood of the floor and the mold in the ceiling broke free and enveloped him in a cocoon. The spells suddenly grew stronger as Druid joined in.
"I'm sorry." Druid couldn't quite look her in the eyes. "I've said that too many times, but I mean it. I've been blinded by power and manipulated far too many times." Pouring his very essence into the spell, Druid started to lose shape. "Forgive me Deborah, I never meant to drag you into this mess." His form, now almost totally incorporeal, faded from sight.
As Druid faded from sight, Damien easily broke free of his shell. Hellfire licked the peeling wallpaper as he loomed over her. Droom gritted her teeth and prepared another spell. She swore that she would make his victory a costly one.
Then, as Damien stood ready for an attack, he suddenly stopped. Flashing a grin, he stepped back. "I think we've danced enough for this evening." With a blinding flash, he was gone, leaving Droom alone in the ruined apartment.
Leaving before any curiosity seekers showed up, Deborah was stopped by the floating visage of the Ancient One. "Droom, come to me."
Ducking into a nearby doorway, she closed her eyes and concentrated. Feeling her astral self leave, she floated high above the crowd to meet the old man. "Ancient One, what has happened?"
The Ancient One looked almost as puzzled as her. "That I am not entirely sure. I was aware of Anthony's plans, but I tired to steer him towards nobler ends. In that regard, I have failed both him and you. I can't find him, as his spirit has been so dissipated that he has been almost completely erased from this dimension, or at least so spread out as to have filtered into another reality, but the man you encountered, did he smell of sulfur?"
The Ancient One sighed. "That was Damien Hellstorm, or at least a version of him. Anthony was in his realm, but even I am not privy to what his mind holds."
Droom was quickly loosing her patience. "So this whole time, months of my life wasted, was for nothing?"
"I didn't say that. No doubt Damien Hellstorm manipulated the pieces and achieved his goals. I thought that by training you, Anthony could have prevented it. He failed at that, but I am unsure of what Damien's goals were. As for your training, you still posses the powers of Droom, and as such you are the Protector of Earth. You were drawn into this world against your will, so I would understand if you wished to relinquish your power."
Droom was silent for a moment. True, she could go back to her life, but what about all she had seen? "Tell me, this world, it is going to change, isn't it?"
"Indeed. A new age is upon the world, a world of new gods and monsters. Your light may not be the brightest, but it will shine all the same."
Droom nodded her head. "True. Very well, I will accept these powers, but only with one condition."
"I can still remain as I once was, with no deception or lies, yet at the same time continue as Droom."
The Ancient One was silent. "Hmm, you ask a dangerous price. It is possible, of course, but as long as there are human connections there might be ways for an enemy to manipulate them."
"That is a risk I am willing to take. If I am unable to protect my family, I can hardly protect the Earth, can I?"
"True. So be it." The Ancient One started to fade. "I will leave you know, but know that the entire Earth is your domain. Your powers shall continue to grow, but I shall not monitor you, for you have passed through your trials and emerged stronger. Goodbye Droom, and may the Vishanti watch over you always." His voice faded away, leaving her alone on the astral plane.
As she reentered her body, she stepped out of the alley and merged with the crowd. "Something still bothers me, what was Damien's plan, and how did I fit into all of this?"
In the bowels of Hell, Damien laughed. Before him was an image of a young man with flaming red hair walking towards a classroom. "A pity you will never know Ms. Whitman." Making the image vanish, Damien strolled out onto his balcony and gazed down at the sight of torment and suffering below him. "Everything is interconnected in some way, even here, but if one thing were to change, say the first mystic of a new era or the first hero, then the ripples could effect everything. Such as a young boy never coming into his birthright and staying pure, or perhaps coming into it later, when the time is ripe and the scales are more uneven."
"Darling, come back to bed." A sultry voice called from within the bedchamber.
Damien's smirk grew into a laugh. "A slight loss for me, but such confusion would be worth it. I wonder if my younger self will ever know?"
Damien Hellstorm was a nice all-American kid, surname aside. As he walked into homeroom, however, he felt the strangest chill go up his spine, like someone was walking on his grave. He shrugged it off and sat down at his desk.
Droom was invisible. Being as she was outside of her body, that was not unusual, but she was not on the astral plane, but rather several miles in orbit, watching a space shuttle attempting reentry. The crew, three men and a woman, were trying to bring the ship in for a landing but the cosmic rays that surrounded the planet had interfered with the controls and sent the ship plummeting out of control.
Moving forward, and calling upon the sky itself to help, she eased the ship out of its tailspin and aimed it towards an isolated stretch of land on the west coast. "I wonder if our paths will ever truly cross?" Her mind wandered as she looked out over the Earth. "Until they do, this world shall never be without a protector. So swears Droom!"
Well folks, it has been a heck of a ride. Big announcement, but first lets get to ye old credits.
This story was base on "Krogg!" which was first published in Amazing Adventures #6 (November 1961), with credits going to Stan Lee (story) and Paul Reinman (pencils/inks). All characters mentioned or alluded to are owned by Marvel Comics. All rights reserved.
And now for the sad news
This will be the final issue of Amazing Adventures. The whole prequel idea was perhaps not the best way to go, and the problems showed. Droom isn't gone forever though. Like all Marvel characters, she's just sleeping. Droom was live on, not in our hearts, but rather as a rotating backup feature in other publications. Amazing Adventures, however, will not. The show is over folks, best take what you can and leave the rest.
Now in the actual history, issue six really was the last shout for Amazing Adventures, as starting with issue seven the title was now called Amazing Adult Adventures…but I think that title might raise a few eyebrows. The next title change might be a touch more familiar, as after that it became Amazing Fantasy, future home to a certain wall-crawler.
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