Warlord v1 #9

Oct/Nov 77

Lair of the Snowbeast
17 pages

Writer/Artist: Mike Grell
Colourist: Liz Berube
Editor: Denny O'Neil
Cover: Mike Grell

Travis Morgan, Mariah, Machiste, Tanea

Morgan, Machiste, and Mariah are trudging through a snowy valley, a rarity in the tropical world of Skartaris. They speculate that the thick, constant cloud cover here may be a contributing factor. As the snow blows around them they are hunted by a primordial badger as big as a grizzly bear. Morgan grapples with it at close quarters but is unable to bring his sword into play before he is mauled and thrown to one side, stunned. It swats aside Machiste just as easily and is about to attack Mariah when Morgan regains his senses and leaps upon the beast's back and puts eight bullets through its brain, whereupon the Warlord promptly passes out. His clothing and flesh are torn and he is in shock.

Before his companions can attend to him they are captured by warriors mounted on woolly mammoths, and they leave Morgan to bleed to death in the snow. But Morgan is tough and he manages to get himself moving once again. Trudging through the valley, lost, his body finally gives out and he falls unconscious, perhaps for the last time. Near death, he hallucinates that a beautiful butterfly woman carries him off to some warm, safe place.

An indistinguishable time later, he comes to in a large cave and finds himself fully healed. His shredded costume is testament to the fact that he had been gravely injured, and he is at a loss to explain how he survived, whether it was by medicine or witchcraft. He doesn't have long to ponder this as a yeti-like creature enters the cave, fangs bared, menace apparent. Morgan dives for his sword and comes up with it, ready to cut the monster down, but it is too quick for him, and pins him to the wall. Morgan would stare his death in the face, but as he makes eye contact with the creature, its look softens and gently it puts Morgan back down on the cave floor.

Morgan is not stupid, and he quickly realises that it was this creature that brought him to the cave and tended his wounds. He apologises for judging the snowbeast by its fearsome countenance and thanks it for saving his life. When he asks where his friends might be, the mute creature points to a city in the distance, built upon a high tower of rock. By climbing the tower, you enter the city, and by crossing the bridge out of the city, you leave the snowy valley. Most of Morgan's old clothes are ruined and he supplements what survived with pieces he finds in the snowbeast's lair. The creature cautions Morgan to be careful, and Morgan promises not to throw away the life that was saved.

Healed, Morgan crosses the icy valley easily and reaches the base of the tower. He kills the sentry there and climbs the rocky face of the tower to avoid the men that may guard the road that winds its way up to the city. As he nears the top, the temperature rises, and Morgan is glad to be in the sun again. His happiness is short lived though, as he finds Mariah and Machiste tied to a post about to be sacrificed, or worse, by the local inhabitants. It is time for action and Morgan dives in, sword flashing. Though his efforts are valiant, the odds are too great and he is about to be overcome when the snowbeast rushes to his aid. It scoops him up and protects him, almost maternally, while it makes short work of the stunned city dwellers.

Machiste and Mariah mistake its actions as hostile and Machiste plants a spear square in the snowbeast's back to 'save' Morgan. Anguished, Morgan takes Machiste to task for killing something he had not understood, but then a miracle unfolds. The beautiful butterfly woman of Morgan's dream emerges from the beast's body. Sometime in the past she had used her black arts to save her people, but had paid the price for the knowledge. Her name is Tanea, and she thanks Morgan for seeing the beauty within the beast, for that's what freed her from the enchantment that kept her imprisoned within it. She kisses him passionately and flies off. Morgan and company decide that the best thing to do would be to leave the city before the natives return.

First appearance of Morgan's definitive costume.

Trey Causey’s Notes
Trey is a blogger with an interest in Warlord and the following comments come courtesy of his From the Sorcerer’s Skull blog

Things to Notice
  • Morgan dons his classic loin-cloth costume for the first time
  • Dig the very disco-era design of Tanea

Where It Comes From
The obvious source for this issue's story is the fairy tale "Beauty and the Beast." The first published version of the tale – “La Belle et la Bête" – was by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot, Dame de Villeneuve, and appeared in La Jeune Américaine, et les Contes Marins in 1740. Grell's version, of course, does a gender reversal on the usual tale.

Grell's Bête may have its origins in a made-for-TV horror movie airing earlier in 1977. Snowbeast, broadcast on U.S. TV on April 28, starred Bo Svenson and told the story of a white-furred, bigfoot-type creature's attack on a Colorado ski resort. Beyond the name, Warlord's snowbeast has at least a bit of resemblance to the movie.

There is also Megalictis ferox, a large predatory mustelid of the early Miocene. It resembled a wolverine but was larger – Wikipedia suggests a mass up to 60kg – though A Dictionary of Zoology (1999) by Allaby is apparently familiar with the Skartarian variety. It suggests they can be up to black bear size. eom

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