The next morning brought a horror to Inza Nelson’s face. “Kent, Kent! They’re growing! Already they look to be two years old! Don’t let the magic of Fate rob us of the natural development of our babies! I thought you assumed it was only my pregnancy that was unnaturally rapid?”
Kent Nelson gasped and rolled out of bed. “I shall save them! Don’t worry! As Doctor Fate, I can make things right — I know I can!” He donned the helmet and focused his magic on the three cooing children as Inza held her breath.
As the magical glow hit the infants, a shocking blast of power shook Fate to his knees. The helmet rolled off his head, and he lay still and bleeding.
Inza ran over to him and screamed as two of the three infants transformed into young men. The first young man, Sven, stood tall and handsome, but his features were cruel, and his skin tone had altered to a sickly hue of green. He spoke in a refined manner that Inza recalled all too well.
“It worked!” he exulted. “I live, and my father’s power runs through me!”
“Wotan?!” screamed Inza.
“Aye, woman!” cackled a voice that seemed to come from behind the green youth. “He is my sire, as you were the vessel through which he gave me form. Recall that just as Fate sent his power through you in a long-ago duel, so did he draw Wotan’s evil might into his own body that selfsame eve!”
Next to him stood Henry, who had red hair like Inza’s, yet his features were regal and cold as well. His skin was normal, and his features were like those of a man Inza had seen in some old photo from the JSA’s files.
“Your sire served me well, too,” he said. “I owe him much for allowing me to also gain new life so soon after my demise at the hands of the Halls! Anton Hastor will pay his debt, I assure you, my sibling via magic!”
Wotan himself appeared nearby, ghostlike. “My heir and my ally!” he spoke to the green-hued young man the Nelsons had named Sven. “Come forth this night. We have deviltry to create and worlds to conquer! I name thee Woden — and I bid you come forth now! Fair Inza, you and I share much as of this night, and I thank you for giving so freely of yourself! I spare your mate this night only in payment for services rendered unknowingly!”
As they vanished, Inza held the baby girl who had been somehow spared from their dark magic by Fate’s spell. Kent stirred, and she wept over his stunned body in sorrow and abject horror.
It would not have taken the champion of Order long to spring into action after the evil of Wotan had been revealed to him by Inza, but for once the needs of Kent and Inza Nelson came first. Kent comforted Inza, and as they merged once more into the being known as Doctor Fate, he/she secured the tower itself from future invasion and also focused their considerable powers upon the stability of the sleeping Celeste Nelson.
“It would not do for mine heir to suffer or fall into the carefully laid traps of Wotan,” declared Doctor Fate as he gazed down on the blonde toddler.
The part of Fate that was Inza said inwardly, “What about the boys?”
Kent replied to her, “We shall see about them, my wife.”
Doctor Fate turned to look once more at their golden-haired daughter and then stepped directly through the walls. The Ring of Fate little serves to track the artful Wotan as it would common felons of old, thought Fate. Yet by his very craft, evil Wotan may reveal himself and his torturous purposes anon.
In the manor of Carter and Shiera Hall, which had been slowly rebuilt over the last few months, the couple lounged in happy domestic languor. Shiera wore a short black teddy and cuddled close to the brawny Carter as he read a dusty book.
“You know, some men would pay attention to their gorgeous wives rather than devour a Mesopotamian history book,” pouted Shiera as she propped herself up on one elbow.
“Hmmm… Yes, your hair looks divine,” muttered Carter. She frowned until she saw a sly grin play across his handsome face.
Their romantic interlude was fresh, playful, and vital after decades or even eons of being lovers. This romance was one forged in eternity, and they never really forgot that fact. As they kissed, the couple suddenly shuddered as one.
“Carter, did you feel that? It was like dying… again!” she whispered.
Carter gazed intently into space. “He’s back! Hath-Set lives again!”
“How can we tell?” said Shiera. “He came back before without us realizing it, and the last time was only a few months ago, when he tried — and very nearly succeeded — in destroying Hector. (*) What makes this time so vivid?” She swung her bare legs down and slipped off the teddy as she reached for a costume.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Infinity Inc: Ancient Prophecies and Malcontents.]
Carter had already donned a hawk helmet. “He’s back as himself this time. Don’t know how he did it, but he is closer to his old evil than the last time.”
They donned the ornate costumes that reflected the lives they had lost eons ago at Hath-Set’s hands. They became Hawkman and Hawkgirl.
The merged being called Doctor Fate gestured down at the enchanted Crystal of Nabu that rested upon the table in the Tower of Fate. Hawkman and Hawkgirl sat in front of the magical device.
“If I didn’t know you two weren’t voyeuristic, I’d resent that crystal ball’s being able to show that scene from our bedroom!” snapped Shiera.
Doctor Fate spoke in that cold tone that was neither Inza’s nor Kent’s, “More disturbing than your loss of privacy is the way Wotan’s craft knows no bounds. He used the magicks within us to sire his heir, and this heir is doubly a threat, since our own power is co-mingled within him. If you had not come to us first to inquire about Hastor, we would have gone to your home to seek your help.”
“So little Celeste is safe?” asked Hawkgirl.
“Yes. She is our child,” declared Doctor Fate. “And the very harpies of old shall never tear her from us!”
“Can you help us find Hastor again?” asked Hawkman. “We have the old crystal dagger that started it all when Jim Rock sent it to me from one of his digs.”
Doctor Fate nodded, and the dagger floated between the two couples. “I see an eye of fire in the sky!” announced Fate.
“No doubt it is his old Eye of Ra,” said Hawkman.
“Perhaps… perhaps not,” said Doctor Fate.
If the merged being called Doctor Fate could be said to still possess Inza Nelson’s feminine intuition, then he shuddered at the sound of his friend’s old mentor, James Rock.
“My friend, the dagger speaks of the Eye, and the Eye suggested Rock to you. Rock, in turn, recalls a terrible past adventure to me, and I feel it has a connection to this new peril,” said Fate. “Do you recall the events of the year of the comet, 1948? You were present, though I was retired to the medical life.”
“You speak of the case in which Blue Lama and the Gentleman Ghost, among others, tried to gain total power from a ceremony involving the rubies of life and a passing comet,” said Hawkman. (*) “How could that be tied to Rock?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Brave and the Bold: Hourman and Starman: Times Past, 1948: Time and Stars.]
“Though they failed in their goal, they did unleash great mystical forces which, in that short span of time, compelled poor Jim Rock Jr. toward his tragic fate!” announced Doctor Fate.
“In 1948, that mystical comet attracted a lot of attention, though most folks just thought of it as an ordinary comet,” said Hawkman. “James Rock’s son, Jim Junior, became fascinated with that comet’s odd path and decided that some old hieroglyphs had showed its first passage. He tracked down all the data he could on the comet, and that 1948 passage inspired him to new heights of research.”
“A comet could well be a fiery eye in the sky,” said Shiera.
“Bless your imagination! That fits, too!” said Hawkman.
“In any event, from 1948 to 1960, Jim Rock pursued his research and finally unearthed the tomb that lay at the tip of the comet’s brightest point of passage,” continued Doctor Fate.
“And you had begun your own dabbling in archeology about that time,” said Hawkman. “Rex’s company even financed some of your digs.”
“In truth, I was driven in some way to find what poor mad Rock discovered before me. He found the resting place of an earthbound Lord of Chaos!” said Fate. “It was this dire event that drove me to reclaim my old helm,” he added bitterly.
“I thought so,” said Shiera. “But, hey, didn’t you wear it during the Stalker case of 1945?”
“No. ’Twas merely one wrought by the magic of Sargon and the Spectre that allowed me to mimic much of the old power while in proximity to the Spectre,” explained Fate. “After that case it was no more, and as you know, I never reclaimed the true one until the events of 1960 of which I speak.”
“For that matter, none of us really saw the Spectre again after that case for years!” mused Hawkman.
“Fate, pardon my rudeness, but aren’t you worried about the safety of your boys?” asked Shiera.
“Shiera!” groaned Carter.
“In truth, we feel the pain of a mother and a father doubled within our single being, but we also know as if foretold of old that Celeste is to be the heir of Fate, that leaves us somewhat fatalistic about the boys,” said Fate. “They were not truly ours as much as merely artifices wrought from magic stolen from our very bodies.
“That part of me that was Inza felt concern when Kent took up his late father’s career and left medicine for a while,” continued Fate. “She feared that it would lead him deeper into the arcane mysteries of the ancient past… and she was right.”
“I knew about poor Jim Rock Jr., since we waged that war together, and I comforted his father afterward,” mused Hawkman. “However, I never realized his discovery of the tomb was connected to that comet from twelve years before.”
“Look once again upon the scene of that fatal day in 1960, when much was altered forever,” said Doctor Fate. “See what the crystal reveals, and perhaps by reliving the past, we may be better able to preserve our present against Wotan’s dark purposes.”
Shiera gazed into the crystal, resisting a curious urge to use the reflective surface as a mirror for her lipstick. She watched a man who resembled gentle old James Rock, Carter’s mentor, except in that a frantic desperation filled his eyes.
Poor Jim looked like his dad, she thought. I never saw that, but then I only met him after he became… that monster!
They watched Jim Rock’s glee as his workers unearthed the tomb that lay at the apex of the comet’s path. “He found much of what you did in 1920, when you were a boy of twelve, and your dad Sven led you to Nabu’s chamber,” said Hawkman.
Doctor Fate nodded. “He opened a tomb that held not a benign Lord of Order but an evil Lord of Chaos who possessed him more completely than ever Nabu claimed my earthly form.”
They saw Jim lift down a shroud that defied logic by remaining pristine, though it had been buried for eons. He wrapped it over his shoulders and screamed, then searched eagerly for something else. He found a mask and pressed it to his face. From that moment on, Jim Rock Jr. was gone.
“I am Malignon!” he said in an inhuman tone.
“Malignon, Lord of Pain,” said the observing Doctor Fate. “That was how he styled himself as he laid waste to countless dimensions in order to gratify his perverse desires. The moment Jim donned the black mask, I felt it. I, Kent, turned to Inza as she had feared I would someday, and said, ‘I must reclaim the helmet. The true Doctor Fate is needed once more. If you love me, then allow me to do what the world requires!’
“Inza wept, pleaded, and begged on her knees for me not to venture back into Fate’s world,” said Doctor Fate. “I only understand her pain now that she is part of me. I broke her heart, but the safety of the world entire made it necessary.”
“I did offer you all a woman’s love could grant, but you refused to stay,” said Inza within the merged being. “I now sense that that cost you much sorrow and regret, too. Before I only felt you placed your own needs above my feelings.”
“So you knew you needed a way to reclaim the helm,” said Hawkman. “How exactly did you do it? It was lost with old Kulak back in 1942.”
“That is a tale frought with peril, and I’ll reveal it fully now,” said Doctor Fate.