In the present, Doctor Fate continued his tale of that day back in October of 1960.
“I retained the Amulet of Anubis, the Ring of Fate, and the Cloak of Healing, which together shared a link to the long-missing Helm of Nabu. I could have retrieved the helm before, had I felt it necessary, but the need to be Kent Nelson and not a pawn of Nabu drove me to let the helm remain lost in limbo for decades. When foul Kulak was lost, he fell through an infinity of realities, some of which were chronal in nature. Thus he fell through time as well as through space in no pattern I could discern alone. Yet the amulet allowed me to step within its infinite bounds and walk a path directly to Nabu’s helmet.”
“Wait,” said Shiera. “I see what you did on the crystal, but what of Kulak? He no longer wore the helmet?”
“No. He had divested himself of it and had been lost in the multitudinous paths of reality for all time, or so I hoped,” said Doctor Fate. “In truth, having achieved his purpose, Nabu willed the helm away from mad Kulak’s person. Yet I still had to find the empty helmet, and by walking the way between worlds within Nabu’s amulet, I could do so easily.
“The temptation was great not to leave that world, for it called to me and all within me that responded so long before to Nabu’s ordered call. I saw worlds within worlds where Inza alone was Fate, where Fate was Nabu himself, and other mad realms where entirely new personas governed Fate. But I resisted with a purpose newly honed by the danger facing the Earth and the love I had for Inza and she for me.
“I erred, though, for I proudly claimed the helm, little realizing that it was a trap! Kulak had been rejected by the helm, yet he was stirred by my entry to the limbo. Thus, when my hand touched the helm, an alarm echoed through the netherverse, and he sought to use it to track his way back to our world! I only escaped his foul power by replication of myself and frantic haste.”
Hawkman frowned. “It figures that three-eyed creep would be alert to anyone’s entrance into his prison.”
“If he had freed himself from that endless loop through limbo, then I surely would have fallen to his power,” said Doctor Fate, “for all my energies were needed to combat Malignon the Lord of Pain, whose very form radiated the evil magicks of Chaos!”
“I suppose I entered the story then, when jealous Jim Rock, Jr. sought to use his new power to exact vengeance upon his father’s favored pupil,” said Hawkman.
“Indeed,” said Fate. “Whilst I reclaimed the helm and lost myself, as Inza would say, Malignon rose from that tomb and ventured forth on a bloody path with Carter Hall as the destination.”
The scene in the crystal switched to show Hawkman’s memories of that day in 1960, when Malignon came to Hall Manor seeking a bloody revenge for slights he imagined his father had given him in favor of Carter Hall. While Carter had been checking his maps for a proposed trip east, Shiera Hall had been reading a romance novel on the sofa, and Andy Williams played gently on their record player. All seemed peaceful, until Malignon burned his way through the walls and walked purposefully down the elegant hallways until he sensed his victim within the lush, book-lined study.
“Carter Hall! You have robbed me of a father’s love, and in one act of honor to this human host I wear, I shall rend your bones asunder!” said the monster called Malignon.
Hawkman, watching this image from 1960 play out in Fate’s orb, said, “I had no clue that thing was Jim Rock, Jr. at that moment. His mask was just a human face with an expression of agony etched or burnt into the fabric. He wore no helmet like yours, just that black mask with an expression out of a nightmare. His shroud wrapped up and over his head and reflected the light with some type of ebony sheen. He spoke in the same kind of emotionless tone that y — er, that Spectre uses.”
Shiera shuddered. “I recall this moment all too well!”
She saw herself back in 1960 being lifted into the air by her long hair from one gesture by Malignon. “I’ll rid us of the distracting sow and pleasure myself with her entrails anon!” he said.
Shiera was slammed brutally into the wall and left for dead. “He broke my leg and several ribs with that one move,” she explained in the present, shaking her head.
Carter Hall had jumped over his oak desk to reach a mace hanging from the wall. “You leave her alone, you monster!” he shouted as he charged the man once known as Jim Rock, Jr.
“I, monster?” said Malignon. “By your feeble human judgment of morality, perhaps I earn that term, but I see myself as one of the higher life forms, and your ilk are but fodder for my amusement!”
The mace shattered into pieces against Malignon’s face, and he did not betray any pain. Rather, a look of gentle amusement played across his red eyes. “Come, you can do better than this, man of many lives!” he said. “Perhaps if I sport with the woman again!”
Carter had been furious and frustrated by his lack of success with the creature. He tried a new tactic. “Who are you?” he asked.
“I am Malignon, Lord of Pain. This realm is my toy, and my brethren in Chaos laugh at your wounds!” he said as he slapped Carter into the desk. “Imprison!” he said, and the wood molded itself around the angry hero.
“I’ll leave you here, for new amusements beckon to me,” he said. “I must duel with the soldier of Order, and he is coming from afar! I sense his sudden return to this realm. Let it suffice to you to know that this hatred is the fire that consumes Jim Rock, Jr. — son of your esteemed mentor.”
Carter watched him fly off and sighed in relief. He could still force himself free in time with the leverage of the remains of the mace. He also heard Shiera groan, and gave a quick thanks that she still lived.
“I knew he meant Doctor Fate when he said Order, and I gained new hope, since I figured with Kent by my side I could yet defeat the monster and restore Jim,” explained Hawkman.
In 1960, Doctor Fate had regained his helmet and wore it once more. He boldly flew toward his Salem tower to fight Malignon, and if the man within the gleaming helmet had any doubts, he did not show them in any manner.
But before he reached the Tower of Fate, some of his allies found themselves dealing with the consquences of the newly awakened Chaos Lord.
“Great Scott! The subways are being taken over by massive rats!” mused Superman in Metropolis as he flew out of the Daily Star Building at super-speed.
The giant rats were an afterthought of Malignon’s entry into our world, and he didn’t even directly create them. His very corrupt form merely brought them into being with no intended purpose.
Superman knew they were magical, and thus even he could be harmed by them. He kept his distance then, merely flying around them at top speed until a huge whirlwind was formed, sweeping them skyward and in his wake, up and into airless space.
They were magical constructs, not altered rats, so I feel no qualms about destroying them like this! he mused as he returned to Earth.
In Gotham City, Batman wished he could find more help in stopping the plague of insects that swarmed over his city.
Robin, the former Boy Wonder, and the pretty Bat-Girl, niece of Batwoman, aided the Caped Crusader as he instructed them in how to subdue the swarm with a spray he had whipped up in his Batcave laboratory.
“The cold slows them down enough that we can rid the streets of them before they do too much damage,” explained Batman, “although, at the rate they are multiplying, we won’t be doing anything else for hours!”
Bat-Girl, who was in her twenties but several years younger than Robin, gazed at him longingly and put on a brave face.
In Star City, the second Green Arrow and Speedy team fired bolts of knockout gas into the madmen that rampaged through the city at random.
“Gosh, G.A.,” said Rob Harper, “these folks were as normal as us seconds ago. I even know Larry Bly over there from the college. What came over them?”
His mentor, Oliver Morgan, nodded. “Some magic, or worse. We can subdue them, and we’d better hope someone else steps up to get to the heart of the problem like some of the seldom-seen JSAers!”
Doctor Fate flew downward to Salem, Massachusetts, where he faced Malignon for the first time. The servant of Order faced the servant of Chaos, and each studied the other silently.
To divest him of the raiment should be enough, mused Doctor Fate. “Pawn of Chaos, you trod dangerously close to the domain of Fate! Many an unwelcome intruder has learned to rue such rashness!”
Malignon’s black mask of pain betrayed no emotion, but he smiled behind that awful visage. “Truly? You mistake me for one of your mortal foils, who cower at the mere image of one who never was a child! See, I may prate your favored lines with as much ease as you do, parrot of Order!” He gestured, and the shiny ebony shroud parted to reveal a swarm of locusts that blackened the sky.
Doctor Fate muttered an incantation. “Let the light of Ra melt these swarming mites back into the nothingness that gave birth to them!”
As the swarm parted at the blinding light blast, Malignon closed in on his foe. “I expected your paltry Egyptian wards, and I bring forth one of mine own devising!”
The touch of Malignon sent Fate into a sickening spasm, until he suddenly gripped the black hand and twisted back.
“You wage war upon a hardy foe, a valiant warrior who yields to no one, even one born of the pain and hatred your masters routinely spew forth!” said Doctor Fate, wrenching the arm backward with relentless force.
“Careful, mage, or you’ll feel my disease!” said Malignon. The plague-like touch of Malignon began to work its spell upon Fate’s gloves, and they melted into vile sores that he burned clean in haste. Malignon struck him suddenly with a simple right hook and choked him desperately.
“Look upon the folly your actions have brought down upon you!” declared Doctor Fate as his amulet opened to blaze forth a white light of truth and self-realization.
Malignon screamed and wrapped his own shroud over Fate’s head. “See what rots within your own mortal host and your own selfish, jealous being, Nabu!”
They both fell, and neither moved as Hawkman swooped down with James Rock in his arms. “James, your son is in that black shroud,” he said. “As you can see, he reacts as if he was someone else entirely. But I hoped a father’s love could reach the man within.”
Rock nodded. “I can only pray you are correct. I owe the boy much in the way of reparation for past slights and neglect.”
Hawkman knew the life of an archeologist was one of travel and study, and he hoped he would never neglect his own children; he and Shiera hoped to have a child of their own soon. He dropped down over the fallen Fate. “Doc! Can you hear me?” he cried.
James Rock bent over Malignon. “Jimmy, it’s father! Take off that mask, son!”
Black flames gutted the ground between the fallen men as Malignon rose again.
Within seconds, Doctor Fate had risen as well. He gripped Hawkman’s hand as he lifted his friend to his feet. “My thanks. With an ally of your caliber, I anticipate only triumph!” vowed Fate.
James Rock gazed in horror at his son. “Don’t you know me, boy? It’s your father!” he urged.
“I recognize you as a source for much pain within this frail host,” said Malignon. “And while I thrive on such milk, he does not. Thus I end his suffering with your final breath!” He waved, and tendrils of razor sharpness formed to ensnare James Rock.
Hawkman launched himself forward, firing crossbow bolts into the shadowy form as he said, “Leave him alone, you soulless fiend!”
Malignon released his father and said, “You! I welcome a chance to end our duel now. I hate you as much as I do the child of Order!”
Hawkman slammed aside the tendrils as they snaked toward his fleet form. “You can’t hurt me if you can’t catch me! You’re second-rate, Jimbo! You never could measure up to me!” He thought that he could taunt the human within the Chaos demon and thus outwit both. He was right.
Malignon screamed in anger and said, “I shall bring the joy of pain to your very soul! You, who robbed me of a father’s love! He always lavished praise on the great Carter Hall, but never on his own flesh!” He blazed forth in black fire even as Hawkman crashed directly into him with a flying tackle.
As they fell, Doctor Fate said, “I implore you, Nabu, to lift the veil from off young Rock’s eyes and let him see his father’s heart clearly!”
James Rock jumped up and saw Hawkman and Malignon vanish in fire. He shoved through the smoke to rush to his son. “Son! Oh, Jim, what have you done?” he pleaded as he cradled the illuminated form of his child.
Doctor Fate’s magic blazed into the man, and he saw his father’s love was still strongest for himself as the man rushed to his aide and not Carter Hall’s.
Jim Rock, Jr. gasped as his father clutched his blackened hand. “I’m so sorry! Consumed by jealousy. Forgive me!” he begged until even Fate’s power blinked away, and he sank beneath the pressure of the spell of self-realization.
Malignon spoke again in command of Jim Rock. He shoved the older man aside and watched Hawkman grit his teeth to rise anew. “I am myself once more! Human love has no hold upon me!” he roared. He prepared to blaze forth upon Professor Rock even as Hawkman defiantly thurst himself between them.
Then, as Doctor Fate staggered forward, weary from the effort of trying vainly to separate host from Chaos lord, Jim spoke. “Dad! I can only save you all — make up for this — by taking away his host!” He plunged a fallen crossbow bolt into his heart and died.
The mask and shroud fell away, and the madness left his eyes.
“Nooo!” screamed the now-helpless spirit within the raiment of Malignon.
“Only the host could end his own life, and thus remove Malignon from this plane,” mused Fate sadly.
Hawkman held James Rock’s arm and said, “He gave his life for you. He died a hero.”
Thus ended the story of Malignon and the day Kent Nelson reclaimed his helm that day in 1960.