Scattered across the ground as far as they could see, the JSAers saw nothing but broken glass. It stretched off for miles in every direction. Hawkman picked himself up from the ground. Lying next to him were Green Lantern, Superman, and Power Girl. Whatever Doctor Fate had come up with worked, but now where were they?
Across the way, the winged wonder saw Batman helping the Huntress up. Wonder Woman picked Doctor Mid-Nite up and helped him get his infrared goggles back on. Surveying the area, Hawkman was satisfied that everyone was accounted for.
“All right, everyone, gather around.”
The assembled JSA came together around their chairman. “First off, Johnny, I know we’ve given you a hard time in the past, but having the Thunderbolt fetch Batman from — well, wherever he came from — was a stroke of genius.”
“Thanks, Hawk, but I didn’t–”
Before Johnny could finish his sentence, the ground started trembling and shaking as though hit by a major earthquake. Those JSAers able to fly took to the sky, with Green Lantern grabbing those who couldn’t. And just as quickly as it started, it stopped.
Wonder Woman pointed skyward. “Great Hera! What in the world is that?!”
On the horizon, the heroes saw a giant pair of eyes, miles wide, framed by a shock of wild red hair. Without warning, a deafening sound emanated from the creature. To Wonder Woman, it sounded like a banshee. It made it almost impossible to think.
The sound waves crashed at the JSAers, some eardrums popping. Green Lantern and Doctor Fate were able to counter the effects before permanent damage was done.
“My God, Fate, what is that?” Hawkman asked as the giant eyes blinked. “And what is that horrid smell?”
Superman looked over at the others. “It smells like… alcohol?”
Mystic ankhs suddenly appeared over the ears of the JSAers. “This should filter down what the creature said to a hopefully understandable level.”
The words come back, “Whaash do we haff here?”
Wildcat threw his arms up. “We’re captives of some kind of drunk giant!”
“Wait a minute, Ted. Maybe I can shed some perspective on this,” Green Lantern said as his brow furrowed in concentration. An emerald TV-screen appeared, showing a giant red-haired man, wearing what appeared to be a tunic made out of skins. In one hand, he held a cup, in the other, a small hammer. And the giant was peering on top of a small table. “Oh, this is good.”
Suddenly, the giant redhead was struck by something and went flying against the wall. He slowly dropped down it, crumpling to the floor. Another man appeared over the table. This one was slight in comparison, rather skinny, with a pointy head and nose. Through Doctor Fate’s mystic headphones, the creature spoke.
“Well, what have we here? Did my buffoonish stepbrother accidentally set you free? Or could you have possibly freed yourselves? No matter, you will be dead before our father notices. Such is the will of Loki, the Trickster.”
“Loki?” Superman looked at the Amazon princess incredulously. “Diana, do you know him?”
“No, Kal, but I know of him. Loki is one of the Norse gods, counterpart to Hermes from the Greek pantheon. The redhead, then, is his fellow Norse god Thor. Loki might look strange, even frail, but Hera help us if he catches us.”
Wildcat looked into Loki’s giant eyes. “Now what? Is he gonna stare us to death?”
A shadow fell over the JSAers, looming ever larger. It was Loki’s hand.
Quicker than thought, the Flash, Green Lantern, Doctor Fate, Superman, and Power Girl gathered the other JSAers just as Loki’s hand came down upon the table with a mighty smack.
“Running will not save thee,” Loki cackled. “Go ahead and hide. I’ll find thee. Thy putrid human stench shall lead me to thee.”
In a darkened corner, the JSAers stopped to catch their breath. With the distorted perspective, they couldn’t even be sure where they were.
“So what’s the plan now, Hawk?” said Wildcat.
Taking off his golden helmet, Hawkman paused for a moment. “The only way we’re going to get back home is if we can take things to Loki’s level. Fate, Alan, it’s up to you.”
The master of the mystic arts and the emerald gladiator sat on the ground cross-legged and joined arms. Doctor Fate chanted some unintelligible word, most likely Egyptian. The two heroes began to glow softly. An eternity seemed to pass, and the others could start to see its effects on Alan. He was straining, sweat trickling down his neck.
“We’ve got the right… spell… but we need more…”
Silently, Wonder Woman approached the duo. She carefully wrapped her magic lasso around the two. “This lasso was forged from the girdle of Gaea herself. May the power of truth set us free.”
Doctor Fate and Green Lantern grew even brighter.
This is not a good thing, Doctor Mid-Nite thought. If Loki sees their glow, it may be all over, but I think I know how to balance this out. He removed a blackout bomb from his tunic and tossed it to the ground, enveloping the team in darkness. The shadows protected them once more.
“Still… not… enough…”
“Say, you guys need a hand?” With the Badhnisian hex spoken by Johnny Thunder, the Thunderbolt popped into view once more. He joined with Fate and the Lantern. The glow intensified, and the JSAers could start to see themselves growing.
“Just… a… little… more…”
The Sandman watched the spectacle through eyes that almost felt strange to him. He had seen this Loki before in his dreams but never imagined he could be real.
Snapping out of his reverie, Wesley Dodds turned to the voice speaking to him. “Bruce?”
“It’s time, Wes. They need your power.”
“My power? But I don’t–”
“Trust me on this, Wes. I know things from being on the other side. Don’t you know that dead men tell no tales?”
Nodding, the Sandman approached the iridescent trio. Cautiously, he touched the Thunderbolt, and the world exploded in a bright searing light.
When the light cleared, the JSAers found themselves standing in a great hall. It was a dining area of some sort. They heard a sound like a wounded beast, only to see Thor curled up with his hammer on the ground, snoring.
“Fate, Alan, you did it!” Atom cried out. “But where’s Loki?”
At the far end of the hall was a throne. It was made of alabaster and marble, and adorned with fur pelts and warriors rainments. Loki looked out of place in it, like a child sitting in an adult’s chair. “Thou hast impressed me. For that I shall make thy a death a quick one.”
“Oh, yeah? Well, you’re about to find out that the JSA doesn’t lie down and die for anyone, pal,” the Atom said as he lunged at Loki.
“Atom, wait!” Wildcat yelled, but as usual the Atom was the first one to join the fray.
Loki threw a small object at Al Pratt, and he suddenly became entangled in some sort of web. Al fell to the ground with a thud, thus once again becoming the first one out of the fight.
“Dare you test my resolve again?” Loki said as he held a small silver box. “Wouldst thou like to see what’s in box number two?”
“Careful, my friends,” Doctor Fate intoned. “I sense an incredible magic within that small artifact.”
Loki smiled. “This little ol’ thing? Why you are smart, indeed, for a mortal. Odin calls this thing the casket of ancient winters. Wouldst thou like to find out why?”
Flipping the lid open, a powerful wind gushed out at the assembled heroes, freezing them in their tracks, literally. Within seconds, the whole room had become an arctic tundra, the JSAers no more than frozen statues.
Loki began to laugh, a deep and maniacal laugh, which unfortunately was cut short by a tapping on his shoulder, whirling around, Loki’s face suddenly came in contact with a fist that sent him sliding across the frozen floor until he crashed into the wall. “Time for a skating lesson, I think,” the Batman said as he knocked Loki down.
“It’s not — you should be frozen! Why aren’t you frozen?! No mere mortal can withstand the power of the cask!”
“Tricking the trickster — kind of ironic, wouldn’t you say? I’m not a mortal. I’m dead, Jim.”
“And what about him? Is he dead, too?”
The Sandman slowly approached Loki, who was now trembling, partly from the cold and partly from fear. He removed his fedora and then slowly lifted his gas mask. It revealed not Wesley Dodds, but skin as white as ivory and hair as black as Loki’s soul. The color slowly drained out of Loki’s face, and something started running down Loki’s leg to the floor.
“L… L-L… Lord Shaper!”
“No, little god, only a small aspect of me, but enough that I was awakened within Wesley Dodds by your machinations. Undo the damage done to these mortals, and I may spare your life.”
Loki fell to the ground, the yellowing ice all around him. “I don’t know how!” He looked into the face of the Shaper and cried.
“He mayest not, but I do!”
Entering the room was Lord Odin, accompanied by a hale and hearty Spectre.