Black Adam sat on a cracked throne of crimson marble, absentmindedly tracing the edge of the golden lightning bolt emblazoned on his black shirt. He let his eyes wander over the ruins of what had once been an opulent Martian palace.
Needing a place to escape the prying eyes of his successor, as well as the other heroes of Earth, Adam found refuge on the neighboring planet. This made it easier to plot and plan schemes of revenge without the constant worry that Captain Marvel or one of his do-gooder allies would come bursting in with ideas of incarceration on their mind. The deserted palace seemed to beckon to him from the first moment he laid eyes on it.
Bas-relief images of a warlike, shape-changing race depicting a history of violence and domination decorated the walls. Not for the first time, Black Adam wondered what it would have been like to have lived in this place during its height of power.
His musings were brought to an end when a faint sound reached his ears. In a place where he was the sole inhabitant, the only sounds that should have been present were the sounds that he himself created. He listened intently but remained seated, confident in his own power.
The faint slap of ancient leather against ancient stone grew louder and more distinct with each passing second. Massive doors at the opposite end of the throne room slowly began to open, as if by their own volition, and Adam felt a wave of anger wash over him when an old man clad in white entered.
“How you found me, I know not,” Black Adam told his unwanted guest, “but I am doing nothing that merits your attention.”
The ancient wizard smiled. “The power that flows through your veins, power that I helped bestow upon you, has brought me here.”
Adam wasn’t pleased. “I trust you haven’t come to exchange pleasantries,” he said, his voice little more than a growl.
“I came because you have a mission to fulfill,” Shazam said.
“What mission could I have to fulfill for you?” Adam asked. “I am no longer your lap dog.”
“The wards that have kept Nabu trapped for nearly three millennia have been disturbed,” Shazam said.
“What does this have to do with me?” Adam asked.
“You have a vow to fulfill.”
Black Adam began to laugh. “Why should I care about some ancient vow that I made back when I was Egypt’s champion?”
“Because, Teth-Adam,” Shazam replied, “you made that vow with a wizard.”
In the blink of an eye, the long-deserted Martian palace was deserted once again.
The moment the doors opened, ancient wards began to break down. Deep within the bowels of the pyramid, walls began to shift, and hidden things became seen.
Kent Nelson had grown up around archaeological digs for most of his ten years, so he knew that his place was in the back. He had taken the lead one time, and he had learned then that the back was the best place for him. As he followed the men, he let his fingers trace the patterns carved into the passage wall.
Dr. Carter Hall glanced back and smiled. “Hey, kid, make sure you don’t set off any traps doing that.”
Kent pulled his hand away from the wall. Unfortunately, it was an action taken too late. In an instant, a literal blink of the eye, the boy found himself in a room with no visible way out.
One of the interesting things about young boys was that they possessed nearly an equal amount of fear and curiosity. While Kent was definitely afraid, being the son of an archaeologist, he was also extremely curious.
Where was he?
How did he get here?
He guessed that he was still in the tomb, his reasoning being the fact that the stone that made up the walls of this room was the same as the stone he was touching in the passage. As to how he got here, there was only one logical answer — magic. For a ten-year-old, the existence of magic was a concept readily accepted.
It took the boy a few moments to realize that, despite the presence of light, there was no visible source. Again, his mind turned to the only logical explanation — magic. Surprisingly, Kent found the possibility of magic being present strangely comforting.
The voice was stern, but pleasant, like a grandfather. To the boy, the word was as much a request as it was a command.
“Choose what?” Kent asked.
“Choose,” the voice said again.
Still unsure of the choices before him, Kent was becoming frustrated. He wanted to yell at the stupid voice and tell it there was nothing to choose, that it was confusing him, but he didn’t. Instead, he decided to lash out at the voice and try to confuse it.
“I choose everything!”
There was a moment of silence, and then the voice responded. It was not the reply Kent expected.
The voice simply said, “Interesting.”
Dr. Carter Hall was easily the boldest of the men, often taking risks his colleagues would never consider. They often joked that he thought he would live forever. It was even rumored that the movie archaeologist, Illinois Johnson, was based on some of Carter’s exploits. It didn’t take long for him to assume the lead.
The four men soon found themselves standing outside of what appeared to be a chamber. Ancient hieroglyphs lined the edges, the symbols acting as both a warning and a seal.
Dr. Daniel Garrett pulled a notepad and a pencil from his jacket pocket and examined the text. After several minutes of scribbling and erasing, tracing and retracing the text with his finger, the man announced his findings.
“Beyond this portal, bound by the word of Thoth and of Ptah, held in the embrace of the lord of dreams, awaits Nabu until the day of his judgment.”
Dr. Sven Nelson rubbed his stubbled jaw. “I wonder how this connects to the name outside — Kaji Dah.”
At the mention of the name, the sound of stone brushing against stone filled the passageway. The hieroglyphs began to glow, and a golden seam appeared, revealing the wall to be what the archaeologist had already expected: a doorway.
As the doors began to swing open, Obaid glanced around. “Dr. Nelson,” he said, “your son is gone.”
“Wherever he is,” Carter said, as he took a step backward, “I hope he is safer than we are.”
Since his awakening, Prince Amentep, the man the world had come to know as Ibis the Invincible, had seen some strange things, but never in his wildest imagination could he have been prepared for what he saw before him.
Neither could the patrons at the outdoor café in the heart of Paris.
The name circulated among the Parisians in low, nervous whispers. They had all heard of this villain the Americans called Black Adam, and as he descended gracefully from the sky against a backdrop of the Eiffel Tower, they couldn’t help but wonder how much of the city of lights would still be standing when he was gone.
Ibis and Taia, his love of a thousand lifetimes, however, saw more than was visible to the terrified Parisians. Descending from the sky along with Black Adam was the ghostly image of a wizened old man.
For Ibis to say that he was surprised to see these two men together would have been an understatement. He knew of the tumultuous relationship between the fallen champion and his former master.
“You are in danger,” the ancient wizard said.
Taia stared at Adam. “And you have brought the enemy to us. Has this villain ensorcelled you and made you do this?”
“Hold your tongue, woman,” Adam told her, “or I shall remove it from your head. I am here to… help.” The final word was like bile on his lips.
Shazam smiled. “Teth-Adam is fulfilling a vow made long ago.”
Ibis the Invincible readily admitted his ignorance of such a vow, so the wizard explained.
“And you think this Nabu will attempt to take the Ibistick a second time?” Ibis asked.
“I do,” the wizard said.
Ibis turned to Adam and extended his right hand. “Then I appreciate your aid.”
Black Adam looked at the man’s hand, then backhanded Ibis hard enough to split his lip and knock him to the ground.
“Do not believe for one second that I do this for your appreciation,” Black Adam said with a low snarl. “Were it not for that accursed vow, I would leave you to this alien sorcerer’s mercy.”
Dreams of Cilia’s domination beneath his heel began to fade as the magic that bound Nabu unraveled. While the nimbus of arcane energy that had held him in stasis for millennia released his body back into the flow of time, the Cilian’s eyes flickered open, and his lungs filled with the stale air of his prison.
Out the corner of his eye, Nabu noticed something that, for a very long time, he had seen only in his dreams: movement.
Four men, including one who looked very much like those Nabu had encountered a lifetime ago, were jabbering to each other in a language he had never heard before. He could see a mixture of fear and fascination in their expressions.
Remembering the trouble the dark-skinned folk had caused him before, Nabu ended the man’s life with a searing burst of energy from his eyes. Turning his attention to the light-skinned men, the Cilian exhaled, and a small cloud of noxious magic engulfed the head of one of the men. The man died gasping for air.
While Nabu found the deaths satisfying, he felt that they lacked the flare of his true mastery of the arcane.
“Let your deaths be of your own making,” he said in a voice that either of the two remaining men could understand. Almost as an afterthought, he added, “And let them understand their actions.”
Both men screamed in excruciating pain as their bodies began to reshape. Within seconds, the transformations were complete. Instead of the human forms they were born with, the men now found themselves trapped in the bodies of a beetle and a hawk.
With a screech, the man-hawk leaped into the air, circled the chamber, then swooped down and snatched the beetle up in its talon. It screeched a second time, then disappeared back down the corridor.
Now free and alone, Nabu let his arcane senses expand as he searched for the artifacts he once claimed as his own. Great power emanating from somewhere beyond his prison prompted the Cilian to follow the direction taken by the hawk.
Outside, Shazam, Black Adam, and Ibis the Invincible stood waiting.