Caught almost off-guard at Willie B’s question, Florence Fair instantly composed herself. “Whatever do you mean? I’ve been here all evening. As a matter of fact, I heard about it on the television just before you came over. Why do you ask?”
After Willie was allowed inside her apartment and took a seat on the couch, the young man gave a response. “I was there earlier, and apparently a would-be robber took the store manager hostage. The police apprehended the crook, and the young lady is safe, but something odd happened during the situation. Someone else was inside the store and even made a phone call to distract the crook. According to Police Commissioner Butler, the voice sounded like like yours when he played it back to me. The phone was disconnected from the outside, so the call had to come from inside the store.” There were some non-truths in Willie B’s questions, but Flo wasn’t aware of those outstanding circumstances.
After a moment of silence, Florence stood up and gave out a heavy sigh. “Well… if my secret is finally out, at least it was you that discovered it.” With that, she began to glow, and in a flash of light, the girl known as Florence Fair had changed into Flora. Her clothes were replaced with a costume made of leaves, as she instantly shrank down to five inches in height, while wings sprouted from her back. She flew up to the face of a seemingly astonished Willie Batson.
“You are only the second person who has discovered my secret,” she said. “I am an elemental plant pixie from Fairyland. Of course, the person who knew of my existence before this was the departed Caitlin O’Malley. I know you can keep my identity secret, since I also know of your other identity as… Cool Marvel.”
That elicited a stuttering response from the stunned youth. “M-m-me… Cool Marvel? That’s a joke. I may be cool myself, but I have nothing on that cat!” Beads of sweat began to form on Willie’s forehead as Flora grew back to normal human size before him once again.
“Don’t worry, Willie. Your secret’s safe with me. I’ve known of your dual identity from the first time I came here, along with your close friend Billy Batson, AKA Captain Marvel. It’s because of him that I was inspired to come here and become a super-hero.”
Willie composed himself. “OK, I can accept you being a fairy. I’ve seen some weird things in my short life. Assuming I’m Cool Marvel, how do you know?”
Flora smiled. “Remember last year, when you and Billy were captured and tied up here in this very apartment when a wizard took control of Caitlin?” Willie nodded his head.
“That punk kid of the Black Magician took over the witch’s mind and almost had her stabbing Billy. There was this flash of light at the last possible second, and then…” Suddenly, Willie’s face lit up with excitement. “That light! The voices that Cait’s been hearing for a while…”
“That was me. I heard of the wonderful tale many years ago when I dwelled in Fairyland about a human explorer who was in search of an unknown part of the world. Dudley Wright found such a place within the base of your Himalayan Mountain range, where the Hawkmen and Butterfly People resided but were not at peace with each other. Captain Marvel was able to find the hidden valley and the explorer Wright, and discovered he was helping the hawk people prepare to take over the mortal world. He was able to foil the plot and found that Dudley Wright’s mind had been turned to evil by the Hawkmen’s poison weed. The Butterfly People cured him and the Hawks, which were also under the poison’s influence. Since the leader of the Butterflies told me of this story, I became fascinated by the traits of the humans, but it was a rule of the Fairy Queen for us pixies not to intertwine within the mortal realm.”
Willie interrupted for a moment. “Obviously, you didn’t listen too well, did you?”
Flora gave him a sly smile. “Since the world of the Faeries resides in a different dimension that is close to Earth’s, we can come and go only in extreme circumstances, though, in most cases, we can tune into the thoughts and minds of mortals who have some magical abilities, most notably witches and sorcerers. One day, I heard a young lady’s cries of anguish, so painful that I couldn’t ignore them. That person was Caitlin O’Malley, and she told me of a great tragedy where she caused the death of a friend, and she didn’t know where to turn.”
Once again Willie interrupted. “I heard all about that. It was when the heroes battled the wizard Mazahs, and the hero Fat Marvel died. (*) That sucked, but we all knew it wasn’t her fault. We beat that wizard, and not only did we forgive her, but his death wasn’t in vain, and because of that war, I became his replacement, Cool Marvel.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Challenge of Shazam, Chapter 8: And One Shall Die.]
Flora continued. “Though everyone forgave her, Caitlin couldn’t forgive herself, which was why she went into seclusion. However dark and lonely she was becoming, she always seemed to become more cheerful when our minds would connect. I felt and shared her pain, and my overwhelming desire was to come to the world of the humans and not only meet my long distant friend, but attempt to make my mark here as well. The Black Magician sensed how weak her mind had become and took over her mind easily, setting a trap to get rid of Billy Batson. Of course, he didn’t know about his heroic identity of Captain Marvel, and he definitely didn’t count on you, either, Willie.”
“Yeah! Talk about being at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Willie with a chuckle under his breath. “But something was going on with Master B and the witch, so I had to blunder into that trap, too.”
“Your interference did help, and because of it I was able to send a portion of my powers to disrupt things, and the two of you were able to rescue Caitlin from the trap as well as yourselves,” said Flora. “After that, she decided to go back to her homeland of Ireland. Before she left, the two of us made arrangements for me to come to Fawcett City and establish my new life. Using our magicks, we created ‘Florence Fair,’ including her history, credentials, and money source. Being friends with the leprechauns, getting coins from their pot of gold solved that issue.”
“Uh… leprechauns?!” said Willie. Then he shrugged his shoulders. “Guess I can take that in. After all, I hang around with talking tigers and old wizards, and fight alien worms, a beast-man, and crocodile guys, so why not little green dudes?”
“The night Caitlin left Fawcett City, I received the blessings of the Fairy Queen to come here, and I stepped through a mystical portal on a rainy night last year,” said Flora. “Since then, I’ve been learning everything I can about the ways of the mortals, trying to blend in with the community and secretly moonlighting as a super-hero, to use the term. That’s my story, Willie.”
Willie stood up. “Wow! What a tale. Since I’ve seen you as you really are, I’ll return the favor. Shazam!” Magic lightning struck Willie B, turning him into the latest member of the world’s mightiest family, Cool Marvel. Flora squealed with a laugh.
“Now that we know who we are, let’s take off into the night sky, Flora,” said Cool Marvel. Stepping outside, Cool Marvel leaped into the dark night’s sky, followed closely by the tiny pixie who landed on Cool’s shoulder.
As they took the night’s tour of Fawcett City, Flora whispered into Cool Marvel’s ear, “Please don’t tell anyone of my secret… not yet. I still have lots to learn to become a hero everyone can trust.”
Cool turned his head toward Flora. “No sweat, wings! Your secret’s safe with me. And no worries — if you need anything, call on Willie B, and I’ll come a-running. By the way, I love that dress you were wearing earlier in the day at the market.”
Flora blushed a bright red and gave him a smile. She had learned many things since arriving in Fawcett City from Fairyland, and she had made friends and did her best to fit in. But for the first time she truly felt part of the mortal world with her second true friendship, first with Caitlin O’Malley, and now with Cool Marvel.
Meanwhile, in a secluded village in Northern Ireland, a young woman was sitting down cross-legged on the floor of a quaint but obviously old dwelling, her head tilted back and eyes closed. Smoke filled the room from the candles placed in strategic positions, the light flickering from them creating what appeared to be living shadows around her. She was muttering some sort of spell when, without warning, the windows flew open. A powerful wind quickly blew out the candles as the room became instantly pitch black. Startled by the event, the young Wiccan’s body began to shake violently. Suddenly, her eyes opened wide and glowed brightly for only an instant as she screamed a bloodcurdling sound, as if death itself was striking her.
The door to the room swung open as another young woman raced in and grabbed the still-entranced woman and began to shake her.
“Wake up, Cait! It’s your cousin, Robyn! Snap out of your trance!”
Caitlin opened her eyes, and as if on cue, the wind died down, and the lamp on the far side of the room came on. Looking pale, Robyn helped her younger cousin off the floor and led her to the kitchen.
After pouring a cup of freshly brewed herbal tea, Caitlin took a sip and leaned back in the chair. “My thanks, dear cousin. I don’t know what would’ve happened if you weren’t there.”
“Hey, what are older cousins for?” Robyn said as she poured herself a cup of tea and sat down next to Cait. “You may be the youngest of the O’Malley clan, but you’re far and away the most powerful when it comes to the Wiccan magicks. What did you see in your vision? Did it have to do with that mess you were in last year in Fawcett City?”
Cait looked at Robyn with her round, green eyes. “I saw a vision from Fawcett City’s past, except it wasn’t the past that is known by any. It’s as if part of history was wiped clean and forgotten… except that it did happen!”
Robin looked confused by her statement. “What does that mean, Cait? What you said… it doesn’t make a world of sense.”
“I know. I sensed another mystical force involved, one I’ve not encountered or am familiar with. There was more to the vision… one that involved things to come — a peril that involves Captain Marvel and the other heroes. Before I could see further, something interrupted my vision.”
“Or someone!” snapped Robyn. “Maybe that Mazahs wizard’s coming back and plans to make everyone’s life a living hell again!”
“No, Robyn. His presence I know all too well, and this felt totally different. I fear something from the past that is forgotten by all will affect the course of destiny, not just in Fawcett City, but perhaps across the entire Earth. Our magicks alone aren’t enough to pierce the darkness. However, I know of one whose magicks are thousands of years old and dwarf even my abilities.”
“You don’t mean–?!” said Robyn.
“Yes.” Caitlin hesitated before saying, “The wizard Shazam.” Before, when Cait said his name, she was transformed into Lady Marvel, a member of the mighty Marvel Family. However, she had renounced that power, and a portion of it had been given to Cool Marvel, allowing him to transform independently without having to be around Billy Batson or the other Lieutenant Marvels at the same time.
“Don’t worry, cousin,” continued Cait. “I do not have any plans of going back to that part of my life. However, Shazam has the necessary powers I may require to see what the future holds for everyone and try to figure out what the ‘forgotten past’ has to do with the future of our planet.”