St. Roch was unlike any Earth city that Katar Hol had yet seen. While Metropolis was all bustle and business and Gotham was grim and serious, this meandering sprawl on the Gulf of Mexico was lazy and eccentric, with elegant French townhouses side-by side with tattoo parlors and bistros specializing in everything from bayou crawfish to the most elegant marzipan confections. It seemed that everything was available for the right place, and that everything was on display.
He decided almost instantly he disliked it.
He glided over the town, following the course of the Stonechat River, just as the sun was sinking brilliantly into the west. He flew just high enough to be out of sight, though his Nth Metal wings glinted in the rays of the setting sun. No one below would notice him, though. There seemed to be some sort of festival going on, a celebration that brought the denizens of the city into the streets to eat and drink and cavort around in various degrees of undress. Besides, a Hawkman hadn’t been seen on this planet in more than fifty years…
He found his destination easily, in the fashionable Passerine Quarter of the city. It was a grand estate, with the main house facing the chic thoroughfare of Elysee Avenue, but separated from the crowds by a sturdy wrought-iron fence and a line of weeping willows. But the second-storey veranda offered an unobstructed view of the parade, and it was there that Katar found the man he sought, leaning over the edge and throwing beads to the passers-by below.
“Speed Saunders,” He dropped down onto the veranda, retracting his wings and approaching cautiously. “I need your help.”
If the old man was stunned or even surprised by this sudden and odd visitation, he didn’t let on. He merely straightened and looked at Katar with one upraised eyebrow.
“Who the hell are you supposed to be?” He grunted.
Katar removed his hawk helm and shook out his light brown hair, his brown eyes fixed intently on Speed.
“I am Katar Hol of Thanagar, and I’m looking for my father, the man you knew as Carter Hall.” He took a step forward, impatient. “Alan Scott sent me.”
The old man considered his visitor for a long moment, looking him up and down as if taking his measure. At last, he grunted and said. “Alan, huh? We’d better go inside then.”
“First off, call me Cyril.” Saunders said, pouring them both a thick brandy from a crystal decanter. “No one calls me ‘Speed’ anymore. Those days are long behind me and I’m respectable now.”
Indeed, the townhouse was elegant, almost opulent, and filled with the artifacts and photographs of an extremely eventful life. Katar was examining a framed photo of a beautiful yellow-haired woman in a dangerously short skirt, posing by the nose of what appeared to be a fighter plane.
“Zinda Blake,” Saunders glanced at the photo as he passed a glass to Katar, undisguised fondness in his voice. “She flew with the Blackhawks in the War. Quite the pistol.” He shook his head in memory, allowing himself one rueful sigh. Then he raised his glass, and touched it to Katar’s saying “Bottoms up.”
Katar followed suit, downing the amber liquid in one gulp, relishing the warm trail it blazed down his throat and into his belly. The Nth Metal protected him from the vagaries of weather, but the brandy provided a sweet comfort that not even the psycho-receptive substance could offer.
Without further ado, and with startling abruptness, Saunders declared: “Carter Hall is dead.”
Katar was taken aback, and glanced at the older man with a stricken expression.
“What? Are you sure?”
Saunders shrugged, and turned his back on Katar walking slowly back to the wet bar.
“Am I sure? Reasonably so. Could I tell you the exact circumstances of his--- and my cousin Shiera’s--- death? No.” He poured them another two rounds, grimacing. “They haven’t been seen in almost 60 years; if they were alive, they would have found their way home by now. Or they would at least have found a way to contact me. I was closer to them than just about anybody.” Unable to keep the sadness from his voice, he didn’t even look at Katar this time when he passed him his drink.
But the brandy sat untouched in the hands of the Thanagarian. He had come so far to find his father, and so much was at stake. He was not prepared to have it end here, so many questions unanswered.
“You’re definitely Carter’s boy.” The old man’s voice brought him back from his reverie. “You’ve got his steely jaw and noble brow. But I don’t see a lot of my cousin in you.”
Katar drew himself up haughtily. “My mother is Shayera Hol, High Priestess of the Seven.”
This was greeted only by a blank look on Saunder’s face.
“I am a Hawk-Knight.” Katar’s voice was indignant. “The last true Wingman of Thanagar!”
“I see.” The old man grunted. “Carter was always very tight-lipped about their trip to Thanagar…But I never would have imagined he was unfaithful to Shiera.”
At that, Katar felt his cheeks flame, and to hide his embarrassment, he said, as matter-of-factly as he could: “My mother is a formidable, and resourceful woman. She came to my father as his earth-wife, and manipulated him into aiding our world in our struggle against the Seven Devils that plague us. He never even knew there was issue of that union.”
“Ah.” The old man nodded knowingly, a slight smile of relief on his lips. “But you appear to be a young man, no more than thirty years old--- and Carter disappeared almost sixty years ago…”
“I am two and sixty of your Solar years.” Katar announced, trying to restrain his impatience. “Thanagarians are longer-lived than Terrans. We come of age at thirty cycles, approximately fifty of your Earth years. I am counted a young man amongst my people, and can reasonably expect to live for centuries, should I not be blessed die in battle.”
“Blessed?” Speed snorted at the choice of words.
“I am a Wingman.” Katar shrugged, as if that explained it.
“Huh.” Saunders shook his head, sipped his drink thoughtfully, then let out a long wistful breath. “Careful what you wish for, Thanagarian. In all my years, I have found that it is a noble thing to die for something, but far nobler to live for it.”
Katar stared at the old man, blankly.
Saunders gave him a tired smile, and said: “I’ll tell you now about your father…”
“Back in 1938, in the gathering gloom before the Second World War, before there was even a Justice Society of America or Seven Soldiers of Victory, Professor Carter Hall went to Egypt. There he met me and my cousin, Shiera, traveling abroad, and there we also met the villainous Anton Hastor. Turns out that Hastor was the reincarnation of a long-dead Egyptian priest, and that Carter and Shiera had lived before as Prince Khufu Ma’at Kha-Taar and his beloved Princess Chay-Ara. Prince Khufu and Chay-Ara had discovered the remains of what must have been a Thanagarian space-ship, and from the Nth Metal inside, they fashioned hawk-shaped amulets that gave them the power of flight, and a gauntlet called the Claw of Horus--- and Hastor (known as Hath-Set in those days) forged a cursed knife! Wearing the ceremonial wings of the Champions of Horus, Khufu and Chay-Ara became heroes and defended Egypt, but were betrayed and slain by the foul Hath-Set, and the three of them became bound-up together in a cycle of death and reincarnation that lasted down through the millennia. Carter and Shiera thought they broke the curse in 1938 when they defeated Hastor, and discovered their true destinies, but--- sadly!--- that was not the case.
“In the years that followed, Carter fought against Nazi tyranny and good old-fashioned American crime as Hawkman, leading the Justice Society as their Chairman, and eventually his wife Shiera took up the mantle of the hero as well, as Hawkwoman. They had many adventures together, and were always happiest when soaring through the air, hand in hand. After the war, Carter would take Shiera on his archaeological digs with him, and they were rarely apart. I know for a fact that they tried to have a child, but I suppose it was not meant to be…
“In 1951, shortly after the JSA disbanded, Carter and Shiera disappeared. In the weeks before, Carter called me and asked if I had ever heard of something called: Project Fenris (at that time, I was working for the OSS and had access to a number of secret files and classified documents). I didn’t have much information for him, I’m afraid. In the last year of the War, we’d been hearing rumors of a secret German black op called Project Fenris, but we were never able to find out much about it. Our man Spy Smasher was able to piece together that the Nazis were working on some sort of doomsday weapon; in the event that Germany fell, Project Fenris was supposed to blow all of Europe to kingdom come. Well, Germany fell, Hitler ate a bullet and his Ragnarok never arrived, so either Project Fenris was a dud, or it was a myth.
“But Carter didn’t seem to think so. In 1951, he seemed very concerned about it. I spoke to Shiera on the telephone, and she told me that Carter had become obsessed with finding their old nemesis, Hastor, who had resurfaced in Europe. Apparently, Carter had connected Hastor to Fenris, somehow, and he was determined to head-off what he saw as destiny closing in on them… Only weeks later, they disappeared.
“I made every effort to find them. I found out that Carter and Shiera flew to Munich, and had stayed for a while in a hotel there, but never checked out. I used all my contacts in the State Department, but no one ever heard a word… I spent months hiking in the Alps, but I never uncovered a single clue to what happened to them…
“When I returned home, there was a parcel waiting for me. It was from Carter and Shiera, a journal of their exploits as Hawkman and Hawkwoman, postmarked just prior to their flight to Germany… The final entries in the book said that they wanted me to have the journal, in case they didn’t make it back. You see, as they rushed to face Hath-Set, Carter felt the cycle of death and resurrection was beginning again, and that the… next incarnations of Khufu and Chay-Ara might benefit from the lessons of the past… I can only imagine them facing their fate as they went through life: hand in hand, and fighting to the end…”
“May I see that diary?” Katar asked when the old man had fallen silent, a catch in his throat.
Saunders, who’d been staring moodily into his snifter, swirling the liquid, looked up.
“I don’t have it. I held onto the damn thing for years, expecting the next Prince Khufu to come knocking on my door for it. But then I realized that Carter and Shiera were special. Their exposure to the Nth Metal had reawakened their souls--- they knew exactly who they were, and who they had been. With no more Nth Metal on Earth, the next incarnations wouldn’t be so lucky. For all I know, the soul of Khufu Ma’at Kha-Taar is resting in a Korean grocer in L.A., or soccer player from Markovia, who might live and die, never realizing his destiny as a Champion of Horus…” Saunders smiled weakly at Katar as if to saw What could I do? “So I gave the diary to someone who could make some use of it. My granddaughter, Kendra.”
“Your granddaughter…?” Katar shook his head, frustrated and failing to see how that made any sense.
“She’s a graduate student at the university, and an intern at the museum.” Saunders explained. “She’s read and re-read that diary dozens of times since she was a kid. In it, Carter tells of a hidden civilization in the Yucatan, called Feithera, a lost colony of Thanagar, and she’s---.”
“The Feitherans?” Katar sputtered, wondering if he had heard correctly. “They’re here? On Earth?”
“Well, that’s what Kendra is trying to discover.” Saunders growled, annoyed at the interruption. “But Carter didn’t exactly include a map in the diary, and the last time anyone had contact with them was more than sixty years ago, so I don’t exactly think they want to be found, either. But she’s headstrong, my granddaughter, convinced that there’s much to be learned from a cultural exchange between our two peoples…”
Katar made a disgusted sound. “There is little to be learned from the Feitherans. They are religious fanatics, followers of the Thasaro Heresy. They inter-bred freely with the Man-Hawks, and indulged in superstitious and degenerate practices. They were exiled from Thanagar thousands of years ago. We had hoped their heresy had died out from the universe.”
“Carter thought well enough of them.” Saunders grunted. “Anyway, Kendra’s down in Mexico, and she’ll have the diary with her. If you want to read it, that’s where you should start…”
“Fascinating, Ms. Saunders,” Professor George Emmett admitted, fanning himself with his straw hat, the hot Mexican sun burning down on his balding head. He turned the shard over and over in his hand, squinting to better examine the surface etchings. “The markings do seem to bear some resemblance to Egyptian hieroglyphs of the Middle Kingdom period… In what sector did you say you unearthed it?”
Kendra Saunders mopped sweat from her forehead, her chest heaving; she had all but run to the Professor’s tent when she realized exactly what she had found, and was still a little out of breath. She waved vaguely behind her, at the weather-worn step-pyramid looming on the edge of the jungle, overgrown with moss and creepers. Teams of graduate students and local workers were combing over various sectors, methodically excavating the area around the base of the pyramid, and the lower steps.
“I climbed to the top level, actually.” Kendra told him, breathlessly, gratefully accepting the bottle of water from the professor. “To get a better look at the valley across the river. I saw what I thought was a strange colored rock poking out from the ground, and pried it out of the dirt. It looks like a part of a vase or a bowl, and those markings could be the only extant example of Feitheran lettering… I think there’s more up there, if I could just take a team---.”
Kendra’s eyes shifted over the professor’s shoulder at the figure emerging from the tent. He was dressed in strange, slick leathers of black and gold, a hawk emblem on his chest. Metallic wings that appeared almost organic were neatly tucked into his back, and he stared at her from behind a hawk-mask that seemed vaguely familiar to her.
“Ah, Ms. Saunders,” Professor Emmett cleared his throat. “Allow me to introduce Hawkman of the Justice League…”
The winged man stepped forward, the eyes behind the red-lenses of his mask fixed on her. She stared back boldly.
“Excuse me?” She sized him up, looking taken aback. “Hawkman of the Justice League? I happen to know quite a bit about the real Hawkman who was a member of the Justice Society, and I don’t know just who on Earth you think you are, but---.”
“On my own planet of Thanagar, I am Katar Hol, the last Wingman.” He interrupted her curtly, taking off his helmet to reveal flashing, angry brown eyes. “But on Earth, I am quite certain I am the one, true Hawkman.”
Kendra’s own green eyes flashed back at him, like a challenge.
“Yes, well.” Professor Emmett looked from one to the other, uncomfortably aware of the sudden tension. “Ms. Saunders is our resident expert on Feitheran history and culture--- what little we know of it, that is. And as Hawkman here is actually from Thanagar, and in a position to validate all of our theories and research, perhaps we can work together to locate the hidden city…”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Kendra held up her hands. “Just because he has a Justice League ID card doesn’t mean he’s the real deal! How do we know he’s really even from Thanagar, and not just some joker in a LexCorp flight suit?”
“Do you know what Nth Metal is?” Hawkman asked her, refitting his mask back on his head.
She stared at him dubiously. “Sure. It’s the extraterrestrial psycho-receptive element that gave the real Hawkman his pow---ERS!”
In one swift motion, Hawkman scooped her up around the waist and shot into the air, his wings expanding as they rose together high over the campsite.
Katar clutched the irritating Earth-girl close to him as he climbed higher, his jaw clenched, determined to teach her a lesson. She struggled fitfully against him, her face pressed so close to him that he could almost feel the heat from her glare. He was almost tempted to release her, so violently did she twist and squirm in his grasp, except that he was beginning to enjoy the feel of her soft curves pillowed against him.
“Do you feel cold?” He asked her, conversationally, rocketing ever higher with her. “Is the wind burning you? Are you having trouble breathing the thinning air? Do you see any visible sign of propulsion? Do you even feel the tug of gravity?”
The Earth girl ceased thrashing about, and continued to glare at him. That she was outraged was obvious, but he could see her mind racing behind those luminous eyes. She glanced downwards as they spiraled up through a fluffy white cloud.
“No…” She admitted, and without realizing she was doing it, began to hold more tightly to Katar. “I’m not even dizzy…”
“That’s Nth Metal.” He told her, his mouth twisting smugly. “Not some ‘LexCorp flight suit.’”
They cleared the cloud bank, and a vast panorama opened before them. Kendra gaped, open-mouthed, at the curve of the earth, the sun blazing just over the horizon. She was just able to make out the excavation site, far below them, by the step-pyramid rising from the thick foliage of the Yucatan jungle.
“It’s… it’s amazing.” She marveled, her eyes watering. “How does it work?”
“It’s intuitive.” Katar told her, steering them leisurely through a flock of birds. “One must be in physical contact with the Nth Metal, but your mind and will must be attuned as well. It takes many years of study and training to become a wingman, and to master the psycho-receptive properties of the Nth Metal.” He said proudly.
She stared at him wonderingly. “Where is the Nth Metal on you?”
Gratified that he seemed to have impressed her, he humored her curiosity. “In my harness and wings.”
“Hmm.” She turned back to him, and cocked her head. Then, without warning, she kissed him, open-mouth, pressing her chest to his and wrapping her arms around his torso. He was taken aback at first, shocked at the brazen forwardness of the Earth-girl, but after a moment his body succumbed to her advances, and he focused on retaining the breath she seemed intent on sucking out of him. Her hands traveled up his body, and slid between his harness straps and his back…
Without warning, they changed direction and shot across the sky; his wings extended to their full length, and they swooped down low over the tree-tops, Kendra whooping in exhilaration. Katar started, appalled at what had just happened: sharing physical contact, she had actually wrested away from him command of the Nth Metal! She had hijacked him.
It was only a matter of a moment before Katar could reassert control, but by that point, she had already brought them down low enough for her to disengage herself from him, and drop to the jungle floor below.
“That was extremely foolish!” He began hotly, touching down close to her. “The most you could have hoped for was seconds of control, but more likely you would have gotten us both killed. The Nth Metal is not to be--- Ooof!”
Her kick caught him squarely between the legs, and he crumpled instantly to the ground, curling up in pain.
“That’s for carrying me away like that.” She said with something like satisfaction, as he rolled around in the undergrowth. “Now,” She tossed back her short reddish brown hair. “Why the hell are you here?”
“So you’re the original Hawkman’s Thanagarian son…?”
They had returned to the camp, and rested in the command tent, sitting on camp-stools around a folding table that was cluttered with maps and varied archaeological tools. Professor Emmett sipped a cup of coffee, fascinated with their new arrival.
“Carter Hall was a mentor of mine, you know.” Emmett told him. “I was a page at the Midway Museum while he was curator there, back in 1951… After we closed for the day, he would allow me to sit with him as he catalogued new finds, and he would tell me the most marvelous stories… It was like he had lived through those ancient times himself, and spoke from first-hand knowledge.” Emmett shook his head. “It didn’t really surprise me when Ms. Saunders revealed to me last year that Professor Hall was the superhero Hawkman, and showed me his diary. We never would have received the funding for this expedition without it, as a matter of fact.”
“And where is my father’s diary?” Katar asked, trying to conceal his impatience. The sun had gone down, and with it his hope that he might have been on his way already and away from here.
“You mean my cousin’s diary?” Kendra asked archly from where she stood by the tent flap, where she’d been staring out at the stars.
“Your own grandfather said that the diary is intended for the heirs of the Hawkman legacy.” Katar shot back.
“No,” Kendra rounded on him, her own voice rising. “The diary is intended for the next incarnations of Khufu and Chay-Ara.” She corrected him. “And as you are no reincarnated Egyptian prince, that isn’t you!”
“I am still my father’s heir!”
“And I am my cousin’s!”
She returned his glare, amused at the way he fumed.
“If I may,” Professor Emmett interjected tentatively. “Perhaps an arrangement can be worked out? I see no harm in allowing Katar a look at the diary, my dear, especially if he, in return, agrees to help us locate Feithera...”
Not taking her eyes off the steaming Thanagarian, Kendra shrugged. “We’re so close already, Professor, I doubt we’ll even need his help.”
Katar snorted, amused. “They’re practically under your nose, and you still haven’t sniffed them out. This is no Earth city you’re looking for, girl; Feithera is hidden by Thanagarian cloaking technology. You could wander around these jungles for years and not stumble across it.”
Kendra bit her lip to keep from swearing aloud. She looked from Katar to Professor Emmett, who looked back at her hopefully.
She relented with a disgusted exhalation. “Alright. You can borrow the diary, Thanagarian--- but only after we find Feithera.” She shook her head, a puzzled expression stealing over her face. “What do you want it for, anyway? You don’t seem the sentimental type to me…?”
“On Thanagar,” Katar explained. “My father is viewed as the second coming of our greatest hero, Kar’Taral. It is foretold that a great crisis is coming to my people, and that Kar’Taral will return in the hour of our greatest need.”
“You think Carter Hall is still alive?” Kendra asked, incredulously.
Katar returned her stare levelly. “I do not think his story is over.”
Kendra shook her head in disbelief, but the look she shot Katar was one of respect mixed with amazement. Without another word, she left the tent, retiring for the night.
A shrill scream rent the night air, and startled Katar from a deep sleep.
He was awake and up off the cot in an instant, aware of the violent commotion that seemed to be going on outside his tent. Pausing only to snatch up his Nth Mace, he dashed, bare-chested, from the tent.
The scene was one of chaos and confusion. The command tent itself seemed to be on fire, casting a garish light over everything. People were running about, scooping up belongings and attempting to flee the site--- for out of the skies, swooped deadly harriers, winged men with glittering spears!
Man-hawks! was the first thought that sprang to Katar’s mind as he rushed into the melee, his Nth Mace crackling with power. But as one of the creatures dived in low to slash at a shrieking worker, he saw they were like no Man-hawks he’d ever seen before: this was no feral, mindless cretin, but a cunning, civilized warrior, clothed and ornamented with precious stones… A winged Feitheran?
Katar leaped at the attacker as it strafed the ground, and swung his mace. It connected, and knocked the creature back into the sky, twirling end over end and out of sight. He looked down: the native worker that had been attacked was bleeding profusely, his back ripped to shreds. Katar frowned. Feitherans were pacifists. Combat and violence was abhorrent to them. Had the Man-hawk blood somehow tainted them… devolved them?
A screech alerted him to sudden danger. He whirled, swinging two-handed with his mace, and was just in time to catch the winged attacker and send him smashing to the ground. The creature moaned once, then fell silent. Katar scooped up its spear, and slashed at another that flew low over the site, wishing he had taken the time to don his wings.
“Why?” A pathetic voice rose over the din, and Katar saw Professor Emmett staggering in shock across the site, looking from the burning tent to the bodies of his team littering the ground. “We come in peace!” He implored the attacking creatures. “Peace!”
One of the Feitherans spotted the easy target and dove for him. The old man threw up his arms, uselessly, braced for impact.
But Katar reacted faster; he cocked his arm and hurled the spear. His aim was true. The shaft jutted from the back of the Feitheran, and it crashed to the ground, twitching.
Suddenly, a mighty roar shook the jungle, the very leaves of the trees trembling. Katar peered into the night, steeling himself against the threat of whatever could make a noise like that…! But no new menace seemed forthcoming. In fact, the winged Feitherans seemed to be breaking off their attack, disappearing into the night sky. As quickly as it had begun, the attack was over.
Professor Emmett was sobbing aloud, scanning the ground for the mangled bodies of his charges. Katar finally lowered his mace, watching the last of the mutated Feitherans fade into the distance. Whatever that roar had been, it seemed to have called them off.
Katar studied the bodies of the foes he had downed, puzzled. The Feitherans of Thanagarian history were mystics and peace-lovers, forbidden to take up arms. They followed the teachings of Thasaro, the God of the Fallen, and apparently the mingling of Thanagarian blood with the feral Man-hawks had created some hideous--- and vicious!--- alien hybrid… But whatever made that roar was no Feitheran nor Man-hawk…
“Hawkman…?” Professor Emmett was scrambling frantically across the battleground, searching for something. He looked up at Katar, his eyes wide with concern. “Kendra!”
Her tent was torn to shreds, and flapping on the tent poles. A smear of blood on the fabric made Professor Emmett cover his mouth and choke back a gag. Katar examined the rent fabric, noting curiously: “These are from claws, not talons.”
“Claws…?” Emmett gulped, confused, as Katar threw aside the remains of the tent and started picking through her belongings. “That noise in the jungle… It sounded like a big cat… A lion… But there are no lions in Mexico…!”
“She seems to have been carried away. She may even have been the object of the raid.” He picked a weather-worn book from a pile of clothes out of her splintered trunk. It, like the tent, was shredded and beyond salvaging.
“Seven Devils.” Katar cursed under his breath, dropping the now-useless diary. At once, he turned on his heels and marched away, Professor Emmett at his heels.
“Where are you going?” He called after him, panic creeping into his voice. “What are you going to do?”
“With the diary destroyed, that girl is the only lead I have to finding my father.” Katar explained grimly, his hand tightening convulsively around the shaft of his mace. “If she’s still alive, I’m going to get her back.”
Katar did not wait for the dawn. Returning to his tent for his wings and armor, he also buckled a brace of Feitheran spears to his back, then took to the sky, Professor Emmett fretting behind him.
He had no idea what he was getting himself into. He was relatively sure he could find the hidden city with little trouble: there was a very faint, but unmistakable Nth Metal signature out there in the jungle, which due to his years of exposure- and sensitivity to-, he would have no problem homing in on. But what would he find when he got there? These Feitherans were obviously far more dangerous than the ones Carter Hall had encountered in the 1940s--- and they were certainly nothing like the ones who had left Thanagar all those millennia ago! He considered for a moment calling in his new friends the Justice League, but he doubted he could spare the time. If indeed Kendra Saunders was still alive, she might not stay that way for long, given her mouth and attitude! It appeared he was her only chance.
It gratified him a bit to realize that would irk her to no end.
It had come at her out of the darkness. A fierce, slavering beast, all glittering claws and stiletto teeth. Its backhanded blow cut her lip, staggering her. A second slash opened up a shallow cut across her midriff, tearing her “Property of St. Roch University Athletic Dept.” tank-top. The last thing she saw before losing consciousness was a set of malignant yellow cat’s eyes…
Kendra Saunders awoke to painfully bright sunshine, and a dull ache that had spread through her entire body. She seemed to be hanging by her wrists from a gibbet, her bare toes barely scraping the ground, in nothing but her torn tank-top and sweatpants. There was a noise like a jeering crowd, and as her eyes adjusted, she took in the scene.
She seemed to be in a plaza, surrounded by tall, and naturally-flowing stone structures, with niches running up their length, reminding her of nothing so much as aeries. Clustered around her, in the plaza, were strange, feathered and winged men, clad in simple linen and wearing ornamental jewelry or turquoise and onyx. They were yelling at her in otherworldly voices and shaking spears in her direction. Directly across from her was a flight of steps leading to a sprawling building, but at the top of the steps was a throne. Atop the throne sat a man with the features of a lion, and on his brow shone a silver diadem.
Seeing her awake, the leonine figure stood upright, shaking out his long yellow and gray mane, and bounded towards her on all fours. It seemed about to pounce on her, leaning in so close to her that she could see the scraps of his last meal still caught between his teeth. She flinched away from the low rumbling purr coming from his throat, and his shrewd, calculating stare.
“Welcome to Feithera, girl.” His voice was as soft as velvet, as sharp as blades. “I am its king, Lion-Mane…”
“I know who you are, Dawson.” Kendra ventured, only able to look at him side-long, so close did he press his face to hers. “You were an archaeologist in the 1940s, and a colleague of Carter Hall’s. Somehow, you had been transformed by the Mithras Meteor into the ultimate predator, and had tried to kill Hawkman… But he defeated you!” She glared back at him with as much bravado as she could muster.
“Defeated…?” The beast hissed, rearing back. “Is that any way for my future bride to speak?”
Kendra blanched, staring at him in horror.
“No,” the bestial king of Feithera continued. “My ‘defeat’ all those years ago was a temporary set-back, nothing more. After all, who wears the crown and whose bones have fallen into dust?”
With that, he gestured to an ornate structure behind him. It was a low building, carved in relief with a panorama of human pagentry. It reminded Kendra of the mausoleums in the old cemeteries of St. Roch…
On the door to the small building was carved a familiar emblem in the shape of a hawk, beneath it a single word in the Thanagarian hieroglyphs…
Despair flooded onto her face, and the laughter of Lion-Mane filled her head as realization rushed in: she was looking at the tomb of Hawkman…