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Annual #1

 

 

Issue #13
"These Silent Hills"
by David Marshall

The Warlock's Castle, The Eternal Now

Zatanna flailed against the coffin that bound her, but the Warlock's magic was potent. She searched the audience's eyes for a sympathetic gaze. The grotesqueries were either too afraid of the Warlock's power to show compassion, or they lost the ability altogether when they were disfigured. She found no mercy among the gallery of the damned.

"Coffin set me free," she demanded, but her prison held tight.
The Warlock laughed. "Now, now, my sweet mage. None of that."
A large rubber ball filled her mouth and not only gagged her spells, but also reminded her of the smut she once discovered in an old road manager's closet.

The crowd lauded their keeper as the Warlock postured.

Zatanna searched the throne room for salvation. Finding none, she settled her eyes on the lone remaining canvas. It remained prison to a small, motley band of men and women, frozen for eternity in an eddy of oil and magic. They were clothed in chain mail and brandished an intimidating, if archaic, arsenal. She wondered why they weren't given the choice to defend the Warlock in their earlier battle, and how they escaped the fate of disfigurement. What kept them from the Warlock's cruelties? The mysterious portrait would have to wait. Zatanna had bigger fish to fry at the moment.

His posturing complete, the teeth of the Warlock's saw cut into Zatanna's coffin. "No dopplegangers this time, woman! You'll make an excellent addition to my collection!"

Zatanna wanted to tell him to go to hell. She wanted to rain fire down from the sky upon his head. Her bondage prevented her from doing anything but forcing muted curses into her gag.

"I know, my sweet mage," the Warlock taunted with feigned pity. "I'm sure there's so much you want to say!" He stopped sawing momentarily and walked to his throne. With malevolent eyes, he peered into the looking glass beside it. "As soon as the fool, Chang, finishes his spell, my plans..."

The Warlock grew silent as the hills of Ys.

CRASH!!!

The deafening rumble seemed to echo through the castle for an eternity, and maybe in Ys it did.

The northern wall of the castle collapsed into a heap of jigsaw-shaped stones, mortar, and chalky dust. The air tasted dry and Zatanna swore the shadows cowered into whatever recesses they could find shelter. The canvas creatures fled in all directions.

Once the dust settled, Green Lantern trekked through the destruction with purpose. When he finally spoke, it was with grim resolve. "I've come for you, Warlock!"

The Warlock lashed out with a mystical bolt that seared the air in its wake, but Green Lantern constructed an emerald mirror and hurled the magic back at him. The malevolent being's face contorted into a twisted grimace that resembled a goat giving birth. He wailed as his own power hurled him across the chamber and into a torture rack. The force carried him and the rack into a limestone column that collapsed upon impact, burying the Warlock in a torrential rain of debris.

While the Warlock struggled to free himself, Green Lantern loosed Zatanna's bonds. "Not exactly Dudley-Do-Right, but I'm obliged," she joked.

Green Lantern didn't crack a smile.

"Classic cartoons?" Zatanna asked.

"I'm more of a silver screen man myself," Green Lantern answered.

"You'll be a dead man soon!" the Warlock roared as he rose from the ruins. "The castle stones will run with your blood!"

With a mere gesture, the Warlock rearranged the rubble at his feet. Stone piled upon stone with speed reminiscent of the Flash. Small chunks of rocks filled spaces between larger stones. At first it appeared the Warlock was building a barrier between himself and his foes, but when the spell was complete it was obvious he was more interested in striking than in defending himself. A stone behemoth lumbered to its feet and towered over the heroes, standing nearly as tall as the mighty columns supporting the castle's roof. The mindless animation struck with surprising quickness, sending Zatanna and Green Lantern scurrying for cover.

"Split up, Z!" Green Lantern yelled over the mayhem of the creature's heavy footsteps. He took to the air while Zatanna sought shelter behind a dining table. "He can only go after one of us!"
The creature decided Zatanna made a more inviting target and closed in on his prey. She made a run for it and narrowly escaped the limestone fist that splintered the table behind her. "Easy for you to say when he went after me!"

"Hang on Z! I'll take care of it!" Green Lantern yelled over the fray.

"Don't sweat it, Dudley! I've got Ol' Stone Face here! Snidely Whiplash is all yours!"


Appollyon City, WABS Tower, The Office of Bob McNamara


Bob McNamara weathered many storms during his years in the business world, but this one tried his loyalties unlike any other. The Scotts were always good to him. When he first arrived in Gotham, a young, optimistic hopeful out of Yale, it was the senior Mr. Scott who first recognized his talent. When his mother died, WGBS made sure he could take care of his younger sister, Pamela. Now she held a Yale degree of her own and practiced law in Gotham for Wayne Enterprises. Sure, he was a nervous wreck around the Scotts, but that was a shortcoming that went back to his days as a stuttering introvert in junior high school. It certainly wasn't the result of any mistreatment he experienced as an employee. Yes, the Scott family was good to him. Very good. However, WCLO's offer was substantial. All he had to do was sign the offer sheet and he would be set for life. But was it fair to WABS and their employees? A defection of a top executive can spell doom for an upstart company. More importantly, with the disappearance of his father, and Mrs. Scott's health troubles, and the other defections to the rival station, how would Mr. Scott take it? He stared at the contract for what seemed like forever before his intercom buzzed. "Bob here."

"Bob, this is Felicity. Do you have a minute?"

"Sure. I'll be right over," he answered.

"Thanks. You're a trooper!" The intercom went dead.

A trooper? Twenty-three years in the business and he's a "trooper"? He picked up the three-hundred dollar gold fountain pen awarded for fifteen years of service and scribbled the name "Robert" on the bottom line of the WCLO contract, then stopped. He laid the pen down and carefully stuffed the contract into its legal-sized manila envelope. Now wasn't the time or the place to decide his future.


Appollyon City, WABS Tower, The Office of Jenny-Lynn Hayden


"Mister, if you were younger I'd knock you through that door!" Jenny huffed. The man's story implicated Molly in a light she refused to see.

"Please Ms. Hayden! My tale is the truth!" replied the man, who identified himself as Nikolai Bolnikov. His aged baritone framed a thick, Russian accent. He wrung his hands as he spoke.

Jenny stood then pushed her chair under her desk and paced the room. "Ok, Mr. Bolnikov! Let's assume for one minute that your story is true! Why bring it to light now, after all these years? Do you have any idea how this could affect Molly? She's fighting like hell to recover from a major stroke!"

Bolnikov sighed. "I was prepared to live the rest of my days without seeing Marishka's face again, but circumstances have forced my hand. Please, it is most urgent."

"You expect me to believe the two of you were lovers and that Molly was a double-agent playing both our countries? It doesn't make sense. She's not like that and even if your story is true, it was a long time ago. Why would anyone in Russia want her dead now? Our countries aren't looking over each other's shoulders these days." Jenny didn't know how much the man really knew of Molly's past and didn't want to spill the beans about her days as the Harlequin if he was unaware. She supposed the tale was feasible. Who knew what Molly did during the sixties? She certainly didn't talk much about it. There were a few veiled references and comments, but even if Bolnikov's story was true, Molly still deserved her right to privacy. Perhaps she didn't speak of it for a reason.

Nikolai Bolnikov peered at Jenny with worn, haggard eyes. "I never implied she was in danger from my country, Ms. Hayden."

Jenny laughed nervously. "Then what am I to believe? The United States wants her dead?"

Bolnikov dropped his head. "No, Ms. Hayden, not the United States either. Our son!"


The Warlock's Castle, The Eternal Now


Green Lantern couldn't break his stalemate with the Warlock. The being was nigh omnipotent, but armed with the assurance of the Starheart, Green Lantern fended off the Warlock's attacks. "You are more than human, Alan Scott." The Djinn's words played over and over in his mind as he warded off the Warlock's mystical blows.

"You do well at child's play, Green Lantern! But how well do you handle deep magic?" The Warlock raised his hands and slowly opened his arms, like Moses parting the Red Sea. As he forced his hands apart, a tiny puncture formed in the fabric of reality within the castle walls.

All matter in the Eternal Now rushed toward the diminutive fissure. It was little more than the size of a pinprick at first, but exploded to the size of ripe, young apple very quickly. Even at such a tiny size, it hungered for an entire dimension like a cosmic black hole. The rock creature was sucked into the void first. As the maw expanded, scrolls, tablets, vials, instruments of torture, and several of the now-blank canvases rushed into the rift. Its appetite grew as it expanded. People from all over Ys soon joined the debris hovering around the miasma .

"Living beings, come to me!" Zatanna anchored herself within a protective field and reached out to save the citizens of Ys. One by one, she snagged frightened men, women, and children and drew them within the sphere of her magic. Even the hideous monstrosities that celebrated her eminent demise moments before were grateful for her rescue. The population swell was taxing her strength, however. Green Lantern had to seal the rift quickly.

The cosmic maelstrom clawed at Green Lantern's body, sucking him into its quantum soup as well. He fought against the rushing current of reality like a mating salmon. The Warlock's piercing laughter filled the chamber from his throne. Only the laughing god-like creature, his throne, his looking ball, and the portrait of the motley group that hung above his throne were unaffected by the rift.

"This has gone on long enough!" A burst of green energy exploded from Green Lantern's ring. Two pairs of large hands grabbed the fabric of reality on either side of the rift and tugged. They labored mightily, but at last pulled the frayed edges together like heavy, velvet theater curtains. Immediately, the cosmic tempest halted. Another set of emerald hands appeared with a needle and thread and sewed the tear.

"Impressive!" the Warlock mocked. "Your powers are far greater than I imagined! Stand by my side and we will rule the dimensions!"

Green Lantern glared at the Warlock. "Your surrender's non-negotiable, monster! We finish this now!"

Zatanna released her protective shield from the citizens of Ys. "Back to your homes!" she commanded and the people were gone. "I agree. This ends now!" She bowed before the Warlock. "I will join you and so will Green Lantern... or we'll slay him!"

"Zatanna? Have you lost your mind?" Green Lantern stammered. His face was twisted with confusion.

"You would do well to heed her example, Green Lantern!" the Warlock added.

"I don't know what you've done to Zatanna, but you'll find I don't change my mind so easily!" Green Lantern hurled an emerald boxing glove at his opponent.

"Glove become flowers!" Zatanna cried. The emerald glove morphed into a bouquet of roses.

"How thoughtful of you!" the Warlock hissed as he snatched the flowers from the air and sniffed them. "But I thought you above the brutality of pugilism! But if that is the manner of fight you seek..."
A giant red boxing glove struck Green Lantern, hurling him across the room. He fought to stand, but again the glove connected with a resounding blow that sent him sprawling. The glove showed no mercy. It continued pummeling its helpless foe.

Green Lantern's glassy-eyed stare announced that he was beaten.
"Let me finish him, my lord!" Zatanna begged the Warlock. "He's from my world and I brought him here!"

The Warlock nodded. "Battle lust agrees with you, sweet child." An evil smirk warped his lips. "Finish him!"

Zatanna raised her hands. "Spear of hatred slay the Green Lantern!"

A twelve-foot energy spear rushed from her fingertips toward the fallen hero.

Despite his beating, Green Lantern raised his ring. An oversized, green catcher's mitt dampened the impact of Zatanna's attack.

"Zatanna, please! You can fight this," Green Lantern pleaded as his construct faded. "I don't want to hurt you, but I will to save our world."

"He's too strong, my lord," Zatanna pleaded to the Warlock.

The Warlock glowed like the fires of hell as he took Zatanna's by the hand. "Don't be afraid, my lovely. Concentrate on adding my power to your own. Feel it flow into you, consuming your inhibitions. Drink my darkness and learn true power!"

The Warlock bathed Zatanna in an aura of wickedness. The blackness of his magic was bitter, but she opened herself to him and drank from his well of chaos. The sensation was dreadful, yet intoxicating, as undiluted evil coursed through her veins. The malice was overwhelmingly hypnotic. Zatanna truly wanted nothing more than to slay her friend. He looked pitiful and helpless, writing like a small animal on the side of the road after it was hit by a passing automobile. She despised his weakness. Nothing seemed more important than ending his pathetic life. So this is what the Warlock felt like? No wonder he scorned the weaknesses of others. From such a position of power the frailties of others were glaring. Why should their shortcomings ruin your own perfect world? If they couldn't contribute to your happiness in some way, then they should be eliminated. The power was inebriating.

Zatanna looked around the nearly empty throne room, savoring her victory. Then her gaze fell upon the canvas above the throne and she remembered her plan.

"Prisoners be free!" Zatanna directed her command, and the Warlock's magic, to the canvas.

"No!" the Warlock cried. "Cursed woman! Do you realize what you've done?"

The combined might of Zatanna's spoken magic and the Warlock's dark arts bathed the Living Canvas in an eerie luminance. The frame exploded like fireworks, filling the room with a fetid blue smoke.

Five figures rushed from smoky veil and attacked the Warlock.
"It has been many eons, Magin!" cried a man wielding a large battle-axe as he leaped toward the Warlock. His blonde braids cut a swath through the air as formidable as his imposing weapon.

"Magin is dead!" the Warlock replied. "And the five of you will join him!"

"We've watched you," added a red-haired female warrior. "You grew arrogant! This time the element of surprise belongs to us!"

The Warlock encased himself within a hastily constructed force field.

While the Five assailed the Warlock's defenses, Zatanna felt his evil influence diminishing. With each blow the quintet struck, her own will strengthened until she was herself again. She rushed to Green Lantern.

"Are you ok?" she asked.

"A little woozy but I'll be fine," he replied. "You really had me fooled."

Zatanna winked. "Think the Academy will honor my performance?"

"And God Created Woman. Let's put an end to this."

The mighty battle-axe finally broke through the force field. The battle was swift and riveting. The red-haired woman took a dragon's form. Her fiery breath seemed more effective against the Warlock than either Green Lantern's or Zatanna's best efforts. He writhed within its fiery breath. Again, the Warlock screamed in agony as a third member of the group hurled arrows from a golden bow into his breast. Once he fell, the second woman, a lovely brunette, enveloped the Warlock within a net of darkness. The Warlock struggled against his prison but couldn't break free. Another member of the group rammed through the Warlock with a long-sword.

The reeling Warlock fell to the ground.

The axe-man stepped away from the battle and whirled his weapon over his head. A portal opened above him. It resembled the rift the Warlock opened, but lacked the hunger of the earlier maelstrom.

"No!" the Warlock screamed. "I'll take Ys with me!"

"Join us!"

The words echoed in Zatanna's head. The telepathic signature wasn't quite the same, but very similar to what she felt whenever J'onn J'onzz spoke to her in the heat of battle. "Retrieve the hourglass the sorcerer wears around his neck."

"Green Lantern did you just receive..."

"I did. Go! Do what you were asked! I need to concentrate!"

"Now!" ordered the voice in Zatanna's head.

"Hourglass come to me!" she cried. The hourglass floated to her waiting hands.

At the same instant, Green Lantern blasted the weakened Warlock with a burst of Starheart energy that hurled him into the vortex created by the axe-man.

"Your souls for my vengeance!" the Warlock cried, as he plunged through the vortex. The fissure sealed, stealing the air from the room with an audible pop.

For several long minutes, the castle of Ys remained silent except for the heaving of warriors catching their breath.

"I don't know who you people are, but thank you," said Green Lantern.

"No thank you, strangers," answered the axe-wielder. "Your aid has given our world a chance to live once more."

"Who are you?" Zatanna asked.

"I am Aelphin," answered the red-haired woman. "The dragon."

"Galand," replied the axe-man.
The archer stepped forward. "I am Dorphas, the bowman. The lovely lass with the shadow net is Lona, the Huntress. Egon the Mute is our swordsman and telepath."

Introductions were fine but Zatanna wanted real answers. "No... Who are you?"

"We were once the Seven. We protected Ys from evil with our enchanted weapons and supernatural abilities," Aelphin replied

Zatanna turned to Green Lantern. "JLY?"

Green Lantern ignored her light-hearted humor. "Go on."

Aelphin continued. "The one you call the Warlock was numbered among us, a powerful sorcerer named Magin who served King Tarin faithfully and honorably until his death. When Tarin's son, Reyan, ascended to the throne, Magin withdrew his support of our organization. He remained active only for the sake of pomp."

"Why did Magin dislike Reyan?" Green Lantern asked.

"Magin despised his reforms. He feared they would doom the old ways." Aelphin cast down her eyes.

Dorphas, the archer, picked up the story. "Magin wasn't the only enemy King Reyan made with his reforms. Neighboring kingdoms clamored for their rights too, which upset their monarchs. The king of Calman, Traius the Taskmaster, plotted with an unknown traitor to slay our sovereign. One of our own, Pathos, uncovered the plot and was close to learning the identity of the betrayer. We turned to Magin for guidance. He suggested we divide into two teams. He and Pathos would work to unmask the traitor while we confronted Traius. Knowing it was time the Calmans paid tribute to their king, Magin painted the five of us into a living canvas. Pathos was supposed to disguise himself as an artisan and present the canvas as tribute so we could get past the Calman armies. However, once he trapped us, he slew Pathos and the royal family and set himself up as ruler of Ys."

"But they say the Warlock, Magin, created this place and has always ruled this domain." Zatanna protested. She was still suspicious of the explanation.

"You are wrong on both accounts," Lona answered. "What you see of Ys is only a small portion of our world. The remainder is held captive within the hourglass you hold in your hands. Time has passed within. This castle and the surrounding lands exist within a sphere of Magin's influence in which eons of time will pass between the milliseconds of yours. I assure you Magin has not mastered time. Our battle contained a beginning and an end that occurred in sequence. Magin's eternal rule is also a fable. Many ruled these lands before he usurped our world. But it wasn't enough. After imprisoning Ys within the hourglass, Magin's kingdom was empty. He needed subjects to rule and discovered your world. Thanks to the foresight of your Lords of Order, safeguards were erected that denied him entrance from our world. But he erected portals that allowed your citizens to pass into ours."

"If Ys exists within this hourglass, how can we restore it?" Zatanna asked.

Galand stepped forward with his battleaxe. "Each grain of sand within represents a kingdom. When we shatter the hourglass with our enchanted weapons the kingdoms will be restored."

"Then do it!" said Green Lantern.

Zatanna placed the diminutive hourglass on the floor and moved aside. She held her breath as Galand lifted his axe high into the air. With a mighty blow it shattered the tiny hourglass. Shards lay at Zatanna's feet but not a single trace of sand was to be found.

"It's done?" Green Lantern asked.

"The task is complete," Lona replied. "Since time has passed inside the glass, we will find a strange world awaiting us outside the walls of this castle."

Green Lantern smiled. "I think you'll find champions of justice always find a home. Ready to go, Z?"

"Ready G."

Starheart energy bathed the two heroes and Ys faded from view.


Apollyon City, Wingate Memorial Hospital

Alan Scott found his daughter Jenny waiting outside Molly's room with the man she described to him. "Jenny, what the hell is going on?"

"Mr. Bolnikov says Molly is in danger."

"What kind of danger?" Alan asked. He wasn't sure who the stranger was, but if Molly was in danger he was eager to hear the man's tale.

"Thank you for your attention, Mr. Scott. I'm afraid the woman you call Molly Mayne Scott will die."

"Mister, if that's some kind of veiled threat, I'm gonna..."

"No, Alan... don't," Jenny admonished.

A scream echoed from Molly's room.

Nikolai Bolnikov froze in horror. "We are too late! He has come!"

"Your son?" Jenny asked.

The trio rushed into Molly's room. The being at Molly's bedside couldn't be Bolnikov's son. A Manhunter towered over her bedside. At least he resembled a Manhunter, clad in red and blue. But he was different. His body was more streamlined than the androids Alan had seen before. It's face was decidedly more human as well. His movements were like liquid spreading over the surface of a table, very fluid. It was almost like he wasn't moving at all, more like he morphed from place to place. Was he a Manhunter?

Manhunter or not, he wasn't going to take Molly without a fight! "Back away, monster!" Alan commanded.

The Manhunter smiled wryly and reached for Molly. Once he made contact, he absorbed Molly into his body. "Now, mother, you'll learn that no man... or woman escapes the Manhunters!"



So.....
This completes my first "year" of All-American stories. I've enjoyed it tremendously. When I first took this title, way back when, I wasn't too excited about writing Sentinel (as he was called then). But it was open and my original idea got shot down because it was too much like the Brave and the Bold that was already in place. I'm so glad now that I ended up with Sentinel instead. Over the last year, I've gotten to know these characters and have grown to love Apollyon City.
I had several goals when I started and am happy to say that I'm on course with all of them. My first was to make Apollyon a character itself. From its earliest days as an Indian village to Sycamore Springs to the Apollyon experiment to its current incarnation as Apollyon City, I think it has exceeded my expectations. I have a completed story coming that will shed even more light on the city.
A second goal was to get rid of the Sentinel business. I never liked it. Not at all. I'm happy to say that I beat Geoff Johns to the punch on this one. That way everybody can't say I copy-catted. :-)
I also wanted to explore Molly's past and that I haven't really done yet, but have a story in the wings that begins here. I hope you enjoy it.
To the FDC editorial staff, thanks for giving me the opportunity to write my stories and share them with your readers. It's been fun getting to know you guys as well.
Chris Barr - I don't know if you are still reading the title these days, but if you do still check in, thanks for moving Alan to Apollyon. I hope you've enjoyed what I've done with it. I enjoyed the challenge of finishing your initial story arc (even if I had no clue where you were going with it. Then again, that was part of the fun).
Thanks to DC Comics for creating such a rich and wonderful universe in the first place. We fan fic writers stake no claim to your characters, but we hope you don't mind us "borrowing" them, because we love them so much.
And most of all, thanks to those of you who have read my FDC stories. I appreciate everyone who has given me feedback. You've been much too kind, especially in the beginning. Hopefully, I'll keep entertaining you.

The DC Universe of characters, which includes 90% of all the ones written about on this site, their images and logos are all legally copyrighted to DC Comics and it's parent company of Time/Warner. We make absolutely no claim that they belong to us. We're just a bunch of fans with over active imaginations and a love of writing.