Shayera Hol looked splendid in the ceremonial flowered sarong she was presented by the appreciative people of Ranagar, the capital city of the planet Rann. The pretty redhead’s legs were largely exposed, but on Rann that was the custom among the tribes of the outer city.
Her husband Katar Hol looked on grimly. “Lighten up,” whispered Shayera. “I know you hate being honored, but it is the way of Alanna’s people, and you don’t want to hurt her feelings.”
Katar smiled. “True. Sorry about that. I just keep thinking of the Earth film King Kong when I see you dressed up like that. You look like giant ape bait!”
Shayera smiled. “The giant apes are all on Rann’s other moon!” She teased him often in an effort to ease his worries over the fate of their homeworld of Thanagar and its recovery after the plague and military dictatorship that had ruined much of the planet’s old grandeur.
Adam Strange and his wife Alanna came over to the Hawks. “I see you have been enjoying the customs of the tribes from the outer realm. Some of their barbaric pageantry appeals to the Robert Howard reader I used to be as a kid.”
Hawkman nodded. “Fierce but noble warriors on giant birds. Makes me think more of the Gor novels.”
Adam blinked. “You’ve read those?”
Katar smiled. “We did use the Absorbscon back when we first came to Earth to learn all about Earth culture, even old movies and fantasy novels,” he said. “Just ask Red Sonja, there.”
Shayera laughed. “Just for that, I’m not going to wear my chain-mail bikini anymore!”
The banter was interrupted as a man hurried up. “Father, what troubles you?” asked Alanna.
Sardath said, “I fear my most promising pupil, Shanna, has disappeared. She was leading a team to explore the Forbidden Zone. It seemed safe after so long.”
Adam frowned. “What is the Forbidden Zone? I’ve never heard of it all these years.”
“It was a place of mystery where many rumors spoke of vanishing travelers who were never seen again,” explained the older scientist, a bald man wearing corrective-lens goggles. “In Earth terms, you’d call it the Bermuda Triangle of Rann, I suppose. No one had been lost there in generations, so Shanna assumed the tales were all myths or exagerrations.”
“Well, Katar, Shayera,” said Adam, “I hate to eat and run, but I have a girl to save.”
Hawkman and Hawkwoman exchanged nods. “You mean we have a girl to save, old friend!”
Adam Strange led an expedition to the desert sands that composed the land of the savage Zoorans. These warriors tamed their inhospitable home with the use of large, mutated birds known as the Taral. They existed now in an uneasy peace with the civilized inhabitants of Rann’s cities. They also nursed a grudging respect for Adam Strange, Rann’s celebrated champion.
“Look, Adam!” said a keen-eyed Shayera. “Those Taral birds seem to be out in greater numbers than usual, yet they avoid those ruins below. Why is that?”
“They avoid the so-called Forbidden Zone,” replied Adam. “They have done so for generations as if they, too, fear what dark secrets lurk behind the crumbling façade.”
Hawkman descended warily as his wife and friend followed. “I see there is no one here. Nor is there sign of any struggle. Shanna must have gone willingly with whoever abducted her.”
Shayera nodded. “Perhaps the other disappearances hold some clue. How long have they occurred, and what features do they hold in common?” She had one of the finest detective minds on her world of Thanagar, and both men respected her ideas, her battle prowess, and her instincts.
“I pulled up all the known data from our computers,” said Adam. “None of the missing people had anything in common in terms of who they were or what they did. They merely entered these ruins and were never seen again. Some vanished alone, while others were in groups that all disappeared. The earliest known event occurred during Ranagar’s founding, when the people were all nomadic. So no one truly knows the origins of the ruins or how they have periodically claimed lives without rhyme or reason.”
“What about the intervals between the disappearances?” asked Hawkman. “Sardath said it had been a long time since someone vanished here.”
“Yes!” agreed Adam. “Exactly none of the people vanished within two decades of each other. In fact, I can see a pattern here that dates back to the earliest time-keeping on this world. Every disappearance, including Shanna’s, occurred during the annual lunar conjunction, when Rann’s moons line up. That is worth noting.”
“I’d suggest that your people have been abducted due to magical means, not scientific,” said Hawkman. “That may explain why nothing has ever been discovered. Your world is so based in the physical.”
Shayera shivered. Her family had been a long line of priests on Thanagar, and she knew more of the hidden world and unseen perils than her practical husband. Still, such a lunar pattern did indeed suggest magic.
As the light fell across the old ruins, Hawkman said, “Those Taral birds suggest more. I see that they are keenly intelligent. They may retain some race or species memory of this place being home to magic that hurt or affected their brethen in the flock. That may explain why they stayed away.”
Adam nodded. “I have no way to detect magic. Could you use the Absorbascon on the ship to learn the Taral’s speech and question them as you would Earthly birds?”
“Brilliant, Adam,” said Shayera, kissing him on the cheek.
But at that moment Hawkman suddenly vanished in a weird beam of moonlight.
Shayera gasped. “By Polaris — Katar!” She dropped down into the light as it faded away, and the pinioned princess also vanished.
Adam Strange blasted down to reach the sands, but seconds too late. His friends had suffered the fate of the other missing victims of Rann’s Bermuda Triangle.
The Hawks materialized in a rugged terrain that looked oddly familiar to them from their studies of Earth.
“Katar, we’re back on Earth,” said Shayera. “That lunar pattern transported us here. That must be what happened to all the others all these years. They were brought to Earth due to some weird magical pattern set up by the moons. Those who visited at other times were unharmed and not taken, so Sardath and others deemed the stories to be myths.”
“True! But what happened to them, then?” said Hawkman. “I know we haven’t had Rannian natives here on Earth for centuries.”
They flew upward and glanced around the countryside. “Shay, I believe we’re in Mongolia! The landscape is isolated and desolate. That old temple is the closest shelter.” He cradled his wife in his arms, and they flew inside.
“Look at the ornate temple relics. Definitely of Asian origin,” said Shayera.
“Those bodies are not of Earth, though,” said a grim Hawkman. “See the remnants of their clothing and jewelry? We found the bodies of the missing citizens of Rann. They were brought here and killed… but why? And by whom?”
Katar Hol still hated death. He had lived far longer than any of his JLA friends, and as a Thanagarian he still had an impossibly long lifespan ahead of him. He was even older than his Earth-Two counterpart by decades. But this only made all lives sacred to him. He would punish the source of this misery.
A weird glow illuminated the mountain valley. “Look!” said Shayera, pointing at a glowing nimbus of light that seemed oddly like a comet. “That comet-like object is the source of the light that bathes this temple. It must have been pulled here from Rann’s orbit through whatever brought the people here, too. I assume it was magic that did both tasks.”
Hawkman nodded. “Remember Adam Blake? He was born in the shadow of a comet’s passing, and he has the powers of one from the far future. While he uses them for good as Captain Comet, others with similar abilities might not be so just.”
“Correct, Hawkman!” said a sinister figure. “I sought to bring such a power source to me during my nomadic days in ancient Rann. I failed to do more than bring myself here, along with the glowing power stone that has kept me alive for centuries in this hidden cove. My magic is strong, though, as long as I do not leave the proximity of the comet. Thus I have dwelt here for eons and tried to increase my power, while amusing myself with any who are brought here by the magic runes still inscribed on Rann, which are only visible during a lunar conjunction.” He was a wizened man in robes, and his shadowy followers were even stranger.
“Great Polaris! Those are Taral birds, mutated to humanoid form and serving this wizard!” cried Shayera.
Then the odd bird-men closed in on the Hawks, and the battle began.