The lovely Mysa Nal had her sister’s beauty and grace, but her unnaturally pale pallor and her silence marked her as one apart from the norm. She showed no emotion as she fought with her sister until Nura Nal realized that the girl was not truly there. Her physical form fought like a machine, but she displayed neither human warmth nor intellect. Her eyes were cold and distant.
“She’s dead!” she said as tears filled her eyes. “This is what I saw! Her corpse is being moved by some magical puppet-master! All of them are lifeless bodies!”
Supergirl was busy as well as she spun around at superhuman speed and created a whirlwind that swept many dozens of the invaders into the air and in her flight path. She swept them into an open lot where a building was going to be constructed over the remains of an empty structure. Before they could escape, she used super-strength, speed, and friction to create a solid metal box around them. “That instant prison won’t hold them long!” she said. “They seem to be using magic to dissolve any such restraints in which they are placed!”
She turned to see Nura and Mysa and realized what was occurring as her super-brain processed the data. I see why so many of them come from different worlds, she thought. Magic is what unites them. All of them must be or must have been pupils on Zerox, the Sorcerer’s World! They’ve been enslaved and forced to use their magic to attack the city!
Racing down, she tapped Mysa on the chin without any result except for a momentary collapse by the enslaved girl, who regained her feet in seconds. “I tried to gently knock her out, but she still fights on,” she said. “They are almost immune to pain!”
“But they do feel something!” said Nura. “Lu and you are having a bit of success against them due to your enhanced strength. That means she is still alive!”
Supergirl nodded and said, “I detect a heartbeat. All of them are alive, but it’s like their minds or souls have been removed!”
“Help me get Mysa back to headquarters,” said Dream Girl. “We can examine her there and cure her. Any spell can be broken!”
“Maybe my power over reactions can speed up her recovery,” suggested Chemical King.
Dream Girl said, “Supergirl, the ones you captured are already getting free! We can’t do any good here. We need to regroup. Let’s return to headquarters!”
Supergirl nodded and gathered the others along with a struggling Mysa as she led them through the air to Legion Headquarters.
Back at the Legion lab, Invisible Kid and Dream Girl exchanged worried glances. The two of them were the most skilled scientists of the seven currently left on Earth.
“Nothing Condo tried helped at all,” said Dream Girl. “Both slowing and stimulating Mysa’s metabolism failed to change her condition. She isn’t suffering from a physical malady that might be responsive to his powers. She is under a spell like all of her peers and teachers. I think we both know that only one being in all the cosmos could take control of the bodies of an entire planet of magic adepts!”
“Mordru!” replied Invisible Kid. “He once ruled Zerox before the Legion defeated him. (*) I guess he could have escaped from his entombment. He certainly has the malice and the motive to pull such a stunt.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Mordru the Merciless,” Adventure Comics #369 (June, 1968) and “The Devil’s Jury,” Adventure Comics #370 (July, 1968).]
“After we defeated him, his empire crumbled, and his forces dispersed,” said Dream Girl. “It was only his raw power and the fear he created in his pawns that allowed him to hold them all to begin with!”
“He doesn’t need his old army now,” noted Supergirl. “He’s turned all the residents of Zerox into his soulless pawns. He’s even granted them all some limited invulnerability.”
Dream Girl held Mysa’s hand and looked at her still form. “Daxamite sedatives have kept her out, but not every sentient can stand that kind of narcotic. We don’t want to kill any of the helpless victims he has enslaved.”
“I imagine that the nature of the sedative is what keeps Mordru from forcing Mysa to continue to fight us,” suggested Invisible Kid. “He knows that even his level of power could not animate an inert body without serious harm coming to the being’s cellular structure. He doesn’t want to lose his new army before he has gained his goals.”
“And from what I’ve read about Mordru, those goals can only spell serious trouble for the United Planets,” said Supergirl. “He was a tyrant who conquered the entire Sorcerers’ World and tried to expand his empire through space via his dark magic. The Legion trapped him in an airless vault, and that left him helpless, since he has some type of psychological phobia involving loss of air. Apparently, he escaped from that vault and later ended up buried once more.”
Chemical King nodded and said, “His power is so great that even the Legion has never been able to do more than contain him temporarily. In a contest of sheer power, he’d win against all of us put together!”
“We have to cure Mysa and the others before the strain of his magical control becomes too much for their bodies to handle,” said Dream Girl.
Invisible Kid had wandered aside and now brooded as he stared into space. Chemical King slipped over to where his friend was standing and whispered insistently, “Lyle, what’s with you? You were there for me when my own planet was ready to write me off as a living menace. You helped me control my powers and taught me to think of myself as more than a mutant freak. I’d like to help you, too. I can tell something is bothering you.”
“Condo, I am a man of science,” said Lyle Norg. “There was a time when I was giving Brainy a run for his money when it came to inventive concepts. Well, I’m almost scared to admit this, but I’m seeing ghosts!”
“You mean you’re suffering from some type of hallucination?” asked Condo Arlik. “That could be due to your constant hard work in the lab. You push yourself too severely, pal.”
Lyle smiled ruefully and said, “I’m serious. When I use my power to turn invisible, I don’t merely become difficult to detect. I think I’ve breached some portal to an otherworldly dimension. Now, when I become invisible, you can’t see me, but I can see them!”
“Who?” asked Chemical King. “What is it you see?”
“I see phantoms or ghosts!” replied Invisible Kid. “I think my formula may be having serious effects on my mind! I’m afraid I’m losing my sanity!”
Supergirl stepped closer and placed her arm around him. “Lyle, I would not eavesdrop for the world, but I heard part of what you just said to Condo. You know, with the Phantom Zone where Kryptonian criminals were imprisoned and Tinya’s other-dimensional planet of Bgztl, it’s not so strange to conceive that you are stepping into a dimension that is out of sync with our own. You might just be getting a partial glimpse into such a dimension, and the ghosts are the natives of that limbo.”
“I’ve considered that possibility, but why would such an effect suddenly begin when I’ve used my invisibility formula for years without experiencing anything like this before?” asked Lyle.
“Because you aren’t seeing ghosts, and you’re not seeing into another realm,” said Dream Girl. “You’re viewing the disembodied spirits of Mordru’s pawns! Perhaps they are trying to communicate with us, and your unique power makes you especially receptive.”
“The phenomenon did manifest itself recently, and that could have been when Mordru took over on Zerox,” noted Invisible Kid. “He drove their spirits out of their material forms and enslaved their bodies, as you deduced.”
“Lyle, return to your invisible state and try to talk to them,” said Nura. “Perhaps I could use your formula and talk with Mysa herself!”
Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel rushed into the room, and Luornu Durgo announced, “The Subs are doing their best to keep order with help from the S.P.s and the military, but we can’t do more than hold our ground.”
At that moment, green fire blazed through the room, and the Legionnaires saw a massive figure looming up over them. He had a long, white beard, eyes that blazed with a red intensity, and the costume of a wizard. “Mordru!” gasped Duo Damsel.
Mordru scowled as he faced his foes. None of them even had a chance to fight against him, since his incredible power contained each one in a tight, glowing field of magical energy. Even Supergirl could not break free from the prison.
“This day has been destined ere first you dared oppose me!” he declared in a stentorian tone. “Your peers will not return from their sojourn through time and space. I have banished them all! I will return them when and if a whim moves me to do so, and that will only be to torment and destroy them at will!”
“You were buried!” said Supergirl. “How did you escape?”
Mordru laughed harshly and said, “Maid of Steel, your hated kinsman took advantage of my weakened state to bury me within the soils of Smallville, for it was in that spot that I fell victim to my own power. My mystic might was ready to kill Superboy and his allies when the raw energy of my spell broke down a cavern and left me trapped beneath the rubble. I could neither move nor cast a spell.”
Duo Damsel nodded and said, “I was there. Shady, Mon, Superboy, and I were there.”
Mordru glared at her, and a small gesture from his hands tightened the green energy sphere that held her. She cried out in pain as her body was squeezed by the energy.
“Leave her alone!” cried Bouncing Boy. “Isn’t it beneath one of your power to torture a helpless girl?”
Mordru smiled coldly and said, “Everything is beneath me, but such measures bring me pleasure! I remained trapped beneath the soils of Smallville within the twentieth century as you measure time. I could not escape, but once briefly I was able to manifest my powers through time itself and create a duplicate of your Cosmic Boy with which to bedevil Superboy and lure him to this era. (*) While he was thus occupied in this eon, I freed myself and sought to use blood crystals to turn his own race against him in his time! (*) I had to use mystical relics, since my own power had not fully returned as yet following my long entombment.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Trust Me or Kill Me,” Superboy #173 (April, 1971) and “Curse of the Blood-Crystals,” Superboy #188 (July, 1972).]
“I remember hearing about that case from Rokk Krin,” said Chemical King. “He and Superboy disposed of the magical double you’d created. When Superboy returned to his own time, he eventually stopped you again and buried you right back where you were before!”
Mordru nodded and said, “And thus I remained helpless and impotent, except for the fiery fury that burned in my heart!”
“And yet you were too smart to remain trapped for long,” said Dream Girl.
“Do not try to play games of the mind with me, girl!” said Mordru. “I see your motive all too clearly! I will answer, since your Naltorian stock comes from a race once dear to me. Your enemies the Fatal Five claimed a renegade time-manipulation device and used it to alter time so that your team of paladins never came to be! That effect was undone by your petty band, but while such a restoration of time went unnoticed by most beings, such was not the case with Lord Mordru!
“I was no longer trapped, since your Legion had ceased to exist for that moment in altered time. They never formed, and we never fought. I claimed my freedom in that fleeting instance and remained free when all else returned to the way it had been once you undid the felonious work of the Fatal Five! I vowed to regain the hold I once had on Zerox, and thus I took them by surprise and possessed them all! I banished their puny wills and spirits and marched their enslaved bodies through space itself to bring war and bloody ruin to this planet which alone defied my rule!”
“And yet you want more power!” said Supergirl. “I can tell you have something more in mind! Why else would have trapped us instead of ridding time of us like you did with our friends?”
Modru chuckled and said, “You are correct, daughter of Argo City. I did erect barriers to keep out your friends. They can no more return to this timeline than you can free yourselves from yon sphere of eldritch fire! I do offer you seven a chance to prolong your lives as my slaves. I want you to seek out an item of magical power which will give me a greater hold upon this world and many more to come!”
“What is it?” asked Duo Damsel. “Why can’t you claim it yourself?”
“I am not yet at my full level of power,” the wizard replied. “Thus I must use other lesser beings to do my bidding. The teachers and pupils of Zerox will be my army, while you Legionnaires will go a questing for the Crystal of Chaos!”
“What is that?” asked Matter-Eater Lad. “And why would we help you gain even more power? Are you daft, old man?” He gasped as the magical fire blazed brighter, and heat rose from his body.
“Stop! Don’t hurt him! We’ll obey you!” cried Chemical King.
“’Tis so, and ’twas ever so! Mordru commands, and all rush to obey!” He turned to glance down at Mysa Nal, and a strange expression crossed his face. He reached down to caress her, and at his touch she sat up, and new light returned to her eyes.
“Nura!” she cried. “By the Seer, I’ve been so helpless!”
Dream Girl struggled but could not move out of the energy that confined her. “Mysa! Praise the Seer!” she said. “You’re restored!”
“Aye,” said Mordru. “I restore this child, since she and I have ever had a special bond. I made her the Hag by touching her with mine own essence, and even in this comely form, she belongs to me!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Forging,” Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes #315 (September, 1984).]
“I would die to stop you!” said Mysa. “I would die to see your power end!”
“And yet, while you burn with hatred for me, consider this, fair Mysa–” said Mordru, “–it is through my will alone that you retain awareness and enjoy the use of your own body!” He encircled her with his emerald fire and turned to face the Legionnaires.
“The Crystal of Chaos was lost in the twentieth century when the world then called New Mars came to a sudden end. Thus I will bend time itself once more and allow you passage to that era to retrieve that mystical relic for me. Bring it to me and live as my pets. Defy me and watch your fellows burn!” He gestured, and the green energy spheres flickered away to leave the heroes free once more.
They started to move forward, but another gesture from the wizard left Dream Girl, Matter-Eater Lad, Chemical King, and Invisible Kid trapped anew in one large bubble of arcane fire.
Then Supergirl, Duo Damsel, and Bouncing Boy vanished in another blaze of magical power.
Mordru took Mysa and led her away as she struggled helplessly to resist him. “You and I will grow closer in time,” he said. “You once carried my essence. Perhaps someday you will carry my seed.” He carried her off as she glanced back in despair at her sister and the remaining Legionnaires.