Hawkman crashed into the attacking bird-men with brute force, while Hawkwoman spun around to kick back two bird-men who flew toward her silently and — it seemed to her — with some measure of sorrow.
“Shayera, the comet mutated the Taral until they became these humanoids,” said Katar Hol as he struggled to wrestle one downward. “They were brought here, too, by accident. Now they have humanlike minds and bodies!”
His wife smiled. “Leave it to you to analyze the situation while fighting for your life,” said Shayera Hol. “I think that means you’ve been doing this too long!”
She ducked a talon and rolled through the air to cleave a path through the guards, while Katar kept the others busy. She slapped the wizard down, and he cried out.
“You’ll pay for that, woman!” He uttered weird screeches, and real Taral birds dropped now from the clouds to menace the Hawks. “See? Some Tarals did not mutate. They merely gained some greater level of intellect!” he screamed. “Still, they all serve me, due to the power I hold over them!”
Acting fast, Shayera flew inside the temple where the huge birds could not follow, then looked for a weapon. Hawkman knew his wife could handle anything, so he fought on to gain her time.
“Woman, you intrude upon my sanctum!” said the wizard.
“Well, you know us girls — always nosing around other people’s homes,” she quipped as he followed her in fury.
His Tarals clawed at the tiny door but could not enter. She twisted around to land a hard right on his jaw. The wizard gasped and began to chant. Soon, odd green mists surrounded the Thanagarian beauty, and her vision blurred a moment before she finally fainted.
Hawkman also tumbled down as the weight of the huge Tarals and the cunning of the humanoid ones took their toil upon even his skill and courage.
The wizard, who was known as Sanballa, laughed. “Shanna, two more playthings will join you in amusing me,” he said to a bound woman who had been plucked from Rann by the remnant of his old spell.
She breathed a silent prayer that Rann’s hero Adam Strange would yet save them all.
More than four light-years away on the planet Rann, Shanna’s prayer was being answered as the courageous Adam Strange used his skills to trace the weird magic pattern by memory.
“So it faded away as the conjuction ended and took the Hawks away via some preset ancient spell,” he explained to his wife Alanna.
“Oh, Adam, can we follow them somehow?” she asked.
“Perhaps we may artificially duplicate the conjunction via holographic projections in the exact same positions as the real moons had been,” suggested the heroic Adam.
He continued to work feverishly, and soon enough, as the light projections shone in unerring pattern over the ruins, he flickered away.
Adam, come back to me, prayed Alanna.
Adam Strange found himself back on Earth, and he jetted along the same Mongolian slopes as the Hawks had earlier. So that’s it! The runes brought them all to Earth, due to some spell, thought Adam. Why would a wizard of Rann come here? Perhaps by accident. That thing that looks like a comet must be the reason behind it all. It was clearly a magical item rather than an actual comet, and he sought it but got more than he bargained for.
The adopted son of Rann nearly fell to his death as a Taral bird swooped down for him. Tarals on Earth — great! he thought as he dodged the bird’s claws and ducked inside a warm cavern. Seeing light, he called out, “Who’s there?”
A priest appeared, clutching a staff. “I am Father Pierre,” said the elderly man with a French accent. “I am speechless to see another human. I have been in hiding here from that fiendish wizard below for so long. But we have managed, eh, lad?”
“I also just escaped from those Taral birds,” explained Adam. “They were guided by some human reasoning. Is there a wizard below, then?”
Father Pierre nodded and said, “He came from the stars, according to the legends of the tribesmen I have encountered. I ventured too close, and he almost caught me with his fiendish bird-men. But my boy saved me.”
“Sorry, I didn’t see your ally,” said Adam, looking at a shape in the darkness behind the priest.
A handsome, dark-haired youth stepped forward into the light. “I am Richard Grey, but you may call me what the Tarals do — the Black Condor.”
“How did you come here?” asked Adam.
“My parents and I crashed here in our plane when I was but a toddler,” said Richard. “I was found by the Tarals and the more humanoid bird-men who raised me to my current age. They loved me and taught me their ways. The comet gave them greater intellects than normal birds. The comet also gave me super-powers. I can fly, I have keener senses than most, and my strength is above human average.”
“But if they are kind and raised you as one of their flock, why did they attack me?” asked Adam.
“They were kind until recently,” said the Black Condor, “when the wizard Sanballa awakened from his long hibernation. He sleeps to restore his strength, for he is ancient. They are free when he sleeps, and he has slept for the last twenty years or so.”
Father Pierre added, “That is why, when he awoke, he ordered them to kill poor Richard, and he had to hide away here, where he brought me when the birds attacked me as well.”
“Why did you not stop him while he slept?” asked Adam.
“I did not know of him until it was too late,” said the Condor. “The Taral consider his name to be an omen of ill fortune and have sworn never to speak of him while he is helpless. I never even found his secret chamber within that temple due to magical glyphs that kept his resting place hidden.”
“He must only awaken every twenty years or so, in keeping with the various lunar conjunctions,” Adam mused. “Well, I suspect he has my friends, and I mean to rescue them.”
The Black Condor said, “Allow me to help liberate the flock from his fiendish power once and for all!”
The young hero swooped down gracefully to where the Tarals roosted. He spoke to the mighty birds and the humanoid ones in their native tongue:
“Brethren of the Flock, I defy the power of Sanballa. My friends and I shall free you all of his dominion if you but allow us to do so. I ask you to merely stay back and do not let fear govern you into actions that would only harm my chance to save us all!”
The birds screeched back and forth, and the sounds drew forth Sanballa.
“You! I shall slay you now,” he cried, generating green fire from his hands.
The Black Condor dropped like a rock and pulled up at the last second to evade the magical fire.
Hawkman and Hawkwoman were bound within by similar magical energy until the wizard of Rann turned away from the pair. As one, they activated the cybernetic controls within their helmets to fly free of the fire, which still held their bodies immobile. “That did it. Once out of that magical nimbus, I figured we be free to move again,” said Katar.
“Free to wring Sanballa’s scrawny neck,” said Shayera.
Adam Strange took advantage of the distraction to jet out of the cavern and blast away with his ray-gun at the side of the mountain above the comet. Slowly the rock gave way, and as the champion of Rann skillfully aimed at it, the rock slide buried the comet.
Sanballa screamed as all of his powers faded, and as the magic no longer preserved his unnatural lifespan, he quickly withered away to dust before the shocked onlookers.
The Black Condor joined the Hawks and Adam Strange as they freed Shanna, who embraced Adam tearfully.
“I knew you’d save me!” she gushed.
Adam smiled. “The Hawks discovered the true secret of the Forbidden Zone, and Black Condor, here, managed to persuade the Tarals to not interfere. I just did my part.”
Hawkman shook hands with Richard Grey. “I know a man much like you from another world by the name of Black Condor who once lived here before returning to his world. (*) I’m sure he would be proud to share the name with you. So what are your plans now?”
[(*) Editor’s note: The Black Condor of Earth-X once lived on Earth-One; see Freedom Fighters #1-15 (March-April, 1976 to July-August, 1978).]
The young man said, “I really don’t know at this point.”
“Perhaps you’d like to meet a friend of ours named Adam Blake,” said Shayera. “He might be interested in using you on a team of his making that helps those in need.”
The Black Condor smiled at the thought as Father Pierre approached. “With the Flock free at last,” he said, looking at each of them, “I would love to see the outer world!”
“And Shanna and I need to get back home,” added Adam Strange.
The Hawks summoned their ship from deep space, and as it warped to Earth’s orbit, the couple held hands.
“So… nice vacation on Rann!” said Katar sarcastically.
“True, but don’t look so glum. I can enliven your homecoming. I still have that chain-mail bikini!” said Shayera, winking at him.
“You she-devil!” laughed Hawkman.