John Constantine, Hellblazer: The War of Darkness and Light, Chapter 3: Deathwish

by Earth Elemental 99, Doc Quantum, and Martin Maenza, partially adapted from Swamp Thing #50 by Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, Rick Veitch, and John Totleben

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“It’s too late!” Mento cried out. “That thing just chewed him up and spit him back out!” Indeed, the Demon’s hellfire was no match for the monstrous fury.

“Now what’s happening?” John Constantine asked.

Mento frowned. “It sees us somehow! It knows we aided the Demon. It’s going to kill all of us!”

“No, it won’t!” Constantine promised. “I’ve made plans.”

Suddenly, smoke began to rise from Sargon’s chest. “Power build-up! I’m burning from the inside out!”

Zatanna screamed. “John, he’s smoldering! He’s going to combust!”

Sargon scowled defiantly. “No! I won’t permit it. I am Sargon — this cannot happen!”

Constantine shouted, “Sargon — Earth-X is currently at the apex! Project the energy burning you up and send it there, as close to the upper atmosphere as you can! Now!

“I’m attempting to, but…”

“Hurry, man!”

There was a surge and a discharge. Sargon leaned back in his chair, relaxed, but kept the circle held. “See, I told you there was no need to be concerned.”

Zatanna exclaimed, “Oh, thank God!”

Constantine frowned slightly. He hoped it wouldn’t come to this, but he saw that the enemy was much stronger than anticipated. Still, he had to keep up the group’s morale. “See? I told you it could be done. Now we fight on…”

***

Earth-X:

The ball of flame that would have killed Sargon the Sorcerer instead destroyed a Nazi bomber plane over England. Curiously, no one knew where the ball of fire came from, only that it prevented a bombing raid that might have set the cause of the English Resistance back for months.

***

Zatanna sat concerned. That was too close for her; Sargon could have been killed. They needed to find a way to prevent a psychic backlash of their powers. “The shadow must be larger than Hell itself,” she eventually said.

“It is!” Mento replied. “We’re a distraction. It wants us dead, to leave it alone!”

“Dayton, keep it together!” Constantine warned. “It’s going to be a sight bloody tougher if you don’t cooperate. What’s happening now?”

Mento continued the commentary. “Doctor Fate! He’s being diverted, fighting some of Hell’s demons — old enemies of the Justice League. But Fate is getting too close to the giant shadow.”

***

Earth-Two’s Doctor Fate was absorbed into the Darkness while battling the demons Abnegazar, Rath, and Ghast. The Darkness spoke to him as well:

“LITTLE THING… LITTLE THING, YOU ARE IN ME, AND I HAVE A GREAT NEED… IN THIS STRANGE PLACE OF LIGHT AND ORDER AND NAMES, I HAVE BEEN NAMED EVIL. YET NAMING IS NOT ENOUGH. I MUST KNOW MY NATURE; I MUST KNOW MY PURPOSE. TELL ME, LITTLE THING, WHAT IS EVIL?”

“Evil?” said Doctor Fate, thinking rapidly. “Evil is a quagmire of ignorance that would drag us back as we climb toward the immortal light. A vile, wretched thing, to be scraped from the sandals like dromedary soil.”

“AM I SO LOW, THEN, AND IS HE YOU SERVE SO HIGH THAT THERE CAN BE NO POSSIBILITY OF RESPECT BETWEEN US? LITTLE THING, YOU HAVE TAUGHT ME CONTEMPT. IT IS NOT THE ANSWER THAT WAS REQUIRED.”

And Doctor Fate was spat out of the Darkness.

***

Mento winced at what he saw. “It’s got him! It broke him down, like it did with Etrigan, only faster!

Zatara grew concerned. “Isn’t there anyone who can aid Fate?”

Doctor Occult scoffed. “His arrogance will be his downfall.”

“I can see the shadow starting to move again,” Mento said. Then he cried out. “Aaahhh! It’s coming at us again! What if it succeeds this time? What if one of us burns out this time?”

“Dayton, if you don’t bloody shut up–!”

Zatanna squirmed slightly in her seat. “Is it getting hotter in here?” When she got no reply, she realized what it was. “Oh, God, I think I’m going to burn up!”

“No! I will not allow it!” Zatara said, squeezing his daughter’s hand. “Not my daughter! Ssenkrad, ekat em daetsni!

Zatanna realized what was going on about her. “Father, no! Don’t do this! This can’t happen to you! Take back the spell, please! I don’t want to lose you! Take the spell back!”

The older magician’s body started to smolder as Sargon’s had before. “I fear it is much too late for that,” he gasped as his top hat burst into flames. “We all knew the risk of this venture going into it. A true hero would never turn his back when needed.”

“Father! No!”

“Show your courage, daughter,” Zatara said calmly, despite the fire in the very core of his being.

Zatanna was crying now. “No — not you! Oh, please!” She fought every instinct that she could to break the circle, to use all of her power to protect her father. But she knew if she did so, she would jeopardize them all. This did not make what was happening any easier to swallow.

As the smoke and flames engulfed him, Zatara stared at John Constantine. “If you do not deliver my daughter safely from this place, Constantine, my shade shall hound you throughout all eternity. Is that understood?”

The Englishman’s eyes grew wide. “Wait, Zatara! The apex is over Earth-Two. Expel it now, and perhaps you will be spared!”

Zatara nodded. “I can only pray…” The energy level in the room surged once more as it had done earlier. This time, however, when the wave subsided, the flames about the chair vanished and took the master magician with it.

Zatanna choked on her tears. “He’s gone? Daddy? Daddy!”

***

Earth-Two:

The burst of energy shot out above an isolated region of the Colorado Rockies. But it did not go unnoticed. After the JSA was called in to investigate the strange event, the Flash discovered that a tiny pinprick now existed in the dimensional barrier between Earths One and Two, open just long enough to send a message through to the JLA.

Green Lantern began using his ring to explore the possibility of a safe bridge existing between the two worlds again sometime in the near future. Both men agreed that eventually finding a safe way of doing this was a possibility.

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